"This sounds profound, and the writer certainly seems to have thought it profound, but it is not a very useful idea. The �religions� he rejects are those bodies and traditions that tell us who God is...What he is really saying is that he believes in God but that he refuses to give that term any meaning, which is to say that he really doesn�t believe in God at all."
The bishop's comments beg an important question: Is there such a thing as "Churchless Christinaity?" Cliff continues to ask for an answer to this intriguing question in an intense debate at Tripp's blog:
"Is there a content to Christian belief? If yes, on what authority do you assert that claim (i. e., Scripture, the Church, the Ecumenical Councils, Kantian autonomy, personal preference, etc.)? And on what grounds do you assert that authority? ... what are the implications of your claim?"
As I have reflected before, I think it is very important to note that the Nicene Creed lists the Church as an article of faith equal to that of the three members of the Trinity. For Nicene Christians, to believe in God includes belief in the Church. They are organically all part of what it means to say, "I believe in one God..."
Now, one can argue about how the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church" manifests itself or what those 4 adjectives actually mean in terms of the visible nature and history of the ecclesia...but what the creed (and all of Christian history makes clear) is that to say one "believes in God" but doesn't believe in the Church is a total contradition...if one wants to be a Christian in any historic sense of that word.
The dogma of the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) said that Jesus had both a divine and human nature that were united "without confusion or division." This doctrine must be applied to the Church as well as to Christ. Just as Christ the God-Man has two natures, divine and human, so in the Church there is a synergy or cooperation between the divine and the human. The Church Herself is thus the proclamation and visible presence of "Jesus come in the flesh" (1 John 4:2). The Church's nature and essence are totally dependent upon His nature and essence. One's perception of the Church must rest squarely on who Christ is. A faulty view of Him will yield an equally defective view of the Church. And a faulty view of the Church will yield an equally defective view of God!