October 17, 2017

Catholic Philosopher and Blogger Bryan Cross: The IM Interview (Part 1)

BryREMINDER: Commenters should remember that the future interview segments will cover many topics.

A few days ago I asked Catholic blogger and philosopher Bryan Cross to do an interview here at IM on the subject of Christian Unity. Bryan blogs at Principium Unitatis. Bryan is a prolific writer and was gracious to do the interview. He’s given me enough content for several posts, so I am going to divide the interview into three parts. In part one, Bryan will talk about his journey from Pentecostal to Calvinist to Anglican to Catholic. Then I’ll post his answer to my first question on his personal passion for Christian unity.

Bryan is a patient teacher and apologist. Obviously, many IM readers will disagree with parts of his presentation while others will applaud. Having given articulate Lutherans and Anglicans space this year, I want to give Bryan time to talk about his personal mission of promoting church unity and reunion in the Catholic Church.

Some of you may want to read Bryan’s response to the “All the Romery People” piece at Mockingbird.

Thanks for coming to Internet Monk.com for this interview, Bryan. Take a couple of paragraphs and tell us your basic story, what you are doing now and about your family.

Thanks Michael for the invitation. I’ve enjoyed reading Internet Monk.com for the last couple years. I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to it in this way.

I was raised in the Pentecostal tradition. On both my mother’s and father’s sides my family was involved in the early stages of Pentecostalism in the first part of the twentieth century. In our family it was considered essential to know Scripture. My siblings and I were consistently taught Scripture since as early as I can remember. We attended church twice Sunday, and Wednesday nights, and attended Sunday school every week. We went to all the revivals and all the vacation Bible-schools. So my family and the Pentecostal tradition gave me a thorough familiarity with the Bible, a healthy fear of God and a disposition to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

During my undergraduate education at the University of Michigan, I was exposed to Christians of all different traditions, and this raised a number of questions for me. By the end of my senior year, I was reading various books on theology, and I became convinced that Reformed covenantal theology was more biblical than the dispensational theology in which I had been raised. For the following three years my wife and I led an international student fellowship composed of students from Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. During that time I continued to read books on Reformed theology. By the end of that three years, I came to see that if I was going to be a pastor, I needed much better theological training. So we moved to St. Louis where I studied at Covenant Theological Seminary for four years, earning an M.Div.

In my last year of seminary, I took a graduate philosophy class at Saint Louis University on the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas. Studying Aquinas raised many questions regarding the Reformed tradition. I couldn’t answer those questions at the time, but it was clear to me that there was at least a deep tension between the philosophical and theological positions and methods of the Reformers, and those of Aquinas. I had hoped that a rigorous study of the biblical languages and exegesis would provide the means to resolve interpretive disagreements between the Christian traditions. I had poured myself into exegesis with that hope, so much so that at graduation the seminary faculty honored me with the exegesis award. But I began to see the implicit role that philosophy was playing in our interpretation of Scripture. My belief as a seminarian was that other Christian traditions didn’t agree with us (Presbyterians) primarily because they didn’t know exegesis as well as we did. At the seminary we believed that exegesis was on our side, that it was exegesis that validated our position over and against that of all the other Christian traditions. But when I began to see the degree to which philosophy was playing an implicit role in our interpretation of Scripture, my beliefs that exegesis was a neutral objective science, and that it was sufficient to adjudicate interpretive disputes, began to crumble. So I decided to study philosophy, in order to get a better understanding of the relation of philosophy to theology throughout the history of the Church. If I couldn’t avoid bringing philosophy into exegesis, at least I was going to do my best to bring in true philosophy.

I completed the internship required for ordination and continued to teach Sunday school at the Presbyterian church we were attending. But at that point I decided not to pursue ordination, because for me there were too many theological questions unanswered. Two years after finishing seminary, my youngest daughter went through a very seriousness illness, and during the following year I went through what I would call an intellectual crisis concerning theology and the ecclesial practice of Christianity. It wasn’t a personal faith-crisis; my belief in Christ and love for Him was never in question. At the time, I couldn’t have explained exactly what was the problem. Anglicanism and Catholicism were not even on my conceptual horizon. I knew that I didn’t want to go to church to hear any more “man-talk,” i.e. opinions of men. If church were primarily about “man-talk,” I could go to the library and find much more erudite thinkers and writers. With what I was learning from ancient philosophers and medieval theologians, I found myself mentally refuting sermons point-by-point as they were being delivered during every service. Of course I knew we are not supposed to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and yet existentially I couldn’t see any good reason to “go to church.” At one point I stopped going to church altogether because I was so frustrated with the whole scene, a scene that to me seemed spiritually vacuous and human-centered in its continual “man-talk.”

Eventually a friend of mine suggested that I visit an Anglican church, so I did. I went by myself. It was completely different. It was quiet and reverent before the liturgy began. The liturgy itself was beautiful, rich, and meaningful. Here for the first time I found freedom from “man-talk.” There was no personality at the front of the church with a microphone, saying whatever came into his head at that moment. There was no speculative exegesis or theological argumentation which I could critically dismantle. The liturgy is God’s speech spoken back to Him by His people or by one representing them. Of course Holy Communion is the climax of the liturgy, and it too is not “man-talk.” In this sacrament God was speaking to me not through words and propositions, but through a physical action, giving Himself to me in a very intimate way. This was not something toward which I could take a critical, disengaged stance. I could only receive it humbly and gratefully. In that respect, this sacrament almost bypassed my intellect and went straight to my heart. We received Holy Communion at the front of the church, on our knees. The very form of worship communicated something altogether different from the way of taking communion I had previously known. I found God to be present there in the beauty, reverence and silence of the liturgy. In that sacredness my heart, which had been starved under a diet of mere propositions, was drawn anew toward God.

The initial problem was that the Anglican church seemed to have no position on moral issues like abortion and homosexuality, matters on which we could not compromise. Eventually we found an independent Anglican parish that was in agreement with the natural law on these issues, and we were confirmed there in 2003. But I was still thinking about unity, and had started reading the Church Fathers. Already by the following year I found myself with serious questions about Anglicanism, as I sought to understand the underlying reason for the obvious disunity among Christians. I was reading everything I could get my hands on about the differences between Catholics and Protestants. Around that time I started to see ‘ecclesial consumerism’ for what it is.

My Anglican bishop seemed to have no interest in dialogue with the local Catholic bishop with a view to eventual full communion with the bishop of Rome. That troubled me. I knew from reading the Fathers that the bishop of Rome had a unique authority and role as the Church’s principle of unity, because of his succession from the Apostle Peter. When I asked myself why I was following this Anglican bishop, rather than the successor of St. Peter, I didn’t have a good answer. When I asked my Anglican bishop which ecumenical councils we [Anglicans] accept, his answer also troubled me. He said something like “we believe the first four, but are selective about what we believe from the others.” That seemed entirely arbitrary to me. How could we pick and choose from an ecumenical council, or from among ecumenical councils? Either we should treat them as good advice, or we should accept them all. Picking and choosing from them, and then saying that the ones we have chosen are authoritative, was to my mind self-deceiving. Finally, every Sunday while reciting the Creed, when we would get to the line “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” I couldn’t say it, because my conscience was telling me that we (as Anglicans) weren’t saying the word ‘one’ with the same meaning that those bishops who wrote the Creed intended it. We were treating what was a collection of groups not in full communion, as though it were a true unity. But I had come to believe that this was not how the early Church conceived of the unity of the Church. Real unity meant full communion of the bishops, especially with the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome.

