Babies in Church (part VI): the arrogance of the infant (b)

23 Oct

Part V (a) is here.

Some might say:

Lutherans spend much time talking about how God comes to us “extra nos”, or from outside ourselves – and yet, they certainly put a lot of emphasis on their own certainty of faith!  Really, how much can we even know our own hearts?  Wasn’t the tanner that St. Anthony found in the city right?   Is it not presumption and arrogance to think otherwise? 

On the contrary: infants are simple, unassuming, unpretencious, and unreflective: they, in direct faith, receive persons and their good gifts freely, and allowing these to form them wholesale.  The child does not doubt the Promise that brings forgiveness, life, and salvation – but rather rejoices in it, assumes that all should possess it, and, as their faith grows, even desires that they themselves might be damned (Rom. 9:1-5) that others might have the surety – peace with God (Rom. 5:1), knowledge of eternal life (I John 5:13) – that they have in Christ Jesus. 

Even “if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (I John 3:20).  While we may, upon reflecting on our faith, be attacked by doubt, He knows that we, as simple children, weakly keep His commandment: “that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (I John 3:23) – and He seeks to strengthen us in this stumbling faith, that His love may ever flow with greater ferocity in and through us.     

Martin Luther said that he called, regarded, and believed others to be the Church of God – but “by the rule of love, not the rule of faith”, because “faith calls no one a saint unless he is declared so by divine judgment, because it is in the nature of faith not to be deceived”. (LW33:88)  And yet, because “ecclesiology is Christology” (Kurt Marquart) those in the Church have faith in God through the Church (if not directly, then indirectly).  For cradle Lutherans, faithful saints gave them the life-creating Promise from their childhood.  And yet, in “Cretan’s paradox” fashion, as we grow, we ultimately become more and more aware that “all men are liars” (those passing on the Promise to us may have even emphasized this point to us: that they, as lying sinners, must depend on Christ!), but that God’s grace still breaks through in the midst of all of this.  Christ is in our midst!  In fact, He comes precisely because of this work of Satan: namely, the problem of original sin that infects us all!  So indeed, here we have a great paradox: as we grow in our faith, we become more certain regarding the Promise itself – the Promise Himself – than the love and integrity of any man – and of anything else in the whole creation.      

The believer therefore fears no kind of interrogation, observation or evidence.  For God’s love sustains us in the knowledge that we have nothing to fear from the truth, all of which is His, the Truth’s.  Everything that is found, when seen in the proper context, can only affirm the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who would have all persons know true life in Him. 

Those who know the true visible Church discern this, as faithful confession always trumps institutional loyalty and forms.  It is only in this way that the faithful, though perhaps seeming very “individualistic” in their beliefs, can hope to exist in peace and concord with one another.

Luther notes how Noah’s sons covered him when he became drunk, and by analogy says we must at times cover the ancient fathers of the Church.  So, just as we must cover St. Ignatius of Antioch when he pursues his martyrdom in a rather unbiblical fashion, we to must cover St. Anthony when he gives the impression that the tanner’s faith is something to be emulated (just as we must cover Luther when he goes too far in covering Anthony!)

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Posted by on October 23, 2009 in Uncategorized


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