23 March 2009

Parable of the Sea

Here is an interesting little story called the Parable of the Sea.

It was posted on the blog of a popular emerging/emergent church expert to bolster his argument against "personal preferences, denomination, and tradition" and to drive a wedge between evangelism and tradition.

Ironically, this story actually says the opposite of what he thinks it says.

The lifesaving post in the parable is the traditional Church. For 2,000 years, the one holy catholic and apostolic Church has been saving souls using the primitive means of the Word of God, of Holy Baptism, Absolution, Communion, and proclamation - by sending out ordained preachers armed with water and the Word. Through her liturgy and confession of absolute truth, the Church has indeed been a lifesaving operation for the lost who are in search of something secure and sure, a place to encounter the immutable God of the universe who took flesh for their sake in the midst of the storms of life that toss us about in the fallen world. Billions have been saved with little fanfare.

For twenty millennia, the Church has been sending out such missionaries armed with the unchanging Word of God and the traditional liturgy that carries that Word of God into the lives of the rescued.

But something has happened in recent years.

The Church morphed into something else: a club for young people, a place of entertainment, a coffee-shop catering to the hip, a stage where rock music is performed. It became the private venue of politically leftist twentysomethings where an Orwellian "inclusiveness" trumps the truth, where mission isn't about actually saving anyone from damnation, but rather talking about mission, talking about hairstyles, talking about tattoos, talking about music, talking about coffee, and most of all, talking about themselves and their "superior" methodologies.

Where the little outpost of the Church had its own culture that transcended national barriers and crossed the generation gap, now the newly-remodeled youth-driven coddled urban/suburban version in which baristas have replaced pastors, dialogue has taken the place of authoritative teaching, and where being cool has overturned the need for the forgiveness of sins and communion with the One True God - those who do not fit this homogeneity are pushed out.

In this changed institution, "mission" is now nothing more than marketing to the youth culture. Mission is no longer a means to the end (rescuing people), but the end in itself: which is to entertain young people and keep them coming back.

Thus the elderly, the politically conservative, families, those who seek the reverence that marked a real belief in the presence of Christ in the Mass, those who believe the Scriptures mean what they say even in matters that are unpopular in the secular culture (e.g. the sinfulness of homosexuality and the prohibition of women clergy) are told they aren't welcome any more. "This isn't your grandfather's church" they are told. And furthermore, the lifeboats (if they are even sent out at all) won't stop for the kinds of people who don't fit the target demographic.

Instead of life under the cross, people now expect the Christian life to be an MTV-style reality show. Instead of candles, people expect lasers. Instead of hymnals, people want Disney-like special effects. Instead of the "still small voice of God," people expect fast-moving amplified soundbytes. Ironically, entertainment has replaced salvation - which was the original intent of the lifeboats in the first place.

And anyone who disagrees is now paradoxically "against mission."

One of the greatest lifeboat captains in the Church's history also used a maritime analogy that is as relevant and authentic today as it was when he first said it in the ancient days before the iPod: Ephesians 4:14-15.


JBrandt said...

Unfortunately, the morphing doesn't end in the church. The same happens in Lutheran schools.

Proof is found in Exhibit A: http://swimmersitch.blogspot.com/2008/12/occasionally-lutheran-high-school-north.html

Exhibit B: The comments posted on his blog and those he received via e-mail and Facebook. The responses offer more proof that his criticism is spot on. Law and Gospel are described as "techniques", the Bible is open for interpretation and my son's doctrinal fortitude is viewed as close-minded, elitist and divisive.
Still, he presses on. Praise God.

John Brandt: Current LCMS high school teacher and proud father.

The Rev. BT Ball said...

Mr. Brandt-
glad you found our blog here where we are glad to be considered "close-minded, elitist and divisive." Thanks be to God your Aaron can be counted as such.
Hope all is well back home.

PS If you read the posting in the above link the Pastor Ball mentioned is the other one, my brother the Rev. JT Ball.

Ron said...

First, per your comment instructions. Name is Ron, occupation is engineer, hobby is armchair theology and church history. I attend Catholic mass out of respect for my wife, albeit I cannot commune, but am a ELCA Lutheran.

The morphing has gone on over the last 2000 years; if it hadn't we all likely be Eastern Orthodox, or some fashion closely aligned. Just look at the first 5 ecumenical councils, truth was anything but absolute, albeit as time passed, core doctrines became stronger, and heresies were put down.

Then jumping ahead a bunch of centuries, look at the diversity of beliefs in Europe during the 1800's, and same with early American Lutherans. Danish and German Lutheran theology was nearly 180 degrees opposed on many fronts Theology and liturgical practices were all over the spectra. If anything, there is much more convergence today, than there was at any time in Lutheran history. (the exception imho being WELS, but I haven't really dug into a lot of their history, so may be in error)

I'm very glad today's church is not that of my great grandfather, where heretical beliefs of all natures abounded on a nearly constant basis. Sure, defending against Mormom and reformed theology within the individual Lutheran congregation fostered many a sharp pastor, but far too many well meaning folks were led or did lead others down rabbit trails.

I do however agree with the premise that targeting a different demographic than traditionally targeted, and thus leaving many behind is not good whatsoever. It doesnt need to be an either or, it can be both and, as long as the core portions of the Gospel are not impacted. Guitar, flash and mtv mode while drastically different than organ, incense and candles are not core aspects of the Gospel. This does not mean one should be left for the other, they can co-exist, if not by time, by geolocation.

There are risks of overshadowing the still small voice in either aspect, no matter how much contemporary individuals rate one better than the other on either side. It was a similiar deal when Organ's were added years ago. Its the same with some CoC congregations today where music, and liturgical practices are considered anathema, as they feel such can obscure rather than bring one too Christ. One approach doesnt fit all of God's people, just as historically it never did either.

ghp said...

Fr. Beane: Great post -- spot on.

John: It is wonderful to hear that my alma mater is still turning out solid graduates like your son. We had our challenges back in the 80's, but it sounds like it wasn't anything like what he had to deal with. Good on him for standing strong.

-Glen Piper
LHN, Class of 1985