Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who To Invite?

One of the things that the church has always done is hold councils. The biblical model for this is in Acts 15 where the church gets together to resolve the question of circumcision for gentile converts. Protestants type and do this to resolve issues as well. They have synods or conventions where people get together and vote on disputed matters. The problem is they don't know who should be invited to these gatherings. If it is known issue X is going to be voted on at a synod then any time delegates are chosen for that synod their view of issue X is much discussed. So it becomes a political process. Like primaries and caucuses picking delegates for a presidential convention. Every delegate is fought over by the various sides in the debate.

So when we see a movie like the Da Vinci Code depict the Council of Nicea as that kind of event it is not hard to see where they got it from. But one thing that didn't happen at the Council of Nicea or any of the ecumenical councils is a dispute over who to invite. The central fight of any church synod simply did not occur. There was never any debate over who should go the council and who should not. Why? Because everyone thought it was self-evident that the successors of the apostles should go. It didn't matter what they believed about the Arian controversy. It just mattered if they were validly ordained by another bishop.

What that does is it changes the nature of a council. When it is a political process what you are going to get is the will of the people. But what you really want is the will of God. Sure the people we are talking about are all serious Christians but they are all influenced by the culture to a serious degree as well. Not just by secular culture but by Christian media as well. It is quite predictable. You can look at votes from today and 20 years ago and 40 years ago and see a definite liberal drift. That means people's opinions are changing. But if you were really discerning the mind of God you should not see this change.

People understand that. There is no respect for the decisions of these bodies. They clarify what people already believe but they don't convince any dissenters to change their minds. So they are nothing like the council described in Acts 15. That is what they are going for but they just are not able to do it. This is in great contrast to the Catholic church which has been able to hold councils as needed right up to modern times.

Really the difference is that protestant gatherings are works-based and Catholic councils are grace-based. Protestants do as many good works as they can to try and make as good a decision as they can. But it is still a human effort. Catholics work and pray as well but they believe they need a special grace of God or the whole thing will fail. That is the grace of the apostolic office of bishop and the grace of the petrine office of pope. It is the protestants that are saying they don't believe God gives such a grace. That God works through individuals but there is no way of knowing for sure which ones they are.

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