Monday, 25 January 2010

Evangelical Catholic Manifesto

Regarding myself, as I do, as a Catholic Evangelical (as opposed to a Protestant Evangelical), I found the manifesto here refreshing, rousing and, overall, excellent. And so I share it, repent of the ever-present temptation and inclination to simply coast along in my faith life and resolve to live up to such expressions of active fidelity to Christ more fully.

The Principles of Evangelical Catholicism

1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the crucified and risen Savior of all mankind, and no human person can fully understand his life or find his dignity and destiny apart from a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. It is not enough to know who Jesus is; we must know Jesus.

2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is divine revelation, not human wisdom, and the Gospel is given to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition which together constitute a single divine deposit of faith transmitted authentically and authoritatively by the Bishops in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. We must surrender our private judgments in all matters of faith and morals to the sacred teaching authority of the Church’s Magisterium if we are to receive the whole Gospel.

3. The seven Sacraments of the New Covenant are divinely instituted instruments of grace given to the Church as the ordinary means of sanctification for believers. Receiving the Sacraments regularly and worthily is essential to the life of grace, and for this reason, faithful attendance at Sunday Mass every week (serious illness and necessary work aside) and regular Confession of sins are absolutely required for a life of authentic discipleship.

4. Through Word and Sacrament we are drawn by grace into a transforming union with the Lord Jesus, and having been justified by faith we are called to sanctification and equipped by the Holy Spirit for the good works of the new creation. We must, therefore, learn to live as faithful disciples and to reject whatever is contrary to the Gospel, which is the Good News of the Father’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

5. The sacred liturgy, through which the seven Sacraments are celebrated and the Hours of praise are prayed, makes present to us the saving mysteries of the Lord Jesus. The liturgy must therefore be celebrated in such a way that the truth of the Gospel, the beauty of sacred music, the dignity of ritual form, the solemnity of divine worship, and the fellowship of the baptized assembled to pray are kept together in organic unity.

6. Receiving the Sacraments without receiving the Gospel leads to superstition rather than living faith, and the Church must therefore take great care to ensure that those who receive the Sacraments also receive the Gospel in its integrity and entirety. Consequently, before Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, and Marriage are administered, there must be in those who request these Sacraments clear evidence of knowledge of the Gospel and a serious intention to live the Christian life.

7. Being a follower of Christ requires moving from being a Church member by convention to a Christian disciple by conviction. This transformation demands that we consciously accept the Gospel as the measure of our entire lives, rather than attempting to measure the Gospel by our experience. Personal knowledge of and devotion to Sacred Scripture is necessary for this transformation to occur through the obedience of faith, and there is no substitute for personal knowledge of the Bible. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.

8. All the baptized are sent in the Great Commission to be witnesses of Christ to others and must be equipped by the Church to teach the Gospel in word and deed. An essential dimension of true discipleship is the willingness to invite others to follow the Lord Jesus and the readiness to explain His Gospel.


Matthias said...

GAB thanks for this. As a Protestant Evangelical i find that i identify quite clearly with what is put down here. strewth perhaps i am a closet catholic evangelical.

Enunciated here is what is now missing from a lot of Protestantism.

Matthias said...

I should add that the latter part of section 2,regarding the Bishop of Rome and the Magisterium would be the only points i can see where proddie evangelicals would part company,and instead refer to the 5 Solas of the Reformation ,which of course would see Catholic evangelicals not i agreeance

Kiran said...

I would query (6). We are baptized first, and then receive the fullness of the Faith. The Faith is lived through the Sacraments, and learnt as it is lived. The liturgy, as Zizoulas says, is dogmatic, and dogmas are lived and learnt through being lived, not the other way round. The Sacraments are not cherries added on top of our own understanding of the Gospel. They are truth-imparting. Thus, the intention must be there, of course, to receive Christ, but the faith is only given partially, prior to Baptism. This is related to the Eastern and Catholic norm of the disciplina arcana, which Newman wrote so much about.

Likewise, what is required for receiving any of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist is that a positive block be absent against them, and a genuine wish to accept what Christ and His Church do in us be present.

Matt said...

I agree with Kiran. With regard to baptism it is obviously wrong, as we baptise children, but I would take issue with regard to the other sacraments as well.

Isn’t there too much focus on “knowledge” here? The sacraments impart the grace of God, and I don’t think we want to start making people pass exams to fully participate in the life of the Church. If “Gospel” is taken in the narrow sense to mean “the good news that Jesus Christ is your saviour”, I’m less concerned (although I’m still not completely comfortable – what about children and imbeciles, and if knowledge is understood in the usual sense of the word – i.e. mental comprehension – aren’t we applying the wrong test anyway; are we falling into a species of Gnosticism?), but I fear that the author is actually using “Gospel” in the broader sense of the Bible (or at least the Gospels) and the associated theology. If that is the case, it seems that what is actually coming out here is that Evangelical sense that if you don’t know the Bible, chapter and verse, you’re not really a Christian. I’m very familiar with that sentiment, and I consider it heterodox, not to mention unpleasant.

