Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Can Any Church Claim to Possess the Fullness of Truth?

While we're waiting on "Orthodox" to respond to my last two posts on Jesus' descent into hell, I thought I would go ahead and provide a shorter debate I finished recently on whether or not any church can claim to possess the fullness of truth. Of course, I assert that some body of Christians somewhere must be able to make this claim because this is what Jesus promised us. Note that I'm not defending the premise that the Catholic Church is this church (although I do believe that). Instead, I'm defending the premise that the "fullness of truth" is something that Jesus promised to his people. Thus, it should be able to be found somewhere.

Please note that this my first time debating this topic. Consequently, I had to clarify my language several times. As I gain more experience debating this subject, I should be able to avoid the confusion that I caused when I first responded. Of course, if any of you all know a better way to explain the point I am trying to get across, please leave a comment and let me know.

It all started when "Moody" made the following statement in the HCR forum: "This is where I think I differ from anyone who holds onto a particular theology. They tend to think their theology has all the answers... but none of them do." To this I made the following response, which sparked a debate with "HCR". What you see here is a back and forth between him and me, not one post that has been broken up. His words will be in gray.
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I don't know if this is off topic or not, but I disagree with your statement here. Basically, what it implies is that God has left us to flounder around with our half-truth, half-error Christian religion. If no theology, or denomination, or Church (or whatever you want to call it) has all the answers, then what does that say about God? I think it says that he is content with us having only an incomplete grasp on Truth and he's content with us actually holding erroneous beliefs about Him and what He would have us believe. After all, if no theology has all the answers, then that means they're getting some things wrong, right? That's cool with God? That's how he wants it?

I don't buy that. Jesus said that once he ascended to the Father, he would send the Spirit to the apostles, a Spirit that would guide them in ALL truth. It must be that there is at least one theology/denomination/Church that has all the answers, because God wants us to know the Truth and to live our lives by it.

Of course, everyone knows which Church I consider that to be, but that's not the point. The point is that God would not leave us in the predicament that you claim he has left us in.
I disagree with your statement Phat. Here is why.

What you are basically saying is that our inablility to somehow grasp all the things that God has left for us concerning his Word reflects poorly on God. That is simply not true. Its not true for the same reason why God gave us the Holy Spirit so that he might help us to kill sin. We still sin, maybe not as much as the next guy, maybe less and less as we get more mature in Christ, but we WILL ALWAYS sin. We wont every be morally perfect. To insinuate that our theology can be perfect or even close is IMO nieve. Because we still carry this sinful carcass we call "flesh", NONE of us will be able to say "our theology has arrived".
I think you may have misunderstood me, which is partially my fault for not being clear enough the first time around.

For one, I don't claim that there is a theology/Church that knows everything. Some things are utter mystery and beyond full human comprehension (such as the Trinity, the hypostatic union, transubstantiation, etc.). I also don't claim that that there is a theology/Church that knows everything that God would ever have us know. I acknowledge full and well that doctrine develops and that the Church's understanding can increase over time.

All I'm saying is that there has to be a theology/Church where Truth exists without error and where answers can be had for everything that God would want us to know at this time. I see this to be the logical conclusion of Jesus' promise of the Spirit to guide into "all truth", his promise that he will be with us always, until the close of the age, and the authority that he gave the apostles to define what is true.
Ok, i see your point Phat... but it still looks like the 1st big paragraph in your response contradits your second paragraph. Can you see how I would say that?

You said there is no theological group that has all the answers... yet there is a church that has all the truth? Those seem like contradictory statements... help me out a bit. I believe that some can come pretty close to truth. But I was always told that truth is perfect. How can something be not perfect, and be truth? I could be missing something... I'm not perfect. Help me out.
What I'm saying is that there has to be a theology/Church where the truth exists as fully as it possibly can. Truth won't exist perfectly, in it's ultimate fullness until Jesus comes again. "Now we see as in a mirror dimly, but then face to face." Until then, it must exist somewhere as fully as it can, and I say that it does.

I also say that there must be a theology/Church where there is no error in teaching. Error is different from not knowing. It means teaching as an official position something that is false. I don't think God would leave us in a position where we must hold things that are false, just because we are sinners. In fact, Jesus sent the Spirit so that we would not be left with the cloudiness of mind that sin creates.

Does that help?
Here is the problem. You said that there must be a church where there is no error in teaching. There are ALWAYS churches with sound doctrine that haver errors in teaching. Why? Because of this thing called "tradition". This idea that its always (to the best of our knowledge) been done this way, thats how it is... and then church's try to use scripture to support something that was never really explicitly or inplicitly described in the Word. Now... to follow on to this, churches end up in serious error when they esteem these traditions AS infallible truth. Again, I think we can have churches that lead the way in terms of sound doctrine, but even within that "sound" arena of doctrine, there are sure to be some things that arent necessarily biblical, but maybe logical to them.
It is true that many churches have mingled the truth with the traditions of men. But it cannot be true that ALL churches have been compromised in this way. That's because God has promised that His Church will not be like the rest.

Jesus said he will send the Spirit to be with His Church "forever" (Jn 14:16). This same Spirit will teach her "all things" (Jn 14:26) and will guide her into "all the truth" (Jn 16:13). During the apostolic period, this Church was called "The Way" (Acts 9:2; cf. 22:4; 24:14,22), which Isaiah prophesied would be a "highway" where "fools shall not err therein" (Isa 35:8). This Church is "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15) and it is through her that the manifold wisdom of God is made known (cf. Eph 3:10).

But how can this be if ALL the churches have mingled truth with error?

A Church led by the Spirit into all truth does not err, and it certainly doesn't mix truth with the traditions of men.

[At this point, "noblevessel" interjected with a question, to which I responded with an answer. I would like to provide this exchange as well]
"For we know in part and we prophesy in part" So how can one group know it all?
If you read the passages of mine that I quoted in my first post then you'll see that I have already responded to this. But, maybe I can say it again in a different way.

Jesus Christ handed on to the apostles everything that the Church must know and teach. They received all that is true regarding faith and morals. However, despite their possession of this deposit of faith, their understanding was not perfect. It's not that they taught error, it's just that they did not always know the meaning of what Jesus said and did, and the full implications of his life and teaching. This had to increase in time, through a development of doctrine guided by the Holy Spirit. This increase and development by the Spirit continues to this day.

This means that the Church, as the safeguard of all that Jesus wished the Church to know, is every day coming to a greater and greater understanding and appreciation of this deposit. So, while it can be said that this Church still "knows in part" it can also be said that it possesses "the fullness of truth."

[During this debate, there were a few small exchanges with other posters as well. To read the whole thread, go here]

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

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