Communio Sanctorum


I have stumbled across a blog, Communio Sanctorum, being done by a group of Protestants; I think they are primarily of the Baptist persuasion, although they have just added one Catholic writer. I find the effort highly interesting and refreshing. I highly recommend a visit to the site. The reason I find this the site so refreshing is that it represents an effort on the part of a group of Christians to get to the Truth, a very rare commodity these days. They are studying not only the foundational documents of Protestantism, but also the teachings of the Church. This is all too rare today and I think it an important effort. The site, I hesitate to call it a blog, is set up in the format of a theological journal but is not so scholarly that the ordinary reader cannot benefit from the work.

The post that caught my attention was one by one of the authors of the site who is just now in the process of reading the document by the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC), The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. I think his reaction is the same as mine would have been had I stumbled across it while still a Presbyterian:

"What I find highly ironic is the way that Protestants like to portray the Roman Catholic Church as biblically illiterate, when the fact is that they are doing a much better job of synthesizing biblical scholarship and pastoral instruction than any Protestant denomination. I really question whether any Evangelical denomination would have the ecclesial resources to put together a work of this kind of sophistication. If they did, no doubt the eyes of many pastors would simply glaze over in the attempt to read it. In the Evangelical world, the church and the academy operate in separate realms (which is why Christian apologetics is in such a sorry state), whereas in the Roman Catholic Church, the academy is able to serve as a help to the Church. Though this does not always work that way, the structures are at least in place to enable it to do so."

I have been reading some things lately, things that I have just seemed to accidentally stumble onto, that have reminded me of my own conversion process. This post is one of them. What I now understand as a Catholic, and did not understand during most of my life as a Protestant, is just the conundrum written about in this post, and this became the central issue in my conversion to the Church.

If you think about it, it is not so hard to understand why this document could not be produced by any of the major Protestant denominations. It is not a lack of resources, nor a disconnect between the Church and the academy. It is part of the fundamental nature of Protestantism itself.

When the Reformation started, the core denominations formulated “Confessions”, or statements of faith. These were clear documents of the beliefs held by that denomination. (There are links to the texts of these documents on the Communiowebsite.) Over the last few decades, at least in my own denomination, the 1646 Westminster Confession of faith has been studiously and increasingly ignored. I doubt many of today’s Presbyterians have ever bothered to read it, much less understand it. Beyond these confessions, however, and as a core tenant of the faith, the individual believer has been cast adrift, every man for himself. It is central to being a Protestant that any interpretation of Scripture is up to the individual; there is no need for a Church with a real teaching authority.

This being the case, it isn’t possible for a document such as The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church to be produced by any of the major Protestant denominations. It isn’t even necessary; every man is his own authority and can trust the Holy Spirit to guide him to a correct understanding of Scripture. The irony is there, but not hard to understand. If one of the main denominations of Protestantism, say the Presbyterians, were to produce such a document, it would only be considered one opinion among many. Other Christians, and even Presbyterians, are free to say, “Well, that may be true for you, but it’s not for me.”

The way this became obvious to me is what happened over the course of about eighteen months in my own local Presbyterian church. In that relatively short time, the teaching went from solidly orthodox, Bible-based, Christian truth, to heterodox, unorthodox, secular, and almost sinful propaganda. There was what appeared to be a serious attempt to remove God from the picture altogether. For a church that claimed both versions of Christina teaching were solidly Bible based was clearly an untenable situation, both intellectually and spiritually. That is what triggered my short trip back to Rome.

The thing that makes the PBC document so special is that it is produced by a teaching Church. It is not an academic exercise in support of the Church; it is the Church exercising its inspired authority to guide the faithful in the way of truth. It is doing for the believer what he cannot do for himself without a great deal of study and effort.

The PBC document is wonderfully rich in terms of insight and understanding; it is a gift of the Church to all believers. The other wonderful thing is that there are so many of these documents produced by the Church, documents that both Protestants and Catholics can benefit from in reading and understanding. From the Catechism, going through the documents of Vatican II, to the Encyclical Letters of John Paul II, there are documents enough to study and pray over for a lifetime. That, to me, is what Church is all about.

I applaud the effort of the writers over at Communio to get back to the true teachings of Christianity. I have to wonder if this will not lead some of them to the Church, but even if it doesn’t this is a great effort and I hope a good many Christians will spend some time sharing their journey.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on November 12, 2005 8:41 AM.

The Cowboy vs the Special Ops Director was the previous entry in this blog.

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