The Church is a Mystery

The Church is a Mystery

Whilst I was digging around in some church history today, I came across this nugget of Eusebian observation:
“As the third century drew to a close, the tensions within the church were becoming more explosive.  Eusebius looking back on the situation as he had seen it as a young man could write,

maxresdefault‘But when as the result of greater freedom a change to pride and sloth came over our affairs, we fell to envy and fierce railing one against the other, warring upon ourselves so to speak as occasion offered with weapons and spears formed of words, and ruler attacked ruler and laity formed factions against laity, while unspeakable hypocrisy and pretense pursued their evil course to the furthest end.’ 


It was a grim picture of ecclesiastic strife at the moment of Christianity’s triumph.  Paganism had indeed been defeated.  The world was ripe for religious change, but not for religious peace.”
The Early Church by W. H. C. Frend, Page 114
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And this made me think!  The church had faced all sorts of external pressures and problems, persecutions and heresies.  When peace came, they turned on each other!  This is shocking!
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Nietzsche made a similar point when he observed a church that was brazenly hypocritical; living, as it were, with a great gulf between what she said she believed, and what she actually did.  I suppose this applies to both corporate and individual.  He said,
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“They would have to sing better songs to make me believe in the Redeemer:  his disciples would have to look more redeemed!”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke ZarathustraSICK-nietzsche
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I get what he means about the songs on some Sundays, but I don’t know what he means that those who follow Jesus should look “more redeemed”, I’ve tried to look more redeemed, and my wife asks me if I’m ill, or in pain!
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I suspect Nietzsche meant act more redeemed, although, acting righteously brings its own set of unholy problems;  all manner of good-deeds can mask insidious sin and self-serving righteousness.  Basically, the church has always struggled.  Struggled with what it claims and what it does; or what it believes and what it practices.  Sin could be most seductively and demonically at work under the guise of doing good.  Many a good intention is shipwrecked upon the rocks of slightly off-centre zeal!
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While Nietzsche is appalled at the church he observes (probably a limited observation anyway unless he really was Superman); Eusebius, on the other (and much earlier historically) hand, is quite shocked!  “OMG, they’re turning on…. themselves!”
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Being Human: Christ to the Rescue

Christ is certainly no less concerned than Nietzsche that the personality should receive the fullest development of which it is capable, and be more and more of a power.  The difference between them lies in the moral method by which the personality is put into possession of itself and its resources – in the one case by asserting itself, in the other by losing it. . . . . We complete our personality only as we fall into place and service in the vital movement of the society in which we live.

Isolation means arrested development.  The aggressive egoist is working his own moral destruction by stunting and shrinking his true personality.  Social life, duty, and sympathy are the only conditions under which a true personality can be shaped.  And if it be asked how a society so crude, imperfect, unmoral, and even immoral as that in which we live is to mould a personality truly moral, it is here that Christ comes to the rescue with the gift to faith both of an active Spirit and of a society complete in Himself.

P.T. Forsyth