Some questions on the necessity of the Church for Christian faith

To elicit debate and discussion.

· Is it necessary for an individual Christian to belong to a congregation of other Christians in order to be truly Christian?

· Is it necessary for any given congregation of Christians to belong to a wider communion of Christian congregations in order to be a truly Christian congregation?

· Can any Christian believer take upon himself the authority to establish or lead a congregation of Christians, preach and teach the Word, administer the Sacraments, and determine true and false doctrine?

· How do I know what the “clear word of Scripture about salvation in Christ Jesus” is?

· How do I know what the “deposit of faith” / “apostolic faith” is?

· How do I know what is an “addition” to the deposit of faith and what is a “subtraction”?

· If Catholicism is “b+” and Protestantism is “b-” and Orthodoxy is “a”, how do I know whether “a” or “b” is right in the first place?

· By what authority are doctrinal errors rejected?

· Who decides which of the following forms of baptism are valid: Baptism with the formula “in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier”, baptism with the formula “in the name of Jesus”, baptism by sprinkling, baptism of infants, Mormon baptism?

· Who decides what is “contrary to Scripture”?

· To what entity did Our Lord Jesus Christ refer when he said in the Gospel: “Listen to the Church” (Matthew 18:17)?

· Of what/whom does the church consist?

· How does the church speak to the world?

· Who speaks on behalf of the church?

· What is the relationship between authority and ecclesiology?

· On what basis should we judge any Christian community’s claim to be “the catholic Church”?

· Which is of greater importance when evaluating the “catholicity” of a given Christian community: its public doctrine or what its constituents actually believe?

· Does existence as a “state church” automatically invalidate a community from being truly “church”?

· Is the Primacy of Peter the cause of “the unity of the Catholic Church” or “the biggest single cause of division within Christendom”?

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27 Comments

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27 responses to “Some questions on the necessity of the Church for Christian faith

  1. Louise

    Who decides what is “contrary to Scripture”?

    All I know is that it’s not me and it’s not any of you, either! (Which is not to say that we may not discuss Scripture).

  2. Joshua

    David,

    I was about to comment on something Tony wrote earlier, but I deleted his comment (it regarded how we could judge the "validity" of a sacrament – I think he was talking about celebrations of the Eucharist)…

    All this comes in here:

    1. Can I get some bread and wine from the kitchen and the drinks cabinet, pronounce such prayers as I may prefer (the Verba &/or an epiclesis? the Roman Canon? the Byzantine Liturgy?), and have the Eucharist all to myself? what if there be no bread and wine available?

    2. Can I do so if there be no "acceptable" congregation nearby (subjectively or objectively) – e.g. no Catholic/Lutheran/Orthodox/some sort of Protestant/Holy Roller Third Coming fanatics? what if I dislike the mores/doctrinal deviations to right or left/hymns/banalities/ritual excesses of one of these nearby groups, even though I would ideally belong to it?

    3. Can I do so for others (i.e. a congregation) if they ask me to ("call" me) – whether or not some nearby congregation exists, and whatever of that group's views and/or minister(s)?

    4. As I've studied theology, does this make a difference, does this somehow qualify me? and what of whatever holiness, real or imagined, I may manifest in my life as a Christian?

    5. Do I need to have a bishop (of some sort) lay hands on me? would a presbyter, another pastor, or some charismatic figure do? what of the Holy Ghost acting directly?

    6. Would it matter if I were a woman, not a man?

    All this covers the territory from Sydneyesque ideas of Lay Presidency, through Protestant ideas of being "called" (themselves ranging from setting oneself up as a pastor through to having a "church" manifest this call officially and publicly, in some sort of ritual act), through to the need for some sort of ordination by one (claimed to be) in an "apostolic succession".

    Didn't Luther (as many mediæval heretics before him) argue that it would be a scandal should a priest validly ordained by a bishop in the apostolic succession be absolutely required; and that in the case of, say, Christians stranded in infidel parts, far from the ministration of their clergy, such persons could elect from among themselves a priest to solemnize the Sacrament of the Eucharist for them. This position (of course) the Catholic Church rejects (whatever of theologians making daring remarks since Vatican II).

    It must be recalled, of course, that even though one may not be able to recognize a particular group's rite as valid (I'm thinking of the TAC "Mass" I attended a few weeks ago), one certainly prays that the Lord bless that group's sincere members with every spiritual gift and grace, all of which would by their nature draw all into union with each other and with the Lord, in the manner intended by His Providence… which (sorry, PE) I would contend would ideally issue in union with the Catholic Church, and in a valid Sacrament of the Altar guaranteed by its celebration by a validly ordained priest.

  3. Joshua

    What does “rite vocatus” mean in the Lutheran view?

  4. Tony Bartel

    ” If Catholicism is “b+” and Protestantism is “b-” and Orthodoxy is “a”, how do I know whether “a” or “b” is right in the first place?”

    Because “a” is before “b”.

  5. Vicci

    On what basis should we judge any Christian community’s claim to be “the catholic Church”?

    [They are already judged.]
    They should learn a bit of humility, then demonstrate their claim to be PART of the ‘catholic church’ by doing the work of the Church.
    Building Forts and retiring behind said fort walls is not prescribed business.
    Neither is showing a lack of care for the Things of God.

    besel tool for removing honey-comb from hives

  6. William Weedon

    David,

    FWIW, my answers to your questions. Be warned, though that I haven’t finished my morning pot of coffee yet…

    · Is it necessary for an individual Christian to belong to a congregation of other Christians in order to be truly Christian?

    Ordinarily yes. But the Church has recognized exceptions – both voluntary and involuntary. One thinks on the one hand of the desert anchorites and on the other of Christians imprisoned. What is interesting in both cases is the difficulty of a Christian making it alone; others come to him and get evangelized and the Christian soon has companions.

    · Is it necessary for any given congregation of Christians to belong to a wider communion of Christian congregations in order to be a truly Christian congregation?

    What does “belong to a wider communion” mean? If a congregation is joined to Christ by saving faith, baptized into Him, and fed by Him with His Word and His Body and Blood, it IS joined to the widest communion in the world. How well it manifests this is another matter entirely.

    · Can any Christian believer take upon himself the authority to establish or lead a congregation of Christians, preach and teach the Word, administer the Sacraments, and determine true and false doctrine?

    No, one must be called. This either immediately or mediately. If immediately, one must have the divine miracles that show that God has so authorized. The Apostles had this. We have no reason to expect it in our day. For centuries the Church has relied upon a mediate call.

    · How do I know what the “clear word of Scripture about salvation in Christ Jesus” is?

    Read it with prayer. The message about Christ as the Savior of the world, the Lamb of God, the One given out of the Father’s love to spill His blood for the forgiveness of your sin and for the gift of resurrection to an incorruptible life is its chief burden. “All the prophets bear witness that whoever believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins in His name.”

