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Guest Blogger: A Focus on Catholic Ecclesiology

Posted by on May 23, 2011 in guest blogger | 122 comments

Guest Blogger: A Focus on Catholic Ecclesiology

I’ve invited several people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.

(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)

Today’s guest post was written by Brian. Brian is a friend from elementary school, and he is Catholic. We recently became reacquainted through Facebook. I’ve previously posted a conversation that Brian and I had in a post called “An encouraging dialog between a Catholic and a Baptist.”

You may disagree with some of the things that Brian says in his guest post. I only ask that you read attentively and interact with him in love. But, that said, feel free to ask questions… Brian expects it. :)

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And he said, “Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.” – Mark 4:30-32

I am honored that Alan asked me to write a post for his blog. He and I were in grammar school together in Alexander City, Alabama prior to my family moving to Louisiana in 1977. God works in the craziest ways, and I came across him (and his interesting blog) on Facebook thirty plus years later, and voilà, here I am. One other thing for those who do not know, I am a Catholic Christian of the Latin (or Roman) Rite.

Since Alan’s blog chiefly deals with ecclesiology or the role and leadership of the church with regard to salvation, I thought that I would forego the usual Catholic/Evangelical issues such as purgatory, faith and works, icons and statues, and focus on Catholic ecclesiology as I have experienced it, which incidentally will incorporate to some degree those things above which are contentious issues between us.

What is the Church? If you asked the average Joe and Mary Catholic it is likely they would respond, “It’s where we go to Mass.” While this is true in the narrowest sense of the word (see Alan’s post on the etymology of the English word “church”), as with most things Catholic there are multiple answers to this question and more than one of them is correct, but in the most general sense this is how Catholics define the Church: “the liturgical assembly, but also the local community or the whole universal community of believers.” These three meanings are inseparable. “The Church” is the People that God gathers in the whole world.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 752) That’s all fine and good in theory, but how exactly does it work in reality?

My most basic experience of church is at home. It is here that I pray and study the scriptures and pass on the faith to my children and tend to the family with which God has blessed me. We have a special corner of the dining room (the “beautiful corner”) which is set apart for prayer. This is what may be called the “domestic church”. It is the smallest component which we define as “church”. From this tiny “seed” the church grows to include 1) liturgical assemblies which are groups of families (or domestic churches) which meet to devote ourselves “to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” and are governed by priests, 2) local communities which are groups of liturgical assemblies also known as dioceses (or eparchies in Eastern Catholic Churches) governed by bishops, and 3) the universal community which is the entirety of all local communities across the world governed by the Pope. We are all united through faith in Jesus manifested by being born again “through water and the Spirit”.

The church is governed hierarchically from the domestic church to the universal Church. The government is one of service for the benefit of the body. Therefore, when St. Paul says, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior,” he is saying that the husband is at service to the wife for both of their benefit. Similarly the priests, bishops, and Pope all are servants of the body, called for its edification and well being.

The role of the church in the world is to spread the gospel, the good news. Jesus tells the apostles in St. John’s gospel, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” Why was Jesus sent? To reconcile the world to the Father: to heal the sick, feed the hungry, to proclaim mercy and forgiveness to sinners. The role of the church in the world today is the same now as it was in the beginning, to continue the work of Jesus in reconciling the world to the Father. We are to be Christ to the world, to be his mystical body, and each member of that mystical body is gifted with a charism which is shared in order that Christ may be known and his work done.

Since God created not only space but also time, the branches of the “mustard tree” extend not just through space but through time as well. The church includes not only the living on earth but the living in heaven. We are united to the living in heaven through Christ just as we are united to the living on earth through Christ. As we have a lot to learn from our elders on earth, so we have a lot to learn from the saints in heaven who lived lives of heroic virtue through their sacrifices, their writings, and even through their martyrdom, in short through their many and varied gifts. They reflect the light of Christ and reveal to us how Christians have lived through the ages, and quite frankly how we should live today. For this we venerate them, and since we are united with them in Christ, we ask for their intercession with the Lord just as we ask the same from our brothers and sisters on earth to whom we are united in Christ.

So, in this relatively short amount of space, I hope I have conveyed just a little how a Catholic understands the Church, the people of God, which starts small like a mustard seed but grows and spreads out great branches across space and time “so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.”

Laudetur Iesus Christus in aeternum!


122 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-23-2011

    Brian

    I appreciate you sharing this. It has really helped me understand Catholic ecclesiology better. There were lots of things that I didn’t realize about it, like the importance of the family unit and the whole concept of the mustard seed relating to the church.

    Dan

  2. 5-23-2011

    Dan,

    Thanks for the comment. I think that Brian was brave sharing his view in this forum. I was hoping that others would interact with him.

    -Alan

  3. 5-23-2011

    Brian/Alan

    Many of the more specific doctrines that most readers here would question are absent. Specifically: the role of the priest in the church and especially in the Eucharist. The various priestly mediatorial roles. The hierarchy of the church where a man who is the supreme pontiff has absolute rule over the church while living a lifestyle that insulates him from those he oversees. The role of sacred tradition in governing the church. These are the issues that raise concerns. I found very little to object to in what Brian describes other than the fifth paragraph and the part about venerating “saints”.

  4. 5-23-2011

    Dan,

    At the heart of the Christian faith is the family. Blessed Pope John Paull II once wrote, “God in His deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family, since He has in Himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of the family, which is love.” Our human families are images of the divine family which is the blessed Trinity, and we are called to image Him in all aspects of life.

    Arthur,

    The priesthood of the Catholic Church is one of service to God and the community. If you will recall, God’s original plan was that Israel be a chosen people, a holy nation of priests. Of course because of the episode of the golden calf, God appointed only one tribe to be priests, the Levites, and this was meant to be rehabilitative. The Levites who were priests rotated out in the temple for a period of time, but with Jesus Christ, God’s original plan was restored. Therefore, all Catholics are “priests” in that they are now able to approach God through Jesus. The ministerial priesthood is a sacramental manifestation of this priesthood whereby certain men are called to be ordained as presbyters and function not as Levites, but as Melchizedek, who offered a sacrifice of bread and wine. They are priests forever through laying on of hands, and they share in the priesthood of Christ by acting on his behalf by leading the community in the sacramental rites whereby we receive grace through sacramental signs, water and oil in baptism, bread and wine in the Eucharist, etc.

    The Roman Pontiff is not insulated from those he oversees. He is the Bishop of the Diocese of Rome, so most of the duties as overseer are done in that diocese. As pastor of the universal Church, his role is largely that of teacher and visible sign of unity of all the faithful. While the Pope does have “full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered” (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 882), it is rare that the pope interferes in the affairs of the diocese of another bishop. If he does, it is usually as a last resort.

    Sacred Tradition is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of the Catholic faith. It is not some unwritten set of rules which Catholics are bound to believe. Rather, it is the common lived reality of the Church. It is the lens through which the Church applies the teachings of Christ to the events of the world around it. It is how the Catholic Church can make a stand on whether a Gentile must be circumcised in order to become a Christian as was done at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts, and it is how the Catholic Church can rule in modern times that artificial contraception is contrary to the law of the Gospel. Protestant Christians have their own Tradition or manner of viewing the Christian faith based on their lived reality. It just happens to conflict with the Catholic Tradition at times, but not always.

    As to veneration of the saints, these are men and women who loved heroic lives of faith and virtue, and through their lives Christ has been magnified. They take nothing from the glory of the Lord, if anything they make His glory more visible by their faith. It’s always interesting to me that we in the US will venerate former Presidents and other heroes who have given their lives in service to their country. This is simply our way of offering our respect and love to those who have given their lives totally to the Lord and His Church.

    Brian.

  5. 5-23-2011

    Brian, thanks for that. That is kind of what I expected in your post, some of the where the rubber meets the road kind of issues.

  6. 5-23-2011

    Brian,

    You and I have discussed many of these issues in the past. I appreciate that you’re always charitable in answering my questions. As you know, the biggest problem that I have with many of these issues is the fact that many of them (although extremely important to Catholic ecclesiology) cannot be found in Scripture. And others even appear to contradict Scripture.

    The separate priesthood is one example. This type of separation of Christians into two groups – the “priest” and the real sacramental priesthood – cannot be found in Scripture. Even the info that you mentioned about Melchizedek is found in Scripture to refer to Jesus Christ, not to any people.

    If these concepts are so important (and it appears that they are from reading your post/comment and from interacting with you and other Roman Catholics), why do you think they are not mentioned in Scripture?

    -Alan

  7. 5-23-2011

    Alan,

    I am pretty busy right now in the office. We are a doctor short, but I want to be able to answer you well. I will say now that nothing contradicts scripture. I will get to the rest a bit later.

    Brian

  8. 5-23-2011

    Brian

    Just curious and not trying to pick a fight. You say:

    “The Roman Pontiff is not insulated from those he oversees. He is the Bishop of the Diocese of Rome, so most of the duties as overseer are done in that diocese.”

    I was curious so I looked up “the Diocese of Rome” on wikipedia (not an infallible source, pun intended) and according to its entry:

    The diocese covers a territory of 881 square kilometers containing 341 parishes, 337 of which are active. There are 336 for the city of Rome and one, St. Anne’s Parish, for Vatican City. The diocese has 238 cardinal clerics, a vicegerent of archepiscopal rank (vacant), six auxiliary bishops at present and an additional 1187 “Roman” clerics. In 2004, they pastored an estimated 2,454,000 faithful, who made up 88% of the population of the territory.

    So he is the overseer of almost 2.5 million people. How many of those have ever met him in person? How many does he know by name or recognize by sight? It seems like there are over 1000 clergy between him and the faithful, so how could he not be insulated from them?

  9. 5-23-2011

    Arthur,

    All I can say is that there are a lot of Catholics. I don’t think he is insulated in the sense of inaccessible, but he (and any other bishop ordinary of the Catholic Church) probably does delegate responsibilities to auxiliary bishops and priests. it is a natural result of the growth of the Church.

    I don’t assume anyone who posts here is picking a fight. I am aware that we have differences, and I know we won’t come to agreement on most things, but I am grateful to Alan for providing a forum where we can discuss things and at least learn from each other.

    Brian

  10. 5-23-2011

    I’ve heard people often critique the catholic church (branches) by saying they don’t have lots of areas for regular peeps to serve in the church (building) and also critiquing the length of the service only being exactly 1 hour or 45 minutes or whatever it is.. however I always thought this wasn’t so bad, gives the people more time to do the work of Jesus outside of the building and in the workplace and in the home, which is what Brian seems to be doing.. Is this the norm?

  11. 5-23-2011

    Jon,

    The Mass is generally about an hour long, but it can last up to 2 or more hours depending on several factors. The Mass is where the church as an entire community comes together to hear the word of God proclaimed and to share in the Holy Eucharist, which is akin to the Lord’s Supper in most Protestant Churches. However, our gathering together as community is not limited to Mass. Each parish has many groups whereby the community shares in fellowship. Just some off the top of my head, the Knights of Columbus, the Altar Society, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the lay Franciscans, Carmelites, and Dominicans, and the various programs for the youth. I am partial to the lay Dominicans who are preachers because I like to study and discuss the faith with anyone I meet. So, the main sacramental action of the community as a whole is done in the Mass and while it is offered at least once a day in each parish, it is the main act of worship on Sundays and holy days (also called solemnities and feasts). However, the other opportunities are not tied to any particular day of the week.

