Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Mother Teresa 4: Success

posted by xscot mcknight

Mother Teresa’s launching of the apostolate called the Missionaries of Charity was an immediate success, in all the right ways. The story is found in chp 7 of Come Be My Light..
How often do we know the “inside” story — in both the sense of what is going on behind closed doors and what is going on in the heart of someone — as a successful story unfolds? Should we? How many know how hard it was for many to get ministries off the ground? How many have suffered dissension over the formation of ministries?
When she left the Loreto Sisters convent, here was her prayer:
O Jesus, only love of my heart, I wish to suffer what I suffer and all Thou wilt have me suffer, for Thy pure love not because of the merits I may acquire, nor for the rewards Thou has promised me but only to please Thee, to praise Thee, to bless Thee as well in sorrow as in joy.
She struggled even to find a place to say — rules of orders not permitting her to stay in monasteries or convents. She eventually found a place to rent. On December 21, she entered the slums of Calcutta. First day reflections:
“We started at Taltala and went to every Catholic family … children were all over the place … I spoke very, very little, I just did some washing of sores, and dressings, gave medicine to some… What poverty. What actual suffering.
She was tempted to return; her legs ached from trying to find a place to stay. She suffered some “tortures of loneliness” (134). She fought tears.
Sister Agnes, at that time Shubashini Das, joined her. Within a year she had twelve sisters.
Students from her former convent started joining her and this caused dissension at the former convent.
The Missionaries of Charity finally received an official status and this was M. Teresa’s statement of their piety:
Those who join this Institute, therefore, are resolved to spend themselves unremittingly in seeking out, in towns and villages, even amid squalid surroundings, the poorer, the abandoned, the sick, the infirm, the dying; in taking care of them, rendering help to them, visiting them assiduously and instructing them in Christian Doctrine, in endeavouring to the utmost to bring about their conversion and sanctification … AND in performing any other similar apostolic works and services, however lowly and mean they may appear” (139).
She was deeply devoted to Mary and to the Rosary.
Then she formed a hospital of sorts called the “Treasure House” and founded “second selves” — others who would pray with them and suffer with them.
By the end of 1952 there were 26 members and in February of 1953 they moved to a new home, still the administrative center of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta.
Tomorrow: her darkness.



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Michel Broggi

posted September 12, 2007 at 2:30 am


Scot,
I enjoy reading your blog which is always interesting and often challenging. What is challenging me with this topic is M. Teresa’s relationship to Mary. As you write, she was deeply devoted to her and on several occasions heard her voice. To her, Mary was as vivid as any of the persons of the trinity. Now, as a reformed believer how can I grasp this? If I follow the reformed dogma, then this kind of belief has to fall under the category of superstition. But Mary was a reality to her, as much as Jesus was. Now if I classify the reality of Mary as superstition, what holds me back from stating that the reality of Jesus individually perceived is also a superstition? I guess, what I’m saying is, how high should we regard personal experience and how much influence should dogma have on this personal experience. Without personal experience faith becomes a mere intellectual thing, but without dogma faith becomes, well, just anything I’d like it to become… What are your thoughts on this?



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Ted M. Gossard

posted September 12, 2007 at 3:36 am


I approach the Mary phenomena with just a shrug of my shoulders. I don’t know. The only thing I can base my life on is what scripture says, I believe. The “Great Church” is in general agreement on Mary, I believe, the RCC just going far in making some of that “official”.
I think, myself, that some of this amounts to superstition, but that some of it might be real. Who is to say that God in his grace does not reach down to a people through a saint now with Jesus? But the goal would be to help them to Jesus and to trust in God.
This is refreshing, to get a window into Mother Teresa and this mission’s beginnings.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted September 12, 2007 at 3:37 am


when I say “saint” here, I was not thinking of those canonized by the RCC. But might God work within the RCC system in his grace? Again, I don’t know.



