Saturday, April 05, 2008

"A Spiritual Hiroshima"

Thanks to Dr. John Stephenson of the Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario for sending me this brilliant essay based on a presentation by Dr. Peter Kreeft (pictured) of Boston College.

While his speech was obviously written from a Roman Catholic perspective, and bewails his own communion's failure (at least in America) to mount a defense of the Gospel in the face of the "Culture of Death" - both among the hierarchy and in the church's colleges - we Lutherans are largely fighting the same battle.

Like Nero who played the lute while Rome burned, our church leadership fiddles with silly marketing gimmicks and programs while our antichristian culture is Ablaze!(tm) with the "crafts and assaults of the devil." Our bureaucrats seem to have no clue that we are living in apocalyptic times. Our hierarchy pushes the marketing of the emerging gurus, when what the Church and the world really need is the example of the eternal martyrdom of the saints. The Church needs communion with heroes who emptied themselves out in the arena, not the imitation of charlatans who fill their own coffers by filling up arenas.

The battle lines are clear.

To our shame, we Lutherans are often more concerned with 19th century squabbles between one group of German Americans and the other, when what we really need is to take up the sword of the ancient war between our Lord and His host over and against the prince of this world, even as he and his minions continue to make inroads into the Church through the increasingly antichristian culture of death.

It is terribly frustrating that all too often the traditionalist Roman Catholic and Reformed Christians are engaging the devil in battle while the Lutherans are too often frolicking like the mythical unicorn in the rain. Roman Catholics have also given the world the author Michael O'Brien, who is likewise sounding the trumpet. Issues, Etc. had been a Lutheran regiment in the battle, but that regiment has been retired in favor of a nice, bland, nonconfrontational Afternoon Show.

We will not defeat antichrist with programs, nor with detente with the enemy. We will only defeat him because Christ has crushed his malignant head at the cross. We need to recklessly wield the sword of God's Word against the dragon, and voraciously feed on the body and blood of the dragon's Slayer. We need to fortify ourselves with prayer and fasting, with confession and absolution, with a fanatical obsession to take the Holy Sacrament at every available opportunity. We need to quit pussyfooting around and "man up" and stop living as if we have made peace with the devil.

We need to enlist our sons and daughters in the war and stop allowing them to cavort with the enemy. It isn't their "choice" which army they will fight with anymore than a soldier can pick and choose which country he will fight for at any given time. Consider them drafted. It is no more their "choice" to be a Christian or not than it is their "choice" whether or not to eat rat poison.

We are the church militant, and we need to be militant. It is a bloody business, and we can only fight with the blood of the Lamb in our mouths.

And "we" need to understand that the "we" is not the synod, not a corporation, not a denomination, but rather the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose archbishop is Christ, founded on the apostles, and against which the gates of hell are as impotent as any church marketing scheme.

3 comments:

solarblogger said...

And "we" need to understand that the "we" is not the synod, not a corporation, not a denomination, but rather the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose archbishop is Christ, founded on the apostles, and against which the gates of hell are as impotent as any church marketing scheme.

Yes.

The culture war language is slippery, though. I don't like it. But I can't say I'm not engaged it in, either. I don't think it's an option to be "above it all." I am on the conservative side of this war, even if I don't like using much of the language. And even where warfare language has a good history, our tradition's stance towards Christ and Culture has been predominantly paradoxical. It is not the warfare language that is so tricky, but the culture language.

Kreeft's use of the word "jihad" is funny here. He translates it as "struggle." The Germans had a word for 'struggle', too: Kampf. Under Bismark they spoke of a Kulturkampf, which was a struggle of secularity against the influence of the Roman Catholic church. It was later used by Hitler. Given that history, maybe translating jihad as just plain "war" is better. This is one of those funny places where past use means the harsher term is less offensive by association than the milder one.

