Eucharist, Bishop, Church

What really prompted me to start this blog was reading John D. Zizioulas’s Eucharist, Bishop, Church:  The Unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop During the First Three Centuries.  This book was originally Zizioulas’s doctoral dissertation, done in the sixties, but recently translated and published.  In order to give some structure to my meanderings, I want to go through this book slowly, posting relevant portions and asking questions of the book.  I’m also reading through the Church Fathers, and hope to post sections from the Fathers which challenge my Protestant worldview. 

For the past decade, I’ve been working, worshipping, and thinking through what various people label “Reformed Catholicism,” “Protesting Catholicism,” or “High Church Calvinism.”  I love this world, and have almost joined the Anglican Church on a few occasions.  Eastern Orthodoxy holds quite a bit of attraction, but I can’t get over the icons and veneration of the saints.  I’m too much of a Protestant to even think about joining the Roman Catholic church, though I read Roman Catholic authors without discrimination. 

As Thomas Kuhn noted in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, every piece of information that challenges a paradigm must either be integrated into the current paradigm.  Alternatively, if enough pieces accumulate which don’t fit into the paradigm, it collapses.  It seems to me that this is intuitively true about human thinking in general.  At the least, it describes how my mind works.  So, this blog is a record of the information that is accumulating in my “Reformed Catholic” worldview.  I don’t really have an agenda other than to learn as much as I can, and to worship God as faithfully as I can.  It would be wonderful if I could fit everything into my current paradigm.  Maybe others can help me do that. 

Please feel free to answer my questions or suggest other sources.  But, please go elsewhere to heckle and proselytize.



  1. Just curious, what is the biggest impedment for you with Catholicism?

  2. Good question. I’ve spent the last few years trying to find the continuity of the Reformation with the early Church. Pelikan’s Obedient Rebels and Alister McGrath were my leading lights here. Not to mention Schaff and Nevin. But, then I learned that Pelikan became Orthodox, and that caused some angst.

    Right now, I’m still trying to discern exactly what divides the Eastern Catholic Church from the Roman Catholic Church, and I’ll have to tackle that eventually here.

    The main issue driving all of this is the question of the Church’s authority and unity. I don’t see the primacy of the Roman bishiop in the early church.

    I also like how the Orthodox do not define things as much as Rome, and leave room for mystery. But, I also realize that I’ve read way too many Protestant polemics against Rome which don’t understand how Rome has changed since the Reformation and Vatican II.

  3. Beyond having to sort out theological-liturgical issues, the Apostles confronted deep differences among themselves in psychology-perception-etc…..they were a “crowd” of wildly variied people trying to sort through how to believe, how to think, how to worship, etc.

    Could part of the present day differences in the Churches be traceable to foundational differences in human psychology-perception-etc. among the men who established those Churches?

    I mean, perhaps there is not an absolute way to see Truth, but many different eyes/minds/psychologies/etc….. Not a relativism of Truth, but merely an understanding that liturgy, like bureaucracy, tends too much to be built and shaped by personalities, not by Truth.

  4. Absolutely! I was just reading last night about the history of the Orthodox Church in the US. Quite a lot of conflict between the Patriarchs of Constantinople (Greek Orthodox) and Moscow (Russian Orthodox). And, the “split” between East and West in 1054 was sparked by many things, but a conflict of personalities was certainly one of them.

  5. Well having cut my internet teeth over that RYM in the mid to lat 90’s I can say that I’ve had my share of run in’s with Calvins standard bears. Many are worth their salt others are simply dismissive, much like the run of the mill RC apologist.

    Christiology was hammered out in blood and sweat, more the former then the latter and we all benefit from their work, be it Orthodox, ANglican, Reform, or Catholic.

    IMO one has to next address Eccelesiology before one determines sortoriology. But that’s me.

    I’ve never agreed with historians that 1054 was the “break” I think it much closer to 692 & the Council in Trullo. The filioque & papal primacy are of course the big issue which divide.
    Being an occidental myself I like things defined, but I don’t hold that as a fault for either side.

  6. Sounds like a fascinating start! I appreciated your Kuhn-paradigm approach, you’ll have to be quite brave and willing to work hard to carry that through.

    “I’m too much of a Protestant to even think about joining the Roman Catholic church, though I read Roman Catholic authors without discrimination.”

    If you can’t even begin to think about joining them because of Protestant roots, I humbly suggest that you might read with a little bit of discrimination.

    I’m with you on authority and unity, and quite possibly am looking for the same thing as you (kicking the idea of Anglicanism around, for example). The problem, every non-Catholic, non-Orthodox notion of how the Church should be that I formulate leaves me very disunited (a church of one). I will try to take up your paradigm view, but will keep this in mind: whatever paradigm I build up and defend, if I’m the only one in it, something’s wrong on the unity end. In other words, if I come up with a nice high-churchey semi-Anglican semi-Calvinistic thing, so that maybe four neighborhoods in America have a church where I’d feel people share my views, the paradigm will need more work.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Peace in Christ,

  7. Impressive start. I encourage you to continue. I’ll be happy to chime in from my perspective. I’m curious to find out why you chose His Eminence Metropolitan Zizioulas, who is a philosopher (and more than a bit controversial in Eastern Orthodox circles) as your first reading choice.

