I do not think I have written about this before, or at least not explicitly; but my move to Romantic Christianity came when I explicitly acknowledged to myself that I do not believe that any of the churches can make any eternal commitments or covenants (binding agreements) during this mortal life.
In other words, and despite claims to the contrary, I cannot accept that any of the acts of churches have the eternal quality claimed for them and their rituals - whether that is baptism, marriage, Holy Communion, ordination or any other.
I believe that these are (or can be) man-made and mortal attempts to bind-us to good - they are (or can be) the best we can do or aspire to...
But I cannot accept that any are truly effectual in the supernatural and divine way claimed.
This mortal life is - at its base, ultimately - insufficient, it is a thing of change, corruption, and death - we are ruled by entropy: nothing of it lasts forever.
This was known and accepted by the ancients; and Jesus Christ did not change that fact; but gave us solid hope of eternal, resurrected and Heavenly life beyond death.
The churches are of this mortal life, and of Man; and no church can overcome the nature of mortal life...
But we, as individual persons, can overcome this world, after this world; by following Jesus Christ.
Note added: I am not at all saying that all commitments and covenants of all churches are worthless; but I am saying that the churches do not have the capacity to render permanent and binding that which is subject to the changes of this-world. Also, I am not saying that the things of this mortal life have only ephemeral value - on the contrary, I believe that our thoughts and actions (including commitments and covenants) may have eternal value... But this eternal value is realized only in eternal, not mortal, life. It is in resurrected and heavenly life that the temporary phenomena of mortality are rendered permanent.
Yes, but what about "the gates not prevailing" and all that . . .
I fear most Christians will file this post under "too negative to be profound", but I sense a some do intuit what you have outlined here to be true.
For example, I find the belief in the eternal commitment/covenant of churches to be a major weakness in Berdyaev's thinking. On the one hand, he criticizes the inadequacy of churches and recognizes that they are all coming apart at the seams, but he then insists upon their inevitable, eschatological role in the creative transfiguration of the world before the Second Coming of Christ (something I don't personally subscribe to).
Though he believes in the central importance of relationships of beings in a sort of Sobornost community, he cannot bring himself to envision these relationships completely outwith some form of church structure for the simple reason that he cannot envision the church as non-eternal. Of course, his view of the eternal church is mystical in nature, but still.
I'm sure the Church is a major part of God's plans, divinely inspired, receives protection, like the Bible. But it can't be considered to be watertight. Indissoluble external structure can't be used to make a mind, thereby ossifying it; things are more dynamic, a dynamic mind is required.
This is easy for me to say because of my understanding of this world as a place of learning, learning about what it is to be incarnate so the choice for permanent, sinless incarnation in Heaven can be made after death. Also, my understanding of sin has much more to do with personal choice than external influence. I don't think God would place people in a world that would bear on them in such a way that they'd continuously accumulate sin unconsciously and "fall in" to a hellish condition after death. God would ensure that such serious choices were being made freely.
@Francis - This post is a statement of my conviction - not an argument.
I tried for some years to 'make myself' believe that any of the churches I investigated (including Anglican, Orthodox Roman, Mormon, Evangelical Protestant) genuinely offered something permanently and qualitatively transformative; but I found nothing consistent with that assumption.
On the contrary, everything was consistent with the commitments and covenants of this mortal life being only quantitatively, relatively and temporarily effectual - at best.
And his seems to be confirmed by my understanding of Jesus's teachings in the Fourth Gospel, and by my intuitions. I am quite sure of this, for myself.
And, rather on the lines of Ben's remark about "I don't think God would place people in a world..." I regard this as Good News for Men - It is Good News that we are each able to find salvation, and to achieve some theosis; no matter what our situation; rather than such things being contingent upon any particular human institution.
@john - I don't regard that particular verse as being of significant validity - one way or the other. The usual interpretation is not, by my understanding, how the Bible ought to be read or understood. And I find it astonishing how much has been hung upon a particular interpretation of this unsupported verse! In other words I agree with you, but do not consider it sensible to quibble over the meaning of a single verse, - especially not a verse in Matthew's Gospel, which I regard as the least valid, least useful, most distorted of the Gospels.
I'll go part way with you. Just like the churches in Revelation that were warned about being "spit out," so too will some earthly current expressions of Christ's church. And like some early manifestations of "church" preached "another gospel... actually no gospel at all," we clearly see that now.
But to write all off by your intuition seems the way of heresy at worst of nihilistic fatalism at best.
@JGR - Well, I am of course 'a heretic' by the standards of any church. Obviously.
Indeed; I am explicitly in a minority of one.
But that does not matter to Jesus Christ.
As for 'nihilistic fatalism' - that is completely and utterly false; as you would know if you read this blog and/or understood my metaphysical assumptions.
@ Bruce - I share your conviction and was not treating it as an argument. I was merely pointing out the obvious -- that most Christians, even the ones that are somewhat sympathetic to the conviction, consider such beliefs to be extremely negative/inaccessible
JGR's comment above attests to that. Put simply, very few Christians are willing to "go there" -- despite the Good News the conviction reveals. It's a leap of faith - a veritable shift in consciousness - that very few want to make, despite everything.
Of course, at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what other Christians happen to think about such a conviction.
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