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(Part 1 in the multipart series “Against All Odds”)
The history of the Christian Church is an unmitigated, worldly disaster.
Believing in Jesus Christ is always an exercise in repentance, but when it comes to the article of faith, “I believe in the Christian Church,” we find the need for meek assessment. For while it cannot be denied that the rise in the religion of Jesus is an astronomical and world-changing success, the likes of which the world has never known, it can neither be denied that all too rarely has this success been due to the actions of “the Church.” Just as often, if not more so, the Church that we see in the pages of history is at best a New Testament inflection of ancient Israel, that is, a people bearing God’s name yet in the process of being hurled out of His mouth.
The Reformation’s theology of the Anti-Christ understood this. (Cf. Power and Primacy, 39-40) “Satan takes his seat in the church.” The Pope is one of many antichrists when and as he establishes for himself a Kingdom. But Rome is not the only Christian Church in the history of the world to do such things. In fact, while more and more churches in western civilization close their doors year by year – as anyone who has tried to help such organizations partner together for survival knows – the Spirit had been turned away from these collapsing social clubs in favor of the gods of wood and stone long ago.
Need we talk of schisms? Need inquisitions be named? What of the uncounted missions undertaken in the name of vanity, ambition, and downright hubris? What of the boasts? What of the apostasies? What of the hard-heartedness and greed?
Believing in Jesus Christ is always an exercise in repentance, and ecclesiology is no different. Here, as much as anywhere, what we believe as Christians must begin with an outright damning of any trust in the self that does not proceed from intrepid awareness that, left to ourselves we can only worship the works of our hands, and will do so until it drives us all violently and actively mad. The confidence of the Christian Church is not in her progression but her redemption. The Christian Church’s unmitigated worldly disaster is the success that it is because our faith is not first our own.
“What do you have that you did not receive?”
A regenerating and heedless trust in the arcane supremacy of the crucified God, a faith in the viability of the Christian Church, begins and ends with the fact of His Most Holy Spirit channeling himself into the world via certain and irrevocable promises, contained once and for all in the Scriptures of Jesus Christ.
All of our attempts and efforts remain trapped in the fire which is coming. But These Words will never pass away.
Till angel cry and trumpet sound,
The Mad Christian