(Why You Can’t Have) Jesus Without the Church

Head of Saint John the Baptist (17th c.)
Head of Saint John the Baptist (17th c.)

Contemporary Christianity is fond of pushing Jesus without the Church. Like its secular counterpart (in which people claim to be “spiritual, but not religious”), it’s an attempt to have the relationship without the rules. If I’m lonely or going through a tragedy, I can pray, but I don’t have to worry about fasting when I don’t want to, or being associated with a bunch of fellow believers that I look down upon.

But Jesus-without-the-Church is a rejection of Jesus.

I. Jesus and the Church

To see this, you need to look no further than His own words. His opening words in the Gospel of Mark are “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). That is, we’re not invited to a merely personal relationship with Jesus. We’re invited to be part of His Kingdom. Trying to have the King without His Kingdom is trying to put God on our own terms, and He never plays ball with that.

In Matthew 16, after the Apostle Simon Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus replies with a “confession” of His own (Mt. 16:17-19):

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Whether you think that the “rock” in this passage is Simon (who just had his named changed, by Jesus, to Peter, which means “Rock”) or not, you can’t escape the fact that Jesus said that He would build His own Church.

St. Paul goes even further, saying that God “has put all things under his [Jesus Christ’s] feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). So the fullness of Christ is Jesus and the Church. That’s literally what the Bible says. A few chapters later, Paul explains that Jesus is the Head and the Church is His Body, and compares it to the one-flesh union of husband and wife (Eph. 5:23, 31-32).

And why should we trust Paul on this? Apart from the obvious fact that it’s in inspired Scripture, Paul knows these things are true from experience. Before his conversion, on his way to continue his persecution of the visible Church (Acts 8:3), he is stopped by Jesus, who identifies Himself as the Church (Acts 9:1-7):

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

Jesus, already in Heaven, speaks of Himself as being actively persecuted by Saul/Paul in his persecution of the Church. That is to say, the Bible presents the Church as a continuation of the Incarnation of Christ on Earth. If you understand this, you’ll understand why a Christian that says that the Church is unnecessary, or says that the earthly Church is apostate, etc., is presenting a false version of Christianity.

All of this is to say that to accept what Jesus is offering means accepting His Church. He comes with a Kingdom. To accept Jesus is to accept His Church. So the question isn’t “should we have Jesus and the Church, or just Jesus?” There’s no way to have Jesus apart from His Church. He doesn’t offer us that.

II. Which Church?

So the question, instead, ought to be “which Church did Jesus found in Matthew 16?” Or to put it a different way, “what sort of Church did Jesus found in Matthew 16?”

The Bible makes two features immediately clear: it’s a visible Church, and it’s a structured Church. Perhaps the clearest evidence of the visibility of the Church is Matthew 5:14-16,

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

An invisible Church could never fulfill this mandate. And just as the Church is visible, so it is structured. Christ appointed the Twelve and sent them out to preach (Mark 3:14). These Apostles ordained seven men (selected by the people) as deacons (Acts 6:1-6). Paul, who was also personally sent by Christ (as we saw above), appointed presbyters in the cities (Acts 14:23), etc.

In other words, we never see anyone simply declare themselves pastors of the flock of Christ, nor do we even see the people ordaining their own clergy. Even the deacons, who the do pick in Acts 6, must have hands laid upon them by the Apostles before they are sent forth (Acts 6:6), and this isn’t automatic. Indeed, St. Paul warns “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Timothy 5:22). So while we might imagine the early Church as entirely grassroots, the Biblical depiction has a good deal of evidence pointing towards top-down leadership of the visible Church.

All of this is to say that Christ founded the Apostolic Church, that is, the Church run by the Apostles. And this Church, in addition to being Apostolic, was One Church. This is how Acts 4:32-35 describes the earliest days of the Church:

Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.

Much of what is written on this passages focuses on the fact that we’re not required to give everything to the Church. That’s true, but it’s still remarkable that the Church being described is (a) visible; and (b) organized, with the Apostles acting as Church leadership. Note also that the Church of this age is described as being “of one heart and soul.” It’s not just their possessions that they’re sharing, but a common faith.

Even when Peter and Paul feuded, they didn’t turn around and start their own churches. When that sort of factionalism does begin in the Church of Corinth, St. Paul rebukes them for it (1 Cor. 1:12-13):

I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chlo′e’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apol′los,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

 

So you can’t have one group breaking off to follow Apollos, or Paul…. or Luther, or Calvin, etc.

Of course, the exact reason that St. Paul has to warn the Corinthians is that it can be frustrating to be part of the visible Church at times. Church leaders say and do things we dislike: sometimes, these things are foolish; sometimes, even sinful. And yet, we’re not told to have no dissensions unless we disagree. We’re told to have no dissensions.

III. What the Church Isn’t

 

The famous sixteenth-century Protestant Reformer John Calvin, in Book IV of The Institutes of Christian Religion, would say:

But as it is now our purpose to discourse of the visible Church, let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels, (Matth. 22: 30.) For our weakness does not permit us to leave the school until we have spent our whole lives as scholars. Moreover, beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for, as Isaiah and Joel testify, (Isa. 37: 32; Joel 2: 32.)

Now, these are strange words from Calvin, as he had gone into schism from the visible Church. Taken at face value, he would seem to be declaring his own damnation. But Calvin goes on to redefine what it means to be “the visible Church,” rejecting a millennium and half of the Church’s self-understanding:

Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence, since his promise cannot fail, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” (Matth. 18: 20.)

Note that Calvin’s redefinition eliminates any need for the Church to be Apostolic (unless you need priests for the valid administration of the Sacraments, which he denied). You could accept Christ, reject the Gospel, and still be part of the visible Church, so long as you preserved the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Likewise, the Corinthians who threatened to split into countless different sects would have been fine, since the Church of God still would have had “some existence” by virtue of their continued belief in Christ.

Another way that Church was redefined in the Reformation is reducing it to just the collection of the saved. If you’re saved, you’re part of the Kingdom. If you’re not saved, you’re not part of the Kingdom. But Christ doesn’t say that. He says quite otherwise, in fact (Matthew 13:47-50):

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

In Heaven, the Church will only contain the saved. On earth, that’s not the case. Here, the Church contains both good fish and bad fish. Or to use another of Christ’s images, it contains both wheat and weeds. And in response to the question, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” He says, “No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:28-30).

So the very attempt to reinvent the Church as just the saved is exactly what He told us not to do.

IV. What This Means

This Biblical depiction of the Church poses serious problems for the Reformation.

Think about it this way. Christ founded a structured, visible Church. Could a Christian in the first century choose to accept Christ but not join this Church? No. We saw in Part I that you can’t accept Christ and not the Church, and we saw in Part II that when the Corinthians started to factionalize, Paul reeled them back in.

What about a Christian of the second century? Could he choose to reject the Church, now that it’s in the hands of the successors of the Apostles? No: the call for all Christians to be all part of the One Church wasn’t just for the Apostolic age. That’s actually quite clear in John 17:20-23, in which Jesus explicitly prayed for His future followers:

I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.

Amazingly, no Protestant denomination claims to be this one structured, visible Church. The Methodists and the Presbyterians, for all that they may disagree with one another, never claim “everyone should be Methodist, because Jesus Christ founded the Methodist Church, and it’s the one true Church.” They don’t even pretend that’s the case. When we Catholics do make this claim about our Church, we’re viewed as arrogant. But if we’re the true Church, this is exactly the kind of claim we should be making. And if we’re not the true Church, we shouldn’t exist.

114 Comments

  1. A few points:

    1. “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions [“schismata” in the Greek, i.e. schisms] among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10).

    2. The Church body (“Christ’s body”) is not an invisible entity, but it is as real as the individual members of the Corinthian church and the resurrected body of Christ Himself. This means that schism is the division of real believers from a real, institutional Church. In light of this, the doctrine of the “invisible church” borders not only on Christological heresy (as the Church body is physical just as Christ’s resurrected body is physical), it ignores the simple reality that schism is meaningless in an invisible church. What constitutes a division among real people if we are not to include that they literally divide themselves institutionally and have differing loyalties?

    3.”And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Ignatius, Letter to Philadelphians, Chap 3).

    4. There have been only two men (Tertullian and Tychonius) I have been able to find who taught the doctrine of the “invisible church” in ancient times. Both men, perhaps not coincidentally, died being denominations of one, having divided themselves from the schismatic groups they belonged to.

    God bless,
    Craig

  2. You can have the one Church that Jesus founded, and this is what the Lord obviously desires according to the quotes that Joe provides, but you can also have multitudes of people ‘on their way’ towards that Church, and this includes those who are baptized in it at birth, but don’t really understand what it means as they grow to maturity. That many might be close to the One Church, but not actually in it’s complete practice, or faith, we have the following Gospel account to consider:

    “John answered him, saying: Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, who FOLLOWETH US NOT, and we forbade him. But Jesus said: Do not forbid him. For there is no man that doth a miracle in my name, and can soon speak ill of me. For he that is not against you, is for you. For whosoever shall give you to drink a cup of water in my name, because you belong to Christ: amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”

    I would think that one supreme ‘reward’ that one of these might be given, would be that in ‘due time’ only known by the Father, those who do good for the one visible and true Church would themselves be drawn closer and closer into it. It might even be at the time of their death that they would consider more deeply the witness of faith that they have not paid much attention to during their active lives, and then receive the faith and sacraments. I have personally seen this happen with my brother-in-law, who died in His early 40’s. He allowed all of his children to become Catholic but did not do so Himself, until the day before His death. But I believe it was the small acts of witness of many other Catholics around him, the occasional Masses that he attended over the years and the special Providence of God in his last days, that allowed him to convert, declare himself Catholic and receive all the necessary sacraments on the day before he died.

    So, as Jesus says, ‘many are called’ towards His holy faith. Some of these called will follow Christ’s desire and finally convert. But, on the other hand, many won’t convert. Only the Lord knows the state of these souls, as Christ also taught: “… but few are chosen”. And, because of this mystery of the ‘called’ and ‘chosen’ many people both inside and outside of the Church are in a state of confusion due to the similarities of the two, just as they would be viewing wolves in ‘sheeps clothing’ from afar. Attention to the details are necessary to make such distinction. And this is probably why Christ taught “enter by the narrow gate”, because it takes particular attention and focus to find the ‘True Faith’ and the One Holy Church founded by Christ. However, and unfortunately, many people want to take the ‘un-focused’ way, that is to say ‘the ‘broad way’, that Jesus describes in His parable.

  3. Great Post, Father to be. God Bless you. I wish we heard such things more often.

    One interesting side note is that every single person Baptised with the Trinitarian formula becomes a member of the Catholic Church (Yes, Virginia, every baptised protestant is a Catholic) and remains one until he reaches the age of discretion and choses to live apart from the Catholic Church but this teaching from Tradition and Ecclesiastical Legislation is recondite knowledge only for the diligent autodidact because Ecumenism,

    Benedict XIV We hold it for certain that his baptized by heretics are separated from the Church and deprived of all the blessings enjoyed by her members if they have arrived at the age of discretion and have adhered to the errors of their sect.

    Benedict XIV Singulari nos, Feb 9, 1749

  4. Very interesting – I’d guess inspired, but rarely spoken about. Yet, Christ loves us all – and guides us to His path – should we but ask. But we only have the time that we live – to achieve eternal reward or eternal damnation. ….and with so many distractions.

  5. I believe 100% as Christ as Saviour, Mary as his true virgin mother, angels, saints, miracles, the Rosary, chaplets, meditation, The Jesus Prayer, etc.

    I have a small alter set up in my bedroom ( sacred spot for want of a better word ) with a lovely Russian icon of Mary, 6 or 7 statues of Mary and Jesus, a couple of St Jude, candles, and when my arthritic knees permit, I sit in front of it and pray. On days when I can’t, I just do and say all my prayers laying in bed or standing.

    I do not attend church however. I have gone on and off for most of my life, but it is not a huge part of my connection to Christ. My connection with him is what matters. Being charitable, kind as often as my broken humanness allows, mindful of my thoughts, words and behavior, etc those are what brings me closer to the spiritual life I seek. I certainly am not against church going, don’t get me wrong, but it is not what makes me feel like I am the daughter of the King, my time spent alone with him does, with a face filled with tears and my broken soul. Every rule the Catholic church holds sacred, has been broken by me decades ago, and confession or otherwise, I can never feel ‘ part of the club ‘.