On April 22, 2005 I reached the conclusion that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, and decided that day to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. But my wife wasn’t ready, and it took her about a year to do her own reading, and be ready to enter the Church. Finally she and I and our two daughters were received into full communion with the Church on October 8, 2006. Presently I am teaching philosophy full time at Lindenwood University, while completing my dissertation in philosophy at Saint Louis University.

1. Your passion for Christian Unity is clearly a special part of your own understanding of the Gospel. Talk about how “unity” fits into your understanding of the Gospel.

When asked about marriage, Jesus refers back to the beginning. And here too, in order to understand the place of unity in Christ’s gospel, we have to look back at the beginning. When God made man, He established man in a unity, that is, an order consisting of various harmonies. There was friendship between God and man, shown by the fact that God walked with them in the cool of the day. They also enjoyed an internal harmony such that their lower appetites were ordered to reason, and their bodies were ordered to their souls so that they were immortal. They also enjoyed a harmony with the rest of creation; they exercised dominion over nature in a way that we do not presently enjoy. And finally they enjoyed a social harmony between the two of them. Had they not sinned, every child that would have come into the world would have become a participant in that social harmony, and in that way the initial harmony between them would have spread over the whole world, as a peace and harmony between all peoples. (CCC, 376)

Adam’s sin destroyed each of those harmonies. We see that in Cain’s murder of Abel, and especially at what happened at Babel. Origen points out, “Where there is sin, there is multiplicity, there are schisms, there are heresies, there are dissensions.” St. Augustine likewise, says, “Adam himself is therefore now spread out over the whole face of the earth. Originally one, he has fallen, and, breaking up as it were, he has filled the whole earth with the pieces.” The prophet Isaiah likewise says, “We had all gone astray like sheep, each of us was following his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6) The result of sin is described by the prophet as each one following his own way. Contrast that with Christ’s statement in John, where He refers to the Gentiles being joined to the New Israel, and says that they will become “one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:16)

God’s purpose in Christ is not only the salvation of the individual human person, but the restoration of the human race to unity in Him. We see this already at Pentecost. Peoples of all nations were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and the Apostles were given the gift of speaking in all their languages. In this way Pentecost reveals how the Church is to be a reversal of Babel. Isaiah spoke of this, saying, “The mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.” It will be a “house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Isaiah 2:2; 56:7) Being reconciled to God through Christ is also the means by which all human beings are to be reconciled to each other; it is in this way that the Church reverses Babel. We refer to this universal character of the Church, by which every division effected at Babel is healed in Christ, as the catholicity of the Church.

For this reason, unity is at the very center of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because the unity of God and man in Jesus Christ is at the center of His gospel, in the greatest union of all time, God united to man in the incarnation of Christ. Through union with the incarnate Christ, our friendship with God is restored, and so likewise is the social harmony between one another, as one family of God, the household of faith, the Body of Christ. In Christ God has reconciled us not only to Himself but also to one another. To become a Christian is to be incorporated into this unity, the New Israel, the Church. Christ’s desire for the unity of His followers can be seen clearly in John 17, where He prays infallibly that we would be one, as He and the Father are one, so that the world would believe that the Father sent the Son.

I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one. … I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me. (John 17:11, 20-23)

By our unity with one another, across every tribe, tongue, people and nation, we demonstrate to the world that something supernatural is at work here, because we transcend the sort of nationalism and racism that views others who are different as a threat to be defeated or subdued. When nations are joined to Christ in His Body, they no longer take up weapons against each other. Natural man tries to do this through the United Nations, but this can be done only by a supernatural unity, which is the Body of Christ. So the unity and catholicity of the Church are together a sign to the world that the One whose Name we bear as Christians was from God, because this kind of unity cannot come from man, but only from God. On the other hand, when Christians are divided against each other, we obscure the gospel and diminish its credibility. Disunity among Christians is an offense against Christ and His gospel, not only because it hides the gospel of Christ from the world, but especially because it contradicts the unity at the heart of the gospel, and in that sense denies the gospel.

(More of the interview coming….)

Comments

  1. Again, thank you Michael for this exchange. As a Calvinistic Christian entertaining Anglican involvement, this conversation concerns me intimately. I want unity of faith. I want unity of ecclesiology. I want to be a part of what Christ has called for in whatever way He expressed. The journey described can just as easily be brought to a place of joining “Eastern Orthodoxy’ and not Roman Catholicism. The primacy of the Petrine Bishopric is a disputed issue. Not in the sense that Peter (or his confession) was the Rock that the church would be built upon. But that his confession and his primacy was absolute. He confessed Christ as LORD. The church is built on that confession. Nonetheless, Peter screwed up. Over and over again, even after Pentecost. His authority is always conditioned upon his continuing humanity and continued frailty as a fallen creature; as a man that must stand before the continued witness that acts as a two edged sword against his own tendency towards our common fallen nature. This is the Peter of the New Testament. This is also the Paul of the NT, and all of the other apostles. Thus, I would argue for the basic equality of the apostles, even if Peter is given a place of honor because of his initial confession.
    I look forward to subsequent conversations in the days ahead. This should be interesting.

    • Standard answer to that is that infallibility is not the same as impeccability.

      That is, the promise was to keep the church from teaching error, not to keep individual popes from being human, imperfect, or sinners. And I think we all know plenty about sinner popes, and it really does make you wonder why the Holy Spirit picked that one, or how bad the alternative could have been if this guy was the best choice 🙂

      But still, no pope – even if he was a hypocrite, liar, fornicator, war-monger, or even practical atheist (and that last I don’t recall any of them being) – ever made it official church teaching that, for instance, Christ was not fully human and fully divine, or that there is no soul, or that the Trinity is wrong, or that there is no hell and all will be saved regardless, or the like.

      So we are kept from heresy while we struggle on and hope that a better one comes along. And eventually one does.

    • Irenicum,

      You wrote that “The primacy of the Petrine Bishopric is a disputed issue.”

      You’re right, but homosexuality is also a disputed issue, as is women pastors, divorce and remarriage, abortion, contraception, how the church should be governed (episcopal model, presbyteral model, congregational, totally unprogrammed (ala Quaker)), baptism, infant baptism, the Eucharist, the rest of the sacraments, and about a hundred other important matters of faith and morals. The question is: What is the truth of petrine primacy? How do we find out?

      You also wrote that “His authority is always conditioned upon his continuing humanity and continued frailty as a fallen creature.”

