Friday, February 02, 2007

Christian Unity

Christian-what-now? Yep, it’s true; the words “Christian” and “unity” are not often found in such close association, and do sound somewhat strange to the modern ear when linked together in this way. Contemporary Christendom is shattered into thousands of different and often conflicting denominational and “non-denominational” groups. The irony of this situation is that most of these groups proudly claim to follow the bible only and never the opinions of men, yet the bible itself is clearly incapable of spawning such division. Only men can do that, and only when they weave their own opinions in amongst the tapestry of the scriptures so tightly that they can no longer distinguish one from the other. Thus each man insists that his doctrine is “only what the bible teaches” while utterly failing to see how much of himself he has woven into his interpretations.

Do you suppose this is why St. Peter wrote, “…no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter: 1:20-21)? As a “pillar of the Church,” Peter clearly understood what so many today deny; that the private interpretation of scripture leads inevitably to division and is the leading enemy of Christian unity.

Most scholars agree that the apostolic age and the period following it was the time in which Christendom enjoyed its greatest unity of faith and life. There are many reasons why this was so. One obvious reason, not often mentioned these days, is that the bible as we know it today did not yet exist in those early years. The New Testament scriptures weren’t written until decades into the Christian era, and the Old Testament scriptures weren’t utilized in the same way that many Christians insist upon using the bible in our day.

A premise widely held by most Protestants, and universally so by Evangelicals, is that the Christian faith is derived solely from the bible. Historically however, its origin is not in the scriptures at all. The Christian faith was introduced to the apostles first by Christ, and then delivered to them in completeness and with power by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This was in accord with Christ’s promise to them that the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, would come and lead them into “all the truth” (John 16:13). The faith mystically delivered to the apostles was not in opposition to the previous revelation of the Old Testament scriptures, but was indeed the fulfillment of them. This is why the prophets and the apostles are called the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:20). It may have taken some of the apostles time to fully comprehend this mystically revealed faith—Peter’s own early hypocrisy amongst the Galatians comes to mind—but comprehend they did, or else their later writings which comprise the New Testament canon were merely human speculation and have no meaning to us today.

The early Christians received their instruction in this faith from the apostles, and as we read “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). Repeatedly the apostles urged the Christian faithful to “stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught” (2 Thessalonians 2:15), and to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). In fact it is difficult to find any epistle written later by one of the apostles that does not contain frequent and impassioned pleas for Christians to be of one mind with one another, and to forsake division at all cost. One cannot read the first chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians without sensing the scandal that Paul obviously felt when he heard that there were actually contentions among the believers there. “Every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ”. Is this much different from those who say today, “I am of Luther; I am of Wesley; I am of Calvin; I am of the Bible”? I suppose it is, since those Corinthians were at least still together in one church, and had not yet divided from one another to start their own denominations.

But listen as Paul goes on to reason with them: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” The one answer to all three of these questions is a resounding no; obviously all these scenarios are impossible. Yet today we routinely hear Christians claim (with alligator tears) that the Body of Christ is divided.

How is this so? How is it that something which Paul clearly regarded as impossible in his rhetorical question to the Corinthians has been made possible today? Well, the fact is, it hasn’t. Christ still cannot be divided. And the Body of Christ, linked as it is to its one, indivisible Head, also cannot be divided. What people today seem to have forgotten is that the Church, being the Body of Christ, is a divine institution, not a merely human one. It is God who formed the Church, and who allows men to be added to it. As men cannot divide the unity of three divine Persons of the Holy Trinity, neither can they divide the unity of the One Body of Christ. The chilling truth however is that it is entirely within the power and prerogative of men to divide themselves from that One Body, just as they can divide themselves from God.

The model for Christian unity is in fact the unity of the Godhead itself. The three divine Persons of the one Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, although distinct in personhood, are one in essence, one in purpose, in will, and in action. They reflect the perfect unity of the Communion of Love that exists within the Godhead. It is this unity that Jesus was referring to in John 17:21 when He prayed to His Father on behalf of all Christians, “That they may be one—as thou Father, art in Me, and I in Thee—that they may one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.”

A divided Christendom does not reflect the unity of the Holy Trinity, and thus cannot be said to be in communion with the Godhead. Everyone, believer and non-believer alike, intuitively understands this. Christ Himself indicated that the whole world would know the truth of it. But it is the believers today who refuse to acknowledge this fact, and utilize any rationale they can conjure up to justify their own division.

