Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday in Easter 6: Security and the religion of mediocrity

Opening Sentence
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57

Commemoration: Pachomius
O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Pachomius, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 80

Lessons: Leviticus 25:35-55, Colossians 1:9-14, Matthew 13:1-16

At the base of the religion of mediocrity, I came to believe, was our church’s doctrine of “security” in which the admonition, found in numerous forms in the New Testament, to “be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall . . . .” was so heavily discounted. We did not, in fact, believe in striving or zealotry in confirming one’s call or election, for these things were assured once we had prayed to accept Jesus. Along with this came the option of doodling away one’s life in the belief that hard-won accomplishment among Christians was presumptive evidence of infidelity.

We left the striving to the Catholics, who thought their works saved them, or to the stricter sort of Calvinist, who believed in election but had to prove he was among the elect, or to Methodists, who could lose their salvation--although they could get it back, and even secure it permanently if they got sanctified enough. No, we had a firm contract with God, written indelibly in sawdust, so any biblical admonitions that involved “falling” had only to do with the habitual commission of what Catholics called venial sins. While one could “backslide” in his Christian life, this was cause for revival but not alarm. Eternal happiness on some level was assured. The converted were the saved, so that the Parable of the Sower or the tenth chapter of I Corinthans or the sixth of Hebrews contained nothing to drive, discipline, or frighten us. No one, once he had a salvation experience, could fall any sense that involved his eternal security, and striving that had anything to do with the validation of our election--that is, striving of the most profound and serious and world-altering kind, was in fact regarded as sin.

The accidentally accomplished (accidentally among us) were so not because they were laboring to secure an already secure call and election, but because they had talents so large they were insuppressible, or the superadded gift of energy and concentration--or they weren’t really firm believers in salvation by grace alone and, Catholic-like, were trying to “merit” something. This easy attitude toward any kind of spiritual striving--except that generated by guilt for failure to evangelize, which was due a terrible scolding by Christ, but not soul-threatening--I early came to believe, carried over into other areas of life, producing intolerable measures of stupidity, drabness, and isolation, thus generating wholly justified feelings of inferiority, which in turn produced the bitter fruit of envy, strengthening the security doctrine and confirming its holders in their alienation from segments of the Church that took the dominical teaching and its apostolic reiteration seriously.

S.M. Hutchens

Humble King