Crap, I Should Have Just Stayed in the PCA!

Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Featured, Federal Vision, The PCA | 166 comments

I had been waiting until I had an actual copy of the SJC’s report before I divulged what I have known for weeks, namely, that the PCA has now officially sided with the Pacific Northwest Presbytery and their exoneration of Peter Leithart. But now that Lane has let the cat out of the bag over at Green Baggins, I guess there’s no point pretending it’s still a secret.

Having been the prosecutor in this case, but now having joined the dark side (so to speak), I obviously have some mixed feelings about this verdict. More than anything I feel disappointed for my Old School friends in the PCA, who are now faced with the dilemma of being confessional Presbyterians in a denomination that at best considers Federal Vision theology to be Reformed, and at worst seems to be taking a huge step in an ongoing attempt to distance itself from traditional Reformed confessional theology altogether.

So to my TR brothers, all I can say is that I did all that I could, which was to get before the PCA’s highest court a record of the case that seemed to me and many others to be a slam dunk.

And to the Federal Visionists in the PCA, well, if Christ indeed spoke through the court of your church, then it looks like we Old Schoolers were wrong all along, and we owe you a massive apology.

But then again, since all synods and councils can err. . . .

***

Update:

The SJC’s decision can be found here.

166 Comments

  1. Jason, I would contend that the SJC is a bad idea in Presbyterianism. It was not the way Presbyterianism functioned historically,(nor was it part of the PCA at its inception), and I have serious reservations about it as a helpful mechanism in doctrinal accountability on a denominational level. Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. Yeah, I’d be curious to know how it was introduced to the PCA. The OPC doesn’t have one.

  3. Jason, I am also a graduate of WSC, yet different than you. I came into the seminary as a charismatic, and as I left the same. A lot of charismatics have taken a gathering toward Catholicism. I have read everything you have posted on the internet, as well as everything that calledtocommunion.com has written (seriously, everything). I appreciate everything you/they have been doing. I am not Catholic, but catholic. I do not consider Catholics as non-believers.
    I have been praying on what question that would be helpful to my soul, as well as others. My only question is this: what is the gospel?
    Since my question is one sentence/question, can you reply with one sentence? (this is not a trick question)

  4. @Nick and Jason-In the early days of the PCA, we had appeal trials at the GA level all the time. There was a Committee of Commissioners called Committee on Judicial Business. If you were a commissioner at GA, there was always the possibility your name would be drawn to sit on an appeal committee. Your time at GA would be spent hearing the case and not being on the floor of the Assembly. Things came to a head in 1989 when the Assembly met at BIOLA. A case came to the floor, and because was a committee, the Assembly had to vote on it. The questions from the floor led to the re-trial of the whole case. At this time the Assembly was also dealing with the Ad-Interim Study Committee which was dealing with the re-structure of the PCA.

    In the end, (at that time) the only thing which passed the Assembly was the establishment of the SJC. It was done to streamline the appeal process. ( for the record I voted against it and I still do not like it)

  5. You could always leave RCC for OPC…

  6. Thanks for the smile this morning AB. 🙂

  7. Do what I can, yo. Golf anyone?

  8. Can’t speak for Jason, but joining the Catholic Church is like marriage. You have to decide Christ is just cool with divorce. Plenty of people do it but God is clear. What God has join together let no man set asunder. We don’t just join the Church God has joined us to her who is His beloved bride which he will “never leave nor forsake.” Peace.

  9. Chad,
    Please read 1 Cor. 15:3f for St Paul’s inspired gospel.
    And I commend these articles: “What Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”
    And, “What Is the Gospel?” Both @ TrinityFoundation.org
    Thank you,
    Hugh

  10. JJ,

    I know that you did your best and also thought that this would be a slam dunk. As I’ve said before and repeat now, I appreciate your integrity in taking the steps that you did when your views fell out of accord, although that grieved many of us. If only others had your solid integrity.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  11. Chad,

    Jason, I am also a graduate of WSC, yet different than you. I came into the seminary as a charismatic, and as I left the same. A lot of charismatics have taken a gathering toward Catholicism. I have read everything you have posted on the internet, as well as everything that calledtocommunion.com has written (seriously, everything). I appreciate everything you/they have been doing. I am not Catholic, but catholic. I do not consider Catholics as non-believers.

    You will surely get extra patience-points in heaven for having stuck it out at WSC as a charismatic! I came in as an Edwardsian until Clark and Hart beat it out of me.

    I have been praying on what question that would be helpful to my soul, as well as others. My only question is this: what is the gospel? Since my question is one sentence/question, can you reply with one sentence? (this is not a trick question)

    The gospel is that God has accomplished by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ what neither we ourselves nor the law of Moses could, and that by our receiving of Christ by faith and walking in the Spirit, we will be saved from sin and death.

    Obviously a lot more could be imported into those elements, but that’s basically it.

  12. Thanks, Bob.

  13. Dear Jason & Chad,

    I am also a graduate of WSC, yet different than you. I came into the seminary as a Scripturalist, and I left the same.

    I consider Catholics to be “non-believers” to the extent that they deny that one is reconciled to God by his grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

    I came into then-WTSCA as a Scripturalist and did not have the then newly-arrived Scott Clark (I preceded Hart’s tenure), but Frame, Strimple, & Kline did not “beat it out of me,” either. I greatly appreciate these men, however!

    Please email me for a different (decidedly Protestant!) perspective.

    Thanks,
    Hugh

    hughmc5 AT hotmail DOT com

  14. Jason,

    Thank-you for your post. I’m reading through the record of the PNW trial. Gripping. I have been through Michael Horton’s testimony and some of Leithart’s. But haven’t yet found anything that jumps out at me as “the smoking gun.” Certainly, there’s very little that’s not highly nuanced and hence very little that would be readily accessible by Joe Bag-o-Donuts in the pew. The SJC decision will likely have a deleterious effect on the peace and unity of the PCA (right or wrong). You mentioned that you thought the case was a slam dunk. What do you consider to be the pivotal piece? The “smoking gun”?

    Steve

  15. Jason–

    Like Steve, I would be curious as to what you see as the smoking gun. FV’s sleight-of-hand theology, where they take back with one hand what they give with another, must be difficult to definitively pass judgment on. When Cornelius Jansen’s work on Augustine was anathematized by the Catholic church, the Jansenists just said that he had never taught what the RC authorities said he taught and went right on following his teachings. I am unclear sometimes whether the FV is coyly wriggling out from under charges they know to be correct or whether at least some of them are being misunderstood and victimized.

