Category Archives: Personal

The convert and Private Judgement

I have been puzzeled by this question for sometime:

  1. Can the convert to Catholicism ever escape the accusation of hyper-Protestantism?
  2. Is not the conversion process an elevation of Private Judgement in relation to the Church?

If someone has an answer (simple so I may comprehend) I would be most interested.

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Turning Point #5.1: An example

There is a post at Western Orthodoxy that illustrates a point I was trying to make in a previous post: The Seeker-Sensitive Takeover of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

It looks like another denomination is going the way of “praise bands”: the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Although the LCMS has a wing of “Luthero-catholics,” liturgically minded people who use a modified Breviary, there has been a strong cultural pull to slide into LCD (lowest common denominator) worship.

For those who are not in the know when it comes to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod: it is the conservative one! (It is also the former home of Fr John Fenton.) I am not sure about a group of Luthero-catholics (is there such a thing?) but it is naturally conservative on issues of theology (ordination of women, ecumenism, etc).

My point: this slide to LCD worship is an illustration of the Theological Method. A method not grounded in the historical community of faith but fluctuating between the past and the present. (If not fluctuating, than at least selective.) The liturgy will not magically create an orthodoxy Christian community, but an orthodox Christian community will have liturgy (by definition, btw!). Also, a change in style (and that is a big red herring!) will not bring the young or anyone to Jesus.

To put it in a slightly different way, when we are made right with God by faith alone, why have liturgy?? (Why have the Church or the sacraments??) As soon as the addition of the Church or the liturgy or the sacraments is acknowledged, how is it alone?

NB: I have edited the post to reflect the comment.

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Turning Point #5: Theological Method

I have not added anything to the Turning Points in our journey into the Church for sometime. So I thought I would write about a simple realization: Catholicism is not a set of doctrines (that can be looked at from the outside) but a method of looking at the world (experienced from the inside). That is, it is a means and not an end in itself. So, our search can be summarized as the seeking after

a theological method that
proclaims and lives the Faith once delivered to the saints
and engages the question of today’s world with authority and clarity.

Allow me to illustrate the journey a little:

  1. When we were Lutherans, the Faith once delivered to the saints was enshrined in the Confessional writings of Lutheranism. Of course, these writings were interpreted with a specific cultural hermeneutic. Yet, as a whole there is a central authority. But that Faith, for the average layperson, was not lived in the sense that the Confession were a part of their everyday life. In fact, most see the Bible as the only necessary book for doctrine. So the issue of the perceived identity vs the historical theological identity is very interesting.

    Yet what happens when a new question arises? Lutheranism in Australia has struggled with the question of women’s ordination for over a decade. The issue is not discussed (at least not explicitly) in the Lutheran Confessions. Neither, for that matter is there a Scriptural text that explicity speaks one way or the other. So, in the modern era, it is discussed on the floor of Synod and then voted upon. Not only is this an extremely slow way of making decisions but it is also ineffectual. When a decision is reached, it is open to political maneuvering and re-opening at a future synod. Also there is no sense of obedience to the decision and being in statu confessionis – a state of disobedience – is always an option.

  2. Anglicanism has no central confession. In fact, Anglican identity is fluid – depending largely upon the leadership of the priest in the parish and the bishop in the diocese. Yet Anglicanism is ahead of Lutheranism (and Reformed Protestantism) in that it sees itself as standing within the continuous proclamation of the Faith through Apostolic Succession. So the organic nature of the Faith is emphasized but not protected.

    Yet synods still play a part in theological decision making process. Okay, the theology is embedded in legal talk and canons. But it is still this context that engages the questions of today’s world and answers them with authority. But which synod? There is no consensus on anything in Anglicanism. In my experience, even the dioceses led by able conservative Catholic bishops are riddled with disobedience and decent. Why? There is an ongoing dialogue within Anglicanism over identity. Incidentals are elevated to the level of central doctrines and discussed infinitum.

Rome is not perfect. Yet, in the words of G.K. Chesterton, The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.

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Theological Method?

Great developers don’t think in terms of methodologies, they think in terms of what is right. Methodologies are an attempt to codify that.

The above is from the Tweets of Drew Miller (Anglican Geek).

I have been thinking about the quote all morning. Is it true? Can one transfer the quote to theology? Does the theologian (what is that?) think in terms of right (and one assumes wrong) and not in terms of method? A great theological/philosophical debate indeed!

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Problem of methodology

A number of things are coming together at the moment for me. The class I am taking on Greek Philosophy is extremely interesting. I would not have been ready for it a couple of years ago. It does, however, give me a headache! I am, also, reading, Theology of Revleation by Fr Rene Latourelle SJ. Here are a couple of quotes from the Introduction:

The term Word of God is applied primarily to revelation, that is, to this first intervention by which God comes out of His mystery, addresses himself to humanity, and communicates His plan of salvation. Scripture and tradition contain this word; the preaching of the Church transmits it; the liturgy celebrates and actualizes it. But all of this derives from the original word spoken through God. (15)

There is a fundamental difference in the theological starting point of Catholic theology and Protestant theology. Broadly speaking it is the theology of revelation. As Latourelle goes on to point out, for Catholic theology the topic is often left unexplored: We have established that revelation exists, but we have not yet said everything that it is. … there is thus room for a dogmatic study of revelation (15).

