Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ecumenicism: Accommodation and Orthodoxy

Here in First Things, Dr. Scott Redd shares a charitable and nuanced approach to ecumenicism in light of a letter from Pope Francis to evangelicals. Redd invites believers to have a respectful and truthful dialogue about what both unites and divides Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox.

Link to First Things article

Here's an outquote that hits at the crux:
In the letter, Francis also cites recent, public instances of Christian persecution around the world and the impact they have had on his understanding of Church unity. “The one that persecutes does not make a mistake, he doesn't ask if they are Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox. . . . They are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, and that is enough. This blood challenges us,” he writes. Indeed it does. The global plight of the Christian in the twenty first century ought to unify those who follow Christ and seek to proclaim his gospel in word and deed.
This issue also raises the question of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to share in that, for lack of a better word, communion in which the church is united in his suffering. Not all who share in his suffering, for instance, can share in the same sacramental table, due to different understandings of the meaning of Christ's presence at the table or altar. Similarly, not all of those targeted by ISIS or North Korea agree about the meaning of the church or the content of the gospel we proclaim. All religious persecution is horrific and wrong, but we do not define the community of faith by those whom the persecutor victimizes. How ought we to think about other persecuted groups who hold to a heretical understanding of the incarnation or the deity of Christ? We are united with them in their humanity, but are they Christ's church?
These questions are not without significance, touching on the person of Christ and the nature of faith, and the answers will only come from an engaged discussion of the authority of Scripture, the historical witness of the church, and the clarity with which the councils, creeds, and confessions give expression to the teaching of the Bible. These discussions can get into the weeds quickly, to be sure, but they are nevertheless crucial to moving toward meaningful unity. True healing comes once the illness is diagnosed.

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