    They are accused of not holding to perseverance though they maintain that the decretally elect cannot fall away. They are accused of undermining the concept of assurance though at least Wilson trumpets it as a core biblical promise to Christians. They are accused of holding to something similar to double justification even though they adamantly retain a complete distinction–a razor-sharp line–between justification and sanctification.

    I’ll be honest. I personally don’t like the movement. It mixes with the rest of the PCA like oil and water. I think Lane is correct in wishing they would all just mosy over to the CREC. Still, I’m not as sure as some that we can always pin them down to out-and-out transgressions of the WCF. Perhaps, with paedo-communion, baptismal regeneration, and other aspects of their sacramentology, we can. But their soteriology is just slippery enough….

    I’ll be honest again and say that I am glad for men of God like Wilson and Leithart. If nothing else, they provoke us to thought, to clarify what we believe and why, to not rest on tradition as tradition. I think they volunteer a meaningful service to the church. I may take back some of my glowing words when the smoke clears and they are revealed to be little more than slightly lower-church Anglo-Catholics. But in the meantime, the wit and antics of Wilson are entertaining, and the erudition of Leithart clears out more than a few cobwebs in Reformed heads everywhere. (I think even Lane admits they will be great foils once they are all ensconced elsewhere.)

  16. The smoking gun, to me, is Peter’s insistence that baptism bestows blessings that cannot but be understood as saving blessings, such as the down payment of the Spirit, union with Christ, and regeneration. For example, all these passages from his writings were adduced both in direct testimony and in my closing argument:

    “Understanding sacraments as rites also helps us to understand the efficacy of sacraments…. Rites accomplish what they signify.”
    *
    “Our typology, as I have extrapolated it, challenges the basic conception that a sacrament is an ‘outward sign of inward grace’ by insisting that the outward signs reach to the innermost parts and that God extends His grace to us in the outward form of concrete favors.” He says further that the “sonship conferred by baptism is not ‘external’ to our basic identity but constitutive of it.”
    *
    “Far from being reductionist, this typology and the framework extrapolated from it permits a richer and stronger affirmation of the objectivity of baptismal grace than found in traditional sacramental theology, which has hesitated to affirm that baptism confers grace ex opere operato.”
    *
    “Baptism is the washing that opens the eyes and, by doing so, lets the light of Jesus flood in, so that the baptized can shine with light. Baptism puts us face-to-face with Jesus, the glory of God, so that we are transformed from glory to glory.… every baptism unites the baptized with the One Sent. Baptism sets us aflame and sends us out as lights into the deep darkness. It opens our eyes and sends us into the world of the blind. It calls us to bold faithfulness in the midst of intense pressure. Baptism grants us a share in the suffering of Jesus, making his enemies our enemies even as it makes him our friend.”
    *
    “As the baptized person passes through the waters, he or she is joined into the fellowship of Christ, shares in his body, shares in the Spirit that inhabits and animates the body, and participates in the resurrection power of Jesus.”
    *
    “Through baptism, we enter into the new life of the Spirit, receive a grant of divine power, are incorporated into Christ’s body, and die and rise again with Christ. In the purification of baptism, we are cleansed of our ‘former sins’ and begin to participate in the divine nature and the power of Jesus’ resurrection.”
    *
    “Baptism effects a transition, as Rowan Williams (archbishop of Canterbury) puts it, not only in the regard of men but in the ‘gaze of God,’ and this makes us ‘new creations’ in the deepest possible sense.”
    *
    “The baptized is no longer regarded as ‘stranger’ but born again as a ‘son of the house.’”
    *
    “Baptism into membership in the community of Christ therefore also confers the arrabon of the Spirit, and in this sense too is a ‘regenerating’ ordinance. There can be no ‘merely social’ membership in this family.”
    *
    “That’s not all that the baptized receives. In receiving baptism, the baptized receive a great deal more. The baptized person is brought into the community of the church, which is the body of Christ. That’s a gift. The baptized is made a member of the family of the Father. That’s a gift. The baptized is separated from the world and identified before the world as a member of Christ’s people. That’s a gift. The baptized is enlisted in Christ’s army, invested to be Christ’s servant, made a member of the royal priesthood, given a station in the royal court, branded as a sheep of Christ’s flock. All that is gift. All this the baptized is not only offered, but receives. All this he receives simply by virtue of being baptized.”

    This is all completely Catholic, but in no sense is it Reformed.

  17. I was going to say, FV’s rejection of IAOC kinda smells of sulfur too…

  18. For example, as this article points out:

    The doctrine of justification is indeed, as John Calvin wrote, “the hinge on which religion turns.”

    http://www.opc.org/nh.html?article_id=478

    Enough OPC thought on a Catholic blog. Sorry yo!

  19. “This is all completely Catholic, but in no sense is it Reformed.”

    After reading the Leithart quotes above, I realize how right you are. When I was Reformed, I was a devote of Leithart and Wilson, yet I insisted they were confessional and thought the whole FV controversy was a big misunderstanding. I realize now that was just a fantasy on my part. Baptismal regeneration is true, but it ain’t Reformed. I think in my mind I just really wanted to keep all the Refomed stuff I liked (TULIP, with emphasis on the L) while affirming things which scripture obviously (to me) teaches but are not confessionally Reformed in the slightest. I was naive enough to believe that all the Reformed denoms could eventually agree and unite, while my FV friends left the PCA and started a CREC church. But without the Magisterium there will never be unity. Only more division. Heck, I could have started my own new Presbyterian denom, my views were fairly unique.

    One thing I find very curious is why Leithart and Wilson don’t admit their doctrine (particularly on baptism) is Catholic? After a few years of believing it, I was forced out of intelectual honesty to admit it to myself. But they seem to just keep rolling down the road.

  20. Sure, David, you could have. But would staring a denomination been only to feed your Ego? Some of us Presbyterians actually cherish our heritage. Crazy, I know. There’s nothing stopping anyone from starting a new church. Maybe finances, I guess. But why can’t a Jewish person tell a Catholic that they will found their own religion? We Protestant and Catholics were once a Jewish sect, right? It’s a good thing I still believe the Bible is infallible, since there is the potential for unity around Scripture, though the work of doing that may seem hard.

    The point of this thread seems to be on your second paragraph. Being ignorant of all that went on in the trial and so forth, I agree with you. Why the FVers don’t admit they are out of step just seems wrong. Therefore, give us hard core Presbyterians a little credit. At least we left and (will try really hard to stay off catholic blogs!) will leave former churches in our heritage alone. That’s called peaceable withdrawal. I wish more people, when they leave a church, would kind of get over the past. And yet I type on a catholic blog! Anyway, peace out, no offense, I hope. But Jason does call us TRs his bro’s, so maybe I’m not completely in the wrong place. Bye for now.

