This forum was closed on October 1st, 2010. However, the archives are open to the public and filled with vast amounts of good reading and information for you to enjoy. If you wish to meet some Wardrobians, please visit the Into the Wardrobe Facebook group.

The Church IS or the Church DOES?

The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby Stanley Anderson » 23 Feb 2009, 18:56

As I've read comments from other threads here about the Church, I find that I would like to ask, really in a non-argumentative way, how people view the Church, the Body of Christ, from their point of view. Obviously, I have a Catholic point of view and see it differently (I assume) from many Protestant points of view. And in the process of posting this, I want to say what at least one side of that Protestant view seems like to me (since I am sure it varies from church to church in Protestant circles. I would guess that my (intentionally simplistic) impression of the Protestant's view of the Church will seem wrong to them, and my reason for posting that impression will be for the express purpose of being corrected (though I suppose one possible, though unlikely, reply might be "yes, that's essentially correct, Stanley").

As I said above, I see this as being primarily non-argumentative -- more as simply an explanation of how various groups see themselves and how they see others and how they think others see themselves and so on. But of course I won't mind either if this thread should then turn into a debate and discussion (or "argument" in the good sense of the word) about this subject. Such things, I think are healthy and interesting and informative if done with charity and respect, even if no one comes out convinced of the "other" side.

Anyway, so. Here is what I want to say (and remember that I'm making this intentionally simplistic and unfocussed so that people can clarify it more properly):

The impression I have of the -- I'll call it "strong" Protestant view of the Church (to distinguish from more "liturgical" churches like many Anglican and Lutheran views that may be closer to the Catholic view) -- is that the "The Church" is primarily simply a "collection" of people who are identified as Christians, not unlike, perhaps, any other "arbitrary" collection --say, people who collect matchboxes, or whose last name begins with "Q". As such, they may gather together every once in a while for a kind of family reunion, where they raise a toast to each other or talk about mutual relatives and long-lost cousins or even start fights, but really, they're just as happy when the weekend is over and they can get back to their business back home.

Aside from the common factor of matchbox collections or initials, they don't identify the group as something that goes out and "does" things as a group -- at least consciously. They may very well individually happen to do many of the same things and "happen" to accomplish things that only large groups can do, but it is not so much a conscious "organized" effort as it is a sort of serendipitous happenstance or a "led by the Holy Spirit without us actually being aware of his particular purposes" result that is seen only in retrospect after the fact.

Again, I've written the above perhaps somewhat provocatively to elicit responses to correct and clarify this vague impression.

(And remember that I'm using here some of my own memories of being in a "strong" Protestant church in college and for some time after, though I suppose I always did feel a bit uneasy in those sorts of places. For instance, I remember, even shortly after becoming a Christian in college and being still pretty unknowledgeable in many areas, nevertheless having the distinct impression from reading the NT of some kind of extreme importance of taking Communion. The church I was attending only had Communion services once a month and it seemed by chance that I was always unavoidably gone on those Sundays the first couple of months, and I remember being terrified that I might happen to die without ever having received Communion because I hadn't "gotten around to it". I distinctly remember thinking "Why don't they have Communion more often so that we can be sure to partake of it regularly?")

Well anyway, part of the purpose of this thread is to say not only how it seem that others view the Church but to say how I see the Church. And being Catholic, the contrast seems to me (but of course correct me if it seems wrong to any of you) that Catholics view the Church as not only a collection of those people who happen to be Christians, but that it is also an active visible "entity" that Christ intended to use (via the Holy Spirit) as his primary instrument for carrying out the "physical effects" of his Resurrection and "mechanics" of our Salvation, if you will, by means of the Church structure and its teaching and its administration of the Sacraments and such. That's probably badly worded, but my intention is to say that the contrast is, as the thread title suggests, that the Church not only IS something, but that it DOES something actively and consciously and visibly and is something its members can look to and follow for guidance and assurance and verification, and, most importantly, for the means of their transformation into being part of the Body of Christ through the Sacraments.

And all this is not to suggest that the Church is a sort of "Here, Jesus, let me help you out there" sort of thing, but rather that the Church is the very manifestation or realization of Christ's plan of Salvation in us. I've used the illustration elsewhere of the Catholic Church appearing to Protestant eyes from a distance, as a bunch of fancy but artificial decorations laid upon a Christmas tree (and of a tree chopped down and supported and propped up by a metal stand at that). But that when one gets up close to examine the tree "from inside the Church", as it were, one discovers, first, that the tree has not been chopped down, but that it is actually rooted in the ground and alive and growing. And second, one discovers that the "decorations" that seemed from a distance artificial and "separate" from the tree and only laid on top, turn out to be flowers actually growing out of the very branches of the tree.

