Don’t Mistake Division for Unity

Yesterday this post was made at Principium Unitatis regarding division and unity in the Church. It describes the differences of what Catholics consider unity to be and what Protestants consider unity to be.

In the general Protestant mindset, anyone who has faith in Christ is a member of the one church that Christ founded. Protestants generally do not believe that Christ founded a visible, hierarchically organized Body, or that if He did, such a Body is still around. This Protestant conception of the church as invisible arose in the 16th century. It does away with the very possibility of schism.

The Catholic Church for two thousand years has believed and taught that Christ founded a visible, hierarchically organized Body. This notion of the Church as a visible, hierarchically organized Body has implications for what it means to be in unity.

I think that this serves as a starting point for discussing Catholicism with Protestants and Evangelicals. It is very true that it is common for Protestants to believe unity is a spiritual thing only. I remember in my Cru Bible Study last year, we discussed the Nicene Creed. Even though it is remarkably Catholic, we tried to explain to our Bible Study that even though it says “one holy Catholic and apostolic Church” it did not mean the Catholic Church, but meant those who believe in Christ. Of course, now I see that it is ridiculous to take that statement and try to turn it into anything else. During Lent one of my Bible Study students this year told me that he thought it was weird that Catholics were not able to take Communion in another Church or allow non-Catholics to take Communion in a Catholic Church. Principium explains:

I explain that the Eucharist is a sign of unity, and so because from the point of view of the Catholic Church, Protestants are in schism from the Church, therefore for Protestants to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church, or for Catholics to receive communion with Protestants, would be a lie.

There is a disunity in Christianity today and if evident in nothing else, is clear simply because there is a disunity in our definition of unity itself. And so we must not mistake the division in Christianity today as unity. But also do not be quick to think that the Body of Christ is divided, because it is not. The Body of Christ is full and whole within the Catholic Church.

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Mistake Division for Unity

  1. Hey: correct me if I’m wrong, but are you saying that people who aren’t in the Catholic Church are not saved? (I know you haven’t directly said it, and I also know that neither I nor you are in charge of the saving business, or even the figuring-out-who’s-saved business, but you’ve said some things that lean pretty heavily that direction.) Anyway, just wondering.

    Also, I’d prefer to not see your seeking after Christ to turn into some great Catholic pride thing. I mean, I know there’s probably people who need to hear that Catholicism is a viable Christ-honoring institution (for the most part), but at some level things that are true defend themselves. I don’t know, I’m probably just not the biggest fan of “apologetics” in the traditionalist sense.

    • No, that’s not what I am saying. The Catholic Church teaches that anyone who is Baptized is rightfully called a Christian, though not perfectly incorporated into the Body. I hope to not let this turn into “Catholic Pride” but it is hard to un-intertwine Christ from the Church, make that impossible to do so. The truth is Christ did amazing things while on this earth and one of those things was establishing his body of believers. He did that by creating what we call today the Catholic Church. Don’t you think Christ wants all of his followers to be a part of one Body? Sure, our goal is Christ, but if we are all part of the Body of Christ are we all not one with each other? And wouldn’t we all be of one accord like the Bible tells us to be? It’s not so much pride in the Catholic Church per se, but a zeal for having all Christians to return fully to Christ’s body. There is only one vine and that is Christ. One vine, one Body.

      • I’ll add that while Baptism makes us all Christians, regardless of denomination, there are certain graces that Christ has bestowed upon the Catholic Church that one cannot get anywhere else. The example in the article being the Eucharist, receiving his actual Body and Blood. Another being Reconciliation. I can’t say for sure the Church’s teaching, but I am pretty sure that since a Catholic who dies with unconfessed (to a priest) mortal sin (such as adultery, murder, etc) forfeits the grace of salvation, a non-Catholic in the same situation would lose the same. So there is great benefit to the Catholic Church. Christ forgives mortal sins through his priests who are validly ordained by the Apostles and their successors. So Christians really are in need of the Body that Christ left here.

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