  21. David and AB,

    Of course, when faced with rival claimants to being the Magisterium or one true church, which is what you have even within the professing body of Roman Catholics (ie, sedevacantists, who see themselves as truly Roman Catholic), one still has to have a means by which to determine which group is actually Christ’s church. It seems to me, that at the end of the day, Rome can only make the claim to be the true church based on being able to (supposedly) trace its lineage via apostolic succession all the way back to the apostles. But the sedevacantists can do that, the Eastern Orthodox can do that, the Anglicans can do that, etc.

    David, its one thing to say the Magisterium/church has authority but quite another to say that the Magisterium is equivalent to the Roman Catholic church and that it is infallible. Ultimately, one has to evaluate the various claims and Rome has to say that the Roman Catholic Magisterium is the Magisterium because the Roman Catholic Magisterium says so. It’s a viciously circular argument, which assumes a lot of things, including the truth of the Roman view of tradition. Its also a conclusion that depends as much on private judgment as anything else.

    And the main point of the Protestant objection that Jason has unsuccessfully addressed in this post is that if the Magisterium really guaranteed the unity you think it does, then there should not be lesbian pagans teaching theology in Roman institutions, the LCWR being allowed to do their own thing and spit in the face of the church for decades, a failure to discipline U.S. Roman Catholics for using birth control, liberation theologians embracing Marxism, and so much more.

    When it comes to the Magisterium settling matters and guaranteeing unity, the emperor has no clothes.

  22. AB,
    “It’s a good thing I still believe the Bible is infallible…”

    Good thing I still believe it too.

    “Therefore, give us hard core Presbyterians a little credit.”

    I give you credit for noticing the FV was out of step with the theology of the WCF. But from the FV perspective, you are out of step with the truth proclaimed clearly in scripture. So I sympathize (and sided) with them also because (per the WCF) the WCF is trumped by ones sincerely held interpretation of scripture. So in that sense, the FV is right. It all depends on who you think has the truth. But yes, the FV is incompatible with the WCF. I was wrong about that as a Presbeterian. Mea Maxima Culpa.

    Robert,
    How strange that you use the very unity of the Catholic Church on doctrine to claim she has no unity. It is only because you know the Catholic Church is opposed to contraception and marxism that you are able to then chide it for lack of discipline.

    Yet the Magisterium makes no claim that it will be anything like infallible in matters of discipline. Never has never will. In fact it has clearly admittred its suckitude on that point. The Catholic Magisterium might be wrong in its Magisterial claims, but you have not even understood its claims so as to give a credible example of how it is wrong.

    The rest of your comment either refutes arguments no one here has made, or expects arguments to have been made that havent been.

    If you have an interst in hearing how Catholics actually frame their beliefs on the topics you mention, I am sure someone here or I could point you to some good sources for that. Please don’t be satisfied with torching straw men. All that will accomplish is to further entrench those who you feel are in error. So it does not lead anyone to the truth.

  23. Jason–

    You said:

    “This is all completely Catholic, but in no sense is it Reformed.

    I’m pretty sure you can say that it is in no sense PCA (in the manner that a majority of PCA leaders understand “baptismal regeneration”). It is a harder thing to say that it conflicts with the WCF which some have seen as actually compatible. See, for instance, Joel Garver (who is not FV, as far as I know):

    http://www.joelgarver.com/writ/sacr/wcf.htm

    Both Luther and Lutherans believe(d) in baptismal regeneration. Historically, Anglicans have held to it, as well. (It’s embedded in the 39 Articles, and most branches [Broad-Church, Anglo-Catholic, and Evangelical] have espoused it. Charles Simeon, for example, a quintessential Evangelical, did. Most modern Charismatic and Evangelical Anglicans do not, but they are the only ones, more or less.) Calvin believed in “baptismal efficacy,” whereby the initiatory sacrament is effective as a “means of grace” only for the elect.

    Indeed, Leithart, who does not believe baptism to be ultimately effective for the non-decretally elect, might be said to hold something similar to Calvin. Calvin, not to mention the WCF, does in fact believe that certain benefits of true baptism (and church membership) accrue to the ultimately faithless baptized, as well as the possession of some sort of “temporary faith.”

    FV is often accused of not embracing the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, but the accusation does not appear to apply to all of them.

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t particularly like the FV. But I do like the New St. Andrews brand better than some of the others. We should differentiate between various groups. (Just like the NPP shouldn’t be painted with too broad of brush strokes, acknowledging the decided distinctions between Dunn, Wright, Sanders, etc.)

    My principal beef with the FV has to do with their objectivity. (I’m a bit pietistically Reformed myself.) Moreover, I have the exact same difficulty with the Old Schoolers’ tendency toward anti-subjectivism. If the two sides would quit ringing each other’s necks, they might find they have more in common than they thought.

    Technically, the FV is probably not in compliance with the WCF, but I don’t see it as a slam dunk. And I see the inaccurate reporting of their views as an ongoing problem.

  24. David Meyer–

    FWIW, I think you should have started your own Presbyterian denomination. Going against conscience is neither “right nor safe,” as Martin Luther liked to say upon (one particular) occasion.

  25. I was going to say, FV’s rejection of IAOC kinda smells of sulfur too…

    Can somebody point me to an article or paper providing the best defense of the IAOC from a reformed perspective?

    Thanks

  26. David,

    My point is not that Rome has to be perfect in discipline. My point is that Rome makes rather pretentious claims, including that it is the one true church founded by the apostles, that union with the pope is necessary for Christian unity, and more. Another, more often made by Roman Catholic apologists, is that without an infallible Magisterium, one cannot separate truth from fallible human opinion.

    If Rome really believes these things, it needs to have the courage of its convictions. An infallible Magisterium that tolerates rank heresy in its midst, teaching that violates its infallible decrees, is calling either its infallibility into question. When an “infallible” church looks like it is unwilling to enforce its “infallible” doctrine, it sure looks like the Magisterium is not confident in its own infallibility. And if Rome can’t even kick a rank heretic like Mary Daly out of her position teaching religion and theology at a Jesuit college, then don’t tell me that the Magisterium provides the only sure way to separate truth from mere human opinion. If U.S. equal opportunity clauses are what finally get your heretics out of office, as was the case of Mary Daly, for reasons having nothing to do with her hatred of the church in whose name she taught as an employee of Boston College, then you’ve got some incredibly serious problems. Then, there’s the whole abuse scandal.

