I have been reading a critical biography of Erasmus by Léon-E. Halkin, and have become struck by how similar the events of his life appear to be matching our own.
Erasmus (1469–1536) flourished and lived through the Protestant reformation in Europe. A good Catholic until the day he died, he witnessed the rise and rise of the Protestant faith in Germany, especially where he had made his “nest”, in Basel. He advocated tolerance between Catholic and Protestant; after all, it was the same God being worshipped. But he witnessed intolerance, first by the Catholic authorities while they held sway, and then later by Luther and Calvin when they had largely swept aside the old religion.
Still he advocated tolerance, but by 1529, ailing and agéd, he wrote to a friend that he feared for his mortal life, let alone for his spiritual life, at the hand of the Lutherans, and eventually decamped to Freiburg in 1535, still in Germany but more balanced between the two theologies.
He never really recovered from the exertion but died less than a year later.
I hadn’t really taken much notice of all this until it suddenly struck me that, as Christians of a particular kind, we are under attack by those who would have us conform with their thinking. As a fellowship too, we today have a very mixed set of congregations. Some meet on Sunday, while others still meet on Saturday. We have some who have embraced the recommended Easter–Christmas round of festivities, while others continue to stick with the holy days we long pursued. And even within our own fellowship there seems to be a similar pressure mounting to conform. The spirit of tolerance seems just as lacking as between Protestant and Catholic as back in the 15-16th centuries.
It caused me to consider my own faith. In the end I asked myself what, bottom line, would cause my concern enough to consider ‘fleeing’ like Erasmus?
I have one friend who has confided that he is still a Creationist. For him the seven days of creation are just that—seven days. And he doesn’t see that as central in our teaching as it used to be. Another worries that our emphasis on prophecy has fallen away. For him it still drives how he operates as a Christian, knowing what the people of this world face before Christ returns.
You might like to just take a moment to think things through, and come up with your own bottom-line. It might be Communion, another aspect where many now find acceptance, while others resolutely do not. Or what about women in ministry?
What if we came to a place where such differences no longer were acceptable? Already today, for example, there are strident calls for us all to become vegetarians for the sake of the planet. And if you are not, not yet anyway, toleration for your bloody lust for meat is condemned—and you—in no uncertain terms. The middle ground, the area of tolerance beloved by Erasmus, seems to be growing ever narrower in our century.
And so I sat me down to consider what would be the bottom line for me. And I concluded that denial of freedom to pursue the Sabbath as my day of worship and the annual holy days as well would be my bottom-line. They mean so much more to me following our new walk with God. Now, I can and do worship every day of the week, but I have kept the Sabbath in one form or another for 60 years or more, and I can’t see me changing. So, in that consideration, know that the day Reading begins to meet on a Sunday is the day you will need to look for a new pastor.