This Week

  • Sunday: 10:00 Worship
  • Tuesday: Bible Study @ Jeremiah’s, 2 p.m.; Elders, 3 p.m.
  • Saturday: Emmaus Reunion Group, 8 a.m. (@ McDonald’s)
  • AA Meetings: in the Parish Hall:
    • Tuesdays, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. – Discussion
    • Wednesdays, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Big Book
    • Fridays 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Discussion

Remember that audio recording of the sermons are available: https://stpaulsmarietta.org/audio/https://stpaulsmarietta.org/audio/

Tomorrow: Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-31; “Fool.” Paul commands that we abandon five things about sex, and five things about words/language/tongues.

The Virtue of Protestant Catholicism

Samuel G. Parkison (…continued)

On Not “Ending Protestantism

Does this then mean an “end of Protestantism?” Not at all. For one thing, we can’t stop protesting because none of Rome’s dogma of yesteryear, which forced the hand of our Reformed forbearers, has yet been amended or corrected. By all accounts, the theological distance between Rome and “her rebellious children” (as Hans Küng put it) has not narrowed, but only grown. Even if this were not the case, “ending Protestantism” would still be a mistake, since it would necessarily assume that “increasing oneness” amounts to “increasing Romishness.” It would assume, in other words, that “oneness” has a scent and sound, which is the smells and bells of Rome. I can’t imagine why Protestants should all of a sudden flip the script and start arguing with Roman Catholics that Rome is the one true Church.

All this to say, the decision to move with the grain of Christ’s cosmic Church unity, and not against it, should not look like Protestants rushing to pick up a rosery. Nor should it look like attempting to find the least common denominator. A thin ecumenism is a weak and brittle ecumenism. Instead of collectively agreeing to climb out of our denominational entrenchments to try to find a ground wide and level enough to fit everyone on, we should stay where we are and begin digging. And no, we shouldn’t dig just deep enough so that the top of our trench puts everyone else out of view – isolation isn’t the goal. We should keep digging, further and further down. If we do, we will ultimately hear the happy clank of our shovels hitting each other as we reach our common core. The ecumenism we should strive after, in other words, is not a thin horizontal ecumenism, but rather a thick vertical one; our “common ground,” the place where we recognize our oneness, is not on earth’s crust, but at its core. And there, like a bush ablaze but not burning, the words of the Nicene Creed invite us to rally around them.

There will, of course, come a day when this “already/not yet” unity will shed its “not yet” description, and the Universal Church’s transcendent oneness will immanentize. In that day, the common ground won’t be limited to the core, but will extend out to the crust of the New Earth. If we keep this in mind, we can avoid the temptation to either minimize or exaggerate our differences. It will not surprise me in the least, for example, to find brothers and sisters in Christ walking around that glorified Earth who were Presbyterians in this age. Though I am convinced that many of them will have been sprinkled in the Triune name, but never formally baptized rightly, I do not doubt that there is nevertheless a Spiritual baptism we share in common (Rom 6:1-4). In fact, shocking though it may sound to some, I suspect the New Earth will be home to more than a few heavenly citizens who were Roman Catholics in this life, who managed to arrive despite their Church’s teaching on justification.

Nicaea in the Middle of Nowhere

This eschatological, “already/not yet” vision helps us to answer the question I raised above: what hath Nicaea to do with the struggling First Baptist Church of Middle-of-Nowhere (let’s call her FBCM)? The answer is that the Universal Church described in the Nicene Creed only becomes visible here and now in local churches, like FBCM. The moment our triune God saves a sinner by grace, the sinner has been enlisted in Christ’s cosmic army (though it is true enough that some prefer to go awol).

There are, in point of fact, no truly “lone wolf” Christians. A Christian is one who is baptized by the Spirit into “one body” (1 Cor. 12:5), delivered “from the domain of darkness” and transferred into “the dominion of [God’s] beloved Son” (Col. 1:13), and a “living stone” who is, together with other Christians, being “built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:4-5).

To be a Christian is to be a member of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, because God is in the business of binding and loosening in heaven. But how does that which is bound and loosened in heaven become bound and loosened on earth? Who is responsible for declaring and legitimizing the new member’s status in the Universal Church? To whom does Christ hand his keys to the Kingdom, in order to bind and loosen on earth that which is bound and loosened in heaven (Matt 16:18-19, 18:15-20)? Local churches like FBCM.

The Church is the Bride of Christ; a people from every tribe and tongue and nation, who have been elected from the foundation of the world, and purchased by the blood of Jesus. This Universal Church is made visible in local churches, and only in local churches. Her members are certainly present all over the place, but you can’t see her until local churches gather. Without little churches like FBCM, talk of the Universal Church would be vacuous. The concept remains phantasmal and ghostly until incarnated with bodies, bread, wine, water, and Word. (…to be continued)

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