    If the Magisterium would at least show some tangible sign of penitence for not disciplining people sooner, my criticism looses a lot of its oompf. But if the Magisterium is seen as infallible, it is easy to see why the Magisterium itself is unwilling to admit when it is wrong. What is astounding to me is that people who otherwise can think critically want to keep telling Protestants on this point: “Move on, nothing to see here.”

  27. Robert, the point many here and at CTC have made is that a Magisterium that is infallible for certain tasks under certain conditions is a necessary condition for distinguishing between orthodoxy and heresy in a way that is principled rather than ad hoc. From the Catholic perspective, the only way Protestants can do this is by putting forth their fallible opinions about what should count as orthodoxy, and then labeling as heretics those who disagree with them.

    So in order for any church to “discipline people sooner,” it first must be able to meet these other criteria, which Protestantism cannot do.

  28. Robert, the point many here and at CTC have made is that a Magisterium that is infallible for certain tasks under certain conditions is a necessary condition for distinguishing between orthodoxy and heresy in a way that is principled rather than ad hoc.

    Jason,

    The church we read of in the book of Acts, in chapter 15, deliberates without a magisterium. Why argue now that the latter is a necessary condition for distinguishing between orthodoxy and heresy?

  29. SS,

    Google to the articles by John Owen, or J Gresham Machen. Or try here, you can find Owens writing. I’ll read it too

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Justification/The-Imputation-of-Christs-Righteousness/

  30. Robert,

    Good point. You’re wise to bring up the in-house heresy question.

    I get little more than screeching when bringing up the sexual abuse epidemic. It is sadly squelched. And all b/c of supposed supernatural powers in the priesthood! (Or, could it be simply an old boy network of power-mongers? NEVER!)

    But seriously, oughtn’t one expect a BIT better performance from “the Lord’s anointed” clergy with their transubstantiational powers?

    Ought not apostolic successional authority lead the vested to be a BIT better behaved?

    But when I query my Catholic friends on this at CTC or on Proclaiming the Gospel’s Facebook page, I get shouted down that “Protestants have their perverts too!” and “Touch not the Lord’s anointed!”

    As you say, “Move on, nothing to see here.”

    I’ve yet to find a Church apologist or even member who owns up to the multitude of scandalous reports from Ireland, or the shames of US bishops & dioceses (LA or Boston), or the O’Brien debacle in Scotland.

    One hopes the fall of Ben 16 and the 3-Cardinal report on the gay Vatican priests will open both eyes and mouths in Rome and her among her constituents….

  31. AB,

    So you’re saying Machen and Owen make the strongest case? Just want to make sure. Thanks

  32. SS, the Catholic sees Acts 15 as underscoring his whole point. The “apostles and elders” came together to decide a matter, debated it, and then in conjunction with the guidance of the Holy Spirit issued decisions (both doctrinal and disciplinary) that they considered to be “burdens laid upon” the faithful everywhere.

  33. I found them most helpful. 1 cor 15 and Romans 5, in the bible, too. We can email each other later. I’m at adb40895123@ yahoo.com, I can share more later. This thread is about FV being out of step with reformed theology, my OPC link above helps booster that. Bye for now.

  34. Jason (11:25),
    And in addition, the Judaizers could have invoked their own version of “sola scriptura” and said that not circumcising clearly violated Scripture (and of course the Ebionites did break off into their own sect). But the Acts 15 situation shows that it was the apostolic authority (the Magisterium in action) that was essential to rightly understanding that Scripture.

  35. Dear Jason,

    Thanks for letting me post here.

    I just heard your talk with Bryan from Nov. last year @ CTC’s blog, and it was v. helpful.

    I am sorry that Steve & Mike & David (whom I’ve not met), or Duncan & White were not more helpful.

    Remember Hahn & Matatics debating the late, great John Gerstner? He had as much success. 🙁

    Two of my biggest heroes have failed to stem the Roman tide: Dr G. and WSC!

    BTW: The Presbyterian Petrine baptism quotes above make sense if one sees Rom. 6:3 & Gal. 3:27 -“baptized into Christ”- not as aquatic, but as Spiritual baptism.

  36. SS, the Catholic sees Acts 15 as underscoring his whole point. The “apostles and elders” came together to decide a matter, debated it, and then in conjunction with the guidance of the Holy Spirit issued decisions (both doctrinal and disciplinary) that they considered to be “burdens laid upon” the faithful everywhere.

    I understand. But what Acts 15 describes is not a magisterium at work, but instead the authority of the leaders. It strikes me as pure question begging to assume that what is being described in Acts 15 at the first council is necessarily a catholic event. Why assume that? If you take a closer look at the deliberation, it was concluded by James, not Peter, even though Peter voiced his opinion as well, and therefore it was a collective process culminating in a final authoritative conclusion.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying that Protestantism is faithful to what is described in Acts 15 (rather, every man is his own authority), but I don’t see how your original argument re the necessity of a principled argument re authority and the magisterium holds at all. This insistence on a principled argument is the imposition of a philosophical constraint on a theological matter and is foreign to the ethos of the earliest’s church’s ecclesiology.

  37. And in addition, the Judaizers could have invoked their own version of “sola scriptura” and said that not circumcising clearly violated Scripture (and of course the Ebionites did break off into their own sect). But the Acts 15 situation shows that it was the apostolic authority (the Magisterium in action) that was essential to rightly understanding that Scripture.

    Why do you equate the magisterium with apostolic authority? You conflate the two when this is completely unnecessary. You are inserting that into the definition of authority. Authority lay in the disciples (all of them Jewish believers who worshipped in the temple, not gentiles), period. They deliberated amongst themselves, Peter made no ex cathedra pronouncement! And those disciples were respected and men of great devotion, especially James, who was known to be devout and blameless (compare with your litany of corrupt popes). There’s a big difference there my friend that is the basis of the question begging.

  38. I meant 2 cor 5, not 1 cor 15. Sorry.

  39. Jason, et al.

    SS is right. It is a big jump to equate Acts 15 with the Roman Magisterium, not the least of which is the fact that Acts 15 describes deliberations of APOSTLES. Despite Rome’s claims of apostolic authority, at the end of the day even you have to say that there is a difference between Pope Francis and Peter.

    Furthermore, to say Protestantism has no “principled” way to distinguish truth from opinion is to “beg the question” by assuming that infallibility is necessary for doing this. Roman Catholicism, furthermore, isn’t any less “ad hoc.” Simply professing that you are being faithful to tradition and Scripture while you make decisions does not, in fact, mean that such is what you are doing.