    But you are correct, much of the faith is practiced through daily prayer and sacrifices with my family. St. Josemaria Escrivà, the founder of Opus Dei (yes, the one that gets all the bad press from Dan Brown) said to sanctify every aect of the day by offering it as a sacrifice to God, I try to do this as much as possible.

    Peace be with you!

    Brian

  12. 5-23-2011

    Brian

    I get what you are saying but it strikes me that the vast majority of Catholics in Rome have no direct access or even indirect access to the Pope so in spite of his title he is more of a functionary than a functioning overseer. If Joe Catholic in Rome called up the Vatican and asked for a meeting with Ratzinger, I doubt he would make it on the schedule. I would say the same thing about most megachurch pastors and even men I admire like John Piper and John MacArthur who are “pastors” of people they likely have rarely if ever met.

  13. 5-23-2011

    Arthur,

    I know what you are saying. The Pope is also a head of state, so it would be difficult for Giuseppi Cattolico to simply call up and make an appointment for dinner and a chat. Think overseer on a big scale, though, and I think functionary may be a good way to describe it. For me the Pope is largely teacher and for the Church at large he is at the service of Christian unity. He makes ways for effective ecumenism. He has forged a path for unity with many Anglicans, and I don’t think I have seen Eastern Orthodox folks have such warm feelings for the Bishop of Rome in many many years.

    I recommend reading some of his writings. His catechesis on St Paul is pretty good,

    Like I said, there are just so many Catholics that it would be difficult for Papa Ratzinger to be able to do the job alone. It is the downside of the Church being as large as it is.

    Peace be with you.

    Brian

  14. 5-23-2011

    John,

    One other thing I was thinking of. Mass is always ended with the words, “Ite, missa est.” This has been translated into our liturgies as “The Mass is ended. Go in peace.” Well, I think that stinks. :-) For me it misses the entire point of the dismissal. It would be better translated, “Go, you have your commission.” What is that commission? It’s the “great commission” to preach the Gospel and live the Gospel. This starts at home first but it spreads throughout the world wherever Christians are.

    Brian

  15. 5-24-2011

    Alan,

    I don’t think I will ever be able to satisfy your request to show how a ministerial priesthood is ordained by Christ in the New Testament. The term “priest” in the sense of the Levitical priesthood is never used for the New Testament priesthood. Why? Because it is not the same. The Levitical priesthood has been done away with, and we have returned to the priesthood of the firstborn, i.e. the universal priesthood. In Christ “the firstborn from the dead” we are all priests meant to offer ourselves as living sacrifices.

    Like I have said in previous posts with you, priest in the sense that Catholics use it is a contraction of the Greek word presbuteros. There is scriptural evidence that presbuteroi were set apart and ordained (through the laying on of hands) for a special purpose: 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6. (St. Paul speaks of “the gift” given to St. Timothy through the laying on of hands.) This past Sunday, the account of the ordination of the seven deacons was proclaimed (Acts 6:1-7), and this is another example of setting apart for special ministry.

    In the Upper Room, Jesus instituted the New Covenant in his blood. In the words of institution, Jesus was making a direct connection with the bread and wine of the last supper with the sacrifice of the cross. Do this in remembrance of me. Both St. Luke in the Gospel and St. Paul in 1 Corinthians use the term ἀνάμνησιν. Anamnesis is memory but it is not a passive process. It is a process whereby a Christian can enter into the mystery of the cross and resurrection. In the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, the connection between the last supper and the cross and resurrection is inseparable. The sacrificial act of Christ (which is eternal) is not the bloody act of crucifixion, but it is the act of giving of himself to the Father in love. When Jesus speaks at the last supper he uses the words, “this is my body/blood which is given for you.” He says, “this IS my body, this IS my blood”, in other words, “this is ME”. He is giving himself in sacrifice in a sacramental way to the apostles in anticipation of the sacrifice on the cross. It is an act of praise and thanksgiving offered by Jesus to the Father, yet Jesus commanded the apostles to perpetuate this act of sacrifice forever. If the last supper is the sacrificial offering of the Lord himself to his followers, and he commands them to perpetuate this act of sacrifice of himself, how can it be carried out? Jesus has returned to the Father!

    He does so by appointing the apostles to be his representatives, to act on his behalf, in essence to be HIM for us. This is how the apostles shared in his “priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek.” It is a gift of the Lord himself.

    That is why the ministerial priesthood is needed. That is the scriptural basis for the New Testament priesthood as understood by Catholics.

  16. 5-24-2011

    Brian,

    Like I’ve told you before, I appreciate the continuing dialog. If you don’t mind, perhaps we can continue with one point in particular: “There is scriptural evidence that presbuteroi were set apart and ordained (through the laying on of hands) for a special purpose: 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6.” I agree that Paul talks about “laying on of hands” in 1 Timothy. But, does he only associate “laying on of hands” with presbuteroi? Timothy is never identified as a presbuteroi, and Scripture actually calls him an apostle and a deacon at one point. In Acts 8 we even see the apostles laying hands on everyone. (Which seems more consistent to me.) Can you find a connection in Scripture between the laying on of hands and particular service that can only be rendered by presbuteroi?

    -Alan

  17. 5-24-2011

    In our Calendar, I believe St. Timothy was a bishop. Regardless, the laying on of hands is not solely for the prebyterate. Laying on of hands occurs in scripture when people are sick, and when they are concerted to the faith at which point the scripture says they are filled with the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues and prophetic utterances, but those instances I listed are specific instances where laying on of hands is for the presbyterate. Implicit in the laying on of hands is that something is transmitted from one person to the next. For Catholics, that laying on of hands imparts a special gift or grace whereby the person is upheld to perform his duties.

  18. 5-24-2011

    Brian,

    Sorry, but I can’t base Timothy’s status as presbyter or episkopos on your calendar or on a statement by Eusebius (which he makes without any kind of evidence), especially when Scripture indicates otherwise.

    Yes, there are many reasons for laying on of hands, and I looked through your list again. I didn’t see any mention of laying on of hands on presbyters in order to grant a special grace whereby the person is upheld to perform his duties. Yes, I know that is what Catholic believes, but I don’t see that in Scripture, even in the passages you mention.

    -Alan

  19. 5-24-2011

    Alan,

    I couldn’t care less what judgment you make about St. Timothy. I was simply giving you how we remember him in our liturgies.

    “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.”

    “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

    This gift is what I am referring to. Do you not think grace is necessary to carry out one’s vocation?

  20. 5-24-2011

    Brian,

    Paul also tells Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist.” Could that be the gift he’s referring to?

    Have you found any indication in Scripture that anyone (Paul or anyone else) considered Timothy a presbuteros?

    -Alan

  21. 5-24-2011

    Alan,

    I think the gift he is referring to is the grace of the Holy Spirit which enabled him to perform his ministry. For a Catholic, an apostle is a bishop and a priest because he is in priestly service of the gospel.

    But I want to go back to Eusebius. Are you saying his history is not valuable because it is outside of the scriptures? If so, how on earth do you not reject the canons of the council of Carthage and the synod of Hippo and the Papal Bull which listed the 27 books of the New Testament? The scriptures do not give us the list of books which should or should not be included. This was decided centuries later.

    Brian

  22. 5-24-2011

    Brian,

    Well, since grace and gift come from the same Greek terms, then I certainly don’t disagree that Paul was talking about a gifting of the Spirit to serve others. Paul said that was the purpose of all gifts, which, of course, all believers have. Thus, all believers have the grace of the Holy Spirit which enable us to perform service (our ministry).

    Eusebius is valuable, but not infallible. If I remember correctly, he even rejected some of the General (Catholic) epistles while admitting that some Christians accepted all seven.

    In Scripture, an apostle is not a presbyter/episkopos. An apostle is one who travels from place to place, while a presbyter/episkopos remains among a group of believers in one location. Apostleship is a gifting of the Spirit while presbyter/episkopos is a recognition by the church in a geographical location. The presbyter/episkopos could be gifted in many different ways: i.e., teaching, encouraging, serving.

    -Alan

    -Alan

  23. 5-25-2011

    Alan,

    Then you and I agree that the laying on of hands confers grace to perform our appointed role in the church. I agree that all believers have the grace of the Holy Ghost, but not all believers are presbyters, deacons, apostles, etc.

    I never said Eusebius was infallible. It’s really not about Eusebius, and I have not read all of his Ecclesiastical History, so I won’t comment any further. Sts. Timothy and Titus are remembered in the liturgy on Jan. 26 as Bishops and Confessors.

    In the Catholic Church a Bishop travels from place to place within his diocese which is a rather large geographical area. A priest Is assigned to a particular area. It probably is due to the growth of the church that the role of Bishop took on characteristics of the apostle, and the role of presbyter remained the same. I am not certain of that. I would have to research it.

    Brian

  24. 5-25-2011

    Brian,

    I brought up Eusebius because he was the first to suggest that Timothy and Titus were episkopoi, but he doesn’t provide any evidence other than his own statement.

    I’ve read several good commentaries and articles by Catholic scholars are concludes that in Scripture episkopoi and presbuteroi referred to the same people. I know the two later diverged in Catholic traditions, but I’m honestly not as concerned with that history. I’m more concerned with what Paul, Peter, and the other authors of Scripture wrote about them.

    -Alan

  25. 5-25-2011

    Alan,

    I won’t deny that presbyteroi and episkopoi were at one time the same ministry. I also won’t deny that there was a ministry of “prophet” that appears to have gone by the wayside. And I also won’t deny that returning to the first century Church as Sts. Peter and Paul et al. knew it is possible based simply on reading the New Testament. That would be akin to stuffing the mustard tree back into the seed, or taking a man and returning him to his infant state. The Church is a living body which grows and develops. It is not a fly stuck in amber.

    Brian

  26. 5-25-2011

    Brian,

    Are you equating the metaphor of the expanding mustard tree in Mark 4 to the increasing institutionalization of the church? If so, by the time the NT was completely written, the church had already expanded across much of the Roman empire. And, like you pointed out, this occurred without the hierarchy of presbuteroi and episkopoi. Could Jesus have been pointing to something else besides the expansion of church structures and hiearchies?

    -Alan

  27. 5-25-2011

    I consider that an obvious point of departure here is whether or not one believes that there is a living Tradition handed down from the time of Jesus Christ, by Jesus himself, and nurtured by us simple humans with the immense help of the Holy Spirit.

    Catholic ecclesiology is not based simply on Sacred Scripture, it is based as well on sacred Tradition, which we hold to be perfectly valid (since it is.) It’s one of those fine lines, more or less, that separate schools of thought into deep gulfs with vast differences. And it’s an obviously huge difference between Catholic thought and Baptist thought.

    I’m intrigued though at the (what I perceive to be) disdain for “the expansion of church structures and hiearchies”, or the “heirarchy of presbuteroi and episkopoi”. Your knowledge and understanding of Sacred Scripture is beautiful and inspiring. However, that doesn’t mean that Catholic theology is wrong.

    Well. My $.02.

  28. 5-25-2011

    Kenneth,

    Yes, I have a concern about “the expansion of church structures and hierarchies” beyond what is taught and modeled in Scripture. Why? Because although many may accept Catholic theology, that does not mean that it is right.

    -Alan

  29. 5-25-2011

    I can understand that you might consider that, seeing as you are working on a doctorate in biblical theology in a protestant tradition. But I feel it’s unfortunate for you to discard Catholic theological thought without studying it. I respect your opinion, and I understand there is nothing I can write which will sway your thinking – I’m not trying to do that. I pray that all Christians may grow in an understanding of unity in Jesus Christ, and take up the cross of discipleship daily. The world is not in need of squabbling Christians.