    1. I do not mean to be uncharitable, but you may not understand the point of the article. Paul warns in Hebrews that we not forsake the assembling of the saints, which is the habit of some. The warning in Heb 10:26 pertains to this.

      God bless,
      Craig

    2. It might not be your ‘connection to Christ’ that is the problem, it might be the right of other Christians to your support and witness that you are depriving them by your lack of Christian witness and spiritual communion. As St. Paul said, we are all one body made up of a variety of integral and essential parts. Your participation in a parish as an active member, even if it is only to be a critic of the items that you are dissatisfied with, makes up a useful part of that parish. Other souls indeed might be guided closer to Christ through your participation, meager as it might seem to you. That is to say, you are a valuable piece of the puzzle that makes up the image of Christ’s Holy Church.

      Also, the actual ‘hearing’ of the Gospel from the lips of a good Lector, can make a profound effect on a soul which reading alone cannot do. And for this you need a physical presence. (You tube doesn’t work in this regard). I have experienced this with many lectors at my parish, and particularly during the quieter, more meditative, daily Masses. At the daily Masses also, you will meet the more spiritual members of the Parish, and have time to get to know the Pastors very well, over time, when they make themselves available for conversation and questions after these Masses. Even the Desert Fathers, living as hermits in the deserts of Egypt, Syria and Palestine, would walk long distances to attend the Liturgies on Sundays. Christians need not only to receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist frequently, but also to touch and embrace (basically give the kiss of peace and greetings) in body and spirit, their fellow Christians with regular frequency.

      Daily masses are a treasure of this simple, charitable and inspiration Christian fellowship. You just need to kick yourself out of bed to make it to a 8:00AM liturgy. After this you will not see the parish as a “club”. This view is an exterior and impersonal perspective, that examines the defects and vices of the parish congregation more abundantly than the virtues of the congregation. Getting to know some of the ‘daily communicants’ can change this perspective. You might also join a little group in a parish such as the Legion of Mary (which I belong to). You will find there, also, humble and beautiful souls that you can relate to…since they have your same devotion to Our Blessed Lady.

      Just some ideas.

    3. Dear Elizabeth. It was the decision of Jesus Christ that we follow Him through the ministers He pointed (and their successors) in the Church He established and so you are trying to have Jesus your way – as though he were a fast food article.

      Luke speaks about the joy in Heaven when a sinner repents. Make Heaven happy, sister. Come home.

    4. Hi Elizabeth-Anne,

      First, you have a beautiful name; someone loved you very much, I think, in giving you the names of two people so very close to Mary–her cousin Elizabeth and her mother Anne. Your post shows that you are very close to Mary. Did you know that one of Mary’s many titles is “Mother of the Church”?

      As the mother of Jesus, Mary loves all His brothers and sisters. As a member of the Church, Mary becomes your Mother with the capital M.

      There is the Eucharist within the Church–the body, blood, soul, divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Joe spoke about it a post or two ago.) It is not how you ‘feel.’ It is the truth and the life within Jesus which will come into your soul when you receive. Also within the Church, there is the fellowship you gain with the other parts of the Body of Christ. Fellowship is more than a neighbor, more than a friend, more than a relative. It is spiritual. The most wonderful part of it all is that we all are broken. We all carry original sin and fall from grace. But with the Eucharist, with the communion of all of us healed and put together again by the grace and life of Jesus contained within it, we are one. I hope and pray you will try it. Don’t count on feelings. Count on Him. He will heal you and carry you to heights you cannot imagine. He loves His lost sheep and He will find you if you allow Him.

      1. Hello again Elizabeth-Anne,

        I forgot two points: The benefits of the Eucharist are best had by a penitent soul.

        I wholeheartedly endorse, as Awlms suggests, the Legion of Mary. It focuses on service and prayer as a member of Mary’s ‘army’, and it offers an entire system of formation with a solemn promise to Mary to fulfill her work as one of a pair (where two are gathered together there is He; and pair-work helps one remain fervent, forthright, and honest) with a fellow ‘sister’ or ‘brother.’ It is an excellent ministry; your fellow members will give solid support in all your spiritual endeavors, and as you grow, you will be a valuable support to others. The Legion is a worldwide apostolate, a very disciplined system which can be a source of increasing holiness….

    5. Please, come to Confession, be reconciled and receive the Eucharist again. The Devil wants to keep you away from the Church. Jesus wants you to come home and receive Him in Holy Communion again.

    1. It seems to me it is too wordy in many instances but the Church has always taught that outside it there is no salvation but it is the authority of the church which explicates that doctrine, not, say, the Diamon brothers.

      If you’d like, I could post a link explaining this.

    2. Easy,

      In the article above the “Church is the continuation of the Incarnation”. If the Church is the continuation of Christ on earth, and all Salvation flows from Christ, it makes sense that all Salvation flows from the Church.

  6. It seems to me that the only broadly controversial part of the article is point (2), i.e., “Who is the church?” The Baptist churches I’ve been a part of are pretty far from the RCC, but they’d still affirm that the church is Christ’s body, that we as Christians are required to be a part of it, etc. We’d just, y’know, quibble with what you mean when put that capital letter on there; in all other points, amen!

    Looking at that section, you argue two basic points: that the church is visible, and that it’s structured. To the first, I’d agree that Matthew 5 teaches that the church is to be visible – in the sense that people are to be able to see us and recognize us from what we are. But I think we run into trouble, there, because that sense of “visible” isn’t at all opposed to the idea of “an invisible church!”

    Wording gets awkward, here. Rephrasing: the claim that there is an “invisible church” is simply the claim that the word “church” is sometimes used in Scripture to refer to the collective body of believers, regardless of their particular earthly organizational structures. That’s not in any way at odds with the idea that all members of that body – in other words, all Christians – should act in such a way as to give glory to God, i.e., to be visibly different from the world around them.

    So it doesn’t seem to me that you can argue against that usage simply on the grounds that Christ encourages us to “let our light shine” – who, after all, is arguing that we should do anything else? Are any of us concealing that we are, in fact, followers of Christ – that whatever is good in us is to His glory? If so, I’ll join you in condemning such behavior – but surely to assert that we can only be visible by being Catholic specifically would beg the question.

    Your second point – that the church is to be structured, and in particular structured in a descending hierarchy from an apostolic head – seems questionable on a couple of grounds. First, it assumes that the pattern of direct apostolic appointment is normative – that apostles are to continue nominating all future pastors. But Scripture isn’t even clear that *apostles* continue as a concept past that first generation, and indeed many of the early signs of apostolic appointment (tongues, healing, resurrection, etc.) seem no longer typical even of, say, popes. Clearly at least some aspects of the early church’s history are descriptive rather than normative expectations.

    (As well, in almost every case in the New Testament where we see the appointment of elders, we’re seeing one or two experienced Chrsitians – Paul and Barnabus, let’s say – surrounded by new converts. Of course the existing Christian acts to appoint a new leadership structure in such situation! Does that require that a similar progression be followed in every subsequent case, regardless of the maturity of the Christians involved? That’s certainly a possible reading, but it’s not clear to me that it’s a necessary one.)

    More pressingly, you pass very quickly over Paul, who seems like a proof *against* the necessity of hierarchy in this process, as is his exact point in Galatians 1-2:

    “I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days… Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in — who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery — to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) — those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.”

    Paul’s entire argument seems designed to counter your position: that he did not yield to church leaders where they differed from the gospel, that he did not care who among the church was deemed influential, and that (continuing on to his discussion with Peter) he rebuked those leaders for being in error and insisted they change instead.

    Again, I think there’s a limit to how normative we can claim apostolic nomination to be; Paul’s circumstance, and Paul’s knowledge of the truth, are inspired in a way we don’t claim to emulate today. But if one is going to argue that apostolic succession continues through to the present – as it would seem you need to do, if apostolic nomination of pastors is to be upheld – then there’s clearly precedent for a man to say, “God directly made me a minister of the gospel, and I served him years without appealing to any extant organizational body” – and it seems like that precedent would remove the argument that pastoral authority must descend from the hierarchy.

    (In full disclosure: I don’t expect any more Pauls today – but then, I don’t believe there are any modern apostles, and that also necessitates some modification your proposed model. I don’t see a way to assume both apostolic succession and the necessity of hierarchy.)

    So again, it seems like there’s some equivocation here. In one sense, I fully agree that the church is to be structured; in another, it doesn’t seem clear at all that the church is to have the particular centralized hierarchical structure you propose. It seems an equally plausible reading of the New Testament to say that the standard model is Christians acting on the leading of the Spirit to lead others to Christ, and then to aid them in setting up churches of their own, quite apart from any central authority save Christ.

    To your last point in that section: do you see that 1 Corinthians 1 cuts against you as much as it does us? That we can as easily read it and say to you, “See, it says to have no divisions – and here you are, following Cephas?” (Is that unfair? Yeah, probably – in the same sense that it’s unfair to charge us with following Calvin or Luther instead of Christ.)

    By all means, let’s have no divisions! Suppose, as a Protestant, I hail you as full brothers, united by one blood, equally saved and forgiven by our one Lord. Your pastors are as fully pastors as mine, and their prayers and ministrations as naturally effective as mine, by the grace of God. We disagree, and we worship in differing styles according to our different understanding of the truth – but we’ll not say these differences place us differently before God, where faith in Christ is present.

    Will you say the same for me? Because if you will, then what division is there between us, really? And if you won’t – well, then the division’s not really of my making, y’know? You guys kicked *us* out. If you’re thinking of reversing that – if we can disagree on popes and priests and sacraments, on authority and eschatology and Maryology, and still be in full communion with you – I mean, by all means let us know!

    1. Irked said – We disagree, and we worship in differing styles according to our different understanding of the truth – but we’ll not say these differences place us differently before God, where faith in Christ is present.

      Me – Baptism now saves us or it doesn’t. We must eat His body or not. The Eucharist is His body, soul and divinity or not. These are not different understanding of the truth. It is true or not. To deny God’s teachings does place us differently before God. Reducing Jesus teaching to its lowest common denominator draws us away from Him not closer.

      Irked – You guys kicked *us* out.

      Me – if I deny the trinity can I still be a baptist? If not does that mean I left the baptist church or they kicked me out?

      Irked – If you’re thinking of reversing that – if we can disagree on popes and priests and sacraments, on authority and eschatology and Maryology, and still be in full communion with you – I mean, by all means let us know!

      Me – you are making no sense. All those things you listed were believed in over a thousand years before the reformation. What makes you think the reformers got it right when they didn’t even agree with each other?

      1. Well, okay! So then: would you say that doctrinal differences of a certain magnitude are reasons not to be all join in a single organizational church? That it’s not wrong of a Christian to say, “Your doctrine is too far from the truth – you’ve left true saving faith, and we can’t be full unity with you?”

        That’s totally reasonable! But then let’s dispense with saying, “We’re to have one mind – even when we disagree, there should be no disunity!” You’re willing to draw lines where disunity becomes an appropriate response, and that’s a consistent position. But let’s say that plainly and not suggest that the problem is that Protestants just won’t agree to have unity.

        Like, cards on the table, I agree that these things are kind of a big deal, and that the answers to them matter. (I’m not sure most of them are salvific issues, but that they are not salvific is, itself, one of the points on which we disagree, I suspect.) That’s why it’s frustrating to read arguments like the above:

        “And yet, we’re not told to have no dissensions unless we disagree. We’re told to have no dissensions.”

        Either have no divisions with us, or say that 1 Cor 1 isn’t meant to cover what happens when one side or the other strays into heresy, or *something* – but it takes two to tango, here.

    2. Irked your following point concerned me:

      “First, it assumes that the pattern of direct apostolic appointment is normative – that apostles are to continue nominating all future pastors. But Scripture isn’t even clear that *apostles* continue as a concept past that first generation, and indeed many of the early signs of apostolic appointment (tongues, healing, resurrection, etc.) seem no longer typical even of, say, popes.”

      1. In the Scripture, all Elders are appointed by a “Fellow Elder,” such as Peter. For someone to appoint himself and Elder, therefore, breaks with the Scripture.

