In the Acknowledgments of The End of Protestantism, Peter Leithart mentions the privilege he had of debating with me at New St. Andrews last year on the issues surrounding the thesis of this, his most recent book. Now that I have the book, I have to say the privilege is all mine—but the debate still continues. The issues involved are really very important, and confusion at the beginning of a great task will not only necessitate confusion at the end of it, but it will be the kind of hostile confusion that will militate against the kind of Christian harmony that Peter wants and which, I also believe, all of us want.
And if you recollect (rightly) that we were just talking about this, here is a refresher from just a few weeks ago.
What Jesus Prayed
In his first chapter, Peter frames the issue, and the way he frames it determines the direction his entire argument has to take. His starting point is something Jesus said in the course of His great prayer in John 17.
“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21).
Now Peter takes it as self-evident that this prayer went unanswered.
“This is what Jesus wants for his church. It is not what his church is” (p. 1).
But there is another way to state this. “This is what Jesus wants for His church. And it is what the Father refused to give Him.”
Jesus was talking here, but it was not to the disciples telling them to get along (which He certainly did elsewhere). He was pleading with His Father for something. And if we don’t have that thing—and Peter is adamant that we do not—then that must mean that the Father said no. He refused the request.
Do we then conclude that this prayer was a bad idea? As soon as we frame it this way—a Father’s refusal as opposed to our disobedience—we find ourselves thinking that the Father must be saying “not yet” instead of giving a flat no.
But as soon as we do that, we find ourselves seeing the Lord’s request here as eschatological, yearning for the completion of His church. He is not praying about the mess of the construction phase, but rather what it will be like when we are setting the great ecumenical capstone.
We can think about this same problem from another angle. What did Jesus actually mean? What was He actually asking for? He says that He and the Father are one—that the Father is in Him, and that He is in the Father. This is what theologians call a perichoretic indwelling. Jesus is asking that His disciples would “all be one,” and that they would be “one in us.”
Now if this is something Jesus wants, but which we do not have, what is it we would not have? Well, it would have to be that we are not one with one another, and we are not one in them. But if we are not one in them, then this is either because our disobedience has been tracked into the Trinity, or that some or all of us are still outside, practicing our “Lord, Lord, did we not” lines.
Or there is another possibility. We do not yet have a clear idea of what Jesus was actually asking for, and which He actually received.
There is a great danger in trying to understand intra-Trinitarian perichoretic relationships (which we understand about as well as the family dog staring at your son’s calculus textbook) in order that we might try to figure out the right applications to our horizontal relationships down here. This why Jesus asked the Father to do it. He didn’t ask us to do it. It will be revealed in us, but we will not be the architects of it.
There are places where social trinitarianism has a point, but there will be black letter texts that tell us what that point actually is. “Be imitators of God, as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). The head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God (1 Cor. 11:3). But there are other places where social trinitarianism can go far astray, and this seems to me to be one of them. “The intra-perichoretic dance of the Trinity is to the relationships of billions of professing Christians and their churches, and mission boards, and Bible societies, and denominations, as what is to what?”
I don’t believe we know enough even to frame the problem properly.
The Line is Here Somewhere
At the very start of his discussion, Peter says this:
“The church is divided. It is not that the church has remained united while groups falsely calling themselves churches have split off” (p. 1).
The way he frames this is very straightforward, but it leaves a lot of Bible out. The Scriptures describe two kinds of division for us. There is division that occurs when it shouldn’t because Syntyche and Euodia really ought to be getting along (Phil. 4:1-3). Both their names are in the Book of Life, for crying out loud. But there is another kind of division that is greatly to be desired. This occurs when false brethren are identified and excluded (Gal. 2:4).
I mean, we really need to get real. A large portion of the New Testament was written in order to introduce, accomplish and maintain divisions. I am talking about Galatians, 2 Corinthians, 1 John, Colossians, and one could easily go on.
Unity with what? Division from whom? Division is not a bad thing, depending on what you are separating yourselves from. Unity is not good, depending what you are going along with.
