Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Where is Christ in all this?

Recently, I have been posting on Pontifications in the "Parasitic Catholicism" thread. As is usually the case, things come down to authority. Thanks to this discussion, I have a better understanding of what the RC at least mean when they speak of "private jugement". They start with authority, and only then can they be sure of orthodoxy. Their critique of "protestantism" is that we start with orthodoxy and then establish authority. Now, I think this a distinction without a difference--how would one know the authority is really orthodox without evaluating its teachings, for example.

That is not my main point though. I was wondering, where is Christ in all this? St. Paul said he resolved to know nothing among the Corinthians but Christ and him crucified. It seems to me some Apologists resolve to know nothing but epistemology. (I do not say they are not Christians, or that philosophy is wrong or useless) As often happens in these discussions, I thank God I am Lutheran, where I can start with faith in Jesus Christ through the objective means of the Sacraments, and then trust the Bible because I trust in Christ. My faith is not grounded in philosophy, but in objective tools God uses to save me. When my pastor says "In the stead and by the command of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I forgive you all you sins, in the Name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen!" I do not have to get all my philosophy in order first, and only then justify my faith in Jesus Christ. I have to faithfully receive what Christ himself offers me in Absolution, Holy Communion and in the preaching of the Gospel. It is a wonderful comfort to know that with simple words, some written down thousands of years ago, my Savior snaches me from the jaws of death and lets me partake in his life, unto life everlasting. And he does this to infants, who I think we can agree don't have a very intellectualized faith. He does this do adults, with hos word which breaks harts of stone into pieces, replacing them with hearts of flesh.

That is a much more potent thing than philosophical arguments divorced from any sense of God's omnipotent Word.

7 comments:

Scott Carson said...

Edward

Thanks for the thoughtful post. I wonder, though, whether your sense of the appeal to authority might be somewhat different than that invoked among Catholic and Orthodox?

My take on things is a little different from yours (but then, I'm not a Protestant). The question of authority is a central one, and ought to be even to someone who looks for Christ in the Scriptures, because of course the Scriptures themselves must be grounded in some sort of authority that is independent of them in order for them to be a source of authority in themselves. Prior to, say A.D. 54 there were no Christian Scriptures other than the texts of the Septuagint, and as I'm sure you know the long process of Canon formation involved nothing other than the question of institutional authority to proclaim one text rather than another as binding on the faithful. We happen to live in a time when the Canon is settled, but it has not always been so. If the institutional authority was there to establish the authenticity and authority of Scripture, it is difficult to see any non-arbitrary reason to think that said authority dried up or disappeared.

This is not meant to be the beginning of an argument, but merely the statement of what I take to be the Roman Catholic (and Orthodox) position regarding the status of the Scriptures in the overall Tradition.

You rightly ask, "Where is Christ in all this?" The answer that the RC would give is: in the Communion of all Believers. Because we believe that the Church as an institution is the embodiment of that Communion, we believe that the Church as an institution has the authority to represent Christ for us in various ways. I don't think Luther disagreed with that, particularly, by the way. His "protest" was more over Church polity and certain forms of liturgical abuse. But again, I don't mean to start an argument but to simply put into words what I take to be the position of the RC Church.

Edward Reiss said...

Scott,

Thanks for your thoughts, and welcome here!

You raise an interesting point. Perhaps I stated my position too bluntly, perhaps you misunderstood, so i will elaborate.

I do not say authority is not important, I say that it is not the starting point. It seems to me that the apologists on the "Parasitic Catholicism" thread start with authority. I am not aware of anyone who came to Catholicism because he philosophically determined the RCC has authority, and only then could he believe her teachings. So, as a practical matter it seems that authority is not the starting point for anyone--even the philosophers.

The starting point has to be Jesus Christ, his promises, who he is, what he did. I believe starting with anyone or anything else is an example of the cleverly devised tales St. Paul reminded us of. Also, did St. peter start his evangelical sermon with his credentials, or with the story of Jesus Christ? I think that is very telling against the arguments put forth on that thread.

Scott Carson said...

Edward

Thanks for the clarification--I think I did misunderstand you a little. I confess I did not follow that other thread much, so I was sort of butting in.

You're quite right that as a dialectical starting point credentialism would be nothing short of begging the question. That's a very good point, and I'm glad you made it!

Principium unitatis said...

Ed,

You wrote: "I am not aware of anyone who came to Catholicism because he philosophically determined the RCC has authority, and only then could he believe her teachings."

I came to Catholicism that way.

- Bryan

Edward Reiss said...

Bryan,

Fascinating, really!

Do you mean to say that you did not examine the merits of Roman Dogma before becoming Roman Catholic?

If that is the case, how did you decide on the RCC as having divinely ordained authority?

Principium unitatis said...

Ed,

"Do you mean to say that you did not examine the merits of Roman Dogma before becoming Roman Catholic?"

The very idea of me examining the merits of Catholic dogma presumes that I am equal in authority to those who determined it to be dogma. By what standard could I judge their decisions? By my intellect, my interpretation of Scripture? In that case, their decicions wouldn't be authoritative. That is why the transition from Protestantism to Catholicism is rightly called a "paradigm shift", because it is an entirely different way of thinking.

"If that is the case, how did you decide on the RCC as having divinely ordained authority?"

See my latest comments in the "Parastic Catholicism" combox. I did so by reading the fathers, and seeing the relation in the early Church between authority and orthodoxy, and by seeing in the early Church the sacramental nature of ecclesial authority, through the laying on of hands by the bishops in succession from the Apostles.

Edward Reiss said...

Bryan,

You wrote "I did so by reading the fathers, and seeing the relation in the early Church between authority and orthodoxy, and by seeing in the early Church the sacramental nature of ecclesial authority, through the laying on of hands by the bishops in succession from the Apostles."

Then it seems to me you weighed evidence, and you made a decision in favor of the RCC as opposed to the EOC, or I dare say, the Nestorians.

Given that you weighed evidence, I do not see how your decision is any different from anyone else's.

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