Saturday, April 29, 2006

The End Time Reformation

.... Sometimes we’ve heard the claim that a new Reformation will emerge in the end time church, but is that really true or is it just someone’s idea on a website? If it is true, where do the Scriptures speak of it? What will this refor- mation be like, and where will it take us?
.
.... As it happens, Paul himself foretold such an event before the end:
.... "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting . . ."
(Ephesians 4:13-14)
.... Everyone agrees that such a church would be ideal, but why would we call this an actual prophecy? It’s because Paul envisioned this as a future reality in verse 13, by using the word ‘till’. For when he says ‘until’ that day, it is first of all accepted that such a day is foreseen in the plan and purpose of God. It is the basis for making such a remark, so the prophecy exists at the premise level. Think of the passage like this and you’ll see the point more clearly:

.... The day will come when we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting; but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

.... And God Himself has given some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, until that day.

(This rendition is based on Ephesians 4:11-16)

.... When you see ‘apostles’ mentioned in this passage, think in terms of new churches being formed, because that’s what apostles do. When you read about ‘evangelists’, think in terms of new, open-minded Christians who are learning from a clean slate. When you see the body working together, think in terms of a community in Christ in whom our identity is formed. But especially, consider their doctrinal emphasis:

.... These Christians will adopt a new mind set for interpreting the Scriptures. In theological terms we would call this emphasis their ‘hermeneutic’, and this is where the end time reformation will come from. Their doctrinal perspective will be called ‘the knowledge of the Son of God’ because they desire to see Jesus Himself in all they are learning:

.... ". . . till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . ."

(Eph 4:13)

.... Since it has always been God's intention to reveal Himself through Jesus Christ, these Christians will finally connect with the full, original and spiritual meaning of the Scriptures (1 John 1:1-3). The communications gap between God and man will close, as well as the gap between different groups of Christians, for in Christ the church will find its whole sense of unity and community (Col 1:17-18). And in the postings below we'll have a great deal more to say about this!

.... But, why would we call this reformation an end-time event? There are two basic reasons. First, it hasn’t happened yet, and we are nearer to the end than when we first believed. This makes it an end-time event by default. Second, when this reformation is completed, we will come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,’ so no further growth is possible. And doesn’t that sound to you like the field would be ready for harvest?

.... One final thought, if we may offer a distinction between a ‘reformation’ and a ‘revival’. A 'revival' assumes that our teachings are already correct and we only need to get zealous about them. A 'reformation' assumes we haven’t yet gotten them right, and some fundamental changes must first occur. In either case those beliefs, for better or worse, will begin to spread to others. So doesn’t it make sense to honestly re-examine our focus first of all? (2 Corinthians 13:5). Otherwise we could just be spreading errors that we'd have to chase down again, later on.

To proceed to the next posting, simpy scroll below.

1 Comments:

  • Gregory said...
    Loren, I have to admit, I neither see Ephesians 4:11-16 as indicating a "reformation" or, strictly speaking, a "prophecy". The passage is merely describing God's plan--a progressive plan, of the Church growing up from infancy to adulthood.

    Just as we don't radically or drastically change like tadpoles to frogs, or caterpillars to butterflys when we grow from infants to adults, the Church (here compared to a man and not a frog) is to grow continually. Yes, it will reach perfection, and yes, that won't be until the end. But the text does not prophesy that at some future time Apostles, evangelists, etc. will appear on the scene to reform the church. Rather, these offices are a regular part of the ongoing function and growth of the church--like parents or "babysitters" raising the child.

    In my mind, this text doesn't say what you want it to.

    9/24/2005 12:09 AM


    loren said...
    Hi Gregory,

    Actually your argument defeats itself. The 'next step in God's progessive plan' is, in itself, a glimpse of the future, especially when the beginning envisions the ending.

    In this sense, prophecy, destiny and growth are the same thing. And in a practical sense we may use this glimpse of the future to 'wage the good warfare', to guide us toward the fulfillment. (That is what this blog proposes to do.)

