Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Where did anybody get the idea that we have the privilege of “re-envisioning” the mission or the message of the Church? Honestly…such a thought is filled with absolute arrogance. There is a movement of highly innovative, creative, thought provoking and pridefully sincere folks who feel absolutely comfortable “messing with” what has been passed down to us. Like all liberals (theological, social and political) they fulsomely announce everything and everyone who came before us was screwy…naïve…foolish…immature and dull…but fear not…”we’re here”! Yes…6-10 THOUSAND years of human experience means almost NOTHING to theological, social nor political liberals…no, no, no…they’re enlightened and have evolved while knuckle dragging conservatives and fundamentalists wallow in childish and shortsighted ignorance.

LOL (that means “laughing out loud”…just making sure our knuckle dragging readers are keeping up…)

All one must do to demonstrate this as absurd is to observe. As semi-regional/semi-syndicated talk show host, Jim Quinn says, “Liberalism always generates the exact opposite of its stated intent”. Read that again.

For example, liberalism, with all the concern and compassion in the world, took hold of our education system thirty (and in some regions forty) years ago…and began to change EVERYTHING…and look at the results. Their reason why our education “system” has tanked? Well…they say with amazing and stunning snobbery…it must be because they have not changed enough with enough funding…lol. So we must “more adequately fund” what has so far completely failed…the amount of “adequate funding” has of course yet to be determined.

I could go on and on…and won’t.

Theological liberalism is just as pretentious, condescending, pompous and patronizing as any other form. The notion that anybody can sit around and “re-envision” the mission and/or message of Christ’s Church ought to be seen immediately offensive. But, no, of course not. The few who are so bold as to object find themselves ducking the rocks which are instantly hurled their way. But those “Pharisees” (the favorite “rock” theological liberals enjoy to bean this way) are far and few in-between. Instead …most run out to buy these books and go to these conferences which teach them all about the need to “re-envision” the Church and how to start to make this new “form” of “doing” “church” a reality. I see many pastors and other church leaders gazing with bedazzled and mesmerized stares at these trendy, whinny…I hate to say it…but…queer sounding and looking (is that an ok word now or not? I can’t keep up…or is it one of those words gay guys can say but straight guys can’t?)…men talking about how nobody has it “all figured out” and what a shame it is to “put God in a box”.

These pastors seem totally befuddled and confused…after all “I know I don’t have it all figured out” and “I know I don’t want to put God in a box”…

One such befuddled pastor is a friend of mine. He’s a great guy…in my less sanctified days I could have seen myself talking sports with him over a cold beer…he’s a heck of a great guy. He’s trustworthy, friendly, reliable and he clearly loves his family. Unfortunately he is one of these befuddled pastors. His befuddlement has led to such paralysis that he can not (or, out of fear perhaps, will not) articulate in any specific way what the gospel message actually is. When I asked him if the “dogmatic” and “official” teaching of the Roman Catholic church regarding salvation is an accurate reflection of what the Apostles proclaimed his response to me was “I don’t know”.

Hmmm.

My wife asked him if he was saved and if so how he knew it. His response was “yes” and “I don’t know”. Literally…that was his response. Now look…if you don’t know how you know…then how do you know you know? This is sexy sounding gobbledygook. I’m sure he is my friend…but I am not at all sure he is my brother in Christ. How can I be when he is not sure how he is saved? Those are his words, not mine. Beyond that he repeatedly hammers home the point that he is not able to say with certainty who is “in” or who is “out” of the Kingdom…which of course would include himself. Until he knows what he is and how he is what he is then how can I know if we are related? I sure hope we are!

Here’s the point…we are not given the prerogative to mess with anything! Who exactly do we think we are? We are nothing more than links on a chain, branches (or twigs) on a great tree and appendages on a body. The Church is something and her gospel is Universal. We’ve lost sight of that…the gospel message of the Church is Universal! In other words…it applies to ALL people, at ALL times in history in ALL places! The Reformers would curse this notion that every man has his Bible and interprets it in any willy-nilly way! We have been passed down a message…and have proclaimed it above and under ground for 20 centuries. Despite persecution from governments and popes, despite dark ages, Communism and genocide…we have been handed down a tradition…a message…that is Holy. It does not need helped, improved, tweaked or “re-envisioned”.

