Does the Church move with the world now or move the world now?

When faced with people saying to him. “The world is against you, Athanasius.”, St. Athanasius replied: “Then I am against the world.”

St. Athanasius, Doctor and Pillar of the Church

The days we face today are, indeed, full of troubles. But how are we facing those troubles? Are we going with the flow or are we “living things” as Chesterton asks, able to go against the stream? Today we deal with some tough questions we must all ask ourselves as, no doubt, did St. Athanasius so that he reached the conclusion that he did.

A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.

G. K. Chesterton
St Athanasius, Doctor and Pillar of the Church

Christ never tells us that we will have a removal of suffering in this world. He doesn’t even tell us we will have world peace. (Because if we did, there would be no need for His return and the Kingdom coming, now would there?)

What He does tell us is that “you will have troubles in this world” (John 16:33) and again “many are the troubles of the righteous one“(Psalm 34:19) . His promise is that He will “deliver us” (Psalm 34:19)and that He “has conquered the world“(John 16:33).

Now. The question remains: what does that look like? What does it mean to “conquer the world”? Its pretty important. Because Christ is our example to follow in everything. Time to honest up here. Where do we stand? What does the world see when they look at us and how we deal with our troubles? In-between all the professed rejection, is there some unbidden respect? If not, why? What has happened to prevent that.

How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher?

Romans 10:14

Does the Church moving the world look anything like the lives of other people in the world, especially the rich? Look at Christ’s own life. Did the Jews get rid of the Romans? Did he lead a revolt against them and rout them from Israel? Did Christ lead an extremely comfortable life, living with every convenience and a full bank account with stock dividends? Did any of the Apostles or Early Christians? What kind of lives did they have? Did they look anything like what many professing Christians have today? Or does your financially successful life look no different than a secular but well off person who also works at secular charities? Was Christ born in a filthy stable or a rich and well-appointed palace? Why? What point was God making for all His servants thereafter?

Why are these question important? Because if the world sees no difference in who we are compared to them and how we act and live compared to them, how are they going to believe that when God draws them, that His Church is truly manifest on this earth? This is the question that Chesterton asked in a response to a newspaper column.

Get out and really listen to what the world is saying about you. Get out of your bubbles and cliques and really listen. For these past 60 years, most of what has been going on in the Church has been about following the world, trying to keep pace with it, trying show, in essence, “we’re just as good as you“. If that is all that the Church is, why would anyone believe the gospel message, both its promise of everlasting life and its stern warnings of what is to come?

The hard fact is that the Church has little to no respect from the world. She has been pushed out of the public square because the acts and examples of Christian suffering and sacrifice and higher moral thinking that put her in that public square to begin with are mostly gone and what has taken its place is something shallow and self-serving. We essentially have an echo of our former self in the public square. A prostitutional Church, an ape of the Church, has taken her place and just as God prophesied, she is going to fall because she committed fornication with the Kings of the earth so she could live in shameless luxury, like the world, instead of following in the footsteps of her King, Christ. Remember what God said:

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying: Go out from her, my people; that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues.

Revelation 18:4

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, a Christian apologist and journalist saw what was coming from his vantage in the early 1900s. He heard the voices of his time wanting the Church to change with the world. Here is his reply to the newspapers of his day:

“The Church cannot move with the times; simply because the times are not moving. The Church can only stick in the mud with the times, and rot and stink with the times. In the economic and social world, as such, there is no activity except that sort of automatic activity that is called decay; the withering of the high flowers of freedom and their decomposition into the aboriginal soil of slavery. In that way the world stands much at the same stage as it did at the beginning of the Dark Ages. And the Church has the same task as it had at the beginning of the Dark Ages; to save all the light and liberty that can be saved, to resist the downward drag of the world, and to wait for better days. So much a real Church would certainly do; but a real Church might be able to do more. It might make its Dark Ages something more than a seed-time; it might make them the very reverse of dark. It might present its more human ideal in such abrupt and attractive a contrast to the inhuman trend of the time, as to inspire men suddenly for one of the moral revolutions of history; so that men now living shall not taste of death until they have seen justice return.
We do not want, as the newspapers say, a Church that will move with the world. We want a Church that will move the world. We want one that will move it away from many of the things towards which it is now moving; for instance, the Servile State. It is by that test that history will really judge of any Church, whether it is the real Church or no.” (The New Witness, Pub. 1943)

2 thoughts on “CONTRA MUNDI

  1. This is so appropriate for today. We need to hold firm to the true Church that does not move with the world and be the Church that moves the whole world.

    Liked by 1 person

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