What A Call with Integrity Sounds Like

If Bryan and the Jasons had truly been conservative Presbyterians, they would have carried suspicions of liberalism into the Roman Catholic Church with them. But that they continue to insist that Protestantism and Roman Catholicism represent two distinct paradigms while not recognizing the two paradigms that exist on both sides of the Tiber — one anti-modernist and one indifferent to modernism and its effects — they miss the central dynamic of modern Christianity.

Boniface at Unam Sanctum lays out that dynamic well. It is the relationship between the church and the world. Conservative Presbyterians after the 1920s were and still are on the look out for compromises with the world. So was the Roman Catholic Church. But since Vatican 2, Roman Catholic wariness has disappeared. Boniface explains:

The goal of the Christian life if holiness. Yet what is holiness? What does it meant to be holy? We understand that we are called to be loving, forgiving, etc. But what does it mean to be “holy”? Is holiness a mere sum of all other natural and supernatural virtues? And what about God? God is love, power, forgiveness, justice and so on. But what does it mean when the angels cry that God is “holy, holy, holy?”

The fundamental definition of holiness is separation. The Latin word for holiness is sanctitas, from whence sanctity. Holiness denotes separation or consecration unto God. When the angels cry “holy, holy, holy” it is because God is so far separate and distinct from all created things that awe is the only appropriate response in his presence. “Between creator and creature there can be noted no similarity so great that a greater dissimilarity cannot be seen between them”, the Fourth Lateran Council taught (cap. 3, “On Heretics”). St. Thomas defines holiness as a firm separation of created things which are translated from profane use to use in the service of God (STh II-II Q. 81 art. 8). This is why Holy Water, Holy Cards, Holy Candles, Holy Oil, etc. have the adjective “holy” – once they are consecrated, they are “set apart” for divine worship exclusively. To use Holy Oil for cooking for Holy Water for common washing would be sacrilegious. Their consecration is what makes them “holy”, and hence set apart for divine use exclusively.

Of course, a person is holy in a different sense than an object, but the fundamental reality that holiness means separation remains. A man with Holy Orders is set apart for the service of God. A holy person is one whose life is separated from worldly concerns and activities and who already lives, even in the flesh, in contemplation of heavenly things. Holiness is separation; separation from worldly uses and a setting apart unto God, “who is above all, through all, and in all” (Eph. 4:6).

* * * * *

With the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church adopted a posture of “openness” to the world. Pope John XXIII harbored great hopes for a kind of reconciliation between the Church and the world that would lead to the mutual building up of both; what he called a “new order of human relations”, while also condemning those “prophets of gloom” who only saw the modern world in a negative light. This led to a massive paradigm shift in the post-Conciliar Church, a pivot towards the world. It matters not whether the Council documents ever called for this pivot; the essential weakness of the conservative response to the Council has been a narrow focus on the Council documents’ language and a failure to comprehend the Council as an event (see, USC, “Book Review: Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story”, Aug. 2013). The pivot happened and it must be acknowledged as a fact.

The result of this pivot was a blurring of distinction between the Church and world, between merely natural goods and supernatural goods. Worldly concerns seemed to be become the Church’s concerns. It started innocently enough with “world peace,” but then moved on to all sorts of other issues, occupying bigger and bigger parts of the Church’s canvas until the Church appeared as little more than an NGO concerned with worldly problems like climate change and youth unemployment. Not that the Church has no concern with temporal evils that offend God; but as the Church shifted its focus more and more towards merely natural goods, it began to address them with increasingly little reference to man’s supernatural ends.

The results were a spiritually deadening and embarrassingly banal Church that gives us such gems as “Driver’s Ten Commandments”, documents about immigration reform, and of course, encyclicals on global warming.

Boniface even detects such banality in the Pope Emeritus’ recent letter:

Perhaps this all expresses the tension in modern Catholicism – once one has opened up to the world, what is the overlap between one’s duties to the Church and to the world? What happens when they are in contradiction? Can they be in contradiction? In traditional Catholicism the answer was clear: the Church and the world were in a fundamental state of opposition. But once we have pivoted towards the world, what now?

Case in point: Consider Pope Benedict XVI’s recent letter in which the Pope Emeritus states that the Church’s pastors should be “shepherds for the whole world.” Benedict wrote:

“The service of a shepherd cannot be only limited only to the Church [even though] in the first place, we are entrusted with the care of the faithful and of those who are directly seeking faith. [The Church] is part of the world, and therefore it can properly play its service only if it takes care of the world in its entirety.”

What is a Catholic to make of these words? It is certainly true, in one sense, that since the mission of Christ was to redeem the whole human race, the Church can never concern herself solely with matters entirely internal. She must always be considering her mission ad gentes; God wills all men to be saved, and so we must labor for all men to be so.