    To your mind this text doesn't say any of this because you're looking through a Catholic lens. If there is a really a reformation in the end times, then the present state of any church, including the Catholic church, is imperfect; and if leaders like apostles and prophets are to play a role in reforming it, they become an alternative to Catholic leadership.

    This would produce an identity crisis for a church that already claims perfection in such ways, and this is the real difficulty you are facing. (Well, rather, that you are having trouble facing).

    But Gregory, strictly as a matter of principle, you could only benefit through a willingness to constantly re-examining your beliefs for a finer understanding of Jesus than you presently have. Jesus would want you to be open in such ways. He wouldn't call you rebellious for doing this; He would call you 'noble-minded'. Furthermore, He cannot deny Himself; so how would He condemn you for constantly seeking a more perfect knowledge of Him?

    In this sense, Catholic claims of perfection simply shut the door on further learning, since any changes would be seen as a step away from 'perfection'. But if they were already perfect, Jesus would already have come.

    Therefore, it is self-evident that there is something missing. Prophecy of the church that is still unfulfilled shows us what those missing pieces are. And especially when they show us that we need to improve our focus on Jesus, how can the door be closed on this?

    By the way, apostles, prophets, etc, will not simply 'appear' in the end times. They have been here the whole time. They will simply be more effective in the end times because their focus on Jesus will be more purposeful.

    I hope this helps.

    9/24/2005 3:06 AM


    Gregory said...
    Actually your argument defeats itself. The 'next step in God's progessive plan' is, in itself, a glimpse of the future, especially when the beginning envisions the ending.

    I don't see how my argument defeats itself. Consider for a moment that a "reformation" is literally a returning to the roots. However, Paul is talking about growing into the 'perfect man'.

    This progressive growth and development is about leading us into a greater understanding of our faith, continuously, through the gifts of office that the Spirit bestows on the Church. But the key thing (whether this text is "prophetic" in the strictest sense or not) is whether this passage is predicting a "reformation", or rather, explaining that the purpose for the Spirit's role in the Church is to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), by using the leadership that Paul lays out.

    To my mind this text doesn't say any of this, but not simply because of my "catholic lens". Even when I was a Pentecostal, I never saw this passage as teaching a "reformation". True, as a Catholic, I define the roles differently than I did before--but the purpose of those roles is still the same.

    If there is a really a reformation in the end times,

    An interpretation of the text that I don't see any merit in...

    then the present state of any church, including the Catholic church, is imperfect;

    This conclusion is obvious, even if that text is not describing a "reformation". There is a reason why, in the Mass, we pray for the "Pilgrim Church on earth." No one in their right mind would claim that the Church has been perfected!

    and if leaders like apostles and prophets are to play a role in reforming it, they become an alternative to Catholic leadership.

    But this again suggests that apostles and prophets (as well as evangelists, pastors and teachers) will arrive late on the scene to reform the Church--rather than saying that these roles and functions have always existed within the Church. The Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and as such, their roles are primarily apostolic. Prophets have always been a part of the Church, speaking out to her, and to the world, on behalf of Christ. Missions has always been the focus of the Church, who sent out missionaries (evangelists) from the very beginning until now. And pastors/teachers should be self-evident to have been a part of the Church since the beginning, never ceasing to operate.

    You would say that this is my "Catholic Lens", but historically speaking, that is how this passage was understood.

    This would produce an identity crisis for a church that already claims perfection in such ways,

    I would be seriously sceptical of any church that did make this claim.

    and this is the real difficulty you are facing. (Well, rather, that you are having trouble facing).

    I'm not sure what you mean. I've never said that the Catholic Church was perfect. The difficulty that I see is not how to square Ephesians 4:11-16 with Catholic teaching--but how to square your personal interpretation of Eph 4 with the text itself, and the historical reality and understanding of that text.

    But Gregory, strictly as a matter of principle, you could only benefit through a willingness to constantly re-examining your beliefs for a finer understanding of Jesus than you presently have.

    You should stop by Wayward and read the post about St. Thomas. I want to continuously strive to know Jesus more. I realise that I am a ways off from really understanding Him--but I am closer now than when I thought I had Him completely figured out! The very reason I converted is because I strove to know Jesus more.

