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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

       Monday, November 8 2004 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Church teachings as worldview matrix

On Friday we examined a biblical Christian worldview, a frame of reference that was proposed as a way of looking at anything you encounter in life and consider in light of what God wants you to do, assuming that you believe the Bible is God's word and a lamp to light the way of every path your feet tred, to paraphrase the Psalmist.

I said we'd turn today to using the teaching of the church as a comparable matrix, another or, as most Protestant thinkers would likely say, an "alternate" way of coming to the same goal of having a Christian foundation for all of your theoretical thought. Before I proceed, however, I should reiterate that this is not a devious means of trying to get you thinking "Christianly" if you're not a person who has a personal prayer-based relationship with Jesus Christ. Without such a relationship, a goal of "thinking Christianly" is not even attainable, in my opinion. You must have the Spirit of Christ before you can even hope to start having the "mind" of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; compare Philippians 2:5; see the search results, here).

Catholics and Orthodox Christians, unlike Protestants, say that the teaching of the church is as important as the Holy Scriptures in keeping your mind and your spirit anchored in the mind of Christ. Scripture itself calls the church, not the Bible, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). But the Scripture also describes specific churches that fall away from the teaching of the Lord and the Apostles, become lukewarm and even sometimes misled by wolves in sheep's clothing, which causes Protestant Bible students to conclude that the early churches fell into error and couldn't possibly be trusted above the Scriptures. Yet Christ himself said that the gates of hell would never prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18)...so which is it? I ask rhetorically; food for thought, I don't mean to encourage argument on this topic. The point is, again, to encourage theoretical thought, not religious disputation.

There are three aspects to the Catholic and Orthodox teaching: the Catholic Magisterium, Catholic tradition, and Orthodox tradition. The Catholic church holds that it has authority to teach the faithful in an active way, through confession, preaching, and Christian or parochial education. The bishops, especially, are described as having "magisterial" rule in the church. Presumably, they base their rules and rulings on church tradition and the Scriptures, but in pre-Vatican II days there are many testimonies of such power wielded freely. Since Vatican II, most Bishops are unwilling to exercise strong discipline toward any faithful found to be at odds with church teaching; the controversy of what to do about Catholic politicians who vote for legalizing abortion or vote against restricting abortions provides ample support of this. The teaching authority of the Pope is, as most people know, highly elevated when he speaks "ex cathedra," or on behalf of the church, in which he is held to be infallible. But most Catholics seem to take both the bishops and the Pope's authority "with a grain of salt" these days, and the church mostly accommodates or ignores their disobedience.

Orthodoxy also teaches that the church holds "the keys to the kingdom," but in a much "softer" way (or what Protestants would generally call, these days, a more "pastoral" way), which has always been its practice, not a recent development. Orthodoxy has no magisterial bishops and has none that it considers infallible. It has lots of "Traditions," which officially are held to be authoritative, but there are varied interpetations of the word. The common denominator among these Orthodox opinions seems to be that everything codified by the seven true ecumenical councils of the churches (the last of which was in 787 A.D.) are authoritative teachings of the church. But as one Orthodox priest told me, "all you have to believe to be Orthodox is the Nicene Creed." In Orthodoxy, there is no Tradition that is inconsistent with teachings of the Bible and, at least in theory, if there was a disparity the Bible would have the last word.

Though living by the teachings of the church—any church—in this generation of everyone doing that which is right in his own sight may seem anachronistic, there are millions of people who strive diligently to live within their church's teachings. It's another widely followed worldview that's instructive for those looking for a matrix, template, or even a stencil that can guide their thinking in the whole range of currents in the culture. Of course the teachings of any other religion, philosophy, or ideology can work for similar purposes.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 


A very zealous soul-winning young preacher recently came upon a Farmer working in his field. Being concerned about the farmer's soul the preacher asked the man, "Are you laboring in the vineyard of the Lord, my good man?"

Not even looking at the preacher and continuing his work, the farmer replied, "Naw, these are soybeans."

"You don't understand," said the preacher. "Are you a Christian?"

With the same amount of interest as his previous answer the farmer said, "Nope my name is Jones. You must be looking for Jim Christian. He lives a mile south of here."

The young determined preacher tried again asking the farmer, "Are you lost?"

"Naw! I've lived here all my life," answered the farmer.

"Are you prepared for the resurrection?" the fustrated preacher asked. This caught the farmer's attention and he asked, "When's it gonna be?"

Thinking he had accomplished something the young Preacher replied, "It could be today, tomorrow, or the next day!"

Taking a handkerchief from his back pocket and wiping his brow, the farmer remarked, "Well, don't mention it to my wife. She don't get out much and she'll wanna go all three days!"

Clean Laughs  

Thought for today

How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world, given my waist and shirt size?

Woody Allen  

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