      2. Clement, writings in the 70s AD, wrote that it was public knowledge that the Apostles knew there would be contention over the Episcopate and that the Apostles appointed Elders knowing that these Elders must appoint subsequent Elders. Now, who understands what Paul meant in the Pastoral Epistles when he spoke about the proper way of appointing Elders. You or me reading his letter 2,000 years later or Clement, who personally knew Paul, was named by Paul in Philippians 4, and was writing about the exact issue we are all debating here before perhaps all of the Scripture was even finished yet?

      I hope this is helpful for you.

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. Hi Craig,

        Fair question! I’m assuming here that you’re referencing Clement 44, where he says, “We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by [the apostles], or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry.” If there’s another, more relevant passage that I’m not thinking of, please correct me!

        So, a few points:

        1) Before looking at Clement, we’d agree, I think, that Clement’s letter is not infallible – is that fair? For all its virtues, this is the same letter where Clement exhorts the church to follow the example of the totally real animal called the phoenix – clearly he got at least a couple of details wrong. I don’t say that to say that a letter from a wise early elder is valueless, or that there’s nothing to be gained by reading it; just to say that we can legitimately disagree with Clement on this or that point, and that while he has a very direct line to the apostles, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we might disagree with him.

        2) Given that lack of infallibility, it’s also appropriate to read Clement’s letter as something other than perfectly timeless wisdom. That a particular model was effective for the early church – where the number of experienced believers was dwarfed by the number of new converts – may not make it the best possible model for all subsequent churches, in all subsequent circumstances. Clement himself calls it an “opinion” – which may be humility, or may be a just recognition of the bounds of his advice.

        If Paul had commanded in Scripture that such-and-such a model be followed – well, okay! We’d take that as normative for all ages. But we don’t have such a command in the Bible, and it seems unreasonable to expect not-divinely-inspired advice from 70 AD to be *necessarily* the best route in, say, a circumstance where most church members have known Christ since late childhood.

        3) So those are the caveats. But looking at what Clement actually does say… I’m not sure that they’re even necessary. Clement speaks of elders as those appointed “by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church.” That’s not a hierarchical model – that’s the church body as a whole serving as crucial an approving role as the “eminent men.” For that matter, it’s not entirely clear that the other “eminent men” must themselves be appointed as elders in some sort of unbroken line of succession from the top – the only clear necessity is that they be “eminent,” which, again, seems as likely to be determined in a bottom-up way as a top-down one.

        4) Even then, surely much of Protestantism follows precisely this pattern. I’ve never known a purely self-declared pastor (though I’m sure they do exist); the overwhelming majority of elders are… well, ordained by eminent men and approved by their church. It seems like that’s in keeping with Clement’s model, as far as it goes; what Protestants lack, and what’s not at all clear in Clement’s model either, is that these eminent men report to others, who report to others, who report to Rome. (Certainly Clement doesn’t claim in his letter that *he* should have ultimate approval of who is or isn’t an elder in Corinth – does he?)

        So, again, I think the contention isn’t so much that there’s structure in the church as that there’s necessarily the particular form of structure favored by the RCC, and in this regard it doesn’t seem to me that Clement is any help to you.

        5) We don’t actually know how all the elders in Scripture are appointed; we aren’t told, for instance, how the elders of Jerusalem come to be. And you seem to elide Paul, here – who, by his own account, was out there setting up churches for three years before he ever checked in with the organized church, and who was very clear that his authority to do so did not stem from them.

        ***

        Is that a fair response?

        1. Irked – I’m curious.

          Do you believe there are infallible men? If you are referring to the apostles which ones actually claim their writing to be under God’s inspiration? Maybe two? Certainly not all of them.

          You will find that men you consider fallible told us so. The same with Sacred Tradition.

          The authors of the Bible believed the earth was flat, many believed in mystical creatures. If you discount Clement because of the Phoenix you might as well throw out all the inspired books.

          1. You said, “Do you believe there are infallible men?” Well, Christ – but no, in general I don’t. I do believe there are specific infallible utterances – but I’m not sure we’d hold Clement’s letter to be such. (I wouldn’t, in any event, and it sounds like Craig wouldn’t either.)

            I’d like to not get into a debate about the origins of the canon, though – this is a bit of a crowded plate as is. Can we leave it there?

          2. Irked – I’d like to not get into a debate about the origins of the canon, though – this is a bit of a crowded plate as is. Can we leave it there?

            Me – yes. Fair enough.

            Without infallible men or some kind of teaching authority how can one one know what persons, utterances or written anything is or isn’t infallible or inerrant?

            Under what authority do you base your conclusion about Clement or the apostles? Under your view everything amounts to an opinion or educated guess based on a teaching that may or may not have been transmitted with errors.

            How can you verify what utterances are infallible? I’m really interested in your position on this.

          3. “Without infallible men or some kind of teaching authority how can one one know what persons, utterances or written anything is or isn’t infallible or inerrant?”

            My answer is “fallible canon of infallible books,” but again, this is exactly the part of the conversation that I really don’t want to get into today, because it’ll eat any other debates to be had.

            Respectfully, then, I’d like to decline to follow up any further discussion along these lines.

          4. Irked – I understand you not wanting to follow on my line of questioning. The point I wanted to bring up for those following this thread on unity or lack there of, stand and falls on authority. Your fallible cannon of infallible books idea comes from fallible men. Christ (the only infallible man in your view) never said or implied such a thing and neither did the early church. As a matter of fact I believe this concept is fairly new.

            I will move on. I appreciate the time you did give me.

        2. Irked,

          Thank you for the response. A few quick points.

          1. I do not think Clement is infallible.

          2. I do think Clement is a better interpreter of what the Apostles wanted than anyone who ever existed.

          3. Paul wrote in Titus 1 that Titus was the one who appointed all the elders and bishops in Crete.

          4. Clement tells us that this model was followed everywhere in chapter 44:

          Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.

          5. Being that the scripture only has elders appointing elders and the earliest interpreter of Scripture tells us that the apostles gave instructions to follow this model it is incumbent upon us to do so.

          6. The reformation bypassed the chAin of command established by the apostles.

          Therefore

          7. The origins of the reformation are unbiblical and sinful.

          Let me know if you think any of these points do not make sense.

          God bless
          Craig

          1. Craig,

            They make fine sense, but I’m not sure they’re true – they don’t seem to respond to the points I make above. So, for instance, Clement doesn’t say only elders should appoint elders, unless we assume that “other eminent men” necessarily refers to other elders; Paul *clearly* bypasses the “chain of command,” and indeed makes a point of the fact that he does so; and we aren’t actually told that all elders in the NT are appointed by other elders (again, cf. Jerusalem, where we just don’t know). The notion of an unbroken chain of elders just doesn’t seem to be necessary either in the Bible or Clement’s letter – so where does it come from?

            Even if we assumed that such a chain was necessary, though, I’m not sure it’s clear that the Reformation breaks from it. Luther and Zwingli, among other early reformers, were priests; wouldn’t it follow that at least the lines of Protestant elders descending from them are valid?

          2. Craig, feel free to tell me it’s none of my business, because it isn’t, but reading some of your posts here leads me to believe the Spirit has been working you over in the recent past. True? Continued prayers for blessing and a continuing increase in faith, hope, and love for you and yours.

          3. Irked,

            Thank you for the reply. I am sorry if I did not address all of your points, I was trying to be more pointed in my response. I think I can address them here better, and perhaps if you have no objection, you can re-visit my 7 points from before.

            You write:

            Clement doesn’t say only elders should appoint elders, unless we assume that “other eminent men” necessarily refers to other elders

            I have to respectfully disagree. Chapter 44 is exceedingly clear in that CLement is speaking of those the APostles appointed being elders, and those the elders appointing being elders.

            To understand this we have to see chap 42:

            The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture in a certain place, I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.

            So, CLement is speaking of how bishops are appointed. He refers to the idea in the beginning of chapter 43 (“And what wonder is it if those in Christ who were entrusted with such a duty by God, appointed those [ministers] before mentioned,”) and the beginning of CHap 44 (“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry”)

            Who are those “mentioned“? The Bishops according to Chap 42. So, who are the “eminent men?” CLearly, it is a reference to Bishops appointed by those Bishops from chapter 42.

            I think you are a reasonable man, so you must see this by now. I won’t belabor the point further.

            You also write:

            Paul *clearly* bypasses the “chain of command,” and indeed makes a point of the fact that he does so

            This is untrue. 1. He was appointed by Jesus Himself, as were the other Apostles. 2. Paul was a missionary, but not necessarily acting as a Bishop and starting churches. I feel that I do not have to even address this point because God made him a disciple but if I want to be really technical I can cite Acts 13:3–“Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Paul was ordained for church planting at this time. We have no mention of him starting any churches before this time, and as far as I know, we do not have any historical bishoprics in Arabia that trace their origin from Paul. So, even in the life of Paul we see that he did not gain governing power over churches until after an ordination.

            and we aren’t actually told that all elders in the NT are appointed by other elders

            How about the “Regulative Principal?” The only way we ever see elders appointed is by an Apostle or Elder. Titus was not an Apostle, but he appointed Elders. Clearly, he was appointed by the Apostle Paul for the task.

            The notion of an unbroken chain of elders just doesn’t seem to be necessary either in the Bible or Clement’s letter…

            Actually, it is explicitly found in both you must admit, and it is an argument from silence to say that whenever it is not made explicit that this must mean that there was a broken chain.

            Luther and Zwingli, among other early reformers, were priests; wouldn’t it follow that at least the lines of Protestant elders descending from them are valid?

            Yes and no. If Elders are always Bishops, this may be true. If Elders are not always Bishops, then this may not be true. EIther way, several branches of Protestantism lack succession by any definition (Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists (started by unordained itinerant preachers, etcetera) AND these priests were at best Donatists, creating a schism which is specifically forbidden in the Scripture.

            All of this begs the question–what is the justification for schism if it is a sin? Or do you deny the words of Paul that it is sin?

            These are hard words, but when I answered these questions I ceased to be Protestant. My sincerest prayers are for you.

            God bless,

            Craig

          4. Hi Craig,

            Thanks for the reply. I’ll endeavor to treat your seven points more thoroughly.

            Let me make sure I’m getting the italics code first: [i]test[/i] test.

          5. Shane,

            You are correct. I am just beginning a process of converting to Orthodoxy. I have not made any official announcements on my blog or Facebook, simply because a lot of people from my former church follow and I do a lot of work for that church and want to work with the elders there to make a break without being a cause of contention within the church. None of them follow this blog, so I can speak freely about it here.

            In short, a commenter here named Matt and myself speak quite a bit via facebook and he helped me understand that the Protestant view of justification represented a significant discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. In short, in the Old Testament continued sacrifices are necessary in order to be in right standing with God. In the New, continued faith is necessary. However, just like sacrifices are an ongoing process, so is faith. Justification and salvation are spoken of in the present tense (i.e. “being Justified” in Rom 5:1, 5:7, etc) so that we do not have the linguistic evidence to claim that justification was ongoing in the OT but an one time event in the NT. I always had doubts about the Reformed view of the “sanctification process,” and when I realized that the NT speaks of Sanctification and Justification in an equivalent sense, I realized that as Heb 11 says that men were saved by faith the same way for all time. Faith is ongoing, not a one time event. Righteousness is indwelt by the SPirit–not a legal fiction.

            When I realized this, I saw the Protestant interpretation of justification is incomplete. Then I found that Orthodoxy teaches that justification is ongoing and not tied to merit. I couldn’t believe it–this is exactly what the Bible teaches and yet Protestantism gets the former wrong and the latter right.

            At the same time I studied Saint Cyprian who categorically excluded from salvation all of those who are in schism. Everyone in the early church, even Ignatius, taught this. The Scripture teaches this (I will have an article on this.)

            I made the decision, pretty much instantly, to convert. I spoke to my wife about it in increments over two nights. She agreed as well. It’s a pretty hard move for us. We appreciate everyone’s prayers, especially for wisdom in discerning between Rome and the Orthodox.

