Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Enquiring about the Inquisition

It is true enough that the divisions in the church are a scandal. There are literally thousands of denominations in these not so United States alone, and that doesn’t even count the tens of thousands of micro-micro denominations, those “independent,” non-denominational churches that each think they are escaping the problem by forming a denomination of one. Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer that His disciples would be one, even as He is one with the Father. And we, like ill-trained siblings, squabble with our brothers over issues that might one day grow up to be important.

I understand how people get tired of it all. I get tired of it all. What I don’t understand is how some people think they can solve this problem by joining the one true church. Problem number one is that each of these one true churches have the same kinds of divisions that mark the broader evangelical church. The only difference is they have the same letterhead. Their hierarchy may all reach to the same pointy-headed hat, but they are deeply divided. That is, both the doctrines and petty jealousies that divide not just Presbyterians and Baptists but this Presbyterian denomination and that, can also be found dividing the Jesuits and the Franciscans., the Augustinians and the Cistercians. They can also be found dividing those Orthodox who think Gregory of Nazianzus represents the faith once delivered and those who think Cyril of Alexandria is the spokesman of the true faith. These guys play dueling fathers like we play dueling Reformers. The difference is we know how silly we look.

The bigger problem, however, is when we go looking for the one true church we end up shopping around to find the one we like. We might start in the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England. They have apostolic succession, or what the Bible calls “endless genealogies.” Sadly their bishops are laying hands where they ought not so we may swim the Tibor for Rome. When the happy ecumenicity of Vatican II begins to put a stench in our nostrils we will join one of sundry “More Catholic Than the Pope” sects. And if we ever try Orthodoxy, we can always shop the Patriarchs, moving from Greek to Russian to Coptic to Antiochan. When we shop for the One True Church are we not of necessity affirming, well, the priesthood of all believers? If I get to choose, I’m still in the drivers seat.

Weirder still is that these practical Anabaptists seek converts not just with the same zeal but the same methodology as regular Baptists. Having stood right here because they could do no other, so help them God, they turn around and appeal to the Scriptures, and to our Protestant consciences, asking us to deny the authority of the elders over us so that we can finally come under the authority of the church. They defy their elders in leaving their Protestant church. They encourage their Protestant friends to do that same. All so we can show how humble and submissive we are to this, no that, no the other one true church.

If these good folks really believed they had found the one true church, they would stop appealing to the authority of my own conscience, and start taking up the sword to win the lost. The Inquisition should come back in style. I just hope they start with each other, before they get to us.

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