Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I did think of posting this under the 'nature of the Church' thread, but it is a little different, and I didn't really want to turn that thread in this direction.
On another forum I have been discussing with some EOs the question of 'the Church'. We, and they, and the RCC seem to inherit the ecclesiology of St. Cyprian, that there is one Church, and outside of it there is no salvation. The implications of this, and how one can read it, are what I'd like to raise here.
For my EO friends their Church is the Church; some of them think we, the OO, are plain heretics, others that we are simply not the Church but an ecclesial body which has some claims to be Christian; a view not dissimilar to the RCC one. My queries here are as follows:
1. Given that St. Cyprian wrote before the split of 451, are we right to read his words as applying to an ecclesial body alone?
2. How, to the satisfaction of anyone outside your own way of believing, would you assert that your Church was THE Church?
3. What follows IF the concept of the Church can be limited to one ecclesial group? Since it is God who decides who will be saved, there need be no negative soteriological consequences even if one is outside THE Church.
I ask these things in the context of many of us here being either converts or potential converts. For me, it was the growing realisation that the Anglican Church was headed in a direction which I could not follow which led me to find myself needing to find another spiritual home.
But that left me with a choice to make, and very uncomfortable it felt, since I was conscious for the first time of what I would call a Protestant dilemma; who was I to make such a choice? How was I to make it?
Some things I took for granted: Apostolicity; a sacramental ministry; orthodox faith as defined by what the Church held before the major divisions started in 451. But, whilst holding to a version of Cyprianic ecclesiology, the version of it I found in the EO seemed, as it still does, both potentially exclusivist and divisive.
I see no satisfactory answer to my question 2 above; even the EOs are telling me that it only works within their tradition; that's a solipsistic definition. They imply, sometimes more than that, that to hold anything other is syncretism. Well, I don't think I am a syncretist, but I don't hold what I am coming to think of as the 'rigorist' position they do.
What lies beneath, above and beyond our Church? What is the bed rock of our Faith? Belief in the Risen Lord and our encounter with Him. If we start from this Christo-centric position, what form of ecclesiology do we end up with?
I suspect (but I always do) that I'm asking the wrong questions in the wrong way; but since I have always found this forum to be excellent in keeping me from making too many excursions into rank heresy, I thought I'd bring it here; as some of you will know, on the EO forum, it simply gets them cross!
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)