One Lord, One Faith

Yesterday, January 18, began the week of prayer for Christian Unity, a week where Christians are encouraged to learn and pray about the issues that divide us, and work toward overcoming the obstacles that keep the Christian churches from being in full communion. You can see the pope’s comments on Christian unity here.

Everydaythomist fully supports the project of Christian unity and is participating in the week not only with her prayers, but also with her posts, beginning with this quote from her favorite Reformed theologian, Karl Barth:

“Nor, properly speaking, is there a Catholic, Lutheran or Reformed dogmatics…. Where dogmatics exists at all, it exists only with the will to be a Church dogmatics, a dogmatics of the ecumenical Church” (Church Dogmatics I/2 p. 823)

This quote made me think of what Aquinas would have to say about Christian unity. Instead of turning to the Summa, as I normally do, this time I turned to one of his Scriptural commentaries, the Commentary of the Letter to the Ephesians. The author of Ephesians writes, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all” (Ephesians 4:4-5)

Aquinas writes that Paul has exhorted the Ephesisans to ecclesial union, likening the church to a city, sharing certain things in common, but also sharing diversity among its various parts. He writes, “The solidarity of any city demands the presence of four common elements: One governor, one law, common symbols, common goal.” Then Aquinas goes to show how all who are in Christ share these four things.

Our governor is none other than Jesus Christ. Citing 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, Aquinas writes, “There be lords many; yet to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things . . . and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things.”

Second is the law, which Aquinas identifies as the law of faith, “which denotes the habit of faith by which all believe, [which is] specifically one–not numerically one–since the same faith is present in each one’s heart, just as when many persons want the same thing, they are said to be of one will.”

Third are the symbols, which Aquinas says are the sacraments, and most importantly, the sacrament of baptism, which is most important because it “is the first and the entrance to the rest. Hence, [Paul] says, one baptism. . . and the one who baptizes interiorly is one, namely, Christ.” Baptism is also one sacrament that almost all Christian churches share. See my comments on baptism here.

Fourth is the goal, which is eternal life with God in His Kingdom. “The Son leads us to the Father ‘when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father; when he shall have brought to nought all principality and power and virtue’ (1 Cor. 15:24). In reference to this, the Apostle adds ‘one God and Father of all.”

As we begin the week of Christian Unity, everydaythomist encourages here readers to reflect with Barth, Aquinas, and the Letter to the Ephesians on how we are one, sharing one Lord, one law of faith, one baptism, and one goal.


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