Crack That Whip!

Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Catholicism, Church Discipline, Ecclesiology, Featured, Protestantism | 115 comments

A common objection on the part of some Protestants toward the Catholic Church goes something like this: “You Catholics claim that your church has all this divinely-bestowed authority, and yet you never bother to wield it. Instead, you just let all these heretics and deviants run around teaching and living however they want with total impugnity.” The objector then points out that such would never be the case in his church, but the offender would be dealt with in a timely manner.

Before I point out a few issues I have with this objection, I would first say that I can empathize with this frustration. If I could push a button and magically fix a few things in the Catholic Church, this would probably be one of them. But with that said, there are also some problems with this objection.

First, the unspoken major premise in this argument is that if a church is to make a credible claim to being the church that Christ founded, then it must exercise its disciplinary authority infallibly, universally, and quickly. But that position is hardly able to function as a major premise in an argument, for it is itself a highly disputable claim. With the exception of the episode recorded in I Corinthians 5, where does the idea arise that the exercise of discipline is a mark of the church, such that failure to exercise it swiftly divests the church of its claim to authority? Of course, the response could be given that Paul’s insistence that the Corinthians deal with their sinful church member is enough to justify the premise that discipline is a mark of the church, and its lack of exercise necessarily entails a church being robbed of its status as a true church, but that seems like quite a big claim to derive from a pretty incidental passage in an occasional letter. In a word, that premise needs to be argued for, and not simply adduced as axiomatic.

Secondly, the Catholic Church disciplines people all the time, so the objection amounts to a disagreement over the efficiency of an already-existing practice, and not over the absence of that practice altogether.

Thirdly, it is an oversimplification biblically to just insist on universal and speedy discipline of doctrinally or morally erring church members. There are plenty of passages in the New Testament that give the impression that disciplinary judgment can be rendered in an overly-hasty way. Jesus’ rebuke of James and John for desiring to call down fire upon the Samaritans comes to mind, as does the parable in which the vineyard owner urges his steward to give the field more care and attention in the hopes that it will eventually yield a harvest (in fact, the entire Old Testament sort of highlights divine longsuffering if you ask me). God’s judgment must be considered in the light of his mercy and patience, is what I’m saying.

Further, since there is no such thing as “The Protestant Visible Church,” the complaints by members of various disunited Protestant congregations about the slow manner in which the Catholic Church exercises discipline are somewhat hard to take seriously. What authority do they have to determine just how quickly discipline should be pursued, and how universally it should be applied, and how long it should take? None of those who raise this objection claim to be infallible, and neither do the scattered and provincial micro-denominations to which they belong. So when a member of the URC, an American denomination which was founded in the 1990s and has roughly 25,000 members, criticizes the Catholic Church’s failure to properly discipline its 1,100,000,000 members spread throughout the world, it is hard not to be slightly amused slash annoyed.

Finally (and not without significance and a touch of irony), the claim that a given Protestant denomination would never drag its feet with discipline cases, but would deal with them decisively is somewhat laughable since Protestantism, by its very design, has no real visible church from which an erring member can be excommunicated in the first place. If the “visible church” consists of all baptized people, then how can someone be removed from that group? Sure, a person can be excommunicated from this or that visible congregation, but there is nothing stopping him from simply joining another visible congregation down the street. And if the original congregation objects, its leadership has no authority to do anything about it beyond stomp their feet and yell really loud.

Therefore it seems to me that the objection that the Catholic Church has forfeited its authority by failing to discipline its erring members (1) begs the question by presupposing that discipline is a mark of the church, (2) fails to recognize the many ways in which the Catholic Church does practice discipline, (3) forgets that disciplinary judgment in Scripture is coupled with the mercy and longsuffering of God towards his people, and (4) ultimately fails due to the fact that Protestantism’s lack of a visible church and infallible Magisterium makes it impossible for Protestants to speak meaningfully about the grounds for discipline in the first place, let alone effectively carry it out.

 

115 Comments

  1. Jason,

    Much to say, and hopefully will later, but to say there is no “Protestant Visible Church” is a false claim and you should know better. No thoughtful Protestant denies the authority and reality of the visible church. We just deny that the visible church is identified by the Roman pontiff.

  2. I know what the Protestant position is, Robert. You believe that the visible church consists of all who profess the true faith, and their children (i.e., all who are baptized into the covenant community). Here’s the problem with that position: If there were a town with no actual Christian congregation, but which nonetheless had 100 baptized people living in it, would you say that that is the visible church in that town? Of course not. Unless those baptized people are organized into a particular congregation or body with properly ordained and installed leaders, then you don’t have a visible church there, right?

    But the criteria you insist upon for a visible church you do not insist upon for the visible church. Instead you say that “the visible church” consists of a set number of people. Therefore someone can be a member of the visible church (because they’re baptized believers in Christ) even if they’re not members of a visible church.

    So what this amount to is this: Protestantism believes in visible congregations that comprise an invisible church. But there is no visible church (singular).

  3. Jason,

    If, as Rome has traditionally said, you have the church wherever you have a duly installed and ordained bishop, you aren’t saying anything substantially different except that you tend to collapse the visible and invisible church into one another.

    If there was a town or settlement with 100 baptized Roman Catholics but no priest, bishop, or other duly ordained official, how do you have both a visible church and the visible church?

    Moreover, when you have Eastern rite Roman Catholics, traditional mass Roman Catholics, Former-Anglican-parish Roman Catholics, liberation theology preaching Roman Catholics, sedevacantists, etc., you don’t escape the problem simply because you have a supposedly infallible Magisterium. You have an illusion of unity, and people praying that they don’t get a heretical pope, as many Roman Catholics were posting before Francis’ installation. The Magisterium guarantees unity and orthodoxy, then, how?

  4. Jason,

    You said, “First, the unspoken major premise in this argument is that if a church is to make a credible claim to being the church that Christ founded, then it must exercise its disciplinary authority infallibly, universally, and quickly.”

    This is a clear misrepresentation. Why would Protestant Christians, who deny that Christ set up an infallible magisterium, object that you can’t have a true church without one?

    You also said, “Secondly, the Catholic Church disciplines people all the time…” – In recent years, I have not heard of any well-known public figures that have been excommunicated or denied communion. If you are aware of some, I would definitely be interested in knowing. However, I think it is true that local churches and specific Bishops do carry out disciplinary actions. The reason people object is that the well-known celebrities and political figures with public anti-church views are not disciplined.

    Lastly, your comment that the lack of an infallible magisterium makes it impossible to speak meaningfully about church discipline is quite the exaggeration. People can speak meaningfully about church discipline, just as they can speak meaningfully about Scripture, without being infallible.

  5. First, the unspoken major premise in this argument is that if a church is to make a credible claim to being the church that Christ founded, then it must exercise its disciplinary authority infallibly, universally, and quickly.

    Jason,

    If that’s the standard than my church and every Protestant church I’ve ever heard of fails miserably. No matter how committed a congregation or denomination is to church discipline they will never rise to this standard. Nor should they. And I’m sure you know from personal experience church discipline must of necessity be a SLOW process.

    But churches should discipline their members for such things as sexual immorality, to take Paul’s example in I Corinthians. If a church body fails to do this then there is no love for the sinner and there is no evidence that the body cares about the purity of the Church. My experience is that relatively few Protestant congregations will discipline their congregants for sexual immorality. I don’t know about Catholic congregations but my impression is that there are fewer Catholic congregations who do. I’ll go out on a limb based on some things I have read about the ultra-traditionalist Catholic groups and say that there probably is such discipline in some of these Catholic congregations, but I don’t know about the run of the mill Catholic church (what do you think?). But whether they are Catholic or Protestant, if they don’t follow the command of Scripture in this regards then they are in practice denying a basic command of Scripture.

    Further, since there is no such thing as “The Protestant Visible Church,”…

    Well sure there is such a thing as the VC in Protestant communions. It’s just that for those Protestant communions who don’t care about such theological distinctions the edges of the VC become rather hazy. Do you know what I mean? If a particular congregation has no interest in engaging in a theological conversation about what the VC is then it could get difficult to define whether they are in the VC.

    In Catholicism the problem with biblical discipline is that the VC in the Catholic conception combines those congregations that care about things like sexual morality with those who don’t give a hoot about it. This is the problem that was very much alive during the period leading up to the Reformation – how can you discipline an immoral laity if you have an immoral clergy leading them? A number of years later this was the first issue that Trent had to deal with. But it’s hardly like the problem has been eradicated today.

    I would be interested to know about your “all the time” comment. Do you mean that there are always discipline cases in the RCC? I certainly would not deny this since I read about them in the paper. But it seems to me that it is relatively easy to be a liberal in terms of theological and practical positions one holds to and still remain as a member in good standing within the RCC. And I think that’s true of clergy as well as laity. But such a situation does not in general occur within the Reformed and Protestant congregations that hold to biblical church discipline.

  6. Jason–

    1. Even if we cannot determine that church discipline is an absolute “mark of the church,” we can lift it up as a highly desirable end for the church to aim for. You yourself said as much, and that the Roman church, in your opinion, has fallen way short of where it ought to be.

    2. I am always glad to see those few instances where the Roman church clearly and visibly puts into practice what she preaches. I am sure there is a great deal of church discipline that never does (and never should) hit the newspapers. Still, all in all, I don’t think it is good enough to sweep everything under the rug, claiming that the Roman church is just too big to be radically faithful to Scripture. (Far too much money and prestige rides in the balance, I guess, for the Roman church to air her dirty laundry in public. In the meantime, her countless victims get shunted aside.)

    3. You’re right. Mercy and long-suffering are important. The church will always be a mixture of wheat and tares, and one cannot do too much pulling without affecting the entire crop. One also cannot allow a whole field to “go to seed,” or just write it off as beyond help. From what I can see, the Pope doesn’t have the power to change things except slowly. Those who already have power and position, be they archbishops or academics, for the most part are untouchable. But through wise appointments, a pontiff may bring about an amelioration of the situation. The church was inundated by JPII’s appointments, and he has set the tone for a long time to come. And yet, few inroads were made here in the U.S….

    4. Each denomination of Protestants is just as visible and just as infallible as the Roman denomination. True authority is derived from the Holy Spirit, not from vain imaginings concerning the history of the church. Each church will be judged by Christ. When I evaluate your church and then evaluate mine, I like our chances.

  7. Andrew–

    I’m basically in agreement with you that we who are Reformed and those here who are Catholic probably should not get involved in a stone throwing war, chunking rocks at each other’s glass houses.

    We live in a society that has been thrown wide open in terms of condoning immoral sexual practice and closed tightly shut in terms of rendering the slightest value judgment on someone else’s sexual behavior. Otherwise godly young romantic couples do not want to be held accountable to anybody. Divorcing couples want sympathy not moralizing. Unwed mothers expect unbridled support and compassion. Homosexuals flee at the first sign of any kind of non-acceptance.

    Truth be told, if we had to abide by Christ’s maxim, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” almost all of us would feel unworthy to discipline others. We protect others with a blanket of silence in order that we, too, might escape detection. I have known a few (small) churches which have ventured into holding their congregants to a standard of sexual purity, but it is a difficult line to walk. All kinds of missteps, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings.

    I am far more inclined to impugn the Roman church’s record concerning theological integrity than their failings in the sexual arena. I recognize the inherent difficulty in getting a human institution to abide by heavenly sexual rules. It must be attempted with all due diligence, but it will never be entirely successful.

    Even with theological fealty, I am inclined to be somewhat understanding. Ex Corde Ecclesiae has been a success and is probably the right approach. When the traditionalists within LCMS took back control of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1974, it was an incredibly traumatic event in the life of the denomination. When the conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention wrested control of several of the flagship seminaries from the “moderates,” it set off a cold war of cold shoulders that shows no signs of abating. Southerners may or may not be rightly accused of “still fighting the Civil War” (sorry, the War Between the States, otherwise known as the War of Yankee Aggression), but they most definitely still take sides in the Baptist Takeover War.

    But the Catholics should never have let it get so bad in the first place. And the biggest part of the problem, to my mind, is that they lost their commitment to biblical authority sometime after Pius XII’s papacy. Paul VI got rid of the anti-Modernist oath once and for all.

  8. Dear Robert, JohnD, Andrew, Eric,

    Why does the Church do nothing about discipline ? It is a long story,but the powers that be in the Vatican are not interested. Why? Vatican II and modernism plus a hatred for traditional theology. After Vat II, liberals wanted to do away with the medievalisms: censures, excomms, things like that. They wanted the Catholic Church, the true Church to dialogue with modernity, learn from it. How come these last popes have not used the discipline of excommunication? Because they don’t believe in its use. Its archaic, a medieval artifact. The Catholic Church is suffering from Protestant Liberalism.

    Another thing – Bishops, these Catholic bishops have no guts! No spine. Weak, plain and simple.

    Everyone Google William Marshner, the roots of Modernism audio, he will explain everything.

    Then, watch is Video on Augustine and free will.

