Saturday, March 21, 2020

Addressing the Divide

This post may not be for all of you; if you find yourself uninterested or confused by it, you can quit reading at any time.  I will, however, ask something at the end for which feedback would be appreciated.

I have noted that for liberty to come to the fore, a foundation built on the traditions of the West – including Christianity – is mandatory.  Yet what does this even mean and how is this possible when considering a Christianity that is split into an almost countless number of factions?  Christianity presented a solid foundation in the West when Christianity was reasonably unified.  It is in this context of unity that I write this post.

Paul VanderKlay is setting a wonderful example in this regard.  A Christian Reformed pastor, he has had many conversations with Christians of all stripes and has demonstrated both goodwill and the reality that our similarities are far greater than our differences.

He has recently had two conversations with a Catholic theologian, Dr. Brett Salkeld.  VanderKlay introduces Salkeld in the first of these two conversations as follows:

Dr. Brett Salkeld is the Archdiocesan Theologian for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina Saskatchewan and the author of "Transubstantiation: Theology, History and Christian Unity". You might assume that this is simply a book about a historical theological dispute, and it is, but I think this book is a clear presentation of the history of the conflict surrounding our understanding of the word "God". We use the word "God" as if we know what we're talking about, or that we all mean the same thing when we say the word. I'm convinced we don't and I believe this conflict is at the heart of the great falling away of the church in the West. Brett and I get into this along with a lot of the issues I deal with on this channel.

After the issue regarding the Virgin Mary, Transubstantiation might represent one of the biggest disagreements between Catholic and Protestant.  It turns out, maybe it shouldn’t.  From the book review at Amazon:

This thoroughgoing study examines the doctrine of transubstantiation from historical, theological, and ecumenical vantage points. Brett Salkeld explores eucharistic presence in the theologies of Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, showing that Christians might have more in common on this topic than they have typically been led to believe. As Salkeld corrects false understandings of the theology of transubstantiation, he shows that Luther and Calvin were much closer to the medieval Catholic tradition than is often acknowledged.

There are also favorable Editorial Reviews from both Catholic and Protestant theologians / scholars.

For reference, the second conversation can be found here.  Be forewarned, between the two videos there is about four hours of conversation.

I am not going to follow my normal method of writing about the points that I find key in these videos.  Instead, I have purchased the book.  So here is my question for you: given the subject of the book, it is much further “out there” than the topics I write of here, even the topics where I incorporate something of Christianity.  It doesn’t relate to the Christian relationship with liberty; instead it regards the divide in Christianity.

Is it worth it to you that I write something (or somethings) of this book at this blog?  Whatever your thoughts, I will probably not get to it for a few weeks.  But your answers will be helpful in my consideration.

In the meantime, for those interested, I encourage that you watch the videos.  The conversation is truly a blessing.


  1. Dear BM,
    I follow the Paul Vanderklay corner of the internet quite closely and have already viewed the two conversations. I agree they were very interesting and Salkeld is impressive. I for one would be interested in your take on his book.
    Ira Katz

  2. It has always amazed me how the Church of England changed its position on transubstantiation 180 degrees in such a few years as the following quote from Wikipedia shows:

    King Henry VIII of England, though breaking with the Pope, kept many essentials of Catholic doctrine, including transubstantiation. This was enshrined in the Six Articles of 1539, and the death penalty specifically prescribed for any who denied transubstantiation.

    This was changed under Elizabeth I. In the 39 articles of 1563, the Church of England declared: "Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions".[36] Laws were enacted against participation in Catholic worship, which remained illegal until 1791.[37][38]

    For a century and half – 1672 to 1828 – transubstantiation had an important role, in a negative way, in British political and social life. Under the Test Act, the holding of any public office was made conditional upon explicitly denying Transubstantiation. Any aspirant to public office had to repeat the formula set out by the law: "I, N, do declare that I do believe that there is not any transubstantiation in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, or in the elements of the bread and wine, at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever."
    [end quote]

    1. It amazed me to learn the Church of England was the first to break with Christendom's longstanding ban against contraception. It only did so in 1930, and with strict qualification, at its Lambeth Conference (

      Virtually all Protestant denominations quickly followed suit. Even Eastern Orthodoxy has shied away from the subject, generally leaving contraception up to the individual consciences of the married couple themselves.

      For that matter, the Church of Rome herself, that bastion of reaction, has struck an apologetic stance toward the subject. No, her "official" teaching has not changed. The fact remains I, a lifelong member, rarely heard the subject so much as addressed from the pulpit, until three years ago, when I started attending Traditional Latin Mass at a parish under the auspices of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest.

      Demographics is destiny. The historically Christian peoples of the world are rapidly being replaced by non-Christians. The time has come to start asking ourselves about the role the contraceptive mentality has played in the West's ongoing demise.