    · How do I know what the “deposit of faith” / “apostolic faith” is?

    The Sacred Scriptures are the most stable form of this deposit; though the exact same thing is vouchsafed in the authentic tradition of the Church. But since there is also false development, the Church ever tests the truth of what she holds against THE standard for the apostolic deposit, the Sacred Scriptures. It is the task of those in the ministry and of those in the royal priesthood of the baptized to constantly test what is taught against this standard, for the Lord says: “Beware false prophets” and His apostle urges us to “test all things.”

    · How do I know what is an “addition” to the deposit of faith and what is a “subtraction”?

    An addition to a development which does not grow organically from the Sacred Scriptures; a subtraction is a deletion of something which they teach (by Sacred Scriptures I mean the OT as interpreted by the NT; the NT as the legitimate unfolding of the OT – thus setting aside the problems with interpretation of the Old that the NT solves for us). For example, if one denied the real presence of the Savior’s body and blood, one has deleted a teaching of Scripture. Similarly if one denied Baptism’s salvific power. Additions would be where pious opinions of the people of God are elevated to the status of dogma – use your imagination. 🙂

    · If Catholicism is “b+” and Protestantism is “b-” and Orthodoxy is “a”, how do I know whether “a” or “b” is right in the first place?

    My analogy is that both Orthodoxy and Rome represent a peculiar Apostolic Deposit + while the other Protestants represent Apostolic Deposit -. Krauth was correct to observe that for Lutherans, the content of our confession is the pillar of truth in the Church, and we rejoice wherever we find that confession, even though it is at points chopped into and at other points so clouded with various other things as to be hidden.

    · By what authority are doctrinal errors rejected?

    By the authority of the Word of God, which is not inert and acted upon, but which is “lively and active and sharper than any two edged sword.” We do not interpret Scripture so much as we allow Scripture to interpret us, judge us, condemn us, absolve us, free us, and teach us.

    · Who decides which of the following forms of baptism are valid: Baptism with the formula “in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier”, baptism with the formula “in the name of Jesus”, baptism by sprinkling, baptism of infants, Mormon baptism?

    Sacred Scripture decides; for while it describes Baptism in the name of Jesus, the Church was mandated by her Lord to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and in no other. Since Mormon’s do not baptize into the Trinity that is so named, we cannot accept whatever they are doing in that act.

    · Who decides what is “contrary to Scripture”?

    The entire people of God are to decide this as they are informed and filled with the Spirit; it is not the sole provenance either of the incumbents to the office of the ministry nor the laity. It belongs to the whole as the whole by the Spirit submits itself to the Word of God.

    · To what entity did Our Lord Jesus Christ refer when he said in the Gospel: “Listen to the Church” (Matthew 18:17)?

    He said TELL it to the Church; there’s a bit of a difference there.

    · Of what/whom does the church consist?

    The Church consists of the entire assembly of those whom the Holy Spirit has (usually through Baptism) joined in saving faith to the Lord Jesus Christ so that His life has become their life, and they are thus being drawn ever deeper into the life of the Holy Trinity.

    · How does the church speak to the world?

    She uses her mouth. And her mouth varies depending on whether we speak of Church gathered or Church scattered. In Church gathered, the mouth is the Office of the Holy Ministry; in Church scattered, it is every single baptized believer giving an account of the hope that is in him.

    · Who speaks on behalf of the church?

    Any of her children may; he speaks truly for the Church, however, who speaks for her the Word authorized by God, the message contained in the Sacred Scripture.

    · What is the relationship between authority and ecclesiology?

    They are intimately tied; for the Lutheran the key critique of Rome was that it posited an absent Lord who needed to rule through a Vicar. We have a present Lord who rules still through His Word. His authority all are called to submit to and find in that submission perfect freedom. The most critical of the Lutheran confessional documents against the papacy, the Smalcald Articles, still says that “Christians are not under him as a lord. They are with him as brethren and companions, as the ancient councils and the age of St. Cyprian show.” Why did the primacy of Peter achieve such great standing in the ancient Church? Because the occupants of that see were always so careful to hand on nothing but what they had been given – to avoid all speculation and such – to find themselves bound to the Sacred Words. It was a fateful move when Rome went from being right because they said nothing new, to claiming to be right because they said so.

    · On what basis should we judge any Christian community’s claim to be “the catholic Church”?

    Any Christian community that claims to be the catholic church in toto is automatically self-deceived. The toto of the Catholic Church will not be revealed until the Last Day; in the meantime as a pilgrim Church we travel as one towards the Jerusalem above but in various caravans that more or less well serve the calling of that journey.

    · Which is of greater importance when evaluating the “catholicity” of a given Christian community: its public doctrine or what its constituents actually believe?

    Since we can only know what people actually believe by listening to what they say, we take seriously the confessional documents that they claim to profess until their words give us reason to believe that we are not dealing with those who actually hold to those documents. A Roman priest may speak what he actually believes and we find he is not truly a Roman Catholic – it happens. Same for us.

    · Does existence as a “state church” automatically invalidate a community from being truly “church”?

    Not necessarily. See the caravans comment above.

    · Is the Primacy of Peter the cause of “the unity of the Catholic Church” or “the biggest single cause of division within Christendom”?

    That’s not what I said. I said the ABUSE of the primary of Peter by Rome has been that cause.

  7. William Weedon

    Oops. Primacy. You know what I meant. 😉

  8. William Weedon

    I really love these words of Pelikan in the days when he was REALLY orthodox (!):

    Gradually this came to be a habit – this ability of Rome to be on the winning side in doctrinal disputes. Prudence and good timing undoubtedly helped along, but it would be wrong to describe the Roman victory to strategy alone. There is an intrinsic validity to the theological formulas which Rome put forward, and the orthodox acceptance of them is a testimony to this as much as to Rome’s influence. Chalcedon was typical in many ways. The Roman answer reduced the theological issues to their importance for the faith, life and worship of the church, and thus succeeded in assigning secondary importance to the merely speculative elements. Once this reduction was effected the common ground between the two sides came into view and the extremists at either end could be indentified. Support for this common ground also came from Scripture and tradition, which often said “both-and” where the extremists on both sides insisted upon an “either-or.” Because a particular answer was in harmony with Scripture and tradition and therefore orthodox, Rome supported it. Invert this and you have the foundation for papal infallibility. Because Rome supported an answer, it was in harmony with Scripture and tradition and therefore orthodox. Rome was always right – or almost always….”

