"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Dodos, Passenger Pigeons, Schisms
In a benighted time long, long ago, in a Church history far, far away, there were schisms. Then, a little less than five hundred years ago, schisms became extinct. All schisms turned into branches, all sects into denominations, all factions into traditions, all divisions into diversity, all heresies into adiaphora. All was brought into unity, simply by redefining the terms.
Whereas before, the word 'Church' meant the Catholic Church in union with the successor of the Apostle Peter to whom Christ gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the term 'Church' was redefined to refer to an invisible entity into which all believers are perfectly joined no matter to which visible institution (if any) they presently belong. This redefinition eliminates the very possibility of schism. So the term 'schism' is rarely used now, and when it is used, its new definition refers only to a divide within a congregation. And if the congregational divide becomes permanent, then it ceases to be a schism and automatically becomes a branch, enhancing the magnificent diversity of the new invisible entity known as the 'Church'. While Scripture forbids schism, our redefinitions have made these Scriptural prohibitions moot, especially since we can just allow our congregational splits to turn into delightful branches.
Of course we Christians disagree about all kinds of theological claims; about the only thing we all agree on is "Jesus". But that's all St. Paul had in mind when he said that there is "one faith". (Ephesians 4:5) And it is true that Protestants cannot receive the Eucharist in Catholic or Orthodox Churches, and Orthodox and Catholics cannot receive communion in Protestant services. But that's no worry, because we're still one as an *invisible Body*, at least in a mystical sense. That's all that St. Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 10:17. And it is true that we're divided into myriads of distinct and autonomous religious institutions, most all of them founded in the last five-hundred years. But true unity has nothing to do with matter and the visible. True unity is spiritual. Regardless of how divided we are in the physical and material world, we're all truly one in the spiritual world, because we're all perfectly joined to that invisible Body of Christ, which is spiritual, not material. That's all St. Paul meant in speaking of the Church as the "Body of Christ" in Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, and Ephesians 3:5, 4:4, 5:23. That the Church is an invisible entity, not a visible, hierarchically organized material body, was part of the enlightenment revealed to us by Martin Luther.
Peacemakers, go home. There is no need for you and your old-fashioned sectarianism. We already have peace and true unity.