Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ecumenism in Sacred Scripture

Today's Office of Readings offered an interesting insight into how Christians should work with non-Christians and indeed eachother. The first reading was taken from 2 Corinthians 6:1-7:1 and one paragraph ran thus:

'Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners? How can light and darkness live together? How can Christ and the Devil agree? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? How can God's temple come to terms with pagan idols? For we are the temple of the living God!'

This seems to suggest that ecumenical and inter-faith relations should be kept to a formal standard, not treating eachother as equals because obviously we are right and they are wrong and right and wrong cannot be partners. My favourite portrait of Martin Luther is where he is preaching and the Devil is speaking to him through an ear-trumpet. If Christ and the Devil cannot agree how can the Vicar of Christ and the followers of a religion formed by the devil agree?

In today's Gospel (Matthew 13:24-30) Jesus tells the parable of the farmer who's crop falls foul to the work of his enemy. The farmer (the Father) tells his servants (us) not to weed the crop in case any wheat comes with the weeds. Instead at the harvest (the Apocalyse) the reapers (the angels) will prepare the weeds for burning (Hell) before gathering the wheat.

Thus God permits all religions and those of no faith to live together until the end when he will sort the wheat from the weeds. Therefore it is dangerous for the wheat to equate themselves with the weeds.

I wonder how others might interpret those readings.


rc said...

Well said I totally agree. I am so glad that you are being taught this in your seminary your teachers are to be blessed and commended. I only hope and pray that all our seminarians in all our seminaries are being trained to think in such a perfectly uncompromising manner. It should be obvious to anyone that we are right and the 'reformed' churches are the work of the Devil. Furthermore, those whose chose to miss use their God given free will by worshipping in the Devils churches should be told that at the final judgment they will go to hell.

Orthfully Catholic said...


Unfortunately this isn't being taught in seminaries (certainly not British seminaries) it is the product of my own theology.

rc said...

But orthfully, surely your 'own theology' is accepted in your seminary? If it were not you would not be allowed to stay or to disseminate the word! Don't underestimate yourself, you are our spearhead - keep it up.

Auricularius said...

Well ... I don't think its quite as simple as that. The interesting thing about the Gospel passage to which you refer is Our Lord's comment at verse 29. He restrains his disciples desire to root out the weeds immediately "... lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them". The primary lesson, surely, is not so much that it is dangerous for the wheat to equate themselves with the weeds, but that you need to be a skilled horticulturalist in order to distinguish the one from the other. In St Jerome's words "between wheat and tares, so long as it is only in blade, before the stalk has put forth an ear, there is very great resemblance, and none or little difference to distinguish them by""

The parable can thus be seen as a metaphor for God's patience with the world and an indication that our attitude ought to be the same. Indeed, St Jerome commends Our Lord's answer on the explicit grounds that "room for repentance is left, and we are warned that we should not hastily cut off a brother, since one who is today corrupted with an erroneous dogma, may grow wiser tomorrow, and begin to defend the truth." St Jerome also sees the parable as a condemnation of indiscreet zeal "The Lord then warns us not to pass a hasty sentence on an ambiguous word, but to reserve it for His judgment, that when the day of judgment shall come, He may cast forth from the assembly of the saints no longer on suspicion but on manifest guilt." St Augustine, whilst agreeing with Jerome, also suggests that the "field" can be understood as typological of the Church. Commenting on the use of the word "tares" in this passage he says "we do well to enquire whether by such are meant heretics, or Catholics who lead evil lives. That they were sown among the wheat, seems to point out that they were all of one communion".

The overall message therefore seems to be to suggest that our natural desire to root out evil wherever we see it may not be quite what it appears to be at first sight. If we are not careful, our zeal may simply be a manifestation of what St John of the Cross calls spiritual anger, in which case, not only will actions not bring our brother closer to Christ, they will act as a bar to our own spiritual progress. And this, not because the desire to convert and evangelise is itself wrong, but because sinful attitudes are mixed in with good ones. Ultimately, we need to have faith in God's providence and to trust that he is wiser than us. In St Augustine's words "therefore let a man gently reprove whatever is in his power; what is not in let him bear with patience, and mourn over with affection, until He from above shall correct and heal, and let him defer till harvest-time to root out the tares and winnow the chaff"

John said...

I don't think this passage should be used in Ecumenical terms. Thinking objectively about the Reformation communities one can indeed see how they were formed by misguided and sometimes downright evil heretics, how they keep the Church in a state of schism and how Catholics have a duty to evangelise; but one can also see the vital importance of recognising that these communities can and do lead some people to the beginnings of a relationship with Christ through prayer and the word. Great Catholics such as John Henry Cardinal Newman first came to know Christ as protestants, and explored vocation within the Reformed Communities.