Bless then, friend Ken.
The Church as Institution, Day Five
The five legs of learning: sense, experience, memory, authority and intuition; none able to stand verifiably on its own. Taken in batches of two or three, the loss of one member or the domination of one over another can either rob truth of life or steal truth from life.
Does rigid formality protect Fortress Ecclesia’s doubts within its redoubts? In my view, one of the great assets of the Western Church is the secular society in which it builds its little parapets. The great danger, however, of the Church’s fortress mentality is an unsatisfying intellectual discourse on religion and its place in our culture. In the past seventy-five years in baptist Christian life every major development in thought has been severely and successfully opposed by powerful reactionary forces, intent to freeze thought in place. The "Conservative Resurgence" in the SBC (which has proven itself neither conservative nor a resurgence) is the latest example of the unreasoned forces at work.
I mentioned in my recent memoir the way America (and the West) reinvented itself beginning in the 1930’s. The reinvention was so radical it can be called a new birth experience, a new nation, so different from the Founding Fathers’ expectations it can scarcely be called their child. America became more democratic, more egalitarain, more religious and less isolationist beginning in the 1930’s. Altruism based on religious principle and sure to fail without the sacred font first bent the will of the former aristocrats (Roosevelt was considered a traitor to his class) and then succumbed to the political wiles of the major parties.
Early on, sanitation, police and fire protection were private enterprises, as were the social morality issues now called "faith based" initiatives. It is instructive to note none of the "hard services," like sanitation, police or fire protection are to be returned to the private sector without heavy regulation. The task is too large. Society seems ready to return public welfare to the private sector, however, and mostly to not for profit organizations. The lines between church and state blur with potential disaster for both.
The Church suffers in the exchange for its mission in the world is redefined as primarily material with attendant values imparted, but in secondary implementation. The Insitutional Church thus concieves hypocrites, breeds a perpetual underclass or risks losing its cultural place at least as defined by the culture. I call it the Church as Cosmic Santa Claus.
As you read my memoirs/essays in this space, I continue to argue for the Church as religious institution. That is, the Church on an other-worldly mission of revealed truth from a personal, loving, supernatural force. We can make a case for the existence of the Church on this basis for it lacks any other.
Rigid formality based around shared documents will not finally relieve unadmitted doubt or expiate unexplained sinful will. The Institutional Church, no less the guitar-strumming chorus singers than the pipe organ playing hymn bleaters, substitutes form for transforming worship.
Must God go through proper channels when the Deity wishes to do a kindness for humanity? The Institutional Church appears to think so and is surprised to find God at work (most surprised when God works with or within the Church itself).
Jung, the vicar’s son, called fabulous acts "synchrosity." He drew attention to "repeated, unexplained occurrences that indicated events did not always obey the rules of time, space or causality" (Jung by Deirdre Blake, p. 43). Lewis called them miracles and said they were the essence of mere (simple) Christianity.
Jung also felt Christianity did nothing but demean itself after the time of Christ Himself for, where Jesus built His Church in the inns and homes, the Christian Church built imposing "places apart," within which it might live like hell while insisting common beings prepare for heaven. The Church became a powerful political, economic and military force to protect its earthly prerogatives.
Along its way, emulating the powerful material forces around it, the Church may have lost sight of the two great truths of evangelism, to wit, people are lonely in the desperate world and even the worst Christian can be friendly.