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Michel Broggi

posted September 12, 2007 at 5:38 am


Ted,
When you say ‘I base my life on what scripture says’ you should probably say, on what you BELIEVE the scripture says. What ‘scripture says’ is tainted by so many factors, personal (character, likings, dislikings, personal experiences, beliefs, etc..) and unpersonal (translation, culture, dogmas, ect..) that it often is nearly impossible to state what scripture ‘really’ says. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not my intention to take scripture apart. I spend a lot of time in scripture and can confidently say that it plays a big part in shaping who I am and who I am to be. It’s just that I have grown very weary of the phrase ‘scripture says …’ (fill in the blanks). So when I look at the life of a person, in this instance M. Teresa, who’s life reflects God’s light in ways thousand times more powerful than anything I am or do, and I see that one essential element of her faith is something I ‘should’ consider a superstition, it makes me wonder how much of what I believe is ‘superstition’. And this brings me back to my original question: how much of what is Truth can we really discover and hold on to, and how much of it is of my own (or of others) invention? And if it is of my (or of others) invention, how bad is this?



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Diane

posted September 12, 2007 at 6:31 am


Michel,
As you point out, we’re mediating the divine through imperfect language. It’s difficult to get words around metaphysical concepts and difficult to transfer our spiritual language across cultures. (I’m thinking of an essay I read recently about a person’s proposal that we should all call God Allah to ease religious tensions in the world. The esssay argued that Allah is overlaid with cultural associations that don’t translate readily into God.) I used to wonder why only Catholics saw visions of the Virgin Mary but now I think they see something we also see but that they tag it as Mary where we wouldn’t. That language probably brings in some of the culture of Catholicism but that’s fine to me. We can make ourselves crazy trying to parse everything and “know” everything to the point we become paralyzed. I find it difficult to see MT as superstitious because of the fruit she bore. So if “faith” is an invention that bears great fruit, then, no, that’s not bad and it creates a reality in which faith really “is” something.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 12, 2007 at 6:33 am


In what I have read, Michael, her faith is in God, in Christ, etc. … completely orthodox. She did have a deep devotion to Mary and she prayed to Mary, but the object of her faith was singularly focused on Christ.



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Scott Watson

posted September 12, 2007 at 8:33 am


Let me pose this question per the issue of Catholic piety and Trinitarian faith. Was Jesus superstitious when he communed and spoke with Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration? Were the disciples of Jesus superstitious when Rhoda,hearing Peter’s voice at the door of Mary believing him to be imprisoned,insisted that it must be “his angel” (Acts 12:15)?Was superstition at play when,as a result of necromancy of the witch at Endor,the seer Samuel actually appears,to the suprise and horror of the witch, and talks with King Saul?
We make a mistake when we make the Bible into an ironclad epistemic norm, the mistake that evangelical scholar William Abraham says that the Protestant Reformation wrongly did. It has led to all kinds of intellectual and hermeneutical cul-de-sacs,as evidenced in many of the recurrent concerns in this forum (and this thread!).Phenomenologically speaking,”biblical faith” must be understood as a part of the broader and deeper Jewish worldview of Jesus and his contemporaries in which there was much reflection and discussion of a wide range of manifestations of angels, demons and divine mediator figures and a panoply of ways they interact with humans. This is the substructure of the faith of Jesus and his contemporaries which is presumed but it is only seen in bits and pieces in the NT. In this case, Jesus is “superstitious.” The problem is that much of Evangelicalism is riven with modernist, post-Enlightenment intellectualist presuppositions and sensibilities which distorts what biblical faith actually is.Catholic piety,it seems to me, falls more along the trajectory of the popular religion of most first century Palestinian Jews (including John the Baptist,Jesus and the disciples)than the Protestant expressions of theology and spirituality.
http://people.smu.edu/canonicaltheism/
http://www.marquette.edu/theology/faculty/alexandergolitzin.shtml



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Mike Mercer

posted September 12, 2007 at 9:05 am


Scot, I agree. I’ve read a few of the criticisms of M.T., and this is one issue that seems to come up regularly, to the point of questioning M.T.’s salvation. In my view the question is not how much did she have wrong, but how much did she have right. We are not saved by faith in a doctrine. We are not saved by faith in justification by faith alone. We are saved by faith in Christ. As long as one is focused in faith on the genuine person of Jesus Christ, other issues are secondary. I may not endorse them on other levels, but I don’t put them at the core.



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Andie

posted September 12, 2007 at 10:43 am


Well put, Mike Mercer!



