Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ekklesia Veritas - The True Body of Christ?

"One holy, catholic, and apostolic church" - Nicene Creed

This creed sent me in search of the true church. I trusted it because it proves the Trinity, but it had led me to at least 2 major problems.

1. It says that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins - which I still haven't even got to yet in my search.

2. The Church as recognized and defined by the early church against the threat of heresy (mainly gnosticism) that it had to be 4 things:

a. One - Unified. What kind of unity? in the gospel? in Christ? in the Holy Spirit? No the Church at the time was unified by a shared communion - like the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Church.

b. Holy - Seperated distinct from the people all around - like the Jews were to the Canaanites. It means that the church is set apart, and actively different and morally pure. I don't know if any church fully meets that standard. The Amish are good at the 'set apart' bit, but not at the Catholic, or Aposotlic bit.

c. catholic - universal. Protestants usually just say universal and quickly move on, however this is important. The amish are a great glimpse at an entirely local church. They are not universal. Many protestant denominations are 90% white middle class families, in Canada, US, and UK - that isn't Catholic. Many Roman Catholics argue that even saying catholic means universal is not enough, but that it means in submission to Rome, but since the Greek Fathers might disagree, we'll leave that out for a bit.

d. Apostolic. There is debate here and now because of the Reformation. Protestants believe this means that the church holds to the teachings of the apostles and thus it is apostolic. But it is hard to argue that at the time, many believed this. It has always meant until 1517 that the church has apostolic succession, that the offices of bishops and priests have been passed on to the church today in a direct line to Christ. The only protestant churches that may argue this - though not superbly - are the Anglicans (who have the best case), the Lutherans, and some Reformed (though Calvin was never ordained, unlike Luther).

So for this reason and Paul's writing in Ephesians that there is one church, and his criticism of denominationalism in Corinthians led me to the Roman Catholic Church. I figured unless I would doubt all the other dogmas of the faith I would have to convert. However, it was not that easy. I saw that many of their dogmas even if they had little basis in scripture, still worked (like purgatory). Though they did do many things -which no amount of reading will I think ever change my mind - which I utterly disagree with. The elevate Mary to the place of co-redemptrix and they are tricky with the wording of everything so as to not 'technically' fall into unbiblical heresy. However still, to claim a person was born without sin and ascended into heaven and is a mediator of Christ's grace... to pray to her more than to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is wrong. And it doesn't matter what wording you have. It is clear from Paul in Romans that people have always tried to worship creatures rather than the creator. And the whole 2nd commandment issue - don't even get me started (that's why East Orthodox is out as well). The biggest thing however is the Pope. For I heard one Catholic Theologian say he is 'in essence, God on Earth', they call him the head of the Church - Christ is the head. So I could never be a part of an organization that usurps Christ's titles and pays more attention to his mother than him.

Where does this leave me? Anglicanism. It seemed like the perfect answer. It is one communion, catholic - universal (composed of many poor in central america etc.), apostolic (when the CofE was established all catholic bishops and priests made anglican, and the line has continued). However is it Holy? I am disturbed by many things within the Anglican church. I attended a service at my local Anglican church and the Female Priest said that Paul in 2 Tim was praying like a Pharisee and was too proud and not humble and that already the church had lost it's way. Also my diocese of Niagara was I think the first in the world to bless gay marriages. Homosexuality is wrong. Marriage is a sacrament of the church and should not be put upon even Christians and non-Christians, let alone those who are practicing homosexuals. I have no problem saying Christians who are struggling with homosexuality are as Christian as I or anyone is. But I have a problem with blessing it. The Anglican Church has been destroyed by Liberal Theology. Thus in Canada and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. The Anglican church is nearly brought to nothing. However in England there are many godly leaders and there has been a great history of good Anglican thinkers. You have Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I think that man is a genius and I respect him highly. You have Dr. N.T. Wright one of the best New Testament scholars around and I love his stuff on the resurrection and the authority of scripture. You have C.S. Lewis, John Stott, and many others. So maybe I could be an Anglican in England or elsewhere? I simply fear there is no perfect church, and that is why I am becoming more and more partial to Calvin and the other reformers' view on the Church. That we find our unity in Christ, that the church is holy because he is holy, that it is universal because every tongue, tribe, and nation will declare Jesus is Lord, and that these confessions of Christ are being made in every place in each church and thus the church is catholic, and that each church is only apostolic in so much as it's teaching agrees with the Apostles and their teaching.

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