Tag: Peter Kreeft

Ecumenism Without Compromise (last part #7)

Spiritual Gravity

God pulled them out of a Catholic Church and put them into a Protestant sect because God is spiritual gravity and God pulls us towards Himself, like a massive sun.  If His rays are blocked in one place, we must go elsewhere to find them, for find them we must!  They draw us, they give us life.  They are a matter of life or death, not a religious shopping mart.  You may think this God-Gravity somewhat speculative, but why should God have less gravity than the sun?  Why should there be less gravity in grace than in nature?  Why should the spiritual universe be less united by gravity than the physical universe?  The parallel works perfectly.

Look at physical gravity carefully.  It’s like love.  It brings together.  Time and space are principles of dispersion, separation that prevent complete union.  Time disperses our being out into past and future.  Space disperses matter out into various places.  Those two dispersions make death possible.  Time and space enable death to insert its destructive sword between one year, when you live and one year, when you die.  And between one material part of you, let’s say your head, and another, your body.

Yet, despite these dispersions, the physical universe is still united by a universal, gravitational attraction which is a real force of love and union.  A non-random, directed, purposive movement or tendency towards all other matter.  All matter is in love with all other matter.  That is, the universe wants to return to the big bang unity, the one divine source of the many.  In the act of creation, the physical universe runs by the love of God.  “The love that moves the sun and all the stars,” in Dante’s words.

For gravity is not just like love, but gravity is love on a material level.  In fact, it has two movements: one is towards union, back to the center, the big bang, the past by gravity.  And the other is to give itself out to all other beings, out into the future, the expanding universe, by energy, and by entropy, which is energy giving itself out to the empty places.  Aquinas says, “The good is diffusive of itself.”  On every level, from the Trinity to subatomic particles.

Thus the light that leaves the star goes everywhere in the universe forever.  A dropped rock on earth goes to the moon and makes the rocks on the moon shudder just a little.  We can calculate how much, it’s a function of the two variables of mass and distance.  Every mass at any distance exerts some gravity.  When I drop a pebble into a pool, I make ripples all the way to the shore.  And when I drop a good deed into another person’s life, those ripples, tiny and imperceptible though they may be, do not stop short of the shore of death.  And even then, they proceed on to the “third and fourth generation of those who hate God and goodness onto thousands of generations of those who love God and keep His commandments.”

God is the source of all spiritual gravity and God touches us only through Christ.  “No one can come to the Father but by me.”  Thus all spiritual gravity, including ecumenical gravity is through Christ.  All return, all homecoming, all reconciliation, all mutual understanding, all healing of wounds in the body of Christ, is through the gravity of grace in the body of Christ.  Now this is a largely unconscious and invisible thing, this gravity of grace.  We don’t see it and we don’t even know what is happening when our spirit is drawn, just as we don’t know when our body falls.  It’s not our conscious knowledge that is the prime mover of spiritual events.

When the human race first learned the law of gravity through Newton, it was a scientific and technological revolution.  When we will learn the law of spiritual gravity, when we learn that it is a person and His name is Jesus, there will be a greater revolution.  He promised that revolution.  “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself.”  “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”  Those are divine promises.  Why do we limit them to what we have already seen, or to what we can imagine or comprehend?

All God’s deeds transcend our vision, our imagination, and our comprehension.  Christ is the golden key to all of history and therefore, to future ecumenism.  Let us not dare to cut down the full Christ into understandable and predictable pieces.  That’s exactly what all the heresies tried to do.

I think this ecumenical unity must wait until Christ in Protestants and Christ in Catholics see each other.  That is, until they see the same Christ, until you have what you might call “evangelical intimacy.”  And see more Christ in the other.  The same is true of Eastern Orthodox.  They must see the adoration and the beauty of Christ in us or else reunion will be a watering down.  And with the Jews!  The Jews must see us as more Jewish, more faithful, more martyrs, than the Jews.  The same with the Muslims.  They must see their “islam,” their absolute submission to God in us, and their spiritual warfare, their right jihad.  And the Buddhist must see in us a greater peace, a greater mindfulness.  And even the worldings and sex maniacs.  They must see in us the joy that they’re seeking and not finding.

That’s necessary, that’s not an option, not an ideal, it’s necessary because of gravity.  There’s not choice, it’s the nature of things.  Like physical gravity.  It can be impeded, just as gravity can be impeded by a hand catching a falling apple, but only temporarily.  Art can’t change the nature of things, nature always take over eventually.  Grass grows through abandoned buildings, and Christ is more like grass than like buildings.  So let’s not limit His growth.

Those are some bold and speculative thoughts, and I would appreciate your reactions to them in questions.

“Ecumenism Without Compromise” by Peter Kreeft

Ecumenism Without Compromise (part 3)

Common Ground

So the reunion must be on Catholic grounds.  That is, complete, universal grounds.  That is the essentially and distinctively Catholic point: essential Catholic point and it is non-negotiable for any faithful Catholic.

But at the same time, reunion must be on Protestant grounds.  And these are equally non-negotiable.  What I mean by that is the essentially and distinctively Protestant point: the central Protestant point seems to be the opposite of the Catholic one, namely the simple all sufficiency of Christ alone.  Jesus only.  Jesus plus nothing.  Jesus straight, not mixed drink.  If reunion is possible, that is its only foundation.  The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.

Now of course that doesn’t have to mean, and it shouldn’t mean “no creed but Christ” or “Jesus only and therefore no Church” or “Jesus only therefore no Sacraments” for most Protestants do have a creed and a church and sacraments.

So perhaps those two central points already overlap a bit, or more than a bit.  In fact they overlap so much that we can say, without trickery, that the whole reason for being a Catholic is to be the best possible evangelical Protestant.

What I mean by that strange statement is that the essence of evangelical Protestantism is to be one with Christ, to meet Christ, and that’s the best reason to be a Catholic.  That’s the reason for the Mass, and the Eucharist, namely the Protestant thing of meeting Christ.  That’s the whole point of the Catholic thing of the Church, and of the Sacraments and of the Saints and all of the rest.  Take the Eucharist.  Christ is not great because of the Eucharist, the Eucharist is great because of Christ.  We Catholics don’t try to squeeze Christ out of the Church like orange juice out of an orange, Christ gave us the Church.  We got the Church from Christ first of all.  Only then do we get Christ from the Church because He put Himself into her.  The Church is the servant, the messenger.  The Church is Christ’s body, but the body is the head’s body.  We don’t idolize anything.  Protestants accuse Catholics of idolatry, ecclesiolatry, sacramentiology, Mariolatry, Christ is the only “idol.”  The total “idola” or “icon” or “image” of God.  We do not idolize, for instance, the doctrine of the Real Presence.  It’s only a doctrine, though it’s a true doctrine.  We worship Christ not doctrines about Christ.  The Real Presence is the real presence of Christ.  Christ alone is the absolute everywhere in Catholicism.  Mary for instance, is holy only because of her relationship to Christ.  She gave us Him by freely consenting to be His mother.  And He gave us her, from the Cross.  “Behold, your mother.”

Ecumenism Without Compromise – Peter Kreeft

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

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.