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Shane Trammel

posted September 12, 2007 at 11:06 am


I will also be going through the new book on Mother Teresa and you may want to join us there as well for a different perspective at times I am sure. Here is Part 1. Not a lot in part one, but come back for Part 2.
http://blog.shanetrammel.com/2007/09/11/mother-teresa-come-be-my-light-part-1/



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Peter

posted September 12, 2007 at 12:28 pm


Michael Broggi:
What do you mean by saying that the “reality of Mary” is superstitious? I’m a Catholic, and I know what Protestant objections to Catholic Marian piety are, but I have never heard anyone until now complain about Catholics’ thinking Mary is real. Don’t you think she is real? What do you mean by “real” here? Do you simply deny that we can have any meaningful communication with those in heaven? Or do you deny that Mary exists?



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John W Frye

posted September 12, 2007 at 1:17 pm


I like the challenge that Scott Watson (#7) has introduced in this thread especially this: “Catholic piety,it seems to me, falls more along the trajectory of the popular religion of most first century Palestinian Jews (including John the Baptist,Jesus and the disciples) than the Protestant expressions of theology and spirituality.”



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Ted Gossard

posted September 12, 2007 at 2:15 pm


Michel, I agree.
What I believe I was thinking of this morning was what Scot has said, that we must let scripture say what it is saying (something like that). Not that we have it all nailed down in the whole and in its parts as to what it means. We should know better than that.
I think your point is well taken, and we’re really more than less blind to this, I believe, that so much of our own tradition is not grounded in scripture. This is true, and we need more people to help us see how it is true.
Thanks.



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shane trammel

posted September 12, 2007 at 2:36 pm


Scot McKnight says:
“In what I have read, Michael, her faith is in God, in Christ, etc. … completely orthodox. She did have a deep devotion to Mary and she prayed to Mary, but the object of her faith was singularly focused on Christ.”
I don’t see how Scot can say Mother Teresa was ‘completely orthodox’ without qualifying the statement. One might say she was completely orthodox in here Roman Catholic beliefs and practice but not just orthodox.
The definition for orthodoxy is: correct thinking or right thinking. In this since, Mother Teresa could not be said to have been orthodox. She did not hold a correct or right or biblical view of many essential doctrines that would make one a true Christian. Among these would be justification by faith alone and the sole authority of Scripture (Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura).
More about Mothera Teresa can be found here:
http://blog.shanetrammel.com/category/mother-teresa/
Shane



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Michel Broggi

posted September 12, 2007 at 2:38 pm


Peter,
Since English is not my first language, maybe I’ve not stated my thoughts correctly. What I meant to say is that each of us perceive our faith from a very personal point of view: what I experience when praying might or might not correspond to what you experience, what I experience and understand under having a relationship with Jesus might or might not correspond with your experience. In addition to my experience there are certain dogmas and ideas that have been stated by various flavours of the christian faith. Now what happens if I or another person with a great amount of credibility (like M. Teresa) talks about a profound experience, which lies outside of the dogmas I have chosen to believe? Do I reject this experience just on the fact, that it does not fit my picture of what faith ought to be, or do I accept the experience as real, even if it contradicts this picture? Now, if I opt for the latter, where are the limits? If I count any experience as valid, then each person can construct its own personal religion. If I go for the former, then I must reject anything outside of the dogmas I adhere to as wrong. But then, what proof do I have that these dogmas are really true? Just the fact that there are so many different flavors of Christianity shows that there is no consensus on these dogmas. So against what do I verify the dogmas I believe in? I’m not saying that it’s wrong or right to pray to Mary or the Saints. I just don’t know, because I have no absolute reference point against which to very such statements. Maybe that’s why it’s called faith and not knowledge or science…



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JACK

posted September 12, 2007 at 3:38 pm


Michel,
You raise a great question, but it seems to me that the real principle is that one accepts the real. In other words, one admits the possibility that truth is more than what I make of it, that I can in fact encounter it. It is in a certain sense, the principle of detachment. Now this doesn’t answer how one evaluates what another reports to them about their experiences. But it does mean that you evaluate. And you remain open to the possibility that truth may reveal itself and require one to adjust a pre-conception. Otherwise, we are all just living out an ideology, each our own preferred version, versus Christianity as an event. And we shouldn’t be shocked when others decide that they prefer their non-Christian-themed ideologies to our Christian-themed ones.



