Tag: Fundamentalist

Ecumenism Without Compromise (part 6)

Recap and Example

Let’s go through the whole thing one more time in a somewhat different way because it’s an apparently an impossible, unbelievable point: this hope for ecumenical reunion without compromise.

Already ecumenism has defined predictions and expectations.  Apparently easy bridges have not been built, for example between Catholics and Orthodox.  While apparently impossible ones have been built, for instance the Catholic-Lutheran agreement on Justification.

In my individual experience I find the same surprising principle to be true.  I often find more mutual understanding between myself and a fundamentalist Southern Baptist who sincerely believes I am worshiping the great whore of Babylon and on my way to Hell, or with a Muslim who uncompromisingly rejects my belief that Christ is Lord as utter pagan blasphemy, than I find with some active Catholic laity, nuns, especially ex-nuns, priests and even bishops!  As fellow Catholics we may agree on more articles of faith than I do with the Protestant or the Muslim, yet I sense we disagree more fundamentally than I do with the Protestant or the Muslim, and not just by personal temperament. Here’s a mystery and when I try to unravel it, here’s what I came up with.

Let’s begin at the beginning with God, and the nature of God, and the will of God.  God is Love and God wills above all for us all to enter into that Love forever: to incorporate us into the very mystery of the life of the Trinity.  Everything that God does, from banging out the big bang, to incarnating His own Son, to arranging for each and every hair that falls from our head, everything He does is done for that end.  Now with this general and very Heavenly principle in mind, let us look at something very earthly and very particular.

Let’s look at the ecumenical situation in a very local time and place.  Latin America today.  Catholics are complaining that Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Pentecostal sects are stealing sheep.  Protestant sects are growing and Catholic percentages are declining.  Well, instead of complaining, let’s look deeper at the reality.  Why is this happening?  I think the ultimate reason is because God is Love.  Because God wills to draw all men to Himself.  Because of that spiritual gravity, because nature abhors a vacuum, spiritually as well as physically, and because the Catholic Church has been so remiss in giving God’s children the fullness of the spiritual food that God has given the Church to give out, therefore, the children have been going elsewhere to eat it.

And God has allowed this because God is a good father.  And a good father would rather see his children go away from home and live, than stay home and die.  Of course things are not that simple, of course motives for leaving the Church and joining the sects are many and mixed and some are simply bad, but still I think the main force that’s driving these events is in the realm of the spirit is the Spirit.  When these sheep find little or no Christ in the Catholic Church, whoever’s fault that is, and find Christ more really in a sect, more really objectively and not just subjectively, and certainly not just emotionally, then they’re moving closer to and not farther from the fullness of the Catholic faith.  They may have left the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ in the Catholic Church, and that is the fullest presence of Christ in this world, but they did not know the Person who is present there, and whose body they ate with their bodies, but not with their souls.

When these starving sheep leave home to find the manna of Christ in the sects, they are learning the lesson one that should have learned as Catholics but didn’t.  And that lesson one is the only possible foundation for lesson two and three and four.  That is, the fullness of the faith that the Catholic Church has, the building, rests on one foundation.  As Catholics, these people may have gotten the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but they didn’t get the real presence of Christ in their hearts and in their lives.  They got the upper stories of the Catholic skyscrapers, but not the foundation.  Not the faith and the hope and the love relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior.  Therefore, in order to become good Catholics, they must first become good Protestants.

“Ecumenism Without Compromise” by Peter Kreeft

Recap and Example

Let’s go through the whole thing one more time in a somewhat different way because it’s an apparently an impossible, unbelievable point: this hope for ecumenical reunion without compromise.

Already ecumenism has defied predictions and expectations.  Apparently easy bridges have not been built, for example between Catholics and Orthodox.  While apparently impossible ones have been built, for instance the Catholic-Lutheran agreement on Justification.

