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Why I am not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox

posted by xscot mcknight

Mr. McKnight, I would like to echo a question that someone asked above, and I don’t think you replied to it (unless I missed the answer, in which case I apologize.) The question is: why are you still an evangelical, and not Catholic or Orthodox?
The reason I ask is this: much of what you say resonates with me big time. About being connected to the history of the church, of the inadequate ecclesiology of low-church evangelicals, etc. But the solutions you seem to be offering seem more superficial than anything else to me. You seem to be saying: “Let’s try and imitate all these traditional, liturgical things, without joining them. Let’s dress up like them, without joining them.” But how does that get us anywhere? How is that a better ecclesiology than low-church evangelicalism? How is that not simply everyone doing what they please? [letter continued below]

Dear Friend,
I’ve been asked this before, and I’m not sure I have ever sat down to write it out. I’d like you to know that I don’t write this as a piece of polemics, but neither do I want you to think that whether or not one is Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant doesn’t matter. It does. So, what I write comes out of respect for the good of the RCC and EO traditions, but I have to say that I’m not either nor can I be in good conscience.
First, I’ve never been tempted to become either Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. Never. Perhaps this surprises you and others, since it is true that I have plenty of appreciation of both communions — along with the Anglican and Lutheran churches. Sure, I grew up Protestant, and that has lots to do with what is instinctually natural for me, but I’d like to think that enough exposure to the other traditions has led me not to convert to either.
Second, the biggest reason is how I read the Bible. As will be a little more clear in my Blue Parakeet, I believe the Bible establishes a clear framework for a vital characteristic of forming all theology. The framework is what I call the “wiki” nature of gospel and theological expression. That is, God spoke to God’s people in Moses’ day in Moses’ way, in David’s day in David’s way, in Isaiah’s way in Isaiah’s day, in Jesus’ day in Jesus’ way, in Paul’s day in Paul’s way, and in John’s day in John’s way. There is, then, a clear pattern: the gospel and God’s revelation participates in “wiki” (or ongoingly renewed and renewable) versions. What this means is that there is an ongoing pattern of development and a recognition that the former days can get swallowed up in the present days.
This, you might be tempted to think, supports becoming part of a later church that takes its “wiki” responsibilities very seriously. Not so! I say back. Yes, this “wiki” understanding of the Bible reveals the need to speak the gospel in each culture in an ongoing way; yes, this means the assumption of responsibility was a good thing. But I think the RCC and EO render authority in the ecclesia instead of in Scripture and in Spirit to make Scripture clear. So far as the church partakes in that Spirit, it has an authoritative message; so far as it doesn’t, it loses its authority.
Now here’s my point: both the RCC and the EO have captured the Spirit in the Church so that Church too often has become Authority. One example, hardly foolproof, illustrates my point: RCCs and EOs talk about Church; Protestants talk about Scripture. It is their emphasis that I like — and I wish each talked more of Spirit.
Third, the reason I think this way is seen in how Tradition plays itself out in each Church: for each of these communions the Tradition becomes massively authoritative and, in my view, each of these communions has become un-reformable. They read the Bible through Tradition and I believe in reading the Bible with Tradition.
And reformability is central to the “wiki” understanding of how God speaks: God spoke in the Bible in ongoingly fresh ways; that reveals the importance of returning to the roots in order to gain fire for the present. Return for reformation is the very essence of my “wiki” understanding of the Bible and of how God speaks. I believe both the RCC and the EO, even with routine observations to the contrary by its adherents, are un-reformable. (I believe the infallibility of the Pope or the magisterium means those statements can never be wrong or changed; time proves that some of what we all know today to be interpretive truth can be wrong in a century. Look at the Church’s backpedaling today on Galileo.)
Fourth, I believe in the guidance of the Spirit in the Church, both in theological articulation (Nicea, for example) and in revival (the Reformation, for example). The minute, however, one begins to think that a given moment in the Church or its articulation was timeless truth rather than truthful timeliness one falls prey to elevating Tradition too high.
I value, and value with profound respect, the great traditions of the Church, including Nicea and Chalcedon and Wittenberg and other moments as well. I check interpretation against these; but that does not mean I don’t think fresh light emerges or that something could be improved or modified.
Fifth, what this means — if you are still with me — is that I believe in ongoing discernment of what the Spirit is saying to the Church, and I believe this discernment is a function of church leaders and churches in communion with one another. Discernment for the day is different than infallible teaching for all time. Therein lies a major difference.
Sixth, now I want to bring something up that is perhaps even more important than my reflections on the “wiki” nature of God’s revelation and God’s ongoing speaking through the Spirit in the Church: new birth. I’ve been around enough Cat’licks (as Flannery O’Connor, herself a Catholic, called her fellow faithful) and Orthodox to believe that neither communion, regardless of what it says in theology or in catechesis, preaches the new birth clearly enough nor does either institutionalize the need for personal decision enough. Hence, we have articulate spokespersons in each communion who say things like this: “We have sacramentalized our congregations; but we have not evangelized them.” “We have baptized and catechized but not evangelized.”
I believe deeply in the need for personal rebirth, for the new birth, and I don’t think either communion emphasizes this enough. The sparks of change I do see aren’t creating blazes of revival. When they do you’ll see me jumping for joy.
Once a month I get a letter from someone who asks me to talk them out of converting to Rome or to Constantinople (et al), and one thing I say to each of them is this: In three generations it is quite likely that your great grandchildren will be “in” the Church but will not experience the new birth. Not as a matter of rule or principle but as a matter of course. All because of the lack of focus on new birth.
Seventh: I’m unapologetically an evangelical Protestant because I think this is a more faithful shaping of the doctrines of the Bible. I do not thereby think that evangelicals have gotten it perfectly right. Nope, I think evangelicalism today has completely lost touch with the history of the Church, with the great traditions. Some are gaining deep appreciation for the Reformation and, unfortunately, are going the way of the Tradition: they are, ironically, converting the Reformation unto an un-reformable Tradition.
Are there other reasons? Of course … like assurance of salvation, the worrisome compulsion to attend mass, women in ministry, like the significance of lay giftedness, less (not more) authority in the local pastor and more authority in the Spirit, justification by faith, hierarchical power structures that create endless red tape, too much Mary, and I could go on.
So, brother, I long for the day when evangelical Christians are united through the authority of the Spirit as that Spirit has guided the revelation of Scripture and shaped the Church in history. I am simply an explorer of ways that might help each of us find that connection more deeply.
One more point: I’ve laid emphasis in this note on the problems I have with RCC and EO; I could write of things I like about both — St Francis and Icons — but that is not why you wrote. I have written plenty of how I’d like to see the evangelical church improve, so it is not that I think we’re perfect. But I like evangelicalism. It’s my home and I have no reason to leave.
Blessings,
Scot
[Letter continues] I have tried to incorporate traditional practices in my life. And I find myself simply playing with things that I don’t understand, and which largely make no sense because they have been ripped from their ecclesial context. “Praying with the church”, which I now practice largely thanks to you, means very little when you are part of a congregation where most of the people have never even heard of it and would just regard it as a personal preference if they did. Fasting regularly means very little when you are simply doing it by yourself, with no community practice. It becomes simply another individual choice among many. I in essence become my own church, a church of one. Completely alone and cut off.
I want to be a part of the Church which does not need to recover that which was thrown away because it never threw it away in the first place. I have become convinced that there is a church which has continued with unbroken continuity, preserving the faith that was handed down, since the days of the apostles, and that that church is the Orthodox Church.
I have not yet made any concrete moves towards converting, other than speaking with some people (including pastors) about it. Making such a switch is not so easy. But I have already made up my mind. I don’t think we can have anything like a healthy ecclesiology so long as we continue to pretend that endless division and optional submission to the body of christ is all fine and dandy. In a nutshell, I no longer believe in the validity of Protestantism.
So again, my question: why are you still Evangelical? How and why do you still hold on to it?



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Kyle

posted October 1, 2008 at 1:02 am


Scot,
This is a very important post, and answers a question that many of us have had for a very long time. Thanks so much for being so clear.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted October 1, 2008 at 1:09 am


Good, helpful answers, Scot. I miss your book, “The Blue Parakeet”, my advance reader copy loaned to someone. That is powerful in communicating what it does. I especially like your thought here and there that we must read with tradition, and not through it. And really all you say here.
I do wonder how we can incorporate this and that from the Great Tradition, apart from the theological traditions which is their basis. But then I realize we must go back to Scripture and the Spirit speaking afresh to us in our day and in our ways in timely fashion, the truth of God in Jesus, and find value in some of the old things in something other than a good relic of God’s past working.



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D C Cramer

posted October 1, 2008 at 1:09 am


Scot,
Great post. Just yesterday I had a healthy chat with a RC friend and recommended your book, Finding Faith, Losing Faith, to help us both understand how we got to where we are today.



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Daniel S

posted October 1, 2008 at 1:16 am


Thanks for your response Scot. I appreciate it. You answered alot of questions, but you didn’t touch on the Real Presence in the Eucharist which is the RCC / EO tradition which (I think) grips more hearts and minds than any other.
Daniel.



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Björn

posted October 1, 2008 at 2:13 am


Dear Scot,
thank you for this post. Very inspiring thoughts!!
quote:about new birth ” ???We have sacramentalized our congregations; but we have not evangelized them.??? ???We have baptized and catechized but not evangelized.???
I don’t get it right. To baptize and catechize people is Mt 28,19 or the story in acts 8,26-40.
May be it is not enough(?), but what is real evangelization? Can we do more? more prayer? more openess for the Holy Spirit? new birth is birth from above – extra nos – isn’t it? The Pentecostalism has low doctrine, I think, but do you think that they do it better? For Example Todd Bentley and ???The Lakeland Revival???? Is this kind of openess for the Spirit without or with low scripture focus a better way to evangelize? This is strange to me.
So I’d like to know more about your thoughts about new birth and how the church can promote it in a better way.
Is there any article from you about this?
greetings
Björn



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Wieland Willker

posted October 1, 2008 at 2:28 am


“God spoke in the Bible in ongoingly fresh ways.”
Ok, right.
But would it not be time to get another new, fresh way? Today? I mean, after 2000 years?
What about a “The Newest Testament” or so?



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RJS

posted October 1, 2008 at 4:08 am


Daniel S,
Real presence is one of the ways I think that the RCC,EO have strayed. This is a bit strange – but the “magical” element, and this includes view of baptism and confession and relics and such, seems to have more in common with uncanonical gospels (protoevangelium of James, the infancy gospels, etc.) than with the Jesus of the New Testament and the Apostles.
Scot’s image of wiki stories is good – and the idea of Jesus calling us to relationship with the guidance of the Spirit to participate in the coming and coming of the Kingdom of God. This is foundational.
Now – God has worked mightily through his entire church, including RC and EO, and many find relationship with God in these communions. But the church structure is manmade and God used – not God ordained and established.
The idea of Apostolic succession is also a red herring. We all follow in the footsteps of the Apostles when we follow the Bible and read the Bible with tradition. But God has never instituted a foolproof human succession and we only need look at the great sins of institutional churches to see repeated the human failings that drive the major themes of the Old Testament and feed the consternation of Jesus with the religious establishment of his day.



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Anonymous

posted October 1, 2008 at 6:07 am


Dr. Platypus » Blog Archive » Why Scot McKnight Is Neither Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox

[...] Do read Dr. McKnight’s response to a reader’s question. I concur with a good bit of it, would have said other parts differently, and probably would have left some bits unsaid. Still, it is an important post for those of us whose feet are firmly planted on the far side of the Tiber (or the Bosporus), yet often look longingly across the waters. D. P. posted this entry on Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 at 8:07 am. Posted in the category Uncategorized You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. [...]



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Scott Eaton

posted October 1, 2008 at 7:07 am


Scot,
Thanks for this. I particularly like your emphasis upon Scripture, Spirit, and new birth.
But your “wiki” understanding of revelation almost makes it sound like there is a possiblity for revelation beyond the Scripture. Or at least we can throw out older understandings that no longer serve the culture of our day for newer understandings. This sounds a bit like accomodation. Am I misunderstanding?



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Scot McKnight

posted October 1, 2008 at 7:11 am


Scott,
Good one. No, I don’t think there is “revelation” beyond Scripture. What I think there is is Spirit-guidance and Spirit-led discernment of how to live today. We return to the Text so we can learn how to live Today.



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Jeff

posted October 1, 2008 at 7:20 am


Another hurdle to becoming Orthodox is the ethnic/cultural character of the church. Can you _authentically_ be Orthodox if you’re not of Russian or Greek ancestry? It’s a big issue for the global Orthodox family, especially in light of global migration and the expansion of Orthodoxy here in the USA.
For some interesting insight into the hot topic of the ethnic identity among Orthodox see:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/crunchycon/2008/09/fr-pecks-orthodox-essay-is-gon.html



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Anonymous

posted October 1, 2008 at 7:20 am


Pseudo-Polymath » Blog Archive » Wednesday Highlights

[...] An Evangelical and the RCC and EO, in which I am confused by the last paragraph. [...]



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Frank Emanuel

posted October 1, 2008 at 7:36 am


Great post Scot! I have been studying at a pontifical university for about 9 years now. My own pastoral ministry has been greatly enhanced by my interactions with Roman, Orthodox and Anglican practitioners. And I’ve had this same question posed to me a few times as well. I like to think I have too much respect for those traditions to entertain converting, but the reality is, like you, I have not even found it tempting. My family is the evangelical world – despite the way that man of us drive me nuts. I fell in love with the Vineyard years ago, and have been blessed with a denominational structure that actually supports me as I do some highly experimental projects – such as developing an Eucharistic sensibility in the community I pastor.



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Julie Clawson

posted October 1, 2008 at 7:49 am


Scot – you don’t think general revelation exists? or is it just that it all gets tested against scripture?
It is interesting that for all the talk about the RC and EO church being timeless and beyond accomodating to culture, every single person I’ve personally known who has converted has done so for a cultural reason. Basically they all wanted a church where men and men’s voices only were allowed and they were quite vocal about that. It’s just as personally motivated decision as choosing contemporary or traditional music styles in Protestant churches.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 1, 2008 at 8:06 am


Julie,
Yes, I think “general revelation” exists and I’m not quite sure why you ask that. I do think general revelation gets tested against the Scripture’s revelation of Jesus Christ.
On why folks convert to Catholicism … you may know that in my Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy I map the reasons why converts from evangelicalism say why they become Catholics. I don’t recall this issue of women in ministry being a significant factor in the stories I have read. Perhaps that is a part of the desire for an anchor in history and tradition and unity and certainty. My own study would suggest that converts to Catholicism see the women in ministry as a symptom of those who lack connection with traditions of the Church and a symptom of everyone reading the Bible for himself/herself and a symptom of what ails the Protestants the most: widespread divisiveness.



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Brett

posted October 1, 2008 at 8:30 am


Great post.



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dopderbeck

posted October 1, 2008 at 8:40 am


Scot, you said: “in my view, each of these communions has become un-reformable.”
I respond: um…. Vatican II?? The many strands of change, particularly on the doctrine of justification, discussed in Mark Noll’s excellent “Is the Reformation Over”?? Just compare Pope John Paul II to, say, the Medieval Papacy… the change is tectonic in theology, praxis, and attitude. Or compare contemporary Catholic social teaching, formed and shaped by Vatican II, John Paul II, and a legion of extremely capable modern Catholic scholars, with the RC Church’s 19th Century obscuritanism. Huge, huge change. And you mention Galileo — well, compare the very sensible and nuanced contemporary RC approach to the natural sciences with the bombastic stupidity of most of popular evangelicalism. Who is reforming and who is stuck in the mud??
I hear you loud and clear on the importance of personal faith and passing on the legacy of that faith to family. I think this is one of the biggest reasons I can’t seriously think of converting to RC.
BUT … there is the possibility of a much more organic passing on of the faith within the RC tradition than there is in pietistic evangelicalism. We expect and even demand that our kids have some kind of dramatic experience of faith. We send them on retreats and pump them up with enthusiasm and fear so that they will respond to the altar call. I know, I lived this, I must have responded to hundreds of altar calls when I was young, and this kind of “crisis-creating” atmosphere messed me up in lots of ways. Maybe there’s something to an ecclesiastical structure that allows faith to be an “ordinary” part of life for those brought up in the family.



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Mark Broadbent

posted October 1, 2008 at 8:46 am


Hi Scot (notice I spelt your name correctly. This is my first ever comment and I didn’t want to get it wrong :)
Thank you so much for this post. I have a few questions…
1. If Roman Catholics don’t believe in justification by faith alone (which you mention), then surely they believe a false gospel. Shouldn’t this false gospel be enough to not become a Roman Catholic?
2. If they teach a false gospel, are we not called to respond as Paul did in Galatians 1?
3. (This is perhaps a little off topic) I heard Tony Jones speak today (in Brisbane, Australia), and he said that he believes that both the methods and message must change. Do you know if believes a false gospel? Or a true gospel. I have read where Ed Stetzer classifies him and Doug Paggit as ‘Revisionists’.
I know you probably don’t reply very often, but I would be very grateful for any insight on this stuff.
Thank you so much for your blog.



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dopderbeck

posted October 1, 2008 at 8:54 am


Sorry one other thing to push back on. You mention “assurance of salvation.” Who in evangelicalism really has assurance of salvation? For true Calvinists, there is no real final assurance of knowing who is elect, just some inward and outward signs that hopefully will turn out to be right. For true Arminians, there is the possibility of losing salvation through apostacy. For middle of the road evangelicals, there is a four-spiritual-laws soteriology that is grossly incosistent in how it is articulated — either you “trust Jesus as savior and rely only on God’s grace” or you “surrender to Jesus as Lord,” which are often presented as mutually exclusive options, and either case seems to require a perfection of one’s inward attitude that can never really be confirmed (hence many young people respond to altar calls over and over again).
At least RC’s can do something outward and tangible — take the Mass. If I really believed the Mass were a means of grace, I would find this more reassuring than constantly having to gut-check whether I really have “saving faith” as opposed to regular old faith.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 1, 2008 at 8:56 am


Mark,
Thanks for that one “t” spelling.
RCs believe in justification by faith; the Reformation argued that RCism didn’t understand it aright. Yes, there’s been much water under the bridge on this one, and recently Mark Noll’s book points out that on this issue there has been some major resolution work done.
I don’t say they teach a false gospel. I can’t respond to what someone says Tony said.



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John Frye

posted October 1, 2008 at 8:59 am


Scot,
I think that the RCC and EO assume a socialization process for gaining and keeping adherents over against what you emphasize in evangelicalism, i.e., a regeneration/new birth process. And I say this with the caveat of doperbeck’s comment (#17), regeneration/new birth do not need to be called for in apocalyptic, crisis-creating language.



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dopderbeck

posted October 1, 2008 at 9:01 am


Mark said: If Roman Catholics don???t believe in justification by faith alone (which you mention), then surely they believe a false gospel.
I respond: but they do believe in justification by faith alone. Check out the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement on “The Gift of Salvation”: http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=3453, in particular this:

The New Testament makes it clear that the gift of justification is received through faith. ???By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God??? (Ephesians 2:8). By faith, which is also the gift of God, we repent of our sins and freely adhere to the Gospel, the good news of God???s saving work for us in Christ. By our response of faith to Christ, we enter into the blessings promised by the Gospel. Faith is not merely intellectual assent but an act of the whole person, involving the mind, the will, and the affections, issuing in a changed life. We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone (sola fide).



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Scott Lyons

posted October 1, 2008 at 9:21 am


Dear Scot,
Thank you for writing this piece.
As a revert to Catholicism, I’ve learned much about my faith inside and outside of the Catholic Church, as well as about my faith as a Catholic and as an Evangelical. I agree with you to an extent about the lack of emphasis on “new birth” within Catholicism. There is a breakdown of catechesis in many pockets of the Church. Nevertheless, some of this is mistaken as a lack of emphasis because of what one is taught new birth looks like. Some from bad experiences with Cat’licks. Some of it is a misunderstanding of where the heart of catechesis lies. And while we don’t have revivals and tears and altar calls, we do receive Jesus at the altar and cry and are revived. Many of us.
I respect that this medium doesn’t allow for the conversation I wish we could have, so I’ll try to be brief. I also realize that you offer your post as an answer to a question rather than as a polemic. That being considered, I would like to provide some push back on one item. I cringe hearing your statement to the person looking for “a way out” of converting to RCC or EO – that his or her great grandchildren will be “in the Church” but will, quite likely, not have experienced new birth. I heard this even as I converted, from three people I greatly respect (you are the fourth), and it never ceases to be painful. But emotions aside, Scot, I’ve spent time with this question; I brought four children into the Catholic Church when I converted, and two more since. Here are several problems I have with your statement:
1. Faith is passed on from parent to child, not church community to child (though many do find new birth in our local communities – our communities are important). My old EFCA, Baptist, Grace Brethren, or non-denominational communities would not do more to direct my children or grandchildren to Christ than my current parish if my children do not also see my faith working itself out through love. This is as true for me as it is for you. The heart and effectiveness of catechesis lies in the mouths, hands and feet of parents.
2. Where your reasoning is verifiable, it is verifiable by examining the lives of those in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. And it fails because it cannot explain a St Francis, a Bl Mother Teresa, or a Pope Benedict except as exceptions, or by denigrating their friendship with Christ. These are people born into the Catholic Church – the great grandchildren of Catholics – and they are and were people of great faith and love who are not exceptions, but the quiet rule. (This is not to say that their lives are not extraordinary among Catholics – they are – only that their faith and love does not spring up in spite of or contrary to, but I would argue, beautifully because of their Catholic faith. They also, as a matter of point, each show reformability within the Church.) It cannot explain Sts Edith Stein, Therese of Lisieux (whose feast day is today), and countless others. In my very imperfect parish where there are, on occasion, bad homilies and unsmiling or rude people and more than likely our share of people who do not embrace Christ’s offer of new birth, there are also quiet and simple saints whose lives shine with Christ’s Life.
3. Your statement is unverifiable as neither of us will be here to see the fruition or failure of our great grandchildren’s faith. So it becomes, unfortunately, only a seed of doubt and fear for those men and women who do eventually convert.
Our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren need our prayers. Need our lives lived in faith, hope and love. They do not need to be afraid. And neither do their fathers.
Peace and good, Scot.



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Rick

posted October 1, 2008 at 9:41 am


Dopderbeck #17-
“with the bombastic stupidity of most of popular evangelicalism. Who is reforming and who is stuck in the mud??”
Don’t beat around the bush- tell us what you really think :)
Joking aside, the diversity of evangelicalism allows for differing opinions on various issues (including natural sciences). You noted that it was “most of popular”, rather than all, or even most, of evangelicalism.
Such differences allow for some “iron sharpening iron” discussions, which may lead to reforming (depending on the issues).
Are such reforms slow at times? Certainly. Are the reforms isolated at times? Yes.
But because of the make-up and diversity of evangelicalism, reforming is possible (and even encouraged!) none-the-less.



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ChrisB

posted October 1, 2008 at 9:48 am


I thought that was a great answer, Scot.
There is good to be found in every tradition, but the theological differences between Protestants and the others are profound.



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Brandon

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:06 am


Scot,
Helpful post. It seems that in addition to “progressive revelation” (in Scripture), through the Spirit, there is “progressive illumination” (across history), through the Spirit. Thus the need for continunal (but careful) reformation.
Would this idea mesh with “wiki”?



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ChrisB

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:09 am


Dopderbeck,
ECT is not an official RC document. The Council of Trent was.



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josenmiami

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:24 am


excellent post and discussion! this clarified a few issues for me, and I sent your essay on to some of my friends who have become increasingly enamored of EO. I epecially like the image of the wiki renewal of the church. it seems to me that in addition to ongoing ‘general revelation’ there must also be room for fresh ‘personal’ revelation as long as it does not contradict the ‘special’ revelation scripture and of course does not claim to be as authoritive.
RJS, as always (at least so far), I agree with you. You said:
“Now – God has worked mightily through his entire church, including RC and EO, and many find relationship with God in these communions. But the church structure is manmade and God used – not God ordained and established.”
I have had endless hours of discussion with pastor friend about church structure. You put it very simply in one sentence what I have tried to say.



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Bob Brague

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:25 am


Thank you for this post.
I appreciate what you mean by the “wiki” nature of gospel and theological interpretation (not to be at all confused with Wiccan), but what about Psalm 119:89, “Thy word, O Lord, is forever settled in heaven”? I suppose we could argue about the terms “word” and “settled” and “heaven” but that would lead us nowhere. I am not advocating Bibliolatry nor do I have a “paper Pope” and I understand the when Jesus said to search the scriptures He pointed out that they testified of Him who is the Living Word. I just don’t want to throw out the baby (or Baby) with the bathwater.
I especially appreciate your statement that evangelicalism is your home and you have no reason to leave. I have gotten very frustrated at times over the minutiae of local church life, but the thought that always comes to me, even though it may be a cliche, is “Bloom where you’re planted.” If my roots are in the soil of Jesus, I am supposed to be able to weather the storms. Perhaps a better metaphor is if my foundation is on the solid rock.
And lastly, I appreciate the fairness and civility you have fostered in discussions among the Jesus Creed community. Even when we disagree on details, we still bear the family resemblance and recognize one another as brothers and sisters.
I have come a long way from being a dispy fundy. Who says the Spirit is not active in the world today?



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Anonymous

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:26 am


Parchment and Pen » Scot McKnight on why he is not Catholic or Orthodox

[...] Scot Mcknight has written an important summary on why he is not Catholic or Orthodox. [...]



