Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Unity or Truth

What about these 25,000 denominations? I am not bothered by them. I know my blog visitors will be scandalized by what I just said because ... did not Jesus pray that "they" might be one in John 17? I agree he did.

These 25,000 denominations are claiming some absolute truth and they collide, well ... that is better than saying there is no truth, or saying we can not know truth or saying what is true for you may not be true for me so..... why do not we just sit down around a camp fire and sing "Kumbaya my Lord"? Or my RC friends might say, yes there is truth and the Pope says whatever it is, so why don't we just gather around that (please,... I say this respectfully and with no sarcasm)? So what should we do, should we go to the post-modern solution of relative truths?

It is interesting that when Jesus prayed for unity he did not leave out the notion of truth, in fact several times this word were mentioned.

7Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sake I consecrate myself,[c] that they also may be sanctified[d] in truth.
Jesus says - Your [The Father's ] word is truth. Where is truth then? Jesus says that it is in God's word, so to know it, find out where God spoke and there we find truth and gather around that.

I contend that the only reliable place to look are the Scriptures because Jesus gave authority to it, not the Church. It was better than that, it was the head of the Church who said that - Christ the Lord.

There is an empirical test to this. See if what Scripture says about your sin matches your experience, see too if you can by your own efforts live out the demands of God. My answer to the first is "yes", my answer to the second is "no" and the solution is not to try harder.

Lastly in the creeds we confess "we believe in one holy catholic (universal) apostolic church... we believe in the communion of the saints". This is an article of faith, that it is , it is already true now, that there is one church -- a body of believers (ie not hypocrites) who in repentance and faith cleave alone to the work of Christ for their sins.

I do not see this oneness by my eyes, that is why it is an article of faith the same way I have not seen Jesus died on the Cross for me, but I believe that story is true.

13 comments:

Steve said...

If we focus on the visible church, then we see disunity. If we focus on the invisible church we see Christ. The unity is based on our efforts but based on Christ. The unity must be based on the Truth which is Christ.

In the twentith century, we saw many Christian church bodies try to have unity without truth. We saw a theologicla minimalism where these church bodies were willing to put aside important differences for the illusion of unity. This is both the National Council of Churches (theologically and politically liberal in the US) and the National Association of Evanglicals (theologically moderate to liberal while politically conservative in the US). Both these organizations are not united by doctrine but by politics.

L P Cruz said...

Steve,

Insightful thought, I had not realized the full impact of what the NAE is doing in that they are rallying along political lines rather than truth.

Lito

Steve said...

If you asked many of the "liberal" churches in the NCC if they incorporate the Creeds in their worship, most would say yes. If you ask the same question to many "converative" churches in the NAE, they would say no. So we have a mess of traditional "liberal" churches and non-traditional "conservative" churches. What a mess we have created.

Jeff Tan said...

It also struck me as I was reading this post that minimizing Christianity to "the Word of God" reflects what is happening with Bible fundamentalists. In what way? Well if Jesus is the Word of God, and the Bible is the Word of God, then all we need is the Bible and we have Jesus.

Hence we do not need the sacraments.

To American Evangelicals, or perhaps moreso to the Calvinists, the sacraments are extra-Biblical. Not that they have no Biblical basis -- although they will say that, too, about the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist -- but that they do not fit into this minimalist notion of "just the Bible and me" and nothing else.

Steve said...

Jeff,

How is that you went from Calvinism to Rome? Did you look at the Reformation?

Jeff Tan said...

Oh, sorry for the mixup, Steve. I was never Calvinist, but rather a Catholic since childhood. Catholic education from K-12 through college, postgrad and a few years of academic work in the same university.

Did I look at the Reformation? Yes I did, but not in the same depth as most Protestants have (I say most because I know of Evangelicals who have not looked at it at all). The sense I get out of the Reformation was that it was a tragic affair. The Catholic Church had and continues to have, among its prominent members and leaders, sinful men. But I don't base my faith on the men who are supposed to uphold it. As St. Francis simply put it, even if the man holding the Eucharist out to him was a sinful priest of the worst sort, he would take the Eucharist from those sinful hands. And I am, of course, a sinner myself.

