Day 1: Our Victorious, Transforming Lord!

Jan 18th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Each year, Called to Communion takes note of the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.” It is an occasion prompted by the World Council of Churches, an occasion to which the Catholic Church gives full-throated support.1 Since Called to Communion is a Catholic website devoted to God’s call to communion, made to all Reformed and Catholic Christians, it is especially fitting that we should take note of the occasion. This year’s theme is, “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”2 To kick off the week, I would like briefly to reflect on this message of great hope.


Juan de Juanes, The Last Supper

Looking at the landscape of Christian disunity, one could easily despair. As a Reformed man, especially in my early years out of college, I went through my own season of discouragement on account of Christian divisions. I did not understand how such starkly contrary positions existed within what I understood as the ‘Christian body.’ Without denying God’s promises or power, to me the only way to make sense of the landscape seemed to be by whittling away at the definition of Christianity (or “church”) until little or nothing remained but myself and my own interpretation of Scripture.

Now years later, as a Catholic man, I continue to feel sorrow over our divisions. I see unchurched (but seeking) friends and loved ones confused by the division, unsure where to turn to find Truth. The devil has worked a most pernicious scheme over the centuries by playing off of human sin and stirring up this condition.

It is right to recognize our deep divisions, and the grief and damage these divisions cause to eternal souls. It is right to stare honestly at the unpleasant image we see staring back at us in the Christian mirror. But we must not play into Satan’s schemes by forgetting the great hope we have in Christ’s resurrection!

Here, at the start of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, place yourself at the empty tomb. Remember to take on the wonderment of the women standing there where Christ’s body should have been:

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.3

To the extent we kick up the dust in frustration at Christianity’s failure to be united, the angels’ question is one we should pose to ourselves: Why do you seek the living among the dead? You know that Christ has risen. You know that Christ is victorious over death. Why then do you look despairingly at the Christian body, as if it were the land of the dead? To do so is to sin against hope.

Hope, one of the three theological virtues, “is the confident expectation of divine blessing and the beatific vision of God.”4 As God’s people in pursuit of unity, we have every reason to expect divine blessing. He has poured out such perfect love upon His children. If my children despaired each day that their parents were about to divorce and that they would be separated to various foster families — even though they had been given every reason to hope for and expect the contrary — it would be a great insult. How much more then, as God’s children, would we sin against hope to despair at our Victorious Lord’s ability to unify Christians?

With the sin of despair:

man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God’s goodness, to his justice – for the Lord is faithful to his promises – and to his mercy.5

We must not let collective despair lead us (individually) into this sin. We must believe that our Victorious Lord will provide us help in attaining salvation and forgiveness. But just as despair of the possibility of unity is a sin, so is the misplaced presumption upon God’s almighty power in believing that the unity of some small set of ‘true believers’ is a fait accompli.6

No. Christ is victorious, and yet the hard work of reconciliation remains ahead for us, not to be despaired against nor presumed. While this work is only possible by God’s grace, it is still work — it is real work. Like a family in disunity, we are not served by denying the condition, nor of casting away hope that it can be resolved. Like that family, we must sit in the living room and discuss with open and sincere hearts our disagreements. I would rejoice to have any separated brother into my living room to discuss the issues which divide us. I would rejoice to have my own father discuss the matter frankly with me. Perhaps you would rejoice to have your husband, wife, parent, or child do the same.

For now, I pray that Called to Communion will have something of that living-room feel. Let us be changed here by the victory of our Lord Jesus, touched by hope and willing to work until we are in unity. Only by our unity with each other, and accordingly by our unity with God, will the world be able to see clearly that the Father sent the Son, to see clearly that its hope flows from the Son’s victory over death. (See John 17.)

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58.)

  1.  See, e.g., here. []
  2. A reference to 1 Corinthians 15:51-58. []
  3. Luke 24:5-6, ESV. []
  4. CCC, para. 2090. See also 1 Corinthians 13:13. []
  5. CCC, paras. 2091-2092. []
  6. Id. []

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  1. January 18, 2012. (Romereports.com) Benedict XVI spoke about the unity of Christians during the general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall. It marked the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a worldwide fellowship of over 300 Churches that try to find a common witness.

