This is a Facebook discussion I had earlier with a Roman Catholic who is a contributor to the blog Called to Communion. For the sake of forthrightness, my wife is Roman Catholic. As you'll see, I think Christians can disagree on doctrinal points and not be separated.
This is the post that generated the discussion.
Bryan Cross: I have explained why making a predicate apply to everyone (such as claiming that all Christians are catholics) evacuates the term of all meaning here in comment #40:
Me: But that's how the early fathers used the word, Bryan.
Bryan Cross: They didn't use the word 'catholic' of schismatics.
If you want to read what I have written about apostolic succession in the Church Fathers, see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/11/sola-scriptura-a-dialogue-between-michael-horton-and-bryan-cross/#ApostolicSuccession
Me: Of course not, because schismatics then weren't viewed as Christians. Heretics, it's pretty clear, were non-Christians. The Arians had stepped beyond the veil of essentials, to put it in modern Protestant vernacular.
I consider modern Roman Catholics as properly catholic, as I do Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptists, and Eastern Orthodox because they don't hold to heretical views, ie views that would take them outside of Christianity. Ergo, they are all catholic, but not all Roman Catholic.
Course the middle of my web of doctrine, the essentials, is pretty small. FYI, the official Roman Catholic stance on the issue is that Protestants are "separated brethren". Their semantics are different than mine and Michael's, but the idea is the same.
Bryan Cross: Do you agree with St. Optatus on schism?http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/06/st-optatus-on-schism-and-the-bishop-of-rome/
Separated brethren are still in schism. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/2089.htm
Me: Again, using different semantics, Bryan. Anyone who proclaims Christ as Lord and has the Holy Spirit are in communion in my mind. Ergo RCs and Protestants are in spiritual communion. The man made idea of communion, belonging to a specific institution, is a different issue. I think the fathers would agree, and that's why they set boundaries in the councils.
Bryan Cross: That's because you believe Christ founded only an invisible Church, while for Catholics, (and the Church Fathers, e.g. St. Cyprian, St. Optatus, St. Augustine) Christ founded a visible Church.
Me: No I don't, but thanks for putting words in my mouth. The church is visible in the One we proclaim, and in the works that we do. Upon that rock Christ founded the church. ;-)
Bryan Cross: If there were no visible Church, but only visible Christians, what would be different?
Me: The Church is the Christians.
Bryan Cross: I have explained why Protestantism has no visible catholic Church here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/09/why-protestantism-has-no-visible-catholic-church/
Me: I'll try to read that at some point, but it seems to me you're just begging the question with regard to what the church is. Why can't I say that the RC institution is just Rites, priests, bishops, and Popes, and not a true visible Church? The logic seems the same.
Bryan Cross: Because an organizational unity is something different from a mere conceptual unity [e.g. the set of all Christians]. Tom Brown and I have explained why the Church cannot be merely the set of all Christians, in our article "Christ Founded a Visible Church."
Me: Is it Bryan? What makes the Catholic unity organizational and not just conceptual. Looks like a distinction without difference to me. Because at base, organization is pretty dependent on how we're conceiving of something, which again would make your assertion question begging.. [I realize he's trying to get at the Philosophical concept of what is a proper entity with regard to its constituent parts. The problem he has is that he's begging the question for his view, saying that the protestants aren't composed in the proper manner. My point is trying to get him to see that his "proper composition" of Popes, rites, bishops, etc is no less arbitrary a standard to consider a composed church than is individual believers who have the Holy Spirit. That's why we have to rely on divine revelation to tell us what the church is (1 Corinthians 12:13)]
[The protestant view seems to be supported] by the stress of the Greek word translated into church. Literally, "an assembly" or "called-out ones."
Bryan Cross: Here's an example. A set of atoms scattered around is not a genuine unity, but is rather plurality conceived as a unity (i.e. a set), whereas the set of atoms that composes your body comprise an actual unity, i.e. you.
Me: I agree. Now, why shouldn't one conceive of the body of believers as that unity of atoms?
Bryan, I can't go read through all of your blog posts regarding the issue and get back to you with prompt replies. It makes the discussion too cumbersome. Can you give me your summarized versions of your arguments?
Bryan Cross: I don't need prompt replies, and I don't have time to summarize them in FB chatboxes. I need to get back to work. This issue isn't capable of being worked out in a 30 minute chat session - it takes a long time to read then think about all this. Thanks for talking.
Me: In the meantime, my Biblical argument would start with 1 Cor 12:13.
So no response to my last post? Why should we consider individual men which constitute an institution known as the Roman Catholic Magesterium as properly "THE CHURCH ®" and not consider individual men (and women) who believe in Christ as "the Church"?
I don't see how your argument has any footing.
BTW, I read your post, and it's just relying on your question begging assumption. It's how you're conceiving of what the Church is. It's a semantic and definitional difference, and I don't see it supported in the idea of what the church is set forth by the apostles.