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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

Why do Lutherans profess a belief in "catholic"? And how can Jesus be everywhere at once?

May 1, 2017

Why do Lutherans profess a belief in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” church?

     Without claiming to know and understand the theology held by those who follow Lutheranism, I propose three possible reasons why Lutherans profess these words, all of which are based primarily upon Church history. The first reason is that these words (which our faith refers to as the “four marks of the Church”) were articulated long before the 16th century reformation and were therefore not seen as objectionable to Martin Luther and his followers. The formulation of the Nicene Creed, which dates to the 4th century was not rejected by Luther – as Luther believed his “reforms” were for the good of the true Church and were not carried out as a way to split from the Church. Second, the words of these four marks are held by many Christians who believe that they are of the true Church that contains all of these marks (including “catholic,” understood to mean “universal”). Finally, it is noteworthy that true Church, from its foundation in Christ, has always lived and believed according to what these marks signify; it is only in more recent times that the true Church has been more specifically called “Roman Catholic,” as this title has placed heightened emphasis on the recognition of the primacy of the Pope among the bishops and of the additional meaning of the word “catholic” as “of the whole” – that is, that the entirety of the true faith subsists within the Catholic Church. While some might object to this third reason for a variety of reasons, what cannot be denied is that the faith of the Catholic Church today is that which has always been since Jesus Himself established the Church. All other non-Catholic Christians in some way are connected to the Church (minimally through belief in Jesus Christ as Messiah); however, none of these non-Catholic communities have the fullness of the faith
subsisting in their life and teaching in the way that such fullness subsists in the Catholic Church – as all non-Catholic communities have come to be in more recent history than from Jesus Himself.

How is Jesus everywhere at one time?

     Might I answer this with some basic truths of who God is and apply it within an analogy to show how He is everywhere. God has revealed Himself to be eternal (without beginning or end) and omnipotent (that is, “all-powerful”).  While Jesus’ taking on of our humanity was a taking upon Himself all of the human limitations of space and time, it is important to remember that He Himself said before His Ascension (40 days after Easter) that He must go so that the Holy Spirit can come. By returning to Heaven, Jesus is thus able to transcend all earthly limitations that are of our earthly state and be present to all as is proper to the state of eternity in heaven.  As Jesus is God (once more, without beginning or end), Jesus is therefore already and always present in every moment. 

     To apply these truths of how Jesus can be everywhere at one time, think of how you or I might hold a model of the universe in our hands, where we see the whole thing at once. While this image is far from perfect, consider that God’s presence to the whole universe is as though He sees it (and in a sense “thinks it” or “says it”) all at once, in even its tiniest details, whether visible or invisible. Nothing that He makes is outside of His awareness and presence, nor is any time outside His presence (as, once again, he is eternal and therefore outside time). Thus, acknowledging that such presence is a great mystery, we can say based upon known truths of God that He is always present and that nothing is ever without His being present.

 

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