    Also, the fact that Protestants believe councils can err does not necessitate that they have done so. Protestants don’t believe that Nicea erred on the Trinity. Of course, one could say in theory that there is a Protestant who could decide that Nicea did err and then leave and form his own church. The same could happen for any professing Roman Catholic. Both communions would consider that person outside of the church and the hope of salvation, but somehow Rome is only correct because it has assumed infallible authority for itself. It’s viciously circular.

    Getting everybody under the same roof does not make a church unified any more than it unifies a family.

    The ironic thing is that cradle Roman Catholics actually have a stronger position from which to make many of the above arguments. If you were a Protestant and then through your own study entered the Roman Catholic Church, you made a fallible decision no less than any Protestant. But it’s the Protestant converts who are most vociferous that such is not what they did. It would be more amusing if it wasn’t so tragic.

  40. +JMJ+
    Robert wrote:

    Furthermore, to say Protestantism has no “principled” way to distinguish truth from opinion is to “beg the question” by assuming that infallibility is necessary for doing this.

    What is the Protestant manner to determine the truth of the likely opinion that you offered?…

    In the “My Conversion Story” thread, Robert wrote:
    .
    BTW, the story of the adulterous woman is likely non-canonical and should not be in the New Testament.

  41. What is the Protestant manner to determine the truth of the likely opinion that you offered?…

    There is no protestant manner, that’s the other side of reality.

    There is a way out of this, but it would take humility of a kind that does not exist today in either catholic or protestant quarters. This would involve the humility to willingly partake of the fatness of the olive tree (not just the Root. btw, a tree that has been supernaturally regathered in Israel) and seek a return to a church led by men whose fruit has been discerned and who seek from the heart to be faithful to the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). It would thereby necessarily involve engaging with Jewish believers/ leaders in Jerusalem and cooperating with them to repent from theological and ecclesiological disunity. Only then, will we have the ground for an ecclesiology that can be honestly defended, when decisions are reached not by shouting, screaming, punching, pulling of beards, or ivory tower sniping at one another, but by the fruit of the Spirit and the fear of the Lord (Gal 5:22, Ps 111:10).

  42. Acts 15:12-19

    telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

    16 “‘After this I will return
    and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
    Its ruins I will rebuild,
    and I will restore it,
    17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord ,
    even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
    says the Lord, who does these things’—
    18 things known from long ago.

    19 “ It is my judgment , therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

  43. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    … seek a return to a church led by men whose fruit has been discerned and who seek from the heart to be faithful to the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

    If I was simply going to follow the teachings of those who I thought were holy and who had personal communion with God, why on earth would I arbitrarily limit my search to Messianic Jews? Why not Judaic Jews, Hindus, Moslems et al?

    And if we’re going to go OT/pre-Christic in all of this, why stop at holiness? Why not go all the way and demand the signs and miracles and prophecies? Do these Messianic Jews offer any of those?

  44. SS,

    I wrote, “SS, the Catholic sees Acts 15 as underscoring his whole point. The “apostles and elders” came together to decide a matter, debated it, and then in conjunction with the guidance of the Holy Spirit issued decisions (both doctrinal and disciplinary) that they considered to be “burdens laid upon” the faithful everywhere.” You responded:

    I understand. But what Acts 15 describes is not a magisterium at work, but instead the authority of the leaders. It strikes me as pure question begging to assume that what is being described in Acts 15 at the first council is necessarily a catholic event. Why assume that? If you take a closer look at the deliberation, it was concluded by James, not Peter, even though Peter voiced his opinion as well, and therefore it was a collective process culminating in a final authoritative conclusion.

    I am not sure what you think the Magisterium is, because none of what you say is inconsistent with the claim that the duly ordained leaders of the church (the Magisterium) gathered in Jerusalem and answered doctrinal and disciplinary matters in a way that was binding on all the faithful. What I just said is really all that needs to be true for the Catholic position to stand. They don’t have to have been wearing pointy hats or deliberating in Latin.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying that Protestantism is faithful to what is described in Acts 15 (rather, every man is his own authority), but I don’t see how your original argument re the necessity of a principled argument re authority and the magisterium holds at all. This insistence on a principled argument is the imposition of a philosophical constraint on a theological matter and is foreign to the ethos of the earliest’s church’s ecclesiology.

    Again, what made the Jerusalem Council’s decision binding rather than a mere human opinion was the fact that the men whom Jesus himself authorized (along with the men whom those men subsequently authorized) gathered together as the body to whom the power to bind and loose had been given, and reached a solution that they themselves considered binding upon everyone else. The Catholic claim is that the same dynamic occurred at Nicaea, at Trent, and at Vatican 2.

    So if the Judaizing Christians rejected Jerusalem’s decision and continued insisting upon Gentile circumcision, they would have been rejecting Christ by refusing to hear those whom he sent. And my point is that without that “being sent” part (which the ECFs considered a necessary condition for the church being apostolic), no pronouncement by an individual or a council carries any authoritative weight, but can be treated as good or bad advice (much like a systematic theology may be really good, but it doesn’t bind anyone).

    In order to have binding authority, a body must at the very least claim apostolicity (understood as laying-on-of-hands ordination stretching back to the apostles, which only EO and the CC claim, and maybe Anglicanism). My point is not to adjudicate between those competing claims, but simply to take Reformed Protestantism off the table, together with its self-refuting objection about Rome not using her authority quickly or often enough.

  45. Jason,

    Actually, if the Judaizing Christians rejected the council’s decision they would have been rejecting Christ by rejecting the council’s decision made according to divine revelation. The church doesn’t get a right to be listened to because it is the church but because it is the steward of God’s revelation. The real question is, where do we find this revelation? The church does not have authority simply because it is the church; it has authority insofar as it conforms to divine revelation. Even Roman Catholics must finally acknowledge this, unless they want to say the heretical views of popes like Honorious were authoritative. You just define tradition as Scripture, oral tradition, and the Magisterium, but it is not self-evident that any of these other forms are to be regarded as authoritative in Scripture.

  46. Jason,

    You wrote:

    In order to have binding authority, a body must at the very least claim apostolicity (understood as laying-on-of-hands ordination stretching back to the apostles, which only EO and the CC claim, and maybe Anglicanism). My point is not to adjudicate between those competing claims, but simply to take Reformed Protestantism off the table, together with its self-refuting objection about Rome not using her authority quickly or often enough.

    Why is apostolicity depending on laying-on-of-hands ordination stretching back to the apostles? I mean, I know it is for RCs, but why is that view right.

    Even given that definition, the Reformed have never said that the gospel was lost altogether in the church. Even the Reformed could trace a laying on of hands back to the apostles if they wanted to. We might have fewer people in the line, but they’d be there.

