Sunday, 9 August 2009

Two Ecclesiologies

I had dinner with Kiran tonight after Mass, and we got to talking about, among innumerable other things, the ecclesiology of various Christian groups. In the course of this discussion, Kiran came up with what I think is a very neat and succinct turn of phrase describing a whole host of differences in this area of theology and Christian practice. Having obtained his permission, I've quoted this below a) because for Kiran to say anything succinctly is a rare enough occurrence anyway, b) because he's unlikely to write it down himself, and c) I think it's worth filing away for future reference.

"For the Protestant, properly so called, the Church is a group of people who are Christians; for Catholics, Orthodox and Lutherans, Christians are a group of people who are members of the Church."


Kiran said...

Thank you, Glenn Alan Ignatius Fork-in-the-River. I'd be interested to see the Lutheran response to this, and whether they accept this.

I was going to add, however, that, for certain protestants (and some Catholics: Karl Rahner when he is talking about anonymous Christians for instance), the issue goes further, and is based I think, on a bad reading of The City of God: The Church is simply composed of the elect, whether or not they are formally, here and now, Christian.

Also, I should explain that the whole Protestant thing is a high Anglican carry-over: For a successor of the Tractarians, the word Protestant is something like an insult. I don't know if this applies to Lutherans.

GAB said...

For the record, it's Allan with two l's and Bend -in-the-River, not Fork-in-the-River (from Anglo-Saxon bogel-w├Žsse).

What you say about City of God is true, I think, and the doctrine of eternal security ("once saved, always saved") also plays a part with some (though not all) Protestants.

I do think, however, that your summation last night was very insightful particularly as to what all of that theology looks like after it has trickled down to the masses in either camp.

matthias said...

Having being brought up in the Churches of Christ-a Presbyterian breakaway-I was taught both ecclesiologies:
-the Church is a group of people who are Christians,and
-christians are members of the Church.
Then the fun began ,as we had one minister, who talked about "people being Churchified,ossified and petrified but did not know the One who was Crucified". we all thought ah he must be talking about the RC/Anglicans or Methodists. No he was talking about members in that very congregation. But he said Christians are members of the Church because That was one of the acts of being a Disciple,and that they loved to be in the House of God at every opportunity.

GAB said...

I haven't heard that line about "Churchified, ossified and petrified" before, but it sounds very similar to sentiments that were in the air as I was growing up in the Baptist church.

matthias said...

Interesting GAB as i currently attend a Baptist Church,but am seriously seeking to enter the RCC. i had second thoughts for a while looking at things through Reformation eyes, thinking of ditching my heritage etc,but t I have moved on from that point to when i enter the RCC iwould place myself in the evangelical Catholic wing

GAB said...

Let me encourage you in that endeavour. It's a lonely but well-travelled road. Lots of pitfalls, but well worth the journey, believe me. And the wonderful thing is, so many of the things you think you'll have to turn your back on turn out to have come from the bosom of the Church, or to have been present there, all along. And sometimes (though not always) the things you do have to sacrifice- family, fellowship, position, reputation or whatever- God has a funny way of giving back to you later on. I can certainly testify to that in my own experience.

Be assured of my prayers as you continue to walk that road towards reconciliation with Mother Church.

matthias said...

Thank you I told my brother-formerly a Church of Christ minister ,and now a socialist-who ,despite talking about his admiration for the Cistercians ,exploded.

Kiran said...

Matthias, I shall add my own prayers for you.

I myself have been a socialist, and an atheist at various stages in my life. At the end I figured out that the only way I could both be a materialist, and believe that there is 'goodness' is to become a Catholic, where both unite in sacramentalism. So, I guess there is some hope. Could I recommend the following, as a good read on the issue of Socialism and Christianity:

Bede Jarrett's Medieval Socialism

Also check out PerplexedEF Schumaker

God bless you on your journey. Feel free by the way, if you want to exchange thoughts or questions, to email me at


matthias said...

Thank you both for your kind thoughts