Peter Leithart thinks closed communion isn’t nice.
That woud be my dismissive sound bite for his recent personal blog posting, Too Catholic to be Catholic.
I’ve encountered him on and off for years because he is a “Teaching Elder” in a then-new Calvinist denomination with which I in 1975 escaped affiliation only by accident of job transfer, and because he’s written for publications far more ecumenical than that denomination may be comfortable with.
It must be exceeding difficult being Peter Leithart. He has declared himself “too catholic to be Catholic” or Orthodox, considering the Orthodox in particular an idolatrous sect. Yet he’s very nearly too catholic to be a Teaching Elder in the PCA as well, having survived a heresy trial within the past year.
In historic Christian perspective, it’s not a bad thing to be thought a heretic by the PCA. From each of the Westminster Standards from which Leithart was accused of deviating, I deviate as well.
Moreover, the longing for Christian unity, which for Leithart is expressed in the phrase “table fellowship,” is one that I felt as well, though I felt it in terms of “put down your study Bibles and sectarian commentaries, dear Protestants, and come find the Christian tradition.”
I came across Leithart’s “Too Catholic to Be Catholic” yesterday because Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick picked up on it and went much deeper in analysis than my dismissive sound bite and a bit of background on Leithart. For my money, young whippersnapper Fr. Andrew handed middle-aged celeb Leithart his head, pointing out amazing inconsistencies and contradictions within Leithart’s brief manifesto. I was incredulous that Leithart had babbled as badly as Fr. Andrew said, and waited to comment until I’d checked out the possibility that Fr. Andrew had committed hyperbole.
I think the problem starts with Leithart’s Humpty Dumpty use of “catholic.” (“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”)
It’s hard to predict where a sola scriptura pinball like Leithart is going to bounce next. Despite the incoherence of his ecclesiology, he’s hanging out with an eclectic crowd including many sound Roman Catholics and Orthodox.
I persist in thinking that the Reformed Leithart is himself yet reformable, and that he may some day, in a flash of epiphanic insight, find that the Church unity he longs for will never be achieved in a world of Humpty Dumpties. Down that path lies only schism-upon-schism.
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Note: This blog inadvertently was published before I proof-read it, added some more hyperlinks, and clarified a few things.
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