            I feel that I am open-minded where I can admit when I am wrong. I just do not always have the comprehension to know when that is the case. So, Rome is still at odds with Orthodoxy, so both of us can’t be right. I believe that Orthodoxy follows the ecclesiology of the ancient church (a conclusion I came to even as a Protestant) and I find their soteriolgoy more strictly biblical and traditional–but I hope we can consider each other brothers.

            God bless,
            Craig

          6. Craig,

            So, returning first to your reply:

            Who are those “mentioned“? The Bishops according to Chap 42. So, who are the “eminent men?” CLearly, it is a reference to Bishops appointed by those Bishops from chapter 42.

            I think you are a reasonable man, so you must see this by now. I won’t belabor the point further.

            I don’t mean to disappoint, but I’m not sure I can agree, there. You’re clearly correct that those “mentioned” are those appointed directly by the apostles as discussed in Ch 42 – the same as those “before mentioned,” “already mentioned,” and so on. We have no disagreement on this point. But then you say, “Who are the eminent men?” – and here you lose me. Why must the eminent men be the same as those previously appointed by the apostles? Is it altogether unthinkable that the church should contain noteworthy men not appointed as elders, or who might have reached maturity in the faith at some later date? It’s certainly possible that the two groups are identical, but there’s nothing in the text (at least that I can see!) that necessitates it – and it seems to me that this is the point on which your whole argument hangs. If a reasonable, non-contrived reading would say that the “eminent men” need not be part of a direct chain of succession, then we might follow a similar pattern today.

            This is untrue. 1. He was appointed by Jesus Himself, as were the other Apostles. 2. Paul was a missionary, but not necessarily acting as a Bishop and starting churches.

            Well, (1) is rather my point, yes. I understand, in at least one regard, that to be the universal situation: that all Christians are appointed directly by Christ to go and spread the word, to make disciples, to teach, etc. In other words, I think what we see from Paul is the normative model here as much as what we see from the other apostles. (Obviously I don’t think the “be an apostle” part is normative in either case.)

            (2) seems rather an extreme claim. We know from Galatians 1 that Paul spent the intervening years in Arabia and Damascus. We know from Acts 9 exactly what he did in that time: he preached to the Jews in those cities. How is that anything other than working to create a Damascus church?

            Indeed, to say that Paul would have been unqualified to begin churches or appoint leaders in that time seems to cut exactly against his thesis in Galatians 1-2, i.e., that he needed no authority from the Jerusalem church in order to keep doing what he’d been doing.

            I feel that I do not have to even address this point because God made him a disciple but if I want to be really technical I can cite Acts 13:3–“Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Paul was ordained for church planting at this time.

            Again, that the laying hands empowered him to start churches seems to me to be an assumption not necessary to the text in question, and exactly against Paul’s argument in Galatians.

            Actually, it is explicitly found in both you must admit, and it is an argument from silence to say that whenever it is not made explicit that this must mean that there was a broken chain.

            No, rather the contrary. I stand by the argument above: Clement doesn’t say any such thing. If anything, I think the “eminent men, with the consent of the whole church” passage leans away from a clearly unbroken top-down line, and towards a view of churches subsequently choosing their own leaders. I mean – if the model is “a line of descent from Peter’s seat,” why doesn’t Clement appeal to his own authority at any point here? My understanding is that the RCC holds that he served as bishop of Rome following Peter; couldn’t he, under that assumption, have simply said, “These are not the elders I approve?” Instead, he offers advice on how the church is to select its elders – if the wider post-apostolic church has any involvement in this process, he doesn’t mention it!

            My point regarding Jerusalem is not that they must have been appointed by other means – which would definitely be an argument from silence! – but just that we see relatively little of how the early elders are appointed, even in a church as central as Jerusalem, and we’re certainly given no command as to how they’re to be appointed in a post-apostolic era. And that seems to me to be the relevant question: how do you get more elders once John and the rest are dead? Scripture doesn’t say – but it does have the church’s premier early apostle insisting quite firmly that he doesn’t need Jerusalem’s authority to do what he does.

            Again, where do we get a normative command for a post-apostolic period? And lacking such a command, why default to the position you provide?

            All of this begs the question–what is the justification for schism if it is a sin? Or do you deny the words of Paul that it is sin?

            Returning to the argument I’ve made elsewhere in this thread – look, you guys kicked us out. Clearly there’s some line where it seems appropriate to Rome to give people the boot. I think that’s reasonable, as far as it goes – but surely, then, we can’t say that any such action is a violation of Paul’s call to unity; to do so would say that, no, Protestants actually should be fully welcome as equal members of the RCC, despite their different beliefs.

            So whatever Paul is saying in that passage, we can’t say it makes a sin of turning to a brother and saying, “You’ve lost a portion of the truth, and I can’t give approval to what you teach” – can we?

          7. Craig,

            And to your seven points:

            1. I do not think Clement is infallible.

            2. I do think Clement is a better interpreter of what the Apostles wanted than anyone who ever existed.

            (1) we agree on. (2) I might quibble – I think those of us who have a complete canon have an advantage on him in at least some regards – but he’s a good interpreter, sure, and I’m not sure the hair is worth splitting at the moment. But even the best interpreter can occasionally be wrong, which was my point.

            3. Paul wrote in Titus 1 that Titus was the one who appointed all the elders and bishops in Crete.

            Sure, no argument.

            4. Clement tells us that this model was followed everywhere in chapter 44:

            Yes. And, as per the rest of our conversation, he then goes on to give a different model for how things are to work after the apostles die: eminent men appoint, and the whole congregation approves, and if both those things happen you get a new elder.

            5. Being that the scripture only has elders appointing elders and the earliest interpreter of Scripture tells us that the apostles gave instructions to follow this model it is incumbent upon us to do so.

            I disagree that those are the instructions given; further, again, I don’t give an extra-biblical instruction the same weight.

            6. The reformation bypassed the chAin of command established by the apostles.

            I don’t concur that there is such a chain of command. Subsequent to the Reformation, we mostly see people following the same pattern: responsible men nominate, and congregations confirm. But, again, this is a pattern; Scripture doesn’t give us explicit instructions on what the period after 90 AD or so is to look like, in this regard…

            7. The origins of the reformation are unbiblical and sinful.

            …and lacking a biblical command to violate, you can’t be unbiblical!

          8. Irked,

            I am trying to brief to limit length of the replies. A few points:

            -Your reading of 1 Clement appears very forced. The thrust of his whole argument is that people cannot appoint as Elder whomever they want. to read “eminent men” other than those who were appointed would severely undercut his whole argument. Further, “eminent men” is a way of differentiating between those chosen by the Apostles and those chosen by those who were chosen by the Apostles…nothing more.

            -If Paul was appointed directly by Christ, clearly this is not normative. You or I are not directly appointed in this sense. Luther was not. Augustine was not. No one is. There are no more Apostles anymore.

            -You did not make the schism. Luther, Calvin, and others did. You inherited their schism. Why do you make the choice of continuing with it when God clearly prefers unity and not disunity? What, in your mind, is more important than unity?

            -Clement knew Paul and he quoted 85% of the NT in his letter (other than John’s Gospel and letters–which shows they probably were not even written yet.) Clement is a million times better an interpreter than probably every Biblical interpreter combined from after his death until now. If anyone knew what the Apostles wanted that was not an Apostle himself, it was Clement.

            -“why doesn’t Clement appeal to his own authority at any point here?” Because Clement was a bishop over Rome, not Corinth. Corinth had their own bishops. He appealed to their authority.

            -The Bible nowhere speaks of self-appointed Elders, only appointed Elders. Your citing of Paul does not work because he was directly appointed by God. So, you break with the Scriptures on this point by inferring there may have been non-appointed elders when we explicitly have appointed elders.

            God bless,
            Craig

          9. Craig,

            -Your reading of 1 Clement appears very forced. The thrust of his whole argument is that people cannot appoint as Elder whomever they want. to read “eminent men” other than those who were appointed would severely undercut his whole argument. Further, “eminent men” is a way of differentiating between those chosen by the Apostles and those chosen by those who were chosen by the Apostles…nothing more.

            I would say exactly the same to you: it seems like you’re forcing the meaning of this passage. Clement’s very quick to talk about “those I mentioned before,” and yet that’s not the phrase he uses here; if all he means is “the other elders,” why not say that as he did elsewhere?

            Clement’s primary complaint seems to be with the removal of the elders – that’s his argument in Ch 44, in the immediately following sentence: “We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry.”

            Why does it matter that the elders were appointed by eminent men? Well, because for that reason they shouldn’t be removed for no reason – the whole church agreed to appoint them on those men’s recommendation, after all! I don’t see how this is weakened at all by my reading.

            (For that matter, note that this is still not a command of the form “Here’s how you should appoint elders,” but simply a recognition of the fact that this was how they, in fact, had appointed elders. The closest thing to a command is, “I don’t think you should kick them out like this.”)

            I mean, look, at the end of the day, the passage doesn’t say the eminent men are the same as the other elders. It simply doesn’t! That’s flatly not present in the text; it has to be read into the text that these are necessarily the same people. Why presume that, unless we begin with the supposition that authority in the church must necessarily flow from the top down?

            If Paul was appointed directly by Christ, clearly this is not normative. You or I are not directly appointed in this sense. Luther was not. Augustine was not. No one is. There are no more Apostles anymore.

            The question would then seem to be, “Is Paul’s authority to go around starting churches conditional on his apostleship?” In other words, there are attributes we share with Paul and attributes we don’t. Surely that he was to preach the gospel is an attribute that we share. Is the fact that he organized churches such an attribute, or was it particular to his role as an apostle? On what grounds do we rule it one way or the other? Does Scripture ever make such a restriction?

            You did not make the schism. Luther, Calvin, and others did. You inherited their schism. Why do you make the choice of continuing with it when God clearly prefers unity and not disunity? What, in your mind, is more important than unity?

            Truth, surely; otherwise Paul would never command that people who had lost the truth, who were out of obedience to Christ, should be put out of the church.

            Would you suggest that I abandon the truth I see in the Bible to end a schism? Surely not! Would Rome welcome me with open arms, believing as I do? Nah, not feelin’ it. So how precisely do you suggest I end my part in this?

            Or, to turn it another way: why not urge Rome to end the schism? Again, it takes two to tango: why is the urge purely that we should abandon what we see to be true? It seems like the only possible answer is, “Well, they’re right and you’re wrong; they can’t leave the truth just to end a fight” – and that’s precisely my point. If they shouldn’t abandon (what they understand to be) the truth to join with me, then surely I should hold to the same principle.

            “why doesn’t Clement appeal to his own authority at any point here?” Because Clement was a bishop over Rome, not Corinth. Corinth had their own bishops. He appealed to their authority.

            I mean, I agree, but in that case the idea of an organized single church with the bishop of Rome at its head seems out the window – and that’s the thing I was originally arguing, y’know?

            The Bible nowhere speaks of self-appointed Elders, only appointed Elders. Your citing of Paul does not work because he was directly appointed by God. So, you break with the Scriptures on this point by inferring there may have been non-appointed elders when we explicitly have appointed elders.

            I don’t read “Some elders were appointed by apostles or their direct subordinates,” to imply “All elders must be appointed by apostles or their direct subordinates,” yes. I particularly don’t infer from there an unbroken chain of elders nominating other elders as the only acceptable model after the apostles’ deaths, when Scripture neither commands nor displays what elder appointment looks like after the apostles’ deaths. I think it’s a bit silly to charge me with breaking with the Scriptures for not insisting something which they themselves do not insist.

            God bless,
            Craig

          10. Irked,

            It appears you replaced my role on this site. I hope you stick around.

            Clement’s very quick to talk about “those I mentioned before,” and yet that’s not the phrase he uses here; if all he means is “the other elders,” why not say that as he did elsewhere?

            As I already said it is a euphemism. Those “mentioned” = appointed by Apostles. Those “eminent men” = men appointed by “mentioned” men.

            Again, where in Clement’s whole letter do we even get a hint that men Elders can be replaced? “We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry.” Men appointed through the chain of succession who are “humble, peaceable, and disinterested…cannot be justly dismissed.” If your view is correct, than the Corinthians can simply follow whomever they want because they “teach the Bible.” CLement clearly says, no, one can only be dismissed if he is an egregious sinner.

            I really think you are going beyond the text here.

            Why does it matter that the elders were appointed by eminent men?