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dan Wilt

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:50 am


Scot,
This is very helpful, though I will suggest that for those of us who are 1. spiritual leaders in evangelicalism who have come from liturgical backgrounds, and 2. those of us who find great affinity with historical connection, symbolic action, and aesthetic enlivening of faith development, the evangelical streams may tire us out before we make the wrong decision.
Actually, I do not plan on becoming either RC or EO, but I continue to long for a missional faith that moves us both backward (deep into Genesis, even) and forward into the days ahead.
In most of my experience, the average evangelical leader’s desire to dig into the past is considered novel, but not pivotal, to our understandings of where we are today or where we are going.
Again, thank you, but the ache remains.



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Anonymous

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:52 am


Jesus Creed » Why I am not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox  ::  DanWilt.com

[...] Jesus Creed » Why I am not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox [...]



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Dan

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:56 am


Catholics have, at least on the surface, softened a bit on Justification by Faith and on the authority of scripture. That is good. “Dei Verbum” sounds almost evangelical at times. From my perspective, however, there is still much that stands in the way. I read stuff from Catholic converts like Scott Hahn and EO stuff from guys like Kallistos Ware and was tempted ever so briefly. Wound up for a time in Anglican realms. Here was the rub.
Many seem to say the accept the authority of scripture in theory, but in practice “Tradition” trumps the text. As Scot said, they (including many Anglo-Catholics) read scripture “through” tradition in ways that make the text almost secondary, and seem to accept dogmatically many things which seem to have no visible support in the “god-breathed” text. That is a problem to me.
Second, there is much stated about justification by faith, but depending on how far one takes the “real presence” doctrine and sacramentalism, things get sticky in practice. To the extent that Eucharist is an offering of Christ to the Father “for the remission of sins”, ex opere operato, then salvation is not by “faith in the message” but by a sacramental action of the church. I cannot read Hebrews in good conscience and reconcile it with the Mass as a sacrifice – Hebrews and Galatians are too emphatic about the finished work of Christ and salvation through faith in the message.
For those reasons I’m back in the ranks of Bible focused evangelicals, and it is very much a relief.



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dopderbeck

posted October 1, 2008 at 11:43 am


RC #27 — I’m aware of that. But the ECT document is entirely consistent with recent official RC statements, such as the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church,” which says the following:

In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.

Text here: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html
Dan said: “Many [Catholics] seem to say the accept the authority of scripture in theory, but in practice ???Tradition??? trumps the text.”
I respond: I’d suggest that many evangelicals claim to accept the authority of scripture alone but in fact are using that as a way of claiming autority for their own interpretation of scripture — including their view of the authority of scripture, which can’t be derived from scripture itself without obviously circular reasoning. In short: there is no doctrine of the “authority” of scripture, nor even any notion of what “scripture” is, without the Tradition.



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Dan Brennan

posted October 1, 2008 at 12:08 pm


Great post, Scot.
For lack of a better label, evangelical still describes me. I think an evangelical can drink deep though, from the saints from both traditions in the past as well as respect and learn from their communions today. My research into spiritual friendships during the patristic and Middle Ages has enriched my understanding of RCC and EO. And even though RCC has male leadership, it is not uncommon especially in the monastic communities of the past, to find spiritual friendships between male leaders and women–where mutuality in the friendships influenced the male leaders in their vision of community, etc.



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Taylor

posted October 1, 2008 at 12:16 pm


I agree with dopderbeck. A high view of scripture is fantastic, but what good is it with out an interpretation?



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Bill

posted October 1, 2008 at 12:20 pm


Sadly, I think you have also described my own PC(USA) and perhaps others coming from the Magisterial Reformation:
“In three generations it is quite likely that your great grandchildren will be ‘in’ the Church but will not experience the new birth.”



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Anonymous

posted October 1, 2008 at 1:08 pm


The Boar’s Head Tavern

[...] Scot McKnight gives his reasons for NOT being RC or EO. I’m a bit confused by his “wiki” framework of the Gospel but I do like what he says about the New Birth. It rings true to my experience. If we sometimes find Wretched Urgency in evangelicalism/fundamentalism I would argue that there is too often a sort of Wretched NON Urgency in Catholicism. [...]



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iMonk

posted October 1, 2008 at 1:14 pm


Scot,
My brother, I really weep with a sense of fellowship these days, but your post has moistened my eyes and made my heart glad.
Thank you, Scot. Thank you.



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Ruben

posted October 1, 2008 at 1:38 pm


“That is, God spoke to God???s people in Moses??? day in Moses??? way, in David???s day in David???s way, in Isaiah???s way in Isaiah???s day, in Jesus??? day in Jesus??? way, in Paul???s day in Paul???s way, and in John???s day in John???s way.”
In my reading of Scripture, I tend to think that God’s final Word was Christ (based on Hebrews 1 and John 1). I do agree that he spoke in various ways through various people but I think this all was brought into fulfillment and perfect focus in Jesus. Putting Jesus in a list like that sort of seems to me like making Him just one of the long line of prophets and revelators when in fact He was the actual revelation. I know you had mentioned this before in one of your posts about the Gospel before (that the Gospel is all about Jesus) so I do believe that this was not your intention.



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tscott

posted October 1, 2008 at 1:40 pm


Dear friend,
Your letter to Scot McKnight reminds me so
much of the expressive communalism described by
sociologists Flory and Miller.
Too hard for me to describe, but they call
this and you a new religious type. May I say that
if you can hang in there with this Jesus Creed
community you will find more than superficial solutions.
And this isn’t intended as an answer, because
one of our common characteristics is “community through
more intensive face to face interaction.”
Definition of cultural reappropriators: “The primary characteristic of this group are an attraction to the visual and ritualistic elements of liturgical churches, a desire for a connection to a larger history of Christianity
than what they have previously known, a desire for a
a small religious community, a commitment to a spiritual regimen, and a desire for…a set social structure.”



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Brad Nassif

posted October 1, 2008 at 2:51 pm


Since Scot is my good friend and colleague, I thought a brief word reply by an Eastern Orthodox person might be helpful. There’s several things to reply to but I’ll limit my remarks to the “unformable” nature of the Church.
It’s true that Orthodoxy is resistent to reform insofar as reform means changing the faith. Just because the Church is resistant to change on a spiritual level (in distinction from a theological level) doesn’t make the church any less than what it is, i.e the church. Scot, if you were living in the days of Israel’s prophets, would you leave Israel and start your own “wiki” gospel? The prophets didn’t see the need for that. Rather, they stayed and faithfully proclaimed God’s will regardless of whether or not Israel responded favorably. So we, too, should remain in the church (i.e. the historic ‘c’atholic church) and speak God’s word faithfully, regardless of the outcome.
Brad



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Julie Clawson

posted October 1, 2008 at 3:28 pm


Scot – thanks for the reply. I asked about general revelation after reading your response to Scott in comment #10 where you said “No, I don???t think there is ???revelation??? beyond Scripture.” I should have clarified… in my very scattered mommy brain mode these days I just assume that everyone knows what I’m thinking :) Doesn’t help conversations much.



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Jim Martin

posted October 1, 2008 at 3:47 pm


A very, very good post. In particular, I appreciate your comments regarding the place of Scripture, tradition, etc.



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Scott Morizot

posted October 1, 2008 at 4:00 pm


I spent some time writing a longer comment, but as is often the case with me, my personal thoughts and experience were too deeply intertwined so I abandoned that comment and intended to say nothing. However, your sixth reason was one of the things about which I was going to comment. Evangelicalism in general does a lousy job of keeping its catechized children in the faith at all. That’s well and thoroughly documented. So I find your emphasis there odd. At least the Orthodox and Roman Catholic children are more likely to still be in the Church as adults, whatever the character of their belief might be. And speaking as someone who has wandered many paths, you are more likely to encounter Christ if you are present with the church than not. You just are.
So I just read the following article. It’s what prompted me to leave this short comment. I believe his point is a very good one. It’s easy to make new members or ‘converts’ in America, whatever sort of thing you might be. (I even understand much of why that’s true, but that delves back into the personal arena.) It’s much harder to make disciples.
Catechesis and Evangelism are not Enough
And I’m not even vaguely convinced after fifteen years that evangelicalism is somehow doing a better job than Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy. I’m unlikely to ever convert to either and I don’t really feel like I fit anywhere, but I didn’t find anything personally compelling to me in your points. That’s OK. They are your reasons, not mine and I understand that they are sufficient and reasonable for you. But I think you have to have been more deeply shaped by the Protestant or Evangelical experience than I have been or am, again, ever likely to be before you will find those points compelling or moored in reality rather than opinion.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 1, 2008 at 4:06 pm


Brad,
Good enough, but I can’t provide an apologetic of why the Reformation was necessary or justify it here; my post was simpler: Why, with my appreciation for and respect of RCC and EO, I’m not RC or EO.
Scott,
I’ll read that piece… but the Cubs are about to come on TV. What I wish we had was something that genuinely measured genuine Christian faith and then we could really compare.



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pam w

posted October 1, 2008 at 4:25 pm


I have not been able to read all of the comments, but relly appreciate the perspectives I did read.
Bill #37 – I confirm that with my own family. My Grandfather was born in 1880, and was a 3rd generation Methodist Pastor. When I read through his sermon notes from 1910-65, he was what most evangelicals today would say ‘fits in their camp’ (not the fundamentalists who claim to be evangelical). AND he carried a strong liturgical/traditional leaning. Yet both the ‘liberal’ mainline denominations, and the conservative evangelical churches have become anemic. Life giving blood is not flowing to/from all parts of the system (I know that is not what anemic actually means, but didn’t know the right word for the metaphor). That is why I love the emerging conversation to hold the fullness of the ‘Body’. We have so much to learn from each other – that we think we know.
Scot – Thank you for this articulation. I resonate with much of it. My entry into the emrging conversation was through Renovare. The richness of conversation between Catholics and Protestants has increased significantly over the last 10 years.



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Scott Morizot

posted October 1, 2008 at 4:33 pm


Oh, and Dr. Nassif, seeing your comment reminded me that I really should say thank you for your podcast series on Ancient Faith and I’m sorry you had to suspend it. I’ve listened to a number of them, especially in the Desert Spirituality series, many times. Thanks for taking the time to write and record them.
Scot, I’m not sure there’s really any way to measure that. And my observation is that Evangelical churches seem to have as many catechized nominal Christian children as any other I’ve experienced. Nevertheless, although it wasn’t really the point of the article (and the point itself was a good one), Roman Catholics and Orthodox keep more of their children in the church as adults. Nominal or otherwise, at least they are present. I’m just saying there’s a world of difference between being present and not.
Hmmm. I would also disagree with your characterization in a past post of Roman Catholicism as aristotlean and Orthodoxy as platonic. I know that’s widely repeated conventional wisdom, but (and I can’t explain why without tying back in all the personal bits) I think ‘conventional wisdom’ is simply wrong in this instance as it often ends up being. Roman Catholicism has a layer of Aristotlean thought over it, but when you dig down to the sort of God Anselm describes and the manner in which that is worked out, it looks a lot more like Plato. Protestantism (excluding Anglicanism, which lays claim to being a fourth tradition anyway) looks to be more influenced by a purer form of Plato. Some of the things said within in it are almost interchangeable with things that Plato said. Orthodoxy doesn’t really look much like either, perhaps because they were deeply embedded in it and most of the early heretics sprang from the camps of Greek philosophy. There are times when I listen to or read someone Orthodox, that it feels almost Jewish in nature. Other times, something else. But the perspective is very different from any other culture or religion I’ve explored except Judaism.



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Scott Morizot

posted October 1, 2008 at 4:42 pm


Oh, and I’m an American heretic who doesn’t care about baseball at all. My father really tried, but was unable to pass the faith along to me. ;-)
But I’m willing to wish your Cubs luck. A century is a long drought.



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Anonymous

posted October 1, 2008 at 4:54 pm


internetmonk.com » Blog Archive » Riffs: Scot McKnight on “Why I Am Not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox”

[...] Read Scot Mcknight’s post, “Why I Am Not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.” A model of ecumenical integrity, but an impassioned evangelical. A great post. Honest and not without some controversy, but there is no one more about the task Robert Webber left us than Scot. [...]



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pam w

posted October 1, 2008 at 4:55 pm


Scott – Interestng comments. I wonder your age. My recent research on generations is coming up for me in this thread. Most of us in the Baby Boomer generation in the US are within a couple of generations of immigrants (I am second generation on one side). We have imbedded in our story a protest of authority and hierarchy in the church. Yet those who raised us ‘in protest’ were still imprinted with the authority of that church. We (at least me with both sides of my family going back to the reformation as ‘protestors’ of the Mother church, an American who has this Protestant ethic defining the social structures of my country, and a Californian who was taught to question all authority…) now have no imprinting of the value of Tradition. Though we are imprinted with the value of rebellion.
I have been studying the Catholic mystics and other parts of the RCC the past 10 years, and have been trained as a Spiritual Director through a Catholic Retreat Center. But I have never thought of converting. Just the thought of it gets a visceral reaction, so that makes me wonder…



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RJS

posted October 1, 2008 at 6:10 pm


Scot,
The baseball season went up in smoke yesterday. If I knew how to insert a frowning face I would …



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MatthewS

posted October 1, 2008 at 6:21 pm


RJS,
Not sure if you were thinking of an emoticon; just in case, :-(
Or left-handed )-:
:`-( has a tear, but perhaps that is too melodramatic :-P sticking his tongue out, but not necessarily obeying the Jesus Creed by doing so
Scot, thanks for the post. It is appreciated.