    Jesus would want you to be open in such ways. He wouldn't call you rebellious for doing this; He would call you 'noble-minded'.

    I appreciate the pastoral encouragement--but I fail to see how it adds to your interpretation of this passage to be some sort of prophecy of the end times church. It really seems like an ad hominem attack couched in pastoral language.

    Furthermore, He cannot deny Himself; so how would He condemn you for constantly seeking a more perfect knowledge of Him?

    Of course--but He established a Church in order to teach us about Himself and the salvation found freely in Him. It is not noble-minded to seek Him apart from His Church. It is folly.

    In this sense, Catholic claims of perfection simply shut the door on further learning, since any changes would be seen as a step away from 'perfection'.

    The Catholic Church makes no such claims of perfection. It's claim is that the Holy Spirit infallibly guides it into that perfection. Just as the Bible is "perfect" now that it is written and canonised, the parts that were written before the completion of the New Testament were "perfect" so far as they went. But they would not be fully perfect until the Bible was canonised in the 4th century. In the same way, the Church is not yet perfect, but the dogmas that are de fide are. Our understanding of those dogmas may very well be limited, and not fully followed in a person's imperfect and sinful life, but that does not negate the truth that they teach. Paradoxically, the Church is holy, and yet full of sinners.

    But if they were already perfect, Jesus would already have come.

    Who put the idea into your head that the Catholic Church believes itself to be perfected?

    Therefore, it is self-evident that there is something missing.

    Christ hasn't been preached to all nations yet, for starters...

    Prophecy of the church that is still unfulfilled shows us what those missing pieces are. And especially when they show us that we need to improve our focus on Jesus, how can the door be closed on this?

    I am not closing a door on the idea that we need to continue to know Jesus more. I am contending that this passage does not indicate a "reformation". You're confusing your points.

    By the way, apostles, prophets, etc, will not simply 'appear' in the end times. They have been here the whole time.

    Yet, your line of argument above negates this fact. If you say that these men will play a role in this end-time reformation, then they haven't been doing their jobs up until now, if they were here all along. And if they were here all along, then they would not be in opposition to or contradict Catholic leadership roles. As I describe above, they themselves are Catholic leadership roles. Denying that means that there will be a new 5-part caste of leadership in the New Church that will supplant the leadership established by Christ Himself. This is why I think your understanding is inherently contradictory.



    They will simply be more effective in the end times because their focus on Jesus will be more purposeful.

    I hope this helps.

    I'm afraid that it honestly doesn't help much at all. You have failed to demonstrate that a reformation is prophesied in this text--rather, you assume what you are trying to prove. Paul describes a Church led by Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. He says that this Church is progressively growing up into perfection, but is not there yet (which is obvious, since in his day, it was quite literally a newborn). He describes a progressive development from immaturity to maturity, under the guidance of the five office-gifts of the Holy Spirit--five gifts which were given (Greek aorist tense--no regard for past, present or future--I take that to understand that it was something existing in Paul's day and in perpetuity) to build and edify the Church.

    Now, if a reformation is necessary, it is because the Church has gone off the rails. Arguably, this is what prompted the Protestant Reformation (though, by the time Luther came along, it was mainly a redundancy--the Church had been in a state of reform from the time of St. Francis of Assisi, and really apexing with St. Francis de Sales. On the other hand, Luther, Calvin, et al. began teaching doctrines that were unbiblical and not supported by the Living Tradition of the Church.

    A new reformation would seem even more redundant, since the Catholic Church is still growing, and has a strong-as-ever focus on Christ and His salvation. Perhaps certain Protestant churches have derailed and lost their way (an assertion that I could demonstrate by looking at the recent gay marriage debate, and showing how many churches are open to the idea (many ordaining openly gay clergy). If the wishy-washiness of many church's moral teaching tells us anything about their theological beliefs, then yes, a reformation could not come at a more urgent time. However, I contend that while the Catholic Church has more than a few problems, their continued focus on Christ is not one of them.