            Precisely because of the chain of command, which Clement has been referring to for a few chapters. That is standard exegesis even among Protestant scholars. You are reading into the text an interpretation that “eminent men” are somehow not appointed by the Apostles. The text nowhere says this and it in fact mitigates against this. Perhaps it would hep if you read Clement’s whole letter, it would take 30 minutes.

            The question would then seem to be, “Is Paul’s authority to go around starting churches conditional on his apostleship?”

            Yes. But, even then, he did not actually establish churches until he was appointed to the task. He merely preached before that. You cannot say this is untrue, because this is literally how the course of events is addressed in Acts.

            Surely that he was to preach the gospel is an attribute that we share.

            Of course, I do it without starting churches.

            Does Scripture ever make such a restriction?

            The Scipture tells us how to appoint elders. We see elders appointing elders–people who were appointed to the task appointing others to the task. The Reformation breaks with this and in so doing breaks with the Scripture–Jesus warns “the Scripture cannot be broken.”

            Would you suggest that I abandon the truth I see in the Bible to end a schism?

            You already abandoned the truth. Your church does not agree with you on 100.0% of all issues. No church would, and no CHristian is in 100% agreement with another Christian. So, you have already compromised absolute purity in truth because you feel that this or that issue is not important enough to break unity with your brethren. So, that being the case, what is so wrong about Rome or Orthodoxy that you cannot look past disagreements with them when you already do with your own church?

            I will give you the last word on all of this. It has been fun.

            God bless,

            Craig

          11. Craig,

            It has been – thanks for the conversation! You’ve helped me sort through some of my thoughts on the subject.

            As I already said it is a euphemism. Those “mentioned” = appointed by Apostles. Those “eminent men” = men appointed by “mentioned” men.

            With respect, that’s an assertion, not an argument. You’re asking me to conclude that the “chain of succession” is a rule, when this rule doesn’t actually appear anywhere. Clement does not, as a matter of pure fact, say that only elders appoint elders; Clement does not, for that matter, give a command on the appointment of elders – he simply describes how they factually were appointed: by the consent of wise men in the church, and the vote of the whole body. That these men must necessarily be elders has to be read into the text – it is not there. Again, the New Testament shows apostles starting churches… but it’s nowhere given as a command that, lacking special appointment, you’re not permitted to start a church. These are inferences, and inferences make for bad moral imperatives.

            Let’s follow Clement’s argument for a moment: “Look, guys, what the heck is going on? You have elders. You have really good elders. Some of them were appointed by the apostles directly – remember them? And as those guys died, you got new elders – the prominent men of your church appointed them, and then all of you voted in confirmation of them. You chose these people as your leaders, and they’ve served you well all this time – and now, you’re… what? You’re going to throw them out for a guy who paid his way in? That’s appalling.”

            That seems to me to be the thrust of his conversation here. And it doesn’t hang on apostolic succession; it isn’t even about an unbroken chain of succession.

            Look, if this is just a translation issue – if the Greek is unambiguous, and I’m being dense – then by all means point me to a relevant Protestant commentary that will say, “Oh, yes, that’s unambiguously what Clement meant.” But you can’t just say that one phrase means another; that’s eisegetical.

            Yes. But, even then, he did not actually establish churches until he was appointed to the task. He merely preached before that. You cannot say this is untrue, because this is literally how the course of events is addressed in Acts.

            I don’t believe we can distinguish between “He won a bunch of converts in the area” and “He founded a church in the area.” That’s what a church – literally, a gathering – is: a group of Christians who gather together for worship and support. Either Paul won no one to Christ in three years, or those people were disobedient and didn’t gather together the way Christ commanded, or he started churches. I’d say the same of all those who fled Jerusalem after the persecution starts.

            The Scipture tells us how to appoint elders.

            Show many any command – any command – that says something normative on this subject, rather than just showing the way the apostles did things in a period we can’t replicate.

            So, that being the case, what is so wrong about Rome or Orthodoxy that you cannot look past disagreements with them when you already do with your own church?

            Again, this isn’t my decision to make. My church is willing to take me, with my disagreements. Rome isn’t. They’ve been pretty clear on that point, yeah?

            Would you really tell me to ignore what I understand to be Christ’s commands to mend that fence? Not “Well, but if you understood how wrong you are…” or “Well, but if you recognized the authority of the mother church…” – no. I’m asking, me as I am, as I understand the Scriptures, would you really tell me, “You should abandon what seems to be true, not on the basis of evidence that persuades you it’s false, but just to be in unity?”

          12. I don’t plan to get into the weeds on all of the good questions being raised in the comments, but I do want to say:

            1) Craig, I’m so joyful for you. Seriously, brother. Whether you end up Orthodox or Catholic, that’s (at a minimum) a giant step towards the fullness of communion.

            2) I’d be happy to get into some of the Catholic-Orthodox issues, although I’ll readily admit that I’m less prepared than on Catholic-Protestant issues.

            3) A major factor for me is that it seems to me that the Catholic Church can incorporate Eastern Patristic theology and ecclesiology in a way that the Orthodox Church(es) can’t do for Western Patristic theology and ecclesiology.

            4) Irked, I think Craig said it best about you taking up his old role as friendly Protestant interlocutor. I hope you’ll stay around.(Although you’re seeing what’s happened to Craig…) In all seriousness, you’re a most welcome guest and you’ve contributed well to the ongoing dialogue.

            In Christ,

            Joe

          13. Joe,

            I appreciate that – I can’t promise a regular presence, but I’ve enjoyed the conversation.

            More on point, I really appreciate the grace and politeness everyone has shown in this conversation. We have real, meaningful disagreements with each other, and that too often translates into harsh words – it’s nice to be able to chew on the edges of each others’ theology without that devolving into personal critique.

          14. Craig,

            First off, I am exceeding glad that you are considering Eastern Orthodoxy.

            I was in exactly the same position as you a couple years ago, except I was not in as hard a situation as you are. I therefore count you the better man than I.

            A few words of caution to you here though:

            1. Don’t lose the good you had in reformed Christianity. Even in misguided sects there is something good. I made this mistake, though not at first, in my spiritual pilgrimage, and I unnecessarily did damage to my faith for a while by trying to weed out the good with the bad.

            2. Make sure you’re learning fully traditional Eastern Orthodox teaching. There are quite a few apologists for the Orthodox Church that are not quite fully in line with Eastern tradition. When I studied the more traditional positions of the Orthodox faith, they led me to fully Roman Catholic conclusions from a logical standpoint.

            3. The Eastern liturgy is very beautiful and ancient, and it makes their arguments persuasive for their antiquity, but make sure to also pay close attention to their teachings compared to the Church Fathers, especially St. Augustine.

            4. Don’t forget/ignore the beauty of what God has done in the West — especially the early Popes and Latin church fathers. The papacy and western Christianity in general has been an absolute mess, sometimes a train wreck even, but it’s certainly worth it not to brush over.

            I pray for your good success, and asked St. Augustine to pray for you earlier. Pray for me that I would learn humility.

          15. Oh, and one more word of caution:

            5. Don’t forget to study some medieval scholastic criticism of Eastern Orthodox teaching. That was about the time that the theological rifts started to form.

          16. Thank you Alex and Margo.

            I cannot speak for others, but I am not an “angry” convert. The only key issue which I have shifted on is justification, as I think Orthodoxy teaches the doctrine more fully and accurately. Joe’s article here, on schism, were the same sort of arguments I listened to in my mind and when I saw the issue of justification more rightly, I saw no justification for myself being an accessory for schism.

            I say the preceding, because I do not forswear Augustine, original sin, substitutionary atonement, and other western ideas which as far as my comprehension allows are correct. I would still affirm faith alone, as the fathers taught the doctrine. I am aware that Orthodoxy does not teach some of these western doctrines, so in this beginning stage my plan is to maintain them as private opinions and not press the issue.

            God bless,
            Craig

    3. Irked,

      The key point on which you’re, well, irked about is a good one: it’s impossible to live out the Biblical injunction to total Church unity (an injunction found in John 17:20-23 and Galatians 5:19-20 as well as the verses mentioned in this post) if it’s possible that the entire visible Church could fall into heresy. Then we would have to choose between two things that the Bible condemns: heresy or schism.

      But that’s precisely why the infallibility of the Church (suggested in passages like Matthew 16:17-19, with the promise that the visible Church shall never succumb to the Gates of Hell) is both true and necessarily true. The whole notion of a total apostasy is anti-Biblical, and belied by Christ’s promises.

      Also worth noting: if Protestantism were true, and the doctrines of Protestantism worth leaving the Church over, it would mean that just such a total apostasy had happened (since I think we’ll agree that there were exactly 0 Protestants on earth before the Reformation).

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. Joe,

        Hopefully not too irked – the name is an old joke, and I hope I don’t live up to it too often. (More than I should, to be sure.)

        So obviously my interpretation of the events preceding 1517 are somewhat different; I understand the Reformation to be a reaction to gradual shifts in Catholic dogma over the preceding centuries (e.g., what I would see as an unhealthy syncretism in Aquinas, etc.). RCC doctrine as I understand it denies the possibility of such shifts, so I assume that’s a point where we’d disagree. If there’s a gradual percolation of bad ideas through the body of the RCC – well, that’s not clearly a universal apostasy.

        And – more to the point – it doesn’t need to be a universally salvific issue. For all that I disagree with the RCC, I don’t think those differences need to add up to something that would prevent salvation; it’s reasonable to me to believe that the bulk of the RCC – minimally, that its official teaching – was *wrong* on some important points, without needing to believe that this meant Martin Luther was the only Christian in the world.

        And as far as that goes – millions of Christians catching the core of the gospel, but functionally none of them believing it in all respects without error – well, I tend to think that state of affairs describes the church from the first days (when Peter got racism wrong) through now (where one thing all God’s people have in common is that we’re still wrong about stuff).

        So… I guess I don’t have a problem with saying, “No one had it entirely right, before or after the Protestant reformation.” If that’s all you have in mind when you say “universal apostasy,” then yeah, I’d call that an ongoing state of affairs. It’s not clear to me that this in any way challenges the triumph of the church over the Gates of Hell – we can do good deeds, preach salvation, etc. without being right on all points.

        Again, if you mean an apostasy that’s something salvific – well, that’s very different.

        But this is sort of my original point: it feels a little bit disingenuous to urge Protestants to bring an end to all this division, because what’s actually entailed there is, “Give up all the things you’re wrong about, and agree with us again, and then there will be no more division.” Surely we can say that as well as you; to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, if you’d all like to become Baptists, we’ll get the pool warmed up!

        But let me turn your original point around: I don’t agree that the call to unity is about how we are to react to heretics. We’re also told to put at least some category of heresy out of the gathering of believers, the church; if those two verses are to avoid contradiction, it seems like they have to be talking about different circumstances. We’re to avoid schisming with each other, as brothers – but at the same time, we are to forcefully oppose heresies, and if that means putting someone out, sometimes that’s necessary. It… seems like we’d agree on this point, given that y’all certainly did put us out?

        Your point seems to require that the RCC’s magisterium cannot themselves be the ones put out, and that’s not clear to me at all. Again, I’m not persuaded that “the visible church” in the sense you use it here even exists, so the prospect of some particular church organization turning to substantial heresies is… well, tragic, but not theologically contradictory.

  7. The problem of course is thst creation is God’s kingdom, not any church or mosque or synagogue or whatever rlse partisan religous fundamentalists might call it. If your god’s kingdom is not creation itself then he is whst he obvioudly is: an idol. If he must conquer the world then clearly he id no truly God because the creator has ever rrigned over the worldonly a false god need to conqueror the creation of the true God in order to eek out a kingdom for the souls he is damning.

    1. Yet another example of demanding an either/or when we know that the both/and more fully illuminates who Jesus is and what he is about. His creation is surely included in his kingdom, but isn’t the complete manifestation of it. Else his going around urging repentance for the kingdom “at hand” makes no sense.

      1. Shane, you sound like Rohr et al…either/or is Jesus. You preach another Gospel. Jesus said, ” “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” You either believe that, or you don’t. Read Gal 1:6-12 quickly…

        1. So claiming his creation and fulfillment of the law are both included in his kingdom is “another” gospel? The gospel is the man crucified, which I will claim until my final breath. Please at least try to engage the points made. Here’s an example. I won’t call you a name, I’ll just directly follow your claim with an honest response. If Jesus is only either/or, as you assert, was he God or man?