  8. Thanks, Gil:

    Zizioulas’s book was just next on my dissertation reading list. I didn’t know he was controversial in Orthodox circles! But, his book is pretty much pure historical research, as far as I can tell. I’d be thankful for anyone to point out where he errs 🙂

  9. Thos:

    Thahks for pointing out that “without discrimination” was a poor choice of words. I meant to say that I read Roman Catholics without RCphobia that one enounters in the Reformed world. I try to stick to well-established scholars in every camp. I’m not interested in fire-breathing apologists of any sort (except Tatian, Athenagoras, and Tertullian!).

  10. You said:

    Right now, I’m still trying to discern exactly what divides the Eastern Catholic Church from the Roman Catholic Church, and I’ll have to tackle that eventually here.

    Do you mean Eastern Orthodoxy? Because Eastern Catholic Churches are part of the Roman Catholic Church.

    I think when you really dig hard into the origins of the divisions between East and West – starting way before 1054, you’ll see how profoundly political, geographical, cultural and social aspects factor into it. The most critical point, I believe was moving the center of the Empire away from Rome to Constantinople. This is not to dismiss theological differences, but they were deeply excacerbated by the division of the empire and the power struggle entailed there.

  11. Terry:

    No, I wasn’t referring to the Uniate churches. I found Yves Congar’s After Nine Hundred Years extremely helpful in understanding the conditions you’re talking about. I was also encouraged by Edward Kilmartin’s Toward Reunion: The Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. It was published in 1979, and I don’t know how far ecumenical relations have come since then, but it was good to see how the progress of mutual understanding and dialogue was taking place at that time.

  12. Just a little point to add regarding ecclesiastical terms.

    The Roman Catholic Church refers to the Roman or Latin Church which is the largest of 23 autonomous Catholic Churches. The Roman Church is led by the Bishop of Rome who directly governs this Church. There are 22 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches, each of which are directly governed by their own hierarchs according to Eastern canon law and worship according to their own traditions. Many of these Eastern Catholic Churches have ecclesiastical counterparts in the Assyrian Church of the East, Oriental Orthodox Churches or the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Some, like the Maronite Catholic Church are uniquely Catholic with no counterpart. The Catholic Church refers to the communion of 23 Churches fully and visibly united with the Bishop of Rome.

    The Eastern Orthodox Churches refer to those Churches that derived from Byzantine liturgical, canonical and spiritual tradition. Each of these Churches regard the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to be the symbolic spiritual leader of Orthodoxy and hold the first seven Ecumenical Councils to be their rule of faith.

    The Oriental Orthodox Churches refer to six ancient Eastern Churches in communion with one another and each fully independent. These Churches are pre-Chalcedonian and historically did not accept the Chalcedonian formulation of the doctrine of Christ’s Divinity and Humanity.

    The Assyrian Church of the East refers to the ancient Church in Persia which rejected the Council of Ephesus and adopted the Christology formulated by Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius.

  13. Thanks, Gil:

    We Protestants are so narrow in our understanding of the Catholic Church(es)!

  14. Gils careful comment makes it clear without saying it, that Terry’s comment “the Eastern Catholic Churches are part of the Roman Catholic Church” is mistaken in the way it is put, although it isn’t mistaken in what he meant, that they are part of the Catholic church and in communion iwth the Bishop of Rome.

    The use of Roman Catholic as the name for the whole Catholic church is really a kind of put down made by people who don’t like our using the anceint name of the Church as our “denominational” name; it insists on reducing us to the status of a denomination, instead of what we claim we are, The Catholic Church. (The Orthodox also believe that they are the Catholic Church.) The use of Roman Catholic in England also embodied a little bit of that bit of English ethnic prejudice, a more refined form of the attitude which caused Anglicans to refer to Catholic churches in England as “The Italian Mission.”

    In the city of Scranton Pennsylvania there are churches of so many different Catholic rites that I saw a “regular” Catholic church whose sign board said “Catholic Church-Roman Rite,” on it..

    By the way…nobody likes the word uniate any more. It has an unpleasant history. I have to stop writing now; maybe Gil could fill you in on this.
    Susan Peterson

  15. ugh-ancient. proofread proofread proofread!

  16. “The main issue driving all of this is the question of the Church’s authority and unity. I don’t see the primacy of the Roman bishiop in the early church.” Why would you expect to see it? Newman addressed this very issue in 1845:

    “When the Church, then, was thrown upon her own resources, first local disturbances gave exercise to Bishops, and next ecumenical disturbances gave exercise to Popes; and whether communion with the Pope was necessary for Catholicity would not and could not be debated till a suspension of that communion had actually occurred. It is not a greater difficulty that St. Ignatius does not write to the Asian Greeks about Popes, than that St. Paul does not write to the Corinthians about Bishops. And it is a less difficulty that the Papal supremacy was not formally acknowledged in the second century, than that there was no formal acknowledgment on the part of the Church of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity till the fourth. No doctrine is defined till it is violated.” (Essay on Development of Christian Doctrine, Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 3, Number 4.)

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