Skip to content

April 28, 2012

Answering Devins Questions Part 2…

I realized after writing my last piece that I didn’t fully answer Devins question, it had been on my mind for a few days. So I sat down last night and wrote it out while it was still freshin my mind, then ran upstairs and started working on our renovations…

Here again is Devins question:

“But if you became Catholic while believing that the Catholic Church was in error in one or more of her doctrines, that perhaps reveals that you never fully accepted that God has guided and is guiding her into all truth. Do you believe that God is guiding the EO Churches, protecting them from error in their doctrines? Not accusing, not trying to trap you, just curious.”

So the last part of his question about if God is guiding the EO churches protecting them from error in their doctrines. It’s a complicated answer, and something I have thought about for a long time. But first let me state that I am not a theologian, or an apologist. I’ve been studying Philosophy when my schedule allows (hopefully will get a degree one day), and I love to dig and study, but by no means should someone bank their salvation on anything I say. I have done some study under Michael Patton over at Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, and have a huge debt of gratitude for his program that teaches lay people theology.

So let’s start with some biblical references to set the stage:

St Paul in talking to the church in Philippi makes the following statement:

    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
(Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)

He goes on to explain that he is straining and pressing on toward the Goal of being Christ like. His admonition has always stuck with me, I never stop trying to make sure that what I am doing, believing, practicing, helps to make me a better man spiritually.Then we get to 1st John:

    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
(1 John 4:1-6 ESV)

Finally there are the Bereans:

    The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

(Acts 17:10-15 ESV)

The Bereans have influenced me greatly since coming back to find my faith, I love the fact that they didn’t just take Paul at his word, but went and studied everything he said before believing. So today in our Christian world, we have three main divisions all claiming to have some type of Apostolic succession and the “truth” about the Gospel:

  1. The Catholic Church
  2. The Eastern Orthodox Church
  3. The Protestant Churches

I can easily dismiss the Protestants with a minimal amount of study into both history and scripture, been there, have the funny hats, not doing it again.

But the other two are harder to deal with, much harder.

Protestants by and large, have gone on a rampage against the Catholic faith since Luther introduced his own unique view of the Gospel in 1516. Granted Luther had some very valid concerns about the Catholic Church, but those things eventually got fixed.

So now you have two Churches both claiming Apostolic succession, and both can show a direct historical lineage back to their foundations from the Apostles. So that’s a tie…

Both claim to be the ‘One True Church’, and here comes the rub in this whole thing. Both churches have been plagued by bad decisions, neither side has been ‘Protected’ by God. Catholic apologist will split hairs and say that the dogma of the faith has only been changed by the Papacy a few times, and that is the only time that Papal infallibility comes into play.

It’s true in one sense, but in another, the view from the Catholic side that the Papacy was handed universal authority on matters of faith here on earth, has been problematic. Adding the Immaculate Conception in 1854, the doctrine of Papal infallibility in 1870, and the Assumption of Mary to the dogma of the church in 1965, should give anyone pause. In my view the issue with the Papacy is not being the Primate of the Bishops, I think that role is desperately needed. But when you translate Christs words to Peter in the Gospel of Matthew to mean that suddenly Peter and his successors have this divine control over the whole church, things get a little weird. You are putting the very fate of the church into the hands of one single man, who by his very nature, shares the same sinfulness as Adam did. Humans are sinful, all of us, and to claim that somehow the Papacy is specially protected is not something I can find a good solid argument for. Either from the writings of the early church fathers, or scripture. After all, we either have free will like Adam and Eve, or the Pope has some special providence that again I can’t find any reference material for.

The Orthodox Church views changing the dogma of the faith differently, they believe that only in ecumenical councils, with the Primate of Rome attending, can the dogma or the teachings of the church be modified. I think that’s a good thing, because having one person other than Christ making those kinds of changes is terrifying. On the other hand, as Devin correctly points out, without Rome, the Orthodox Church has not made any dogmatic changes since 1032.

There has been all manners of bad things that have come from both the Catholics and the Eastern Churches, and it seems that some don’t want the schism to end, I’ve already run into that nonsense on the EO side, and I won’t stand for it. But I am stuck in the middle, so I have to choose what is right. I have to work where I want to worship, and give freely of my talents. And it sucks, this is not a fun place to be. I’m tired of polemics, apologetics who don’t concede anything, or worse, take history out of context to bolster their case.

So who is right? Neither in my opinion, or at least fully. When you involve mankind in anything holy, they screw it up, its our very nature since Adam and Eve took the first bite. I don’t believe that either side can show with full certainty that they are the ‘One True Church’, they will claim it, boy will they claim it. But Johns words live in my heart, test all things by the spirit, don’t be easily deceived.

After all my study, listening, thinking, praying. I believe that the Orthodox have a closer handle on what the Apostles handed to them, I don’t think they are perfect. My hope is that East and West can unite, with Rome as the primate of the bishops, and the ancient churches living in unity. But until that time, I’m a man caught in the middle.

I will only truly be satisfied when I finally get to meet Christ face to face, then and only then will I trust another human being fully with my salvation. That’s no small thing, given that literally everyone thinks THEY have it right somehow. So for my own part, I have to weigh the options, and then make the choice that I believe God is telling me to make. What irritates me is when people assume that they are the only ones who know the full truth, because in that sense the words of St Paul could not be any clearer:

    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians 13 ESV)

I have definitely found a more comfortable, loving environment in the Orthodox church, if I can just get past the alien nature of their liturgy and pious nature, I’ll be set :)

Come quickly Lord Jesus and fix this mess.


Read more from Belief, Church, Conversion, Faith

Share your thoughts, post a comment.


Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments