Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Christianity Today on George-Beckwith dialogue at Wheaton College

On September 8 Christianity Today published a story about the dialogue in which Timothy George and I participated last Thursday at Wheaton College (in Illinois). You can read the story here.

Here's an excerpt:
Beckwith frequently appealed to experience when navigating the more treacherous terrain still separating Catholics from Protestants. He described a renewed spiritual life since he resumed practicing Catholic disciplines. Despite evident gifting and training in apologetics, Beckwith said he no longer worries so much about winning every argument. Now he is more willing to live with mystery. Speaking in a warm, personal tone, Beckwith worked to avoid antagonizing the mostly Protestant crowd that filled Wheaton's Edman Chapel.

"God's grace is meant not only to save me but transform me from the inside out," Beckwith said. "Protestants describe something similar as sanctification."

Read the whole thing here. A video of the dialogue has been posted online here.


Leslie K. said...

thank you for bringing kindness to play in these dialogues. I am so tired of the anger and rancor.

Chris said...

Thanks Frank. It was a pleasure to serve with you. My only disappointment was learning that you don’t share my passion for eggplant and seafood. Thank God we still have linguini in common. God bless you and Frankie! Chris

Lee H said...

I watched the amiable dialogue with much enjoyment. But it was frustrating that the most fundamental question was not asked, nor its Scriptural answer given:

Did Jesus leave us with a guide (rule of faith) to teach us with His own divine authority, so that we who are not taught directly by Jesus are able to have the same objective certainty in our act of faith as the apostles had, who were taught directly by Jesus Himself?

And it would have been so powerful to show in the historical record in the Gospels, Jesus' establishment of the Church with such divine authority, so much so that you could be saved or damned according to your response to that Church--“The one who hears you hears Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects Him Who sent Me.”

Chris said...

Thanks Lee. Good point. Our conversation about continuous incarnation began to deal with the issue that you raise. If we were able to get a couple of more steps further, I think we would have covered it. It's the question of where we find the inspired voice of Jesus in the world: in the Church institution or in Scripture alone. As to the text you site, Protestants understand Jesus to be "heard" in his Word.

Lee H said...

Thank you so much, Chris. As you say, Protestants hold that the Bible is the sole source of the Christian faith. But this leads us back to the question: Do they have a living guide guaranteed by divine authority for the correct interpretation of the Bible, especially of its many important but disputed texts? Isn’t it true that without divine authority there can be no objective certainty of faith in what God has revealed?

Chris said...

Thanks Lee. I'd like to answer your question by quoting the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, the great man whom Frank cited as the leading voice on this issue. At the conclusion of his first chapter in his book titled Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith, he writes the following of the Church's living guide, "The meaning of magisterial decisions, in turn, has to be studied with reference to the way they are understood and interpreted by pastors, theolgians, and the faithful." In light of the Cardinal's explanation, I'd answer your question (which is a superb question by the way) by saying that we, in a certain sense, Protestants have the same living tradition as Catholics, the only difference is that we don't assign the quality of infallibility to it.

Lee H said...

(Always nice to have a friendly, thoughtful talk between Catholics and Protestants, even though I was just suggesting a topic for a possible future dialog.)

If, as you say, Protestants, in their living tradition, don't have any infallible teaching, then it would appear that they can’t know with certainty what they believe about disputed but crucial issues like communion and baptism. They can only lean to their own understanding of Scripture or to the interpretation of a particular denomination, godly pastor, book, Avery Dulles, or one of the 16th century reformers (who disagreed with one another).

However, I can’t tell for sure what your answer is to the original question about divine authority. I think a more poignant wording would be: Did Jesus, knowing he was about to be crucified, leave us with a guide (rule of faith) to teach us with His own divine authority, so that we who are 2,000 years down the road are able to have the same objective certainty in what God has revealed as the apostles had, who were taught directly by Jesus Himself?

