Thursday, October 16, 2008

Scot McKnight Ain't Catholic (with reflections on unity)

Sometime ago Scot McKnight did an excellent post on Why I Am Not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. I couldn't put it better myself. I think the definition of a Christian given in Rom. 10.9-10 is alot broader than any statement of faith or confession and it obviously can include RCC and EO persons respectively. I've also met some excellent Catholic deacons, scholars, and priests who are closer to the kingdom of God than many Protestants and Evangelicals that I know. The Catholics are the only group on American (and Australian) TV that one can demonize by portraying them all as a bunch of ultra right-wing hypocrites, child molestors, who strangely always quote the Bible in King James English and I pity them. During my time in the Army I found that most of the Catholic Chaplains were more interested in doing Bible studies than their Protestant colleagues. I don't have a huge problem with episcopal church government (and neither did John Calvin!) even if it's not my preferred modus operandi. Protestants need to remember that before the Reformation that the RCC was our Church and in some ways, while we are currently separated from it (with good reason too), it continues to be our Church and so we should be interested in its affairs. However, I think the RCC has substituted the Church for the Holy Spirit. I'm all for reading Scripture in light of Tradition but, if Tradition is a tool for reading Scripture, then Scripture has to be allowed to critique Tradition and that is lacking. Priestly celibacy has got to go and it was a late development any way. Papal infallibility is an issue and I'll never forget talking to a Catholic Priest who did not believe in Papal infallibility because he'd been to Rome and seen where they buried all the mistresses and illegitimate children of the Popes. I'm happy with the communion of the saints, but not if it compromizes Jesus as the only mediator. The bread and wine of communion still looks, smells, and tastes like bread and wine to me and transubstantiation does not sound convincing to a non-Aristotlean. The only place I ever want to see a "Hail Mary" is on the football field and if the RCC ever officially makes Mary co-redemptrix, then, all bets are off concerning ecumenical futures. Vatican II did not change the doctrine and theology of the Catholic Church and as proof that the 1993 Catechism is thoroughly Tridentine and that remains an obstacle to unity. I would love to see a meeting between the Pope, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a Protestant representative to speak for the largest body of Christians on matters they can agree on, but I'm not optomistic that it will ever happen. At the end of the day I want to stand in continuity with the apostolic gospel and the ancient church and the challenge of Protestantism is how to do so without forfeiting the Protest of the Reformation and without becoming a sect with a "Sesame Street Ecclesiology" where every believer "does his own thing" and multiplies the endless divisions and denominations of Protestantism. In a recent article in an Australian Presbyterian magazine, Iain Murray (of Banner of Truth fame) said that "unity was overrated". Unity at any price is indeed overrated, but exhortations to unity and one mindedness in 1 Cor. 1.10-17; Phil. 2.1-4, John 17.20-23, Acts 2.44, and Eph. 4.3-6 are there and they are there to be obeyed.


Josh McManaway said...

A couple of questions:

For your priest friend - why does he imagine that papal infallibility is somehow papal impeccability?

And, who would be the Protestant representative? You'd have to have thousands, which makes for a very crowded ecumenical meeting.

Douglas Dobbins said...

Does Paul's role as the mediator of the new covenant, as detailed in 2 Cor. 2-3, compromise the unique mediatorial office of Jesus Christ. If not, how is this different, in principle, from the RC nuances of the communion of the saints?