The same Holy Spirit that fills us has filled believers for 2,000 years. To defy their understanding is a very serious thing. This “to each his own” mentality is rebellious and unsubmissive…it is a nice way to avoid sounding arrogant. Tradition is certainly a source of truth and ignoring it has led to many shipwrecks. Get very nervous when you stand opposed to the majority of Christians…despite what is pushed by this new sexy approach to Christian spirituality, it is not a good sign to oppose the majority of the Church. That is not an encouraging sign at all. There has only been one time in Church history that it can be reasonably demonstrated that a small minority within the Church was used by God to bring correction and rebuke to the great majority. And guess what? You’re no Luther so get back in line.

The questions I’d like to wrestle with next is the nature of Tradition…is it infallible? Can it err?

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 niv

21 comments:

Tony Myles said...

Whew... I'm glad Martin Luther felt that it was a good idea to question the peeps of his day. Sometimes reimagining is actually reformation... in a good way.

And yes... sometimes in a bad way.

Your friend sounds cool... sounds like you should probably talk with him personally instead of blog about him.

irreverend fox said...

Tony,

very true about my friend. I have spoke with him and have a good grasp of teachings...there's not much more to say other than to simply agree to disagree and yet remain friends.

I would never blog "about" anyone...like all authors I do pull from my own experiences...but I'm not a "witch hunting" blogger...I'm not out to hurt...but see no problem pulling from my own experiences to illustrate a point...without trying to publicly "expose" something that is really between that person and God. I'm sure you understand and employ similar ethics when you blog and teach.

Tony Myles said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
irreverend fox said...

To my friend,

I did get that comment and deleted it...for your sake...and I will call you tomorrow...I would call today but I've got two key "meetings" this afternoon and then this evening...and we might need to talk longer than a few minutes...

irreverend fox said...

also...

I will leave this post up...because my understanding and opinion has not changed (yet) AND you remain (and shall remain) anonymous...

Tony Myles said...

Thanks, but you don't have to keep me anonymous. I'm secure and free, bro. If I'm in Christ, why wouldn't I be?

Also, I figured since you're on your blog you had some free time to talk.

Zac said...

Dear Gary,

This is a thoughtful post. I do not understand Mr. Myles' criticism of your anecdotal arguments concerning your anonymous friend, but we all have bad days and get overly contentious at times. Kyrie Eleison!

Your post got me thinking about how Orthodox view "tradition" and I happened upon a writing from one of Orthodoxy's most famous 20th Century theologians (now passed into eternal life), Fr. Georges Florovsky. I hope you don't mind me sharing them with you here:

"'Following the Holy Fathers...' It was usual in the Ancient Church to introduce doctrinal statements by phrases like this. The great Decree of Chalcedon begins precisely with these very words... Obviously, it was more than just an appeal to "antiquity." Indeed, the Church always stresses the identity of her faith throughout the ages. This identity and permanence, from Apostolic times, is indeed the most conspicuous token and sign of right faith. In the famous phrase of Vincent of Lerins, in ipsa item catholica ecclesia magnopere curandum est ut id teneamus quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est (Commonitorium c. 2-3) [Zac's crappy translation: "Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself care must especially be taken that we hold to that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all."] However, "antiquity" by itself is not yet an adequate proof of the true faith. [emphasis mine] Archaic formulas can be utterly misleading. Vincent himself was well aware of that. Old customs as such do not guarantee the truth. As St. Cyprian put it... Dominus, Ego sum, inquit, veritas. Non dixit, Ego sum consuetudo (Sententiae episcoporum numero 87, c. 30) [My translation again: "The Lord said, 'I am Truth.' He did not say, 'I am custom.'] The true tradition is only the tradition of truth, traditio veritatis. And this "true tradition," according to St. Irenaeus, is grounded in, and guaranteed by, that charisma veritatis certum, which has been deposited from the very beginning in the Church and preserved in the uninterrupted succession of Apostolic ministry... Thus, "tradition" in the Church is not merely the continuity of human memory the permanence of rites and habits. Ultimately, "tradition" is the continuity of divine assistance, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not bound by "the letter." She is constantly moved forth by "the Spirit." The same Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, which "spake through the Prophets," which guided the Apostles, which illumined the Evangelists, is still abiding in the Church, and guides her into the fuller understanding of the divine truth, from glory to glory."

So to encapsulate what I think Fr. Georges is saying in this passage is that it is not enough for something to be old... it must also be True. Antiquity of itself is not the criterion of Truth, and is also not what Orthodox mean when they discuss the Tradition.

