Friday, February 10, 2006

A 2,000 year-old conversation

I want to commend another Independent Catholic blog to everyone’s attention – Even the Devils Believe http://chris.tessone.net/, by seminarian Chris Tessone. In particular, I want to commend his recent discussion of what it means to be “Catholic” in the context of the Independent Catholic movement, outside the Roman Catholic Church. I agree wholeheartedly with his comments, and want to amplify one of them: universality. Chris states that “Catholic teachings must be comprehensible in the context of the wider world.” I would add that being catholic/universal has a temporal component – that is, to be a Catholic Christian is to recognize that one is part of a two-thousand-year-old continuing Christian tradition, a two-thousand-year-old conversation, and that Christians of all other times and places are somehow mystically united with one in the church, the body of Christ. While this point may seem obvious, it stands in stark contrast to the view of many evangelicals, whose high view of scripture leads them not only to reject the tradition, but also to hold an ahistorical view that sees a pristine scriptural faith that was allegedly practiced by the early church, which then fell by the wayside until it was rediscovered by some modern group (some would say the Protestant Reformation was that point of rediscovery, others would place it at another point), when it began to be practiced exactly as it was in the early church – even though such an identical practice is not actually possible, because we live in a world that has changed. By recognizing the fullness of tradition and the diverse ways in which Christians have responded to contemporary society and its challenges, we are better equipped to face the challenges of our own day. (Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I must acknowledge that there are Catholic fundamentalists as well, both within the Roman church and within the independent movement, whose view of tradition is very similar to that of their evangelical fundamentalist brethren in that they see “tradition” as a rigid set of unchanging propositions that is handed down, rather than as an ongoing conversation that is constantly developing and renewing itself. This view is alien to the best of the Catholic theological tradition, but has gained a foothold in some circles nonetheless.)

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