Tag: Orthodox

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 1)

In essentials, unity;

in non-essentials, liberty;

in all things, charity.

St. Augustine said these words, long before schisms, disunity and denominational claims and clashes took place among Christians. Below is the first part of the best lecture I have ever heard on the possibility of Christian (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) reunion without compromise. It was done by Peter Kreeft, a former Calvinist who grew up in a strong evangelical Protestant family, converted to Catholicism, became an apologist, and is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. Here is the first part from the whole article titled Ecumenism Without Compromise”:

Introduction

I’d like to give a fairly short, fairly formal semi-lecture followed by an interesting discussion about ecumenism.  If we are to witness to the world, the problem is not only the world, the problem is in us.  And the problem in us is not just that we are wicked and foolish, that’s always the case.  We are also split, we’re divided.  We can ignore that, we can be dishonest and compromise our convictions, but obviously that’s not going to do any good.

Is there any hope for reunion?  I am increasingly convinced that there is much more hope than most of us think.  And my hope is based most fundamentally on the fact that the most passionate ecumenist in all of existence is Jesus Christ.  We all know His prayer to His Father just before His Crucifixion in John 17, “That they may be one even as Thou the Father art in me and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe.”  He explicitly connects apologetics and ecumenism.  “I in them and Thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou has sent me and has loved them even Thou hast loved me.”

If you read the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians, you will see that denominationalism was not just a scandal, but absolutely unthinkable and intolerable to St. Paul.  Because denominationalism is not the multiplying of subdivisions in an organization, it’s the amputation of limbs from an organism.  Just as no sane person loves war, so no sane Christian loves the war among Christians that so scandalizes the world and weakens our witness to it.  How could a divided church unify a divided world?  No more than an infected physician can heal himself.  But our divisions seem as intractable as war!

Here are 9 grounds for hope for ecumenical reunion that are commonly given, and not a one of them has worked:

  1. Reasonable compromises.
  2. Understanding and education: the hope that deep down, we’ll find that we don’t really disagree.  That we’re all saying the same thing in different words but just misunderstanding each other.
  3. Mystical experience: if you only have one, you’ll see that the previous point is true.
  4. Tolerance:  like a mutual non-aggression pact.  Why can’t we just get along?
  5. Subjectivism: reduction of THE Truth to “my truth” or “your truth” or “our truth.”
  6. Skepticism:  no one knows the truth anyway.
  7. Rational argument: perhaps we can persuade each other as in a scientific laboratory.
  8. A vague optimism:  Dickon’s Mr. McColbers, “Something will turn up!”
  9. Merely a temporary tactical and pragmatic union to fight a common enemy: an ecumenical jihad.  Good but not enough.  None of these is the golden key to reunion.