    2. Hi David,

      Here I offer you a humble understanding:

      God created man. Jesus is God. Jesus called Peter ‘Cephas’ (rock/as in solid), gave him the keys, and on him rested His church, giving freedom to bind on earth as it is bound in heaven. Therefore, God, with man, instituted the church, and it is God’s kingdom on earth. Included in God’s creation is his kingdom, the church. God has created everything except evil.

      Do you suggest that the church is evil? People within it may choose to do evil; do you suggest the church leads people to it? Please explain.

  8. My apologies Shane. I zeroed in on a part of your statement – “we know that the both/and more fully illuminates who Jesus is and what he is about.” First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed Fr. Joe’s initial article, and agree with him. Thus, I asked the question above, about the new Catechism, which I think, in some regards, lends more credence to Irks statements above, than to the Teachings and Traditions of the Church up until Vatican II. This is where, if you read the CCC, you’ll find that Irked, with all of his (dis)beliefs, should not be discriminated against because of the sins of his “ancestors”. What I liked about Fr. Joe’s article, is that he mentions an “age of discretion”, wherein, a searcher of the Truth, being Jesus, will hopefully come upon “ah-haa” moments and say to him(her)self perhaps like I did, ‘ooops, Jesus did say, “MY church” in Matt:16:16-18 and that Church is STILL visible in 2017’ (now, how did that happen, except for the inner workings of the Holy Spirit unfolding God’s plan of economy), or ooops, Jesus did say, “This is MY body…and MY Blood, etcetera, etcetera concerning the Institution of the Eucharist” to which I say to Irks and my x-pastors, ummm, “If it is a symbol, to hell with it!” (forgot her name…who said it first.), or ooops, as I quoted earlier, ““I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”, rather than what I hear my own local Catholic clerics quote Richard Rohr’s “inclusion” theology that speaks of “and/or” theories that state that there is more than One way to the Father…”The trouble with liberal Christians trying to be “inclusive” is that they wind up excluding Jesus.” Moody, of Moody Bible College…I too wished he (Moody) would read his own words. There are so many scriptures that my x-pastors just so conveniently jumped right over…and when asked about it, refused to dialogue, got onto their Phd and other degree pedestals, pronounced themselves “pope”, gave me a look of dismay, along with a glance that spoke, “Who do you think you are?”

    So Shane, again my apologies, I did not read your statement correctly, and I infused my sheer disgust for these “Christian ‘anti-Christ liberalists’ with what you were trying to say. Please forgive me. When I read your statement again, I thoroughly agree with you. It is the unfolding of His Plan from Genesis into infinity…

    Finally, as to your last point, “If Jesus is only either/or…was he God or man?” I reply, when asked His Name, He replied, “I AM” explains it all, the visible and invisible, the Trinity, it is My Divine mystery, and remains and through centuries and centuries of Sacred Tradition and Teaching, His Church has relied on the Authority given it, what it has bound is bound, both on earth, and more importantly in Heaven, with it’s good Popes and bad, and His Sacrament of Sacraments – His own Self, we eat, and become Him. Blessed Journey be yours, my friend IN Christ.

  9. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

  10. Craig said – I feel that I am open-minded where I can admit when I am wrong. I just do not always have the comprehension to know when that is the case. So, Rome is still at odds with Orthodoxy, so both of us can’t be right. I believe that Orthodoxy follows the ecclesiology of the ancient church (a conclusion I came to even as a Protestant) and I find their soteriolgoy more strictly biblical and traditional–but I hope we can consider each other brothers.

    Me – Catholics consider Protestants brothers, so you were already considered a brother in Christ ;). I’m overjoyed by your decision. To be able to partake of the Eucharist! What a blessing! You are 99.9% of the way to Rome! 😜

    Once you get past the Orthodox culture shock, sneak into a Roman Catholic Church and spend a few minutes with the Lord during Adoration. It’s wonderful.

    In Christ,
    CK

    1. Couldn’t agree more CK. Craig was already a brother, for sure.

      Craig,

      I will definitely be in prayer and what a blessing it is to know how God is working in your life, so thank you for being open. You’ll feel the sting of some less-than-supportive friends and family, but you’re a truth seeker, so I envision you smiling through the pain, holding firmly to that pearl of great price. As to the Orthodox-Catholic decision, give it the consideration it deserves, for your own peace of mind. But either way, you’re out of the minimalist straight-jacket and free to experience the depths of what he has to offer. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit!

    2. Craig, I’m very happy for you also, this is stupendous news!! As CK says, the Orthodox are 99.9% Roman Catholic….which is very, very, close! You might be interested in the writings of St. John Paul II on the subject :

      “Relations with the Ancient Churches of the East

      62. In the period following the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has also, in different ways and with greater or lesser rapidity, restored fraternal relations with the Ancient Churches of the East which rejected the dogmatic formulations of the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. All these Churches sent official observers to the Second Vatican Council; their Patriarchs have honoured us by their visits, and the Bishop of Rome has been able to converse with them as with brothers who, after a long time, joyfully meet again.

      The return of fraternal relations with the Ancient Churches of the East witnesses to the Christian faith in situations which are often hostile and tragic. This is a concrete sign of how we are united in Christ in spite of historical, political, social and cultural barriers. And precisely in relation to Christology, we have been able to join the Patriarchs of some of these Churches in declaring our common faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man. Pope Paul VI of venerable memory signed declarations to this effect with His Holiness Shenouda III, the Coptic Orthodox Pope and Patriarch,103 and with His Beatitude Jacoub III, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.104 I myself have been able to confirm this Christological agreement and draw on it for the development of dialogue with Pope Shenouda,105 and for pastoral cooperation with the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.106

      When the Venerable Patriarch of the Ethiopian Church, Abuna Paulos, paid me a visit in Rome on 11 June 1993, together we emphasized the deep communion existing between our two Churches: “We share the faith handed down from the Apostles, as also the same sacraments and the same ministry, rooted in the apostolic succession … Today, moreover, we can affirm that we have the one faith in Christ, even though for a long time this was a source of division between us”.107

      More recently, the Lord has granted me the great joy of signing a common Christological declaration with the Assyrian Patriarch of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, who for this purpose chose to visit me in Rome in November 1994. Taking into account the different theological formulations, we were able to profess together the true faith in Christ.108 I wish to express my joy at all this in the words of the Blessed Virgin: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” (Lk 1:46).

      63. Ecumenical contacts have thus made possible essential clarifications with regard to the traditional controversies concerning Christology, so much so that we have been able to profess together the faith which we have in common. Once again it must be said that this important achievement is truly a fruit of theological investigation and fraternal dialogue. And not only this. It is an encouragement for us: for it shows us that the path followed is the right one and that we can reasonably hope to discover together the solution to other disputed questions.” ( From the Encyclical “UT UNUM SINT”)

    3. Thank you for the kind words all. Prayers are appreciated. Personally for me I have two issues which intellectually hold me back from Rome (which would otherwise be my first choice–no one wants to convert to a religion where you stand for an hour and a half during Divine Liturgy after all!)

      1. The categorization of merit in the CCC and Trent. I think these things may be interpreted rightly, but I think in someways their categorization has led to abuse much like “faith alone,” which is not untrue, has also led to abuse and misapplication.

      2. Roman Supremacy. This is really hard for me simply because it does not seem to be held by the Fathers. If this doctrine developed over time, what guarantee do we have that it is a legitimate elucidation?

      The Orthodox already allow for The Bishop of Rome to be first among equals and to play the role of the Emperor in convening councils, and to preside over them. However, dogmas decided unilaterally by Rome appear without ancient precedent and this difference in ecclesiology does not allow for a functional ecclesiastical unity.

      I will keep an open mind and follow what is here. It is not that I have not seriously looked into these issues, as anyone readin my replies over the last 2-3 years may attest to.

      God bless
      Craig

      1. Craig, just a brief comment from a long time reader ( I cannot add to the very erudite posts on this blog). Many months ago I had this daydream and in my thoughts I imagined that you went thru RCIA and came into the RCC on Easter Vigil. And I also imagined that I somehow found out where that was and I traveled to your fair city and attended holy mass their and afterwards welcomed you to the Church. And to top it all off- I took you and your wife and Joe and Awlms and Shane and CK out to dinner to celebrate. In reality I will continue to plan on this happening at the banquet that has been promised all of us. I can wait but just barely.
        peace to you and your wife,
        teo

        1. Thanks for including me! I don’t deserve it. But are you sure that you didn’t see me washing the dishes in that day dream? 🙂

          1. Waiting for the linked tiny pic photo I sent to be approved by Joe. Maybe I’m too ugly for this nice blog. 🙂

      2. Craig

        I have been praying for you for awhile. Not as diligently as I should have been, but I have been praying. I am so joyous over the news.

        Blessed is our God, always now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

  11. The RCC seems to most fulfill the “universal” mission of the Gospel being for all people, of all times. Orthodox Churches seem to be, for most of the last 2000 years, very regional and culturally specific. Good luck and God bless you Craig!

    1. “The RCC seems to most fulfill the “universal” mission of the Gospel being for all people, of all times.”

      In every aspect of Church history we must always remember that the Divine Providence of God has both acted and led the Church in very surprising ways. And this has had great consequences for the future Church in almost every aspect of it’s life. For instance, what were the ramifications to the Church of Constantine’s moving the seat of the Roman Empire to Constantinople? This was an unimaginable surprise for the whole of the Roman Empire and Western Civilization. Another surprise…the Fall of the Rome to the Visigoths in 410 AD and the rise of feudalism in Western Europe. This, also, was unimaginable to those living in that era. Then, here comes the rise of Islam! What impacts on the Church did this play? Who could have dreamt that the land of Jesus, the Apostles, the Fathers of the Church and the Desert Fathers, would be subjugated to a faith such as Islam? Inconceivable in the wildest dreams back then! A prophet predicting this would have been chased out of town as a lunatic. And what about the discovery of a ‘new world’ in 1492? Could anyone have imagined new continents such as this in Europe back then? But all of these events and discoveries did indeed happen, and the Holy Church needed to be ready to respond with wisdom, faith, truth and expediency.

      So, in reviewing history we see that all was part of the Divine Providence of God, that has brought us to this time in world history that we live in today. Why did God allow all of this to happen? Who will scrutinize the plans of the Lord?

      But in all of this, we can consider the words of Christ, ” For as lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the west: so shall the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt. 24:27) And after 2000 years we can see that this is exactly what has taken place in the world. Thus, we have the need for an agile and wise Church, a Church capable of making important decisions to deal with the unexpected, whether it be Rome’s fall, or Constantinople’s fall, or black plague’s, or Islamic domination, or new land’s, or world wars, or hydrogen bombs, or atheistic communism, or birth control and abortions, or psychedelic drugs and new age paganism, or artificial intelligence and the WWW. The Church of Christ has always needed to be ready to address these worldly realities with the truth and wisdom provided by the Holy Spirit.

      So, if we ‘look back’ to former ages and wisdom, we also should not neglect to look forward to the potential surprises that God might have for us in the future. And the Holy Church will always need to address these surprises as the arise, even until the end of the world. This is as it has always been, and this is what is promised by Christ in His Gospel for the future, until the end of time.

      So, Chad, your quote above seems spot on! 🙂

    2. Chad, thanks for bringing that up. Though Orthodox infrequently call themselves “catholics” or “Catholic Orthodox,” it is a bummer that they chose to identify as the less impressive “Orthodox” rather than “Catholic.” Catholicisim is the world’s largest denomination, and mostly thanks to Spain, France, and Portugal (no thanks to Italy, LOL) it is the largest religion of pretty much every continent on Earth other than Asia and perhaps Antarctica and Australia (they don’t count, right?). This sort of Western triumphant-ness sees the accidents of history as God ordaining the rise and universality of Rome. I think we need to be careful with this. For a long time (nearly 600 years) Nestorianism covered most of the old world east of Syria (including China, Mongolia, Persia, Arabia, India, etcetera.). Orthodoxy, before Columbus discovered America, spread from Greece, Africa, the Middle East, and even Asia (because of Russia.) Orthodoxy does seem like a dying, ethnic enclave..and in a large part it is. But, Orthodoxy is still the second largest Christian denomination. They have churches throughout the Earth, three in my wife’s country even (though in Phnom Penh the congregation meets in the Bulgarian embassy, but that still counts!)

