Wednesday 14 April 2021

What to do about church? (You, yourself, alone.)

Folk need to realize that saying "But I have access to a real Christian church, which has defied the pressures of the birdemic-fake-response and remained open" is Not an answer to the problem of Christians now. 

It certainly is a good thing if you do have such access - but it is not an answer because (as of her and 2021) many Christians do not have access to a real church

Either because there are no real Christian churches accessible (or maybe none in a denomination that they would regard as valid). 

Because they do not have access to these churches: maybe too far away; or because the buildings are shut due to lockdowns; the priests/ pastors have stopped work or been stopped; or because the people cannot, or are not allowed to, travel to a real church. 

What the "But I have access to a real church" people are indirectly saying amounts to "You can do nothing by yourself, therefore just wait until some priest (for catholic Christians), or some gathering of devout people (for protestant Christians), sorts-out a church of real Christians that you are able to attend"... 

This is a counsel of passivity, waiting, hoping for better times - but actually doing nothing substantive. Because (according to such Christians) nothing can be done by one Christian, alone. 

Unless you can do it alone, and without permission or help from any other persons; then nowadays, it probably is Not going to be done. 

And if this state-of-affairs (of a church being organized for you) does not happen - well that's tough

You can't be a Christian, because (they assert) if you aren't in a church (that I approve of) then you can't be a Christian.

(e.g. Either because you have no access to priests and sacraments, or because you are not gathering.

I think we all need to understand that this situation is not an accident

On the one hand, Christians have too often (usually) painted themselves into a corner. They have made Christianity a mandatory group religion; such that there is no concept of an unaffiliated, or solo, real Christian: only of church members. ("The church" is primary, specific individual human members are at best secondary, at worst just an Optional Extra.) 

On the other hand, for many Christians in many circumstances church is not an option, being corrupt,  unavailable, inaccessible, or shut without any assurance of ever again opening (or opening only with strict and anti-Christian, anti-human, controls and conditions).    

Church First worked fine in history when there were both real and accessible Christian churches, but cannot work when there are not.  

The double-bind is Must Church... but No Church. 

And the only way out is for individuals to re-examine the assumption Must Church with its sub-implications Must Priest and/or Must Group. 

If it turns-out that - after all - any individual can be a real Christian on his own and without the cooperation of any other person or people, or institutions, or laws - then there is No Fundamental Problem with being a Christian in 2021; or at any other time or in any other circumstance.  

So, if you are one of the Christians who believe they must be part of a church but no church is available; then (while you are waiting for some other people to solve your impasse), you might as well expend some serious time and effort re-examine your assumption that church membership is necessary in order for you to be a Christian. 

And you might start with prayer and meditation on this theme; to see if you can discern what God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Ghost has to say on the matter.


Alex said...

As long as there is one true Catholic left alive, then the Church is still alive.

I'm told at one point 90% of the Church were Arian heretics.

I hate to sound confrontational but I just don't see the wisdom in abandoning Christ's church just because one disagrees with its leadership on various matter - the right course of action is to keep joining in the sacraments as best as one can while praying for the priests.

Even IF the priests should happen to be committing sins, that's still no reason to abandon the church - the sacraments operate on the "Ex opere operato" principle, which means they are valid no matter what.

'Ex opere operato is a Latin phrase meaning "from the work performed" and, in reference to sacraments, signifies that they derive their efficacy, not from the minister or recipient (which would mean that they derive it ex opere operantis, meaning "from the agent's activity"), but from the sacrament considered independently of the merits of the minister or the recipient. According to the ex opere operato interpretation of the sacraments, any positive effect comes not from their worthiness or faith but from the sacrament as an instrument of God.'

And even if one cannot physically engage in the Eucharist, one can still watch the Mass on Youtube and do the spiritual communion instead.

I apologize again if I come off as confrontational, I just wanted to share my opinion on this.

Jonathan said...

Church can still be helpful, but it feels very awkward because no longer are we rooted beings living in a community (I think Tolkien was hinting at something like this in his essay on Smith of Wootton Major regarding the church).

Sean G. said...

I wrestled with this at the beginning of the birdemic but ultimately my church (Orthodox) left me and my family on my own. I couldn't confess, have my son baptized or take communion. So unless you consider a livestream to be anything less than a demonic takeover, there really was no choice. I spent Pascha reading John and Proverbs because I couldn't stomach loading up youtube on the holiest night of the year. And I will not commune with the church that keeps reminding people on it's website to NOT come in to church.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex - "As long as there is one true Catholic left alive, then the Church is still alive." Surely that is untrue in the long term, unless that one person is a bishop (who can ordain priests)? What could a single non-priest do? - the church would die with him.

But I don't think you have addressed my points about what individual people in the situation I describe should actually do, now. Or are you saying that they can only wait, should wait patiently; and the situation will become clear?

Either way; I suppose the real problem is that the churches have forcefully agreed with the world government that 'health' is primary. (The fact that the definition of health is a fraud and a lie is secondary to the fact that the health of mortal Men has been officially regarded (by the churches) as so far transcending the spiritual that the spiritual has no status.

Thus even if the birdemic really was as bad as the Black Death - the Black Death did not stop the church functioning, because the Medieval church (and society generally) knew that salvation was more important than mortal life. I don't think we really know anything much about what was really happening in the Arian times, or indeed what Arianism really was. But accepting your 80% heresy estimate by my understanding, the RCC is now in a far worse situation than then, because both sides, including the Arians, were very serious about their faith - and putting it first.

More deeply I think you are arguing that the RC church cannot (in some mystical sense) genuinely be corrupted, or do more harm than good.

But this does not suffice. In practice, this does not solve the problem of the real RC Christian; who is confronted by serious doubt about the location and personnel of the real RCC; and therefore where authority and priestly power lies.

In practice, every modern Roman Catholic just-is using his discernment all the time, in deciding innumerable questions concerning 'who to believe' - and this is getting worse and worse, for decades - leading up to the present stark apostasy.

The Continental Op said...

Dr Bruce touches the elephant, and describes an elephant.

So many churches aren't answering to Christ but are really just System franchises.

Monomachos said...

The fourth-century convert Marius Victorinus was challenged by the bishop of Milan that, if he was really a Christian, he should be seen in church.

Victorinus' answer: 'do walls then make a Christian?'

David said...

"Thus even if the birdemic really was as bad as the Black Death - the Black Death did not stop the church functioning, because the Medieval church (and society generally) knew that salvation was more important than mortal life."

This is a fantastic point, and it's utterly lost on birdemic people. I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on this. There's a mass of literature on the period as well, including parish records and first hand accounts. Good introductory books are "The Scourging Angel: The Black Death in the British Isles", and of course, "A diary of the Plague Year"...

I realise I'm not adding much here, but the contrast in culture between the Medieval mind and ours is truly staggering...

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Dante tells the story of Ripheus, a Trojan warrior who, because of his (originally Pagan) piety, was granted a private revelation of the Christian gospel many centuries before Christ. He lived and died a true Christian, utterly alone in this faith, and he was saved.

Or, more to the point, here is what Paul of Tarsus told the Athenians on Mars' Hill (Acts 17:22-28):

"Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. . . . God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; . . . and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, 'For we are also his offspring.'"

Under the birdemic regime, the "bounds of your habitation" may not extend much beyond the walls of your own home, but you can still feel after him and find him.

A said...

Archbishop Schneider's book "Christus Vincit" contains a large auto-biography portion about growing up a German Catholic under communist Russia and how they were on their own most of the time - rarely receiving Eucharist - but remaining devout as a family. It is very interesting and may be helpful.

We may be in worse times now in that we have both a crackdown and a nominally "fake church" with wayward Priests and ministers who put the state-religion first - while the Priests he met were risking their lives under communism (many of our Priests & Bishops won't take a tiny fractional chance of asymptomatic illness now... and preach Birdemic nonsense)

Dr. Charlton is right though, even Catholics must discern now. Who do you listen to? Is the Pope even Catholic? It's not a joke anymore.

Anonymous said...

This has somehow got me thinking about possible (conscious?) interrelations between Charles Williams's All Hallows' Eve (AHE), Lewis's That Hideous Strength (THS), and various things Tolkien was working on around the same sort of time (the exact details of who was writing what just when, I have not yet rechecked). For instance, that AHE is significantly about Baptism and the effect of becoming a member of the Body of Christ even as an unconscious baby.

Is that true of THS in some ways, as well? - e.g., Ransom the extra-terrestrially kidnapped Christian, thereafter on earth, even when humanly alone, being sometimes very personally "with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven" (as Lewis later quotes in Letters to Malcolm, Letter 3), McPhee being excluded from going in search of Merlin as not a believing Christian (do we know if he was Baptized as a baby?), Ransom and Dr. Dimble being humanly mistaken about the living effects of Merlin having been a Baptized Christian - mistaken together with the Belbury folk (and perhaps even the demons?), with all, to varying degrees, seemingly expecting him to side with the forces of evil.

And, in how far is Tolkien in working out the NĂºmenorean 'cultus' (discreetly reflected throughout The Lord of the Rings) imagining a pre-Incarnational Faith without Sacraments (or even typological sacrifices/offerings like those of Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Melchizedek) yet uniting faithful worshippers of Eru (latria) and of the unfallen Valar and Maiar (dulia), even when as alone as a Ranger like Aragorn?

Did these Inklings discuss things like this, when sharing samples of their latest work?

How may they have been meant to encourage, when drafted mid-World War?

David Llewellyn Dodds