There is a saying that 'those who don't know the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.' This is certainly proving to be true among many Christians, I am afraid.
We have been studying the Middle Ages this year in school. We have just now gotten to the 1300's, which were some of the most horrific times in history-- the Hundred Year's war was raging, the Catholic church was overfed, out of control, and corrupt through and through, there were as many as seven Popes at a time, all overruling each other, the crusades were coming to a disastrous and shameful conclusion, the royalty was bickering and infighting, there were succession squabbles in most royal families, and to top it all off the Black Plague was killing half the population of Europe. What really caught my eye in all this mess, though, was Thomas Aquinas.
Thomas Aquinas was a scholar who wanted there to be a logical base for faith. He thought that if the Christian beliefs were true, then there should be a systematic, logical, structured foundation of reasoning for everything in it. He was fascinated by Aristotle's systematic approach to truth, and spent much of his life trying to reconcile Aristotle's beliefs and reasoning with Christianity.
The result of this was, that in trying to make everything logical and neat, he set in motion one of the most remarkable declines the church has ever seen. Faith became a system, a set of standards, not a living, growing thing. It became the property of scholastics, who would waste their lives and intellects arguing on obscure and irrelevant issues.
The interesting thing about Aquinas to me is that he was the first person to try and incorporate non-Christian thinking and strategies into the church. Up till then most of the products of the great Christian thinkers were very creative and original, bringing forward new thoughts and ideas, not trying to rehash old pagan concepts. When Aquinas began to do this, he ushered in two centuries of scandal and immorality.
The historical parallel is obvious-- a few generations ago, Christians grew worried about 'appealing to others' and 'being relevant.' They decided that the best way to do this was to make the church more like the world. More and more worldly philosophies were brought into the church, under the innocent guise of 'reaching out,' until gradually the mess that we have today was created.
When Christians bring elements of the world into the church, that suddenly makes the world as a whole 'OK' to people. It's an easy and natural reaction-- our sin nature makes us always on the watch for any excuse to immerse ourselves in the things of this world. So if the church adopts worldly things, why shouldn't we?
The lesson to be learned from these two centuries --the fourteenth and the twentieth-- is that worldly things, no matter how many lost sinners they attract, are still worldly things, and no amount of sanitazation will make them appropriate for the use of the church. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then we have been flattering the world for years now. But we are Christians-- the very name proclaims us to be imitators and followers of Christ. Let's be careful what we do under His name.