Dancing Alone -- Chapter One: The Problem (Excerpt)

Those of us who grew up as Evangelical Protestants were told that, unlike Orthodox or Roman Catholic Christians, we Protestants worshipped God in spirit and in truth. That is why, we were told, we needed no liturgy or "empty rituals" to help us to worship God. We did not need to study church history because our personal salvation histories were all that mattered. We did not need the Holy Tradition becasue we had a direct personalized relationship with Jesus. If we felt spiritual, then we were. What we did or how we worshipped had nothing to do with our salvation, which we understood to be a one-time, almost magical, predestined occurrence, not a journey. We believed in the Bible, but not in the Church. We did not need to confess to a priest, to celebrate the Eucharist, let alone light a candle, venerate an icon or say a written prayer. We were taught that we were free of all such "new-pagan superstitions." How other Christians had done thigs for millennia, or what they had believed, or how they had come to believe was no concern of ours. We needed no interpretation but our own in deciphering the meaning of the Scriptures.

No bishop, apostolic or ortherwise, had any special authority over us regarding the true meaning of Scripture. No Father of the Church or Council had any special wisdom to which we should hearken. In fact we were told that our Christianity was like the rest of life in our pluralistic, free society-up to the individual, a personal choice, a question of individual "leading." Our Christianity was, in fact, anything we wanted it to be, though perhaps we never admitted as much. We said that what we believed was biblical. But it often turned out that the Bible said anything we wanted it to. We tended to reject the ancient Christian idea that the Holy Spirit had led the Church. Yet we readily enough claimed the Spirit's "leading," on a personal subjective level, as proof that we were correct about matters theological and "doing the Lord's Will" in matters personal. If we disagreed with the teaching of one denomination or misister, we sould shop for a new "church" until we found one we liked.

Copyright 1994 by Frank Schaeffer