  30. 5-25-2011

    Kenneth,

    Why do you think I haven’t studied Catholic theology?

    You said, “I pray that all Christians may grow in an understanding of unity in Jesus Christ, and take up the cross of discipleship daily. The world is not in need of squabbling Christians.” I certainly join you in that prayer!

    -Alan

  31. 5-25-2011

    Kenneth

    “I pray that all Christians may grow in an understanding of unity in Jesus Christ, and take up the cross of discipleship daily.”

    Do you think unity is possible without submitting to Rome? In other words, what does unity look like to you?

  32. 5-25-2011

    Alan,

    I am not saying anything about institutionalizing of the Church being what Christ’s metaphor of the mustard seed is. I am saying that the Church is a living organism, a body, which must adapt to its growth rather than being static. However, as a body is organized into interconnected and interdependent parts, so is the Church, and the Church, like a body, has a hierarchy of organization. The Church cannot be a loose group of believers who practice however they want. In the body we call that cancer.

    Brian

  33. 5-25-2011

    Arthur,

    We don’t tend to call it “submitting” to Rome. We prefer to say that we are “in communion” with Rome.

    Brian

  34. 5-25-2011

    Brian,

    I think the New Testament gives us all the hierarchy of organization that the church needs: Christ is our head, and we are his body, connected to him and interconnected with one another. That is not a loose group of believers, but a body and a family.

    -Alan

  35. 5-26-2011

    Arthur, what is “submitting to Rome”? And what does that have to do with unity in Jesus Christ?

  36. 5-26-2011

    Kenneth,

    I can’t answer directly for Arthur, but I would assume he’s talking about this or something like it:

    The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.” from the Catechism of the Catholic Church Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 9, Paragraph 4, #882.

    -Alan

  37. 5-26-2011

    Alan,

    1) Catholics don’t submit. We are not Muslims. That paragraph you posted says nothing about submission to Rome. It simply says that the Pope is the visible source and foundation of the unity of the faithful, which he is, and that he as universal pastor exercises power over the entire Church. What needs to be defined is what exactly this “power” is and how is it used. It is ecclesiastical authority. He has the power or authority to say, for example, that in order to become a bishop, a priest must be at least 35 years old, or that a child who has reached the age of reason may partake in Holy Communion. His power cannot contradict or rewrite divine laws. For example, the Pope cannot say that a man who is divorced may remarry or a woman can be consecrated a priest. It is not like secular or worldly authority. It is an authority that is at service to the Church.

    2) The Catholic Church maintains the same hierarchy and organization in its three-fold ministry of bishop, priest (presbyter) and deacon that is found in the New Testament. Christ is indeed our head, but he has not visible in the flesh since his ascension into heaven. There is a visible head of the Church on earth who does not usurp Christ’s headship. That is what paragraph #882 is referring to.

    3) Exactly how are you interconnected if each community is its own entity?

    Brian

  38. 5-26-2011

    As a Northern Irish Christian I really appreciate this conversation :) Thank you for making it public.

  39. 5-26-2011

    I always thought the LORD Jesus Christ was the universal Pastor/Shepherd who exercises power over the entire Church.

    I wonder if there is a scripture that indicates such power should be conferred on another?

    Is there a scripture that forbids such a practice?

    Matthew 23:8-11 But you are not to be called rabbi/teacher, for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven. And you must not be called masters/leaders, for you have one Master/Leader, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.

  40. 5-26-2011

    Brian,

    The Pope “has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.” If he makes a ruling concerning the church, do you submit to that ruling?

    Can those of us who do not submit still find unity with those of you who do? If so, what is the basis of our unity if the Pope is the “visible source and foundation of the unity” for you?

    By the way, I do have a source of unity, but it is not the Pope.

    You said in an earlier comment, “I won’t deny that presbyteroi and episkopoi were at one time the same ministry.” So, were they the same or was there a hierarchical difference? Most Catholic biblical commentators I’ve read admit there was no difference in the New Testament and the hierarchy developed later.

    Stephanie,

    Thanks for the comment. I’m glad this conversation is beneficial.

    Hutch,

    That’s a good question. I’m sure that our friends who are in communion with Rome have a good answer.

    -Alan

  41. 5-26-2011

    Brian/Kenneth

    Setting aside “submitting to Rome” for a moment, how do you envision unity in the church without recognizing the ecclesiatistical power and authority of the Pope? Can there be unity without that?

  42. 5-26-2011

    Hutch,

    Christ is the head of the Church, but he is in heaven with the Father. The Pope is visible pastor of the universal Church and is Christ’s vicar. In other words, the Pope answers directly to Christ and represents him in his ministry as successor to St. Peter. Furthermore, his “power” is not unrestricted, and it is certainly not power as it is understood by the world. He cannot overrule divine law.

    As to the verse from St. Matthew’s gospel, St. Paul is guilty of disobeying that admonition throughout his letters, referring to himself as spiritual father, teacher, etc. The Pope is at service to the unity of the Church. He has a great deal of responsibility in making sure that the brethren always seek unity. I would dare say that he is saddled with a great burden in his ministry to the entire Church throughout the world. By the way, would you not consider the power of binding and loosing a more awe inspiring power than any worldly power? Jesus certainly gave that power to the apostles.

    Alan,

    If the Pope submits a ruling, yes I submit to that ruling, but not because I trust the Pope. It is because I trust Jesus who promised that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church.

    There is some degree of unity between Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, however it is limited by things which separate us. At the most basic level we are united in baptism and our respect for the scriptures.

    I realize that the Pope is not the source and foundation of unity for you, but you left out an important word, visible. Ultimately the source and foundation of unity of the faithful is Jesus Christ, but, again, he is invisible because he has ascended.

    I agree with the Catholic biblical commentators about presbyteroi and episkopoi. However, I still say that the Church of today cannot be the Church of the first century. Like a body, it has had to adapt and mature.

    Arthur,

    There can be a degree of unity between Catholics and non-Catholics. I think that we are even discussing things charitably is a sign of our being unified in our faith in the Lord Jesus. For that unity to be unity in its fullest sense, the Pope’s authority must be recognized.

    Peace be with you all.

    Brian

  43. 5-26-2011

    Brian

    So “unity” as you describe it is only theoretical and eschatological. In the here and now we cannot be united unless we submit to the Pope’s authority. Our common salvation is insufficient, there are necessary additional layers that serve only to divide us from other believers. Doesn’t that strike you as inconsistent with the idea of a single people of God?

  44. 5-26-2011

    Yes, it is inconsistent, but that is not what I said. There is real unity here and now based largely on our baptism which from a Catholic perspective is essential. There is only one people of God. We happen to not be agreeing on a lot of things, but because of baptism we are united albeit in an imperfect way.

  45. 5-26-2011

    I think Scripture only promised unity in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. And, as far as the visible/invisible dichotomy, didn’t Paul say something about not looking to the things that are seen but instead to look to the things that are unseen? Yes, Jesus Christ is currently invisible, but I think his ability to lead and unify his church is more real than anyone else’s.

    By the way, don’t think I’m picking on Catholics here. Most protestant churches find their unity in something or someone other than Jesus Christ as well.

    -Alan

  46. 5-26-2011

    Alan,

    But you see, that’s where you are wrong. I would say that our unity is in Jesus Christ and no other. The Pope is the visible sign of that unity. He is a vicar or icon or image of that unity.

    Tsk. Tsk. Picking and choosing verses of scripture. Here is the rest of that passage from 2 Corinthians 4: (which by the way is one of my favorite chapters in the bible, that and Philippians 2)

    “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

    In our present weak state we undergo corruption and death. We are being persecuted and suffering. But our resurrection, that which has not occurred yet and is therefore unseen, is the focus of our hope. This passage has nothing to do with the concrete and visible structure of that which we see with our eyes but rather our current state of life which is to be fulfilled for eternity in the resurrection.

    Brian

  47. 5-26-2011

    Brian,

    Why do think that in all the writings of Scripture we have from different people writing to different churches – many with problems of unity – none of the writers told the recipients to look to a living person as their “visible sign” of unity in Jesus Christ. Why do you think they consistently said “look to Jesus”? Why didn’t Peter, or Paul, or James, or Jude, or Matthew, or Luke, or John, or anyone else say, “Hey, don’t forget about so-and-so. He is ‘a vicar or icon or image of that unity’?” Don’t you think that would have been important for them to communicate, especially to churches that were struggling with division and a lack of unity?

    Yes, that passage is specifically about suffering. But the principle is the same. We can suffer in this world (in the visible) because we trust what is invisible more.

    -Alan

  48. 5-26-2011

    Alan,

    Could it possibly be that it was something that was agreed upon and therefore instruction was not needed? Yet even what you write is not how Catholics understand the role of the Pope. We don’t see that his role is in competition with the Lord, but it is in service to the Lord and his Church. Even in the Catholic Church today there are things which threaten to destroy the unity which exists. In those cases, the Pope becomes an sort of arbitrer, one to look to for the rule of faith, to strengthen th brethren in faith.

    I don’t think the principle is the same. Looking to the Pope as the visible sign of that unity which exists in the Church does not in any way take away from our hope in those things unseen. St. Paul never tells us to ignore the visible or that everything visible is bad. He is simply saying that when things look bleak, our ultimate goal, however, is an eternal reality united with God, or to use your term, he is encouraging the Corinthians.

    Brian

  49. 5-26-2011

    Brian,

    Let’s assume that it was agreed upon. Let’s assume that everyone knew that someone (Peter?) was the “arbiter” in disputes. But, there were disputes. Yet, still, no one reminded them of this “agreed upon” doctrine. The writers reminded them to look to Jesus… was that not agreed up before? Was that something new the writers had to tell them to do?

    I don’t think so. In fact, Scripture consistently teaches NOT to look to anyone (visibly) living for unity, but to look only to Jesus – who was and is living, present, and capable to unify his church as no one else can.

    However, I think that in order for us to be unified in Jesus Christ, we have to stop seeking unity elsewhere… including the Pope or our pastors or our denominations.

    -Alan

  50. 5-26-2011

    Alan,

    Sure, and I would argue that this would still be the case today. Maybe this will help explain it better. Catholics don’t look to the Pope for unity. They look to Jesus Christ. The Pope is the visible sign of that unity in the structure of the Church. We don’t seek unity in the Pope. I assure you, when I became Catholic, I didn’t sign an oath of allegiance to Pope John Paul II. I reaffirmed my faith in Jesus Christ.

    As to disputes, Acts 15 gives an example of what I am talking about. When the question of following the law of Moses and circumcising Gentiles who had come to Christ, did the Gentiles “look to Jesus”? Yes, but it was through the apostles who were given authority to teach in his name. And when discussion was said and done, who spoke first and for everyone? St. Peter did. St. James then spoke, but only to reinforce what St. Peter had spoken.

    Brian

  51. 5-26-2011

    Brian,

    That’s interesting. I’ve never heard anyone suggest that Peter made the decision in Acts 15 and James only reinforced it. I’ve heard several suggest that James made the final decision (“the buck stops here” so to speak), but I don’t agree with that exegesis either.

    I’m glad to hear that you would choose unity in Christ instead of unity in the pope (if I understood you correctly). As a human, the pope is just as likely to be wrong as any other human. Paul did not mind standing up to Peter when Peter was wrong.

    If we can begin talking about our unity in Christ and our life in Christ, then I think the discussion would be much more valuable.

