Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Myth Alert! Childish Arrogance

Children always think that they are the smart ones. It is one of those things on this earth that is about as dependable as gravity. Children are often too proud to listen to those who are wiser and more mature. Their excuse? No one can be as wise as they are. The world is full of adults who used to be children who believed this myth. Life usually teaches them the truth.

What is sad is when Christians behave like children and think that they know better than previous generations. This self-righteous arrogance is what gives birth to wheel reinvention and the rising din of the echo chamber. This is a horrific plague that tortures and sickens vast expanses of the modern church.

You see this all the time. The blessed virgin Mary is regularly presented as some clueless, poor waif that was totally oblivious to what was happening to her. The Apostle Paul's inerrant preaching in the epistles about gender roles is regularly presented little more than understandable sexism that sprung from the barbaric time in which he lived. The disciples are regularly portrayed as clueless fools and cowards compared to modern Christians. As Pastor Weedon so wisely points out here, even John the Baptist is assumed to be weak and ignorant. The self-righteousness and arrogance that gave birth to these slanderous claims is so thick that it makes me sick to my stomach.

Lest you think that Lutheranism is immune to this total contempt for those who have come before us, or that it is a relatively new problem; look at this foolish, adolescent diatribe disguised as a paper from Lutheran Observer penned by Rev. Benjamin Kurtz:

"The Fathers--who are the 'Fathers'? They are the children; they lived in the infancy of the Church, in the early dawn of the Gospel day. John the Baptist was the greatest among the prophets and yet he that was least in the Kingdom of God, in the Christian Church was greater than he. He probably knew less, and that little less distinctly than a Sunday-school child, ten years of age, in the present day.....who then are the 'Fathers'? They have become the Children; they were the Fathers when compared with those who lived in the infancy of the Jewish dispensation; but, compared with the present and advanced age, they are the Children, and the learned and pious of the nineteenth century are the Fathers. We are three hundred years older than Luther and his noble coadjutors, and eighteen hundred years older than the primitives; theirs was the age of infancy and adolescence, and ours that of full-grown manhood. They are the children; we are the fathers; the tables are turned." [Benjamin Kurtz, "The Fathers", Lutheran Observer November 29, 1849 (original emphasis)]

It never ceases to amaze me how people today can have such a low view of the men and women who met Our Savior Jesus Christ while he walked this earth. I am mystified how people will blindly trust modern men who speak recklessly as if they were prophets, but throw a jaundiced eye at the very saints that the Bible says actually spoke with members of the angelic host. I cannot help but laugh each time that a progressive radical tries to tell me that they know more about the early church than them men who were there.

It would be funny if it was not so sad that fat, lazy, safe, over-stimulated Americans presume to teach each other about finding purpose and courage. We dare to use ourselves as examples on how to deal with persecution and suffering rather than calling upon the bold, heroic testimony of the saints and martyrs who, in the days of Rome's persecutions, pulled the lions on top of their bodies to prove to the witnesses that Christ had removed their fear of death. We who shudder at the thought of not having climate controlled houses dare to talk about the struggles of poverty. We who worry about what our friends might think of our religion presume to talk about persecution when death squads all around the world continue to violate and kill Christians every year. The arrogance is sickening.

By the same token, it is perplexing that modern Lutherans would presume to know the essence of the Confessions better than the very men who wrote them.

For all of our achievements, it is folly to believe that man has progressed beyond the sinful, weak-willed creature that he has been since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Is man more enlightened, cultured, or wise than in previous centuries? Does the modern man murder less, serve his neighbor more, or even bother to think more often? Clearly not; if anything, he is becoming worse! Historical ignorance is what fuels the confidence in our abilities.

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18

Have we forgotten what it means to be a disciple and a servant? Do we even know what humility means anymore? We act as children who presume to know better than others. While the Fathers of the church are not to be obeyed and believed as though their pious opinions are equal to the divine revelation of God, the other extreme is equally horrific and perilous.

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