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RJS

posted October 1, 2008 at 6:30 pm


Perfect
The baseball season did go up in smoke yesterday :-(
I am not sure a tear would be too melodramatic :’-(
I’ve accidently gotten 8) before – but didn’t know the others.



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RJS

posted October 1, 2008 at 6:35 pm


Something is wrong with my tear — oh well.



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Michael Patton

posted October 1, 2008 at 8:34 pm


Wonderful post Scot. Thanks for taking the time to post it.



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Mike

posted October 1, 2008 at 8:54 pm


Scot, great post. Like you, I have never been tempted to convert to RC or EO. Too many fundamental differences, despite the aspects I appreciate and respect as part of my heritage as a member of the (small “c”) “catholic” church.
I’m enjoying reading and posting on The Blue Parakeet and do think you’re on to something with the “wiki” analogy. However, as in the second part of the letter above, I too wonder how we can speak realistically of “ongoing reformation” within evangelicalism in any meaningful way, when we are talking about a movement as diverse and with so many autonomous communities that don’t talk to each other or maybe even aren’t aware of one another.



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Peggy

posted October 1, 2008 at 9:49 pm


RJS…I wonder if the “-” is what’s doing it? :’(



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Peggy

posted October 1, 2008 at 9:54 pm


…guess not! :(
Scot,
Let me echo iMonk and the others and tell you how grateful I am for your reasoned voice here in County Blogdom!
Just today I sent someone to your archives for help with hyper-Calvinists.



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Tom

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:07 pm


Scot, Thank-you for this clear articulation of your perspective. I find myself largely agreeing with your post and look forward to reading “The Blue Parakeet.”
With regard to the “wiki” analogy, I connect my spiritual heritage through a stream of renewals. This perspective emerged from an application of Richard Lovelace’s “Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal” to the larger Biblical story, including “Church History” which spills into the present and steps into the unfolding future as we await the new heavens and the new earth.
The decision to embrace (and be embraced by) the Father, the Son, the Spirit, the Word, and the people of God is a step of faith which enters “mystery” and demands daily/weekly accountability.
My involvement with campus ministry has raised significant concerns regarding the “passing on of the faith” to future generations. I have begun to see young adulthood (including college for many in our culture) as a “Rumspringa,” which lays a significant challenge before those who desire youth to return to the “faith of their upbringing.”
Christian Smith’s “Soul Searching” argues moralistic therapeutic deism, i.e., the combination of the Divine Butler and the Cosmic Therapist, is what one largely finds among today’s youth with youth ministry structures and families providing little alternative in conversation, daily life/vocation, and instruction.
May God grant Evangelicals the grace to enter a time of renewal which includes making faith a more active and important part of their lives via parental involvement/modeling, religious education (including how to articulate one’s faith in our local congregation and beyond), clarity in moral decision making, regular involvement in religious practices, and countercultural decision-making structure (which I would elaborate, must be born out of a worldview based on the Biblical narrative/Kingdom of God).



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Tom

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:19 pm


Scot, Hoping the loss by the Cubs doesn’t slow down your posts/comments. I must confess that I don’t have a lot of confidence in them, but my team(s) from the Big Apple didn’t even make the playoffs. Shalom, Tom



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Scott Morizot

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:34 pm


Pam (#51), I debated for several hours whether or not and how to respond. Some here, of course, already know the answer. I rarely seem to fit into the categories people have in mind. I’m a father and a grandfather, but I’m at the leading edge of the generation which followed the boomers (as my parents were on the leading edge of the boomers). And that’s true not just in time and order, but in experience. I’m not particularly fond of the label, but I am one who was shaped from an early age by what are often called postmodern cultural experiences. I recently heard Phyllis Tickle describe the postmodern condition as a pastiche of influences. And it struck me that that short phrase packed a weightier and deeper description than many I’ve heard using more words.
I’m not sure if that helps or further confuses you, but thought I would offer it.



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Mark Broadbent

posted October 1, 2008 at 11:23 pm


Hi Scot,
Thanks for your answers.
I am a pastor of a church that very much follows Willow and Northpoint (so we are not fundamentalists), but I am concerned that in our effort for unity, we aren’t careful enough to make sure that the true gospel is being upheld.
Barna has discovered that there are already way too many people in church who think that their good works will get them into heaven.
So Scot, I guess I am wondering, what false gospel’s are being taught today? And if there are any, are we to respond like Paul does to the Judaizers in his letter to the Galatians?



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Mark S

posted October 1, 2008 at 11:24 pm


Cool post!
RJS,
In charity I can understand your comment about the Eucharist (and other sacraments) having “magical” elements or qualities . I would insert the word transformative or sanctifying– which is mysterious and not magical. Certainly Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse was hard. That is why so many left him that day. ( probably too because he wasnt going to feed that group any more food!)… and one reason why many Catholics continue to walk away… because “this saying is hard.” BUT certainly why many Protestants (“the best and brightest”)–the Scott Hahn’s of the world– become Catholics as somebody pointed out, and having read numerous conversion stories.
I remember a holy, old lady who for the first time led our tenative (scared) RCIA group in prayer before the Bessed Sacrament one night. Beforehand she let us know that it was proper to stay in the presence of our Lord for at least one hour. Something his disciples could not stay awake to do. But we all one by one (including myself) got up to leave within a half an hour, leaving the old lady in the pew by herself, head down praying. And so it goes….
This magical element is truly an authentic, mysterious one that hides itself from the learned and instead nourishes the child.



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pam w

posted October 1, 2008 at 11:45 pm


Scott – Interesting. Thanks for responding. I’d forgotten I had started the comment wondering about age. Our frameworks are quite complex, and I like ‘pastiche of influences’.
Not confused. This thread just got me wondering how much our subconscious, inherited cultural frameworks influence our ecclesiology.
Pam



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Mike Mangold

posted October 2, 2008 at 12:03 am


Impressive response. Well thought-out and balanced. I’m going to copy and save it if ok with Dr. McKnight.
Hey, what happened at Wrigley tonight?



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Nick

posted October 2, 2008 at 12:17 am


Great post. It’s funny…I was baptized into a non-church-going Irish Catholic family. Taken by my mother to a UCC mainline church while I grew up (maybe once a year). Found my faith at an evangelical basketball camp without any aid or much subsequent support from my basically non-believing parents. Studied Bib Lit at a prominent evangelical college. Converted to the Orthodox Church at the age of 22 and almost became a priest. I’m now 27, haven’t prayed in years, and I’m basically an agnostic secular humanist (though I prefer “human being” b/c what the hell’s in a label at this point!).
I can say I believe only a few things in life with any great conviction (some of which, I don’t even know why..evolutionary development in some complicated way?). Don’t hurt others, love them. People are beautiful. And one strange thing also joins this list – that if Christianity is true, the Orthodox path is the ideal path to be on. DESPITE that (or maybe BECAUSE of that conviction of mine), I found your honest, genuine, clear post, Scot, to be extremely refreshing. Bless you on your path. Thanks to everyone else for great thought as well!



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Wolf Paul

posted October 2, 2008 at 1:13 am


This is a great post, and some very thoughtful comments, too.
One thing that concerns me about the “wiki framework” for revelation: it implies (to those of us in the computer field, at least) that ANYBODY can come up with updates, not just the original Author, and that there is nothing to ensure that the updates are in any way consistent with the original.
This is precisely the problem we see in one way in The Episcopal Church today, and in another way in the multitude of quasi-evangelical churches and groups each going off on a tangent of some sort — that’s just the way they have, each differently, updated the “wiki” of revelation.



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Anonymous

posted October 2, 2008 at 3:52 am


kontextlosigkeit « ein neues kellion

[...] 2, 2008 · Keine Kommentare In Anspielung an den Titel eines bekannten Grundbuches der Emerging Conversation, erklärt unsScot McKnight, warum er “not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox” sei. Ich hab seine Ausführungen nur überflogen, denn die Anfragen, die an ihn herangetragen werden, brachten mich schon zum Grübeln. [...]



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Anonymous

posted October 2, 2008 at 4:39 am


On Being Protestant « Dunelm Road

[...] 2 October 2008 On Being Protestant Posted by Ben under Theology   With my interest in things historical and in traditions otherthan my own, I have thought a little about being protestant.? The other day in a theological discussion I got asked why I’m not Eastern Orthodox since I give weight to church history in making theological decisions.? I articulated the main points, but I think this recent post by Scot McKnight–Why I am not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox–captures the main points, though I might articulate some things a little differently.   [...]



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Scott Morizot

posted October 2, 2008 at 6:03 am


RJS, I’ve been considering your comment in #7 since I read it. Since I’ve already commented a fair amount on this thread, I thought I would go ahead and write some of those thoughts down. The Eucharist, Holy Communion, Lord’s Supper, or whatever you might call it has been one of the central mysteries (mysterion) of the church from the earliest days. I think most people would agree with that statement. It’s something that has always been close to the heart of the faith and something that has generally been known about Christians, even when those outside grossly misunderstood the practice. As I have delved into Christianity, I didn’t really have any deeply internalized preconceived notion about how it should be understood. But I do and have always had a deep interest in ancient cultures and in spiritualities of all sorts. And I think you make an error of category when you classify things as ‘magical’. Yes, elements of Christianity have often been treated as bits of sympathetic magic (and that’s just as true in iconoclastic, modern evangelical communities as anywhere else), but that has never been the proper understanding or practice.
There is a problem of terms first of all. When people use the word ‘symbol’ today they typically have something very different in mind than in ancient cultures. Symbols, especially true symbols, were separate but shared in the essence of that which they symbolized. That’s generally true across ancient cultures, but is particularly true in the Greek from which we get the word. The word which is probably closer in ancient Greek thought and language to the way we use symbol today is probably the one from which we get ‘parabolic’. That was the idea of something that was separate, represented something, but was alongside and did not share the essence of that which it represented.
I say that to illustrate that both concepts and ideas were well-developed in ancient Greek thought. And though both are rare in Greek scripture, they are used in a couple of places. However, they are never used in conjunction with the eucharist, baptism, or any of the great mysteries of the faith. So at any time when you argue that one or the other should be applied, you are taking a major leap in interpretation.
I then spent quite a bit of time looking for the point where something like the interpretation of the eucharist as a representative memorial first was raised, since that is the interpretation given by the SBC context in which I’ve spent my time as a Christian. I’ve always had an interest in history, especially ancient history. And when I really want to find something, I often can. As far as I can tell, this particular idea was first introduced as anything vaguely orthodox in Christianity by Zwingli. I’m unable to find anything earlier. As such, this idea seems to be tightly coupled to Christianity in the modern era.
And that immediately creates something of a problem. The faith, of course, is 2,000 years old, not 500. So is it that Christians were too primitive to properly understand this central mystery of the faith for 3/4 of its history and only in the modern era an enlightened minority have progressed to the point where they can properly grasp its representative, memorial nature? You’ll pardon my postmodern suspicion when I say that sounds very much like a different, and often competing, story which has dominated the modern era.
It’s interesting that in the list you mention relics. That perception of the reality in which we live is actually one aspect of the ancient faith which has always stood in stark opposition to platonic (and other) dualism. God is not off somewhere else. There is not some sort of self-existing and separate spirit which is tied to the body. Rather, God is everywhere present and filling all things. We are human beings and there is no natural point of separation between our body and our spirit (a very Jewish perspective and in stark contrast to anything in pagan Greek thought). In Christ, we have in our bodies been temples of the living God through the Holy Spirit. And if the ground around the burning bush was holy ground transformed by the presence of God in the bush, how much more are our bodies transformed by and through the Holy Spirit? Further, we are these bodies, death has been defeated, and the resurrection of the dead will in some sense (though we don’t really know how) be continuous with these bodies. It seems to me that if you exclude the possibility of relics of past saints from your perspective of reality, you exclude the possibility that God can and does transform and make holy the matter he particularly inhabits. (I say ‘particularly’ because all things exist moment to moment in God and it is God who fills all things. Nevertheless, there is and has always been matter which has been particularly transformed, almost in anticipation of the eschaton, by a special awareness of the presence of God. I would put Celtic thin places in this category. The ground of the burning bush. And relics of saints. They are all instances of the same effect.)
Anyway, the matter is not a light one. And the common evangelical view is actually something of a minority view even within the broader Protestant tradition. And I don’t think most consider the ahistorical nature of that belief. It’s not a light matter. And I’ve been unable to find any support in history or Scripture for the idea that the Church fundamentally got this one wrong until Zwingli showed up to straighten everyone out.



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Troy

posted October 2, 2008 at 7:20 am


Thanks Scot and others for sharing your thoughts on this matter. This is a great conversation about converting .. he why nots anyway. But, I find that most people convert because there is a relational connection. There is a strong sense of community in RC and EO churches. For example, you can be visiting somewhere and show up for a service, and you feel part of the body. This aspect is harder to develop in most Protestant churches.



