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Friday, April 05, 2002

Vocabulary Lesson-Ecclesiology. Chris Burgwald over at Veritas is in fine form (a permalink's coming) with a essay of the centrality of the Catholic church. He has this contrast between Protestants and Catholics-
So it comes down to this: Catholics believe that Jesus formed a Church specifically with a visible teaching body which would (by His Spirit) be free from error in its teaching. Protestants do not believe that the visible teaching body of the Church is an essential element of the Church formed by Jesus, and hence this body is not free from error for them.
I'm not quite sure how Chris defines "visible teaching body," but there is a need to teach the Gospel. Romans 10:14-15 points this out
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
Someone has to deliver this message, thus a body of teachers is needed. Without it, the Church will not function, thus are essential. However, this could hinge upon the spin you put on "essential." If it is simple read as needed or required, a teaching body is needed, but not an infallible one. If you read it as part of Christ's essence, then one could lean towards a reading that would make the teaching inerrant. My reading of scripture leads me to take a slightly skeptical view towards any teacher in that a human's teachings needs to square with what the Bible says. Paul spends a good chunk of First and Second Timothy warning against false teachers. An uncritical acceptance of a teacher can be a recipe for cultdom, and believers need to be checking to see if the teacher is speaking for God or for himself. Even within the Catholic church, theologically wayward priests are shown the door regularly; their parishioners need to understand what the priest says and does isn't always right. Staying true to church doctrine is a safe bet, given that the church itself is sound, since you're more likely to be wrong than the church is in a doctrinal difference; the church has spent centuries or millennia hacking their theology. That being said, the believer needs to look at what he's being taught and weigh it against scripture with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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