And the Verdict Is. . . .

Posted by on March 7, 2013 in Church Discipline, Confessionalism, Ecclesiology, Featured, Federal Vision, Orthodoxy, Presbyterianism, Reformed Theology, The PCA | 58 comments

The Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA — which is the denomination’s highest court — finally reached its verdict in the case against Pastor Peter Leithart (a case that has been ongoing since 2007, and which I prosecuted personally in the Pacific Northwest Presbytery). Although I do  know what their ruling was, I will refrain from divulging it until the SJC issues its Report and reasons for their decision.

The Westminster Confession says:

It belongs to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same; which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.

.

All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both (xxxi.3-4).

I would not be speaking out of turn to point out the obvious fact that one side in this ongoing and serious struggle is going to be happy with the SJC’s decision, and the other side will not be. After all, the side that I myself represented considers Reformed confessional orthodoxy itself to be on the line, while those sympathetic with the Federal Vision have felt as though they were unjustly persecuted by people whose views on Reformed theology are unduly narrow, indeed narrower than Scripture itself.

While I obviously no longer have a dog in this fight, I will nonetheless be interested to see how people on both sides react to the ruling once it becomes public. Will one side focus on the first paragraph above, exclaiming victoriously that since Christ has appointed synods and councils to adjudicate doctrinal matters in the church, and since the court sided with them, that therefore they were in the right? And will the losing side appeal to the second paragraph cited, reminding the winners that ecclesiastical courts’ importance notwithstanding, that they still may err, and in this case have indeed done so?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. But as we watch this thing unfold, we should certainly be in prayer for all involved, that Christ would bring peace to those embattled in this controversy in the PCA, as well as to all Christians everywhere, that the divisions in the Body of Christ might be healed.

 

 

58 Comments

  1. Tease.

  2. While you cite from one collection of truth I’d cite from a more enduring collection:

    Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Psalms 5:1-12 ESV)

  3. “I am held captive to the Word of God.

    Here I stand. I can do no other.”

    Sometimes Popes and Councils and Synods are wrong, and we have to hold the line.

  4. Yes, let’s pray that the divisions in the Body of Christ might be healed and that the Pope himself would bow and kiss the feet of Jesus Christ instead of usurping the rights and prerogatives of Jesus Christ.

  5. I don’t intend the following to cause any offense to Jason or anybody else who has invested their time and talents into the case.

    As I’ve been out of the PCA for the better part of a decade now, I wonder if my perception of the importance of this decision is off kilter.

    No doubt that this is important to Peter Leithart and his family. But apart from that, I can’t help but think that this is all a big nothing.

    I mean, besides the fact that the PCA itself is simply a very small American denomination and beside the fact that they’re pronouncements do not matter to the vast majority of Christendom and beside the fact that Peter Leithart, if found guilty, can find a home preaching as before in some other small American denomination….

    Does this really matter to the average PCA lay person? I would make a case that 95% plus of PCA church goers are not even aware of any of this.

    My dad has been a PCA deacon for about 10 years. I asked him about the Leithart trial. He had never heard of it. Ditto for my uncle who is also a PCA deacon. Ditto for all my former friends and family who are still in the PCA. The only people who I know that have an opinion are people who I would affectionately label as ‘theology geeks.’ Basically, the people that care are people who are Reformed Presbyterian and spend a good part of an average week cruising Reformed theology blogs.

  6. Sean,

    To be fair, though, that could be said about the doctrinal debates and ecclesial judgments on those debates at a lot of times and places in Church history. For instance, precious few Catholics today, I’d say less than one percent, know or care about the doctrinal statements issued by the CDF. But that doesn’t render those statements unimportant in the life of the Church.

    Andrew

  7. Andrew,

    Good point.

  8. Jason, do you know when the SJC decision will be made public?

  9. Andrew,

    I understand what you’re saying, but the CDF cannot be compared to anything on the PCA.
    The main reason is because CDF talks with Magisterial authority while the PCA does not. The PCA can err, just as the WCF says Ecumenical Councils could, and the PCA doesn’t have real jurisdiction over any territory. So as Sean said, Leithart could go off and start his own denomination the moment he is not welcome by the PCA, and this move would be entirely legitimate and beyond reproach from a Protestant perspective.

  10. Joe: No, I don’t know when the final report will be issued. Once it is I will provide a link, though. Should make for an interesting read.

  11. Sean,

    You are absolutely correct – there are very few in even the Reformed community who will understand or care about what is happening with the Leithart situation. And I agree with Andrew P as well – precious few Catholics care about what the CDF has to say. So it seems to me that we are both people who have migrated to rather small corners of our respective communions.

    Something that gives me hope about the PCA is that there are enough of us that care about such things to drive the process of removing those of our members who no longer hold to or care about our confessional positions. So there is still a distinction to be made from the Church and everyone else. It seems to me that Catholicism as a whole as well as much of Evangelical Protestantism is not interested in defending their faith from intruders, at least not in any visible sense. It’s one thing to say that your communion holds to certain doctrines, but the real test of what your communion believes about the doctrines in question is how they deal with those who explicitly reject them.

    Cheers….

  12. Andrew M,

    I would caution putting Catholicism on the same plane as Protestantism, since the PCA holds no objective authority and cannot define doctrine. Leithart’s salvation and pastoral authority will remain unaffected whether he’s kicked out or not. The same is certainly not true of an unfaithful Catholic.

  13. the PCA holds no objective authority and cannot define doctrine.

    Nick,

    What is not objective about the confessional positions of the PCA? And why does the WCF (or for that matter any of the other Reformed confessions) not define doctrine? Let’s take the first chapter of the WCF – how could you possibly say that the WCF position on Scripture is not objective and does not define doctrine? As a for example, either you believe that Scriptures were divinely inspired or you do not. What is not objective about this and in what sense is doctrine not being defined?

    My issue with Roman Catholicism on this account, is not that the confessional positions of the RCC do not define doctrine or are not objective, but that there is no, or at least little, enforcement of the doctrinal positions of the RCC. So whether a Catholic holds to the brand of conservatism that you do, or holds to some of the many versions of liberalism in the RCC, or one of the sede types of ultra-conservatism, or some other version of Catholicism one might find in the worldwide RCC, precious few Roman Catholics get removed from the RCC. So what does it mean to be “Catholic” if there is such little enforcement of the doctrinal positions of Rome? Not much from our vantage point.

    Leithart’s salvation and pastoral authority will remain unaffected whether he’s kicked out or not. The same is certainly not true of an unfaithful Catholic.

    So you call another Roman Catholic “unfaithful” and he calls you “unfaithful.” But what does this mean if the RCC does not adjudicate and you both remain in good standing as members within the RCC? Do you not see the importance of the kind of thing that the PCA is doing with Leithart? Don’t you wish that the RCC would do something with those who reject your confessional positions as we do with those who reject ours?

  14. Andrew,

    Good point.

  15. Andrew McCallum –

    I get frustrated when I hear protestants say things like this:

    My issue with Roman Catholicism on this account, is not that the confessional positions of the RCC do not define doctrine or are not objective, but that there is no, or at least little, enforcement of the doctrinal positions of the RCC.

    The reason I get frustrated is that we hear from other Christians that we are too severe in our canonical penalties. People get upset that we don’t use Church discipline enough, but then they freak out when we actually have used it. Take Martin Luther’s excommunication as one example. There is a specific instance when we enforced Church discipline in order to protect orthodoxy, yet protestants (and I assume you) are opposed to it in this instance. Then there are all the Anathemas in Trent that the same group of protestants are offended by.