      So, while numbers and geography do really make RCism seem “catholic,” and it can very well be by any standard, we just must be careful to make the evaluation based upon a triumphant view of history before the book is over.

      But yes, even Augustine said he knew that the Donatists were wrong because they only existed in Africa and not the whole world. The true Church has every tribe and nation confessing Christ. Roman Catholicism surely meets that criteria.

      God bless,
      Craig

  12. Dear Craig, I´m very, very, very happy to read your news. I will pray for you to come to Fullness of the Truth. I´m from Slovakia but this blog inspires me really a lot. God Blessy You, brother! I also imagined you went thru RCIA 🙂
    Byzantine Catholic, Pavol.

  13. Dropping this article right before Ash Wednesday is either cruel or brilliant strategy. It is cruel because I cannot give it the time that I need to point out several key parts of your argument may be challenged, which you know is just driving me crazy right now. ….or it is brilliant strategy because you know that many of us will be too busy this time of year to respond in full.

    Either way, grace and peace to you all as we start Lent.

  14. Joe,

    Thank you for the kind words. I suspect you were already praying about this with Max, but I appreciate your kind sentiments.

    When do you think you would get into Catholic-Orthodox issues, even if it is just on Facebook? I would value your perspective. I would presume someone studying for a priesthood, as well and long-ago converts, have a pretty firm handle on why they are Catholic and not Orthodox and vice versa. I do not pretend to have that sort of knowledge. What I can comment on are my impressions. Vincent de Lerins pretty much sums up how I go about trying to ascertain correct doctrine from false:

    For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

    Certain periphery Marian doctrines, for example, would fail that test by all of our admission but this is not important if Roman supremacy and Papal Infallibility (which settled these dogmas for RCs) hold true. However, how do we measure if they hold true? It is not as simple as Matt 16:18, as Vincent de Lerins criteria are agreeable, we would have to ascertain that there was near universal consent in interpretation and application of Matt 16:18.

    For this reason chiefly, in my ignorance of all else, it makes me put a check into Orthodoxy’s column.

    Another big issue I know even less about is the Great Schism. It cannot be reduced to a single sacking of Constantinople or a Papal excommunication of Constantinople’s Bishop. A grade school kid might say, “Rome started it,’ but it is a little more involved than that. Ultimately, the question is only settled by the Matt 16:18 question. Is Roman Supremacy correct? Then Rome is right in excommunicating the east and the east, by not repenting are schismatics. If it is untrue, then Rome clearly initiated and maintains the schism as long as they refuse communion over the issue of supremacy. I am all ears on this issue. I am merely thinking aloud the sort of things I am mulling over in my head.

    You brought up the interesting issue that “the Catholic Church can incorporate Eastern Patristic theology and ecclesiology in a way that the Orthodox Church(es) can’t do for Western Patristic theology and ecclesiology.” I think this is true for pretty simple reasons. The East has everything the West has, generally, but not as categorized. It is easy to integrate eastern thought because it is a smaller puzzle–it has less pieces and they can be swapped out for Roman pieces. The Roman puzzle is one of those 1,000 piece +12 years and up ones. Rome has a lot of specific categories: Merit does this, the atonement specifically does that, Purgatory is this–the result is that because the East has not defined these things, they cannot affirm them…meanwhile the West has defined the things of the East, so they can readily affirm them. Ultimately, the question is whether all the Roman categories are in fact correct. And, being that by all of our own admission the categories that separate east and west are mainly from after the 7th ecumenical council, they are doctrinal developments whose legitimacy hinges upon Roman interpretations (as per the “seed theory”) whose legitimacy rests upon…wait for it…Roman supremacy!

    The issue of Roman supremacy, by the Roman paradigm, appears impossible to independently verify. After all, if the Bishop of Rome is infallible, almost the whole Christian world can be wrong on an issue…the veracity of Rome cannot be tested by universal consent.

    Meanwhile, the Eastern view of Roman primacy, and not supremacy, is an issue which may legitimately be discerned by universal consent.

    I wonder if you have given this thought and perhaps can offer some pointers on any of this.

    God bless,
    Crai

    1. I’ll just add here that everyone should see our debates that we did on various topics on Craig’s youtube channel!

      Matthew

    2. Craig – I think this is true for pretty simple reasons. The East has everything the West has, generally, but not as categorized. It is easy to integrate eastern thought because it is a smaller puzzle–it has less pieces and they can be swapped out for Roman pieces. The Roman puzzle is one of those 1,000 piece +12 years and up ones. Rome has a lot of specific categories: Merit does this, the atonement specifically does that, Purgatory is this–the result is that because the East has not defined these things, they cannot affirm them…meanwhile the West has defined the things of the East, so they can readily affirm them. Ultimately, the question is whether all the Roman categories are in fact correct. And, being that by all of our own admission the categories that separate east and west are mainly from after the 7th ecumenical council, they are doctrinal developments whose legitimacy hinges upon Roman interpretations (as per the “seed theory”) whose legitimacy rests upon…wait for it…Roman supremacy!

      Me – A few observations. The Orthodox have the luxury of keeping things simple and a mystery because they did not have to deal with the Reformation and other recent heresies. They just sat back and let major heresies go unchallenged. Why didn’t they call councils to “settle” the issue? Because they don’t have supremacy. This is not the mark of the Church Christ left us.

      A shepherd leads his flock. Tradition tells us that every time a heresy becomes big enough the Church steps in, get’s into the weeds and settles the issue by defining things that once was left as a mystery. The Church uses this authority to shut the door on the particular popular heresy.

      Take the Hypostatic Union. Had this issue come up during the Reformation I would bet the Orthodox would have kept it as a “mystery” and not commit to a full explanation of how Jesus can be God and man. The Hypostatic union makes it impossible for Jesus to be anything other than fully God and man. Case closed. The Church get’s granular to settle the issue. The Church uses transubstantiation to describe the Eucharist so that it can’t be anything other than God. Case closed. A mystery leaves it open to half bread half Jesus, a strong symbol, etc..

      Craig your decision still comes down to authority. Find Christ’s Church and follow it even if it’s interpretation of the bible differs from yours. Or you have issues with indulgences, etc.. It’s that simple. You sound like you are leaning Orthodox because they agree with your interpretation of merits and salvation and they don’t box you in on the Eucharist etc…This sounds very “protestant” to me.

      Regardless, I’m still very excited for you. You are a million times closer to the Church than you were before. I just want you to experience the fullness of what the Church has to offer, not just 95% 🙂

      In Christ,

      CK

  15. The few comments I have made to this excellent blog site have been re: Craig, whose comments I complimented for being charitable and heartfelt, even when he was withstanding some harsh critiques. Now I feel I see the results of his good spirit–God has led him into the Church founded by the Apostles. Not addressing for now the Catholic and Orthodox question, I want to thank Craig for the journey he has allowed us to witness, and believing that God is bestowing many graces on him, I ask with all sincerity that he pray for me, H. Wilnot.

    1. I agree. Craig’s frequent comments and ‘harsh critiques’ stimulated me to study the Fathers of the Church to a much greater degree than at any other time in my life. And in so doing, I have become a much better, and competent, Catholic. But I must say, that if it were not for Joe’s excellent and spiritually intriguing blog posts, none of this would have been possible. So, thanks to both of you, and to all of the other’s who contribute their comments on Joe’s multitudes of inspiring Christian posts! I’ll look forward to examining more deeply the future subjects focusing on ‘Orthodoxy’.

      1. I made an error in reading H. Wilnot’s comment above. I read it as if it was Craig that was giving the harsh criticisms about RC, and not the Catholics giving it out to him. In any case, I think it went both ways, and in a good way. As said, it was his criticisms of RC that resulted in much deeper study and research into the many disputed issues…and I think to the benefit of all.

  16. To me that’s an insulting arrogant and totally false statement. I do love God and Jesus but do not believe in what they have turned the churches into these days because for me it is impossible to wrap my mind around what has been happening for decades within the church with all the depraved priests who are suppose to be an example of what it is to be a catholic and follow the Christ and all that was happening with the approval of the Vatican because they knew about it and all they did was take those priests and simply send them to a new parish.To me the church is simply a tool that was invented by man and given to people to have a place for worship but I do not believe that if you don’t go to church it means you can’t follow Jesus and I pity and even resent whomever believe in such a statement. I do not go to church unless I really have to for one event or another and when ever I am inside a church I feel out of place and really disgusted, I can not forget what has happen to all those innocent children in those supposedly places of worship. Nobody (regardless of who they are) but……………nobody has the right to tell me or anyone else for that matter that they can’t have Jesus without the church. I love Jesus and I pray everyday sometimes even when I work I pray and talk to God and Jesus and if because I don’t include the church in my life some people think it makes me a bad catholic or a person not worthy of having Jesus in my life well that’s their problem and not mine………..just like everybody on the face of this earth I will get my final judgement when I die not from the men on this earth but from………………..Jesus -Christ my Savior who died for all of us on the Cross.

    1. So I assume you read the Bible. It tells us to take our disagreements as a last resort to the Church. What Church would you recommend we go to resolve this?

      You are very passionate and your concerns are valid but you are painting the Church with a very broad brush. I happen to know one guilty priest and a victim. I walked away from the Church for a long time because of this. Should one leave Peter because of Judas? When I was asked this my answer was no.

      The Bible clearly teaches us to worship as a community. Jesus tells us we must partake of the Eucharist. We can only get this at His Church as we worship as a community. If it’s just me and Jesus then I’m not following Jesus.

      Imagine if the first Christians took your approach. 1of the Apostles was a fraud and the other 10 didn’t have enough faith to stick around while Jesus was being crucified. Christianity would be long forgotten.

      1. I would never recommend any church because for me it has become impossible to continue believing in them because of personal experience but like I have stated before, for me there is only going to be a one and only judge at the end of my life “Christ my Savior” It is and will always be me and Jesus and according to what you seem to be saying it would mean that I would not be saved and I do not and can not believe that because from what I have learned about God and Jesus They will never cast anyone aside who believe in Them. I firmly believe in helping others whenever I can, I believe in prayers, I believe in doing no harm, and I believe that in the end if the way I live my life and the way I follow Jesus is the wrong way He will forgive me because I am doing the best that I can to live a good life while I am still here among the mortals.

        1. Nicole – I did not mean to come across as saying you will not or can’t be saved. I have no idea. As you said, God will judge how we will spend eternity.

          I have no idea what your personal experience was and in no way am I trying to minimize it by quoting scripture in an effort to engage you. I understand that to forgive does not mean forget.

          I pray that if you have talked to a priest to no avail that you try again. If you haven’t at all please do.

          To follow up on some of your comments.

          Believing is not enough. You must obey.

          1 John 2:3-6English Standard Version (ESV)

          3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

          You definitely seem to be following some of God’s commands – Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

          But ignoring the warnings – Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

          Church as the body of Christ:

          Ephesians 4:11-13
          And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

          1 Corinthians 12:12-31
          For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.
          If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.

          Nicole I will be praying for you and ask that you pray for me.

          CK

      2. Nicole,

        I’m confused. So you acknowledge that Scripture says to go to the Church, but you’re saying that you still wouldn’t do it? By all means, I get why you’re disgusted with some of the history of the visible Church. But does that disgust trump the word of God?

        I.X.,

        Joe

        1. This is going to be my last statement on this matter. You are confused and I am no longer confused like I used to be; since I have stop going to church. To tell you all the challenges I have had in my life with the church representatives ” priests” would take too long but I will say this. I use to go to church every Sunday and every day during lent never missing ash Wednesday and ending with Easter sunday until I could no longer do it because I could no longer believe and trust the priests who are representing the church. I still do fast during lent.

          It is impossible for me to try to explain what happens to me now when I enter a church and what I feel is overwhelming and simply takes over I simply feel sick to my stomach and all I see are the children that have been abused at the hand of a person who is suppose to be there to guide them and teach them the words and teachings of God.

