Lawrenz begins his chapter with the story of three individuals and their difficult situations in Communist Romania. The faith of all three individuals were tested in the midst of a brutal atheistic political system, where the state was the absolute authority. All three passed the test. They are pastors in Romania today.
"A faith that is merely a casual flirtation with believing will never stand that kind of test" (192). In the Apostles' Creed, the affirmation of belief in the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the life everlasting" is an "explosive proclamation of life" (192).
Belief in the church is indispensable for Christians. There are those who struggle with the church because of its failings and hypocrisy. Lawrenz does not deny the significance of this by reminding us that the one group for which Jesus reserved his harshest words were the hypocrites. Yet, at the same time Lawrenz warns that some folks use "the church is full of hypocrites" claim is a smoke screen, an excuse not to have to believe. What do the hypocrites in the church have to do with belief in God or belief in the ideal of the church? "To say, 'I believe in honesty' while you still have a hard time being honest all the time does not undermine the belief in honesty. It just means that pretty much anyone who is a believer is in the process of moving into the reality of what he or she believes. And yes, the Church is full of hypocrites at one time or another. But God is not to blame for that. The difficulty we all have with practicing what we believe is exactly why we need God" (194).
It is God who invented the church, which is precisely why the church is holy. The church is catholic in that it is one church that bears witness to the truth that in Jesus Christ, God has offered a universal solution to the universal problem of sin. The church is also the communion of saints which shares a common life and a common communication. It is a communion that includes those who have gone before. It is a communion that reminds us that God has not left us alone in the world. Individual Christians are part of the large one body of believers. The church also believes in the forgiveness of sins. One of the reasons that the church spread so rapidly in the early centuries was its message that a new beginning was possible and that persons could be released from "their regrets and failures" (201). The church also affirms the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. God did not create us and foster relationship with us only to have it end in the grave. Resurrection means that new day has dawned, and the early Christians endured persecution and martyrdom because of the conviction that their deaths would not be the end of their story or the story of what God is doing in the world.
What I especially appreciate about this chapter is how Lawrenz moves through the sometimes extreme quagmire of the two views of the church as hypocritical and the church as faithful. He does not simply write off the hypocrisy of Christians and even the heinous acts committed by the church at various times throughout history. Yet, at the same time, he reminds us that the church has also been quite faithful through the centuries. The ideal view of the church must take into account the church's many failings, and the hypocritical notion of the church must understand the reality of the faith of countless saints throughout the centuries, who continue to display the life-changing work of God in their lives. Lawrenz' answer to this is the one given in the Apostles' Creed. The church is a creation of God moving in its imperfections toward the perfection God has in mind for it.
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