Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Deadbeat Dads and Latch-Key Kids (Or, Why We Need the Church)

"No one can have God for his Father," Cyprian insisted, "who does not have the Church as his mother." To our own Gnostic sensibilities, this statement is offensive and extreme. Sure, American evangelicals are all about healthy, two-parent families, but this only applies to the cultural type, not the cultic antitype. In other words, we're conservatives in the culture wars, but when it comes to the worship wars, we're ecclesiatical versions of Jeanine Gerofalo.

But while "tsk-tsk"ing those poor, inner-city (read: black) types for supposedly spawning scores latch-key kids, have we unwittingly made God out to be the greatest deadbeat Dad of all time?

The harsh reality, folks, is that Jesus is not here. Well, let me rephrase that: Jesus is no longer locally present with us, he has ascended to his Father's right hand in glory. This means that we don't get to refer to him as "the One we have seen with our eyes, whom we have touched with our hands" (I John 1:1).

Not that we no longer hear him or truly commune with him, we certainly do. But we do so in a mediated, not immediate, way through the ministry of his church. When your minister faithfully expounds God's Word, that is Jesus talking. When he declares the forgiveness of your sins, that is Jesus forgiving you. When he administers the bread and cup, that is Jesus feeding you his own body and blood. The keys of the kingdom have been entrusted to the officers of Christ's church for the holy purpose of opening, shutting, binding, and loosing (Matt. 16:19).

If Cyprian was right when he said that extra ecclesiam nulla salus est (outside the church there is no salvation), then despite our attempts at a Gnostic shortcut, we simply cannot have the Head without the Body.

After all, is it not a tad ironic for physical decapitation to be condemned by a group of spiritual Jack the Rippers?