Dear Members and Friends at Trinity Lutheran Church,
The great German theologian, Herman
Sasse, bemoaned the fact that the church was becoming fractured, or as He put
it “atomized.” This happens
when congregations fail to have an appreciation that there is “one holy
Christian church.” The Body of
Christ becomes “pulverized” into “mere congregations” instead of larger
confessional church bodies. It’s
as if congregations and individuals thought
they existed alone in isolation from other congregations and believers of the
same confession (The Lonely Way, Vol II,
This is no doubt a problem on the American Christian scene, but this is akin to another problem as well. There is a different “pulverizing” going on. There is another “atomizing” happening where individual Christians are being, in some sense, alienated from their Lord. It is as if (preposterous, I know) they could claim the title Christian but do not stand under the authority of the Christ.
In the novel “That Hideous Strength,” C.S. Lewis sets up for us a young intellectual, Mark, who is beginning to come to grips that there might actually be a God. If that were true, then he understood that God would rightly have a claim on his life.
Mark reflects, “Supposing one were a thing after all -- a thing designed and invented by Someone Else and valued for qualities quite different from what one had decided to regard as one’s true self?” (Chap 14, Sec.6).
The terrible reality is that there are people who confess the Christian faith, at least in a minimal degree, and yet live like atheists. In this way, they are pulverized and atomized by living in isolation from the authority of Christ. They live unto themselves as their own God and their own Lord though in fact they may even worship at their home congregations from time to time. Practically speaking, they have no clue that they are not a law unto themselves.
An illustration will be instructive here. Suppose a man was out to create for himself a lovely sunroom at the back of his house. Being quite talented, he draws up the design himself. The features he values are placed into the design and then skillfully crafted as the sunroom goes up.
In a similar fashion God designed humanity before the world was created and then He fashioned a man and a woman according to the desire of His own good and gracious will. He has revealed His will to us in the Ten Commandments. He works His will in our lives through the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) as the Spirit renews us in the Gospel.
We are not to be pulverized and atomized individuals standing in isolation to God. We are not, in fact, our own God, Lord, Owner, and Creator. We are “things” so to speak. We are creations of God who are called to live in His design.
Did not St. Paul write, “…who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” (Romans 9:19).
God created us for faithfulness. Humanity chooses pragmatism. God created us for chastity. Humanity chooses the vulgarity of its own lusts. God created us for Himself. We live for ourselves. Thus we are pulverized, atomized, and separated from Him as our own Creator, Owner, and Authority.
This is an even bigger problem than some wayward members confessing Christ but living like atheists. In this light, we can never be unpulverized, if you will, by living in God’s design. The opposite of our problem is not our cure. Certainly those who confess Christ but live as atheists need to repent, but repent all the daylong and even the greatest of Saints will still say, “I am but a worm” (Luther).
All of us, not just a few, have been pulverized by sin and separated from God as a characteristic of our fallen nature. The cure for our problem is Christ Himself who brings us back to God as St. Paul wrote, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:18-19).