Creedal Debating Societies 1
|The history of the Christian Church in my view has been a long decline
from the Companionship with the Christ of the Gospels and the Apostles of the early New Testament Church
going downhill to the present
anemic creedal debating clubs of today where often a little flimsy
ritual is thrown in to make the churches what they are in today’s living. That is not much. The early Christians
had companionship with Christ, but
somewhere along the way the Western churches took the wrong turn into
primarily intellectual expressions of religion. The creeds became their chief intellectual expressions of
religion. Churches clustered around these complex listings. Companionship became secondary to belief.
It is obvious the faith of today is no longer a faith of companionship with Christ, learning and experimenting in Christian action. It is one of various anemic, class-clubby creedal debating societies where the emphasis is sidelined from walking with Christ to taking the sacraments, getting a grasp on creeds, their consequent theology, some ritual and the polite self-congratulation of belonging to the right class-clubby churches. All in all it can be rather disgusting. But we have been able to observe the church over the years turn a page of the Gospel of John into a page from Trollope. He was an English writer of the past century who illuminated the polite lack of religion in modem church life. There is no walking with Christ. The way life goes on in the churches, promotion grabbing and social climbing make the religious life appear inane. Read the Gospel of John, then “Barchester Towers” by Trollope.
Religious life in our churches, Protestant, Catholic or whatever, has changed slowly over ages into middle class passive conventionality with a church sanctuary reasonably filled with a polite church membership debating creeds a lot but not really doing much of anything. It is much ado about inaction. The wheels of the church move to take it nowhere. This is the much and the many of the churches today.
Opposed to the creedal in the churches is the liberal. Liberals are generally opposed to anybody believing anything. For most liberals religion is a “myth.” That is to say the Apostle was met on the road to Damascus by a “myth.” He was blinded for three days by a “myth.” Imagine that!. Some myth! For the liberals God isn’t real, you know, religion is only a myth. Their existence of God is a made-up bed time story. When Francis of Assisi heard God say to rebuild the rundown church, Francis didn’t really hear anything. He was “myth-ing” out. When St. Teresa was told by God to go to India, that wasn’t God. It was enough to get her to go to India to bathe lepers. But it wasn’t God according to the liberal wings of the churches.( My awareness of God was the most powerful ultimate reality I ever experienced. It was the most real thing that ever happened to me. Myth, it was not. I suggest the “myth” boys know not God.)
There is no God really to liberals. Religion is largely a figment of the imagination to a liberal who is fixated on proving the denial of faith. Why then is a liberal in a church anyway? You will recall the Vicar in England who has an Anglican Parish but doesn’t believe in God by his own profession. The fact is the circumstances are oxymoronic. But there they are! (Generally I find liberals are egotists. If they are not chosen by God, then no one is to be chosen by God, as there is obviously no God. But who could blame God for not choosing a bitter liberal who has eaten too many sour grapes?)
So two opposite parties are locked in the creedal debating club church sanctuary: the creedal ones versus the liberal ones. Their action is of course, only talking. One side believes in creeds. The others are trying to tear apart those creeds and return everyone to agnosticism, atheism and seemingly French style free thinking. The ones who profess creeds are in my view more correct, but they are relatively useless, since what does it matter what creed you profess, if you are not going to do a blessed thing but talk about it?
Talk. Talk. Talk. The modern churches are chiefly creedal debating societies. The conservative churches argue with other creedal debating societies about which conservative creed has the right footnotes, then they argue with the liberals who maintain there is no creed to be believed at all. I see the conservatives as winning because there is a God out there, but who really cares if neither is going to do much of anything anyway . Both sides have irrelevancy coming out their ears.
A real church should be like the early church in the Gospels: companionship with God, experimenting through and with and over and over with Christian action, learning, becoming and studying in order to be and then do. When I look around the world, I see a need for Christ in every face and every place: Spiritual needs, physical needs, medical needs, economic needs, psychological needs.
Often I sense needs that people do not even know they have that need ministering to. I see not only the needs of the many but the needs of individuals for spiritual growth and depth. The challenge of Christ is not for the church to define love in a creed and hold it. The challenge of Christ FOR THE CHURCH IS TO EXPAND LOVE in life, live the deep love of God, and to DEEPEN your spirit through applying love. The thing that matters as we grow older is if we have expanded in love and learned how to give love to tired, tight, and touchy folk. They need Christ so. The people in the churches must be the vessels carrying the living water of Christ to ones thirsty for God.
Put down the books about Christ and live Christ. Yes, you may make mistakes, will make mistakes, but if you are trying to live Christ, grace will cover any mistakes you make. Stop thinking about Christ and start doing for Christ. Think on what Christ would do and try it. If wrong, the important thing is to open up communication. The smallest of actions is communication. You have seen in Christ how God incarnated and became human. Now it is time for you as a human to try becoming more like God! Begin incarnating the Christ-God in your life as best you can. You will not be perfect. But you will become even more beloved of God and truly one in whom He is well pleased.
I often want to ask: After you have sat in a thousand pews, said the creed a thousand times, heard the same message over and over, don’t you ever want to do anything? I respect today the need and the ability to sit out the Kingdom in a time of everlasting committees, sub-committees, meetings, investigations, occasions and whatever, but when is enough to be enough? Many of you need to get up and go, so that you may get out and grow. Whatever you do, I suggest if the attitude is right in your heart, you will grow spiritually from it. Life is a testing ground. From the experiences of life, come learning, come character, comes a spiritual growth (that is if you, being modern, believe in these graces anymore.) Most of you need experiences to make you get out and grow. Or if you don’t, your children and grandchildren may. Plan some. Do them.
Consider if I preach the Word of God truly here? I think I do. But you must have the power house of your conscience behind you. You must have force of soul within you. Jesus said: the Kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:2 1) Claim that promise. Bring the Christ-consciousness in you out. Show your church to be more than only a creedal museum denomination, another creedal debating society, or one more liberal group sick on sour grapes. Return to the Gospel truths of the early church. Practice Companionship With Christ. Do not be afraid to show the world Christ as you see Him and walk with Him.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.