Let's re-examine my last post, shall we?
Last time, I posited that perhaps the mob scene that is today's Christianity may be the way that it's supposed to be, with all the bickering about women's ordination, gay marriage, eternal security, papal infallibility, the gospel of prosperity, and so forth and so on. "The way it's supposed to be" is shorthand for a scenario that is moving according to God's plan for his church.
Well, once I had had a chance to talk to some friends about this idea, I was told by several of them that this whole concept was wrong, that God couldn't have intended for things to come to this pass of disunity and dissension.
I'm not convinced. Here are some further thoughts on what I originally proposed.
First, and rightly, there are plenty of Biblical citations that indicate that God's favored state of existence is one of peace between brothers. Matthew 5:9 - "Blessed are the peacemakers..." from the Beatitudes. Psalm 133:1 - "Look! How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live together!" Leviticus 26:6 - "I will grant peace in the land so that you will lie down to sleep without anyone terrifying you." 1 Samuel 20:42 - "Jonathan said to David, 'Go in peace, for the two of us have sworn together in the name of the Lord...'"
This is all true. And what is also true is what has occurred over the centuries. Namely, that peace is transitory at best. It was so for the Old Testament Jews, and it was true for the New Testament Christians. Within just a few years of the founding of the church, virtually from the beginning, there were heresies aplenty in the Roman world about just who and what Jesus was, about how his death actually achieved what was being preached, about who could be saved and what they had to do to reach that state of grace. The Epistles in the New Testament are written mainly, it seems, to set straight church members who had deviated from the path of orthodoxy. And that truth exists just as strongly today as it did in the first century.
Is this the way that God intended it to be?
One of my favorite "modifications" of a Biblical text is this - "where two or three are gathered in my name, there's a good chance of schism."
I said in the first post that Jesus is not a crowd. I stand by that - Jesus is one.
How can that be, if the argumentative mass of Christianity is as divided on as many issues as I've indicated?
I submit that this can be the case for one simple reason - iron sharpens iron (from a Proverb).
The dialectic method of argument is one way of searching for truth. It requires a thesis, an antithesis (a contradictory notion to the thesis), and ultimately should resolve to a synthesis, which becomes the new thesis for another, more expansive dialectic debate. Over time, if the participants are truly searching for truth (political partisans need not apply at this point, for the most part), ideas rise or fall in the cauldron of debate and intensive argument. Valid ideas continue to gain currency, and invalid ideas fall to the wayside.
Of course, all that is abstracted in a perfect world. In the real world that you and I inhabit, it's a lot messier, with bone-headed ideas gaining support even after they've been shot down by better ideas. The proof of what really happens (under the bone-headed idea) doesn't always apply in the argument that follows. Personal prestige is involved, as is influence peddling and all sorts of other ways of gaming the debate.
Why couldn't this be the way God intended? After all, this is part and parcel of the way that human beings actually operate. This is us, after all. And we're the Body of Christ. We're the Church!
More to the point, is "the way it's supposed to be" in existence now? Or is it still just over the horizon, waiting for us to finally reach a state of agreement that once and for all removes the disagreements that holds us in hostile camps in the church today?
I'm going to remain out here on my limb, believing that the way the church is made up now, with all the competing currents of thought and belief and practice, is what God intends for our time. God has shown himself to be patient - it's been almost two thousand years since the resurrection of God-among-us, Jesus the Christ, and we haven't been raptured away yet. There's obviously still work to do.
God loves us, as messed up and as contentious as we are. He's waiting for us to be grace-filled vessels of his Spirit, as we are intended to be. We come to that awareness but slowly; it seems we don't do anything right off the bat. That's true individually as well as corporately.
Jesus is not a crowd. Jesus is one. Jesus also lives in the past, in the immediate, and in the indefinite future, living through time and space as the One Son of the Most High God. We are there as well. The little window we have now on this grand vista is foggy, cloudy, and obscured by our finitude. Even that won't last, we're assured by Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians. We're in the future, but we just haven't gotten there yet. The future is different than today; it always has been. God awaits us to realize who we truly are. This present reality is not for all time, but it's something we must go through. Everything's fine, and on schedule.