January 24, 2007

What’s More Important?

Category: Politics,Theology :: Permalink

It strikes many modern Christians as surpassingly odd that, with the Roman Empire collapsing about their ears and the barbarians invading from the north and east, Christian leaders of the first centuries were preoccupied with debates about whether the Son’s eternal relation to the Father should be described as homoousion (“same substance”), homoiousion (“like substance”), or homoion (“like”).  Unless we are Lutherans, we might think Luther a fanatic for his ferocious defense of his formulation of the real presence of Christ in the sacrament at the Marburg Colloquy.  (In Luther’s Small Catechism, the body and blood are said to be “in, with, and under” the bread and wine.)

While the church fathers and Reformers are hardly above criticism, the contention of this book is that we are the oddities, not they; we are the ones obsessed with trivialities.  The church fathers and Reformers had a more biblical sense of priorities than we have.  We have permitted the idolaters of power and mammon to set our priorities for us; we have let them convince us that the really big issues confronting the world are political, and that they can be solved through political means….

Our forefathers knew better.  They would tell us that the debates over homoousion are of vastly greater significance — ultimately, of vastly greater political significance — than the debates over Saddam Hussein.  They would warn us that Arius remains a greater threat to our social well-being than acid rain.  Reforming the welfare state is important, but our forefathers would have insisted that reforming worship is a more pressing need.  Liturgy is closer to the heart of the church’s concern than a hundred pieces of legislation.  The next assembly for communion will have a more profound effect on the world than the next assembly of Congress.  Baptism is a more crucial reality than the size of the federal budget. — Peter Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power, pp. 21-22.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:23 pm | Discuss (0)

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