"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Saturday, May 13, 2006

"The Revealing Church"

The claim to infallibility in the presentation of the facts of faith is the only justification of the authority of the Church, and the only claim she has on our obedience. An admittedly fallible Church cannot claim faith, but at best only its weakened and diseased form: doubt; and doubt gives no claim on obedience. A fallible Church sets up the moral right, and in certain cases the moral duty, of resistance to her commands. Like the Holy Roman Empire, her authority will be “legalized anarchy called a constitution.” Unless obedience to the Church finds its spring in faith, which has its motive in eternity, it will inevitably become merely an outward law, of the letter that killeth. And when spiritual authority becomes a kindgom of this world after that fashion, its end is near. For it is then that martyrologies grow long, and martyrs as a class are the most influential people in history.

The Protestant attempt to substitute a dualism of authority between the Person of Christ and the private “judgement” of the individual for the infallible authority, or right to present objects for faith, of the Church must inevitably share the the fate of all attempts to serve two masters. The Person and revelation of Christ reaches the individual across the centuries, not in itself, but as presented by the Church; and the authority which has the advantage of being present must ultimately dethrone its partner. There is no effectual barrier between such a position and that of Mr. Bezzant, who can say of our Lord’s teaching that he finds in it “sayings and a tone which we could wish to be absent”; that we must suppose of such passages that they were misunderstood or misreported, or “at the worst, we shall have to admit no more than that, very occasionally, our Lord may have fallen below his own highest level.” There is not much dualism of authority left there.

Where the “private judgement” constitutes the final authority on facts which are irretrievably beyond its own verification, there can be no certainty; and where there is no certainty, there is no faith and therefore no salvation.

Dom Gregory Dix
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