“Actually, my skepticism started with a rather simple question: Where would I have attended church during the first 1,500 years of church history? This question, posed by Jargon, has haunted me every day since. Given my Calvinist distinctives, which church would have claimed me as one of their own? Which church father would identify with my protestant doctrines?”
Which church father would identify with the views of Karl Rahner or Bernard Lonergan? This question is equally anachronistic whether you put it on the lips of a Catholic or a Protestant.
Does he think that high mass at St. Peter’s is the same thing as a worship service at 1C house-church in Rome?
“Why do I feel spiritually disconnected from the first 1,500 years of the church?”
i) I don’t know why he feels disconnected. And how does he think that connecting with the Church of Rome reconnects him with the first 1500 years of the church?
The unspoken assumption here is that the Church of Rome is a self-identical entity for the past 2000 years. But even Roman Catholics since the days of Cardinal Newman have given up on that historical fantasy. There’s too much historical discontinuity.
The Paleocrat reminds me of liberals who personify the Federal gov’t, and then accuse the gov’t of hypocrisy if the foreign policy of George Bush differs from the foreign policy of Dwight Eisenhower.
It also reminds me of malcontents who demand reparations from a modern company that happens to have the same name as a company that existed 200 years ago, despite 200 years of continuous turnover.
What we call the Catholic church is not an ageless, timeless, suprapersonal being who was born 2000 years ago, and has been of one mind ever since.
What we call the Catholic church is just a bunch of somewhat like-minded people. Some of them lives at the same time. Others live at other times. What makes one generation somewhat like-minded varies from one generation to the next.
Too many Christians are captive to metaphors. They begin to reify metaphors, as if Mother church really were our mother.
ii) Other issues aside, why does he think that joining the Catholic church reconnects him with the Church of the first 1500 years?
Why not join the Greek Orthodox church, or Coptic church, or Armenian church?
iii) Ironically, it’s the Calvinist who has a far stronger sense of historical continuity with the people of God. With the elect of all ages.
We don’t begin with the NT covenant community. We identify with the people of God during the Intertestamental era, postexilic era, exilic era, preexilic era, theocratic monarchy, era of the Judges, patriarchal period, and prediluvian era, all the way back to Enosh (Gen 4:26) and Abel (Heb 11:4).
We identify with the pilgrim church of Acts 7 and Hebrews 11. With a portable tabernacle rather than a stony temple.
iv) There are two different ways to connect. You can connect with one another at a horizontal level.
Or you can connect at a vertical level. If you’re connected to God, then you are connected to all of God’s people. From the peak of the pyramid to the base.
Connecting to the head automatically connects you to the body. But connecting with various members of the visible church doesn’t automatically connect you to God. Some church bodies are decapitated.