Saturday, 13 March 2010

Who Is The Christian?

I was talking with a Baptist friend who had attended a funeral in the local Catholic church. Of course, a non-Catholic is not invited to take part in Communion, but we agreed that even if one were, we, in conscience, could not take it. However, I said, I know for a fact that we have many brothers and sisters in that denomination, and some of them I count as friends, even with the vast differences in various points of theology between us. Then I came across this quote from reformed thelogian J. Gresham Machen which seemed quite timely:
We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion, but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all. (Christianity and Liberalism, p. 35.)

The Fellowship Baptist denomination has not been touched by the same kind of falling away that is ripping the Anglican Communion apart, but the Anglican part of me thought this quote applied perfectly.

Take care
The whole article is here...


Warren said...

John, assuming for a moment that the RCC celebration of the eucharist was not closed, what would be your rationale for not partaking? Not so long ago I would have refused to partake as a matter of course without pausing to consider my reasons; such thinking was ingrained in me from my youth. (Mind you, I suspect that many of the "church people" I grew up with would not have partaken of the Lord's Supper in an Anglican church either.)

Now I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. My natural inclination would be to not partake, but I'm struggling to come up with valid biblical reasons for this position. Do I believe that the RCC is a false church and that its understanding of the Lord's Supper is unbiblical? Do I think that the eucharist is improperly consecrated or offered? Do I consider the priest who presides to be unqualified? In reality, I'm not sure I believe any of the above - at least in an unqualifed way. Furthermore, how do I properly understand Article XXVI?

I'm not looking for an argument, but rather am searching for a correct biblical response. You may find these blog posts interesting:

As an aside, Michael Spencer (aka the Internet Monk), who has been my favourite blogger for several years, has been diagnosed with an aggresive form of cancer and has been given only six months to a year to live.

John K said...

Hi Warren,
My main concern is the Catholic doctrine of transsubstantiation (sp?). I think it is not only false, but an insult to Christ. I may be seeing things through my reformed glasses, but if we indeed are consuming the real body and blood of Christ, then we are sacrificing him over and over again, thereby insinuating that his once for all sacrifice was not sufficient.
Not only would I not want to share in elements that were represented as such, I would be concerned that my doing so would be seen by others as an approval of that doctrine.
My reluctance has nothing to do with Article 26, which more addresses the Donatist controversy.

Warren said...

I also disagree with the doctrine of transubstantiation (and also wear reformed glassed - I'm a member of a PCA church), but it still isn't clear to me why this should invalidate the sacrament for someone who holds a different view of its meaning and significance. Would you refuse communion in a Lutheran church, or is consubstantiation on the acceptable side of the line?

Having recently studied the Donatist controversy in my Church History course, I'm insterested in your comment about Article 26. I'm not well versed in the history of the 39 Articles, but, as with other reformation confessions, they seem to define themselves largely in relation to RC doctrine (and, to a lesser extent, the doctrine of the continental protestants).

Are you suggesting that Article 26 was primarily written to address the case of reformed Anglican clergy who apostasized under Queen Mary yet somehow managed to retain their positions after her reign ended without having repented or being subject to church discipline? I would like to learn more about the 39 Articles and would be appreciative if you could point me to a reference.

John K said...

I am not all that familiar with the exact nature of consubstantiation, even after trying to read about it, but I gather from here that it is not really what Lutherans believe.
I should have used the term Donatism rather than the Donatist controversy. I was speaking about Donatism more in a general way than regarding the specifics of the original controversy. Generally, I believe, Donatism has the validity of the sacraments depending on the worthiness of the one administering them and in that matter, I agree with article 26.
And hey, PCA? I came to faith in a PCA church.

GB Shaw said...

You don't believe in transubstantiation? How do you explain the end of John 6, then? I'm quoting the NIV this time, since it seems to be your preference (though I'm not clear why) starting in verse 53:

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

I've emphasized verse 55 just to avoid the inevitable "It's a metaphor" explanation. It seems like transubstantiation is the most biblically consistent understanding of this passage... which should be a clue about the larger issue here. :)