    Benedict XVI: “Today begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which, for over a century, is celebrated annually by Christians of all Churches and Ecclesial Communities.”

    The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was originally founded in 1908 by a priest named Paul Wattson and then received the blessing of Pope Pius X.

    Benedict XVI explained the importance not only of its history but also its role today.

    Benedict XVI: “Faith in Christ and interior conversion, both individual and communal, must constantly accompany our prayer for Christian unity.”

    Before some 8,000 pilgrims, the pope also noted that this week of unity plays an important role in the New Evangelization.

    Also from Vatican Insider (H/T: Sherry Weddell):

    But the crux of the Pope’s catechesis was dedicated to the ecumenical Week which “for over a century now, has been celebrated every year by Christians from all Churches and ecclesiastical Communities, to invoke that extraordinary gift, for which the Lord Jesus himself prayed during the Last Supper, before his passion: “That they may all be one.”

    Benedict XVI recalled that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was “invented” in 1908 by Fr. Paul Watson, founder of a religious Anglican community, who went on to join the Catholic Church. The initiative received Pius X’s blessing and was then promoted by Benedict XV, who encouraged its celebration throughout the Catholic Church with the Breve Romanorum Pontificum of 25 February 1916.

    The Week’s celebrations were also given a huge impetus by the Vatican Council: “This spiritual meeting – the Pope said – which unites Christians from all traditions, increases our awareness of the fact that the unity we strive for cannot result merely from our own efforts; rather, it is a gift we receive and must constantly invoke from on high.”

    The theme of this year’s Week is inspired by the First Letter to the Corinthians: We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It was chosen by a mixed group of representatives from the Catholic Church and the Polish Ecumenical Council.

    Benedict XVI explained that the Second Vatican Council “placed the ecumenical search at the centre of life and of the Church’s work.” It is up to “the responsibility of the entire Church and of all the baptised, who must augment the partial communion that already exists among Christians until achieving full communion in truth and charity,” he added.

    This is why prayer for unity “must then be an integral part of the prayer life of all Christians, in all times and places, especially when people from different traditions come together to work for victory in Christ over sin, evil, injustice and the violation of human dignity.”

    Benedict XVI reminded faithful that “since the birth of the modern ecumenical movement, over a century ago, there has always been a clear awareness of the fact that a lack of unity among Christians prevents a more efficient announcement of the Gospel, because it destroys or jeopardizes our credibility. How can we give a convincing testimony if we are divided?”

    And if it is true that “as far as the fundamental truths of the faith are concerned, there is far more that unites us than divides us,” “divisions over practical and ethical questions do remain, spreading confusion and mistrust, weakening our ability to pass on” the Gospel.

    In this sense, according to Pope Benedict XVI, ecumenism “is a great challenge for the new evangelisation, which will be more fruitful if all Christians together announce the truth of the Gospel and Jesus Christ, and give a joint response to the spiritual thirst of our times.”

  2. This was an encouraging post. I’m in the process of joining the Catholic Church and some of my Reformed friends have been less than enthusiastic about me joining the Catholic Church, others have taken the news fairly well. It is easy to get discouraged when your friends do not want to talk about the issues but simply want to tell you how wrong your decision is. But, it is encouraging to remember that Christ is alive and working in His Body and Christ is able to bring Catholics and Protestants back into one body again.