    It’s not a self-refuting objection to say Rome does not use its authority quickly enough. The objection does not say that since Rome doesn’t move fast enough, Rome must be false. The objection is that if everything you have said about the Magisterium is necessary for knowing the truth and not just relying on fallible opinions, the Magisterium is guaranteeing nothing by not disciplining. An infallible church that shows very little concern to discipline major heretics in a meaningful fashion is at best disobedient to the Lord. It doesn’t falsify your claim absolutely, but it calls it into serious question and turns Rome into a paper tiger.

    Does a bishop that has ordination stretching back to the apostles still have authority if he starts teaching rank heresy? Do you really want to claim that?

  47. Wosbald,

    The Protestant method is the diligent exegesis of the Scripture in its original context, informed by but not governed absolutely by tradition.

  48. The problem with your view, Robert, is that the apostles at Jerusalem weren’t simply gathering to remind everyone what the perspicuous (OT) Scriptures said about the Gentile problem, or to remind everyone what Jesus said about it. Jesus didn’t address it directly, and the passage cited by James from Amos is hardly applicable on its face. This was a real dilemma that needed an answer which is why the council was called in the first place.

    What happened was that the OT revelation was applied to the matter by the duly ordained leaders of the visible church, but it was not applied directly, but through the lens of the apostolic tradition. Everyone knew that Jesus had vaguely declared all food clean when he told the Pharisees that it’s not what goes in that defiles, but what proceeds from the heart. But that idea had to be formed by the church in such a way as to address a new question (much like a pile of bricks and wood and nails and cement must be formed into a suitable dwelling, despite all the material already being there).

    So the sources to which the church went were the written Scripture (Amos) and the unwritten tradition (Jesus’ statement about food as well as the Cornelius episode), and those were applied by the church in a binding and authoritative way. The problem for Protestants is that they reduce tradition to written tradition (despite there being no written instruction to do so), and then they’ve got no singular and visible authoritative body to apply what they think to anyone in a way that even claims to transcend fallible human opinion.

  49. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    The Protestant method is the diligent exegesis of the Scripture in its original context, informed by but not governed absolutely by tradition.

    Are you saying that the way to determine whether or not the Script that you cited is really Scripture is to go consult Scripture?

  50. Jason,

    To SS at 1:51 pm

    Again, what made the Jerusalem Council’s decision binding rather than a mere human opinion was the fact that the men whom Jesus himself authorized (along with the men whom those men subsequently authorized) gathered together as the body to whom the power to bind and loose had been given, and reached a solution that they themselves considered binding upon everyone else. The Catholic claim is that the same dynamic occurred at Nicaea, at Trent, and at Vatican 2.

    As we Prots can agree to affirm your first statement, you lose us with your second.

    Our views of ultimate authority/ies thus inevitably issue in stalemate (a draw at best) in our debates. We cannot accept your claim that the Holy Spirit dynamic occurring @ Jerusalem in Acts 15 is repeated post-canon (council after council, infallible pronouncement after …).

    We are derided as fideists or dogmatists or presuppositionalists.

    But ultimately what (or better, Who) opens our spiritual eyes to the “rightness” of either your [Rome’s] position or to ours [“Geneva’s”] is not of our own intellect, but is a gift from above?

    Do not – or SHOULD not- both sides claim that ultimately the Holy Spirit of God leads one to accept either the Roman Catholic position or the Protestant sola scriptura?

    Thanks,
    Hugh

  51. If I was simply going to follow the teachings of those who I thought were holy and who had personal communion with God, why on earth would I arbitrarily limit my search to Messianic Jews? Why not Judaic Jews, Hindus, Moslems et al?

    And if we’re going to go OT/pre-Christic in all of this, why stop at holiness? Why not go all the way and demand the signs and miracles and prophecies? Do these Messianic Jews offer any of those?

    The answer is two fold: First, Jews who reject Christ, as do Hindus and Muslims are not spoken of in 1 Tim 3 and it makes no sense to believe that the command given to us through Paul is applicable to anyone else but believers. Our leaders are to be blameless, beyond reproach. Further, the holiness that comes from having one’s sins washed away by the Savior and from obedience to His commands is by definition not within the purview of the Muslim or Hindu, so there’s no point in affirmative action here.

    Do you believe that Scripture holds leaders to a higher standard of behavior or not? If not, why so?

    Secondly, we are told emphatically in Romans 11 not to boast over the natural branches, meaning Jews who have embraced Yeshua as Messiah. Speaking of signs and prophecies, you have already been given them, but you cover your ears and pretend you don’t know they have been realized. God promised that He would regather His people in their home land. Guess what, to the shock of every Westerner and even the Brits (!), this happened in 1948, against all odds. That Israel exists today is nothing short of a miracle of the Hand of God. That there are 100,000 Jewish believers in Christ in the Holy Land today is an even greater miracle. What more do you want than has not been done already?

    I’ll tell you what sign I would believe if I saw it. If instead of washing somebody’s feet, your Pope sold the Vatican and gave to the poor, then I would believe you. Wisdom is proved right by her deeds, isn’t she now.

  52. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    The answer is two fold: First, Jews who reject Christ, as do Hindus and Muslims are not spoken of in 1 Tim 3 and it makes no sense to believe that the command given to us through Paul is applicable to anyone else but believers. Our leaders are to be blameless, beyond reproach. Further, the holiness that comes from having one’s sins washed away by the Savior and from obedience to His commands is by definition not within the purview of the Muslim or Hindu, so there’s no point in affirmative action here.

    Well, appealing to some “Savior” doesn’t do me any good. If I’m considering seeking Messianic Jews, then neither the Bible nor any of my presuppositions about Christ have any more weight with me. Since my belief in the Bible and Jesus and everything else Supernaturally Revelatory comes from the Church, I’ve got to dump those beliefs and start over from square one. Therefore, the Bible and Jesus are not a priori on a level any different than the Koran or the Vedas or personages in these traditions.

    So as above, I ask again, what do these Messianic Jews offer?

    Since you seem to explicitly reject the standard that the message (the evangel) of the teacher (the evangelist) is to be believed regardless of the holiness of the teacher, then you have to offer something else.

    If you prepose the holiness of the teacher, then that doesn’t put you on any higher ground than a Moslem or a Hindu.

    If you prepose signs and miracles, then show me.

    But don’t appeal to faith presuppositions of some Jesus or Bible, because that ain’t gonna cut it.