  3. I would enjoy reading your out look on the subject

  4. By all means do. The whole topic is fascinating.

  5. I prefer to examine, not what divides us as Christians, but what brings us together and how we can use that to secure liberty in society. I think you have done well so far with that. I would rather see it continue.

    However, no matter what, I will look forward to your posts.

    1. Roger, I think that's the point of the book - or at least my takeaway from the conversation between a CRC pastor and a Catholic theologian. They found much in common on issues upon which we have previously been terribly divided.

    2. Well, if that's the case, then go for it.

      As a Church, we have spent way too much time focusing on our doctrines and differences, but not enough time on our community. If you can bridge that gap in any meaningful way, then I am behind you 100%.

  6. As a not-quite-Christian, I can't say that the finer theological issues interest me a lot in themselves; but in order to gain perspective on the history and thought surrounding the matter, it sounds worthwhile.

    Especially in these times when it's so important for good men to bridge their differences, with civilization in the West under siege from every direction.

  7. Yes, please do. I read, look forward to, and am grateful for all your posts, any personal religious preferences of my own notwithstanding. Peg in Oregon

  8. "It doesn’t relate to the Christian relationship with liberty"

    Oh but it does! Didn't this divide play a pivotal role in the growth of the State and the surrendering of the Medieval conception of Christian liberty and kingship under the law? I don't believe it was the root cause, but it may have been the nail in the coffin of the prior Medieval and Christian social order.

    Though I have not yet listened to the talks, it seems to me that this is not taking you far, if at all, off the course you've been on in your search for liberty, which I've personally enjoyed and benefited so much from. Please continue!

    "...for liberty to come to the fore, a foundation built on the traditions of the West – including Christianity – is mandatory. Yet what does this even mean and how is this possible...?"

    Perhaps the answer to both questions, at least in part, may come from one of the earliest English poems: William Langland's "Piers Plowman." In "Religion and the Rise of Western Culture," Christopher Dawson speaks of Langland's work as having "incorporated all the vital elements in the medieval religious tradition, which had been transmitted to the popular culture by the vernacular preaching of the Friars, and had created from it a vital unity of religion and culture which the more learned and highly cultivated classes had failed to achieve."

    He continues:

    "We have seen how the fundamental dualism of Christian thought had expressed itself during the earlier Middle Ages in the other-worldliness of the monastic ideal and in an unresolved conflict between the pagan traditions of the barbarian warrior society and the Christian ideals of peace and brotherly love. We have seen the great effort of the reforming movement to subdue the World to the Church by the vindication of the primacy of the spiritual power, by canonical reform and by the weapon of the Crusade. And we have seen how this heroic effort was weakened and broken at the close of the thirteenth century, so that in the later Middle Ages the old social dualism reappeared in a new form in the conflict between the Church and the new sovereign state which was ultimately to destroy the unity of Western Christendom. Nor was this conflict in any way solved by the Reformation, since it continued to operate more intensely than ever within the divided Christendom in the new confessional Churches and in the new national sovereign states."

  9. "But in Langland's vision we can see-if only for a moment by a flash of poetic and prophetic inspiration-how this dualism might have been surmounted and overcome. His view of life and his scale of values are no less other-worldy than those of the most ascetic representatives of the earlier medieval tradition. But they no longer find expression in the flight to the desert or withdrawal to the cloister. For Langland the other-world is always immediately present in every human relationship, and every man's daily life is organically bound up with the life of the Church."

    "Thus every state of life in Christendom is a Christian life in the full sense-an extension of the life of Christ on earth. And the supernatural order of grace is founded and rooted in the natural order and the common life of humanity."

    "For Langland remains faithful to the basic medieval conception of the One Society whose members are differentiated by rank and authority, but are all alike children of one father and servants of one master [not the state]" [my comment]

    "Langland's poem is the last and in some respects the most uncompromising expression of the medieval ideal of the unity of religion and culture. He realized more clearly than the poets and more intensely than the philosophers that religion was not a particular way of life but the way of all life, and that the divine love which is "the leader of the Lord's folk of heaven" is also the law of life upon earth."

    1. ATL, this captures my understanding: prior to the last centuries in the West - and thereafter spread via colonial zeal throughout the world - no one thought of themselves as "religious." It was just "life," as inherent to self as any other feature, both visible and invisible.

  10. All, I will comment on this book once I come to it - thank you all for your responses.

    I am about a third of the way through another book, which I want to finish before starting on Selkeld. I have not yet published any posts on this new book; perhaps by the end of the week the first will come out. There is one more post from Rommen's book, written days ago but not yet published - like everything else, I keep pushing it out as this whole virus thing as caused for me a distraction.

    I am just offering this information so you don't think I forget about Selkeld. It could be a couple of weeks or more before I start into it.

    Thank you all again.