This article is the first of two excerpts from A Simplicity of Faith: My Experience in Mourning. The book, published by Abingdon in 1982, describes Stringfellow's experience and reflections after the death of Anthony Towne in January, 1980.
Has God abandoned the Church?
The metamorphosis through which the Church is secularized is the same as that by which the gospel is rendered religious. When all is said and done, both aspects of this remarkable change are rooted in denial of the viability of the Word of God in this world. The pioneer Christians were not insulated either from the temptation to conform, as the Church, to the prevailing culture and regime in society, or from emulating the practice of religion, as the New Testament amply verifies. Still, by the time of the Constantinian Arrangement the secularization of the Church and the religionizing of the gospel became dominant in Christendom in the West. Soren Kierkegaard was, much later, to use the name Christendom to distinguish the worldly conformance of the Church and the religious corruption of the gospel from the freedom characteristic of the company of confessing Christians living in the world in reliance upon the militance of the Word of God. And, only recently, we have heard the testimony concerning the biblical integrity of religionless Christianity from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. My old friend Jacques Ellul is a companion in this witness. Among a host of others, so was Anthony Towne.