  9. One of the most significant problems with the whole issue is, again, that Protestants are told by Roman Catholics that without an infallible visible church, we cannot know the difference between what the Holy Spirit is saying and our own personal opinion. But if the visible church does not discipline people—notable people who are committing grave sins such as Biden and Pelosi—how is the visible church exercising her role as protecting people from becoming their own popes? You can say all you want that the Magisterium has issued creeds, canon law, and so on, and that should be sufficient, and that Roman Catholics are in some sense responsible to discipline themselves. You can say that Roman Catholics who do not follow church teaching have already, in a sense, excommunicated themselves. That’s fine and dandy, except that one, Magisterial documents are not self-interpreting even in the Roman scheme, and two, such statements boil down to the sheep policing themselves and the shepherds running off to play church.

    For people who keep on telling us about the grandeur of the Spirit’s infusion of agape, the failure to discipline indicates a failure for the shepherds to either have received the infusion or to exercise it in their vocation.

    Rome offers an advantage that Protestantism doesn’t why?

  10. I am far more inclined to impugn the Roman church’s record concerning theological integrity than their failings in the sexual arena.

    Eric,

    I agree with this although I would add to it that the moral problems are a manifestation of the theological ones. This is no less the case in the Protestant communions you mention.

    When the Scriptures speak of discipline it generally is directing it’s commands to the local church. But Catholics tend not to think about fidelity, both theological and moral, in terms of the fidelity of their local congregation. This is a manifestation of the One/Many and Realist/Nominalist sorts of philosophical debates that oftimes underlie Protestant Catholic debates over authority and ecclesisatical oversight. Where does authority lie – with the local congregation or with some higher court of ecclesiasitcal authority? Catholics tend to associate fidelity with the larger Church at Rome but the Scriptures again generally address matters of theological and moral fidelity to the local congregation. With the Reformation there was a paradigm change in that theologians began to think more about ecclesiology in terms of the makeup and function of the local congregation. Protestantism is oft accused of being nominalistic, but I think the Medieval Church needed a good dose of nominalism.

    Cheers for now….

  11. Jason,

    A more substantial response to your points is in order:

    1. Of course, the idea of discipline as a mark of the true church does not come only from 1 Corinthians 5, though that would be enough. The other key passage is Matthew 18:15–20, of course. But there are broader theological and biblical considerations that point to discipline.

    a. The Mosaic law commands Israel to put false prophets to death (Deut. 13:1–5). Even if the sword is not given to the new covenant church, surely that is an example of church discipline and the mandate that false teachers MUST be purged from God’s people.
    b. Paul told the Ephesian elders to be alert to the presence of false teachers arising within their own ranks. Why else to be alert except to warn others? How else to warn others in the case of an impenitent false teacher than with church discipline? And if the magisterium is infallible, why the warning at all? (Acts 20:28–31).
    c. Paul assumes church discipline of some kind will take place in the church in 1 Timothy 5:19–20, at least for church elders. When was the last time we saw a public rebuke of a priest or bishop? It was the legal authorities that forced the disclosure of the priestly abuse cases; the church was NOT policing itself or rebuking people before all in order to warn others.
    d. There are multiple warnings about false teachers in letters that were read to entire congregations (2 Peter and Jude, among others). This assumes a responsibility on the part of laity has a responsibility to keep the “magisterium” in line. But if the Magisterium tells the faithful when it is issuing an infallible declaration, and the faithful must accept it as infallible, the laity cannot hold the “magisterium” responsible. The wolves are policing the hen house.

    2. Where has the Roman church recently disciplined a high-profile leader? In the Reformed camp, Peter Enns was effectively removed from his position at Westminster. Leithart was prosecuted in the PCA even though we don’t all know what the outcome will be. Meanwhile, in the Roman Church, a blind eye is turned with Joe Biden goes about theologizing about how his Roman Catholic faith informs his attitude toward the poor while ignoring those inconvenient parts of the Roman Catholic faith that tell him he shouldn’t be supporting the “rights” of people to butcher their babies in utero.

    Again, if Rome did not make such a big deal about its structure and infallibility guaranteeing orthodoxy, the complaint would have much less teeth. But you have a system that should be ideal for disciplining people because much of it rests in the individual bishop or priest and not a session as in Presbyterianism. But if one happens to be disciplined in one parish for, say, impenitent homosexuality, one can find another Roman parish where he or she will be accepted with no call for repentance. It’s not as if the LCWR were totally missing institutional support. So this is better than Protestantism how?

    3. Who is calling for quick and thoughtless discipline? Of course God is long-suffering. Of course excommunication should be rare, mercy should be prioritized, and being cut off from the church should the end of a relatively slow and deliberative process. But Biden and Pelosi have been promoting restriction-less abortion for DECADES, and whenever a bishop during an election season makes a rumbling about not giving the Eucharist to politicians like them, you get other bishops, nuns, laity, and so forth talking about how inappropriate that is. Then, there was Mary Daly who for THIRTY years taught theology and religion at a Jesuit institution, promoting extreme feminism, lesbianism, paganism, and other things that violate any reasonable standard of orthodoxy. Why was she finally removed? Because of equal access under the law for not letting male students enroll in her classes. She wasn’t removed by the teaching authorities of the church in whose name she taught. And in roughly the same period, Hans Kung was rebuked for sounding too Protestant. So, pagans can teach theology but Protestant-sounding teachers who are closer to orthodoxy can’t?

    The appeal to mercy and such to justify this insanity just doesn’t hold any water for anyone who has had to shut off a rational look at such facts to think Rome is doing its duty.

    4. Bigger numbers and a supposed claim to being founded in the first century does not give the Roman church any leeway in this. First, God often preserves just a remnant. Two, I could easily make the case that while the URC was formally founded as a legal entity in the 1990s according to the laws of this country, its apostolic pedigree is much older than that. Three, I could easily make a case that there was no such thing as the Roman Catholic Church until the council of Trent. Four, in the cases of churches that uphold their confessions, a church in another denomination CAN do something. They can do their due diligence and refuse to admit into membership anyone they deem to be under discipline by an evangelical church. This does happen. Five, if a Roman Catholic is excommunicated in Seattle then moves to Miami, is there anything to guarantee the Miami diocese won’t receive him as a member in good standing? Six, infallibility is not necessary to carry out true discipline. You aren’t infallible. Does that make your discipline of your children when it is legitimate any less authentic.

    Nice try, but Rome currently fails the test, and the only reason why you won’t fully admit that is that you have bought into the idea that the Magisterium is infallible because, essentially, it says it is infallible and therefore no one but the infallible Magisterium can actually police it. The wolves are policing the hen house.

  12. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    I agree with this although I would add to it that the moral problems are a manifestation of the theological ones. This is no less the case in the Protestant communions you mention.
    When the Scriptures speak of discipline it generally is directing it’s commands to the local church. But Catholics tend not to think about fidelity, both theological and moral, in terms of the fidelity of their local congregation. This is a manifestation of the One/Many and Realist/Nominalist sorts of philosophical debates that oftimes underlie Protestant Catholic debates over authority and ecclesisatical oversight. Where does authority lie – with the local congregation or with some higher court of ecclesiasitcal authority? Catholics tend to associate fidelity with the larger Church at Rome but the Scriptures again generally address matters of theological and moral fidelity to the local congregation. With the Reformation there was a paradigm change in that theologians began to think more about ecclesiology in terms of the makeup and function of the local congregation. Protestantism is oft accused of being nominalistic, but I think the Medieval Church needed a good dose of nominalism.

    This is a good post. And you make a good point, but the problem is that I believe you’re puttting the stress on the wrong syllable. The dialogue should have been about the living dynamic tension between the Magesterium and the Sensus Catholicus. Both of these are interdependent and both are bequeathed to the whole Church organism, but they are manifested on different planes in the life of this Being (exoteric vs esoteric). Instead, however, the Reformation Fathers framed the dialogue as being The Collective vs The Individual.

    Instead of dealing with two “aspects” or “modes” that were inseparably joined in the same organic Being, the Reformers started dealing with temporally particularized accidents of this Being. In this mindset, the Church ceased to be a real life, continuous, organic culture and was analytically reduced to the sum of its parts. The problem, of course, is that instead of authority being vested in The Church (a Church which, in Her Nature, manifests, equally, both Magesterium and Sensus), then authority would logically have to be vested either in the collective (considered as an aggregate of individuals) or in the individual (who pool their authority to form a collective). They created a false dilemma which would forever haunt Protestantism. Instead of living with a tension, they created a dichotomy which could never be resolved and from which they could never escape (short of either returning to Rome or abandoning any claim to Christianity).

  13. A few thought on the comments posted so far:

    I am not sure people are understanding my point about Protestantism not having a visible church. The purpose of my illustration with the town of 100 baptized people but with no organized congregation was to show that Protestantism contradicts itself—if a group of missionaries were planning to go to that town, but one of them said, “There’s no need to plant a church there, since those 100 people comprise the visible church in that area,” the others would rightly point out that 100 believers don’t automatically constitute a church, they need to be organized into a particular body with duly ordained leaders. Then it would go from being 100 visible believers to being one visible church.

    Applying this uncontroversial statement to Protestantism as a whole, what we have are several visible churches–hierarchically organized Christian bodies such as the OPC, the URC, every independent congregational church out there, etc.—but there is no visible church, singular. The only way you can say there is a single visible church is by admitting that those 100 non-assembled believers are the visible church in that town despite not having the means of grace, leadership, and their never having worshiped together in the same building. Protestantism has visible believers (the baptized) who worship in visible churches (various denominations and independent congregational churches), the faithful of which comprise the invisible church. But there is no Visible Church, singular, in Protestantism (unless of course sacraments and ordained ministry are incidental to something being a church).

    The objection about the diversity in the CC destroying its claim to unity is as false as the same claim would be if it were made about a single congregation with great diversity. The Corinthian church was filled with diversity and even division, but Paul’s whole argument to them was that they ARE one, so they had better started behaving according to what was in fact true of them. Unity is not uniformity.

    My point about the lack of an infallible Magisterium making it impossible to talk meaningfully about the grounds for discipline or to even carry it out was intended to show that what may be a disciplinable offense in Church A could be considered a heroic feat in Church B, and as long as both leadership’s position on the matter is nothing more than fallible human opinion, any discipline done is just kind of a farce. In order for labels like orthodoxy and orthopraxy to mean anything, the body who defines them must at least believe that those definitions transcend opinion and demand the assent of faith. But without divine protection from error under certain conditions, orthodoxy and orthopraxy can be defined 10 different ways in 10 different churches.

    On Matt. 18, the issue is not what works perfectly, but whether such a practice is even meaningfully possible. Can an excommunicated Catholic move from Seattle to Miami and receive the Eucharist without getting caught? Of course. No one claims to be able to fix that problem. But in the case of the Catholic, he is officially excommunicated from the Catholic Church and under God’s curse (and even those who commit grave and high-handed sins are excommunicated automatically, regardless of whether it has been made official). So certain things are objectively true of him, even if he is hiding those things from his priest. But it’s not the same in the case of a Protestant. If Leithart were excommunicated from the PCA, he could simply join the CREC, and he wouldn’t have to hide his sentence from anyone, since his new leadership would just say the PCA got it wrong (and didn’t something similar happen with Lee Irons? He demitted the ministry in the OPC because they disagreed with his Klineanism, and now he’s teaching in a PCA somewhere). So there is no real way to “tell it to the church, and if he will not repent he shall be treated as a pagan and a publican,” since there is no single “the church” to tell it to. You can tell it to a denomination within the so-called visible church, but you can’t tell it to the church so that the church can render a ruling.

    In other words, the Seattle to Miami scenario is possible in both Catholicism and Protestantism, but in the case of the former it is only possible when sinful dishonesty and lack of communication bring it about, whereas when it happens in in the latter it’s par for the course, since the entire Protestant project is designed to provide individuals with sufficient freedom to make this kind of thing possible.

  14. We have finally arrived at the elephant in the room…. authority. Over the course of its 2000 year history the Catholic Church has “cracked the whip” and disciplined its congregations and leaders (I dont know of any protestant denominations doing the same before the year 1500?). Perhaps today the magesterium isn’t doing this as much as you would like…. but to focus on this is to miss the point entirely. The thrust of the argument goes like this “which view of the visible church can most make sense out of the given biblical data.” Or if you would like to continue with Jasons exercise ” Which paradigm would have given rise to verses such as Matt 18:15-18″.

    Consider Matt 18:15-18

    15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
    18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

    Its verse 17 thats the real kicker for the protestant view of “church”. If I am a LCMS Lutheran and I sin against a southern baptist say….. how do we fulfill verse 17? What if a nondenominational member sins against a presbyterian? Clearly Matthew was writing from the perspective of their being ONE CHURCH that would address such issues. Otherwise I can just always break off from any particular denominations and either join another or (with enough followers) begin my own brand of christianity.

    Lets take a look at that verse written from the protestant paradigm

    17 If they still refuse to listen, take it to the bible and begin arguing passages in the most tedious way imaginable; and if they refuse to listen even to your biblical argument treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
    18 “Truly I tell you, whatever your opinion of scripture on earth will be the opinion of scripture in heaven, and whenever a church teaches against your opinion though shalt break off from them and start a new church altogether.”

  15. Kenneth,

    Notice the small ‘c’ in “church”?

