Truly the Devil’s greatest trick was to convince us that he doesn’t exist – or, at least, that it’s impolite to mention him in public.
The Church of England has reinstated the word “sin” into baptism services after a backlash from parishes who complained a new wording was “bland”, “dumbed down” and "nothing short of dire".
Plans to introduce an alternative order of service using more “accessible” language, have had to be redrawn after members inundated Lambeth Palace with letters complaining the move went too far.
But the church is to press ahead with plans to banish references to “the Devil” from the new format.
According to Tim Stanley:
This controversy is indicative of a wider problem for the CofE. On the one hand, it takes its role as a national church very seriously and doesn’t like to exclude anyone – call it “the BBC at prayer”. On the other hand, it is also a Christian organisation with a responsibility to try to save people’s souls. As wider society becomes more and more agnostic, these two missions become less and less easy to reconcile. Eventually, the Church will have to choose. Does it serve modern society, with its rampant materialism, social liberalism and discomfort with spiritual discipline? Or does is serve God? If the latter, then it’s going to have to ask people to reject the Devil. No one gets into Heaven without making at least one enemy.
Meanwhile across the North Sea:
Denmark’s Parliament last week voted by a large margin to force churches belonging to the state Lutheran Church to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies inside their sanctuaries. The new law stipulates that individual priests have the right to refuse to conduct the ceremony but, should that happen, local bishops are charged with finding a replacement.
The pattern of history is that state sponsored churches succumb to the pressure to become the chaplain of society. In response, disciple-making movements spring up on the fringe, or outside the borders of institutionalised religion.
Europe’s historic churches have to decide. Do they want to make disciples, or do they want to reflect the beliefs and behaviours of their society’s cultural elites?
A warning to all those who identify as “Free” churches in Europe — evangelicals, charismatics and Pentecostals. The temptation to become the chaplain of society is universal. Success can be your greatest enemy. Don’t lose your focus on the gospel, on making disciples who follow and obey Jesus, and multiplying churches. Everywhere.
(Thanks to reader Colin.)