Week of prayer for Christian Unity

In case you didn’t hear the news, we are currently in the week of prayer for Christian unity, which runs from January 18 to 25.

During this time, we pray for the usual intention of unity among Christian denominations.

Personally, I think we should also have a week of prayer for Catholic unity. The Catholic Church is a mess right now and I fear that an official schism is coming, to formalize the unofficial schism that has already existed for decades.  More on this in another post…

30 thoughts on “Week of prayer for Christian Unity

  1. Steve, I think a lot of churches are in a mess right now, and as Father Tim stated on his blog, “that the house is on fire”. We are in a mess and do need renewal and re-commitment to authentic Christian values.

    The week of prayer for Christian Unity is an excellent time to do some soul searching. Pro-lifers do share a common bond, and we should build on that, instead of attaching each other.

    God Bless!

    Cliff

  2. There is only ONE Christian unity that all should pray for and do their best to implement. There truly is one flock and one shepherd. This is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (not denomination !) under the leadership of the Pope, the legitimate successor of St. Peter. Continue, steadfast in prayer that all may make an authentic journey home to Rome. Ut unum sint.

  3. Frank it is unfortunate that you’re thinking is legalistic, in the style of the Pharisees. You have no respect for the work of the Holy Spirit who guides all faithful Christians. You ignore what Jesus said in Luke 9:50 about respect for others.

    We do have a long way to come before any unity can take place. Turf guarding and empire building will not bring about any unity. We do not need “Attack Dogs” to runs other Christians down. Your concept of Christian unity is misguided and ill-informed.

  4. I don’t see Frank’s comment as legalistic at all.

    As my favourite preacher likes to say: “The Truth isn’t something; it’s somebody. His name is Jesus Christ.” There can be no contradiction in Jesus or his teaching. If different denominations are teaching different things on a given issue, then one of them must be wrong. That’s not uncharitable, that’s just basic honesty.

    Until we can work out those differences, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (who teaches all Truth), we certainly can do a lot of good work together most notably in the pro-life field, as Cliff pointed out.

  5. I do not wish to engage in a fire-fight as too often happens on these threads, but engage in some meaningful dialogue where we can iron out differences and accomplish something loving during this week of prayer for Christian Unity.

    Mr. Levay has indeed thrown salt on an open wound and his opinion unfortunately is repeated by far too many who are blinded by loyalty, while understanding and compassion for others are not on their agenda.

    I would agree with Steve, who by the way makes a sincere effort at dialogue, that “Truth” must be the goal of the Church, both Catholic and Protestant. To understand God’s truth has been entrusted to mankind, There are four basic truths every denomination must adhere to in order to be faithful, and I think the Conservative, Evangelical, Traditional Protestants do. Catholics also adhere to these primary doctrines.

    To have minor disagreements over such doctrines as Mary and The Saints does not bring into doubt our salvation. And if we have disagreements on secondary truths, is that apostasy?

  6. “The One Holy catholic and Apostolic Church” stated by Mr. Levay is a statement that presents a bit of a conundrum in which we could all interpret it in a different way. Mr. Levay understands it in a narrow legalistic way, while I find I could agree with that statement in part; taking into account what exactly comprises this Holy catholic and apostolic Church? I would say that yes, there is “one holy and apostolic church, but who is it comprised of? If you would say all who adhere to the 4 basic truths and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, you are part of this mystical body.

    Leaving truth aside for the moment, let’s say practice enters into the debate. Now we have a whole new ballgame! Is it all faithful practicing believers or is it those only who bear the name “Catholic”? As we all know many fine Protestants adhere to more “Catholic” truths than do a majority of Catholics. I would suggest they belong to this “One Holy catholic and Apostolic Church”.

    For brevity see the next post!

  7. The 2005 National Pro-Life conference was being held in Montreal, and specifically at the Oratory where guest were to reside and where sessions would be held. At the last minute, or more specifically the day before the event The Holy Cross Fathers at the oratory cancelled the event because of fear of a protest by the pro-choice, anti-life side. This caused a lot of consternation to organizers and guests alike who had to scramble to find alternate accommodations and a suitable hall for these sessions.

    Now this is where the story gets interesting, where do you think they found suitable facilities? It was at a small Evangelical PROTESTANT (emphasis mine) church who took them in? Those not part of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”, imagine them not having the “fullness of the Truth” and acting more like Jesus than those with the name Catholic, The Holy Cross Fathers.

    Now explain to me who the real Judas was and who was the real Peter in this situation??

  8. Archbishop Fulton Sheen spoke of a hierarchy of truths. The late President Ted Janzow from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton stated that there are 4 basic truths to Christianity, and I will paraphrase them. The late Bishop Sheen had somewhat of a similar position on the “hierarchy” of Truth.

