Then I should be addressed as an unbeliever, and treated as such. Forgive me, but what we have here is the creation of a special category that allows closed communion churches to say things like “we’re not denying your faith in Christ and that you are a Christian brother” and also say “You’re an unbeliever in what amounts to an incarnation level truth.”Some context here, in case you can't draw it out from this quote. The conversation is about the Lord's Table, and the question is whether or not a "closed communion" is proper or improper, called-for or uncalled-for.
In that, how does one bridge the logical leap between "you can't partake in the table with us" and "you are, de facto, an unbeliever"? I can think of at least two good, biblical reasons not to partake in the Lord's table and to be rightly cautioned by the administer of the table not to partake, even if the person is a baptized believer and member:
 One is himself drunk -- that is a direct application of Paul's warning to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 11.
 One is seeking the ceremony for status rather than humility in the face of Christ's work -- also in 1 Cor 11. For example, one who wants to be seen taking the bread and wine in the Capital Cathedral prolly should just go home rather than try to make a name for himself using the remembrance of Christ.
Those aren't examples which say someone is an "unbeliever": they are examples of rightly-discerning the body, rightly seeking to remember Christ and not to make His table into something it is not. For the minister to say, "those who are drunk, or are here to be recognized as somehow special by being here -- please, do not partake. This table is not for those reasons," is not to also say, "you dirty unbelievers." It is to say, "be serious about what we are doing here because this is how we remember what Jesus has done for us."
When Fr. Charles says in public, “We’re so glad to have our Christian brother [name omitted] here with us today,” he really looks like a great guy. Catholic ecumenism and all those good Vatican II statements about how grieved everyone is about these divisions. But when we (and Baptists do the same) turn one another away from the table and say “Not just the words of Jesus, but the words of men are required to come to this table. Not just a belief in the real Christ and the real presence of the real Christ, but a belief in the real presence the way we understand 'really real,'" then the previous proclamation of our brother’s faith is blatantly contradicted.I disagree whole-heartedly. I disagree because the refusal of the minister (in this case, the priest) to hand over the sacrament, which is what he believes he is dispensing, has that implication that he is responsible to dispense it in a worthy manner.
I think it is wholly inside the parameters of consideration to think that Fr. Charles has an obligation to abide by church discipline, which is what is at stake when a Protestant comes through the line to take the bread and the cup. His statement that he is "grieved" reflects something other than being "sorry" in some way he can fix: he is "grieved" because a Protestant is under discipline and is separated until he comes under the obedience of the Church (big "C" in his mind).
Being under discipline is not the same as being an unbeliever: it is a call to repentence. Whether you're a Catholic or not, that is actually a biblical principle: believers under discipline are spiritually separated from the church, and have to be treated that way until they repent. This is one reason why confession is such a big deal for the Catholic, btw: he doesn't want to be separated from the church by his sin and unworthily take the eucharist.
I think there is a way to see what Fr. Charles is doing here which does not speak to the soteriological condition of the person seeking to partake but who is turned away -- and it's not a very convoluted way to see it, either.
The fundamentalists I grew up with were far more consistent. They weren’t going to take fact that you said you loved Jesus as evidence of your Christianity. Nope. Until you’d been baptized by them and confessed their faith their way in their church, then you became a brother. Until then, you were lost and needed to believe the Gospel.That's certainly more black-and-white. That's not hardly more consistent.
For example, where did they call their pastors from? Did they raise up a man from inside the congregation based on the letters to Timoth and Titus, or did they call a man from the outside? Did that man have to be baptized in that particular church (again) in order to have his confession of faith be believed? Prolly not.
So as far as consistency goes, as they say on the internet, meh.
Fr. Charles is being consistent both historically and, ironically, biblically. The table is closed to those who are sepaparted from the Church -- and it ought to be.
