The Disintegration of Christendom and the Crisis of the Ministry

'In Germany a candidate who refused to be ordained declared to his bishop, ‘I could perhaps preach on ordinary Sundays, but I cannot preach at Christmas and Easter; I cannot preach on myths.’ He was quite right. One cannot preach on myths. It was only logical that one of the enlightened professors of theology in Germany seriously suggested abolishing the Christmas festival altogether. In these cases, the deepest reason for the crisis of the ministry becomes evident: the loss of a living faith, the decay of the doctrinal substance which can be observed in all denominations of Christendom. One has often the impression that the same spiritual disease which the Greeks went through in the sixth and fifth centuries BC, and which began in India a little earlier, is now going through the ‘Christian’ nations in the world. The faith of the fathers is dying and is being replaced by philosophical speculations of socio-political ideologies. The ‘God is dead’ theology in America, the agnosticism which is openly confessed by Anglican priests in Australia, the transformation of the sola fide (by faith alone) and the theologia crucis (theology of the cross) into a lifeless speculation in Lutheran circles, the new hermeneutics which destroys the Word of God (‘We have lost the Word of God and cannot find it again’, as the leader of a Congregational college said) – all this is indicative of a process of disintegration that is going on in all Christendom and leads not only to numberless personal tragedies, mental breakdowns and moral conflicts but also to the dissolution of the churches. Like the great tragedies in the history of mankind, it is accompanied by a strange euphoria which accompanies certain lethal diseases. What actually may be the ruin of the church is regarded as a wonderful renewal, an unheard of resurgence of the church and its mission to the world.'

From ‘The Crisis of the Christian Ministry’, Lutheran Theological Journal (Adelaide) May 1968, pp34-46.

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