  3. Michael,

    Wonderful! Be patient with your friends, and always be willing and ready to discuss your reasons for entering into full communion with the Catholic Church.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  4. As mentioned above, this year’s theme for the week of prayer for Christian unity is “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Pope Benedict explains that through faith, we share in Christ’s victory. (General Audience, Jan 15) Christ’s victory has opened for us the way of salvation, not only by making it possible for us as individuals to become “one spirit” with Him and enter into His eternal life. His victory also has a social dimension, because man is a social being. Christ’s victory opens the way for the salvation of human society, by divinely reversing the sin of Babel. This transformation begins not from below, but from above, through a Rock not made by human hands. God becomes man and founds a visible society animated by the Holy Spirit, distinguished by visible sacraments, and affirming “one faith.” In this way Christ as the second Adam unites all men into one family, His own family, by uniting them to Himself in this visible society, the Church, He being the Head.

    The society Christ founded does not destroy or compete with natural societies, but preserves and perfects them while taking them up into its divine unity and thereby integrating them by way of elevation, not fusion. Through Christ’s victory, even the most basic unit of society is elevated to a sacrament. Christ’s victory at the cross defeated not only the sin that divided Adam and Eve as husband and wife, and not only the sin that divided Cain and Abel by fratricide, but even the sin at Babel that has divided human families and nations by hatred, envy, and the violence and destruction of world wars. By faith, we participate in Christ’s victory over that sin too. And thus as we grow in faith, we grow in our union with the divine society which is the Church, and so grow in our participation in the life and mission of Christ’s Body. We extend and advance Christ’s victory by participating in the mission of the Church to bring all peoples, tribes, tongues and nations into her, thereby effecting the reconciliation of all nations in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

    That divine mission is hindered by the sin of schism, because the proliferation of schisms obscures the witness of the Church to the world that Christ has both overcome the sin of Babel and offers something beyond individual salvation. Occluding the social dimension of Christ’s victory has the effect of partially hiding the gospel from the world, and thereby placing a stumbling block before those who by grace seek the truth. But Christ’s victory also overcame the sin of Korah’s rebellion. By faith, therefore we participate in extending the peace of Christ to those who through schism have separated from Christ’s society, or were raised in communities started by those who so separated in the past. In agape, through participation in Christ’s victory we become instruments by which He brings healing to these wounds to the Body. So when we ask the Lord to “to strengthen the faith of all Christians, to change our hearts and to enable us to bear united witness to the Gospel,” we are asking Him to deepen our union with Him by faith, and thus make us participants in extending His victory not only over the sin of Cain, and not only over the sin of Babel, but also even over the sin of Korah. Babel is reversed as Korah’s sin is conquered.

    May Christ increase our faith, and make us participants in His victory, so that through agape we may be fully united in that divine society, and made effective instruments of peace and reconciliation to those in the separation of schism, so that the the world may clearly see the Church as the city of light set on a hill, and all the nations stream into her.

    Now it will come about that In the last days 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.” (Isaiah 2:2)

    I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one; even 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.” (John 17: 20-21)

  5. I’m not sure if this is the best place to respond, but here goes anyway:

    I’ve been reading quite a lot on the Catholic (and Orthodox) Church. I’m currently attending an evangelical protestant church that describes itself as “essentially reformed.” I grew up in a charismatic church. Then, in college, I started attending a reformed church (RCA).

    Over the last couple of years, I began studying more about the early church. This was occasioned by discussions with some friendly neighborhood Jehovah’s Witnesses. During these discussions, my then-roommates and I would usually bring up their heretical denial of the All-Holy Trinity, and both parties would trade Bible verses to support our positions. No real progress was ever made, as far as I can tell. But the question of interpretive authority was always the elephant in the room.
    I began to read St. Athanasius’ De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, but I wondered why I trusted that great saint’s understanding of the Trinity over Charles Taze Russell’s understanding. I thought, well, if anyone, St. Athanasius is the man to trust , given all the other Early Fathers’ endorsement of him! But as I’m sure you all recognize, this still leaves me with the question of why I trust the early fathers with their understanding of certain doctrines, while continuing to attend a church that rejects other practices of these great and holy men.
    My then-roommates have since become Eastern Orthodox. I have been attending Mass off and on, while continuing to go to my evangelical “essentially reformed” church.

