"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Church Teaching and Arrogance

I recently posted a Facebook status and preached a sermon dealing with the necessity of Christian unity in the promotion of evangelism. It was received lukewarmly in both mediums. But I was struck by the words of one person who said "I don't know how you can talk about Christian unity when you won't even consider other people's point of view."

I admit, this comment stung. Its foundation is that I'm prideful, arrogant, and unwilling to admit that I could possibly be wrong. It's particularly hurtful because for many years I struggled with an almost unbridled arrogance and have felt that in the last 5-7 years I have made progress in being more humble.

It's also hurtful though because it is false. When it comes to the Christian Faith, there can only be one right answer to each individual matter of doctrine. By my late teens, I was on a mission to find out what I believed and why. I had grown up as a fairly evangelical, low-church, reformed Anglican. If you would have asked me my primary purpose as a Christian, I would have have likely answered "evangelism". If you would have asked me how a person is saved I would have launched into some diatribe about Calvinism and how grace is credited to some invisible bank account because of the faith of the believer in the person of Jesus Christ. Anything else I would have probably considered unimportant or ancillary.

But when I decided to attend a Catholic college, I made it a point to open myself up to experiencing new Christian traditions. It is because of this that I am no longer anything of a predestinarian-(though there are still questons in my mind about forensic and inherent justification). It is because of this, that I am a proud Anglo-Catholic who thinks that worship of Almighty God and participation in the sacramental life of the Church are my top priorities. Now one could say that I just changed my mind on some issues and I'm now as stubborn in my views as I ever have been. But that is where you would make your greatest error.

The reason I'm Catholic is because I wanted my thoughts and the doctrines I believed, to be those which were believed by Christians for the last two millenia. I wanted my thoughts to be framed not only by the living but by the dead. I desired the influence of the great theologians and mystics of the past-Augustine, Aquinas, Bernard, Theresa, Catherine, and Faustina, to name a few.

The Faith to which I hold, is the faith of the universal Church. Yes, that does mean I reject innovations of the last several hundred years-dispensationalism, Calvinism, and anti-sacramentalism come immediately to mind. But it is not because I'm being arrogant and carving out some theological niche for myself. I believe what I believe because it is what, as St. Vincent said, has been "believed everywhere, always, and by all." I'm not naive. I'm familiar with the arguments against the development of doctrine in the Catholic Church, particularly after the seven ecumenical councils.

But my positions are those which have been held from the beginning. It is not arrogance to submit my will to Mother Church's teachings-rather, it is a form of humility to say "I don't understand all of these things, but I accept them anyway." Truly, I can say I have opened myself up to the possibility that I was very wrong-and have made changes accordingly. Furthermore, as I hinted at above, there are important doctrines on which I lack a clear understanding and am still trying to learn.

By God's grace, I will ever remain open to seeking the Truth. My prayer for all people in the Church is to give fair voice to the chorus of opinions of our forebears. It is odd that in a country as committed to the democratic system as the United States, we often forget to look at the majority opinion in matters of religious doctrine.


  1. For centuries in the Christian world, all were united in one faith, the Catholic Church.

    Then came along the "reformation" and splits in the Body of Christ. With it came many changes in teaching by the various Christian sects. Some of these teachings, especially in the 20th century, seem to be poll driven, just like our very own civil government.

    Their "teachings" are based on public opinion, not on truth. The "teaching" of the day among some of these non-Catholic sects seems to be based on the policy. I must remind you that private opinions do not change the truth one iota.

    However, the "Pillar and Foundation of Truth", the Catholic Church (1Timothy 3:15), is unmoving in this respect. She and she alone stands up against the world in teaching the truth, as commanded by Jesus Christ Himself.

    In so doing, she comes under great criticism by many who have found worldly things to be their real god. How then, can the "Pillar of Truth" teach nothing but the truth?

    "Have I then become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16)

  2. Thanks for commenting, Michael. I think you have misunderstood my point, because you are making the same point that I was. The Catholic faith has been the Christian Faith from the beginning and it is humble to submit your will to it and defend it as the Truth.