Not really, but I have come to the conclusion that one of the reasons we see a fall in the numbers of Evangelical Protestants and the rise of the East and Rome, is that people want something more than a ‘sinner’s prayer’ and a hand shake from the pastor. They want something to hold on to, to grasp, and to be a part of.
I am not going to suggest that everyone jump the Tiber and land in Rome, but I want to point out that too often well intentioned ministers seek only to whittle the gospel down to a few simple words. If this was truly the way it was intended, then why do we need anything else beyond the Gospels? Paul’s writings are deep, and hard (even Peter agreed) and binding to the soul. We find great strength, prophecies, and hope in the Psalms – more so than could be delivered by the words which seems to have replaced the entire body of New Testament teachings – ‘Lord save me.’
Even that phrase, which many use now as the ‘sinner’s prayer,’ should require some deeper questioning by those who say them.
Lord – Who? Why? Of What? The Only One? Are there more?
Save – From what? Why? Who? And How does this person save you?
Me – Who are you?
But, too many seek a simple religious conversion than the religious experience, than the religious life. They want confirmation from others, in one great religious Milgram Experiment, that they are indeed ‘saved’ contrary to the admonitions by the Apostles to examine ourselves to see if we are in the Faith.
The Faith is more than an ‘I believe.’ Even the devils believe – and what does that merit them? The Faith is the universal faith, shared by every Christian from the Apostles to the Fathers to those who boldly carry the name of Christ even today. It is nothing new, but ever renewing. How can it be simplified to a few simple words? Can we not see the danger of oversimplification of the Gospel around us today?
The more I read over the Church Fathers, the more I read of the New Testament, the more I read from each of you, the more I see the complex simplicity of the Christian faith. We look at the complexity of the human body and marvel at how the simplest things can destroy, or heal, or make it function completely. Inception into the Faith is simple, but to maintain that faith, to explore that faith becomes a beautifully complex picture, open to all, and calling all.
I think of the early Christians and the Charismatics today (although I disagree at times with both groups over various issues). Both groups can find Christ in nearly everything; yet, most of us quit looking for Christ after the first taste of salvation. We simply accept mere words on paper without exploring them, applying them, living and loving them. There is a rich history that is often denied in Protestantism, with the baby being thrown out with the bath water. We dismiss all the rituals, etc… of Rome and the East, but forget that those rituals had a genesis in Christian history somewhere. Protestantism has killed itself, with many who claim the title suggesting nothing more of it’s converts than the easy beliefism of ‘Lord save me.’
I am not exactly a fan of Calvin, but look at his works. Those of Luther. Those of the Reformers. Their Protestantism kept it simply, yet deep in the oceans of theology. The same with the Church Fathers. Read Ignatius, Polycarp, the writer of Diognetus – read the rich simple complexity of their words, who learned very literally at the feet of the Apostles. They offer no corollary to their faith and practice, but kept the richness of faith alive.
We must remember not to ‘dimish’ the faith, but not to forget that Christ provided a very simple sacrifice for the sins of the world. Inception is simple – it depends upon the Call; but growth is complex.
What sparked my rant? Here.