Sunday, October 14, 2007

Semper Reformanda = Pie in the Sky

Francis, how does a Church balance Church discipline in keeping the Faith, against the stated goal of the reformed churches: "Semper Reformanda", to be "always reforming"?

It seems to me that you either have to anoint the reformers of 1646, framing the Westminster Confession with an infallibility beyond question, and thus sacrifice any hope for being "always reforming". Or on the other hand, you have to debate every issue and every viewpoint in the church, and have it be a big power struggle on who wins. If you are the incumbant and you lose the power struggle, then you have to go out and find or found a new church. If you are the reformer and you lose, you have to go out and found or find a new church to continue the reformation. Is that God's big plan for the church? Either to annoint some reformers in 1646? Or to keep splitting churches and having people bounce from church to church in a continuing power trip on who can force their ideas on the church?

Because the one thing that certainly isn't happening is people embracing the teachings of the Westminster Confession on its own merits. Less and less proportion of people over time hold less and less of its doctrine to be true. There's a great un-reformation going on in the churches that formally held to this confession.

There's someone attending our Orthodox church now for a few months who has been a long time member of the most conservative Calvinist Presbyterian denomination, because she feels that the church has recently gone awry in the area of worship. Other members are refugees from Anglicans, Baptists or others because these churches are continually falling off the rails in one area or another. Of course maybe they're not off the rails, maybe they are just continuing to reform. Because reformed protestant worship circa 2007 is a LOT different than what it was circa 1646. No doubt the remaining members (the winners of the power struggles) in these increasingly struggling denominations see themselves this way. But nobody feels safe, not even in the most conservative Presbyterian church, that the next wave of new-think won't marginalize yet another slice of the pie of membership.

How can you say this is workable? Aren't you just living in an ivory tower of theory whilst the rats jump ship to the safe waters of Orthodoxy? Where are you going to go when it's your congregation's turn to either fall off the rails, or else not listen to your sound advice to reform? Do you have a cracking point where you are going to have had enough, or are you lucky enough to be on one of the larger icebergs heading towards the equator, and haven't had to face it yet? In this land of confusion do you really feel better off than the Fathers who said "it is Tradition, look no further"? Only the Orthodox Church has stability because only it recognizes no mechanism for change. Never reforming. Ever.

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