  9. matthias

    Good question Louise as to who decides what is unScriptural however you left out the Person and Work of God the Holy Spirit,who gives us the discernment to know what is correct and what is not in all aspects of life -including Bible study and as is evidenced by your comments about Sunday Mass homily not being crash hot.
    I like the fact that Catholic Charismatic Renewal place themselves under the leadership of the Church,and thus hopefully avoid the excesses I see with other pentecostal groups. Eddie Russell in Perth of Flame Ministries makes it very clear that his ministry was given authority by the RC Archbishop of Perth in 1990 and the current Archbishop-Hickey- does as well.
    Christians live more effectively when they are part of the Church and not apart from the Church.

  10. Vicci

    Thank you William Weedon for taking the time to respond to the Questions. Your answers resonate.
    I particularly like the way your theology ‘lets God be in charge’. That comment about the Scripture ‘defining us’ rather than the other way around is what I mean.

    ( If I’m ever in your Parish I’d like to drop in! )

  11. William Weedon

    Vicci,

    You’d always be welcome! I am blessed to serve a wonderful group of saints here in Hamel, IL right along highway 55 (30 minutes from the Mississippi river and St. Louis). We’re also right along historic Route 66.

  12. Kiran

    Before I say anything else, I should thank you for being reasonable in this debate.

    But what are the Scriptures? How do I know that the Quran aren’t the Scriptures? How do I know that 4 Maccabees are or aren’t in the Scriptures? Or the letter to the Hebrews? Or the Book of Revelations? What (to open yet another can of worms) is the correct interpretation of the first few books of Genesis? How do you know when to take Origen seriously and when not? Likewise with Tertullian? What exactly is Augustine saying in The Gift of Perseverance, and is it of the Faith? I mean, as a Catholic, the Scriptures are simply what the Church says they are, and they say what the Church says and consistently said they say, and you have the liberty to say what tradition has accepted, and the freedom to disagree within a set of defined limits. What would a non-Catholic (excluding for the moment, the orthodox) do?

    I cannot (not qua Christian, but qua almost rationalistic, somewhat philosophically materialistic western human being) buy the whole “Judge everything by the Scriptures, and read the Scriptures prayerfully to find out what they mean” line. I know I am myself quite easily self-decieved, even if I think I am not influenced by any other considerations. Jesus does rule the Church, but he does so sacramentally. It is not that the Pope deputizes for an absent Christ, but as Christ ascended into heaven, his presence changes mode, and he acts sacramentally through the Pope, the Bishops, and the priests, just as through any other of the sacraments. The Scriptures are thus interpreted sacramentally.

  13. Schütz

    This is going to get long and awkward due to the limitations of a com box, but please bear with me – I have tried to format this so the discussion string can be followed:

    William Weedon said…
    Is it necessary for an individual Christian to belong to a congregation of other Christians in order to be truly Christian?

    Ordinarily yes. But the Church has recognized exceptions – both voluntary and involuntary. One thinks on the one hand of the desert anchorites and on the other of Christians imprisoned. What is interesting in both cases is the difficulty of a Christian making it alone; others come to him and get evangelized and the Christian soon has companions.

    I would say your “exceptions” are not true exceptions. No individual in such a situation became Christian on his own. Since baptism must be received and the faith must be taught, even though one might find oneself for a time or be forced for a time to be on one’s own, it seems to me there still needs to be a connection to a real Christian community.

    Is it necessary for any given congregation of Christians to belong to a wider communion of Christian congregations in order to be a truly Christian congregation?

    What does “belong to a wider communion” mean? If a congregation is joined to Christ by saving faith, baptized into Him, and fed by Him with His Word and His Body and Blood, it IS joined to the widest communion in the world. How well it manifests this is another matter entirely.

    If such a faith and such a belonging were not outwardly expressed in a concrete way through fellowship with other Christian congregations – in other words, if a congregation was to complete cut itself off from fellowship with any other Christian congregation – would this not call their claim to belong to the “widest communion in the world”?

    Can any Christian believer take upon himself the authority to establish or lead a congregation of Christians, preach and teach the Word, administer the Sacraments, and determine true and false doctrine?

    No, one must be called. This either immediately or mediately. If immediately, one must have the divine miracles that show that God has so authorized. The Apostles had this. We have no reason to expect it in our day. For centuries the Church has relied upon a mediate call.

    If he “must be called” who does the calling? Who is authorised to “mediate” the call? The Apostles were not authorised by “miracles” but by Christ himself.

    How do I know what the “clear word of Scripture about salvation in Christ Jesus” is?

    Read it with prayer. The message about Christ as the Savior of the world, the Lamb of God, the One given out of the Father’s love to spill His blood for the forgiveness of your sin and for the gift of resurrection to an incorruptible life is its chief burden. “All the prophets bear witness that whoever believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins in His name.”

    What sort of answer is this? Did Arius not read his scriptures “with prayer”? Do the Jehovah’s witnesses not read the scriptures “with prayer”? Did not the Ethiopian Eunuch read the Scroll of the Prophet Isaiah with prayer? But he needed someone to explain it to him.

    How do I know what the “deposit of faith” / “apostolic faith” is?

    The Sacred Scriptures are the most stable form of this deposit; though the exact same thing is vouchsafed in the authentic tradition of the Church. But since there is also false development, the Church ever tests the truth of what she holds against THE standard for the apostolic deposit, the Sacred Scriptures. It is the task of those in the ministry and of those in the royal priesthood of the baptized to constantly test what is taught against this standard, for the Lord says: “Beware false prophets” and His apostle urges us to “test all things.”

    Certainly the Scriptures, being written, are a very stable witness to the Apostolic faith. But so are the Creeds. So was the apostolic succession of bishops. So, in fact, was the existence of the Catholic Church. The question is whether the New Testament as such is a comprehensive account of the deposit of faith.

    How do I know what is an “addition” to the deposit of faith and what is a “subtraction”?

    An addition to a development which does not grow organically from the Sacred Scriptures; a subtraction is a deletion of something which they teach (by Sacred Scriptures I mean the OT as interpreted by the NT; the NT as the legitimate unfolding of the OT – thus setting aside the problems with interpretation of the Old that the NT solves for us). For example, if one denied the real presence of the Savior’s body and blood, one has deleted a teaching of Scripture. Similarly if one denied Baptism’s salvific power. Additions would be where pious opinions of the people of God are elevated to the status of dogma – use your imagination. 🙂

    This only works if you assume that the Scriptures are not only the most stable witness to the deposit of faith but that they are in fact the comprehensive deposit of faith itself – ie. nothing belongs to the deposit of faith except that which can be found attested in the Scriptures. This does not hold up to historical investigation. A simple example such as the manner of celebrating the Eucharist is enough. The scriptures nowhere give us the form of the liturgy to be followed (although indeed they reflect it, as in Luke 24 and Acts 2:42), yet the liturgy is itself a part of the Apostolic tradition as attested to by the Fathers. How can you defend yourself against the charge that you have “added to” the scriptural doctrines by teaching the necessity of the liturgy?

