I thought I would submit a question here that I have thought of in my attempts to advance a convincing argument towards our separated protestant brethren. Thought you might all be able to help. Here it goes:
The question concerns the “keys of the kingdom”, as mentioned in Matthew. We can agree that “function” of the keys of the kingdom is related to a person’s acceptance or rejection from an inheritance in God’s kingdom, which is presently assembled in the churches (universally as the one Body).
When we read Matthew 18, we get this very “local” sense of the “keys of the kingdom”, in the simple matter of 1 impenitent sinner who is banished from the Church community, and consequently banished from inheritance in God’s kingdom. The implication is that one enters the “kingdom” through assembling (or communing) with the local church (or simply into the universal church- see for instance the Ethiopian enuch).
Can we agree thus far?
It is also implied that one enters and remains within the kingdom of God, or the local Church community, by means of sanctification (or repentance from sin, understood in it’s initial expression) and the constant attainment of holiness, which is love to God and one another, and that the “keys of the kingdom” function to retain this essential character of the kingdom and the local Church.
What I find amongst our fellow Catholic apologists, as well as Catholic literature, is a huge focus on the “keys of the kingdom” as it is strictly related to the Papacy and the universal Catholic Church above the local communities, whereas in Matthew, the very gospel where we get this phrase, sees an application at the local level. Moreover, the “keys of the kingdom” are given strong relation to the “moral character” of the congregants within the local congregation, and this fact itself pushes modern Catholic concerns, it seems to me, a bit farther away from the fullness of meaning for which the Lord had intended for the “keys of the kingdom”.
In other words, take a quick glimpse at this rather unsophisticated canvass: Let’s say the Roman Catholic Church can claim it’s succession from the foundation of the apostles (Eph 2), and truly has the pedigree of keeping the apostolic deposit of faith unblemished; yet when it comes to discussing the “keys of the kingdom”, the discussion is almost only given application to the worldwide body of doctrine which Catholics “should” believe. And on the other hand, you have the reformation Churches, or even the Orthodox churches, who are no doubt scattered, dispersed, disunified, and fractionalized, but who are nevertheless applying (in claim) the “keys of the kingdom” on a yearly, if not monthly or weekly, basis in banishing, excommunicating, and shunning impenitent sinners from their local assemblies.
It is clear to me from Matthew 18, that the Lord Jesus Himself endorsed this latter application of the keys of the kingdom in the local assembly. I mean, it is Jesus himself who says “let him be to you as a heathen”, which puts this impenitent sinners under the category of the “dogs” from which Jesus said “do not give what is holy to the dogs”. And so, whatever modern reactions many Catholic today would have to the supposed “scandal” of a local baptist Church shunning an excommunicant fornicator, it should not be such that it leads one to accuse that baptist Church of some immoral act (generally speaking), for Jesus himself speaks of this kind of act as obedience to His command (matt 18).
And here is the question
If indeed Jesus sees the functioning of the keys of the kingdom of heaven in the less broader arena of the admittance and banishment of either the repentant or the impenitent from and within the local assemblies (wherever 1 sinner could be brought before the Church) on the basis that those who are unholy have no right to be within the local Church, then how can the present (modern) condition of the Roman Catholic Church supply any confidence to the seeker who notices such a truth? And when I ask this, I am under the assumption, well-informed I would argue, that the Catholic churches today hardly, if ever (and I say this literally), excommunicate sinners from their local assemblies. I mean, if the Catholic Church is in the mission to “convince” the separated brethren of it’s pedigree as Christ’s Church, how can it do so if it’s primary claim, that being to possess the keys of the kingdom, is so poorly exercised as Jesus not only intended, but ordained???