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E

posted October 2, 2008 at 8:28 am


I then spent quite a bit of time looking for the point where something like the interpretation of the eucharist as a representative memorial first was raised, since that is the interpretation given by the SBC context in which I???ve spent my time as a Christian. I???ve always had an interest in history, especially ancient history. And when I really want to find something, I often can. As far as I can tell, this particular idea was first introduced as anything vaguely orthodox in Christianity by Zwingli. I???m unable to find anything earlier. As such, this idea seems to be tightly coupled to Christianity in the modern era. – Comment #71 by Scott Morizot

But if you read the history of the development of the Liturgy, you will see that the earliest and most ancient ones do NOT refer to a change in the bread and the wine. Also, as Louis Bouyer and others demonstrate, the idea of “remembrance”/anamnesis as presently understood or explained by most Evangelical Protestants is different than what the term would have meant to Jesus and His hearers when He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” It was and is a memorial/remembrance, though not in the paltry “real absence” manner currently celebrated by most Evangelicals. But there was no change or besought change in the bread and the wine such that they should manifest a “real presence.” Alienated from its Jewish background and setting and separated from the meal, the Eucharist became misunderstood, and its meaning and practice distorted and changed.



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Obed

posted October 2, 2008 at 8:30 am


Scot,
While I certainly encourage you to keep to the course God has led you on (and am encouraged by it, in fact), I do have a question. You said that you see RCC and EO as unreformable. How does something like Vatican II play into that? The changes in the RCC by Vatican II were pretty revolutionary, not to mention incredibly positive. Granted, that was 40-some years ago, but as an evangelical who’s earliest (very positive) experiences with Christianity were in the RCC, I find that to be hopeful.



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vangelicmonk

posted October 2, 2008 at 9:41 am


Scot,
I think this is a great blog entry and I think you have reinforced and said in a slightly different way what many Post-Evangelical, Emerging, Historical Evangelicals are thinking today.
I recently wrote a paper for my Church History course in seminary and I touched on the main issues of the EO and RCC schism and the eventual Reformation had to do with both ecclesiology and authority. I think what you call the “wiki” is what I would conclude to be authority. I do not think the split had to do with soteriology, but that was an aspect of the disagreement. I think those two items are still in dispute today (what emphises we place on church history, tradition, the councils, and scripture is different in RCC, EO, and Protestant churches). I do not think they will be reconciled anytime soon.
So the focus should be on the Spirit because as it says we were all baptised with the same Spirit.



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Anonymous

posted October 2, 2008 at 9:44 am


Coffee Break « fresh expressions…

[...] Scot McKnight on “Why I am not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox” [...]



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Mark S

posted October 2, 2008 at 10:53 am


Scott M,
Good post. The same God who created everything from nothing, surely can create something from something. God, who can be elusive in the Gospels, said He is as near to us as bread and wine (consecrated). But why? To nourish and build up our souls with Himself in light of eternity–unlike the manna that was eaten in the OT.
God performs miracles (not magic) everyday through and in the lives of ordinary people who quietly say “Amen” to the consecrated host before them. It has been so for 2000 years.



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Rachel H. Evans

posted October 2, 2008 at 12:32 pm


Great post. I especially appreciated your thoughts about reformability. That’s probably the most important factor in keeping me from more aggressively pursuing my newfound interest in the RC and EO traditions.
However, I still have a really negative visceral reaction to the term “evangelical.” I grew up as one, but have since found myself struggling with many of the positions with which evangelicalism is associated: young earth creationism, Republican politics, strong opposition to homosexuality, limitations on women’s roles, etc. Honestly, I’m getting kind of tired of being a minority among evangelicals. They are always trying to change my mind…especially during an election year.
So my husband and I have been looking for a new faith community, and have enjoyed the local Episcopal congregation. The people are much less judgmental, (which is a nice break), but of course the service takes some getting used to.
I’m wondering what y’all think about this tradition? Is it perhaps a good compromise for someone sick of evangelicalism, but reluctant to commit to RC or EO?



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Anonymous

posted October 2, 2008 at 1:50 pm


On Reformed Tradition: « Living Is Easy With Your Eyes Closed

[...] -Scott McKnight- [...]



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Scott Morizot

posted October 2, 2008 at 2:06 pm


Rachel (#75), the Anglican Communion (of which the Episcopal Church is the American expression) is a complex tradition that is not easy to reduce to a simple description. In the first millenium, that region was originally evangelized by the Orthodox and Celtic Christianity (which is one of the streams flowing within Anglicanism) has roots stretching back to that original evangelization. Anglicanism also has a connection to Latin Christianity (later called Roman Catholicism) from the middle ages. And during the Reformation, it drew on both of those strands while adding elements that could be considered “reforming” (though the Anglican Communion or at least the Church of England was often the “bad guy” during the Reformation itself). In some ways (and this is hardly my thought, but rather one I’ve heard expressed by many within the tradition) it seems to have been uniquely prepared for the postmodern tension that has become the norm today.
As I considered your question, I realized that very likely the majority of the voices, living and dead, from the modern era that have been and are most influential in shaping my Christian thought have been Anglican. Just off the top of my head, I thought of N.T. Wright, Rowan Williams, C.S. Lewis, Phyllis Tickle, Diana Butler Bass, Lauren Wiener, Os Guinness, Karen Ward, Sara Miles, and Leslie Newbigin. I also realized that some of the modern, American Orthodox voices I follow, like Frederica Mathewes-Green and Father Stephen Freeman, were Anglican for a significant portion of their lives before converting to Orthodoxy.
With that said, it is the same tradition which has produced voices like Bishop Spong. Even when I was other than Christian and would read articles or interviews with him, I knew enough about Christianity that he left me with a raised eyebrow. It’s the same tradition that produced one of those accurate jokes in British comedy that the Prime Minister was struggling to maintain balance in the
Church of England in the ranks of Bishops. What sort of balance? Between the Christians and non-Christians, of course! (Though Bishop Tom does swear things are much better today.)
Now, how much of that will you experience in the daily life of a particular parish? Certainly not all of it. But whatever you encounter will have that undergirding it. I don’t know that I would call it a compromise. It strikes me as a different way of living in the tension of our culture and age. I would certainly say it’s worth continuing to explore, since you have already begun that process.
That’s probably more than you really wanted to hear, but I do tend to be a bit wordy if and when I speak. It’s a personal failing. ;-)



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Scott Morizot

posted October 2, 2008 at 3:27 pm


Now, since I’m writing on this thread, I’m going to continue with some thoughts on your comments about the formability or reformability of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. In particular, Brad Nassif’s comment, pam w’s and others that mention authority have fed my thoughts as have the lectures and interviews with Phyllis Tickle I’ve recently heard speaking about her upcoming book The Great Emergence. There are so many threads intertwined here, it’s probably something more suitable to a conversation than a written comment, but here goes.
I haven’t yet been able to read The Blue Parakeet (I do plan to do so at some point), but the discussion of wiki as a metaphor intrigues me. I have employed wikis and other technologies in the conduct of my job (as a programmer) to develop applications collaboratively for quite some time. And that has bled into other aspects of my life. I understand the principles very well. However, as a metaphor for the Christian faith, I’m not as comfortable. If anything, it seems to me the logical conclusion to the Protestant decision to place their authority in the individual interpretation of Scripture. In a recent talk, Phyllis Tickle referenced the most recent statistics she had received documenting 27,000 distinct, identifiable, and distinguishable “denominations” in North America and well over 30,000 worldwide. I’m not at all against collaboration, though I think the better scriptural word for our relationship with each other as “church” is communion. But that metaphor seems to stress the individual ability to pick and choose and modify what you wish and construct your own highly individualized faith. Or, if you do it in some specific group context, it will be the shared, individualistic, collaborative faith of that particular group. Again, how is that significantly different from what Protestantism did throughout the modern era besides being faster and more individually interactive?
You see, I’ve done spirituality that way. I’ve walked that road and would probably be walking it still if I had not encountered a certain Jesus of Nazareth. God not just as personal, but as a particular person throws that approach out the window. First I found that the people who followed him did not entirely conform to my negative expectations and past experience. And then I became intrigued by the Jesus who produced such followers. I wanted to know about the actual person and that kept leading me deeper and deeper. Very soon, you have to ask what sort of persons are this Father and Holy Spirit and how are they one God along with Jesus? And when you start trying to answer that question, you’ve gone too far to easily go back. But Christianity is all about a particular God and a particular story. It’s not fundamentally a set of constructed ideas except to the extent those ideas conform to the reality of the Trinity.
And here, although I know the history, I’ve never been able to viscerally grasp how people could believe that a text alone (or even primarily) could hold the authority to produce and sustain a coherent, singular faith. The authority is never in the text, it is always in the interpretation. I guess I’m just too postmodern to get this idea.
However, if we talk about a faith of particular events, with a particular God, and a particular Jesus then I’m just not after a faith that can be formed or reformed. If God does not change like human beings change (a scriptural statement, btw) then why should I seek a faith that changes or which I can change? If a particular faith was delivered to the apostles, why would I not deeply desire that same faith in that same God? That’s where I particularly appreciate Brad Nassif’s comment.
However, sometimes I wonder if by “formable” or “reformable” people have in mind adapting to particular cultures and cultural expressions, correcting error, or both. If so, I understand how that objection could be raised against the historical Roman Catholic church. It certainly reached a point where it refused to translate the Scripture or the Liturgy to the local language or alter anything from the prescribed forms so they became largely meaningless to the individual person. That happened. I’m not sure the same critique could be applied to the Roman Catholic church today. But there is certainly a basis for discussion. And once error and even heresy or apostasy enters the magisterium, as it has in the past, it can become ossified.
However, I’m not sure I grasp how the same critique can be applied to the Orthodox Church. On the one hand, from the first millenium continuously through to the 20th century, Orthodox missionaries have always made it their first order of business to translate the liturgy and Holy Scripture into the native language of the culture, even (as has often been the case) when they had to create a written form of the language to do so. And the local expression of the Orthodox Church has been culturally shaped in different locales while retaining the same faith. Although some did a better job than others and things are much better now, I contrast that to colonial era Protestant missionaries who largely used Christianity to impose Western culture on native cultures. In that sense, Protestantism looked a lot more like medieval Roman Catholicism than either looked Orthodoxy.
Or if you mean the manner of correcting error, then it is true that Orthodoxy doesn’t really have an organized way of doing so. The closest they come is a council of bishops modeled loosely after the council of Jerusalem. However, here many people I read seem to misunderstand the authority of councils in Orthodoxy. Most seem to attribute to them a sort of magisterium like hierarchical authority. And historically, that’s not the way it has worked. There have been more councils than those which are considered authoritative. Actually, rather a lot more. Authoritative councils are authoritative because their decisions were accepted by the Church. Sometimes that took decades to work out. And there are broad spectrums within Orthodoxy where there is no authoritative, official theology — though there are often pious opinions. I have the sense that the Orthodox would have deeply appreciated Gamaliel. Very often the attitude in that tradition is to wait and see. If it is of God it will endure otherwise it will die out. (None of that is meant to deny the abuses of power which the Orthodox have committed, especially when they became deeply entangled with the power of the State. But no Christian tradition is free of those stains. I never take those as normative or what the tradition is meant to be or there would be no point in being a Christian of any stripe.)
The authority in Orthodoxy always seems to lie within the Church in an almost organic sense. As I’ve studied them, there are examples of Bishops correcting priests and the people. Yet at other times priests have stood against “false bishops” even to the point of death. (A bishop is a “true bishop” if he adheres to the faith and a “false one” otherwise. Sometimes it is not known which a bishop actually was until much later, perhaps after his death.) And other times the people, exercising their priesthood in Christ, have simply refused to enter the Church of one they judge has strayed from the faith and is a false priest or bishop. It’s all very chaotic and when you read it seems very disorganized, but they continue to pass along the same faith — sometimes with course corrections. Decade after decade and century after century.
That’s probably why I find their story attractive. Amidst the chaos there seems to be a center around which they revolve and that center seems to be a constant and unchanging story about Jesus and the Triune God he made known to us and how he has changed the nature of humanity so that it is no longer in our nature to die. And at this juncture, if they have not preserved the true story, I’m not sure it can still be found anywhere.
I don’t particularly care if anyone converts to Orthodoxy. I don’t see it in my own future. But I’m thirsty to better know the particular God made known in Jesus, not ideas about God. But that can’t happen if I’m interacting with a mental construct rather than the reality of the person. It’s what we do in every relationship. Only as we better and more accurately know the story and reality of the person with whom we are interacting will our interpretive lens allow us to interact with the actual person. So I will always be interacting through the lens of my perception of God. The only way I can draw closer to the person of Jesus is to find a better lens or through direct mystical (in the spiritual not emotional sense) experience.
So I don’t understand how that critique applies to Orthodoxy at all. And I’m not convinced it really still applies to modern Roman Catholicism, though it had become a major issue by the time of the Reformation.
Too long, of course. And rambling. Feel free to delete this comment if you want. But it’s at the end of a thread that has ceased to be very active, so it shouldn’t really block conversation. I think conversation here has largely ceased.