In my individual experience I find the same surprising principle to be true.  I often find more mutual understanding between myself and a fundamentalist Southern Baptist who sincerely believes I am worshipping the great whore of Babylon and on my way to Hell, or with a Muslim who uncompromisingly rejects my belief that Christ is Lord as utter pagan blasphemy, than I find with some active Catholic laity, nuns, especially ex-nuns, priests and even bishops!  As fellow Catholics we may agree on more articles of faith than I do with the Protestant or the Muslim, yet I sense we disagree more fundamentally than I do with the Protestant or the Muslim, and not just by personal temperament.
Here’s a mystery and when I try to unravel it, here’s what I came up with.

Let’s begin at the beginning with God, and the nature of God, and the will of God.  God is Love and God wills above all for us all to enter into that Love forever: to incorporate us into the very mystery of the life of the Trinity.  Everything that God does, from banging out the big bang, to incarnating His own Son, to arranging for each and every hair that falls from our head, everything He does is done for that end.  Now with this general and very Heavenly principle in mind, let us look at something very earthly and very particular.

Let’s look at the ecumenical situation in a very local time and place.  Latin America today.  Catholics are complaining that Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Pentecostal sects are stealing sheep.  Protestant sects are growing and Catholic percentages are declining.  Well, instead of complaining, let’s look deeper at the reality.  Why is this happening?  I think the ultimate reason is because God is Love.  Because God wills to draw all men to Himself.  Because of that spiritual gravity, because nature abhors a vacuum, spiritually as well as physically, and because the Catholic Church has been so remiss in giving God’s children the fullness of the spiritual food that God has given the Church to give out, therefore, the children have been going elsewhere to eat it.

And God has allowed this because God is a good father.  And a good father would rather see his children go away from home and live, than stay home and die.  Of course things are not that simple, of course motives for leaving the Church and joining the sects are many and mixed and some are simply bad, but still I think the main force that’s driving these events is in the realm of the spirit is the Spirit.  When these sheep find little or no Christ in the Catholic Church, whoever’s fault that is, and find Christ more really in a sect, more really objectively and not just subjectively, and certainly not just emotionally, then they’re moving closer to and not farther from the fullness of the Catholic faith.  They may have left the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ in the Catholic Church, and that is the fullest presence of Christ in this world, but they did not know the Person who is present there, and whose body they ate with their bodies, but not with their souls.

When these starving sheep leave home to find the manna of Christ in the sects, they are learning the lesson one that should have learned as Catholics but didn’t.  And that lesson one is the only possible foundation for lesson two and three and four.  That is, the fullness of the faith that the Catholic Church has, the building, rests on one foundation.  As Catholics, these people may have gotten the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but they didn’t get the real presence of Christ in their hearts and in their lives.  They got the upper stories of the Catholic skyscrapers, but not the foundation.  Not the faith and the hope and the love relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior.  Therefore, in order to become good Catholics, they must first become good Protestants.

Ecumenism Without Compromise (part 2)

The Golden Key

There is a golden key!  His name is Jesus Christ.  We can’t do it.  And He can.  We must be very clear about those two truths.  The main reason it hasn’t happened is that we do not fully believe both those two truths.

Christ Himself is the most powerful source of reunion in the world because it comes not from the world but from Heaven.  And He will have His way with us sooner or later, one way or another.  We don’t know whether it’s going to be sooner or later, and we don’t know if it will come by one way or by another.  But we do know that it will come because it is his will.  We don’t know when and we don’t know how, but we know who.

Pope John Paul II has voiced the bold hope that as the first thousand years of Christian history were the millennium of Christian unity, and the second thousand years were the millennium of Christian disunity, 1054, 1517, and the over twenty-thousand denominations that came from 1517, so the third thousand years may be the millennium of Christian re-unity, reunification.

