Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Saving The Church

The New Testament presents the world with many truths, few however are of greater importance than a simple phrase uttered by Saint Paul to Saint Timothy when he said: “These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1 Tim 3: 14-15.

According to St Paul there is a conduct that is befitting for everyone who seeks a life of truth, and along with that conduct there is also one place where that life of truth must be lived out. The place serves as a container of truth and is none other than the church of the living God. According to St. Paul this true church is discernable by two traits: 1) Its unfailing perfection when it comes to doctrine or dogma (truth), and 2) its unfailing perfection holding up (pillar) that truth in word and deed throughout all of history. In other words, if a communion of Christians that call themselves the church are dogmatically wrong, or if they have ever faild  to hold up (pillar) that truth in word and deed from the time of Saint Paul until today, then that communion cannot be the what St. Paul calls the church. Why? Because the church according to the New Testament is the very body or incarnation of Christ by way of the Holy Spirit.  As the body of the Lord it cannot be anything other than turth at all times.

Nevertheless, this is an extremely problematic statement for the contemporary west where there are as many as 30,000 denominations (depending on how one numbers them) that call themselves churches. The plain fact is that each of these communions holds to different dogmas (dogmas), and many have not even been around for 100 years much less from the beginning.  This reality disqualifies them from what St paul is describing here.  Nevertheless, this simple truth seems to slip past most folks.  Instead, what we find in the west is a much more complex problem. It is true that most western Christians instictively see the errors in their churches, however, instead of realizing that this cannot be the church, and looking for the one church that has always been and always held on to the truth and is able to save them, they set out to save their church. In the west it is too often true that the individual is usually the savior of the church. Tom many Christians tell themselves, if only the church did this or that, or if only they beleived this or that then they would be a good church.

However, these words of Saint Paul insist that it is not us who save the church; rather it is the church that saves us.  She does not need to be rescued by us; we need to be rescued by her.  In fact, St paul tells Timothy that it is our conduct that neds to be shaped by her and for her. The Lord was serious when he promised that gates of Hades would not overcome his church (Mt 16: 18). The plain historical fact is that there is one body of Christ that existed from the beginning, has always possessed the truth, and still has it even now. It is this fact that drove the great 20th century Harvard historian Jaroslav Pelikan to her in his later years.

If we are to follow Saint Paul’s instruction we must ask ourselves what communion has always had the truth and never let go of it from St Paul’s time until today. Who could this church be? The Orthodox Church alone qualifies.

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