Sunday, July 05, 2009

Kingdom, Church & Communion

Kingdom

Objections to co-identifying the Kingdom and Church together spring, no doubt, from a purely eschatological rendering of “Kingdom.” It was always referred to eschatologically by Christ because while He was among us, it had not yet been fully manifested. But in the Church we do indeed see the “beginning of the Kingdom” because it is “already present in mystery” through her.1 Now there is certainly an eschatological dimension of the Church as the Bride of Christ while she awaits her final purification for the Bridegroom, but nevertheless she retains her identity as Bride of Christ and mystically the Body of Christ right now as she sojourns this earth as the Church Militant. For this reason, eschatological renderings of the Kingdom should not hinder our appreciation of the Kingdom of God as mystically present in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the Kingdom, in its present stage.

If this is so, and Christ Himself is the founder of the Kingdom, then the phrase “hierarchical continuum”, as applied to the Church, is supremely applicable. She is, as all Kingdoms are, a hierarchy and she shall continue in perpetuity. The objections to this phrase are raised for reasons parallel to the Gnostic agenda – as the gospel made Christ too mundane, so this conception of Kingdom makes the Church hierarchy too mundane. The kingdom, in their mind, is too involved in the space-time continuum; or more likely, involved in too dangerous of a way.

Those who would attack the Catholic Church are quite sure that she is one and the same, and therefore retains the ‘guilt’, as the aggressor in the Crusades and the Inquisition, but they are equally as certain that she is not the same, existing in continuity, as the Church who called the council of Nicaea and yet cannot offer a principled reason for this distinction.

As for the hierarchy: the individual Christian is directly connected to Christ spiritually, but sacramentally, he is connected to Christ only as a foot is connected to the head (through the hierarchy of the body) and not directly. The believer cannot bypass the hierarchy of the Church in his connection to Christ any more than a foot can bypass the hierarchy of the body in its connection to the head. It has been demonstrated here and in the links above, that Christ indeed founded a hierarchy which continues in perpetuity – one which cannot be broken and cannot, without penalty, be disobeyed.

Church & Communion

The divinely revealed marital analogy between Christ and the Church is helpful for developing a proper ecclesiolgy. The Church must be one because, as Dr. Peter Kreeft says, when Christ returns for His bride, He shall not be found a polygamist.2 Unity is one of the four marks of the Church which we confess in the Nicene Creed. The Apostles’ Creed also offers a helpful and trustworthy insight into identifying the true Church. As the Apostle’s Creed shows, Christians have always confessed faith in “the Holy Catholic Church” and in the “Communion of Saints” as explicitly distinct concepts.

The very ordering of these phrases suggests not merely an explicit distinction, but also a certain procession. We believe in the Church first because it is she who gave birth to the saints. But Protestant ecclesiology regularly confuses the Church with the Communion of Saints and this is a discontinuum of the orthodox Christian faith.

After this final case regarding the Catholic ecclesiology, which will be published shortly, we shall turn our focus to the authority of the Scriptures. We spoke of the Church first because it is she who holds them in her bosom and has delivered them faithfully to her children. But before we discuss the authority of the Scriptures, we must agree on the ecclesiological foundation of our faith.

Originally posted at Called to Communion.

4 comments:

Doc Rampage said...

"The objections to this phrase are raised for reasons parallel to the Gnostic agenda – as the gospel made Christ too mundane, so this conception of Kingdom makes the Church hierarchy too mundane. The kingdom, in their mind, is too involved in the space-time continuum; or more likely, involved in too dangerous of a way."

That's a new one to me. The arguments I've heard against the hierarchy are more along the lines that the scriptures never mention it (except negatively in the parable of the mustard seed). Although other matters of church organization are spelled out in detail (the naming of deacons and elders) and the history of the New Testament shows no tendency for a hierarchy (or if there were one, it would be Paul at the top rather than Peter). Those are just the reasons to think that God's plan for the Church does not include a hierarchical structure. There are lots more arguments for the position that regardless of structure, the Catholic Church does not speak for God.

"Those who would attack the Catholic Church are quite sure that she is one and the same, and therefore retains the ‘guilt’, as the aggressor in the Crusades and the Inquisition, but they are equally as certain that she is not the same, existing in continuity, as the Church who called the council of Nicaea and yet cannot offer a principled reason for this distinction."

Well, I have no problem with the Crusades in general and as for the atrocities, I wouldn't blame the Catholic Church for them. As to the Inquisitions and the wars against protestants, these are significant not because they create guilt but because they show that the Catholic Church does ot pass Christ's test for someone who claims to speak in his name: you should judge them by their fruits. And not only the wars and the persecutions, but also the child-molesting priests, the forced conversions in Latin America, the terrible corruption and poverty of so many place where the huge majority claim to be Catholic, the aid and comfort that Catholic officials have given to Communists and similar grotesque dictators in the name of social justice.

Christ says that we should judge you by your fruit, and a lot of your fruit is really, really rotten. This is not to say that there is nothing redeeming in the Catholic Church. There are lots of very good Christians who follow Rome, and I count you as one of them. But the fruit of the Catholic Church over all? Nothing to brag about.

So I don't have to say whether it was one Church or many that called the Council of Nicea, that murdered people for questioning her orthodoxy and that you defend today. If it is all the same Church then its own actions prove that it is no spokesman for Christ. If it is not all the same Church then it is a recent invention that has no claim worthy of discussion.
There is no need for me to say when the dividing line is because no matter when it began, it can't be speaking for Christ.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Doc,

Here is the original post on CTC with several links that I didn't include in this version. This is only a supplement to some much more weighty arguments.

http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/07/kingdom-church-and-communion/

If the negative things you point out done by Catholics disprove Catholicism then it disproves Protestantism as well because they are just as guilty. It's never a good idea to go down the pointing finger road, you and I have had this conversation several times before and there's no need to repeat ourselves.

Doc Rampage said...

I don't recall such a previous conversation. Possibly you are confusing me with someone else?

The finger-pointing does not work both ways because unlike the Catholic Church, protestantism is not an institution. You would agree with me that just because some groups who called themselves Christian did evil things, this does not say anything about Christianity. The same thing applies to protestantism: just because some groups who called themselves protestant did evil things, this does not say anything about protestantism.

But this defense does not work against my accusation because I did not indict the Catholic Church for the actions of some members (I explicitly said this in regards to the Crusades) but to the institution as a whole.

You are making claims for the status of the institution, not merely the status of the members. Therefore it is fair to talk about the actions of the institution. The same does not apply to protestantism.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Doc - that's a fair point but none of the things you mentioned are things done by the Catholic Church but by individuals acting in direct defiance of Church teaching.