    This is a Catch 22. We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. Times we don’t excommunicate we are accused of not being strict enough. Times we do excommunicate we are accused of being too strict. The fact that we hear both sides so frequently tells me that maybe we are right to be in the middle.

    What kind of doctrinal enforcement are you looking for?

  16. Sean,

    Well it means something to the ex-pca minister, who writes this blog.

    Your words struck a chord, however, with me. I almost wrote a post just like yours, over at old life theological society, on the one where hart says protestants can weigh in on who is the next pope. Their money is on the Italian.

    Do typical lay catholics care who the next pope is? My morning news does, and its all I hear about every day as I listen to the news as I drive to work.

    This cradle protestant checks out, but your point is well taken. The media, whether cbs news, or CCC, wants me to care about these theological matters.

    Jason ends his tease well, with a call for further peace and unity in the church. Amen! Maybe hart and stellman still enjoy a good stogie when no one watches? Probably as likely as RC sproul golfing wit your next pope.

    We christians press on, enough of my words.

  17. Fr. Bryan, but there are some of us who respect Trent’s anathema, because it shows you understand what we’re saying and that it is not what you are saying, that justification is vital doctrine, that somebody has to be right and somebody has to be wrong, and those that are wrong earn strong opposition.

    And what we get frustrated with is V2’s separated brethren language, because it takes away with its hand what Trent gave (or took away, depending) with the first.

    So what are we looking for? Some consistency and an end to moving the goal posts.

  18. Andrew M,

    You asked me:

    What is not objective about the confessional positions of the PCA? And why does the WCF (or for that matter any of the other Reformed confessions) not define doctrine?

    What I’m trying to say is that the PCA doesn’t even claim to hold Magisterial authority, and if it did make the claim it would be outed as a crypto-Papism. So the only “authority” the PCA holds is that of a voluntary club, where if you want to join the club you play by the club rules, but otherwise one’s orthodoxy and salvation doesn’t depend on PCA membership in the slightest. Same thing for the WCF, a Reformed individual is free to pick and choose which parts of the WCF he wants to follow and what he doesn’t and his salvation and orthodoxy is completely unaffected.

    Leithart could go and start his own denomination, the PCA2013, and he would hold just as much authority as the PCA.

    Let’s take the first chapter of the WCF – how could you possibly say that the WCF position on Scripture is not objective and does not define doctrine? As a for example, either you believe that Scriptures were divinely inspired or you do not. What is not objective about this and in what sense is doctrine not being defined?

    The point is the WCF only has authority in so far as the Protestant already agrees with what is being taught or not. Otherwise, the WCF is a mere human document, written at whims of a club of men 400 years ago. How does or can such a document speak for all of Christendom? If I got together 100 of my best friends and we came up with a Confession, it would hold just as much authority as the WCF.

    From the standpoint of personal conscience, a serious problem I have with the first chapter of the WCF is that it is one of the most outrageously unbiblical statements I’ve come across. If you compare the official footnotes of the Scriptures quoted in the WCF Chapter 1 to what the WCF Ch1 was actually saying, you’d be embarrassed by the Mormonesque style of prooftexting.

    My issue with Roman Catholicism on this account, is not that the confessional positions of the RCC do not define doctrine or are not objective, but that there is no, or at least little, enforcement of the doctrinal positions of the RCC. … So what does it mean to be “Catholic” if there is such little enforcement of the doctrinal positions of Rome? Not much from our vantage point.

    But “enforcement” doesn’t determine orthodoxy. What determines orthodoxy is an official authoritative teaching body that can formulate and promulgate dogmas that the faithful are bound to believe.

    Consider this analogy that shows the fallacy in your claim: In the McCallum household there are are 2 parents and 4 children. Not everyone in the household is equal though: the parents make the rules, not the children. But let’s say, for whatever reason, the children start disregarding their parents’ rules and continue like this for a year. By your logic, there would be no McCallum family, for there is no discipline. By your logic, any of the children could then stand up and declare themselves the new parent. But that’s obviously nonsense. The original rules are still in place and the parents still have their parental authority to govern the family. Failure to discipline doesn’t change that, though it does speak negatively about their quality of parenting.

    Leithart’s salvation and pastoral authority will remain unaffected whether he’s kicked out or not. The same is certainly not true of an unfaithful Catholic.

    So you call another Roman Catholic “unfaithful” and he calls you “unfaithful.” But what does this mean if the RCC does not adjudicate and you both remain in good standing as members within the RCC? Do you not see the importance of the kind of thing that the PCA is doing with Leithart? Don’t you wish that the RCC would do something with those who reject your confessional positions as we do with those who reject ours?

    You are missing the point though. The RCC holds the authority to adjudicate, and whoever doesn’t follow that official ruling has put themselves out of the Church and jeopardized their salvation. In the PCA situation, all they are doing is kicking Leithart out of their private club, but he remains as firmly Christian as he has always been.

    The Catholic Church is the Body of Apostles and Elders of Acts 15. The PCA is not and does not claim such authority. The CC is akin to the McCallum parents and the PCA is akin to the McCallum children pretending to play the role of parents.

  19. Butting in (you don’t have to respond)

    Nick,
    Protestants hold Scripture alone to be authoritative. Yes some reformed dudes add on the WCF, like I have, in my ordination (still current).

    The WCF and our style of proof texting is offensive to you? I’m willing to hear you out. Just so you know, I think that chapter is some of the most beautiful language I came across, in my own experience as a cradle protestant.

    Will cradle prots and cats be talking over com boxes another 500 from now? We can both hope so.

    Peace,
    AB

  20. Hello AB,

    The problem with saying “Protestants hold Scripture alone to be authoritative” is that this is insufficient without a Magisterial authority. For example, take any given doctrine, Baptism, Eucharist, Divorce, which we know Scripture speaks on. Without a Magisterial authority, you cannot say which of these are Essentials and which are Non-Essentials. In fact, it is this very issue which is tearing down Protestantism more and more every day, as they keep reassigning things to the Non-Essential category out of the realization that they cannot make the call as to what is supposed to be “Essential”.

    You asked:

    The WCF and our style of proof texting is offensive to you? I’m willing to hear you out.

    What I was trying to get across is that the proof-texts the WCF quotes do not in fact say what the WCF is teaching, especially in regards to Chapter 1 (On Sola Scriptura). All I’m saying is that it seems as if few Reformed have actually sat down and compared the WCF prooftexts with what the WCF is actually saying, because if they did, they’d see many propositions are not backed up in Scripture.

    Take a few examples from Chapter 1:

    In 1:1 it says Divine Revelation was to be committed “wholly unto writing,” meaning that there came a time when all inspired oral teaching was going to be enscripturated. The WCF in footnote 4 quotes the following verses:

    PRO 22:19 That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee. 20 Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, 21 That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee? LUK 1:3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. ROM 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. MAT 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. ISA 8:19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

    Notice that these verses don’t say anything close to that idea. These verses speak of some inspired things being written down, but that’s not the same as having all inspired teachings eventually “committed wholly unto writing.” Consider especially the fact all these verses except for Luke 1:3-4 (which is only talking about Luke’s Gospel and Acts) are referring to the Old Testament times.