This is nothing new. But is that the sense in which Benedict means it? He goes on to say that the Church “must be involved in the efforts that humanity and society put into action” to address “the questions of our times.”

The fundamental question is this: Is he envisioning the Church reaching out to make the world think about heavenly things, or the Church focusing more of its attention on worldly things? Does he want the Church to call the world to remember man’s supernatural ends, or is he proposing the Church help to world attain its merely natural ends? Is this a call of the world to the Church or a capitulation of the Church to the world? The problem is both philosophies can be read into Benedict’s words, depending on one’s predisposition.

Let me help Boniface out here by mentioning Pope Francis’ recent promotion of the “new evangelism.” Social gospel alert.

“We must not have fear to make the times of great challenges ours,” he continued.

Francis then said that people today are waiting on the church, “that it may know to walk with them, offering the company of the witness of faith that offers support with all, in particular with the most alone and marginalized.”

“How many poor people are waiting for the Gospel that frees!” the pope said. “How many men and women, in the existential peripheries generated by the consumer society, wait for our closeness and our solidarity!”

“The new evangelization therefore is this: to take awareness of the merciful love of the Father to truly become ourselves instruments of salvation for our brothers,” he said.

The term “new evangelization” was used frequently by Pope Benedict XVI, who created the pontifical council on the issue in 2010 and held a global meeting of bishops in Rome to discuss the matter in 2012. The exact meaning of the term and directive for the council have, however, remained a bit unclear.

Francis’ redefinition of the term seems to place the emphasis on evangelizing by example and in showing mercy and care for the poorest in society.

Touching on the process of catechesis later in his talk Friday, the pontiff said the question of how to educate the faithful “is not rhetorical but essential.”

Of course, the tension between the church and the world is not the dynamic merely of recent church history. When Tertullian asked about the relationship between Jerusalem and Athens, he was invoking the conflict between belief and unbelief. But since the late nineteenth century when Christians of various stripes wanted to do away (anti-dualism) with distinctions between nature and grace, special and general revelation, church and society, sacred and secular, the fundamental dilemma for western Christians (at least) has been whether to insist on such distinctions or whether to do away with them by making the kingdom of God a reality so much larger than the church (either bloated or itty-bitty).

If Bryan and the Jasons had picked this up while in Presbyterian circles, their call would sound different. And Bryan himself might be embarrassed by his alma mater’s decision to embrace diversity over evangelism:

Saint Louis University has removed a statue on its campus depicting a famous Jesuit missionary priest praying over American Indians after a cohort of students and faculty continued to complain the sculpture symbolized white supremacy, racism and colonialism.

Formerly placed outside the university’s Fusz Hall in the center of the private Catholic university, the statue will go to the university’s art museum, a building just north of the bustling urban campus.

The statue features famous Jesuit Missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet S.J. praying over two American Indians dressed in traditional clothing. Last Monday, just two days after graduation, it was removed from the location it has called home on campus for decades. . . .

The statue’s removal comes just months after controversy broke out at the Jesuit campus over a proposed statue to commemorate a six-night sit in that served as an extension of protests in nearby Ferguson.

After donors threatened to pull donations over the proposed statue, the university walked back the original intent of the statue, saying it would instead highlight the university’s values of diversity and inclusion.

If Bryan and the Jasons really want to reach the conservative Presbyterian and Reformed demographic, they really do need to find their anti-modernist selves.

21 thoughts on “What A Call with Integrity Sounds Like

  1. Darryl, your counter to Bryan Cross and Jason Stellman in your constant blog barrage like this post is working. CtC is “calling people to Christ,” not to the Roman Catholic Church readers can follow the links), but this is all “same stuff, different day (oldlife[dot]org/2014/09/queue-long/).”

    So good post, thanks as always, it’s a dialogue between the truth claims of rome vs. geneva, isn’t going away anytime soon, and you’re to be encouraged in your labor. My thanks.


  2. I am so glad for the open forum here at Old Life.

    Thank you Dr. Hart. It is much like the McLaughlin Group, as I mentioned previously a while back. Everybody gets a chance to talk, even ‘Eleanor and Pat’. There are so many issues worthy of addressing, and somehow, on Old Life, most of them are addressed in the discussion. I really appreciate the focus at times you’ve given to the PCA – the mixed bag denomination.

    What makes it hard in the PCA is how intertwined everything/everyone is, like the fibers of a rope. You can have a New Sider/New Schooler standing next to an Old Sider/Old Schooler, with the NS/NS having his congregation under his thumb (and suffering under the weight of Pietism/Protean Catholicism in a Geneva Gown), and of course, the OS/OS feeding the flock, as in John 10.