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Dianne

posted September 12, 2007 at 6:48 pm


In recent years, I’ve started to ask myself how important is it really that I be able to determine the extent of someone else’s faith? The common argument I always heart was “by their fruits you shall know them” but what if that was more for recognition than proof. i.e. I’m attracted to someone’s life because of the fruit that’s evident in their lives? Do we ever really know what’s in someone else’s heart? Is it my place to determine who’s “in” and who is “out”? and what about those who are “becoming?
That’s the way I have to approach Mother Theresa. There’s plenty I can learn from her. I’ll focus on that.



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Slider

posted September 12, 2007 at 9:27 pm


Does anyone else see the whole Mary devotion issue as being somewhat idolotrous? I’m not sure how someone can have a deep devotion spiritually to Mary and be singularly focused on Christ. I can’t find any scriptural reinforcement for it. Paul shuddered at the thought of being held in high esteem by men always deflecting attention to Christ. I appreciate the perspective some are trying to bring here, but I don’t believe it’s a good place to be. That said, I agree with the fact that there is much good to be learned from Mother Theresa’s life and servant attitude.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 12, 2007 at 9:35 pm


Shane,
On “orthodoxy.” One can I guess define “orthodoxy” in a number of ways, but the standard form is to refer to the ancient creeds and their focus is on Trinity. She’s orthodox in that sense.
When you add sola fide, you’ve now defined “orthodoxy” as “Protestant orthodoxy” and, since M. Teresa is a RC and not Protestant, you’ve defined her off the map.



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Scott

posted September 12, 2007 at 10:59 pm


Following up Scot’s point in #19, it must be kept in mind that what is termed “orthodoxy,” the doctrines of the Trinity, Christology,the Holy Spirit which were hammered out in the consiliar councils,and which the Reformers accepted, were not done by Protestants, they were “Catholic.” The doctrines that highlight Protestant distinctives (esp. the doctrine of Scripture)are not of the same level of importance as these fundamental, linchpin doctrines, it seems to me.



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Michel Broggi

posted September 13, 2007 at 12:27 am


Jack,
I agree with you that Truth must be something larger than I am. If it weren’t I would be Truth (actually that’s what our western society is trying to tell us). So if Truth is bigger than I am, I will never be able to entirely grasp it (at least not in my present form). You say it is important to evaluate. But in order to do this I need a point of reference. How else can I judge if I’m getting closer to Truth or distancing myself? Now what points of reference do I have at my disposal: myself, scripture, tradition, history, my fellow humans, God. Now all but the last of these do not give me an objective stand, since all are open for interpretation. I would consider the last point of reference, God, as absolute, but my perception of God is tainted, and so is that of other people. So this leaves me with no absolute point of reference to make sure that I’m believing what is really true and that I’m living in this Truth.



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Elaine

posted September 13, 2007 at 12:30 am


Scott (the commenter)
Take a look at this.
To gaze upon Christ” is the motto of this day. For one who is searching, this summons repeatedly turns into a spontaneous plea, a plea addressed especially to Mary, who has given us Christ as her Son: “Show us Jesus!” Let us make this prayer today with our whole heart; let us make this prayer above and beyond the present moment, as we inwardly seek the Face of the Redeemer. “Show us Jesus!” Mary responds, showing him to us in the first instance as a child.
A homily from the Pope this past weekend.
It’s just a different mindset. We (RC’s) believe that death is not the end. We believe in the Communion of Saints that extends beyond time and space. We ask people on earth to pray for us, to support us, we ask the saints in heaven to do the same. Mary, included. If you look at the text of the fundamental Marian prayer, the Hail Mary, you see two things: 1) It is mostly from Scripture and 2)The essence of it is asking Mary to pray for us “now and at the hour of our death.”
I have never really understood why this ancient practice of seeking the intercession and supports of the clouds of witnesses, including those who live in Christ now, is a problem.
But I have no doubt that this is not the direction our kind host wants this thread to go in. But I’m just trying to explain how Catholics approach Mary – she points us to Christ. It’s what she does in the Scriptures, and its what she does now, in terms of the living faith of Christians now.



