I find it interesting that the day I post a piece on the fact that “theology . . . does not fare well in the church because it is not wanted,” Dr. Mohler makes a post which I think typifies what the end result will and must be of a church that ultimately rejects theology.
As he comments in The Secularization of the Church, “[s]ecularization is the process by which a society becomes more and more distant from its Christian roots,” and whereas this process has traditionally been viewed in a societal framework as defined, it is now possible to observe this secularization also taking place inside the religious institutions, with the Christian church being removed from its Christian roots and being conceived of as a “public utility,” “open for use by people of any religion or none, like a hospital.”
I agree with Dr. Mohler completely, and appreciate his candidness, when he says that, “This is a strange and pathetic vision of the church.” Pathetic. I had to read this twice to be sure it is what he said, and seeing that it is, I do not believe a more appropriate word could be found. It is pathetic when the church has become so removed from its roots, so antagonistic to the presence of theology in its messages and classrooms, that the only argument remaining for its existence is one of secular philanthropy.
The example of hospitals is duly disturbing to me as indicative of how far removed from the Gospel we’ve become. I agree, a church that functions merely as a “public utility” would be quite similar to the inclusive nature of a hospital, most of which are traditionally run or founded by specific Christian organizations. However, this is misleading in the fact that the hospitals themselves did not look like this until the liberalization and erasure of the Gospel through increasing public cries of tolerance. Yes, hospitals have always cared for people of all races and creeds, but in the beginning they also served to try and heal peoples spiritual illnesses as well. To say that we should want our churches to reflect the secular diversity and philanthropy of our hospitals is to neglect the fact that our hospitals only look like this because we lost our way to begin with.
Seeing this statement coming out of the Church of England also exemplifies a point that I made in the post yesterday when I said, “Theology, as [those who are opposed to it] have been taught, is boring, stuffy, and, this is the kicker, it often times leads to arguments.” If there is any church which has seen its fair share of arguments in recent years and decades it is the Anglican communion. So, between the increasing secularization of Great Britain and the overwhelming strain of animosity and distrust within the body, it seems like many people just want to cash in their chips and put away all arguments, moving forward with a vision of the church that is not centered on “divisive” doctrine but instead is focused on performing social charity.
Of course, this armistice is first to be praised by the humanist society which sees no need in telling anyone they’re wrong, but it completely misses the boat on the Christian call to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Don’t misunderstand me, I believe we should not seek to be angry with one another or to quarrel over words (2 Timothy 2.14), but to simply fold on the issues of exclusivity and inerrancy, and allow to pass the radical moral ambiguity that is promoted by one side of the Anglican communion in the name “peace” and “love,” appears to me to be nothing more than “exchang[ing] the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (Romans 1.23).
I think where we have ultimately gone wrong is by forgetting what Christ says in John 15: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (vv.18-19). The church, like Demas, getting tired of being hated and persecuted, has fallen in love with this present world, and deserted the “good deposit entrusted to [us]” (2 Timothy 1.14, 4.10).
This is not right, it is not how it’s supposed to be, but if we do not quit taking the high road on theology and forget to give a defense for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3.15), this “strange and pathetic vision of the church” will become all we have left of the church at all.