    That’s the body where you worship. That’s not the Church. We don’t even know who is in ‘The Church’, since “the wheat and tares grow together”.

    Take the matter unto your church elders. If someone sins against me who does not belong to my particular denomination, that will not tear my congregation apart or do damage to it. So then you’d handle it. Forgive the person. Hopefully they will forgive you. And move on. If not, I’d pray that the Lord would forgive both parties.

    For us, the Authority always lies in the Word (Christ Himself, Christ in preaching and teaching, and in the Bible…in that order)

  16. Jason–

    So has there never been a Thomistic scholar employed by a Thomistic institution who “converts” to Molinism and leaves in order to join a Jesuit school? Somebody moving from OPC to PCA or from PCA to CREC hasn’t switched churches, just denominations. That’s what “denomination” technically means: different “names” for groupings within the one true church. In other words, traditional Protestantism is indeed a singular visible church, bound by incredibly similar confessions.

    Why do small distinctives between confessional Protestant groups split the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, whereas much larger distinctives within the many varieties of Catholicism just promote a beneficial diversity? Plus, aren’t we as Protestants in “certain but imperfect communion” with Rome. In other words, even coming from your viewpoint, we doubtless remain a visible part of the one church. (Though Peter Leithart’s beliefs may well violate the WCF, you wouldn’t personally be inclined to drum him out of the church catholic, would you?)

    As far as I am concerned, any denomination which willfully works against another denomination in disciplinary measures involving consensus immorality or Nicene dogma has forfeited its right to be considered part of the church. They are the true schismatics.

    Without any “divine protection” (according to you), confessional Protestants have stayed fairly static in their beliefs for a long, long time. I’ll bet even you expect them to do the same for a long, long time to come.

    Try as I might, I have never seen any convincing “principled reasons” for considering the Tridentine/Vatican II church to be the legitimate continuation of Apostolic Catholicism.

  17. Wosbald and Kenneth–

    Luther, Calvin, et al. broke away because of the Sensus Catholicus.

    Confessional Protestantism views itself as the legitimate continuation of Apostolic Catholicism. In other words, we’ve been around since Jesus. You’ve been around since 1563.

  18. ERIC
    you said

    Confessional Protestantism views itself as the legitimate continuation of Apostolic Catholicism. In other words, we’ve been around since Jesus. You’ve been around since 1563.

    you can consider your self whatever till the end of time reality is your church and any other churches that you mentioned wouldn’t by any mean shape or measure can be fitted in 1st , 2nd , 3rd, 4th, and so on church prior to the split and that is a mater of fact history, doctrines, practice and unity and any honest intellect would not make or except your statement. please be real here

  19. Eric is exactly right. One of the main reasons for the Reformation is that confronted with the sin of surrendering its catholicity and adding so much to even the early fathers, Rome hardened its heart at Trent and blamed Luther, Calvin, et. al. Sorta like they blamed the East centuries earlier when Constantinople had enough of Rome’s pretention.

    Protestants have apostolic succession, just ask the Lutherans and the Anglicans. Even Presbyterians and Baptists can admit to apostolic succession, we just believe you have to, you know, actually believe something close to what the apostles believed in order to be their successors. In Rome, apparently, you can be an outright heretic and still be a part of apostolic succession. I’m sure that’s just what Paul had in mind when he told Timothy to entrust the faith to others.

  20. Wassan,

    And if you actually read church history without Rome-colored glasses, Roman Catholicism doesn’t fit there either. Let’s get real here.

  21. Some of us Lutherans don’t need apostolic succession.

    Our authority comes from the Word itself. We don’t need a particular set of fingertips from a particular person to touch another person in order for the sacraments to be valid. They are true and valid and will do their work because the Word is attached to the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of the Supper.

    There we go again. Trusting in God’s Word…alone. When you have a big God you can do that. When you think that God needs our help then you end up with ‘apostolic succession’ and ‘free-will decisions’ and ‘serious commitments’ and ‘religious ladder climbing works projects’ and other such nonsense.

  22. Robert
    you said

    doesn’t fit there either.

    that “either” tells me a lot. thanks for being honest here Robert.

    read the church’s fathers without Protestantism bias colored glasses, and you will find Roman Catholicism there . let’s be honest

  23. A few people spoke of how the Catholic Church no longer disciplines. What planet are these guys living on? There have been religious orders disbanded this past year for unfaithful teachings. There was a priest that was excommunicated for openly supporting women priests. You protestants on here have to be joking. I was a protestant for 27 years. I know how these games are played too. Here is a great example. Since the sacraments come through then authority of the Church, then they are not anything we want then to be. Like me give a pertinent contrasting example. Say a homosexual in my city wanted to get married. If he went to a Catholic Church, the marriage would not be recognized anywhere in the Church because it is against how the Church, the voice of Christ continuing today speaks. The Church is a living voice. But if a homosexual wanted to get married in Protestant Church A and it was not permitted in their doctrinal statement, they would merely have to go to Protestant Church B that defines marriage differently. The world looks at this and says, Christ leads a Church of contradicting beliefs. The truth must be relative since this Church says they are Christian too and they do the opposite of this other Church.
    This cannot happen in the Catholic Church since the teaching on marriage is the same everywhere in the world.
    Protestants make it look like God our Father is in perpetual contradiction with the Church our mother. It is really actually all very childish. Like a child who doesn’t like their family house rules and so runs away from home to live with a family with different rules. Or a child who is always playing off either parent to gain ones favor over another.
    As Christ said, a house divided against itself cannot endure. The Catholic Church is firm and certain in its teaching. It is clearly taught in the Catechism. Protestantism is too squishy when it has again and again been challenged by the culture it is in. I stay in the Catholic Church the same reason Augustine abided in her. The faith is universal and has apostolic succession.

  24. Augustine’s reasons for being Catholic when he could be something else are still valid today. Here is what I was referring to:  

    Augustine

    “[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house” (Against the Letter of Mani Called “The Foundation” 4:5 [A.D. 397]). 

  25. Authority is not power.

    God has both, so they can easily be confused. But a mother has rightful authority over her children even when she cannot force them to obey.

    Jason, you write:

    The only way you can say there is a single visible church is by admitting that those 100 non-assembled believers are the visible church in that town despite not having the means of grace, leadership, and their never having worshiped together in the same building…So what this amount to is this: Protestantism believes in visible congregations that comprise an invisible church. But there is no visible church (singular).

    No.

    First, it’s clearly absurd to say that “there is no visible church” when you’ve just quoted the definition of the visible church. I understand the desire to make the argument, yada yada — but all you’re going to get in response is

    “Yes, there is a visible church, which is all who profess …”

    What you are really trying to say, it seems, is that the Protestant visible church as defined does not have officership, as individual visible churches do.

    And so you make this point with your “100 baptized believers.” They meet the definition of being the a part of the visible church, yet they do not meet the defintion of being a local church. See, Protestants, your definitions are in tension with each other. Visible churches should have officers, but the visible church doesn’t.

    But here’s the problem: Where were these 100 baptized? Where do they worship? To which church do they belong?

    In your scenario, the answer is, Nowhere, nowhere, and none.

    In which case, we Protestants would say that they certainly aren’t acting like a part of the visible church, and they should be subject to discipline for it. We actually wouldn’t accept their baptisms as valid, if indeed they had not been baptized by a church that holds the creeds.

    But if these 100 have been baptized by a church, and are members in good standing somewhere (just not in each others’ churches, by hypothesis), and worship somewhere, then their officers are officers in THE visible church.

    Actually, that’s backwards. If their officers teach the gospel and administer the sacraments and discipline, then the 100 happen to be members of the visible church. Their *profession* goes hand-in-hand with their *membership*.

    The problem was, you presented a scenario that was really anabaptistic: 100 baptized believers from nowhere! It’s not particularly shocking, therefore, that your scenario led to an anabaptist conclusion — “there’s no such thing as the visible church.”

    Which is a reasonable analysis of the anabaptist position, but is irrelevant to the Protestant position.

  26. Wassan: read the church’s fathers without Protestantism bias colored glasses, and you will find Roman Catholicism there

    Did; didn’t. Just sayin’.

  27. Jeff

    Hey this is a good read for you
    Faith of our fathers and I believe it is by James Gibbons

    Be honest for the love of Christ

    May God give you His grace to enlighten your Heart and mind

  28. Wassan–

    Sorry to burst your bubble. You’ve obviously been taught that anyone with a lick of sense reading the ECF’s would see a carbon copy of Rome.

    We are telling you–in all honesty–that when we read the ECF’s, one of the last things it reminds us of is the modern version of Rome.

  29. Wassan,

    When I say you won’t find Protestantism in the ECFs either, I am not denying that there are Protestant ideas in the ECFs. I am also not denying that there are some Roman Catholic ideas there either, at least in seed form.

    What I am saying is that it is beyond anachronistic to read the ECFs and see either Protestantism and Roman Catholicism when such things did not exist. You had the church or either the Western Church or the Eastern Church, depending on where the fathers were from.

    Protestants can let the fathers be the fathers, we can let them be wrong where they were wrong and right when they were right.

    You do not have a true Roman Catholic Church until Trent, no matter how much Rome wants to pretend otherwise. Many Protestant ideas had a home in the medieval church until then. Clairvaux, for example, despite his incipient Mariology, believed something very close to justification by faith alone and imputation. Calvin quoted him extensively.

    The fact that you can pull up a family tree that purports to show the apostolic succession of bishops all the way back to the apostles (of course, they just can’t agree on the lists for Rome, can they?) does not prove you have an apostolic church. It’s a very shallow understanding of apostolicity.

  30. Wosblad (from yesterday at 6:58am),

    This is a good post. And you make a good point, but the problem is that I believe you’re puttting the stress on the wrong syllable. The dialogue should have been about the living dynamic tension between the Magesterium and the Sensus Catholicus. Both of these are interdependent and both are bequeathed to the whole Church organism, but they are manifested on different planes in the life of this Being (exoteric vs esoteric). Instead, however, the Reformation Fathers framed the dialogue as being The Collective vs The Individual.

    I think we all, conservatives Protestants as well as conservative Catholics, have a sense of the sensus catholicus, at least as I understand the term. But we look to different standards to determine what this means to us. But such a discussion does not obviate the need for a discussion of just what you write in your last sentence above. The Reformers certainly did frame one of the debates with the RCC as a matter of the Collective/Individual. But it’s not like the RCC can get away from the debate since they had their own conception of what is important in the One/Many, Collective/Individual, Realist/Nominalist debates. In the Medieval RCC the One swallowed up the Many. The Reformers wanted to bring back a sense of the Many.

    So concerning ecclesiology the RCC emphasized the authority and the disciplinary function of THE CHURCH rather than the congregations. And the Reformers simple message was that, within the context of ecclesiastical discipline, the Scriptures are generally speaking to individual congregations. This is not always the case, but it is generally true. Discipline starts with the church, not THE CHURCH. If there is no discipline at the local level than the larger church will be lost. This is just the issue that the Reformers pointed out to the RCC and the RCC eventually tried to deal with at Trent. The moral quagmire of the RCC that Trent had to sort out was just a reflection of the failure to discipline at the level of the individual congregation. And it’s still an issue today for the RCC. Jason talks about discipline in the RCC and a couple of us have asked him what he means by it. He has not told us yet, but my guess is that he is speaking of the higher level sorts of things that we read about in the papers. And of course the hierarchy of the RCC should be dealing with such things, but the problem of the lack of discipline at the congregational level is still there for Catholicism, and much of Protestantism as well.

  31. Eric
    you are not correct
    everything is on line no a day and can be verified

    if you would’ve read the book I mentioned above you can easy find the sources from the ECF writings.

    most misters converted to the CC say that it is the ECF writings played major role in their conversion

    also I advise you to see this you tube clip. Even though these two gentlemen were misrepresenting the CC teachings and the RCIA program and tell lies to their teeth, that is not the issue here nevertheless listen to the end of the clip how they brushoff CFT as history and dose not advise anyone to read it WHY??????

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMWbBB5wOW4

    God Bless

  32. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    I think we all, conservatives Protestants as well as conservative Catholics, have a sense of the sensus catholicus, at least as I understand the term. But we look to different standards to determine what this means to us. But such a discussion does not obviate the need for a discussion of just what you write in your last sentence above. The Reformers certainly did frame one of the debates with the RCC as a matter of the Collective/Individual. But it’s not like the RCC can get away from the debate since they had their own conception of what is important in the One/Many, Collective/Individual, Realist/Nominalist debates. In the Medieval RCC the One swallowed up the Many. The Reformers wanted to bring back a sense of the Many.

    I don’t know what more I can say is except to restate my post. In short, what the Reformation lost was the mystical dimension of the Church. After this was done, all that they had left to do was to apply banal philosophical arguments to Her. I’m not saying that philosophy is inherently banal nor am I saying that it is always unprofitable to apply such thinking to the Church. And I’m certainly not saying that medievalist Catholics always resisted the temptation to believe that they’d “captured” the Church in some theo-philosophical legerdemain. This is a very human temptation.