I have read and heard about, and seen up close, sinful leaders in the Church, but my faith is not in them but in the Holy Spirit who was promised to the whole body of Christ, and individually to sinful men like me.

I am a bit of a pragmatist. In matters of sinful leaders, I look at the situation with sorrow but hope. Scriptural and historical examples give me reasons to hope. You see, I don't believe it is up to any of us to lead away any of the flock because the leadership has gone bad. It was the Lord who annointed them, and so it is the Lord who will remove them in favor of new, faithful leaders. We have had some bad priests, bishops and popes in the past, but always, by prayer and patience, they are eventually removed. Just like Saul and David, Shebna and Eliakim, Judas and Matthias -- let the Lord prune his pastors. We can take some affirmative action, clamor to reform some bad leaders, raise the ante and seek to impeach them if they resist, but it is not up to us to divide up the flock, as if the Lord was asleep on the job.

To be candid, I think the reformers could simply have resisted the corruption for themselves and their flock quietly, continued dialog, pray fervently, and wait patiently for the Lord's strong right arm.

L P Cruz said...

Jeff,

The Reformers were kicked out, Luther conducted dialog. Try to go pass your prejudices, we are scientists and our vocation requires us to examine the evidences by going through the source documents.

When the Lutherans and Calvinists were kicked out they were condemned for being out of the RCC, so you should accept that Pope Leo X mishandled the situation, and the fanatical adherence to infallability doctrine. This was a double wammy - they kick you out - excommunicate you and then condemn you for being out.

The Lutheran confessions stated that if the Pope would allow the Lutherans to preach the Gospel of free grace in Christ, they would gladly stop protesting.



I agree with you on sin, there are sinners in all of us, so the issue if not sin, the issue is what is TRUE. For the RCC what is true is what is dictated by the Magisterium.


Lito

Jeff Tan said...

Hi Lito.

You're getting touchy. I never meant that they wait patiently AFTER they were excommunicated. I meant that they should have stopped after being warned in Exsurge Domine to cease their publications and public preaching.

That's what I meant about my being pragmatic. It seems like a surrender, to back down from the threat of excommunication, but the Church had had its bleak periods before, the biggest one I can think of being the Arian heresy, which overtook most of the Church, and most of her leadership. It was the Lord's hand that saved the Church. So if it is a surrender, it is a surrender to God's reliable providence and pastoring. And no better healing can have ever been had.

Tragically, Luther did feel that it would take the Lord's hand to resolve the corruption he saw, but he just couldn't stand by and wait.

As for preaching the gospel of free grace, note that the Pope could not allow them to do that unless their preaching was in accord with Church doctrine. Otherwise, they are risking dividing up the Church, e.g., Germans would hear a different set of doctrines on grace from the rest of the catholic Church. You must see that this is exactly what happened. Such confusion and endless splintering, sprouting up of new doctrines.. Such a scandal, you must admit, cannot be taken lightly by any pastor who sincerely loves his flock, or a steward who fears the will of his master.

As for the infallibility doctrine.. that is for another thread, but you know the Church position on that. It isn't a case of the doctrine being contrary to Scriptures. It is a case of the Catholic interpretation of the Scriptural evidence being contrary to Luther's interpretation of the same Scriptural artifacts. I asked about this point elsewhere: when two camps use the same Scriptures for opposing doctrines, with recourse to the same Holy Spirit, what happens then, as in the case of Zwingli and Luther? or Calvin and Luther?

L P Cruz said...

Jeff,

Touchy? I am at a lose why you said that of me. I am sincerely appealing that all of our fanaticism be put at rest. I hear this demonization of Luther all the time and as a fellow scientists I appeal to us studying the source documents.

Have you read Luther's 95 Theses?

Luther thought that the Pope would side with him - he was a naive ol boy. He thought that the abuses on indulgences , the use of money to buy them were not propagated by the Pope - he was wrong.

