In a moment of quietness, it helps to turn back to the contemplation of this topic; but do forgive me if my thoughts are less ordered than they might otherwise be.
One of the key points which made me unhappy with my Anglicanism was the insistent question: 'By what authority to do you say these things? By whose warrant do you teach?' One often finds with Protestants that they will say that their answer here is: 'The Holy Spirit'. But how are we, outside that private revelation (against which St. Peter warns us) to know whether it is of God - especially when there seem to be so many different versions of what the Spirit says?
Writing recently to a Protestant correspondent who was using the familiar argument that everything he believed was found in Scripture, I responded thus:
'Your reliance upon Scripture is admirable, but what do you suppose the Church used before it decided upon the canon of Scripture? If it had gone by your teaching it would have had nothing to say or do because it had nothing but the OT to read. So, if we take the example of the early Church, it cannot have followed your example of relating everything to the NT because it did not have one. What do you suppose it did?
The Church knows what it did because it still does it, having canonised Holy Scripture and teaching naught that is not in it; but teaching it in the fullness of the Faith once received. You expect us to accept your man made declaration that you hold the warrant for what you preach from the Spirit; yet you will not accept that claim when made by the Church founded by Christ.
When Our Blessed Saviour ascended into Heaven He left no written Gospel behind Him. Let us abandon the worship of books and see what His Church possessed on the day of the Ascension.
It possessed the Holy Spirit which had descended upon His Apostles at the Pentecost.
It possessed the Eucharist instituted by Our Lord Himself at the Last Supper.
It possessed the 'Tradition' received from the Apostles.
It possessed the Old Testament which is full of prophecies and symbols concerning the Messiah and His redeeming work.
The Church first found the Gospel in the liturgy of the Eucharist; not in man made letters or words, but in the actual act of bestowing upon the faithful the sacrificial Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ as a revelation of salvation. Through the Eucharist we encounter the Risen Lord and receive remission of sin.
This is how the Church lived for at least twenty years after the ascension of the Lord until the first documents of what that Church would call the New Testament was written. The Eucharist was the practical and simple way in which the Church learned and practised the Gospel; it is still so today, although the Church has since given us the whole of the NT, pronouncing what is and what is not canonical.
One must know the relationship between the Eucharist and the Bible, as well as the Holy Spirit that abides forever according to His promise to His Church, to have the fullness of the Faith.'
I think, dear Rick, this is relevant to the turn our discussion has taken. As the 'good doctor' writes, we must begin with the community, and that, I think, means we must begin with what brings it together. Christ did not drop off a book of instructions, He left us His Church, and He left us the Eucharist at which we would be able to receive His Body and His Blood; He in us, and us in Him.
When we know that He is in us through the Eucharist, then our generosity knows no bounds - save those of our frailty.
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)