Now, the chat about Fr. Charles was interesting, but this bit to follow is even moreso:
The Table is the essence of the invitation of Jesus to come to him. It is thereby the primary evidence that Christ has received a person as his own through faith and, at least in most understandings, after baptism. Tossing around the term “Christian brother” in the same room where you’lll telegraph to me that I’m not able to come to the table of Jesus says much louder “NOT a Christian brother.” It really does take a theologian to make it say anything else. Even a 4th grader knows what exclusion is and what it means.Wow. I've been through my NT a couple of times trying to find out where it says that, and I can't find it. Jesus says that the cup is the cup of the covenant of which He will not drink again until the final establishment of the Kingdom (Mt, Mk); Luke adds it's a "remembrance" of what He will have done with His body for us; Paul adds that it be taken in a worthy manner rather than in a drunken or selfish manner.
The implication that the meal is for the sake of unity can be drawn 1 Cor 11 -- no question. But I think Paul's "unity" point is rather one of not seeking to use the table as a means of garnering status, a lesser version of his complaint to the Galatians. I'm not sure how one goes from there to a place there the Table is the sine qua non of Christian fellowship, and that all-comers must be admitted or else they are de facto unbelievers.
Seriously: the man Paul commanded to be cast out in 1 Cor 5 -- should he be admitted to the table before he returns to obedience and repentance? I think his return to fellowship in 2 Cor speaks to that clearly -- and the answer is "no". In disobeying the Church (big "C") as Protestants, we should expect that Church (big "C") to hold us apart from fellowship.
So the problem may not be my lack of Lutheran or Catholic theology. The problem may be how that theology works with the intention to relate to other Christians. Fundamentalists would tell me I was not a Christian and treat me as such. (Think Phil Johnson would let me near a communion table?) But the “inclusive” closed communionist is going to tell me I am the brother for whom Christ died, but then refuse to commune with me.Yeah, I think Phil Johnson is not the problem here -- because Phil, as I understand it, would hold closed communion at his church for members only for the sake of protecting the table from unworthy use. It wouldn't be a personal, subjective thing: it would be a pragmatic application of a Scriptural command that the table not be used in an unworthy manner. Very much, btw, the way Fr. Charles would administer his "sacrament".
I don’t think the problem is that I feel rejected. I think the problem is that some people think they’ve included me on some level. And I’ll tell you why I think that happens: because exclusion of those with a living faith in Christ is so un-Jesus shaped that a lot of people aren’t comfortable doing it. So they find ways to come out of the logical implications of their beliefs and instead treat other “Christians” as if they are really there.Yeah, no. One of the great inequalities between me and Christ (and there are many of them) is that Jesus knew what was in the hearts of men -- so when he called the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs", he knew from filthy and rotten. For me, all I know is my filthy and rotten, and most people, frankly, look pretty good when you compare them to me.
But when Jesus said, in words to this effect, "be like me", He didn't mean, "look into people's hearts so you can know them; see what's there and that's how you treat them." He said things like, "remember the widowed and the orphan," and "keep the Law in letter and spirit," and "do this in memory of me." But then He also had this guy Paul who said things like, "let him who has done this be removed from among you," and "rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine". So the "Jesus shape" we have to get to has the condition that we know where the boundaries of Jesus-likeness lie for us on this side of glory.
Jesus loves church discipline. I know because the Bible says so. Sometimes that means that people with good faith but bad practice have to see that in "incarnational" ways. And let me say this frankly: maybe the problem is that the one giving out the bread and wine is the one who is wrong. You know: maybe when the Westminster divines called their mass "idolatry", they were right -- and taking the idol is itself a kind of disobedience which one might be glad to be separated from.
Where I grew up, the church leaders didn’t feel bad about excluding other Christians from being called or treated as Christians. They took it as their duty to address them as lost and their churches as false and their faith as mere religion. Their version of Jesus was on their side on these issues. No stress involved in considering the possibility of Christians outside of [church name omitted]. It just wasn’t possible.My opinion is that this is, in the best case, hyperbole. Even if they may have had a pigeon ecclesiology, however, that's besides the point. The question is whether the church -- in all its forms -- has an obligation to have an open table or a table which is used in a worthy manner. It plainly has the obligation for the latter.