And in fact that those flowers are not just there to be "pretty", but are actually the tree's way of blossoming forth and propagating into the world. And that not only does it "happen" that way, but that we can see it happening, and that we are supposed to see it happening, and that it is our duty to be part of that "visible" flowering of God's plan, yes, acting "individually" as the opportunity avails us, but more importantly, also as an intentional "portion" of that flowering tree, doing our part to help it grow "as a tree" and not as a simple collection of branches and leaves and flowers that happen to be located together over the plot of ground.

Ok, so there. I've given my impression of what the Protestant view of the Church seems like to me, and also what I think the Catholic view of the Church is, and the contrasts between them. Of course I don't for one minute "really" think that Protestants see the Church only as an arbitrary "collection" that doesn't actually "do" anything (though I do think it is often hard for them to "point" to anything in particular). I've set this up as a means for that -- admittedly artificial and provocative -- impression to be corrected and discussed and clarified. Again, purely for informational purposes, if you like. But also open to debate and discussion if anyone feels like it (I'll probably not press the initialization of the debate side, but may respond -- with delight and enjoyment -- if anyone wants go in that direction).

Any thoughts?

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby Bluegoat » 24 Feb 2009, 00:12

I'm not a strong Protestant, but from my understanding of their position on the nature of the Church, your description is really totally wrong.
User avatar
Bluegoat
 
Posts: 205
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Nova Scotia

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby Stanley Anderson » 24 Feb 2009, 02:06

Bluegoat wrote:I'm not a strong Protestant, but from my understanding of their position on the nature of the Church, your description is really totally wrong.


...which is essentially what I was saying in my previous post when I wrote near the end "Of course I don't for one minute 'really' think that Protestants see the Church only as...". And my purpose was to find out more, not about what that view is not, but more about what that view is. It doesn't tell me much to simply say that the description is wrong. I've already suggested as much in my own post.

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby mitchellmckain » 24 Feb 2009, 02:37

I am reminded of a portrayal I have made of creationists and evolutionists talking about tomatoes in a grocery store: The creationists say, "look at how perferctly round and red they are, obviously these have been designed by the best engineers." The evolutionist says, "I don't see any engineers only the laws of nature and so it is the laws of nature that must have made these tomatoes." Of course neither see the relationship between the tomato plants and the farmer which is what is really where the tomatoes came from.

So what does this have to do with the topic? Well the strong protestant believe that the body of Christ is the body of all Christians gathered and administered by Christ as its only head, the Holy Spirit as its only teacher and our Father in Heaven as our only pope. Stanley's "portrayal" of this reminds me of the evolutionists in my anecdote saying, "I don't see any Christ, Holy Spirit or Father in heaven so the Protestants must be saying that the body of Christ is a bunch of disconnected and unrelated people who call themselves Christian.

Christ has told us that we should answer the door and see Him in the stranger asking for shelter, how much more should we be able to see Him in our fellow Christian? Therefore I ask Stanley, can you or can you not see the work of Christ in the members of the Protestant churches? Most of the Protestants can see the work of Christ in the Catholic churches and however you may want to say well of course they can, I say turn it around and look at yourself. Remember what Christ said about strangers and ask yourself why you cannot see the work of Christ in the Protestants? But if you do see the work of Christ in the Protestants then how can you act like the Protestant claim, that the body of Christ is administered by Christ Himself, is not saying anything at all.

Look I am quite happy for you that you have found a relationship with Christ with the help of the Catholic church, and I praise God for all the work He has done with the Catholic churches. The truth of this does not threaten me in the least because I know the relationship that I have with God and where Christ wants me in His body. I have and I will continue to reccommend the Catholic churches to people, where its approach to Christianity seems more suitable to their way of thinking. I have and will continue to fight those who misrepresent the beliefs of the Catholics with a bunch of nonsensical anti-Catholic rhetoric, by quoting to them passages from the Catholic catechism which I have purchased.
mitchellmckain
 
Posts: 481
Joined: Jul 2007

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby friendofbill » 24 Feb 2009, 13:11

Hm. All this is JMO, of course, but I see two definitions of "church" in the NT, both used by Paul in various circumstances.