    But The Church is more primal and immediate than philosophy because She is a real, living organism and, therefore, if She is philosophically confined, the only outcome is death. After the Reformers killed their living conception of the Church, what was left over was an abstract and untouchable Invisible Church, on one hand, and particularized, and very human, visible iterations, on the other. Ideological posturing about the relation between the Collective and the Individual would be about all that they had left in the practical, everyday realm. But the inability to seamlessly integrate these two aspects (modes) back together in a single, living Being is what haunts Protestantism to this day.

    Maybe that’ll help clarify my above comments. Like I said, I think that your post was insightful and carried a great deal of truth, but I think that you’re missing the bigger picture.

  33. Wosbald,

    You could be accused of begging the question because you assume Protestants deny the mystical nature of the church based on the Roman definition of it.

  34. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Wosbald,
    You could be accused of begging the question because you assume Protestants deny the mystical nature of the church based on the Roman definition of it.

    There’s no bonus points for using the phrase, “begging the question”, in a sentence.

    Just sayin’.

  35. Michael,

    Sorry, but you are just being naïve. That is about as nice as I can put it. Your definition of the visible church prevents you from seeing that if Protestant church B recognizes a homosexual marriage that Protestant A refused, Protestant church B should not be considered a legitimate expression of the Christian faith. Just because a church calls itself Protestant, doesn’t make it Protestant, let alone Christian.

    As far as whether or not another parish in the RCC would not recognize an improper marriage, I think you are giving far more credit to your church than it deserves. There are plenty of “gay-friendly” parishes in the U.S. Do you seriously think any of these parishes would reject or refuse to serve the Eucharist to a “married” gay couple.

    http://www.newwaysministry.org/gfp.html

    Heck, a lesbian pagan taught theology at one of your institutions for decades.

    The world’s estimation of Christianity should not be the standard for what is a true expression of truth and unity. The world can look at the Roman Catholic Church today and see a communion that viewed its own reputation as more important than protecting children from sexual abuse, a view that is not entirely without merit. It would then think that the Roman Church doesn’t care about its members or that the truth about human sexuality must be relative since it turned a blind eye to its own teaching for so long. Would that be an accurate estimation of the Roman Catholic Church. You and I can both agree that it wouldn’t be. Our actions do impact our witness, but they do not define it.

    Protestants don’t believe that God the Father and the church our mother are in perpetual contradiction, else we wouldn’t affirm anything the church universal has said. We just deny that the mother is infallible, and for good reason.

  36. Wosbald,

    But Jason and C2C have used the phrase to dismiss criticism. Just sayin’

  37. Robert, what you continue to overlook is the difference between teaching and practice. My point is with the doctrinal statements of A and B church are contradictory. And the message this gives to the world is that the Church does not have a consistent teaching concerning this.
    I am fully aware of the rebellious members in the fold. New ways Ministry has been explicitely rejected by the Church’s magisterium. As for receiving commuinion while being excommunicated (which a homosexual would be if they sought marriage against the sacrament), then the condemnation is from Christ. But the Church does not deny a person coming forward to communion because the faithful are instructed to not be in mortal sin our out of communion with the Church before receiving it.

    The point you refuse to see is the teaching is consistent all throughout the Church because the teaching comes from the magisterium. Protestant churches have no way to be consistent because they have no higher appeal.

  38. Michael,

    And what you continue to overlook is the fact that just because a group claims to be a church does not mean it is a church. You are reading Roman ecclesiology into Protestantism and thus, as some would say, “begging the question.”

    Rome can stand on its head and make pronouncements all the day long, but if she is not going to enforce here pronouncements, I have no good reason to think that she takes her claims to infallibility seriously. And if the infallible authority does not takes in infallibility seriously, how is it meaningfully infallible.

    At the end of the day, it boils down to what communion is going to uphold its confessional standards. Yes, one might leave the PCA for the Episcopalian church in order to get married to his or her gay partner, but even in that case Episcopalians and the PCA agree on the essentials of doctrine at least on paper. It’s just that the Episcopal Church is not living according to the 39 articles. You have the same thing in the Roman Catholic Church. I can go to a liberal parish from a conservative one, and in that case both parishes have a formal agreement on essential doctrines. But only the more conservative one is upholding it.

    Doctrines that are merely paper pronouncements are not worth the paper they are printed on. Modern Rome is little more than a paper tiger.

  39. Robert, who determines the essential doctrines?

    I already gave you instances where the church has disciplined. I side with Augustine’s view of the Church and every Church Father. The Church is valid according to apostolic succession. Not by Robert’s view or the majority view of essential doctrine is.

    The pronouncements of the PCA and the Episcopal church are in conflict. It is not their disciplinary tactics. The Catholic Church is whole and undefiled in its doctrine because Christ is its head and not some man who broke away from it. Augustine understood this when he contrasted the Catholic Church with counterfeit assemblies. He based it off of the succession of apostles. Obviously this is not something you understand or accept. So you are a schismatic. You are not in full communion and you have chosen to hold to traditions of men.

  40. Wassan–

    Cardinal Gibbons’ book, which he subtitles “a plain exposition and vindication” of the Catholic faith, is just that: a readable, popular-level apologetic of basic Catholicism. It’s palatable enough, with some excellent points made, but hardly convincing in any scholarly sense. I don’t get the impression it was intended to be.

    And why do you link me to Dave Hunt, of all people? He is a fundamentalist (and thus an obscurantist), probably a semi-Pelagian, and an unabashed anti-Calvinist. Who really cares what he has to say? Something no one would accuse him of is being a scholar.

  41. Michael–

    The church catholic determines the essential doctrines, not some arrogant section of it that has assumed “suzerainty.” There hasn’t been an ecumenical council since 787 C.E. Both the East and the West are defiantly in schism from a common catholic church.

    Augustine held that both apostolic succession and fealty to the regula fide were essential. He would not have acknowledged the current Roman church as legitimate since it is not orthodox (and since it is also schismatic).

  42. In short, what the Reformation lost was the mystical dimension of the Church.

    Wosbald,

    Even if that was true (which it is not) it would not address the concerns that I rasied about discipline in the RCC. Let me try to remove the philosophical angle from my last post to you and look at the matter from a purely exegetical standpoint. My point here is while the relevant biblical passages address the matter of discipline to local congregations there are few congregations who take such admonitions seriously. My observation is that while Protestant congregations don’t do a good job at this that Catholic congregations are even behind the Protestants.

    An answer that the Protestant congregations have lost the mystical understanding of the Church is no answer at all.

  43. Michael,

    I do affirm apostolic succession. The successors to the apostles are those who are faithful to the apostles’ doctrine. I don’t believe that apostolic succession means anyone who can make a claim of a line of ordination that goes back to the apostles is, in fact, in line with the apostles. Neither did Augustine. The Donatists claimed apostolic succession in the same way the orthodox did.

    The doctrinal standards of the PCA and the Anglican communion are not formally at odds. The 39 articles are as Reformed as any other Reformed confession to come out of the Reformation and post-Reformation period. The issue is that while the PCA, by and large, has at least TRIED to enforce its standards, certain branches of the Anglican church, such as the U.S. Episcopalians, don’t even care about their formal standards. Most of them probably don’t even know them.

    The church catholic defines the essential doctrines of Christianity, not a fanciful reading of history that pretends the pope called or even had a significant role at many of the earliest councils. A good place to start on the essential doctrines would be the Nicene Creed. You’ll notice that the Nicene Creed says nothing about us doing good works in order to secure our final justification. Rome conveniently ignores that.

    BTW, the quote you posted from Augustine is essentially meaningless to your case. You cannot assume that Augustine saw the seat of Peter as the bishop of Rome just because he says “see of Peter.” You cannot quote a letter against Mani as if it has bearing for Protestantism since we don’t make the same claims. We’re not the schismatics, it was Trent that cut off certain streams of the church catholic. It was the bishop of Rome that arrogantly asserted primacy over and against the Eastern view of ecclesiology.

  44. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    Wosbald,
    Even if that was true (which it is not) it would not address the concerns that I rasied about discipline in the RCC. Let me try to remove the philosophical angle from my last post to you and look at the matter from a purely exegetical standpoint. My point here is while the relevant biblical passages address the matter of discipline to local congregations there are few congregations who take such admonitions seriously. My observation is that while Protestant congregations don’t do a good job at this that Catholic congregations are even behind the Protestants.
    An answer that the Protestant congregations have lost the mystical understanding of the Church is no answer at all.

    Well, if you “remove the philosophical angle” from your post, then you’ve pretty much removed any relevance from my response. The purpose of my post was to demonstrate that, for Catholics, there is an ontological quality to “The Church” that transcends and eclipses any particularized instances of more rigorous or more generous applications of discipline (or even outright derelictions of duty) which may occur on both the Catholic and Protestant sides of the divide.

    I was trying to approach the issue from a different direction. If you don’t want to follow me in that endeavor, then that’s fair enough. I simply thought that it might yield some interesting, novel and, hopefully, fruitful dialogue.

  45. Jeff,

    I wrote, “The only way you can say there is a single visible church is by admitting that those 100 non-assembled believers are the visible church in that town despite not having the means of grace, leadership, and their never having worshiped together in the same building…So what this amount to is this: Protestantism believes in visible congregations that comprise an invisible church. But there is no visible church (singular).” You responded:

    No. First, it’s clearly absurd to say that “there is no visible church” when you’ve just quoted the definition of the visible church. I understand the desire to make the argument, yada yada — but all you’re going to get in response is

    “Yes, there is a visible church, which is all who profess …”

    What you are really trying to say, it seems, is that the Protestant visible church as defined does not have officership, as individual visible churches do.

    Yes, I am saying that it is contradictory to say that there is a single visible church which lacks all of the elements necessary for making a visible church a visible church. You can’t have a visible church with no leaders, no sacraments, no means of grace, and no address, and members who have never seen one another in person.

    Another way to put it is that if your understanding of the visible church is such that if there actually were no visible church at all (but only visible congregations united in an invisible church) nothing would be different, then the claim to have a single visible church is meaningless.

    And so you make this point with your “100 baptized believers.” They meet the definition of being the a part of the visible church, yet they do not meet the defintion of being a local church. See, Protestants, your definitions are in tension with each other. Visible churches should have officers, but the visible church doesn’t.

    But here’s the problem: Where were these 100 baptized? Where do they worship? To which church do they belong?

    In your scenario, the answer is, Nowhere, nowhere, and none.

    They all just moved to town in the last month from previous towns and former churches. My question is, if these formerly duly baptized people moved to a new town with no existing church (or were forming a new town altogether), then according to the Reformed position they are members of “the visible church” by virtue of their baptisms, despite the fact that the so-called visible church they belong to has no visible elements, and thus is virtually indistinguishable from the invisible church.

  46. But Jason, I think you can surely anticipate the response. Think through the fact that these 100 are members of churches elsewhere.

  47. I am so glad Robert and Eric know what Augustine meant about apostolic succession. I only studied his works in seminary and it was a Protestant seminary. You must mean a different Augustine. For if you think Augustine believed in a succession based on what you say and not the Actual laying on of hands by the apostles and those laying on of hands on those who came next, then I have some ocean front property to sell you here in Michigan. Robert that you have to really be kidding. And same to Eric.

  48. Michael,

    I do not claim that Augustine believed the laying on of hands all the way back to the apostles was not integral to apostolic succession. Of course he believed in such. But then again, so do Protestants after a fashion. We lay hands on people to ordain them. Luther was ordained by the laying on of hands. We’re just saying that mere laying on of hands of those who can trace a lineage back to the apostles is not enough to prove that one is, in fact, faithful to what the apostles taught. Again, the Donatists could and did claim that. Did Augustine view the Donatists as faithful to the apostles?

    If a claim to apostolic succession with some kind of pedigree or lineage that can be traced back to the apostles is enough to prove the apostolicity of a church, then the EO, the Anglicans, and the Lutherans are just as valid as Rome. As a Romanist, you would not agree. At some point, a decision must be made to separate the claimants from those truly committed to the apostolic faith. The question is how this decision is to be made. Protestants say Scripture, Rome says that the criteria is whatever the Roman Church says it is.

  49. I feel as though I’m a bit late to the party, but what I have trouble wrapping my brain around is that people ignore the significance of history. Times change, but the Church has not. Not really. Vatican II made the Mass more accessible to the common man, but it didn’t change it.

    The Roman Catholic Church exists today as it did at the beginning. It is not the Roman tradition that has split, but rather others who have split from the Roman tradition. There are records and letters dating back to the earliest points of Christian history detailing what the believers did when they gathered together. They are, without question, the same Mass celebrated every Sunday in every Catholic church across the entirety of the planet.

    More often than not, I see people disillusioned by the sins and the shortcomings of the human being and take that to be indicative of the Church and it’s teaching. On the issue of infallibility, we have to consider what that really means. Keep in mind that if Pope Francis stands up and announces that the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series, he’s probably wrong (though miracles can happen).

    The infallibility of the Church, and the Pope, is not referring to the words of the man. It is referring to the word of the Spirit using the man as a communication channel to reach out and speak to the faithful in an attempt to impart the teachings of Christ.

