Monday 20 May 2024

Bricks and the building: You can't build real churches without real Christians

It seems futile to discuss how to improve churches by making changes, or resisting change, at the organizational level; when the underling problem is that there are not enough real Christians to make a church (at least, not a church of a size sufficient to register as significant in the modern world). 

Of course, most Church discussers would not agree with me that there were insufficient real Christians. At nearest, they might believe that the good Christians were outnumbered by bad and fake ones; or (more often) that fake pseudo-Christians had too much power within Churches, or had taken-over the bureaucracy. 

But my conviction that - in the West, in 2024 - there just aren't enough real Christians distributed such as to make a real Christian church - would be regarded as untrue; and a negativistic, despair-inducing pessimism liable to lead to the situation it asserts in a self-fulfilling way*.

This came to mind when reading discussions about whether or not it would be a good thing for the Roman Catholic Church to remove the current demand (or preference) for celibacy among its priests, and return to its more ancient practice of having married priests; and as a normal thing (rather than, as now, only as a minority of exceptions, intended to be temporary - such as the Anglican Ordinariate). 

Yet, none of this matters either way when there are not enough real Christians among Roman Catholics who might potentially become priests - plus enough real Christians already existing and in-place to make a (Christianly-valid) System for the choosing and training and regulation of a priesthood.  

If the Church is a building, and the people who make it up are bricks; then the question seems to be whether (spiritually) the building makes the bricks, or the bricks make the building? 

Can there be a valid Christian church "building" consisting of a majority of not-real-Christian "bricks", especially when the not-real-Christians dominate the leadership? 

Indeed, which seems relevant here-and-now; can there be a valid Christian church when there are probably (in significant areas of The West) no real Christians at all - none among the Priesthood, none among the laity - the Church rank-and-file, the masses?  

The answer (if the building and bricks analogy is valid, which it can be only partially, at best) depends on whether you believe that the Christians make the Church, or the Church makes the Christians - or, at least, on the nature of the relationship. 

And the question has particular relevance for an Episcopal Church that asserts its own indispensability for salvation.  

Can a silk purse be made from a sow's ear? 

The debate then moves on to the nature of the real Church, which would be said to be ultimately mystical - and non-identical with the worldly organization. 

And in the past this conceptualization seems to be been sufficiently clear and understandable that it was not a problem - but it has become a problem now. 

The problem is that while people can argue about stuff (especially about abstractions to do with how best to organize an ideal Church); and people can say or write almost anything about what they would most like to be true and real - strong and lasting human motivations are another matter altogether! 

We see all around us that when strong and lasting human motivations that are also Christian are lacking; then words/ doctrines/ laws etc. mean next-to-nothing; and Churches, Priest and the Masses fall into line with... well, they fall into line with whatever the global totalitarian System is currently asking them to believe, support, and do. 

Perhaps, the thing that lies underneath all these discussions relates to the discernment that this material mortal world (and especially The West) is currently under the leadership of those in service to supernatural and spiritual evil.

This, I believe; and I believe this is a clear and obvious fact; such that those who do not see it, or who deny it, are actually and in practice on the side of demonic evil - whether unconsciously and implicitly, or consciously and explicitly, or some point between. 

I am aware of several Roman Catholic priests, even a few Bishops, who clearly and simply and decisively perceive this fact of evil-dominance; and who are real Christians.

(And not merely megalomaniac power seekers.) 

So there are some such people.  

But that is only less than half of what is needed; because the most important factor is that real Christians (including, for an Episcopal Church, at least some Bishops) be strongly and lastingly motivated to re-make the corrupted Church in a positive fashion, into a worldly organization dominated by real Christians. 

Are there enough such people, are they in sufficient agreement about what needs to be done; and do they attract sufficient support more widely?

To me, the answer is Obviously Not; or else we would not be where we are, and we would know about it.  

There are some strong and true bricks from which, in principle, something might be built; but at present these bricks are very few, and scattered among the rotten bricks making-up a rotten building that is already collapsing. 

And these strong and true Christian "bricks" often seem to repel each other - or even try and damage or destroy each other!**

Clearly this is no basis for any kind of building, any kind of Church. 

Given the actual choice between being included in a large-but-rotten building increasingly dedicated to the Satanic agenda, or else trying to make a Good building from mutually-repellant materials; sooner or later the "bricks" - i.e. the individual Christians - will be compelled to take primary responsibility for their Christianity, and cease to rely upon being a part of any kind of building. 


*Church Christians are (sadly) very prone to the "boosteristic" delusion that enthusiastic optimism about their Church is good-for Christianity - when it is actually just good-for business... a very different thing from real Christianity nowadays.

**This inability to agree, indeed propensity to disagree with (extreme) vehemence, among traditional, orthodox and conservative Christians - including within denominations such as the RCC - is a consequence partly of decades of disunity/ conflict within the churches, and the loss of a Christendom that would diffuse a coherent Christianity among a whole society. 

By my understanding; partly it is also and more fundamentally due to significant (and, ultimately, divinely-ordained) changes in the consciousness of human beings towards greater autonomy and agency; therefore away-from that spontaneous propensity to absorb religion from external sources and an innate psychology of groupishness - which prevailed in pre-modern times.

What this means is that - no matter how traditional/ orthodox/ conservative a modern Christian aspires to be; as a matter of fact he has chosen his own beliefs and loyalties - has indeed "picked-and-chosen" them from among competing alternatives - in a way that seldom happened in pre-modern times.   


Laeth said...

The 'brick' metaphor has a very definitive meaning in the Bible and, within that perspective, it seems the problem is that the current churches are built with bricks instead of stones. I don't think you had this in mind, but still, powerful symbolism nonetheless and quite apropos in my opinion.

Ranger said...

I wonder if you've read Chesterton's book on St. Francis. There he tells about how St. Francis had a dream where God told him to "rebuild my Church". At first, he sold his father's goods to buy materials and hire men for rebuilding a broken down church in the town. Having been told by the Bishop that that was a big no-no, he decided to rebuild the church personally himself, begging people for stones and bricks. Finally, of course, his example goes towards making other good Christians, and THAT was actually what thr dream meant.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ranger - I read it a long time ago, but don't remember the details.