There is the Church -- capital C -- defined as "the Body of Christ." It includes all who believe in the Name of Jesus and are thereby "saved," per Peter's statement: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." I believe it is this Church to which Jesus referred when He spoke of gathering all of His sheep into one fold, and prophesied that "if I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Myself." It was his prayer "that they all be one, as you (God) and I are one." The unity of Jesus with the Father could not be defined in physical or organizational terms, nor can our unity with and in Him.

And there is the church -- small c -- defined as a group of believers assembled in one place at one time for the purpose of mutual support, instruction, discipline and teaching; i.e., the "church at Ephesus" or "the church that meets in your house."

"Churches" in the second sense exist because people are not unifiormly of the same psychology, and need different "approaches" to worship that make the Word acessible to them. Being a "high church" Anglican,. I "need" the liturgy, the Sacraments and all that to keep re-centering me on the One Whom it is all about. Others find that type of worship meaningless and would rather sing praise songs and speak in tongues. Tha's cool. In The Shack, Jesus is represented as saying "I will travel any road to find you."

Behind it all, there is The Church. I envision The Church as a great aquifer, from which "the churches" all draw their sustenance, like houses with their individual wells drilled into the aquifer. The Water of Life is the same regardless of which kitchen you enter to drink of it. None of us exist as Christians unless we are first and foremost incorporated in the mystical Body of Christ, drinking of the Water of Life, integral to the body as a branch is integral to the vine. It is The Church that we see in Revelation, waiting below the Throne for the full revelation of the King of Kings. At that point we will finally be beyond "individual psychology" and we shall behold Him face to face, and see Him as He is.

Shalom
Art
friendofbill
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Florida

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby Stanley Anderson » 24 Feb 2009, 16:03

Thanks for the reply. As I mentioned in my post, I'm looking at this thread as primarily informational, but since you have asked or framed a couple of questions or comments directly to me, I'll try to answer them.


mitchellmckain wrote:Stanley's "portrayal" of this reminds me of the evolutionists in my anecdote saying, "I don't see any Christ, Holy Spirit or Father in heaven so the Protestants must be saying that the body of Christ is a bunch of disconnected and unrelated people who call themselves Christian.


And if you add the comment from my initial post, "...it is not so much a conscious 'organized' effort as it is a sort of serendipitous happenstance or a 'led by the Holy Spirit without us actually being aware of his particular purposes' result that is seen only in retrospect...", then my primary point was that Protestants seem to see the Church as not "visible" but being led by the "invisible hand of God" perhaps (which of course Catholics would agree with also, but would say that there is also a visible aspect too). I suppose I would add here that not only do (strong) Protestants not see the sorts of visible manifestations of the Church that Catholics claim, but they (Protestants) tend to distrust that sort of thing altogether as though they think the Holy Spirit would not choose to act in that "blatant" or "worldly" manner. (Note that I'm not trying to say that that view is good or bad here, only trying to describe what it seems like)

Christ has told us that we should answer the door and see Him in the stranger asking for shelter, how much more should we be able to see Him in our fellow Christian? Therefore I ask Stanley, can you or can you not see the work of Christ in the members of the Protestant churches?


And I answer yes, of course I can see the work of Chirst in the members of the Protestant churches. Do you see those members acting consciously as individuals or as a body? I've mentioned both aspects as being important (eg, "...yes, acting 'individually' as the opportunity avails us", continuing with, "but more importantly, also as an intentional "portion" of that flowering tree, doing our part to help it grow "as a tree")

But if you do see the work of Christ in the Protestants then how can you act like the Protestant claim, that the body of Christ is administered by Christ Himself, is not saying anything at all.


Not "anything at all". Rather that Prostestant claim seems to be saying that it acts "invisibly" and not "visibly" in the Catholic sense that, say, priests are given certain functions to perform and graces to administer and that Sacraments act as visible agents of grace and that the Church Structure gives concrete teaching and doctrine to its members.

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby mitchellmckain » 24 Feb 2009, 23:22

Stanley Anderson wrote:then my primary point was that Protestants seem to see the Church as not "visible" but being led by the "invisible hand of God" perhaps (which of course Catholics would agree with also, but would say that there is also a visible aspect too). I suppose I would add here that not only do (strong) Protestants not see the sorts of visible manifestations of the Church that Catholics claim, but they (Protestants) tend to distrust that sort of thing altogether as though they think the Holy Spirit would not choose to act in that "blatant" or "worldly" manner. (Note that I'm not trying to say that that view is good or bad here, only trying to describe what it seems like)
...
Not "anything at all". Rather that Prostestant claim seems to be saying that it acts "invisibly" and not "visibly" in the Catholic sense that, say, priests are given certain functions to perform and graces to administer and that Sacraments act as visible agents of grace and that the Church Structure gives concrete teaching and doctrine to its members.

