Monday, January 17, 2011

The orchestra and Church unity

Every now and then I enjoy listening to a beautifully composed piece of classical music. But nowadays, the “classics” I mostly get to listen to are Old MacDonald’s Farm, Twinkle Star, the ABC song, etc. courtesy of my two oldest daughters. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t change it for the world. It is the cutest thing to see them learn new songs and sing along in the car to their own made up words.
But I digress...classical music...
This weekend, I was thinking about orchestral classical music (yes, I often have random thoughts that I just let run their course...and don’t judge me because I’m sure you do the same...). It got me to thinking about Church unity. Consider this...
Imagine an orchestra playing an extremely detailed piece of classical music. What does the orchestra need to make that music come alive in a beautiful way? Unity. And for that unity to exist, a few things are necessary. They need to be playing from the same sheet music; they all need to play in the same time; each person needs to know their place and their part and stick to it; etc. As I was pondering this, it actually struck me as to just how important the conductor actually is, and how each and every person in the orchestra needs to be able to see the conductor and follow his lead.
The Church of Jesus Christ is like an orchestra playing the glorious masterpiece of the Gospel. For this masterpiece to be fully appreciated, we must all be following the same doctrine (the sheet music). Unfortunately, in today’s world the Gospel is scandalised because there is so much division in Christianity. To start, there are the major rifts between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants. For the most part, Catholic and Orthodox theology agrees and it appears that a reunification is on the distant horizon. However, the rift with Protestantism is far greater...and this is compounded by the fact that within Protestantism itself there are such major divisions that reunification at times seems completely impossible. Christianity is far away from having “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5).
This is where we are able to see the wisdom of God in establishing His Church with a visible head on earth, akin to the conductor in an orchestra. The Pope is the Vicar of Christ. That means that he is Christ’s visible representative on earth, instituted by our Lord for the sake of the unity of the Church. Like the conductor, he is assigned with the task of leading God’s Church in unity so that we can know how we should play God’s Gospel masterpiece. As soon as we start ignoring our God-given conductor, we become responsible for the scandalous noise that is not the true Gospel.
So this morning, let us thank God for our Catholic Church – that He has preserved it through the centuries as He has promised. And let’s especially thank Him for the ministry of our Holy Father – and may we all find it in our hearts today to pray for him and for his intentions (which can be found here

As an aside, I thought that I would also provide a brief comment on the Church being One and Catholic (or Universal). For Catholics, it means that the One Church of Jesus Christ covers the whole world i.e. it is One and it is Universal at the same time...and this unity an universality is something that can actually be seen.
But for many Protestants, it means something very different. Because the division within Protestantism is rife, many Protestants will try to spiritualise (away) what it means for the Church to be One and to be Catholic i.e. they argue that the Church is unified and it is universal, but only spiritually. This means that there is a unity and universalism that exists, despite the fact that we can’t see it outwardly.
There are a few problems with this Protestant invention – not least being that it can’t be backed up by their principle of Sola Scriptura; that is, this notion of the Church is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. It is a doctrine that has developed to overcome a difficulty produced by the fruits of a Protestant Reformation which has done more to tear the Church to pieces than it has to build it up in unity.
Another problem is that many denominational differences are irreconcilable. For example, whilst claiming to hold to “one baptism”, many Protestants (e.g. Baptists) do not accept other Protestants (e.g. Presbyterians) exercise valid baptisms. But they want to have their cake AND eat it because those same Baptists would never go so far as to say that those Presbyterians aren’t part of Christ’s one universal Church. It doesn’t take much to see how obviously inconsistent this position is.
The “unity” and “universalism” of Protestant doctrine is only imagined. But the unity and universalism of the Holy Catholic Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ is real – and it is guarded by none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And we would cause division to this unity at our own peril.

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