What is the dividing line?
Peter says, “It is not that the church has remained united while groups falsely calling themselves churches have split off.” But actually that has happened, and it has happened many times. What about Mormons and Cathars, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Donatists?
It seems to me that Peter is using the zoom out feature on Christian history prior to the Reformation, and the zoom in feature afterwards. This gives him pre-Reformation unity, but that is a unity which did not actually exist.
“Once there were no denominations. Once the church was not mappable into three great ‘families’ of churches—Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox” (p. 4).
But this is simply not true. We have had teeming multitudes of groups from the very beginning, a number of them showing up in the pages of the New Testament. Not only so, but we have had the same range of options that we have now. We have had heretical groups from top to bottom, we have had heretical groups that contained genuine believers, we have had orthodox groups that contained heretics, and so on, down the street and around the corner. Augustine had his favorite Donatist writers the same way I have my favorite Catholic writers. This thing has always been messy.
First, Do No Harm
And last, let us assume for the sake of our discussion that denominationalism is a bad thing. I am not sure I know enough to assume even that, but let us grant it for a moment. How do denominations form?
One of the ways they have historically formed is through premature ecumenical ventures. One of the way new denominations form is by repudiating denominationalism. The Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) considers itself to be “non-denominational Christianity.” Not a denomination. Those of you who thought they were a denomination are mistaken.
How many of you good readers out there attend a “non-denominational” church? Yes, I see that hand. How can we be sure that we are not in fact perpetuating denominationalism?
“I speak from within denominational Christianity to call Christians to strive in the Spirit toward a new way of being church” (p. 5).
Yes, but what if this “new way” is actually the old way? People are fond of asking how many denominations there are, but I think it would be a salutary exercise to ask how many distinct denominations and organizations there are that formed as a direct result of well-intentioned ecumenical ventures. How many groups have formed because they thought that they, at long last, had found the key to unity?
“My agenda will make Protestant churches more catholic, but that is because it will make them more evangelical. The two go together because catholicity is inherent in the gospel” (p. 6).
Actually, Peter’s agenda will only make something of those who follow it, who seek to implement it. And because the chances are pretty good that a limited number of people will buy in, the most likely result will be one more denomination.
You could file this point under “when you are in a hole, stop digging.” How confident are we that our grasp of the history of denominational formation is large enough and expansive enough to ensure that we have successfully guarded against the exact same thing happening again?
One last comment. Peter uses a very important qualifier in his summary of his initial discussion, and I believe that it is a qualifier that puts a spotlight on the central problem that needs to be addressed.
“This amounts to a call for the end of Protestantism. Insofar as opposition to Catholicism is constitutive of Protestant identity; insofar as Protestants, whatever their theology, have acted as if they are members of a different church from Roman Catholics and Orthodox; insofar as Protestants define themselves over against other Protestants, as Lutherans are not-Reformed and Baptists are not-Methodist—in all these respects, Jesus bids Protestantism to come and die” (p. 6).
Insofar. But that raises an important set of question. Who decides? Where is the dividing line? We know that we are to be unified with those on this side of that line, but where is the line? We know we are to reject those on that side of the line, but where is the line? What are our definitions? I propose we answer these questions—which are all essential questions—as good Protestants. To the law and to the testimony.
In short, how far is insofar?
Excellent read. I hope Peter Leithart will honestly and sincerely try to answer these questions without taking this article as a deliberate and personal attack against him.
Maybe I’m guilty here. When we moved to our present home, we started looking for a church by ruling out all the denominations where the ongoing sexual revolution is front and center. In terms of “triage,” it’s an effective strategy. Certainly Jesus wants us all to be one body. At the same time, there are things that need fixing in Denominations X and Z before I will agree to put my family under their teachers.
If you’re looking for a branch to sit on, no reason to pick one that looks like it’s about to be cut off.
If you hadn’t posted that, I would have =)
I tweeted the following at Dr. Leithart last week, but didn’t get a reply (not that he ought to reply to me, but the question seems to follow the line Pastor Wilson is taking here):
@PLeithart Where could I find your view on what articles (eg Trinitarian baptism? Nicene creed?) identify the Church from apostasy; heresy?
