Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why Should Anyone Listen to the Church? (Part 1)

The question stems from something my bishop, Michael Rinehart, said at the end of a lengthy Facebook post:

Some days I feel the church has abdicated its role as a clear moral voice ik (sic) society, and as a community of reconciliation.

My question: Why should anyone listen to the church in the first place?

Let's consider an important assumption to begin with: the church has a clear moral voice in society.  Does it?

Well, first, we must define "The Church."  I am a Christian of the Lutheran persuasion, and I have come to see the wisdom of the Augsburg Confession's definition of the Church:

1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.

2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike.  As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.

In my estimation, this definition of The Church allows a very big tent.  Most Lutherans accept a liberal view that our brothers and sisters in Christ include those of the vast majority of Christians found throughout other denominations.  I personally do as well.  I believe Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, et.al. all constitute "The Church."

Yet, there is quite a problem with this definition--this Church is hardly unified in beliefs, practices, understandings, and implementation of doctrine.  We are NOT of one accord.  We do NOT speak with one voice.

In fact, there are many voices presenting many views and interpretations of what it means to be Christian in one's private and in one's public life.  There are many voices presenting many views about what it means to be a moral person and one of upright character.  There are many voices presenting many views about what constitutes a sin and which parts of the Scriptures should and should not be followed.

In short, the American Church has no clear, moral voice.  It is more like a giant cacophony of voices all crying and decrying together.  In the smorgasbord that is American Christianity, one may choose a denomination or congregation based upon what that particular denomination or congregation teaches as it's particular flavor of Christianity.  If the flavor isn't suitable to that person's taste, he or she may leave and seek out another.

This leads me to say, "How can the church abdicate a clear moral voice when it does not have one and hasn't had one for some time?"

This is quite problematic for the Church.  For it leads to a very substantial question: Why should anyone listen to the Church anymore?  Why grant it any authority, moral or otherwise in this day and age?

Unfortunately, I am going to leave it right there for the time being.  The question is actually pretty new and raw for me just coming into focus yesterday afternoon.  It is one thing to defend the Truth of the Christian message.  It is another thing to argue why anyone should listen to it when the Church itself cannot speak with one accord on important moral issues.  This is something I must ponder.


Kathy said...

Gott im Himmel!

What did I just read? I am picking myself up off the floor.

"The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered."

"rightly taught"

By whom? Martin Luther? Kathy Kahler? Kevin Haug?

"rightly taught" This is the fertilized egg of Relativism.

Kevin Haug said...

Your own words, Kathy:

I have read the Augsburg Confession carefully. From my point of view, the only difference now is the issue of the married (male, of course) clergy.

And now you go on this diatribe. Really? Consistency isn't one of your finer points, is it?

Kathy said...

Now, now, Pastor Kevin, first of all, it wasn't a diatribe. It was just an innocent little blog comment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Man, I can't believe you dug up that comment I made -- about 300 years ago...............

but... I stand by it. I am speaking and thinking on different levels. Issues of Faith and Religion have many, many facets. It's not just one thing, just a simple "sola." To be catholic is simple, but catholic is deep.

Kathy said...

actually... where the heck was that comment of mine from? Was it from my blog? My brain is mush.

Kevin Haug said...

Check your blog. You made it just the other day. The fact that your brain is mush should tell you something about your ability to reason or lack there of.

Kathy said...

I apologize for my comment yesterday. I know that many bad things happened historically, hundreds of years ago (the Catholic Church is to blame), to get us where we are today. Also, my "brain is mush" because I have too many thing on it -- in other parts of my life.

I will try a "do-over" because I think you brought up a very important issue.

The issue is the definition of Church. We have talked about this before.

You and I both belong to the Mystical body of Christ. We are baptized, saved, and if we are faithful, we will go to heaven. Faithful people of all denominations belong to this "church." (At Medjugorje Mary even speaks about a Muslim woman being the most holy woman in town.)

You and I belong to different churches. The Catholic Church is the (present, material, here-and-now) church on Earth. The Lutheran Church is a church that broke off from the Catholic Church. Both "churches" are present, material, here-and-now bodies of believers.

Obviously these "churches" do not speak with the same voice.

I believe, for many reasons, that this can be worked out. This is the reason I continue to write.

Again, I apologize for my snippy comments. It's just a bad habit, and you are right to take umbrage.

Kevin Haug said...

Apology accepted, Kathy, and I think we can work out many differences without having to assimilate.

Kathy said...

It wouldn't be "assimilating." It would be returning to the family after a divorce, a son returning home after a fight with his parents.

Jesus said: "When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself."

Here is the analogy: A person standing on a street corner in a strange city without a map does not understand where he is, his position.

A person looking at a Google map on a computer can expand the map to see, not only the whole city, but the whole Earth.

When Jesus said: "Upon Peter I build my Church," he was seeing all from the highest point, the highest level. He is God.

We must try to understand this, and imitate Christ.