So That The World May Believe

A Call to Christian Unity 

Jesus Prayed Christians “Be Brought to Complete Unity … So That the World May Believe” (John 17:23,21) 

Teaching Christians How to Restore the Lost Unity in Diversity of the Undivided Early Church Through Lovingly Seeking to Truly Understand Each Other’s Differences While Celebrating Our Vast Common Saving Christian Faith and Learning from Our Different Strengths, “So That the World May Believe” 

by

Peter William John Baptiste, SFO 

In Three Volumes 

Internet Edition 1.0 

 Scroll To Bottom of Page for Contents Links

 

Dedicated to Fred Hill

and the Madonna Foundation,

whose assistance made my

theological qualifications possible;

 

and to Father Rendy Yackimec,

my pastor while I was writing the

first-written volume of this book (Volume II),

and my first pastor in the Eastern Rites

of the Catholic Church

which best preserve the Undivided Early Church’s

understanding of Christian

Unity in Diversity

 

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is

For brothers to dwell together in unity!

Psalm 133:1

Forward  

Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another … By this all men will know that you are [Christians], if you love one another” (John 13:34-5).  Jesus prayed to His Father “that all [Christians] may be one … so that the world may believe that You have sent me … May [Christians] be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me.”  (John 17:21,23) 

In His prayer in John 17:21-23, Our Lord Jesus linked the world’s belief in Him to the unity of Christians, and indeed, the most phenomenal Christian missionary successes ever occurred in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church, wherein the brutal ancient pagan world was “turned upside down” and whole societies were transformed by the Love of Jesus Christ, the portions of the ancient cultures which embraced Jesus becoming the different but mutually enriching ‘Sister Churches’ which together made up the one Universal Church of Jesus Christ which thus collectively called itself the Catholic Church, Catholic being Greek for Universal (this early Catholic/Universal Church initially was made up of members of the Jewish, Syrian, Egyptian, Roman and Greek cultures) . 

Satan’s most victorious counter-attack against this one Bride and Body of Jesus Christ, the Church, was to get most Christians from all of the currently divided sides to forget that for a thousand years the Undivided Early Church was one Universal (Catholic) Communion of different orthodox Christian ‘Sister Churches,’ united in the fundamental tenets of traditional, orthodox, personally-saving and world-transforming Christian faith which the different Sister Churches had precisely clarified and defined together (against many heretical challenges to it), at the Early Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of all the different Sister Churches which each theologized about and celebrated their common Christian faith in different ways.

The greatest monument to Satan’s greatest victory against the Christian Church is the very notion, still rampant among today’s divided Christian Churches, that other Christians’ differences in theology (the study of what God has revealed, not Divine Revelation itself) and differences in practice are “automatically” inferior or wrong, even when those other Christians still share the Undivided Early Universal (Catholic) Church’s clearly articulated fundamentals of faith in just what God has revealed in the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ, the fully Divine yet also fully human Second Person of the Holy Trinity who is Love, who lives in our hearts, and in the Written Word of God, the Bible.  The vicious wound Satan has inflicted upon the Christian Church today is seen in a Christian Church which is profusely divided mostly over the kinds of things which did not divide, but mutually enriched, the Undivided Early Church’s Universal (Catholic) Communion of different orthodox Christian ‘Sister Churches.’ Today Christians typically cannot even see that the very few actually substantial misunderstandings and disagreements between most of today’s divided churches are relatively small, since most of the different sides see their distinct lesser doctrines in the light of their vast common, saving Christian faith – that essential, fundamental faith of the Undivided Early Church (listed in the introduction below and in the Creed Tab), which gives us an exceptionally strong basis for real, loving dialogue towards eventually finding mutually agreed-on resolutions to our current disputes, and towards the long-term reunification Jesus wishes for His Body the Church “so that the world may believe.”

Ask yourself these questions: Do I usually assume other Christian churches/denominations/movements/ groups than mine are inferior or wrong wherever they differ from mine, usually without bothering to find out if they affirm the same traditional essentials of saving Christian faith that I do, and usually without bothering to really try to understand their different secondary doctrines and practices and just how those other Christians see their differences as consistent with the same fundamentals of Christian faith that I hold?  Do I ever consider that other Christian churches than mine might better preserve at least certain aspects or characteristics of the Undivided Early Church than mine does, such that we can learn from and enrich each other as did the Undivided Early Church’s different Sister Churches?  Do I actively seek and pray for the loving Christian unity Jesus prayed for “so that the world may believe”?  If the answer is “yes” to the first question and “no” to the last two, as is very common, then your attitude is part of Satan’s victory in keeping the Body of Christ divided and thus much less effective than it should be against the Kingdom of Darkness Jesus Christ our Head came to conquer with His Love.

