Peter Kreeft

Toward Reuniting the Church

Can unity be achieved?  If and only if there is a way, a road. A dream is not enough. There must be a Jacob’s ladder to connect the heavenly dream to earth. There is a ladder, and the angels continually ascend and descend on it. It is not a method or a teaching or a technique. It is a way, not a method; a truth, not a teaching; a life, not a technique. It is, of course, the one who said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and then continued: “No man comes to the Father but by me.” Unity is with the Father. The only way to unity is the Son.” 

The way from unity to disunity was through the loss of Christ as the center. Therefore the only way back is through Christ as the center, through letting Christ rule our churches completely. This is a guaranteed recipe for success. For we know his will is unity (reread Jn 17:20—26). Therefore if we only let him do his will in us we will have unity.

The only road to unity is total openness to his will, even if it means admitting that we were wrong. We don’t know in advance what letting Christ have his will completely in us will lead to except that it will lead to truth. “Follow me.” Where? “Come and see.” Might it lead to an admission that we Catholics were wrong?  That you Protestants were wrong? It might. I firmly believe all that the Catholic Church teaches; but if I should meet God face to face and find that I was wrong in this, I would still be his child.

Catholicism and Protestantism do not essentially define our identity, as Christ does. If I should die and find out that Christ is not my Savior, I could not be me, I could not exist in such a world. Christ is essential to my very self: “For me to live is Christ.” The Church is like my family: very close to me, loyal to the death.—but not my essence. Saint Paul did not say: “For me to live is Catholicism.” He did not say: “I live, nevertheless not I but Protestantism lives in me.” The only absolute certainty we have is Christ. The unity we already have in Christ includes doctrinal unity, for if we accept the teacher we also accept all his teachings, at least through Scripture. None of the Catholic Church’s interpretations of or additions to Scripture is as important as the scriptural agreements between Protestants and Catholics. The agreements between orthodox Protestants and orthodox Catholics are more important than the agreements between orthodox Catholics and liberal, or Modernist, or demythologized Catholics, and more important than the agreements between orthodox Protestants and liberal Protestants.

The following questions do not divide Protestants and Catholics—and they are the most important questions of all—but they do divide the orthodox from the Modernist in both churches:

  1. Is God a transcendent, supernatural, personal, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, providential, loving, just Creator? Or is God an immanent cosmic force evolving in nature and man?
  2. Do miracles really happen? Or has science refuted them? A transcendent God can perform miracles; a merely immanent, naturalistic God cannot. The three great miracles essential to orthodox Christianity are the Incarnation, the Resurrection and the new birth.
  3. Is there a heaven? Or is heaven just all the good on earth?
  4. Does God really love me? Or is that just a helpful sentiment?
  5. Does God forgive my sins through Christ? Or is sin an outdated concept? In other words, is Christ a mere human example or a Savior from sin?
  6. Is Christ divine, eternal, from the beginning? Or is he only divine “as all men are divine”?
  7. Did he physically rise from the dead? Or is the Resurrection only a myth, a beautiful symbol?
  8. Must we be born again from above to be saved, to have God as our Father? Or is everyone saved automatically? Does everyone have God as Father simply by being born as a human being, or by being reasonably nice during life?
  9. Is Scripture God’s word to us?  Or is it human words about God?  Does it have divine or human authority behind it?  And can an ordinary Christian understand its true meaning without reading German theologians?
  10. Most important of all, can I really meet God in Christ? If I ask him to be my Lord, the Lord of my life, will he really do it? Or is this just a “religious experience”? This question is really one with the question: Did Christ really rise from the dead? That is, is he alive now? Can I say: “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!”?

Affirmative answers to these questions constitute the most important kind of unity already: not unity of thought but unity of being, the new being, being “in Christ”.

The evangelical resurgence, the charismatic movement, and the born-again phenomenon are all indications that God is working in our time at precisely this center, this place of unity. No human can create new being, and therefore no human can create unity, for unity follows being. But although with man it is impossible, with God all things are possible. God can and does create new being in us, and therefore God can create new unity among us—and he’s doing it right now! We are witnessing with our own eyes in this generation the definitive solution to the problem of division in the Church. God is solving the problem in exactly the same way he solves all our problems. He has one answer to all our needs, and the answer is a Person.

It’s working. You can see it, surely, at charismatic prayer meetings: without compromise, indifference, or watering down their faith, Protestants and Catholics are experiencing the kind of Christian unity New Testament Christians experienced: unity in Christ. And the world is noticing: “See how they love one another!”
 


Excerpted from Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press.

Also see the audio lecture:
Ecumenism

also
Charismatic Experience (MP3, 1:53, 556k)