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Why I Returned to the Catholic Church. Part III: Tradition and Church
Cor ad cor loquitur ^ | 16 November 2004 | Al Kresta/Dave Armstrong

Posted on 08/16/2007 5:12:39 PM PDT by annalex


Why I Returned to the Catholic Church (Al Kresta)

. . . Including a Searching Examination of Various Flaws and Errors in the Protestant Worldview and Approach to Christian Living

Part III: Tradition and Church





(edited and transcribed by Dave Armstrong; originally uploaded on 16 November 2004).
[Part breakdown and part titles by Annalex]


There's no way of escaping tradition, at two levels: sociologically and theologically. Sociologically, why does the church exist? Once you're inside a community of people, you begin doing things a certain way. You fall into certain traditions. They do develop. There's no avoiding them. And the traditions usually exist for fairly good reasons. Within the church, questions come up: how are you going to have communion? How are we gonna baptize? What are you gonna teach the new convert? Questions have to be answered. And so you begin a tradition. It's the social glue that brings cohesiveness to a clan or a tribe. In order for any group to retain its identity for more than one generation, they have to articulate their reason for existence to the next generation. And no group can do that effectively by merely saying, "we're Christians. Mere Christians," because there are thousands upon thousands of such groups, and the questions always remains: "well, what's your group's reason for existing, and not joining up with another?" And so I kept asking that question at Shalom: "why don't we go down to the first church down the street?" And eventually about half of 'em did [laughter]. It was after I resigned that they ended up doing it.

Tradition forms the backdrop of particular doctrines, and if you lose the tradition, you end up losing the doctrine. If you lose the tradition that led up to this statement that "Jesus was God in human flesh" (and part of the tradition was the battle which was fought), then you lose the meaningfulness of the doctrine. It ceases to be significant. You have to be self-confident about your roots, otherwise you'll be tossed to and fro by the winds of modernity. So as a pastor, then, I had to come to grips with this question of tradition, both sociologically and theologically. It was clear to me from reading the Apostle Paul's letters, that he believed in an unwritten tradition that he was passing along to his people. He referred to what he had passed on that he had heard from other witnesses. And he expected that to be binding. So the question wasn't whether there would be tradition or not. There would be. The question was: by what authority do you determine right tradition from wrong tradition?

I guess the coup de gras for me on this issue of tradition was the realization that evangelical Protestantism has tradition right at its core. The canon of Scripture is itself a tradition nowhere established in the Bible. It's a church tradition. Francis Schaeffer was very good in that he taught me that one's presuppositions and first principles must be able to be lived and not just thought. And yet Protestantism cannot live out faithfully its commitment to the Bible alone, because on that basis there'd be no canon of Scripture. There'd be no Bible! So Protestants are in the terrible position of having its primary authority not being able to justify its own existence. They have to justify a collection of books, which are secondary to the Word. The Word is prior to the community. The Word calls forth the community, and the community gathers around that Word. The process of inscripturation is subsequent. It comes as the community reflects upon the Word, and is used to crystallize and condense that Word for posterity. Jesus Himself functioned as the Word, which drew a community together, which then produced certain documents and collected them.

Another thing that hit me as a pastor was the nature of the Church and Church government. Francis Schaeffer had taught me back in 1974, in his book, The Mark of a Christian, that in John 13 and 17, Jesus talks about a real, visible oneness, a practicing, practical oneness, across all denominational lines, among all Christians. We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, and to believe that Jesus's claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians. He kept talking about oneness in terms of people getting along with one another. He did not like the Roman Catholic Church at all. He thought it was an enforced uniformity and he complained about conservatives and progressives squabbling miserably in the Roman Catholic Church. But what he did do for me was focus on "visible." It had to be visible. This unity had to be observable by the unbelieving world.

[recalls the story of an erring, unrepentant, sinning brother in his congregation, who left when confronted] How can you exercise restorative church discipline, if all they do is bump off to another church? So all of a sudden institutions became not a bad thing, but a good thing. If we were part of a denomination we probably could do something. But then again he could just go to another denomination. So I began thinking about issues of excommunication, by what authority do you excommunicate; what are the guidelines for it? And it dawned on me that the New Tesdtament never expected a situation where, if you were barred from the fellowship, that you could just go over to some other fellowship! The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5, says "I'm gonna turn this fellow over to Satan for the salvation of his soul," and in 2 Corinthians, he has to say, "listen, back off this guy! You've disciplined him enough; he's at the point of despair. Welcome him back as a brother."

That was a major turning point, because my pastoral work was jeopardized by the existence of competing fellowships. This really disturbed me, in a way that's hard to describe to people who haven't been in that [situation], but my pastoral effort was now cheapened. How can you discipline if there's no unity of the body? Even in the New Testament, with all the disagreements among believers about law and grace and circumcision and eating of meat offered to idols, and qualifications for leadership, splintering into independent groups is never advocated. In fact, one of the few offenses that give us reason to separate from a brother is the offense of disunity (Romans 16): "I urge you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions. Keep away from them." So I was big on this church unity thing, but it was all invisible, spiritual, all out here. And it wasn't working very well.