    We must also recognize that even sinners can become faithful. Even the unsavory members of society can be used by God to spread His word. We cannot forget that Paul was once a very formidable enemy of the Church. God came to him, God spoke to him, and God used him. God does not work ‘with’ us. He works ‘through’ us. That is the key.

    A Pope can be a sinner and still wield the infallibility of the Church, because it is not the man who is infallible, but Christ who is speaking through the man.

    I’ve seen several references to the Word and the Bible as the source of truth and teaching, but I suspect the same people posting such claims are also those who seem to skim past and/or attempt to rationalize a sudden shift from literal interpretation to a figurative one in John Chapter 6 (Read: Real presence in the Eucharist).

    To quote The Old Adam:

    For us, the Authority always lies in the Word (Christ Himself, Christ in preaching and teaching, and in the Bible…in that order)

    .

    This is all well and good, but it fails to acknowledge the Authority granted to Peter by Christ’s own hand. Consider Matthew 16:18-19:

    And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

    Christ himself acknowledged the passing of Authority to Peter, and to the Apostles. An Authority that has been passed on to priets, bishops and popes from that moment on. The proof of Authority exists in the Scripture. The Authority exists whether we choose to accept it or not.

    The Catholic Church remains. The Body is strong. It has survived persecution, dissent and scandal for 2000 years. That has to mean something.

  50. Mike R.,

    Yes, Mike, the catholic church remains. But the Roman Catholic Church is not the catholic church just because it says so.

  51. Robert,

    You are correct, but only due to your use of “catholic” versus “Catholic” (and, more specifically, “the catholic” versus “a catholic”).

    By definition, “catholic” means universal or “all-embracing”, while “Catholic” refers to the Catholic tradition. It seems that most often, it is used in reference to the Roman Catholic Church, but I will agree that this isn’t necessarily the most accurate use since there are other denominations who use the “Catholic” name (Eastern Orthodox, for example).

    Still, the Roman Catholic Church is substantially more catholic than any denomination under the Protestant umbrella. The Roman Catholic Mass celebrated in Madrid on Sunday morning is identical to the Roman Catholic Mass celebrated in New York, London, Paris, and, in fact, every city around the world. It is unquestionably universal.

    I don’t know of any Protestant denomination that can claim the same level of universal practice and belief as the Roman Catholic Church. That’s especially difficult when it seems like every disagreement within the Protestant denominations leads to the formation of more denominations. The Protestant umbrella continues to splinter while the Roman Catholic Tradition remains predominantly unchanged.

    The Old Testament is filled with stories of God putting Israelites “in their place” so to speak for overstepping their bounds or drifting too far away from God’s teachings. Considering that precedent, I would think that after 2000 years, if the Roman Catholic Church had it wrong, God would have stepped in to set us straight. Conversely, Protestant denominations have been around since the 16th century, and the number of denominations is estimated to be somewhere around 33,000 according to Wikipedia.

    To repeat my previous claim, that has to mean something.

  52. I would think that after 2000 years, if the Roman Catholic Church had it wrong, God would have stepped in to set us straight.

    Yeah, you would think that after 4,000, if the Hindu religion had it wrong, God would have stepped in to set them straight.

  53. The Old Testament is filled with stories of God putting Israelites “in their place” so to speak for overstepping their bounds or drifting too far away from God’s teachings. Considering that precedent, I would think that after 2000 years, if the Roman Catholic Church had it wrong, God would have stepped in to set us straight.

    Hang on now, this is a really interesting thought.

    So let me get this straight: Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 is ground for you to claim that God rejected the Jews but Rome’s destruction by Goths and Vandals in the 5th century was just happenstance?

    mazel tov

  54. SS,

    I was referring to things like the Babylonian exile or the serpent infestation while they were wandering in the desert.

    Things they were specifically identified as “punishments” in the Old Testament.

    Not every disaster or tragedy is an act of God’s wrath, but there were a number of them identified as such in scripture.

    *please pardon typos. I am posting from a twitchy phone.

  55. Not every disaster or tragedy is an act of God’s wrath, but there were a number of them identified as such in scripture.

    How do you know that the destruction of Rome was not an act of God’s wrath?

  56. SS,
    Couple missing pieces to your proposal. One, Jesus prophetically spoke of the temple destruction. There was no such prophesy that Jesus’ Church would be destroyed. In fact Jesus told Peter that ‘the gates of hell will not prevail’ over the Church. So please explain such a wild interpretation of events. It could be wrath of God, but Rome also was had its share of sins. The Church was not known to be a Bastian of corruption at that time. So I think this is a huge stretch.

  57. Again, how do you know that Rome’s destruction was not God’s wrath on Rome and its church? God does not have to prophesy of an event for it to be true.

    You are also presuming that Rome is the church spoken of in that verse. Don’t think of it as indicating any glory whatsoever, because Christ also said “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when he returns”. Hardly the portrait of a triumphant church.

  58. The Church was not known to be a Bastian of corruption at that time.

    Forgot this beauty above.

    Have you read the history of the ecumenical councils of the time? The violence, the blood, the murder in the name of Christ.

    You guys are living on another planet. Or maybe everyone’s taken the blue pill.

  59. SS,

    I stepped away to take a shower, and it looks like I have my work cut out for me now.

    “How do you know that the destruction of Rome was not an act of God’s wrath?”

    How do you know that it was? I was referencing events with clear and precise evidence in scripture indicating that they were, in fact, punishments. To respond to your previous comment regarding God “rejecting” the Jews, that’s not quite the point I was attempting to make.

    I mentioned punishments/reprimands, not outright rejection. I simply stated that God set a precedent for punishing and correcting the unfaithful, and there is scriptural evidence to support that. Also, you mentioned the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the destruction of Rome in the 5th century. I did specify the Old Testament in my comment, which I believe predates both these events.

    To Michael: To be fair, Jesus’ prophetic reference to the destruction of the Temple was speaking to his own crucifixion (and subsequent resurrection). As far as I understand it there was no connection to any literal temple building.

    And, back to SS:

    Have you read the history of the ecumenical councils of the time? The violence, the blood, the murder in the name of Christ.

    This brings me back to a point made in my original comment. You are mistaking the actions of the member for the teachings of the institution. Yes, there was corruption in the Church. Yes, there was substantial bloodshed in the name of Christ (Crusades, Inquisition, etc.), but I go back to what I said previously. These actions do not speak for the Church as an institution. They speak to an abuse and/or misunderstanding of doctrine executed by the fallible members. With respect to the Church, the member is of man, but the institution is of God.

    I will admit that my argument regarding the 2000 year history of Roman Catholic tradition was somewhat of a leap, but still, it is a leap of Faith based on what I know and understand regarding my beliefs and their history. And, in a discussion of faith, it’s rather difficult to leave said faith out.

  60. How do you know that it was?

    That you do not know that it was a punishment of God is more of a problem for you because I’m not claiming what you are re the 2000 year history.

    This brings me back to a point made in my original comment. You are mistaking the actions of the member for the teachings of the institution. Yes, there was corruption in the Church. Yes, there was substantial bloodshed in the name of Christ (Crusades, Inquisition, etc.), but I go back to what I said previously. These actions do not speak for the Church as an institution. They speak to an abuse and/or misunderstanding of doctrine executed by the fallible members

    Well, this is the usual fallback and as usual it falls short. The above belies a Western mindest. If one adopts a Semitic mindset and considers what Christ said “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit”, it becomes quickly evident that the distinction you make cannot stand. Reading Christ in His proper setting, one realizes that the fruit and the tree are not two distinct entities, but one organic entity. It’s highly amusing to me that on the one hand, catholics want to speak of Incarno-Sacramentalism, but then when confronted with the facts of history, suddenly there’s no speak of Incarno-Sacramentalism. How convenient….

    You can’t have it both ways.

  61. Typo above: meant to read:

    “That you do not know that it wasn’t a punishment of God”

  62. SS,

    That you do not know that it wasn’t a punishment of God is more of a problem for you because I’m not claiming what you are re the 2000 year history.

    (I took the liberty of correcting your typo in the quote)

    Truthfully, both claims are equally indicative of man’s inability to fully comprehend God. All we can hope to do is make our best guess based on the information available to us. I firmly believe that the Roman Catholic Church holds the Authority I claim it does. Based on what I know about the history of the Church (and the global Christian faith) and what I believe in my heart to be true, that is the conclusion that makes the most sense.

    That said, I also recognize that claiming this belief to be unquestionable certainty would arguably border on arrogance. I’ll just have to wait until I reach the other side (if I reach it) to find the final answer, but I also recognize that even then I may not fully know.

    To your other point:

    If one adopts a Semitic mindset and considers what Christ said “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit”, it becomes quickly evident that the distinction you make cannot stand.

    I actually agree with you. The Church, as a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. To that end, I’d argue that the sinful actions you refer to are not the fruit of the Church. They are the fruit of Satan preying on human weakness and corrupting the man. Try to remember that we are all susceptible to temptation. When we give in, it is the the fruit of our failures that leads to these atrocities, not the fruit of the Church.

  63. That said, I also recognize that claiming this belief to be unquestionable certainty would arguably border on arrogance. I’ll just have to wait until I reach the other side (if I reach it) to find the final answer, but I also recognize that even then I may not fully know.

    I appreciate your honest introspection.

    To that end, I’d argue that the sinful actions you refer to are not the fruit of the Church. They are the fruit of Satan preying on human weakness and corrupting the man. Try to remember that we are all susceptible to temptation.

    This logic renders Christ’s warning moot and meaningless and therefore cannot stand. That we are susceptible to temptation does not negate the fact that God expects blamelessness from our leaders (1 Tim 3). If He expects it, we should practice His commandments and discern the tree by its fruit.

  64. that quote from Augustine SO DESTROYS the protestant claim to history I thought I would follow it up. You can respond with your witty jibes and acme box of anti catholic argumentation but the Church fathers are still there for all to hear

    “Let us note that the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, was preached by the Apostles, and was preserved by the Fathers. On this was the Church founded; and if anyone departs from this, he neither is nor any longer ought to be called a Christian.”
    St. Athanasius, Letter to Serapion of Thmuis, 359 A.D..

    “I should not believe the Gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.”(St. Augustine, Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental, 5,6)
    The custom of the Church has very great authority, and ought to be jealously observed in all things, since the very doctrine of Catholic doctors derives its authority from the Church. Hence, we ought to abide by the authority of the Church rather than by that of an Augustine or a Jerome or of any doctor whatsoever. (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 10, art. 12).

    “They who have not peace themselves now offer peace to others. They who have withdrawn from the Church promise to lead back and to recall the lapsed to the Church. There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one Chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewehre is scattering.” (Cyprian, Letter 43 (40), 5, c. AD 251

    “I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but Your Blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails.”
    Letter of Jerome to Pope Damasus, 374 A.D. 15,2 J1346

  65. Someone may interject: if you reject Catholicism and Protestantism on that basis, where does that leave you?

    It leaves me in a place that I do not want to be in, but I am given no choice. Being on the fringes and calling out the desolation that is the church today is hardly a new thing. Ridiculed and persecuted were the prophets of old, and John the Baptist was certainly not part of the establishment, relegated to the wilderness and the river Jordan.

    That the gates of hell will not prevail can be interpreted in other ways than the usual triumphant one. It could also mean that God will reserve a remnant for Himself who will live in faithful expectation of His return and this regardless of the iniquity that has been done in the name of Christ.

    We are in utter need of repentance. Is is too hard to encourage our leaders to work for a living (in the many cases where the meager tithes of the congregation cannot support a teaching elder)? It is too hard to hold our leaders to a strict moral code, whilst not constraining them with celibacy (1 Tim 3:4 – he must manage his family well). Is it too hard to enforce a rule that no male adult shall be left alone with any child at any time or that no male leader shall be alone with a female other than his wife at any time, in seeking to avoid bringing disrepute to the name of Christ? (see recent Sovereign Grace ministries scandal) Is it too hard to sell all of our earthly real estate (including the Vatican and the $130 mln First Baptist Church of Dallas) and give to the poor, in additon to washing people’s feet? You do the latter but neglect the former, thereby neglecting true justice, mercy and humility. Is it too hard to return to the simplicity of the gathering that pleases God and is fully salvific (see Didache)?

    Is it too hard to humble ourselves and return to the Jewish roots of the faith and stop boasting over the natural branches, for many of these have been miraculously and prophetically returned to their homeland and are embracing the Messiah. Is it too hard to gather a group of catholic and protestant leaders and head to Jerusalem to seek the wisdom of those whom God has grafted back into His olive tree? The time of the fulness of the gentiles has come. The original church had Jew and Gentile side by side, with no conflation of the two!

    Even though the answer is NO, given that all things are possible with God, I’m not holding my breath.

  66. Kenneth,

    It is anachronistic to read the word catholic in the early church fathers as if it means anything other than universal. In other words, catholic does not mean “Roman Catholic,” as even many Roman Catholic historians will acknowledge. This is especially true for Cyprian, whom you cite, who did not take kindly to other bishops messing around in his diocese, including the bishop of Rome.