    In WCF 1:2, it proceeds to list the books of the Bible. Now where does it get this ‘table of contents’? The proof-texts don’t address this.

    In WCF 1:3, it says the so-called Apocrypha is not Scripture. But again, the proof-texts don’t address this point.

    In WCF 1:5, it says the ultimate criteria of determining what books are Scripture is the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. Yet the proof-texts given say nothing about discerning which books are Scripture in that manner.

    In WCF 1:9, it says “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” This is a very big claim to make, and yet look at the Scriptural proofs given:

    2PE 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. ACT 15:15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up. [24] MATT. 22:29,31. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying. EPH. 2:20. And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone. With ACTS 28:25. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers.

    These verses say nothing about “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself,” nor do they suggest that any disputed text will have a corresponding “more clear” text elsewhere to consult.

    So any Protestant wanting just to convince THEMSELF of the “Biblical basis” of the WCF teachings will be rudely awakened to see the numerous things taught that have very flimsy Biblical backing.

  21. You’ve misinterpreted the thrust of WCF 1.5.

    If you think its about determining which books are canonical, you don’t understand what its saying, and Heb. 4:12 actually fits quite well.

    Can you flesh out what you mean by mormonesque, Nick.

    No biggee, thanks for chatting.

  22. At least, that’s my opinion. I always found the question of how we know, to be the thrust. Now really, enough of my words. I get the whole Mormon thing. Peace, Cats.

  23. Ok, one more. The question before I hijacked (and Nick kindly obliged) is more broadly what is authoritative and how do we know. That’s not an easy question. Reformed bloggers care about the conclave and catholic bloggers care about reformed courts. Maybe, Jason, this caring is a first step in implementing your last paragraph.

    Trying to end on a high note with you,
    AB

  24. But “enforcement” doesn’t determine orthodoxy. What determines orthodoxy is an official authoritative teaching body that can formulate and promulgate dogmas that the faithful are bound to believe.

    Consider this analogy that shows the fallacy in your claim: In the McCallum household there are 2 parents and 4 children. Not everyone in the household is equal though: the parents make the rules, not the children. But let’s say, for whatever reason, the children start disregarding their parents’ rules and continue like this for a year. By your logic, there would be no McCallum family, for there is no discipline. By your logic, any of the children could then stand up and declare themselves the new parent. But that’s obviously nonsense. The original rules are still in place and the parents still have their parental authority to govern the family. Failure to discipline doesn’t change that, though it does speak negatively about their quality of parenting.

    Actually, what determines orthodoxy is Apostolic tradition. The real question is, where do we find it?

    Enforcement is the necessary consequence of orthodoxy, without which orthodoxy is a meaningless concept. This is particularly true of Rome. If your church is the vehicle of salvation on earth, but you don’t care at all whether your members hold to and practice the faith, then you are nothing but a paper tiger. When doctrines are not enforced, that proves that the church does not really believe that the faithful are bound to believe and practice anything they say. As long as you show up for baptism, confirmation, and Mass every so often, you’re golden. Make sure to put the money in the offering plate, too. We won’t ask questions as long as we can count you on the membership rolls. We’ll even let you participate in the central mystery of the church—the Eucharist—even when, in direct violation of essential Roman Catholic moral teaching, you advocate laws that permit abortion at any point and for any reason up and until birth.

    Now, a lot of this trouble may not in itself invalidate Rome’s claims and may reflect inconsistency more than anything else, so to some degree your family analogy makes sense for Rome. But the fact of the matter is that Rome could infallibly declare tomorrow that Muhammad was the Arabic Messiah or that Jesus is merely human, and you could not complain. If the Magisterium is infallible, you cannot hold it accountable. The New Testament is clear that heretics will arise in the church, and it never says it is impossible that they would get a hold of high offices. If the Magisterium declares dogma and infallibly interprets itself, you have no recourse to even consider the current church’s failure to excommunicate a deficiency or failure. You are simply not being a good Roman Catholic if you make that evaluation.

    A better analogy would be that in Rome’s system, the McCallum household can only be a true family if everybody stays under the same roof, and that they remain a family even when the children have gone behind their parents’ back to get their name changed and insist on violating the traditions that make the McCallum family a family but insist on claiming the McCallum name simply because they are still living in the same house.

    In Protestantism, the kids move out to different houses, and some even change their names. But they are upfront about it, and nevertheless hold onto the core traditions that have made the McCallum family a family. Periodically, they get together for a family reunion. Andrew’s family might drive a blue minivan and prefer sausage on their pizza. His brother’s family might drive a red sedan and prefer mushrooms. But there remains no question that both of them are McCallums at the very core, and any stranger who took a moment to ask them a few pertinent questions would realize that. In Rome, you might think that the family is a family because they all live together, but once you start asking pertinent questions, the answers are so different on the family’s history and its most prized possessions that you wonder which one of them is lying about being a McCallum.

  25. Nick,

    The RCC holds the authority to adjudicate, and whoever doesn’t follow that official ruling has put themselves out of the Church and jeopardized their salvation. In the PCA situation, all they are doing is kicking Leithart out of their private club, but he remains as firmly Christian as he has always been.

    1. Historically, yes that is what Roman Catholicism taught. But since one does not even have to be a Roman Catholic theologian to teach Roman Catholic theology any more, the first claim is very, very hollow. Furthermore, one can come to the conclusion that Roman Catholic theology is deficient and become a Protestant, but even that won’t jeopardize anyone’s salvation anymore, since Rome views us as separated brethren.

    Nick, I don’t know if you are a cradle Roman Catholic or not. Jason and some of the other commenters here are not, and as new converts, still view the Roman church through rose-colored glasses. But Vatican 2 and its declarations on non-Christian religions and Protestants have essentially vacated Rome’s claims about being the conduit of salvation for the world. You simply cannot say that one has jeopardized their salvation by leaving the Roman church when you swing the gate of heaven wide open to non-Roman Catholics, especially when discipline and excommunication are almost unheard of in the modern Roman church.

  26. Nick,

    2. In the PCA, one can come to Baptist views of baptism, teach them, and then be kicked out if he insists that they are within the bounds of the Westminster Standards. In such case, one’s salvation would not really be in question by the PCA because the PCA is actually honest about the fact that it holds to a hierarchy of beliefs, not all of which are essential for salvation. For all the bluster that Rome puts up about being the one true church, needing regeneration through the sacraments, etc., etc., the fact remains is that the modern Roman Catholic Church also believes that not all tenets of the faith are equally necessary for salvation. The fact that you allow that Protestants can have a share in salvation despite holding many views at odds with Rome just proves my point. If you really thought that a proper understanding of the papacy, baptism, penance, etc., etc. was necessary to salvation, there is no way you would open the door to heaven to any one except communing members of Rome.

    The PCA, like nearly every Protestant church with roots in the Magisterial Reformation, recognizes that while all doctrine is important, not all of it is necessary for salvation. That is why you see PCA pastors and members regularly working with Reformed Baptists, the URCNA, confessional Anglicans, and even Lutherans. There are even charismatics thrown in there every now and again (such as from the Sovereign Grace churches). Differences, while significant, may preclude denominational unity at this point, but they don’t preclude working together to plant churches, conduct evangelism, train pastors, etc. There is agreement on fundamental doctrines such as the Trinity, justification, the deity of Christ, the incarnation, the shape of the canon, and more. In Rome, you have a denominational structure that papers over significant differences in even many of the aforementioned doctrines. When your church allows a lesbian pagan to teach theology at a Jesuit University for decades without blinking an eye, you simply cannot expect anyone to take the claims of Rome seriously.