      This statement is a form of Donatism, a rigorist heresy from roughly 310 – 410 AD. Donatists wanted to refuse to allow back into communion those Christians who had renounced their faith under Roman torture; they further claimed that a bishop’s authority and the validity of the sacraments was contingent upon the minister. St. Augustine ultimately ended this heresy–the divine authority that God gives to his bishops through the succession of the Apostles is not dependent on some level of personal holiness.

      I offer these thoughts for your consideration.

      Peace in Christ,

  2. Thanks, Bryan. I really appreciate your heart and vision for unity among believers. I too have a heart for unity that crosses individual church and denominational boundaries. But the general rule I’ve found from most churches and denominations is that if you want any kind of unity (or even basic fellowship) with them, then you have to first meet a considerable list of prerequisites — i.e., you have to believe exactly as we do, observe the same set of traditions that we do, and put yourself under the authority of our institutional government.
    But when I look in NT scripture, it appears that Christ-like, self-sacrificing love is the primary ingredient for unity in the church — not all those other things. “And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:14). And not only Paul, but Jesus and the other NT writers all indentified love as the center of the gospel and the most essential glue for binding the church together.
    In that light, shouldn’t efforts to unify the church begin with love at the relational level — i.e., believers learning to truly love each other and have fellowship with each other across doctrinal, liturgical, and denominational lines — rather than trying to first get everyone under the same institutional umbrella?
    What practical role or roles do you (Bryan) think that Christlike love at the relational, person-to-person level should play in the quest for (or rediscovery of) unity in the global Body of Christ?

    • RonP,

      I agree with you that love is at the center of the gospel. You can see that in my “Reply from a Romery Person.” But I do not agree that we must choose between love and institutional unity. Otherwise couples would have to choose between loving each other, and marriage. Love is ordered to union; it impels toward unity, even all the various ways unity can be shared, including unity of belief. Couples who love each other, for example, seek to be agreed in what they believe.

      There is a general rule in philosophy that we cannot love what we do not know. And that is why there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved. We cannot love the Father without knowing Him as Father. And we cannot know Him as Father, except through His Son, and through the Love they share with each other, which is the Holy Spirit. So in order to love God together as one, we need to know Jesus His Son, who reveals the Father. And that means that in order to love God together as one, we need to share the same faith that Jesus has revealed from the Father, and be in the same Church that Christ founded. This is partly why heresy damages love. If we believe contradictory things about God, then we cannot share together the same love for God. Likewise, this is why schism damages love. If we are not in the same family (household) that Christ founded, then we cannot fully share together the unity of love for God in His family.

      That’s why we do not have to choose between loving Christ, and being united in “one faith”, and “one baptism”, under “one Lord”. Only if we share the same faith, the same baptism, and the same Lord, can we share our love for God and for each other most perfectly. Only then does it reach its fullest expression.

      In the peace of Christ,

      – Bryan

      • Bryan,

        I can’t help but be disappointed with analogies like the one in the first paragraph of your reply. No married couple should try to reconcile themselves to one another, promote love and unity, etc., in the manner of Rome and the Dissenters. What kind of marriage would they have if one spouse said to the other, “All you have to do is see everything exactly as I do, and change everything about who you are necessary to fit that situation – and then we’ll be fine.”? When it comes to the Church, this is an exaggeration, but not an absolute one, I feel.

        It’s similar to another analogy I was offered recently, by a Catholic priest trying to justify why, as a committed disciple of Jesus Christ, I could not be a full participant in the Eucharist. After proposing that, as many have suggested, the Table of Communion is where we learn to be a part of the family, I was assured that I was invited every week to, indeed, be a part of the family. I scoffed, on the inside, and replied with something more charitable audibly. The pain of separation I felt was not lessened by his assertion – I would never treat *my* family like that.

        I say this as someone who is currently going through RCIA, and struggling terribly with what I ought to do at the end, or even if I ought to continue.

        • Charles,

          I agree with you that the analogy isn’t perfect. No analogy is. I was simply trying to illustrate the fact that love and institutional union are not mutually exclusive. Marriage illustrates that quite well, in my opinion. In fact, the more perfect the love, the more deeply the persons want to make it institutional, i.e. tie the knot, make it ‘forever.’

          My marriage analogy breaks down when we get to the subject of authority, and the implications of apostolic succession. For example, if a person wants to be an Arian, then he cannot be a Catholic. The Arian could complain about this, but he does not have the authority to determine for the Church what is orthodox and what is heresy. A Catholic priest or bishop cannot knowingly permit an Arian to come to the table, because such a person does not share the faith of the Church. The communion table isn’t pretend union; it is real union. So it is right for the priest or bishop not to allow the Arian to come to the table. It is right for the priest or bishop to say, “If you want to be in full communion with the Church, then you need to renounce Arianism and accept the Creed.” There is such a thing as the Catholic faith only because the Church does not compromise with everyone who wishes to dissent from her doctrine. If the Church started compromising with dissenters, there would soon be no Catholic faith. My point is that preserving the distinction between orthodoxy and heresy is a necessary condition for the perpetuation of the faith. It is not a malicious or mean-spirited thing at all. Requiring that those who wish to be in full communion with the Church affirm their belief in the Church’s faith only makes sense, from my point of view. The Church has to be faithful to the deposit of faith that has been handed down to her; so in that respect she has to seek to please God rather than merely pleasing men.

          In the peace of Christ,

          – Bryan

          • Bryan,

            Thanks for your reply. I’ll just say one thing in response, as we are unlikely to find absolute common ground on this: if it were merely a matter of accepting the Creeds, or what I would consider true essentials, I might already be Catholic. But you know better than I that that is not what is required. My copy of the Catechism is over 750 pages long – that is violence to the intellect. I’m afraid there are too many irreconcilable points to which I cannot, in good conscience, give public assent.

            In fact, I’ve begun to come to a greater peace about this since I last wrote. I’ve also started to feel a rather rebellious spirit coming to the surface – one that wants to refuse to worship with any congregation that closes communion to me, Catholic or otherwise. Yes, I recognize the arrogance and irony in this response, but I can’t help but see, in a closed communion, nothing but another version of 1 Cor. 3:1-7. Add to this the apparent fact that I have been better “catechized” than many long-term Catholics with whom I sit through RCIA every week, and you can see why I might be chafing a little over all this. Anyway, thank you again, and if you have any recommendations for a way forward, as far as reading, etc., I welcome them.

            Real Peace and Love,
            Charles

      • Thanks for your reply, Bryan. I can see that while we do agree on some things, there are some things on which we will probably never see eye to eye — such as how we interpret certain pivotal scriptures, how we view certain aspects of church history, and how we essentially define the church itself. That said, there’s really no need for further discussion or argument. I regret that such a gulf does exist between so many who genuinely love and serve the same Savior and Lord. But, then again, you and I did not create this divide. It was there long before we were born, and it will probably still be there when we depart this world to discover unity in its truest form before the throne of God.
        Still, I wish you well and Godspeed on your quest for the institutional unity of the church. And I will continue my efforts to foster and encourage a more relational brand of unity in the day-to-day life of the small church family in which Christ has placed me and called me to serve.