This book hopes, by God’s Grace, to be the antidote to such attitudes.  This book offers real hope for the long-term resolution of the current misunderstandings and disputes between the various Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant (and even “Messianic Jewish”) churches which already share a vast treasure of the Undivided Early Church’s saving Christian faith and which already resemble the Undivided Early Church’s different but united ‘Sister Churches,’ as will be easily seen once the habits of uncharitable and divisive thinking Satan has successfully sown in the Church are finally abandoned.  This book contains many prayerful conclusions of my research of the history of God’s People from Adam, lovingly made by the God who is Love, to Jesus Christ the “New Adam,” to His Body the Church since, from the Undivided First Millennium through to the Protestant Reformation and on to today’s Ecumenical Movement (and Vatican Council II’s exceptional but largely unknown contributions to it).  In this three-volume book I offer many suggestions of how to best understand that long family history of God’s People from Adam to today, and I offer several practical suggestions towards re-instituting the lost unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Church “so that the world may believe.” 

If some readers afterwards still disagree with my suggestions of just how the Christian unity Jesus prayed for might one day actually be accomplished, I will have succeeded in my main purpose if they at least have been motivated to pray for the unity Jesus prayed for and motivated to lovingly dialogue with other Christians than “their group.”  I will have succeeded in my main purpose if readers are motivated to think about unity in diversity like the Undivided Early Church lived it, motivated to regularly think about re-establishing unity and motivated to talk about it with their Christian brothers and sisters in different churches, different denominations, different movements and other different groups, “so that the world may believe” according to Jesus’ prayer for us.  The loving brotherly attitudes towards each other on the basis of our vast common faith are more important than immediate agreement as to just how we should proceed towards practically reuniting the Church, because full reunification will certainly take very many years however it proceeds, but living Jesus’ command to “love one another” so that the world may know we are really Christians (John 13:34-35) is something that we can start doing NOW, so that RIGHT NOW we can really start to display Jesus’ Love in the world through our unity in love as Christians, His Body.  We must first master unity in love even while our formal divisions remain, before any serious attempt at formal reunification can begin, “so that the world may believe” as Jesus prayed.

Glory be to Jesus Christ! Glory be forever!

 

Introduction 

to the Three Volumes of So That The World May Believe

A Call to Christian Unity 

Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another … By this all men will know that you are [Christians], if you love one another” (John 13:34-5).  Jesus prayed to His Father “that all [Christians] may be one … so that the world may believe that You have sent me … May [Christians] be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me.”  (John 17:21,23)

All Christians know from these passages of Holy Scripture and others that Jesus Christ our Lord and God desires the ultimate success of the Ecumenical Movement to reunite today’s divided Christian Church.  Jesus  specifically prayed for this “complete” Christian unity for the sake of the world of people He came to save, “so that the world may believe” in Jesus, who is “the Head of the Body” (Colossians 1:18), when it sees the love of Jesus in us, His Body the Church on Earth, for each other.  The world understandably has a hard time believing that Christians have the answer to the world’s problems in their relationship with Jesus when Christians fight amongst themselves and denigrate each other (the world knows how to do that without Christian help).  Unfortunately, many Christians do not know how to most effectively work towards this goal of Christian unity which Jesus’ prayer obligates us to seek together.  In fact, a great many Christians from all sides have been duped by the “father of lies” (John 8:44) into thinking that this “complete unity” Jesus prayed for between us His followers today is not even possible (forgetting that “nothing is impossible with God” – Luke 1:37).  Most Christians are unaware of the precise nature and structure of the Undivided Early Church of the First Millennium which developed naturally out of the primitive structure of the New Testament Church (and fulfilled God’s plan for His Covenant Family since Adam and Noah), a nature and structure which of course holds the key to Christian reunification, since any successful re-unification must of course be based on the model of what the Christian Church was like when it was one unified Church for a thousand years – a particular kind of unity in diversity (never uniformity) which will be discussed in detail in Volumes I and III .

This three-volume book attempts to solve the difficulties Christians typically have with truly fruitful and effective ecumenism.  Today’s divided Christians all know that our loving Lord Jesus desired us to belong to one Christian Church, His Body, but when we try to act like one Body at ecumenical events we often fall into one of the two common pitfalls of ecumenism, the tendency to either:

1)         affectionately focus on our commonalities but be afraid to talk about our differences lest the affection be lost; or

2)         talk about our differences without keeping in mind our vast common saving faith in Christ so that the affection becomes strained and dialogue breaks down. 

It is so easy to either over-emphasize our commonalities and downplay our differences without any of the true dialogue about them which may help us find solutions to current misunderstandings and disagreements, or (much more commonly) to over-emphasize our differences without appropriately recognizing our vast common saving Christian faith, becoming uncharitable and suspicious towards each other.

My ecumenical books and my general approach to ecumenism attempt to teach Christians of all the major branches of Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant/Evangelical1) how to avoid both pitfalls by trying to strike the right balance between affectionately inviting other Christians to worship and work together with “our group” for the world’s sake on the basis of our vast common faith on the one hand, and, ever mindful of our true brotherhood in Christ despite our current separation, on the other hand also inviting them to lovingly dialogue about our differences which each side already sees in the light of our great areas of agreement – towards eventually coming to mutually agreed-on resolutions to current disputes (many of which are simply misunderstandings of each other and not substantial disputes at all).  This book attempts to show “the middle way” between the above extremes by first affirming and celebrating together our vast common faith, establishing a sense of family unity in the Body of Christ, and then from within that sense of loving family unity frankly discussing our differences in terms of their many links to our great areas of agreement.  This way, even if we still disagree after discussing our differences in depth, we can much more easily “agree to disagree” and not let our disagreements prevent us from acting as we should for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the world He loves: that is, acting like loving brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who have a mission to show the world Jesus’ love which they cannot see very well in us His Body when we are uncharitably arguing with and denouncing one another and harshly criticizing each other over matters truly trivial in the light of our vast common saving Christian faith.