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Michel Broggi

posted September 13, 2007 at 12:36 am


Dianne,
Fruit is not per se a sign that someone is living in accordance with Truth. How many people are there not in history that have borne much more fruit than your average Christian, but would not have anything to do with the Christian faith? Sure, we can take them as role models for their actions, but does it help us as such to find Truth?



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Shane Trammel

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:50 am


To Scott in #20. It is interesting to me that you don’t consider the doctrine of Scripture as of primary importance. If we do not have a correct view of Scripture and its authority we will have problems with other doctrines. We can argue that this is a RC Vs. Protestant thing and that is OK. But a correct understanding of the authority of Scripture is in my view of primary importance.
If you take the RC view, then your understanding of salvation will be different than it would be if you adhere to Sola Scriptura. So a correct understanding of Scripture, since it plays a central role in our understanding of justification, is of the utmost importance.
Therefore, I humbly assert that the doctrine of Scripture is a fundamental doctrine and should be part of any definition of ‘orthodoxy’.
God Bless,
Shane



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Scot McKnight

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:08 am


Shane,
Again, you are talking about what you think is “orthodox” and not how “orthodox” has been defined in the history of the Church.
Furthermore, there are plenty who define the solas into orthodoxy, but that is a variation on the term and not what I was saying.
M. Teresa’s orthodox in the historic sense.
She does not fit your definition of Protestant, Reformed orthodoxy. In your Reformed education did your teachers use “orthodoxy” exclusively for the Reformed?



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Shane Trammel

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:20 am


Scot,
I understand what you are saying and I was not trying to be argumentative. Thank you for allowing the dialoue. Yes, I also understand that I am arguably giving my own definition of orthodoxy and I am OK with that. We don’t have to argue this point any more I suppose.
I would say that what is more important than a traditional or contemporary or personal definition of orthodoxy would be an understanding of truth. So, for example, if there is only one true way to be justified, either the official Roman Catholic view of justification is correct/true or it isn’t. You can’t be saved by faith and works or by faith alone. It must be one or the other I would say.
Shane



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John W Frye

posted September 13, 2007 at 10:58 am


Shane (#25),
The Spirit-formed people of God preceded the Old Testament and the New Testament. These-Spirit-of-God-people are the medium through which the Scriptures came. Therefore, ecclesilogy is primary to bibliology. Orthodoxy did not begin with the Protestant Reformers. As someone mentioned already in this thread, it was “Catholics” who hammered out the great orthodox creeds, not the Reformers. It is the Spirit-empowered community who decides the meaning of the text, not individuals with a “scientific method” of hermeneutics.



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Scott M

posted September 13, 2007 at 9:35 pm


In other words it is the Church which is the “pillar and support of the truth?” ;) Sorry. Couldn’t resist. (1 Timothy 3:15 for those who might wonder.)



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Michael

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:31 am


I would like to add a different viewpoint to this dialogue. I have noticed that there has been much emphasis given to the term ‘orthodox,’ and several attempts to clarify what orthodox means. But, I think the issue goes much deeper than that because every faith has a version of what their ‘orthodox’ really is. In essence, orthodox simply means getting back to the roots. In light of that, seeking orthodoxy (when we are talking about two completely different religions) is meaningless. What we must really be concerned with (and earnestly seek) is that which is TRUE.
We must remember that, long ago, people believe that the earth was flat. They were sincere, but they were sincerely wrong. I feel the same way about Catholicism. We are told in the Bible (John 17:17) that the Word is Truth, and that should be standard in measuring the validity of every doctrine. But, Catholics don’t use the Bible alone as their source for doctrine. So, how can they know that their doctrine is true? When we look at the Catholic doctrines such as the Papacy, Purgatory, sinless-ness of Mary, Veneration of Mary, Papal infallibility, Praying to the saints, perpetual virginity, transubstantiation, perpetual adoration of the host (and I could keep on going), we see that none of these doctrines have scriptural basis, yet they (catholics) hold tightly to them as if they were true.
And what about all of the ‘Anathemas’ pronounced in the Council of Trent upon all those who don’t affirm their dogmas? Are we to really believe that their simple proclamation of damnation on the protestant carries any weight spiritually? How can they know for sure…especially when the beliefs-in-question can’t be backed up scripturally? Sure, they believe that the pope has declared these beliefs, and he is infallible, but even that doctrine (papal infallibility) is something that was voted in. In fact, it had to be voted on several times because they could not get it to pass. When it was finally voted in, the decision was not unanimous.
So, regardless of whether you finally reach your desired version of ‘orthodoxy,’ the question remains…is it true? And how can you verify it? If your doctrine cannot be backed up by scripture, then it is wrong! To believe otherwise would mean that Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witness theology would also be true, and we know that is not the case.
I encourage people to listen to the audio messages by John MacArthur on Catholicism by visiting http://www.streetreach.com/Audio%20Messages.htm.