  53. I am not sure what you think the Magisterium is, because none of what you say is inconsistent with the claim that the duly ordained leaders of the church (the Magisterium) gathered in Jerusalem and answered doctrinal and disciplinary matters in a way that was binding on all the faithful. What I just said is really all that needs to be true for the Catholic position to stand. They don’t have to have been wearing pointy hats or deliberating in Latin

    Until the 19th century and formal pronouncements about the magisterium, things were up for debate. Pius IX was the first to use the term ‘magisterium’ and the sacred magisterium itself was called into question by none other than your beloved John Henry Newman:

    “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.

    So forgive if I don’t see any motives of credibility ( I use the term loosely here) in all of this. There was no official declaration of James or Peter’s infallibility in Acts 15, even though implicitly of course their decision was binding. But it wasn’t binding just because they said so. The faithful lived among these men, and could verify for themselves that they bore the fruit that glorified God. Then there’s the issue of Peter playing no role in the final decision. That final decision is given by James not Peter. So if Peter was somehow retroactively the first infallible pope, then why don’t we see that in Scripture? What sort of paradigm would give rise to the passage I quoted above in Acts 15? That’s not the sort of thing one would expect to see if petrine supremacy was our paradigm.

    Again, what made the Jerusalem Council’s decision binding rather than a mere human opinion was the fact that the men whom Jesus himself authorized (along with the men whom those men subsequently authorized) gathered together as the body to whom the power to bind and loose had been given, and reached a solution that they themselves considered binding upon everyone else. The Catholic claim is that the same dynamic occurred at Nicaea, at Trent, and at Vatican 2.

    I have no problem with decision making being in the hands of men appointed by God. But they have to conform to what Scripture says they are supposed to look like non? To have any sort of grounds for motives of credibility before an asssent of faith is made. This is why CTC’s claim about not being subject to the Tu Quoque is as solid as papier mache. 1 Tim 3:4 for example says that they should be able to manage their family well. Ok, well, when I turn to the CC where are the families of the priests? It’s that’s simple. Doctrine has not progressed as De Lerins would say, it has been alterated

    So if the Judaizing Christians rejected Jerusalem’s decision and continued insisting upon Gentile circumcision, they would have been rejecting Christ by refusing to hear those whom he sent. And my point is that without that “being sent” part (which the ECFs considered a necessary condition for the church being apostolic), no pronouncement by an individual or a council carries any authoritative weight, but can be treated as good or bad advice (much like a systematic theology may be really good, but it doesn’t bind anyone).

    Firstly, it’s not clear at all that the agitators were actually believers. There are tremendous problems with that view that most have no clue about. Ok regarding being sent. That’s fair and good. I recognize that and agree. But realize that God also gives us great responsibility in assessing our environment and wants us to be faithful to the overarching gist of His commands. Did not Jesus say, what use is it to wash the outside of the cup and make a big deal about that, when the inside isn’t clean. Likewise, what use is it to insist on the laying on hands, when one can transgress for decades whilst claiming authority from such a laying on of hands? Does it make sense to emphasize one over the other? Shouldn’t we be enlarging our criteria apostolic succession, acccording to the Grace/instruction of Christ?

    In order to have binding authority, a body must at the very least claim apostolicity (understood as laying-on-of-hands ordination stretching back to the apostles, which only EO and the CC claim, and maybe Anglicanism). My point is not to adjudicate between those competing claims, but simply to take Reformed Protestantism off the table, together with its self-refuting objection about Rome not using her authority quickly or often enough

    See above. A historical claim in and of itself is useless. Consider the Pharisees’ claim “We have Abraham for Father”. No you don’t said Jesus. “But we are descended from him, here look at our records”. “If you descended from Him you would do what he said to ought to ”

    Substitute Peter for Abraham and you have you answer. It is simply not an argument. If you could back your wisdom through your deeds, then yes, of course, a historical claim would be welcome. But in and of itself, it is naive to expect anyone to read any motives of credibility into an historical succession.

  54. +JMJ+

    Hugh McCann wrote:

    But ultimately what (or better, Who) opens our spiritual eyes to the “rightness” of either your [Rome’s] position or to ours [“Geneva’s”] is not of our own intellect, but is a gift from above?

    Do not – or SHOULD not- both sides claim that ultimately the Holy Spirit of God leads one to accept either the Roman Catholic position or the Protestant sola scriptura?

    In a sense, yeah. The problem is that we’re not talking in the same sense.

    In the Catholic paradigm, Natural Man can use his natural faculties and the movements of grace, to prepare himself to receive the Gift of Regeneration. Natural Man can use his intellect to examine the Motives of Credibility in order to choose the Church with his own natural human authority. He can petition the Church for initiation. The Church can then bestow the Gift upon him in Sacramental Baptism. The Sacrament, in its mediating function that connects Heaven and Earth, then unites the Man to the realm of Supernatural Faith.

    The problem is that, in the Protestant paradigm, Regeneration comes out of nowhere. It only comes ineffably from above. There’s nowhere that Natural Man can go, no one to whom he can go, in order to receive this Gift. He can read the Bible; he can approach a church; he can seek; he can plead. But he can’t decide to follow and be admitted to Regeneration. There’s no unifying (Incarnational) principle (which, in Catholicism, is Sacramentalism) that unites Creation to the Uncreated.

    I’m not saying that your paradigm is unworkable per se. But it is simply unworkable for the Natural Man. It puts the world of Faith wholly outside his organic, everyday life. It makes Faith unintelligible to Nature. This is why we call it ‘fideistic’.

  55. SS

    Was not the Brits gave Palestine to you due to greater military advantage over the Arabs. you did not march to Palestine and took it ( no history repetition here)

    are you not America military base in the middle east

    ALL POLITICS not miracle ( you have a purpose in the middle east)

    on top of that you don’t have peace in that land an you will have not

    what is all this talk about fruit

    when did we promised to have a church of all saints

    wake up call
    Matt 13 the weeds and the wheat you know

  56. Well, appealing to some “Savior” doesn’t do me any good. If I’m considering seeking Messianic Jews, then neither the Bible nor any of my presuppositions about Christ have any more weight with me. Since my belief in the Bible and Jesus and everything else Supernaturally Revelatory comes from the Church, I’ve got to dump those beliefs and start over from square one. Therefore, the Bible and Jesus are not a priori on a level any different than the Koran or the Vedas or personages in these traditions.

    So as above, I ask again, what do these Messianic Jews offer?

    No answers to my questions, I see.

    You assume that the church you speak of is the RCC, but this is question begging. Why? Someone can pick up a Gideon’s Bible in a hotel room and be convicted by God of His need for the Savior, the Christ. His conviction isn’t coming from the parish, it’s coming from God. Likewise, was it a parish that convicted Saul on the way to Damascus or was it the supernatural hand of God? Your presuppositions are not all necessary.