  3. Loman Totempole says:

    “The initial problem was that the Anglican church seemed to have no position on moral issues like abortion and homosexuality, matters on which *we* could not compromise.”

    I know plenty of Christians who have come to all manner of compromises regarding these issues, compromises they fee are appropriate and “moral”. Who is the “we” here? Did I miss a reference to another person?

  4. Very interesting reading. I also did a philosophy degree after my seminary training, and for some of the same reasons. I ended up in Orthodoxy, and for some of the same reasons. For me the juridical approach of the West, whether expressed in the right rules to interpret Scripture, or the exact right steps to become a Christian, etc., was part of what pushed me towards Orthodoxy and a more non-juridical approach to salvation and life.

    @Irenicum — I shudder a bit when you say that, “His authority is always conditioned upon his continuing humanity and continued frailty as a fallen creature.” This is a line that is all too easily used to substantiate disobedience. That is, one argues that the decision of a Council or a bishop is “human” rather than “divine” which gives one the right to disobey.

    When I was in the military, the general was the general, right or wrong, only because otherwise discipline and unit cohesion was lost. His fellow generals could stop him but not just anyone in his command. The same would be true in a family. While teenagers love to argue with their parents about how wrong their decisions are, ultimately they must obey. Yes, I can always find exceptions to that understanding. There are situations in which the troops or the children must disobey. But, they are significantly rarer than one would guess by reading Church history.

    • You salute the uniform, not the man 🙂

    • I agree. I overstepped by saying what I did. There are details of what I said that still hold to, but in saying what I did, I did open the door to a rebellious attitude that can all too quickly become a rebellious action. For that I am sorry and repent before you and God and ask your forgiveness. As much as I still hold to a protestant understanding of the Christian faith, I still see myself as essentially catholic and orthodox. The creeds and the authority of Christ’s designated purveyors of that authority still hold. And BTW, this applies to the other responses too. Thanks for speaking to me this way. It may not seem possible, but even the internet can be a means of grace!

  5. That was his personal journey and I’m not in any sense taking issue with that. If he feels most comfortable under the Roman banner then that is his choice. Although I think he has made an error, I wish him well.

    But as an Anglican it frustrates me no end that people experience a highly revisionist form of Anglicanism (the tractarianism of Newman, Keble and co. and now its “liberal catholic” offshoot) and then mistake that for the real thing and somehow think that “Anglicanism” doesn’t have an answer to the kinds of questions he raised. You won’t hear these answers from a tractarian or “liberal catholic” bishop because they have actually departed from Anglicanism and these answers actually undermine their own position. But there *are* Anglican answers to the kinds of questions he raised (eg why we don’t accept the Bishop of Rome’s claim to authority, why it didn’t appear to him that Anglicans were interested in dialogue with a Romish bishop with a view to full communion, why we should accept the authority of any bishop, the claimed authority of the early ecumenical councils, etc etc and so forth).

    It’s a mistake to conclude from the bishop’s inability to answer these questions that Anglicanism doesn’t have an answer to these questions. Anglicanism is not what your local Anglican churchman says it is. The bishop can misrepresent Anglicanism (in fact I suspect he did). The right starting place is of course the Anglican formularies: i.e. the 39 Articles (something tractarians don’t believe but which are nevertheless an authoritiative statement of the church’s doctrine in most parts of the Anglican communion), the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. These are the official doctrinal statement of the Church of England and most churches in communion therewith (TEC is a bit of an odd man out in this regard). These actually provide answers to most of his questions, and the writings of the Anglican Reformation divines are most helpful in filling in many of the details and answering other questions. Did he read Cranmer, Jewell, Hooker, Ussher and other Anglican divines from this formative period? If not then I would respectfully suggest that he rejected something he did not fully understand. These writers outline quite clearly both Anglicanism’s Reformational/Calvinist theology as well as its views on catholicity, the church fathers, church councils, so-called apostolic succession and many other issues.

    Now as someone who finally made the journey to Rome I suspect that it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the end. Obviously if he finds Rome’s answers to these questions convinving then he’s not going to agree with Anglicanism’s answers. But it is possible that if he had read Anglicanism’s ansers in the first place then he might not havebeen so redily convincd by Rome’s answers to these questions.

    • you said –

      “as its views on catholicity, the church fathers, church councils, so-called apostolic succession and many other issues.”

      As a baptist interested in Anglicanism I’d love to read some of these answers, can you recommend specificaly where to find some of these answers

      regards,
      Austin

      • If you’re interested I can certainly suggest some reading. Rather than taking up this blog thread with our personal conversations I’ll contact you privately (I found your contact details on your blog; alternatively you can contact me via the email address listed under “contact me” on my blog).

    • “But there *are* Anglican answers to the kinds of questions he raised (eg why we don’t accept the Bishop of Rome’s claim to authority, why it didn’t appear to him that Anglicans were interested in dialogue with a Romish bishop with a view to full communion, why we should accept the authority of any bishop, the claimed authority of the early ecumenical councils, etc etc and so forth).”

      I think the point to take from his investigation here is that the Anglican Bishop didn’t seem to know or care about those answers, and coupled with everything else, the -ism of Anglican Christianity seemed a less coherent presentation of ancient Christianity than the RC alternative.

      “Obviously if he finds Rome’s answers to these questions convincing then he’s not going to agree with Anglicanism’s answers.”

      So either you think he’s weak, dishonest, that all our theological comforts are relative or arbitrary, or you’re just being silly. Come on.

      • No I certainly don’t think Bryan Cross is “weak” or “dishonest”. What on earth led you to believe that I would I think such a thing? Surely two reasonable people can disagree without either being “weak” or “dishonest”. Cross finds Rome’s picture compelling, I don’t. That’s fine. We’ve both honestly investigated the claims and have come to differing conclusions. I respect his position but think it’s wrong, he respects my position but thinks it’s wrong. I don’t think that says either of us is “weak” or “dishonest”. It’s simply a case of two reasonable people disagreeing.

        I can assure that I wasn’t being silly. As to your suggestion “that all our theological comforts are relative or arbitrary” I’m not exactly sure what you mean. Would you care to enlighten me by way of further clarification?

        Pax Christi,
        Apodeictic

        • I see a major problem with your portrayal of Anglicanism: as attractive as I find it, it is not lived out anywhere (in the West) in a credible form. The Communion is in tatters at least since the Robinson consecration, and the Continuum is hopelessly splintered. It may be interesting as a theological system, but it seems failed as an expression of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

          • “I see a major problem with your portrayal of Anglicanism: as attractive as I find it, it is not lived out anywhere (in the West) in a credible form.”

            So you are willing to concede that this might be being lived out in a credible form outside of the West? If so, what is wrong with my portrayal of Anglicanism then? If the Africans are doing it but Westerners are not then does that mean Anglicanism has failed as an expression of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church?

