Posted on: August 8th, 2013 (The heart of) Catholic Ecclesiology

The heart of what I call “catholic ecclesiology” is the conviction that Christ is fully and completely bound to the church as a corporate, visible body.

One can discuss catholic ecclesiology in terms of space, and in terms of time.

In space catholic ecclesiology is the idea that what binds the church together in unity is more fundamental than ideological positions which fall outside the purview of the mind of the universal church. Ultimately what binds the church together in unity is performance of the liturgy, which is the deepest corporate participation in Christ, with brothers and sisters in community. Hence I might vehemently disagree with a sister on all sorts of issues (for example, issues having to do with human sexuality), but we are still bound together in Christ. Hence we experience the deepest possible level of unity.

The denial of this spatial catholicity is seen when subcatholic ideologies are allowed to rupture the unity of the church, such that people who disagree, especially bishops, the focal point of unity in the church, no longer participate together in the (eucharistic) liturgy.

In time catholic ecclesiology is the idea that, over the peaks and valleys of history, the church will emerge faithful and victorious. Is the church locked into a vicious cycle of faithfulness and unfaithfulness, a seemingly endless repetition of the fate of Old Covenant Israel? Catholic ecclesiology says “no,” and insists that history is on the side of the institutional church, that the gates of hell will not prevail against it, that the church is qualitatively more spirit-infused than (because it is a fulfillment of) Old Covenant Israel.

The denial of this temporal catholicity is seen when theologians imply, or when people think or assume, that the church’s unfaithfulness will perpetuate itself indefinitely, a move which locates cosmic salvation outside the church, with a Christ who is isolated and disembodied.

Both denials, that of spatial catholicity and that of temporal catholicity, sever Christ from the church. But catholic ecclesiology always holds them together. Christ is the sacrament of God, and the church is the sacrament of Christ.

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Posted on: July 31st, 2013 My Take on (American) Evangelicalism

Thanks to my friend Tish for posting this, I assume at least partly in response to this. And also one should see this, with which I heartily agree.

Of course “evangelicalism” is a slippery term b/c it is both a sociological descriptor and a theological tradition.

Question: where does Catholic Christianity figure in all this?

Reason I ask: I walked away from evangelicalism (at least in my own mind!) not so much b/c it was so militantly opposed to progressive culture (in terms of science, poverty, & liberal politics … the things cited in the title of Tish’s blog post), as Tish’s interlocutors (eg, Rachel Evans) seem to be saying and against which Tish seems to be protesting, but precisely for the opposite reason.

I see evangelicalism as being part and parcel with secular culture: individualistic, private, trend-obsessed, market based. (Example: show me a church planter’s vision statement [the mere fact that evangelicals use “vision statements” speaks volumes] that does not tacitly try to position itself in terms of the contemporary religious “market” in America.)

Which of course is why many, many of those who decry evangelicalism are themselves … evangelicals. It is now trendy in evangelical circles to be progressively anti-evangelical. (Witness the “emergent church” … as I throw up in my mouth a teency bit.)

Evangelicalism, as best I can discern, is not sacramental; it is not sacred; it is not other worldly; it is not mystical; it is not transcendent; it is not rooted in history (by and large). I say this as an ex-evangelical (said in the most wounded tone of voice I can muster, imagining myself to have gone through a painful “de-conversion” experience.)

I’ve been convinced for about a decade now that evangelicalism is actually the reverse face (the “kissing cousin” or the “other side of the coin”) of our distinctively American secular culture.



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