Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Visible Church: My continuing conversation with "Anonymous"


ANON: "One" in what way? If you offer with the vague "in Christ", it is eerily similar to "invisible Church".

LEXORANDI2: The invisible Church model, originating with the Lutherans, makes personal faith or belief determinative of one’s membership in the Church. In such a model, the visible Church and her sacraments are secondary and non-determinative. All that counts is one’s personal faith. Thus you are right be concerned about this.

But that is not what I’m saying at all. Rather, baptism – a visible sign – is the determinative boundary of the Church. One is either baptized or not, and with the claim of baptism comes the responsibility to assent to the Church’s faith and teaching, which includes continuing “in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.”

When I, as an Anglican, confess my “oneness” with the Roman Catholic or the Eastern Orthodox adherent I confess primarily a common baptism and a common faith (i.e., the Faith of the Church Catholic articulated in the Creed). But with this confession is also my affirmation that the respective ecclesial communities to which they belong are true, visible churches – part of the “one Church” that I confess in the Creed.

I suspect that your discomfort with the Anglican position (at least THIS Anglican’s position) is not only the explicit recognition of other apostolically-constituted churches (e.g., Roman Catholic, Orthodox), but also that other communities, whose apostolic pedigrees may be in question, are not explicitly “unrecognized.” I can only respond with something that a wise Eastern Orthodox priest once told me, “We can show you where the Church is, but we cannot always show you where it is not.” That Anglicans tend to err on the side of charity with respect to non-episcopal bodies is readily to be admitted. But I tend to see that as a virtue, not a vice.

12 comments:

dmartin said...

My question to one that holds this view is how do you reconcile Christ's prayer for us to remain one and also Christ's promise that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against her. These are 2 seperate questions.

lexorandi2 said...

I think we need to be careful that we do not reduce Christ's prayer to a static request made to the Father, which God is only too pleased to fulfill apart from human response and obedience. Rather, we need to understand the prayer dynamically as a VOCATION to his people (as well as a request to God) that we must "live into" in each generation. That we fail to live into this call in absolute terms during our earthly sojourn is no more problematic than the fact the Church nevers "lives into" an absolute holiness during this sojourn, though we are exhorted to "Be holy" as God is holy.

The unicity and holiness that we enjoy in part is nonetheless an absolute reality that is now objectively ours in Christ. It is not something that we can achieve or earn (since it is already ours in Christ), though it is indeed something we can deny or fail to see (which we seem to do all the time).

Your second question can be answered in similar fashion. Christ's victory is complete, which means the Church's victory on earth is certain - though indeed we are called to "live into" this reality.

Anonymous said...

"Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth 904 ] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to [the will of] God."

RC's and EO's have historically viewed the Church in these terms, NOT just by baptism. You are allowing schisms to redefine your ecclesiology, and by extension trying to redefine 2000 years of either RC or EO ecclesiology for both groups. How do you square St. Ignatius's quote (and its subsequent exposition always, everywhere, and by all since he said it) with your radically new and different re-definition of the unity of the Church? Not only would we have to toss St. Ignatius overboard, but the consistent exposition of those words for two millenia by the Saints and embrace doctrine which is new, local, and does not have the consent of the Churches.

It is new and fails the lithmus test of antiquity because it is born of a need to redefine unity in the face of schism which appears irreconciliable.

It lacks ubiquity because it is localized to only a few in the Anglican communion.

It lacks consent because both the RCC and the EO do not consent to your view of unity and have not recieved it.

Let's say you grab a bunch of quotes of Fathers to make a case for antiquity; I'll bet you could pull it off if you tortured some texts long enough (but you're still left with re-defining Ignatius). You still need ubiquity, and you're simply not going to find a broad enough spectrum to make your case if you include the RC and EO population. And the only consent you'll get is from fellow Anglicans. If either the RC or the EO was to embrace your hypothesis, THEY would cease to be Catholic because they would be renouncing what they have recieved via all three of St. Vincent's lithmus tests to embrace something new.

How can you rationally state that your doctrine is truly the most Catholic one when it fails St. Vincent's test so miserably?

lexorandi2 said...

As you persist on hiding behind the safety of anonymity and the non-disclosure of your ecclesial affiliation, let me remind you that you are a GUEST of this blog. Hence I caution you to watch your tone. Nonetheless, you raise issues that I will only be too glad to address. Look for a response sometime in the next couple of days.

lexorandi2 said...

"Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth 904 ] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to [the will of] God" (St. Ignatius, Epistle to the Philadelphians IV).

