Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What is the Catholic Church Like?

Over the last several days on this blog and various places, the issue of Church has provoked over-simplifications, over-complications, subjectifications and otherications as if the issue stood in need of a final judgment by we digital word smiths and prose warriors.

It seems to me however, that it may be more profitable to talk about what the Church is like than what she is per se. After all, when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God He never spoke of what it was, just of what it was like. It's hard in that case to object and say "No the Kingdom of God is not like a net!". Therefore we might find more agreement if described the Church in such a way.

The Church is like a mother because she disciplines and teaches. She rears us up in the faith.

She is like the ark because she saves mankind.

She is like a ship sailing towards a destination which encounters storms along the way. Some have jumped ship (heretics) to seek their own way. To borrow from Steve Ray, some have taken material from the ship and built rafts to plot their own course.

She is like a traveling caravan that comes across forks in the road and needs to make a decision. If she takes the wrong path (Arianism for example) she leads the faithful down the road of destruction. There might be 100 ways to go, we only know of her choice that it won't be wrong not that it will be the most exhaustive and certainly not necessarily the quickest.

She is like the temporal government established while the king is away and who has his full approval. Or to be less grandiose, the husband has departed on a long journey and she is like the wife who remains. Therefore she can discipline as mentioned and it is her authority which must be obeyed. Whatever she says is binding and the husband will ratify her when he returns (certainly not the rebellious children).

But the issue with all of these comparisons is that they all require a visible Church which is objectively identifiable. Not one of the above statements could be made of the reformed idea of Church.

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