Yes that is correct. I definitely believe in an invisible God working invisibly. Visible gods are called idols.

The Protestant understanding of the body of Christ requires faith and for me at least it seems to me less of a blind faith than the Catholic idea which in my view appears to turn a blind eye to the evidence of history.


Stanley Anderson wrote:And I answer yes, of course I can see the work of Chirst in the members of the Protestant churches. Do you see those members acting consciously as individuals or as a body?

As a body, DEFINITELY! BUT as a body led by the wisdom of Christ rather than by the foolishness of men. Those service organizations that we call churches led by mere human beings show me no evidence of such wisdom, but would cause me to doubt that there is any God at all. But in the Reformation, I see the wisdom of Christ. And in the counter-reformation is see the wisdom of Christ confirmed again. In the diversity of Christianity I see not only the wisdom of Christ but the same hand of God that created all the variety of stars and the endless variety of species on the earth.
mitchellmckain
 
Posts: 481
Joined: Jul 2007

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby Stanley Anderson » 25 Feb 2009, 15:57

Again, thanks for the comments. I'm happy enough to simply acknowledge your views even where I would disagree with them, but I will add just a couple brief comments as (what I see as) corrections or clarifications.

mitchellmckain wrote:...I definitely believe in an invisible God working invisibly. Visible gods are called idols.


That could lead to a curious theological development about the visibility and divinity of Christ himself, eh?

But apart from that, I'll say (in case this is what you are implying -- not sure) that the Catholic Church does not see the visible Church (or the invisible part for that matter) as a god or gods, just as (I hope) one wouldn't think that someone or some group acting as an agent of God's will was a god or gods. Otherwise, one could just as well accuse the Gospel writers or Paul or the apostles or any of the disciples themselves of being gods (and therefore idols by your deduction). Paul and Barnabas rent their clothes in horror when the people of Lystra wanted to venerate them as gods. And yet they did not then discontinue what they were doing (ie, God's will)

The Protestant understanding of the body of Christ requires faith and for me at least it seems to me less of a blind faith than the Catholic idea which in my view appears to turn a blind eye to the evidence of history.


It may depend on the perspective one takes of history. My views were changed (in the opposite direction), in large part, as a result of seeing history in a different light. But this is way too big a subject to get very far into here of course.

Stanley Anderson wrote:Do you see those members acting consciously as individuals or as a body?

As a body, DEFINITELY! BUT as a body led by the wisdom of Christ rather than by the foolishness of men.


But what if those foolish men are led by a foolish Christ? As I've mentioned in other posts, Christ seemed to be "foolish" enough to give Peter, a pretty foolish guy (that Christ would, not much later, even refer to as Satan), the authority to bind and unbind on earth and heaven apparently whatever he (Peter) chose. And Christ gave to the apostles (another fairly foolish clan for the most part) the authority to remit and retain sins. How could he act in this patently foolish manner unless he trusted in something more powerful than foolishness to guide them -- the power of the Holy Spirit perhaps?

Jesus seemed to take pains (and even to delight in at times) to act in visible and physical ways and to demand it of the people he healed ("take up your bed and go your way", "go show yourselves to...", "arise...and give her something to eat", "laid his hands on them", "and spit and touched his tongue", etc, etc). I suppose it's not hard to imagine he might have his Church operate in a similar "visible and physical" manner.

Whether one thinks it applies to the Catholic Church (or any church), do you see Jesus "appointing" and giving authority to others at all and for any reasons in the NT? In other words, is there any kind of precedent for "transferred authority" (of the kind we see in some of the parables), even if one does not think such authority is embodied in the Catholic Church in particular?

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby mitchellmckain » 25 Feb 2009, 20:50

Stanley Anderson wrote:Again, thanks for the comments. I'm happy enough to simply acknowledge your views even where I would disagree with them, but I will add just a couple brief comments as (what I see as) corrections or clarifications.

Yes the same is true of me.

Stanley Anderson wrote:That could lead to a curious theological development about the visibility and divinity of Christ himself, eh?

