Christian History Home > 2004 > "St. Mugg" and the Wrestling Prophets
"St. Mugg" and the Wrestling Prophets
A modern British journalist gives us timely words from yesterday's sinner-saints.
At the same time, Augustine recognized that in a post-Constantinian world where Christianity had become socially fashionable, not everything that went on inside of churches "spoke of God." Muggeridge cites Augustine's own words on this score, with an obvious jab at the comfortable churches of our own time. Whoever entered a Roman church of that day, reported Augustine,
"is bound to see drunkards, misers, tricksters, gamblers, adulterers, fornicators, people wearing amulets, assiduous clients of sorcerers, astrologers. He must be warned that the same crowds that press into the churches on Christian festivals also filled the theatres on pagan holidays…. . It is only charity that distinguishes the children of God from the children of the Devil. They all make the sign of the Cross, and answer 'Amen' and sing Alleluia, they all go to church and build up the walls of the basilicas."
So it goes on this earth, Augustine concluded: the City of God and the City of Man intermingle in one mass of confusion. "Through the Incarnation," Muggeridge paraphrases the great bishop, "we have a window in the walls of time which looks out on the Heavenly City." But as long as we are bound to this earth, we are weighed down by, to return to Wells's image, the things our cultures do to make sin look normal and righteousness ridiculous.
Never, concludes Muggeridge, has the earthly city looked larger and more overwhelming than today: "Turning away from God, blown up with the arrogance generated by their fabulous success in exploring and harnessing the mechanism of life, men believe themselves to be at last in charge of their own destiny."
A mere few decades after these words were written, I see their fulfillment looming beyond even Muggeridge's sometimes over-dark imagination. Though when he used the phrase "mechanism of life," the journalist probably had in mind such life-meddling scientific advances as artificial contraception and abortion, we are now nearing what promises to be an absolute and horrifying sort of meddling, through advances in the fields of genetic engineering and cloning.
Muggeridge's fascinating gallery of wrestling prophets is full of such moments, in which yesterday's prophets pierce today's darkness.
What pulls us back, as readers, from the despair that Muggeridge did not always successfully fight are the other words he reports to us from these same historical prophets. These words are the tidings of that greater City, whose King walks with us in the midst of a photonegative world, upholding and strengthening us in the face of its self-righteous moral blackness.
Again, I hope soon to share more of both the darker and the brighter words of these prophets and the modern prophet who has written so sympathetically about them. Meanwhile, the best website from which to explore Muggeridge is hosted by Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong. And a little Google searching will uncover many other interesting sites and articles.
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