Barbarians at the Gates; a Summary
August 24, 2012 24 Comments
Here and at the Watchtower, My dear friend, Jessica and I have been talking and asking our readers about the threats we face as Christians, and if it even possible for us to present a unified front to our enemies. Apparently, we touched a nerve, we have each had hundreds of visitors to these posts, and many, many comments, some in common but many not. Thank you, all of you, who have read our thinking, and especially those who have contributed to the discussion. Jessica opened on Tuesday with this paragraph from her On the Titanic
My comment was inspired by a sense of frustration that in the face of the attacks to which Christianity is subject, our churches are far from united, and grown adult men who are certainly bright enough to know that the addition of the filioque to the Creed does not mean that Rome believes in double-procession, still seem to think it a barrier to acting together. Knowing a little of the history of the Church in the fifth and sixth centuries, it reminds me of how the disunity which followed Chalcedon in 451, weakened Christianity and helped pave way for the rise of Islam. Well, those who will not learn from history will be taught their lesson until they do.
This formed the basis for what we have done this week. In most of this post, Catholics, Anglican, Methodists, Lutherans, and others attempted to define what are our “essentials and incidentals’”. As you would guess our lists varied considerably. They also offered very little room for healing the schisms that have rent the Church since Chalcedon in 451.
On Wednesday we took a different tack, looking at what unifies us. Again, Jessica opened with Looking for Common Ground.
….The context, of course, was my little rallying cry that if Christians don’t hang together, we will probably hang separately, given the foes we face. That was not, let me emphasize, especially for those not familiar with earlier posts on the importance of orthodoxy, a plea for some sort of syncretism. This post, I hope, says something of where these thoughts came from, and this one, something about my attitude towards what divides us….
I had this to say, which pretty well sums up my feelings at this point.
I. like you, believe time is short. Nor am I looking for any sort of syncretism, I grew up in a church (UCC) that attempted to yoke four very different traditions, it was not a happy marriage. What is needed is tolerance, understanding, and respect. You know, like we find here.
We have real enemies, they don’t care about our “incidentals, and essentials”, they just want us gone. I find that the more I learn of our various traditions, the more honored I am to be among you, and your ally and friend.
Which is very true for me and I hope others. At one point Servusfidelis, one of our Catholic friends stated.
Secular society has divided one against another and it is much like the Tower of Babel: rich against poor, men against women, culture against culture, race against race, educated against uneducated, liberal against conservative et al.
How did God counteract the Babel syndrome: through the Pentecost. What had them understanding one another in their own tongue? It was love my friend. It is the glue of the Church and should be the glue of all human beings. That it is not, is not the issue. It is simply the answer that none of want to pursue first. Everyone else must do it first.
Which very nearly sums up our Faith.
My turn was next as I published Deck Chairs and Bishops in which I picked up the theme of ‘essentials and incidentals’ and how to ally together in the face of the threat. In describing the difficulties of joining together, I used the Eucharist because it is sacramental to us all but our traditions vary.
…. The disputes here may be important doctrinally but, is doctrine more important than shepherding the flock. Does it really matter to the parishioner if the bread and wine of the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of the Christ, if He is in them and under them, as Martin Luther said, or a symbol of His sacrifice, in all cases the words of institution are “Do this in Remembrance of Me,” and all three lead to a reverence for the Lord. I’ve read the arguments that split the Coptic and Syrian churches off at Chalcedon, and I haven’t quite figured out, what they meant. The filioque that Jessica refers to above is one of the things that rent the Orthodox Churches from Rome.
My point was that, as became clear in the comments, the Eucharist both unites and divides us. It unites us because it comes in direct line from Jesus himself, and it divides us because we all hold passionately to our definition of it, which are all rooted deeply in our traditions. Short of the direct intervention of God himself, I think the divisions are insoluble. But they in no way impede our working together for the good of the church.
I spent the rest of the post defining the enemy without and within, because if we do not recognize the enemy we are lost.
- Radical Islam, however defined. they wish to conquer and kill us. That’s pretty straightforward.
- Secular humanism, this takes a bit more work
Our other enemy are the secular humanists, we have all seen their work, many are overtly atheists, and are in open opposition to us. That’s all well and good but, many have also penetrated into our churches since the 60′s, and have influenced our doctrine from worshipping God, to proclaiming Jesus is Love. That is true, of course, but our God is so much more. he is a God of justice as well as mercy, He is a God of works as well as faith. God has standards, and he is our ultimate judge, there is no appeal. He does not grade on a curve, nor is his worship a cafeteria plan. He has inspired the works which have created western civilization, and without him it will fall.
One other thing, If the Church of God falls to either of these enemies, the Islamists will win. Why? Because while the humanists think they can convert the Islamists, they can’t. However flawed, Islam, or their system of belief in Islam, may be, they have a very firm belief, they will happily die for them, in this they are like our martyrs, who built our faith. The secularists will follow us because nothing can not stand against something.
