Struans writes of the importance of the Church is passing on ‘tradition’, and indeed as being part of that tradition, which is an active movement of the Spirit and not some ossified set of formulae. In the Creed we speak of ‘One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’, and this, naturally enough has led many to claim that their Church, and their’s alone, is that Church. The Roman Catholic Church recognises the Chalcedonian Orthodox as a ‘valid’ Church; the Orthodox have no Magisterium to return the favour, but as both lifted their mutual anathemata one assumes that the Ecumenical Patriarch (a title which gets some Orthodox irritated) thinks the Roman Church is ‘valid’, even if the Orthodox do not use such terminology. So how are we to proceed, what is it makes a Church ‘catholic’?
Here, one of Jessica’s favourite blogs has something to enlighten us. The Conciliar Anglican ran a post on this the other day which I found most helpful:
… what makes a church truly Christian and truly Catholic is not automatically lost even when churches choose to separate from each other. Palmer even makes the point that errors in doctrine, so long as they do not constitute out and out heresy, are not enough to remove a local church from the Catholic whole. “All errors,” he says, “even in matters of faith, are not heretical.”
So that is part of what makes a Church ‘Catholic’.
As my friend, Servus Fidelis pointed out the other day in a comment on the first of my posts in this series:
For all the ‘contextual’ changes we might see, it seems that all deal with the exterior of the faith and not the interior which is common to everyone throughout the 2000 years. It is why I am more concerned with the interior life of the soul, contemplation, mystical prayer, mental prayer etc.
This fits with something Struans quoted in his essay on theology:
The work of theology is a continuing search for the fullness of the truth of God made known in Jesus Christ. It is not the repetition of traditional doctrines, but a continuous search for the truth to which they point and which they only partly and brokenly express.
So, where Christians conduct that search within their tradition, and within the living tradition of the Christian tradition (which is not confined to any single Church, however much some claim the ‘fullness’ is found there), then progress can be made towards a form of unity which may, in time, proceed from the interior to the exterior.
We see an example of this in the talks between the two main types of Orthodox, and it is no accident that it has often been the monks on both sides who have helped pave the way for talks – a clear example of the Spirit acting on the hearts and the hearts acting on the minds, and finally on the stubborn historical pride of men.
That is not to say that the ‘real’ Church is invisible – it is very visible, as are the scars which mark it. If a Church preaches Christ, and Him crucified and Risen, and Christ as the sole mediator between us and God, as the one road to our salvation, then it is a church which is part of the Christian tradition, and if it adheres to the ancient historic creeds, the same thing follows. ‘Scripture, Sacraments, Creeds, and Episcopacy’ are, Struans has reminded us, the marks of catholicity, and if by the latter one means that a Church has overseers whose office is passed on from their predecessors, then we can argue until the Kingdom comes about who is within a boundary God alone can police effectively.