The bible has warned that it is the elders themselves who would rip off the flock - Acts 20:

Also Peter when he was told by the Jews to stop, he said - We should obey God rather than man.

Did you think it was a light matter for Luther to stand on his conscience and to have his soul dammned by the church he loved? Did you think he was just being difficult? Luther's conviction was that it was not right for him to go against conscience, and anything that is not of faith is sin. Put it this way, at least see him as a sincere man but sincerely wrong, let move on beyond Luther.

Also it was not Luther's fault if people followed him, he did not put a gun on their head and forced them to follow him, nor said to them - if you do not follow me - your souls will be damned in hell or if you do not I will pronounce or ex-communicate you.

Besides Jeff, do you not think that God's hand of providence is no longer in History since Luther came around? The only reason why the Protestanst survived was because they failed to kill Luther - that is the historical fact.


A pastor (Pope Leo X) or anyone who can not repent and who can not admit he could be wrong is in trouble with Jesus. In fact the RCC has changed (without admitting it) because of the Reformation, just look at Vatican II.

So what happens when contrary interpretations of Scripture? We openly show our interpretation of it and let the community of faith wrestle with it, isn't that what the RCC does amongst its theologians prior to the Pope making pronouncements? The world is a market place of ideas, it has been like that even at the time of Jesus - men are won by preaching. Islam for example came before Luther came around. Let's not get bogged down w/ Luther, it is pointless belaboring what he should have done - he burned the Papal Bull lets move one and stop beating a dead man. As they say - the cat is already out of the bag.

My case in point - I was Zwinglian in my thinking of the Supper and in time and in study I changed.

Luther and Calvin have differences but they both agree - on the Gospel .

Where they differ is how far the Reform should go.


As Luther said and I think it was a wise saying - you can get all things right in Christianity but if you get the Gospel wrong all else is in error.

Jesus says come to me. The question is how do we come to him. You can do it this way, you can say I come to you Jesus through the Papacy, or you can say I come to you through your Scripture.

Lito

Jeff Tan said...

"The only reason why the Protestanst survived was because they failed to kill Luther - that is the historical fact."

Actually, had they killed Luther (and I don't advocate it), the Protestants would still have continued to survive. "The cat is out of the bag" after all.

"A pastor (Pope Leo X) or anyone who can not repent and who can not admit he could be wrong is in trouble with Jesus."

Amen.

"In fact the RCC has changed (without admitting it) because of the Reformation, just look at Vatican II."

It seems odd to say that the Church Magisterium does not admit its changes given that the changes have been published widely and have never been kept secret. Perhaps you mean that the Catholic Magisterium has never gone right out and said that new dogma from Vatican II reverse pre-Vatican II dogma, but I would point out that that is correct. Doctrines have developed in the same way that the canon of Scriptures, doctrines of the hypostatic union of Christ's humanity and divinity and the Trinity also developed over centuries. For example, while the canon had included or excluded the book of Revelations and finally authorized it does not mean that the Holy Spirit contradicted itself over the course of those centuries.

"So what happens when contrary interpretations of Scripture?"

It seems to contradict that inner witness that is supposed to guide each believer unto all truth through the Holy Spirit. It's been 500 years after the Reformation and that's a pretty long time to be confused about the necessity of baptism. Although the notion of that inner witness is not quite a Lutheran one? You'll have to correct me if I'm wrong on that.

Contradictory interpretations of Scriptures is a bigger problem than you may think, for the notion of Sola Scriptura relies on the Holy Spirit guiding the faithful. The Holy Spirit cannot teach in error, and direct contradictions cannot exist.

"You can do it this way, you can say I come to you Jesus through the Papacy, or you can say I come to you through your Scripture."

Or you can say that I come to you through Scripture AND Tradition AND the Magisterium. Scripture witnesses to the authenticity of oral tradition as an authoritative source of revelation, e.g., "hold fast to the teachings which you have received from us, whether by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess 2:15), "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven" (Matt 16). Both Tradition and Teaching Authority from men are written of in the Bible, so we cannot exclude them as invalid per se. And much of the Bible began as oral tradition in the first place. The question is whether you recognize their validity as they apply to Catholic Sacred Tradition and Catholic Magisterium.