Point taken to some degree. But on the other hand, Jesus was very reticent about declaring, "I am God". It is clear to me that His divinity was only intended to be recognized after the resurrection.


Stanley Anderson wrote:But apart from that, I'll say (in case this is what you are implying -- not sure) that the Catholic Church does not see the visible Church (or the invisible part for that matter) as a god or gods, just as (I hope) one wouldn't think that someone or some group acting as an agent of God's will was a god or gods. Otherwise, one could just as well accuse the Gospel writers or Paul or the apostles or any of the disciples themselves of being gods (and therefore idols by your deduction). Paul and Barnabas rent their clothes in horror when the people of Lystra wanted to venerate them as gods. And yet they did not then discontinue what they were doing (ie, God's will)

Thus the Protestant says, "follow me ONLY as I follow Christ."


Stanley Anderson wrote:But what if those foolish men are led by a foolish Christ? As I've mentioned in other posts, Christ seemed to be "foolish" enough to give Peter, a pretty foolish guy (that Christ would, not much later, even refer to as Satan), the authority to bind and unbind on earth and heaven apparently whatever he (Peter) chose. And Christ gave to the apostles (another fairly foolish clan for the most part) the authority to remit and retain sins. How could he act in this patently foolish manner unless he trusted in something more powerful than foolishness to guide them -- the power of the Holy Spirit perhaps?

Uh uh. No way! That will not wash for a second. There is a very different quality to the foolishness of men compared to what the "wisdom of men" see as foolish. The foolishness of men serve selfish, faithless and immature desires and needs of the flesh, blind to the priority of eternal spirit and the centrality of a faith in God. These immature desires include the desire for things to be under their control and for things to be easy for them. Self-sacrifice and faith in God appear foolish to the "wisdom of men" only because of human blindness to the realities of the spirit.


Stanley Anderson wrote:Whether one thinks it applies to the Catholic Church (or any church), do you see Jesus "appointing" and giving authority to others at all and for any reasons in the NT?

Of course, not only in the ministry of Jesus but likewise in the ministry of God all throughout the Old Testament. This is precisely what the Protestants understand by the body of Christ being administered by Christ Himself.


Stanley Anderson wrote:In other words, is there any kind of precedent for "transferred authority" (of the kind we see in some of the parables), even if one does not think such authority is embodied in the Catholic Church in particular?

No I do not. There is NO transference of God's authority to men. None whatsoever. When God calls a human being to a task, it is a gift to that person for his edification, it is NOT because God's work depends on Him. You cannot separate authority from responsibility. There is no transference of God's authority to human beings because there cannot be any transference of responsibility for salvation to human beings.

Thus the only authority given to men is that which men give to men in order to work together as a community - it is a social contract. This kind of authority certainly does play a role in those service organization we call churches, where congregations give authority over them to the leaders of their chruch so that they can work effective as a community.

The fallacy of a confusion between these two types of authority is laid out in 1 Samuel 8. Surely we must appoint judges and administrators to carry out tasks for the community but God should be our only king and absolute authority, because a human being in such a position must invariably lead to abuse. Thus checks and ballances to watchdog those in a position of power (because their authority come from governed rather than from God) is one of the founding principles of the free society in modern times.
mitchellmckain
 
Posts: 481
Joined: Jul 2007

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby Amy » 26 Feb 2009, 14:08

I find this topic interesting because I've always sort of had similar thoughts about the Catholic church. Many of the people I've known are pretty much of the opinion that they can live any way they want, Monday through Saturday, and as long as they show up at Mass on Sunday they're ok. It seems like a remarkable disconnect. Of course, I know lots of protestants who do the same, so it's really silly of me to associate it with one type of Christianity.

I suppose that since protestants do not have one central governing body for protestants worldwide, it can seem less "organized." I assure you this isn't the case. Our church, and many like it, offer a wide range of ministries for serving and participating in the life of the church. But one distinct problem I see is that protestant churches seem not to feel that it is important for the church itself to reach out into the darkest corners of the community. There is a strong belief that if you want to feed the poor, you should just go out and do it, or maybe take a few others with you. We wholeheartedly support missionaries, and maybe even send a few right from the church. We might send a group to Africa for a week or 10 days, or we might send an individual family off with our blessings, but you would rarely see a church set up an ongoing ministry in a foreign country. We seem to think that's what "organizations" are for. Unfortunately, I believe this comes from a mistaken fear that if we "do" to much as a church, we might be guilty of one of two errors. The first is that we might start to believe that salvation comes from works, not by faith (forgetting, of course, that Christ himself, not anything we do or say, is the source of our salvation). The second is more complicated.

