Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
October 21st, 2014 by Joel Watts

The Indefectability of the Church and the #UMC Extremes

English: William Tyndale, Protestant reformer ...

DEAL WITH IT. English: William Tyndale, Protestant reformer and Bible translator. Portrait from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Česky: William Tyndale (portrét ve Foxeově Knize mučedníků) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something Mark Shea wrote caught my eye.

In short, neither Progressive nor Reactionary dissenters really trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit or the indefectibility of the Church. Both believe the development of doctrine is, at bottom, not the Church coming to a deeper understanding of the will of Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but a random collision of power and mere human will in which anything might happen and any ideology might become top dog depending on who is the strongest.  And therefore, they believe it is all on them to (for Progressives) Change the Church into modern reflection of Liberal Values or (for Reactionaries) Save the Church from mutating into a “dark and false Church.”

And again, I call attention to something Pope Francis said at the close of the Synod. There are these extremes that are waging a war for their own place within the Church and waging war in the Church against one another.

William Tyndale (1494?–1536), translator of the Bible, Prologue to the Exposition of Matthew v, vi, vii, PS, p. 12.

The Church of Christ, then, is the multitude of all them that believe in Christ for the remission of sin; and, of a thankfulness for that mercy, love the law of God purely … and, of hate they have to the sin of this world, long for the life to come. This is the church that cannot err damnably; nor any long time; nor all of them: but as soon as any question ariseth, the truth of God’s promise stirreth up one or the other to teach them the truth of everything needful to salvation out of God’s word; and lighteneth the hearts of the other true members, to see the same, and to consent thereto.1

The Church universal is indefectible but people seemed to have forgotten that. Indeed, we no longer remember we are Christians together.

The two extremes in the United Methodist Church have likewise forgotten the nature of the Church. Both seek to control it. For them, it is there Church. Like Shea’s comment above, both extremes have lost faith in God — failing to realize the foundation of doctrine. Whereas the Church was once the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit that is supposed to lead us into all truth — it is now a battlefield between Justice-without-Righteousness and Righteousness-without-Justice. Both sides want to win in a place where we are to be made one, in a place where we are to be humble — in a kingdom established by the self-sacrifice.

Perhaps it is because in drifting further away from our Anglican heritage, we continue to lose important doctrines… like “Church.”

So, instead of complaining, let me suggest some remedies.

  • ignore the extremes

Well, that seems about it.

  1.  G. R. Evans and J. Robert Wright, The Anglican Tradition: a Handbook of Sources (London: SPCK, 1991), 133.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

3 Responses to “The Indefectability of the Church and the #UMC Extremes”
  1. John C. Poirier says

    I never found the case for an indefectible church persuasive. None of the biblical verses quoted in support of that notion really has anything to do with it.

    • Like papal infallibility and Just War, I think it is an abstract doctrine meant to aid in a rhetorical way. It is more of the “invisible church” or the “ideal church.” Yet, it does help in (I hope) settling people down sometimes. Right? (doubtful)

  2. Good post, Joel. Picking up for UM Insight.

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