Monday, November 2, 2009

The Spiritual Drive Train

by Doug Wilson
from BLOG and MABLOG

This might be the medieval equivalent of an urban legend, I don't know. I read it somewhere, but can't recall the source, but here goes anyhow. Somebody, Thomas Aquinas maybe, was being shown around some opulent palace by the pope. "You see, Thomas, no longer can Peter say 'silver and gold have I none.'" To which Thomas, if it was Thomas, replied in the affirmative, adding only that neither can the Church anymore say, "Rise up and walk."

In my ongoing protestations against dualism, the subsequent discussions make it plain that all of us still need to do some more spadework before the garden is ready for planting. Knowing what we ought not to be doing anymore, which I am pretty clear on, is not the same thing as knowing exactly what we should be doing instead, and what order the steps should be. Reformations are messy.

The reformation of worship is the central issue of our day, but not the only issue. It is the engine, not the car. But an engine without a car is just as immobile as a car without an engine, and we are called to drive to the Celestial City. So we have to know how the reformation of worship might connect with everything else. What is the spiritual drive train?

In order to connect everything properly, I want to argue that we must make a clear and formal distinction between the Church and the Kingdom. The Church is formal worship, the cultus. The Kingdom is the culture that surrounds the Church, having grown out of it. The reformational work of reclaiming education or the fine arts is Kingdom work, done by Christians, to be distinguished from the formal work of the Church, done by ministers, elders, deacons, and congregants. The task of the Church is Word and sacrament, period. Other tasks taken up by the Church should be auxiliary works, subordinate to those central tasks, and directly related to them (e.g. building a facility in which to preach the Word and administer the sacraments, trying diligently to keep that building from looking like your local CostCo warehouse).

Rightly established, the Church equips the saints for works of service, and these works include all the things that men and women are lawfully called to do -- merchandizing and mining, poetry and policework, and education and eggplant farming. The Church's task is to equip and inspire -- not to supplant. When this understanding is gummed up, then an ecclesiocentric vision goes bad, and metasticizes into one where the Church becomes the only real thing that matters, and we are back to Thomas's, if it was Thomas's, bon mot. Rich nobles start leaving all their holdings to monasteries so that monks with their heads bobbing might pray for the soul of Sir Herbert Leslie Throckmorton for the next five hundred years. That's not good. The nucleus is not the cell, and the Church is not the Kingdom. The Church is not supposed to be the Death Star.

So I don't want the Church to be everything, and I don't want the reformation of the Church to be the only item on the agenda -- just the first and most important item on the agenda. When that reformation begins to take shape, and numerous Christians are worshiping in the way Christians ought to be worshiping, those Christians -- who happen to be politicians, auto mechanics, teachers, film directors, news anchors, poets, and cafeteria workers -- will begin to live out the kind of Christian life that they learned about the previous Sunday. That will effect the transformation of society, but not by turning that society into a giant worship service.

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