The main drive of the Reformers was to pull away from the control of the Romanised Church that was governed by its own latinised, juridical law and try and work towards a truly catholic and ecumenical church. Understanding that the Roman church had lost ties with its ancient roots, the Reformers went around them and accessed the now freely available ancient resources to bring to the day genuine Apostolic teaching. They revolted against the church of Rome’s insistence of a supreme ecumical authority that used manipulation and coercion to keep people in line. John Calvin desired to recover the face of the ancient catholic church. We today might draw away from the catholic term but the reformers want to revive catholicity back to its original format. If we understand this word in its original intention, then we can safely look to Jesus Christ to see what this term actually means.
Catholic and Ecumenical are not terms we can choose not to be a part of. The two words actually describe the heart of who were are in the universal scope of the Body of Jesus Christ. It is not governed by anyone other than the Person of Jesus Christ. Catholic (καθολικός) is the unity of humanity in Jesus Christ, that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me John (17:21). Jesus Christ sits at the Father’s right hand and mediates this oneness with all humanity and this reality of oneness is in the same way as the Father and the Son are One. When we each understand our union with the Father in Jesus Christ, then we understand our union with each other. We are united together with Jesus Christ who built His church by His own Hand and remains solely in charge of it.
Ecumenical οικουμενικός is basically one house. In John 14:2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places is one of the scriptures to show the ‘one’ household of the Father in which all humanity has been brought into. There is more than adequate scriptural justification for these two terms and without the hunger for supremacy and power by certain institutions, they describe beautifully who we are as the Body of Jesus Christ.
There was an enormous drive and impetus by the Reformers to set up a Catholic and ecumenical church free from the shackles of Rome. New societies were set up that pushed Rome aside and they tried to base their teachings on the ancient church. Before too long, the theological work of the Reformers was schematised through the lens of Augustine. Consequently, the divisions between the Reformed movement began to appear as societies adopted their version of scholastic Christianity. This caused somewhat of a delay in establishing a renewal of the Church as the One body of Christ. It is the same struggle today as in the ancient period where the distinct Jewish outlook was under continual threat of the Gentile outlook. The societies had been ingrained by a pagan way of seeing and knowing that placed a veneer over the truth of the gospel of the ancient church. Alongside the Reformation, there was also a revolution in scientific thought that placed a wedge between God and the universe. They thought the interaction of God with the universe was impossible. This tore apart God, the Incarnation and the Resurrection and had a profound impact on how the whole of the created order was integrated with God. Thus the dynamic and ontic universe of which the ancient church was based was all but lost and at the mercy of a contrary way of seeing and knowing.
This pushed the church into a corner where the world at large disregarded her fundamental tenets of truth. Yet, the so-called fundamental truths the world adhered to did not actually reflect properly the way things really are. As the church began to let go of the ancient catholic truths, the ground of their theology lost grip with Jesus Christ as the centre of all things and the centre of all the ways and works of God. For some centuries there was a battle between the mythologies of the Roman Catholic church and the post-reformational schematised evangelical church with the mythologies of the world of science. Both had foundations that were largely dualistic. On the one hand, the church had reverted itself to the age old heresies that the ancient church fought so hard against. These heresies involved the common idea that human being could not tolerate the absolute presence of God and thus had be held at an infinite distance from him. On the other hand, the scientific world had the deistic view that God’s interaction with the world was impossible. Both could not grasp the reality of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ as the fundamental core of truth and the all important hermeneutic for interpreting all things. So the mythological scientific kettle was calling the mythological church pot black.
There had to be a break free from the shackles of the dualistic ways of thought that so hindered the church and the scientific community from making any real progress and potential towards a proper testament to truth and reality. They both had drifted so deeply into fragmenting the truth into isolating compartmental truths that could never reconcile itself with the universe as a whole for the scientific community on the one hand and, on the other hand, a reference point for all the ways and works of God for the church. Particularly for the church, the body had divided itself into the many thousands of denominations we have today because the fundamental reference point of Jesus Christ has been replaced by a pagan outlook of ‘God’. John Calvin’s’ reformational dream of recovering the face of the ancient catholic church was all but lost.
Nevertheless, the reality of the church existing as one holy catholic and ecumenical church remains intact in Jesus Christ. According to all that was confessed in the Nicene/Constantinopolitan Creed is the ever present and continuing reality. Opposing all that is said and teachings that came out of this creed does not diminish the enormous implications of what it actually testifies. There is the tendency by some that once we become intuitively aware of the implications of the this creed we start to stand in opposition to those who disagree with it. We then become like all the rest. The community around the Creed were pointing to Jesus Christ in the tradition of the Apostolic teaching. There are so many people who do not see what we see. Yet, when we actually speak with such people face-to-face, (rather than in the toxic environment of social media), we find most desire to walk in truth. More often than not, they may not see what we see purely because of a blind spot. It is simply a matter of presenting to people the Light of Jesus Christ in the same way the ancient church communicated Him in the Apostolic tradition. In addition, we must keep in mind the covenantal nature of the news we attempt to share, They will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest (Hebrews 8:11). Considering the promise of the New Covenant expressly tells us all people have intuitive insight and the capacity to know God within them, then it is just a matter of unveiling this reality from within them. This is what the Apostle Paul was given to do by Jesus Christ.
to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’
There are however, those who will oppose the very Person we endeavour to point people to. Such is the grip of the power of darkness some people may find it all too frightening to embrace the true nature and reality of Jesus Christ in the full context of Scripture and the ancient tradition. We love them nevertheless and we stand our ground. What I find even more interesting is the community outside of the institutional church are far more receptive and far less hostile to the message of the ancient church. Those who count themselves within the institutional community more often than not can be over the top in their protest. I would dare to say that sharing the gospel is far easier with those who are considered by the institutional church not to be a part of the community. In most cases, I find people are too set in their ways in the church and are less willing to admit that what they have believed all along is questionable.