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Sunday, September 25, 2011

In Germany, the Pope makes a good point

With so much of the ridiculousness (and here) of contemporary German Catholicism swirling around him (and the ridiculousness of contemporary Catholicism period), you almost are tempted to give B16 points for simply showing up for this visit to his homeland, especially since it is to the heart of German Protestantism and atheism. That he is able to do so and move the ball forward to the extent he is perpetually able, I find remarkable.

However, in this address, he makes a point that seems to bear more reflection:
Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability.
For those who can't figure what he's on about, he's talking about the evangelical movement, the new/emergent/emerging church movement, the megachurch movement, etc. It seems to me that evangelicalism as it is becoming will become the death knell of Christianity in the future. So much of it is founded on emotionalism. There is little taste for doctrine as such. Holding something as dogmatic is itself often held as anathema, and much of it is about what religion gives "me," and not what I bring worship, honor, service, and praise to my God, "who art all good and worthy of all my love."

I once had a fundamentalist criticize the Church's not inviting to the eucharistic table those who simply said, "I want to be Catholic." Why, he asked, do you make catechumens take anywhere from six months to two years of instruction to become officially Catholic? Well, simply put, it's because doctrine matters. It would be like saying back at one of the early Councils, "Eh, who cares if Jesus is wholly God and wholly man or simply God under the appearance of man or God's highest creature?" Had the Church not insisted on the the meeting of Christ's divinity and humanity as the hypostatic union, Christianity would today be a dead letter. Had the outcome of the Council of Nicaea not been what it was, the same would be true.

And yet the growth in Evangelicalism as a "non-denominational" denomination is an outgrowth of an idea that such dogmatism is no longer needed, if it ever was (and let's not kid ourselves: Calvary Chapel, etc., they're all very denominational with a strict set of beliefs, yet beliefs that can morph and change as times and circumstances require with no reference to the truth, e.g., Ron Bell and Rick Warren et al). It is not doctrine that is important, we're told, but one's personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. How else to explain, "Once saved, always saved," or, "I'm a good person, and Jesus and I love each other, and thus I will go to heaven," or "If Jesus was here today, He wouldn't bother with XYZ. He would just tell us to love one another."

If that's the case, why bother? It's an offshoot of what Miss Flannery O'Conner once said about the Eucharist: "Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it." Dogma and doctrine are the glue that bind us together with our predecessors in the Faith, and they ensure we will pass on the faith handed down whole by the apostles to our progeny and beyond.

Megachurches and the new or emergent church movement may look impressive on paper now, but they are ultimately nothing more than today's fad, a flash in the pan. They are, in short, just another form of Modernism. Thus, they will only further undermine institutional Christianity than has already happened.

God help us and save us from this, please.

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