Here are eight things I wish Western Christendom would ponder for the sake of its soul and the Gospel.
1: The passion, death and resurrection of the Lord make clear: there is no crown without a cross. So if your faith isn’t leading to self sacrifice and personal struggle…you are doing it wrong. Stop seeking a broad path that, scripture warns, cannot lead to God. It is akin to joining a gym but refusing to break sweat.
2: Liturgy should be focused primarily on God. Hence where it celebrates self or man it is not only indulgent but deadly. Worship should be reverent, sacred and oriented on the divine. So can we leave the Spirit of the 70’s behind us, with all its banal melodies and theologically fuzzy messages? It is beyond time to restore beauty and dignity to the sanctuary. To demand high standards of all. For where this is done- there we witness revival!
3: Doctrine requires clarity. The Western church has invested much time and energy transforming faith, from something radical and demanding into something wet and easy going, with one result; epic failure. A faith overly nuanced and subjective is soon rendered meaningless. Hence data shows that those who liberalise faith are only one step from losing it altogether; their children tend to lapse in great number. Christianity is centred on objective truth not subjective opinion.
4: Seeking cultural relevance is no priority for Christians. We must seek God’s admiration. Not least when the culture around us is degenerate and opposed to our beliefs. “Opening windows to the world” seemed wise to liberal Christians in the 20th Century, they made it the abiding priority, but it proved akin to a submarine opening windows to the sea. Our faith always was counter-cultural so stop watering down moral teaching. Try and live it instead. You cannot be faithful to the teaching of the Gospels and the sexual revolution- no matter how hard you try!
5: Obedience isn’t optional. A pick and mix philosophy is fine for confectioners but folly for the faithful. So if you claim to be Christian… but don’t accept points X. Y or Z- you delude yourself and make yourself the god! The arbiter of truth. Rejoice then if you disagree with aspects of the teaching but obey anyway; here is proof you are not about the business of transfering your own image and agenda onto the divine.
6: People are not attracted to weakness. Just look at the reputation of poor old Tim Farron- once he conceded faith to the vox populi! Contrast that with the respect gained by Rees-Mogg when he stood firm to his theological principles. We need bishops (and priests) who are authentic successors of apostles, like St. Paul, Fulton Sheen, Newman et al, not the effeminate, smooth vanilla businessmen who dominate episcopacy today. Who are so often silent when they should stand up for Christian truth with zeal. Who was it said that every crisis the church endured has been a crisis of bishops?
7: We must look outwards not inwards. Salvation of souls is a priority but urgency has been lost where the claptrap of universalist thinking dominates. Lay ministry has become a buzz word to encourage stealing priestly function for the empowerment of self. When the authentic lay role is not to swan around the sanctuary as a faux priesthood but to go out into the world and preach the good news; to build faith in the home and work place and maintain its voice in the public square. The church is not a club but a mission. So where are the missioners?
8: We cannot be silenced by personal limitations or a desire to be polite. So learn to take risks- to take your faith seriously but your self not seriously at all. Laugh at the pathetic witness you are when you rely on self! Rejoice at how much God achieves when you unite your will to his. And do not let the enormity of the task slow you down. If you start inviting people to church and speaking about faith then you probably wont save the world. But if you save one person- it is worth it. To do the work of evangelism makes a difference and it is time we took that work seriously at every single level of the church.