Thursday, July 12, 2012

One of the best things about looking at the question of whether the Catholic Church is the one Christ founded is that with respect to the Reformation, the claim on both sides is essentially the same: "We have the true continuity with the patristic faith." Since it's the same, it can be tested against the data.
What it reveals is that the Protestant reading of pre-Reformation history makes it almost impossible to identify what orthodoxy is, much less a principle for distinguishing orthodoxy and error.
Sola Scriptura is a disaster precisely because it makes the ultimate interpreter of all questions of faith the self, though admittedly it is claimed that the Holy Spirit is. You can't sever the link between the visible ecclesiastical authority and the man (which is what the Reformational ecclesiolology does) without losing the dogmatic principle itself, at least when applied beyond the self. You can see the man playing out the scenario in his head: "Well, my church says X about doctrine A, but I know that the Body of Christ as a whole doesn't, necessarily." See the move there? For me personally, it just didn't seem reasonable for me to hold the trump card in my spiritual life, while claiming to be submitted to God. Nor did it seem reasonable that God is indifferent to the truth or falsehood of very important questions, as our prevailing ecclesiology itself suggested.
I felt the ad hoc nature of investing my local body or denomination with the divine protection that Catholics, for example, did, precisely because other doctrinal conclusions regarding the same questions with the same methods and principles could be easily found, and at the very least, not dismissed out of hand. This is why Sola Scriptura can be called "ecclesial fallibility." (h/t, Andrew Preslar) Even doing this would be a capitulation to the opposite ecclesial paradigm. It invites the authority question automatically. Is it reasonable to assume that the elders of Shady Pines Noncommittal Non-Denominational Church are infallible? Well, someone is. Either me, or someone else. Otherwise, God is protecting precisely squadoosh, despite his promise to the contrary. So either God enjoys watching us argue, and has left us no way to settle disputes of significant importance, or we were mistaken in holding to the principles that led us here.
Then enter the Catholic Church. She has a very convincing account of the data, and of her ongoing authority that emerges from the data itself. If she didn't, there'd be no point in insisting she was the Church. That's the thing about all of this: If I can't say, "God has spoken thus" in my daily walk as a Christian, I cannot go out with the "gospel" to the heathen. That's why "live with the tension" is a horrible answer to the problem of our divisions. You'd better be prepared to be actually agnostic if you're going to be ecclesiologically agnostic.

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