    -Alan

  52. 5-26-2011

    Alan,

    That is not what I said. Read my post again. I didn’t say St. Peter made the decision, and I agree with you that St. James didn’t make the decision, either. I said St. Peter stood up and spoke for the whole gathering, and lastly St. James spoke up and reiterated what St. Peter said. The decision itself was made in council, something modern Catholics call collegiality.

    I think the discussion Is valuable. I wish I could convey effectively that it is only because the Pope is “in Christ” that he is the visible sign of unity for the bishops and faithful.

    Brian

  53. 5-26-2011

    Brian,

    I would say the decision was reinforced in Acts 15 by the whole church because it had already been made by the whole church in Acts 11. (Actually, the decision had been made by God and only recognized by the church.) In Acts 15, Peter, Paul, Barnabas, James, and others testified that they had witnessed that God had accepted Gentiles. The whole church agreed. I call that consensus.

    Would you say we have unity with the pope only WHEN he is in Christ? If so, then it is no different than any other believer.

    -Alan

  54. 5-26-2011

    Alan,

    I agree. The decision was a collegial decision, but it was announced by St. Peter.

    Not all believers hold the keys to the Kingdom. That’s how it is different. When in St. Matthew 16 the Lord gives the keys to St. Peter, this was a reference to Isaiah 22:15 and following. The Keys are symbols of authority, and if they are the keys to the Kingdom, then they are symbols of dynastic authority, and if it is a dynasty then when the position of authority is vacant, it must be filled and the keys passed to the successor. The Pope in a sense is Christ’s “Prime Minister.”

    Brian

  55. 5-27-2011

    Brian,

    Your assuming that the “keys” of Matthew 16 were given only to Peter, and that if they were given only to Peter that Peter then was given the responsibility to passing them on to someone else. In other words, I think you’re reading alot into “keys of the kingdom” that does not play out in the New Testament at all.

    -Alan

  56. 5-27-2011

    Brian

    “The Keys are symbols of authority, and if they are the keys to the Kingdom, then they are symbols of dynastic authority, and if it is a dynasty then when the position of authority is vacant, it must be filled and the keys passed to the successor.”

    At what point are the “keys” passed on? Upon the election and installation of a new pope? What if the cardinals make a mistake and elect the wrong guy?

  57. 5-27-2011

    Alan,

    Actually, it plays out quite well. You simply can’t acknowledge it because it doesn’t work in your hermeneutic.

    Arthur,

    So far that has not happened. I trust the Holy Spirit to guide the College of Cardinals. For some reason, trusting at the Holy Spirit can guide men correctly is something that is difficult for those of us in the modern west.

    Brian

  58. 5-27-2011

    Brian,

    Serious… you don’t think the “College of Cardinals” has ever made a mistake?

    And, yes, I realize that both of our methods of hermeneutic, as well as our backgrounds, influence our understanding of Scripture.

    -Alan

  59. 5-27-2011

    Brian

    The problem becomes that you are assuming that the Holy Spirit is guiding the College of Cardinals but not others. Was the Holy Spirit guiding Martin Luther? John Calvin? Any of the Magisterial or Radical Reformers? What about you or me or Alan?

  60. 5-27-2011

    Alan,

    I don’t think the College of Cardinals ever made a mistake in choosing the Pope because through them I truly believe that God has chosen the Popes. Perhaps some of the Popes were not of impeccable character, and all of them are sinners, but as a friend of mine says, grace flows through rusty pipes. God can use even the greatest sinner to accomplish His will. I refuse to put constraints on the Almighty.

    Arthur,

    That’s quite a leap in deductive reasoning! The College of Cardinals can be guided by the Holy Spirit just like everyone else can be. My belief that the Holy Spirit guides the College of Cardinals when they elect the Pope says nothing about the Spirit guiding Luther, Calvin, you, Alan, me or anyone else. I don’t think that Luther and Calvin were completely wrong in everything they said simply because their theology was sometimes at odds with the Catholic Church. Honestly, they squabbled amongst themselves as much as with Rome!

    There is much that Alan posts that I find inspiring and encouraging. Honestly he makes very good points about discipleship, which is something that weighs pretty heavy on my heart now. I have the same concerns as he does that the Church has grown to the point of being an impersonal institution, that its members have fallen into the rut of habit, that many many of it’s members don’t truly seek a relationship with the Lord, and like Alan I see a lot of pastors, preachers, deacons, etc., who dance around the Lord Jesus while not encouraging parishioners to seek to know HIM, not just what he taught.

    Where Alan and I part ways is that I don’t think it is necessary to scrap 2 millennia of Church growth in order to make a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus. (Alan, I am making an intentionally simplistic and vague statement here to prove a point.). I honestly don’t find that the Catholic Church in essence is different today than it was in the time of St. Peter and St. Paul. It LOOKS very different, but if you took photographs of me today and compared them to me when I was 6 months old, you would see the same person who looked very different.

    Regardless, I don’t question that all of us love the Lord and want to make disciples.

    Brian

  61. 5-27-2011

    Brian

    The difference between the church 2000 years ago and what it has morphed into is not merely a difference in appearance, it is a difference in nature. I don’t look at the last 2000 years and see a child growing into a man, I see a child that has been replaced by something else completely different. The church was once a radical band of believers persecuted by the state and the religious authorities, a church that thrived not in spite of persecution but because of it. For the past 1700 years or so the state and the religious authorities have been by and large one and the same. Where radical disciples did crop up over the centuries, like the Anabaptists, they were ruthlessly and viciously squashed as the persecution of dissident groups over the centuries demonstrates. When I look at Rome, what I see bears no resemblance to the church I see in Scripture. Frankly neither does much of Protestantism although I am far more in tune with the theology of Protestantism. It is hard to see the picture of taking up your cross daily and following Christ in a man who is the head of a state, wears lavish apparel and is surrounded by functionaries or in the slick megachurch pastor who oversees a staff of dozens of clergy, pumps out meaningless self-help books and tells people God wants them to be rich.

    I absolutely agree that we all love the Lord and desire to faithfully make disciples. Where we diverge is that I see the institutions of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism as a barrier to fellowship and disciple-making, not an aid.

  62. 5-27-2011

    Arthur,

    We simply disagree. The Catholic Church is not something that has replaced the early Church. That is a theory that can easily be refuted by simple historical study. The problem that you have with it is that it doesn’t agree with your hermeneutic.

    How much do you really know about the Pope? Have you considered the cross he has to bear as pastor of a Church which calims over 1 billion adherents? Do you know what his day to day routine is? The clothing he wears is a simple white cassock, and they probably were donated. The vestments he wears for liturgical service are in many cases antiques which were donated to the Church by a family. They do not belong to him personally. How is that lavish? Do you know what kind of persecution he undergoes? (hint: look at recent editions of the New York Times for an example of how his character has been smeared) Are you aware of how much of his day is spent in prayer? Have you even taken the time to read any of his many books?

    My experience is completely the opposite from yours. I have honestly found more fellowship and love of the Lord in the Catholic Church than I ever did as a Protestant. Catholics pray together, study the scripture together, worship together, eat together, serve the poor together, educate people together, heal the sick together. To be a faithful Catholic is to live a life of fellowship.

    When faced with what is perceived to be a hindrance to fellowship, one has two options: 1) Through prayer and with the help of grace you can find ways to overcome it or 2) You can go and establish your own community based on your own standards of what true fellowship is. I refuse to scrap what you guys call “the institutional church” just because it doesn’t suit my needs and it doesn’t jive with my understanding of scripture. When faced with a conflict of interpretation of scripture between me and the Catholic Church, I am willing to say that the Church which compiled and canonized the New Testament will be right, and I will be wrong. It took a long time for me to get to that point. it takes humility to realize that, and humility is something that I come to with great difficulty.

    Brian.

  63. 5-27-2011

    Arthur wrote: ” So “unity” as you describe it is only theoretical and eschatological. In the here and now we cannot be united unless we submit to the Pope’s authority. Our common salvation is insufficient, there are necessary additional layers that serve only to divide us from other believers. Doesn’t that strike you as inconsistent with the idea of a single people of God? ”

    And…

    “Where we diverge is that I see the institutions of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism as a barrier to fellowship and disciple-making, not an aid.”

    So…

    I’m interested in knowing how you lead a Christian life in communion with others. I can understand how you might be cynical and disparaging of the institutional aspect of the Faith. For you though, is the Faith a mater of Bible Studies, potlucks and worship Services?

    I honestly don’t know. :-)

  64. 5-27-2011

    Brian

    I am pretty sure it was not your intent but are you equating someone being spoken ill of by the New York Times to be persecution? I would actually consider that to be a sign I was doing something right and nothing compared to the suffering of those tortured, mutilated, burned at the stake, beheaded, drowned, etc. through the ages, much of which was meted out by the very same institution that you claim is the successor to the apostolic church. Persecution and suffering have always been hallmarks of God’s faithful people, but as recipients rather than dispensers.

    As far as how well I know the pope, I would turn that around and ask you the same thing. You are quite well acquainted with his public persona but as we established a number of conversations ago, the pope is “pastor” over millions of Catholics in Rome as well as the leader of a billion people worldwide. I daresay you know Joseph Ratzinger about as well as I know John Piper but I would also say that I would have a far easier time gaining an audience with Piper than you would with Ratzinger.

    For what it is worth, my rejection of Rome is only partly based on its institutional hindrances to community by replacing relationships with rituals. It has far more to do with a variety of doctrines that I find to be without Scriptural support. I recognize that this post is focused on ecclesiology and not the wider world of Roman dogma.

  65. 5-27-2011

    Brian,

    Thanks for the discussion. As always, it has been very helpful for me, and, hopefully, for my readers as well.

    Kenneth,

    I’m sure that Arthur will answer for himself, but I wanted to respond as well.

    As you know, “communion” comes from the Greek term that is also translated “fellowship” and “sharing” and “common.” There are two aspects to this fellowship.

    1) Everyone who is God’s child share’s a bond with everyone else who is God’s child through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, is the source and foundation of that fellowship.

    2) That fellowship can only be expressed among people that we actually meet. So, I demonstrate “fellowship” with other children of God that God brings into my life through sharing our lives together (and sharing our life in Christ together). This sharing is expressed in many different ways, just as we see in Scripture. It could be sharing goods with those in need, or it can mean sharing a meal in order to build our relationships and help each other grow in maturity with Christ.

    Association with any type of organization or institution (whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, social, civil, etc.) does not (in itself) guarantee either type of fellowship described above.

    -Alan

  66. 5-27-2011

    Kenneth

    What Alan said was a great synopsis. The faith is lived out as an adoptive family of God sharing their lives, their goods and their love with one another while carrying out the Great Commission that ALL Christians are called to, i.e. proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and making disciples.

    As far as:

    “For you though, is the Faith a mater of Bible Studies, potlucks and worship Services?”

    I don’t attend a “worship service”, at least as defined by our cultural understanding. As far as studying the Bible with the Body of Christ and sharing meals with them, that sort of fellowship is far more in keeping with what the Bible describes than highly regimented hour long rituals. I would rather talk and laugh and cry in fellowship with other Christians over a plate of brats and chips than take a nibble of a cracker and a sip of wine and call that communion.

  67. 5-29-2011

    Arthur, thank you for the response.

    Even returning to the early Church, before the state approved sanctions 1700 years ago, we find Jesus saying “Do this in remembrance of me.’, as he took the bread, then the wine.

