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quod pro nobis traditum est

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

History or "curiosity kills the cat"

If you are a reader you know of my interest in the historic liturgy. I blog much about this topic, as an amateur, because of ongoing difficulties that affect pastors and congregations. Years of discussing show that these difficulties are not only a question of the liturgy.

As a history undergrad I tend to fall into the trap of thinking historically. As a graduate student of theology I am aware of the limits of history. Nevertheless, sometimes history helps to put things in perspective. This is the case in my ponderings of how synod and Church have worked and work during my short lifetime.

In my study and experience of the last 40 years or more, including some pastoral experience, I have noted extra-congregational conflict over Scripture, then the still ongoing conflict over worship and more recently the conflict over ecclesiology. As we know conflict is nothing new. Also, we know that congregations are not immune to extra-congregational conflict. These forces are always at play. The Christian life is neither 100% joy nor 100% grief but an ongoing fluctuation of both of them.

My interest in this case is historical. Obviously, there is a relation between church conflict and cultural conflict. However, my curiosity does not care to go there. What could tie such conflict together (Scripture, worship, ecclesiology)? There are obvious theological and spiritual connections that could be made.

It is always dangerous to think of bigger questions (hence the title of the post, history or "curiosity kills the cat"). In other words if I assess these conflicts merely as dry historical facts people would understandably nod off (what else is new?). We know that these conflicts are not anything new in the long history of the Church.

But it begs the question why there is a constant need to rewrite or revise the Scripture, a constant need to rewrite or revise worship and a constant need to rewrite or revise the Church. We may say that this is the "American" thing to do (for example, the American obsession with change and what is "new"). I think that it goes beyond this to a reformation gone wrong. It seems that the Reformation has opened a can of worms which is hard to contain (add some other exacerbating features like the Enlightenment, Pietism, etc.)

While bringing some needed reform to the Catholic Church the Reformation has since then taken on a life of its own. This I owe to the multiplications of translations of Scriptures, "styles" of worship, ministries and forms of "church", denominations, sects, cults, etc. I can say that as neither a Reformation scholar nor a professional historian who has no answers or cure to what ails us (outside of divine revelation) that my pondering leads us back to the title, History or "curiosity kills the cat."

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