@PLeithart given that heretics and apostates would claim to be the Church. What principles separate the categories?
Come on everybody. Let’s not bicker and argue about baptism and the Lord’s supper and eschatology and Mary. Let’s just agree that I’m right about those things and then we can ALL get along.
Relevant XKCD: https://xkcd.com/927/
Great minds think alike. After all, that is the point of the blog post.
Good points. My denomination (Reformed Episcopal Church) was birthed when Episcopalian liberals and Anglo-Catholics censured a bishop for sharing the Table with other denominations, and the Evangelicals split.
And now the REC is itself quite Anglo-Catholic, right?
I asked one of your bishops if he’d have a problem with a low church priest not wearing the color.
That got immediately nixed.
I know a lot of guys who wear cassock and surplice only. Which Bishop?
Right — but no cassock, no ordination, is what Grote told me.
The idea was render the individuality of the priest less obvious.
Yes, but that’s a far cry from being “Anglo-Catholic!”
True by itself. But a tell.
Wait — are you saying you don’t find the REC = Anglo-Catholic??!
I’ve been in an REC Church for 14 years under Bishop Grote. No, I don’t.
No offence meant.
Guess it depends on how you define Anglo-Catholic.
Simple test = from whence is the authority of the bishop derived?
Whenever I come across a “No creed but Jesus” brother, I say “That’s all well and good, until you meet someone who says the same thing while denying the Trinity.”
“It will be revealed in us, but we will not be the architects of it.” This is the most sensible statement of this post. Do we really believe that Mr. Leithart or any other human being could orchestrate something of this magnitude and not turn into a self-righteous insufferable braggart? If he is really interested in bringing about some unity, how about he go lecture some Catholics about repenting of their codified heresy and then getting back with us. “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order… Read more »
Yes indeed, exactly why would anyone promote uniting with a church which has anathematized the Apostles, and even Jesus himself.
Because we often do the same ourselves, and need to think above it.
It is good and pleasant to even have unity within a congregation!
Yeah, I’m the guy with my non-denominational hand in the air.
In fact, I’ve got both of them in the air, and I’m not putting them down until “Revelation Song” is over.
And Hey! Your hat seems pretty non-denominational too! ; – )
Well, it surely isn’t a pope hat.
Aren’t women supposed to be wearing the hats when they pray and prophesy?
I’m not taking that bait. Noooo way.
“This is what Jesus wants for His church. And it is what the Father refused to give Him.” Why are we so sure we it wasn’t granted in the asking? Maybe the disunity we see has nothing to do with the unity Jesus prays for. Maybe I missed a memo. Or there is another possibility. We do not yet have a clear idea of what Jesus was actually asking for, and which He actually received. Ah, okay. You go there before me. This why Jesus asked the Father to do it. He didn’t ask us to do it. It will… Read more »
Okay, I agree with everything here, except: “There are places where social trinitarianism has a point, but there will be black letter texts that tell us what that point actually is. ‘Be imitators of God, as dear children’ (Eph. 5:1). The head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God (1 Cor. 11:3).” I know this is minor stuff, but why do they have a point? Why can’t these verses simply refer to Christ in his human nature submitting to God? It seems to me that the social Trinitarians only have a point if the verse is… Read more »
But both here AND there be black letter textage that DOES tell us what the point is.
This why Jesus asked the Father to do it. He didn’t ask us to do it. It will be revealed in us, but we will not be the architects of it. I call false dichotomy. If you want to witness God the Father’s work of sanctification, which Jesus taught us to pray for, then you chose not to yell at your wife when she deserves it. Why, then, if you want to witness God the Father’s work of unification, which Jesus prayed for, don’t you choose not break fellowship with your old denomination when it really deserves it? Or maybe… Read more »
No — all you need to do is not yell at them.
You need to be able to still sit down and eat with them.
PCA-ers, for example, won’t let a RC-er or a Calvary Chapel-er at the table.