    The early church fathers weren’t Protestant, but they weren’t Roman Catholic either. There is no Roman Catholic Church before Trent; before that you just have the Western church, one stream of which went Protestant and the other Roman Catholic (to simplify things). Quoting church fathers without regard to their context and how they would have defined the term catholic ecclesiologically proves nothing. Eastern ecclesiology does a far better job of preserving what the fathers you quote mean by the term “catholic” than does Roman Catholic ecclesiology.

  67. you said

    If one adopts a Semitic mindset and considers what Christ said “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit”, it becomes quickly evident that the distinction you make cannot stand.

    How fair you leave out the saints and the miracles in the CC aren’t that good fruits

    was their saints in the OC? Was Christ condemning the OC institution as being the bad tree? OR the Individuals who is producing bad fruit?

    you are condemning a whole church for the action of individuals. Can we condemn Christ for the sins of
    Christians just look around you divisions in the body of Christ, enmity between Christians immorality and murdering innocence around the world and and . Just apply you logic

    The Catholic church leading the efforts to evangelize the world you don’t consider that good fruits? where is EO efforts in this field?

    God bless you

  68. Robert
    may be you want to check this out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_(term)

  69. +JMJ+

    Begone, Wikipedia, ye chatelaine of Popery!

  70. How fair you leave out the saints and the miracles in the CC aren’t that good fruits

    But that’s precisely the issue: it’s not the good fruit that’s the problem, it’s the presence of bad fruit. If a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, it cannot bear any bad fruit whatsoever, and can only bear good fruit consistently. The individuals you talk about are supposed to be the church, and animated by the grace infused into them by the sacraments that are unique to the church.

    I am not condemning them, because it is not my place to consign them to hell. But it is my God given prerogative to discern their fruit and draw the appropriate conclusion, that such a movement, no matter how enduring and how much of a global presence it has (Islam has endured as well, and has billions of adherents too), does not have a legitimate claim due to the fruit it has borne not over weeks, months, years, but centuries.

  71. Wosbald (from your response of 11:28am),

    Well, if you “remove the philosophical angle” from your post, then you’ve pretty much removed any relevance from my response. The purpose of my post was to demonstrate that, for Catholics, there is an ontological quality to “The Church” that transcends and eclipses any particularized instances of more rigorous or more generous applications of discipline (or even outright derelictions of duty) which may occur on both the Catholic and Protestant sides of the divide.

    Let me just remind you that it was you who was responding to me originally and so I was trying to bring you back to what I had original said (what you originally responded to). Secondly my post, and this thread, is about church discipline. The philosophical angle is important, but first and foremost I was addressing Jason’s points about church discipline, so if you want to have a conversation about the about ontological qualities of the church that do not speak to the issue at hand, then you are right, I’m not interested.

    But if you want to have a conversation about the philosophical paradigms that affect our understanding of ecclesiology that touch upon the subject of this thread then I’m all over that. It was you who made the comment that “the Reformation Fathers framed the dialogue as being The Collective vs The Individual.” And I then pointed out that the RCC also framed the debate in the same way, only they came from the perspective of the Collective. The different approach of Catholic vs Protestant helps to explain why Catholics tend not to focus of the disciplinary function of the individual congregation. But you seemed not to want to respond to me.

    So if you don’t want to talk about the actual topic of the thread then you probably don’t need to respond.

  72. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    And I then pointed out that the RCC also framed the debate in the same way, only they came from the perspective of the Collective.

    Well, the whole point of my first post was that this is not exactly true. I think that there may be a certain element of truth in it, depending upon how one nuances the issue, but as I said, it ultimately goes back to the tension between the Magesterium and the Sensus Catholicus.

    But no sweat, man. S’all good.

  73. SS

    The tree is holy she is the body of Christ but we by our own will chose to separate ourselves from the grace that is channeled through her . The sacraments are not mechanically manipulate us into holiness we need to cooperate with the grace given with these sacraments. In all generation the church produced good fruit and will produce good fruit till the end of the world Eph.3:21

    You are right no number or fruit would determine our legitimate claim , our claim is form Christ legitimate claim in this world (as the father sent me I send you) if the church does not have the legitimate claim then Christ does not have it. It is Christ who built the Church Matt 16 it does not depend on our holiness or corruption it is purely depends on Him.

    Muslims don’t have legitimate claim for one reason, they do not draw from Christ and His promise Matt 16

    It is our God given prerogative to discern their fruit nevertheless we observe all the things they teach us but not follow their example for they preach but they don’t practice. if Christ tells his disciples to listen to the corrupt leaders of the OC what do you think He would tells us to do in the NC with His guarantee to protect the Church.

    God bless you

  74. But that’s precisely the issue: it’s not the good fruit that’s the problem, it’s the presence of bad fruit. If a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, it cannot bear any bad fruit whatsoever, and can only bear good fruit consistently.

    And this was ultimately my claim. It is a misunderstanding of where the supposed fruit comes from. You have based your claim on the belief that the Church produces the “bad fruit”: the murderers, the corrupt, the rapists, etc. The Church does not produce these things. These sins are born of man, our weakness and our submission to temptation. The “bad fruit” is produced by our own hand each and every time we sin.

    To turn your own argument against you, if the Church is indeed producing this bad fruit, then by association, so too is the umbrella of Christianity to with both Catholics and Protestants belong. All Christians are prone to sin, and every one of us does indeed sin. If the Church produces bad fruit, so to does Christ, for the Church is born of Christ. Christ must produce bad fruit, for He produced the church which, as you claim, produces bad fruit.

    It is an absurd notion to think that Christ produces “bad fruit”. As such, it is an equally absurd notion to think that the Church produces “bad fruit” for the Church is of Christ. Is is substantially less absurd to say that sin produces bad fruit, because sin is of Satan and of man. Man exists within the Church, but man in a way also exists apart from the Church. The “bad fruit” produced by sin draws us away from the Church, the “good fruit” of Christ.

  75. Robert, You seem to be arguing well rehearsed and scripted lines from other sources….. probably from james white or some such… There is no way that you have ACTUALLY READ for yourself the church fathers and come to the erroneous conclusion that you espouse…. except perhaps if you start with the most extreme of biases and the most closed of minds….. your current theology stands in STARK contrast to that of the early fathers….. you folly is grave and should be reconsidered again and again

    Justin Martyr

    We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these, but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

    Origen

    Seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the Apostles, and remaining in the churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition (On First Principles Bk. 1 Preface 2 [circa A.D. 225]).

    Jerome

    Don’t you know that the laying on of hands after baptism and then the invocation of the Holy Sirit is a custom of the Churches? Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a command. For many other observances of the Churches, which are do to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law (The Dialogue Against the Luciferians 8 [A.D. 382]).

    Cyprian

    Peter speaks there, on whom the Church was to be built, teaching and showing in the name of the Church, that although a rebellious and arrogant multitude of those who will not hear or obey may depart, yet the Church does not depart from Christ; and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor. Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God’s priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another (Letters 66 [A.D. 253]).

    Cyril of Jerusalem

    Then [during the Eucharistic prayer] we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition… (Catechetical Lectures 23:9 [A.D. 350]).

    Augustine

    A Christian people celebrate together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).

    Hippolytus

    He [Jesus] was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle [Mary] was exempt from defilement and corruption (Orat. In Illud, Dominus pascit me, in Gallandi, Bibl. Patrum, II, 496 ante [A.D. 235])

  76. Thank you Kenneth. I would have made the same sort of statements as Robert when all I was going on was what others (other Protestants) wrote *about* the fathers or about church history. But once I read the fathers for myself, there’s simply no way one can make the statements Robert makes. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but it does take going directly to the sources and reading them through just like we would expect someone to read all of Galatians, say, before putting forth prooftexts here and there taken from someone else with an agenda who was writing *about* Galatians.

    All I can say Robert is that I’m perfectly happy to honestly grant what Protestant “points” are there to be granted in the ECFs, but when read thoroughly, there is simply no way that the sum total is friendly to Protestantism. I read the ECFs thoroughly the first time with the express purpose of seeking to debunk Catholic claims. The end result…I ended up going Catholic.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  77. Jeff and Kenneth,

    All I can say is that if you read the Church Fathers with attention to history, what they actually meant by words such as Eucharist, and so forth, the Sum total doesn’t give you Roman Catholicism either. A couple of quotes without context, again, proves nothing.

    If you want to find Roman Catholic doctrine, that is fine, but it is very curious that many within your church have moved away from the partim-partim doctrine of revelation and oral tradition because they cannot find the papacy, transubstantiation, and many other ideas in the church fathers. In fact, Newman had to come up with the whole development thesis because when reading the fathers, he could not get over the fact that many Roman Catholic doctrines are simply absent.

    Are certain Roman Catholic ideas present in seed form? Absolutely. Are certain Protestant ideas present in seed form? Absolutely. Buy you’re kidding yourselves if you think that any of those quotes mean what Rome means today. Read in context.

  78. Furthermore, simply because an early church father said something was apostolic doesn’t mean it’s apostolic. Other groups claimed apostolic practices that were rejected. Why should I accept Rome’s claims over, say, those of the Donatists?

  79. +JMJ+

    In order to try and clear up my point on this thread and tie it in to the original topic, perhaps it’s best to just continue onward and see where the road goes…

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    But if you want to have a conversation about the philosophical paradigms that affect our understanding of ecclesiology that touch upon the subject of this thread then I’m all over that. It was you who made the comment that “the Reformation Fathers framed the dialogue as being The Collective vs The Individual.” And I then pointed out that the RCC also framed the debate in the same way, only they came from the perspective of the Collective. The different approach of Catholic vs Protestant helps to explain why Catholics tend not to focus of the disciplinary function of the individual congregation.

    If we are talking about the (ontological) Constitution of the Church, and thus, about the tension between the Magesterium and the Sensus, then there was nothing that the Reformers could have, strictly speaking, done about this irremediably Catholic state of affairs. These ontologically constitutive realities are inviolable just as the Church is inviolable. OTOH, if, on a secondary level, the Reformers thought that contemporary Catholic culture was tending towards emphasizing the Magesterium to the point where the Sensus was excessively downplayed or drifting out of public cognizance, then sure, they were more than free to begin the project of developing a Theology of the Sensus, so as to reinvigorate a cultural awareness of the Sensus amongst all Catholics. This would have been laudable.

    However, if we are talking about the day-to-day particularities of Church governance, then yes, even in the Catholic dynamic, there is always a practical balance that has to be achieved between top-down authority and grass-roots initiative. The principle of Subsidiarity is in play. The Church strives to find a balance between these two considerations, but the “right balance” is always a spectrum and the ratio of admixture is always in flux. This holds true in all ages of the Church, and so could very well have been a legitimate arena of concern for the Reformers. And certainly, if the Reformers thought that the governance of the Church at that time was unhealthily weighted toward top-down micromanagement, then they would be well within their rights to work for greater liberality on the local level. Ultramontanism may be a useful tool to restore balance when the scale has tipped too far towards Localism, but it is hardly an ideal steady-state for the Church in all times and all places.

    My overarching point (for those who may be wondering) is that there were many routes open to the Reformers if they wished to bring a new theological awareness of the Sensus Catholicus to a culture which was excessively tilting towards Clericalism and a proto-Ultramontanism. And there were many routes open to them if they wanted to bring back “a sense of the Many” to the practical affairs of a Church government that had leaned too far toward a centrally-planned, Roman bureaucracy. There were many routes open to them, none of which would have necessitated jettisoning the Magesterium upon the ostensible grounds of the Sensus Catholicus. The seeds which they would have needed for such work were always present and waiting for them within the Catholic dynamic.

  80. I have not read the ECF, but I have read many extended quotes (which granted could have been taken out of context), but those quotes sure make it sound like at the very least they did not think the Eucharist was symbolic. They may not have been thinking transubstantiation, but it seems clear as day most if not all thought it was more than a symbolic gesture. Those of you that are familiar with the ECF, could you give me a list of names of those that believed it was merely symbolic so I can read it for myself? Please don’t give a name of someone you think is a heretic.

    Thanks!

  81. CK,
    Here’s a list:

    meant to be funny but basically true

    Peace,
    Jeff

  82. My joke backfired in that it wasn’t displayed properly…that blank space should have said

    “crickets chirping”

  83. +JMJ+

    FWIW, the classical Reformed Eucharistic view is not one of “mere symbolism” but is, rather, one of a spiritual, and not corporeal, feeding upon the Risen Christ.

  84. Robert
    You said
    “In fact, Newman had to come up with the whole development thesis because when reading the fathers,”

    In fact St. Vincent of Lérins in the fifth century had written on the development of the doctrines prior to blessed Newman you can check that out

    here is what he wrote

    Chapter XXIII, “On the Development of Doctrine in the Church” by St. Vincent of Laurence
    He writes
    [54] “But someone will say perhaps, ‘Shall there, then, be no progress in Christ’s Church?’ Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself, alternation, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning.
    [55] The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same. There is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same. An infant’s limbs are small, a young man’s large, yet the infant and the young man are the same. Men when full grown have the same number of joints that they had when children; and if there be any to which mature age has given birth, these were already present in embryo, so that nothing new is produced in them when old which was not already latent in them when children. This, then, is undoubtedly a true and legitimate rule of progress, this the established and most beautiful order of growth, that mature age ever develops in the man those parts and forms which the wisdom of the Creator had already framed beforehand in the infant. Whereas, if the human form were changed into some shape belonging to another kind, or at any rate, if the number of its limbs were increased or diminished, the result would be that the whole body would become either a wreck or a monster, or, at the least, would be impaired and enfeebled.

    One other think Robert you seem to leave out the fact that blessed Newman was not a cradle Catholic. He was an anti-Catholic Protestant who embarked on a project to prove the Catholic Church is wrong from the writings of the early church fathers but his reading of the fathers lead him to the bosom of the Catholic Church. It was a quite a conversion that he brought more than 700 people with him to the Church . I wonder if you knew that

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_Newman

    God Bless

  85. Sorry for the typo

    Chapter XXIII, “On the Development of Doctrine in the Church” by St. St. Vincent of Lérins

  86. CK,

    I do not know of any early church father who though that the Eucharist was merely symbolic, though perhaps there might of been.

    In any case, both the Reformed and the Lutherans have said, historically, that the Eucharist is not merely symbolic but that Christ is truly present when the church partakes of the sacrament. The Westminster Confession speaks of feeding on Christ.

    Calvin wrote in the Institutes

    I am not satisfied with the view of those who, while acknowledging that we have some kind of communion with Christ, only make us partakers of the Spirit, omitting all mention of flesh and blood. As if it were said to no purpose at all, that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed; that we have no life unless we eat that flesh and drink that blood; and so forth. Therefore, if it is evident that full communion with Christ goes beyond their description 4.17.7

    and

    The sum is, that the flesh and blood of Christ feed our souls just as bread and wine maintain and support our corporeal life. For there would be no aptitude in the sign, did not our souls find their nourishment in Christ. This could not be, did not Christ truly form one with us, and refresh us by the eating of his flesh, and the drinking of his blood. But though it seems an incredible thing that the flesh of Christ, while at such a distance from us in respect of place, should be food to us, let us remember how far the secret virtue of the Holy Spirit surpasses all our conceptions, and how foolish it is to wish to measure its immensity by our feeble capacity. Therefore, what our mind does not comprehend let faith conceive—viz. that the Spirit truly unites things separated by space. That sacred communion of flesh and blood by which Christ transfuses his life into us, just as if it penetrated our bones and marrow, he testifies and seals in the Supper, and that not by presenting a vain or empty sign, but by there exerting an efficacy of the Spirit by which he fulfils what he promises. And truly the thing there signified he exhibits and offers to all who sit down at that spiritual feast, although it is beneficially received by believers only who receive this great benefit with true faith and heartfelt gratitude. For this reason the apostle said, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ”? (1 Cor. 10:16.) There is no ground to object that the expression is figurative, and gives the sign the name of the thing signified. I admit, indeed, that the breaking of bread is a symbol, not the reality. But this being admitted, we duly infer from the exhibition of the symbol that the thing itself is exhibited. For unless we would charge God with deceit, we will never presume to say that he holds forth an empty symbol. Therefore, if by the breaking of bread the Lord truly represents the partaking of his body, there ought to be no doubt whatever that he truly exhibits and performs it. The rule which the pious ought always to observe is, whenever they see the symbols instituted by the Lord, to think and feel surely persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is also present. For why does the Lord put the symbol of his body into your hands, but just to assure you that you truly partake of him? If this is true let us feel as much assured that the visible sign is given us in seal of an invisible gift as that his body itself is given to us. 4.17.10

    Calvin affirmed the presence of Christ in the Supper, He just confessed at the end of the day that He couldn’t explain it. Rome, meanwhile, turned to Aristotle via Aquinas for their doctrine of transubstantiation.

    The issue isn’t whether the ECFs thought they partook of the body and blood in the Eucharist. Of course they did. The question is whether they believed there was a literal transformation a la transubstantiation. While some fathers may have held a view akin to what Rome later embraced, it was by no means universal.

    Any Presbyterian, Lutheran, or Anglican who is familiar with what their church has taught can easily say that we partake of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. We just don’t mean transubstantiation.

  87. The tree is holy she is the body of Christ but we by our own will chose to separate ourselves from the grace that is channeled through her . The sacraments are not mechanically manipulate us into holiness we need to cooperate with the grace given with these sacraments. In all generation the church produced good fruit and will produce good fruit till the end of the world Eph.3:21

    When the leadership of the church has consistently shown rotten fruit, and this over the centuries beginning with the unholy alliance with the State in direct contravention of Christ’s words to give to Caesar what is Caesar and God what is God’s.

    You are right no number or fruit would determine our legitimate claim , our claim is form Christ legitimate claim in this world (as the father sent me I send you) if the church does not have the legitimate claim then Christ does not have it. It is Christ who built the Church Matt 16 it does not depend on our holiness or corruption it is purely depends on Him.

    This is a non sequitur again. You guys just assume that Christ is speaking of you in Matt 16, but that begs the question. I can see the Pharisees making the same argument to Jesus: “God built our nation on Abraham and Moses, our election does not depend on our holiness, it depends on His promises to Abraham and Moses”. Do you see the flaw in your reasoning now? Where is the evidence that you are truly the descendants of Peter? Merely claiming a laying on of hands is infalsifiable. If the church’s history showed true compunction and piety, you would have a lock on the claim. But you don’t. Peter recognized his mistake when he was confronted by Paul. How does that compare with centuries of denying the violence and sin of the church? Just the other day, another catholic by the name of ‘demaria’ was putting out bigotry against the Jews. Nothing has changed.

    Muslims don’t have legitimate claim for one reason, they do not draw from Christ and His promise Matt 16

    See above.

    It is our God given prerogative to discern their fruit nevertheless we observe all the things they teach us but not follow their example for they preach but they don’t practice. if Christ tells his disciples to listen to the corrupt leaders of the OC what do you think He would tells us to do in the NC with His guarantee to protect the Church.

    You don’t follow their example? Why has the RCC leadership systematically covered up and hidden abuse within its ranks, sometimes at the highest levels? Your argument re Christ does not hold. Christ would never tell you to condone and shuffle around sick priests. This is what He would tell you “better a millstone be tied around your neck than you be found to have harmed one of these children”.

    Sorry Hassan, you can’t argue your way out this. History is what it is. No amount of lipstick or displays of outward humility (as seen recently) will change anything. Like the french say “Quand on a chie dans son pantalon, ca ne sert a rien de se serrer les fesses”. T’as compris?

  88. And this was ultimately my claim. It is a misunderstanding of where the supposed fruit comes from. You have based your claim on the belief that the Church produces the “bad fruit”: the murderers, the corrupt, the rapists, etc. The Church does not produce these things. These sins are born of man, our weakness and our submission to temptation. The “bad fruit” is produced by our own hand each and every time we sin.

    Again, this line of reasoning renders Christ’s warning in Matt 7 utterly moot. Do you understand what I mean by that?

    To turn your own argument against you, if the Church is indeed producing this bad fruit, then by association, so too is the umbrella of Christianity to with both Catholics and Protestants belong. All Christians are prone to sin, and every one of us does indeed sin. If the Church produces bad fruit, so to does Christ, for the Church is born of Christ. Christ must produce bad fruit, for He produced the church which, as you claim, produces bad fruit.

    Non Sequitur. If the church produces bad fruit, it could merely be the fulfilment of what Christ said, that many are called and few are chosen. And narrow is the path that leads to eternal life, and few are those who find it. Christ did not fail anymore than God failed when almost the entirety of Israel died in the desert due to their rebellion and sin.

    It is an absurd notion to think that Christ produces “bad fruit”. As such, it is an equally absurd notion to think that the Church produces “bad fruit” for the Church is of Christ. Is is substantially less absurd to say that sin produces bad fruit, because sin is of Satan and of man. Man exists within the Church, but man in a way also exists apart from the Church. The “bad fruit” produced by sin draws us away from the Church, the “good fruit” of Christ.

    See above.

  89. The tree is holy she is the body of Christ but we by our own will chose to separate ourselves from the grace that is channeled through her . The sacraments are not mechanically manipulate us into holiness we need to cooperate with the grace given with these sacraments. In all generation the church produced good fruit and will produce good fruit till the end of the world Eph.3:21

    Didn’t finish my thought in response to the above:

    When the leadership of the church has consistently shown rotten fruit, and this over the centuries beginning with the unholy alliance with the State (in direct contravention of Christ’s words to give to Caesar what is Caesar and God what is God’s), one is left with no other conclusion to make than to question the tree itself. This is not a question of apostasy, this is a question of a tree being bad from the beginning and proving so over time.

  90. Chapter XXIII, “On the Development of Doctrine in the Church” by St. Vincent of Laurence
    He writes
    [54] “But someone will say perhaps, ‘Shall there, then, be no progress in Christ’s Church?’ Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith.

    You quote Vincent of Lerins yet he himself warns starkly that the condition be that it is not an alteration of the faith. Here’s my challenge to you: find me one example of icon veneration spoken positively of in the Apostolic Fathers. And then we’ll talk progress or alteration of the faith.

  91. Robert,
    You said, referring to transubstantiation:

    “While some fathers may have held a view akin to what Rome later embraced, it was by no means universal.”

    Can you provide specific instances for what you assert?

    Peace,
    Jeff

  92. Here is your beloved Newman speaking about the conscience vs the Pope’s authority:

    On after-dinner toasts to conscience and the pope:
    “Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing) I shall drink, — to the Pope, if you please, — still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.”
    From Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk

    On conscience and the authority of popes:
    “Was St. Peter infallible on that occasion at Antioch when St. Paul withstood him? was St. Victor infallible when he separated from his communion the Asiatic Churches? or Liberius when in like manner he excommunicated Athanasius? And, to come to later times, was Gregory XIII, when he had a medal struck in honor of the Bartholomew massacre? or Paul IV, in his conduct towards Elizabeth? or Sextus V when he blessed the Armada? or Urban VIII when he persecuted Galileo? No Catholic ever pretends that these Popes were infallible in these acts. Since then infallibility alone could block the exercise of conscience, and the Pope is not infallible in that subject-matter in which conscience is of supreme authority, no dead-lock, such as implied in the objection which I am answering, can take place between conscience and the Pope.”
    From Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk

    On his opposition to the declaration of papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council:
    “Why is it, if I believe the Pope’s Infallibility, I do not wish it defined? I answer, because it can’t be so defined as not to raise more questions than it solves.”
    From The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman (Dessain et al., eds.), xxiv, 334.

    On his opposition to the way in which papal infallibility was declared at the First Vatican Council:
    “As little as possible was passed at the Council — nothing about the Pope which I have not myself always held — but it is impossible to deny that it was done with an imperiousness and overbearing willfulness, which has been a great scandal.”
    From The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman (Dessain et al., eds.), xxv, 262.

    On his wish that the declaration of infallibility might be ‘trimmed’ in the future:
    “Let us be patient, let us have faith, and a new Pope, and a re-assembled Council may trim the boat.”
    From The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman (Dessain et al., eds.), xxv, 310.

  93. Robert

    Calvin affirmed the presence of Christ in the Supper, He just confessed at the end of the day that He couldn’t explain it. Rome, meanwhile, turned to Aristotle via Aquinas for their doctrine of transubstantiation.

    In “not by bread alone” by Dr.Robert Sungenis on p.141 he shows all the Latin and Greek that the fathers used to describe the change in substance that would happen in the Eucharist in the early centuries of the Church the Greeks had 9 different words the Latin had 3 different words that they used and finally the word transubstantiation came about and that is a development of these words and not a new idea that popped on the scene

  94. JeffB,

    Is the great Augustine good enough?

    If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,” says Christ, “and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us.

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf102.v.vi.xvi.html

  95. Wassan,

    My point was not that a concept such as transubstantiation was unheard of prior to Aquinas but only that it did not get a formal definition philosophically until Aquinas’ Aristotelian synthesis. Like I said, many Roman Catholic ideas were present at least in seed form in the ECFs, but so too were many Protestants. There was no unanimous view of the Fathers on how Christ was present in the Eucharist. That is damaging for Rome’s claims to follow the fathers, but not for Protestants.

  96. Augustine wrote about the symbolic character of the Eucharist as a sign of unity, but this does not discount the Real Presence.

    Augustine clearly believed in transubstantiation. Here are some things he wrote about the Eucharist:

    “Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that body in his hands” (Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [A.D. 405]).

    “I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s table. . . . That bread that you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ” (Sermons 227 [A.D. 411]).

    “What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction” (ibid., 272).

    “Nobody eats this flesh without previously adoring it” (Explanation of the Psalms 99).

    “He took flesh from the flesh of Mary . . . and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. . . . We do sin by not adoring” (ibid).

  97. Wassan,

    You wrote:

    Augustine wrote about the symbolic character of the Eucharist as a sign of unity, but this does not discount the Real Presence.

    Yes, Augustine believed in the real or true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But none of those quotes proves he held to transubstantiation. It is only by first receiving that doctrine and then reading it back into those quotes that one could say Augustine believes in the transformation of the elements into the literal body and blood of Christ.

    Many Protestants could affirm all of those quotes. Lutherans can say the same things, and they don’t believe in transubstantiation. So could Anglicans. So could Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists who know and adhere to the Reformed sacramental tradition.