But then, I would not describe myself as an “Evangelical Catholic” at all – plain old “Catholic” is good enough for me. What does “Evangelical” add, if not some sort of adherence to the principals of the reformation? Attempting to fold Evangelical principals into Catholicism is how you end up with these sorts of errors.

GAB said...

The sixth point refers to those who request these sacraments. Therefore, clearly, those who cannot request them, i.e. children and those suffering mental disabilities, are not in view here. Their sponsors, however, are, and I think that is proper.

There are two equal and opposite dangers here. The first, which the above principles have in view and which I find myself acutely sensitive to also, is the danger of absent or insufficient catechesis. We have reaped the fruits of that these past forty years, so it is no imaginary danger. And its results are, on the one hand, superstition- the habit of treating the sacraments like magic rather than like the vital elements of a living relationship with a Person- or, on the other, unbelief.

The second danger is that of Gnosticism, as Matt pointed out, or a Protestant version of it- the idea that I am saved by my theology and my biblical knowledge rather than by my lived relationship with Jesus Christ.

Both are legitimate dangers. As always, it is the midle way which is the correct one. On the one hand, reverence for Christ demands that we impress upon those who seek the sacraments, either on their own behalf or on behalf of others, the great significance of the mysteries they are about to receive. Confirmation is not a coming-of-age ceremony. Baptism is not just something you do to your children because everyone in your family always has. God comes to us in these things. Of course it is possible to receive the sacraments validly while having, at best, a dim understanding of what is taking place, or but a bare grasp of who Christ is and what He has done for me, just as it is possible to marry a person my parents picked out but who I didn't meet until the morning of the wedding. But I think it far preferable to at least get to know the lass a little first. Likewise with Christ. Our Lord Himself warned that people should count the cost before taking the plunge and following Him.

Conversely, it ought to be impressed upon those seeking the sacraments that it is Christ's action in the sacrament, and not their understanding of it, that is central. The poor in intellect are not barred from the kingdom of God, nor is one required to pass an exam to become a citizen of that kingdom (unlike some other kingdoms one might mention).

My own opinion is that, for children, we should follow the example of the East and give all three sacraments of initiation at once to the children of Christians. For adult converts, I think the early Church was onto something with the catechumenate. A paradoxical position, perhaps.

Regarding the use of 'Gospel' in 6), I had read it as the first one you mentioned, Matt. Although, having said that, some biblical instruction wouldn't go astray- Jerome's maxim is not hyperbole. Though I do not think a person who doesn't know the Bible well is not a Christian (and I couldn't care less about chapter and verse, frankly), I do think any Christian who does not have regular exposure to Scripture (and I mean more than just the couple of short readings at Sunday Mass) is very much the poorer for it.

GAB said...

I should add, regarding the use of the term 'Evangelical Catholic', that I regard it as thoroughly defensible on the following grounds. Louis Bouyer, in his book "The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism" advances the thesis that Protestantism has at its heart, not solely errors, but also embodies particular vital elements and emphases of the Christian faith. Several of these, being thus associated with Protestantism, have since been de-emphasised or neglected within Catholic culture (though still implicit within the Catholic faith proper). However, such elements and emphases, remaining within Protestantism, will ultimately be undermined and be drained of their vitality by the errors to which they have been joined; therefore, Bouyer says, Protestantism cannot be dismissed as totally and unrelievedly erroneous but, conversely, for the goods that it has inherited from the deposit of faith and the Christian patrimony to survive the ravages of ongoing centuries and the encroachment of the zeitgeist, they must take their place once again within the Catholic Church.

This is a thesis with which I happen to agree. I do not see myself as having left anything behind in reconciling myself with the Catholic Church. My faith and my relationship with Christ has been formed and nourished by Evangelicals and within an Evangelical culture. I do not see this as a disadvantage now that I am a Catholic, but rather as an advantage. That culture continues to inform how I live my faith, how I relate to God, how I pray. What are its hallmarks? To name some- emphasis on Scripture, understanding it, immersing oneself in it, listening to God speak to one through it; emphasis on having a personal relationship with Jesus; a zeal for theology and doctrine; the obligation to be ready to defend the Christian faith when it is challenged, and to lead others to faith in Christ; an emphasis on the gratuitousness of grace and the fact that all that I have received from God, salvation above all, is completely unmerited. All of these are thoroughly in accordance with the Catholic faith. Too many of them are sorely lacking among lay Catholics. Thus, I do not regard my Evangelical background as baggage but as supplies. I have no regrets about that. I reject the label 'Protestant'. I delight in the label 'Evangelical'.

These principles express nicely, I believe, what those particular strengths I mentioned above look like when placed back in the Catholic Church, where they belong and where alone they may flourish.

Matthias said...