ANON writes:
"RC's and EO's have historically viewed the Church in these terms, NOT just by baptism. You are allowing schisms to redefine your ecclesiology, and by extension trying to redefine 2000 years of either RC or EO ecclesiology for both groups. How do you square St. Ignatius's quote (and its subsequent exposition always, everywhere, and by all since he said it) with your radically new and different re-definition of the unity of the Church? Not only would we have to toss St. Ignatius overboard, but the consistent exposition of those words for two millenia [sic] by the Saints and embrace doctrine which is new, local, and does not have the consent of the Churches.”

LEXORANDI2: This statement demonstrates that you fail to understand the Anglican (i.e. THIS Anglican's) position. Nowhere have I defined the visible Church in terms of baptism ALONE. Baptism may be the "boundary" of the Church, with respect to defining who is a Christian and who is not. (Ironically, it is the only sacrament mutually recognized by all three Communions!) But the Church is supremely and irreducibly a EUCHARISTIC COMMUNITY -- more precisely the eucharistic community of the BAPTIZED; and on the basis of Trinitarian baptism we invite Christians to come to our Table.

In fact, I will go so far as to contend that Anglicans supremely live up to the Ignatian principle in ways that both the Romans and the Byzantines only seem to pay lip service. For, unlike the Romans and the Byzantines, Anglicans place no anachronistic "add-ons" or obstacles in the way of full eucharistic fellowship, at least none that fail the test of the Vincentian Canon. So whereas the Roman Catholics have added the “litmus test” of Papal Supremacy (among other things), and whereas the Byzantines have so defined the Faith as to be unable to recognize anything as orthodox that exists outside of their own box of cultural and xenophobic hang-ups and excesses, the Anglicans, in contrast, have kept pretty much to the Creeds.

Anonymous said...

"But the Church is supremely and irreducibly a EUCHARISTIC COMMUNITY -- more precisely the eucharistic community of the BAPTIZED; and on the basis of Trinitarian baptism we invite Christians to come to our Table."

"Our Table". It would be consistent, and logical, for you to believe that only the Anglicans are THE Church and leave the RC and EO out of your construct. Since the altars of the RC and EO are not one (Ignatius) with the Anglican Table, it remains illogical for you to think as you do.

"In fact, I will go so far as to contend that Anglicans supremely live up to the Ignatian principle in ways that both the Romans and the Byzantines only seem to pay lip service."

Great! Only you are fully the Church. That would be consistent to leave the EO and RC out.

"So whereas the Roman Catholics have added the “litmus test” of Papal Supremacy (among other things)"

When have they not? They have always thought that you must be in communion with the Pope. They're consistent. The Anglicans chose to remove that yoke and go it alone. We all take our chances when it comes to ecclesiology. In the words of Cardinal Humbert, "Let God look and judge."

"and whereas the Byzantines have so defined the Faith as to be unable to recognize anything as orthodox that exists outside of their own box of cultural and xenophobic hang-ups and excesses"

How different would your field trip have been if you would have gone to an OCA parish. All converts, none of the xenophobia, but also none of the "awe" you got from the Greeks.

Both the RC and EO are more victims of success than an attempt to be exclusive. The RC has had the success of being able to rally around one central principle. The East has been able to subdue their cultures as a means of sustaining the faith for centuries. The beauty of the Latin Mass and the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in Greek simply don't occur in the English language. Something gets lost.

"As you persist on hiding behind the safety of anonymity and the non-disclosure of your ecclesial affiliation"

Enough about me, let's talk about you.

lexorandi2 said...

Your anonymity is getting old. So let's give you a name (my blog, my rules). Let me see...how about "Don"? Yes, that seems appropriate. Don it is.

Don writes: "It would be consistent, and logical, for you to believe that only the Anglicans are THE Church and leave the RC and EO out of your construct."

LEX: Given that Anglicanism started out as a national church, it would neither be logical nor consistent to say that Anglicans are THE Church, anymore than it would be logical or consistent for the OCA to say that it is THE Church. The Church OF England is the Church that resides and has provincial status in England. It is not the universal Church.

Don: "[The Romans] have always thought that you must be in communion with the Pope."

LEX: Really? Did Clement of Rome (late 1st century) believe this? Most scholars worth their salt doubt that the monarchical episcopate had even been established in Rome yet. (As an interesting side note: Of Ignatius' seven letters, only the letter to Rome contains no reference to bishops or an exhortation for the people to obey their bishop.)

DON: "How different would your field trip have been if you would have gone to an OCA parish. All converts, none of the xenophobia, but also none of the "awe" you got from the Greeks."

LEX: Excuse my frankness, but the OCA sounds quite banal, and I couldn't think of a worse torture than to be in a church full of converts (no doubt predominantly ex-fundamentalists). Actually, I am very fond of Greek culture. If I ever did go Eastern, I'd go Greek for sure.

dmartin said...