    When such things are brought up, the claims of an unbroken tradition, apostolic succession, the unity of the faith in communion with the successor of St. Peter, the existence of a body to make us certain which doctrines are essential, etc., sound really nice. But the emperor has no clothes.

  27. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    But the fact of the matter is that Rome could infallibly declare tomorrow that Muhammad was the Arabic Messiah or that Jesus is merely human, and you could not complain. If the Magisterium is infallible, you cannot hold it accountable. The New Testament is clear that heretics will arise in the church, and it never says it is impossible that they would get a hold of high offices. If the Magisterium declares dogma and infallibly interprets itself, you have no recourse to even consider the current church’s failure to excommunicate a deficiency or failure. You are simply not being a good Roman Catholic if you make that evaluation.

    Unlike the Protestants, the Catholic response to the hypothetical that false teachers could possibly insinuate themselves within the Magisterium is not to say, “Well, then there is no Magisterium.”

    With that mentality, I’d think that the Protestant response to the fact that there is no extant Apostolic manuscripts and to the hypotheticals that there could have been universal textual corruption or that all the Bibles in the world could theoretically be destroyed would be to say, “Well, then there is no Bible.”

  28. The reason I get frustrated is that we hear from other Christians that we are too severe in our canonical penalties. People get upset that we don’t use Church discipline enough, but then they freak out when we actually have used it.

    Fr. Bryan,

    Like Zrim, I think that given the RCC assumptions she should have excommunicated Luther and could not possible have done otherwise. But today Rome has even greater heretics in her fold that she does nothing about. Protestantism and Catholicism have the same basic problem in that there are all sort of folks who see themselves as faithful to the historic Christian faith but deny what our respective communions hold as central to the faith. The Leithart case is one example of a Reformed body that takes confessional vows seriously and holds her members accountable. The Catholics look at the case and say that it does not matter because Leithart can go and join some other denomination. And this is true. But at least the PCA is taking confessional vows seriously. So what happens to the multitude of Catholic clergy and laity holding to belief systems outside of what the RCC defines as orthodox? Well for the most part nothing. So while the Reformed generally discipline their liberals and they leave, the Catholics keep the liberals within their ranks, and everyone gets to wear the “Catholic” badge despite their belief system.

    Now I’m sure if the RCC started to do some serious house cleaning the situation would be similar to what happens in Protestantism – there would be formal splits. But this has not happened. But they don’t do this house cleaning so there are no formal splits. But is this any kind of solution to what is happening in the Protestant world?

  29. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    But the fact of the matter is that Rome could infallibly declare tomorrow that Muhammad was the Arabic Messiah or that Jesus is merely human, and you could not complain. If the Magisterium is infallible, you cannot hold it accountable. The New Testament is clear that heretics will arise in the church, and it never says it is impossible that they would get a hold of high offices. If the Magisterium declares dogma and infallibly interprets itself, you have no recourse to even consider the current church’s failure to excommunicate a deficiency or failure. You are simply not being a good Roman Catholic if you make that evaluation.

    Pardon me, as I want to expand upon this a bit further.

    I want to mention (reflecting that which I’ve said in another thread) is that the Catholic ‘doctrinal praxis’ is actually a dynamic tension between the Magisterium and the Sensus Catholicus. So, your portrayal of Catholics as being helplessly prostrate before the whims of an autocratic behemoth is simply not an accurate representation of Catholic life. And so, if Magisterial decisions were made which outraged the Sensus of the Catholic faithful, then no, the faithful’s only recourse would not be to servilely roll over and play dead.

    What I am attempting to convey by stressing the importance of ‘dynamic tension’ is that the Catholic understanding of ‘Church’ is, first and foremost, “a Sacred Culture which is ontologically identified with a Founding Person”. Like any living culture, it is not reducible to a top-down authoritarianism nor is it reducible to a democratic will-of-the-people. Just like a living person, it is not reducible to an “individual” or to a “collective”. The Church is a living dynamic, an organism, Who cannot be reduced to a theory, an outline or a schema, just as other organic realities (such as the Natural Family) cannot be similarly circumscribed.

    However, the Protestant Reformers, as prophets of the Enlightenment spirit, engaged with zest in just this sort of reduction by attempting to isolate the living Church within the boundaries of a ‘schema’, something akin to a flowchart. A project worthy of the fiercest Social Engineers, the Protestant “planned community” lacks the interdependent organs of a living being.

    The Church, like the Person of Christ, is not a system. It can’t be captured in a schema, filed on a shelf, and sustained as an abstraction. It is not something to be pulled out at need, when ‘aggregates of individuals’ feel inclined to figure out ‘how to do church’ based upon the template of Theory.

  30. And Nick, thanks not only for chatting, but putting some real thought into a document which was important in my coming to know Christ more. I’m happy to discuss more about what you’ve written about to me, but would prefer to over email instead of on a Catholic blog. Call me lazy, but I simply don’t have any chip on my shoulder or point to prove. At least on my good days. 🙂

    Ciao

  31. adb40895123 at yahoo.com

  32. Nick,

    That’s a nice thing to say, but it just proves my point that even in Roman Catholicism, it is the individual who is making the decision as what to believe. If the Roman pontiff can make an infallible declaration that outrages the Roman faithful, and they have recourse to object to it, then infallibility is a complete joke. But then again, given that the Roman definition of infallibility can mean whatever you want it to mean, Rome can always wriggle their way out of what they have said previously.

    The church as a living organism in ontological communion with its Living Head is not objectionable from a Protestant perspective depending on how that is qualified. But it is absolutely laughable that the Reformers were heralds of the Enlightenment spirit. Have you ever read what Luther and Calvin said about the capabilities of human reason? Do you not see what traditional Reformed believers say about human reason? The Enlightenment occurred, in part, because people embraced the very thing the Reformers railed against, and that is human autonomy.

    What is ironic is that if any communion is guilty of being infused with the Enlightenment Spirit, it is modern Roman Catholicism. Which biblical commission appoints scholars who by their reason are willing to deny specific points of apostolic testimony in Scripture—yes, that is you Rome! Which communion essentially denies the impact of sin on the human intellect and has a very high regard for human reason unaided by the Spirit of God—yes, that is you Rome! Which communion has a fiercely synergistic view of salvation that amounts to human autonomy—yes, that’s you Rome!

    Again, if Rome would actually discipline people, your comments would have more weight. But since Rome does not, they amount to little more than pious wishful-thinking by those far more jealous for Rome’s honor than its appointed leaders and teachers.

    The emperor has no clothes.

  33. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    That’s a nice thing to say, but it just proves my point that even in Roman Catholicism, it is the individual who is making the decision as what to believe. If the Roman pontiff can make an infallible declaration that outrages the Roman faithful, and they have recourse to object to it, then infallibility is a complete joke. But then again, given that the Roman definition of infallibility can mean whatever you want it to mean, Rome can always wriggle their way out of what they have said previously.

    I cannot teach him. They boy has no patience.

    You really need to follow my arguments by building off of my other posts. I feel like Jason: Everything which I’ve said before is, to you, as if I’ve never even said it. Seriously, I’m not going to build a worldview for you in every post. Pay attention to what the Catholics say. Keep up or keep on.