We often hear that as long as Christians can agree on the “essentials” of the faith, there can be unity among them. Oh really? Well, who gets to determine what those essentials are? The Lutherans have historically held to a different set of essentials from say, the Southern Baptists. Whose list of essentials is right? “Only those which come from the bible” is the common answer. But again, the Lutherans believe their essentials come only from the bible and so do the Southern Baptists. Thus we get back to the same problem of men integrating their opinions so deeply into the scriptures that they cannot see where the one set ends and the other begins.

“But it is only the visible church which is divided,” others will claim. “The invisible church, the real Body of Christ, made up of all true believers regardless of denomination, is undivided”. Oh please! To which “church” was Christ referring when He said that by its unity men would know it was of Him? Can men see an invisible church? Obviously He was speaking of a visible Church. And can you imagine a definition of the church as “the body of all true believers, regardless of denomination” flying with any of the apostles? Can we picture the Corinthians explaining to Paul that they weren’t really divided; they were all simply members of the “invisible church” who merely couldn’t agree on a few “non-essentials”? Don’t overreact, Paul.

Here’s another example right out of “The Gospel According to Ned Flanders”. Have you ever witnessed two Christians in a heated debate over some point of scripture, who then broke off the argument without resolution and concluded that they would just have to “agree to disagree”? Often such an insipid comment will be followed by strained smiles and the calling of each other “Brother,” followed by a hollow claim of “unity in diversity” while each stubbornly refuses to accept the view of the other. Thus human opinion and ego can be preserved, together with division over doctrine, but the two arguing Christians can feel really good about themselves because they at least agreed to disagree.

Finally, there are many Christians who simply don’t care about division. They have no concept of Christian unity as being a reflection of the unity of the Godhead, nor the fact that a lack of unity exposes a lack of communion with the very same. They see these things strictly in human terms, and believe that every Christian has the “right” to interpret the bible according to his own, individual conscience. Um, where exactly is this “right” spelled out in the scriptures? Where are we told to interpret the bible for ourselves, or to formulate our own privately-held set of doctrinal beliefs? Even the noble Bereans, who daily searched the scriptures to confirm the teaching of Paul and Silas, did so only to confirm what the apostles taught, not to invent their own teaching.

Clearly the early Christians enjoyed such a remarkable unity—a truly astonishing unity by today’s standards—because they sat at the apostles’ feet and were utterly devoted to their teaching and to the maintaining of fellowship with them. If the apostles’ Church had been full of people each reading their own bibles and interpreting them according to their own “consciences” and opinions without regard to what the apostles taught, it would have fallen apart in a single generation.

Not to paint too rosy a picture, but of course there were folks who disagreed with the apostles on this or that point of doctrine, and left to form their own groups. St. John said of these, “They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us. But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:19). Whoa, John; that’s pretty judgmental! Shouldn’t he have said, “We all hugged in a brotherly fashion and agreed to disagree”? It seems that John was not at all as tolerant of division as so many are today.

Of course John could be firm where many today cannot, because he understood that the Church was One and that the apostolic faith that formed its very life was not based upon the opinions of men, but was the revelation of God in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Today when say, a former Calvary Chapel church divides from its parent organization to become a member of say, the Vineyard organization, people understand that this is merely the trading of one opinion for another. Contemporary Christendom is awash in relativism caused by too many opinions over “what the bible truly teaches”. No one could dare stand up and say that their church alone is the One, True Church of the Apostles.

No one, that is, except those within the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is neither denominational, nor even “non-denominational,” but pre-denominational, since it has existed whole and complete since the time of its founding by the apostles themselves. In today’s world, this is indeed a scandalous claim, and many reject it without a second thought. All I propose is that people give it that second thought, and maybe a third and a fourth, especially when considering the alternatives available today. Such a serious claim deserves more than just a knee-jerk reaction because it doesn’t suit our modern sensibilities.

