Saturday, June 21, 2008

Memorial Moments

While not exactly a blog, one of the most well-disciplined and well-written daily entries I've found is Memorial Moments by the Rev. Dr. Scott Murray, pastor of Memorial Lutheran Church in Houston, TX.

If you're interested in a daily devotion which contains salient Luther quotes, you may wish to subscribe to the free e-mails. Otherwise, you can visit the site's archives and read as you will.

Here is a sampling of his work:

Natan Sharansky argued that Western democracies could not compromise on their defining values in an article printed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. The democracies must never give up their national identities in favor of the generic approach popular in the postmodern world. In that generic approach to national identity, the democracies of the European Union are now turning a blind eye to the application of Islamic cultural norms in favor of "underage marriage, genital mutilation, and honor killings." The vapidity of European culture is inviting these Islamic incursions. Mr. Sharansky suggested that Western democracies will begin to take their national and democratic identities much more seriously as they see their unique and genuinely free ways of life threatened by their own weakness ("Democracies Can't Compromise on Core Values," WSJ [16 June 2008]: A15).

Perhaps the Christian churches should also pay attention to Mr. Sharansky's warning. Many churches have been giving up the church's core values in favor of the values of the world that surround them. It was certainly thought that the church could invite many more people into its community if it showed some openness to the world's views. Most American denominations are headed down a path that has shown more of that "openness." On one extreme, churches have attempted to placate the world's fleshly ways by encouraging and blessing immoral sexual relations; as though the freedom given in Christ is really about sexual liberation. Other churches, while attempting to hold the line on moral issues, have soft-pedaled doctrinal distinctives such as the doctrine of the holy Trinity, original sin, repentance, the divinity of Christ, real presence in the holy communion, or the doctrine of justification by faith. As much as we might deplore the openness to immorality in the sexually promiscuous churches, a far worse problem is the rejection of basic Christian theology. Such "openness" to the world implies being closed to God (Jam 4:4). The churches cannot make a stand in the world and in the truth at the same time.

The core of Mr. Sharansky's advice is that we should be who we are. Go figure! While he elegantly makes the case for this in the political realm, the churches have much greater reason to pay attention to this truism. Often churches are madly running after the latest mass marketing fad, seeking to increase market share, and trying to "reach people where they are." The bottom line of this pandering is that the churches are giving up the very teachings that make them the church of Christ. The modern churches are not seeking to raise people to a relationship with God through Christ the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, but are falling into the very mire from which the Lord Jesus wants the church to rescue the fallen and depraved. The churches are seeking to avoid offending the bent moral, political, and theological sensibilities of the world. Every compromise with the world is enmity with God. The churches can't compromise on core values, or the churches will cease to be the church.

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