I'd also taught on 1 Timothy 3:15: "the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth." It was one of those sermons where I would say, "and that's us!" And I'd look out there and I'd say, "like hell it is!" This is a joke! Here we are, 125 of us: "the pillar and foundation of the truth." And Paul wasn't referring to some invisible reality.



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Evangelical Christian; Theology
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To: wmfights; HarleyD; PetroniusMaximus
The canons of both testaments were first stated at the so-called African councils in late 4c. There has been no dispute regarding the canon since then in the East and in the West the matter was taken up by Luther, which prompted the restatement of the African canons by Trent.

There were considerable discussions all along what is and what is not inspired. The opinions varied widely: some considered only a few books: gospel of Luke and some Pauline epistles as inspired; others would include letters of the early popes as well. The cirteria for canonicity were

There were about 70 gospels to choose from. The manuscripts differed as well. The authorship is rarely spelled out in the books themselves, and was in dispute in many cases. The Church was the deciding factor in forming the New Testament Canon.

The Old Testament Canon was an easier matter thanks to the Jewish tradition; however, in an attempt to convict Christians of apostacy, the council of Jamnia (AD 90) removed books form the Septuagint and settled on the Masoretic Jewish Tradition instead, thus putting the Deuterocanonical books in doubt. That, too, was settled for the Christians in the African councils, till Luther decided to revive the controversy and eliminate books that did not fit his theological fantasies.

The books themselves were not written by baptist ministers either; all the human writers are saints of the Catholic Church.

For more, see

Canon of the Old Testament
Canon of the New Testament

21 posted on 08/17/2007 7:29:40 AM PDT by annalex
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To: Saint Louis

Insidents of homosexuality and pedofilia in the Catholic clergy is not higher than in other religious institutions; it is much lower than in the public schools. At its peak in the 70’s and 80’s aboput 4% of the Catholic clergy was accused. At this point, the Inquisition is at work in Catholic seminaries to rid the Church of the lavender mafia for good and completely.

The interest in the left wing media in highlighting the defects of the Catholic Church is however, unprecedented.


22 posted on 08/17/2007 7:34:26 AM PDT by annalex
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To: PetroniusMaximus

Definitely. The 20 c has seen a shift from ethno-cultural Catholicism of the Spanish, Poles and Italians to religion as a matter of choice. This cause a significant outflow form the Church in favor of the easier theologies of Protestantism, especially in traditionally Protestant America.

So, can your 3,000 ex-Catholics articulate their thoughts on church authority and tradition?


23 posted on 08/17/2007 7:38:49 AM PDT by annalex
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To: HarleyD
It really was later in the Church that the leaders concocted the idea that they put together the scriptures. This is completely contrary to the early Church's view and, with all due respect, is rather laughable when talking about tradition. Had this author studied this he would not have made this careless mistake.

Harley,

Have you ever heard of Marcion? Are you aware of the history behind him? Did you know that at that point, the various bishops began making lists and so forth until the Church defined the canon?

Is the Church supposed to listen to every guy who comes along with some "theory" that parts of the Sacred Scriptures don't belong? Marcion wanted to toss out the OT, Luthe had his list of "acceptable scriptures" as well. The Church has been tasked to protect the Tradition once given, not Marcion, not Luther.

Regards

24 posted on 08/17/2007 8:56:52 AM PDT by jo kus
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To: annalex; HarleyD; PetroniusMaximus
The canons of both testaments were first stated at the so-called African councils in late 4c.

Rome did not have a representative there and Jerome had already started the translation known as the Vulgate. Also, those meetings just reaffirmed what was already accepted. IOW, Rome did not really declare what they believed the Canon to be until after the fact.

25 posted on 08/17/2007 9:50:00 AM PDT by wmfights (LUKE 9:49-50 , MARK 9:38-41)
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To: wmfights; HarleyD; PetroniusMaximus

This is correct. This is how the Church generally operates: things are not proclaimed at councils unless someone disputes them.


26 posted on 08/17/2007 10:05:38 AM PDT by annalex
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To: HarleyD
It should be also noted that the Church's position on the matter is that the inspired writings were always recognized-at least the early Church. They knew what was inspired and what wasn't. It wasn't a matter of them picking and choosing them from a Border's aisle. It was as if the inspired ones had white, leather covers with gold leaf while the others were paperback. They weren't hard to tell.

Very much true in the case of the canonical gospels and the letters of St. Paul.

Very much false in the case of everything else. In the early church, "canonical Scriptures" was synonymous with "read in the liturgy". Some places read the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and the Epistles of Clement in the liturgy. Some didn't. To this day, Revelation is not read in the Orthodox liturgy, though they (today) consider it canonical.

But this is kind of anachronistic of you, Harley. If it's so "easy" to tell what was inspired, why did Luther declare, not merely that the Epistle of James wasn't inspired, but that its author wasn't even a Christian?