Many protestants (at least the very conservative ones) have a strange notion that if you are suffering, it must in some way be either your fault or at least you should be able to deal with it/resolve it yourself. "I'll pray for you" is a common reaction to almost anything, but not as common to hear "What can I do to help you?" There's a strong attitude that homeless people, for example, got themselves into their circumstances and it isn't the church's responsibility to help. And anyway, aren't there "organizations" for that sort of thing? There is a fear, in some people, that if they help, they might be somehow feeding into the problem.

I do, in fact, try to do my part in helping others. But I'd like to see the church get better at it too.
Amy
****
Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip. ~Will Rogers
User avatar
Amy
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 492
Joined: Apr 1999
Location: NY, USA

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby Stanley Anderson » 26 Feb 2009, 16:40

mitchellmckain wrote:Jesus was very reticent about declaring, "I am God". It is clear to me that His divinity was only intended to be recognized after the resurrection.


One could get that impression from selected passages I suppose. And certainly the fullness and subtleties and clarity of the "interaction" (probably not the best word there) of his humanity and divinity were only to be developed doctrinely over time after the resurrection (indeed Catholics would say that sort of thing is one of the express purposes of the Church). But taking the whole of his words in the Gospels reveal a richer and more robust expression of his divinity as well as an expectation that those around him should have seen it, I think. He seemed to have had a lot of chastisement for those around him who could not see what was before them.

Thus the Protestant says, "follow me ONLY as I follow Christ."


How about the Holy Spirit too -- and the Church? Does the Holy Spirit "spread" the effects of the Resurrection and Salvation into the world in ever-developing ways? Can the Holy Spirit choose do it by means of the Church if he liked? I would say that that is the primary reason the Catholic Church exists and has grown the way it has. Your statement above is where I see a primary difference, and I can only describe my own personal sense here -- I'm sure I'm unlikely to convince, but see how this sounds:

I wrote a fantasy story once (many long years before I ever thought of becoming a Catholic -- it seems curiously prophetic to me now) about a person finding one of the beautiful jewel-like stones that were rumored to have magical properties. It was treasured above all else and held in high esteem and indeed exhibited some magical properties for the holder. Well, various plot-like things happened in the story, but the point for this post is that it was eventually discovered that it was not simply a stone. Rather, it was in fact a seed of a tree from Faerie. As beautiful as the stone was -- far more beautiful than any earthly diamond or jewel -- its purpose was nevertheless to be planted into the ground and eventually to grow up into an even more wonderful and magical tree that would blossom forth with living flowers and to spread its life and beauty so that far more people could behold its beauty and experience its magic than could ever have done when it was only a very beautiful but solitary seed.

And this is how Protestant ideals sometimes strike me. Yes, "follow me ONLY as I follow Christ" is a wonderful statement -- and one any Catholic would agree with, provided that "following Christ" meant following not just part of Christ, but following all of what he said and did and intended. And as I've said many times before, if one of those things is that he himself pointed to the Church and he himself sent the Holy Spirit to lead it and to enrich the world in that way, then following the Holy Spirit and the Church is tantamount to following Chirst. Not following the wholeness of Christ's intentions is essentially the same as not following him.

I sometimes have the sense that the Protestant view (one that I held myself) is to want to keep that beautiful jewel-like stone of Christ only as a stone ("only as I follow Christ") because Christ is so very beautiful as we see him in Scripture. But if that means that we do not allow the beauty of that stone to (seemingly) disappear so that it can instead grow and develop into the far more beautiful and enriching and encompassing tree it was meant to be, then (dare I say it?), we can possibly even be guilty of idolizing Christ himself (or at least idolizing the "static picture" of him that we get by only admitting favorite portions of his Gospel image into our hearts.) And thus, ironically, my comment about the "curious theological development about the visibility and divinity of Christ himself" in reply to your bit about visible gods being called idols, has an unexpected answer.

I offer this illustration above only abstractly as the way things can seem to me at times (and it is only a personal view, not a doctrinal belief that I think is "absolutely" right). I realize that it may seem offensive to some, but it is not directed personally at anyone, only as a theological discussion about Catholicism and Protestantism. And again, I don't think of it as a "convincing argument" but simply an idea to consider.

