As many of you are probably aware, Pope Benedict XVI just put out an encyclical. Here are a couple quotes:
“[T]he Christian message was not only ‘informative’ but ‘performative’.
That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can
be known – it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The
dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open.” (2)
is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are
still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now
something of the reality we are waiting for…. Faith draws the future
into the present, so that it is no longer simply a ‘not yet’. The fact
that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by
the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into
those of the present and those of the present into those of the
I haven’t read the whole thing, but those are fascinating quotes! A colleague of a writer for the Telegraph looked over the document and remarked, "There’s no news here. It’s all about God." Sounds good to me…
(ht: Ben Myers)
So Ben, why aren’t you Catholic again? Some have written about how postmodern types are being drawn back into the Catholic/Orthodox faith because they never found a full and satisfying polemic in the Protestant camp. I’m not saying one can’t be found, but wondering what has drawn you toward sacramentology and liturgy? Is it an attraction to the historic forms, mixed with a wonder of the divinely mysterious…coupled with a dissatisfaction with the watering down of the faith of most of the churches around here (fort wayne area)? Perhaps I’m projecting things onto you at this point, but just curious…why are you a pastor at a non-denominational Protestant church? I write this as one who is struggling currently with the question, “why am I protestant?” (it can be assumed that I identify higher with the fact that I am a follower of Christ, but confining this line of questioning to the ecclessiastical realm)
Benjamin Sternke says
Hey Dan, thanks for the thought-provoking comment! My plan is to become Catholic, but keep my job as a pastor at a non-denominational Protestant church. Just kidding.
First of all, it’s not just the Catholics that talk about sacraments and liturgy. There are a great number of Protestant churches with sacramental theology and liturgical practices (by the way, EVERY church has a liturgy). Lutherans, Anglicans, etc.
So turning toward liturgy doesn’t imply “becoming Catholic” in my view. Quoting the Pope doesn’t imply “becoming Catholic” either, just like quoting Luther doesn’t make you Lutheran, or quoting Ben Franklin doesn’t make you a Deist.
If you have a LOT of time for theological reading, I’d direct you to this series of posts by a guy who most often leans toward Barthian theology, but was reflecting on if there was any need to be Protestant anymore.
Finally, I am currently reading a book that has outlined for me some of why I am intuitively drawn to sacraments and liturgy. It’s specifically about preaching (“Telling God’s Story” by John Wright), but it has a chapter where he outlines how the biblical narrative, centered on the church, was eclipsed in America by revivalist preaching and the telling of a “new” story (the individual’s movement from sin to salvation to service) that replaced the biblical story. This new story just happened to share all of the same assumptions as the fledgling nation (manifest destiny, individual autonomy, etc), which is why, for example, Ben Franklin was such a huge fan of George Whitefield – they were essentially telling the same story: Franklin with Deist language and Whitefield with Christian language.
So anyway, part of my journey on this blog has been trying to re-discover a spirituality that is focused on the church being the “alternative society” in the world – the anticipation of God’s new creation, instead of a servant to individual autonomy or national interests.
That’s really long, eh? We should have dinner (or lunch?) again to talk further – your question is a good one!
Yes, we should.
Much of my original post was with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I really just wanted to hear your thinking on what pulled you toward liturgical forms, when I saw the picture of the pope, I just picked this post to comment on!
Thank you for your lengthy and thoughtful response! It really is piquing my interest even more. seriously, lunch would be good, as long as its okay if I brown-bag it.