Three branches of Catholicism?

There are three branches of Judaism:  Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox.  A similar breakdown is evident in other religious traditions:  a liberal version, a conservative version, and an arch-conservative version.*

Thus, among Lutherans, we have the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (liberal), the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (conservative), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod (arch-conservative).**  Presbyterians have the Presbyterian Church United States of America (liberal), the Presbyterian Church in America (conservative), and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (arch-conservative).  Baptists have the American Baptists (liberal), Southern Baptists (conservative), and Fundamental Baptists (arch-conservatives).  Campbellites have the Disciples of Christ (liberal), First Christian (conservative), Church of Christ (arch-conservative).  We could go on.

Roman Catholics, on the other hand, have always claimed to be unified.  But liberal Catholic theologian Daniel Maguire says that Catholicism too is dividing into three similar streams.  This has arguably already happened, even though all three are contained in one institution, as many converts have discovered when they become Catholics because of medieval theologians and 19th century acts of devotion, only to find themselves in a parish with feminist nuns and priests who sound just like mainline liberal Protestants.

Terry Mattingly discusses the phenomenon–including the growing authority of “conscience” in Catholic circles–in a column excerpted and linked after the jump.

*This taxonomy did not originate with me.  Scholars tend to use the terms “liberal,” “conservative,” and “fundamentalist,” but that last term is too loaded except for groups, such as some Baptists, that embrace the term. One would expect a “moderate” category, but that faction seems to be distributed among the others.

**I suspect some of us in the LCMS would maintain that they are as conservative as it is possible to be in adherence to Scripture and to its exposition in the Book of Concord.  They would say that the difference with WELS and ELS is over theology, such as the doctrines of the ministry and church fellowship, and that in regards to these issues and others, such as liturgical practice, the LCMS is more conservative than the other confessional bodies.

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Less religion, but more commitment?

The latest Religious Landscape study from Pew Research, last conducted in 2007, shows a drop off in the religious affiliation of Americans, from 83% to 77%.  And yet, among those who are affiliated with a church or its equivalent, more read the Bible, share their faith, go to prayer groups or Bible studies,  draw on their religion for moral guidance, and believe in preserving traditional beliefs and practices. [Read more…]

The three types of secularism

I stumbled upon this article from seven years ago–another one by the great sociologist of religion Peter Berger.  He distinguishes between three kinds of secularism:  one that separates church and state but is not anti-religous; one that has an animus against public religion but is fine with privatized faith; and one that actively tries to suppress all religion. [Read more…]

From “God is dead” to “too many gods”

Peter Berger, a Lutheran in the ELCA, is an important sociologist of religion.  Back in the 1970s, he was one of the scholars who advocated the “secularization” thesis, that as societies grew more modern, they grew less religious.  But now he says that he was wrong.  Today, as societies in Asia, Latin America, and Africa are modernizing, they are becoming MORE religious.  Berger says that what modernity brings is not secularism but religious pluralism.  He says that what we face today is not “God is dead,” but “too many gods.” [Read more…]

The numinous in religious experience

A couple of years ago, I blogged about the Numinous, that sense of uncanny awe that Rudolph Otto and C. S. Lewis considered to be at the heart of religious experience.  Ben Stanhope at his Remythologized blog links to that post and explores the concept in greater depth, seeing it as central to Biblical worship and as evidence for supernatural reality. [Read more…]

What Christians and atheists have in common

In the ancient Greco-Roman persecutions, Christians were put to death on the grounds of atheism; that is, they did not believe in the  gods.  They believed in one God, but they rejected the pantheon of all other religions.  Catholic journalist John L. Allen discusses some similarities between Christians and atheists today, particularly in a global context.   Islamic radicals, he says, have two major targets:  Christians and atheists.  Also, worldwide, Christians join with atheists in promoting secular governments as opposed to theocracies. [Read more…]


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