There is NO transference of God's authority to men. None whatsoever. When God calls a human being to a task, it is a gift to that person for his edification, it is NOT because God's work depends on Him. You cannot separate authority from responsibility. There is no transference of God's authority to human beings because there cannot be any transference of responsibility for salvation to human beings.


I probably wouldn't word it the way you have, but as it is, I think this illustrates a desire to make God seem "comfortable" to us. Believe it or not, I long for what you have said in the paragraph above to be true, just as I cringe at the thought of Christ saying seemingly outrageously presumptuous things to Peter and the apostles -- authority and power handed over to them that we couldn't possibly hope for them to be worthy of. And yet it's there for us to read, comfortable or not.

--Stanley
(By the way, I should add to the illustration about the seed and tree above that "developing" does not mean that any kind of "change" is "development". The seed does not grow into a dragon, but into a tree -- the "core" of the seed contains all the information and glory, if not yet fully developed, as the tree does. And so, as a Catholic, I would, like the Protestant, look to Scripture for those core elements. Any future "developments" might very well blossom forth in ways unseen and unexpected in viewing only the seed from the outside, but they also could not contradict what is "written" within that core such that fire-breathing serpents developed instead of life giving flowers and fruits. But perhaps this is obvious and does not need to be stated?)
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby mitchellmckain » 27 Feb 2009, 03:06

Stanley Anderson wrote:I wrote a fantasy story once (many long years before I ever thought of becoming a Catholic -- it seems curiously prophetic to me now) about a person finding one of the beautiful jewel-like stones that were rumored to have magical properties. It was treasured above all else and held in high esteem and indeed exhibited some magical properties for the holder. Well, various plot-like things happened in the story, but the point for this post is that it was eventually discovered that it was not simply a stone. Rather, it was in fact a seed of a tree from Faerie. As beautiful as the stone was -- far more beautiful than any earthly diamond or jewel -- its purpose was nevertheless to be planted into the ground and eventually to grow up into an even more wonderful and magical tree that would blossom forth with living flowers and to spread its life and beauty so that far more people could behold its beauty and experience its magic than could ever have done when it was only a very beautiful but solitary seed.

And this is how Protestant ideals sometimes strike me. Yes, "follow me ONLY as I follow Christ" is a wonderful statement -- and one any Catholic would agree with, provided that "following Christ" meant following not just part of Christ, but following all of what he said and did and intended. And as I've said many times before, if one of those things is that he himself pointed to the Church and he himself sent the Holy Spirit to lead it and to enrich the world in that way, then following the Holy Spirit and the Church is tantamount to following Chirst. Not following the wholeness of Christ's intentions is essentially the same as not following him.

I sometimes have the sense that the Protestant view (one that I held myself) is to want to keep that beautiful jewel-like stone of Christ only as a stone ("only as I follow Christ") because Christ is so very beautiful as we see him in Scripture. But if that means that we do not allow the beauty of that stone to (seemingly) disappear so that it can instead grow and develop into the far more beautiful and enriching and encompassing tree it was meant to be, then (dare I say it?), we can possibly even be guilty of idolizing Christ himself (or at least idolizing the "static picture" of him that we get by only admitting favorite portions of his Gospel image into our hearts.) And thus, ironically, my comment about the "curious theological development about the visibility and divinity of Christ himself" in reply to your bit about visible gods being called idols, has an unexpected answer.

LOL
This criticism is a universal criticism of all Christianity by all Christians as well as by the rest of the world. It is the other side of the harangue of the Protestants about legalism and working/paying your way into heaven. Thus while many Protestants make this the issue over which they typically villify the Catholic church, I know it is not that simple. Christians fight for a delicate balance on the spectrum between faith and works. And it is a measure of how important this balance is, that this is the issue in which so much condemnation is leveled between them. I am afraid that your criticism here is the one most typically leveled at Christianity by the cults - that traditional Christians prefer a Christ held at a distance to admire rather than one up close and personal. It is always a convenient justification for the exercise of a religiously motivated authority over others.

But I am not saying that it is not a valid criticism. We cannot find a proper balance on that spectrum unless we guard against extremes in both directions. It is in fact a criticism I have made numerous times myself, for it also seems to me that magical Christianity with God's creation limited to long ago with the use of magical powers also represents a preference for a long ago, far away God rather than a God that is just as present and active in the here and now as ever. HOWEVER, the complexity and need for balance is also why criticism should be wary of crossing over into condemnation.