    1. God as Creator and Sustainer of all life
    2. The Old and New Testaments as Gods inspired-inerrant Word
    3. The Divine and Human natures of Christ.
    4. Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross for all mankind.

    This again is a paraphrase, but these should be the core of any and all Christian Church(s).

  9. Hi Cliff,

    You are absolutely correct that there is a hierarchy of truths. The four truths you listed are very fundamental. You’re probably correct that anybody who ascribes to these truths can be called a Christian.

    Yet, Jesus and the Apostles taught much more than these four truths. If they taught additional truths, then it’s worth understanding and believing in those truths too. If they taught them, it’s because they’re important.

    The Christian Faith is an integrated whole. If an error slips in somewhere, it typically has reverberations in other aspects of one’s faith life, such that the problems can become more widespread than meets the eye at first glance. As an analogy, when I file my income taxes (sigh), if I make a mistake in the calculation of one item, that error gets carried forward many times and messes up many other calculations. My bottom line is also wrong.

    To give an example related to the Faith, some Christians don’t believe in the existence of hell because a good God could never send anybody to hell. Well, if hell doesn’t exist, then where’s my incentive to live an upright life? What exactly is required for salvation if hell doesn’t exist? Is everybody saved? Is a “cerebral” faith sufficient to be saved? Can I still be saved even if I live a life of debauchery? St. Paul says “no” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Do I need good works, as per James 2:20? Do I need to be baptized as per Matt 28:19; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16? Do I need to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood as per John 6:53?

    As you can see, even something as fundamental as salvation involves many truths for which there is disagreement among Christians. This is worrisome. We need to be concerned about this because the salvation of souls hangs in the balance. It’s not of secondary importance.

  10. Thanks Steve for your cool-headed dialogue, and I think we are gaining a couple of inches at a time. I can agree with you statement about truth, that if error slips in it can poison the whole barrel. So truth is of the essence and we must protect it at all costs.

    I think where we are splitting hairs are not our understanding of the importance of truth, but that there are different understandings of these truths. In a previous post I mentioned the role Mary and the Saints as being a secondary truth. Or another example whether we use a crucifix or a cross in our churches, these are not relevant to our salvation. Jesus finished the work on the cross and He completed God’s mission. Now whether we invoke Mary has no bearing on our salvation, Jesus completed that work. Our role is to be faithful. Now whether my church has a cross and yours a crucifix is of little importance. What matters is do we believe Jesus, (God & man) paid the penalty for our sins.

    Yes, you are correct some Pastors/Priests are petrified to use the word Hell, yet it exists. And some Priests play the role of Judas better than they do of Peter. Not mentioning any names but the Holy Cross Fathers from the Oratory come to mind.

    Truth is very elusive and we must be vigilant to seek it out and that is why I am a Lutheran because the Truth is very important to me. I cannot accept a counterfeit version or “man-made” laws. Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life.

    So you see Steve we agree on more than we disagree on.

  11. Steve and Cliff, I disagree with elements of what you are both saying.

    Are either of you interested in further discussing these comments?

    Further, Steve, have you considered cutting loose from this blog and either going back to your own, or starting a new one?

  12. Meaningful dialogue is always a benefit, as long as it doesn’t turn into a fire-fight. Finding points of agreement is difficult and for any progress to made we need to walk a painful path.

    Religion is a very sensitive and emotional issue, as it cuts to the heart. Respect and understanding are always needed in order to arrive at some sort of consensus.

  13. I have in no way altered my clear statement of January 21 (above). All the to and fro, and derogatory words “pharisee”, “legalistic” etc. are just weasel words to cover indifferentism. When the admirable, formerly Protestant, friars began the octave it was the Octave of Church Unity from the significant feasts of St. Peter`s Chair at Rome to the Conversion of St. Paul.
    Very obviously it is the differences which must be confronted if “unity” is truly the objective. Rambling on about “consensus” does nothing to arrive at truth. Bl. John Henry Newman long ago showed that a via media leads nowhere.

  14. Frank , your response shows how difficult the path to Christian unity really is. Even some form of understanding and agreement seems to be out of reach. This same stubbornness to refuse to see the “plank” in your own eye while seeing the “speck” in your neighbors’ is what Luther had to deal with.

    If we are going to achieve any unity whether visible or invisible, we need to sit down with an open and repentant mind and heart. The sale of indulgences was an evil practice and had to be corrected, but the Roman Leaders at that time refused to listen forcing the reformation. If the Catholic Church cannot or will not admit to its sins and weaknesses, then we will continue to sling mud at each other.

    Some Reformers stated that the “Catholic Church was steeped in error and beyond correction”, I like to believe otherwise. However if no confession is forthcoming than we will remain divided and the world will continue to attack us with gusto.

    “The house is on fire” as stated by Father Tim on his blog shows true humility and admission that something is wrong in the house of God. May we all have that attitude?

