In the most recent issue of the United Church Observer (February 2011) we have a feature article about the so-called “Post-Theistic” churches that have begun to spring up from within the greater United Church polity. These congregations are taking down their crosses, closing their Bibles, and trying to re-imagine themselves as spiritual beings in their own right.
To re-quote the Rev. Ken Galliger, “We’re trying to create a safe place for people to develop an authentic spirituality, without a guy in the sky.”
I’m not certain where the people who espouse a spirituality devoid of God think they are going, but if you believe in the Gospel, it’s going to be a place much hotter than here. At its heart, this is nothing less than a belief in the Great Lie that Satan foisted upon Eve – that it is possible to know as much as God Himself. That human beings are, in fact, basically good, and in order to have good human beings, we need only build good communities.
Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs meets its final conclusion: self actualization as the ultimate goal – no God required. Nor does there seem to be any requirement for scripture. Sola scriptura (by scripture alone) becomes nolo scriptura (no scripture at all).
This flies in the face of the basics of the Protestant Reformation: the four “solas”.
Sola scriptura: by scripture alone
The post reformation church is founded on the principle that scripture is both the sole source of our knowledge about faith and God, and also its own referent. We are to accept the truth of scripture by its internal standards and by those standards alone. The instant that we attempt to subject scripture to human reason, assessing its “reasonableness” by some outside human criteria, we lose the point and fall into error.
Sola Christus: by Christ alone
Christ is the sole reason for our faith. He has told us this himself in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Christ, himself, standing before Pilate said, “For this reason was I born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
To deny Christ is to deny our faith. As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Sola gracia: by grace alone
We are saved, not by our own efforts, but by the action of God’s grace alone, purchased for us by Christ’s blood spilled at the cross. As human beings, we are not basically or naturally good. We are born spiritually dead in our sins. And as sinners, we are incapable of doing anything to save ourselves. Born spiritually dead, we must then be reborn, by water and the Spirit, into eternal life. Such rebirth is not of our doing, but by the action of God’s grace alone.
Sola fides: by faith alone
By the standards of the world, the Gospel does not make sense. Particularly in the United Church, we have a tendency to try to explain away the miracles, doubt the virgin birth, and make apologies for the historical and logical inconsistencies in the Bible. In the end, none of this really matters. It is by faith, and by faith alone that we accept the Gospel; that we accept God’s Word on the basis of his word as set out in the scriptures.
Unio Mystica: We are the Body of Christ
In John 14:19-20 Christ tells us, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
This is the Unio Mystica – the mystical union between God and us. Christ has said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
By the definition of the New Testament, the church is the Body of Christ. We are the eyes and the ears, the face and the voice, the hands and the feet of Christ in the world. Take away Christ and, again by definition, you are not the church. As a group of like-minded people you can gather together in community for mutual support and promote happy feelings and any good cause you like, but without Christ you are merely a social club.