(First Things On the Square Blog) Timothy George–Is Jesus a Baptist?

Catholic theologians speak of a “hierarchy of truths,” a phrase found in Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio, 11). This concept does not mean that some truths are truer than others, or that the Catholic faithful are free to pick and choose among the teachings of their church as they please. It means, rather, that in the economy of divine revelation, more theological weight, as it were, is given to those teachings that relate directly to the foundational truths of the Christian faith. This point is similar to the distinction Thomas Aquinas makes between some articles of faith which are as such secundum se and others in ordine ad alia (ST 2-2, q.1, a.6). (See the excellent study by the Capuchin scholar William Henn, “The Hierarchy of Truths Twenty Years Later,” Theological Studies 48, [1987].)

In this vein, I would like to propose a “hierarchy of ecclesial realities.” What do I mean by this? While I recognize myself as a Protestant, an Evangelical, and a Baptist, none of those labels defines my spiritual and ecclesial identity at the most basic level. Being an evangelical Protestant, a Baptist, indeed a Southern Baptist, are all important markers of my place within the community of faith, but there is a more primary confession I must make: I am a trinitarian Christian who by the grace of God belongs to the whole company of the redeemed through the ages, those who are “very members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ” (Book of Common Prayer).

Far from being a new construal, this way of putting things goes to the very heart of what it means to be a genuine Protestant, a true Evangelical, and an authentic Baptist.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Christology, Ecclesiology, Religion & Culture, Theology

3 comments on “(First Things On the Square Blog) Timothy George–Is Jesus a Baptist?

  1. Ad Orientem says:

    Is Jesus a Baptist? Who knows? But Baptists tend to be real hard on people who drink and Jesus had a well documented taste for the fruits of the vine.

    Hmmm… Maybe He was a backslider.

  2. New Reformation Advocate says:

    True enough, Ad Orientem. But of course, we can go on and say similar things about ALL the current denominations, not least including Anglicanism (or Eastern Orthodoxy for that matter). Jesus wasn’t Anglican, Roman Catholic, or Russian Orthodox either.

    As always, I appreciate the ecumenical tone with which Timothy George writes, and I find that I have a great deal in common with him. But there are decided limits to that ecumenicity, which have everything to do with the fact that he is an ardent and convinced Protestant, even if a “Catholic-friendly” one. As an evangelical and a Baptist, Timothy George takes it for granted that ecclesiology is a matter of adiaphora. That is, since by definition authentic Christians are presumed to agree on the “fundamentals” of the Christian faith and life, and since obviously many ardent, deeply committed followers of Christ don’t in fact agree on the doctrine or practice of the Church, the sacraments/”ordinances,” and the ordained ministry, then those things are automatically assumed to be matters of indifference and not included among the supposed fundamentals. And that is precisely where I would part company with the noble and fair-minded Baptist seminary leader. Because for me, all those things are indeed to be considered among the fundamentals.

    Of course, that is a highly controversial and polarizing assertion, not least among the Anglicans who read this blog, since not all Anglicans would agree with me. In fact, most would not. And that is turn has everything to do with the undeniable fact that most Anglicans are Protestants at heart, whereas I am not.

    David Handy+

  3. Charles52 says:

    This is a wonderful testimony. My own journey from Baptist to Catholic contained a few of the same milestones, but at some, I (obviously) took a different direction. Nevertheless, my Baptist upbringing gave me wonderful gifts: knowledge of and appreciation for the scripture being foremost among them. Dr. George seems like a wonderful Christian man. I would be pleased to study with him, and honored to disagree.