    9/25/2005 1:52 AM


    loren said...
    Hi Gregory,

    Actually, the word ‘reformation’ means to improve by alteration, correction of error, or removal of defects. This is not simply a growth process, it is a remedial process. (I think you’re thinking of the word ‘radical’ which literally, botanically, does mean ‘roots’, or the word ‘revolutionary’ which means coming back to the beginning, like the a planet revolving around the sun and coming back to it’s original point in orbit. And those concepts do play a part as I’ll explain).

    In the main article, I made the point that the reformation was foretold at the premise level. The problem they faced was also explained there. Based on Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul could have put it this way:

    Unfortunately, the church still has problems. It is like children tossed to fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting. As a result we are disunified, and unable to work together effectively as God intended. It is hard to think of edification under these circumstances. ‘Growth’ seems out of reach.

    Now here is the ‘radical’ or ‘revolutionary’ element:

    Brethren, please, reassure me. When I was with you, weren’t you learning Christ? He Himself was your teacher, and you heard Him, and were being taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus Himself (vs 20-21) But now you are walking in the futility of your minds (vs 17) So to correct the present situation, you must return to your roots. Our focus must return to the knowledge of the Son of God, that we may speak the truth (as the truth is in Jesus) in love..

    Again, we see the urgent necessity of a remedial element. So their problem was not simply growth oriented, as in numerical growth or even in the fervency of their present beliefs (revival). But rather, Paul is making the case that some basic errors must be corrected before true growth can occur.

    Gregory, you are correct in noting that I spoke in too general a sense when I spoke of ‘perfection’ claim in the Catholic church. You have humbly admitted before that the Catholic church has problems just like any other church. So more specifically, what I meant and what I should have focused on, is that Catholicism claims doctrinal perfection. Quite aside from the reformation argument, this sort of stands makes them intractable.

    So what happens if we can really find a doctrine that shows us Jesus more clearly? For Catholics to embrace it they must either find enough flexibility within their own beliefs, or refuse to make the change. Because making the change would be like admitting that they were wrong in the first place. Unless, brother, you can reassure me:

    “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
    (1 Cor 13:12)

    Let’s leave actual ‘change’ out of the question for just a moment. Based on the quotation above, let’s say that all Catholics beliefs are seen through a mirror, dimly, darkly – like watching a modern television show on an old, worn out television from the 50's. The picture may be perfectly true, but it’s not clearly seen.

    But now let’s say that old television was replaced by a new HDTV. Suddenly the image became immeasurably sharper. It’s not necessarily different, it’s just much better defined. Although - yes, it’s possible - this clearer definition shows us that some things were not quite what we thought they were.

    Something like this is actually, truly going to happen to us all when Jesus returns and we see Him face to face, so it shouldn’t be beyond any of us to accept the truth of this concept now: that, no matter how sincere our intentions, we may not be seeing Him as clearly as He can be seen. Even Paul would have said so (Phil 3:10). Improvement may still be possible, even on our own side of that event. So do you think Catholicism would be willing to reshape it’s thoughts and move closer toward this perspective of the Lord Himself, if presented with such a thing?

    I am confident that you, personally, would do so. Maybe lots of other Catholics would do so as well. Most Protestants would do so too. It’s the institutional level that I worry about (not just the Catholics, but other church institutions as well):

    “Better a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.
    (Eccl 4:13)

    I think this flexibility is something we must always be open to. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-- unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Cor 13:5). If we are to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, our attitude must always be to follow. But when we claim doctrinal perfecttion, we are diggin in. It would be much better to express our confidence as Paul did:

    “For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.”
    (1 Cor 4:4)

    9/25/2005 7:33 PM


    Gregory said...
    Hi Gregory,

    Actually, the word ‘reformation’ means to improve by alteration, correction of error, or removal of defects. This is not simply a growth process, it is a remedial process.

    There is certainly always room for such remedial action. The greatest saints were also the ones who most readily acknowledged their sinfulness--and the Church is often described as a hospital for sinners.

    (I think you’re thinking of the word ‘radical’ which literally, botanically, does mean ‘roots’, or the word ‘revolutionary’ which means coming back to the beginning, like the a planet revolving around the sun and coming back to it’s original point in orbit. And those concepts do play a part as I’ll explain).