The Protestant indoctrination teaches that the apostolic Church did not survive; it did OK for awhile, but was corrupted by Constantine in the 4th century and eventually mutated into the Roman Catholic church from which the Reformation was eventually born. Such a teaching neatly pulls the veil of suspicion over all historic Christianity, and allows the modern Protestant to utterly ignore it, while substituting his own interpretations of the bible as “the only reliable measure of truth”. If this is what you think, I propose that you research the first three centuries of Christian teaching and patristics—you know, those blissful centuries before the faith was allegedly “corrupted by Constantine”—to see whether this “uncorrupted” teaching resonates more closely with what is taught in your denomination, or in the Orthodox Church. The results will likely be as eye-opening for you as they were for me, when I participated in the exact same process.

You see, I was once a Protestant Evangelical believer who became deeply grieved over the division of Christendom, together with my contemporaries seeming ease in accepting it. I believed that there had to be a time when Christians enjoyed a greater degree of unity in matters of faith, life, and dogma than that which I saw around myself. I needed to believe that Paul wasn’t lying when he declared. “There is one body, and one Spirit…One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). One body can only mean one Church, and one faith can only be the one faith of the apostles, not every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s version of it based on how they each read their own bibles.

If such a thought has ever entered your heart, you may find that a study of the early Church will propel you into the greatest adventure of discovery since you found the bible itself. I wish you God’s guidance in that, and many blessings!

29 Comments:

At 2/02/2007 6:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you say that your church is the "True Church". Is this to the exclusion of all other chuches. Sounds quite arrogant!!

 
At 2/02/2007 6:49 PM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

I'm sorry if it sounds arrogant to you. Perhaps it sounded arrogant to the others who left the fellowship of the apostles to start their own "churches" as well.

The fact remains that there is only one Christ, and therefore one Body, one Church.

The idea that there can exist many churches is perhaps far more arrogant than the premise that there can only be one. In the former, men decide for themselves what the church is. In the latter, men allow God to define it.

Which is arrogance, and which is humility?

 
At 2/03/2007 4:10 AM , Anonymous Jeremias said...

Ere, Ere, John was talking about those who had fallen away (stopped believing) or who had become Gnostics.

And rather than throw the current 1,000 year split between Orthodox and Roman Catholic into the air so to speak. Perhaps we should consider at which points that we agree on rather than each one under his own tree with there own their own vine.

"And each one did as they thought best"

The Birth Death and Resurrection and Ascension and Second Advent of Christ is what binds us all together as Christians.

So what standard would fit what the Apostles and Jesus taught to the massses?

By there fruit, ye shall know them"

 
At 2/03/2007 5:36 AM , Anonymous Bruce said...

Jeremias, As far as the essentials go, did you forget the Trinity? Or is this not an essential to you. Is this your complete list of essentials. No baptism? Please don't let me put words in your mouth, but are you saying that if I mentally believe in your short list of essentials then you and I will be bound together as Christians?

 
At 2/03/2007 9:07 AM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

Jeremias,

Perhaps you haven't given what I said enough consideration. Whether a person broke fellowship with the apostles and left the Church because of apostacy or heresy, the end result was (and still is) the same; such a person places himself outside the Church and cannot simply reinvent the rules to suit his own desires.

The decision of the Roman Patriarchate to divide itself from the rest of the Church is deeply regretable, and was the result of a series of theological innovations and errors that inevitably placed them outside the communion of the rest of Christendom.

"And every man did what was right in his own eyes"...one of the darkest periods in the history of Israel, to be sure.

It is fine for Christians to dialog on areas of agreement. But for such dialog to bear any good fruit, they are eventually going to have to address the areas of disagreement with a mind toward resolving these.

Until Christians get serious about unity and recognize that God only established one Church, we will remain divided from one another against the clearly stated will of God. Unity must be based on more than a superficial agreement over a mere handful of so-called doctrinal essentials.

There is one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. The scriptures are very plain on that. Men have chosen to divide from that unity, yet when someone dares to point that out, he is most often accused of being "divisive".

What irony!

 
At 2/03/2007 9:49 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you saying God is not present in my church? Are you saying your church is more legitimate than mine?

 
At 2/03/2007 10:16 AM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

It is a belief in the Orthodox Church that "We can say where God is; we can not say where He is not".

IOW, we would not presume to say that the grace of God falls upon the Orthodox faithful only.

However, since the Orthodox Church is the one Church founded by Christ; the Church which first received the Christian revelation through the apostles, and which then lived out, articulated, defended, and preserved that revelation; the Church which wrote the NT scriptures by the inspiration of God, assembled and canonized them by the same guidance; the Church which truly kept the Christian faith alive during many dark periods; then we must also say that whatever grace is experienced by believers outside His Church is in fact the grace which God extends through that very Church.