    Firstly, the overwhelming majority of Magesterial decisions are not infallible. Secondly, as one example, even a Pope could go nutzo. The charism of Infallibility is no protection against senility or insanity. The Church would deal with it in some way, simply because the faith is vested throughout the entirety of the Church, throughout this Sacred Culture, and not in just one man. Like I said, the Magesterium and the Sensus Catholicus exist in tension within the Catholic paradigm.

    But you wouldn’t know that because you paint a church in which the faithful are dependent paupers waiting for crumbs of wisdom to fall from the papal mouth. But that’s just not the case. The Pope, as important and necessary as he is, simply isn’t the unbalanced top-down autocrat of your imagination. You portray a fragile church that is unknown to Catholics.

    The details of this are pointless to discuss because that which Catholics say of their own church seems to be of no importance to you. To you, no one, not even Catholics, knows what the Catholic Faith actually is. (But here’s a hint: The Catholic Faith is more than a series of doctrinal beliefs and canonical formulations; It is a lifestyle, a living and dynamic praxis. As long as you continue to look at it as an abstract belief system, you will be looking in the wrong direction.)

    Robert wrote:

    But it is absolutely laughable that the Reformers were heralds of the Enlightenment spirit. Have you ever read what Luther and Calvin said about the capabilities of human reason? Do you not see what traditional Reformed believers say about human reason? The Enlightenment occurred, in part, because people embraced the very thing the Reformers railed against, and that is human autonomy.

    Reformistic thinking declared a radical and opposing discontinuity between the Natural and the Supernatural Spheres. Nature was autonomous in itself (Natural Men can do ‘natural’ or ‘material’ good which is “of good use to themselves and others”) but was positively opposed to the Spiritual Realm (Natural Men are spiritually evil, though not as evil as they could be.) The Enlightenment only ran with this dichotomizing tendency. By forgetting the Spiritual Realm entirely (which was discontinuous from Nature and, so, was out of reach, anyway), they were able to focus solely upon ‘treating Nature rationally’.

    The only Catholic strain of thought which even approaches the extrinsicism and absolute dichotomism of Reformo-Enlightenment thinking is Late and Neo Scholasticsms’ “Pure Nature”, which however, still insists (since it is orthodoxly Catholic) that Grace is consonant with Nature ‘in some way’.

  34. AB would like to continue this discussion over email, which is fine with me, and it will also help me get to
    Robert’s comments without having to have multiple discussions going on in this thread.

    Robert said:

    Enforcement is the necessary consequence of orthodoxy, without which orthodoxy is a meaningless concept. … When doctrines are not enforced, that proves that the church does not really believe that the faithful are bound to believe and practice anything they say.

    This is simply logically fallacious, and such logical fallacies have plagued Protestantism from the very beginning. Enforcement does not determine orthodoxy, and such a concept approaches the heresy of Donatism. Orthodoxy is a function of authoritatively interpreting the content of Divine Revelation. It pertains to “teaching”. Enforcement pertains to “disciplining” those who are disobedient or in error. A teacher can teach her students that 2+2=4, and this teaching remains true even if all her students refuse to accept it. The teacher can implement disciplinary punishments for students who fail to follow her instructions, but 2+2=4 regardless of whether the teacher punishes/enforces or not. To say orthodoxy becomes meaningless without enforcement is to say that the Israelites did not hold the oracles of God during the majority of the OT dispensation.

    What you are confusing is “teaching” versus setting a good example and thus providing a good testimony. This is why it has always been true that regardless of how right Christianity is, it has not been good at converting the world during periods when Christians were not living up to Christian ideals.

    Robert said:

    But the fact of the matter is that Rome could infallibly declare tomorrow that Muhammad was the Arabic Messiah or that Jesus is merely human, and you could not complain. If the Magisterium is infallible, you cannot hold it accountable.

    You are confusing the Magisterium with a merely human body, like the private theology club called the PCA. The private theology club known as the PCA could declare tomorrow that homosexuality is OK, which more and more Protestant theology clubs are doing, so I can see why you have this fear. But that cannot be applied to the Church established by God Himself, which cannot and has not taught error. Your comment is equivalent to saying there is no Church, only individual Christians.

    It is not the job of individuals to hold the Bible accountable, to hold Jesus accountable, or Jesus’ Church accountable. To suggest such a thing puts the individual on par with the very authority they are supposed to be subordinate to. To suggest it is your or my duty to “hold it accountable” implies each of us were divinely appointed Lone Rangers who have the sacred duty of being ‘vigilantes for Christ’. This line of thinking ultimately suggests you are free to reject the authority of the Apostles if they teach something which you believe is unscriptural.

  35. Robert said:

    A better analogy would be that in Rome’s system, the McCallum household can only be a true family if everybody stays under the same roof, and that they remain a family even when the children have gone behind their parents’ back to get their name changed and insist on violating the traditions that make the McCallum family a family but insist on claiming the McCallum name simply because they are still living in the same house.

    Again, this is a logical fallacy. It’s the nominalist error where only the application of a ‘name’ matters and ‘essence’ is denied. What you’re describing is that what makes someone family is their surname and nothing else. What actually makes a family is the offspring that flow from paternity. In reality, any son that you father will always be your son, regardless of what surname you append to him. It doesn’t matter how bad of a father you become or how bad of a son he becomes, the ontological father-son distinction/relationship is permanent.

    Robert said:

    But Vatican 2 and its declarations on non-Christian religions and Protestants have essentially vacated Rome’s claims about being the conduit of salvation for the world.

    You have obviously not read any of the documents of Vatican 2 and have gotten your information second hand. The dogmas of Papal supremacy and Outside The Catholic Church No Salvation have not changed.

    Lumen Gentium 14 “Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.

    Lumen Gentium 18 “This Sacred Council, following closely in the footsteps of the First Vatican Council, with that Council teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father; and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion. And all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible magisterium, this Sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful.

    There is a myth going around that Vatican 2 stripped away all the essential dogmas of the Catholic faith and effectively making Catholicism another Protestant denomination. Anyone reading the actual documents themselves will see that’s far from the truth.
    Robert said:

    There is agreement on fundamental doctrines such as the Trinity, justification, the deity of Christ, the incarnation, the shape of the canon, and more.

    These “fundamental doctrines” you mention is a man-made list that begins to break down immediately after you mentions the Trinity and Incarnation. Outside these things, there are virtually no doctrines Protestants agree on. The shape of the canon has reached a general consensus, but that doesn’t get anyone much further. The issue of “justification” can only be broadly defined, at which point it hardly becomes a point of unity. Notice how the issue of Worship, Sacraments, Ecclesiology, Morals, and various aspects of Soteriology are completely reassigned to the non-essential category.

    Robert said:

    In Rome, you have a denominational structure that papers over significant differences in even many of the aforementioned doctrines. When your church allows a lesbian pagan to teach theology at a Jesuit University for decades without blinking an eye, you simply cannot expect anyone to take the claims of Rome seriously.

    How can anyone take Protestantism seriously when all Protestants, including Luther and Calvin, are sinners? How can we take Jesus seriously when He called Judas to be an Apostle? How can we consider 1&2 Peter inspired when Peter denied Jesus and was Judaizing in Antioch? How can we trust a God that entrusted the Torah to the disobedient Israelites? Until there is a denomination 100% free of sinners, there’s no way to take Christianity seriously. Thus is the Protestant error of Donatism, in which the mere presence of sin invalidates everything.

