I love this post by Fr Dwight Longenecker, in which he contrasts an inward-looking “existential fideism” with the gospel’s outward-looking encounter with Christ.
“Existential fideism”, as described by Fr Longenecker, says:
Mankind is in search of meaning. In every person there is a God-shaped space. By looking within, by searching for one’s own heart desire, we will eventually find meaning. We will have an encounter with Christ. We will realize that the Christian way is the true way. Then we will walk in this way with peace, joy and a fulfilled life.
As commenters on Fr Longenecker’s post point out, this really amounts to reheated Gnosticism – but it’s certainly a recognisable tendency within the church. (The commenters also point out that Fr Longenecker’s other suggested term, “personalism”, is a little unfortunate as it turns Pope John Paul II into a heretic!)
In contrast, Fr Longenecker continues:
I’m increasingly in favor of the simple transaction that the gospel and the church have always called for. “Repent and believe the Gospel.” There’s the basic encounter with Christ. A soul says, “God, I’m sorry for my sin. I want to do better and can’t unless you help me. Give me the power of Christ and I will follow him.” Within this simple transaction is all that is required. Not a lot of soul searching is needed. Not a lot of philosophical or theological discussion… not a lot of learning. Just simple obedience and humble acceptance of Christ. Just simple metanoia–turning from my own way to the way of Christ.
And this is not just a one-off decision before we return to our comfort zone of self-absorption, but a daily renewal:
This is the only gospel I have to proclaim. It is the only gospel there is. I don’t know of any other. It’s the transaction I seek every morning, and within that transaction of repentance and faith I turn away from my self seeking and my tortured self examination and I realize I need Christ. Within that transaction grace is given and have the power to follow the Master.
All of which sounds rather familiar:
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent”, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. (95 Theses, thesis 1)
What does such baptizing with water indicate?
It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. (Small Catechism, Holy Baptism)
Always heartening to find “Evangelical Catholicism” and Roman Catholicism speaking with one voice like this.