    Actually, I think I was referring to "radical", as well as connotatively linking "Reformation" to the event of the 16th century which claimed to be returning the Church to it's original teaching. Thanks for helping clarify that in my mind.

    In the main article, I made the point that the reformation was foretold at the premise level. The problem they faced was also explained there. Based on Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul could have put it this way:

    Unfortunately, the church still has problems. It is like children tossed to fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting. As a result we are disunified, and unable to work together effectively as God intended. It is hard to think of edification under these circumstances. ‘Growth’ seems out of reach.

    My understanding of the passage would include verse 11 at the end of your paraphrase:

    That is why Jesus gave certain gifts of leadership to you--apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers--to nurse you continually toward that perfection.

    As such, yes, I acknowledge that the church is flawed, but I still have trouble with the notion of an "end-times reformation." My problem is this: your description makes it seem like a definitive event with a specific beginning and end, some point in the "not too distant future". Rather, I see that "reformations", in the remedial sense that you've defined it, are ongoing happenings in the Church. Her doctrines do not stagnate, but develop as she reflects on them and continues to examine the teaching from countless angles.

    Now here is the ‘radical’ or ‘revolutionary’ element:

    Brethren, please, reassure me. When I was with you, weren’t you learning Christ? He Himself was your teacher, and you heard Him, and were being taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus Himself (vs 20-21) But now you are walking in the futility of your minds (vs 17) So to correct the present situation, you must return to your roots. Our focus must return to the knowledge of the Son of God, that we may speak the truth (as the truth is in Jesus) in love..

    It seems to me that the issues in Eph 4:17-32 are moral issues rather than theological ones. Comparing the Ephesian chhristians' lifestyle to that of pagan gentiles comes across clearly and is contrasted with the works of love and truth expected of holy, righteous living, based on the knowledge and teachings of Christ. So, it must begin with correct doctrine, but that doctrine must lead to lifestyles that reflect it. It seems like a gentler version of Romans 6:1ff.

    Again, we see the urgent necessity of a remedial element.

    One specifically addressing a sinful problem, and rebuking the Ephesians for not acting with obvious difference from the gentile culture.

    So their problem was not simply growth oriented, as in numerical growth or even in the fervency of their present beliefs (revival).

    Despite what Jack W. Hayford says in the study notes of my old NKJV Bible ;)

    But rather, Paul is making the case that some basic errors must be corrected before true growth can occur.

    But in the context, these errors seem more to do with sinful moral living, than technically incorrect doctrine. It seems to me, from my reading of this passage, that the Ephesians had not so much corrupted the Gospel as they had forgotten it--and that slothfulness had led them into moral decay. This interpretation is also borne out in Jesus' letter to the Ephesians in the Book of Revelation, where He says that they had lost their first love. So He exhorts them, "Think where you were before you fell; repent, and behave as you did at first, or else, if you will not repent, I shall come to you and take your lamp-stand from its place" (Rev 2:5, emphasis mine)

    Gregory, you are correct in noting that I spoke in too general a sense when I spoke of ‘perfection’ claim in the Catholic church. You have humbly admitted before that the Catholic church has problems just like any other church.

    Thanks.

    So more specifically, what I meant and what I should have focused on, is that Catholicism claims doctrinal perfection.

    I think this is still a bit of a misunderstanding, though, since Catholic doctrine continues to develop. Thus, in a sense, it is always "reforming" as we reach a greater understanding of the faith by looking of the shoulders of those saint-giants who came before. Obviously, we must acknowledge that our doctrine is imperfect in the sense that there is more to learn, grapple with, and understand. Much of the Christian faith is a mystery, that, as you point out below, we will not understand until we see Christ face to face: doctrines like The Trinity, Jesus' two natures, how man can have free will, and God can predestine, and on and on. We refer to these things as "mysteries" specifically due to the fact that we still don't have completely satisfactory answers to these essential issues of our faith. But that doesn't mean we don't wrestle with them or reexamine them.

    Quite aside from the reformation argument, this sort of stands makes them intractable.

    But that isn't our stance, as explained above. What we believe is that what we believe is true, and infallibly so--but it is not yet the whole picture. As such, your television analogy is quite apt.

