Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
August 21st, 2018 by Scott Fritzsche

Still Fixing What Scares Me About The UMC

Continuing with the idea that the plans for the future of the UMC have been presented in mostly practical convenience and not grounded, by most, in theological discussion, I want to continue what I began earlier. Having established earlier that, by our standards of faith, the UMC is bound to the moral law, that the moral law is a part of the divine nature of God, and that God wove said moral law into creation itself, we are ready to progress to the next point. The moral law of God, as a part of His nature, and woven into creation, is a nexus between the Creator and His creation. Because of this, it is vitally important that we consider God’s moral law while properly discerning the future of the UMC.
Consider the following snippets from sermon 34 as they reveal to us traits of the moral law.
” Now, this law is an incorruptible picture of the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity. It is he whom, in his essence, no man hath seen, or can see, made visible to men and angels. It is the face of God unveiled; God manifested to his creatures as they are able to bear it; manifested to give, and not to destroy, life — that they may see God and live. It is the heart of God disclosed to man. ”
“The law of God is all virtues in one, in such a shape as to be beheld with open face by all those whose eyes God hath enlightened. What is the law but divine virtue and wisdom assuming a visible form? What is it but the original ideas of truth and good, which were lodged in the uncreated mind from eternity, now drawn forth and clothed with such a vehicle as to appear even to human understanding?”
“The law of God (speaking after the manner of men) is a copy of the eternal mind, a transcript of the divine nature: Yea, it is the fairest offspring of the everlasting Father, the brightest efflux of his essential wisdom, the visible beauty of the Most High. It is the delight and wonder of cherubim and seraphim, and all the company of heaven, and the glory and joy of every wise believer, every well-instructed child of God upon earth.”
 

These traits which we are bound to by our standards of faith, are demonstrated here to be far more than a simple list of rules that we must follow, but rather they are a reflection of the divine radiance and majesty of God laid forth before us in a form which we can observe, lest we be overwhelmed in our frailty by the magnificence that is God. Not only that, the moral law is a copy of the very mind of God (in so far as we can understand it), and as such, should not so easily be dismissed. If indeed the moral law is all virtues in one, divine wisdom, the beauty of the Creator, and the joy and wisdom of the well instructed children of God on earth, then surely it needs to be the basis of our decision making going forward.

Much of this may sound very high brow, or theologically heavy such as to be resigned to scholarly debate alone, but we must remember that Wesley was a man rooted in practical theology, that is a theology that is not only to be discussed in the ivory towers of the academics, but also a theology that is to be used in day to day life by the faithful. While it is good and right to apply this to our decision making about the future of the UMC, we must also understand that said decisions will affect our day to day living within the community of the faithful. The wrong choice here has the very real consequence of taking the moral law, as a basis for our practical day to day lives, and twisting and perverting it to something that is barely recognizable as “the visible beauty of the Most high”. The wrong decision does not only affect the future of the UMC, and it’s followers, but runs the real risk of warping the message of the very nature of God that He has woven into all of creation. In trying to discern this, at first glance it seems we are left with the Euthyphro dilemma which asks us if something is morally good because it is commanded by God, or is it commanded by God because it is morally good. It is a question with no real answer and it seems then that we are left only to confusion of the matter, but we are lucky to have our rich Wesleyan theological heritage which rejects the entire premise by showing us truth by the moral law. Wesley says,  “It seems, then, that the whole difficulty arises from considering God’s will as distinct from God. Otherwise it vanishes away. For none can doubt but God is the cause of the law of God. But the will of God is God himself.”  It is not only the will of God we are trying to discern here, but rather God Himself, His very nature, in applying the moral law to the decisions regarding the future of the church. As a tenet of Wesleyan theology, if we get the moral law of God wrong in our decision moving forward, it is not merely a mistake, or a wrong decision, it is getting God Himself wrong. It will mean that we have not just improperly discerned God’s will for the UMC, but we have improperly discerned God period. That is what is at stake, according to our Wesleyan theological heritage and standards of faith. While the stakes are high for the church, they are even higher for us, the laity who are ministered to by the church, as the practical way that we live out our lives might indeed become tainted by the church improperly discerning God.

So, to the plans. Which of the plans then best reflects the moral law, and as such best reflects the nature and attributes of God? Which provides for the practical theology that Wesley endorsed and called for as a guide to our day to day living? Which plan best provides for a reflection, however imperfect, “the incoruptable picture of the High And Holy One”? As human beings, creatures who were created if you will, we are subject to the created order of things in which God wove the moral law into. Which plan reflects that? Which plan allows for the moral law to, as Wesley said it must in sermon 25“remain in force, upon all mankind, and in all ages; as not depending either on time or place, or any other circumstances liable to change, but on the nature of God and the nature of man, and their unchangeable relation to each other.” That is the question we should be asking looking forward.
Scott Fritzsche

Comments

One Response to “Still Fixing What Scares Me About The UMC”
  1. I hate to burst the bubble, “which plan?”
    Activists will never be satisfied until UMC is UU. Simple plan will be fought for after all this current mess is over with.

    https://www.umnews.org/en/news/new-group-pushes-simple-plan-as-way-forward

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