    The only way to survive in the PCA is to find a minister/congregation who are more/most closely identified with Old Side/Old School and take up residence there, and even so, this will not be the end of encountering New Sider/New Schoolers; they exist even within the OS/OS realms, and must be lovingly resisted (doctrine and practices). Usually, when the Pastor and Session are following OS/OS doctrine and practices, the ‘teeth’ are removed for biting and devouring, and eventually those NS/NS types stay quiet or go somewhere else. In the ‘words of others’, sometimes the best way to deal with these types is to ‘feed them with a long-handled spoon’.

    And while I’m at it – related topic comment – I’m so tired already knowing about Aimee Byrd’s latest book on ‘spiritual fitness’. How do you know when you’re spiritually fit? I’ve been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt, 2 or 3 times, until I collapsed, and I know I wasn’t at the finish line. The effect of Pietism, to be sure.

    ‘Come unto Me, all you who are weary, and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light, and you shall find rest for your souls.

    Matt. 11:28


  3. Meanwhile the Pope is influencing politics in Istanbul.

    CHP chair: AKP’s model is Pope, but not Prophet Mohammad

    The main opposition Republican People’s Party chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, on the other hand, opted to keep focusing on economic issues during his campaign rally in the western Black Sea province of Zonguldak on May 30.

    “The government spent $5.5 billion for 2 million Syrian brothers in Turkey,” Kılıçdaroğlu noted, slamming the ruling AKP for labelling CHP’s electoral promises to millions of voters as “populism.”

    “They bought luxury cars for themselves, wasting billions of liras from your pocket. And now they say that Pope [Francis] has a car, too. If you are a good Muslim, why wouldn’t you take our dear Prophet [Mohammad], who lived a humble life, as a model?” he asked, promising local miners a better future after the upcoming election.


  4. SempRef, do be sure to visit your local OPC every now and again to show your support for what they are doing, as you are able. Being raised evangelical/John Piperian, going with a non-denom guy for 9 months before finding the OPC in spring 2001, I honestly am flummoxxed by so much of what I hear from you PCA guys as you lament the mega conferences, manhattan pastor, and so much else, I am as sheltered as can be, admit my ignrorance and child like innocence over so much of what you wrote there. Our church focuses on word and sacrament, and appears to be thriving with each passing week, sticking to that plan. Anyway, be warm and filled, amigo.

    Next comment please (emoticon).


  5. Thanks Andrew.

    Remember PTL? I can recall as a young charismatic (since renounced that beliefs system), but I was caught up in the swirl of all that with the charismatic movement, and one day, when I was visiting the Christian bookstore in my college town, I met a guy who sang with a troupe that visited PTL, sang there, and who somehow seemed to know what was going on behind the scenes there. he told me about about how Jim Bakker was always using the money from (tear-manipulative) appeals to build another building, and that a featured singer(s) were wild. It was hard to believe, but later, when PTL fell, I remembered his shared insights.

    Also, the Maranatha (House) Ministries (charismatic also) and also resident in my college town, were constantly criticized for being controlling and cultic in their practices, and finally, Pat Robertson (believe it or not) confronted Maranatha’s exec and founder Bob Weiner about the ‘shepherding movement practices’ that were unbiblical. I see more of the Maranatha Ministry/Shepherding Movement abuses in certain areas of the PCA, who hold to some the very same practices as the aforementioned, just ‘hold the tongues’. Some PCA churches seem to be ‘defacto’ charismatic churches, with the regulative principle heaved out the door. To some readers, it will be hard to understand any of this at all. But to those who have been spirtually abused (lorded over and threatened with church discipline) by leadership in the name of our Savior for not practicing man-made rules/laws/convictions and not conforming to legalism (their righteousness – no alcohol, for example, or secular anything), they will immediately identify. It takes a long time to recover. I call this a ‘spiritual concentration camp experience’.

    The old adage – from the sixties song, Walk a Mile in My Shoes, though not a hymn, rings totally true. I would encourage everyone who has never heard that song to listen to it…….good ‘chicken soup’ for the soul, if I may say so.

    Thanks again Brother Andrew!


  6. SempRef,

    Lots for me to chew on here. I used to think, “that called to communion” phenomenon of seminary trained presbys having poped and now blog on it, I used to attribute to PCA problems, since many of them are ex-PCA. However, if you look at the size of the PCA rougly 10 times the size of the OPC, you would expect for every 1 OPC minister/elder/deacon who popes and wishes to air online all the dirty laundry, there would be 10 PCA. I think it’s higher than that, I only know of one OPC minister in the CTC clan. That’s not me saying that I am justified in saying the CTC phenomenon is a PCA problem only, but what I am saying is that we expect as members and officers of a fallible church, people will be fed up with us and seek union and communion with Christ elsewhere, as sad as that is. Darryl’s doing great work here, we need to figure out how to continue to support him as he challenges the thoughts of CTC, which looks more like facebook club than a theological endeavor. I digress, grace and peace. This is my fourth comment on this thread, FYI.


