Not a False Irenicism
A couple weeks ago, my wife and I got to listen to Peter Leithart lecture here in Austin. It is probably worth my time to blog solely on that lecture, but I mention it in passing solely because it was an added encouragement to me in new pursuits — local emphasis on cross-denominational relationships and socio-political involvement as a unified body of Christ.
This isn't some new social urge for ecumenicalism. I have written a number of times about church and community. Emphasis on the importance of the church naturally leads to focus on the local church and unifying the Body of Christ. The path to this is not less theology but more. We need to heightening the amount of time we spend discussing our disagreements. This has been encouragingly reinforced in my mind reading Hans Urs von Balthasar (a Roman Catholic) interacting with the theology of Karl Barth (a Protestant),
"Barth's fundamental thought was that unification between churches can never be accomplished on the basis of political or practical-social reasons but only on the basis of a right understanding of the church in her theological fullness." (5)
As I've quoted Barth before, any "unity prior would be a lie" if it is not theologically grounded. We have reached a point in American culture where a diverse spectrum of Christian denominations are side-eyeing each other as socio-political partners. The old adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" will almost certainly bring denominations together in some sense. But is this the type of reaction that will lead to a healthy and sustainable church? On this Balthasar has some valuable reflection from Barth's ecumenical push,
"It might well be that the common needs for making common cause against some anti-Christian threats can reawaken this original alertness to the meaning of dogmatic divergence. But it should not be a false irenicism, to overhasty compromises, but to a relentlessly earnest theological testing of one's own confessional beliefs." (5)
The best way forward for the church is not to take up defense postures. We cannot move forward merely stamping our traditions upon the next generation and telling them to hold the line. Nor is the best way forward to make buddy with people by obscuring valuable disagreements. No, the best way forward is the same as it has ever been — Semper Reformanda. Renewed emphasis on Scripture, doctrine, and Biblical theology. Renewed subjection of our traditions and beliefs to the actual standards of the Church catholic — Scripture.