October 22, 2017

Bryan Cross Interview (Part 4): What Should Protestants Know About Vatican II?

v2My continuing interview with Bryan Cross now covers something very important: the Second Vatican Council and its implications for Protestant-Catholic relations.

9. What should every Protestant know about Vatican II?

The Second Vatican Council took place from 1963-1965, and was the twenty-first ecumenical council, following the First Vatican Council in 1869-70. Vatican II produced sixteen documents; among the most well-known are:

Sacrosanctum concilium, Sacred Liturgy, 1963.
Lumen Gentium, On the Church, 1964.
Unitatis Redintegratio, Ecumenism, 1964.
Dei Verbum, Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation, 1965.
Dignitatis Humanae, On Religious Freedom, 1965.
Gaudium et Spes, On the Church In the Modern World,1965.

The three most important documents with respect to Protestants are Lumen Gentium, Unitatis Redintegratio, and Dei Verbum. I’ll say a little about each of those three. In its first section Lumen Gentium contains the following statement about the identity of the Church:

This is the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth.’ This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” (Lumen Gentium, 8

Some people have misunderstood the meaning of the words “subsists in,” interpreting it to mean that Christ’s Church could or does subsist in many different institutions. But the Church clarified this in 2007, explaining that the Catholic Church governed by the successor of St. Peter is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded, and that nevertheless there are “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth” which are found outside her structure, but which “as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity.”

Protestants should know that the Catholic Church teaches in this document that whoever knows that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, and refuses to enter it or remain in it, cannot be saved. (Lumen Gentium, 14) This is not merely saying that whoever does not follow his conscience cannot be saved. It is saying something about the absolute uniqueness of the Catholic Church: whoever discovers that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded as necessary for salvation, cannot be saved without entering it and remaining in it. To the ears of some people that sounds arrogant. But we should recognize that the statement is arrogant only if it is not true. If it is true, then it is no more arrogant than Christ claiming to be the way, the truth and the life. At the very least, this statement in Lumen Gentium requires of all Christians that they investigate the claims of the Catholic Church to be the Church that Christ founded as necessary for salvation.

The document, Unitatis Redintegratio, on ecumenism, opens with this well-known paragraph:

The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided. Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature. (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1)

That summarizes perfectly the heart of ecumenism, from a Catholic point of view. The document goes on to discuss the Catholic principles of ecumenism, and how to implement them. It states that those who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are placed in an imperfect communion with the Church. The second half of the document discusses the relation between the Catholic Church and the Eastern [Orthodox] Churches not in communion with the successor of St. Peter, and between the Catholic Church and Protestants. To be clear, the word ‘Church’ can refer either to a particular Church, e.g. a diocese, of which there are many, or it can refer to the Catholic Church, which is the universal Church Christ founded, and to which all particular Churches should belong. The Church at Rome is a particular Church within the Catholic Church, and the bishop of the Church at Rome holds the office of visible head of the Catholic Church. (CCC, 881-882) Unitatis Redintegratio draws a distinction between those Christians who have preserved apostolic succession and those who have not, because of the need for apostolic succession in order to consecrate the Eucharist validly. This is why Orthodox Churches are called Churches, and Protestant groups are not called “Churches,” but communities.

The last of these three documents, Dei Verbum, explained the relation between Scripture, Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium. In this document we see the Catholic paradigm regarding the role of the oral Tradition handed down from the Apostles to the bishops. For Catholics this Tradition is also authoritative and provides a hermeneutical context in which to understand Scripture. This is the contrasting paradigm to the Protestant paradigm in which something must be taught explicitly in Scripture in order to be doctrine. One notable paragraph relevant to the Protestant-Catholic dialogue has to do with the role of the Magisterium in providing the authorized interpretation of Scripture.

The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith. (Dei Verbum, 10)

This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the episcopal successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. By Christ’s authorization through apostolic succession, it belongs to them alone to provide the authentic interpretation of the deposit of faith.

Finally, every Protestant should know two more things about Vatican II. First, Vatican II did not infallibly define any doctrine. It did not intend to do so. Any infallible teaching contained in the documents of the Council had already been infallibly defined previously. Second, Vatican II did not retract or deny any previous Catholic doctrine. In other words, Vatican II should be understood according to the hermeneutic of continuity, as developing and clarifying the received doctrine of the Church, not as retracting or denying any previous doctrine. Some Protestants seem to think that Vatican II moved the Catholic Church away from previous Catholic doctrines and toward Protestant positions. Based on this [mistaken] conception of Vatican II, these Protestants are holding out for the Catholic Church to become more Protestant in the future, and for the eventual reunion of Protestants and Catholics to take place by way of a recognition by the Catholic Church of the legitimacy of all Protestant denominations. This speculation is based on a serious misunderstanding of Vatican II. In Vatican II the Church developed in her understanding of the positive elements of the faith contained in Protestant traditions, and of the state of Protestants viz-a-viz the Catholic Church. But this is not the same thing as moving toward Protestantism, and should not be interpreted as such. The Church does not have the power to retract any doctrine on faith or morals, once defined by the Magisterium.

Comments

  1. “…whoever discovers that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded as necessary for salvation, cannot be saved without entering it and remaining in it. To the ears of some people that sounds arrogant. But we should recognize that the statement is arrogant only if it is not true. If it is true, then it is no more arrogant than Christ claiming to be the way, the truth and the life.”

    The difference is that Christ is the object and author of our faith, not the church.

    So since the church statement is not true, it must be arrogant?

    • Unless one accepts that the Church is the extension of Christ in the world, or in other words, His body.

      • Most Protestants would agree with that, in some sense.

        But that is different than putting the church on the same level as Christ, which is how the answer is coming across. Do we worship the church?

        Or rather, is the church (as guided by the Spirit) His hands and feet, and His Bride.

        • Of course, and I’m not advocating that Jesus and His church are one in the same, but if that is the claim of the RC then their doctrine makes perfect sense and their statement is not wrong. I’m a protestant so I do disagree, but I am starting from different assumptions than they are so it doesn’t seem helpful for me to disagree with their conclusions, just those assumptions.

          • “…but if that is the claim of the RC then their doctrine makes perfect sense and their statement is not wrong.”

            I know what you are saying, but just because they believe it does not mean it is correct, the truth.

            This whole series keeps going back to the issue of authority, and the answers of Mr. Cross thus far do not give me much hope for a resolution anytime in the near future.

        • Catholics do not worship the Church. But through the Church we are made members of Christ’s Body. The Church is the means (established by Christ) by which we live a sacramental life – a life always and ever devoted to our Lord Jesus. The Church nourishes us in our faith, guides us into truth, and never ceases to offer up prayer to God every minute of every day all over the world.

          • Of course, Protestants also believe that about the Church. The difference is whether the Church is uniquely identified with a particular institution or denomination.

          • Jugulum,

            A response to that can be found here

          • Asserting that Christ founded a visible church isn’t going to convince any serious Protestant that only one visible institution is that church.

            Assertion after assertion doesn’t move the conversation forward. We have Protestants that say only their church is the real deal.

          • @Carol: No, you’re made members of Christs body by your conduct, acceptance of teaching from scripture, and good works in faith. Sacraments, though important, romantic and formal, only serve to add another emotional dimension and perhaps promote good works in faith eventually through deepening the love of God you feel in your heart and helping keep your house in order.

            The church also helps create a community of faith, though inevitably it will include many who are not saved. That community of faith in turn makes you healthier by creating deep personal relationships and loyalties, and brotherly love, but it is the teachings of Christ acting through you and in you and your own faith (good works result from it) and communing with God in all possible and available ways that make you one with the Lord. The church only aids and abets this.

            I wouldn’t do without a church for so many reasons, but it is not through earthly churches that you are saved.

          • Matthew N. Petersen says:

            @ Jeremy,

            I think Hebrews and I Corinthians (as well as Romans and Galatians and Colossians and John and I John) say that we are made members of Christ precisely through the Sacraments. It isn’t our good deeds, it isn’t our good belief, and it isn’t our good faith that saves us; it is Christ acting on us through Word Sacrament and Church who creates deeds faith and belief.

            The problem with the Catholic position is the insistence that the government of the Church is of first importance, rather than second. Our true unity lies in Baptism and the Eucharist, and only thence in government; rather than in government, and only thence in the Eucharist.

          • @MNP: I’ve read all of these, and see the conclusion as the opposite. I know not where you got your answer from. There are particular quotes where Paul underscores love, faith and hope, but works have an effect on these as well, as the Gospels, Torah, and Samuel underspell. Further, Hebrews makes it very clear that religion arose (as it obviously would) in the absence of these things through Father Abraham. 1 Corinthians is a very scattered book in some ways, but barely mentions Sacrament if at all, and Galatians emphasizes living in Christ and even beats on certain disciples for emphasizing the kind of stuff that you emphasize (circumcision if you recall.)

          • Matthew N. Petersen says:

            @Jeremy,

            My point isn’t that faith hope and love save us. My point is exactly the opposite. God saves us, and his salvation creates faith hope and love. But God saves us through Word and Sacrament (and Church). I’m not exactly sure how you can say I Corinthians hardly mentions the Eucharist, if at all. I Corinthians 10 and 11 are about the Eucharist (and indisputably, 10:16-21 and 11:18-34 are about the Eucharist).

            I don’t understand your Hebrews reference. Hebrews makes it clear that Christ is not under Moses, but is rather a Melchizedekian priest. That is, Christ offers Bread and Wine. “Christ, a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, offers us bread and wine.” And Hebrews 9:20 is a clear reference not only to the blood of bulls and goats in Exodus 24:8 (which did not cleanse sins); but also to the wine of the Eucharist in Matthew 26:28, which is for the forgiveness of sins.

            (The other verses I had in mind were Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; John 6; and I John 1:7, a reference to the Eucharist.)

      • Mystical Body of Christ ++

    • Matthew N. Petersen says:

      No, I think as Protestants we have to say that the Church is an object of faith. “I believe one Holy and Catholic and Apostolic Church.” And the Church is clearly, and repeatedly described as the Body and Bride of Christ. What God has joined together, let no man put assunder. Furthermore, the Church is described in Scripture as the “Pilar and ground of truth.” Finally, the Song of Songs, and several Psalms say that Christ longs for the Church just as the Church longs for Christ. The Church definitely is an object of faith.

      The problem with the Catholic position is that it misidentifies the Church. The Church is not the Church government. The Church is the community of the Baptized in and around the Eucharist. The government is essential to this community, but the government is not itself the community, and the actions of the government are not objects of faith. That is, just as Israel under Jeroboam was still God’s people, though they did not have the Davidic King, so too, we are God’s people, though we do not have the Macabean Bishop. We are baptized, and are members of the Church, and we cannot be Church unless we have the Eucharist. Though aside from the ordinary succession of the government of the Church (perhaps, except many Protestants have apostolic succession through Presbyters, which could be said to be legitimate, though not perfect) we are actually the Church.