  7. Good insight Andrew. I appreciate what Dr. Hart’s doing here, also. Yes, fallible church, and all, understood. As long as we can voice our objections and disagreements, then it’s a healthy conversation, I think. The damage that pastors who lord over the flock do is so deep, and suffered for so long, usually, that by the time it comes to a head and changes come to a church, the attitude is typically ‘all that is in the past’, let’s move on – which makes it worse for those who have suffered/suffered the most. The outed pastor loses their ministry, typically, but then goes on with a new life, while the suffering congregation is still wounded and hurting. It has taken me years to recover, but I still deal with it, because it will always be around (Book of Galatians). As a respected theologian of our time once said, (paraphrase) people teaching heresy don’t just show up and say, hello, I am a heretic…..


  8. Good insight Andrew. I appreciate what Dr. Hart’s doing here, also. Yes, fallible church, and all, understood. As long as we can voice our objections and disagreements, then it’s a healthy conversation, I think.

    The damage that pastors who lord over the flock do is so deep, and suffered for so long, usually, that by the time it comes to a head and changes come to a church, the attitude is typically ‘all that is in the past’, let’s move on – which makes it worse for those who have suffered/suffered the most. The outed pastor loses their ministry, typically, but then goes on with a new life, while the suffering congregation is still wounded and hurting. It has taken me years to recover, but I still deal with it, because it will always be around (Book of Galatians).

    As a respected theologian of our time once said, (paraphrase) people teaching heresy don’t just show up and say, hello, I am a heretic…..


  9. And the CTC guy is an EX-OP minister, no current OP guys in the CTC trophy case, only those who have left the reformed fold, obviously. Typing too fast, gotta run. Thanks for the interatction. Grace and peace, SempRef.


  10. Kenneth, glad to see you are OK with the DXP disqus format. Open comments never really works, I have no idea how DGH has managed to keep his going so long. He has to have two blogs, if you read his first one out at Putting the protest in protestant, he actually doesn’t speak too highly of his work on this blog, if you look for it, you’ll find it. like easter eggs..


  11. You do the math:

    My first post here calls for an introduction. So here goes (in the order that will get me the least short-term grief).
    I am married to a woman whom I met in Philadelphia almost forty years ago and we live with two cats, Cordelia and Kabbigail (we are those kind of people).
    I spend most of my time teaching history (chiefly U.S.) at a small liberal arts college (name withheld to protect me from my bosses).
    I have written and edited many more books than any English-speaker needs but writing is part of my vocation and it currently calls me to a religious biography of H. L. Mencken, someone who was not religious but far more thoughtful about it than most.
    I am an elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. (I dislike identifying myself as elder because most Americans associate the office with Mormons.)
    I root for the Phillies and it used to be a lot more fun doing so before Ryan Howard’s achilles blew up.
    I blog also over here.


  12. Here’s what happens when discipline happens:

    Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Mexican bishop who reportedly shielded a priest accused of sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy, and on Wednesday (July 15) the Vatican announced that a Brazilian archbishop who spent $600,000 on renovations to his home and offices had been dismissed.

    The moves are the latest signs that Francis is pursuing a hierarchical housecleaning that aims to address the heart of the clergy sex abuse scandal—accountability for bishops—while also removing prelates who don’t reflect the humble and simple lifestyle he says is key to promoting the gospel.

    But Garry Wills and Michael Sean Winters are still on the loose.


  13. Superior paradigms? check.

    Superior ability to dialogue? check.

    This is a deeply Catholic view of things and makes it possible for Catholics to have a conversation (the technical term is “dialogue”) with somebody like Lewis (an Anglican) and with the Anglican communion about why there is a reasonable case to be made, not only for the things we hold in common, but for those things the Catholic communion affirm and Anglicanism denies. And the same applies to other religious traditions too.

    Some Catholics flinch at this and think that “dialogue” is a weak tea word for evading our responsibility to evangelize. But when pressed on this, it often appears that “evangelism” means, for such folk, grabbing people by the lapels and demanding they turn or burn. This is not what Jesus or the apostles did and it is not what people with elementary social skills do either. Rare is the man who succeeds in wooing a woman with “I love you! Marry me or I will destroy you!”

    That’s odd. Experience shows that the paradigmatics are the least capable of dialogue.


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