    If Catholicism is “b+” and Protestantism is “b-” and Orthodoxy is “a”, how do I know whether “a” or “b” is right in the first place?

    My analogy is that both Orthodoxy and Rome represent a peculiar Apostolic Deposit + while the other Protestants represent Apostolic Deposit -. Krauth was correct to observe that for Lutherans, the content of our confession is the pillar of truth in the Church, and we rejoice wherever we find that confession, even though it is at points chopped into and at other points so clouded with various other things as to be hidden.

    So, comparing your opinion as a Lutheran with Tony Bartel’s opinion as an Orthodox, the conclusion must be that “a” is where I stand, while “b+” and “b-” is where others stand.

    By what authority are doctrinal errors rejected?

    By the authority of the Word of God, which is not inert and acted upon, but which is “lively and active and sharper than any two edged sword.” We do not interpret Scripture so much as we allow Scripture to interpret us, judge us, condemn us, absolve us, free us, and teach us.

    Yet it is one thing to speak of how the Scriptures are active in my subjective experience of being judged , another when it comes to the way in which I use it objectively to judge others. It is naïve to say “I don’t judge the ELCA, they are judged already by God’s Word” – for the one who is making this assessment is you yourself using the Scriptures and applying it as you believe it should be applied. Who is doing the judging? Who is making the assessment?

    Who decides which of the following forms of baptism are valid: Baptism with the formula “in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier”, baptism with the formula “in the name of Jesus”, baptism by sprinkling, baptism of infants, Mormon baptism?

    Sacred Scripture decides; for while it describes Baptism in the name of Jesus, the Church was mandated by her Lord to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and in no other. Since Mormon’s do not baptize into the Trinity that is so named, we cannot accept whatever they are doing in that act.

    Again, Scripture decides nothing on its own. Someone must USE scripture to make such a judgement. Who is to say that someone is using Scripture rightly? (and BTW the Mormons use exactly the same formula you and I do to baptise – the question is, how do we judge that their baptism doesn’t “work”?)

    Who decides what is “contrary to Scripture”?

    The entire people of God are to decide this as they are informed and filled with the Spirit; it is not the sole provenance either of the incumbents to the office of the ministry nor the laity. It belongs to the whole as the whole by the Spirit submits itself to the Word of God.

    How does the entire people of God act in such unity and concord? If group A Christians say “this is contrary to scripture”, how are they to be vindicated in their analysis over against group B Christians who say “no it isn’t”?

    To what entity did Our Lord Jesus Christ refer when he said in the Gospel: “Listen to the Church” (Matthew 18:17)?

    He said TELL it to the Church; there’s a bit of a difference there.

    I don’t think you are reading the full verse. Yes, he says that the fault of the sinner should be “told to the Church”, but then he requires that the one at fault should “Listen to the Church”. Who is the Church that the corrected sinner should listen to?

    Of what/whom does the church consist?

    The Church consists of the entire assembly of those whom the Holy Spirit has (usually through Baptism) joined in saving faith to the Lord Jesus Christ so that His life has become their life, and they are thus being drawn ever deeper into the life of the Holy Trinity.

    That is all very fine, but appears to amount to “the Church is the sum of all individual believers”. Does not the NT describe the Church as a real community existing in the world? To press the point: How does this “assembly” assemble? How is this Congregation congregated? And when they do, what identifies them as Church?

    How does the church speak to the world?

    She uses her mouth. And her mouth varies depending on whether we speak of Church gathered or Church scattered. In Church gathered, the mouth is the Office of the Holy Ministry; in Church scattered, it is every single baptized believer giving an account of the hope that is in him.

    Why is the “mouth” of the Church “gathered” the “Office of the Holy Ministry” and not all believers? How can “every single baptised believer” speak in the name of the Church? If the latter is so, then how do we judge between the conflicting pronouncements of these “mouths” of the Church?

    Who speaks on behalf of the church?

    Any of her children may; he speaks truly for the Church, however, who speaks for her the Word authorized by God, the message contained in the Sacred Scripture.

    And so, who then speaks for the Church in judging whether any one of her children are actually speaking “the Word authorized by God”?

    What is the relationship between authority and ecclesiology?

    They are intimately tied; for the Lutheran the key critique of Rome was that it posited an absent Lord who needed to rule through a Vicar. We have a present Lord who rules still through His Word. His authority all are called to submit to and find in that submission perfect freedom. The most critical of the Lutheran confessional documents against the papacy, the Smalcald Articles, still says that “Christians are not under him as a lord. They are with him as brethren and companions, as the ancient councils and the age of St. Cyprian show.” Why did the primacy of Peter achieve such great standing in the ancient Church? Because the occupants of that see were always so careful to hand on nothing but what they had been given – to avoid all speculation and such – to find themselves bound to the Sacred Words. It was a fateful move when Rome went from being right because they said nothing new, to claiming to be right because they said so.

    ROME posited an “absent Lord”? Gads, that’s the first time I have ever heard that suggested! To have a representative does not imply that the one represented is absent. Do you not call yourself a “representative” of God every time you announce the absolution? Does that mean God is absent? Did Paul not call himself an “ambassador” for Christ? Did that mean that Christ was absent? and at what historical point (please, be precise here!) did “Rome” go “from being right because they said nothing new, to claiming to be right because they said so”? Me thinks that is just a theory of yours because you disagree with Rome. I rather think the Nestorians and Monophysites could have argued the that Rome went wrong around the time of the Council of Chalcedon…

    On what basis should we judge any Christian community’s claim to be “the catholic Church”?

    Any Christian community that claims to be the catholic church in toto is automatically self-deceived. The toto of the Catholic Church will not be revealed until the Last Day; in the meantime as a pilgrim Church we travel as one towards the Jerusalem above but in various caravans that more or less well serve the calling of that journey.

    Well, that’s just dandy. That’s like poor Brian in Life of Brian: Anyone who claims to be the Messiah can’t be… Only, I rather think that the bishops who gathered for the Council of Nicea understood themselves to BE the bishops of something called the Catholic Church, don’t you? And I rather think they knew that the Arians were excluded from it? “Various caravans”? So the Church is not a “Ship” but a flotilla of rafts? Don’t try and tell me you actually think that is in any way in accordance with the way the Father’s viewed the Catholic Church, Pastor Weedon.

    Which is of greater importance when evaluating the “catholicity” of a given Christian community: its public doctrine or what its constituents actually believe?

    Since we can only know what people actually believe by listening to what they say, we take seriously the confessional documents that they claim to profess until their words give us reason to believe that we are not dealing with those who actually hold to those documents. A Roman priest may speak what he actually believes and we find he is not truly a Roman Catholic – it happens. Same for us.