      We should hope to have full reunion with all the government of the Church, but we need not think that means we should become Catholic, any more than full union of Israel meant all the members of the Northern tribes become members of Judah. Our communities are perfectly acceptable communities (though they, like Rome have myriad problems).

  2. >If it is true, then it is no more arrogant than Christ claiming to be the way, the truth and the life.”

    I haven’t read a statement anywhere that more clearly demonstrates the difference between Protestant and Catholic views of the relationship of Christ and his church. IF Jesus identified himself with an institution in this way, then Protestants are toast. No doubt about it.

    • “I haven’t read a statement anywhere that more clearly demonstrates the difference between Protestant and Catholic views of the relationship of Christ and his church.”

      Agreed. I had to look at his answer two or three times to make sure I was reading that right.

    • So, what leads us to believe that Christ does not identify Himself with His Church in this way?

      • An institution, not his church. His church isn’t in question.

        • This is one of the problems I have – the distinction of institution and Church. It’s not the I don’t understand the idea being proposed. But I don’t see Biblically or historically where the distinction arises.

        • But isn’t this Church/Institution disagreement exactly Bryan’s point about our differing paradigms, Michael? – Bryan is talking about Christ’s Church here (as we understand her); the Catholic Church, when she speaks of herself in this manner, is talking about the Christ’s Church and not simply about some institution.

          If Christ founded one Church and the Catholic Church is that one Church, then this statement flows authentically from her very nature and is neither arrogant nor despotic. If it is merely an institution that sprung up from fallible, arrogant and despotic men, then its teaching is gross heresy. (Or we have all been duped.)

    • IF Jesus identified himself with an institution in this way, ……

      So the question is: how do protestants who , like myself, have NO inclination to go home to ROME, honor and maintain the unity gained by CHRIST with my RC brothers and sisters ?? What are my building blocks, my first steps, if ‘renouncing my schism’ is some kind of necessary first step ?

      Thankfully, to me at least, I know of many RC’s (including several in my immediate family) who do NOT share Bryan’s take on unity. So I’ve known first hand a unity not built on ‘shared institution’. I don’t think I’m missing out by not having that.

      • But you are, though you don’t acknowledge it – and any Catholic can (or should be able to) tell you. My mother can tell you, and she’s not Catholic. I suspect iMonk can relate with the recent conversion of his wife. It’s the Sacraments.

        I agree that, individually, there is much unity to be enjoyed between Catholic and non-Catholic. But there are also limitations to that unity due to barriers in practice and belief, and a relationship can and will feel that strain.

        And yet Bryan is tackling a larger context that deals primarily with Christian unity before an unbelieving world. It is a cause of scandal. I’m surprised you’ve never heard cafeteria Christianity used as an excuse for either not practicing Christianity or denying it outright.

        And while many feel scandalized by the Catholic Church’s unrelenting position, it is important to understand the story from their perspective. Conversion, no matter how it happens, is always a dialogue. If it’s a dialogue, you have to listen to what the other side is saying.

        • Not sure where you are going with some of your points.

          Is the answer to the problem of ‘cateteria christianity’ , which I am very aware of, healing the schism and going back to ROME ? Not trying to put these words in your mouth, but I cant’ see where I ever gave luke warmness a push (unless the default definition of ‘ludewarmness is ‘not RC’)

          Yes, we agree that the absence of unity is a terrible scandal before a wtching world. Agreed and then some. Soooooo……NOW WHAT ? What IS Christian unity, and how can we preserve it ?? I’m glad to read Bryan’s take on this, he is exponentially smarter than I, but so far, I dont’ much care for his package (or the package of __, __, I could name names here, but I don’t want to get that snarky on a tuesday).

          Yes , I thrive on dialogue, but dialoging with someone with ‘an unrelenting position’ is a little lke dancing with the porcupine: possible…..but where’s my motivation here.

          Dialogue welcome;
          Greg R

          • I think the motivation is finding the truth, in its fullness insofar as Christ has revealed it to us.

            If it is in Protestantism, where exactly do I find it? In which branch of Anglicanism? of Lutheranism? of Reformed denominations? of Anabaptists, Baptists, Pentecostals, churches of Christ, etc.?

            If Jesus called us to be one, prayed for it, made it possible through the Holy Spirit, then by his grace we can become one and not just accept as unsolvable the divisions between us. So I ask, where do we find it? If you are Protestant, tell me why you have it. If you don’t think you do but think your particular Protestant denomination is “right enough” or “mostly teaches truth” then is that the best we can do? Did Christ not lead his Church into all truth and protect her from error?

          • You seemed to be conflating unity among individuals with Church unity, and you seemed to be diminishing unity with a sense of comfort with “others” in your life. I primarily only meant to illustrate the problems inherent in what I perceive as oversimplifications of the problem.

            Your motivation is in Christ’s own words: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”

            Our unity is an essential element to Jesus’ prayer: a unity in belief communicated between people and generations.

            As to whether this means you must return to Rome – well, that’s for you to decide. However, even if you (or someone else) were to come up with an alternative for full communion, I’m fairly certain it would look distinctly different than you are willing to presently concede. Rome’s not looking to compromise – it never was. It is willing to listen to you and to help move towards common ground. That is Bryan’s work here in this interview – trying establish the language of our differences so that in that understanding, there is common ground to move forward in dialogue.

          • @DevonRose: I can see why you might want organizational division to control human influence and slow the progress of original sin, so unless I can see very clear biblical reasons why Christ was actually saying that about THIS PARTICULAR “church” I’m not likely going to accept it. May I remind you that you can be unified with your brothers without being under the same government but only under the Lordship of Christ.

          • Here again we see the distinction between the Church and institutions of the Church. If this is the crux of disagreement – that Rome says there is only one Church whereas Protestants acknowledge some invisible unitive Church yet a visible, broken church – then it needs more attention. Perhaps Bryan can extend his interview to deal with the competing ideologies as he understands them.

            But it seems to me we can forget Church unity if we can’t even agree what Church means in the context of what Jesus intended.

          • @AC: This article is partially about the Catholic Church saying that they have a monopoly on salvation. I disagree.

          • Merely disagreeing really doesn’t move dialogue forward, though.

            While the Catholic Church views itself as the ark of Salvation, it does grandfather in Protestants as Bryan has indicated through Baptism.

            Only a Protestant who believes that the Catholic Church is indeed Christ’s Church yet willfully does not seek full communion and participation in it forfeits his salvation. This concept similarly ties into Catholic teaching on mortal sin – a person with an informed conscience that willfully commits a mortal sin forfeits his salvation unless and until he seeks Reconciliation with the Church.

            At this level of discourse, the validity of the Church’s authority is not in question. It’s not a question of the Church’s primary role and authority. It’s a question of how a person responds to this Truth he knows.

            Outside of this level of discourse, (e.g. that which you find in nearly all Protestant churches, an intellectual disbelief regarding the Catholic Church’s role and authority) the grandfather of Baptism is in effect.

            So, is this a monopoly? I can understand the sentiment. But is it hoarding? … I don’t think so.

            So what is really at issue? Is it an uncertainty about what the Church really is? Or is it an uncertainty about what Church unity really is?

          • @AC: I already gave my response in the post above that one.

          • Do you understand why I view it as non-responsive?

          • @AC: Because I’m asking you to provide evidence?

          • You are asking for Biblical evidence that the Catholic Church is THE Church as created by Christ?

            That answer has been given by Bryan in this interview already. It would be retreading already familiar ground – but I can do it if need be … ? Now, if it’s a matter of you rejecting what has been presented as evidence, that’s fine … but on what basis do you do so?

            Furthermore, the lingering question whose answer would be an obvious rebuttal to the Catholic Church’s position is what is the Biblical evidence that Christ created a Church of a plurality of institutions? That’s the question, as I see it, that’s not being dealt with and would be a proper response to the Catholic Church’s position.

          • @AC: “Judge a tree by its fruits.” How can you use the bible as the testament of your evidence when you reject what it teaches? How can you claim that a preacher can condemn a man to Hell when “God judges not as men judge” and solicit indulgences? How can you start wars throughout the world, including tearing England, Spain and France apart for 100’s of years with petty papal games, and claim to be anything but an apostate? How can you make absurd and obviously untrue claims about the sacrifice of Christ?

            Maybe you misinterpreted Peters’ commission? Maybe Christ was giving a commission ONLY to Peter, that’s certainly how it always seem to me when I read it. It would certainly make sense, considering what both Christ and Saint Paul taught about the individual and his relationship with God. And may I remind you that, while Peter was the leader of the church, just like Aaron before him, he let someone else (Paul) be the theological leader, just as Aaron had his Moses and later Popes had Saint Augustine. How can you claim to be the heir of Peter when you have rejected the way that Peter did things?

          • “‘Judge a tree by its fruits.’ How can you use the bible as the testament of your evidence when you reject what it teaches?”

            I dealt with this elsewhere, but I don’t think you can properly take this parable to apply beyond men. You might imply that principle applies beyond itself, but it was not, in itself, the lesson that Jesus was teaching. He was warning against false prophets – men – not false institutions. That’s not to say that false prophets cannot lead people to false churches … but that’s a different matter and cannot be properly applied to the Catholic Church because it has an unbroken historical connection and continuity with the Church Christ established.

            “How can you claim that a preacher can condemn a man to Hell when ‘God judges not as men judge’ and solicit indulgences?”

            I’m assuming here that you think that the Catholic Church has “condemned men to hell”. If that is what you are you thinking, then you are mistaken. If you’re thinking that anathema is condemning to hell, that is not true. It is the formal language of excommunication.

            If by “solicit indulgences” you are talking about the sale of indulgences – you are correct, that is wrong. The Church has always taught so, though understandably the line looks gray when the Church rewarded donations and work with indulgences. Rest assured that the sale of indulgences is not nor has ever been permissible by the Church. That isn’t to say it didn’t happen … but it happening is not an endorsement of the practice by the Church, and also begs the question of the validity of the indulgence to begin with.

            “How can you start wars throughout the world, including tearing England, Spain and France apart for 100’s of years with petty papal games, and claim to be anything but an apostate?”

            Again, the failings of men does not invalidate the Church’s Truth. I understand the scandal these human failings cause within the context of proclaiming to be God’s Church … but if we were to run away from all things because of scandal, we would be isolated people.

            “How can you make absurd and obviously untrue claims about the sacrifice of Christ?”

            I’m guessing you’re referring to the Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass here? I can’t properly engage in this because it requires you to properly understand (not meaning “to accept”) the Church’s teaching before we can dialog. That goes a bit beyond what we’re talking about right here.

            Peter v Paul

            I’m about to exhibit what I consider bad manners because while I could attempt to tackle the Peter v Paul issue … there’s too much to say. Jimmy Akin (Catholic Apologist) has been doing a series of blog posts on Peter. In this post he deals with Peter v Paul in detail. It may not quell you, but it should inform you of the Catholic position. http://www.jimmyakin.org/2009/09/the-petrine-fact-part-4-peter-paul-and-james.html

  3. wow,

    i wonder if this interview was posted as a comment on one of Imonk’s post but the words Catholic and Protestant were reveresed if it would even make it past moderation, the best I can understand, almost all comments are allowed excpet those that try to question the “Christianity” of certain groups, for instance if I came on here and said that “anyone who refuses to recognize the sola doctrines as defined in the Reformation, and willingly does so can not be saved” I bet I would get moderated

    just a thought

    Mr. Cross, you are obvioulsy a very educated and well read man, and I feel sincere, but you have, especially in this last segment re-assured me that I could never be RC- it appears to be despotic, would I submit myself to the leadership of the Spirit? yes, the authority of scripture?- yes, the discipiine of the local church?- certainly, but to have to swallow whole hog the infallibility of an instituion made up of fallible men is too much

    I’m more than happy to believe in a fallible church visible church, the universal spiritual church is pure, but not institutions of men

    just my opinion granted

    • Laura Short says:

      Aren’t Protestant Churches just as, well, infallible without all the pomp and circumstance?

      How easy is it to disagree with the teachings in your local Baptist/Methodist/Presbyterian/Vineyard Church?

      How often has one been asked to “vote with your feet” when one has disagreed?

      And how common is it for these disparate churches to point, ever so discretely, the finger at one another in an Us vs Them way, haughtily declaring “we’re right, they’re wrong” on matters of faith, doctrine, worship, church architecture and potlucks?

      • Hello Laura: yes, same mistake, IMO, different only in that the attitude does not have a specific theology to ‘legitimize’ it. I think your comment is spot on, and that’s why I’m none to keen on ‘one true churchism’ (as a defense of any particular institution) even when I see it at Vineyard (and yes, occaisionally it pops up here too )

        the sad thing is: one true churchism is an automatic divider; it’s a default setting where the ‘other guy’ is defecient (or absolutely heretical) until he/she seees the light and comes on over to GOD’s side. From what I’ve seen and lived, this is all sand in the machinery of John 17, where being IN JESUS, WHO HIMSELF is IN the Father, is our claim to unity.

        great to hear from ya
        Greg R

    • “certainly, but to have to swallow whole hog the infallibility of an instituion made up of fallible men is too much”

      Two questions for you:
      1. Do you believe the apostles, gospel writers, and other authors of Scripture were fallible men?
      2. Do you believe Scripture is infallible?

      If you answer “yes” both, then what is wrong with believing that God is likewise able to guide His church infallibly by the guidance of the Holy Spirit through fallible men today??

      If the answer to either is “no”, then these differences of belief have no chance of being addressed in a comment box.

      • The apostles were eye-witnesses.

        Are you a fallible human being? Yes. Can you give an honest and true account? Yes.

        Can someone simply assert Mary was a perpetual virgin, etc., etc. and require everyone to believe it? No.

        Why should I belive it? I don’t believe a word of it. You cannot tell someone to believe something they don’t believe and has no proper sources on top of it. And for that I am not part of the una sancta? Balony.

        Requiring me to believe something like that based on the word of whoever came up with that willy-nilly, cheapens the rest of scripture, which asserts that Christ truly was incarnate, suffered, died, was buried and raised, and ascended and intercedes for us, etc. Everything about him is true, properly attested to, historically true, very, very true and necessary for salvation.

        Not distinguishing truth properly makes Christians look gullible and wooly-in-the head.

        • Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin all believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity. They are more credible Protestant authorities than the Radical Reformation (Anabaptist) wing of Protestantism who rejected it.

          Why not believe these magisterial Reformers as all of Protestantism does implicitly by accepting their foundational doctrines and understanding of Scripture, the Church, the Sacraments, and so on?

          • They did not, nor all the other things about her that the Popes came up with. And you are not really speaking to the point about scripture being written by eye-witnesses.

            Luther is not “magisterial”. Have a look at the catechism and its explanation and see how everything is backed by scripture. See if you really disagree with any of it.
            http://http//www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/LCMS/explanation.pdf

          • Brigitte,

            Search for the words in google–Luther perpetual virginity of Mary–and on any of the sites that come up you can read Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli on how they believed in this doctrine. Please tell me your evidence for claiming Luther and the others didn’t believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, over and against their direct quotations supporting it.

            Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin are _magisterial_ reformers, but this word does not mean “magisterium” if that is what you were thinking; rather, it means that they supported the “magistrates” or secular/civil authorities and did not espouse a total rebellion and rejection of civil authorities, as the Anabaptists Protestants (radical reformers) did. It is not an insult to call them the magisterial reformers but just an accurate description accepted by Protestant theologians and historians.

          • Hello Devin Rose:

            Firstly, I have read thousands of pages of Luther and the Lutheran confessions, and don’t recall coming across the perpetual virginity of Mary. Most certainly, it is not something that Lutherans confess. — But now that I have “googled” it, I see that some claim that he believed in it.

            Whether or not he believed in it at some point in his life or all of his life, matters not to me. I don’t believe it, myself. I think it would be un-natural of her, un-Jewish of her, un-Christian of her to deny her husband, un-humble of her to keep herself as something special and aloof (and I do believe that she was humble. As she trusted and obeyed the Lord, she also would have naturally loved her husband in a normal way). Personally, I consider the whole matter a medieval type myth. But Luther had much bigger concerns and he did not want to unsettle people over things that did not matter as much as not to confuse the laypeople.) If you like to read more about it that goes a little deeper you can go here: http://www.ntrmin.org/Luthers%20Theology%20of%20Mary.htm#V

            Secondly, as to the matter being Adiophra, as someone explains below, from what I read, this matter is not Adiophra to the RC church. That was the point. Something like this, puts me outside of their church.

            Thirdly, the crux of the matter was not what Luther thought about the perpetual virginity. The point was that the entire set of teachings about Mary are not Biblical and that setting them alongside scripture, written by apostles, who were eye-witnesses, as something that should be believed, cheapens scripture. You did not address this. Taking an excursion about the validity of the perpetual virginity serves to distract from the point dealing with authority.

            Did you get a chance to look at the catechism and its explanations?

        • Laura Short says:

          How do you know Mary WASN’T a perpetual Virgin???

          [MOD edit: The WCF statement on the pope as the anti Christ is rejected by most reformed denoms who use the WCF.]

          Where, also, is the rubric for baptising in a baptisimal font (with warm water, no less)? communion with grape juice? Scriptures that do NOT include the Apocrypha…which was the Scriptures used by Jesus (the Septuagint), Paul, as well as those Westminster Divines I keep harping about…?

          Or the Sermon? When did Jesus give a Sermon and adjured us to “do this in remembrance of Me”?

          And where, in Scripture, is the doctrine of Scripture alone? Even Paul adjures the Church to “…stand firm; and hold to the traditions you were taught by us, whether we spoke them or wrote them in a letter.” (2Thessalonians 2:15) and “Now I praise you because you have remembered everything I told you and observe the traditions just the way I passed them on to you.” (1Corinthians 11:2).

          My point is simple: Scripture is silent on a great many things but the Apostles and the Early Church was…is…not. Jesus was not the Church Watchmaker who wound Her up and let Her go until He returns.

          • Laura, if you’d quickly checked, I am not a baptist. And I do have a Luther bible translation that contains the Apocrypha, for example. You are all over the place.

            I am pretty sure that Mary wasn’t a perpetual virgin because she had a HUSBAND! Does that give a clue?

          • There are several distinct issues here:
            1) Whether Mary *was in fact* a perpetual virgin
            2) Whether *we can know* this
            3) What difference it makes anyway.

            I’m a Protestant but I’ll try to think like a Roman Catholic for a moment. I think Roman Catholics would answer these questions as follows:
            1) Yes
            2) Yes, this view has a long pedigree and was formally defined as a dogma in 649 at the Lateran Council.
            3) Belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary is therefore *de fide* — something to be believed by all faithful Christians.

            From a Protestant view the answers to the questions are
            1) No one can definitively say because
            2) Scripture does not directly answer the the question. At best we can make inferences. And therefore
            3) While we might think one inference more likely than another, the answer to this question is ultimately adiaphoron. Neither belief in nor disbelief in the perpetual virginity of the mother of our Lord is something to be required of faithful Christians. This is a question over which faithful Christians can differ and still be thoroughly orthodox.

            The view that Mary was not a perpetual virgin because (a) she was married, (b) married couples normally have sex and (c) the Bible makes mention of our Lord having brothers is an INFERENCE. It is a natural inference to make, and one I myself do make (because I think it makes the most sense of the Biblical data). However, I stop short of saying that Scripture *requires* Christians to believe that Mary did not remain a virgin after marriage — or in fact that she did. The question of Mary’s perpetual virginity is a question on which the church should not take a definitive stand. It is adiaphoron.

          • I am pretty sure that Mary wasn’t a perpetual virgin because she had a HUSBAND! Does that give a clue?

            hmmmm….this would make for a very challenging flannelgraph……..

            🙂

            makes sense to me, otherwise Joseph must have had cable out in the shop

      • “If you answer “yes” both, then what is wrong with believing that God is likewise able to guide His church infallibly by the guidance of the Holy Spirit through fallible men today??”

        Can you say “pedophiles?”

        • Can you say “adulterers, drug addicts, liars, divorced and multiply-remarried, swindlers, crooks and sinners of every description”?

          Peter was a perjurer. Dismas was being rightfully executed by the state for his crimes. All the rest, except John, ran away. Thomas didn’t believe a word of the resurrection.

          If you want a sin-free church guaranteed by sin-free leaders, I don’t know where you’re going to find one.

        • Glass houses, Jeremy.

          Lord, have mercy on all of us.

        • The point is not that Catholics are exceptionally evil, but that this guy is trying to claim that Catholicism is somehow infallible in its’ conduct, and thus, guidance. Or as Christ says:

          “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. ” (Matthew 7: 15-21, NIV)

          Out west they have a saying very similar to that, “Once a coyote, always a coyote.” You can even say that Matthew 7: 19 was fulfilled in the Protestant Reformation. Thus, yes, when claiming infallibility and prophecy from God, a persons conduct is truly important to consider. This wouldn’t be a problem, of course, if the Catholic Church was not trying to claim to essentially be a God.

          I’m not saying that the Catholic Church isn’t a good church, I’m just saying that they’re not so fundamentally good that they get to hold personal control of the pearly gates like some 4th member of the Trinity.

          • “The point is not that Catholics are exceptionally evil, but that this guy is trying to claim that Catholicism is somehow infallible in its’ conduct, and thus, guidance.”

            I think that’s very much over-reaching in what Bryan is saying. Even Pope Benedict XVI has commented on the evils of other Popes. All men, regardless of station are frail and given to temptation. Some fall into those traps more easily than other.

            Even so, that would not diminish the unique role that the Catholic Church is claiming within Christianity.

            The Catholic Church has NEVER claimed to be impeccable – that is, without any fault in behavior.

            The Catholic Church DOES claim to be infallible – that is, without any fault in its dogmatic teaching of faith and morals.

          • But don’t you get it? The parable makes it very clear that the two are completely connected for a man’s conduct is the fruit of his heart! Thornbushes don’t bear Oranges, regardless of whether they were planted by Saint Peter. And even in Peters time the main theological authority was Paul – they were wiser back then. Is any church without fault? Hardly. But that is why the bible, breathed with the Holy Spirit, and not the church, is to be your theological guide.

      • The Scriptures, written by fallible men , have over time proven themselves. A blundering and often scandal-ridden magisterium staggering from one historical train wreck to another debacle has a far less credible claim to infallibility.

        This all seems to boil down to “unless you belong to our club, which is the real one, you can’t really play.”

        I’m not buying what Mr. Cross is selling. If that is the real Roman party line, “unity’ as they define it is as far away as it ever has been.

    • Austin,

      “but to have to swallow whole hog the infallibility of an institution made up of fallible men is too much”

      Then what or who are you putting your trust in? The infallibility of your own understanding of Scripture and the Gospel? If not your own understanding, then who are you trusting to help you understand what the Scriptures teach? Scripture has to be interpreted and, if you don’t do it yourself in an infallible way, then someone you trust is doing it for you.

      • But does that mean relying on 1 specific institution?

        • That is a tough question, for sure. You would definitely have to pick the correct institution. I converted to EO from the Reformed faith after wrestling with this, precisely because I could not get a clear answer from my own studies or my PCA pastor and elders about the Sacraments. I knew that none of us could possible do enough study on our own, have enough knowledge of languages or history or have enough dispassion to end up with the right answers on our own. We needed an authority greater than ourselves to be safe. My conclusion, for better or worse, is that the EO the Church that has been here from the beginning. They have not deviated from the Creed or the Traditions for the early church. And, I no longer have to be embarrassed of or ignore the first 1500 years of Church history. They do not teach meritorious works salvation and accept other late innovations of Rome.

          My two cents…

          • Carl-

            If one is going to go down that road, then EO has a much better (valid) leg to stand on than RC. IMHO.

      • I would like to point out to you that there is a very clear and plain conflict of interest between theology and organization, so great in fact that arguably God separated the two among the tribes of Isreal when they wandered through the desert as Moses was the theological and political leader while Aaron was the head of the temple. Also to some degree in the early Christian church where Saint Paul was arguably the theological head while Saint Peter was the actual Pope.

        This conflict of interest I speak of, specifically, is the need of a religious organization to control people. While one would hope that Truth is “good enough” in mans eyes, and certainly among the head of the church, fact of the matter is people do get tired and will sometimes resort to what they should not do, including even Saint Peter who denied Christ three times at his moment of greatest need.

        This does not disprove the Catholic church’s claim, but it does create a real question that needs to be answered.

  4. This could also be titled “What Should Catholics Know About Vatican II” because it’s crazy how many people think “Wasn’t such-and-such a practice/belief/doctrine done away with in Vatican II”? 🙂

  5. Laura Short says:

    quote: “The last of these three documents, Dei Verbum, explained the relation between Scripture, Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium. In this document we see the Catholic paradigm regarding the role of the oral Tradition handed down from the Apostles to the bishops. For Catholics this Tradition is also authoritative and provides a hermeneutical context in which to understand Scripture. This is the contrasting paradigm to the Protestant paradigm in which something must be taught explicitly in Scripture in order to be doctrine.”

    This is were I perceive a disconnect in the Reformed and Presbyterian Tradition as regards the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms (also known as the “secondary standards”) as well as other Reformed doctrines. They claim to be, forgive me, “Reader’s Digest Condensed Versions” of the teachings of Scripture, yet they are meant to be ascribed to in order for ordination to take place. Are these not “traditions”…oral or otherwise? Were these not taught amongst the Reformers before they were codified by the Westminster Divines?

    For example, the TULIP device, found in the Canons of Dort, were in response to Arminianism, another system of doctrine taught after the time of Calvin. This mnemonic device was then codified in order to simplify the tenets of Calvinism; to make the explanation of the teachings of Scripture (the *whole* counsel of God) simpler.

    But are these not also traditions??? Protestant though they be??? And isn’t the Reformed “Magesterium” (The Westminster Divines, Knox, Calvin, et alia) invoked at least as often as Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul on a Sabbath Morning?

    Please understand…I am not taking pot-shots at my Presbyterian Brethren. I sincerely wish to understand what I perceive as a two-facedness in this…

    • I think a difference, in my opinion, is that one approach says here’s our best summary of what Scripture actually teaches and since we think this summary is true to Scripture, we should adhere to it; while the other approach says here’s an interpretation of Scripture given by a person in the past who we accept as authoritative simply because it’s this particular guy who said it and we work the rest of our interpretation of Scripture around what this guy said, whether it fits well or not. Using Scripture alone doesn’t mean we can’t write our position out and say let’s follow this summary. What using Scripture alone does mean, though, is that we can’t let any one person or group be treated as authoritative and stick with what they say just out of respect when what they say contradicts what we see as the best possible fit with Scripture as a whole. We have to be willing to change our minds when the facts lead us there, never questioning the authority of Scripture itself but definitely questioning the authority of any group of human interpreters (when a better fit to Scripture presents itself), no matter how much we might respect them.

      • Laura Short says:

        [MOD edit]

        Have you ever been on a Pastoral Search Committee or witnessed a Reformed Church ordaining a Pastor, Elder or Deacon? One of the things necessary is to promise to uphold the “secondary standards”. These men promise, they swear before God, to uphold these man-made documents (WCF). Even though, the document itself says not to…

        How does this, in essence, and ever so quietly, in practice, in *theory*, differ from our Catholic Brethren who bascially promise to follow Jesus + Tradition+ Scripture+ the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium).

        On a side note: Scripture tells us that wisdom is found in a multitude of counselors. And where two or three are gathered in His Name, Jesus is there in their/our midst. So…isn’t it wiser/better to have a Magisterium than one guy running the whole show…like what might be found in a congregational church or a personality-pastored church???

        Isn’t a Session, a Magisterium better?

        Just asking… forgive me. In my frustration I fear this may becoming snarky. I’m not…I weep in this conundrum…

      • Jeff, this is the exact reason why presbyterianism (and protestantism), on the whole, just doesn’t hold together and continues to devolve into liberalism. Look at the phrases you used: “we think this summary is true to Scripture”, “what we see as the best possible fit”, “willing to change our minds.” When I was in the PCA, the elders and deacons and pastor of our church all deviated from the WC in different ways. We were told this was OK as long as they could support their views from Scripture. Of course, there were, at least for that moment, certain non-negotiables like the trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. But no one could say how to determine these non-negotiables. It should require no explanation of why this approach will eventually lead to heresy.

        In the larger picture, this is the same problem with Sola Scriptura. If the Scriptures did not need interpreting, Sola Scriptura might actually be OK. But they do need interpreting and someone has to do it. The questions are “who do you trust to do the interpreting?” and “why do you trust them?”

        • I think this comes close to being patently obvious. I’m not interested in hearing people shouting heresy at one another.

          • Bryan raises the concern that “heresy” has become an outlawed concept in today’s “christian” environment. Is it better that while we patently disagree substantially with one another, we no group is actually deviating from true Christian teachings and practices? It is preferable, I think, to call a spade a spade.

        • Michael Harris says:

          Perhaps we’re just in a pickle until the Messiah returns? The Magisterium is bogus. Protestantism isn’t infallible either. The Prots are children of divorce who continue to perpetuate the legacy of divorce. Maybe we’re just stuck with it all. Perhaps we’re operating with an over realized eschatology, thinking that this is all supposed to be sorted. Of course, having said that, we are called to hope, and to work towards that hope. Just some thoughts.

          • . Perhaps we’re operating with an over realized eschatology, thinking that this is all supposed to be sorted

            I think this is absolutely the case, and no amount of ‘dialogue’is going to get folks who like THEIR mom’s dressing admit at the point of an exegetical/historical/paradigm related knife point that YOUR mom’s dressing is indeed better. I’m not discouraged, most of the time, because I see ample evidence that real unity DOES exist, it’s just not of the ‘agree with the REAL church about yadayadayada…..” has more to do with an admittance that we love Jesus, are committed to the gospel, and give each other who name THE NAME ample charity. That IS happening, and I’m calling that ‘unity’. Now, where’s my plexigass shield ??

            Greg R

      • Well, one thing I might add is that if the Church had debated with Luther his Scriptural interpretations and actually opened up a dialogue to study Scripture and determine the best interpretation given the proposals Luther brought up, it’s possible (though not likely since I believe he was correct) that we’d all still be one universal church. The key is that the church appealed to its own authority and didn’t care to debate the issues—church authority was all that mattered and the church could determine what Scripture “really” said. I know, of course, that’s an oversimplification, but I don’t think it’s an unfair synopsis and I think it illustrates my point that when the church (or one man, like the pope) becomes the one who determines and validates the authority of Scripture rather than Scripture being the ultimate authority in and of itself, that’s where the problems begin. Sure, we can have a council or group get together and debate difficult issues and come to a Holy-Spirit-led consensus, but if that council (or its followers in later centuries) then thinks of itself as infallible and never able to be corrected or reformed when a clearer, better fit to the raw data of Scripture comes along, then my opinion is that there’s an improper placement of authority where it doesn’t belong.

        Personally, because of such fundamental differences on “authority”, I doubt complete reconciliation can or will ever occur, though I wish it could be so.

        Peace.

        • Hi Jeff,

          The Catholic Church did debate Luther about his Scriptural interpretations–search for Johann (or John) Eck Luther debate (or disputation). Other disputations were held as well with Luther and the Church.

          Zwingli also debated with Luther about the Eucharist, which they differed on–neither one would budge from his Scriptural interpretation. The “raw data” of Scripture doesn’t interpret itself or earnest Christians wouldn’t disagree.

      • Michael Harris says:

        Well Spoken Jeff. That may have been the most clear headed spoken by a Protestant on this entire thread. This conversation was really starting to go south. Cheers.

  6. “Second, Vatican II did not retract or deny any previous Catholic doctrine.”

    Certainly, they did not intend to. They do not think that they did. So you’re right that we cannot use Vatican II as the basis for expecting the Magisterium to say, “Whoops, we got some stuff wrong.” If that was the extent of your point, OK.

    But we should be clear: It’s another question whether Vatican II actually conflicts with previous Catholic doctrine (e.g. the Council of Orange and the destiny of those outside the church) by invalidly re-interpreting earlier councils. I’m not raising it for debate here–my point is that the question exists, and can’t be dismissed out-of-hand.

  7. Ugh.. This is what makes it really hard to be ecumenical. How can a Protestant take a Roman Catholic seriously when there’s that lingering suspicion that he’s only speaking to you because he wants you to enter his church. At least the ecclesial fragmentation that the Reformation resulted in created some humility in some of us. Ecumenism simply can’t work on such a basis – if for no other reason than psychology. I know that I couldn’t dialogue with someone who was so condescending and yes arrogant towards me. There must be mutual respect – and I have a really hard time seeing any of the sort in what Bryan is saying, with (here it comes!) all due respect.
    Did you see Hans Küng’s comments about the Anglo-Catholic affair, Bryan? http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/oct/27/catholicism-pope-anglicanism-church What do you think?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      How can a Protestant take a Roman Catholic seriously when there’s that lingering suspicion that he’s only speaking to you because he wants you to enter his church.

      I believe IMonk’s essay “Wretched Urgency” touches on the Evangelical equivalent of this.

      How can I take an Evangelical seriously when there’s that lingering suspicion that he’s only speaking to me to convert me, and the high-pressure sales pitch is going to start any minute.

      • Well said, HUG, and I’d say the connecting description of the two is: failure to treat people as people, and perhaps misunderstanding what GOD’s priority is for the moment. Then again, is there really IS some form of onetruechurchism, then GregR doesn’t know didly and strong-arm away…….for their own good, of course.

      • I totally agree with you there. I find all dishonesty tasteless.

    • I am not Bryan, but I think Küng is just taking his usual angry anti-church stance. And of course like everyone else he ignores that the Vatican was/is responding to requests from Anglicans rather tham “fishing”.

  8. I think Mark 9:38-9:41 has volumes to add to this discussion, whether you’re Catholic or Protestant.

  9. Therese Z says:

    In the middle of all this very thoughtful and learned debate, I note that it all makes sense to this rejuvenated Catholic when I read Scripture:

    Jesus talks about ONE Baptism (which we recognize in accepting Trinitarian baptism done by any church or anyone qualified, for that matter), ONE body (which we recognize in the first mark of the church (“One”) and in the indivisible Eucharist (either bread or wine becomes His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, Christ in All). He brings to Himself ONE spotless bride (which we also correlate recognize in “only one marriage” in the sacrament). Everything harmonizes with everything else, there isn’t any odd belief left out. Finally, there is ONE pillar and foundation of Truth, the Church. Unity between ourselves, unity in belief, unity with Jesus, unity with the whole Trinity.

    The very fact that we don’t have unity in worship styles (language, orientation of celebrant to altar, incense, wording, reverent dancing, charismatic praise, chant) shows us that permitted differences reinforce the concept of foundational unity. It’s not a melting pot where differences are melted together, it’s a Single Truth which can be expressed for different human needs, like the manna God sent which conformed to everyone’s taste as it suited them. It’s the same heavenly food, but everyone got what brought them nourishment the best and most pleasingly (since God loves us and wants us to be happy).

  10. I’m new to all of this, but I have to ask how Ephesians 2:20 ties to this? This verse says that the church is built on the apostles and prophets (not just Peter) with Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone.

  11. NOTE to some I have moderated and deleted:

    I will not post anti Vatican II videos

    I will not post nasty comments about Bryan or the RCC. Your feelings about all this don’t have a place in a civil discussion. Go outside, kick something, then come back and talk calmly.

  12. LAST admonition before I close comments on this one: End the freshman apologetics class. ALL SIDES. We all know these tired arguments. Discuss the post. If you don’t have a civil comment or addition, say nothing.

    • CastingCrown says:

      Thanks – I was a latecomer to this one and whilst reading I couldn’t help but feel the level of discussion seemed to sink somewhat from its usual high standard.

  13. Todd Erickson says:

    People want to make “unity” say all sorts of things that I don’t believe that the scripture is actually saying.

    It is, I suspect, Unity in Love and Relationship, from which all other things (holiness, righteousness, grace, etc.) all depend and descend.

    If we love each other unconditionally, and our love for each other is as for Jesus Christ, then our entire orientation changes…it’s no longer about correctness, but the overall lifestyle of reflection of Christ.

    And a lot of very difficult lifestyle choices. But any Christian lifestyle that has no tension is questionable, I suspect.

    • very well said; write a book on this and I WILL buy it; my thots exactly, but maybe this is some of the ‘paradigm difference’ that Bryon was talking about. Maybe this kind of unity is not even in the minds of some who just as stridently preach and pray for it; maybe we are talking past each other on this one.

  14. I very much appreciate the initial concern for unity in light of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that began Mr. Cross’ journey to Rome. It seems, though, that people want to argue whether or not that unity has its basis in the Catholic church or a particular Protestant church (while our dear Orthodox brethren are mostly ignored).

    All this keeps us asking in what institution is our unity in Christ found? That appears to be a flawed question from the beginning. Looking specifically at verse 21, but considering all of 20-26, I don’t see Jesus praying that we would be one in any particular church. The Church (however we’re all defining it) is “us.” We aren’t going to find unity in ourselves. Jesus prayed that we would find unity in the Godhead. Those who are “in Christ” are the Church, and they are where unity is found. This is not defined as an institution.

    The scriptures point us to Christ. The Apostles point us to Christ. Where is our loyalty to Jesus in all this discussion? It seems that loyalty to any institution, whatever its claims of authority may be, displaces our loyalty to Jesus. It seems we play a dangerous game on any side of the authority debate to claim an authority that belongs to God alone.

    • The question of institution is rooted primarily in Christ, not who’s church is better. In fact, the question of institution is merely a question of Christ’s foresight and intention. I do not think Jesus was so short-sighted to see the institutional nature that would develop in the selection of the Apostles and commissioning them to preach the Gospel, instruct, baptize, etc. Thus the question – does Christ ever indicate that it was his desire that His Church exists in and among a plurality of institutions? Do we see the Apostles operating under similar notions and motivations and/or preparing us for ‘natural’ schisms? What of the early Church and its identity with respect to institution and Church?

      If Christ desired that all believers be united in one Church, one institution, then our loyalty to Christ would direct us towards that vessel. Again, it’s not a matter of who’s church is better but fulfilling our part in Christ’s intention, just as is every other aspect of our sanctification.

      • I agree that Christ’s intent is key. But how far can we safely go in our rationalized assumptions about that? Is uniformity of government and practice central in Christ’s intent for unity? Or is He more focused on unity in love and in the Spirit? Does it really follow that one is not possible without the other? How narrow or how broad is His definition of His church? How important to Him is apostolic succession or the historical continuity of the church? Are those His primary measurements for legitimacy among church institutions? Or does he measure church legitimacy by the extent to which that church reflects and acts according to His divine love and teachings? Is it possible that He regards all those who truly know, love, and serve Him as His universal church — while regarding all our schisms and institutional divisions as lamentable but understandable by-products of our fallenness and limited understanding? Is Christ like an uptight CEO who insists that everything run according to company procedure and be filtered down through the established chain of command? Or has He chosen to relate to us as family, willing to forgive us for our imperfections and to be tolerant and understanding in regards to the different ways we think and interpret His words?

        • very, very well said: this is my take on unity as well, and I’d say looking for ‘the one right institution” is Cortez looking for the city of gold, great idea on paper, but……. this model of unity explains, to me, why I can have such marvelous fellowship with such a WIDE variety of believers, from such a wide variety of denoms and traditions. Are unity is more organic, and relational than centered on agreement on propositions x,y, and z. Or agreement on historical facts x, y, or z. Or even shared paradigm. This very blog (sometimes 🙂 ] is an example of the kind of unity that I think GOD is shooting for: an agreement of the Spirt shown by charity, flexibility, and generosity of spirit.

          Any other organic universal churchers out there ??

          Greg R

        • ” Is uniformity of government and practice central in Christ’s intent for unity? Or is He more focused on unity in love and in the Spirit? Does it really follow that one is not possible without the other?”

          I think a child-like answer serves best here: if you claim to be one family but live in different houses because you can’t get along in the same house … you’re not united. Living in the same house does require a level of uniformity of governance and practice, not just love and shared belief.

          “How narrow or how broad is His definition of His church?”

          Did Christ establish one Church or many churches?

          “How important to Him is apostolic succession or the historical continuity of the church?”

          Jesus selected the Apostles and elevated them over other men. They took their role seriously, not elevating all men to their station, and played a unique role (as did their successors) in the Biblical Church. That we can see plainly in the Scriptures.

          If Apostolic succession was not important then I suspect there would not have been Apostles.

          Again, a child-like perspective serves well here. If the Apostles are important because Jesus elevated them before other men, then those men the Apostles elevate to their station are likewise important, and the actions of those men are thus likewise important, etc.

          “Are those His primary measurements for legitimacy among church institutions? Or does he measure church legitimacy by the extent to which that church reflects and acts according to His divine love and teachings?”

          The question of legitimacy presumes that Christ founded many churches. I’m not sure that is an established fact.

          “Is it possible that He regards all those who truly know, love, and serve Him as His universal church”

          I believe Bryan has established this as an absolute yes as that is likewise the Catholic Church’s positions with some understandable caveats.

          “while regarding all our schisms and institutional divisions as lamentable but understandable by-products of our fallenness and limited understanding?”

          Lamentable – yes.

          Understandable, as in excusable … I don’t think so. That isn’t to say that it isn’t forgivable, but forgiveness isn’t effectual unless there is repentance. Are we repenting of our schisms and divisions? If so, how?

          “Is Christ like an uptight CEO who insists that everything run according to company procedure and be filtered down through the established chain of command?”

          I do believe that Christ created an ordered Church – it follows after the pattern of everything else God has revealed to us. Does that mean that I think Christ intended His Church to be ruled by an iron fist? Absolutely not. We are free men in Christ.

          If I may ask, why do you view the Catholic Church so? I’m assuming you do because of the context and way you phrased the question.

          “Or has He chosen to relate to us as family, willing to forgive us for our imperfections and to be tolerant and understanding in regards to the different ways we think and interpret His words?”

          There’s so much to be said here that I’m finding it difficult what to say. I’m trying to remain brief, so please do not view this response as dismissive.

          Jesus’ love, patience, and forgiveness is not in question here.

          What is in question is: to what extent are we free to institutionalize interpretation of the Word of God? The Catholic Church says there is only one way. The broad Protestant opinion is that there is a plurality of ways.

          If at the end of day we are in error while pure at heart, there is forgiveness. But if there is forgiveness, then there is sin. But if we know at this present time that there is sin, if not necessarily what it is, then we ought to be praying together for discerning minds and charitable hearts such that we be freed from it and its corruption.

          Also, Ron, I saw your other post below. I’ve been meaning to read it more closely. But these things … they take so long to be thoughtful and properly responsive. I hope to get to it this evening.

        • @AC: Unity is the result of respect, not uniformity. My entire family disagrees with everything on the subject of religion, my mother’s a Deist, my father’s a Lutheran, I’m not really any denomination in particular and my Grandma’s an evangelical, and I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, but my family and our good friends back home were one of the most loving, unified groups of people who I’ve ever seen together. We even talk about spiritual things together. Being the same does not lead to peace, only love can create that, and until we learn respect for not only fellow Christians but fellow human beings, we will find no unity of any kind.

          See, all churches, as Christ spends half the gospel of Matthew forewarning us about, will be filled with apostates and false prophets, and all churches will distort their teachings for every reason. Thus, we are told to judge trees by their fruits, and when I see indulgences, fictional accounts of judgement, and a ridiculous claim (even more absurd then the at least slightly biblical answer of the evangelicals) about the nature of the sacrifice of Christ, impeccable teachings is not what comes to my mind. We don’t share in Christs suffering, Christ shared in our suffering! He humbled himself for us, as detailed in Philipians! That’s why he’s the “son of man!” And to share in such suffering (and in the end, heroism) was mankinds gift and curse from the days of Cain, Tabul-Cain, Noah and Seth. And indeed, we should glory in it, for it is from this nature that God can have any love of us to send us Christ to begin with!

          • I think you are confusing unity with tolerance. They are not synonymous. Unity is the absence of difference/division. Tolerance is the acceptance of difference/division. Granted, that’s not a proper definition, but I don’t want to be that guy who posts quotes from the dictionary 🙂

            Matthew 7 is dealing with men, not institutions. I think it’s a exegetical stretch to make Jesus out to be talking about institutions. The warning is to not believe a person just because he says he’s a prophet. Likewise, when we see the parable about wheat and weeds at the end of days in the Lord’s field. It’s an exegetical mistake to see the weeds as institutions and not men. We, as individuals, are the wheat or the weeds. The parable is both a warning against believing that no evil can occur within the Church as well as encouragement against discouragement because we see it happening. It is as the Lord allows.

          • @AC: Matthew 7 is dealing with prophecy, including the prophecy of the RCC about it’s legitimacy. As for men, we are told to eat with sinners and tax collectors so surely that is NOT what it means. I don’t see why you’re vision of Unity is preferable.

          • My vision of unity only exists because I don’t see another being presented. We all clearly know what unity means. If you’re saying that unity is not, in fact, what we’re after but rather an environment of tolerance similar to the hallway of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity … well, then be clear with your words.

            Please do not take that to be antagonistic. It’s not meant to be. It’s only meant to petition for clarity and common understanding in the terms we are using.

            I’m going to hop out of this comm box discussion now. I fear its velocity is pretty much headed towards polemics and apologetic squabbling (perhaps moreso by me than anyone else). Please understand that I’m not trying to necessarily convince you of the other position but only to explain and correct what I see as misunderstanding on your part of the Catholic position while also illustrating some of the obvious and natural questions that should exist (and be answered) by your position.

            Feel free to drop me an email: sechastain at gmail. I’m OTP in the ATL. Well, actually, I’m WAAAAY OTP … but close enough to the ATL. I got out of Tech in 2001 with a CS.

            Later, brother. Peace.

          • @AC: Unity is the result of respect, not uniformity

            I will tweek this little: the part of Bryan’s writing I liked the best was his underscoring agape love, a love which is supernaturlly made and maintained. I really agree with that, and the unity that I’ve seen thus far and can witness as real. Our greatest witness, our strongest apologetic to the watching world starts with how we treat each other. If we stumble here, I doubt they’ll be impressed with our theology or church history.

            An aside: I know RCC who walk this out better than I probably ever will, I don’t think living out AGAPE is a respector of specific denominational theology.

          • @AC: The problem though is you see things as the RCC being perfect, when in fact even Saint Paul made very clear it was not. Until THE CHURCH as in the body of Christ is perfected by the influence of God Himself in heaven, this vision of unity is not preferable because it will actually weaken all through the strengthening of human authority. We can have as many popes and theologians as we want, but there will be only one Bible and Testament, and that God is neither silent nor elitist in man’s sense in whom he chooses to speak for him. James, John and Paul spoke from God every bit as much as St. Peter did, hence my inability to accept the RCC as the church of St. Peter when protestants churches are, in fact, much closer to the early church presented in the Epistles, even if not perfect.

            The fruits speak for themselves.

          • @jeremyjanson A little more respect, please. I’m not given to telling other people what they think, and I would appreciate it in return. Be assured that, regarding what I think, you’re wrong, simply and plainly. If you want to talk about it more, you know where to find me. Just bring a little less incredulity and a little more charity. As for the larger discussion, your scope and context are out of focus. I understand what you’re saying and the reasons you’re giving for it … but I think you’re not equally listening to the other side of the discussion. At this juncture, I don’t know that there’s much more for me to say … I don’t want to turn the comm boxes into yet another exercise of poor apologetics and polemics.

            @Greg R First, as I said earlier, I believe you are mixing words and issues. I don’t believe it is intentional or malicious – it just makes my task in responding difficult.

            Unity is defined as a lacking of division. That is the distinct quality of unity. I sense you have an unspoken problem with that, and if it is, I’d like to see that expressed simply and clearly. From there, I think we would both be able to better discuss and relate our concepts of Christian unity.

            How we get to Christian Unity is another matter – and so far as your view of charity as key, I agree 100%. Charity, charity, in all things, charity. Preach always, use words as necessary. But that is not Christian unity though it be one other mark of it.

            (It’s taken me 30 minutes to figure out to say that much … so … I’m going to leave off there :))

          • @AC: thanks for the back and forth. Yes , unity is the absence of division, but this still begs the question “what division ?” Or better, “WHICH division ?” Yes, leaving ANY church creates some sort of ‘schism’, but I’m not pursuaded that is the one that breaks the Saviors heart, unless it’s representational of a larger break, internal, with the shepherd of our souls (yes, I know we are HIS ‘body’,) Put another way: what is being preserved or made united is NOT one particular institution, but the gathering of born again ones thru relationship. Who happen to collect in a variety of groups and I think that’s been going on for quite some time also.

            This is garbled and haphazard, sorry, but we fundametally disagree on what “unity” actually represents (back to the paradigm thing). Understandably, this would make efforts at ‘re-unifying” problematic, because our goals are so different.

            I very much appreciate your efforts at keeping the discussion civil and charitable, and clarifying where terms and language are at odds.

            Have a prayerful weekend.
            Greg R

    • love this post; preach it, live it, sing it, bro

      Greg R

      guess I dig yer pair-a-dimes 🙂

  15. This is not merely saying that whoever does not follow his conscience cannot be saved. It is saying something about the absolute uniqueness of the Catholic Church: whoever discovers that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded as necessary for salvation, cannot be saved without entering it and remaining in it. To the ears of some people that sounds arrogant. But we should recognize that the statement is arrogant only if it is not true. If it is true, then it is no more arrogant than Christ claiming to be the way, the truth and the life.

    Wow. This is the part I really have a tough time with, not just because I’m protestant, but because of what I have seen in missions. The natural question is, what about those who haven’t discovered “that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded as necessary for salvation,” but have genuinely discovered Jesus Christ and acknowleged him as Savior and follow him? I’m thinking of thousands, perhaps millions, of believers in Muslim lands, including many secret believers in places where they’ll never know any institutional church.

    • Sorry. Messed up on the markup. Last paragraph is mine. First is a quote from the post.

    • If I remember correctly, there are loads of comments throughout these interviews that deal with this topic, but I just want to stress again: salvation through the Catholic Church alone doesn’t mean that all people practicing faith outside its institutional boundaries are hellbound. I won’t rehash the arguments: again, rechecking the comments may prove helpful.

      • I read many of the commenters on this, and I understand somewhat. But I do wonder how useful a statement such as this is if people have to spend so much time explaining it, and/or if it’s so subject to alleged misinterpretation. I guess for me it still has too much the appearance of qualifying or circumscribing God’s grace and mercy and favor.

        • I really sympathize. I think in the Christian faith, though, it would be dangerous to reject an idea just because it requires a great deal of explanation and could be easily misinterpreted. (Of course I realize there are probably more reasons you reject this particular teaching: I’m just addressing this particular discussion.) I think all manifestations of Christianity contain a number of ideas that, while they may seem simple and clear to those raised in the faith, are confusing and difficult to understand–easy to misinterpret, even–for those outside the faith. Check out any discussion re: atheism and its perceptions of Christian ideas. It even happens interdenominationally: I’m sure there are many Calvinists who are appalled and bewildered by the logic behind certain Arminian ideas. And vice versa. It’s a complex faith, no matter what denomination you align with…or if you align with none in particular.

  16. Todd writes, “If we love each other unconditionally, and our love for each other is as for Jesus Christ, then our entire orientation changes…it’s no longer about correctness, but the overall lifestyle of reflection of Christ.”

    I like that very much, Todd.

    I appreciate what Bryan has done in these posts. He is giving a clear description of what the official Catholic teaching is. Done in this way, it can come across as a bit….severe. I am Catholic myself (though some may say, “Just barely!”) and some of what Catholics are to believe are difficult for me, but for the bulk of it, I am thankful. Thank God that we don’t have to know and believe the entire Cathechism of the Catholic Church in order to be saved. (I am MUCH less informed than Bryan in regard to what the Catholic Church teaches, even though I am a “cradle” Catholic.) Our faith in Jesus saves us. I see the Church as nourishing us in our faith and it is obvious that the Catholic Church does that in ways that differ from those of our Reformed and Protestant brothers and sisters.

