Monday, December 28, 2020

Would a united Christian church bring us out of this mess?

It’s been suggested before. I don’t see for this time in history.

I was reading Erling Olsen’s meditation on Psalm 124 this morning which begins, “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side . . .” Olsen had a Sunday afternoon radio broadcast in the mid-1930s on the Psalms, which was so popular it was later published and has been through many printings. In 1937 he wrote:

“The entire world is now being swamped by a tidal wave of materialism and the hearts of many are filled with apprehension concerning the future.  The whole earth appears to be in a state of turmoil as some of the nations of the earth seem bent on war, while the unrest in other nations resembles a war scare.  It seems as if all the world is seated upon a keg of dynamite, with everybody playing around the keg with a lighted torch.”

He moves from the Depression era and war threats coming from Europe in 1937  back to ancient Israel and when it did not through its own power make it to the promised land, and that’s what Psalm 124 celebrates.

Than back to 1937.  It seemed, he said, that we had turned the corner, that we were on the road to prosperity (that wasn’t the case—the economy was heading for a recession with the Depression), but he lamented that men hadn’t ceased to be materialists and doubted they had learned any lessons.  One prominent Christian, very wealthy (he didn’t give his name) suggested that only a “united Christian world could stem the rising tide of materialism, of selfishness, of broken traditions and crumbling moral standards and point the way out.”  He lamented the failure of the church visible, with its sects, still clinging to its denominationalism “in a drifting, disillusioned, discouraged world which sees in the church confusion rather than hope.”

That certainly describes the church today, so I’m thinking the proposal of that rich and influential Christian didn’t work. Olsen goes on to say, . .

“I wholeheartedly endorse the comments which that gentleman made and I agree with him that the world is on the brink of disaster as its very foundations are being shaken.  I agree with him that the only thing for the church today is to bear a united testimony, so that she may be a bulwark against the raging storm.  But let me be clear.  There can be no united Christian church except it be founded on a solid rock.. . . I am wholeheartedly for Christian unity if that unity is based on the deity of Christ, on the impregnable rock of Holy Write, on the cardinal truth of the Christian faith revealed at the cross of Jesus Christ which towers ‘o’er the wrecks of time.’ I am for unity of the Christian church in bearing an effectual testimony to a world of moral failure when it invites the individual members of society to come to the ‘fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins,’ . . . What power the Christian church would have in this world if it would give faithful testimony concerning these verities of our faith.”

The church is no more united now than 80+ years ago. And during our present national and world crisis, it seems to have closed its doors and settled for the title, “non-essential.” Although individual congregations went to court to keep their doors open, most just quietly folded and turned to their technology staff, if they had one. A few used their parking lots and speaker systems.  Various religious voices brightly proclaim the church is moving into the community via technology like Zoom, Facebook, Tik Tok and on-line services, but I hardly think that replaces the hundreds of ministries that have closed which evangelize, feed, clothe, build, educate and visit the millions who need the church.

Olsen suggested that in the 1930s the failure of the church was the responsibility of those that have not been faithful to the Gospel of Christ, who have undermined faith in the scriptures and stripped Jesus of his Glory bringing him down to a life devoted to a principle.  That Jesus can transform lives and is not a mere social message is a message lost in today’s (1937) world, he said. That might be part of it, but I know some Bible-believing, gospel preaching churches that were just too comfortable and lukewarm to Stand up for Jesus. They looked to the government, to science, to social media and the confusing advice of the experts to see them through.   Prayer, worship, fasting, service—well, they can wait on a vaccine, or a new president, or a less virulent mutation while we hunker down in our homes.

No comments: