Monday, November 26, 2007

"This far but no further..."

The SanDiegoReader reports on a panel discussion, "Catholics and Evangelicals in Dialogue" that took place recently at a session of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. It seems to have been another instance of what I have referred to elsewhere as "honest ecumenism" as opposed to the kind that behaves as though differences are unimportant. Excerpts from the report:
Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, spoke next and related the story of his conversion from Evangelicalism to Catholicism. "My thinking was not that I was jettisoning anything, but it was an idea of coming to a completion, a fulfillment." He cited the Apostles' Creed as an expression of common faith and argued that "the nature of the Church" was the fundamental disagreement between the two denominations. Commenting on this disagreement, he said, "The Baptist who says, 'Out of fidelity of Christ, I can't go with you on the papacy'; he is actually closer to Christ and closer to his Catholic brother than the Baptist who says, 'In order to get along, I'm going to go along.'" There is a closer Christian communion among people who differ, precisely because they are being faithful to Christ in their differences."

Dr. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, took up the notion. He praised "the ecumenism of the trenches," wherein Catholics and Evangelicals had found themselves side by side in the struggle over issues such as abortion. "Having found one another, we began to develop a deeper sense of unity," one that led to the creation of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a sort of religious think-tank that produced statements on the various issues of division. "This is what I have called an ecumenism of convictions, not an ecumenism of accommodation.... We must seek unity in truth. There is no unity worth having that is not unity in truth. We are committed to the truth because Jesus Christ said, 'I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.' If we're committed to Him, we can be committed to nothing less than the truth.... That means, sometimes, that we can walk this far but no further on an issue. We have to say, in good conscience, under God, that we cannot walk together." ....

President Copan stepped in to offer his own comment on truth: "Is there a relativism within Christianity...? No. All these expressions cannot be right. If the Catholic understanding of the Church and the Mass is correct, then the Evangelicals are incorrect. There are genuinely conflicting truth claims."

Later on, Dr. George made a kind of reply: "I think doctrine matters. I think theology matters. I think truth matters. Where we have differences, I don't think we sweep them aside, but we continue to follow the prayer of the Lord Jesus to the heavenly Father in John 17: 'I pray that they may all be one, so that the world might believe.'"
Some portions of the discussion:

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