    The fundamental error in Protestantism is the conflating of orthodoxy (right teaching) with orthopraxis (right living), as if there was no distinction (at least when evaluating Rome).

    Robert said:

    But it is absolutely laughable that the Reformers were heralds of the Enlightenment spirit. … The Enlightenment occurred, in part, because people embraced the very thing the Reformers railed against, and that is human autonomy.

    Protestantism and Enlightenment Philosophy are both founded upon Pelagianism, properly understood. Both are based on the notion there is no sharp distinction between Natural and Super-Natural.

    The Enlightenment merely took the Reformation to it’s logical conclusion. The “Liberalism” of the Enlightenment was that of freeing man from the “shackles” of organized religion, where as “Liberalism” of the Reformation freed Christians from the “shackles” of the Church. The very notion of human autonomy originated with Luther’s “here I stand [as a Lone Ranger against the Church],” and this radical individualism turned into a “don’t tell me what to believe” as a fundamental motto of Enlightenment society. This is why Protestantism has had a continuous slide of moral and doctrinal relativism approaching that of secularism.

  36. Also, if “orthodoxy without enforcement is meaningless,” then that would mean Jesus’ teachings were not orthodox since on several occasions he refused to allow the punishment of his detractors to be enforced in practice, and taught as much in his parables.

  37. +JMJ+

    Nick wrote:

    Protestantism and Enlightenment Philosophy are both founded upon Pelagianism, properly understood. Both are based on the notion there is no sharp distinction between Natural and Super-Natural.

    One could also nuance the issue in such a way, depending upon one’s perspective. To conflate the two or to radically separate them are both overextensions of the exact same dichotomizing tendency which finds the ‘Both/And’ to be repugnant. In the practical order, the results are the equivalent.

  38. Wosbald,

    Agreed. I did not see your previous comments (where you mentioned this) until I had already posted my recent comment.

    In the Protestant mind, Adam did not need God to work his way into Heaven. Even after Adam fell, all that was required was a purely human Second Adam to accomplish the same autonomous perfect law keeping and impute this perfect purely human law keeping to believers. In other words, “saving righteousness” in Protestantism is ultimately the human accomplishment of perfect obedience, it is not a super-natural righteousness originating at God but a created earthly righteousness. It’s the epitome of man-centered theology. They say “God does it all,” but this is equivocal, for what it means is “a purely human obedience was accomplished vicariously by God”. Grace is thus not super-natural but merely an unmerited favorable deed, like a rich man “graciously” paying a ransom for a poor man. They don’t realize the Hypostatic Union is the epitome of Synergism.

    It was actually the blatantly fallacious logic and fidestic comments of Protestantism that propelled a backlash in the Enlightement that (rightly) countered Protestantism by saying that it’s absurd to suggest that Reason has been completely extinguished, and proof of this was the scientific advancements that Reason makes possible. And why should an Enlightenment philosopher give a care what Pastor Billy Bob says if Pastor Billy Bob simply self appointed himself a pastor and is also steeped in anti-intellectualism?

  39. Nick,

    You wrote: How can anyone take Protestantism seriously when all Protestants, including Luther and Calvin, are sinners? How can we take Jesus seriously when He called Judas to be an Apostle? How can we consider 1&2 Peter inspired when Peter denied Jesus and was Judaizing in Antioch? How can we trust a God that entrusted the Torah to the disobedient Israelites?

    Well, there is sin, and then there is ministry-disqualifying sin. Besides, Jesus identified Judas as a wolf, and where is Judas’ apostolic teaching again? Peter was disciplined by Jesus and Paul. False prophets in Israel were disciplined whenever there was a good king in power. God, infact, openly condemned Israel when they tolerated gross evil in its midst. Rome just hides the evidence and moves them to a new diocese.

    And for all the bluster about Donatism, the comparisons are a false one. The Donatists did not think anyone who denied Christ could be restored to ministerial authority even when they repented. Rome lets impenitent sinners who deny actual Roman Catholic doctrine teach theology in Roman Catholic universities. They also denied the validity of baptisms performed by such individuals. Perhaps you don’t know it, but Protestants—at least confessional Presbyterians—have traditionally accepted an individual’s baptism even if that baptism was performed by a heretic or in a doctrinally erroneous church provided that the church itself had at least a formal confession of Trinitarian orthodoxy. So, today, I could easily accept a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian baptism while noting that doctrinal rot has consumed each particular denomination.

  40. Nick,

    Lumen Gentium 14 “Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.”

    Is there an infallible interpretation of this statement? That’s an honest question.

    Since most Roman Catholics I have known are essentially universalists, and since I know priests who allow Protestants who refuse to become Roman Catholics take the Eucharist at weddings and even should they visit a Roman parish, what does it mean to “know the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ”? or “refuse to enter it”? After all, the Vatican grants that Protestants are, in a mysterious sense, in communion with the Roman church. I also know Roman Catholics who would stretch the meaning of invincible ignorance so far as to mean that even Luther and Calvin could be saved under LG 14.

    One more thing—it’s not my infallible pontiff that was kissing a book that directly denies essential Roman Catholic dogma.

  41. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    After all, the Vatican grants that Protestants are, in a mysterious sense, in communion with the Roman church. I also know Roman Catholics who would stretch the meaning of invincible ignorance so far as to mean that even Luther and Calvin could be saved under LG 14.

    Luther and Calvin could be saved long before LG 14. (Not that I hold out good hope [well-founded hope] for either of them.)

    Sometimes, I wonder how much of the obsession over this issue stems from a human desire to identify or reify “just what it is to be ‘saved'”. It seems if the ability to concretely identify this person or that person (based upon their material, or formal, situation in life) as being absolutely outside of the salvific economy is important so as to protect Jesus from those ‘others’ sneaking into heaven.

    I suspect that the fact that Catholics refuse (and have always refused) to do precisely this is frustrating to such a formalistic mentality (and makes us ‘Universalistic’).

  42. Wosbald,

    Us simple Protestants are just trying to recommend infallible decrees such as this one from the Council of Florence:

    It firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the catholic church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the catholic church before the end of their lives; that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the catholic church.

    with Vatican II.

    Of course, there is the matter of John 14:6 and other passages as well, including Romans 10.

  43. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Us simple Protestants are just trying to recommend infallible decrees such as this one from the Council of Florence… with Vatican II.
    Of course, there is the matter of John 14:6 and other passages as well, including Romans 10.

    I’m sorry that you don’t know how to reconcile them. One has to equally embrace contrasting doctrines to get at the whole of the truth. This is part of dynamic tension. One can’t just try to understand one half of the equation all by its lonesome.

    Other than than that, I don’t know to help you.

  44. Wosbald,

    One doesn’t need to accept blatant contradictions, however. That is never been the way of theology. If it were, there would be no concern to define precisely, as far as we are able, the doctrine of the Trinity and the hypostatic union.

    Salvation is through Christ by means of preaching the gospel or it isn’t. As it is, given what Vatican 2 has said, Roman Catholic missions do more harm in its schema than good. As in, “Hey, let’s go to some people who are right now on their way to heaven, give them the gospel, and then if they reject it and persist therein, they’ll be going to hell.” Those people would have been better left alone, under modern Roman soteriology, which is peculiarly different in many ways than traditional Roman soteriology. If they are going to perish because they don’t follow Christ regardless, you better believe we need to get them a preacher.