    I like this brief summary of what it is to be a Catholic at:
    http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1086.asp
    It’s called, “What Catholics Believe: A Popular Overview of Catholic Teaching” by Leonard Foley, O.F.M. I read it a while ago and thought it was quite good. I am wondering if Bryan thinks this would “pass the muster” so to speak. In paragraph 4 called, “What Jesus Did” it includes this statement: “How does Jesus’ death/resurrection save us? Not because God the Father was pleased with ‘punishing’ Jesus. Rather, God gave his Son to enter the depths of human life, including its pain and death. While doing so, he maintained his perfect human love and trust in his Father—total, childlike, trusting obedience, even though this brought him to his death. This was precious not only as a human act: It was infinitely valuable as a divine act. So the human race, through its representative, Jesus, was permanently united with God. This is what we mean when we say that Jesus died for us. His brothers and sisters have only to accept the gift of union with Jesus and they share the eternal life of God. ‘Your attitude must be that of Christ'(Philippians 2:5). ”

    I think most of what Foley writes would be things that most folks here reading would appreciate, and he has a gentle style.

    Thank you, Bryan, for your time and for answering my “less than informed” questions over on your blog!

  17. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html
    One of my favorite things written by a Pope is the “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate)” proclaimed by Pope Paul Vi in 1965. For anyone who has not read it, here it is:
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html

  18. Christiane says:

    Hi BRYAN,

    I have a question.

    I have been reading ‘Gaudium et Spes’ and have also come across some info about a Southern Baptist Seminary teaching that women are not made in the ‘image of God’, but instead, are merely made in the ‘indirect image of God’ because Eve was made from a part of Adam.

    In comments found concerning ‘Gaudium et Spes’, I found this:
    ” can also be said that he is created from the fullness (ex plenitudine) of Christ himself who is at once the creator, the mediator and the end of man. The Father destined us to be his sons and daughters, and “to be conformed to the image of his Son, who is the firstborn of many brothers” (Rom. 8:29). Thus, what it means to be created in the imago Dei is only fully revealed to us in the imago Christi. In him, we find the total receptivity to the Father which should characterize our own existence, the openness to the other in an attitude of service which should characterize our relations with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the mercy and love for others which Christ, as the image of the Father, displays for us.”

    My question is: as a Catholic, how can I dialogue with someone in the SBC who believes that women were made in the ‘indirect’ image of God?

  19. The discussion of Lumen Gentium pretty much summarizes my greatest dismay with the RCC position toward other faiths. In a certain sense, Vatican II was far more charitable toward Protestants, the Orthodox, Jews, and non-christian religions. Pope John Paul often said and did things that seemed in that spirit. However, do not really understand how this meshes with the expectation that anyone who knows about the Roman Catholic claim to be exclusively Christ’s holy, catholic, and apostolic church (with the orthodox as an unwilling appendage) cannot be saved, if they remain outside the Church. Nearly all Protestants know about this claim. So are we heretics or separated brethern? Even if you argue that some Protestants are prejudiced or ignorant, would not the concept of “due diligence” (a concept that has been applied to non-christians) still come into play? Anyone who has access to a library or the internet could employ “due diligence” and look up the church’s claims. Likewise, I remain a bit disappointed that the Church discusses the presence of certain, imperfect salvific elements in Protestant churches and recognizes Protestant baptisms, yet holds that these elements have no effect the moment a person gets just enough book-learning to become aware that Catholicism exists.

    This may sound like I am ditzing the Church. I actually do not mean to be. I write this out of a kind of sad disposition of one who has poured over these questions and come up without an answer with which I am fully comfortable. I love major elements of the Catholic tradition, I love elements of the Protestant tradition. I have spent several years as an Anglican trying (and more recently as a Methodist), trying to exist in a kind of middle-of-the-road position between the very great traditions and truths I recognize in each. A church that insisted that it was uniquely the keeper of God’s truths but which saw outsiders as also a part of the Spirit’s extended reach would hearten me — in fact, I’d be more likely to become Catholic. As it is, I am more interested in dialoging with the Church then it is with me; and to enter the Catholic Church would practically require me to call Protestant communities I value essentially outside the pale. Rather than coming up with a genuinely Catholic ecumenism, it seems that what is being said (at least by the loudest interpretors of Vatican II) is that Church would be happy to see Christian unity, provided that everyone converts at once.

    Right. Thanks. What am I supposed to do with this news? If there was some space in which I could exist and acknowledge all that is beautiful and good at once I would! If the Church could somehow make its sacramental life available to those who can affirm at least certain elements of Catholic belief about eucharist, I would come to those services. But right now, to connect myself with the Church, I would have to deny what I see as legitimate and good in other communities. I would have to affirm certain Catholic doctrines I just do not quite buy. The only real reason I would have for doing this is …. fear: the terrifying, mind-numbing fear that God’s going to reject me forever if I do not.

    On some level that’s a good reason. But I do not trust anything anyone does simply for fear of punishment. It’s like saying a picture of the purple unicorn is teal, for the sole reason that someone with Infallible Authority and Power to Punish is telling me it is teal. Do I go along? What can a person answer to such a demand?

    I am *quite* not crazy enough demand orthodox bend to suit me; but I do hope that the seeds of acknowledgement of the wideness of God’s mercy from Vatican II will lead to much greater reflection on these themes. I don’t know how it would happen, but I pray for a truly ecumenical dialog to emerge.

    • “A church that insisted that it was uniquely the keeper of God’s truths but which saw outsiders as also a part of the Spirit’s extended reach would hearten me — in fact, I’d be more likely to become Catholic.”

      I’m confused. What, from all that Bryan has said, makes you think that he believes that the Church is saying otherwise? In my mind, this is exactly what the Church is saying. Baptism brings all Christians at least into an imperfect communion with the Church. The Church acknowledges that the fruit of the Spirit is evidently manifest in Protestant communities. But the Church also does say that that the fullness of God’s grace and truth can only be experienced inside the Church. If I am understanding you, what you want and what the Church is saying are exactly the same – the Catholic Church asserts that it offers the wholeness of grace and truth; the Catholic Church acknowledges the fruits of the Spirit in Protestant communities while also noting that it is less than what the Church offers.

      I think you are perhaps becoming confused with the Catholic Church’s assertion that outside the Church there is no salvation. First, remember that baptism brings all Christian to at least an imperfect communion with the Church. Second, a person must intellectually assent that the Church is in fact Christ’s True Church yet willfully not participate therein (for what ever reason) in order for that person to be denied salvation. It is essentially a mortal sin – an absolutely certain knowledge of the Truth and yet a willful rejection of it.

      • It seems to me that “intellectual assent” would be rather difficult for the church to pin down and define. What about the person who grows up in the RCC, believes absolutely as a child, but becomes disillusioned and doubtful as an adult and leaves the church? What about the person who is drawn to Catholocism and thoroughly investigates the matter, but never converts because of negative social or family pressures? What about wishy-washy people who are absolutely certain about something one second and riddled with doubt the next? What about the closet atheist who participates in the RCC to keep his or her family happy?
        I’m curious as to how the RCC determines whether or not this mortal sin has been committed.

        • The RCC doesn’t pin down and define it. There are no individual rulings on who’s heaven-bound and who isn’t. I stress the word individual. The Church may say that those who fully believe the Catholic Church is the true church and refuse to enter are in mortal sin, but they WON’T say that Bob and Jane and Flo are all in mortal sin. They would say that in all your specific cases God knows the true heart, the true motivation of each of those people, in a way absolutely no mortal ever could.

      • AnotherCoward,

        Thank you for the response. Let me clarify, because I am genuinely curious about these issues. I trust, also, that I am not the only person who has questions.

        I am aware of the portions of Catholic teachings which state, as you write:
        “Baptism brings all Christians at least into an imperfect communion with the Church. The Church acknowledges that the fruit of the Spirit is evidently manifest in Protestant communities. But the Church also does say that that the fullness of God’s grace and truth can only be experienced inside the Church. ”

        Yes, these aspects of the Church’s current position *is* very encouraging to me. As you said, this is pretty much the view I am lobbying for.

        My problem is as you guessed: I am puzzled as to how this fits with the notion that “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” It seems that Roman Catholicism has taken very great pains to define the Church as ONLY the RCC and Eastern Orthodox, which the RCC views are alone tied to apostalic succession and therefore valid eucharistic celebration. This fits a little oddly with the idea that Protestants have are also somehow in communion with the Church, but imperfectly. (It seems to me that if we are in imperfect communion, certain barriers could be profitable knocked down. For example: if we’re Christians with Goofy Ideas, why not move to open communion for all baptized Christians? I know Having Goofy Ideas is bad, but that never stopped the mass baptism of whole pagan tribes, who were then promptly admitted to the other sacraments.) I am not necessarily objecting! But the odd disjuncture does make interpreting the spirit of some statements and practices difficult for the outsider.

        Then there is this caveat: Salvation does not extent to a person who enjoys “an absolutely certain knowledge of the Truth” about the Church but remains outside it. What people, if any, fit this criteria? People with deep personal convictions about the RCC who for some reason forsake the Church? (Wouldn’t this be a very rare case?) Sincere Protestants who know all the relevant facts, but reach incorrect conclusions? Sincere Protestants who are capable of knowing the relevant facts, but never bother to learn them?

        I fear this may be hair-splitting. But on a personal or pastoral level these are relevant questions. It also has relevance to my view of the ecumenical dialog. It is one thing to say that Protestants who are too prejudiced or unlearned to know any better may be saved; it is another to say that Protestant theologians who understand the RCC’s arguments but disagree with them may be saved.

        • I’m going to work backwards through your response and answer as best I can.

          “It is one thing to say that Protestants who are too prejudiced or unlearned to know any better may be saved; it is another to say that Protestant theologians who understand the RCC’s arguments but disagree with them may be saved.”

          In my view, the former and latter grouping are one and the same – education being the only difference. The key distinction in both these groups is uncertainty that the Catholic Church is THE Church. It doesn’t matter that a Protestant understands that the Catholic Church says it is THE Church – it only matters that a person BELIEVES that the Catholic Church is THE Church … and then willfully does not enter into full communion. Which leads us to your question …

          ‘Salvation does not extent to a person who enjoys “an absolutely certain knowledge of the Truth” about the Church but remains outside it. What people, if any, fit this criteria?’

          The Catholic concept of mortal sin basically says that a person forfeits their salvation when they knowingly and willfully commit a mortal sin unless and until they seek Reconciliation with the Church. The Church teaches us so that we can recognize mortal sin. And, within the context of our larger conversation here, the Church is essentially teaching that to know that the Church is THE Church yet to withhold yourself from it is, essentially, a mortal sin. The means of Reconciliation is seeking full communion and participation in the Church. As to folk that meet that criteria … I’m guessing it’s just as easy to do this as it is to perform any other mortal sin.

          “It seems that Roman Catholicism has taken very great pains to define the Church as ONLY the RCC and Eastern Orthodox, which the RCC views are alone tied to apostalic succession and therefore valid eucharistic celebration. This fits a little oddly with the idea that Protestants have are also somehow in communion with the Church, but imperfectly.”

