The Body of Christ Divided
Dr. Peter Kreeft, acclaimed philosopher, theologian and author, spoke to a crowd of varying theological backgrounds about his desire for unity in the Christian community at large. Particularly focusing on the disparities and mistrust between Protestants and Catholics, Kreeft said that the way to unity is, “through letting Christ rule our churches completely…even if it means admitting we were wrong, either side”. He said that the church should be defined by faith in Christ alone, not by the minor differences that divide denominations.
Kreeft described the “re-unified” church, or what he would later call the “Evangelical, Catholic church”, as a place of acceptance. He said that if the church is to assume its’ correct form, both Catholics and Protestants must come to see their own fallibility and accept a more plural body: “God includes differences without compromising his oneness”. He detailed three levels of unity: God himself, man’s experience of God himself, and theological reflection about God. He said the closer the church is to God, the closer the church is to unity.
According to Kreeft there are six major obstacles to achieving unity within the church. The first two he described as general problems. The conflict between nature, the natural order of the world, and grace, that which pertains to the supernatural; also, the conflict between objective religion and subjective religion. He said the solution to these conflicts is an affirmation of both, by which the church might be both, “the meat and the sandwich”.
The second two of the six major obstacles Kreeft described as specific doctrinal issues. He said one of these issues is the source of authority; Catholics believe in the church’s authority, protestants believe in the Bible’s authority “sola scriptura”. Kreeft said, “there is only one horse and it is the Bible, but it needs a rider, and that is the church”. He said the other is the issue of faith and works: “the essence of the Bible is at stake here”. Kreeft said the Catholic church teaches unclearly on this issue, infusing erroneous elements of legalism and humanism. He said that salvation is by faith alone, good works can only be the fruit of faith. He said that protestants and Catholics differ in their definitions of faith; for protestants it is a, “saving faith”, for Catholics, “the act of the mind prompted by the will which accepts the teachings of the church as true”.
The final two issues Kreeft described as radical problems, the, “deepest of all”. The first he said is sin. He said the underlying reason for disunity is sin itself. The last is the illusion that the church already has unity, the erroneous notion that it is “an inseparable property” of the church. Kreeft said that love creates unity, and that unity will draw people in. “Signs are obscure today, that’s why were not winning the world”.