The Common Creed of Christianity:

The Great Common Faith of Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christianity (and “Messianic Judaism”2) Which is the Basis for Christian Unity 

the One God, Creator of the Universe, who is Love, exists as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Incarnation (enfleshment) of God the Son in Jesus Christ through Mary’s Virgin Birth, making Jesus fully God and fully man, able to make Atonement for the sins of all humanity, which He did by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead so that humanity can be forgiven and saved (and find human fulfillment) through Him; we acquire this forgiveness from sin and salvation unto eternal life through, drawn and empowered by God’s Grace, our turning away from sin (anti-love), accepting what Jesus has done for us and coming into loving, saving relationship with Him (and His Father and Holy Spirit) through belief and baptism, as He taught (Mark 16:16), which makes us members of the one Body of Christ the Church; Jesus’ literal Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven; Jesus’ future return in glory and judgement and the bodily resurrection of all the dead; the tenets of traditional Christian morality (described in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, among other passages of Scripture) as how to be loving and so how to please the God who is Love; the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures which testify to all these things.  

This above “common creed” encapsulates the essential or fundamental Christian teaching of all the Ecumenical (worldwide) and other major Councils of the Undivided Early Christian Church, Councils which the Catholic Church in its Western and Eastern Rites4 and the Eastern Orthodox Churches consider to have established the irrevocable norms of Christian faith in the early centuries of Christianity, and it also encapsulates all the details of the early 20th Century “Fundamentals” tract series which began the Protestant Fundamentalist movement as well as the details usually included in the many conservative and Evangelical Protestant creedal “statements of faith” (the early 20th Century Protestant Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements were “doctrinally conservative,” orthodox responses to the huge “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox trend within the earlier Protestant “mainline” churches).  Those Protestant “mainline” denominations and congregations which are going increasingly “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox may or may not still preserve with certainty all of these ancient fundamental beliefs of orthodox Christianity (orthodoxy means “right teaching,” as opposed to unorthodox or heretical teaching).  The above common Christian beliefs are the wonderful, life-changing, saving truths of Christianity which “turned the world upside down” in barbaric times and transformed the ancient world with God’s Love, truths which still make Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/ Evangelical Protestant Christians brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and most certainly instruments of God’s salvation in the world (despite our misunderstandings and disagreements over some of our different secondary doctrines, differences which each side sees in the light of the above common fundamentals we are already agreed on). 

The “Doctrinally Liberal” Streams of the Protestant “Mainline” Denominations Which Do Not (Or Do Not with Certainty) Hold All of the above “Common Creed” Still Have Basis for Dialogue but Lack the Extremely Profound Basis of Unity of the above Churches 

I do not wish to simply write off the huge “doctrinally liberal” portion of historical or “mainline” Protestant Christianity, especially since many self-described “liberal” Christians are not actually unorthodox or heretical but simply not as certain about the Christian fundamentals as they should be.  Many “liberals” have genuine saving Christian faith in Jesus and personal loving relationship with Him; many are genuinely in touch with the above orthodox Christian Mysteries with their proven historic power to transform lives and societies for the better, despite the modern confusion within their churches mostly thanks to certain 16th to 18th Century Protestant Reformation and Enlightenment era ideas.  Nevertheless, the lack of absolute certainty about the traditional, essential, fundamental tenets of spiritually powerful, historically world-changing, orthodox Christianity even at the highest denominational level means the “liberal” mainline Protestant churches lack the solid major foundation towards re-building Christian unity which the Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/ Evangelical Protestant churches possess, and thus my books and materials which promote the rebuilding of Christian unity in diversity as in the Undivided Early Church are addressed primarily to these churches which are currently formally separated but which are already most profoundly united in the above common saving Christian faith (whereas Protestant “liberals” have no consistency even amongst themselves, as to which bits of historic and powerful Christianity they will accept or reject).  It is my hope that as the Catholic, Orthodox, and doctrinally conservative Protestant/Evangelical Christian churches which are confident about traditional Christian orthodoxy gradually unite in ever more beautiful loving expressions of Christian unity in diversity modeled after the Undivided Early Church (even while our formal divisions remain), that the “doctrinally liberal” Protestant churches which question, doubt, or outright deny fundamental aspects of traditional Christian faith will become ‘jealous’ and will consider once again embracing traditional Christian  orthodoxy with certainty in order to be part of this beautiful and enriching communion Jesus intended for His Body the Church (and I hope that the many more-or-less “nominal” or “in-name-only” members of all fundamentally orthodox Christian churches, members who have been unduly influenced by the greater culture’s secularist ideas and lifestyles, will similarly become motivated to really practice their church’s orthodox Christian faith).