But you already recognize catholic Church ecumenical councils that developed key Trinitarian and Christological doctrines for us, as well as the New Testament scriptures and the canon thereof, and that recognition already touches upon both Tradition (because the cited development of doctrine are extra-Biblical) and Teaching Authority (from the Council fathers).

It was Mark Shea who made the comment that, without knowing it, Protestants actually accept Tradition without being aware of it, and really, that's fine, because we know that the Bible does not contain explicitly quite a few things that we all know now to be authentic Christian truths, e.g., the canon of the New Testament, the mystery of the Trinity, the hypostatic union of Christ's humanity and divinity.

L P Cruz said...

Dear Jeff,

Prots do admit tradition that can be supported from Scripture, we know you know that. What they deny are some traditions that do not have direct support from Scripture. Prots simply have a reverse method from the RCC. For Prots, Scripture trumps tradition when the latter is against it, where as the RCC scripture and tradition are of equal basis even if a tradition (like bodily assumption of Mary) can never be proven from Scripture.


By the way you keep on mentioning Catholics believing in the trinity and hypostatic union, let us be clear, the catholic christians of the first 500 years is not the same as the Roman Church after that. Here again I see equivocation of the word "Catholic" as if that meant the Roman Catholics, this is the reason why you have a qualifier "Roman" in contradiction to the other catholics of history.The confession of faith of early Christians like in their creeds do not include a statement that one must believe in the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome to be Christian.

Scripture is interepreted by Scripture this is the method used, by Prots. Jesus promised the HS to all of his disciples and not just to some. Prots do not separate the HS from his Word. Jesus says - my words they are spirit and they are life. Prots seem to trust at face value the promises found in the Scripture that the HS will guide those believers in Christ, and Christ does not lie.

You talk about chaos today, there is chaos that always tries to cloud the issue of the Gospel's purity, God is still in control - it may be a problem for the Pope because he is not the reigning star, but God is still Supreme. His Providence (a Prot doctrine) is still working on behalf of his people. The Gospel is first the issue, we may get other doctrines wrong like baptism but there is one that we must not get wrong - the Gospel of Christ, because if we get this wrong all is lost no matter we get the others right.

There are few things needed to prove the Supremacy of the Bishop of Rome over other Bishops in Christendom a.) it must be shown that Jesus made Peter above all the rest of the apostles, b.) that Peter's authority may be passed to another. Corollary to this, if the RC case for it is successful some more must be proved - his infallability. 1.) Why in the official declaration in 1870 this issue has to be voted upon? 2.) is this Pope the valid successor traceable to St. Peter, hint - Gerry Matatics b.)

I promise to discuss Fr. Desanctis's take on keys of the Kingdom as basis for discussion next time.

Jeff Tan said...

"For Prots, Scripture trumps tradition when the latter is against it, where as the RCC scripture and tradition are of equal basis even if a tradition (like bodily assumption of Mary) can never be proven from Scripture."

I think the reasons are historical. You must realize that much of the Bible was oral tradition to begin with. Even the New Testament include things from Apostolic tradition rather than direct writing from the Apostles, e.g., 2 Peter, Luke, Acts.

"the catholic christians of the first 500 years is not the same as the Roman Church after that."

Not from your perspective, no. And yet the oldest Churches, East and West, do give mutual testimony of each other's ancient lineage. But for you, it isn't the lineage that matters, but conformity with the New Testament Church, which you believe is clearly described in the New Testament. But if you look really hard, you'll be surprised to find that the early catholic Church of first four centuries after the Apostolic age do not resemble the New Testament Church in several ways either. When you read Clement of Rome, the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, the epistle of St. Barnabas, all these ancient writings from the late 1st century or early 2nd century... they can give you a slightly more Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox picture.

"The confession of faith of early Christians like in their creeds do not include a statement that one must believe in the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome to be Christian."

