There was some big news in the Reformed and Catholic blogosphere a few days ago about Jason Stellman, a well-known Presbyterian Church of America pastor who converted to the Roman Catholic church (see here)
Before the blog post explaining his conversion was taken down for some reason, I had commented:
“It seems to me this verse is pretty key to your argument: http://bible.cc/acts/15-28.htm
“Necessary” in what sense? In the sense that if you do not submit to this you are in certainly in danger of excluding yourself (or you automatically exclude yourself?) from the Church and Christ? Really? That seems unlikely to me. Or is it more about being respectful of those with Jewish sensibilities so the unity of faith that already had been given and existed between Jewish and Gentile Christians did not get strained (leading first to schism, *then* heresy)? If it was the first option, when were these commands rescinded? To my knowledge, we don’t say all of them must be followed now (or does Rome)? Didn’t Paul say that we could eat food sacrificed to idols but we dare not do so if it means harming a brother who was weak in faith? Where in verse 28 does it say this was an: “authoritative and binding pronouncement that was bound in heaven even as it was on earth”? I understand words like that as regards God’s pastors granting forgiveness or withholding forgiveness based on their evaluation of whether or not a person is penitent, but not in this context.
Jason – I’m curious as to whether or not you considered Confessional Lutheranism (Chemnitz’s view of Sola Scriptura is quite different, and Lutherans do not absolutely insist that the 27 NT books are all of the same authority: for more see “round 1″ referenced here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/update-on-my-humble-contributions-to-honest-ecumenical-dialogue/ ) and if not why not?”
Jason was kind enough to respond to me saying the following:
“I will let the actual Catholics here weigh in on the technical distinction between dogmas and disciplines.
I do think the context of Acts 15 indicates that one of the primary concerns was sensitivity to Jewish believers, which is why James points out that “from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues” (v. 21).”
As to whether or not he had considered Confessional Lutheranism, here is what he said:
“No, I did not consider Lutheranism, since it seems to me to fall prey to the same objections I have to Presbyterianism. We’re talking about big, paradigmatic issues here rather than mere differences over details. If Geneva and Saddleback exist in the same county, then Wittenberg is right next door.”
Interesting that he sees things like this.
For those interested in how I respond to the RC distinction between “dogmas and disciplines”, see “essential and non-essential doctrines” here (it is the last section – part VII – near the end of this very long post).
In sum, I think it is tragic when concessions which were made to preserve unity in the body of Christ (like what happened in Acts 15) become reduced to arguments for the sovereignty of just one part of the body – to whom all other parts must submit or face uncertainty as regards their salvation in Christ.