Friday, October 18, 2013

Not After Old Things At All

He's at it again. He's Peter Leithart, brilliant author, pastor, speaker, and on and on. But the fact remains, he doesn't get it. He can't, because he finds himself unable to question his three fundamental assumptions: 1) his absolute right of private judgment in matters of Scripture or Tradition; (consequently) 2) the fundamental invisibility of the Church; and--this is a tough one-- 3) that he's actually in Christ's Church. If you do not question these assumptions, you have not gotten into the mind of a true convert. You have not seen the other side. You've seen your own side, and dabbled in it. Let's get real.

Quite honestly, too, if you don't begin to make that effort, you're just wasting your breath. Because I can tell you, on balance, converts to Catholicism do understand what they left better than those who went the other way. Yes, that is a direct challenge. One that I hope you take.

Let me just be honest, and perhaps make a concession: I do not view all defections from Catholicism as unmitigated tragedies, or at least irredeemable ones. If you find Jesus in some Bible church in the middle of nowhere, I rejoice with you. We say "poorly catechized" over here so many times, I want to cry. FIND JESUS! The real Jesus. But realize that life with Jesus never ends with a prayer, and you're good. When we walk with Jesus, he asks things of us. He says to each one of us, "I have more to give you, more Love, more of Myself" and we've got to be ready. What if he asks you to lay down Sola Scriptura? What if He asks you to put your heroes in the dock? What would you do?

If you put the underlying ecclesiology of the Reformation in nicer words, and you write books about our brotherhood, and unity, etc. it sounds great. You can appreciate Catholicism all you like, but unless you have taken the risk of questioning the truth of Protestantism's fundamental assumptions, you don't understand the convert.

One other thing: We are quickly approaching the time when the individualism intrinsic to the Protestant interpretive paradigm will completely overwhelm categories like "liberal" and "conservative" entirely, and make them meaningless, if they aren't already. If we don't come back to the bedrock question of how we know what we know, in both theology and ethics, we are doomed. The reason we have so many denominations is not because we are sinners, (though we are) not because "those people are wrong" (though they might be). There's an irreconcilable dilemma between private judgment (Sola Scriptura) and ecclesiastical authority. Real simple. No bad faith, no assumption that Johnny Bob is just a wicked sinner, and that's why he doesn't agree. The Noltie Conundrum, as we call it. It actually only becomes a problem when we take Johnny Bob at his word that he is in communion with the Holy Spirit, and He will interpret the Scriptures. Because the still-inevitable chaos becomes a theological problem, not a human one. That's where it gets fun. We're not chasing old things, Peter. We're trying to follow the Incarnate Word. It becomes historical, visible, and physical because He is all of those things.

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