Neither do the creeds mention Sola Scriptura nor Sola Fide.

"Jesus promised the HS to all of his disciples and not just to some."

And yet Scripture is clear that some things were promised to his Apostles in particular, and some also to Peter in particular.

"Prots seem to trust at face value the promises found in the Scripture that the HS will guide those believers in Christ, and Christ does not lie."

We likewise trust at face value all his promises, which include some particularly addressed to Peter and the Apostles.

"it may be a problem for the Pope because he is not the reigning star, but God is still Supreme. His Providence (a Prot doctrine) is still working on behalf of his people."

It is a problem for the pope because he must take seriously the task he succeeds to: tasks particularly appointed to Peter by the Lord. He knows full well that God is in command, but like the stewards in the parables, he must nevertheless take his responsibilities seriously.

"There are few things needed to prove the Supremacy of the Bishop of Rome over other Bishops "

And the proof is there, but whichever Scripture or Tradition or Church Father or history we cite is rejected. Why? Now THAT is a good question. Peter's primacy is clear in Scriptures with the Lord's particular instructions, pronouncements and promises to him. Succession of any bishopric is clear in Scripture, particularly with Matthias' and Timothy's ordination. Irenaeus in Lyons also attests to the succession in Rome from Peter onward to his time. Papal infallibility is a necessary corollary to the particular authority given to Peter with the keys. It also has its parallels with the teaching authority of Scribes and Teachers of the Law. Church infallibility comes from Christ's promise that the gates of Hades will never overcome.

As for that vote in 1870, you yourself acknowledge that our knowledge of what is revealed in Scriptures come to us gradually in some cases. I have to point out that there is the factor of timeliness in the infallibility of the pope, which is probably a bigger issue to Protestants than Church infallibility in her councils. Papal infallibility as a doctrine and papal arbitration as a practice is indeed important only when such arbitration is required by situations of ambiguity and confusion. Situations therefore prompt dogma to develop and be pronounced, but they do not abolish revelation: they instead clarify or focus, like lenses in a pair of glasses, or a telescope. As for sedevacantists.. one would have to note that even the critics of Rome don't buy this.

"The Gospel is first the issue, we may get other doctrines wrong like baptism but there is one that we must not get wrong - the Gospel of Christ, because if we get this wrong all is lost no matter we get the others right."

We can agree that the Gospel is central. But when people who share in communion with one Lord, one Spirit of truth, start proclaiming contradictory doctrines, then we are certainly doing a bad job of being a sign to the nations, because the oneness that Christ prays for, to which Christ associates our witness to the nations, is missing. You earlier mention Christ's promise of the Holy Spirit in leading all the flock to Christ, into Truth. Christ does not lie. Neither does he contradict himself. We can accept that Christian doctrines include mysteries that cannot be fathomed, but Christian doctrine, being of the Spirit of Truth, cannot be contradictory.

L P Cruz said...

Jeff,

You and I differ on the concept as to where we gather for Unity. Seems to me - you want us to be united by all of us Prots, EOs gathering around the Pope. For us, we gather around and be united around Christ.

I am confident that Christ is still on the thrown but more importantly I do not think the RC concept of unity is biblical at all.

I tell you why one way it is safe to stick to scripture rather than tradition, and as I said, Prots have a tradition only so forth as it can be supported from Scripture.
Some of the documents claimed to be from the ancient Christians were discovered to be forgeries. Case in point the Damasian List purported to be drawn at the coucil of Rome...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Rome

The Prost are simply Augustinian catholics in their approach to scripture.

You said this once again Church infallibility comes from Christ's promise that the gates of Hades will never overcome.

Have you noticed the equivocation on that word once again - Church? Firstly when Church is mentioned in the Bible - it means the body of believers not just the clergy, for all members are a part of the body of Christ.

If you look at history between Rome and EO, it is EO that is more closer to the traditional beliefs. They do not have Mary on her bodily assumption, they do not have purgatory, they do not have papal infallability, they do not have celibacy, they are a collegial.