Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On the new ACNA's Party Divisions

CS Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters features a senior devil called Screwtape writing to his nephew, a junior devil named Wormwood, giving him advice on how to entrap a human called “the Patient.” In my reading I noticed again this passage (from letter XVI) as relevant today as 67 years ago when first published:
I warned you before that if your patient can’t be kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party within it. I don’t mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more lukewarm he is the better. And it isn’t the doctrines on which we chiefly depend for producing malice. The real fun is working up hatred between those who say “mass” and those who say “holy communion” when neither party could possibly state the difference between, say, Hooker’s doctrine and Thomas Aquinas’, in any form which would hold water for five minutes.

And all the purely indifferent things-candles and clothes and what not-are an admirable ground for our activities. We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials-namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples.

You would think they could not fail to see the application. You would expect to find the “low” churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his “high” brother should be moved to irreverence, and the “high” one refraining from these exercises lest he should betray his “low” brother into idolatry. And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour. Without that the variety of usage within the Church of England might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility,

Your affectionate uncle

If you've never read The Screwtape Letters, I highly advise it. There are reading guides aplenty, and a Sunday School discussion group would be excellent. This book will give you excellent insight into the ways the EVIL ONE uses our religious impulses against us, even in the true religion of Christianity.

The mainline denominations flagged and failed under the weight of making party distinctions the sine qua non of ordination - while ignoring whether the candidate for ordination was actually a Christian. Dogmas like the physical resurrection of the Christ, the Triune Godhead, and original sin could be thrown under the bus so long as you held to something sounding like a distinctive of your denomination.

So the Anglicans let in all sorts of poppycock in the name of the Oxford Movement (which also re-introduced plenty of fine practices). Just harp on the tactile succession of bishops and the place of the church as steering society, and you're in! You don't have to actually believe the faith of the apostles...just get in line and touch somebody who touched somebody who touched somebody that might have believed the witness of the Apostles and carried on that deposit. You'll be qualified to teach with apostolic authority (even if you teach contrary to their doctrine) and you may get to touch some special people yourself (when you aren't lapsing into alcohol abuse). Do enough of this, and you get to be the presiding bishop-ess and teach people about a new divinity known as mother jesus!

The Reformed allowed universalism to creep into their midst through an appropriation of God's sovereignty in the salvation of humanity. As long as you held that it was God who made the decision, you could attribute to him whatever decision you wished - ignoring Jesus' warning that not many will enter into eternal felicity or trod that narrow road. And of course the desire for a highly-educated clergy meant that often times the pastor could outwit the congregation into thinking that Church has been wrong about all sorts of things...as long as s/he footnoted enough and threw enough jargon at them. You may even get to start changing language about God, once you've skewed the whole concept of language in your favor.

Lutherans turned their confessionally robust Christ into a zeitgeist infused prophet by virtue of the kenotic theory. Once Christ is no longer Lord, you needn't reverence or obey him...that's "law" and not grace. And so you end up knowing God through a defanged Jesus, and suddenly God is no longer the Most Holy, Undivided, and Consubstantial Trinity, but a being of your own making...maybe even a Goddess! The resultant antinomianism speaks for itself.

Are we noticing a pattern that all of these wrong turns, mis-steps (which is another translation of the Greek word the New Testament uses for TRESPASSES and TRANSGRESSIONS) lead to the same place? Abandoning God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ for some strange goddess! Has the church - the new Israel - still not learned the lessons about dancing around the asherah (Ashtaroth / Astarte) poles?

All this is to say that if we are to serve Christ faithfully, and not simply seek to be bound to a party-line, then we must recover the fullness of the Catholic Orthodox Faith that has been shared by all Christians - especially as seen in the Apostles, Niceno-Constanipolitan, and Athanasian Creeds.

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