Monday, May 14, 2012

Christianity is in an interesting position today in the Western world, suffering what seem to many to be “setbacks,” “defeats” and a loss of influence. Tomas Halik in Night of the Confessor does not say this is untrue, nor does he lay out a battle plan to fight back and regain what we have lost, either through public relations campaigns or attacks on our “enemies.” Rather Halik argues that we ought to embrace the reality:

When we confess the Easter faith, at whose center is the paradox of victory through absurd defeat,  why are we afraid of our own defeats – including the demonstrable weaknesses of Christianity in the world today? Isn’t God speaking to us through these realities, similar to the way He did when He spoke through the events that we commemorate when we read the story of Easter?

Yes, the form of the religion that we are accustomed to is truly “dying off.” The history of religion and the history of Christianity consist of periods of crisis and periods of renewal; the only religion that is truly dead is one that does not undergo change, the one that has dropped out of that rhythm of life (Night of the Confessor, Chapter 1, page 8)
Halik sees the present reality of the Church as an opportunity for faith, an opportunity to cast off Christian faith as an inheritance that one receives like a chest of drawers – a beautiful reminder of and connection to the past that sits there and never changes – and into a living reality that encounters the mystery of the living God.

He sees “the facile belief that we are offered on every side these days” as “the most dangerous infectious disease from which we should protect Christianity and our own individual faith journeys” (page 13). If one does not comprehend the “paradoxical nature” of Christianity, it leads to the “inane ‘scientific atheism’ (proving that all of it “isn’t true”) or to the no-less-inane apologetic argumentation (would be rational and unconflictual) that it is all true…without either of them asking questions about how things are or are not true and what is the nature of that truth that is revealed here and remains hidden” (page 13).

To get beyond “facile belief” Halik wants us to re-imagine God not as a “supernatural being,” “but a mystery that is the depths and foundation of all reality” (page 15). Embracing this mystery means accepting the impossibility of Jesus’ teachings “in terms of the logic of this world, “which is a world of cunning, selfishness and violence” (page 15). We do this through forgiving instead of taking vengeance, to give instead of keeping, to act for the poor who cannot pay us back, and “to love those who do not love us and are not 'lovable'” (page 15).

What do you think of his assessment of the present age as an age in which the Christianity which comforted us, and comforted many, is dying away and that we ought instead of fighting to embrace the reality? This reality includes not just the reality of “loss of power” or “loss of influence” in the world, but the reality of embracing the impossibility of Jesus’ teachings regarding wealth, power, love and the poor. It includes embracing God as the depths of mystery which we cannot comprehend. It includes confronting truth as that which is both known and hidden. Is this not a call to faith in its truest form?

John W. Martens
Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens


  1. Amen! The superficial Christianity that prompted Gandhi to say "your Christians are so unlike your Christ" should die - so that a truer Christianity can emerge!

    Yes, the teachings of Jesus are hard - humanly impossible, in fact. But can't you just picture Jesus with a slight smirk saying, "Do it anyway." :)