BTW, perhaps you can tell me where the scriptural justification is found for more than one church? All the many churches we read of in the NT were in fact one in leadership, in origin, in doctrine, and in life. They together comprised the one Church of the Living God.

The same cannot be said of the many divisions and denominations today.

 
At 2/03/2007 10:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The scriptures are clear about the "priesthood of all believers". Christ says that where 2 or more are gathered, I am in their midst. Is this not good enough for you?

 
At 2/03/2007 12:00 PM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

It isn’t a matter of whether your interpretations are good enough for me, but rather whether they are good enough for God. I believe that they are in fact contrary to what God has revealed concerning Christian unity.

When St. Peter wrote his first general epistle to the Church, he called its members “a royal priesthood, a holy nation”. You might take notice of the fact that this wording implies an organized, cohesive group. An isolated individual cannot call himself a priesthood or a nation.

In the very same epistle he wrote to the elders of the Church to feed the flock of God among them, and for the flock to submit themselves to the elders. This indicates that even within the royal priesthood there are some set apart by God to guide, teach, and protect the rest. This is far different from each individual deciding for himself what the scriptures say, and attempting to serve as his own elder.

“Where two or more are gathered in My name” is also a condemnation of isolation, and the exact opposite of what you seem to be reading into it. There are few verses which speak more clearly against individualism in the Christian life; how odd that it would be used to promote it.

 
At 2/03/2007 1:44 PM , Anonymous Bruce said...

Another comment I would make regarding this Father is that since no church can stand up and say "we are the True Church"-then there is no church you can trust for truth in any absolute sense. The local church is now simply left with meeting "the theraputic needs of individuals". It can no longer change society or the world. Yes the world changes for the better when any of us come to Christ, but as far as "the Church" changing the world- it cannot in this state of relativism.

Aren't all ideas equally valid? This is my way of doing things-but yours is cool too- is the mantra of most Western Christians. As Frank Schaeffer says in his book Dancing Alone "In this climate of religious tolerane ideas of transcendent non negotiable eternal truth become imposssible to defend."

What we are left with is the conclusion that if all ideas are true, then at the end of the day-all ideas can be false. Pretty damn diluted faith in my book!

 
At 2/03/2007 2:04 PM , Anonymous jen said...

anonymous,

I'm just wondering if you have a name? It would be good to address each other by name.

It seems that you have a simplistic understanding of the Scriptures. I am wondering, no offense meant, if you have considered doing some background reading regarding how to interpret the Scriptures and, as well, historically what the Church Fathers believed about the matters being discussed?

I think that without this understanding all that is being said here will not make much sense. In fact it will probably just give you a headache and cause further divisions. If you're not wondering about the things addressed on this blog, maybe you should save yourself some pain or some irritation. No pun intended but go in peace and love God in the way you are and some day when you do find yourself in a place where you're asking or wondering about these things, then come back.

BTW, I'm not saying you're not welcome here but it would be better for you if you came with a heart to understand, not necessarily critique something that you seem to have no paradigm for.

Perhaps Fr. Michael could suggest some questions for thought that you could investigate a patristic perspective on. Perhaps "how does one define the 'Church'?"

That's just my two cents. I, myself, have had to walk down these roads too and I understand how difficult these things can be to wrap one's mind around.

 
At 2/03/2007 3:37 PM , Anonymous Jeremias said...

Ere, I do notice you blogged about unity, and the RCC could say the same things.

It would seem to me that until those two can reconcile their (your) differences, a blog about unity in the physical as well as the mystical is like a divorced man giving marriage advice, it may be good advice, but....

It is my firm belief that the classic offices of the Church, as stated in the Holy Bible, have been broken by mankind.

So we have the spectacle of wonderful Evangelists who fail at solid teaching, or Administrators who are doing jobs that someone else is better suited for, Or Teachers who are so learned, they forget that Mercy and Love are what Jesus "would have us to do".

And lost in all of the "discussion" is "What of the sheep?" are they being served? Or has "The Shepherd been struck, and the sheep have scattered?"

You also mentioned the Trinity, a theological concept produced from Scripture, I know their is a Trinity, and Baptism is a Rite that should be performed (not must the thief on the cross comes to mind).

