OCTOBER 28 2017
THE FINAL REFORMATION.
On October 31 2017 it is exactly 500 years ago that Martin Luther started a true revolution: challenging the all-powerful ecclesiastical empire, with Rome as its capital. The final outcome: thousands of new denominations, a cacophony of different opinions, the birth of Colonialism and Capitalism. Now, 500 years later do we experience the end of organized religion?
Fact is that from 100 percent participation in matters divine then, today, in our Western World, only a few go to church, mainly the old.
The traditional churches, Anglican, United, Presbyterian, are dying, at least in the village where I live. In Quebec the same is true for the R. C. Church. Our local Anglican Church expired a few years ago, as they could no longer pay the overhead. I was at its last service where many lapsed members came for their final farewell. What were they thinking?
I liked their minister, a very-open-minded, sincere Christian. When, in our Presbyterian Church we had a series of terrible preachers, we often would go there. At the time there also was an excellent Roman Catholic priest in town, who had been a missionary in Mexico. He was truly ecumenical and had no respect for the RC hierarchy.
Not so much the Pentecostal Church. I once went to a concert there, but walked out, couldn’t hack the music, the lyrics and the male-chauvinistic atmosphere.
Then there is our Salvation Army station. It sponsors the food bank, and has a second-hand clothing store. When I needed a black blazer I went there and found a brand-new virgin wool coat for $4.00 and a leather belt for $1.00: can’t beat that. Our village has a limited commercial section, no stores that sell such items, but it does have a large segment of unemployable and disabled people, people that somehow may not feel at home in our church which is thoroughly middleclass, almost half of them retired teachers. Sally Ann fills a definite need in our municipality. The commercial options maybe limited but for the 6500 people that live here there’s lots of religious choice.
Oh yes, I almost forgot the most important part: half of the arae confess to be of the Roman faith. We have two large R. C. churches no more than 4 km apart. Together they seat more than twice the other churches combined. It certainly is not lack of capacity that plagues the churches: the United Church seats some 300 people, the Presbyterian about 250, and the two R.C. churches more than one thousand. Yet on any given Sunday no more than 250 people attend church representing less than 4 percent of the total population. I’m pretty sure that’s an optimistic figure.
Tweed had a large influx of unilingual French people some 150 years ago. When they were registered by the English officers their names were phonetically recorded, so Thibeault turned into Tebo, Robichaud resulted in Rabbishaw, Faubert formed Fobear or Fobert and Villeneuve was transcribed as Villneff, just to cite a few name distortions. Of course, then they all were staunch Catholic.
The church we go to, St Andrew’s Presbyterian, was built in 1890 and inaugurated in 1892. This past Sunday we celebrated our 125th anniversary.
We joined it in 1980 when there was a thriving Sunday School and a regular attendance of some 70 people. The choir then had close to 20 members and competed in music festivals. On our 100th Anniversary we even performed the Messiah.
Since then people have died and moved away. Of the current members only 5 were born into the church. Thanks to an influx of new people we still have a core of some 40 people. The choir, now reduced to 9 people (I am the only tenor), has only one original member: the rest, including the choir leader, are new. Gone is the Sunday school.
Does that indicate that the days for organized religion are numbered and the need for God has disappeared?
Religion will never disappear.
When people stop believing in God they will start believing anything, such as Infinite Economic Growth. “Anyone who thinks that exponential growth can go on forever on a Finite Planet is either a madman, an economist or a politician,” remarked one astute observer.
There must be a lot of mad people in the world, because Exponential Growth is still the reigning mantra in the land. It is pure RELIGION, replacing the Creator God with the god Mammon.
Basically I am an Collapsitarian, a state of mind that finds ample reinforcement today, witness the frightening disappearance of 75 percent of insects, imperilling crops and fruits: another definite sign that we are approaching THE DAY OF THE LORD.
I am a firm believer in the laws of Ecology, one of which is: “everything is connected to everything else”. Our entire societal system consisting of economic, environmental, ecclesiastical segments is one gigantic whole with all parts so intimately intertwined that when one part fails the entire structure collapses: no insects, no humanity. Just last week the WHO – World Health Organization – reported that today one in six deaths world-wide are the result of pollution, the direct result of today’s pseudo religion which allows us to live as kings, with One Hundred Energy slaves at our disposal 24/7 for a very brief time.
There is a nihilistic strain coursing through the veins of a significant number of people on the American right, composed mostly of Rapture believing, cosmos despising, church people. They delight in Mr. Trump’s effort to annihilate truth and draw energy and purpose from the unsettling effect he has on the nation as a whole. For them, Mr. Trump is a “fighter,” and politics needs to be weaponized in order to be enjoyed. They see politics as World Wrestling entertainment and Mr. Trump as the best wrestler in the ring.
