I recently subscribed to a great journal called “Touchstone” www.touchstonemag.com which calls itself a “Journal of Mere Christianity” and positions itself in the following way editorially:
Touchstone is a Christian journal, conservative in doctrine and eclectic in content, with editors and readers from each of the three great divisions of Christendom — Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. The mission of the journal and its publisher, The Fellowship of St. James, is to provide a place where Christians of various backgrounds can speak with one another on the basis of shared belief in the fundamental doctrines of the faith as revealed in Holy Scripture and summarized in the ancient creeds of the Church.
As a bonus to subscribing, I was sent a compendium book containing some of the most significant articles in this journal over the recent years called called “Creed & Culture” and I came across a thought provoking article titled: “Recognizing The Church” by Thomas Howard, author of “Evangelical Is Not Enough”. In this short article, Howard a former Evangelical, and now Roman Catholic convert, explains the essence of his journey toward the ancient church and reflects on the “5 Marks of the Church”. I found his final destination in Roman Catholicism a bit of a conundrum to me, but many ideas on his “path to the past” resonated with me, and I found them to be familiar and comforting. Thus I was renewed in my fervor to explain my own “journey to orthodoxy” to finally make good on my ongoing “threat” to “write something that really explains what the Orthodox faith is all about…”
Now there are two challenges to a statement like that: First, I don’t feel qualified to write definitive statement on the essence of orthodoxy since I am a recent convert to Orthodoxy, a ‘newbie’, so to speak on the ancient ecclesiastical block. Secondly, who among us, even the giants of Orthodox theology can begin to rightly “explain” the unexplainable, to put a “package”on the unpackageable, and to “contain” the un-containable One? And yet, despite all of this, our God is One who desires both to reveal, and to be revealed, who speaks, and wants to be spoken to, and in the end – to be understood. He also gave birth to, and still grows today, His Bride, the Church, and true to the very nature and essence of His Being- He leaves “continuity” and “order” and “organic form” for us to understand Him by. In short, God is relational and intentional, and precise. He loves mankind, and He wants us to know Him, and to live in Him, and to be like Him in all that we do and say, individually as disciples, and corporately as the Church. All this in spite of a present day American pop church culture that all too often ignores the “details” the “doctrine” and the specific directions from God Himself so as to be culturally and politically correct.
But is there is a discernible pattern and system to being the “Church”? One that can be seen? One that can be trusted? In fact, does that One Church that He established at Pentecost still exist, and if it does, how do you recognize it?
So my intention over the next week will be to weave the thoughts of Roman Catholic Thomas Howard, and Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware on the Marks of the True Church, and on the teaching of “tradition” and its role in the church. In the end, I hope that readers will find something helpful – and hopefully begin the journey to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church as I did. Perhaps in the end it will help each of us discover and understand the relevancy, immediacy and urgency of the ancient Christian faith, and why it is so vital that modern culture knows and understands it – and better yet – embraces it.
For Next time: What are the “Marks” of the Church?
What Is “tradition”? Is it good or bad?
And assuming that it is ‘good’ what is the Holy Tradition of the Church?