    This is a difference between Lutheran and Catholic understandings of the Church. A Lutheran will say that a member of his Church who does not hold to all the teachings of the Lutheran confessions is “not a Lutheran”, despite his being outwardly a member of that Church. We would say of a Catholic who does not hold to the all the teachings of the Catholic Church is a Catholic – just a naughty one.

    Does existence as a “state church” automatically invalidate a community from being truly “church”?

    Not necessarily. See the caravans comment above.

    I have already rejected your “caravans” image. My point in bringing this up is that that there was a time when all Christian communities everywhere were State Churches. PE’s case against the Catholic Church on this score is no case in favour of Lutheran or Genevan Christianity.

    Is the Primacy of Peter the cause of “the unity of the Catholic Church” or “the biggest single cause of division within Christendom”?

    That’s not what I said. I said the ABUSE of the primary of Peter by Rome has been that cause.

    Ah. I see. So, let the question be asked again: how come the ABUSE of the primacy of Peter has yet resulted in the benefit of well over half the world’s Christians continuing to live in a real visible communion with one another? Or put it another way, please tell me what way the primacy of Peter could be exercised such that 100% of all Christians will live together in real visible unity?

  14. Past Elder

    “PE’s case against the Catholic Church on this score is no case in favour of Lutheran or Genevan Christianity.”

    I am going to interject myself into this thread only to say — again — that the fact of having been a state’s church for most of its history is not my “case” against the RCC or EO, and to say — again — that the Lutheran state churches were as miserable as the ones they replaced.

  15. Vicci

    You’ve done a fine job. David.
    Excellent set-out.
    Got just the Result sought.
    Your position is very clear:
    Sola Schutz!

    Pity that WW can’t sign as ‘Dr’
    He might have received some respect.

    Schutz:
    A Lutheran will say that a member of his Church who does not hold to all the teachings of the Lutheran confessions is “not a Lutheran”, despite his being outwardly a member of that Church.
    My Lutheran friends -the www is wwwonderful!-tell me that is a load of rot. (one used a different term..)
    They are also interested why such an errant jibe would be posted.

  16. Joshua

    Vicki,

    Do observe some manners: David is the owner of this blog, upon which we all are guests: don’t insult him. As for his comment which you criticised, well, he was a Lutheran, and I suppose he can support his comment with evidence.

  17. Vicci

    Joshua:
    I see you read selectively.

    otherwise, regards.

    dingi a boat

  18. Joshua

    And what, precisely, is that cryptic note to mean?

    – I say this in charity: regard to you too of course! 😉

  19. William Weedon

    [WEEDON: I marked off my latest comments with WEEDON before each one. This is a crazy format, David. There are too many questions to put into a com box!!!!]

    This is going to get long and awkward due to the limitations of a com box, but please bear with me – I have tried to format this so the discussion string can be followed:

    Is it necessary for an individual Christian to belong to a congregation of other Christians in order to be truly Christian?

    Ordinarily yes. But the Church has recognized exceptions – both voluntary and involuntary. One thinks on the one hand of the desert anchorites and on the other of Christians imprisoned. What is interesting in both cases is the difficulty of a Christian making it alone; others come to him and get evangelized and the Christian soon has companions.

    I would say your “exceptions” are not true exceptions. No individual in such a situation became Christian on his own. Since baptism must be received and the faith must be taught, even though one might find oneself for a time or be forced for a time to be on one’s own, it seems to me there still needs to be a connection to a real Christian community.

    WEEDON: I’m sorry; I misunderstood your question. I didn’t realize you were asking whether a person could BECOME a Christian without the Church; I thought you were asking whether a person could EXIST as a Christian apart from the gathered Church. Certainly, as you know, all Lutherans confess that the Church “is the mother that bears us all.”

    Is it necessary for any given congregation of Christians to belong to a wider communion of Christian congregations in order to be a truly Christian congregation?

    What does “belong to a wider communion” mean? If a congregation is joined to Christ by saving faith, baptized into Him, and fed by Him with His Word and His Body and Blood, it IS joined to the widest communion in the world. How well it manifests this is another matter entirely.

    If such a faith and such a belonging were not outwardly expressed in a concrete way through fellowship with other Christian congregations – in other words, if a congregation was to complete cut itself off from fellowship with any other Christian congregation – would this not call their claim to belong to the “widest communion in the world”?

    WEEDON: Certainly. But such is not the situation in the Lutheran Church. We are in fellowship with congregations of Christians around the world, no? The Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa was with us lately and what joy to see and hear the work that progresses there. The Archbishop of Latvia is also in fellowship with us, and we rejoice with the work that progresses there. Also Ingria, in Germany, in India, in South America, and we have that ODD relationship with your former jurisdiction where we practice communion fellowship without it being officially declared! 🙂

    Can any Christian believer take upon himself the authority to establish or lead a congregation of Christians, preach and teach the Word, administer the Sacraments, and determine true and false doctrine?

    No, one must be called. This either immediately or mediately. If immediately, one must have the divine miracles that show that God has so authorized. The Apostles had this. We have no reason to expect it in our day. For centuries the Church has relied upon a mediate call.

    If he “must be called” who does the calling? Who is authorised to “mediate” the call? The Apostles were not authorised by “miracles” but by Christ himself.

    WEEDON: The calling involved historically three distinct groups: 1) the clergy; 2) the consent of the people of whom he would be pastor; and 3) (after Constantine) involved input (isn’t that a polite word?) from the governing officials. Obviously the first two weigh the most, and although you disapprove of how we practice the call, it is still practiced in that way among us. No one receives a call who is not examined by the clergy and then ordained by the clergy; and no one is placed into a parish without the express consent and call of the laity of said parish. About the Apostles and miracles, of course Christ placed them into office. But he also gave them specific miraculous powers to demonstrate that they HAD been so placed. I refer especially to 2 Cor. 12:12.

    How do I know what the “clear word of Scripture about salvation in Christ Jesus” is?

    Read it with prayer. The message about Christ as the Savior of the world, the Lamb of God, the One given out of the Father’s love to spill His blood for the forgiveness of your sin and for the gift of resurrection to an incorruptible life is its chief burden. “All the prophets bear witness that whoever believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins in His name.”

    What sort of answer is this? Did Arius not read his scriptures “with prayer”? Do the Jehovah’s witnesses not read the scriptures “with prayer”? Did not the Ethiopian Eunuch read the Scroll of the Prophet Isaiah with prayer? But he needed someone to explain it to him.

