A pilgrimage and discovery of the five marks of Christ’s Church…
The title to Thomas Howard’s article is: Recognizing the Church – a Personal Pilgrimage and Discovery of Five Marks of the Church.
I found many of Howard’s sentiments and the theological reasoning for his journey in perfect alignment with my own pilgrimage; however his journey ultimately led him to Rome with obedience to a monarchial Papacy; while mine found its home in the Orthodox Church, with obedience to Christ, and a Conciliar structure of equality with bishops for church authority. (More on this later!)
Off now, to some fine thinking from Mr. Howard, and some compelling insights which a person should wrestle with if they desire to be faithful to truth, integrity, history, and the witness of over twenty centuries of unbroken faith and practice.
Mark #1 “Antiquity”
First, the antiquity of the Church confronts me. As an Evangelical, I discovered while I was in college that it was possible to dismiss the entire Church as having gone off the rails by about 95 AD. That is, we, with our open Bibles, knew better than old Ignatius or Polycarp or Clement, who had been taught by the apostles themselves – we knew better than they just what the Church is and what it should look like. Never mind that our worship services would have been unrecognizable to them, or that our church government would have been equally unrecognizable, or that the vocabulary in which we spoke of the Christian life would have been equally unrecognizable. We were right, and the Fathers were wrong. That settled the matter
The trouble here was that what these ‘wrong headed’ men wrote – about God, about our Lord Jesus Christ, about His Church, about the Christian’s walk and warfare – was so titanic, and so rich, and so luminous, that their error seemed infinitely truer and more glorious than my truth. I gradually felt that it was I, not they who was under surveillance. The ‘glorious company of the apostles, the noble, army of martyrs, and the holy Church throughout all the world’ (to quote the ancient hymn, the Te Deum) judge me, not I them. Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, Justin, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Cyril, Basil, the Gregory’s, Augustine, Ambrose, Hilary, Benedict – it is under the gaze of this senate that I find myself standing. Alas, how tawdry, how otiose, how flimsy, how embarrassing, seem the arguments that I had prepared, so gaily, to put forward against the crushing radiance of their confession. The Church is here, in all its truth and antiquity, judging me…