Authority in the Church from Luther to Vatican II : a contribution to ecumenism
Tbe frustration felt by most Protestants in dealing witb Roman Catholicism is expressed in tbe phrase "up against a brick wall." As one writer has said, "Can Rome never admit that it bas been mistaken, or must tbere always be the subterfuge that one is merely 'supplementing' what was said on a former occasion?" But this is what one is forced to do if one holds to the doctrine of infallibility. A belief of this kind can be a trap as was discovered by Darius the king. Flattered into passing a law prohibiting the worship of any god except himself for a period of one month, Darius was horrified to find that his friend Daniel had broken the law, and must be cast into the den of lions. The outrageons part of the story is to be seen in the nature of the law. "Know, O King, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, 'That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.'" Darius spent many hours in attempting to get around this unchangeable law, when in fact, it was the principle of infallibility that was wrong. To propose a positive solution to the authority question, let us remember again those stirring words of Jesus, "Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The proof of the validity of these words is seen in that, although there have been many Satanic attacks upon God's people throughout history, the Church has continued its existence and continues to preach the Gospel. From this then we would deduce that the Church is indefectible. The concept of the indefectibility of the Church would be acceptable to most Protestants, with a definition approaching that of Augustus H. Stong who defines the Church as "The great company of persons whom Christ has saved, in whom he dwells, to whom and through whom he reveals God." But if any denomination insists on limiting the term "Church", with all its implications for salvation, revelation and authority, to its own communion, and insists on the infallibility thereof, it will be difficult to establish even the most tentative relationships between the many separated Christians. For those who are opposed to all forms of ecumenism, the present impasse is of no consequence. For those who are longing for total Church unity and union, the present situation is disastrous. For those who are satisfied to let each denomination maintain its own authoritative position, seeking only a spiritual unity that permits inter-church dialogue, fellowship and prayer, then the present state of things is not bad. A great wall of hostility bas been removed. Theological perspectives are changing. As O.H. Pesch has already intimated, let Junker Jörg carry on his work, and who knows what good may come of it.