Dwight Longenecker: The Tale of 2 Churches

The two groups are distinguished not so much by what they do, the way they worship or the causes they espouse, but by their underlying understanding of just what the Catholic Church is for.

We receive our foundational assumptions from those who first educated us.

These underlying assumptions, like the foundations of a building, are invisible yet they support everything else.

Two very different sets of underlying foundations have created the two churches within the Church. The two opposing views can be called “Happy Here” and “Happy Hereafter.” Those who hold the first believe that the point, not only of the Church but of the whole of human existence, is to produce human happiness here in this life.

The second is concerned with finding eternal happiness. According to this basic assumption, this life is a vale of tears. This mortal life is hard because it is a place to battle against sin and to produce those diamond-hard souls called saints.

Those who hold to the “happiness hereafter” viewpoint expect to sacrifice their happiness here to win happiness hereafter.

If this is your basic assumption, then your expectations for this life are realistic. You consider yourself and other people, while created in God’s good image, to also be sinners who need redemption and daily discipline. You believe in the reality of evil and consider this life to be the place and time to engage in spiritual warfare for the winning of souls.

This underlying assumption used to be the foundation belief not only of Catholics but of all who called themselves Christian.

All Christians understood life here and hereafter in this way. To do so was simply what Christianity was all about.

Unfortunately, this basic assumption has been eroded within every branch of the Christian community.

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