Communion is also a needed and often times neglected Rite, the idea of the classic church not performing Communion is laughable.

Thoughts Ere?

 
At 2/03/2007 4:33 PM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

Jeremias, I know that on several occasions in our discussions of the church you have brought up the “Catholics can say the same thing” argument. While in fact anyone can say anything, proving it is another matter entirely.

In terms of spirituality, structure, and theology, the Roman church today is not what it was for most of the first millennia of Christendom. At the time of the Schism in 1054 it had already incorporated enough changes to no longer resemble the Christianity of the East. One single Patriarchate, isolated from the all the rest, simply evolved into an entirely different body than what it once had been while still in communion with them. And the changes Rome has wrought since then continue, and widen the gap even further. If reconciliation is to happen, it is Rome which will need to change.

To verify this, one need only study the theology and life of the early Church and compare this to Catholicism and Orthodoxy today to discovery whose claim to be the true continuation of early Christianity is valid. Empty assertions are meaningless; it is the facts which should concern us.

In addition, your claim that the Catholics and the Orthodox need to get their acts together when you stand outside comfortably apart from either one of them seems rather hypocritical.

 
At 2/03/2007 6:51 PM , Anonymous Jeremias said...

The RCC claims "supremecy" through Peter's Bishopric at Rome. Orthodoxy claims supremecy through unwavering "lineage" to the early church Fathers.

but you knew that of course.

Where it gets fascinating is the dueling Anathema/Ex Communication that were proclaimed in the 10th century or so, which of course means that whichever side is "right" has basically labeled what the other side has done "heretical"

Bad trees and good fruit, one cannot produce the other.

so either Orthodoxy's teachings were correct for the 1,000 years or the RCC's were correct.

Both cannot be true and remain consistent with claims of ultimate spiritual Authority.

Far from hippocritcal Ere, I give the RCC's at some of their blogs the same treatment. And they name me "Heretical Protestant" :).

As for me and my House, we shall serve the Lord.

"The Lord does not dwell in buildings built by human hands"

Is true as well, the early church met in homes in small groups, leadership was diffused, and they used to read scripture (Mostly the OT btw) and sing songs to Christ.
Seems fairly simple to me, how about you?

 
At 2/03/2007 9:18 PM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

Well that’s good Jeremias; I’m glad you give equal time to both sides. I know you to be a fair-minded man, if not always open-minded.

Nevertheless, you dodged the issue I raised in my last comment. Why not hit the books and study your way through the early Church from the first century all the way forward to the eleventh century? By the time you get to that point, you may clearly be able to see for yourself whether it is the RCC or the Orthodox Church that is the true continuation of that one Church founded upon the apostles.

Even if you don’t make it all the way through such an exhaustive study (It took me ten years, together with several other people who were on the same quest) you will at least learn more about the early Church than you presently know. I certainly did.

Like you, I once thought that the early Church was pretty much like the home churches that were popular among some Evangelicals in the 1970’s. You know, folks sitting around reading the scriptures, singing songs, no definable leadership. Imagine my surprise to discover that even the earliest Church was distinctly liturgical with a service that centered on the Eucharist (Which they believed to be the actual Body and Blood of Christ) and that it was served by bishops, priests, and deacons (These were all supposed to be later developments, but there they clearly were, even before the last apostles died!). The first Christians met in homes, later in catacombs, because they were forced to by Roman persecution. Recent archeological excavations have found the oldest such catacomb church yet discovered, with an altar at its very center! The instant that Rome lifted its ban on Christianity, the Christians emerged from underground and built huge churches and cathedrals, demonstrating that the early believers had no problem with such structures.

There are lots of things we can learn from such laborious historical study, most of which will challenge our modern opinions and presumptions, all of which will bring us closer to understanding the truth about Christ’s Church. That’s why I harp on this subject all the time, as you so well know. Yet I am continually distressed to find that most Christians today are content with their ill-informed opinions about the early Church, and don’t care to learn the facts.

Could it be that Protestants, being historically a schism of a schism, have a good if selfish reason to ignore history and simply reinvent “church” to suit their situation? I can’t tell you how many times I had Protestant friends tell me to stop studying Church history (“It will just confuse you”) and just stick with reading the scriptures according to the interpretations I had been taught in Protestant churches. You really have to wonder about people who fear study and learning. They have something to protect.