The First Step to the “Complete Unity” (John 17:23) Jesus Desires for His Church Is in Fundamentally Orthodox Christians (Eastern & Western Catholic; Eastern Orthodox; Western Conservative/Evangelical Protestant; ‘Messianic Jews’) Seeking and Mastering Unity in Visible Love for Each Other on the Basis of Their Vast Common Faith Even While the Formal Divisions over Unresolved Lesser Issues Remain

 From So That The World May Believe Volume III Chapter 7

To aid this first goal of loving each other for the love of our Lord and for the love of the world He loves, in the 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II), the Catholic Church has officially declared at its highest level of authority (cited fully in Volume III Chapter 3) that

“[non-Catholic] Christians are indeed in some real way joined to us [Catholic Christians] in the Holy Spirit,” “and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers” because “it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in baptism [see Mark 16:16] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.” 

So, as indicated in Volume III Chapter 3, despite some Catholics unfortunately still having to “catch up” with their Church on this point, the huge Catholic Church now officially models the loving ecumenical attitude all churches need in order for Jesus’ prayer for Christian unity to ever be granted, that even though “our” Church denomination (whichever it is) believes that “other” churches which do not agree with some of our secondary doctrines and practices are missing something, those “other churches”

have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation,” [other Christian churches than “ours” indeed have] “access to the communion of salvation.”  

And therefore harshly critical and unloving attitudes towards other Christians with whom we already share so much are not appropriate Christian attitudes, and indeed, they are attitudes which cripple the effectiveness of the one Body of Christ the Church in the world by masking the love of Jesus in us.

As we continue to seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit of love, Catholic Christians (Eastern and Western) and non-Catholic Christians (Eastern Orthodox and Western Protestant/Evangelical Christians united in the same vast common and fundamental Christian beliefs) will gradually get better and better at truly loving and ecumenical attitudes towards each other, attitudes which will greatly aid the Christian mission to the world which will then more easily see Christian love “for one another” long before we even get close to the formal structural Church reunification which we must take to be part of Jesus’ prayer for our “complete unity” (John 17:23).  We must first strive to master the unity in visible love for each other even while we remain formally divided into separate churches and church communions, which must be the first step before we ever even attempt full formal Church reunification (as different ‘Sister Churches’ in one Universal Christian Communion, following the Undivided Early Church model described in detail in So That The World May Believe Volumes I and III).  The closer we fundamentally orthodox Christians, whether Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant/Evangelical (or ‘Messianic Jewish’), get to first unity in visible love and later to full formal reunification, the world will more and more take notice of the sublime beauty of the Christian Church as we come closer together as one loving worldwide Christian family like Jesus prayed for, devoid of the hatred, ignorance and judgments of the past.  Not only will the unbelieving world take notice of our beauty; those “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox Christians (liberal Protestants and those of the “Lesser” Eastern Churches), upon seeing those Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant/Evangelical churches which are already united in the above vast common fundamentals of traditional, orthodox Christian faith, start to really “love one another as [Christ] has loved [them]” (John 13:34) and display all the more supernaturally-life-changing power and Christian beauty in the world, the deficiencies of their unorthodoxy will become all the more apparent to them and ideally they will become jealous of the beautiful unity of the orthodox Christian churches, and seek to become more orthodox themselves so they may join this wonderful communion in Christ’s love, adopted into the Loving Family of the Trinitarian God who is Love.  Large numbers of liberal Protestant Christians are not so much unorthodox as they are lacking in the certainty they should have about the fundamentals of orthodox Christian faith, so these will be the most likely to adopt Christian orthodoxy when the gradually reunifying orthodox churches lose their hatred and bigotry over lesser-order differences, stop fighting and start loving each other so as to better display to all the beauty of orthodox Christianity.  

Something similar happened in the 4th Century.  There were large groups of “Semi-Arian” Christians, temporarily even the majority of Christians, who were uncertain whether to believe either 

1) the orthodox position of Jesus’ full Divinity, “one in being with the Father,” defined, clarified and proclaimed by the 325 AD 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicea (as a function of the Church being the living Body of Christ) and championed by Alexandrian Catholic Patriarch Saint Athanasius (who was exiled 5 times by Arian Christian rulers for his orthodoxy though sheltered by the Roman Catholic Patriarch, the Pope) or 

2) the heretical position of the Arian Christians, who denied the full Divinity of Jesus, and who claimed the Council had no authority to settle the dispute since the Bible on its own did not contradict the Arian heresy (with its sophisticated and thorough use of Scripture) as the Council’s newly clarified  traditional interpretation of the Bible did. 