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Skip

posted October 2, 2008 at 6:46 pm


Scot McKnight,
Your perception of the differing emphases on the new birth seems so right on the mark. Even though I have tremendous respect for the depth and intellectual excellence of the RCC, and am thankful for how that tradition has helped me in my growth, the lack of emphasis on the new birth is probably the main reason why I would not want to lead my family into the RCC.



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dopderbeck

posted October 2, 2008 at 8:18 pm


Rachel (#78) — I’m not an expert on the Anglican Communion, but read up on the differences between the American Episcopal Church, the English Anglican Church, and the African Anglican Churches, and you’ll see that they are dealing with some enormous problems right now. Particularly as an American, I feel that going from evangelical to Episcopal would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.



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David Di Giacomo

posted October 2, 2008 at 8:33 pm


Mr. McKnight, thank you for posting this. I appreciate the response and it was more than I expected. As a result, I am deeply grateful.
I hope you will not be too disappointed or surprised that I found it unconvincing, and that though I respect your position, I do not agree with it. To name but one point you raised, that of “new birth”… well, one of my longstanding criticisms of evangelicalism is the OVERemphasis on new birth. The story of the exact moment when someone “accepts Christ” and “prays the prayer” is held to be THE proof of someone’s salvation; this is unfair and unhealthy to say the least.
Some people have a story of when and how they came to be converted to Christ. I have such a story; it was a dramatic change in my life, a moment which will forever divide my life into before and after. But many people, especially those raised in the church, have no such story, and are unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) made to feel spiritually inferior or even doubtful about their relationship with Christ because of this lack of a discernible, so-called “born-again” moment. It is a subject I have brought up many times with my Sunday School students, because many of them have no such experience, having never been outside the Church. They have simply always known Christ and been growing in Him for as long as they can remember.
At any rate, again, thank you for this post. It confirmed me in the direction I intend to take. I don’t know when I will begin to make the move to Orthodoxy. As I now stand, it is still nothing more than an intention, albeit one that grows in me daily. I have read some conversion stories that took years, even decades, often because of circumstances and loved ones. I pray that my journey to the Church will not be so long, and that, by the grace of God, it will not be unnecessarily painful to those close to me, many of whom will not understand. Lord have mercy.



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Kevin Benson

posted October 2, 2008 at 9:58 pm


Scot, I do appreciate you having the conversation with us and sharing your heart. As a non-denominational evangelical Protestant for nearly forty years who is moving to embrace the Anglican tradition, I’m doing so based on an epistemological shift which no longer finds Sola Scriptura a warranted belief.
I’ve struggled for several years to reconcile my individualistic “me, the Spirit and the Bible” ground of truth with the the Church Fathers’ arguments from Tradition or “rule of faith” against heretics who used Scripture alone to make their arguments (see Arius). I’ve wrestled with how the Church’s lack of a comprehensively recognized NT canon for hundreds of years could have garnered a spiritual life of truth. I’ve been humbled by seeing the truth definitively and concisely explained with one voice in conciliar fashion from the Seven Ecumenical Councils and yet having no place epistemically to reconcile these…that is, without the elevation of the authority of the Church as it speaks through Tradition.
This approach toward Christian belief is now bringing me epistemic coherence, communitarian illumination unfettered by time and certainty where gaps previously abounded. In light of this Tradition, I hold a high view of Scripture (Prima Scriptura) but also a high view of the Church. In I Timothy 3:15, Paul calls “…the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
My response has become and I submit for consideration…”So say we all”.



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Mike Mangold

posted October 2, 2008 at 9:58 pm


Arminianism
David: I am a physician and I hate it whenever someone calls me “Mr. Mangold” instead of “Dr. Mangold.”
I agree with you, though, that the “rebirth” thing may be overemphasized in SOME evangelical communties. In fact, I have applied for missionary work that will require you, in the application, to state the date you were saved. I call that “Dates” theology and find it as superficial as you.
Yet…
I also find it reprehensible to be associated with a theology (RC) that finds it ok to kill off people that don’t agree with its beliefs. As recently as the 1700′s, the Inquisition still carried out assasinations. Am I being too dramatic? Is Islam a “religion of peace?” Is Roman Catholicism? Our Protestant forefathers were hunted down and killed because of their beliefs. Especially those with associated with Arminianism. The Roman Catholics still believe that Protestants are just lost and that, once they have come to their senses, will return to the “Mother Church.” I personally believe that DR. McKnight was being too nice, too conciliatory.



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Scott Morizot

posted October 3, 2008 at 5:05 am


Yes Mike. And our “Protestant forefathers” also hunted down and killed each other and separatists like the Anabaptists. And the separatists of differing strains were often cruel within their communities when they were able to escape and establish them. Our “Protestant forefathers” fueled one of the bloodiest periods of European history prior to the 20th century. Protestantism doesn’t have an ounce of moral superiority on this score. If historical failures exclude a tradition from the faith, then there is no longer any true Christianity. We might as well not bother.



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dopderbeck

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:35 am


Mike (#86) — as Scot Morizot notes in #87, the Pilgrims who first settled in North America would have persecuted a very large portion of those who call themselves “evangelical” today. Baptists were sometimes burned at the stake. The freedom of religion clause in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s was specifically intended to protect Baptists from Presbyterians.
As Scot Morizot also notes, the tradition of violence from both “sides” — Protestant and Catholic — extends well back into European history. The were no “good guys” in the Thirty Years War.
And do you really want to compare today’s Catholic church — led recently by one of the greatest Christian peacemakers in all of human history, John Paul II — to radical jihadist Islam?



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Anonymous

posted October 3, 2008 at 10:37 am


Scot McKnight – Why I am not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox | Scribing: The offical blog of AndrewKooman.Com

[...] Read McKnight’s open letter to a reader who asked, Why are you still an evangelical, and not Catholic or Orthodox? [...]



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Anonymous

posted October 3, 2008 at 10:57 am


Daily linkathon 10/3 « BrianD blog

[...] Scot McKnight on why he is evangelical, not Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox. Michael Patton comments. [...]



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GregF

posted October 3, 2008 at 1:20 pm


Scot,
RE … They read the Bible through Tradition and I believe in reading the Bible with Tradition.
This is an interesting distinction. Who among the early post-apostolic Christians, say from 100 to 400 AD, would be the most prominent examples of those who read the Bible WITH Tradition?
Thank you.



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Mark DeVine

posted October 3, 2008 at 2:09 pm


A very helpful post. As an evangelical, I regret the extent to which we have not felt ourselves “answerable” to tradition to some degree, even to a large degree. Imagining that reading the Bible “without tradition” proves superior to a reading “with tradition” seems to smack simultaneously of naiveté and immodesty. But I am happy that evangelicals have refused to become “answerable” before tradition as an ultimate authority. Only Scripture should exercise such authority.
Tradition, it seems to me, especially longstanding tradition, should be seen to shift the burden to Christians who would challenge its conclusions. But tradition and believer stand under Scripture for scrutiny and potential correction. Tradition should carry more weight for the church than my personal views or those of the local body of believers where I serve or of the particular denomination where I hang my hat. But surely all must become answerable to the word of Holy Scripture.
So yes “with the tradition” not “through the tradition.” I think that is a helpful way of illuminating both why an evangelical may appreciate RCC and EO in any ways but also why that same evangelical may experience no temptation to convert.



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pdoane

posted October 3, 2008 at 3:06 pm


Scott,
There is much to respond to–too much–via email or snail mail with regards to what you “put out there.” Rather, I would put some “stream of consciousness” counter/points that must be looked at after some of the points you made.
Here goes: CS Lewis and the “Hallway” in Mere C
Apologetics vs.Personal Narrative( “I” word)
How you read the Bible Vs. The Fathers
Cultural Relativism Vs. Rev.22:18,19
Authority: Charismatic and Ecclesiastic
“Talk about Scripture??” “Talk about church??”
Reading Tradition thru the Bible
Un-reformable–dangerous and scary
Sinking Tradition too low
Fresh Light Emerging? Sounds Hindu
Infallible Teachings for all time like life begins at conception or marriage between a man and women
New Birth and the New Evangelization
Other Reasons: Lots of thoughts………
The Catholic Church is going thru a radical reform as we speak; it’s called Lay Movements and New Ecclesial Communities. Remember, You Will Be Jumping For Joy
Grace,Mercy,and Peace
pdoane



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Scott Morizot

posted October 3, 2008 at 5:13 pm


Only Scripture should exercise such authority.

OK. Since we’re not talking face to face, we have no visual or verbal cues, you can’t hear my tone of voice and there’s no back and forth to attempt to clarify meaning and intent, it’s going to be very hard for me to ask what I want to ask without it appearing snarky or confrontational or any of a host of other things. And I don’t mean it that way at all.
Why?
It seems like such a simple question. Now let’s be clear. I’m not talking here about the authority God exercises through Holy Scripture. Yes, I’m aware of the academic efforts in the 20th century by some to reduce Scripture to relatively little of anything. But from my perspective that has been largely limited in its penetration into the faith. Every Christian tradition and those within it understand Scripture to carry great authority from God and the Holy Spirit continues to exercise authority through Scripture. It is after all, the Holy Scripture of our faith. To be Christian and do otherwise is a very odd thing indeed. I understood perfectly what N.T. Wright said in his book The Last Word, but he’s an Anglican and so his book did not really seem to address this particular question.
I’ve heard your statement and many others like it again and again. I’ve read some pretty lengthy attempts to explain it. And I don’t get it. Scripture does not say that about itself anywhere. The way that people today mean it is not the way the Apostles used Scripture (what is now called the old testament of course in their day). It’s not anything the Church taught or practiced in the first half millenium. In fact, it’s what the heretics of that era did and the Church largely defended itself against them by saying that’s not how Scripture (and God) had been understood and taught by the Church. In other words, the things the heretics were saying were not what had been traditioned to the Church.
I’m sensitive enough to the interplay and exercise of power, that I can pretty easily see what the Reformers who adopted that perspective were doing. They were asserting their right to authoritatively interpret Scripture over against the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. I suppose they had to (or felt they had to) replace that authority with a different external authority. Scripture alone or first fit that bill. But that was 500 years ago and that particular power dynamic has long since withered and blown away. I don’t grasp the dynamic today.
In short, I can’t find anything anywhere that conveys the idea that Scripture (alone or first) is the big “A” authority for Christians. Every attempted explanation I’ve found has deconstructed to essentially: That’s where I choose to place authority.
And if that’s the actual answer, I guess that’s OK. It makes little sense to a committed atheist (and I know more than one) that I have chosen, if rather belatedly, to place my confidence in Jesus of Nazareth. If the answer is ultimately ‘just because’, I can stop trying to find something that supports or makes sense of it.
I will note that placing the authority in the individual interpretation of Scripture doesn’t really look (from my perspective at least) like it’s been very effective. And I’ve never understood how Scripture can on the one hand be the top authority even as many who make that claim ignore some things it does pretty clearly say, like the part about not allowing divisions, being one body, being one — period.
Anyway, you made a blanket assertion similar, though not precisely the same, to what Scot said. And it’s one that continues to bug me because even after 15 years, I still can’t grasp why it seems to make sense to a sizable chunk of people within Christianity. What are the dynamics driving that today?



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E

posted October 3, 2008 at 5:28 pm


Maybe Scripture is granted the “Authority” that Evangelicals grant it because … well, Jesus and the Apostles granted it that authority.



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RJS

posted October 3, 2008 at 6:08 pm


Scott – #71
It would be interesting to have this discussion in a forum that allowed for better communication. Magical may be an error of category – in fact I think that it is in some sense the wrong word, although it was the closest that I could come to what I meant. We all take slightly different paths to try to understand our faith in the context of history and tradition. One of the things I’ve been doing is reading the early church fathers chronologically (a lifetime project I realize). I’ve just finished reading some of Hippolytus (ca. 170-236 AD). This is the first of the Fathers where I see a strong tendency toward this “magical” view in the Church. This doesn’t mean that it suddenly appeared ca. 220 AD, but nonetheless I find it somewhat interesting that it was not obvious in the earlier writers.
I don’t base my theology (such as it is) on the last 500 years of thought, but I do tend to privilege the first 200 years. It is this reading of the writings from the first 200 years that is one of the things that keeps me protestant rather than RC or EO.
I’ve also read a fair bit of the medieval literature (Bede as one example) – and the “magical” view of relics in these writings is some of what was in my mind.
But, I do not mean to dismiss the mystery or the mystical from Christian experience. It is interesting that you mention Celtic “thin places.” One of the most powerful experiences I have had – one that has had substantial influence on me – was stumbling upon the tomb of the Venerable Bede in Durham Cathedral unawares back 20 years ago. The connection with history and the church was palpable – and it started me on the course of viewing Christianity in the great tradition of the whole church.