    If you don’t believe people are truly dead in sin and suppressing the truth that they do have, there is no point to preaching the gospel (Rom. 1; Eph. 2). Which is why the modern Roman church is not particularly known for its evangelistic zeal. You all do a relatively good job with providing for the physical needs of people, however, I’ll give you that.

    Its always fascinating that the most zealous advocates are converts. In Rome’s case, the most zealous Romanists are those who were once professing Protestants. Of course, once they become Roman Catholics, the majority of their energy is focused on reaching Protestants who already have the gospel (albeit, according to Rome, a deficient one) and converting them to the church. That makes sense if you believe people are going to heaven anyway.

    Of course, if only the Magisterium can interpret the Magisterium infallibly, then all your problems are solved. Except of course, that when people point out that much Roman doctrine is based on forged documents and that Rome has changed its mind again and again and again, the essential response of the Magisterium is “move on, boys, nothing to see here.” Kinda like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Which is fitting, because like the Watchtower Society, the Magisterium is bound to no authority higher than itself and thus irreformable except, perhaps, at the cosmetic level.

  45. Robert,
    Context is everything.
    I’m sure you’ve had conversations with non-Christians who point out contradictions in the Bible which you can reconcile by understanding the appropriate context. I’m sure it’s also frustrating to you when some of those non-Christians seem more interested in just finding contradictions to reinforce their belief that Christians are naive, blind or irrational. But you know that you’re not irrational or naive or blind in being able to reconcile those apparent contradictions. Neither are Catholics blind, irrational or naive and reconciling apparent contradictions in these documents is something that has been offered many times before. You may not agree with the reconciling approach offered but I hope you can see that the process is the same as that of you dealing with the non-Christian.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  46. Jeff,

    Of course I am willing to admit reconciliations that are faithful to the original context. Perhaps one exists and I am unaware of it, but in regards to the Council of Florence, did the authors of the canons intend to limit salvation only to membership in the Roman Catholic Church or not. How did they interpret what they wrote? If there is an answer to this question, I would not mind if someone could point it out to me.

  47. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    One doesn’t need to accept blatant contradictions, however. That is never been the way of theology. If it were, there would be no concern to define precisely, as far as we are able, the doctrine of the Trinity and the hypostatic union.

    Except that we are not talking Theology, we’re talking Dogma. Dogma doesn’t try to reconcile anything. It just tells you what the revealed truth is. So, whether it tells you that Jesus is fully God and fully Man, that the One God is Trinity or that the Church is absolutely necessary but the Spirit blows where He will, then Man is simply obliged to accept both poles of the Mystery (or “paradox” or “contradiction”) and steer between them as best he can.

    A requisite of Mystery’s dynamic tension is in learning to reconcile both halves through simple acceptance. That’s the first step. A 1000-page Theology book on the subject might go a long way in helping to make the paradox more palatable to your mind, but it can never ‘resolve’ the paradox for you. Still, it can help you in coming to a certain peace with the Mystery. But, there will always be rational problems.

    “Well, if Jesus is God, the how can…? And if God is One, then how can…? And if the Church is necessary, then how can…?”

    Let your mind be at peace. Theology can help, but its purpose is not to “capture” or solve the Mystery. Instead, Theology serves the Mystery. Theology is the Handmaid of Mystery. To think anything else is Theololatry, which is something that will lead to strange doctrines.

  48. Robert,
    Here’s an article which directly addresses Florence which you quoted. The article is good and some of the follow up comments, such as Brent’s #7.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/10/vandrunen-on-catholic-inclusivity-and-change/

    Perhaps others have better articles to link to…that’s the first one I thought of though.
    Peace,
    Jeff

  49. Thanks, Jeff.

    Wosbald, I have no problem accepting what Scripture teaches and then trying to figure out how it fits together. No one is trying to capture mystery here, just trying to understand what God is saying. If God is revealing blatant contradictions, then we can’t trust anything we read or hear. Paradox is one thing: God is one and God is three, albeit in different ways and I can’t figure out totally how it all works together. Contradiction is another: One can be saved only by conscious faith in Christ and one can be saved without conscious faith in Christ. As I read Scripture, the former statement seems correct and the later false, unless you know of other passages that teach otherwise.

  50. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Paradox is one thing: God is one and God is three, albeit in different ways and I can’t figure out totally how it all works together. Contradiction is another: One can be saved only by conscious faith in Christ and one can be saved without conscious faith in Christ. As I read Scripture, the former statement seems correct and the later false, unless you know of other passages that teach otherwise.

    I’m sorry, I can’t do anything about how you choose to read Scripture. And sometimes, continuing to argue only ends up being argumentative. I recommend that you try reading additional theo-philosophical/apologetical work (such as the link that JeffB kindly provided). This may help you in getting over the hump.

  51. Wosbald,

    I’ll read what Jeff posted, but paradox and contradiction are two different things. But if the authors of the canons of Florence believed salvation was not available outside of conscious communion with the Roman Church and its pontiff, then Vatican 2, by definition, changed the church’s position.

  52. The difference between paradox and contradiction is simply one’s opinion that a matter is contradictory or only apparently so (i.e. paradox). Simply labeling something either contradiction or paradox only begs the question of whether or not the thing is in fact a contradiction or only apparently so. This is of course elementary.

    As was pointed out somewhere above, pagans love to show contradictions in Scripture, and Christians reply back that these are in fact only apparent contradictions (paradoxes) and can be reconciled if one is amenable to the argument.

  53. THE OLD ADAM March 8, 2013 at 4:08 am
    “I am held captive to the Word of God.
    Here I stand. I can do no other.”
    Sometimes Popes and Councils and Synods are wrong, and we have to hold the line.

    Who is “we”? And what if that party whom you describe as “we” is wrong?

  54. SCOTT DRUMBRELL March 8, 2013 at 6:38 am
    Yes, let’s pray that the divisions in the Body of Christ might be healed and that the Pope himself would bow and kiss the feet of Jesus Christ instead of usurping the rights and prerogatives of Jesus Christ.

    It is Jesus who appointed St. Peter and endowed him with the rights and prerogatives of a leader of the Church:
    Matthew 16:18-19
    King James Version (KJV)
    18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

  55. De Maria,

    I have been reading your posts, and there is a lot to respond for. But just so you are aware, if you want Protestants to believe that:

    a. Jesus invested Peter with authority over all the apostles;
    b. That Peter founded the church at Rome
    c. That Peter passed on this authority to his successors at Rome;
    d. That the early church recognized the supreme binding authority of the bishop of Rome;
    e. That the early church unanimously exegeted Matt. 16 to invest Peter and his successors to have authority over subsequent bishops
    f. and all the other Roman claims

    You have to do more than just quote Matt. 16 as if any of those points are self-evident.

    Many of the other questions you have asked specifically of me have been addressed in some of my comments on Jason’s other postings. I will try and respond as I have time to things you have specifically directed to me, but I don’t know how much I will be able to. In any case, if you want to know why I reject Roman Catholic soteriology and ecclesiology, you can read the exegesis and theological works of Cyprian, Diogenetus, Athanasius, Augustine, John Calvin, Francis Turretin, R.C. Sproul, and James White. Obviously not all of those early church authors would necessarily disagree with every single aspect of what has become Roman Catholic theology and ecclesiology, but neither were they Roman Catholics. They weren’t Protestants either. They were the early church fathers.