 
At 2/03/2007 11:03 PM , Anonymous Jeremias said...

I noticed you dodged my question about about spiritual and temporal authority and Orthodoxy and the RCC....

And we both know that the earliest Christian "church" met in Synagouges(sp).

And of course, what does make you think that I haven't studied early church history? Hmm....:)

Indeed they did meet in small groups, and they partake of the cup and body, they also were highly diffused, that changed when "kingdom theology" took over.

I will agree with you on point, the thought that "Augustine is my brother" is not a part of current Christian Evangelical thought. The idea that the early Church Fathers and indeed Mothers including the Apostles and the Martyr's the fallen and the Saints are all a part of the belief view AFAIK does not exist, at least from an observational viewpoint.


BTW Ere, why did Jesus mention 7 churches in Revelations? So they were in union, yet there were seven different Churches named, each with a seperete and distinct message for them from Christ?

"all Scripture is given for the benefit of the Church"?

No "All scripture is inspired by God good for teaching and rebuking and..."

 
At 2/04/2007 7:53 AM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

What was your question about “spiritual and temporal authority and Orthodoxy and the RCC…”? I didn’t dodge it, but simply missed it.

And yes, Evangelicalism exists in an historical vacuum of its own making. That’s not to say that individual Evangelicals don’t occasionally dabble in a reading of the Church fathers, but they will tend to approach such study in exactly the same way as they read the bible…picking and choosing the bits they agree with and ignoring the rest. Whether in their reading of the bible or the writings of the holy fathers, they fail to see the Church that is revealed in both.

You mention the seven churches in Revelation, united in origin and doctrine, yet each receiving a separate message from Christ. Once again I fail to see the point you are trying to make of this. That these were seven isolated “denominations”? Not so. Historically these were seven Christian communities, each joined in the one Body over which Christ was Head. The fact that they received individual messages from Christ is no different from the communities at Corinth, Ephesus, or Galatia receiving individual letters from St. Paul.

And you do see that the majority of the NT epistles were written to churches don’t you? The few which were written to individuals, such as Paul’s letters to Timothy, were also written in the context of Church, since Timothy was a “man of God,” or in other words a leader of God’s flock. Paul instructed Timothy to use the scriptures to “reprove, correct, instruct”. He certainly never told Timothy to make sure every individual got their own copy of the bible so that they might “reprove, correct, and instruct” themselves independent of Timothy, or set his leadership aside to become their own instructors.

 
At 2/04/2007 8:39 AM , Anonymous Jeremias said...

To Churches indeed, but aimed at individuals in those Churches.

The flagging churches were spelled out, their errors in teaching were also pointed out.

Some were teaching different doctrine than the others were (the Nicolations)
for example. That would mean that they were seperate and distinct Churches, not one amalgam.

If they had been amalgams, there would have been no need for the seperate letters that addressed different issues....

As to the temporal and spiritual authority, it would seem clear that "There can be only one" in the Orthodox RCC view field, so who was correct for those 1,000 years?

Which issuance was valid the ex communicato or the anathema? Whichever one that was correct means that the other one was in error and their teachings and practices were in effect erroneous from the the time of the schism.

Besides, I am still awaiting the "Anti nomianism" charge to applied.

 
At 2/04/2007 1:39 PM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

OK, now I think I understand the gist of your question.

Technically, right up until the split on July 11, 1054, the Roman Patriarchate was still in communion with the rest of Christendom, if by then in name only. Their adoption of the philioque heresy which, together with the Orthodox, they once rejected, their stubborn insistence on the universal rule of the bishop of Rome over all other bishops, and many other innovations pulled them so far away from their connection with historic Christianity that the link finally snapped.

Who was right, the lone patriarch of Rome who sought to bring many changes to the traditional faith, or the entire rest of Christendom and all the other bishops and patriarchs who resisted these changes? Let the historical record speak for itself.

If you read Revelation 2:12-17 carefully you will see that the church in Pergamos in general held fast the name of Christ and did not deny His faith. But there were SOME within it who had accepted heretical teachings. Thus Christ warned them to repent. It is therefore incorrect for you to assert that this church was some sort of separate denomination.

