Not quite a devotional but….a good thing to discuss!
I mentioned before, in pts 1 & 2 that the Lutherans were once callled “evangelical catholic”, so the title of this book by George Wiegel intrigued me, when I saw a friend reference it. It isn’t about Lutherans, or Lutheranism, but a look back at the last centruy of the Roman Catholic Church, looking at a change in the nature of ministry, a re-focusing. As I have read the first few pages and chapters, I realized that processing it might be better done in writing – as I see somethings incredibly… well “Lutheran”… and part of me wonders about how Luther would fare in today’s RCC. At any rate – since I am processing it, I suppose that some of you might enjoy the thoughts, or even better, engage in discussion. So here goes part 3.
Thus evangelical Catholics who adhere to the Gospel— once again, the truths that God has revealed for our salvation in Holy Scripture and the apostolic tradition— are in fuller communion with evangelical Protestants who affirm classic Christian orthodoxy than they are with prominent Catholic theologians such as Hans Küng, Roger Haight, and Elizabeth Johnson, despite being, canonically, in the same Church with the latter. (1)
The context of this quote, comes from a discussion about the church’s doctrine – and unity within the doctrine. It notes, fairly, that not all that claim the title of Catholic (we could add/substitute Lutheran or for that matter – Christian) do not agree with the teaching and/or practice of the church. There is obviously some flexibility in practice, the Franciscans/Capuchins do hold everything in common with the Dominicans or the numeraries of Opus Dei. But there are those who specifically break with the church. A great example would be Hans Kung, or the politicians who are pro-abortion, or pro-women’ s ordination, and yet claim to be good Catholics. The author notes a desire for people to be honest – if they have another faith, or even another god, just admit it – and follow that god and its teachings to the extreme.
That is another discussion, but it gives context.
What I am surprised at, is the idea that a catholic author would dare write that there are those of us out in the protestant sphere, who affirm classic Christian Orthodoxy, that closer in communion to those “evangelical catholics” – because of our focus on the gospel, and the task we’ve been given to plead with people to be reconciled to God ( II Cor. 5). It is something I’ve been wondering about for about 2 and a hlf years – whether our affiliation to our denominations is based in culture or ethnicity, rather than doctrine. That our battles within denominations are more about our preference of practice, than actually being consistent to the faith delivered to us.
Let me use an example.
A regular attender at one of the churches I pastored was an 88 year old lady – an incredible lady who was an active participant in the life of our parish. She went through the new members class with great joy, as she finally had answers that puzzled her forever. But when it came to the end of the class, she and I had a conversation- because while she wanted to be active in everything (except congregational meetings) and she loved the doctrine that she was taught, loved the service, loved the sacraments and the promises they gave her, she had called herself a Presbyterian all her life. It was hard to give up the word, and the fact that it made up so much of her identity, and she struggled with becoming a member – just because of a strong tie to the word…..
Kung does this – as do other theologians and even writers – look at all the catholic journalists who now are writing that the new pope must change this, or bring the church into the present by removing the restriction on “that”.
And we find ourselves – no matter the title, in fellowship with people who are different in their core beliefs, their core practices, while the people we have far more in common…we are separate from, standing across the road, as it where – able to see and wave and talk… yet…. It’s no wonder that many young people don’t grasp why the denominations are necessary, when they really aren’t united in doctrine.
I think ultimately, there are two options. Will we further dissect the church, creating smaller and smaller denominations and synods – niche marketing the faith as it were…
Or we will simply run to the cross, and pray…. for our unity – in Christ.
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 38). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.