    WEEDON: Loehe is wonderful in commenting on the Ethiopian Eunuch. Indeed, we need someone to help us understand the Old Testament, and that someone is our Lord, whose key to the OT was written down for us by the Apostles. When we no longer have a Philip to be carried to our chariot, we still have the words of the Apostles to explain clearly what the OT means – and that it is all about the Savior, who is true God and true Man, and whose death upon the cross has forgiven the sins of the world and reconciled us to His Father and brought us the gift of the Holy Spirit and the adoption as sons and well, you know, every good thing. That an Arian reading the same Scriptures misses this is explained by St. Paul as not lack of clarity in the Scripture, but that the god of this world has blinded their minds so as not to see the glory of God in the face of Christ.

    How do I know what the “deposit of faith” / “apostolic faith” is?

    The Sacred Scriptures are the most stable form of this deposit; though the exact same thing is vouchsafed in the authentic tradition of the Church. But since there is also false development, the Church ever tests the truth of what she holds against THE standard for the apostolic deposit, the Sacred Scriptures. It is the task of those in the ministry and of those in the royal priesthood of the baptized to constantly test what is taught against this standard, for the Lord says: “Beware false prophets” and His apostle urges us to “test all things.”

    Certainly the Scriptures, being written, are a very stable witness to the Apostolic faith. But so are the Creeds. So was the apostolic succession of bishops. So, in fact, was the existence of the Catholic Church. The question is whether the New Testament as such is a comprehensive account of the deposit of faith.

    WEEDON: Indeed, that IS the question. I’d refer you to the Fathers for how they speak of this overwhelmingly:

    “Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.” St. John Chrysostom (Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96 TFOTC)

    “Let the inspired Scriptures then be our umpire, and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words.” St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Holy Trinity, NPNF, p. 327).

    “We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.” St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and the Resurrection NPNF II, V:439)

    “What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).

    “For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, IV:17, in NPNF, Volume VII, p. 23.)

    “It is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments.” St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chapter 2

    “Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): “Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning.”–St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8

    How do I know what is an “addition” to the deposit of faith and what is a “subtraction”?

    An addition to a development which does not grow organically from the Sacred Scriptures; a subtraction is a deletion of something which they teach (by Sacred Scriptures I mean the OT as interpreted by the NT; the NT as the legitimate unfolding of the OT – thus setting aside the problems with interpretation of the Old that the NT solves for us). For example, if one denied the real presence of the Savior’s body and blood, one has deleted a teaching of Scripture. Similarly if one denied Baptism’s salvific power. Additions would be where pious opinions of the people of God are elevated to the status of dogma – use your imagination. 🙂

    This only works if you assume that the Scriptures are not only the most stable witness to the deposit of faith but that they are in fact the comprehensive deposit of faith itself – ie. nothing belongs to the deposit of faith except that which can be found attested in the Scriptures. This does not hold up to historical investigation. A simple example such as the manner of celebrating the Eucharist is enough. The scriptures nowhere give us the form of the liturgy to be followed (although indeed they reflect it, as in Luke 24 and Acts 2:42), yet the liturgy is itself a part of the Apostolic tradition as attested to by the Fathers. How can you defend yourself against the charge that you have “added to” the scriptural doctrines by teaching the necessity of the liturgy?

    WEEDON: Correct about identity between Scripture and the Deposit. In what sense do you mean that the liturgy is a part of Apostolic tradition? Certainly the various liturgies that developed and grew to wide acceptance in the Church faithfully preserve the deposit, but they are not themselves that deposit, but the products of its being handed on. I teach the necessity of liturgy as a Lutheran because of the catholic principal: we retain whatever is not contrary to the Gospel. I do not pretend that any liturgy is part of the apostolic deposit; manifestly, they are not. Cf. Didache or Hippolytus to the Roman Canon to the Liturgy of St. James etc.

    If Catholicism is “b+” and Protestantism is “b-” and Orthodoxy is “a”, how do I know whether “a” or “b” is right in the first place?

    My analogy is that both Orthodoxy and Rome represent a peculiar Apostolic Deposit + while the other Protestants represent Apostolic Deposit -. Krauth was correct to observe that for Lutherans, the content of our confession is the pillar of truth in the Church, and we rejoice wherever we find that confession, even though it is at points chopped into and at other points so clouded with various other things as to be hidden.

    So, comparing your opinion as a Lutheran with Tony Bartel’s opinion as an Orthodox, the conclusion must be that “a” is where I stand, while “b+” and “b-” is where others stand.

    WEEDON: Yes, David, otherwise I wouldn’t be standing where I do! But isn’t the same true for you too?

    By what authority are doctrinal errors rejected?

    By the authority of the Word of God, which is not inert and acted upon, but which is “lively and active and sharper than any two edged sword.” We do not interpret Scripture so much as we allow Scripture to interpret us, judge us, condemn us, absolve us, free us, and teach us.

    Yet it is one thing to speak of how the Scriptures are active in my subjective experience of being judged , another when it comes to the way in which I use it objectively to judge others. It is naïve to say “I don’t judge the ELCA, they are judged already by God’s Word” – for the one who is making this assessment is you yourself using the Scriptures and applying it as you believe it should be applied. Who is doing the judging? Who is making the assessment?

    WEEDON: Certainly the ministry is an instrumental means of the judgement; as the laity may also be; but the judgment is rendered BY the Word. In our experience, the Word is NOT acted upon, but is the actor. “Living and active and sharper than any two edged sword.” And that sword is wielded by the Holy Spirit.

    Who decides which of the following forms of baptism are valid: Baptism with the formula “in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier”, baptism with the formula “in the name of Jesus”, baptism by sprinkling, baptism of infants, Mormon baptism?

    Sacred Scripture decides; for while it describes Baptism in the name of Jesus, the Church was mandated by her Lord to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and in no other. Since Mormon’s do not baptize into the Trinity that is so named, we cannot accept whatever they are doing in that act.

    Again, Scripture decides nothing on its own. Someone must USE scripture to make such a judgement. Who is to say that someone is using Scripture rightly? (and BTW the Mormons use exactly the same formula you and I do to baptise – the question is, how do we judge that their baptism doesn’t “work”?)

    WEEDON: It is not phonemes, but WORDS which are commanded. And so the sound must be attached to the thing signified. The mormons do not attach the phonemes to the same reality that Christians do, as you well know. Nevertheless Scripture itself remains the judge here: or rather God remains the judge as He declares Himself in His Word – and He who formed us and gave us speech certainly knows how to communicate and to do so clearly. You would have something authorizing behind the Word of God; we would argue it is the Word which authorizes. Which is why we warn that by making the Church your final certainty, YOU are in fact making your judgment (of what is the church) your final certainty, and that is quite a dangerous thing to do. When Satan comes at you with “Did God really say?” the best, final and only answer is to repeat to him exactly what God DID say and not budge from it. Sort of like someone did at Marburg…

    Who decides what is “contrary to Scripture”?