GAB your last comments are very telling for you my faith has been nourished within and by Protestant Evangelicalism .You and i know the views of this group as regards Catholicism ie Papal infallibility is unscriptural;Mary is not the mediatrix as there is only one mediator between God and Man-Jesus Christ;Scriptural interpretation under the guiding of God the Holy Spirit are what guides us .BUT if they were to seriously look at the above Manifesto they would see -with exception of the Pope and the number of Sacraments-their very doctrine. BUT take out the Magisterium and put in the Pastoral oversight of their churches and what have you got?
When i read this Manifesto i had a Wesleyan " my heart was strangely warmed" experience.
Perhaps to consolidate this blogment you could go to the blog site of MAN WITH BLACK HAT and look up the section regarding altar servers and the comments by the priest who is featured there.His comments on how people should approach the Mass are as pertinent for Protestants as they are for catholics

Kiran said...

I think catechesis should be general and continuous, and I agree that to leave it out altogether is dangerous. But then again, reflecting on my own journey, which I made as an adult, I can certainly say that the sacraments propelled me to faith.

Increasingly, I think I'd go along with you, that Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist should be given together as early as possible. Apart from anything else, this will correct the over-emphasis (dare I say it) on Baptism in some circles, towards the Eucharist as the source of the Church. It will also correct the theology of Confirmation, and bring East and West closer to each other. At the very least, however, I think the innovation of conferring Confirmation after First Communion, when they didn't receive first communion as infants, should be reversed. This would make first communion as the completion of the process of initiation.

This blog post speaks about the ancient practice. However, note that such a practice would mean a departure from the ancient Western practice of Bishops alone conferring confirmation, unless of course, which to me seems less than ideal, confirmation were given much later by a Bishop, whereas Baptism and communion went together.

BTW, Matthias, if you were to email one of us your email address, we could probably send you some stuff we recently wrote about some of these matters. Mine is kiran(at)gmail(dot)com

matthias said...

Thanks for the email Kiran I have emailed mine to you as it is the one i can access without my son erasing them on my home computer. would you please pass it on to the other one of the "us" you wrote about. Sorry it has taken well over 12 hours.
Secondly re catechesis this is one area that my church and other Baptist groups are re examining,saying that just as catcehesis was a two year process before Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist in the Early Church ,so proddy groups should be taking it up.What made me laugh was the emphasis upon it being a rediscovery when in fact it has been staring them (me too) in our faces ie what Anglicans,Catholics,Lutherans and Orthodox have been doing in one way or another. A duh moment of Emergent Protestantism no less. BUT what ahs occurred without a catechismal approach,rather a catastrophic one ,is :
- a lack of knowledge and belief around sin,hell and the need for repentance.
- a stress upon relationships rather than righteousness
- Communion seen as a Love feast and not as a Sacrament,thus a relaxation I observe to the lead up to partaking of the bread and wine (grape juice for Baptists)
If i was officiating at a Communion I would :
ask all to recite the Apostles Creed
ask for a period of Prayer asking for forgiveness of sins-the Lutheran pastor says "On behalf of my Lord Jesus Christ i forgive you your sins" so being Baptist ours would not do that.
-greeting each other in peace.
i probably would not be asked to do it again .I can just hear it " Bit Catholic" or "Too high Church for us" or " well I have Never seen that in a Baptist Church"

Anonymous said...

Kiran has bounced back on that gmail address. have you got another or has the othe rpart of "Us' got one.If you email Schutz he will give you my email and tell him to look over here for my permission. If that is alright. otherwise my mobile is 0422574761,you will be directed to my work number

Matthias said...

and that last post is me in a hurry with the mobile phone number

Matt said...

Glenn, I don't think we actually disagree, but I still take issue with the manifesto. Perhaps the best way to put it is as follows. I believe that solid catechesis and a knowledge of scripture and theology are extremely important, and should be encouraged and supported. I believe that the sacraments impart the grace of God. I do not believe the latter is necessary linked to the former, and I do not believe that the former should necessary be a precondition to the latter. I think each should be encouraged and supported on its own merits. Article 6 states, or at least strongly implies, that if you don't have a solid catechesis, the sacraments are somehow a bad thing -- leading to "superstition" -- and as such should be withheld from those who can't demonstrate "clear evidence of knowledge of the Gospel". I take issue with that.

But I am extremely impressed with your opening remark – defending the comment by focusing on the word "request", which operates as a condition to the clause. If there is no request, the clause is not triggered. This is what non-lawyers call a "technicality", and it is not only the stuff of lawyers, but the stuff of very good lawyers. Bravo! You should strongly consider a career change.

GAB said...

Matt, re career change. I was about to say that in fact I have a very good friend who already pursued that career, when I suddenly realised.... Funny how something can be staring you in the face and yet you never make the necessary connection. :) In any case, I happen to be very attached to my present career.

Kiran, I'm assuming I am the other party in this 'us' of which you speak. Assuming that is the case, and if you're in fact referring to yours and my respective contributions to a particular soon-to-be-published book, wouldn't it be appropriate to await publication and then send a copy on or something? Just a thought.

And matthias, Kiran, it seems, has inadvertently left out the '(dot)newman' in his email address. Throw that in and communication should be established. Incidentally, if you should want mine for any reason, it is

Kiran said...

Sorry. Thank you, Glenn. Well, perhaps. But then again, so far as I can see, in regards what we have written we are free agents...