I’ve been thinking for a while about resurrecting this blog, and for the last week or so article theses have been flying at me from, it seems, all directions.
First, a little background. There is a Sunday morning adult education class at St George’s, the CANA parish in Colorado Springs, entitled “The Kingdom.” The theme for this class is, “if Jesus isn’t Lord of all, he isn’t Lord at all.” I was invited to be one of the presenters. After the rector presented the concept and a couple of brilliant PhD biblical scholars presented Jesus’ Lordship in OT and NT, I got to race hell-for-leather through twenty centuries of “the Kingdom in History” with weekly subtitles of “Jesus as Lord of Truth,” “Jesus as Lord of Christendom,” and finishing off with “Jesus as Lord of the Church.” Because of a RL scheduling difficulty for the next presenter, he took yesterday to bring the focus onto “Kingdom and Culture” in the current day. It was great sitting in the class and spotting the metaphorical lights go on around the room as people realized why I had spent three weeks with the first millennium, detailing its heresies that had plagued the church.
So the idea that needs desperately to be conveyed to all of today’s Christians but especially to Anglicans is actually a simple one. To get there, let’s recall a few basics:
- Catholic means “according to the whole.”
- Orthodox means “right teaching” and “right worship.” That’s right, both, not or.
- The opposite of Catholic is heretic, which means “I choose.”
- The opposite of Orthodox is heterodox, which means “different teaching” and “different worship.”
Tying these together can be straightforward. To be Catholic and Orthodox, one accepts the whole Christian faith, all the right teaching and practice. By inserting one’s own rationales, preferences, and worst of all, preconceptions, one picks and chooses out of the whole faith and thereby substitutes teaching and worship that is not right, that is different from the truth.
In other words, the concept we use with children to prepare them for confirmation comes into play: objective reality. Objective reality are just a couple of big words we simply explain as meaning “real thing.” The sacraments have objective reality = the sacraments are real things. Likewise, truth has an objective reality = truth is a real thing. To quote one of my brilliant daughters: “some things are just true, whether you think they are or not.” The truth is a reality. Reality doesn’t need my agreement in order for it to exist; likewise, truth doesn’t need anyone’s agreement in order for it to be true.
Those first seven Ecumenical Councils were doing something pretty amazing: under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they were defining Truth. That’s not to use the word “defining” in its sense of making but to use the word “defining” in its sense of describing. The Councils didn’t make the Truth; they merely described it.
So for example, refusing to honor the Blessed Virgin with the title “Mother of God,” makes one anathema. The Council Fathers didn’t make up this rule and apply it willy-nilly, they observed that those who reject that Truth have themselves chosen to follow a different teaching and a different worship, and therefore are following the path to perdition. Yes, it is that serious. Every Truth described by the Ecumenical Councils is important–and they all are binding.
Therefore, the words that must spring to the Christian’s lips are “credo” — “I believe.” How often do we hear people who are otherwise seemingly intelligent or apparently faithful use those three little words “well, I think…” ? Usually they’re preceded by a more or less accurate summation of some aspect of the Truth and used to precede some load of, well, codswallop (keeping it rated PG here.)
Frankly, friend, those unfriendly-seeming words “heresy” and “heterodox” are signposts of warning…when you hear them, turn back onto the true path. “Heretic” and “heterodox” after all, are not words that mean “quirky Christian” or even “bad Christian” (although we certainly in our society don’t think there is such a concept as “bad”). No, friend, those words mean “non-Christian,” “pagan,” and they mark the double center line of the highway to hell.