Let me preface this by stating that I like Hayton and the others of his circle who are blogging on more fundamental things; however, during a recent review of a book, Bob posted something which I found rather offensive and lacking of genuine Christian reflection:
I have but one small reservation with this book. Hill details both a Roman Catholic’s and Greek Orthodox’s struggle on this issue with no caution about the deficient theology of those churches. There may be genuine Christians who are RC or Orthodox, but they are the exception not the rule. Perhaps those faiths are more open to the struggle for faithful celibacy and so have something he can identify with. As a Protestant, I fear the Gospel can be at stake in so easily recommending Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy with their denial of justification by faith alone.
So many things…
First, how is it that Bob cannot say that Catholics and the Orthodox communions aren’t Christian? Fast forward to his last line – do we define the Christian faith, the sum total of the Gospel message as justification by faith alone? Is that the single doctrine to which one must hold in order to be counted as a Christian? If so, where then are the Apostles who didn’t have it, nor most of Church history for that matter? While Justification by faith alone is a valid attempt at explaining the Gospel’s message, it is not the only one, and regardless, nothing in Sacred Text forces one to hold to such an opinion in order to be counted among the Body of Christ.
…unless I’m wrong… and if I am, please show me.
A different understanding of doctrine doesn’t mean deficient.
Further, to classify billions of people who claim to be followers of Christ as not, and suggest that the few – if indeed, such exist – are the exception to the rest burning in hell is beyond me. We may disagree on several things, doctrinal wise, but to regard the whole of the oldest Communions as nonChristian is beyond me, and in doing so while pointing to a recent invention of doctrinal understanding chaps my Christian hide. If you are dead-set that anti-Catholic is pro-Christ, then stop here.
What else bothers me is that he accuses Catholics and the Orthodox of having a ritual and church-reliance, versus the Christ-alone reliance of the Protestants. Except, when it comes to Christ-alone, the very fact that unless one seemingly subscribes to the Reformation-era doctrine of Justification by Faith along, one is not a Christian, then that actually removes the fact that truly in Christ alone we have our only hope, light and cornerstone (cf N.G.) and replaces it with mandated creedal statements. Note that the ‘ritual-reliance’ is an age-old jab at the liturgical masterpiece which is a Catholic service, a service rich in artist preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in their understanding. Further, I fully believe that the biblical notion of the Church is one which Catholics and the Orthodox, more so than many Protestants, more fully express. Do I agree that Rome is the Church? No, so don’t get me wrong or put words in my mouth. I believe that the Church is the Church, but Roman doctrine, as far as I understand it, gives more of the rightful place to the Community of the Body of Christ which I believe the New Testament calls for. Furthermore and however, to call this church-reliance is to dismiss the whole of the Book of Ephesians and early Church history, Cyprian and the like, in seeing the Church as the new elected Body of Christ, the New (realized, unrealized) Creation which will be the light – together, not the individual – of Jesus Christ to a dying world of individual gods, lords, nations, kings, and bodies.
I am reminded of a situation in which the disciples were complaining about others who didn’t match up to their understanding of following Christ (Mark 9.37-40) or the Epistle to the Ephesians in Revelation, you know, written before orthodoxy was a semi-settled matter. Or a host of other times wherein Christ showed us that while we may say what is wrong or right, at the very least in our own opinion, it is a different matter to cast their souls away from God, especially when they are attempting to do work in the name of Christ. I’m not a Catholic, nor a big-O Orthodox either, but I cannot and will not so easily cast off my Christian brothers and sisters because we differ on some understanding of what Christ did for us. I respect the majesty of the Liturgy of both the East and the West, as well as their Tradition which gave birth to Luther, Calvin and that Zwingli guy and of course, John Wesley. I respect Theresa, Day and Benedict and a whole host of other Catholic luminaries who at the end of the day, the only thing that we would be able to agree on was and is and will forever be Christ. I hope that Bob can see beyond what is in the end petty disagreements – although I might maintain that salvation is by God’s Grace Alone, but that we have to have works to maintain it – to the richness of Christian fellowship.
And you too – you know who you are….
Again, I can recommend Bob’s blog, and others in his circle, for good Christian theology, but in this, Bob is clearly wrong.