August 03, 2004

"Will it make it easier on you... that you've got someone to blame?"

While doing a little research on my church unity riff today I ran across a brief description of the Marburg Colloquy in Alister McGrath's excellent book, Reformation Thought: An Introduction. The Marburg Colloquy was an early attempt to unify the two main wings of Protestantism, the German wing under Luther and the Swiss wing under Zwingli. The motive was obligingly provided by Pope Clement VII, who resolved long-standing disputes with Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France within weeks of each other, freeing up his considerable political and military power to deal with the Reformers. The minister of reconcilliation was Philip of Hesse, a local German ruler who wisely foresaw the threat from Clement VII and brought Luther and Zwingli together in his castle hall to try to hash out their differences. I'll let McGrath pick up the story:
The attempt foundered on one point, and one point only. On fourteen articles, Luther and Zwingli felt able to agree. The fifteenth contained six points, on which they were able to reach agreement on five. The sixth posed difficulties.
The substance of the sixth point was the "real presence" of Christ in the Eucharist, Luther arguing for, Zwingli against. This failure marked the divergence of two distinct branches of Protestantism--branches that remain (for the most part) divided today.

My first response, I'll confess, was anger. "What a couple of hard-headed fools! If only they had been able to resolve their differences," I thought, "how different Christianity might be today." That's when the conviction hit, courtesy Bono and the boys. "Will it make it easier on you, now that you've got someone to blame?" How much spiritual, emotional, and physical energy we waste blaming everyone else for the divided state of Christ's church! How easily we excuse ourselves, justify ourselves, exhonorate ourselves, because "it's not our fault," because "we're right and they're wrong." How quick we are to blame everyone else for this grave disunity. How foolish we must look to the angels of heaven, the hand blaming the arm for its arthritis.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone," Paul teaches in Romans 12:18. There is a release from responsibility implied in that passage, but God help us not to invoke it prematurely. Forget the other person, the other church, the other denomination for a minute; ask yourself, "Have I done everything possible to promote relational harmony?" Lord, please don't let us rest if we've been too easy on ourselves in this regard.


At 12:18 PM, Blogger maggi said...

good points, danile. ONly today I have read in the blogosphere words by peole who are 'For' and 'Against' the existence of priests. It's just this kind of issue where we need to learn creative diversity: admit that what works in my little part of the world might not be enough for the whole of the world, and have the humility to admit that someone else's idea might be just as valid in another context.

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Keep in mind, though, that not all beliefs are matters of context. Some are, certainly, but those of us who take serious bibical issue with the concept of priesthood (i.e. Protestants) do so for theological rather than practical or contextual reasons.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I feel a bit out of context here, friends. Would someone mind posting a link to the discussion you're referring to? I'd love an opportunity to check it out and see in more detail how it relates to blaming the other guy/church/denomination for the disunity of the chuch.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, I've been thinking a lot of the same things over the past year. It struck me when I was at school, talking to my friends, and we didn't really know which denomination each other belonged to, which is not entirely a bad thing. I think that my generation is much more concerned with genuine experience then 10,000 nitty-gritty points of denominational doctrine. I took Theology of the Reformers at Oxford and wrote that paper on Luther's and Zwingli's views on the sacraments, and it made me pretty sad that each had no respect for the other (so it seemed by their words) as a fellow Christian. Pretty petty stuff--possibly the teenage theologian squad? :) But I've done things that divide, too, although mostly on a personal, individual level. I guess part of being Christians is acknowledging the really crappy things people of our faith have done in the past, making peace with them, and realizing we're no better.

P.S. You get bonus points for the U2 lyrics.


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