While we must realize we are in a battle, we have to remember this is unlike a conventional battle in some senses. We can even find ourselves fighting on both sides (cf. Matthew Matthew 16:16, 16:23), and at pivotal points, too. But moreso than deciding which parties to side with, I think speaking the Word of God is the answer. We were given that Word not in order that the world would be destroyed, but that it would be saved through it. Otherwise, the end of the world should have happened in Genesis 3.

The line about "cavorting with the enemy" is important, though. Rightly understood. The enemy, as I see it, is who is speaking against the Word of God at a given moment. We must have an answer, and not just let it pass. I think we are often dangerously sloppy here. But 1 Corinthian 5:9-13 makes certain understandings of cavorting with the enemy impossible.

Father Hollywood said...

I wonder if Kreeft is deliberately *trying* to be "offensive" (which is exactly what the preaching of the cross is in 1 Cor 1:23 - "skandalon"). It certainly demonstrates how lukewarm Christians are, for instance, compared to Muslims. Using (if not "co-opting") the word "jihad" certainly raises eyebrows and gives us something to talk about.

I'm not sure what would be an example of fighting on "both sides" in this case. I can't imagine an example of siding with Satan under any circumstances, though I am routinely implored by some people that I need to "vote for the lesser evil" in the upcoming election. It's kind of funny to hear both Democrats and Republicans referring to their candidates as "evil" as a way to try to get people to vote for them. ;-)

I don't think our Lord was fighting on both sides in Matt 16, but rather Peter who, in his sinful flesh, was fighting on both sides - and was rebuked for doing so in the form of the preaching of the law from our Lord. But maybe I'm misunderstanding your point.

I agree 100% about speaking the Word of God. That's the one thing that won't lead us astray, for sure!

Also, an excellent point about St. Paul's differentiation between the immoral of the world vs. the immoral in the Church (1 Cor 5:9-13). I do think we should be "out in the world" for the sake of the Gospel. For a pastor to have a beer at a bar while wearing a collar is, I think, a great witness of the Gospel. However, if it is a "peeler bar" or a "gay bar" - I think that's something entirely different. Similarly, I think Christian women who dress modestly absolutely should have friends who have entirely different values - but I don't think Christian women should go a step further and dress like prostitutes (which is the temptation for a lot of young girls) nor should their parents just shrug it off and excuse it because their daughter confesses Christ. I think this is the fine line our Lord refers to in John 17:6-18.

St. Paul always writes to his listeners as "saints" - which is a word that means literally "separated ones." However, the latest trend among the "movers and shakers" and "church marketers" is to increasingly blur that line of separation, seeking a church that looks ever more like the world. I do think that is a dangerous game to play.

Thanks for the thought-provoking comments!

solarblogger said...

I wonder if Kreeft is deliberately *trying* to be "offensive" (which is exactly what the preaching of the cross is in 1 Cor 1:23 - "skandalon"). It certainly demonstrates how lukewarm Christians are, for instance, compared to Muslims. Using (if not "co-opting") the word "jihad" certainly raises eyebrows and gives us something to talk about.

That's a good question.

Where he was provocative in a good way was in talking of a "Spiritual Hiroshima." Strong language. Nothing half-hearted there. But you also know he's talking of a "spiritual" rather than a literal Hiroshima, even if the latter turns out in the end to be more devastating. His language won't be as easily confused with that of others, as it is a more unique use. I'm not against provocative. Strong is good. But strong words that can easily be taken the wrong way because of their use by others are different.

As to Matthew 16, I meant that Peter found himself on both sides. So far on Satan's side at one point that Jesus addressed him as Satan. I don't think Peter was serving Satan intentionally. He was probably shocked.

It is common when these battles are seen politically to think, "If only our guys got in there, they could clean everything up." Our guys, if they get political, may end up as dirty as the others. And if they are trusted too much, they might do even more damage.

I agree with your caveats on 1 Corinthians. Yes. In the world but not of it. I've also heard of "Against the world for [the sake of] the world." When we forget the first half, we need a wake up call like Kreeft's. I just want to be clear that the second half hasn't been forgotten as we pick up the weapons we've dropped.