But how?  The deepest division is obviously between Catholics and Protestants, for the Eastern Orthodox Churches have all remained one, not split into twenty-thousand in creed, code, or cult.  They have preserved the fullness of Catholic faith.  Except for universal papal authority, but that has changed its form quite a bit throughout Christian history, though not its reality, and it can change again.  The pope himself explicitly said that in Ut Unum Sint.  But how can Catholics and Protestants achieve reunion?  I will prescind entirely from the question whether Anglicans are Catholics, Protestants, both, or neither.  Well it cannot be by yielding or weakening or compromising one iota of divinely revealed truth!

All the serious differences between Protestants and Catholics concern how much territory this category of divinely revealed truth covers.  For instance, the Church’s doctrines about Mary, and the saints, and the seven Sacraments, and Transubstantiation, and purgatory, Catholics accept them because they believe they are true and divinely revealed.  Protestants reject them because they believe they are not true and not divinely revealed.  Protestants say Catholics believe too much.  Catholics say Protestants believe too little.  Protestants say the Church added to Christ’s original, pure and simple revelation in the New Testament.  Protestantism is thus Catholicism stripped down: the Catholic Ark with what Protestants claim are the non-scriptural barnacles scraped off of it.

When I was at Calvin College and investigating things Catholic and falling in love with them and feeling guilty about it, because this was the wrong church, I took a course in church history to try to get things clear.  And the very first day of the course, the wise-old professor said, “What is the Church?”  And we were all just freshman, we didn’t know for nothing so nobody answered.  So he said, “Well, you’re going to meet a Roman Catholic someday and he’s going to say, ‘You’re in the wrong church!  You’re a Calvinist, you’re in the church John Calvin founded 500 years ago.  We’re in the church Jesus Christ founded 2000 years ago.’  What do you say to him?”  Nobody had an answer.  I said to myself, “I’m in the right class.”

He said, “Well, here’s what the Catholics will say: the church today is a great big thing and it looks very different from the simple thing you read about in the New Testament, but it’s the same just as that oak tree is the same organism as that little acorn.  What’s wrong with that picture?  The Catholic will say that Luther and Calvin broke off some branches of the church because it was really rotten and they tried to start a new one, but that can’t be done cause there’s only one Jesus.  And therefore, only one church.  What’s your answer to that?  What’s wrong with that picture?”  And nobody had an answer.  I said to myself, “I’m in the right class!”

And he said, “Well, here’s what’s wrong with that pictures, here’s what happened: Jesus founded one church indeed and it is the church described in the New Testament, and it’s like Noah’s Ark, and it did get rotten, and Luther and Calvin and Knox and others said, ‘Gee, this Ark is sinking!  We gotta scrape the barnacles off!’  So they scraped the barnacles off and restored it to its simple, pure, primitive, New Testament essence.  So we’re in the right church!  It’s the Catholics who are the upstarts.  They’re the ones who added all those pagan barnacles.”  I said, “Oh that makes me feel good.”  I remember asking a question, I said, “Professor, do you mean to tell me that, if my Catholic neighbor and I both found a time machine and went back to the first century,”  I still remember his look, “What’s this guy, a weirdo?  Science fiction?”  “…and worshipped together, that I as a Protestant would feel more at home in that church than he as a Catholic would?”  And then he smiled.  He said, “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”  I said to myself, “Good, that means that I don’t have to be a great theologian to figure out who’s right.  All I have to do is read the Church Fathers to prove to myself that they were all Calvinists.”  Well, I read the Church Fathers and proved to myself they were all Catholics, so that’s why I’m here.

But the very word “Protestant” means protesting, refusing some of the Catholic whole because they think it’s anti-scriptural and unscriptural barnacles added to what Christ gave us.  While the very word “Catholic” means universal, or whole.  The whole deal.  So this has a problem, apparently without a possible solution because no faithful Catholic could dream of unity with Protestants except on Catholic grounds.  For to be a Catholic is to believe that those grounds are holy grounds, divinely revealed.  It is the Protestants who must remove their shoes.  Catholics cannot negotiate away any of the deposit of faith because it is not theirs, it is Christ’s!  The divinely appointed mail carriers may not edit God’s mail.

Ecumenism without Compromise – Peter Kreeft