That’s like not eating with the family.
What PCA’ers won’t let a Calvary Chapel’er at the table?
And yes, I take that your point still stands with the RCer, but I think you’re just wrong as a matter of fact on the example of the CCer.
need to be a recognized “member” of a recognized valid franchise — CC is not a recognized franchise
Cite me the stipulation that leads you to that conclusion. Every PCA or OPC church I have known (and I’ve been a member or long-term attender of two of one and three of the other) has not drawn the lines that way, but based on whether the church is recognizably evangelical. And the neither Book of Church Order has the expression “franchise” in it anywhere, so your paraphrase is not helpful in nailing down the facts.
Dunsworth — your evident distaste at the idea that CC’ers would be excluded is most encouraging. (You also dislike their exclusion of Chesterton?)
Next I’ll list some pertinent BCO references for you, with comment.
You cited them, and proved my point.
It would indeed prove your point if they had left out all of the other parts of the book. Sadly they are required to follow the rule that says if a church has no membership roll then they are not to be recognized as an Evangelical Church that can have good standing for its supposed members.
Where is the phrase “has no membership roll” in the “other parts of the book”?
A church is capable of admitting people to itself without having a “roll.” Those who are recognized by an evangelical church as being part of that church, are recognized by the PCA as worthy receivers.
Maybe you will accept the inevitable if you will agree with them that they want to preserve the purity of discipline and Authority? They want to ensure that folks going to another church have provable oversight by their Pastor there and the only way they can see to do this is the membership roll
BCO 2-2. This visible unity of the body of Christ, though obscured, is not destroyed by its division into different denominations of professing Christians; but all of these which maintain the Word and Sacraments in their fundamental integrity are to be recognized as true branches of the Church of Jesus Christ. [I would hope this one would bolster your case, Dunsworth — so the question arises: which denominations do PCA Sessions recognize as “maintaining … fundamental integrity … as true branches of the Church …”? We know Roman Catholics are taken as NOT integritous. So what criteria does the PCA… Read more »
6-2. Communing members are those who have made a profession of faith
in Christ, have been baptized, and have been admitted by the Session to the
[admitted by Session = according to due process]
I’ve never seen it enforced. Typically, there is an admonition to refrain from the Table if one is in enmity with G*d lest they suffer some temporal consequences. If someone who is actively engaged in an impure lifestyle, while unrepentant, insists on partaking, then I imagine the pastor or an elder would advise them after the fact to reconsider or be shunned by the congregation.
Samuel — are you saying you’ve never seen a Session do it’s job of interviewing a potential nonmember communicant to determine admissability to the Table?
I’ve seen several instances of the Session admitting/interviewing new members. And also dealing with other knotty issues of doctrine, practice, and spiritual/temporal issues affecting that community of believers. However, enforcing some sort of restriction immediately prior to a service through an interrogation of sorts is impractical in all sorts of ways. Unless an elder already has prior knowledge and is obligated to address the situation. That’s why it is described as a “remembrance” and a holy sacrament for which most of the responsibility rests on the communicant. All visitors are warned before the service so that they are cognizant of… Read more »
“It is assumed, initially, that these visitors are believers from another evangelical church”
Let’s grant the one-off scenario for the moment.
A visitor who plops down for the service.
The warning is stated that this Table is for members in good standing an evangelical church.
In good faith, the Session is ASSUMING the communicant is such a member, right?
If that fella keeps coming — the Session’s self-professed job is to ensure the truth behind the assumption, is it not?
It is. As a matter of fact, it should be their duty (if not every member’s) to acquaint themselves with this new person and determine his status as a Brother/Sister in Christ, an innocent practicing what he was taught in his youth (and mimicking in ignorance), or a miscreant seeking to dilute the effectiveness of the church’s witness and service.
