dinsdag 2 maart 2010

I became a Catholic in order to be more fully what I was and who I was as a Lutheran

First things herdrukt deze maand b.g.v. zijn twintigjarig bestaan enkele highlights van de afgelopen twee decennia. Waaronder een prachtig, dankbaar, hier en daar vertederend artikel van de oprichter van het tijdschrift, de vorig jaar overleden Richard John Neuhaus - over zijn leven. Met tussen de regels veel leerzame informatie over de katholieke en traditioneel-protestantse (i.c. lutherse) leer, de verschillen en overeenkomsten.
Een paar alinea's (maar lees het hele stuk!):
Being brought up a Missouri Lutheran [...] produced an ecclesial Christian. One might also speak of a sacramental Christian or an incarnational Christian, but, whatever the terminology, the deepest-down conviction, the most irrepressible sensibility, is that of the touchability, the visibility, the palpability of what we might call “the Christian thing.” To use the language of old eucharistic controversies, finitum capax infiniti—the finite is capable of the infinite. Put differently, there is no access to the infinite except through the finite. Or yet again, God’s investment in the finite can be trusted infinitely. Although Lutheran theology discarded the phrase, it is the ex opere operato conviction evident in Luther’s ultimate defiance of Satan’s every temptation by playing the trump card, “I am baptized!” Ex opere operato is the sacramental enactment of sola gratia. It is uncompromisingly objective. By it morbid introspection, the delusions of religious enthusiasm, and the endlessly clever postulations of the theological imagination are called to order by truth that is answerable to no higher truth; for it is Christ, who is the Truth, who speaks in the voice of his Church—“I baptize you ...,” “I forgive you your sins ...,” “This is my body ...”
Mine was a decision mandated by conscience. [...] The great confessional Lutheran theologian Peter Brunner regularly said that a Lutheran who does not daily ask himself why he is not a Roman Catholic cannot know why he is a Lutheran. That impressed me very deeply. I was thirty years a Lutheran pastor, and after thirty years of asking myself why I was not a Roman Catholic I finally ran out of answers that were convincing either to me or to others. And so I discovered not so much that I had made the decision as that the decision was made, and I have never looked back, except to trace the marks of grace, of sola gratia, each step of the way.
My reception occasioned some little comment, including the observation that I and others who make this decision have a “felt need for authority.” This is usually said in a condescending manner by people who believe that they are able to live with ambiguities and tensions that some of us cannot handle. Do I have a felt need for authority, for obedience, for submission? But of course. Obedience is the rightly ordered disposition toward truth, and submission is subordination of the self to that by which the self is claimed. Truth commands, and authority has to do with the authorship, the origins, of commanding truth. By what authority? By whose authority? There are no more important questions for the right ordering of our lives and ministries. Otherwise, in our preaching, teaching, and entire ministry we are just making it up as we go along, and, by acting in God’s name, taking His name in vain.
These are hard times for ecumenism, hard times for the hope for Christian unity. But the Church has known many times that were harder, much harder; she has learned that the better part of fidelity is sometimes simply persistent waiting upon the movement of the Holy Spirit toward possibilities that she can neither anticipate nor control, but for which we must together pray.
As for now, I end where I began—as in my life’s course I began where I have ended—by saying again: “To those of you with whom I have traveled in the past, know that we travel together still. In the mystery of Christ and his Church nothing is lost, and the broken will be mended. If, as I am persuaded, my communion with Christ’s Church is now the fuller, then it follows that my unity with all who are in Christ is now the stronger. We travel together still.”

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