Stanley Anderson wrote:I offer this illustration above only abstractly as the way things can seem to me at times (and it is only a personal view, not a doctrinal belief that I think is "absolutely" right). I realize that it may seem offensive to some, but it is not directed personally at anyone, only as a theological discussion about Catholicism and Protestantism. And again, I don't think of it as a "convincing argument" but simply an idea to consider.

So the point is that Protestants have the same criticism of Catholicism from the other direction, seeing it as too legalistic and about working/paying your way into heaven and the principle danger is that it makes religion apt as a tool of power for abuse.

So in response to your illustration let me offer my own image. Consider what sort of shape a weight of iron should be in order to balance it on the tip of your finger. Make it united into a single ball and it is unstable and impossible to maintain a balance for very long. It will roll one way or the other. But now consider it seperated into two opposing balls on either end of a thin rod (such as we use in making hangling mobiles). Now you can balance it on the tip of your finger with ease. If a proper balance on this issue is what we want then perhaps the Protestant and Catholic churches need each other for that balance to be found and maintained. Again we see the wisdom of Christ in the Reformation.


Stanley Anderson wrote:
mitchellmckain wrote:There is NO transference of God's authority to men. None whatsoever. When God calls a human being to a task, it is a gift to that person for his edification, it is NOT because God's work depends on Him. You cannot separate authority from responsibility. There is no transference of God's authority to human beings because there cannot be any transference of responsibility for salvation to human beings.


I probably wouldn't word it the way you have, but as it is, I think this illustrates a desire to make God seem "comfortable" to us. Believe it or not, I long for what you have said in the paragraph above to be true, just as I cringe at the thought of Christ saying seemingly outrageously presumptuous things to Peter and the apostles -- authority and power handed over to them that we couldn't possibly hope for them to be worthy of. And yet it's there for us to read, comfortable or not.

Yes and now you tread right on the line that Protestantism makes between Christianity and the cults and it explains why some Protestants are unable to see the Catholics as Christian at all. That is how the cults work. Tell people that the salavion of the world rest upon their doing what they are told and you can make them do just about anything for the "greater good". Protestantism has shut the door firmly on this kind of thinking to make the church not an organization that speaks or acts in the place of God but which only aids people in developing their relationship with Christ, so that God and NOT the church can use them as He sees fit. Thus "equipping the saints" has become the modern evangelical refrain. Empower the Christian and then as part of the body of Christ, it will be the body of Christ that is empowered. But the religious organizations of men used as a tool in the hands of evil men is something that must be avoided at all costs.
mitchellmckain
 
Posts: 481
Joined: Jul 2007

Re: The Church IS or the Church DOES?

Postby hammurabi2000 » 28 Feb 2009, 12:29

Stanley Anderson wrote:The impression I have of the -- I'll call it "strong" Protestant view of the Church (to distinguish from more "liturgical" churches like many Anglican and Lutheran views that may be closer to the Catholic view) -- is that the "The Church" is primarily simply a "collection" of people who are identified as Christians, not unlike, perhaps, any other "arbitrary" collection --say, people who collect matchboxes, or whose last name begins with "Q". As such, they may gather together every once in a while for a kind of family reunion, where they raise a toast to each other or talk about mutual relatives and long-lost cousins or even start fights, but really, they're just as happy when the weekend is over and they can get back to their business back home.
--Stanley


Stanley Anderson wrote:And as I've said many times before, if one of those things is that he himself pointed to the Church and he himself sent the Holy Spirit to lead it and to enrich the world in that way, then following the Holy Spirit and the Church is tantamount to following Chirst. Not following the wholeness of Christ's intentions is essentially the same as not following him.
--Stanley


Too much in this interesting thread to absorb in a short time but a few comments:
(1) I think Stanley is expressing the official view of the Curia in Rome on the nature of Chritianity and the Roman Catholic church. The RC church is very large and has numerous variations
(2) In what way does Christ point to the church?
(3) On the assumption we can all agree with the authority of the Bible, 1 Cor 12 gives us all a clue:-

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Thus all those of the faith believe that we are individuals but each grafted on to one body. The difference between the Protestant and Roman Catholic flavours may be on our attitude to central authority and therefore how the parts of the body interact. Baptists are very keen on the unity of the body and act together through the church meeting.
Wardrobian since 1999
User avatar
hammurabi2000
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 229
Joined: Aug 2005


Return to Religion, Science, and Philosophy

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered members and 1 guest