            But that little question aside, I agree that the communion is in tatters and is splintered. In Anglicanism we have several fundamentally irreconcilable positions existing side by side. Anglicanism has been living with these tensions for a long time (at least since the Oxford Movement, but arguably even longer than that in one form or another). Now these tensions are coming to a head and something’s got to give. I honestly don’t know what’s going to give and when it does give I don’t know what will be left. I can’t say it will be a return to the classic vision of Anglicanism I have portrayed.

            So I would agree that in the West at least my portrayal of Anglicanism is not being lived out on a *national* level. I don’t think there is a national Anglican church in the Western world (eg Church of England, TEC, Anglican Church of Australia etc) where my portrayal holds. But I would take issue with your comments on a sub-national level. There are dioceses, parishes and millions of individual Anglicans in the West living out Anglicanism as I have portrayed it.

            The other question I leave you with is this: If in your view Anglicanism has failed as an expression of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church hat is the alternative?

    • I suspect that having a seminary degree and a degree in philosophy that he probably did read more than he let on in a summary. The type of person who studies theology and philosophy will not pass up the chance to read possible variant viewpoints. I mean, half the fun philosophers have is in reading contrary arguments and tearing them apart, preferably in a suitably snippy journal article! LOL.

    • Can I ask a serious question here? This is not for point-scoring, it’s genuine curiosity and a bit of ‘can’t get my head round this’.

      I’ve seen someone describe himself as a “Calvinist Anglican”. Is there such a beast? What about the via media? How does a Calvinist and an Anglo-Catholic fit in the one entity, when if (as I am assuming, and I may be wrong, which is why I’m asking) I imagine they’d answer various questions on grace, free will, and the like differently?

      I know Anglicanism presents itself as Reformed Catholic: not Roman, not Protestant. But where does that leave the Calvinists, if they indeed are a sub-group?

      And I have no idea how the Anglicans regard the Lutherans, or vice versa: any comments by anyone on that?

      • Hi Martha,

        I recommend Alister McGrath’s “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea.” He describes the unique place of Anglicanism in the Protestant Reformation and its influence by both Luther and Calvin. It is a strange beast because it (ultimately) preserved the Catholic episcopal model of ecclesiology but also accepted many ideas from Reformed Protestantism (“Calvinism”) and Lutheranism.

        McGrath is an Anglican church historian.

      • Anglicanism is VERY diverse, Martha. You’ve got stuff that ranges from low-Church Anglicanism that feels like non-denom-Evangelicalism-with-a-bit-of-liturgy to high-Church Anglicanism that puts the “Catholic” in Anglo-Cathlic. Some Anglicans consider “via media” to be a silly concept invented by the Oxford movement. Some Anglicans consider the 39 Articles to be merely a historic reference point. Plus you have everything in between. The pastor of my parents’ Anglican Church is a Calvinist. And most of his parishoners come from a Chrismatic background. Yes, you read that right. A Calvinist leading a bunch of Charismatics in the Anglican tradition. Yikes!

        Traditionally, Anglicanism as a whole is less about specific theology and doctrine and more about practice. I.e. the BCP and the 3-fold-ministry are the unifying factors in Anglicanism. Traditionally. In reality, differences in theology can lead to stuff like we’re seeing here in America. And though ABC Williams trying to keep everyone united on the traditional unification points, it’s not working out so well.

      • MODERATOR NOTE: WAY TOO LONG

        Martha,
        Good questions indeed. You are beginning to understand the tensions within Anglicanism. We are a very diverse bunch which makes it hard for the outsider to get a hold on what we are.

        I am both a (moderate) Calvinist and an Anglican so yes there is such a beast. There are millions of them throughout the world. In many parts of teh Anglican world (eg the Nigeria which is the largest church in the Anglican communion and many other parts of Africa, Sydney and some other dioceses in Australia, the Southern Cone of South America etc etc) this is *the* predominant form of Anglicanism. Anglo-Catholic parishes ae few and far between in these places. Large tracts of the Anglican world would unashamedly label themselves as both Calvinist and Anglican and they would say that in doing so they are being true to Scripture and their Anglican Reformation roots while arguing that the (so-called) Anglo-Catholics are not.

        Unlike most other Protestant denominations, even the most basic things in Anglicanism are contested. Two different Anglicans will tell you wildly different things aboutwha Anglicanism is or believes. So you will find Anglicans who will deny everything I’m about to say. I think that on any fair reading of history they are mistaken, but ultimately you will have to examine the history of Aglicanism yourself if you want to settle these questions definitively.

        I would actually deny your first point (viz. that Anglicanism presents itself as neither Roman nor Protestant). Anglicanism quite clearly doesn’t present itself as Roman, but until John Henry Newman came along no one seriously doubted that the Church of England (or the Church of Ireland etc) was “Protestant”. England was a “protestant” kingdom with a “protestant” church. Of course the Protestantism of the Church of England differed in some important respects from the Protestantism found on the European continent, but the classical Anglicanism of the Elizabethan settlement (and the Restoration from which we get the 1662 Book of Common Prayer which along with the 39 Articles and the Ordinal is considered *the* classic statement of Anglican doctrine) is very much “Protestant”. The idea that Anglicanism is not Protestant and that it some kind of “via media” between Rome and Protestantism really gained currency during the tractarian movement (John Henry Newman, Keble etc) which was a counter-reformation movement in the Church of England. This view is not (in my view — but again others will argue otherwise) true to the classic Anglicanism of the Elizabethan settlement and the Restoration.

        But of course there is *some* truth behind the idea of a “via media”. The English Reformation was different from the Reformation(s) on the continent. So in some respects, then, the Church of England did find itself “between” Rome and the Continental Reformed churches. But I would suggest that it is a mistake to view this as saying that Anglicanism is somehow not “Protestant”. For instance, the Church of England kept the ancient threefold pre-reformation order of bishop, priest (presbyter) and deacon, seeing no need to abolish it. In the minds of the Anglican reformers, reformational theology such as the sufficiency of scripture and justification by grace alone through faith alone (quite clearly “Protestant” and not Roman ideas) could exist side by side with the ancient institution of episcopacy which unlike the Lutheran and Reformed churches of the Continent the Church of England maintained. The Anglican reformers were quite clear that they weren’t establishing a new church but reforming the existing church — a church which at the time of the Reformation had existed in Britain for at least a millennium or so. So yes we claim to be both Reformed and Catholic. The Church of England is the catholic church which has always existed in England reformed according to the Word of God. And from there Anglicanism has spread to every corner of the globe.

        The Church of England drew on the ideas of the continental reformers but didn’t adopt either the Lutheran or “Reformed” (Calvinist/Zwinglian etc) reformation wholesale. If you read the 39 Articles and are familiar with the Lutheran and Reformed confessions of the Continental Reformation you wil see influences of both in the Anglican standards. Some of them are very heavily inffuenced by Calvinist theology while with others you can see Lutheran influences. There’s a lot more I could say, but I will refrain for now.

