As I spend time on Facebook, listening to the radio (I have a two hour commute each day), and pay attention to what’s being said around me, I’m beginning to realize that what our culture needs most is someone to inject it with a dose of reality. The agenda of those who would, on the one hand, tell us that we should do whatever we want (labeling it a “human right” that trumps everything else) and of those, on the other hand, who would tell us that we mustn’t think at all (labeling rational thought a sin) must be counteracted.
Someplace, somehow, at some point in time our culture has forgotten how to walk with balance and – dare I say it? – grace. It’s no wonder that Washington and Frankfort – among other political “capitals” – are so polarized! Our culture has descended into “a tale of two extremes”. Many among us have gone well beyond the rightful demand for personal freedom and now claim that they must be allowed to do whatever pleases them, no matter who it hurts. Others among us seek to impose – either as a corrective for liberty-turned-into-license or for other reasons – rules that remove reason and the thought process from any decision.
The same is true in the Church today. There are many people – in many denominations – who argue that personal freedom and personal expression trump anything the Bible and Apostolic Tradition may have to say about any topic. It makes my head spin to think that someone would want to be called a “Christian” if they either have no idea or don’t care about what that entails. Likewise, I can’t begin to understand a “Christian” mindset that completely disallows the role of the individual believer in cooperating with God’s grace and will.
As people of the “Via Media” (the middle way), Anglicans have always understood that there are certain essentials to which we must give unyielding assent – even when it goes against our personal desires – if we are going to claim the name of “Christian”. But we have always equally understood that in essentials and non-essentials, our intellect and thought processes must be completely engaged – whether in the pursuit of spiritual formation through the deliberate exercise of surrender or in the creation of unique and faithful witnesses to the truth.
I reject the notion that the essentials of our Christian faith must be swept aside in order for us to find our truest self-expression, and I equally reject the notion that faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires mindless obedience. Let us walk away from both extremes by doing what our Lord called us to do ages ago, “Come, let us reason together.” We do this by walking the middle way.
If we are to walk the middle way, we must commit ourselves to two things: First, we must commit ourselves to upholding the essentials of the Christian faith, come what may; second, we must commit ourselves to receiving the grace and growth God has for us in worship and prayer – primarily in the preaching of the Word and receiving of the Sacraments, and in our peculiarly Anglican commitment to praying the Morning and Evening Offices.
Unless we make those twin commitments, we will lack the perspective of God in every aspect of our human lives and we will lack the dialogue which is the means by which new things are born within us – things brought to fruition within us by the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is what it means for faith and reason to walk together; and for us (as Anglicans) this is our unique witness to the rest of the Church, to those caught in hopeless relativism, and to those (both within the Church and in other religions) who seek to completely negate the gifts divinely implanted in each individual.
May we reason together, and may our faith light the way!
Father Todd Boyce, MSJ
Vicar, Saints Mary and Martha Anglican Church
Mount Sterling, Kentucky