The Church wrote the New Testament in the sense that its authors were all part of the Church and operated within her fold. Their authority comes from the life of the Holy Spirit within the Church. They did not act as isolated individual gurus, seeking the truth for themselves, separate from the community of Christians.
St. Paul was an apostle, but he was not an apostle of tent makers; he was an apostle of the Church.
I'm not sure that I quite understand the last remark, but again, you are casting yourself in opposition to another opinion. It is a false dichotomy. For all of your criticism of the multiplicity of Protestants, you seem to have missed the reality that they do in fact represent a spectrum of viewpoints. The issue again here is not individuals versus communities, but some degree communities against each other, and to some degree the ways in which these communities function.
Consider the general scholarly community. It seeks truth, of the ordinary secular kind. At least it is supposed to, but in fact it is led astray by any number of human frailties, limitations, and out-and-out sin. And the way in which it functions takes this into account, so that there is no absolute authority, and yet in most disciplines it cannot be credibly denied that the state of knowledge has advanced.
The issue in the church is how Christian bodies (and here I don't know how to avoid some very pejorative language-- my apology for the strength of what I am about to say) have arrogated to themselves an absolute authority which runs counter to human nature as it is described at length in scripture. These claims conflict, and these churches have chosen division in attempting to preserve the appearance of unity which is essential to their claims. Heretics are expelled where political power permits, or simply separated from where it does not. That is the history of Orthodoxy, and it is the history of Catholicism.
believe in an invisible church as well as a visible one. If you want to disagree, I cannot accept anything less than an array of patristic sources on this point. The big issue is not the unity of the church, but the unity of the visible
church. It is simply too close to Holy Week to enter into an extended discussion of the arguments for or against it, but I feel you must at least acknowledge that the difference of opinions lies here and not in simply a contrast between Baptists and the Orthodox.
It is also a mistake to divorce Old Testament Israel from the Church and act as if the Church sprung out of nowhere and nothing, subject to the Old Testament.
The Church is the straight-line continuation of Israel, the True Israel of God, the heir to the authority and traditions of the Jews.
is a heresy I'm never going to accept-- at least, not in the way that you seem to be trying to take it. We have the Old Testament from the Jews not as an inheritance, but as a grace. (At least, I'm assuming you are a Gentile.) The entire Acts makes this abundantly clear. The OT is what it is, and any claims of control over it are a flagrant abuse of authority.
The Church is Israel.
I don't know what you mean by "is" here, but if you mean "identical to", that is still a heresy. It is joined to Israel, by grace and through baptism, but it is not identical to Israel.
How is Gnosticism "wrong on its own merits?"
This is too big a question to tackle in a single posting (although I'll take care of Islam in a moment). Let it suffice to say that, using the ordinary methods of scholarly inquiry and without appealing to revelation from heaven, I see Gnosticism as creating a mystery religion out of the materials it has pulled from orthodox (small-o) Christianity, combining them with elements of other contemporary mystery religions. It makes statements about the nature of the material which evidence to me suggests are incorrect. I don't regard this sort of derivation as a legitimate path of religious inquiry.
It is wrong because it is a perversion of authentic Christianity, not because it was not a system that reasonable people could believe in.
But it is precisely that word "perversion" that is crucial. Gnosticism does not appear (to me at any rate) to connect back to Jesus in the way that the orthodox (small-o) tradition does. I believe it is
unreasonable to assert that Gnosticism understands Jesus better than orthodoxy (or Orthodoxy, for that matter) does-- not just because it disagrees with the orthodox tradition, but it is also derivative of it and tries to use it in a way that is intellectually not only invalid but perhaps even dishonest.
It is wrong precisely because it runs counter to Orthodox Christianity, just as every other religion is wrong for the same reason.
Again, I think you are overcompensating. On a metaphysical level, Gnosticism is wrong because it disagrees with the truth; Orthodoxy is right (at least on the important matters
) because it teaches the truth. And part of the reason it teaches the truth-- a crucial part-- is because historically and organizationally it is closer to the origin of that truth than Gnosticism is; conversely, part of the wrongness of of Gnosticism is that it stands a further remove from that origin and indeed specifically seems to have misconstrued what it received through Orthodoxy. Even if Orthodoxy were wrong, it would not make Gnosticism correct.
All of this is distinct from the issue of determining
which is right and which is wrong. Towards the end I hinted at the ways in which one is related to the other. I think you are slipping here into asserting a relationship which is improper and even untrue. The truth about Jesus is the Truth is and foremost and to ages of ages because it is
true. No person, no church, nothing below the Godhead Itself can change that. Jesus is God Incarnate because the Spirit made it so, not because the church declared it so. The church's authority is limited to repeating that truth; it cannot make
it, and it cannot change it. Indeed, Orthodox theologians make this argument about other issues (see especially ordination of women).
Liekwise, Nicea is "right" (and when you start talking about the formulae of the councils, "right" starts to be a dangerous word for reasons that are too subtle to go into here) because God really "is" as the Nicene formula describes Him. That's the criterion that matters, because again the church doesn't control the nature of God and could not have made Him "different" by choosing a different formula. Fundamentally the JWs are wrong because what they say about God isn't true, not because it happens to disagree with what the church teaches. Islam is wrong here for the same reason, and moreover demonstrates this wrongness by making claims about what Christianity holds which aren't true and by making statements from scripture and about scripture which do not withstand rational scrutiny.
Into what religion can logic fully bring one?
Again, this is not my position. A rational person would conclude that, given the variety of religions and religious argument, that reason and ordinary human inquiry on their own are not enough to answer religious questions with confidence. (Atheism, for instance, is clearly a position of faith, not one of reason.) But at the same time, if you are going to argue, you have asserted that reason has some position in the development of religion. (Not all religions do-- see Zen Buddhism as a counter-example.) The teaching of the faith is then (as indeed it must be in Christianity) something that is not irrational, nor entirely rational either, but (if examined) more subtle and complex.
After Holy Week I may attempt a summary of Anglican thought. In Holy Week I cannot do it, and in any case I would prefer to make one organized presentation. I will not attempt to defend it against all comers; I don't have the time, and this is not the place.
As for the reason behind my critique, I believe my private message should have made it apparent. If not, then a private exchange is the proper medium for discussion of that, not this forum.