        You ask how Anglo-Catholics and Calvinists co-exist under the one structure when they (as you rightly point out) answers fundamental questions of theology differently. The answer is: With great difficulty, a degree of animosity and a lot of practical separation from one another. Most Calvinists or other evangelicals would be uneasy about making an Anglo-Catholic parish their home church and vice versa. That’s certainly the case with me. I have attended services at Anglo-Catholic parishes on the odd occasion but I would have great difficulties making one my home when I believe the priest with his Anglo-Catholic views and practices is being untrue to both Scripture and the Anglican doctrinal standards. If my local Anglican parish church was Anglo-Catholic and not Calvinist or some other form of evangelical I would most probably either seek out a more evangelical parish not too far away or failing that join another like-minded denomination (eg Presbyterian) all the while remaining Anglican in my mind and theological/liturgical outlook. The differences between Anglo-Catholics, Calvinists, other evangelicals and liberals all living under the one roof lead to all kinds of problems during things like synodical debates since you have groups coming to the table with fundamentally different theological convictions. For instance many “Conservative Evangelicals” (mainly Calvinists) and “traditional Anglo-Catholics” both oppose women’s ordination but for fundamentally different reasons. They are agreed on the end result but have fundamentally irreconcilable ideas about the nature of ordination and priesthood/eldership in the church.

        Each group tends to have its own network of theological colleges (eg in England if you’re a Calvinist you would train for ordination at either Oak Hill in London or Wycliffe Hall in Oxford) while if you were a traditional Anglo-Catholic you would probably train for ordination at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield. (This practice is reflected in many other countries, less so in Ireland since the Church of Ireland maintans only one theological college as far as I understand things). For the most part the ordinands then eventually end up serving in parishes and/or dioceses allied to that theological viewpoint. There are effectively separte networks of clergy, parish churches and minsitries and the different groups have very little to do with one another. There are simply understandings not to “rock the boat too much”. A committed Calvinist will not be appointed priest or curate to a strongly Anglo-Catholic parish and vice versa.

        As an individual there are ways of “sussing” out where a parish stands on the spectrum before even attending a service. Look at the sign out the front. If it says “mass” they are strongly Anglo-Catholic. If it says “eucharist” they are probably mildly Anglo-Catholic. If it says “Holy Communion” or “Lord’s Supper” they are probably more Protestant minded (with the latter usually indicating quite strongly so). And if the normal morning service is “Morning Prayer” with a less than weekly celebration (eg monthly) of the Holy Communion then they are quite clearly more Protestant minded. This is only just one example. There are other telltale signs as well.

        Most Calvinist Anglicans would probably regard themselves as the true heirs of the Anglican Reformation, claiming to have the theology of the Prayer Book and 39 Articles as well as history on their side. At the time of the ritualist controversy (look it up on Wikipedia if this is something unfamiliar with you) Church of England priests were prosecuted and jailed for adopting Anglo-Catholic practices against the Protestant Reformed faith of the Church of England. But this didn’t stop the spread of tractarianism/Anglo-Catholicism. Eventually Anglo-Catholics came to be a tolerated party in the church. for over 100 years now there has been an uneasy co-existence of these two groups. HOWEVER, we now find ourselves in interesting times and Evangelicals (many of whom are Calvinists) and Anglo-Catholics are finding themselves allies against the common foe of radical liberalism (the old liberalism was quite genteel really; what we are now experiencing is liberalism with teeth). Only time will tell how the relationship between Calvinists/ evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics will develop, and whether old wounds can be healed or whether it’s a continued case of each group saying to the other “live and let live”. I would simply point out that less Calvinistic evangelicals (eg charismatics) tend to have fewer problems with working with Anglo-Catholics etc. The old theological disputes of the Reformation are arguably not quite as central to their core identity.

        To your next question: How do “the Anglicans” regard “the Lutherans”? In the absence of an Anglican magisterium (we abolished that at the time of teh Reformation!) there are no official positions for what “the Anglicans” as a whole thinks of “the Lutherans” (and I suspect vice versa — but ask a Lutheran to be sure). But I can tell you that this individual Anglican regards the doctrine of the classic Lutheran confessions as most agreeable with Holy Scripture and therefore considers himself in communion with them and their churches despite a few minor doctrinal differences (eg concerning the presenc of Chirst at the Lord’s Supper). When I lived in Germany I attended a Lutheran church, took communion there and as a good Protestant even paid the state church tax to the Lutherans. But Anglicans of a more Anglo-Catholic persuasion would no doubt take a different view of the Lutherans, perhaps arguing that their orders are not valid for lack of apostilic succession (although here Lutheranism varies from country to country). I could probably second-guess an Anglo-Catholic response but you’re probably better off asking an Anglo-Catholic what he thinks of the Lutherans than asking a Clavinist to try to think like an Anglo-Catholic 😀

        Hope this helps. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any further questions.

        • Apodeictic wrote “The Church of England is the catholic church which has always existed in England reformed according to the Word of God.”

          St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher didn’t think so. Were they the heretics? The monasteries and convents which were ransacked no doubt also would take issue with your statement. King Henry VIII’s purpose did not seem to be to reform the Catholic Church in England “according to the Word of God” but rather according to his own desires. I do not intend to be incendiary but find it hard to square your statement with the history of the Anglican movement of the Reformation (which was a schism like the other Protestant movements).

          You also wrote “In the absence of an Anglican magisterium (we abolished that at the time of teh Reformation!)…”

          You are right that the Anglicans rejected the Catholic Church’s Magisterium in favor of their own authority with King Henry as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. Without the divinely-authorized Magisterium, the Anglican Communion is crumbling in a “slow moving train wreck” to use the words of N.T. Wright.

          I intend to offer this comment as a counter-point to some of your claims. I am willing to hear your rebuttals.

          Peace in Christ,

          • First,
            apologies for the length of the previous post. I agree it was too long long for a comment on Michael’s blog. I would have emailed my reply to Martha if I knew how to reach her. But she leaves no contact details …

            Devin, thanks for your comments.
            Yes, obviously Thomas More and John Fisher didn’t think that the reformed Church of England was the ancient catholic church in England reformed according to the word of God and therefore (understandably) sided with Rome. In their view what I would call the “reformed” Church was in fact “schismatic”. So understandably they took the stand they did. “Heretics” is not actually a word I would want to use to describe either More or Fisher. Both were following their consciences seeking to be faithful to God. I hope one day to see them in the joy of heaven where the divisions which mar us now will now longer be present in the church triumphant. But, yes, I believe they were wrong to side with Rome. But understandably and — perhaps more importantly — forgivably wrong.

            Like most Roman Catholic apologists you seem to stop at Henry VIII and this is something that Anglicans do not do. From an Anglican point of view the actions of Henry VIII do not the English Reformation or the Church of England make. He got the ball rolling but a lot else happened after Henry’s reign. I guess from a Roman point of view the definitive event is “schism” and that happened at a particular point in time as the Church in England broke from Rome during Henry’s reign. Case more or less closed from a Roman point of view. But from a protestant point of view, however, the lens to view this trhough is “reform” and this is something that came about gradually, and something that God can bring about despite a sinful king’s questionable motives. I will quite readily accept that many of Henry’s motives were questionable at best, possibly even wicked. But that didn’t stop the work of godly men such as Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley getting on with the work of reforming the church, particularly under the reign of Edward VI.