    I’ve read enough of these articles at Called to Communion to know that the main question for all of us curious protestants should be, “Is the Catholic Church the Church that Christ founded?” Friends, I heartily agree that truth isn’t ruined by scrutiny. And yet, it just seems too overwhelming to answer such a question. I don’t have the intellectual chops (as all of you clearly do), nor the time for such a huge task-it seems it would take a lifetime! And one shouldn’t need to be highly logical to understand truth, should they? Surely truth can be apprehended by a humble heart, whether or not that person is able to match wits with the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas or even your own Bryan Cross (whose writings have been influential in my own journey, by the way)?
    I mean, the people at my evangelical church clearly have a zeal and love for the Lord, and their lives show it. I attribute this wholly to Christ working in them.

    …And yet: I know there’s a glaring historical and theological discontinuity between what my protestant church teach, and what the early church taught. I’m not sure how to deal with this.

    Anyway, i truly appreciate the work you do here. Thank you for being willing to tackle these difficult questions, while remaining so charitable.
    Many blessings,
    Jason

  6. Dear Jason,

    Welcome, and thank you for sharing a bit about your journey and studies. I had a similar, highly influential encounter with a baptistic door-to-door evangelist who insisted I hadn’t been saved if I couldn’t pinpoint the time at which my salvation occurred. The colloquy that ensued, with a firing back and forth of verses, really left me frustrated over the interpretive-authority issue you noted.

    As for the journey being too overwhelming, and your observation that the truth should be accessible to the humble as well, I say this. Some Christian men over the last 2,000 years have had devastating success at muddying the pure waters of truth, not that they necessarily intended to do so. So we can’t resort to what we think we see through the nearest bit of mud we find, and call it all good. Because of the muddying of truth that has occurred, we have to work harder than we should have to work. We need more of the Lord’s help and outpouring of grace.

    I recall struggling with this. I thought I could spend a lifetime studying the differences between Catholics, Orthodox, Reformed, Anglicans, and who knows how close I’d be to a wise conclusion? And I also thought that didn’t seem right — that you shouldn’t need to study theology and church history at the doctoral level in order to have hope that you’re on the right path.

    But seek ye first the Kingdom of God. Pray about it, then pray some more. If I may recommend just one exercise (after prayer), it would be this. Walk yourself back through time, all the way to the time of Christ and the Apostles. Ask yourself what you would believe then about Jesus, and how you would resolve a dispute that arose. As you go through this mental exercise, which requires some studying of the early Church, also read the Acts of the Apostles and the New Testament epistles. Reading the Church Fathers, walk carefully forward again through history. As you see various schisms occur (and these began very, very early on), ask yourself if you would break away with the schismatics or stay with the main Church (and resolve for yourself why you answer the way you do). Keep going like this and see if you can justify breaking from the Catholic Church at the Great Schism, or at the Protestant Reformation.

    I found that exercise to be helpful, and again, counted on much prayer. I hope we could hear from you more as you work through this.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  7. Jason P

    I don’t have the intellectual chops either. Fortunately for those of us without the sheer intellect or the time and concentration to study in depth and possible learn Greek, Latin and Hebrew there is another way. I still follow the intellectual arguments with interest try to remain open to persuasion if anyone should ever present a really good argument against the Catholic Church.

    The way for me was simply prayer and asking God for two things: Faith and willingness to follow him. In my case I was only discerning to not leave the Catholic Church rather than join it. However, I was intending to leave. I was opposed to the Church on several specific points and was determined to join another Church if not another religion. God put me where he wanted me. All I had to do was be willing and ask for faith.

    I’ll be praying for you and I know that wherever you end up, you love the Lord.