    I’ve seen nothing in Scared Scripture about brats and chips. And, while I would rather do that myself, and I often do in Christian fellowship, I am still willing to extend myself to the precepts which our Lord Jesus Christ has taught in Sacred Scripture; and attend to the breaking of the bread in what you call “highly regimented hour long rituals”.

    I’d rather do what our Lord Jesus Christ wants, than what I want.

    I understand this is a larger discussion than this weblog my permit. But, I’m glad we had this conversation.

  68. 5-29-2011

    Kenneth,

    Actually, there’s alot in NT about the early church eating meals together in remembrance of Jesus. There’s more evidence that they ate full meals together than that they only took bread and wine together. In fact, the bread and wine only ritual did not come along until much later.

    -Alan

  69. 5-29-2011

    Alan,

    Fr. Kenneth is not disputing that Christians in the NT shared meals together. However, what is written in the gospels is that Jesus took bread and wine and said “do this in memory of me.” Sitting down and having dinner while thinking back fondly on the Lord Jesus is not what he had in mind, otherwise he wouldn’t have used the word anamnesis, which implies entering into the paschal mystery.

    Furthermore, it is offensive to refer to what Catholics do in the Mass as taking a “nibble on a cracker and a sip of wine”. That reeks of something PZ Myers would say. It’s fascinating to me how when it comes to making offhand comments about the Eucharist, evangelicals and militant secular atheists have common ground.

    Brian

  70. 5-29-2011

    Brian,

    I do not think Jesus had in mind what the Catholics call the Eucharist, and I do not think he had in mind what Protestants call Communion or the Lord’s Supper.

    -Alan

  71. 5-29-2011

    Alan I disagree. I think that what Jesus had in mind was exactly the Eucharist.

    If all He had in mind was a fellowship meal, which is a basic hallmark of community, why did He bother to do it at the Passover? He could have done that at Cana, or at any other time in his public ministry.

    But the Gospel is noticeably absent in your arguments, which you consistently neglect in favor of Pauline writings. You are reducing our Lord’s intentions to mere happenstances of timing. He happened to say “do this in memory of me” while he was eating a meal. So we should eat a meal in memory of Him because meals are present in New testament writings? And that’s all we should do as we strive to become disciples of Jesus Christ?

  72. 5-29-2011

    Kenneth,

    Jesus ate many meals with his disciples. These are often recorded in the Gospels. Why did Jesus say “remember me” at the last passover that he ate with his disciples? Because it was the last meal that he ate before his death, burial, and resurrection.

    I didn’t realize that Paul’s writings were contrary to the Gospel. I always thought that Paul was consistent with the Gospels.

    By the way, did you know that “breaking bread” was not a phrase that Jesus made up? In fact, it was a very common phrase that referred to sharing a meal together.

    Of course eating a meal together is not all that we do as disciples of Jesus Christ. I don’t think anyone has suggested that.

    -Alan

  73. 5-30-2011

    Brian

    If it makes any difference, I refer to what most Protestants do as nibbling on a cracker and drinking a sip of wine (or grape juice) Both observances take the beauty of the Body of Christ, His people, gathered together and reduced it to a mere ritual.

  74. 5-30-2011

    Alan,

    We will have to disagree. Jesus was making a direct link between the last supper in the Upper Room and the cross and resurrection. It all hinges around the word anamnesis in which there is no real English equivalent which is an entering into the paschal mystery. Therefore, the Eucharist in the Catholic faith is exactly that “entering into the paschal mystery” that he prescribed.

    St. Paul’s writings are perfectly in line with the gospel until you take them and interpret them apart from the community which canonized them and compiled them. :-)

    Arthur,

    We happen to think that the ritual reinforces the beauty of the Body of Christ since it is at this “ritual” that Jesus offers himself to us at the Mass. It is not merely nibbling and sipping. It is a communion with the Lord, whereby we consume the paschal lamb, the body and blood of the Lord. We gnaw on the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood. This saying is hard, who can accept it? Does this shock you?

  75. 5-30-2011

    Brian,

    The NT authors did not invent the word anamnesis. It was already a Greek term that mean recollection or remembrance.

    -Alan

  76. 5-30-2011

    Alan,

    I didn’t say they did. I said that they used the word which has no real equivalent in English. Remembrance is the closest we can get, but it doesn’t really convey the concept.

    Brian

  77. 5-30-2011

    Brian

    “We gnaw on the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood. This saying is hard, who can accept it? Does this shock you?”

    Does it shock me that you say it? Not at all but I also think that the sacrifice of Christ at the cross was sufficient, once for all, and the idea that He needs to be offered again and again to be completely at odds with the Bible. The idea that His Body, the church, is devouring His Body, a wafer and wine transformed by a few words into something more, is utterly foreign to the Scriptures. When Jesus said “this is my body”, His actual Body was present in human form so clearly the elements of the Lord’s Supper were not his literal Body. It was His actual Body that was pierced at the cross and His actual blood that was spilled. When He said in John 6: 53-56 was not an invitation to eat His flesh and drink His blood. It was that misunderstanding on the part of many listeners that caused them to walk away.

    Paul is quite clear when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:26:

    For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor 11:26)

    What he said and what he did not say are key. We proclaim the Lord’s death and celebrate this remembrance of Him until He comes again when the Body of Christ gathers to break bread. We do not in any way, shape or form transform bread and wine in His Body and Blood. Nothing about what either Christ or Paul taught even implies that we are to expect transubstantiation to occur when the church breaks bread. We look back to the cross, we look around at the gathered Body and we look forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

  78. 5-30-2011

    Brian,

    Actually, you said more. You said, “It all hinges around the word anamnesis in which there is no real English equivalent which is an entering into the paschal mystery.” The word anamnesis has nothing to do with entering into any kind of mystery. The word simply refers to a recollection or a remembering. The definition you refer to is anachronistic, added to the word later by some in the church.

    Today, “Memorial Day” in the United States is a good day to talk about anamnesis. We do not enter into any kind of mystery with the soldiers that gave their life for their country. Instead, we remember them.

    -Alan

  79. 5-30-2011

    Alan,

    If I am not mistaken anamnesis was borrowed from Platonic philosophy in order to convey the concept of bringing something from eternity into time.

    Arthur,

    It’s certainly not foreign to the scriptures. The scriptures are very clear. Jesus said to eat his body and drink his blood. At the last supper he said “this IS my body. This IS my blood.” Catholics don’t offer the sacrifice again and again. That sacrifice is once for all, i.e. it the one sacrifice that is eternal. It is the same sacrifice offered under sacramental signs. We do not eat his literal body and blood in the sense of eating a piece of steak. We eat his real body and blood present under the sacramental signs of bread and wine. This is completely in line with John 6.

    Interesting that you say that it was a misunderstanding that caused them to walk away. What is much more interesting is who DIDN’T walk away. Jesus didn’t offer a clarification to the 12, he simply said, “Do you also wish to go away?” I don’t think there was a misunderstanding. I think they walked away simply because Jesus said, “Amen, Amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you have no life in you.” We accept Jesus at his word. We don’t attempt to explain it away. We, like St. Peter and the other eleven, say to Jesus when he says, “Do you also wish to go away?” “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” We are NOT those in John 6:66.

    St. Paul is reiterating the words of institution in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, and he uses the word ἀνάμνησιν to convey the concept of participating in the sacrifice of Calvary. It is not simply a passive looking back in history fondly. It is bringing history to the present, re-presenting it. This is what is meant by proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes in 1 Corinthians 11:26.

    Brian

  80. 5-30-2011

    Brian,

    Plato redefined (in his works) many terms to define his understanding of essence and accident.

    However, in this case, I think it is much more likely that the NT authors’ use of the word anamnesis would be more similar to other writers in their time. If you look at the works of Philo and Josephus (who were also first century Jews), you will find that anamnesis was simple recollection or remembrance.

    -Alan

  81. 5-30-2011

    Brian,

    Concerning John 6, Jesus also said (in the same context), “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Can you not see the allegory in that passage?

    If it is not allegory – if Jesus was talking about physically eating and drinking him – then the hunger and thirst must not be allegorical either. Do you still physically hunger and thirst?

    Jesus words in that passage must be taken together. Several times, Jesus connects “eating and drinking” with receiving him and believing in him. Eating and drinking are used allegorically.

    -Alan

  82. 5-30-2011

    Alan,

    As to Memorial day, I think that is actually a beautiful idea: to be with our soldiers who gave their lives in the very battle in which they fought and died. However, unlike the Eucharist, it is not something which has a means of being sacramentally re-presented.

    So now we are supposed to interpret Christian writings according to the works of first century Jews? At least Eusebius was a Christian. :-) If that is the case, I think it might be interesting to have a discussion on the word anamnesis as it was used in the NT and in the Septuagint.

    I will go first: Numbers 10:9-10

    ‘And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered (ἀναμνησθήσεσθε) before the LORD your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts, and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; they shall serve you for remembrance (ἀνάμνησις) before your God: I am the LORD your God.”

    Now, why would God need to remember something? Could he have forgotten? Since all things are eternally present to Him, I doubt seriously. It means that God is acting to make present a promise which occurred in the past, not HIS past (He has no past), but OUR past.

    Your turn.

    Brian

  83. 5-30-2011

    Brian,

    So, you’re saying that the NT writers used words in completely different ways that people who lived at the same time, with the same backgrounds, and writing in the same language?

    If you wrote something in English, I would think you would use words with the same meaning as an atheist. Your theology does not determine the meaning of words. Instead, you use common words (words that everyone understands) to describe your theology.

    Yes, that passage in Numbers is a great example. If God did not “remember” to keep them safe, then they would not “be saved from [their] enemies.”

    As to God remembering… read the passage in Genesis about the rainbow after the flood. What does Scripture say the rainbow is for? For our remembering, or for God’s?

    -Alan

  84. 5-30-2011

    Alan,

    I recognize the allegory. However, I also recognize the literal. What it appears you do is reject the literal for the allegorical. I won’t do that. I accept both.

    Brian

  85. 5-30-2011

    By comparison I am not nearly as scholarly or as well read as the rest of you, however, after reading this thread, I do have a few comments and questions.

    For disclosure, I am a convert to the Roman Catholic Church. I came home 11 years ago. Prior to my conversion I was a Methodist, a Baptist, and also attended several other so called non-denominational congregations. I am also a friend of both Brian and Fr Kenneth via Facebook.

    There has been a great deal of talk in this thread about unity. Now, I would agree that at least some unity does exist within a particular protestant church (I am referring to a particular church community, like the First Baptist Church of XYZ), but I personally do not see much unity beyond that point. As a person who has been a part of a (Methodist) church that split over mostly non-theological issues, I came to understand that unity was something I was searching for, and I did not find it until I began to understand what the Catholic Church really is. Of course, no one can say there is perfect unity within the Catholic Church. I would bet that Brian or Fr Kenneth would not say that there was, and I highly doubt that Benedict XVI would say so. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of the dis-unity within the Catholic Church comes from those who dissent from the Church’s teachings. I do, however, see a great deal of unity among those who not only claim to be catholic but also strive to be in total communion with the Church and her teachings. I consider myself a member of this latter group, although by a good measure I am not the best representative of it. Those of us who strive to follow Church teaching, who strive to be in full communion with Rome, do so because we understand that the Church is the Body of Christ and by being more in communion with His Church, we are also more in communion with Him.