These uncertain Christians had often adopted a compromise “middle position” between the two and thus were called “Semi-Arians” by those who were firmly orthodox.  The uncertain or in-between majority of  “Semi-Arians” were eventually converted to orthodox Christianity, particularly through the ministry of Patriarch Saint Athanasius (who also first put together the New Testament Canon as we know it in 367 AD) and the later ministry of the “Cappodocian Fathers” (Saints Basil the Great, Gregory of Nanzianzen, and Gregory of Nyssa), who were able to articulate and explain and demonstrate the beauty of the orthodox position of the full Divinity of Jesus.  Today’s “mainline” Protestant denominations (including the one I was raised in) have plenty of modern-day Arians who deny Jesus is God and even more modern-day “Semi-Arians” who are unsure if Jesus is God (the Catholic and Orthodox Churches do not have this problem, though as all churches in our highly secularized society they do suffer from “nominalism,” having many more or less “in name only” members).  We must remember the victory of the Early Church over both paganism and over the Arian heresy (both of which have been revived in our day).  Showing unorthodox, uncertain, or nominal Christians, and the whole unbelieving world, the beauty of essential Christian orthodoxy through our Christian “love for one another” because of it should become our goal as Christians, “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21).

*********************************************

After affirming and clarifying our vast common faith (above) which leaves us no excuse to ever fail to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and love each other accordingly even despite our current misunderstandings, disagreements and divisions, this book models real affectionate ecumenical dialogue about our differences presented from the Catholic perspective .  But it is from the perspective of a Catholic who was formerly Protestant, who is intimately familiar with Protestant/Evangelical positions and addresses the Protestant concerns about Catholic secondary beliefs in a way which I believe shows beyond doubt that correct or incorrect, what Protestants perceive as unnecessary “extra” Catholic beliefs and practices do not compromise the common traditional Christian fundamentals the way Protestants fear they do only because they do not truly understand them, and thus these differences should not be cause for unloving divisions between us which hide the love of Jesus in all of us, but are in fact areas of difference we can and should talk about as loving brothers and sisters until, with the Holy Spirit’s aid, we can come up with mutually agreed-upon solutions to our current difficulties with each other’s secondary beliefs. 

As part of my contribution to the loving dialogue I also, in non-accusatory ways, share my Catholic concerns about some distinctly Protestant beliefs (which are mostly  simple negations of the Catholic “extra” beliefs, “we do not believe these things which Catholics do”), hoping that Protestant readers will be motivated to engage in the dialogue and address my concerns as I have addressed the Protestant concerns over several distinctly Catholic beliefs.  Despite such concerns of mine, giving credit to my Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ where it is most definitely due, I also in a number of places share my great respect and appreciation for how Protestant/Evangelical Christians have enriched the Church as a whole, which is why Catholic Christians have in fact borrowed many good things from them (especially hymns and praise and worship songs), as Protestants have borrowed many good things from the Catholic Church (including the Catholic New Testament and the common Christian fundamental doctrines which Protestants took with them when they left the Catholic Church in history, though “doctrinally liberal” Protestants may no longer retain all of these).

I also write as a Catholic Christian who is not a Roman Catholic but an Eastern Rite Catholic, and thus I write as one having as much in common with my separated Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ as I do with my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I am in full communion under the Pope as the Head Pastor of the entire ancient Catholic (Greek for Universal) Communion of orthodox Christian ‘Sister Churches’ of East and West (orthodoxy means “right teaching,” referring to the traditional fundamental tenets of Christianity).  The Eastern Orthodox and (Western) Roman Catholic Churches together successfully formed one Christian Church transforming the pagan world with Jesus’ love for a Millennium (before there were any [Western] Protestant Christians), and the minority Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church which I belong to, among all of today’s Christian Churches, best preserve the ancient understanding of that Undivided Early Church’s unity in diversity, which gives me particular insight to share towards re-establishing Christian unity .