    GNW_Paul

  8. Hello Jason P,

    I’m on the road to Rome myself and I can sympathize with your struggling through these issues. To me, it all boils down to authority. Protestant ministers do not have Apostolic succession so their ministers cannot be authoritative. As far as the Orthodox, they have Apostolic succession and valid orders but they do not have a visible point of unity to keep them all united. However, the Catholics have Apostolic succession, valid orders and the Pope as that visible point of unity that keeps all Catholics in the same body. Since the Orthodox do not have the point of unity, they simply cannot definitively say with absolute authority what is right and what is wrong. The Protestants do not have the pope as their point of unity so they are going to keep breaking off into thousands of schismatic groups and they likewise cannot say with absolute authority what is right and what is wrong. Not so with the Catholics. If the Catholics have a division and one group breaks off from the other, how can you know which one is the one that is not schismatic and has the authority to speak on behalf of Christ? Simple, the group that is still in communion with the Bishop of Rome. There is a real and objective point of unity that hold Catholics together in one body and can speak authoritatively on what is right and what is wrong. So to me, it seems like the issue of the authority of the pope and him as the visible point of unity among Catholics is the solution to your problems. How can you know the Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong and the church fathers are right? Because the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a heretical group that does not have apostolic succession and is not communion with the Bishop of Rome, whereas the church fathers were in communion with the Bishop of Rome and did have apostolic succession. This is an objective way in which we can identify why the church fathers are a better source of doctrine than Charles Taze Russell. Check out this article by Scott Hahn on the papacy, this is what did it for me http://zuserver2.star.ucl.ac.uk/~vgg/rc/aplgtc/hahn/m4/pp.html

  9. Jason P,

    Sorry, I meant to also comment on the part where you wrote “…And yet: I know there’s a glaring historical and theological discontinuity between what my protestant church teach, and what the early church taught. I’m not sure how to deal with this.”

    This was a huge problem for me. I began to ask questions like “what happened in the 1500 years or so before the reformation”. I picked up Philip Schaff’s 8 volumes on church history, JND Kelly’s book on Early Christian Doctrines, Bruce Shelley’s book on church history, Everett Ferguson’s book and later Pelikan’s 5 volumes on historical theology and church history among others and I thought I was going to see that Rome was corrupt and the early church was essentially protestant since this is what I was always told by Presbyterians. As I began to read protestant surveys of church history, especially Kelly, I realized very quickly that the early church was Catholic and was not even close to Protestant. It made me very mad and I can remember months of just being in shock that what I had always heard, that the early church was essentially protestant, was wrong.

    So, then I thought I should read the church fathers in their own words and see for myself what they said. I read all of the Apostolic Fathers, many of the ante nicene fathers, some of Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrose, and so on, and I saw for myself that they were Catholic. This is something that Protestants can’t just simply explain away. They must demonstrate how Christ would allow his entire church to be wrong on so many issues for so long and to be in the dark for so long regarding doctrines that protestants consider to be essential to being a Christian (such as justification by faith alone). How could the entire church believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the Eucharist as a sacrifice? How could they all believe in baptismal regeneration? How could they believe in apostolic succession, prayers to reposed saints and many of the Marian doctrines? To me, it seems the protestants have some splainin to do and simply can’t sufficiently.

    I can’t tell you how you should deal with the glaring historical and theological discontinuity between the protestant church and the early church but I can say that the only solution I found was to convert to Catholicism. The via media of Anglicanism just doesn’t do it, the reformed communion is just to schismatic and sectarian for me and Orthodoxy hasn’t been able to be united in one visible body as evidenced by the fact they have not had an ecumenical council since 787 so it doesn’t seem like an option either. I hope to hear you will be coming home to the Catholic Church soon. Go Tiber Swim Team 2012!

  10. Jason, (re: #5)

    It may seem overwhelming to determine how to answer such a question, but it doesn’t take “intellectual chops” to answer it. Christ did not set up His Church such that only the intelligent or well-educated could find it; the elect are not merely those with high IQs or Ivy League degrees. That’s why you don’t need to know Hebrew or Greek or Latin to find Christ’s Church. The very fact that Christ wanted to make His Gospel known to the whole world, including the uneducated and the illiterate, tells us something about how He did not set up His Church. He did not set it up to be located by its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. That method simply leads to the proliferation of denominations, including the one that was formed just this past weekend. Christ founded a visible catholic Church that can be seen by the whole world.