          This ties back to the Catholic Church’s view on the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is the doorway into the New Covenant. Baptism can be administered by anyone so long as they desire to Baptize as the Church Baptizes – that is, in the Trinitarian form, by water, for the remission of all sin, original and actual. This excludes very, very few that claim Christ (and even among those that it excludes, I suspect many of them are yet covered by the Catholic concept of Baptism of Desire). So, if anyone can Baptize, and a Baptized person is part of the New Covenant, then they are necessarily part of the Church, regardless of whether they willingly assent to that status or not. Thus the Church confers the “imperfect communion” status should a person receive Baptism outside of the Catholic Church.

          “It seems to me that if we are in imperfect communion, certain barriers could be profitable knocked down. For example: if we’re Christians with Goofy Ideas, why not move to open communion for all baptized Christians? I know Having Goofy Ideas is bad, but that never stopped the mass baptism of whole pagan tribes, who were then promptly admitted to the other sacraments.”

          I think the answer to this is that the Catholic Church is simply keeping Protestant communities honest. There are reasons why the Protestant communities exist separated from the Church – they willed it to be so. And so it will remain until they desire to return to the Church.

          Again, this is just my opinion, but the Reformation was a great shock for the Church. Both good, in that it did produce inner reform, and bad, in that the present schisms exist. And in that shock, the Church was not prepared to deal with what was occurring, and thus lots of other bad things happened. But in the time since, the Church has had time to cope, evaluate, and contemplate what has occurred. The Church’s “compromise” is the gradual acknowledgement that Protestants are indeed Christians (and I’m certain that was never denied though it was certainly lost in the raucous and the noise) and the recognition that the Spirit does indeed manifest His fruit among their communities. But that will never translate into a validation of the existence of these communities apart from and in schism to the Catholic Church. In some ways, I suspect the Church sees it as a continual reminder of a great inner failure that it is continually seeking to mend.

          • Thank you for the lengthy response. I was a little worried my post come across as combative.

            Your perspective is interesting, and it does help me to understand how the Church’s current positions are generally understood. Also, I admit that I am relieved to read the clarification of what is meant by “knowing” the truth. Perhaps I was importing the idea of “vincible ignorance” into a discussion where it is not normally applied. In any case, your explanation was helpful.

          • Thanks for bearing with the length. I didn’t mean for it to get so long, but … you know how these things can go. When you’re dealing with a lot of questions, it takes that much more space to try to deal with the answers 🙂

            If it was of any value to you at all, then it was time well spent.

    • My understanding is that the Church teaches that if “you truly believe” that the Church is the true Church then you are obliged to enter the Catholic Church. “Awareness” that the Catholic Church has this teaching is different that believing it. It is analogous to a Muslim who comes to believe that Jesus is the only source of salvation, but refuses to become a Christian because of other concerns. I think that this teaching has implications for people to have come to believe what the Church teaches, but do not follow through with conversion because of how a parent, spouse or social network might view the conversion.

  20. At the very least, this statement in Lumen Gentium requires of all Christians that they investigate the claims of the Catholic Church to be the Church that Christ founded as necessary for salvation.

    No, not really.

    I have enjoyed the series but that is truly a fundamentally nonsensical claim.

    • Christiane says:

      I also was a little bit thrown by the word ‘requires’, but then, I decided that I probably took it the ‘wrong way’. Maybe another choice of word would make more sense? Or at least, in my case, be less jarring?

      • If you are concerned about Truth, then you simply cannot dismiss the claim the Church makes; you are required to investigate it. If on the other hand you not concerned about Truth, then the requirement does not and should not concern you.

        • Christiane says:

          I am a Catholic.
          Dozie, your comment sounds to me like it comes more from the ‘fundamentalist’ realms of far-right Christianity than from the Catholic realm. Here is why I say that:
          The fundamentalists are quick to tell people who don’t agree with them that they are going to hell. They are quick to say that they themselves are ‘the elect’, the saved.
          And, in the fundamentalist world, ‘truth’ is something that in their opinion, only they possess, and all who don’t believe in their ‘truth’ are damned.

          The Catholic faith is not a ‘fundamentalist’ religion.

          • “The fundamentalists are quick to tell people who don’t agree with them that they are going to hell. They are quick to say that they themselves are ‘the elect’, the saved”.

            I made non of those claims.

            “And, in the fundamentalist world, ‘truth’ is something that in their opinion, only they possess, and all who don’t believe in their ‘truth’ are damned”.

            My point is to say that heresy is a Christian vocabulary, pronounced of course by the Magisterium. I was not the one who declared Luther and his system as being heretical.

            “The Catholic faith is not a ‘fundamentalist’ religion”.

            No, it is not “fundamentalist”, but it is identifiable and distinguishable from heretical teachings.

        • If you are concerned about Truth, then you simply cannot dismiss the claim the Church makes; you are required to investigate it. If on the other hand you not concerned about Truth, then the requirement does not and should not concern you.

          If you are concerned about Truth, AND YOU THINK THE RCC’S CLAIM HAS ENOUGH INITIAL PLAUSIBILITY, then you simply cannot dismiss the claim the Church makes; you are required to investigate it. If on the other hand you not concerned about Truth, OR IF YOU REASONABLY BELIEVE THAT THE CLAIM DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH INITIAL PLAUSIBILITY TO WARRANT FURTHER INVESTIGATION, then the requirement does not and should not concern you.

    • I don’t see how God could say he judges by the heart if he hands the right of judgement to human beings.

    • This thread is about to be closed because of insulting and intemperate personal comments. Last warning.

  21. When it comes to the doctrine of one true, uniform, and historically continuous church, I think Christ’s messages to the seven churches in Asia (Rev. ch. 2-3) shed an interesting light on the issue. If you look closely, it becomes obvious that each of these churches were very different and unique animals — different strengths and weaknesses, different focuses, different circumstances, and even differences in doctrine and practice, particularly in regards to the practices and teachings of the Nicolaitans. Yet all of these churches are refered to by Christ as churches, i.e. part of His body universal. And while Christ commends and admonishes them on various issues, He does not admonish them for their lack of uniformity from church to church. He seems to be okay with their variations, so long as certain boundaries were not crossed and the central tenants of the gospel upheld.
    Consider also the almost complete lack of emphasis by the NT writers in promoting detailed uniformity of practice from church to church — though they certainly did stress unity of love in the Spirit in how they related to one another in the daily life of the church. That they should all participate in the same religious rituals in exactly the same way or conform to the same institutional or governmental structure doesn’t even appear be on their list of priorities for the church at all.
    In regards to apostolic succession, look at Paul’s response to the Corinthian church for dividing themselves over who should be the supreme human authority over the church. Why did he not identify Peter as the correct choice? Look at Jesus’s response to His disciples in Luke Chapter 22 when they started arguing among themselves about which one of them should be regarded as the greatest. After admonishing them for thinking in a wordly manner, He then points out that the very concepts of greatness and leadership within the kingdom are completely upside down from the way the world defines and measures such things.
    To get to the point, I think the importance placed on things like apostolic succession, universal uniformity of practice and government, and historical continuity have resulted from the misguided application of a systemized, overly-rationalized, worldly matrix or paradign to the Body of Christ. Mr. Cross would argue that complete institutional unity is necessary in order to be a legitimate part of the true Body of Christ. I say that depends entirely on how Jesus Himself (and not the RCC) defines unity. It also depends on whether or not Jesus intended for His church to become a vast, hierarchal, bureaucratic, systemized, well-oiled institutional machine.
    Here’s the paradign I prefer. Through Christ, the Father has accepted us into His family. And Jesus founded His church as the context in which we can learn to live together in love as members of God’s family and grow together in His likeness — while we also spread His gospel and serve as a picture of His truth and divine character to the world. And the more we grow together in His likeness and in His love, the more we become the one true universal church.

    • The Seven Churches in Asia were not like the Presbyterians, Lutherans and Baptists. There were like the Dioceses of Oakland, Baltimore, New York, Chicago and Detroit. The language of the Catholic Church is to call these Particular Churches. When I was going through the process of entering the Church, there was a ceremony called the Rite of Election where all the Candidates, Catechumans and Confirmandi of the Diocese of Oakland were brought together to be received by the Bishop on the path to receiving the Sacraments. The formula involved leaders from the various parishes presenting their people, and referring them to the Church in Oakland in the same manner as the Church in Ephesus, etc., from Revelation.

    • It is also important to remember that Paul and presumably a number of the other apostles and leaders in the Church thought Jesus would be coming “before the present age passes” meant within many of their lifetime. They were not planning on how to carry the Church forward for 2000 years.

  22. Very informative interview. Bryan seems to have found a resting place for what appears to be a deeply thoughtful, searching, restless soul for God. I plan to visit his sight and read the “romery” piece as I feel it may help me understand more of his journey.

    I wondered as I’ve read the first and scanned the last three parts of the interview whether Bryan believed he experienced salvation, life, relationship with the Person of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit prior to joining the Catholic church? I guess, for me, if I ever saw myself joining the Catholic church it would already be as one who has experienced his grace, salvation, Spirit and life indwelling me. I’m already “in Christ” and Christ is in me. I may experience him differently as I do when I encounter Christ in different denominational and cultural expressions of worship but that is more like getting to know someone you love better as you visit with someone else who knows and loves that same person.

    • “I wondered as I’ve read the first and scanned the last three parts of the interview whether Bryan believed he experienced salvation, life, relationship with the Person of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit prior to joining the Catholic church?”

      Similarly, I have wondered if Martin Luther was a Christian prior to founding Protestantism.

      • It would be interesting to know. I don’t know if he ever stated what his relationship was to Christ before the fork in the road. I would tend to think yes. But it’s hard to ask a dead person.

    • Catholics have no doubt that real grace is operative outside the Church and non-Catholics have real and meaningful spiritual experiences, even those who never accept the Faith. So I don’t think Bryan would doubt that he experienced something real.

      To me, it’s like the difference between receiving invitations to a banquet and going to the banquet itself. A big difference, but receiving invitations is still relational and meaningful.

      As Bernard said, if you are seeking after God, you can be certain that God is seeking after you even more.

  23. “Any infallible teaching contained in the documents of the Council had already been infallibly defined previously. Second, Vatican II did not retract or deny any previous Catholic doctrine. In other words, Vatican II should be understood according to the hermeneutic of continuity….”

    This is code-rhetoric used by those pretty far to the right in the RCC (B14 included), particularly by those who would like to do away with or undermine the changes (yes, CHANGES) wrought by Nostra Aetate, Vatican II’s declaration on non-Christian religions.

    • Actually, not so much a change as you might think. The problematic text with regards to the Catholic tradition is not Nostra Aetate, but the canons of Florence regarding those outside the visible bounds of the Church.