That’s good. But is it not also their duty to exclude from the Table those properly baptized, noble believing brothers (as they come to believe them to be after interviewing him) of good character who are not members there in that PCA but who regularly attend a church that doesn’t have self-defined official membership or a roll of some sort? (example a Calvary Chapel person) And it should also goe without saying that they should exclude the likes of a Chesterton or Tolkien or any known member of the Roman church who might, for some odd reason, want to cross… Read more »
Not ever being an elder, I can’t comment on what lengths the typical PCA church would go to accommodate a visitor wishing to participate in church activities. I doubt that someone who practices the Christian faith in a different way would stay long at a church that frowns on his or her particular interpretation. Your focus on “excluding” based on some sufficient investigation of a visitor’s pedigree sounds a little overzealous and runs the risk of consuming a Session’s limited time and resources. I would think this kind of attention would better be spent on requests for membership and/or participation… Read more »
Sausage making ain’t pretty there.
Some years back, I did encounter gossip where my Session was evaluating a fellow elder’s position based on the reckless lifestyle of one of his children. Due diligence was spent to determine if any culpability was to be assigned to the parent.
While that knowledge should have been “forbidden” to me, it did demonstrate some fidelity to biblical principles…
BCO 58-4 “Since, by our Lord’s appointment, this Sacrament sets forth the Communion of Saints, the minister, at the discretion of the Session, before the observance begins, may either invite all those who profess the true religion, and are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church, to participate in the ordinance; or may invite those who have been approved by the Session, after having given indication of their desire to participate. It is proper also to give a special invitation to non-communicants to remain during the service.” [Great — so a Session must determine if an attendee is: a… Read more »
So in other words, the book proves my point so you need to revert back to a different subject instead of acknowledging it.
I granted your larger point, I was questioning the accuracy of your claim that CC would be excluded. Clearly, they’re not.
Jane I do wish you were right. And I’m glad you want to see them as not excluding Calvary Chapel people. But they will not allow known Calvary Chapel attenders to come to the table because Calvary Chapel does not have official membership rolls.
To answer your question, in practice, in every church I’m familiar with, it’s the honor system. People know whether they’ve been admitted to a a church (communicant member) and in good standing (not under active discipline) so nobody has to “determine” anything.
Again, like it or not that churches have membership, your initial contention that this system excludes CCers from the table at OPC and PCA churches is disproved.
Jane, no PCA church is on the honor System. They must follow their rules
It is the honor system in the sense that it is up to the person attending the service to take or refrain, unless that person is known to the Session to have been barred for lack of affiliation with the Body of Christ or excommunication. They don’t stop people at the door and they don’t interrogate people before communion.
An attentive session will, however, get to know the person subsequently and assess whether the person should continue.
And none of this adds up to excluding members of Calvary Chapels.
Would you share what you mean by being barred for lack of affiliation?
I think I’ll pass. I think this ground has been canvassed enough and I don’t think my meaning is unclear, so I won’t pursue it further. Cheers.
(see PCA Digest on 18th GA, 1990, Report … Fencing Table) http://www.pcahistory.org/pca/2-294.pdf: “our confession … summarizes… that … church membership is necessary for the partaking of the Lord’s supper”… It is assumed that this means having a formal relationship of being enrolled in the membership of a particular body ? — “… the clear evidence of Scripture is that the church should keep a roll of members… it is impossible to have coherent discipline without such a roll. … Elders are to know their sheep … — this demands a list or roll … We conclude therefore that requiring professed… Read more »
My favorite denomination:
THE SWORD OF JOSHUA INDEPENDENT FULL-GOSPEL PENTECOSTAL ASSEMBLY…JUST OFF STATE ROAD 23…ON THE FRONTAGE ROAD
I think I grew up in that congregation, or at least down the road from it….
Doug revealed he’d enjoy the table with Roman Catholics if they came.
Making it a two-way street would be a good start in getting that positive answer to Jesus’ prayer.
That’s very unlike other Protestant denoms like the PCA, who’ll slam their fence shut in the face of al Roman Catholics and nondenominations alike.
