Archive for September 13th, 2012
He attended one Armenian-Catholic service that seemed “stiff and devoid of new life.” He felt that Roman Catholicism was moving in that direction but observed that there were “many religious establishments where a vital religious life still plays a part. The confessional is an example of this.” He exalted in much of what he saw. But he did not feel led to embrace Catholicism as a convert. An acquaintance he met in Rome tried to convince him, but Bonhoeffer was unmoved: “He would really like to convert me and is quite honestly convinced of his method. . . . Following these discussions, I find I am once again much less sympathetic to Catholicism. Catholic dogma veils every ideal thing in Catholicism without knowing that this is what it is doing. There is a huge difference between confession and dogmatic teachings about confession – unfortunately also between ‘church’ and the ‘church’ in dogmatics.” He considered the union of both churches: “The unification of Catholicism and Protestantism is probably impossible, although it would do both parties much good” [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 56.
In my own study and experience, I have discovered three things in relation to this. First, many who leave Protestantism for Roman Catholicism are looking to experience God in a way in which they can be scholastically free and connected to the ancient faith. However, as Bonhoeffer observed, spiritual vitality is absent. Beware of dead dogma, traditions, and icons wherever they may be.
Second, don’t forget that both Protestants and Roman Catholics share the heritage of the Church prior to the Reformation. Neither one owns the previous history.
Third, a key difference between the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions is their approach to doctrine. RC’s take an expansive approach to doctrine; that is, the apostles meant for us to expand upon what was revealed to them. Protestants take an explanatory approach to doctrine; that is, the Church should explain and attempt to make clear what was revealed by God to the apostles. Of course, there is some overlap here rather thank clean line; however, the philosophies are clearly observed in each tradition.
[In contrast to the Roman Catholic Church] the Lutheran and Protestant traditions were less connected to the great classical past and could therefore veer toward the heresies of Gnostic dualism, of denial of the body and of the goodness of this world. But here in Rome the mingling of these two worlds was everywhere [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 54].
I’m beginning to wonder if I will ever get off page 54!
For Dietrich the theologian to hold a prejudice in favor of Lutheranism or Protestantism, or even Christianity, would be wrong. One must consider every possibility and avoid predisposing oneself to where it would all we need [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 54].