            One more point: Anglicans do not consider the British monarch to be the “Supreme Head” of the curch. From our point of view the church has ONE head, both in heaven and on earth, namely Jesus Christ our Lord. No-one can replace him as head, not even on earth. In England (and only in England; this is NOT the case for Anglican churches in other parts of the world which are not established), the Queen is the “Supreme Governor” of the church. That is not the same as saying that she is the “head”, let alone the “supreme head”. This is another aspect of reform coming gradually. At first Henry was considered “Supreme Head” but under Elizabeth the view became that the monarch was “Supreme Governor”, lest their be any doubt that Jesus Christ (and he alone) is the one true head of the Church. The idea behind that of “Supreme Governor” is that in a professedly Christian kingdom the monarch has a duty under God not just to uphold the civil laws but also to defend and maintain the true faith. But neither she nor the church cannot ordain anything contrary to Scripture.

            Finally I agree with N.T. Wright that the Anglican communion is a “slow moving train wreck”. No doubt the same could be said about many of the other parts of the visible church.

            Blessings,
            Apodeictic

        • Apodeictic,

          I appreciate your respectful response. I am a big fan of Alister McGrath and have books by him (I am working through his textbook “Reformation Thought” currently), so I am familiar with the history of the Anglican Church well past King Henry VIII, including the inter-Protestant civil war in the mid-1600s, the brief reign of the Puritans/Calvinists and abolishment of dioceses/bishops before everyone got tired of their legalism (no plum pudding on Christmas even) and reinstituted the former church structures. Just mentioning this to recognize your point that King Henry VIII didn’t mold the Anglicans’ doctrine and practices.

          Peace in Christ,

    • As someone who almost joined an AMiA church early this year it is very clear (to me at least) that Anglican in the USA are fractured just now. Depending on how you want to group them there are at least 2 “sub-denominations” and as many as 4 or 5. And the Anglican view you get shown can vary considerably depending on which of these “subs” you visit.

      And just to be clear I have nothing bad to say about AMiA churches. The reasons for my not joining were very local and had nothing to do with the theology of AMiA.

  6. Excellent interview and I look forward to the rest. I also was brought up Pentecostal, became convinced later (and still to this day) that Reformed theology is the most coherent system for understanding Scripture, but have recently begun to appreciate more the ancient wisdom coming out of the Catholic church. I also find the “God-centeredness” of Anglican (or Lutheran when Lutherans actually follow their beautiful published liturgies and don’t start tearing them apart to save time or for “variety”) worship very powerful—you described the experience well and very consistent with my own. I seriously doubt I could ever make the leap to saying that somehow the bishop of Rome has a unique authority, but I look forward to the rest of this story.

    • I was raised moderately Catholic, went through an agnostic/atheistic phase, and have now become a Calvinist. I too am very interested in hearing more of Bryan’s story and reading more of this interview. I really, really wish that I could be Roman Catholic, but the way I read the Bible has stopped me. What this interview shows me is that perhaps I have to go a level higher to make the jump. It sounds like Bryan came to the conclusion that the RC interpretation of the authority of the Pope is reasonable. Once you make that decision then the rest just falls into place.

      I am very interested to read more about how he left his Reformed theology behind after he made the switch. It takes a lot of humility to admit that you’ve been going about things the wrong way for so long, especially after getting a MDiv.

      • A small picky point — Prof. Cross’ interpretation of the Matthew passage may have led him to choose Rome, you will have to ask him. But–horn in Prof. Cross–I suspect that some philosophical questions about the integrity of the early witness of the Church, and its distinctly different approach than the Reformation, may have raised logical warning flags about the true reasonableness of the Reformation interpretation of history and theology long before he chose Rome.

      • I suspect that it’s not so much a case of “going to a level higher” in terms of knowledge or understanding, but weighing a completely different set of values much more heavily (a different approach, not a deeper approach). In my view, the greatest contribution to the church by reformers such as Calvin and others following in his footsteps has been depth of doctrinal understanding and systematization. In the essay, mention is made of worship bypassing the mind and going straight to the heart. I think that followers of reformed theology have often (whether fairly or not) received a reputation of having less “heart” and sometimes going too far in stripping away the mystery and wonder of worship—-if one places greater explicit emphasis on these latter things, I can see someone migrating away from reformed circles, but my own opinion is that it’s the higher value placed on “heart” or “mystery” that is the real motivation and not at bottom a problem with the reformed doctrinal system. I’ve gone through various changes in my orientation towards Scripture and worship over the years and my personal experience is that sometimes I’ve been willing to let go certain things I believe to be true simply because other things in a particular church or group of people at a particular time seem to be more important and trump what are currently perceived as “lesser” issues.

  7. Interesting interview, especially on the heels of Collin Hansen’s much discussed article in Christianity Today, “Not All Evangelicals and Catholics Together.”

    In the article, he quotes Prof. Timothy George, who supports a deepening dialogue between Evangelicals and Catholics. George said,

    “”The gaping divide between evangelicals and Catholics is ecclesiology and authority, not justification and salvation, as important as that debate remains,” George said. “There is enough commonality that evangelicals and Catholics with a living faith can recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ with a common Lord and common grace that brought them together. The hard issues are questions related to the church, such as the Petrine office [the papacy] and the Eucharist. Those discussions will occupy us for the next 100 years.”

  8. unity would be great if it weren’t for all the people

    • My pastor says that same thing in regards to our church. “It was a great church until people started showing up.”

  9. Dolan McKnight says:

    The key issue preventing church unity is the infallibility of the pope. This locks the Catholic church into the untenable position of saying that all of the pronouncements of the church councils are without error, particularly including Trent. It would be much easier to unify around the Orthodox position that only accepts the councils before the Great Schism. In that way new partiarchs could be recognized, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury. The pope could certainly retain a leadership role as first among equals, but infallibility has to go for unity to occur.

    From a more philosophical viewpoint, I agree with Mr. Cross that church dogma is strongly influenced by the prevalent philosophy of the times – or more generally a world view. For example, the early creeds are written in Platonic language (although not necessarily in agreement with Platonism). Aristotelian metaphysics allowed the concept of “Real Presence” to transmogrify into transubstantiation, which becomes “unsubstantial” now that philosophy does not accept the Aristotelian assumptions that were its basis.

    In order for the church to be unified, we would have to allow diversity of opinion. Using the Nicene Creed (absent filioque) would be a reasonable standard for unity. But do we really need to insist on Jesus having two natures? Could we not simply have different opinions on the precise roles of Mary and the saints? Can we not realize that Calvinism and Arminianism are two ways of explaining (neither very well) what is going on in salvation?

    I would hope so, but the cynic in me tells me that church leaders will never concede their turf, which definitely includes dogma, and be humble enough to admit that they might be wrong.