And Kathleen of Catholicism Pure & Simple, strengthened both of my points, in the comments,
I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say (although for me as a Catholic the True Presence in the Holy Eucharist is of vital importance, I get your point that we can agree to disagree on this) as our belief as Christians in our one “Triune God” and the life and teachings of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, is our supreme binding belief. This belief that marks us out as Christians – and all the blessings Christendom has brought us – must unite us in these troublesome times in the face of our common “real enemies”, that as you also say “are at the gates”!
We have lost a lot our “crowd” through the evils and heresies of Modernism, and be assured, militant Islam has taken note of that; he sees us as weak! But are we?
As most of you know, I am a contributor at Constitution Club, and I also posted this article there. One of the comments struck me, from Cultural Limits, still another strong Catholic
…The theology of the day went from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas dominating and started the movement, if you will, that led to Martin Luther being able to even lead any sort of revolt. If the conditions weren’t right among the right people, it would not have happened. It was the third of the “every 400 years or so the laity saves the Church” that Archbishop Fulton Sheen discussed. The laity isn’t the hierarchy. It’s the people on the ground. We have to do our part. We’re in the middle of it now as it’s taking the laity to hold priests’ feet to the fire just to discuss unpleasant subjects…
So perhaps that is our mission as the laity in our various denominations.
And so we come to Thursday, with Jessica again leading off with Determined to know one thing?. (I let her lead because she has time itself on her side being based in the UK)
It was, as so often, St. Paul, who told the first Christians what I have termed ‘the essentials’: For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Servus Fidelis made a similar point yesterday:
Can we join together without taking into account all the red herrings that society, politics and ideologies cram us into? I think that is challenge, not only in personal spirituality but in coming together to face our common enemy which is division, concupiscence and the rest of the factors that the secular world uses to divide and conquer.
Of course, the fact he makes that point and we are having this discussion, suggests that thus far the answer in that we cannot. And yet, crossingthebosphorus points us in the right direction towards heterogeneity. Any church that has lasted more than a couple of decades, and has in it people of more than a single ethnic group, finds ways of accommodating differences, tolerating them, and sustaining unity. To leave today’s last word to my dear friend Neo:
From what I see here, it’s mostly about respect. If we can respect each other (and our traditions) I see no reason we can’t. here certainly, and in the world, maybe.
Today we talked a good deal about the Reformation, corruption in the churches and various and sundry things, not off topic but with occasional tangents. At one point Jessica said
A difficult one to be sure, my friend, but it does seem that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Papacy to a position where at least some non-Catholics might be wiling, in their turn, to suspend old prejudices and think anew.
My admiration for the Blessed John Paul II was immense, but you know, Pope Benedict XVI has gained a huge place in my heart – two quite different men with quite different styles – but such servants of God, both of them.
With which sentiment I heartily concur. It brought to mind a conversation Jessica and I had before this series of posts, in which she had posited that perhaps the Pope, who have been great men and leaders in the last few decades, could serve as kind of a leader of Christendom, again, without formal reunification. I believe our proposed title was “Patriarch of the West”. For truly we do need to act as one, as Christ wished us to be.
Today, my post was entitled Walls, which is essentially a bullet list of the reasons why we need to tear down the walls between our churches.
Have we found the basis for the reunification of the church? No we have not.
But maybe we have laid a foundation for us to work together in defense of the faith, and I think I can speak for Jessica as well as myself when I say that it has been an illuminating journey, learning more about our faith and its various traditions. I’m going to close with a post that Jessica used on Wednesday to express her gratitude for the respect and honor amongst her commentaters. i hope she doesn’t mind because it is the most beautiful expression of what I feel as well that I have ever read. It’s entitled
Walls – and their ending
I just want to say something because I think my heart will explode if I don’t, and that is to thank all of you who are commenting. Those comments speak of a generosity of spirit, a love of Christ and a desire to know Him more nearly and love Him more dearly, that by themselves they light a way forward.
It is surely in such a spirit and in such love and such respect for each other that we exhibit whose children we are. I can’t help, naive though I am, but think that if there were more of this expressed by more Christians, then the tide of battle would turn.
My co-author has a great fondness for the Alexandrian poet, Cavafy. I remember him reading this to me many years ago, and it seems apt here and now:
Without consideration, without pity, without shame
they have built great and high walls around me.
And now I sit here and despair.
I think of nothing else: this fate gnaws at my mind;
for I had many things to do outside.
Ah why did I not pay attention when they were building the walls.
But I never heard any noise or sound of builders.
Imperceptibly they shut me from the outside world.
I recommend that you read and ponder each of the posts linked here, and I bid you welcome to join us on the journey to Christ.
Jessica’s co-author, Chalcedon451, who has sustained us throughout this discussion with the poetry of Cavalfy, has just posted the perfect summary of our discussion. It is here. Thank you, sir.
- Deck Chairs and Bishops (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)
- United We (Should) Stand (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)
- Waiting for the Barbarians (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)
- Walls (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)