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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Actually, The Arrogance Is...

There are two aspects of arrogance in this entire discussion about the Church. One is the evangelical presumption that an individual has the right to define the Church in its essence; the other is that there is anything "historical" about the visible community that one happens to be inhabiting. I can remember many discussions that start out, "The Church should…" I realized that no one had bothered to stop and define the term. We took it for granted that our dialogue partners were "orthodox" in some way. Of course, we didn't know what we meant by that, either. The individualism at the heart of this whole project is so pervasive that people don't recognize it. If I cite a few old guys, and put them together in a way that seems coherent to me, I am all of a sudden historically aware, and my church is part of the "historic church," whatever that means.
If people are really leaving evangelicalism for Orthodoxy and Catholicism I hope it is because those communities contain and maintain those marks that define the true visible Church in history. Some may be drawn away from evangelicalism because these higher traditions may well be considerably less inclined to fads and relativism than what they left, but this is by no means guaranteed, depending on where you land. If you do not know that the putative minister of Jesus Christ has been validly ordained in a true succession from the apostles, there is nothing that will hold you in those traditions for very long. After all, if it were "smells and bells" you were after, you could get that anywhere. True, you would probably want to come up with the theological reason why you need incense and bells, but people are clever, and they will find a way if that is what they want. I for one have a strong inclination against Masses celebrated with guitars, but a Mass is a Mass. We have incense and bells because we have an altar. The only sensible reason to have an altar is because a sacrifice is being made. The bell is an aid to the fallible humans, who find it helpful to faith to know about when Christ will be made present in the Eucharist, but I have been to many Masses where there is no bell, and this can be helpful to faith in itself.
Insofar as to be evangelical means pursuing Christ and loving him with a great zeal, I hope it grows in strength. To the extent that it increases factionalism and needless arguing, I hope it dies a quick death.

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