Posted on | July 19, 2011 | 3 Comments
Before I really begin the series titled ‘The Prosthetic Church’, I think a little background is in order.
According to Wikipedia, a prosthesis is an artificial device extension that replaces a missing body part.
Obviously, no matter how crafty, mechanically ingenious and aesthetically pleasing a prosthesis might be, it can never be equal to the original. A prosthetic limb will always be an attempt to compensate for the loss of the original limb. It would be unthinkable for a sane person to wish to amputate a healthy limb so as to replace it with a prosthesis. Such willful mutilation can only be the fruit of an deeply infirm mind.
I briefly dallied with the satirical term ‘Cyborg Church’, implying the deliberate mutilation to (supposedly) expand the capacity of the original with implanted cybernetic abilities. But I wanted a robust and stand-alone term that would not need to be constantly explained nor placed in quotation marks to avoid the confusion of late-comers. Whereas cybernetics might quite be seen as something beneficial, prosthesis would not.
So much for the term, now for its application.
Was the Bride of Christ born, then, missing some limb? Or did she perhaps suffer some horrendous accidental mutilation? No and no. She was created perfect in all her functionality and detail. Nor can the very gates of hell prevail against her, that she should be mutilated by her enemies. Millennia may come and go, but the Bride will neither wither nor fail, since the grace of her Lord sustains her. And she will be presented, perfect, to her Bridegroom on the day of her nuptials.
If the church uses prosthetic limbs today, it was by no accident of birth nor illness of health that she came to lose her natural limbs, but by the will and knives of the very men who were charged with preserving her integrity.
I look at the 21st century church and I see a church that has had vital limbs deliberately amputated and replaced with painstakingly designed prostheses. Though countless lives of tears and prayer and service have been spent in trying to adapt to these skillfully and beautifully crafted substitutes, they never will – nor indeed can – be equal to her natural limbs in grace and functionality. The tragedy is not that the church should need prosthetic limbs, but that there was never any need to amputate her natural ones in the first place. There never was any gangrene to demand the scalpel and bone-saw. Nor ever was there irreversible muscular entropy or some sinister bone disease that might warrant such surgical last resorts.
I believe that the church was mutilated because her organic limbs did not lend themselves to the sinful human desires of her leaders and flock. I believe her limbs were amputated because we preferred a church on crutches with plastic legs. We preferred a church hobbling along, albeit with our personal interests served, rather than the lithesome and graceful bride her Lord created, but with His interests at heart. We, her leaders and members, have chosen it so – to our shame and disgrace.