    • Dolan-

      “The key issue preventing church unity is the infallibility of the pope. This locks the Catholic church into the untenable position of saying that all of the pronouncements of the church councils are without error, particularly including Trent. It would be much easier to unify around the Orthodox position that only accepts the councils before the Great Schism. In that way new partiarchs could be recognized, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury. The pope could certainly retain a leadership role as first among equals, but infallibility has to go for unity to occur.”

      It is for that reason I continue to wonder why more people don’t go to the EO rather than the RCC.

      “But do we really need to insist on Jesus having two natures? Could we not simply have different opinions on the precise roles of Mary and the saints? Can we not realize that Calvinism and Arminianism are two ways of explaining (neither very well) what is going on in salvation?”

      The Jesus issue is a core essential, and has wide ramifications since it deals with who Jesus is. The other two are important, but secondary issues.

      • Dolan McKnight says:

        Perhaps I am not too theologically sophisticated, but as I understand it, the First Council of Ephesus decided (by voting before there oppostion from Antioch showed up) that Jesus, although he was both human and divine, was one being. Twenty years later the Council of Chalcedon decided that Jesus has two natures, one human and one divine. Because of this apparent about face, the Oriental Orthodox church split off. In 1993 they and the Eastern Orthodox agreed that the difference was over terminology. Tell me what the “core essential” is.

        What I see is that there were theological differences between the different patriarchies from the very beginning. When it became a political issue, they used theological differences to justify political change. Nestorius was unpopular in Constantinople because he was both overbearing and from Antioch, so the emperor’s sister found a way to get rid of him.

        The great schism, which was really caused by the power struggles between the emperor in Constantinople and the Holy Roman Emperor established by Rome was theologically justified by the addition of filioque to the Nicene Creed as well as the Eastern use of leavened bread in the Eucharist.

        Why is there not unity in the church? The short answer is not theological differences, but politics.

        • Sometimes politics did play a role, but that does not mean it was not mainly theological as well.

      • “It is for that reason I continue to wonder why more people don’t go to the EO rather than the RCC.”

        For one thing, because in many places the EO are hopelessly ethnic and do not readily welcome outsiders.

        • You beat me to the comment. I think F. Ernesto has alluded on this blog at times to how only very recently has the Greek “requirement” for many positions started to fade.

          David

  10. Thanks to both of you for this interview. Bryan, I appreciate the sharing of your journey of faith and have personally been enriched by various faith tradtions in my own experience of Christ beyond the single facet of my denominational upbringing. I also see where this has brought me personally closer to experiencing the unity Christ prayers for in John 17. Our openess to experience the richness of various denominational, cultural, male/female, etc expressions of the depths and fullness of Christ can deepen our love and experience of him as Lord, and in turn, draw us closer to one another. It seems reason (and the Holy Spirit) led you to the Catholic church. In some ways this seems the most logical way to bring about unity. But as Pascal says, “Love has its reasons that reason knows not of”. Your thoughtful interview leads me to believe that the God, who is LOVE, can unify us institutionally but also is not limited to this path toward unity. Jesus said “when I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself”. When we let the Holy Spirit bring this about in us, we can become one in Christ, even if we still may exist as a male/female, a married couple with different personalities, Christians with cultural distinctions, even varying facets of how we practice Jesus is Lord. In some ways, this is a greater witness of the unifying prayer Jesus wills to bring about in his organic, dynamic, mystical, incarnate church universal.

    I don’t know if this makes any sense but the sharing of your faith journey was a blessing for me today. Peace

  11. Christiane says:

    Hi BRYAN CROSS,

    I was referred to a woman’s blog for the sake of my ‘spirituality’ by a friend. There, I encountered this, which shocked me greatly:

    “Many passages of scripture show that the preaching of the Gospel is inherently negative.”

    I could not understand the concepts of the author in any Christian context. And I can see now that the person must have claimed salvation without any idea of the need for the expression of agape love. Bryan, you have some background in the evangeilical world. What kind of thinking would lead a person to make a statement like that quote? Where does it come from?
    Thanks if you can help.

    • Very interesting, because I came across a blog by a woman claiming to be a Christian who held the same viewpoints about sharing the Gospel, because it would necessarily bring one in contact with those who are not Believers. She was basically chastising any women in her blog following who were exposing themselves to “those in the world”, even if it was for the purpose of evangelism.

      I couldn’t believe my eyes. I wrote to the author to clarify that I had understood what she had meant correctly, and by golly, I sure had. She wrote absolutely scathingly of the friendships with non-Believers that I had described to her. Where I had pointed out that Jesus had surely spent time with non-Believers, her response was, “Well, you’re not Jesus”. [Thanks for the newsflash! – I was so confused before that – LOL].

      I had never heard such a thing before that in my entire evangelical life.

      Sorry, I’m not Bryan Cross – I just am still reeling from this weird “conversation” and it just caught my eye that you had come across this, too, Christiane.

      • I have read that that stance is a common one amongst a subset of Fundamentalist Protestants: To not have any association with unbelievers (or even non-Fundamentalists or Fundamentalists who associate with non-Fundamentalists). (I read this in a book call Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie).

      • ” She wrote absolutely scathingly of the friendships with non-Believers …
        I had never heard such a thing before that in my entire evangelical life.”

        It’s a fairly large room in the building. But they tend to keep the door closed for obvious reasons. And check IDs before letting people in. 🙂

        It’s just next to the room full of families that home school BECAUSE “good” Christians will not their children be exposed to heathens. (This is NOT a room inhabited by all home schoolers.)

  12. Jim Stjernstrom says:

    I believe Bryan is a brother in Christ. His journey so far is interesting and thought provoking. I think it would be good to be able to update this post in a few years to see if Bryan has continued to migrate theologically, and if so, in what direction.

  13. I think the crucial issue is, where do we locate authority over Christian doctrine?

    Bryan Cross began with biblical exegesis, then found that this was not so clear-cut. (One might also question, as Luther did–and the gnostics too, I think–why we should accept the Bible as we have it.)

    His attraction to Rome came as a consequence of his reading of certain of the Church Fathers. This raises the logical question (at least for Protestants) of why one should accord authority to the Church Fathers, and what degree of authority they in fact possess (since they sometimes disagree with one another). Granting that many of the Fathers emphasize Rome, the Orthodox claim that this no longer matters so much now that the pope (they say) has been excommunicated by his fellow patriarchs.

    I see no way of resolving this issue (of authority), and wonder why God would put us in such an impossible hermeneutic position.

    • I don’t think God put us in this position — rather I suspect this is a conundrum entirely of our own making. Through Christ and the gospel, I think God provided us with a beautifully simply answer to the human condition. But it seems we’ve taken that simple answer and buried it under thousands of highly complicated questions.
      Consider how Jesus responded to His disciples when they had their little argument about which of them was to be regarded as the greatest (Luke 22). Basically, Jesus rebuked them for applying a worldly way of thinking to the kingdom, and then proceeded to give them a model for greatness and leadership that was completely upside down from the way that the world measures such things.
      In that light, I wonder how Jesus would respond to the church’s past and present arguments regarding who is the supreme human authority over the church. I suspect He might give us the same answer He gave His disciples.