Melchisedec = Melchisidecianism = mere Christianity It arrived on the scene in the garden = way before the denomination called Israel or Roman Catholicism. What if we all identified ourselves as a part of that REAL antitype denomination, rather than exclusively as these later temporarily subdenominational constructs? You want to say a Mormon is not a Christian because of his goofy doctrine? Perhaps. But that depends on the Mormon. I’ll betcha you may find way more Mormons with you up there than some Reformed folk. You want to say LDS doctrine is not Christian? >> that’s a better statement, more… Read more »
“Or there is another possibility. We do not yet have a clear idea of what Jesus was actually asking for, and which He actually received.” In my reading on economics (Henry Hazlitt, I’m looking your direction…) I have found that my thinking is often limited by my imagination. We think we know what Jesus means here, but maybe we dont. Our imaginations are quite fallen. His wasn’t. That said, however, I think I would fall into the camp that believes their should be more unity but that we haven’t gotten there yet. The eschatological unity camp. Lastly, I wonder if… Read more »
How about maybe His prayer was about realizing this unity as much as we can NOW, before the millennium?
Whenever two or three brothers can show this off = a great witness
It seems that Peter Leithart wants a good thing. He wants Church unity. But it also seems that he is not experiencing it in the form or timeline that he expects it. We’ve all seen how desire, even when the object is something good, can lead to frustration. Some deal with this by rationalizing the desire down into some other manageable objective, others by amping up the desire and criticizing those who aren’t running as hot about it. That last tendency can just lead to greater and greater frustration, and eventual blowout. It can destroy friendships, set up scapegoat victims,… Read more »
There is a tendency to forget the heresies that existed before the Reformation. Dominic didn’t have the Albigensians persecuted just for fun!
It is something that our current battles are waged with keystrokes rather than swords. I always remember Lord Byron’s cynical rhyme:
Christians have burnt each other, quite persuaded
That the apostles would have done as they did.
Generally, when people say they want to get rid of denominations, they mean that they want everyone else to agree with them.
The Word, in Romans 12, says we are one body with many parts. Perhaps certain wise-elbows should stop speculating that the various parts should all become a single part. The difinitive book on denominations has already been written, The Word of God. Romans 12 Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in… Read more »
Share? But Leithart knows that OPC’ers, RC’ers & PCA’ers won’t share the meal together.
Is that a problem?
“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.” Perf’ the whole sentence takes it our of the realm of communion, and more into physical needs.
As human beings, most people share as such on occasion, even christians!
OUT of the realm?
Maybe it should rather be within, or epitomized by?
Isn’t the shared Table the ground floor?
Or do they know we are Christians by a love that won’t allow us to even eat together?
Yes, “out” of the realm of communion. Salvation is the ground floor, and the working out of it. Communion is a remeberance of the sacrifice that made salvation possible. I myself haven’t taken communion in about 4 or 5 years, because my church’s pastorate has some “yeast of the pharisees” issues, that are slowly working out. (Think Paul appealing to Ceasar.) We still have a “relationship”. You could even, and should, call my behavior “love”. Pray for Justice to come for us in mid December. If Justice comes at that time, my pastorate’s apostacy / hypocrisy will be exposed. Then… Read more »
I’ll definitely give you the nod there.
But you maybe prove my point that where folks can’t eat & drink, there be some trouble.
Paul I think told folks they can eat at home if they hanker so much for noninclusive victuals.
The get-together that get-apart shouldn’t happen.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I read this while seated at a conference run by an Independent with presenters from multiple denominations and attendees of multiple denominations. Including at least: Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterians, Salvation Army, Anglicans, and Pentecostals.
It seems that at the time of the Reformation there were several deficiencies in the church: at least in practice though I would argue in theology. Several leaders in the church were godless and managed to devour the flock while muddying the waters. So reformation was attempted but the result was not reformation of the church but new denomination(s). As the Reformation was bringing the followers of Christ back towards him, it would seem that any subsequent improvement in the Roman Catholic church needs to acknowledge that the trajectory they were on at the time of the Reformation was in… Read more »
I think every educated Catholic would agree with you about the defects in practice–pluralism, parishes without priests, the sale of indulgences, religious orders that had become worldly, and, of course, some bad popes–but not necessarily about defects in doctrine.
