For well over an hundred years, the church has been suffering in her battle with modernism and more lately her stupider, but more honest, daughter, postmodernism. Throughout this whole period, the church has also suffered from ecclesial schizophrenia, a damnable “double-mindedness,” says St. James.
On the one hand, certain churchmen have sought to reestablish the church as institution. Many, in frustrated zeal, have left the fold of the faithful and wander down the road to Rome, seeking that organizational structure and order, that static institutionalism. Give these sorts a creed, a pew, and a dry liturgy and they are happy; just see to it that folks don’t get carried away with enthusiasm and begin looking for that “New Light,” seeking regeneration and a heart of flesh that pulsates for Christ!
On the other hand, the last century has given the church a new spiritual vitality, one that was borne out of the ecstatic spontaneity of the revivalism of the so-called second Great Awakening. For the most part, the charismatics and Pentecostals have claimed the corner on this renewal and vivacious life stream. In fact, few denominations have been left unmarked by this burgeoning and exciting impulse, however authentic its various quarters may or may not be.
These enthusiasts or spiritualistic type, for lack of better, see the church as institution as the cloister that has historically killed the virgin church! The “Letter kills, whilst the Spirit gives life!” And here, by letter, they mean anything that might circumscribe their existential spiritual adventures. “I have a relationship, not religion!” they shout (not having the sense to see that this is itself a fundamental creed of what is simply a different, heterodox religious sect of true religion!).
This problem has persisted and produced chaos for over an hundred years; it creates “a house divided,” which cannot stem the unified tide of humanist, whether modern or postmodern. Additionally, for over an hundred years, God’s modern mouthpiece, the revolutionary Anti-Revolutionist founder, Dutch Reformed statesman, theologian, and churchman, Abraham Kuyper has said, Let there be a curse on both these houses...or rather, both houses are homes to a curse. Kuyper mends this false ecclesial dichotomy, and articulates the biblically perspective, wherein the “twain become one,” a reciprocal, mutual unity of organism and institution. Hear him below, and then treat yourself to the full sermon by following the link.
“That organism [God’s eternal love in election] is the heart of the church. From that heart her lifeblood flows, and where that pulse of her life ceases, the institution alone never constitutes the church. If you send missionaries out to remote places, if they do not bring with them this vital seed, you church is never born in yonder places. A church cannot be manufactured; a polity, no matter how tidy, and a confession, no matter how spotless, are powerless to form a church if the living organism is absent. Let those who intentionally deny that unique life of the church just try to imitate the church of Christ in their own locale, and people will see once again what has been seen so often already: With the erosion of the soil their building collapses...
“The church cannot lack the institution, for the very reason that all life among human beings needs analysis and arrangement. This is how it is with the soul, this is how it is with the body, which lives organically but even so, it languishes if no regulating consciousness guides it and no structuring hand provides for it. This is how it goes with justice, which does indeed grow among humanity but even so, it must be classified, described, and maintained, and exists among no nation apart from a judicial institution. It is the same with God’s revelation that became organic and still could not dispense with the institution of Israel or the form of document and writing. Indeed, it is this way above with Christ himself, whose life does not simply flow about aimlessly but is manifest in human particularity through the incarnation...
“From the organism the institution is born, but also through the institution the organism if fed.”