Ecumenism is actually not only a problem of ecclesiology but also a problem of methodology. A theology that is ecumenical in tone and intention must be concerned with presenting the doctrine of the Church with fidelity, but a fidelity that promotes dialogue with separated Christians. (16)

The problem of methodology goes hand-in-hand with the basic epistemological problem, the difference between knowledge and belief (even true belief). Read Plato, especially Memo!

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A lesson learned!

I have been reflecting the last couple of days about our journey. We are eight days away from our reception into the Church. That also for the uninitiated (Mark!) means I have eight days left as an Anglican priest.

I have come to realize over time that there is a considerable difference between Anglicanism in principle and the particular embodiment of Anglicanism. The Anglicanism which I read about in books does not exist in reality. The slum priests are no more, the Catholic Revival is marginalized and split, and the beauty of Anglican liturgy has been individualized. The Anglican attempt at a form of Catholicism without the pope has failed. Anglicanism will always hold a part of my heart in what it could be. And it will always remain a sad part of my life in that it fails to live up to its potential.  

Yet further I have come to realize that whatever Anglicanism maybe (or could be) is not my concern. God has called us into the Church and that is where our loyalty, love, and concern must be. Therefore I have decided to limit my posting to solid Catholic topics, to not post any more Turning Points, and to delete the draft posts about Anglican topics on the blog. A blog, by its nature, is extremely personal and therefore I cannot avoid the occasional trip down memory lane. But I will not allow this to become an ex-Anglican-now-triumphant-Catholic blog.

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Turning Point #4: Fullness of faith

    I have never had much insight into the eastern tradition of the Church. I have tried a couple of books on Orthodoxy but I have found each culturally difficult to comprehend. So this post, as all the posts on this blog, is my relation to the western Catholic tradition.

I have been reading a couple of posts by ex-Lutheran pastors now Roman Catholics which touch on the topic of identity and the Catholic Church: Being Catholic does not mean being “Anti-Protestant” and Why I am NOT a Convert. These two posts touch on what it means to be a non-cradle Catholic. How is one to regard one’s own past, and the leading of God in one’s past, as a present day Roman Catholic? These two men have much greater insights into what the fullness of the Catholic faith means in their daily lives than I do. They are better thinkers and clearer writers than me as well. (Enough sucking up?)

Yes, there is subjective faith, devotion, holiness outside of the Roman Catholic Church! There are people whose life has been deeply touched by God’s working and who live out their divine calling in their daily lives. These people may attend (or be members) of Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, or Pentecostal communities. All these communities have developed individual cultural identities which establish them.

I think it was John Locke (please correct me) who first looked at the idea of distinctiveness in relation to particular denominations. The question shifted sometime in the 16th or 17th century from what unites to what makes us distinctive. I was very much influenced by that idea. (Long time readers will remember the many posts about Anglican distinctiveness on this blog.) If we just work out what makes us as Anglicans distinctive, we will be able to provide Rome with a purchase option. We were going to add something to the Roman Catholic Church to make it more catholic.

Yet a pressing question entered my thoughts: is there anything these communities of faith outside of the Roman Catholic Church can add to the Church which it does not already have? If the Roman Catholic Church has the fullness of the objective faith in which I am called to make my personal response to God, what of those distinctive elements of other Christian communities? These must be heretical – a choice and departure from the objective faith. All that is good, holy, edifying, and true within communities not in visible communion with the successor of Saint Peter, must already be part of the Catholic Church!

The only exception (if you can call it that) is the cultural expression of the faith which is embodied in these communities. Anglicanism embodies an English expression of the faith and Lutheran a Germanic/Norwegian. But in terms of theology there is nothing which any of these communities can add to the Roman Catholic Church. (I am, BTW, a little so-so about theological method which comes to the same conclusion – does the end justify the means?)

Spencer John Jones, an Anglo-Papist priest in England, wrote in one of his books: “… our differences (with Rome) are due to our separation, not our separation to our differences”. That might be true but in the end the Roman Catholic Church has no necessity for other Christian communities. Taking Saint Thomas, I have always rejoiced in truth no matter where I may find it. The Roman Catholic Church has a divine duty to bring back into her fold all the separated brethren. But even without them, it holds within itself the fullness of the faith. Other Christian communities need the Roman Catholic Church. Lutheran, Anglicans, Baptists, Pentecostals share some (if not all) of their history with the Roman Church. Those who maintain a sacramental system have inherited this from the Roman Church. And those of the Reformed tradition, received their Scriptures from the Roman Church.

So how am I to regard my spiritual past? As God’s leading into the fullness of the faith. My wife compares the Roman Catholic Church to a magnet: either one is attracted to it, or repelled from it. The truth and faith I received from my Christian upbringing drew me into the fountain of that truth: Jesus and his Church.

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