Well the Protestants would disagree about some aspects of doctrine. But regardless, my perspective is that practice failures meant that the church needed to be brought back on course. An attempt at reforming the church failed thus new congregations.
If this is true—that the church was indeed off course in a serious way—and especially if the Romans acknowledge this now, then that means that the Romans cannot then make the claim that they are the true church that others need to come back to. You don’t get to sell your birthright then pretend you still have it.
I sort of agree with what you’re saying, but would think that it should probably be worded something more like, “Everyone is on equal footing”, rather than the suggestion that the protestants, en masse, have become the epicenter of “right theology and practice” which the Catholics need to move to. And how do the Orthodox fit into all that? I’m speaking of the bulk, who do not view themselves as the “one true church”, but who do believe that they have an unbroken line of legitimacy, and in some cases didn’t follow down all of the same misdirected paths that… Read more »
I wouldn’t say that the Protestants are the epicentre of truth given that they have vastly different ideas amongst themselves. I happen to agree with many Protestant Doctrines, but then I would find some of my ideas closer to Rome than to Calvin. My point was more that even if (hypothetically) true doctrine turns out to be half Catholic half Protestant on the current differences; the Roman Catholic church is in a position where they need to acknowledge that the practice of the church was so serious wrong that it needed to be corrected. As she refused to be corrected… Read more »
The practices flowed from the theology. And there were deep, deep doctrinal issues that led to the Reformation. Those can’t be simply rolled back. Ecumenism, in this sense, has limited value since Protestantism and Roman Catholicism have radically different ideas of what salvation and service involve. Participating together in bringing people “to Christ” would be dishonest at best since neither believes the other is fulfilling G*d’s plan.
I do not fully agree with the way that Peter and Doug interpret Jesus’ request for unity. Unity is not exactly a binary concept. People have increasing and decreasing degrees of unity. A marriage can have unity while not being in complete agreement and harmony, and is disunity while maintaining some agreement. As well as praying this prayer Jesus also told the parable of the wheat and tares. And he asked if faith would be found when he returned. So the prayer needs to be read taking what these other comments also teach us. And it seems that there is… Read more »
Unity is on a continuum, but I think it is legitimate to assume that Jesus’ request was for perfect unity.
So I think it’s legitimate to judge whether the request has been granted in terms of whether it has been granted fully, while also assessing whether there is movement in that direction or not.
Well then, being sons of Adam, that prayer was only ever going to be completely answered at our consummation.
If the Trinity has both unity and diversity, then the Church will image this. An effort to focus on one or the other will lead to division (heresy). We should be glad for what we do have, and not be frustrated about what has not been given to our era.
“What is the dividing line?”
According our friend and colleague, James White, it is always, ALWAYS the gospel itself. Yes, it includes exchanging one’s idols for the Triune God, and involves baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But if it does not have the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement as its foundation, then it’s just formalism.
You didn’t say it had to state that doctrine.
If that was intentional, then the question arises:
Who, if anyone, checks for this?
How do they check?
Black Letters Matter.
Another factor that needs to be remembered in the historical assessment of the Reformation is that it was deeply political. Luther would not have succeeded in building an institution separate from the Roman church without the patronage of Frederick III — and though Frederick was apparently never strongly persuaded by Luther’s teaching, Luther did provide a basis for legitimately opposing the Pope and the Emperor.
Can the debate be found online somewhere!? I have been following this discussion between Dr Leithart and you Pastor Wilson and would very much like to hear the dialogue that occurred.
(I did a search on YouTube and a general google search ut did not see an audio or video of it).
Denominational stricture prevent a personal closeness to the Lord Jesus and works of the Holy Ghost. None of the twelve were part of the religious when they followed Jesus.
Is it possible that Jesus was referring only to the disciples in the section of the prayer talked about and that it was indeed answered in the affirmative in Acts after the resurrection and the disciples were united by the Holy Spirit and the scriptures?