    He made it to be identifiable by four marks taken together. These four marks of the Church are specified in the Nicene Creed: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. You can identify the Church Christ founded by those four marks, because He founded only one Church, and only that Church has all four marks. Kenneth Whitehead discusses the four marks here; Fr. Saunders discusses them here. The Catechism of the Council of Trent likewise discusses those marks here. And Lawrence Feingold devoted four lectures, one on each mark, to the four marks, here. I discussed one of the marks, i.e. catholicity, in comment #21 of the Terry Johnson thread.

    In order to make this one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church perpetually visible, Christ established it with a principle of visible unity, by which there is a principled distinction between branches within this Church, and schisms from this Church. He did this by entrusting the keys of the Kingdom to a steward, until He returns in glory. Scott Hahn discusses this here:

    And we find this recognition of St. Peter’s unique authority in the Church Fathers, as I laid out here.

    This visible Church, having all four marks, is the city set on the hill. No other group or sect professing faith in Christ has all four marks.

    Finding Christ’s Church is like finding Jesus Himself, because the Church is His Body. So, how did Jesus respond to the question from John the Baptist, when John through his disciples asked, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus replied, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” (Matt 11:4-6) Look around today, and you receive the same answer. Why must Jesus say “blessed is he who takes no offense at me”? Because He was so human. The members of his own city took offense at Him for this very reason, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of [c]James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.” (Mk 6:3) So likewise, people take offense at the notion that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, because we walk by or drive by Catholic parishes every day, and from the outside, Catholics are common and ordinary human beings. But just as Christ’s divine nature was not visible to the naked eye, so the Church’s divine life is not directly visible to the naked eye; the naked eye sees only the plain, ordinary humanity. Yet, as Jesus told John’s disciples to look around at what He was so doing, and what was happening through, so look around at what the Catholic Church is doing, and has been doing for two thousand years.

    EPIC :120 English from Catholics Come Home on Vimeo.

    May Christ guide you into full communion with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church He founded.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  11. Jason P writes: I’ve read enough of these articles at Called to Communion to know that the main question for all of us curious protestants should be, “Is the Catholic Church the Church that Christ founded?”

    I would agree that is the question for Protestants, and it is also a question that is driven by what is written in the Protestant bible. The Protestant bible explicitly speaks of Christ founding his own church upon the rock of Peter, and then promising that the powers of death will never prevail against his church. The epistles insist that that those who would be disciples of Christ must accept the doctrine of the church, not the doctrines of any old church that some man may found based upon his private interpretations of scriptures. So where does one find the church that Christ founded? And what, exactly, is her doctrine – the doctrine that I must accept to be a faithful disciple of Christ?

    I have met Protestants that speak glowingly about the “Reformers”, but then get all squirrelly at any suggestion that the Catholic Church is the church founded by Jesus Christ. But what sense does that make? The original heroes of Protestantism are called “Reformers”, and if they were NOT trying to reform the church that Christ founded, then what church were they trying to “reform”? If the “Reformers” were trying to reform a church that Christ did not found, why were they doing that? Where is the scriptural mandate to “reform” churches that are founded by heretics?

    Jason P writes: Friends, I heartily agree that truth isn’t ruined by scrutiny. And yet, it just seems too overwhelming to answer such a question. I don’t have the intellectual chops (as all of you clearly do), nor the time for such a huge task-it seems it would take a lifetime!

    If you were to attempt to investigate the claims that thirty-thousand different Protestant sects make as to what constitutes the doctrines of Christianity, then yes, that is an impossible task. But I think that one must ask a more fundamental question, and that is why should I even consider Protestantism in the first place? The Protestantism that embraces sola scriptura is a vast Babylon of doctrinally divided sects, and there is no Protestant sect that embraces sola scriptura, that also claims that the teachers within their particular sect can exercise the charism of infallibility when defining doctrine. Not even the founders of a particular Protestant sect can be said to have spoken infallibly when the founder defined the novel doctrines that give a particular Protestant sect its unique identify.