    So what happens if we can really find a doctrine that shows us Jesus more clearly? For Catholics to embrace it they must either find enough flexibility within their own beliefs, or refuse to make the change.

    Actually, that is a pretty good description of their options--however, if a truth about Christ heretofore is undiscovered, it would cast doubt on the Holy Spirit's ability to teach the Church in the past 2000 years. Further, if that understanding of Jesus was indeed true, then it would have absolutely no difficulty harmonising with Catholic doctrine of Jesus. In fact, more or less everything believed by Protestantism (unless they themselves are teaching error, like certain liberal denominations--but we'll assume I'm talking about orthodox Protestantism) about Jesus was taken wholesale from Catholic theology as it interpreted the Scriptural texts. Since Catholic Christology is rooted in Scripture, any understanding of Christ from the Scriptures (that, obviously, don't twist or pervert those Scriptures in the process) would harmonise easily and perfectly with our understanding so far of who Jesus is.

    On the other hand, the christological heresies of the early church (eg. Arianism, Sabellianism) all made ample use of Scriptures to support their viewpoints. However, they contradicted certain Scriptures, as well as that deposit of faith known as Apostolic Tradition, and as such, the Church ruled them to be heretical. Any new understanding of Christ that does the same must also be ruled heretical.

    So we see, in the Early Church, that the Fathers of the Church referred not simply to Scripture, but also to tradition (as CJFreeman pointed out amply in his 4 part Gnosticism series) to prove their case for orthodoxy. The home of the Bible is the Church, and in the Church is the Bible truly understood. If this were not the case, the Early Church would have flown apart at the seams.

    But it's all well and good to discuss abstract concepts of how a church would respond in such hypothetical circumstances. I'm personally more interested in what new ideas about Jesus would constitute "the knowledge of the Son of God" in this endtimes revelation--specifically, what understanding of Jesus has not already been pondered and laboured over in the past 2000 years. If general revelation ceased with the passing of the last Apostle, then there is nothing new to be revealed about Christ until His return in glory. Any new prophetic-type revelation of Christ is private revelation, and not binding on the faithful. Moreover, as you point out in today's posting, all prophetic words must be judged by The Word--and as such, true understandings of Christ would not necessarily be "new" in that sense.

    You try to get around this, it seems, by suggesting radical returns to the Knowledge of Jesus as our "first love"--but then, at what point in that scenario would the Catholic Church need to eschew its understanding of Christ? Especially since she defined the orthodox understanding of Christ. New insights that are not new revelation must then simply be forgotten, underemphasised, or neglected teachings--but then, if that were hypothetically the case, they would still be Catholic doctrines, and easily find their place and proper emphases within the "doctrinal construct" for lack of a better phrase.

    Because making the change would be like admitting that they were wrong in the first place.

    The only reason for a "change" per the above scenario, would be if a genuinely "new" teaching of Christ was proclaimed. However, the Bible itself warns about such, when Paul commands us to treat even an angel who gives such a pronouncement as "accursed". If the teaching is not new and not heretical it either is part of, or is compatible with, the teaching of Christ already extant.

    Unless, brother, you can reassure me:

    “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
    (1 Cor 13:12)

    Amen. I hope I have reassured you, above.

    Let’s leave actual ‘change’ out of the question for just a moment.

    Please do. It implies more than I think you meant for it to, when taken to its logical conclusion.

    Based on the quotation above, let’s say that all Catholics beliefs are seen through a mirror, dimly, darkly – like watching a modern television show on an old, worn out television from the 50's.

    The Church would readily admit this.

    The picture may be perfectly true, but it’s not clearly seen.

    As I said above, this is a wonderful illustration of the fact of the matter.

    But now let’s say that old television was replaced by a new HDTV. Suddenly the image became immeasurably sharper. It’s not necessarily different, it’s just much better defined.

    And we long for that day when Christ returns, so that we may know Him fully, even as He is.

    Although - yes, it’s possible - this clearer definition shows us that some things were not quite what we thought they were.