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Scott M

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:09 am


Michael, speaking as a Protestant, I tend to think it’s largely a waste of time to listen to yet another Protestant pontificate about that which they are not. If anyone is actually interested in understanding the other Christian traditions, I would refer them to sources within those traditions.
For Roman Catholicism that’s easy. They have formulated their teachings in a very structured, organized manner in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Personally, I prefer the print edition of the Catechism. But then I tend to enjoy physical books.
It’s not as straightforward for the Orthodox Church. They simply do not approach things in the scholastic manner preferred by both Roman Catholics and Protestants. However I would recommend a two-pronged approach toward beginning to understand this tradition. First, take the time to read the patristics. Many of them can be found online in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Secondly, especially for American Protestants, I think the podcasts from Ancient Faith Radio are exceptionally helpful. From a historical perspective, Orthodoxy is certainly the closest in practice to the NT church. They have preserved things such as the Wednesday and Friday fast we find outlined in the first century Didache. But I think Orthodoxy will seem strange to the typical Western perspective. (I was raised within a blend of Western and Eastern (non-Christian) influences, so I think it is less strange to me than to others.)
Frankly, many of the practices and interpretations of the zillion strands of Protestantism can’t really be backed by scripture. Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses are heterodox by the boundary markers established by the Church over the first few centuries more than for any other reason. I’ve yet to witness any heresy that does not cross one or more of those ancient boundary markers.
If anything, Protestantism has demonstrated in practice that Scripture doesn’t “say” anything apart from the Church which interprets it. Sometimes it seems that the Protestant tradition is on the verge of disintegrating into millions of “churches” of one, with each individual maintaining their own personal interpretation of scripture. In my more cynical moments, I think we have already reached that point. Instead of the “Army of one,” we have the “Church of one.”
I will say that you are at least honest and forthright in your expressed belief that the “Church” wandered in the wilderness until mankind was finally sufficiently enlightened (in the 18th century or thereabouts perhaps?) to set it straight with a proper interpretation of scripture. Most who enter such discussions are not as direct. I find that refreshing. I don’t agree. I think that’s a denial of the activity of the Holy Spirit. But I really do appreciate it. I think such candor would greatly improve the general level of dialogue if more people would do the same.



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Michael

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:56 am


Scott,
Thanks for the reply. I will agree with you that there are many ‘traditions’ in protestantism just as there are in Catholicism, and I stand against them as well, due to their lack of scriptural support. Again, as I stated earlier, we must be willing to find out what is TRUE, and not simply what is accepted as orthodox.
Can you clarify some statements in your last paragraph? It seems to me as though your [church in the wilderness] and the [denial of the activity of the Holy Spirit] statements were rather vague.
Thanks.



