Near the shore of a storm-rocked sea, breaking foam crashing against a cliff, a lighthouse may guide the way. It is a kind of pun, and a kind of parable, to say the Church is such a lighthouse: Christ, who is the light, built His house so that we may know the Way toward Him.
I have a difficult time believing that the one, narrow Way would make so many local ways, springing up and falling down through the centuries as they do.
If there is one peril — Christians, you know there is ultimately one peril, which is Hell — there must be only one lighthouse. There cannot be a cloud of lighthouses. There must also be a clear idea about what that lighthouse means, where the rocks are in relation. This not just a matter of life and death but a matter of eternal life and eternal death, to borrow a turn of phrase. If there is no clear relation, we are be better off with a lifetime’s intuition, “as infants, tossed about by the waves.” But if Protestantism is true, there are two reasonable possibilities:
- First, there is not now, and will never again be until the Second Coming, a single lighthouse. This is intolerable, if indeed this is a matter of eternal life and eternal death. Moreover, if Truth so poorly sustains we are less subject to God than to some terrible Demiurge. Hardly Christian; safely discarded.
- Second, the true light, the Holy Spirit, we must pursue, and in the fire of pursuit are made saints. But this is also hardly Christian. Assuming your copy of Miracles lacks Chapter 11, I’m happy to explain.
If men pursue God, who therefore changes, this stands not just opposite to the sense of Jewish revelation but contrary to it.
We may as well say that men use God or peruse God as pursue Him. Such presumption runs contrary to the remarkable sense of the Incarnation, and the Passion, and the Resurrection, and even to Pentacost. God pursues man, for man is ever needing redemption and God will suffer anything which helps this end.
While man’s worst shot wounded and then killed God, He triumphs over even this with but five marks on his body. Properly understood, even His Wounds, wounds he allowed, reflect His unchanging Truth. These wounds he felt at every failure of the Israelites, every failure of his Church, throughout all time. The only change is that we see them.
If even in the Passion was God unchanged, why would he contradict Truth over something smaller than all sin through all time? He did not capitulate to every sin, so why would he capitulate to merely three sins, however grand, however singular as a King needing an heir, or a Lawyer putting on airs, or a Friar airing dirty laundry?
Now, he does not change from here to there. He is the rock of refuge, a rock of ages. When we are bad, He repeats Himself, as every father repeats himself, so much that even the deaf hear. When we are good, He reveals more and more of his Light, until even the blind see. He is the Light, and His Light is constant. Seeing this unending, unwavering truth, how can we say the Constant Light so constantly alight himself?
If not God, then who alights from here to there? Who is the Lord of these apostasists? Such a Lord ever jumping around and contradicting himself would not be of Heaven but of this world, I think, a Lord of Darkness and Lies interested in snuffing lights, interested in wrecking ships. If the Adversary allows a false, pale, ever-shifting light, it is because his defeating the false light at some crucial moment will all the surer doom us.
Bathed in such deception, who would not be the Lady of Shalott, half-sick of such shadows? And so we know why Protestantism has splintered again and again through the centuries, each generation farther afield with fewer convinced; we know why Luther’s great stones are so much powder now.
Creaking, splintering, foundering go many ships to cruel perdition;
Crashing down to selfsame end fall crumbling stones from sandy ruins;
We who see such tragedy know who and Who to thank for each.