Is the OPC the Church Hans Kung Has Been Waiting For?

Kung is hoping that Francis will be like his namesake and repudiate the power, wealth, and intrigue that has afflicted what he calls the “Roman system.” If the current pope follows Francis of Assisi, then he will take a path different from Innocent III:

In fact, Francis of Assisi represented the alternative to the Roman system. What would have happened if Innocent and his like had taken the Gospel seriously? Even if they had understood it spiritually rather than literally, his evangelical demands meant and still mean an immense challenge to the centralized, legalized, politicized and clericalized system of power that had taken over the cause of Christ in Rome since the 11th century.

Innocent III was probably the only pope who, because of his unusual characteristics, could have directed the church along a completely different path, and this would have saved the papacies of the 14th and 15th centuries schism and exile, and the church in the 16th century the Protestant Reformation. Obviously, this would already have meant a paradigm shift for the Catholic church in the 13th century, a shift that instead of splitting the church would have renewed it, and at the same time reconciled the churches of East and West.

But Kung wonder if the papacy can retrace its steps and take a path not taken. If it does, it will need to measure up to three standards:

Poverty: The church in the spirit of Innocent III meant a church of wealth, pomp and circumstance, acquisitiveness and financial scandal. In contrast, a church in the spirit of Francis means a church of transparent financial policies and modest frugality. A church that concerns itself above all with the poor, the weak and the marginalized. A church that does not pile up wealth and capital but instead actively fights poverty and offers its staff exemplary conditions of employment.

Humility: The church in the spirit of Innocent means a church of power and domination, bureaucracy and discrimination, repression and Inquisition. In contrast, a church in the spirit of Francis means a church of humanity, dialogue, brotherhood and sisterhood, hospitality for nonconformists; it means the unpretentious service of its leaders and social solidarity, a community that does not exclude new religious forces and ideas from the church but rather allows them to flourish.

Simplicity: The church in the spirit of Innocent means a church of dogmatic immovability, moralistic censure and legal hedging, a church of canon law regulating everything, a church of all-knowing scholastics and of fear. In contrast, a church in the spirit of Francis of Assisi means a church of good news and of joy, a theology based purely on the Gospel, a church that listens to people instead of indoctrinating from above, a church that does not only teach but one that constantly learns.

It is hard to look at the Eternal City of Rome, follow the rites and ceremonies of the Cardinals, notice the monarchical associations of the papacy, and find the attributes that Kung desires. But if you take a gander at the OPC, by no means the runt of the Reformed Protestant litter, you would find a church with little wealth (by Roman Catholic standards). As for pomp and circumstance, the selection of a moderator for General Assembly has no smoke (or mirrors unless you consider Roberts Rules ceremonial.

For simplicity the OPC does pretty well, at least if you look at the worship services of most congregations. An attachment to proper exegesis and correct doctrine still dominate liturgical and aesthetic sympathies.

For humility, some might think the OPC (the Only Pure Church or the little church with the big mouth) falls woefully short. But two out of three isn’t bad. And we don’t need our General Secretaries to change names.


24 thoughts on “Is the OPC the Church Hans Kung Has Been Waiting For?

  1. Spurs are rockin and rollin. If Timmy hadn’t racked up two fouls in 30 sec. in the third, it wouldn’t have been a game. Hans Kung, gotta like a guy who was there;

    “But, today above all, the direction should be made clear again: not a restoration to pre-council times as there was under the Polish and German popes, but instead considered, planned and well-communicated steps to reform along the lines of the Second Vatican Council”


  2. Vermonster,

    The only thing better than that is the “Dancing Queen” video on the right of the screen. An Old Life man would have fit into that band quite well. Those men were quite well-groomed and metrosexual. Any of us would have made fine companions to Agnetha and Anni-Frid, D.G. especially.

    He may have even danced to that song at his prom.


  3. David,

    Clothes are part of it but it’s more about body hair. Where you have it and where you don’t. That and moisturizing.

    I’ve fully turned over the clothes shopping to the wife, though.

    Did I mention that D.G. does the cooking at his house?