  15. Oh, sure! A grovelling list of every human weakness that has ever surfaced in The Church through 2000+ years, followed by an abject denial of every Catholic belief that any sect or dissident figures is wrong will fast-track the elusive “unity” Cliff is longing for!
    In reality, such a negative, defeatist attitude really not only strengthens division but confirms anti-Catholicism.
    I know what a unified and Catholic Church looks like.
    What would the proposed new and “ecumenical” denomination be like ?

  16. When dealing with Christian unity, the only purpose of real ecumenism is to deal with doctrine issues, as opposed to the personal sins of church members. Every denomination has had some really lousy and sinful members, even among the clergy. That can’t be the issue. Sadly, people who leave Christianity entirely will often invoke the sinfulness of Christians. While this is scandalous, a person should be able to conceptually differentiate between the behaviour of individuals and the Faith as revealed by God himself.

    So when it comes to Christian unity, the focus must be on articles of faith. Do some denominations teach falsehoods as part of their doctrine? If so, it needs to be rectified for the good of all and the glory of God.

  17. Frank, I can see that charity and dialogue are not your strong point. I am sorry I attempted to make some peace and dialogue in good faith. You are an uncharitable and “legalistic” person.

    But I am thankful for you and your ilk, you will keep Protestantism strong.

    So much for the week of Christian Unity!!

  18. Well, Cliff, I did not detect “charity” nor “dialogue” in that message!
    Also, you quite failed to describe the ecumenical denomination you so ardently advocate.
    Is it indescribable ?

  19. The world is round, so round that the schools of optimism and pessimism have been arguing from the beginning whether it is the right way up. The difficulty does not arise so much from the mere fact that good and evil are mingled in roughly equal proportions; it arises chiefly from the fact that men always differ about what parts are good and what evil. Hence the difficulty which besets “undenominational religions.” They profess to include what is beautiful in all creeds, but they appear to many to have collected all that is dull in them. All the colours mixed together in purity ought to make a perfect white. Mixed together on any human paint-box, they make a thing like mud, and a thing very like many new religions. Such a blend is often something much worse than any one creed taken separately, even the creed of the Thugs. The error arises from the difficulty of detecting what is really the good part and what is really the bad part of any given religion. And this pathos falls rather heavily on those persons who have the misfortune to think of some religion or other, that the parts commonly counted good are bad, and the parts commonly counted bad are good. G.K. Chesterton (another former Protestant)

  20. Steve, we can again resume our dialogue as I needed several hours of prayer and time to cool down after some of Frank’s comments, who shouldn’t be involved in this discussion. I think he has some hostility issues and may need an anger management course?

    You comments about the sins of certain Church members is a weak and lame excuse. But that is an argument for another day.

    The comment about “Truth’ or “Articles of Faith” I will address at the moment. For a refresher, we both agree on Truth as being an absolute and that we must guard against error.
    Now we can look at that in two ways. 1) There is only ONE Truth or there are 2). Different understandings of Truth. Both of these scenarios apply only if we adhere to a hierarchy of Truth a mentioned in a previous post.

  21. PART 2
    1. Only one truth is pretty basic as in this article there is a narrow often legalistic view of truth, and the danger is only a few may find it? This premise causes a lot of problems for any sort of agreement, whether between denominations or within our own particular church. If God entrusted man with His Church, this view would leave little room for the work of the Holy Spirit not to mention individual gifts of God’s people.

    We would have impenetrable wall of division with no hope of reconciliation of God’s people. We would certainly view each other as heretics.

    2. Perhaps is the best approach, but with some inherent dangers. We still must adhere to the hierarchy of truths, but allow some flexibility among Christians. See 2Tim. 3:16. Now instead of Protestants viewing the Marian doctrine with skepticism, or believing Purgatory to heresy, we can say that is O.K. for Catholics who can still retain their Christian status. Because God entrusted His church to humans, and we are all different culturally and spiritually. We all have different gifts.

    Enough for now

  22. Hey, Clifford
    It looks like you`ve expelled me.
    However, I happily excuse myself at this point, having done what I can (despite my overweening “anger” and “legalism”) to steer you towards true faith & reason. As you continue on your inevitable path towards syncretism you might consider Bahaism or Unitarianism, they`re ready-made for you…
    Keep up your charitable, cheerful disposition. It makes one feel warm & fuzzy all over.

  23. Hi Cliff,

    Here’s the problem with the approach of “Different understandings of Truth” described above. The Truth cannot contradict itself. Diametrically opposed interpretations of a same concept cannot both claim to be true. By the way, this isn’t a theological issue. It’s not about legalism or divisiveness. It’s just plain logic. Even a self-respecting atheist would have to agree that two opposite propositions cannot simultaneously be true. This applies to any field of knowledge.