27 posted on 08/17/2007 10:27:07 AM PDT by Campion ("I am so tired of you, liberal church in America" -- Mother Angelica, 1993)
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To: annalex
“Definitely. The 20 c has seen a shift from ethno-cultural Catholicism of the...”

Do you recognize the fact that “ethno-cultural” religion won’t save anyone?



“in favor of the easier theologies of Protestantism, especially in traditionally Protestant America.”

What make you think they are “easier”.



“So, can your 3,000 ex-Catholics articulate their thoughts on church authority and tradition?”

Only about 1/2 are ex-catholics - and yes, the one’s I am familiar with can articulate their faith rather well. Are you falling into the, “anyone who leaves the Catholic church must be an idiot” trap?

28 posted on 08/17/2007 11:01:38 AM PDT by PetroniusMaximus
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To: PetroniusMaximus
“ethno-cultural” religion won’t save anyone

Depends on the religion and on the person. If a cradle Catholic goes through solid catechisis, understands and practices his faith, confesses sins and receives the Holy Communion, of course he will be saved. An interesting question is, would a cradle Protestant be saved? The answer to this one is far more complicated.

What make you think [the Protestant theologies] are “easier”.

Primarily, the variations on the security of salvation theme, and the relaxed teaching on contraception and divorce.

can articulate their faith

What would they say on the specific issues raised by Kresta in this segment, on the necessity to choose between traditions and on the authority and visible character of the Church?

anyone who leaves the Catholic church must be an idiot

No, but it is easier to leave the Church than to stay in it. We are a counter-cultural early medieval organisation. I am not surprised when Catholics leave; I am surprised how many of them come back enlightened by the experience.

29 posted on 08/17/2007 11:28:02 AM PDT by annalex
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To: PetroniusMaximus
“ethno-cultural” religion won’t save anyone

Depends on the religion and on the person. If a cradle Catholic goes through solid catechisis, understands and practices his faith, confesses sins and receives the Holy Communion, of course he will be saved. An interesting question is, would a cradle Protestant be saved? The answer to this one is far more complicated.

What make you think [the Protestant theologies] are “easier”.

Primarily, the variations on the security of salvation theme, and the relaxed teaching on contraception and divorce.

can articulate their faith

What would they say on the specific issues raised by Kresta in this segment, on the necessity to choose between traditions and on the authority and visible character of the Church?

anyone who leaves the Catholic church must be an idiot

No, but it is easier to leave the Church than to stay in it. We are a counter-cultural early medieval organisation. I am not surprised when Catholics leave; I am surprised how many of them come back enlightened by the experience.

30 posted on 08/17/2007 11:30:32 AM PDT by annalex
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To: annalex; Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; ...

Part 3 of the conversion story.


31 posted on 08/17/2007 11:31:52 AM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: annalex
"If a cradle Catholic goes through solid catechisis, understands and practices his faith, confesses sins and receives the Holy Communion, of course he will be saved."

You can do all that and still not be saved. John said this was the test:

"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."

In other words, unless a person is obeying Jesus' words and becoming more like Jesus, there is no reason to think that that person will be saved - protestant or catholic.


" Primarily, the variations o­n the security of salvation theme"

I agree that the Bible teaches the reality of apostacy. But it also teaches the reality of a present-tense salvation:

"How great is the love the Father has lavished o­n us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." - 1st John 3

... and this truth is something that, to the best of my knowlege, the Catholic Church completely overlooks. In fact, they would say it is a sin to be so confident of salvation! Yet  it is what the Apostle John taught.


" What would they say o­n the specific issues raised by Kresta..."

I'll have to ask.


" No, but it is easier to leave the Church than to stay in it."

Would you say the same is would be true for Kresta - i.e. that it was easier for his to leave the protestant church???




32 posted on 08/17/2007 1:53:15 PM PDT by PetroniusMaximus
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To: PetroniusMaximus
and this truth is something that, to the best of my knowlege, the Catholic Church completely overlooks. In fact, they would say it is a sin to be so confident of salvation!

That's quite untrue, PM. In fact, what you quoted from 1 John is a fine summary of the Catholic view of salvation, which is essentially divine sonship.

33 posted on 08/17/2007 1:57:45 PM PDT by Campion ("I am so tired of you, liberal church in America" -- Mother Angelica, 1993)
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To: PetroniusMaximus

I said, “if a cradle Catholic goes through solid catechisis, understands and practices his faith, confesses sins and receives the Holy Communion, of course he will be saved.” In other words I had enumerated either directly or by summary (”practices his faith”) the requirements that you say I missed.

I agree that if a Protestant obeys all the commandments of Christ, goes to confession and received the Holy Eucharist, then he, too will be saved. But then he will be with Al Kresta today.

No, It was obviously not easy for Kresta to leave, as we see from the three parts already posted. That is because the modernity gives one a very strong bias against sacramental hierarchical religion.


34 posted on 08/17/2007 2:15:42 PM PDT by annalex
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To: annalex
Next installment:

Why I Returned to the Catholic Church. Part IV: Crucifix and Altar

35 posted on 08/23/2007 6:17:45 PM PDT by annalex
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