    If one accepts the novelty of sola scriptura as being true, one is left with the task of determining for oneself what actually constitutes the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. But why would Christ lay such an onerous task on those who would be his disciples? Why would Christ found a church, command his disciples to listen to her, and then leave us as sheep without a shepherd? Why would Christ leave those who desire to be his disciples as lost souls wandering in the wilderness with no way of knowing how to find his church? And why, oh why, would Christ create a situation where no one can ever have any certainty as to what the doctrines of his church actually are? What sense does that make? To me, it makes not sense at all, and I wonder why Protestants don’t have a more skeptical attitude towards Protestantism itself, given the sheer implausibility of what Protestantism is claiming. Essentially, the world of sola scriptura confessing Protestantism is claiming that no one can ever have any certainty about what the doctrines of Christianity actually are, since no man, under any conceivable circumstance, can ever exercise the charism of infallibility when defining doctrine. Sola scriptura confessing Protestant are claiming that best that we can do is seek out scholarly opinions about what constitutes the doctrines of Christianity, and then hope that our Protestant sect doesn’t teach some damnable heresy. I get saved by “faith alone”, but my faith may include belief in doctrines that are heretical. Sheesh!

    Jason P, I think Protestants have many grounds for rejecting Protestantism. One is the sheer implausibility of it being true that Christ founded a church, commanded his disciples to listen to her, and then left us with no way of identifying his church. Another ground for rejecting Protestantism is purely “scriptural”, namely, the fact that the scriptures tell us that Christ promised that the power of death will never prevail against his church. Christ’s church cannot die, and anyone that claims that the gates of Hell have overcome the church that Christ founded is speaking foolishness. So the beginning of one’s search should not be in investigating the claims of tens of thousand of man-founded Protestant sects where doctrinal chaos reigns supreme. The beginning of one’s search must be with the churches that have an unbroken history of two-thousand years. And that narrows down the search for the church Christ founded quite a bit, as it leaves as contenders only the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Oriental Orthodox churches.

  12. Here’s a quotation from an article about Pope Benedict’s homily yesterday (Jan 22):

    Christian unity can be more readily achieved if “we allow God to act, if we let ourselves be transformed in the image of Christ, if we enter into new life in Christ, which is the real victory,” he said.

    The “visible unity,” of all Christians “is always a work that comes from above, from God, by asking for the humility to recognize our weakness and to accept the gift.”

    If the Church is the reversal of Babel, i.e. the ‘anti-Babel’ (see comment #4 above), and Babel was the result of pride, then it makes sense that entering into the visible unity of the Church, requires humility.

    But it cannot be a humility in which each person subordinates his own interpretation to that of everyone else; the result would be in effect an anarchy no different from the chaos of Babel. Nor can it be the humility of ‘submitting’ to one’s own interpretation of Scripture; that too is the chaos of Babel.

    The humility necessary to unite all Christians in visible unity can only be the humility in which one subordinates oneself to divinely established teaching authority in the Body of Christ. Without that humility, there can only be the chaos of Babel. But with that humility comes the ecclesial faith that fulfills Christ’s thrice-repeated prayer in John 17 that His followers would be one.

    The notion that without grace we can save ourselves is Pelagianism. But there is something similar in the notion that we can reverse Babel without subordinating ourselves to those having divine authority. Thus we know that the Church that Christ founded has to be something that supernaturally came down from above; it cannot be an institution or movement started by mere men. What Christ brought down to us from heaven was not merely knowledge (i.e. doctrinal propositions). Christ also gave divine authority to men for the governing of His Church, for binding and loosing. He didn’t leave His Church without a government, and without a means of handing on the divine authority He gave to men, and without a way for Christians to know who has this divine authority. In this way, ecclesial Pelagianism is avoided. But in order to acknowledge the divine authority given to men, we need the humility “to recognize our weakness and to accept the gift.” The reversal of Babel requires the humility of ecclesial faith.

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