To add on that, and peremptorily answer your question about the infallibility of Tradition, I would say that the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, the Way of Life in the Spirit towards perfection in Christ which they handed down, and the rites of worship they bequeathed to the communities that they founded, and most importantly the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church-- these things are "the Tradition" and as such these are infallible because Christ cannot err. If, on the other hand, by tradition we mean our ability as sinners to live up to the inheritance given to us in Christ through that abiding presence of the Holy Spirit... then yes, we can err. But when we err this is not because the Tradition has gone bad but because we have!

Ok, that's all I got for now.

Tony Myles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Myles said...

Great thoughts, Zac. I appreciate your concern for my concern about Gary's concern.

I'd love to dialogue with you about the tradition theme you mentioned, but right now there's something brewing on Gary's end I don't quite understand and hope to... if he and I can connect as I've asked and am seeking. I believe one of the great traditions Jesus passed down was reconciliation in the place of debate.

As context to this post, though, click here.

irreverend fox said...

great thoughts zac...it is midnight now and I am just sitting down in front of the computer one last time...I didn't get home till after 11...long day and long night...but all good...

I believe, without a doubt, that there are some traditions that are infallible...namely...the Scriptures. We agree on that for sure. The Scriptures are part of our tradition and are certainly inerrant (they do not err) and infallible (they can not err).

The next post or even two I'd like to investigate the level of authority of the remaining "tradition". I am not afraid of that word one bit...but am not sold that historic tradition...or traditions not strictly drawn from the sacred text...is in fact or should be in fact infallible. If I am to buy that horse I'll need some hard questions answered...ones I'll be airing out soon.

Even if I can demonstrate that there is no infallible tradition outside of Scripture...that does not nor should not infer that tradition is not a source of truth or that the Church is worthless...I think the inheritors of the Reformation have been careless, as was feared in Luther’s day, with our freedom and privilege...to say the very least.

Tony,

I will call you tomorrow. But please rest assured...I have nothing brewing...I'm not out to get you or attack you...I’m not witch hunting fundamentalist…I'm one of the good guys!

“Have a GOOOD night everybody!”

Tim said...

Here's another question...outside of the Scriptures, how do we KNOW which traditions are true and which are the inventions of men?

Zac said...

Tim,

Not sure how interested you are in the Orthodox Christian perspective, but I will simply offer this question by way of a response to your question. Orthodox would rather ask, "Outside of the Tradition, how do we know which Scriptures are true and which are merely the contrivances of men?"

irreverend fox said...

zac AND tim...

not to sound like one of those postmodern preachers who won't ever get off the fence and take a stand...but...I think you are both asking the right question AND I think you are both onto something...

which has been the purpose of this series...I'm not so sure at the end of this we will be faced with a very strong "either this extreme" or "that extreme" type of choice...at least I hope not...

irreverend fox said...

to anybody concerned...Tony and I have talked today. while I don't think either got off the phone completely satisfied...we both did our best to be as honest and humble as we could be...with neither of us doing a tremendous amount of "compromising" either...which is ok so long as we were both being honest and humble...such is life I suppose. people do not have to agree...can in fact have sharp and strong disagreement and yet remain faithful to their friendship...I believe such is this case.

Karen said...

Maybe I'm way off base and not fully understanding the context of your blog... but incase I am...

John 1:1 states "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

If people are trying to "re-envision" the mission or the message of the Church (as you put it)...wouldn't that mean that people are trying to "re-envison" GOD then?

How is that possible?

Malachi 3:6
For I am the Lord, I do not change.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

So...we can not "re-envision" the WORD...because GOD is the WORD.

PROCLAIM GOD(or the Word) in HIS(or it's) entirety. I think people try to make it more difficult than it is...because they don't like the message. And with that thought...I'll finish by quoting Paul in his charge to Timothy.

II Timothy 3:16&17
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Good words...keep them coming.

irreverend fox said...

Karen,

while not every one of these progressives would like to re-envision God per se...what I would suggest to them is that their approach to spirituality leaves such a door open...if not for them...for a future generation.

Tim said...

So could one say that tradition and Scripture are both sources of truth? If so (and I would say so) which source is infallible, tradition or Scripture?

irreverend fox said...

Tim,

why is it either or?


-the devil's advocate ;^)

brian said...

What if Jesus of Nazareth was right - more right, and right in different ways, than we have ever realized?

irreverend fox said...

Brian...I'm not following you...are you asking a question?

derek said...

dude you sounds pissy about all this