Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Church of the East ; Philip Jenkins ; Cornelius

No one has been sent to us Orientals by the Pope. The holy apostles aforesaid taught us and we still hold today what they handed down to us. -Rabban Bar Sauma c. 1290

I read way too much of this book tonight, instead of doing my homework.

It's funny because the more I read about Orthodoxy both Eastern and Oriental, and the more Confessional Anglicans and Lutherans I read, the more I am overwhelmed by the fact that we all confess the same traditional faith. Where we diverge is obviously important, but the fact that we all agree on the Trinity, largely the first 7 ecumenical councils, and to differing degrees, the Old and New Testament, there's actually a lot in common by way of heritage.

And it's also funny because at the same time, I'm amazed at how absent Christ can be in faiths that bear his name. Suddenly one's identity becomes based on who is the true catholicos, or who is the real head of the church. In reality, I think we should be looking to the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. As a Protestant Christian I also think the bishops of the world should stop claiming to be "more bishop-y than other bishops" (to quote my old Reformed professor of religious philosophy). If a bishop or a pastor is a shepherd, this should always be remembered to be at best a visible analogy or sign of Christ who is the True head of the Church, the real universal shepherd.

You can have all the unified ecclesiastical bodies in the world and yet lose your soul.

I'm struck by the story of Cornelius in Acts 10, who was an unbaptized gentile that prayed. And yet when St. Peter arrives at his door, he exclaims so beautifully:

"So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ ( he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days."

This is my new ecclesiology.

(John Woo is a Chinese-American Lutheran, just threw him in here to show an 'eastern Christian')

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