In fact all of the major branches of today’s divided Christianity best preserve different aspects of the character and life of the Undivided Early Church, which is why we in fact must learn from each other in order for all of us to become all we were meant to be as Christ’s Body still on Earth reaching out with His Love, the Church.  No one major branch of today’s divided Christianity can say we do not need what the others have best preserved from the Undivided Early Church in order to be the most whole .  For example, the Catholic Church today best preserves the structure of the Undivided Early Church as a Universal (Catholic) Communion of orthodox Eastern and Western Christian “Sister Churches” of “fully equal dignity” which recognize the pope as the communion’s Head Pastor, “so that, once a head has been appointed, there may be no opportunity for schism,” as wrote Saint Jerome, who lived through the 4th Century Arian dispute and crisis over the Divinity of Jesus.  Unfortunately, this structure has been largely hidden from general view for centuries because of the Muslim conquest and destruction of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, meaning most Catholic Christians for centuries (since before the Protestant Reformation) have been Roman Rite Catholics, but since the Catholic Church’s Vatican Council II in the 1960s more and more Roman Catholic Christians are remembering that they are not and are not supposed to be just one large dominating Roman Church, but are part of a truly Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion of (today 26) “fully equal” and mutually enriching Eastern and Western orthodox Christian “Sister Churches.”  Both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches preserve the Undivided Early Church office of Patriarchs who function as the overseers and Head Pastors of individual culturally-based “Sister Churches” within the Christian Communion of such Churches, providing ongoing accountability to traditional, orthodox Christian faith as the cultures and thus the cultural expressions of Christian faith change with time and circumstance.5  The (united Eastern and Western) Catholic Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches equally well preserve the Undivided Early Church’s passionate love for true though mysterious Holy Communion with Jesus through the Thanksgiving (Eucharistic) Bread and Wine Jesus instituted.  The (Eastern and Western) Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches today also best preserve other Undivided Early Church doctrines and practices misunderstood or abused in the 16th Century (Western) Roman Rite which, instead of being corrected according to Saint Augustine’s principle that “the abuse does not take a away the [proper] use,” were rejected entirely by the (Western) Protestant Reformation, doctrines and practices which (it turns out) in the long-term best preserve the traditional essential fundamentals of Christianity from doubt and denial, which is why the Catholic and Orthodox Churches do not have the problem Protestantism does of large numbers of Christians (even whole congregations and denominations, including the one I was raised in) going “doctrinally liberal,” questioning, doubting, or even denying fundamental aspects of traditional, orthodox Christianity such as the Divinity of God Incarnate in Jesus, “fully God and fully man.”  Yet those “doctrinally conservative” Protestant churches (including most Evangelicals and Pentecostals, among whom I have many wonderful old Christian friends and family) have best preserved the Undivided Early Church’s passionate love for Scripture, and Bible reading, as well as its spontaneity in prayer and its evangelical zeal for transforming the greater culture for Jesus .  It must be said that the recent movement within both the Protestant and Catholic Christian traditions to re-establish the original “Jewish Rite” of Christianity, although the movement is new and still “finding itself,” best preserves the early reality of the New Testament Church as one Church composed of both “Jew and Gentile” each practicing their common Christianity in culturally distinct ways (see footnote 1 above).  The (united Eastern and Western) Catholic Churches (collectively known as the Catholic Church) and the Eastern Orthodox Churches better preserve the Undivided Early Church’s practice of the New Testament offices of ordained overseers (Greek episkopoi, bishops or eparchs) and presbyters (Greek presbyteroi, from whence comes the English word priests), forming a “ministerial priesthood” not meant to “lord it over” the Christian faithful (as sadly sometimes happened) but to serve the servants of God as fellow members of the Body of Christ with different functions in the Body, functions which were instrumental in the 1st Millennium establishment of and 2nd Millennium maintenance of the traditional New Testament Canon and the clearly articulated essential fundamentals of traditional Christian orthodoxy.  Yet “doctrinally conservative” and Evangelical Protestant churches (those Protestants who have not lost their grip on traditional Christian orthodoxy) have better preserved the also Biblical sense of the “common priesthood” of all believers as members of the Body of Christ who is the Eternal High Priest – like Christ the Head offering their very “bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), whereas for a long time within Roman Catholicism the sense of the ministerial priesthood was preserved largely at the expense of the sense of the common priesthood. The Undivided Early Church displayed both Holy Spirit-led spontaneity in prayer and worship and accountability to different culturally-based liturgical forms of worship fixed (and modified with the times) by the ordained overseers (especially the Patriarchs who oversaw whole cultural expressions of Christianity) which ensured accountability to the orthodox Christian faith through all controversies with heretics through all eras.  It is clear that Protestantism today better preserves that Early Church spontaneity while Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy better preserve that Early Church accountability.  This accountability is why Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have far, far  less of a problem with “doctrinal liberalism” and doubt even to the point of unorthodoxy/heresy than Protestantism does, yet the still-orthodox portions of Protestant Christianity, with their vibrant spontaneity that ensures immediately accessible relevancy in today’s fast-changing cultures, has a much less pronounced problem with “nominalism” (having many “nominal” or “in name only” members) than Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy do.  So all of us are lacking something of God’s ideal for us and all of us have tremendous reason to listen to and learn from each other and be enriched by each other as members of Jesus Christ’s Body the Church seeking to recapture it’s early success at “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) with the life-changing, soul-saving Truth God has revealed in Jesus Christ whose Body on Earth we are.

Recognizing this will be the focus of Volume I.  In Volume II and III I will discuss, in the character of loving ecumenical dialogue over our differences, what I believe are the two biggest areas of unnecessary discomfort, confusion and dispute between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians, and I will show how, once we take the time (in brotherly love) to really understand each other about them, they are not things we should allow ourselves to uncharitably judge each other for even if we continue to disagree over them .  In fact, I am certain that in time we can help each other come to ever better understandings of these issues which take into account the concerns of all sides so that  mutually-agreed-on resolutions to any remaining disputes can be found.  I know that due to my own misunderstandings and misconceptions about the Catholic and Orthodox teachings which I had from my Protestant upbringing, it was one of the most surprising things for me to discover that those secondary Catholic and Orthodox beliefs I was most sure were wrong, that is, the Apostolic Succession of ordained Christian overseers (including the papacy for Catholics) and the Marian beliefs (less developed in the Orthodox Churches, but which all come from loving Christian reflection upon just what the true Incarnation (enfleshment) of God in Jesus Christ means for Mary, God’s instrument in that central mystery of Christian faith) turned out to be the very doctrines which did the most to defend the traditional fundamental tenets of orthodox, saving Christian faith in the long-term.  I was surprised to discover that those most precious traditional fundamental Christian truths which were most important to me as an Evangelical Protestant Christian were the most effectively defended from many heretical attacks against them in the Early Church precisely by those Catholic and Orthodox beliefs I did not really understand and was “sure” were wrong – and that today the Catholic and Orthodox Churches still had no significant problem with their active members doubting or denying fundamental Christian orthodoxy because of these secondary beliefs (while in contrast, even the large once-orthodox Protestant denomination I was raised in  lost its grip on the fundamentals of orthodox Christian faith in my lifetime, an all-too-common occurrence among whole active congregations of the oldest and largest Protestant “mainline” denominations ). 

I want to stress here that my point in all this is not at all that “Protestants should return to the Roman Catholic Church they left  like I did” (today I am not even a Roman Catholic, but an Eastern Rite Catholic) – rather my point is that the Undivided Early Church was not the Roman Catholic Church which Protestants dramatically left centuries ago but was a Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion which included the Roman Catholic Church and which had certain characteristics best preserved in today’s Catholic Church Communion (which still includes the Roman Catholic Church as currently its largest ‘Sister Church’), characteristics lost in the Protestant Reformation (resulting in Protestantism’s problem with whole churches often losing basic Christian orthodoxy, a problem Catholicism does not have), although Protestantism has also best preserved other aspects of the character and spiritual life of the Undivided Early Church which it should share with today’s Catholic Church.  Today’s Catholic Communion is slowly but actively in the process of re-discovering itself as a communion of “fully equal Sister Churches” since its 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican Council II).  In fact, today’s Catholic Communion since Vatican Council II has by far the most sophisticated official position on its own substantial participation with the One Church of Jesus Christ and of that continued very significant participation of the non-Catholic Christian Churches which are no longer part of the Undivided Early Church’s Universal (Catholic) Communion, a sophisticated position which any Christian who values the Christian unity Jesus values cannot afford to ignore but must learn and seriously consider, a position which recognizes how both Catholic and non-Catholic Churches today still genuinely participate (in different ways) in the saving mission of the One Church and Body of Christ, a position that is dealt with in detail in Volume III.  However, the “average Catholic” as yet is little more aware than non-Catholics of the wonderful Catholic teaching since Vatican II which officially recaptures the understanding of the lived reality of the Undivided Early Catholic Communion’s unity in diversity and just how much non-Catholic Churches despite their formal divisions still have a definite, if imperfect, communion with today’s ongoing Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches unbroken since ancient times.  Thus this book is intended to teach Catholic Christians the amazing things the Catholic Church has officially done to pave the way for restoring the Early Church’s unity in diversity as much as it is intended to teach this to non-Catholic Christians.  Today’s non-Catholic Churches (which all once belonged to the Catholic Communion in history) should be working together with the Catholic Church’s Sister Churches (of which the Roman Catholic Church is only one, though currently the largest) on the basis of our vast common faith so that all of us can pool together those things which each branch of divided Christianity has best preserved from the Undivided Early Church, for the enrichment of all, for all of us to become all we were meant to be as Christ’s Body the Church on Earth, and most importantly for the sake of the world which needs Jesus Christ, the world which Jesus indicated would believe if we were united as we once were, with phenomenal missionary success, in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church .

So this three-volume book shares, I think compellingly, my convictions that:                                                                                                            

1)         in the short term currently divided Christians can establish truly fruitful ecumenical Christian worship and ecumenical dialogue about our differences “so that the world may believe” in Jesus our Head when it sees us His Body acting lovingly towards each other even while our formal divisions remain; and 

2)         in the long term real, full, structural Christian reunification is also actually possible (in the loving power of the Holy Spirit by whom all of us were adopted into God’s Family the Church), through all of us starting to think about Christian unity like the Undivided Early Church lived it – never a uniformity of Christian worship and theology (Roman or otherwise) but always a unity of faith expressed and celebrated in a mutually enriching diversity of ways (Eastern and Western) which we are now already much closer to than we usually realize, as I will demonstrate in this book.

So That The World May Believe: A Call to Christian Unity intends to teach divided Christians why and how to love each other as family in Jesus Christ even while we are formally divided.  It intends to teach divided Christians how to lovingly discuss our current disagreements in the light of our vast common faith until we find real resolutions (however long this takes), “so that the world may believe” in Jesus our Head when it sees our Christian love for each other as His Body the Church even while we remain formally divided.  And it begins one side of the mutual dialogue over current disagreements in a way that models that loving respect for each other as family in Christ who agree on much more than we disagree on. 

I believe I make a good case in the three volumes for how our (long-term) Christian reunification in fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer for our unity is really possible, how it is definitely within our reach with the Holy Spirit’s aid and looking to the model of the Undivided First Millennium Church’s Unity in Diversity.  But this book is meant to begin the serious dialogue about just how we may one day be reunified, not to end it. 

