Wednesday, June 29, 2005

J. Grant Swank, Jr. smells Foolables

Christian Churches together won't say what they believe. That's why J. Grant Swank, Jr. smells something. It's something with the same aroma as the World Council of Churches. It's the Same Old Thing. That's what he says in this column for MichNews. Note what he sees and what he doesn't hear:

"U.S. Christians Nearing a New Unity" was the headline. I searched the report for a theological underpinning to the venture; but there was none.

Until the group pronounces publicly for all believers to read that doctrinal base upon which it proposes to rest, there will be legitimate suspicions as to what this group is all about.

The World Council of Churches for years has lost out to the biblically moored because of diluting its theological base. If that occurs again with this new group, it’s bound to falter just as the WCC has faltered.

The report states that nothing is finalized within the group unless all representatives agree on it.

Does that mean that all representatives agree on the divinity of Jesus, the Bible as divine revelation without question, the existence of both heaven and hell, salvation through Jesus Christ’s atonement on Calvary, the need for each individual to experience a personal commitment to Christ as Redeemer, and so forth?

It is hoped that this new group is grounded upon a genuinely solid biblical understanding; otherwise, evangelical Protestants and devout Catholics and traditional Orthodox adherents will not think of becoming a part of still another ecumenical group that lauds social service while ignoring the biblical, divinely inspired mandate.

Mother Theresa holds a certain pride of place in the hearts of many Catholics. She was called a living Saint since at least 1981, when I first heard my fifth grade teacher call her one. One sees her and sees care for the poor, unless one is either a raving lune or Chris Hutchinson. How did she find the strength to care for the poor, sick and dying in one of the most impoverished cities on Earth?

She would say it's simple: She picked up the Cross Christ gave her and followed him. To respond in such faith, she needed a strong commitment to her Catholic Faith. She had it, and then some. Her obedience and loyalty the the magisterium, in particular to Pope John Paul the Great, differentiated her from so many others that commit to social justice. She once remarked that the fruit of abortion is nuclear war. She has also said that the greatest sadness she's known comes from seeing people receive the Eucharist in her hand. Few would challenge the orthodoxy of her faith!

Authentic living comes from authentic being. Action follows belief. The mind guides the body. Orthopraxy follows orthodoxy. If one does not have a relationship with Christ, one will fail to live as his witness. If one does not believe the Word and Tradition that ultimately comes from God through the Church, then one fails to have a relationship with him. The World Council of Churches has lost touch with the cornerstones of its relationship with Christ. It's small wonder that the faithful show a reluctance to support them. Until those that would seek social justice first emmerse themselves in personal mercy, they shall be clanging symbols and noisy gongs. They'll make plenty of noise but will ultimately change no hearts. They will bear lean fruit indeed.

Likewise, those that dwell only on belieft and knowledge of the Teachings of the Church, but fail to act on their blessed enlightenment, put themselves apart from God. Christ emptied himself so that he could live and die as one of us. Through his participation in our lives, we are saved. thus, through participation in his life do we live our salvation to the full. He has told us himself that when we help the most margenalized and needy, we help him. He has mysteriously identified himself with the poor and helpless from the beginning. Born of poor parents in a provincial backwater, Christ grew up with "no place to lay his head." He remained poor all his earthly life. Women and other disciples paid for his needs. This same Christ invites us to show Mercy on the poor, as he showed mercy on us when we needed it. Can we expect to live in the fullness of life in him if we don't follow his example and show mercy to another? Othopraxy must follow orthodoxy, or else it is no orthodoxy, but some pious illusion that covers for our own complacency.

Perhaps when ecumenical organizations demonstrate a clear commitment to orthodoxy and orthopraxy they will earn the loyalty of traditional Christians that they desire. Until they do, Christians will regard them with the suspicion they deserve.