St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 ::

Is There Such a Thing as Irrelevant Truth?

Like many of you, I have been fascinated with the ongoing discussion between Clifton, Tripp, and Jeff on the nature of the Church, where THE Church can be found, the nature of freedom, etc. Check them out!

In discussing these things with some of my Protestant friends, I keep running into an idea they all seem to share: that somehow the fact that there might be one, complete church that contains the fullness of grace and truth is somehow antithical to "human freedom." It seems that hidden in this assumption is the idea that there really is some mystical "mere Christianity" that if we could just get rid of all these rules, canons, structures, liturgies, creeds, dogmas etc...then we might be able to have "unity in Christ." I must say I love C.S. Lewis. But I think he was dead wrong in regards to the idea of "mere Christianity."

I think it must be said, first off, that God Himself is never "minimalistic" because Jesus Himself never taught a minimalistic faith. He is "THE way, THE truth and THE life." (John 14:6). The calling of the Church is to manifest the Truth (that is Jesus Christ) in all of His fullness. Truth is the very foundation and nature of the Church, its Head being Truth Himself. (John 14:6). To confine God (and His Truth revealed to us in the Church) to just the "top ten" proposition needed to "be saved" or "be a Christian" implies that the other eleven to infinity are not really important. Thus, according to this reasoning, there is such a thing as "irrelevant" truth. And this, of course, is relativism. And relativism, in all its forms, is incompatible with the Christian Faith. And why?

Because relativism is inconsistent with the very nature of truth itself. Truth does not depend on one's personal convictions because what the truth of God is true for everyone at all times and in all places. One can either accept the truth or defy it. What one can't do is treat truth (and therefore God!) as if some part of it "doesn't matter." Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the Church "into ALL(!) truth" (John 16:13). Orthodoxy is holistic and totalizing in its outlook on all parts of reality because that is the nature and way of God.

While we are not to be relativists in regards to the truth, neither can be become like the Pharisees, claiming the truth as our own possession. Accepting the truth of the Church makes one less dependent on themselves and more reliant on God. The truth and reality of the Church does not give someone who is Orthodox the right to boast or lord it over others. "Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required" (Luke 12:48). With humility, it is imperative that we remember that, in the Final Judgment, God only judges us based on the truth we were given and the love by which we responded to that truth. Thus the Orthodox have more of a burden in this regard than anyone, for just like the Pharisees, we have no excuses! In the Church, there is nothing lacking to guide us while we "work out our salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12b). All that may be missing is our own free will.

And that goes back to the idea of freedom. We don't need to create our own theologies; we don't need to create "meaningful worship experiences", and we don't need to recreate or dumb down what we think "Christianity" is in order to have the spiritual freedom with which God can lead us and guide us. True freedom is being in the truth, being in and participating fully in reality. If the Body of Christ, the Church, can't provide this, then God has failed.

Consider this: Jesus didn't come to establish "Christianity"! What he did establish was His Church!

But then this begs the question all over again: What is the Church? And WHERE is the Church?

Let the discussion continue!

:: Karl :: 3:15:00 PM [Link] ::

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