    My experience with regards to non-catholic Christians is vastly different. I personally do not see a whole lot of unity outside of the Catholic Church. You can go into Baptist church A and hear a preacher teaching on a given topic. You can then go own the street to Baptist Church B and hear pretty much the exact opposite of what was taught in church A. And that is just within the Baptist experience. The divisions become even larger across the other named and unnamed traditions.

    There is only one God. God is Truth. Therefore there is only one Truth. So… if church A teaches something and church B teaches the opposite, then at least one has to be wrong, although both could possibly be wrong. Both claim to be led by the Holy Spirit, but how can that be when they don’t teach the same things? (BTW, I cannot accept the argument that they agree on the “important issues”, the Holy Spirit will lead us into ALL truth (Jn 16:13), not just the so called “important issues”)

    The Roman Catholic Church has defined teachings that have been brought down through the ages from Jesus, through His apostles, and through the Church that He founded. These teaching were carried through the ages and taught BOTH by word of mouth and by letter (spoken word and written word). Of course, not every person who calls themselves catholic believes everything the Church teaches. Some of those people simply need to know their faith better, others are functionally protestants who still refer to themselves as catholic.

    The way I see it, there is an opportunity for unity by being in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church that does not exist among non-catholic Christians. How can non-catholic Christians (honestly) talk about unity when very little exists among themselves?

    The reality is, John 16:13, which pretty much all non-catholic Christians would claim is directed at everyone and enables everyone to accurately interpret scripture for themselves, was really only directed at the Apostles. If everyone, or even most people, were really given the gift of the Holy Spirit to accurately interpret scripture, then would we not all come up with the same interpretations? And since we don’t all come up with the same interpretations of scripture, then does that not mean that at least some of those interpretations must be wrong. And if some of those interpretations are wrong, then does that not mean that John 16:13 does not apply to everyone? It seems to make much more sense to me that God, in His infinite wisdom, would have left us an authority here on Earth to settle these differences, to tell us which things are right and which are wrong. To be a shepherd here on Earth to His flock. Jesus, again speaking to the Apostles (not everyone), says he who hears you, hears me (Lk 10:16). The only entity on Earth that I have found so far that come close to accomplishing this is the Roman Catholic Church. If you know of another entity here on Earth that does a better job of fulfilling this role, of performing the work of Jesus Christ around the world, please tell me. I truly want to know.

  86. 5-30-2011

    Danny,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree that the typical Protestant understanding of unity is not the same as the unity we find in Scripture. Looking through history, though, I would suggest that there is very little unity withing and among the Catholic church as well – especially for those who may disagree about some point of tradition.

    Why do you think John 16:13 only applies to the apostles? I would suggest it has a broader audience for at least 2 reasons: 1) John did not write this for only apostles to read. 2) The NT epistles and Acts indicate that others were able to interpret Scripture as well. (Consider Acts 7 for one example.)

    Yes, there is an entity on earth that does a better job than the Roman Catholic Church: Jesus Christ. He is present; he is living; he is powerful; and only he is the head of his church.

    -Alan

  87. 5-30-2011

    Brian,

    You understand that Jesus was talking about literally eating his physical body and literally drinking his physical blood. So, why was he not talking about literally never being physically hungry or thirsty? You can’t mix an allegory like that.

    -Alan

  88. 5-30-2011

    Alan,

    No, I am saying you chastise me when I use an extrabiblical source as reference. :-)

    Septuagint, please. And anamnesis, please. Anamnesis is not used in Genesis 9:15.

    :-)

    Brian

    P.S. Speaking of Noah, I am off to see the Morganza Spillway with my boys. I will take some pics and post on Facebook.

  89. 5-30-2011

    Alan,

    That’s because you are confusing physical and sacramental. There is a distinction.

    Brian

  90. 5-30-2011

    Brian,

    There’s a big time difference (and, thus, language difference) between Plato and the NT. The Greek language used by Josephus and Philo are much closer to the Greek used in the NT.

    If you look back in my comment, I used Genesis 9 as an example of God remembering. Genesis 9:15 clearly says that God will remember when he sees the rainbow. That was a response to your statement: “Now, why would God need to remember something? Could he have forgotten? Since all things are eternally present to Him, I doubt seriously. It means that God is acting to make present a promise which occurred in the past, not HIS past (He has no past), but OUR past.”

    So, what does the verb “I will remember” (with God speaking) in Genesis 9:15 mean?

    By the way, there is alot of parallel between Genesis 9 and the last Passover that Jesus ate with his followers. Both indicate a covenant and a remembrance. It’s even possible that “my remembrance” in Matthew points to God (i.e., Jesus) remembering something, just the verb “remember” refers to in Genesis 9:15.

    -Alan

  91. 5-30-2011

    Brian,

    I understand sacrament. I think it’s a stretch (and unlikely) to understand Jesus talking of physical eating and drinking and nonphysical hunger and thirst. It’s much more likely (and more in line with the use of language and the context of John 6) that Jesus is using eating and drinking and thirst and hunger as allegories for spiritual realities… in all cases, not just the ones that fit our theology.

    -Alan

  92. 5-31-2011

    This is an interesting thread. I will have much to say here, for certain. A few brief points.

    The canon question was brought up. It has yet to be answered. R.C. Sproul, a brilliant reformed (aka protestant) writer and apologist has stated the following in his book “What is Reformed Theology”: “The Catholic has an infallible list of infallible books. The protestant can do no better than to admit a fallible list of infallible books.”

    But which definition of the Bible is the one the protestant holds?
    1. A fallible group of infallible books?
    2. An infallible group of infallible books?

    Now, answer #1 actually means a “supposed” list of infallible books, aka, who knows if any or all are infallible; whether or not any or all are the Word of God.

    Answer #2 is what the protestant, the supposed “Bible Christian,” the “sola Scriptura” adherent, would want to claim. Yet without recognizing the authority of the Catholic Church, the Councils such as Hippo and Carthage, and the Papal approval that made official the 27 book NT as accepted today by generally all protestants.

    It seems that the intellectual and logical honesty of an RC Sproul is all too rare these days. Why? Because a protestant wishes to remain protestant, and the truth is detrimental to their case.

    I would submit that, until the canon question can be answered and it is demonstrated that the protestant can affirm that John 6, for instance is infallibly part of the Scripture to begin with, that topics dealing with John 6, etc, have little reason to be argued. The Catholic knows infallibly that John 6 is actually Scripture; the protestant only knows that it happens to be in his copy of the Bible, as it is “fallibly” placed there.

    In other words, when a Catholic quotes Romans, or Matthew, or 1 Timothy, he knows he is infallibly quoting Scripture. When the protestant does so, he merely argues from a historical document which “just so happens” to be in a collection known as the Bible, but with no ability to justify this or that particular book being there…and certainly no absolutely infallible justification.

    The Bible stands or falls with the authority of the Catholic Church. After all, the authority of both is from the same source:

    Jesus the Christ!

  93. 5-31-2011

    Matt,

    How does the Catholic know infallibly that John 6 is actually Scripture?

    -Alan

  94. 5-31-2011

    The Catholic accepts the authority of the Church. This is a related, but separate point. If the Catholic Church can make infallible pronouncements, then when it confirmed that the NT had the 27 books that you and I both have in our Bible’s, no more, no less, then we know that those 27 books, and only those 27 books, are infallibly in the Bible.

    If, however, the Church can err, in this case, in the canon of Scripture, we must admit one of two things:

    1. There is another direct authorization of the 27 books.
    2. The list is fallible, and it is only “likely” that all or most are inspired Scripture.

    These are the only two options on how one is to KNOW that the Bible one holds in his hands is indeed the entire Scripture, nothing added, nothing missing.

    Here it is in logical (syllogistic) form:

    If authority A is infallible, and claims “B,” then “B” is certain.

    “B” is the canon of Scripture according to authority “A.”

    “B” is infallibly Scripture.

    The Catholic can make the syllogism above, because each of the premises are true. The protestant cannot, for it denies the infallible authority of “A.” Yet the protestant never replaces “A” with anything else (for example, God through down the complete KJV from heaven, Jesus came back an recognized the correct list, etc)

    The question, in the end, is one of authority. Otherwise, its anyone’s pick and choose: Luther certainly didn’t change the Scriptures to your current version; his canon would have been even shorter, for example.

    Matt Menking, I say, knows that the Bible he has is the Word of God, no more, no less, because he accepts the authority of the Church that established this list.

    Alan Knox accepts the Bible he has, but with no certainty beyond his own “infallibility.”

    In the end, we all accept an authority. I accept that God gave this authority to the Church he established. This is verified both historically and Biblically.

    You will claim likewise that you accept the authority of God, but can in no way trace it through anything other than men, who supposedly have no authority granted them by God. Thus your actual authority is, in the end, yourself.

  95. 5-31-2011

    Matt,

    So, what about before the Catholic Church made its infallible pronouncement concerning the 27 books of the NT? Was there Scripture before that? Did Clement, Ignatius, etc. have Scripture? Can the Catholic Church base their pronouncement on the views of people who did not have an infallible list of infallible books?

    -Alan

  96. 5-31-2011

    Thanks for strengthening my case. No, there was no list of infallible Scripture before the pronouncement. Many books were used in Mass before this time, such as the Shepard of Hermas and sometimes letters of Clement of Rome. Books such as Revelation and even Hebrews were often not read at worship because their canonicity was uncertain. But once the Church made its pronouncement, it was a settled issue.

    Of course, objectively speaking, the 27 books were Scripture from the moment of the completion of each. But God’s knowing something and man’s knowing this are two different things. Will you tell me that when the Thessalonians received Paul’s first letter, they immediately knew it was Scripture? If so, did we have a 1 book NT at the time?

    The reality is, there is a difference in objective versus subjective knowledge. Indeed, for God, from eternity his NT would have 27 books. For us, this was not known exactly until the Church, who’s authority is from God, made it known through RECOGNIZING the Bible, not MAKING it. Likewise, you do not MAKE the NT, but recognize it for what it is. However, what makes Alan, or his “source,” whatever that may be (you have failed to tell us yet) an authoritative recognition of what is and is not Scripture?

    Now, I have given a lot of information to which you have quickly responded with short answers. Without my sounding prideful, you have much more to answer from these posts than you have offered. I will not say more, but will continually demand you answer what has already been presented: after all, this is how reasonable discussion and debate takes place. “Iron sharpens iron,” but only if the material presented is pondered and honestly answered in full.

    God Bless, I am off to work.

  97. 5-31-2011

    Matt,

    And, yet, even without a “canon” as we describe it today, these early Christians did extremely well in proclaiming the gospel and building up other Christians… perhaps even better than we do today. Maybe the problem is not with finding authority in the Catholic Church or being certain of an infallible list of infallible books, but in relying completely on God through his Holy Spirit instead of either one of the other two.

    -Alan

  98. 5-31-2011

    Matt

    First let me encourage you not to confuse volume of writing with potency of argument.

    You say you base everything you believe on the authority of the church. So you accept the authority of the Catholic Church because…why? What is your basis for believing in the Catholic Church? Because it has been around a long time? If you believe the Catholic Church is authoritative because you believe the Bible says so but then say the Bible is only as good as the Roman Catholic Church, you are engaging in a circular argument. The Bible says the Catholic Church is the only true church and the Catholic Church is the only authority that can declare the Bible to be true because the Bible says it is he only true church…and on and on.