    As a Presbyterian, I confess that I feed on Christ in the Eucharist. I confess that Christ is truly present when we come to His table. But I do not affirm transubstantiation.

  98. Wassan and JeffB,

    In the quote from Augustine I posted, he clearly believes that if we were to affirm a literal eating of human flesh an blood, then we would be promoting cannibalism, which is a vice and therefore cannot be promoted by Scripture. That is, because the interpretation of Christ’s body and blood being literal human flesh in the elements would make us into cannibals, that interpretation cannot be correct.

    Again, there are undoubtedly ECFs who held a view similar to if not identical to what was later defined explicitly as transubstantiation, but it was not the universal position. As on many matters, the ECFs do not speak with one voice.

  99. indulging conversation about transubstantiation is to miss the mark completely. Of COURSE the most complex of doctrines were not known to the ECF in present form. The trinity was not developed as it is today either. shoot for a good amount of time THE CANON wasnt even developed…. what does that have to do with anything? The general worldview of early christianity was DEFINITIVELY catholic. The tactic used by reformed apologists that robert relies so heavily upon is to through a dark cloud over history. Everything has to become confusing and unclear. No ECF really means the words he says and they are all really so contradictory you really cant ever know what they believed!!!! The ultimate proof is in the pudding….. no protestant growns up learning anything at all about the early church….. they get a whopping helping of luther or calvin or knox or benny hinn or kenneth copeland or haggin or whatever TRADITION was passed to them by their REAL spiritual fathers. Its a hard pill to swallow robert but if you reflect upon it you will see that its true

  100. Robert

    Cannibalism by definition is killing and eating dead Human body

    The Mass is the un-bloody sacrifice that we offer the Glorified risen Lord . When Catholics say that the bread becomes the body of Christ, they are talking about the glorified body of Christ. Immediately after Jesus said, “whoever eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6:58). He says, “what if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (Jn 6:62) Catholics feel He is explaining that his body will be changed into a glorified body (such as is described in 1 Cor 15:40) at the ascension. This passage of John foreshadows the ascension. And this is how Jesus clarified himself and made the distinction between his mortal body (Cannibalistic concept) and his Glorified body (Eucharistic concept). The glorified body of Christ was the revelation of his true nature as the Incarnate God. That is what we receive

    Robert

    When you said “In the quote from Augustine I posted, he clearly believes that if we were to affirm a literal eating of human flesh and blood, then we would be promoting cannibalism”

    This exactly the opinion with Pagan Romans long before Constantine and for that Christians were killed, history book, “The Romans, from Village to Empire.” (Oxford Press 2004) In the section on Christianity in ancient Rome it discussed the Roman’s impression of the early Christians.

    …Their ‘eating the body and drinking the blood of their savior’ was called cannibalism…

    Pope St. Damascus (366-383) wrote a poem which reminds us of St. Tarcisius, who was commemorated by martyrdom at the Catacombs in Rome:

    “When a wicked group of fanatics flung themselves
    on Tarcisius who was carrying the Eucharist,
    wanting to profane the Sacrament, the boy preferred
    to give up his life rather than yield up
    the Body of Christ to those rabid dogs”.

    God Bless

  101. Long before Luther and Calvin:

    1. Clement of Rome (c. 30–100): And we [Christians], too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

    2. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 50–115): His cross, and his death, and his resurrection, and the faith which is through him, are my unpolluted muniments [legal titles]; and in these, through your prayers, I am willing to be justified.
    3. Polycarp (c. 69–155): I know that through grace you are saved, not of works, but by the will of God, through Jesus Christ.

    4. Justin Martyr (d. 165): No longer by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of a heifer . . . are sins purged, but by faith, through the blood of Christ and his death, who died on this very account.

    5. Didymus the Blind (c. 313-398): This does not mean that works can be put before faith, because a person is saved by grace, not by works but by faith.

    6. Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67): Wages cannot be considered as a gift, because they are due to work, but God has given free grace to all men by the justification of faith.

    7. Athanasius (295–375): By surrendering to death the body which He [Jesus Christ] had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, He immediately abolished death for His human brothers by the offering of the equivalent. For naturally, since the Logos of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled by death all that was required.

    8. Basil of Caesarea (329-379): Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, that Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, redemption. This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is (or has been) justified solely by faith in Christ.

    9. Ambrose (339–97): Therefore let no one boast of his works, because no one can be justified by his works; but he who is just receives it as a gift, because he is justified by the washing of regeneration. It is faith, therefore, which delivers us by the blood of Christ, because blessed is he whose sins are forgiven, and to whom pardon is granted.
    10. Jerome (347-420) on Romans 10:3: God justifies by faith alone.

    11. Jerome (again): He who with all his spirit has placed his faith in Christ, even if he die in sin, shall by his faith live forever.

    12. Chrysostom (349–407): But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.

    13. Chrysostom (again): For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: Since God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent.

    14. Augustine (354-430): If Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified? . . . Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6). Abraham, then, was justified by faith. Paul and James do not contradict each other: good works follow justification.

    15. Augustine (again): When someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence.

    16. Ambrosiaster (c. 366-384): God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins.

    17. Ambrosiaster (again), on Rom. 3:24: They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God.

    18. Ambrosiaster (again), on Rom. 3:27: Paul tells those who live under the law that they have no reason to boast basing themselves on the law and claiming to be of the race of Abraham, seeing that no one is justified before God except by faith.

    19. Cyril of Alexandria (412-444): For we are justified by faith, not by works of the law, as Scripture says (Gal. 2:16). By faith in whom, then, are we justified? Is it not in him who suffered death according to the flesh for our sake? Is it not in one Lord Jesus Christ.

    20. Cyril of Alexandria (again): For truly the compassion from beside the Father is Christ, as he takes away the sins, dismisses the charges and justifies by faith, and recovers the lost and makes [them] stronger than death. . . . For by him and in him we have known the Father, and we have become rich in the justification by faith.

    21. Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe (c. 467-532) commenting on Eph. 2:8: The blessed Paul argues that we are saved by faith, which he declares to be not from us but a gift from God. Thus there cannot possibly be true salvation where there is no true faith, and, since this faith is divinely enabled, it is without doubt bestowed by his free generosity.

  102. TOA

    Amen to all your quotes

    But did you notice how many instance they mention faith they do not insert the word alone or only. I ask you; do Protestant preachers when they mention faith dare to leave the word alone or only out. Hardly

    The quotes you cited prove the point that those fathers are Catholics. Nothing in them in conflict with the Catholic faith Rather infoece it

    And as for works

    Catholics agree we are not saved by merely our works, we can’t obligate the infinite God to pay us for our finite work Catholics say God is gracious and generous He REWARDS our good works out of His benevolence and not out of obligation because He is just and a Father.

    God Bless

  103. We say, “alone”, quite often. Not always.

    When you read the Bible…it is assumed. “…not of works, lest anyone should boast”…etc.

    Well, if were save by grace and not by works…then one could logically come up with “alone” (what else is there besides grace and works?)

    Gotta run.

    Works is still in the realm of this world…and I’ve got mine to do now.

    Ciao.

  104. Wassan,

    Augustine in John 6 is clearly stating that an interpretation that regards the Eucharist as the literal body and blood is incorrect. There is no getting around it. That in itself does not prove transubstantiation is wrong. Augustine could be wrong. But it does show that the early fathers are not unanimous on the matter. It only takes one, and who better than Augustine, the most important Christian writer outside of the NT.

    As far as those fathers that TOA cites not using the word alone, that is true enough. Of course, its absence is an argument from silence, it does not prove that they combined works with faith for justification in a matter analagous to the modern Roman doctrine of justification, but neither does it prove they did not do so a la Protestants. It would take a contextual reading to indicate what any of those fathers really thought about justification, and in any case, we should not really expect any of them to have a highly developed view because that was not the point of controversy in the early church.

    Protestants could well be comfortable not using the word alone, but it were the abuses of the medieval church that “forced” our hand. None of the early fathers faced anything like the system of indulgences and pretentious claims that the Roman bishop later made for himself.

    The Early Church Fathers are the Early Church Fathers. They are not Roman Catholics, Protestants, or Eastern Orthodox. If Rome has truly embraced the developmental theory of tradition, that really should not be a problem. If one is going to insist on an oral tradition given in its substantial and essential form, however, it is a big problem.

  105. Kenneth,

    Let me try and make what I have said clearer, because I don’t think you are getting it.

    I do not expect to find fully developed Roman Catholic doctrine in the early church fathers. That is the more traditional Roman position, not Protestantism. See my post to Wassan on why that should not really be a problem for you if you allow for doctrinal development. I’m not the one insisting that all the church fathers were agreed on the real presence in the Eucharist, that all understood it in the same way, and that their view was transubstantiation without the later more formal explanation of the doctrine.

    I would never say that the ECFs were completely confused and couldn’t agree on anything. That is manifestly untrue as well. I’m just not going to pretend that when we read a statement like “the bread is the body of Christ” in the ECFs that they mean what modern Roman Catholics mean. If you are going to take statements and read such back into it, you have to be consistent and affirm that Luther taught transubstantiation as well, for he made much of the words hoc est corupus meum. Plainly, however, that is not the case.

    The ECFs do not have a Roman Catholic worldview anymore than they have a Protestant worldview. The Western fathers had a Western church worldview with streams that developed over time into RC, and others that developed into Prot. One of the main points of the Reformation was that the medieval church was not catholic enough, that it was going against much of what fathers such as Augustine taught, not to mention later writers such as Clairvaux. That’s not to say there is nothing in those authors that is consonant with Roman Catholicism, but is to say that none of them held to the corpus of doctrines that Rome has traditionally viewed as being passed down through the ages.

    Let the ECFs be the ECFs. It really is okay. Roman Catholic historians are willing to admit as much. If they’re wrong, why isn’t the infallible Magisterium cracking down on them? If they’re right, why get so upset about it.

  106. A common objection on the part of some Protestants toward the Catholic Church goes something like this: “You Catholics claim that your church has all this divinely-bestowed authority, and yet you never bother to wield it. Instead, you just let all these heretics and deviants run around teaching and living however they want with total impugnity.” The objector then points out that such would never be the case in his church, but the offender would be dealt with in a timely manner…..

    The Catholic Church represents God in this world. But the Catholic Church is not God nor greater than God.

    God permits heretics and deviants to run around teaching and living however they want, because of His patience. The Catholic Church is the same.

  107. THE OLD ADAM April 5, 2013 at 8:57 am
    We say, “alone”, quite often. Not always.
    When you read the Bible…it is assumed. “…not of works, lest anyone should boast”…etc…..

    That is a reference to the Sacraments, wherein we are justified by faith apart from works.

    Ciao.

  108. De Maria,

    The sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion) are PURE gospel. Free gift. For us old school Lutheran types, anyways.

    Arrivederci, amico mio.

  109. THE OLD ADAM April 5, 2013 at 9:41 pm
    De Maria,
    The sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion) are PURE gospel. Free gift.

    I certainly can’t disagree with that. Although, of course, you know that we recognize more than that.

    For us old school Lutheran types, anyways.
    Arrivederci, amico mio.

    A presto, mi compagno.

  110. Robert,

    I understand exactly what you are trying to say…. I just think its nonsense. You are attempting to isolate the ECFs as a whole to neutralize the enormously strong case for Catholic continuity. This is the only card you can possibly play. Notice that you are unable to stake any claim at all to the ECFs being protestant. The best thing you can hope to show is that they were somehow neutral half and halfs…… There was no “stream” that became protestant. That insinuates that there were always people who thought like Luther or Calvin and it eventually developed to its most mature point in the 1500. Thats simply an A historical claim Robert. There was no natural development of protestantism. There was simply an abrupt revolt. There may be some glimmer of similiarity between SOME protestant denominations and Augustine….. but even that resemblance is superficial at best.

  111. Kenneth,

    If you want to read the ECFs with Rome-colored glasses, go right ahead. The fact of the matter, however, is that your church had to come up with the development of doctrine thesis to deal with the fact that so many Roman doctrines show no continuity with the fathers but rather pop up de novo in history. History is most decidedly not on your side when it comes to so many issues, as many of your own Roman Catholic historians will acknowledge. Show me where the papacy, sacramental priesthood, transubstantiation, the assumption of the Virgin, the infallibility of the Magisterium, and much more is in the early church. You can’t.

    Let the ECFs be the ECFs. It really is okay.

  112. Jason, a couple of problems with your analysis (but CTCers never seem to let history get in the way of claims). First, Rome did precisely crack the whip with the help of Spanish monarchs back in the day when they used inquisitions to ferret out heresy. Now Vatican II tells us that religious freedom is a great thing.

    Second, I don’t like bringing up the pedophilia cases because it is an easy target. But if you’re going to say — your briefest point — that Rome disciplines people all the time, folks who are watching the way the church is settling law suits for never disciplining wayward priests are also having a hard time taking your claim about discipline “all the time” seriously.

  113. Dr. Hart,

    Be careful, we wouldn’t want the facts confusing Roman romanticism…

  114. St. Augustine’s comment on cannibalism, would that not refute transubstantiation?

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