Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Creed, Deed, and "True Christianity"

Rick Warren's call for "a reformation of deeds and not creeds" notwithstanding, neither the Bible nor the reformers seem to recognize many of the distinctions upon which the edifice of "evangeliberal" pietism is built (head vs. heart, Paul vs. Jesus, physical vs. spiritual, and doctrine vs. practice).

As I argued in my last post, the divorce of "true Christianity" from its corporate practice is dangerous and unwarranted, particularly when the so-called "essence" of the faith is so mystical, personal, and romantic that it defies definition. To be sure, "I Wanna Know What Love Is" may still be the heart's cry of many Jr. High kids today, but the love that Jesus demonstrated toward his people, and the love they return to him, is more concrete than what is evoked by much of the "Jesus is my Boyfriend" Christianity that is advocated these days.

My point, then, is that the faith-once-delivered is also the faith-corporately-practiced. To identify the locus of "real Christianity" in some internal experience or "religious affection," or in the practice of an extra-canonical sacrament such as quiet times or afterglows, is to remove the faith from its objective, historical context and place it in a realm that we can only hope to understand by playing God (and he hates it when his creatures do that...).

Does the old Jesus of History/Christ of Faith dichotomy ring a bell for anyone?

Confessionalism, no less than evangeliberal pietism, desires to see faith demonstrated in its professors. But rather than the litmus test being one's devotional life, voting record, or collection of Left Behind novels, it should be sought in the fact that those who profess Christ gather together each Lord's Day around Word and Sacrament, confessing their sins, singing his praises, and hearing, eating, and drinking the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In a word: Until we learn otherwise, a "real Christian" is an observant one.