    Yes, but if our previous doctrines were "perfect" even if "blurry", then seeing things sharper won't change the truth of the blurrier image--but it will help us to understand things that were still a blur (like, for example, we know because the Bible teaches, that we have free will. We also know that God predestines. How these two ideas cooperate rather than contradict is a mystery--something we will only see on the HDTV of Heaven. However, when we finally see how free will and predestination work together, it will not negate the fact that they in fact do. Catholic doctrines have not defined more than can be known, drawing unwarranted conclusions. The CCC readily acknowledges the Church's ignorance into the inner workings of the mysteries of the faith, while at the same time not denying the truth of those mysteries. If a new understanding of Christ illumines one or another of these still darkened mysteries, then that is a blessing, not a difficulty. However, if a new understanding negates something that we know for certain (and certain things we do know--because God has revealed them to us [and I am speaking of all Christians here]) then we must judge the new idea as counterfeit--another Jesus.

    Something like this is actually, truly going to happen to us all when Jesus returns and we see Him face to face,

    Amen! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

    so it shouldn’t be beyond any of us to accept the truth of this concept now: that, no matter how sincere our intentions, we may not be seeing Him as clearly as He can be seen.

    The Church readily believes this about herself, which is why doctrine is allowed to develop beyond the strict word of Scripture (though never in contradiction to it). If this were not the case, we would have no Bible, no Trinity, no realisation of Jesus being both God and Man, and taking it even earlier, to the time of the Old Covenant, if doctrine did not develop, we would have no concept of an afterlife or a resurrection of the dead.

    This notion of the continual development of doctrine is precisely why I have difficulty in the assertion of an "end-times" reformation--the reformation is occuring now, and has been for 2000 years. Yes, we've had growth spurts along the way--but development of greater understanings of Jesus and the economy of Grace has never ceased.

    Even Paul would have said so (Phil 3:10). Improvement may still be possible, even on our own side of that event. So do you think Catholicism would be willing to reshape it’s thoughts and move closer toward this perspective of the Lord Himself, if presented with such a thing?

    Assuming that such a perspective agreed and did not contradict the orthodox faith in Him, I do not believe for a second that it would be rejected. It would be examined from many angles, drawing this new perspective out to its logical conclusions--and if, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, such a perspective is judged as worthy of belief, it would be proclaimed with joyful readiness.

    I am confident that you, personally, would do so.

    I appreciate that. It was such a willingness to examine the issues and my perspectives of Jesus that ultimately landed me in the Catholic Church.

    Maybe lots of other Catholics would do so as well. Most Protestants would do so too. It’s the institutional level that I worry about (not just the Catholics, but other church institutions as well):

    “Better a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.
    (Eccl 4:13)

    I honestly do not think that this description is an accurate one of the Catholic Church.

    I think this flexibility is something we must always be open to. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-- unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Cor 13:5). If we are to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, our attitude must always be to follow. But when we claim doctrinal perfecttion, we are diggin in.

    Our claim to doctrinal "perfection" is not the same as doctrinal "completion". At the same time, our claim arises from the faith that Jesus meant what He said when He declared that the gates of Hell would never overcome the Church, and that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth, and remind us and teach us about Christ. We also accept by faith that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15), and that not because of herself, but because of the active leading of the Spirit of Christ.

    It would be much better to express our confidence as Paul did:

    “For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.”
    (1 Cor 4:4)

    Amen. I hope that I've demonstrated on an abstract level at least, that this is the Church's attitude.

    I enjoyed your stimulating and charitable reply. Your answers helped me go a long way in understanding your vision. I still have some qualms (above) about the practical dimension of it all (at least of your descriptions), but on the whole, I'm a lot more at ease with your concept.

    God bless you greatly.

    9/26/2005 2:02 AM


    loren said...
    Hi Gregory,

    Yes, I too am seeing some common ground emerge. Of course, it is fitting that Jesus Himself is our common ground. As long as we make it our aim to please Him, He will work us through any of our mistakes.

    9/26/2005 3:16 AM


    Gregory said...
    Amen! :)

    9/26/2005 12:34 PM

    By Blogger Cleopas, at 5:40 PM  

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