This blog does seem to be illustrating how great it would be to have this topic for a future dialog between a wise and thoughtful Protestant and Catholic. Goodness! We haven’t even scraped the surface of the question, let alone its ramifications. And I’m not even a scholar or theologian. I’m just a sheep. (a happy little Catholic one!)

Chris said...

Thanks Lee. The next time Frank and I sit on a platform together, we should take time to explore this issue. Hopefully, it won't be long before we have another opportunity to do so. Blessings brother, Chris

Lee H said...

Thanks, Chris, and blessings to you, also, and in all you do.

Jae said...

Infallibility is a gift from God Himself when Jesus promised His Church to "guide in ALL Truths until the end of ages." (He said ALL..not one or two or three but ALL)This promise is not based on a person (pope) but from God, which is the One Who quarantees.

Protestants used to say about their own differences - we have the "essentials" and the rest are not important, the $64,000 question is , who is the guy who could say and decide which one is "essential" and which one is not? Where did he get the authority to judge as such? By proclaiming which one or not is already an affirmation of Authority which the evangelicals hated the Catholic Church for.

IF Christian Faith (doctrine) is indeed a REVEALED TRUTH, which men must believe under pain of eternal loss, the gift of infallibility was necessary to the Church. Could she err at all, she might err in ANY POINT. The flock would have NO guarantee of the truth of ANY doctrine.

In the end, no offense but this is what protestantism is all about, make one your own pope and Apostolic Tradition put together with Authority!


Lee H said...

Yes, Jae, well said, although the tone was a little contentious.

I am thankful for all God has done in and through Protestant churches. But to me, the biggest problem with the Protestant traditions is that they all have left out God's divine authority completely and based their faith on their own flawed human authority and intellect, whether or not a doctrine seems acceptable to them logically and intellectually according to THEIR interpretation of Holy Scripture, as if human understanding is necessary before one can accept divine revelation.

Lee H said...

I would just add as an illustration of the basis for Protestant doctrinal decisions: When Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” Catholics believe that Jesus meant what he said. Protestants believe that whatever Jesus meant, he certainly did not mean what he said.

And why? Because Jesus statement is not logical or easily understood. It is difficult, too difficult to believe by faith alone.

Lee H said...

I wanted to share a story about my friend, Terri, who volunteers at a pro-life clinic named "Her Choice." Today, she was feeling like she just had too many demands on her life and was wondering whether could continue volunteering at “Her Choice.”

In the clinic, today, Terri was handed a few files of previous clients and asked to make some follow-up phone calls to them. One of the files was of a woman she would never forget because she was lovely, a young, very pretty African-American college student and her boyfriend. They had come in 6 months ago, thinking they were in an abortion clinic. They were confident, very sure, they wanted an abortion, and the girl asked very matter-of-factly, “how much is an abortion?” Terri and another volunteer felt such a pressure at that moment to say the right thing. The other volunteer was so nervous about the implications of the situation that she experienced her usual unique response to stress—her neck turned bright, beet red the entire time they were with the couple. The two volunteers tried to influence the girl and boy to have the baby and offered to do an ultrasound. The young man wasn’t interested at all. The girl gradually said, “You mean can do an ultrasound right now?” And so the girl finally agreed, and she and her boyfriend watched the ultrasound of her baby and left. Three days later, they came in again and said they and talked a whole lot for three whole days and had decided to have the baby.

Now, today, 6 months later, Terri phoned the girl, left a voice mail on her cell phone, saying, "Hi, this is Terri, and I work at “Her Choice” and I remember you so very well. Please give me a call. I would love to find out how you are doing.”
The girl phoned back and said, “I am so glad you called! Especially today. Today is my due date! I’m waiting to have our baby, and we are so happy. We are so grateful that you talked to us and helped us. We can’t thank you enough.”

Lee H said...

Whoops! I mistakenly posted a comment about abortion on this post. Please delete it if you can.