Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Read...I Read...

In response to a discussion with a (very) Calvinist friend of mine, wherein I was thrust into my increasingly-common role of defending Catholicism*, I'm reading the Council of Trent. He, like many Protestants I've talked to, denies that Roman Catholicism (and, by inference, all large-C Catholic faith) is Christian, though he says that individual Roman Catholics may be Christian (sort of like my view of Mormonism). As usual, one of my challenges for him was to explain how Roman Catholicism is not Christian but Anglicanism is. As few Protestants are willing to say that Episcopalianism isn't Christian (yes, I know; be quiet for now), this usually provokes some serious thought. Generally, the arguments about the Christianity of Roman Catholicism boil down to two main ideas: the lack or addition of some idea viewed as key (variously, Arminism, not using the KJV, praying for the intercession of saints, etc.), and that because many (most?) Roman Catholics cannot articulate their faith in accordance with their official doctrine that the Roman Catholic Church is therefore "invalid" as a Christian expression of faith. Man, being an Anglican is tough sometimes.

*Under the term "Catholic," I include those within the Roman Communion (Latin Rite, Eastern Rite, Maronite Rite, etc.), Eastern and Oriental Orthodox (Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Syriac, Coptic, etc.), Old Catholics, some Anglicans (this includes the Anglican Communion, Continuing Anglican churches, and even some Methodists and their own offshoots), and some Lutherans. With Anglicans and Lutherans, whether a person is to be considered Catholic depends on which doctrines are viewed as essential and whether they accept them. In Anglicanism, for instance, there is enough leeway in what is considered official doctrine that any given believer may be Protestant, Catholic, or in-between. Thus, Christianity is usually broken down into Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy (Eastern and Oriental), Protestantism, and Anglicanism. If pressed, I'd lump Lutheranism in with Anglicanism under some other title, as both can be either Protestant or Catholic (or both). Old Catholics should be lumped in either with Roman Catholics, with whom they are not in communion but share a common heritage, or Anglicans, as they have a different background but are in communion with the Anglican Communion.

Personally, I consider myself to be more of an Anglo-Catholic ("English Catholic") than a Protestant. I've been accused both of being Catholic and being Protestant by various people. Thus, I usually just call myself Anglican and let others lump me wherever they want. However, if pressed, I will deny that I am a Protestant, though the term Evangelical seems to apply pretty well. Anglicans, according to our doctrine, believe that we are part of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Declaring ourselves to be in schism with that, as the Protestants appear to have done, would seem to be self-defeating.

All the churches listed under the Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican labels are valid expressions of orthodox ("correct-teaching") Christianity. Any church which is heterodox ("other-teaching") in the essentials of the faith is not Christian (Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, etc.). When churches disagree on doctrine, heterodoxy only occurs (again, in my view) if the teaching is explicit in the Bible. Thus, a rejection of the practice of homosexuality is orthodox, while a belief or disbelief in the Real Presence is not necessarily heterodox.

One way to think of this is to imagine that you've died and are in the presence of the Judge, and are told that some doctrine you believe is actually false, and that such-and-such is actually correct. If your response would be "oh, my bad," then the idea is not essential. If it would instead be "you must be joking," then it is. I make no claim that this is a perfect analogy or test, but merely use it in hopes of illustrating my point.

Coming Soon: The HokiePundit Summary of the Council of Trent, Wherein This Author Interprets and Translates Into His Modern English His Understanding of Said Document

UPDATE: Obviously, ideas such as the Resurrection and the Trinity are less controversial tests of orthodoxy than rejection of homosexuality. I stand by my earlier assertion, while admitting that a less emotionally-charged example could, and probably should, have been used.

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