  4. David,

    I shop at Old Navy for the most part, and average about a can of Copenhagen (the non-carcinogenic sort of course) a day. Is that metro enough for you?

    I happen to think cigars are metro, since it has to rely on fancy implements such as “fire” for the tobacco to be enjoyed, call me a purist.


  5. David, you can loathe shopping for clothes and still be metro. It’s more important to be conscious of lining up attire with context.

    Jed, cigars might be metro but they aren’t Reformed–they correspond to status and power. Neither are bow ties–too ostentatious. Pipes and neck ties are Reformed because they correspond to reflection and commonality. Theology of the cross vs. theology of glory respectively.

    ps Old Navy is neither metro nor Reformed. More YRR and hipster. Sorry.


  6. For Mikelmann, Saturdays are Bedhead Day. Then there’s those whiskers just under the chin that I’m content to prune back about every other day.

    So just when I thought *sniff* I had finally found a place (ok, a quasi-place) where I fit in, I guess, once again, I just don’t belong.

    But I do use deodorant. Except on Bedhead Day.


  7. Speaking of cigars, didn’t the selection of the Moderator USED to be attended by some smoke?

    This Indian weed, now withered quite,
    though green at noon, cut down at night,
    Shows thy decay, all flesh is hay…
    Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

    1 of 10 stanzas I’m sure this list is familiar with… a beautiful little law and gospel reflection.


  8. Speaking of Mikelmann, I was asked today to serve on a committee to bring D.G. Hart to Des Moines for a weekend this fall. A committee this prestigious has surely not existed since Nixon set up the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP).

    If this event comes together and some Old Life regulars can make it I might be able to provide some housing. If Doug & Richard can come I might be able to line up a van down by the Des Moines river for them to stay in.


  9. Following up on Erik, we technically have a spare bedroom but it’s right next to my son’s bedroom. Accordingly, you’ll have to sign an “assumption of risk” form longer than Willy Wonka’s.


  10. M&M, Saturdays are wormboy days for married metros, as in, “Where is my errand boy?” “I’m over here.”


  11. Thanks, guys, I feel the love. I was beginning to feel excluded due to irrepressible body hair and peeling skin. Thankfully, you’ve spared me from joining forces with Doug and Richard and leaving 2K to the light-in-the-loafers set.


  12. This Hart event will be the biggest deal in Reformed theology since John Frame put on that seminar on liturgical dance in Hoboken a few years back. I hope I get assigned to publicity…


  13. Chortles, in order to be Pope, one must be in communion with Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Pope Francis supports same-sex sexual relationships and thus same-sex sexual acts, thus his election is not valid, and what you see is not an exorcism but smoke and mirrors.


  14. hmmm, Nantz,

    Your Romanism sounds awfully… American.

    Here’s the difference I see between us, in a nutshell. You want to clean up “the Church” back to A.D. 1961, or perhaps A.D. 1869. Depends on if you see yourself as more of a modern sedevacantist, or an Old Catholic, along the lines of the Declaration of Utrecht,” 1889.

    Whereas, back in the 16th century, we thought we’d like to clean up the Church to, oh about A.D. 451, and perhaps even a bit earlier, with respect to some of the worst deviations from Apostolic norms.

    Your problem is, you want a “reformed” (as opposed to a Reformed) church. The center of your faith isn’t Christ, but the Roman church, and a figurehead who embodies the status quo as of A.D. _____ (fill in the blank).

    For those of us on the outside, it’s just interesting to see how far back you decide that the doctrine and practice of Rome were OK, and to note the basis on which you decide (exercise that private judgment, woot! You go, girl).

    If by your lights nearly everything was up for review, according to the one Text that wasn’t up for review, you’d be a Protestant. If it was all up for review, including the Scripture, you’d be a Liberal. As it is, you pick-like-an-Evangelical a largely mythical version of the ‘history of the True Church” up until (whenever) that suits your taste, and say “Hier stehe ich!”

    It’s all very modern, western, democratic, egalitarian, all that jazz. If you really drank deep of the true Roman spirit, you would simply follow the current duly elected Vicar, even as Pope Leo X of 1520 demanded.


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