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This article is taken from PN Review 13, Volume 6 Number 5, May - June 1980.

Blue Book Blues Paul Seabury
 
NO aspect of existence can escape the eternal problems of conservation and change, innovation and restoration, destruction and creation.

But these problems must be understood in a very special way when we turn to religion; the Church, unlike any other institution, repeatedly confronts a dilemma arising from its fundamental nature, of being timeless and timely, ahistorical yet always immediate. To say that it be 'not of this world' may be either understood correctly as meaning that its essence and message both persist unalterably against the winds and waves of any historical condition, or misunderstood to mean that its existence is deemed irrelevant or impervious to them. Changeless, it manifests itself in many guises through history; and this may be the necessary condition for its unceasing mission, to make known the ways of God to man, in man's many manifestations.

Changeless in essence, the Church in history nevertheless is not exempt from laws of civilization and decay, any more than secular institutions are. The question as to what ideal pattern of unity and diversity should exist within it was a problem that T. S. Eliot addressed in his Notes Toward a Definition of Culture. 'No security,' he wrote, 'against cultural deterioration is offered by any of the three chief types of religious organization: the international church with a central government, the national church, or the separated sect. The danger of freedom is deliquescence; the danger of strict order is petrification.' (Italics added.) Here, the question of ...


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