Sunday, May 4, 2014

True or false

A pedantic rationalism, nominally subservient to the scriptures, is what we have turned the good news of Jesus Christ into, when we use the Message as a weapon to make the nations submit to us.

It is easier for us to see this perversion of religion when we look at anyone other than ourselves, whether in the historical record, or in the contemporary world: The coerced conversion of the late Roman Empire under Theodosius I and his successors; the Catholic crusades of the Middle Ages under Innocent III and his successors, first against internal heretics like the Albigenses in Provence, then against the Saracens in the Levant; the forced de-Romanisation of northwestern Europe under vigorous Protestant princes, and the subversion of Orthodoxy in the lands of the Polish Commonwealth by sword and fire missionaries; and today, the violent resurgence of fundamentalist Islam in the Middle East and its eating away of Christian Europe in the Muslim diaspora.

We recognize religious bigotry and fanaticism when it comes from others, but ourselves, we are faultless. ‘We’re only promoting the gospel. It’s not our fault if we offend anyone. It’s not we that are offensive. It’s the gospel, which convicts sinners, and so unrepentant despite our preaching, they hate us. We’re the martyrs.’

Fortunately for us, the Lord has provided signs, prophetic in their dastardly rectitude, of fallen men hiding themselves under the rocks of self-righteousness. In America, the most famous is the family of ‘Pastor’ Fred Phelps, recently deceased in a state of excommunication from the ‘church’ he founded, Westboro Baptist Church.

It seems that all the paths of religious extremism lead to this kind of organization, at least, if followed flawlessly. It can be an embarrassment to other, less lethal, expressions of Calvinist fundamentalism, but it’s certainly worth noticing that certain forms of ‘Christianity’ have a tendency to morph into unrecognizable dysangelisms.

It is small comfort that most mainstream forms of contemporary Christianity reject the use of force in the promotion of their doctrinal biases, because the very fact of these biases is the disguised undermining of the Message they claim to present. The churches of today would be just as unrecognizable to Jesus Christ and His holy apostles as would the churches, as institutions, of the past seventeen centuries. Those who tell us that there was a great apostasy of the Church in ancient times that must now or never be righted are almost correct—almost, but in essence not, correct.

Nothing has happened other than what Christ Himself teaches us, that tares have been secretly planted in the wheat field of Holy Church. Not the field nor the wheat are any less what they are, in fact they are even more so, by contrast to the invasive and contaminating weeds, the tares of the parable.

In the same way, the Church of Jesus Christ—the real Church, not just some denomination by that name—has existed from the beginning, is now, and shall continue as it is until the Day of the Lord, and the great winnowing of the threshing floor. She—the Holy Church as Christ’s Bride is spoken of in feminine gender—has lived in the world since the day of Pentecost and is alive now, diversely visible yet one, and though visibly divided.

‘After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands’ (Revelation 7:9).

She is there in the company of Christ and the holy apostles. She is there in the company of the holy martyrs. She is there in the company of the holy fathers in and out of councils. She is there in the saints suffering in the cause of true righteousness, in the face of all oppressions, whether from inside or outside the walls of the Holy Church.

It is she whom holy John the Revelator addresses when he writes, ‘Through our union in Jesus I am your brother and share your sufferings, your kingdom, and all you endure… for having preached God’s word and witnessed for Jesus’ (Revelation 1:9).

Brethren, let us confess ourselves members of her, True Church of True Man, Holy Church of Holy God, for there is no other. And escaping the jaws and jagged fangs of the Beast that tears and consumes both the bodies and the souls of them it devours, let us firmly resist that empty, triumphant rationalism that has sullied the name of Christianity and diluted its power—that is, the might of its only weapon, the Holy Cross—and return in real victory with the Lord ‘who is, who was, who is to come’ who has trampled death by death, and to those in the tombs—yes, that is us!—given life.

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