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mariam

posted October 3, 2008 at 6:24 pm


I did consider Roman Catholicism for a time when I was looking for a spiritual home. What attracted me was the deep sense of belonging, community identity and, oddly, unchangeableness. The single thing I just couldn’t live with was the doctrine of infallibility, which, ironically, was what gives the sense of unchangeableness. I agree, like you, that the RC church has dug themselves into a bit of a hole with this doctrine. I think we need to take any human authority with a grain of salt, whether it is the authority of the Church, the authority of particular interpretations of Scripture (because there is no “scripture” without interpretation), or the authority of reason (because there is no “reason” or “logic” which is not corrupted by personal motivation and context). I think the evangelicals dig themselves a bit of a hole on the issue of inerrancy, if we can even find two evangelicals who agree on precisely what that term means. “Scripture” is always read through a lens, so the real question is who has the authority to interpret Scripture? We can talk about the guidance of the Holy Spirit all we want but, obviously, people who sincerely believe to have been led by the Spirit have come up with all sorts of notions that don’t jive with each other. I know I’m not the only person who is unsure whether the Spirit is guiding me, or my own conscious or unconscious motivations.
I disagree somewhat with your notion that spiritual rebirth is less likely to take place in the RC and EO communities. Spiritual rebirth is not always sudden, sometimes the turning takes time and constant correction and the deepness of the liturgical churches can support that turning as well or better than the evangelical churches. As my rector was fond of saying, ???We have an altar call every Sunday???. The call to the Lord???s table is also a call to repent of your sins, make peace with your brother and invite the Holy Spirit to guide you. In my Anglican church, as in the Catholic, Orthodox churches, we have the opportunity to turn again each week and reconcile ourselves with God and man. Speaking only for myself, I need that opportunity, because even with the assistance of personal prayer and trust in God, I stumble ??? a lot.
What I do appreciate is that while you have given your personal reasons for sticking with evangelical Protestantism, that you recognize that God speaks to the hearts of believers, whereever they gather in His Name. I think it is important to recognize that different parts of the Church fulfill different functions and answer varied needs of those who want to believe. Christianity has square holes, round holes and amoeba-shaped holes for square, round and amoeba-shaped believers. (Mixed metaphors but oh well).
Thanks, Scot, once again, for hosting a place where we can all get together and argue peaceably with one another.



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Anonymous

posted October 4, 2008 at 5:28 am


Random Acts of Linkage #80 : Subversive Influence

[...] Scot McKnight: Why I am not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox — catch this not just for the subject matter of the title, but also for his description of the “wiki” way of reading the Bible. [...]



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dopderbeck

posted October 4, 2008 at 9:38 am


E(#95) — yes, but… they reinterpreted and recontextualized the OT scriptures pretty freely.



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Scott Morizot

posted October 4, 2008 at 10:27 am


Hi RJS, I wrote something last night, but after looking at it decided to wipe it out and mull things over a bit more. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the path my thoughts took. I have a hard time disentangling more abstract or impersonal ideas (which is what I’m trying to discuss on this one thread) from my personal path and experience (which I’m not). I don’t normally think or write that way. After the conversation on this thread is done, I’m leaning toward dropping the Jesus Creed feed from my reader. I’ve enjoyed this blog immensely and have found it extremely helpful, but reading largely without speaking is frustrating for me. And when I do try to write on the rare thread, the conflict about what I do or don’t say is almost as bad. I know where the blog is if I want to check in from time to time. Scot should not have to deal with having my thoughts frequently mistaken for his by casual readers on his own blog. I agree with that. I just don’t know how to resolve it in a way that works for me.
Anyway, I did gather from your comment that you are not really using ‘magical’ to refer to the human tendency to turn things into bits of sympathetic magic as I took you to mean. (It’s not just eucharist, icons, prayer, etc. I would call a common SBC treatment of Malachi on tithing as using scripture in this instance as a bit of sympathetic magic. Anytime we assert that we take an action so that God or the universe or whatever will respond in a certain way (beyond direct physical causation) we are treading into the realm of sympathetic magic.) I’m still not sure what you do have in mind by the term, but I can set that aside for the moment.
I am happy to see that you affirm the mystical. But then, I didn’t really expect that you were. I’ve read enough of what you’ve written to know better. However, I always want to be careful here. Because people read all sorts of things into the word ‘mystical’. I mean it in the form of a direct spiritual experience of God. And I can have a mystical experience even if I am not aware of it as such at all on an intellectual or emotional level. Prayer, for example, is a mystical connection with God. And that may be true even if I felt nothing at all. If I heard nothing. If I had no sense that my prayer did or accomplished anything. This is one of the reasons I believe prayer – regular set prayer, spontaneous prayer, and constant prayer such as breath prayers and the Jesus Prayer – are all so important for regular Christian practice. We desperately need the mystical experience and grace of God if we are to be changed and renewed into true human beings.
I meant what I said about historical research. History, especially ancient history, has been something I’ve loved stretching back into my youngest years (right up there with mathematics – especially fun when the two intertwine!). And I can’t find a referent for the way many ‘evangelicals’ (to use a very fuzzy word) understand and practice the Eucharist (as opposed to most of the other Christians in the world in all Traditions) any earlier than Zwingli. I’m OK if there’s a path farther back I haven’t explored, an earlier referent, or something but I haven’t been able to find one and I’ve seriously looked.
So when you begin from that point, even if you privilege the first two centuries, it seems to me that you are reading those centuries through a lens shaped by a theology from the modern era. I’m also not entirely comfortable with the idea of ‘privileging’ an era as if you can set one against another. It’s all an arc. There are threads leading forward. And it also matters which thread you pick up. There is much from the first couple of centuries that partake in threads that were not what almost everyone considers ‘orthodox’ today. Both the docetist and what would become the Arian threads were pretty strong. (If you define ‘Father’ as the Orthodox do, with a lengthy list of criteria — and being ‘ancient’ is actually not one of them — then that’s not an issue. But most people seem to mean simply ‘Christian’ writings of antiquity.)
It does make me wonder, though, how the lens through which you are reading second century texts influences your understandings. For instance, St. Ignatius speaking against the docetists right at the beginning of the second century says that they “abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not believe the Eucharist to be the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ” in his letter to the Smyrnaeans. He makes a lot of similar statements in his writings. Similarly, Justin Martyr says later in the second century, “We do not receive these as common bread and common drink. Rather Jesus Christ our savior having been made flesh by the word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation. So likewise, we have been taught that the food which is blessed by prayer of His Word and from which our flesh and blood by transmutation is nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”
From a historical perspective, pagan authors and accusers often misunderstood Christian practice as a sort of cannibalism. This is not Christian teaching of course, but it’s noteworthy that one of the earliest evidences we have for this is Pliny the Younger right around the turn of the second century. That’s the idea he garnered by interviewing lapsed Christians. The point here is that there had to be some basis from which that misunderstanding of Christian practice arose. It didn’t just come out of the blue.
Those are just some examples, of course. But if you’re reading deeply from the first couple of centuries, but not seeing that, I have a hard time understanding the lens through which you are reading.
Eucharist, relics, thin places, blessed material objects, and all the rest flow from that same font. The basic root of it stretches back into Judaism as well. I used the burning bush and the ground made holy around it, but the same thing was true of the Ark of the Covenant. The same thing was true of the sacrifices offered. The same thing was true of the Temple. The same thing came to be true of the scrolls of Torah or any object used for Holy purposes. Judaism holds that such objects acquire holiness of their own. This train of thought is not something external which was grafted into Christianity. It flows directly from our Jewish roots. Now, as with everything in Christianity, it is colored and transformed in the light of Jesus of Nazareth. But the ideas are not something alien to our faith and acquired from pagan thought. In fact, most of the time it was exceedingly strange to the pagans. When you also study the bits we have from their perspective in history, you see that.
It strikes me that I’ve written about the things which matter most to me since I take it as axiomatic that Scripture can be interpreted to support almost any view you prefer. However, it is probably important to connect everything else I’ve written to the continuity I see with Christian New Testament scripture and how I see that fitting together. It just completes the picture. I’ll do that in my next comment. And then since Scot mentioned it and Julie said some interesting things, I will write a little bit about the ‘women in ministry’ thing. I strongly agree that the NT stands in sharp contrast to the way women were treated in ancient culture. That’s part of the reason so many women were attracted to the church. I strongly believe that much of the perspective of those who would assert hierarchy and subordination on women in the evangelical discussion are deeply wrong. But the evangelical and even broader Protestant discussion does not directly or even easily translate into the Roman Catholic or Orthodox contexts, though for different reasons with each. And it seems worthwhile to work that out a little bit.
Back in a bit.



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CAL

posted October 4, 2008 at 11:27 am


Scott Morizot, you make a lot of sense. However frustrated you feel over not being able to “speak,” I’m thankful you are writing anyway. Good stuff!



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RJS

posted October 4, 2008 at 11:54 am


Scott M,
I went back and read the portion of Justin’s first apology (toward the end LXV-LXVII). You are certainly correct that the text is not simply “in remembrance.” There is a more exact significance attached to the bread and wine, although the exact extent of the meaning is not entirely clear. It is not as common bread and common drink.
You know though – the part that struck me most about this passage is that they all partake, and then a portion is taken to all those who were unable to attend. The Eucharist was that important.
In the section on the administration of sacraments Justin says “And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.”
In the section on the weekly meeting of the Christians he again says: “Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.”
So it was more than bread and wine in remembrance, it was only for believers, and it was so important that it was taken every week to those who could not attend.
But it was not protected from every possibility of defilement as though it were in actuality the body sacrificed again. I guess that is what I mean.
All in all ??? I think that this calls into question many of our Baptist views of Eucharist (and I am Baptist if not SBC).



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RJS

posted October 4, 2008 at 11:57 am


And Scott – I will miss your contribution if you stay away. I always enjoy reading your thoughts and interacting with them. They help me quite alot – when I agree and when I disagree.



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E

posted October 4, 2008 at 12:24 pm


102. RSJ: Your comments assume that Justin Martyr and his fellow believers received and believed and conveyed a proper understanding of what Christ meant when He said what He did at the Last Supper. Just because 2nd-century Christians (or some or perhaps most 2nd-century Christians) believed and did these things this way does not automatically mean that they were right to do so.



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E

posted October 4, 2008 at 12:25 pm


(Sorry – I meant RJS, not RSJ.)
102. RJS: Your comments assume that Justin Martyr and his fellow believers received and believed and conveyed a proper understanding of what Christ meant when He said what He did at the Last Supper. Just because 2nd-century Christians (or some or perhaps most 2nd-century Christians) believed and did these things this way does not automatically mean that they were right to do so.



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Scott Morizot

posted October 4, 2008 at 12:34 pm


So then, I promised to connect the thoughts I’ve written here about the Eucharist to Scripture. So I’ll take a minute to do exactly that. Once again, I’m a member of a church and a tradition that treats the “Lord’s Supper” in a manner which is connected by a thread running back to Zwingli, though it is hardly identical to what he said. However, it is a very common expression and teaching in the ‘evangelical’ camp. My comments on history, Christian practice, the development of Christian thought, and now Scripture are intended solely to highlight how difficult it is to connect this particular lens to anything earlier than Zwingli. I’m not particularly taking sides in any discussion about the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, etc. understanding of how this works out. I’m just pointing out that from every angle I’ve been able to approach this question, any of those other views seem more strongly supported than this common ‘evangelical’ view rooted in Zwingli.
So on to Scripture. Here I like to start with 1 Corinthians. Whatever their perspective, almost everyone seems to agree that the description of the eucharistic practice in 1 Corinthians is the earliest written account of any in the New Testament. It was almost certainly written within 25 years or so of the time of Christ. And in the whole arc of his discussion, Paul seems to be referencing that which had been ‘traditioned’ to him. If so, then that places it very close indeed to Christ and the origin of the Church. Moreover, when he makes his statement in this section (verse 23), he says that this was traditioned to him directly by the Lord and Paul has in turn traditioned the same thing to the Corinthian church. That’s an extremely strong statement.
My own church uses 1 Corinthians 11 more often than any other text about the Eucharist when we (from time to time) observe it. (And those observances are usually accompanied by a lengthy dissertation on how nothing is actually happening when we do this.) However, if I had only listened to our use of the text, I would probably think chapter 11 ended with verse 28. It doesn’t. And the section from verse 27 to the end of the chapter seems especially pertinent to this discussion.
Paul tells them that those who have partaken in the bread and wine, not discerning the Lord’s body, and in an unworthy manner, have ingested judgment against themselves. This is not some immaterial, ‘spiritual’ judgment. (That disconnect is very platonic in nature and neither Jewish nor Christian.)
No. This is why some of them are sick and some have died. Because of their actions in the manner in which they have approached the Eucharist, instead of ingesting life and nourishment into their bodies, the Eucharist has become judgment and death. It’s the same Eucharist. There’s nothing in the passage to suggest that they have taken anything different into their bodies. Rather, it is the synergy between themselves and the Eucharist which produces different results.
At the very least, this passage is utterly consistent with the ancient concept of a true ‘symbol’. That is, it is consistent with the idea that a true symbol, though it might be somehow different or distinct, nevertheless shares in the same essence, nature, and power of that which it symbolizes. In other words, even if it is bread and wine, nevertheless as a true symbol it now shares in the essence and the power of Jesus’ body and blood.
That’s at the least because the passage doesn’t actually use the language of symbol which was available, especially to one as well-educated as Paul. It is also consistent to read the passage as saying the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus, however you might wrap your head around that mystery. In fact, that’s the simplest and most direct reading of the text.
It does not strike me as consistent to read the text as somehow saying the bread and wine are just bread and wine and nothing more. He doesn’t say that God somehow imposes an external judgment on you if you do this unworthily. No, he says that which you ingested is judgment working itself out in your body.
I then tend to bracket this with John’s gospel. Again, almost everyone seems to agree that John is one of the latest writings in the New Testament. And it is also one which is intentionally structured as a theological work. John is deep and goes ever deeper the more he is studied. But for our purposes, I’m going to swim near the surface. Once again, whatever their understanding of the eucharist might be, most seem to agree that within the theological framework of John, John 6 is eucharistic in nature. And the way that text develops is fascinating.
Jesus, of course, begins by answering antagonists. In their exchanges, he describes himself as the bread which came down from heaven. And he ends up telling them that only those who eat his flesh and drink his blood abide in him and has life. But then it takes an intriguing turn. Jesus often used parables, of course.
In this case, his own followers were troubled by what he had said. And Jesus does not clarify. He doesn’t explain it as a parable. He rebukes them instead. And many left. I get the sense from the passage that most who were present at that moment left. And Jesus turns to the twelve and basically says: How about you? Are you going to walk away too? And here I don’t think Peter is making some great proclamation of faith. It feels to me more like he’s saying: Where else are we going to go?
However, the main point here is that he tells people that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood to ingest life. Held together as a bracket with Paul’s passage, you see the theological development. When you ingest the bread and wine in a worthy manner, you ingest life and nourishment. When you don’t, you ingest judgment and death. This brackets Holy Scripture and provides, I think, I good framework. And this perspective in one form or another continues to flow through St. Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and on through the centuries all the way to Zwingli.
Now admittedly, the prevalent modern expression, often called “The Real Absence”, is rather more than anything Zwingli ever had in mind. Nevertheless, it is a continuous outworking of his thought. It’s Zwingli’s thought that seems to me to be the true innovation. If it were about anything other the Eucharist, which seems so central to the Christian faith, that might bother me less. But I’m not really comfortable with innovation in the center of the faith some 1500 years (or 2000 years) after Christ. I’m just not.
Something I read today by Father Stephen Freeman seems particularly relevant to this discussion.

The Divine Liturgy is understood as a fulfillment – not a prophecy. It is a participation in the Resurrected Lord, not a remembrance of how Jesus used to be. As much as He is ???everywhere present and fills all things,??? so His Body and Blood share in the same presence.

Or maybe it’s not. But hopefully I’ve at least connected my thoughts now from Scripture to the whole arc of Christian history. Taken together, I see where am I now through that lens. That’s not to say the lens won’t continue changing or is now perfect. I’m certain I do not yet have the best lens. I know it needs further grinding and molding. I just don’t know where. It’s a process. But this is where I am today.



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E

posted October 4, 2008 at 12:41 pm


Scott Morizot: Don’t leave 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 out of your discussion of how 1 Corinthians treats the Eucharist.



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Scott Morizot

posted October 4, 2008 at 12:44 pm


Ah, the “sacrificed again” bit in Roman Catholic theology. That part seems to be pretty specific to that particular thread more than any of the others. I never comment on it because I’m certain I don’t understand what is truly meant. I’ve read enough to see that it is often not clear within the Roman Catholic Church precisely what is meant, or at least it seems that many within the Church misunderstand what is meant. And I’ve also read and listened to enough Orthodox to know they generally disagree with this way of stating or applying it. Beyond that, I don’t really have any thoughts.
Since the direct practice of my Christian experience has been in a Baptist context, I was mostly tracing that thread to see if it really does tie into the whole story. And I can’t make it fit. I wasn’t really tracing the specifics of all the other threads, of which there are certainly more than just the Roman Catholic or Orthodox.



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RJS

posted October 4, 2008 at 12:53 pm


E, (104,105)
No ??? I do not assume that they were correct in all that they did. But I do think that we need to read and interpret scripture with tradition ??? all tradition. Writers such as Justin shed light on early practice and thought and this is an important part of our collective tradition. I also do not assume that they were wrong whenever they disagree with my more immediate tradition.



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Scott Morizot

posted October 4, 2008 at 1:00 pm


E, I hardly ignore it, but was trying to keep that comment as to the point as I could. Further, from your earlier comments I rather doubt I read Scripture with a lens even vaguely like yours. As I said at the start of the Scripture comment, I take it as axiomatic that anyone can read almost anything they desire to find into Scripture. That’s why the question of whether or not an interpretation is consistent with the whole arc of Scripture and Christian history and practice becomes so important.
As I also said, the fundamental problem with making Scripture an ‘authority’ is that it is a text and a text which must be interpreted (particularly true for those of us who don’t even speak the original language and live in utterly different cultures). Since it must be interpreted, it is the interpreter who actually holds the authority. And if you vest that power of interpretation in yourself, you are giving yourself the authority to determine the faith. If you vest the power of interpretation in a local community, you are granting the authority to that community. If you vest it in another individual, you are giving authority to that person.
Here is where I do find the Orthodox approach appealing. They authority of interpretation through the Holy Spirit is given to everyone who is in Christ. But the interpretation must hold with what the Church everywhere has always believed.
That hasn’t always worked out in practice, but given that we are sinful human beings, nothing ever will. Nevertheless, as you look at history you keep seeing that dynamic at work pulling them back to the same core of the faith. Sometimes monastics pull on the ropes. Sometimes the bishops and priests do (even against others if necessary). Sometimes the people do.
They give the authority to the Church, but a Church without a magisterium. Curiously, it’s probably my postmodern suspicion that prompts much of the affinity I feel for that approach. They believe there is something the Church should believe. But in any given moment, they trust no individual (or small group of individuals) at any level to say what that should be. But it’s not a free for all. They always hold up the measure of what the Church everywhere has always believed. That is one of the greatest statements St. Athanasius ever made (to me at least).



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E

posted October 4, 2008 at 1:31 pm


But the interpretation must hold with what the Church everywhere has always believed.
But St. Vincent of Lerins’s “canon” does not fit without qualification. I.e., some of what has always been believed by everyone everywhere needs to spend some time on Procrustes’s bed.



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RJS

posted October 4, 2008 at 1:45 pm


E (#95),
Jesus and the Apostles granted authority to the OT scriptures. No question – although I am not sure that the “authority” always meshes well with the evangelical understanding of authority.
But – how does this move to the NT? Not from Jesus and the Apostles, except perhaps one small allusion by Peter (making it a circular argument). The authority moves to the NT through the Church does it not?



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Daniel

posted October 5, 2008 at 6:00 pm


So, why aren’t you Lutheran, Anglican, or United Methodist?
haha, well, thank you for the post.



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Andrew

posted October 6, 2008 at 6:12 am


I loved this post because I still, quite often actually, struggle with this question myself. And, quite often, I find less and less a reason to remain protestant. Yet, I persist.
At any rate, one quote stuck out to me in this post and I’d like to know if you could flesh it out a bit for me (if I’m not too late to the comments section here).
You write, “They read the Bible through Tradition and I believe in reading the Bible with Tradition.”
My honest question is this: What does this even mean? How do you parse the difference between reading “with” and “through?” It sounds like semantics to me. I’m not sure how much of the Catechism you’ve read but I think it might be fruitful to note that there are more references to Scripture in the Catechism than to any other source. And it’s the same with most of the Encyclicals by both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. So my question still stands, what’s the difference between reading “with” tradition and “through tradition” because I’m not sure a distinction is fully possible.
Grace & peace,
A.T.



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E

posted October 6, 2008 at 6:44 am


A.T.:
I suspect the difference between a) “reading the Bible through Tradition” and b) “reading the Bible with Tradition” is that a) makes Tradition the lens through which the text is to be read and understood, whereas b) views Tradition as a companion and aid to one’s reading, but not the authoritative interpreter.
Or perhaps it’s the difference between a) Tradition as the teacher of a class on the Bible where the teacher’s textbook on the subject is the textbook for the class, versus b) being part of a Bible reading group where Tradition, though an old and wise member of the group, is a member, not the leader, of the group.



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Andrew

posted October 6, 2008 at 7:35 am


Point taken. I suppose, then, that my aversion to the difference comes from my propensity to (intentionally) read Scripture through rather than with tradition. I read this way because – given that the current canon is partly a product of tradition – I tend not to draw so strong a line between the two. Or, to put it more bluntly, I suspect that – when pressed – I would put Scripture and tradition on nearly equal footing. Anyhow, thanks for the response!
Grace & peace in Christ,
A.T.



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Mark S

posted October 6, 2008 at 10:46 am


Scott M, #108
Here’s some material regarding the sacrificial aspect of the eucharist and some early writings.
http://www.catholic.com/library/Sacrifice_of_the_Mass.asp



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Scott Morizot

posted October 6, 2008 at 11:27 am


Thanks Mark. I’ve read many of those, but I have not sufficiently immersed myself in present day Roman Catholic theology to claim I fully grasp it. I have enough family and friends who are converts to Roman Catholicism, cradle Roman Catholics, or converts from Roman Catholicism as well as three years in a Roman Catholic school (and yes, the non-Catholics do pay more attention and participate more in Religion class) to say that I believe the general Roman Catholic understanding of this aspect of the Catechism is a mixed bag. My only thought is that the emphasis on this specific aspect in more or less its present form seemed to develop in the late medieval period. Certain practices that developed then, such as performing a Mass with just the priest and no members of the Church and adoration of the Eucharist tend to be spoken against by the Orthodox. So there is some tension here, but I will not claim to have plumbed it.
That said, as I mentioned, since my long and complicated journey of conversion dropped me into a Baptist context, most of my exploration has been concerned with whether or not the Baptist understanding of the Eucharist can in any way be tied into the arc of Scripture through any connection or thread with the historical practice of the Church. And my current conclusion is that it cannot be so tied. It was entirely a 16th century innovation. And I’m not really comfortable with that — not in something that has always been so utterly central to Christian worship and practice.
Thanks all. I had a few other thoughts I had originally intended to add to this thread. But I think I’ll pass. I’m not sure there’s any real point.
Peace.



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Anonymous

posted October 6, 2008 at 6:09 pm


LeStourgeon Online » Blog Archive » Not Catholic, Not Eastern Orthodox

[...] Scot McKnight writes a nice friendly piece, Why I am not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. [...]



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GregF

posted October 6, 2008 at 9:03 pm


Scott (# 118),
RE … most of my exploration has been concerned with whether or not the Baptist understanding of the Eucharist can in any way be tied into the arc of Scripture through any connection or thread with the historical practice of the Church.
Have you read the book “Baptist Sacramentalism”? It is in the Studies in Baptist History and Thought series. The book is interesting because it shows how sacramental some of the early Baptists were. Although they did not interpret the sacramental meaning in a purely Catholic way (of course!), some early Baptists did show definite signs of sacramentalism.
[url=http://www.amazon.com/Baptist-Sacramentalism-Studies-History-Thought/dp/1842271199]Baptist Sacramentalism[/url]



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Anonymous

posted October 7, 2008 at 10:30 pm


Linkathon 10/8 at Phoenix Preacher

[...] Scot McKnight on why he is evangelical, not Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox. Michael Patton comments. [...]



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Anonymous

posted October 8, 2008 at 4:15 am


links « signs of life

[...] Scott McKnight on why he isn’t a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. I believe the Bible establishes a clear framework for a vital characteristic of forming all theology. The framework is what I call the ???wiki??? nature of gospel and theological expression. That is, God spoke to God???s people in Moses??? day in Moses??? way, in David???s day in David???s way, in Isaiah???s way in Isaiah???s day, in Jesus??? day in Jesus??? way, in Paul???s day in Paul???s way, and in John???s day in John???s way. There is, then, a clear pattern: the gospel and God???s revelation participates in ???wiki??? (or ongoingly renewed and renewable) versions. What this means is that there is an ongoing pattern of development and a recognition that the former days can get swallowed up in the present days. [...]



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Anonymous

posted October 8, 2008 at 5:59 am


Do the RC’s and Greek Orthodox own the fathers? at Roger Pearse

[...] A lot of people seem to think so.? Quite a few seem to imagine anyone interested in the Fathers must? be One Of Them, or else on the road there by imperceptible degress.? “On Being Protestant” at Dunelm Road leads us to? Why I am not a Catholic or East Orthodox, by Scot McKnight.? He’s bang on, too. [...]



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Sansürsüz türkçe hentai fansub sitesi

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