Friday, September 11, 2009

An Ecumenical Approach...

This year I was going to start taking Latin at GCTS (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), where I attempting to achieve an MA in Church History. However, do to some budget cut-backs and such, this course had to be dropped this year. This would not be a problem, typically, but I found this out on Tuesday morning, classes picking up this Friday.

So, I was pretty frantic in my search of something to do next. I needed to take a course on ethics at some point in this 2 year journey, so I looked into this wonderful thing called the BTI (Boston Theological Institute), which GCTS is a part of. The gist of the BTI is that 9 schools are participants in this institute, any student of these 9 schools can take courses at any of these institutions during their time and have it count as credit for their program. So, I found an interesting ethics course at Boston College's School of Theology and Ministry entitled "Ethics in an Ecumenical Perspective."

Now, I have somewhat of a mutt formation when it comes to my Christian heritage. I am formerly Lutheran, Emergent, and Non-Denominational, and now I am a part of an Assemblies of God church. This whole conglomeration of Denominational backgrounds for the Jesuit priest who is teaching my class is labeled "Protestant." For him, and the majority of the class, striving to look at ethics through an ecumenical perspective is reading through and attempting to understand how Protestants approach moral ethics. This can be done by reading Karl Barth, Diedrich Bonhoeffer, James Gustafson and other random Protestant moral theologians. At the same time, I am coming to the class to discover how it is that Catholics and Jesuits understand or approach moral ethics, so this can be done by reading Josef Fuchs, Germain Grisez, etc, etc.

I am very excited about this class, firstly because I have never really thought like a Catholic and this will take a lot of brain power on my part to be able to do well in this class. But, the thing that I loved most so far, is that this Jesuit priest/professor/doctor of moral theology and extremely sharp, intelligent man has quite a sense of humor. To lighten the class about halfway through he pulled up his desktop wallpaper and showed us two pictures of statues from a Jesuit Church in Rome. In one of the pictures you can see an angel towering over a Jesuit man, holding out his hand to him. The Jesuit man is being pulled downward by a Protestant woman whose breast seems to have fallen out of her robe. However, the Jesuits who view this can find courage in this statue because the man has his gaze firmly fixed on the angel - this serves as a reminder that they must keep firm and never waiver to the Protestant prostitutes (or just women) that would tempt to lead them astray.

The second picture was a statue where an angel was standing tall wielding a sword down upon two men. You can clearly see the faces of the two men, so the professor asked the class who these two men were. Well, immediately someone answered, "Calvin and Luther." And what was the reply of my esteemed professor? "Yes!" Of course it is those two brigands of the Reformation! And in the corner of the statue is a small angel, an angelite or cherub if you will, tearing up the pages of Luther and Calvin's books. My professor jokingly said that this was the Jesuit Church of Ecumenicalism. Funny.

So, to end this blog entry, I have found some of Luther and Calvin's more appropriate quotes about the Pope and the Bishops that assure me that this particular approach to ecumenicalism is on both sides. Enjoy!

“I feel much freer now that I am certain the pope is the Antichrist” - Luther

"Formerly laymen used to administer the sacraments as often as priests do now. Yet the superstitious of our day regard it as a great offence if a layman touch the bare chalice, or even the cover of it. Nor is a nun, though a consecrated virgin, allowed to wash the altar cloth or the sacred linen. O my God! this shows how far the sacrosanct sanctity of this sacrament has gone! I expect the time will come when the laity will not be allowed to even touch the altar -- except with money in their hand." - Luther

"We know well that under the Pope there is a bastard sort of Christianity." - Calvin

"As for the name of the Bishop of Rome, that is a foolish question to dwell upon. We bestow too much honour upon those horned cattle in calling them bishops, for the name is too honorable for them. Neither does the title of Pope any better suit the brigand who has usurped God’s seat." - Calvin


  1. If I could give this the Facebook thumbs up, I would. I like it :) As Larry said, No love lost.

  2. Horned Cattle! That is actually pretty funny. You would think that growing up Dutch Reformed, they would have told us that 'ol Calvin had a sense of humor.