    In other words, I’m not trying to say anything new.

  56. Hi Robert,

    You said:

    ROBERT March 28, 2013 at 4:15 pm
    De Maria,
    I have been reading your posts, and there is a lot to respond for. But just so you are aware, if you want Protestants to believe that:
    a. Jesus invested Peter with authority over all the apostles;

    That seems self evident in reading Matt 16:18-19. Or did Jesus give the keys to the Kingdom to anyone else?

    b. That Peter founded the church at Rome?c. That Peter passed on this authority to his successors at Rome;

    I don’t remember that being mentioned in my commentary nor in any which I addressed. Are you now bringing that up?

    d. That the early church recognized the supreme binding authority of the bishop of Rome;?e. That the early church unanimously exegeted Matt. 16 to invest Peter and his successors to have authority over subsequent bishops

    That’s a red herring. The Church was up and running with St. Peter at the helm well before any of the Scriptures were written.

    f. and all the other Roman claims

    I’ll do my best. I just ask we do it piecemeal. I know its in your best interest to confuse several arguments at a time in order to muddy the waters and hinder understanding. But the Teachings of Jesus Christ are best understood in the light.

    You have to do more than just quote Matt. 16 as if any of those points are self-evident.

    The point I was making is self evident in that verse. Jesus named Simon Bar Jonah after Himself, thus indicating the position which Simon would occupy.

    There is a precedent for this in Scripture:

    Exodus 7:1
    King James Version (KJV)
    7 And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.

    Exodus 18:13-15
    King James Version (KJV)
    13 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.14 And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?15 And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God:

    Exodus 19:9
    King James Version (KJV)
    9 And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord.

    God put Moses in a position of authority over the people. Jesus has done the same thing with Simon. God covered Moses with the Cloud, Jesus gave Simon His own name:

    John 21:15-17
    King James Version (KJV)
    15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
    Jesus has appointed Simon as Shepherd over His flock. And in order to bring this point home, Jesus gave Simon His own name, “Rock” or “Peter”.

    This is to signify the type of authority which Jesus has given to Simon. He has the authority to bind and loose in the name of God (Matt 16:19).

    Many of the other questions you have asked specifically of me have been addressed in some of my comments on Jason’s other postings. I will try and respond as I have time to things you have specifically directed to me, but I don’t know how much I will be able to. In any case, if you want to know why I reject Roman Catholic soteriology and ecclesiology, you can read the exegesis and theological works of Cyprian, Diogenetus, Athanasius, Augustine, John Calvin, Francis Turretin, R.C. Sproul, and James White. Obviously not all of those early church authors would necessarily disagree with every single aspect of what has become Roman Catholic theology and ecclesiology, but neither were they Roman Catholics. They weren’t Protestants either. They were the early church fathers.
    In other words, I’m not trying to say anything new.

    If you preaching Protestant theology, you are saying something that was not seen for 1500 years since the Teaching of Jesus Christ came into the world. Therefore, you are saying something new and full of error.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  57. De Maria,

    When you can produce an early church father who taught the bodily assumption of Mary, then you may criticize me for believing in things not taught for hundreds of years in church history.

    To address your specific question:

    1. Jesus tells Peter that He will give Peter the keys, namely the authority to bind and loose, in Matt. 16. It’s a promise to do something in the future, not at the moment.
    2. In Matthew 18:18, the authority to bind and loose is given to at least all the disciples. That is future from the perspective of the original promise in Matt. 16.
    3. Ergo, the keys are not given to Peter alone but to all the apostles.

    Peter had a leading role, yes. He was the first to preach to the Gentiles, if nothing else. But there is no hint in that text that Peter was given a special authority that would be perpetually passed down through the history of the church.

    I know that Rome believes itself infallible and the guarantor of orthodoxy. That claim was more credible many centuries ago when Rome actually disciplined people. Get your church to again start excommunicating Roman Catholics who flaunt the Roman church’s teaching on birth control, who promote the mortal sin of abortion, who deny papal authority, and who hire lesbian pagans to teach theology at Roman Catholic institutions, and then we can talk about Rome as the guarantor and protector of the truth. Until then, you are living in a fantasy world that I’m not even sure all the other Roman Catholics commenting here would accept.

  58. Hi Robert,

    You said:

    ROBERT March 28, 2013 at 7:43 pm
    De Maria,
    When you can produce an early church father who taught the bodily assumption of Mary, then you may criticize me for believing in things not taught for hundreds of years in church history.

    I sincerely doubt that Robert. Because I’m sure you are aware that the Early Church Fathers are all priests, many of them Bishops, who recognize the authority of the Church, believe in faith and works for salvation, received and provide the Sacraments, believe in the Real Presence, in Purgatory and all the other Catholic Doctrines. Yet, you don’t believe any of them.

    So, producing a Church Father who taught the bodily assumption of Mary for you to believe in his teaching, would be an exercise in futility. You would simply say that one wasn’t enough and demand another.

    That is what I sincerely believe regarding your attitude towards the Faith of Christ.

    To address your specific question:
    1. Jesus tells Peter that He will give Peter the keys, namely the authority to bind and loose, in Matt. 16. It’s a promise to do something in the future, not at the moment.

    And you don’t believe Jesus kept the promise?
    ?

    2. In Matthew 18:18, the authority to bind and loose is given to at least all the disciples. That is future from the perspective of the original promise in Matt. 16.

    But to whom are the keys given. As far as I know, only Jesus and St. Peter possess the keys. Yes, all the disciples can bind and loose. But they must borrow the Keys from the earthly boss, St. Peter to whom Christ gave the other set.
    ?

    3. Ergo, the keys are not given to St. Peter alone but to all the apostles.

    They are given to St. Peter alone. The others are also given authority. But this authority can only be wielded in union with St. Peter.
    ?

    Peter had a leading role, yes. He was the first to preach to the Gentiles, if nothing else. But there is no hint in that text that Peter was given a special authority that would be perpetually passed down through the history of the church.

    Every office which Jesus established is perpetually passed down. This is illustrated in
    Acts 1:20
    For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

    And confirmed by St. Paul elsewhere:
    2 Timothy 2:1-2
    King James Version (KJV)
    1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
    2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.?
    Jesus established an ongoing concern. He established the first Corporation, the Church. And appointed therein a Chief Executive (St. Peter; Matt 16:18-19) and a Board of Directors (the Apostles; Luke 6:13) and many other officers (the disciples; 1 Corinthians 12:28).

    I know that Rome believes itself infallible and the guarantor of orthodoxy.

    We have faith in the words of Christ (Eph 3:10; Luke 22:31-32).

    That claim was more credible many centuries ago when Rome actually disciplined people. Get your church to again start excommunicating Roman Catholics who flaunt the Roman church’s teaching on birth control, who promote the mortal sin of abortion, who deny papal authority, and who hire lesbian pagans to teach theology at Roman Catholic institutions, and then we can talk about Rome as the guarantor and protector of the truth. Until then, you are living in a fantasy world that I’m not even sure all the other Roman Catholics commenting here would accept.

    Spoken like a Pope wannabe. Obviously, you wish the Church were run according to your whims and not according to the Divine Judgment of Jesus Christ who still runs the Church today, through the men He appointed.
    2 Corinthians 5:20
    Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

    The Catholic Church is the voice of God in this world. I will obey her.

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