The coming collapse of pragmatic churches
Adversity often reveals the shallowness or the depth of a congregation just like a storm reveals whether the roots of a tree are suffciently deep to anchor it in the high winds. The biggest and most impressive tree will be carried away if its root system isn’t deep enough to sustain it.
Carl Trueman points out that our current cultural moment is one in which some impressive churches and seemingly inviolable movements will be carried away for lack of a just such a root system:
Churches which are doctrine-lite, or which define themselves with a ten or twelve point doctrinal statement, or which portray themselves as a nice, fun supplement to the more important things of life, are rather like the little pig who built his house of straw. When the wolf blows, the house will simply vanish in the wind. For Christians to continue to protest the world in the public square, they need first to be deeply and seriously grounded in the historic, doctrinal, and elaborate Christian faith. A faith built on Wikipedia articles or reducible to 140 characters points to no lasting city.
Writer and Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor has noted, “The body [i.e., the church] makes theologians of us all.” It’s time for Christians to pause and think for a moment about the theology that has shaped them as well as their faith communities. Is it, as Trueman describes, “historic, doctrinal, and elobarate”? Or, is it a something that would better fit on the back of an envelope or a napkin?
Only a deep faith, nurtured by Word and Sacrament, and standing in continuity to the saints who have gone before will be sufficient to once again find the Christian church standing true to its God in the midst of cultural confusion.