Nihilism and fatalism go together.
Take the farmers across six US states in the wheat belt. They all live – and die – by the OGALLALA aquifer system.
They know what the problems are, and they can clearly see that it has a multi-hundred-year recharge rate, and that they’re drawing it down far too fast. The farmers full well know that if they continue to do this then the very farms that they consider their chief assets are going to be ruined. Now they basically grow corn in a desert. It simply doesn’t make sense. Everybody knows it doesn’t make sense, and yet they persist and continue to do this.
World-wide we do the same thing everywhere: we saturate the soil, water and air with plastic particles and pesticides, which have murderous effects on all life, including insects and humans.
We need an APP for thinking.
When I was running last week, outside, in shorts, at the end of October!, I thought up a perfect APP for making people think. It’s a program that, when activated will suddenly destroy access to the Internet in all of North America forever. That will restore people to think for themselves again. It would also bring people back to church, for fellowship, a necessary ingredient for sanity, wellbeing and longer life, because people who go to church live longer and healthier, for the simple reasons that we are created to be part of a community. In the Apostles’ Creed, the only line that gets an elaboration is: I believe in One Holy Catholic Church, THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS.
What is the role of the church in these FINAL REFORMATION DAYS?
By and large the church no longer can bring the truth, because it will only alienate the people in the pew, most of them being Heaven Adherents.
The truth is found in 2 Peter 3: 13, where it says that
“In keeping with Christ’s promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
It is now all too clear that there is no righteousness in our state of affairs – and I don’t have to repeat the multitude of environmental sins we constantly commit. N.T Wright, in his study outline on Revelation notes that one pastor, after reading Wright’s book SURPRISED BY HOPE, started to preach the NEW EARTH gospel, upsetting his major contributors who had grown up with the Heaven doctrine.
That means that the church is caught between two opposing forces. The inevitable result is an ineffective gospel. It is high time that the church develop a NEW EARTH GOSPEL and prepare THE WORLD FOR AN EARTHLY FUTURE, because without a NEW EARTH emphasis the church has little to say.
I believe that, if the church plods on, torn between heaven and earth, and unwilling or unable to implement 2 Peter 3: 13, then both NULLA SALUS EXTRA ECCLESIAM and NULLA SALUS INTRA ECCLESIAM hold true.
This means that even though “there is no salvation outside the church” there also is “no longer salvation inside the church”, because all it does is prolonging PIOUS SECULARISM as Bonhoeffer put it.
In that case what happens to the NEW EARTH BELIEVERS?
For them the church is there to teach them humility, to learn patience. For them the church is there to love our fellow neighbors in spite of unbelief, in spite of ignorance, in spite of misunderstanding, in spite of traditional faith, in spite of hypocrisy.
Jesus knew that the Jewish religion of his time was godless. Yet he went to the synagogue and temple. That’s why I too still go to church where the minister has the unenviable job to balance between heaven and earth.
THE FINAL REFORMATION.
History teaches us that every 500-600 years a new start is made in religion. Major religions seem to be born every five- six hundred years. Moses and the emergence of the Yahweh worship took place some 1200 years before Christ. About 600 years later the world saw the birth of three separate religious streams: Zoroaster in Persia, Confucius in China and Buddha in South East Asia, while the Solomon Temple in Jerusalem was also inaugurated.
The Christian Religion took off with the death of Christ, while Islam saw its rise with Mohammed who lived from 570-632.
The Crusades – 1096-1291- could be seen as a major change, as the church became militant. This was followed by the 100 YEAR WAR between France and England -1337-1453-, and especially the 14th Century Black Plague pandemic which killed at least one-third of the European population.
All this prepared the world for the next religious event, the Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther on October 31 1517.
Now, with the speeding up of history thanks to our carboholic addiction, 500 years later we are due for what I call the FINAL REFORMATION.
As I see it, this FINAL STAGE will take the form of John 3: 16 where all churches, all denominations, all religions will embrace LOVE FOR THE COSMOS, or perish, most likely the latter. That is what Jesus prayed for as recorded in John 17: 21: “That all may be one,” uniting on the theme of LOVING THE COSMOS. He was about to give his life for this goal.
That’s why today churches everywhere must ignore all denominational directives, most shelve all confessional documents and contemporary statements and unite under the banner of 2 Peter 3: 10-13:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live HOLY and GODLY lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
Living HOLY and GODLY lives means that we must be totally aware of Christ’s sacrifice, be in tune with God’s Creation, and ban, as much as possible, all polluting elements in our life and so effectively prepare ourselves for the arrival of THE NEW CREATION.
THAT CONSTITUTES THE FINAL REFORMATION.