Saturday, May 2, 2015

The ambiguity of orthodoxy

What makes a church the church?

Is it something in ontology or economy?

Perhaps both?

Recently, I have been researching and writing on ecclesiology as it relates to the German Confessing Church and specifically to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's writings. 

In Sanctorum Communio he makes a statement that has a profoundly practical application. The church is Christ existing as community for the sake of the other. 

This is an essential reality of what it means to be the church. Community as Christ. A message of ontologogical substance in definition, yet also full of practical economy in how it functions in the world as Christ functioned in the world. 

A suffering servant. 

Do we suffer for the broken? The widow? The orphan? 

I believe that at our core, we ought to. To love our neighbor and our enemy is the most Christian thing one can do. 

But herein lies the ambiguity of orthodoxy. What do we do when our particular range of doctrinal belief is different than our fellow Christians in other denominations, countries, races, sexual orientations, and genders? 

Does it matter?

What is orthodoxy?

I would say it does matter. The more I read and write on the confessing church, the more I am convinced of the bare bones reality of the scripture being preached and the sacraments practiced is the embodiment of what Church looks like. To confess the gospel of Christ should be a social reality. But while it may look like a practical and potentially liberating truth that allows for a wide range of beliefs, I would counter that a social gospel is one that takes seriously the reality of the transformative cost of grace. We invite all no matter who they are and what their sin, but through discipleship and participation in the life giving grace of the gospel, the church should never expect nor allow any sinner (read all people) to remain there as a sinner. 

In the coming days, months, and years, the ambiguity of orthodoxy will become more and more blurry. I believe that the church is becoming more socially minded , which is very good, but in doing so, is allowing for cultural influence to usurp the costliness of true grace. 

In this way, orthodoxy becomes a victim to relativism and orthodoxy is fragmented to a hierarchy of belief. Essentials and non essentials. But I wonder, if the main reason Christ went to the cross was to break the context of sin and become the mediator for human kind with God in relationship and to establish a new humanity, it would make sense to me that sin, injustice, and unrighteousness are not simple things humans can pick and choose to define categories of what falls in them or not. Rather, the cross calls all sinners to become new creatures leaving sin behind, not justifying it (see Romans 6). 

It is not my place to judge anyone, but it is within my place as a member of the body of Christ, the church, to proclaim the simple reality of the cross, costly grace, and transformation into disciples. Orthodoxy is not as ambiguous as culture wants us to think, and for this, I thank God. 

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