LEX: Excuse my frankness, but the OCA sounds quite banal, and I couldn't think of a worse torture than to be in a church full of converts (no doubt predominantly ex-fundamentalists).

DM: Now that's funny, I don't care who you are. I have gotten this from most (not all) OCA parishes and their that I have seen.

Joseph said...

I came into Orthodoxy in an OCA parish and I am quite familiar with this jurisdiction and it is not full of converts. There are more Russians in the OCA than converts and the fundamentalist comment I just do not understand. I am presently attending a parish of 90 percent converts(half were pagan before converting)in Santa Fe and it is a blessing to be a part of them so I am confused by these comments. Please do not take these comments as an attack or a defense of "Anon" or "Don" or whoever this person is. If he wants someone to take him seriously then he will reveal to us who he is. I think it is great that Dr. D took his class to the Greek Orthodox service. I wish I would have been taken to an Orthodox service in seminary.

Doug,
Could you tell me the name and locations of the OCA parishes that you have attended?

lexorandi2 said...

Joseph,

I appreciate your remarks. I think I know who "Don" is, which is why I've been a little short with him. I've never been to an OCA parish, so I don't want you or anyone else to think I've written them off or pre-judged them in any way.

I very much enjoy my occasional experiences at Orthodox parishes, and I plan to expose future classes to Orthodox worship. Hey, and if the Greeks (or the Russians) pick up a few converts from these class fieldtrips, more power to them! (Since most of my students come from free church backgrounds that would actually be thrilling to me!)

dmartin said...

Please accept my apologies, I was speaking of Antiochian parishes, not of OCA parishes. I did attend an OCA parish in Chicago, and enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

"Your anonymity is getting old. So let's give you a name (my blog, my rules). Let me see...how about "Don"? Yes, that seems appropriate. Don it is."

Your blog, your rules.

"The Church OF England is the Church that resides and has provincial status in England. It is not the universal Church."

You have but one altar, of which the other Catholic Churches do not want to be in communion with. If what you have is "true", which you must believe in order to stay where you are, and the RC and EO want nothing to do with you, AND the English Church has gone global; isn't it reasonable for you to then claim to most fully represent the Christian faith? I truly don't understand why you would even want to claim oneness with bigots and xenophobes.

"LEX: Really? Did Clement of Rome (late 1st century) believe this? Most scholars worth their salt doubt that the monarchical episcopate had even been established in Rome yet."

But there is no doubt that the monarchial episcopate was accepted well within the bounds of St. Vincent's dictum. This was the accepted norm until what..... Luther?

" (As an interesting side note: Of Ignatius' seven letters, only the letter to Rome contains no reference to bishops or an exhortation for the people to obey their bishop.) "

Cardinal Newman answers this better than I could;

"For instance, it is true, St. Ignatius is silent in his Epistles on the subject of the Pope's authority; but if in fact that authority could not be in active operation then, such silence is not so difficult to account for as the silence of Seneca or Plutarch about Christianity itself, or of Lucian about the Roman people. St. Ignatius directed his doctrine according to the need."

"LEX: Excuse my frankness, but the OCA sounds quite banal, and I couldn't think of a worse torture than to be in a church full of converts (no doubt predominantly ex-fundamentalists)."

Banal... LOL. And just because they became Orthodox does not mean they necessarily renounced fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a universal disease, and the accepted norm amongst all fundamentalists is whatever their particular crowd is trumpeting. As a side note, the OCA would be more inclined to recieve you as a priest than the GOA, BUT you would have to drink their ecclesiological Kool-Aid first.

" Actually, I am very fond of Greek culture. If I ever did go Eastern, I'd go Greek for sure."

The religious conservatives amongst the Greeks are the real xenophobes, and the mere mention of ecumenism will have you branded a heretic. The liberals all want to abandon the Greek for the English, though they retain a desire to turn the Greek Archdiocese into a massive Greek club based on ethnicity. So if a convert wants more English, he has the unique distinction of being opposed by everybody. Lucky you. Nevertheless, no matter what, you would still have to swig down the ecclesiological Kool-Aid of the Byzantines to become one yourself.

The RC and the EO are take-it-or-leave-it propostions. The addition of any one person is like adding another glass of water to the water going over Niagara Falls. In Anglicanism, you can make it into whatever image makes you feel comfortable.

In ecumenical relations, the Orthodox should feel ashamed of themselves; Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have bent over backwards (returning relics, apologizing for the 4th Crusade, etc.) yet no movement at all from the Byzantines. Heck, there is even movement on the filioque, yet still no movement. Benedict is the most pro-East Pope since Leo, and the chance of a millenium is slipping by on the beating heart of a 79 year-old geezer. The Byzantines want surrender; the Popes want Supremacy; the Anglicans want Rodney King ecclesiology. IMHO; nothing will be done.