27 June 2013

The Breath-taking Beauty of Catholicity

font2I’ve been reading and re-reading Herman Bavinck’s ‘The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church’. This 1888 address, delivered at Kampen, has really grabbed me. Our church structures and relationships must assist us never to lose sight of the great truth of the catholicity of the Church of Christ. Different traditions, different doctrines, different understandings, but where there is orthodoxy, there is unity. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. Too often we want to respond to these kind of sentiments with a ‘Yes, but…’. Can we just pause and reflect on the Unity of All Christ’s People? One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.
This catholicity of the church, as the Scriptures portray it for us and the early churches exemplify it for us is breath-taking in its beauty. Whoever becomes enclosed in the narrow circle of a small church (kerkje) or conventicle, does not know it and has never experienced its power and comfort. Such a person short-changes the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the fellowship of the Spirit and incurs a loss of spiritual treasures that cannot be made good by meditation and devotion. Such a person will have an impoverished soul.  
By contrast, whoever is able to see beyond this to the countless multitudes who have been purchased by the blood of Christ from every nation and people and age, whoever experiences the powerful strengthening of faith, the wondrous comfort in times of suffering to know that unity with the whole church militant that has been gathered out of the whole human race from the beginning to the end of the world, such a person can never be narrow-minded and narrow-hearted.   
Herman Bavinck The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church
Within our denominations, in the realisation of fellowship and partnership between our congregations, in the unity of vision and adventure for the kingdom in our presbyteries, in the vision for the nation and our speaking truth to power, and in a multitude of other ways, we are aware of the church being bigger than our own small church, congregation or conventicle.
 
Through our denominations and their ecumenical relationships with other churches both in the UK and around the world, we are aware of the global beauty of the Church. Let us work hard in our own work, but let us shun parochialism. Let us hold to our own distinctives, but be passionate about ecumenism. Let’s not lose sight of the breath-taking beauty of the catholicity of the Church.
One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.