          To try to make peace with it and to try to reason it became impossible and the only salvation I could see for myself was to still have Jesus in my life through prayers and talking to Him and even then I had many questions on how could God allow something like that to happen within his own home( since a church is suppose to be God’s home). I still wanted to believe and for me to do so the only way was to separate the church from God because if the church was really His home He would not of have allowed all those horrible things to happen to his children. So now when I think of God I see a place of tranquility and an overwhelming sentiment of peace I no longer think of Him in a church instead I think of Him in Heaven.

          In my original post I was not saying or trying to tell people to stay away from churches, because ” to each his own” all I was saying is that if you want you can tell me that without the church I can’t have Jesus but does that mean I have to believe it? I really do believe that I do not have to believe in the church to believe that yes at the end of my life Jesus will be there for me and if I didn’t believe that I might as well give up and say that God does not exist and that I will ” NEVER DO”!!! I will pray that you can accept my point of vue on this matter as I accept that yes for some people churches are their salvation but for me it is not…………I will tell anybody that for me my salvation is Jesus and Jesus alone!! I do not have to agree with what you are saying like you do not have to agree with me, for my own sanity I had to separate Jesus,God from the church……………..it was the only way for me to still believe and still be close to Jesus!! God bless

          1. Nicole – There are people who are atheist because they can’t phantom why a loving God would create a world with so much suffering, I know of people who gave up on God because of a tragic event ie. loss of a mother at a young age. Why would a loving God do this to a child?

            If they turned to you for an explanation on why there is so much suffering in the world if God is so loving and just what would you say? Knowing God is love and Jesus is the way to salvation, how would you answer their objections?

            I’m not asking for you to answer the question here. I’m just asking that you pray about it and seek an answer.

            I have no doubt you will continue to hold on to Jesus.

            Please stick around even if you don’t comment.

            I appreciate your comments and God bless you too.

            In Christ,

            CK

          2. Hello Nicole,

            I see that you say this is your last post. I hope that doesn’t mean you won’t continue to read and to learn from us as we learn from you.

            It seems to me that you struggle with the notion of God allowing evil. I admit it seems a difficult concept. My spouse struggles with this notion too. I don’t remember whether I ever had to reconcile this or whether I simply always accepted the idea without dissonance. May I recommend that you look, as one of your posts ended, at “Jesus on the Cross.” Jesus, the son of God, asked His heavenly Father, in the garden before His passion, that if it be the Father’s will, that the cup (of his upcoming passion and death) be taken from him. Jesus Himself seems to have preferred no evil befall Him. Yet, God Himself allowed His only begotten son to be crucified for me, for you, for us. If Jesus took upon Himself our sins and put them to death, must we not also somehow try to acknowledge and forgive the debt from the sins of others? We neither endorse, minimize, nor forget. But we pray for the grace to forgive and we learn to love the sinner while hating the sin.

            With prayers for a beautiful and holy Lent for you.

          3. If you’ve run into some bad / scandalous priests, then do what Jesus said: “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example” (Mat 23:2-3). Personally I’ve not met many, if any, such priests that I think this applies to.

            Otherwise, if you’re justifying separation of yourself from His Church because you’ve run into some imperfect priests or other people, then you’re playing right into Satan’s hands, a subtle form of self-righteousness that he uses to isolate and take you down. If you think you’re hanging out with Jesus that way, think again. Jesus is found hanging out with the sinners and tax collectors, the ones who need the healing.

    2. Nicole,

      I respect your opinion, but disagree with it. For example, you say that the Church was invented by men, but Scripture says that it was invented by Jesus Christ (see Matthew 16:17-19), and refers to it as the Church of the living God (1 Timothy 3:15).

      I.X.,

      Joe

    3. Your passion for Jesus and concern for others is really laudable Nicole and I wish more people had such high expectations of the Church. However, the Bible has far too much to say about the Church to simply write it off and say it’s unnecessary. As a convert, my acceptance of the structure and authority of the Church wasn’t based on the quality or actions of the individuals, past or present. It was only when I started to see that while we as individuals make up the Church, or to use Paul’s analogy, the body of Christ, something beyond the individual parts still had to be present to hold those members together as one body and nothing less than Jesus Christ himself is capable of accomplishing that. Fight for your high expectations of the Church, for sure, but I’m praying that you one day see the pillar and ground of truth (I Tim 3:15) that the gades of Hades/powers of death (Mt. 16:18) will not prevail against for what it is, Him.

    4. Nicole,

      I would like to reply to your sentence, but I think I shall take a Very Deep Breath and a Very Long Prayer beforehand. I cannot promise that I shall actually reply further than this post!

      I wish here to respond only to your assertion that nobody has the right to tell you that you cannot have Jesus without the Church. We all have the right to free speech. We all have the right to rebut or to refute statements with which we disagree. I don’t know about your goals, but I strive to do that in peace, with charity, without ad hominem attacks and with as much logic as possible.

      With prayers for all, in Christ,
      Margo

    5. Heb 10:

      And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

      26 For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

      Please, find a church for your own sake. Value your eternal soul.

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. We must also remember that in the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, we are taught to say: ‘OUR’ Father, and not ‘MY’ Father, and also Forgive ‘US’ our trespasses, as ‘WE’ forgive ‘OTHERS’. Community is thus very important for all Christians, and we find in the Book of Revelations also how this is stressed.

        But it is good to read up on the ‘Desert Fathers’ to understand the balance between ‘solitude’ and ‘community’. There are thousands of sayings from the first few centuries of Christianity that address this issue. Every Christian needs a lot of BOTH. We need to go into our ‘inner chambers’ to pray to ‘Our Father’, but then we need to also ‘go out to all the world and preach the Good News’ and also ‘Feed My sheep’, by spiritually nourishing those around us.

        Here is a good ‘public domain’ resource providing hundreds of pages on the stories and sayings of the ‘Desert Fathers’ from about 300-500AD. We also note that in their great solitude, they walked to the Eucharistic liturgies on Sundays (and also on Saturdays for many):

        http://www.vitae-patrum.org.uk/page2.html

          1. Excerpt, Life of St. Ammon of Mt. Nitria:

            “If any of Ammon’s spiritual sons felt himself called to a life of unusually severe penance, and had first given proofs of his humility and constancy, he received permission to retire from the community life at Nitria to a greater solitude. Such anchorites pitched their tents ten miles further into the desert; and at the time that there were five thousand brethren living in community at Nitria, six hundred had retired into that part of the desert, which, from the number of their cells and huts, received the name of Cellia. These cells were so wide apart, that no anchorite could be either seen or heard by his next neighbour. Each one remained alone with his own work, which he took to Nitria once or twice a year, and received in exchange his necessary provisions. No one ever visited another to converse with him. No one spoke to another for recreation; but if any one of them was far advanced in the spiritual life, and knew that another was waging a terrible combat, he went to him to give him advice or consolation. The hermits of Cellia had a church of their own, which was situated in the centre of their desert, wherein they likewise assembled on Saturdays and Sun days. Some of them lived at a distance of three or four miles from it. There they met, but only as strangers come down from heaven, to carry on upon earth the occupation of the blessed, namely, to worship God. When the service was over, each returned home in silence. If any one did not appear, the others then knew that he must be sick and they visited him, but cautiously, and not all together. Suffice it to say, that if they lived outwardly apart, and without a single temporal consolation, they were inwardly united in the holy love of God and their neighbour, and in this union they were living members of the body of Christ, through Whom again they were united to their heavenly Father, and could say, with greater perfection than the Apostle Philip, whose supernatural eye had not then been enlightened by the Holy Ghost, “It is enough for us”. “

          2. Hi Craig,

            May I suggest going to and download and listen to the lectures on Merit and Perseverance.

            I was a bit confused on merit until I listened to that entire lecture series.

            Orthodox is not a bad choice. I pray that the Orthodox and Catholic churches will once again unite sometime in the near future.

            Blessings on your journey,

            Ron Sr.

  17. I might add that when it writes about assembling on ‘Saturday’, it is probable that this is a referral to the ‘vigil’ Mass, or Saturday ‘evening’ liturgy for the following Sunday. So, it seems that there would be more than one Mass available to them to attend; and with six hundred anchorites in that area, they would have needed a very large Church to accommodate them all, otherwise. Those that lived closer might attend both liturgies, but those farther away only one, unless they wanted to walk a second time, or camp out near the Church. It’s like attending the 5:30PM Saturday Masses to fulfill the Sunday obligation for Catholics today.

    1. For those interested, here is another amazing account of how an entire ‘DESERT FATHER CITY’ operated in southern Egypt:

      Chapter V
      THE CITY OF OXYRYNCUS (From Vitae-Patrum Book II, Hor, Chapter 5)

      “Eventually we came to a certain city of the Thebaid called Oxyryncus, which was so famous for good religious activities that no description could possibly do justice to them all. We found monks everywhere inside the city and also in all the countryside round about. What had been the public buildings and temples of a former superstitious age were now occupied by monks, and throughout the whole city there were more monasteries than houses. There are twelve churches in this very spacious and populous city where public worship is conducted for the people, as well as the monasteries which all have their own chapels. But from the very gates with its battlements to the tiniest corner of the city there is no place without its monks who night and day in every part of the city offer hymns and praises to God, making the whole city one great church of God. No heretics or pagans are to be found there, for all the citizens are Christians, all Catholics, so that it makes no difference whether the bishop offers prayer in the streets or in the church. The magistrates, the leaders of the city and other citizens keep watch over each gate, and whoever turns up, whether pilgrim or pauper, is informed of the preconditions to which it is necessary for him to conform.

      But how can I possibly describe all the kind acts done to us by the people as they watched us going through the city, greeting us like angels, making us welcome. We were told by the holy bishop of that place that it contained twenty thousand virgins and ten thousand monks. I could not possibly tell you, not even by stretching the truth to its limits, how great was the kindness and hospitality shown to us, to the extent that the clothes were almost torn off our backs by those who were eager to seize us and take us home as their guests.

      We saw there also many different holy fathers who were examples of various different God-given graces, some by way of preaching, some by abstinence, others by showing forth many signs and powers. “

  18. Hi Joe,

    An excellent article. One point I would like to make is how does one know they are in the one visible church that Christ established on the foundation of the faith of His Apostles with Himself as the cornerstone? Actually, Jesus tells us explicitly who are His Sheep and Lambs:

    John 21:15-17 NASB
    So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, *”Tend My lambs.”* [16] He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, *”Shepherd My sheep,”* [17] He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, *”Tend My sheep.*

    In John 21;15-17, here are the Red Letter Word of Christ Jesus spoken to Peter so that “He who hears you (the Apostles) hears Me and He you rejects you rejects Me …..”

    The Full Authority of Christ to speak in His name is given right there.

  19. I just have to say as a long time lurker and recent convert to the RCC, I am so happy for you Craig. I’ve grown a ton from reading your comments back and forth on this blog. I almost became Orthodox myself, but through much study and wrestling I came to believe that the fullness of the faith was found in communion with Rome. I still love the east though, because without them I would never have come to believe in the Real Presence. Congratulations brother!

  20. What I find frustrating is that Roman Catholics will say things like “Look at the Anglicans they allow women Priest and Bishops” ignoring the fact that there are groups within the Anglican Church who do not allow women Priest and Bishops. For example “Forward in Faith”. In an email from one of them these words:

    “One of the purposes of The Society is to enable us to remain in the CofE with a ministry in which we can have confidence because the bishops and priests of The Society are all ordained by male bishops who stand in a succession of bishops at whose episcopal ordination a male bishop presided. It is not necessary to leave the Church of England in order to secure that.”

    1. David,

      Forward in Faith is articulating an idiosyncratic understanding of communion.

      There are two basic ways of understanding the question. One, that these female ordinations are valid and part of the chain of Apostolic succession. In that case, it doesn’t matter if your own priest or bishop happens to be male or female, or whether you’re thrilled with the view.

      The second (and the one that I understand Forward in Faith to take) is that these ordinations are actually invalid, and break the chain of Apostolic succession. In that case, remaining in communion with false priests and false bishops seems like madness.

      The idea that they can preserve succession without formal schism (while denying the legitimacy of much of their own church communion) is simply parasitical to authentic ecclesial communion. I think you will find that this isn’t a model of church found in the Patristic era.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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