Doc, I’ve Got this Painful Molar…

Amy offers excerpts from Southern Baptist theologian Albert Mohler’s reaction to the Catholic Church’s recent clarification on what makes up a ‘proper church.’ You can read Dr Mohler’s whole article here.

At least Dr. Mohler read the Vatican statement and has the dignity to respond rationally, instead of the sentimental responses from many Protestants. He understands that we are not saying non-Catholics are not ‘proper Christians’ just that their churches are not ‘proper’ or authentic churches in the full sense of the term.

I’m surprised, however, at the shallowness of Dr Mohler’s response. He basically says, “This is a question of ‘I’m right. You’re wrong’ no, ‘I’m right. You’re wrong.’ and he implies that there is really no room for discussion. In his view Catholics are wrong and Baptists are right. Let’s move on.

Up to a point he’s right about this. However, what he doesn’t get right is that, for our part, we still want to keep talking. We want to ask some further questions, not just close the door and stamp our foot. Let’s talk, Dr Mohler about what does constitute a ‘proper’ church and why. Let’s look together at the Scriptures and Church history down through the ages. Let’s consider the arguments. What does it mean that the Church is the Body of Christ? What does it mean to belong to that body? Why do the Baptists, for instance, not really have any ecclesiology at all? Does this matter?

Is it important that there are tens of thousands of Protestant sects with an increasingly bewildering array of heterodox beliefs? If it matters, what shall we do about it? Where do we find any sort of authority that might assure orthodox belief and bring unity? If it doesn’t matter, then does it really matter what one believes at all? What on earth did Jesus actually intend when he prayed passionately that ‘they may all be one?’ Do the passages in the New Testament urging, yea, commanding church unity matter, or shall we simply dismiss them?

I know Dr.Mohler’s article was a brief, popular response, but from a man who takes Scripture seriously, I would have expected something of more depth.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • Jeffrey Smith

    He feels the need to avoid the issue. As you, of all people, know, whenever a Protestant minister examines those issues, he ends up Catholic.

  • DGus

    Fr. D: If you really want to keep talking with the Baptists, may I suggest that your ice breakers not include questions like “Why do the Baptists, for instance, not really have any ecclesiology at all?”Sort of a conversation stopper.

  • Mephibosheth

    Being a former SB, I have something of an obsession with Dr. Mohler’s analyses of the Church and the papacy, but having not blogged this week, Amy and Fr. Dwight beat me to the commentary. Mohler is the one who points out that this should lead to Evangelicals and Catholics discussing ecclesiology, but he fails to define his own ecclesiology. So I think Fr. Dwight’s question is apt. Most discussions of ecclesiology by congregationalists center on what the Church is NOT, primarily that it is NOT the same as the Catholic Church’s understanding. But the burden of proof rests with those like Mohler to argue for what it IS–and he generally doesn’t.

  • Irenaeus

    As a cynical Evangelical, I was going to cynically say, ‘you expect evangelicals to have depth?’ Whoops — I guess I did.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Do Baptists have an ecclesiology?

  • Mike L

    Fr Dwight:In my admittedly limited purview, the only Protestants who have an ecclesiology are those who, like confessional Lutherans or high-enough Anglicans, think they’re more Catholic than Rome.Of course, the Roman-Catholic rad-trads believe they’re more Catholic than Rome too. I’m not sure how that signifies, other than its suggesting to me that they’re really Protestant.Best,Mike