    You live nearly two thousand years after the cross and you base everything you are saying on “the authority of the church” in spite of the rather sordid history of this organization, a history that belies your claims of infallible authority. In fact you claim that the Bible itself “stands or falls with the authority of the Catholic Church”. The Catholic Church was not involved in the writing of the Gospels. The Catholic Church was not involved in the writings of Paul or Peter or John. Compiling the canon is not the same thing as writing the Gospels or Epistles. If I may say so with all respect, this is very similar to the viewpoint that mormons have. They claim that their organization is authoritative over and above the Bible. Their faith is ultimately only as good as the organization and the men who lead it, which is remarkably similar to what you are claiming. No one is denying the role the Catholic Church had in preserving the Scriptures but to suggest that it somehow give Rome the sole authority to judge and interpret the Scriptures is ridiculous.

    As Alan pointed out, somehow the church in the earliest days managed to proclaim the Gospel and see tremendous growth without the benefit of a Bible and certainly without anything even vaguely resembling the Roman Catholic Church. No popes, no cardinals, no human priests. I would beg you to place your faith in Christ alone, directly without an organization or intermediary. Men are fallible as are the organizations that they create.

    (By the way, you should read more of what R.C. Sproul has written because he has a lot to say about Rome. Cherry picking one sentence out of a book and claiming victory for Rome is disingenuous)

  99. 5-31-2011

    Alan,

    In that case, why even use the bible?

    Arthur,

    Get ready. :-)

    Brian

  100. 5-31-2011

    Brian,

    It is interesting to see what the disciples had to say after Jesus asked them if they were going to walk away as well. They didn’t say “Heck no, we want to devour your flesh and blood!”. They simply said “Where else are we going to go? You have the Word of eternal life” (not, you have the flesh and blood so what else are we going to eat). They didn’t understand what He was saying, certainly not the only time that happened, but they followed Him because He was the source of eternal life. This entire event needs to be examined in the context it is happening in. Jesus is speaking after meeting the physical hunger of the multitude but again, as Alan pointed out, these people would hunger again physically. What they need and what we need is spiritual nourishment such that even if we are starving to death, we are fed by Christ. Jesus is clearly contrasting the physical bread, i.e. manna or the bread He just fed the multitude with, to the spiritual bread.

    Note also in 1 Corinthians 11 that Paul, while reiterating the words Jesus spoke, comes to a very different conclusion than you are coming to. First, he is speaking of this event in the context of a meal, not a ritual. He says right after repeating the words that Jesus spoke with “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26). Read that again. What is he saying we are eating? Bread. Not the literal flesh of Christ. It is bread. It was bread when it was placed on the table and it was bread when it was broken and it was bread when we eat it. The broken bread is not His literal body, it is representative of His broken body on the cross. The wine in the cup is not His literal blood, it is representative of His shed blood on the cross. The Supper itself as His church is called to celebrate is a public declaration and a looking forward.

    It is also interesting that while breaking bread, i.e. sharing a meal among the gathered church, has a prominent place in the New Testament, there is no mention of a Eucharistic ritual. In 1 Corinthians 14 we see the most explicit passage regarding what the church should “do” when they gather and what is utterly absent is any mention of anything that resembles a Mass or the Eucharist. Given the place of prominence the Eucharist has in Roman Catholicism, you would expect at least a hint of it. You will look in vain to find it unless you predetermine that it is there and then force that interpretation onto the text.

  101. 5-31-2011

    Alan,

    Catholics don’t separate us into physical and spiritual realities. We are an incarnational faith. The hunger and thirst Jesus is referring to is physical in that it is a longing for truth which can only be filled by Him. It is not only a longing of the spirit because we are not simply embodied ghosts. If you know sacrament, you understand that God uses physical realities whereby our entire person, body and spirit, are nourished.

    As to remembrance, I wanted to discuss the use of anamnesis with regard to remembering. That is not the term used in Genesis 9:15.

    Brian

  102. 5-31-2011

    Arthur,

    See my reply to Alan regarding hunger and thirst. As to the Mass not being in scripture, I only refer you to the account in the road to Emmaus. The scriptures were explained and bread and wine were offerred in thanksgiving (eucharistia) and Jesus was recognized there. No brats or chips. No meatloaf and potatoes. Bread and wine, and their eyes were opened and he disappeared from their sight. .That is the Mass in its most basic form. Those who have eyes to see, see.

    Brian

  103. 5-31-2011

    Arthur,

    1 Corinthians 11 is a very interesting passage for several reasons: 1) Paul quotes the Gospel account. 2) Because of what Paul tells them the problem is. 3) Because of what Paul does NOT tell them the problem is.

    Brian,

    Why not use Scripture? Christians have always used Scriptures, even before the Catholic Church had a made a pronouncement.

    I was not referring to us being both physical and spiritual. I was referring to the analogy. According to your interpretation, you have Jesus using the same analogy (eating/drinking) in two different ways in the same context.

    In the Luke 24 passage (Road to Emmaus), there is no mention of “the bead and wine” being offered. Jesus “broke bread” with them. As I’ve said before, “breaking bread” was a common phrase for eating a meal together. Look at Acts 27:35. Did Paul serve the “Eucharist” to pagan sailors?

    -Alan

  104. 5-31-2011

    Arthur,

    You said “First let me encourage you not to confuse volume of writing with potency of argument.” Then you proceeded to ignore your point, starting with the next sentence. Interesting.

    Now, I however, have already followed your “advice” in:
    1. Stating my point in a simple syllogism
    2. Stating in a later post that “I will not say more, but will continually demand you answer what has already been presented: after all, this is how reasonable discussion and debate takes place. “Iron sharpens iron,” but only if the material presented is pondered and honestly answered in full.

    This, of course, has not been done. Instead, the logical fallacy of “thinking that in presenting ones own argument, one has refuted the one presented” has occurred.

    1. You have offered no explicit rebuttal to my syllogism, but instead…
    2. You have presented a weak and common dialectic but not demonstrative argument against the point I make.
    3. You have yet to offer a defense of your own position.

    Enter logic 101:

    I used clear terms. If not, you need to show how. I used true statements. If not, you need to show how. I used valid reasoning. If not, you need to show how. Otherwise, you must accept the truth of the syllogism. Here it is in negative form:

    If no infallible source makes statement “A”, it cannot be sure to be true.

    The protestant recognizes no infallible source that has said “A” (that the canon of Scripture is correct with certainty).

    Therefore, statement “A” (that the canon of Scripture is correct with certainty) is not sure to be true.

    So, in my EXTENSIVE reading of RC Sproul and others who are not of “my camp” (this is what true seekers of truth do; they read research as much info as possible from all sources), I make no claim that he is “somehow Catholic.” I DO make the claim that, being honest (a Christian virtue) and intelligent (as I gave him credit for above) he agrees with the syllogism I offered.

    Briefly note the following:

    1. I believe in Christ alone (I also believe in Grace alone, and in the Word of God alone, and in One faith, one baptism,etc…)lots of “alones” that are nonetheless all true because not exclusive in their principle to term relationship. So this statement of yours has no actual meaning here.
    2. The “circular argument” claim for the validity of the Catholic Church is not true, for I do not claim to get the authority of the Church from the Scriptures alone.
    3. I did, however, say in my second post (yes, I think these things through) that “The Catholic accepts the authority of the Church. This is a related, but separate point.”

    Now, please pick a topic: The canon of Scripture as understood by the protestant would be the one we have been discussing. If you would like to discuss the related but separate point of the authority of the Church, that would be fine, but we will discuss it as it is.

    No topic jumping. This is the defensive maneuver of one who won’t see points through to their end. I refuse to discuss things in such ways, as it merely turns into one of “feelings” instead of reasoned discussion. Truth is not found in the latter way.

    You don’t owe me to debate on my terms (logically, validly, etc), but likewise, do not expect any further input from me to merely “bicker back and forth” which is all it is when done in this too typical fashion.

    In Christ alone (which must include every truth the Truth Himself has revealed),

    Matt Menking

  105. 5-31-2011

    Lastly,

    You said “Men are fallible as are the organizations that they create.”

    Thank you for making the statement on why I follow Christ, who created an organization Himself, and therefore that organization. Men indeed, apart from a special grace given by God for such things as writing Scripture and making certain truths derived from it known to Christians, are fallible. Christ, however, is not.

  106. 5-31-2011

    Matt,

    The problem is that your syllogism is based on a premise that neither Arthur nor I accept: “The Catholic accepts the authority of the Church. This is a related, but separate point. If the Catholic Church can make infallible pronouncements…” We do not accept the authority of the Catholic Church nor that Jesus instituted or built the Catholic Church.

    By the way, you brought up the authority issue in relation to the canon issue in your comment. So, yes, Arthur was justified in dealing with that issue. Without the authority premise, your argument falls apart.

    I think I’m also still waiting for you to answer a question that I asked.

    -Alan

  107. 5-31-2011

    Alan,

    I will answer questions when some of mine actually get answered. And look at the “negative version” of the syllogism. My argument isn’t a proof of the authority of the church. It is a premise, and thus needs to be argued separately, for sure. But the point is not where I get my authority, but where does the protestant get his. Is the canon a fallible list or an infallible one? That’s the question. The point is, certainly RC Sproul denies the authority of the Catholic Church; good to go. My question is, can you make up what he lacks? Can you establish a replacement in the syllogism. If not, you must accept (because the laws of logic demand it) that RC Sproul and Matt Menking are correct: The protestant, in rejecting (whether validly or not) the authority of the Catholic Church, accepts the truth that it holds “a fallible list of infallible books.”

    This is really too simple. Please quit confusing issues. Yes, they are all issues. Yes, they are important. But they are not the topic of this simple question, which, unlike the honest RC Sproul, no one here seems to want to answer…and it is clear why.

  108. 5-31-2011

    Alan,

    That exegesis of the Emmaus story is just nonsense.

    Luke 24:30

    When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.

    He took THE bread and broke it is a eucharistic image. Nothing about having dinner in the sense in which you are using it. There was no salad, appetizer, entree, and dessert washed down with wine.

    He who has eyes to see…

    Brian

  109. 5-31-2011

    Matt,

    But, you’re presenting a syllogism with an invalid premise. Why would I want to argue for or against such a proposal?

    I do not believe the fallibility or infallibility of the Scriptures rest upon the authority of the Catholic Church in the past, present, or future, nor do I believe the fallibility or infallibility of the Scripture rest upon my authority.

    Again, this is why it is important for us to consider the use of Scripture before the Catholic Church made its pronouncement.

    By the way… why do you keep referring to the 27 books? Why only the NT?

    Brian,

    Again, where is the wine in Luke 24:30? You said “bread and wine”…

    So, you’re arguing that Paul served the “Eucharist” to pagan sailors, since he also “took bread and broke it”?

    -Alan

  110. 5-31-2011

    Alan,

    Please read the syllogism again. Here, there is no mention of the Catholic Church. There is only a reasoned statement that could apply to math, science, or whatever you like:

    If no infallible source makes statement “A”, it cannot be sure to be true.

    The protestant recognizes no infallible source that has said “A” (that the canon of Scripture is correct with certainty).

    Therefore, statement “A” (that the canon of Scripture is correct with certainty) is not sure to be true.

    Is the statement above true or not? Do you claim, against the syllogism here presented, that rather “something fallible can make a claim that is perfectly infallible” and can you justify it.

    There is no need to mention the Catholic Church here, much less debate its authority. It is simply not a part of the equation.

    There are two separate questions:

    1. Does the protestant have any way of knowing that the canon of Scripture is correct?

    2. Is the Catholic Church, who Catholics use as the authority to know that the canon of Scripture is correct, actually infallible.

