Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The One True Church

The pope recently reaffirmed the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church. He said that all other churches that have formed from Martin Luther and later are not part of the true church. It was interesting to me to hear this from the pope. I know that this has always been the position of the Roman Catholic church, however, I was surprised to hear this statement since Protestants and catholics have been trying to bridge the gap that has been between them in recent years. This seems to be a step backwards in uniting the church as the "one body many parts" that it is.

I wonder where they get this idea biblically? If you are Catholic or understand this line of thinking and where it comes from would you let me know by posting a comment? I know I am a protestant but I will try not to let that get in the way of my thinking biblically about this issue of discussing who is the church. I know I am probably preaching to the choir on this one but, as I look at the scriptures, it seems to me what is taught is that anyone who repents and believes in Jesus as Messiah and lives for Him is a part if His body. Thus the church is made up of its individual parts that form a collective whole (the body of Christ) rather than a singular denomination.

It would be nice if we could keep all this in the forefront of our minds as we proclaim the gospel (even as Protestants. We can get pretty 'high and mighty' somestimes as well). It would be good for us to cheer each other on (denominationally speaking) as we bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, proclaim the gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ. I mean if it is about winning souls, then shouldn't we be excited no matter which denomination is making disciples? This is what the church is supposed to be all about.

This is the picture of the one true church.


me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
me said...

(ok, I figured out how to post correctly now)

Hi Matt! Good questions.

Obviously I don't agree with the pope, but if anything I have to give him (and the Catholic church in general) credit for standing firm on controversial issues, even if they are wrong-headed sometimes. If nothing else, they don't cow to the pressure of political correctness.

But on a deeper level, I think the issue comes before any denomination of how much heresy it takes to disqualify us from salvation. The bible says if we "confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead" we are saved. But is there a quantifiable limit on what sort of heresy we can stack on that foundation without undermining it?

For instance, most protestants would identify Mormonism or Jehova's Witness as cult religions, with the implication that they are not part of the true church and their doctrines do not lead to salvation. Both believe in "Jesus" per se, but because of their unorthodox teachings (especially those related to the identity and divinity of Christ), we tend to take the tack that the "Christ" they follow isn't the biblical Christ and therefore does not impart salvation.

So the question is, where do you draw the line? What minimum amount of orthodoxy is required for salvation and membership in the True Church? For the pope, the line is clearly the boundary of Catholic doctrine. Of course, I suppose it's more than just a question of doctrine, it's also a question of submission to the papal authority (something which no protestant accepts).

Which brings me to another point. To take an ecumenical approach pretty much unravels the pope's claim on apostolic authority. If membership in the Catholic church is optional for True Christians, then so is submission to the papacy. After all, the pope is no mere pastor or overseer; he has (in Catholic reckoning) the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatsoever he looseth on earth shall be loosed in heaven. If you believe that, you have to conclude that the "One True Church" will be under the authority and doctrine of the pope.

Of course, this is only my Protestant understanding of things...

Alan moore