Our church's history has been animated by notable rivalries between sincere Christians.


Having nothing worthwhile to say about today’s readings I want to speak on what I have done to keep busy in retirement. I have completed a 400-page survey of Christianity from the beginning to now; and in doing so, I have become aware of three rival strains pulling at each other through the centuries.  

In my weak perspective, the first rivalry was between those who follow Plato and those who follow Aristotle in the way they understand human nature. The second rivalry is between those who see Jesus as submitting himself in the Eucharist, and those seeing him assuming a royal pose in the Eucharist. The third is the rivalry between those who align our ministers with royalty, and those who see them as spokesmen for all Christians.

In that first rivalry, the early centuries, following on Plato’s contention that our souls were created before our bodies, took to punishing their bodies to force them to liberate their souls. Saner Christians came around to cultivating healthy souls in healthy bodies: but our moderns, going past that, are dieting to improve their bodies, while neglecting any fasting to strengthen their soul.

Secondly, we have rival approaches to the Eucharist. At the Last Supper, Jesus, as the host following the traditional table blessing, began by asking the disciples to join him in recalling God’s favors. Next, he asked them to join him in arousing a heightened awareness of God’s presence. For the third part he gave his body and blood to the disciples so that they could physically join him as part of one pleasing gift to the Father. (The word Eucharist, as you know, means “the pleasing gift.”) Opposed to that, some might see Jesus coming to us in the Eucharist mainly so that we might enthrone him for adoration.

The third of the rivalries got underway in 500 A.D when Europe had been taken over by nations with drastically simple social structures. In their feudal structures all authority, coming from God, resided solely in their king, who loaned it to his cousins. They in turn loaned it out to their landlords. To survive we adapted the church to their structure: seeing all our authority as residing in the pope, who loans it out to bishops, who loan it to pastors.

In the drastically simple social structure of those times there was nothing like a middle class. The nobles, in deference to the Lord, established the clergy as the First Estate; then, calling themselves the Second Estate, they imposed tithing and taxing on a Third Estate that had no voice in natters.

Perhaps the Church had to adapt itself to Feudalism when it was the only system in Europe. Might not our survival now call for us to adapt ourselves to current structures?


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John Forrester said...
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