    These are two separate questions. Please stop confusing them.

    God Bless,
    Matt

  111. 5-31-2011

    Matt,

    Yes, I believe there is an authority who verifies the veracity of the Scriptures apart from either the Catholic Church or the Catholic or the Protestant.

    Someone who trusts the authority of God can have more certainty in the veracity of the Scriptures than a Protestant or a Catholic who trusts any other authority.

    So… about those early Christians who used Scripture before the Catholic Church’s pronouncement?

    -Alan

  112. 5-31-2011

    Alan,

    You have failed to answer my question. I believe your premise is “the Holy Spirit told you” or something similar. You say you “trust the authority of God.” As do I. My question is the means, the medium. Did God tell Alan Knox what the Scriptures are? Why not Matt Menking?

    It still comes down to “Alan” is the authority. All authority comes from God. that is a given since He is Being Itself. But how Alan Knox knows the Scriptures is a long shot from this.

    I trust God, and I see He established an authority on earth. ““All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    Now, an authority established by an authority is to be trusted, yes? But we are diverging again. Unless Alan Knox says “I was told directly by God” then Alan Knox’ trusting in God has no validity on this point. We might as well be Muslim, since 1 billion of them “trust God” as well. We might as well be new age, because “the heavens” talk to me.

    If it is all “I am spiritual, therefore my trust in God establishes truth on earth”…why the Scriptures at all? Wouldn’t God, as He has clearly done for you, reveal Himself personally to each of His elect? Why did Christ say “I will build my Church” if it is merely a conventional name for a completed unrelated group of individual persons that God actually speaks to privately one on one?

    If this is your faith (and implicitly, it is, whether you explicitly say so or not) then there is no need to debate the canon with you; for you, who have “trust in God,” there is no need for Scripture any more than a Church. You need no “intercessor” to teach you truth, be it a church or a book. You have no need, therefore, of Christ, who said “Go therefore…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    You have a “direct line to God” that supersedes all. Congrats!

  113. 5-31-2011

    Matt,

    As I’ve already stated, the authority does not rest with me, or with you, or with any Protestant church, or with the Catholic Church, but with God, and God alone. Matthew 28:19-20 does not institute or establish the Catholic Church. Look through the Gospels and Acts at all of the different commissioning statements. They were not given only to the 12 (11). All of Jesus’ followers were commissioned to make disciples. If you are a follower of Jesus, then I hope you are following him by discipling others, including teaching and baptizing them.

    As a follower of Jesus Christ, yes, he communicates with me through his Spirit using many different methods. Scripture is one of those methods. Scripture is not necessary, as is obvious since God’s children have not always had Scripture and many today still do not have Scripture.

    Yes, I have a direct line to God, and if you have received Jesus Christ, then you have a direct line to God. I hope you learn to listen to him without a mediator. Jesus Christ is the only mediator prescribed by God. Any other who claim to be a mediator is attempting to usurp the power of God.

    As with all of God’s children, I do not perfectly understand God’s communication. (And when I say “all” I include myself, and you, and everyone else commenting here, and everyone who has ever lived – except Jesus Christ.) I also believe that those making decisions in the name of the Catholic Church throughout history have not perfectly understood God’s communication. The difference is that I and others continue to discern what God is saying, while the decisions of the Catholic Church are set as “Tradition” and are accepted without further discernment.

    Perhaps you do not mean to do so, but your comments have an air of arrogance and superiority. If you desire to help us understand your position and beliefs, than a more humble approach would be more effective. If instead, you simply want to point out that you think our beliefs are ridiculous, then you are doing fine.

    -Alan

  114. 5-31-2011

    Alan,

    Brian above said it well: “Alan,

    In that case, why even use the bible?”

    If your direct line to Jesus can supersede and even overwrite the Scriptures, then certainly they are unnecessary. It is becoming apparent that this is your position. Whether it is “ridiculous” or not, I withhold opinion. It is certainly not orthodox.

    However, I will respond to your statement:

    “The difference is that I and others continue to discern what God is saying, while the decisions of the Catholic Church are set as “Tradition” and are accepted without further discernment.”

    Two things follow:
    1. God is the same, yesterday,today and tomorrow. If He is a Trinity then, He is now. So if the Catholic Church said so in 325 AD and also in 2011, so be it. It is “Tradition” because it is true. “Hold fast to the Traditions” Paul said, and this because what was true for Paul is true for Matt and Alan. It’s objective truth.
    2. You say that the Catholic Church doesn’t “continue to discern” yet if it makes a statement in 1000 AD, or 1500, or 1850, then it is “adding to the Bible.” There seems to be a double standard when it comes to “[you] and others continu[ing] to discern what God is saying,”…its permissible for Alan Knox, and not for the Catholic Church.

    I am not trying to be demeaning or arrogant, but the truth of simple reasoning and consistent procedure is missing in so many ways outside the Church, whose authority is derived from and only existing because it comes from Christ.

    God bless,
    Matt Menking

  115. 5-31-2011

    Matt,

    Look at my comment above. I said, “As a follower of Jesus Christ, yes, he communicates with me through his Spirit using many different methods.” One of the ways that the Spirit communicates with me is Scripture. So, why not use the Bible?

    You said, “So if the Catholic Church said so in 325 AD and also in 2011, so be it. It is ‘Tradition’ because it is true.” Thank you for making my point. What about what was said between 35-100 AD?

    There is a difference between continuing to discern what God is saying (because you know that you and others could have misunderstood previously), and changing (yes, changing) what God said previously. Here’s just one example: I’ve read many, many Catholic biblical scholars who admit that the hierarchy of bishop, presbyter, deacon is not found as a hierarchy in Scripture. Yet, this is what was established later by the Catholic Church… and thus, “it is true”… So, which is it? God doesn’t change, or he does?

    I would restate your last statement as follows: “The truth of simple reasoning and consistent procedure is missing in so many ways inside the Catholic Church, whose authority is derived from and only existing because it comes from Catholic Church.”

    -Alan

  116. 5-31-2011

    Alan,

    He (Jesus) took the bread and broke it. Then their eyes were opened and he disappeared. As to the wine not being mentioned, that is arguing over semantics. Maybe we can look to Philo of Alexandria or Josephus to see if the wine was there or not. :-)

    Is that what happened with St. Paul? Was his intention to celebrate the Eucharist with pagans? I seriously doubt it, so therefore I say he wasn’t celebrating the Eucharist with them. The setting and purpose of the Emmaus story is something entirely different than St. Paul eating with pagans. Interestingly, though, that very thing is exactly what you say the early Christians did (gathering and eating). There was no liturgical or sacramental distinction, so from your hermeneutic, he is doing exactly what you are attmepting to do. I don’t happen to think that sitting and eating with pagans while remembering Jesus and his mighty deeds fondly makes them a member of God’s covenant people in Christ.

    I can easily recognize the Mass in the story of Emmaus. It is simply what we do when we gather. The scriptures are proclaimed and we follow the Lord’s command to “do this in remembrance of me.” As to eating and drinking meals with the brethren, we do that as well, however this is not the hallmark of our identity as Catholics/Christians. It is that we gather, pray, break bread, are united sacramentally and spiritually in the Lord, and are dismissed to spread the gospel.

    Brian

  117. 5-31-2011

    Brian,

    Actually, I wasn’t saying that either Luke 24 or Acts 27 was “Eucharistic”. You had said Luke 24 was based on the wording “he took the bread and broke it,” and I merely pointed out that the same wording was used in Acts 27. So, perhaps that wording is not a “Eucharistic” formula, since you agree that Acts 27 is not “Eucharistic”.

    -Alan

  118. 5-31-2011

    Brian, you “easily” discern the Mass in the Emmaus account because you assume it is there. It is not there in the text. By the way, if He was observing the Mass as you allege, which was His Body? The human body that sat before them, with physical hands breaking bread, or the loaf of bread in front of Him? Was He there in Body and in bread at the same time?

    The attempt to force the Mass onto Luke 24:30 is, to borrow your term, “nonsense”. It was the end of he day. They were sharing a meal and had bread. There is simpy nothing to support the Mass being celebrated there. If that is the best example you have of the Mass being celebrated in Scripture, it speaks volumes to how weak the case really is.

  119. 5-31-2011

    Matt

    That was impressive! 600 words and you managed to dodge around the question quite nicely. As you are unable/unwilling to address why you believe the Catholic Church to be authoritative, I suppose we are left with just taking your word for it. I am afraid I don’t find that very persuasive. I find it ironic that you claim that we won’t “see the points through to their end” but refuse to answer a simple question while dancing around the topic and threatening to take your ball and go home if we refuse to play by your rules.

    Since you are so enamored of your vocabulary, I am sure you are familiar with the term “obfuscate”.

  120. 5-31-2011

    Great discussion! Brian, you rightly noted in the blogging that you had done with Alan that ‘priest’ was an English modification of ‘presbyter’, elder, whom I understand to be a leader whose function is non sacerdotal. But here, you are using ‘priest’ in the sacerdotal aspect. Which word applies for the NT office? Sacerdotal ‘priest’ or ‘non-sacerdotal elder’? You have used Greek here. What is the Greek word for sacerdotal priest and what is the Greek word for elder? Are they the same office?

    Thanks!
    Shawn

  121. 1-4-2012

    Thanks Brian for sharing. library gonna close but if i remember i will try to remmeber to write more in depth….i went to catholic school for a few years….always was in search of God btu just never pieced together everything til 18 when i moved to NC. needed that extra help from things i learned in catholciism that i got from baptist people and helped wrap the gift up so i could get saved it was a great experience but wish i had been saved at a younger age. Thank you for sharing.

  122. 1-5-2012

    sorry guys wont be able to respond very much and iw ish you the best dialogue. i wish you well in your journey Brian. all i can say in short cuz i dont have much time is i knwo thru my own experiences that we have to look at ourselves first there are many Christians who go thru inward deadness, and they have to realzie that this can happen with self. yes there is deadness in chruches i agree cuz whole congregatyion has to obey gospel as a whole but i have walked in churches and felt Light of Holy Spirit…soemtiems strong, sometimes not as strong. honestly depends if congregation is obeying Lord etc etc. but i also realize we have to deal with inward heart of man, self, and our own personal sins to get out us out of this desert we feel inwardly as well as outward experienc ein church. it can really be either or both. but we need to deal with inward heart of man and obey gospel and not all these confusing doctrines. go to basics and begin there with what bible says about going forth and preaching gospel of salvation….sin of heart of man, punsihment for it, what Christ did and how someone must repent and turn frmo sin and receive HOly Spirit and be filled with power of HOly Spirit and walk in it. once you start walking in Spirit and sharing gospel all the time then Lord will begin to clear up all doctrinal issuies…heart of issue is just deal with sin in own personal heart and going forth and when prompted by Lord just sahre CHrist with other peopel. Lord had to pull some doctrinal catholciism out of me cuz no ofeense but not all is true in that place. and you know there are some errors in protestant too but i did come out of ALot of deception by learnign alot from baptist denomination. my dry spells went awya more i obeyed Christ and shared gospel…shared how peopel can be saved…i wish i could go into more emphasis but i was as lost as a fly in the catholic church cuz honestly they never preached salvatrion and never preached fullety of gospel, just went on rambals about stuff enver made any sense…this is just from my own experience. no offense but it just alot of priests need to receive Holy SPirit cuz i didnt have it either and people need to know how to receive it so they can preach correctly. I wish you well dear one. You are truely loved By Lord and He loves you so much. Blessings.