    The entire people of God are to decide this as they are informed and filled with the Spirit; it is not the sole provenance either of the incumbents to the office of the ministry nor the laity. It belongs to the whole as the whole by the Spirit submits itself to the Word of God.

    How does the entire people of God act in such unity and concord? If group A Christians say “this is contrary to scripture”, how are they to be vindicated in their analysis over against group B Christians who say “no it isn’t”?

    Sadly, David, there is no answer to that one except these wise words of Sasse: “And when here on earth the tragic case occurs, which happens again and again where the question of truth is engaged, that one confession of faith is set against another, conscience against conscience, then we must leave the decision to Him who in the Last Judgment will finally separate truth from error. We do not know God’s judgments, and we can and may not anticipate them. Also when we must speak the damnamus against a false teaching, God’s forgiving grace may bring the erring sinner into the church triumphant, where there is no more untruth. On the other hand, the door will be shut to many a one who has done battle for the truth in perfect orthodoxy, but has forgotten that he too was only a poor sinner who lives only by forgiving grace.” We Confess III:57,58

    To what entity did Our Lord Jesus Christ refer when he said in the Gospel: “Listen to the Church” (Matthew 18:17)?

    He said TELL it to the Church; there’s a bit of a difference there.

    I don’t think you are reading the full verse. Yes, he says that the fault of the sinner should be “told to the Church”, but then he requires that the one at fault should “Listen to the Church”. Who is the Church that the corrected sinner should listen to?

    You are correct; I was thinking of the first half of the verse. It seems evident to me that the Church to which he should listen is the congregation (people and pastor(s)) who are addressing him.

    Of what/whom does the church consist?

    The Church consists of the entire assembly of those whom the Holy Spirit has (usually through Baptism) joined in saving faith to the Lord Jesus Christ so that His life has become their life, and they are thus being drawn ever deeper into the life of the Holy Trinity.

    That is all very fine, but appears to amount to “the Church is the sum of all individual believers”. Does not the NT describe the Church as a real community existing in the world? To press the point: How does this “assembly” assemble? How is this Congregation congregated? And when they do, what identifies them as Church?

    WEEDON: Yes, she is a real community existing in this world. When she assembles around the Eucharist, though, there is NONE of her that is not present. The picture from Revelation discloses the mystery, the same as Hebrews 12. She is always the totality, though only a small piece is visible in any given locale. She ever gathers as ONE assembly of the baptized, hearing her Lord, interceding for the world, and ever renewing her bond with her Lord and so with each member of the same in the Holy Eucharist.

    How does the church speak to the world?

    She uses her mouth. And her mouth varies depending on whether we speak of Church gathered or Church scattered. In Church gathered, the mouth is the Office of the Holy Ministry; in Church scattered, it is every single baptized believer giving an account of the hope that is in him.

    Why is the “mouth” of the Church “gathered” the “Office of the Holy Ministry” and not all believers? How can “every single baptised believer” speak in the name of the Church? If the latter is so, then how do we judge between the conflicting pronouncements of these “mouths” of the Church?

    WEEDON: The Word, David. The one who speaks the Word – who speaks the hope we have in the Savior of sinners and the gift of eternal life that is in Him – this one, whoever he may be, speaks for the Church, for “I have put My words in your mouth.”

    Who speaks on behalf of the church?

    Any of her children may; he speaks truly for the Church, however, who speaks for her the Word authorized by God, the message contained in the Sacred Scripture.

    And so, who then speaks for the Church in judging whether any one of her children are actually speaking “the Word authorized by God”?

    WEEDON: The people of God and those in the Office of the Ministry judge all things they hear by the standard of the Word entrusted to them – summarized in the holy creeds, but the Word itself remains the Rule and Standard.

    What is the relationship between authority and ecclesiology?

    They are intimately tied; for the Lutheran the key critique of Rome was that it posited an absent Lord who needed to rule through a Vicar. We have a present Lord who rules still through His Word. His authority all are called to submit to and find in that submission perfect freedom. The most critical of the Lutheran confessional documents against the papacy, the Smalcald Articles, still says that “Christians are not under him as a lord. They are with him as brethren and companions, as the ancient councils and the age of St. Cyprian show.” Why did the primacy of Peter achieve such great standing in the ancient Church? Because the occupants of that see were always so careful to hand on nothing but what they had been given – to avoid all speculation and such – to find themselves bound to the Sacred Words. It was a fateful move when Rome went from being right because they said nothing new, to claiming to be right because they said so.

    ROME posited an “absent Lord”? Gads, that’s the first time I have ever heard that suggested! To have a representative does not imply that the one represented is absent. Do you not call yourself a “representative” of God every time you announce the absolution? Does that mean God is absent? Did Paul not call himself an “ambassador” for Christ? Did that mean that Christ was absent? and at what historical point (please, be precise here!) did “Rome” go “from being right because they said nothing new, to claiming to be right because they said so”? Me thinks that is just a theory of yours because you disagree with Rome. I rather think the Nestorians and Monophysites could have argued the that Rome went wrong around the time of the Council of Chalcedon…

    WEEDON: Certainly I pronounce absolution in the stead and by the command of Christ, but that is simply the same as saying that this is Christ speaking – he’s just using my voice at the moment – the absolution is HIS not mine. Mine won’t get you very far! 🙂 When Rome began to claim temporal dominion as vice-regent of Christ and the ability to appoint and depose kings and emperors – do you dispute she did this? Has she ever renounced this? – there she presumed to speak what the Lord never authorized her to speak, and there is the beginning of “we’re right because we say so.” It seems to me that no long after the time of St. Gregory the Great in her dealings with the Eastern churches, we have some intimations of this “because we said so.” I’d have to do more research to give you specifics.

    On what basis should we judge any Christian community’s claim to be “the catholic Church”?

    Any Christian community that claims to be the catholic church in toto is automatically self-deceived. The toto of the Catholic Church will not be revealed until the Last Day; in the meantime as a pilgrim Church we travel as one towards the Jerusalem above but in various caravans that more or less well serve the calling of that journey.

    Well, that’s just dandy. That’s like poor Brian in Life of Brian: Anyone who claims to be the Messiah can’t be… Only, I rather think that the bishops who gathered for the Council of Nicea understood themselves to BE the bishops of something called the Catholic Church, don’t you? And I rather think they knew that the Arians were excluded from it? “Various caravans”? So the Church is not a “Ship” but a flotilla of rafts? Don’t try and tell me you actually think that is in any way in accordance with the way the Father’s viewed the Catholic Church, Pastor Weedon.

