29 November 2005

Monks, Fire, and No Mass Communication

Tonight I cannot help but chuckle at the complete mess of the early Church. I'm knee-deep in the controversies of the 5th century now, when Popes' power is ascending, monks are cantankerous, and emperors vascillate in levels of Christian sympathy. Vandals and Goths and others attack from all sides; alliances are struck between secular and sacred powers to preserve wealth and land. Some bishops call Councils to settle any number of the myriad matters of life-or-death controversy (you know, the really important stuff, like whether Christ's two natures were eternally fused or whether he was divinity enfleshed for a time on Earth) but some of the Bishops invited can't get there in time, and it completely affects the entire outcome of negotiations. People are put on trial in their own absence, people present are condemned without being given the chance to speak for themselves. People are condemned, exiled, anathematized one year, only to be orthodox the next.

What of our own incredibly important disputes are we going to put down gleefully when the next more glamorous controversy comes along? Each of these theological distinctions has its place, but what can determine "orthodoxy" and what is worth dying for, worth being out of communion with sisters and brothers? What differences hinder corporate ability to praise the Lord, or stop me from being in love and charity with my neighbors?

I know its a simple question, and the answers abound from all perspectives. Still, since the 5th century, it seems more, not less, has become non-negotiable. Human condition or Christian curse?


Blogger LutheranChik said...

I encounter a lot of Christians who have a kind of back-to-the-Garden fantasy about some supposedly monolithic, pristine "early Church," and how the Church today (by which they tend to mean churches in the broad catholic tradition) is apostate, and how we need to go back to the days of the early Church, when Christians were all shiny, happy people holding hands and believing/teaching the same things. Oh, really? We really are, in many cases, disconnected from our roots.

11:00 AM  
Blogger TheCrowdBelow said...

It is interesting to think of the entire church being apostate. Apostate in this context cannot mean "one who has abandoned the creeds of the church," obviously. It could mean "one who has abandoned its guiding ideas or principles." Did we ever have guiding ideas or principles? It is hard to abandon something that never existed.

5:46 PM  
Blogger TheCrowdBelow said...

I suspect we are culturally prone to think that there is, of necessity, a truth, an ideal, which is Christianity. Whether we locate it in the early church or somewhere else is immaterial to the fact that we assume it exists somewhere, like Platonic forms.

A striking feature of the Evangelical church is that they basically claim to have caught hold of this ideal for a time.

Perhaps the mainline churches could offer the option that "True Christianity" is a myth, that we are mysteriously and beautifully engaged in a 2000 (or 10.000) year old experiment.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Zinnhead said...

or CONNECTED to them, since we're repeating everything they did. great comment, chik.

6:38 PM  

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