    In a given place, it cannot be simultaneously night and day.
    A dog cannot simultaneously be both dead and alive.
    My car cannot simultaneously be a sports coupe and a minivan.
    Purgatory cannot simultaneously exist and not exist.
    The Eucharist cannot simultaneously be both Jesus Christ and merely a piece of bread.
    Marian devotion cannot simultaneously be both good and bad.

    If a proposition lends itself simultaneously to contrary interpretations, then it isn’t a “truth” at all, but merely a theory, a hunch, a fleeting emotion or a gut feeling. But it can’t be Truth.

    Again, this has nothing to do with religion. It is inescapable logic and reason.

    First and foremost, the Truth is not a something, but a somebody. His name is Jesus Christ, who said “I am the way, the truth and the life”. Christ cannot contradict himself.

    As for the issue that “the danger is only a few may find it”, those were exactly Christ’s words when he said:

    “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

    Notice that he wasn’t going to dilute the Truth in order to enable more people to be saved. He preached the Truth unadulterated, knowing that many would choose not to follow it. That was his decision.

  24. Steve, even though we may be gaining ground in our dialogue, we are spinning our wheels at this point and can’t seem to overcome the hump we’ve arrived at.

    We both agreed that there truth is important, yes? It cannot contradict itself, and I did quote the same scripture what Jesus said, “I am the way the Truth and the light” Where we are losing each other is in the secondary truths, such as the Marian doctrine and other secondary Catholic belief. I agree 100% with your statement about truth when it applies to the four unalterable truths/basic truths.

    You know yourself Steve that it took Centuries for Your Catholic Church to develop for example the Marian doctrines. Truth does not come easy. Were the Catholics prior to 1858 not able to receive the fullness of Truth? Was there salvation in danger? I think you would answer no. So sometimes Truth is difficult to finally arrive at, as we did not receive a step by step manual on every issue to face humanity. God entrusted that to humans, who are sinful by nature and lacking the fullness of Truth.

    Protestants and Catholics alike were guided by the Holy Spirit. Yes, unfortunately sin played a role. But we are all God’s people none-the-less.

    If salvation depends on the fullness of truth, or legalism as I call it, there will be very few souls in heaven my friend! After all you said it yourself, Jesus is the way the Truth and the Life

  25. Cliff,

    Regarding the “secondary truths”, as you call them. Remember that Jesus Christ is the Truth and the Truth is Jesus Christ. Every aspect of Christian Faith is part of Jesus. We cannot accept all of Jesus unless we accept all the Truth, even the “secondary” ones.

    Can a husband say “I embrace all of my wife except her sense of humour, or except her intelligence, or except her fertility” (oops! Contraception!) Anything less than a total acceptance of his wife means a partial rejection of some aspect of her. The same is true of Christ and Christian truth. Unless we accept the totality of him and his Truth, we do not fully welcome him and he cannot fully work in our lives as he would like. We are missing some tools that he has made available for our salvation. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to be saved, but we’re making it harder on ourselves.

    It does us no good to become minimalists and to worry only about alleged “basic truths” and to be indifferent of the rest.

    I won’t speculate about who can be saved. But Jesus and the Apostles taught much more than just the “four basic truths” that you mention. If they taught ’em, they must be adhered to and shouldn’t be trivialized. Why settle for less? Why not have all of Jesus?

    As for your point about certain dogmas being proclaimed, that’s a moot point. Let me give you an example. A person smoking cigarettes in the 1800s wouldn’t have known that it causes cancer. Therefore, he was not guilty of sin while smoking, but the cigarettes were still harming his health. Similarly, an early Christian can’t be held accountable for a dogma that wasn’t part of official teaching during his lifetime. But his lack of such knowledge still put his soul at a disadvantage in its ability to fully understand God and commune with him. This deprived him of tools available for salvation.

    How does that affect us today? In 2011, we now know that smoking is bad for our health. Consequently, smoking is sinful. There’s no point in invoking the ignorance of somebody in the 19th century to try and justify smoking today. The person today is held to a higher standard because he has been given more knowledge. Similarly, today we know with certainty (due to infallible proclamation) various doctrines that earlier Christians didn’t know with certainty. We are held to a higher standard on these matters too. Any person knowingly and consciously rejecting such teaching is knowingly and consciously rejecting Jesus. Invoking the ignorance of early Christians is moot because we aren’t ignorant as they were.

  26. Steve, I can see we are getting nowhere with this dialogue. I tried to throw out an Olive Branch, but it still bore no fruit. I guess we cannot settle our differences as Jesus told us to in the Beatitudes, and we will just have to wait until judgment day? We will continue to resort too pre Vatican II rhetoric and continue the religious wars.

    We as Lutherans believe we have the absolute true Gospel and all its truth, while “Catholics are steeped in error and beyond correction”.

  27. I’m sorry that you’ve chosen to not engage with the arguments I’ve put forward but simply say “we’re getting nowhere”.

    Take care.

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