This book is my way of saying, “this is how I think we can really be reunified as one Christian Church like Jesus intended and as we once were unified, in the long term.  What do you think?  Let’s talk about this.”  So, I invite all Christians to read this book and then let the serious (and loving) dialogue begin, “so that the world may believe.”

 

The Contents of:

So That The World May Believe

A Call to Christian Unity

Jesus Prayed Christians “Be Brought to Complete Unity So That the World May Believe” (John 17:23,21)   

Teaching Christians How to Restore the Lost Unity in Diversity of the Undivided Early Church Through Lovingly Seeking to Truly Understand Each Other’s Differences While Celebrating Our Vast Common Saving Christian Faith and Learning from Our Different Strengths, “So That the World May Believe”  

Back to Forward & Introduction

Complete 3-Volume Table of Contents (And Summary at 1/10th the Length)

 Volume I Introduction (For Understanding Our Great Common Faith):

Rediscovering the Early Church’s Unity in Diversity 

Today’s Divided Christians Who Share the Traditional Fundamental Beliefs of Orthodox Christianity Are Already Much Closer to the Undivided First Millennium Church’s Unity in Diversity than We Usually Realize – We Already Enrich Each Other with Our Many Different Areas of Strength in Preserving, Living and Proclaiming Christianity as Did the Undivided Early Church’s United but Different yet Mutually Enriching ‘Sister Churches’  

Volume II (For Understanding Our Differences Concerning Mary):

 Who is Mary in the Church? 

Understanding Highly Developed Catholic Mariology and the Mediatrix of All Graces Doctrine:

Linking Christ the Head to His Body the Church Through Mary, First Believer in Jesus and First Member of the Body, in Ways Which Protect the Traditional Christian Fundamental Truths about Her Fully Divine Yet Fully Human Son Jesus from Heresies Ancient and Modern

Volume III (For Understanding Our Differences Concerning the Papacy):

 The Papacy and Christian Unity in Diversity

 The Pope Was the Historic Guarantor of Christian Unity and Orthodoxy in the First Christian Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: The Ancient Eastern Orthodox Tradition from the Beginning Recognized the Papacy and Was Through it Part of the Undivided Early Church’s Universal (Catholic) Communion of Different Orthodox Eastern and Western Christian Sister Churches Collectively Known as the Catholic Church, Celebrating Christianity Differently while Unified in Orthodox Christian Faith Against Many Early Christian Heretics   

The Genesis of This Book / Works Consulted  

Complete 3-Volume Table of Contents (And Summary at 1/10th the Length)

   

© 2005, 2009 Peter William John Baptiste SFO

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 1And even the new ‘Messianic Jewish’ and ‘Hebrew Catholic’” branch which seeks to restore the distinctly Jewish cultural expression of Christianity practiced by the first Christians who were all Jewish, a “Jewish Rite” of Christianity, which, although it died out after the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews by the Pagan Romans, was not at all (as many Gentile Christian readers mistakenly assume) ended earlier by the Acts 15 Council of Jerusalem which simply stated that Gentiles did not need to become Jews in order to be Christians.  Acts 16:1-5 and Acts 21:17-26 prove that Jewish Christians remained culturally Jewish Christians after the Acts 15 Council just as Gentile Christians started developing their own distinct legitimate cultural expressions of Christianity (which became the Roman, Greek, Syrian, and Egyptian Gentile Christian culturally-based ‘Sister’ Churches which together with the Jerusalem Church were known as the “Pentarchy” of Church Patriarchates or Provinces which together (at the Early Ecumenical Councils) clearly articulated and established the common fundamentals of traditional orthodox Christianity amid the turmoil of the early Christian controversies with heretics.  Much more on the place of the Jewish Rite Christianity which is being newly re-established in our time will be found in Volume I.

2See Volume I for more on this significant and important movement of Jewish Christianity, Jews who accept Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah, which combines the Jewish and Protestant Christian traditions, including all the common Christian fundamentals, in an attempt to restore the lost Jewish cultural expression of Christianity which was practiced by all the first Christians, who were Jews.  Within the Catholic Church there is a similar Association of Hebrew Catholics.

4Also called Western and Eastern Sister Churches within the Universal (Greek katholikos, or Catholic) Christian Communion of Eastern and Western Sister Churches collectively known as the Catholic Church.  This Christian Communion gathers around the pope as its visible center of unity.  The Western, Roman Catholic Church, is currently by far the largest Rite or Sister Church in the Catholic Communion, though this was not always the case.

5The office of four of the first five Christian Patriarchs, as well as several of the later Patriarchs of later cultures renewed in Jesus, has been passed down within the Eastern Orthodox Churches since the separation of the majority of the Christian East from the Christian West.  The Catholic Church has often avoided officially recognizing the head Catholic overseer of the usually smaller Eastern Catholic Rites which have an Eastern Orthodox counterpart with the title of “Patriarch” (using “Major Archbishop” or such terms instead), although they perform the same functions within the same cultural expression of Christianity, in order to facilitate future Christian reunification (so that there are not two Patriarchs of the same cultural Rite of Christianity at that time in the future when the Catholic and Orthodox Churches re-establish their First Millennium Christian unity).