    WEEDON: The caravan is simply a desert image for the NT teaching that the Church is a people on pilgrimage and though we are always ONE people, we do travel toward the goal of the heavenly city in certain, well, clumps. I think the picture actually works well, and is intended to be no more than a description of the Church militant as she moves concretely toward the Church triumphant. Sasse again: “Hidden under the various church bodies with their different languages and nationalities, constitutions and forms of worship, and other human traditions, lives the one Church. Its unity is also hidden under the divisions of Christianity. The one Church is purely an article of faith, and yet it is a great reality in the world.” We Confess III:53 Or as St. Paul would say: that which is seen is transient; that which is not seen is eternal. Is your church transient or eternal, David?

    Which is of greater importance when evaluating the “catholicity” of a given Christian community: its public doctrine or what its constituents actually believe?

    Since we can only know what people actually believe by listening to what they say, we take seriously the confessional documents that they claim to profess until their words give us reason to believe that we are not dealing with those who actually hold to those documents. A Roman priest may speak what he actually believes and we find he is not truly a Roman Catholic – it happens. Same for us.

    This is a difference between Lutheran and Catholic understandings of the Church. A Lutheran will say that a member of his Church who does not hold to all the teachings of the Lutheran confessions is “not a Lutheran”, despite his being outwardly a member of that Church. We would say of a Catholic who does not hold to the all the teachings of the Catholic Church is a Catholic – just a naughty one.

    WEEDON: Actually, I have no problem saying that the person is a naughty Lutheran. I regard YOU as a naughty Lutheran, David! 😉

    Does existence as a “state church” automatically invalidate a community from being truly “church”?

    Not necessarily. See the caravans comment above.

    I have already rejected your “caravans” image. My point in bringing this up is that that there was a time when all Christian communities everywhere were State Churches. PE’s case against the Catholic Church on this score is no case in favour of Lutheran or Genevan Christianity.

    WEEDON: see my comments above on pilgrimage.

    Is the Primacy of Peter the cause of “the unity of the Catholic Church” or “the biggest single cause of division within Christendom”?

    That’s not what I said. I said the ABUSE of the primary of Peter by Rome has been that cause.

    Ah. I see. So, let the question be asked again: how come the ABUSE of the primacy of Peter has yet resulted in the benefit of well over half the world’s Christians continuing to live in a real visible communion with one another? Or put it another way, please tell me what way the primacy of Peter could be exercised such that 100% of all Christians will live together in real visible unity?

    WEEDON: The present Pope, I thought, has postulated the way: to return the papacy to what it was at the time of the undivided Church; and to do so in love for the sake of the unity of Christ’s Church. What I quoted before about the way the SA can speak of him as not lord over us, but our brother with us.

  20. Christine

    how come the ABUSE of the primacy of Peter has yet resulted in the benefit of well over half the world’s Christians continuing to live in a real visible communion with one another? Or put it another way, please tell me what way the primacy of Peter could be exercised such that 100% of all Christians will live together in real visible unity?

    So, is it just that “outward conformance” that constitutes real visible unity? Even among those that don’t practice their faith in any sense of true Catholic identity but simply because they were baptized by a Catholic priest are called Catholic? Most Protestants when they have had it with Christianity for whatever reason just leave. Many Catholics hang on for cultural reasons even if they never darken the doors of a church. Is this unity? To just call them “naughty” Catholics seems a bit of a stretch.

    It will be interesting to see what will happen when the first pope with no memory of the preconciliar church is elected.

  21. Schütz

    Vicci said: Pity that WW can’t sign as ‘Dr’
    He might have received some respect.

    I am sure that Pastor Weedon knows that I esteem him most highly – with or without a “Dr” in front of his name. Would that all excellent people could join the ranks of the “doctored” along with PE and WT!

    Vicci said: My Lutheran friends -the www is wwwonderful!-tell me that is a load of rot.

    Which just goes to show that your friends “aren’t Lutheran” 🙂
    I’m kidding, Vicci. But no, in another sense, I am not. You forget that I spent 32 years as a Lutheran of the Lutherans – like St Paul among the Jews before his conversion – I was more Lutheran than any of them!

    Perhaps I should have written that a “confessional” Lutheran will not regard a non-confessional Lutheran as a true Lutheran. A “magisterial” Catholic will regard a dissenting Catholic as still Catholic, just a naughty one.

  22. Vicci

    “Esteem without respect is dead”
    (James the Elder)

    What a delightfully ironic sense of humour
    you have, David (you naughty boy, you!)
    Schutz as a Type of Paul?
    Quite the opposite, really !

  23. Louise

    Matthias, I am only now replying to you.

    Good question Louise as to who decides what is unScriptural however you left out the Person and Work of God the Holy Spirit,who gives us the discernment to know what is correct and what is not in all aspects of life -including Bible study

    I didn’t leave Him out of my thoughts, even if I left Him out of my comment!

    Actually, I *assume* He is always speaking to those He loves (ie everyone) but my point was that for all His speaking and guiding, among Christians, there does seem to be a lot of divergence in views about even the most basic things, such as the canon of scripture and baptism. So it seems that an earthly authority is needed.

    I like the fact that Catholic Charismatic Renewal place themselves under the leadership of the Church,and thus hopefully avoid the excesses I see with other pentecostal groups.

    I like that too.

    Christians live more effectively when they are part of the Church and not apart from the Church.

    I agree.

  24. Christine

    Perhaps I should have written that a “confessional” Lutheran will not regard a non-confessional Lutheran as a true Lutheran.

    About the LCA in Australia I don’t know, but as for the ELCA here in the U.S. no, they are no longer true Lutherans.

    A “magisterial” Catholic will regard a dissenting Catholic as still Catholic, just a naughty one. Right. No matter how much public scandal and division they bring to the church (i.e., Maria Shriver who proudly identifies as a life-long Catholic, mass every Sunday, parochial school but publicly disagrees with the RC on abortion, same sex marriage and womens ordination). At least when I was still part of the RC I didn’t voice those kinds of opinions even when I began to have doubts about my conversion.

    Christians live more effectively when they are part of the Church and not apart from the Church.

    Wow. The good thief didn’t have that opportunity. Yes, ordinarily Christians do live more effectively when they are part of the Church but there are exceptions.

    But as one Catholic told me, the good thief WAS an exception and the rest of us may not be so lucky.

    Even though God is no respecter of persons, of course.

  25. Kiran

    The point about Dismas, I would think, is that he is an extraordinary circumstance, and we shouldn’t expect the extraordinary to become ordinary. That is presumption.

  26. Past Elder

    Well, again, “the Church” in Roman parlance is code for only itself.

  27. christl242

    The point about Dismas, I would think, is that he is an extraordinary circumstance, and we shouldn’t expect the extraordinary to become ordinary. That is presumption.

    “Dismas”, according to “tradition”, of course. I am not obligated to accept the Catholic view of this and don’t see it as “presumptuous” that the same mercy shown to the Good Thief is available to all.

    I reiterate again, the New Testament says God is no respecter of persons. Pauper or king.

    Christine