June 19th, 2006

HTOC

Losing a Common Language

I have lost the common Christian language once held between me and my friends of evangelical and non-denominational backgrounds. Experiences and conversations from these past few days have somewhat codified this fact for me. We do not speak about Jesus in the same way. We do not talk about what God is doing in the same way. Neither do we speak about the Church in the same way - especially the Church! 
 
Obviously the differences can be labeled as “formal” versus “informal”, or “emotional” versus “contemplative”, though these are stereotypes and cannot be true all of the time. Perhaps the difference is found in the evangelical’s need to create a relevant tradition and the Orthodox Christian’s realization that one needs to submit to Tradition. Again, this is all very general but I think that it rings true.
 
It is a sad thing to lose this common vocabulary; it puts an invisible barrier between me and those that I’ve grown up with and sought God with. 
 
No where else does this come up more than in thinking about the Church. Most of my conversations about Orthodoxy end with the other Christian saying something to the effect of “Well, whatever works and all is well…” It is ecclesiological relativism. This is the touchiest of subjects between Christians of differing beliefs. I cannot find the idea of a purely invisible and spiritual Church supported in the Scriptures. The history of the Christian Church ( the Body which the gates of hell cannot overcome!) leaves no room for an invisible, unstructured Church. The Church Fathers, these very same men who defended the dogma of the Trinity, worked out the doctrines of Christ’s two natures and oversaw the canonization of Scripture, would be aghast at the idea of a Church without a direct line of apostolic succession, a common belief and ancient liturgical worship.  But to suggest that an invisible Church is a theological novelty is to call into question the level of “Churchness” that certain Christian communities may possess. And it is a very painful thing to hold an opinion that is potentially so divisive, especially among those that I’ve come to know, love and respect.  Are these perhaps questions better left un-asked?