Furthermore, to claim that Christ addressed separate messages to these churches because they were not One is, once again, to read the exact opposite into the passage from that which God intended by it. Christ addressed their specific issues exactly because He wanted them to maintain their unity with one another and remain in full communion with His Church. He did not address Gnostics or other heretics already outside that communion. His desire is always that believers remain one, even as the three Persons of the Holy Trinity are one.

As I stated in my original blog posting, some folks integrate so much of their own opinions into the scriptures that they can no longer understand the original meaning. All they see is what they want to see.

 
At 2/04/2007 3:14 PM , Anonymous Jeremias said...

Ere, the RCC claim is based on direct lineage to Peter the "prince of the Apostles" "What you bind on Earth" and all that. Because fo that, it would seem to me that the RCC claim is at least as strong as the Orthodox claim.


Strangely in Rev, Christ doesn't command the churches to kick out the Nicolatians, but to hate there sin.

either way, I of course disagree on the amalgam theory, the churches were indeed distinct from on another.

similarly the Doctrine of Paul was somehow different from that of the original Apostles. Paul was all things to all people as it were.

See ya around Ere....

 
At 2/04/2007 4:33 PM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

Jeremias, my particular jurisdiction of Antioch was also founded by St. Peter, AND has maintained fidelity to the apostolic teaching. So where does that leave your theory of legitimacy?

That Jesus called the church in Pergamos to bring its erring members to repentance rather than to "kick them out" is at least a sign of God's mercy to those in error. If they would not repent, they would find themselves outside the Church soon enough.

Likewise to those today who have removed themselves from the true Church by their own error are called to repentance by Christ.

See you around too, Jeremias. Oh, and once again, my name is Fr. Michael...

 
At 2/04/2007 7:13 PM , Anonymous Kevin said...

In response to "anonymous" [why anonymous - don't you have a name?] - and "where 2 or more are gathered together I am in your midst"...think now...to whom did He say that and when? The Lord said it to those who were His followers when there was no such thing as a "divided" church! This wasn't a prescription for division or disunity...simply a promise to His Church that He would be with them, anywhere, anytime!

 
At 2/04/2007 8:00 PM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

Thank you Kevin, I quite agree.

I would only add that Christ said "two or more" not "one". The individual Christian who reads and interprets his bible for himself is only "one," and thus has no promise from Christ to "be in 'his' midst".

This realization would be no problem for the early Christians who always thought in terms of the community of the faithful within the Church. It is quite appalling to modern Christians who primarily think in terms of "Me and Jesus" only.

 
At 2/05/2007 6:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Bless.

I have enjoyed this dialogue on unity (as well as the original post) tremendously.

It is indeed a fascinating phenomenon to see how those of us who grew up in a modern, Protestant setting have such difficulty conceiving of the Church as one. Either we read back into the holy writ and make it say what we want to read, or we say any claim to be the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic faith/Church must be bogus. To be sure we have seen many examples of people who have claimed to be the “one true church” and watched them self-destruct along the way, so we have no frame of reference to hear that legitimate claim from a body that has existed from the beginning of the Church era.

My journey into the Church, while not yet complete, has encountered the most resistance on this reality of that claim. I have heard the Church is too judgmental, too exclusive, not loving enough… (continue ad nauseam with such statements). The modern, western mind is often not ready to explore the reality of truth claims that are firm and stable. As an aging hippy, and one who tends toward post-modernity, I have come to love the stability and confidence (please don’t read hard-headed rigidity) the Church provides in her teaching, life, and worship. I long to share that with friends and loved ones who will understand and embrace that reality. I am saddened when they perceive only rigidity and rules when observing the Church.

Lord have mercy.

Leon

 
At 2/05/2007 9:16 AM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

Thank you, Leon. I appreciate your comments.

May God bless your continuing journey into His Church!

 
At 2/09/2007 10:18 PM , Blogger Greg Brooks said...

Not going to add anything worthwhile to the debate here because others are doing such a fine job of it. I am going to say that You. Absolutely. Rock. and this is one of the best-written and most thoughtful treatments of this issue I think I've ever read. Outstanding!

 
At 2/12/2007 2:19 PM , Blogger papa herman said...

Congratulations on your being elevated to an Archpriest!!

God grant you many years!!

 
At 2/12/2007 7:38 PM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

Wow, I guess the news travels fast!

Thank you, Herman.

 
At 2/13/2007 7:33 AM , Blogger E Rica said...

I think it traveled from Aaron's blog. :)

 

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