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Scott Watson

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:27 pm


Michael-
This issue of what it “true” by simple Scriptural warrant is not as simple, in many cases as you assert,on many levels:biblically,theologically,philosophically and hermeneutically and pastorally.
Historically speaking, all manner of things with potentially implicit or explicit Sciptural warrant have been justified which were wrong morally and theologically (eg,the useof the conquest theology by the Dutch Reformed Afrikaaners as the theological underpinning for Apartheid,and similar reasons for Antebellum arguments for slavery. It’s ironic that per your understanding of Biblical authority,the anti-slavery advocates could not use the Bible as readily since it did not positively speak of the abolition of slavery as a theological issue per se in the NT. This leads to another point,positively stated,which the church has wrestled with:all heresies are biblical. They arise out of the illegitimate,imbalanced or idiosyncratic use of Scripture. In the early church Gnostics could use NT texts but with a very different meaning.This is the reason for the use of a regula fidei(“rule of faith”)and the development of apostolic succession as a way of ensuring the validity of the teaching of those who were followers of the apostles.
Likewise,sound theology is more than culling the Bible for proof texts. It involves a responsible hermeneutic which is self-critical and somewhat cautious. For example,in terms of gender relations,conservative Protestant Christians will look to the NT for direction about gender roles,given their view of the authority of Scripture,forgetting that what Paul (or one of his followers)wrote in terms of the haustafeln(“household codes”),a convention we see used in pagan Greco-Roman writers,was addressed to the specific way Greco-Roman society was organized at the time in the areas where Paul was establishing his churches.It was a Christianized version of the household codes.How silly and anachronistic would it be (and evangelistically hazardous!)for us to insist that we adopt this form,rather than actually do what Paul did as a pastor/theologian in our context? If you have a 2000 Mustang car,would you use the mechanics manual for a ’65 Mustang to work on it? You could actually do harm to the car by doing so, even though the general principles of engine repair for Mustangs and other maintanence issues would not make the manual obselete if used responibly.It’s not because the manual is flawed; it’s just that it’s for a particular model(s).
The reason why theology (or,better stated,the theological task) is necessary is that different contexts throw up different questions which the Church has had to wrestle with in different philosophical, religious and sociopolitical contexts. This has meant that the Church has had to speak coherently from the Bible and the rule of faith to its multiple contexts throughout history,trying to discern the meaning of the deep theological structure of the teaching of the Old and New Testaments and not just proof text,which is apt to lead to some form of heretical teaching.They could use the philosophy of their age in this task without wedding themselves to it ontologically.The point is this:they were aware of what they were doing;they were not biblical obscurantists,for intellectual and pastoral reasons.The same could be said of the Reformers.The Reformation was fueled by the reemergence of Classical learning at the time.Theirs was not a form of biblical fundamentalism, even though some of their descendants have embraced these expressions from time to time.They respected the Patrisitc Fathers and the teachings of the undivided Church. They had a problem with Medieval Roman Catholicism.
Finally,biblical true construed in such a flat way,born of teh nodernist Scottish Common Sense realist version of “truth” ends up importing into the Bible a somewhat alien hermeneutic. It makes the Bible out to be a scientific text book, a compendium of answers about everything, God’s encyclopedia which circumscribed all of known or unknown reality in Christ.We have to accept the Bible for what it is:a complex,grand saga about YHWH,the god of Israel and his relations with humanity and creation,told mainly through his relationship with his covenant people.There are commands and directives about all kinds of religious and social obligations for human beings,but even those have to be situated in terms of the covenantal relations with YHWH. Moreover,the modernist ( Protestant fundamentalist) take on “Truth” makes it easy to speak of truth when one is speaking of the dogma of the movement one is a part because of one’s commitment to this belief system and certain doctrines.For instance,the NT(John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul) teaches that final judgment is according to works (eg. Luke 3:7-14,Matt 7:21-23,Rom 2,Rom 8:12-13, Gal 6:7-9). This is not a proof texting but,as scholars of Second Temple Judaism point out,this just puts them on the map of other 1st century Jews and their beliefs.In their polemical fight with Roman Catholicism,a certain reading of Paul was adopted and it became Protestant dogma;but with this centrality of asserting Biblical authority as the foundational counterpart to the teaching authority of the Roman Church,if one isn’t careful, dogma and it’s underlying hermeneutic can and does become identified with biblical truth.This is dangerous because one cannot retreat from this position or truly examine one’s dogmas to change them for fear that one has breached the boundary into apostasy.At all costs, even of falsifying the meaning of Scripture,one must assert that the dogma is biblical.This is one reason why some Protestant fundamentalists,when they are presented with the results of sound critical biblical scholarship,leave the Faith, or go into expressions of the Faith which are hostile to historic orthodoxy.They have no where else to go.The academy is full of these people.This is so sadly ironic!



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