  57. Thanks, Wosbald.

    I am sifting through the chat between Jason Stellman & Bryan Cross (& others) on the Mathison sola scriptura piece @ CTC, Nov. ’09- Feb. ’11.

    Very interesting. Thanks, Wosbald – your comments are helpful.

    [Hope to email you, JASON, or if you’ve blogged about your “conversion process,” please let me know!]

    Hugh

  58. where is in the bible said the it the if a handful of church leader screwed up then the church is no longer has a legitimacy and we have to form another church and another till the end of the world based on our judgment?

    OT priesthood was corrupt not even the profits had the authority to demolish what God has establish

    scribe and Pharisee were scum Jesus tells the disciples to listen to them because they are sitting on Moses Chair

    Jesus gave took the Church from the Jews gave it to his disciples to form on body Jews and Gentiles with the Chair of Peter.

  59. Was not the Brits gave Palestine to you due to greater military advantage over the Arabs. you did not march to Palestine and took it ( no history repetition here)

    are you not America military base in the middle east

    ALL POLITICS not miracle ( you have a purpose in the middle east)

    on top of that you don’t have peace in that land an you will have not

    what is all this talk about fruit

    when did we promised to have a church of all saints

    wake up call
    Matt 13 the weeds and the wheat you know

    Bushman,

    That Christ told us to expect wheat and tares does not obviate His command to appoint leaders over us who are blameless/beyond reproach. The ultimate proof of that you can see in Judas Iscariot and James the Just. That the former existed did not preclude the latter from existing, both were there. They got something right in the beginning, James was known as a devout believer, and highly respected by many (see Eusebius of Caesarea). So your logic does not hold one bit.

    Re the claim that Israel’s gathering was a mere political event. Thanks for the laugh. I’ve come to expect nothing less than absurdities like this from catholics. You are catholic correct? Anyone with half a brain will tell you that the odds were almost unsurmountably stacked against the Jews in 1948. They were surrounded on all sides by enemies much larger and much more powerful than them, they were outnumbered 100:1! But God, true to history, threw their enemies into confusion, and yes that involved the political process. But to restrict the explanation for the formation of the nation-state to political reasons just proves that replacement theology is alive and well today.

    Romans 11

    “11 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, 3 “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life” 4 But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”

  60. where is in the bible said the it the if a handful of church leader screwed up then the church is no longer has a legitimacy and we have to form another church and another till the end of the world based on our judgment?

    OT priesthood was corrupt not even the profits had the authority to demolish what God has establish

    scribe and Pharisee were scum Jesus tells the disciples to listen to them because they are sitting on Moses Chair

    Jesus gave took the Church from the Jews gave it to his disciples to form on body Jews and Gentiles with the Chair of Peter.

    Where in the Bible? Here, let me help you:

    “19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

    No one is calling for the starting of a new church. Aren’t there too many of those already? You have your own sedevacantists to contend with. What is being called for here is repentance and humility.

    Re Matt 23:2-4: Following your logic then, there was no need for the disciples to form the church, jew and gentile side by side! All they had to do was to follow the Pharisees right, who in your words were scum? So why didn’t they do that then? Why didn’t they obey Christ?

    And finally merely saying the words ‘chair of Peter’ means absolutely nothing. Whatever you do, please don’t turn into the catholic version of TOA. Please…

  61. Hey guys, 10 on 1 here..

    that’s not fair to you….

  62. Therefore, the Bible and Jesus are not a priori on a level any different than the Koran or the Vedas or personages in these traditions

    Let me tell you about someone I know who came to Christ, outside of the catholic church. For him, much had to do with the supernatural inspiration of the Scriptures as evidenced by prophecy. Isaiah 53 and its fulfilment in Christ was one of the strongest examples of why the Koran (or any other claimed holy books) was not in the same category as the Scriptures by comparison. Secondly, textual analysis proving the wholesale lifting/plagiarizing (complete with scribal/copyist errors) of Jewish texts into the Koran was further compelling evidence for the natural origin of the Koran and good reason to reject it.

    The Scriptures and the Messiah they attest to are indeed, a priori, on a different plane altogether.

  63. Jason,

    You wrote,

    The problem with your view, Robert, is that the apostles at Jerusalem weren’t simply gathering to remind everyone what the perspicuous (OT) Scriptures said about the Gentile problem, or to remind everyone what Jesus said about it. Jesus didn’t address it directly, and the passage cited by James from Amos is hardly applicable on its face. This was a real dilemma that needed an answer which is why the council was called in the first place.

    What happened was that the OT revelation was applied to the matter by the duly ordained leaders of the visible church, but it was not applied directly, but through the lens of the apostolic tradition. Everyone knew that Jesus had vaguely declared all food clean when he told the Pharisees that it’s not what goes in that defiles, but what proceeds from the heart. But that idea had to be formed by the church in such a way as to address a new question (much like a pile of bricks and wood and nails and cement must be formed into a suitable dwelling, despite all the material already being there).

    So the sources to which the church went were the written Scripture (Amos) and the unwritten tradition (Jesus’ statement about food as well as the Cornelius episode), and those were applied by the church in a binding and authoritative way. The problem for Protestants is that they reduce tradition to written tradition (despite there being no written instruction to do so), and then they’ve got no singular and visible authoritative body to apply what they think to anyone in a way that even claims to transcend fallible human opinion.

    I think you have partially misunderstood my point. The Council in Acts 15, while it may have some paradigmatic value for how the church is to settle controversies throughout history, cannot be equated with any subsequent church council because in Acts 15, the APOSTLES were making the decision. If you want to draw the parallel, you can, but then you have to admit that God is continuing to give new revelation in the church today just as he gave to the Apostles. But I thought Rome denied that?

    It’s also interesting that the “unwritten” traditions you mention did not stay unwritten…

    Appealing to those traditions, in any case, does not violate the Protestant principle. Ultimately, sola Scriptura is about judging things according to apostolic revelation, and our only sure source of that is the New Testament. You can pretend that we have access to authentic oral tradition all you want, but the fact is you cannot demonstrate it or why your oral tradition is better than another group that claims oral tradition. And why hasn’t Rome written this oral tradition down? If it is as authoritative as Scripture, you’d think one would want a copy of it.

    As far as there being no command to follow only unwritten tradition, I am disappointed. You’re arguing like a very low church reading of Scripture that is not true to the WCF or any other representative creed of the Protestant Reformation. The command is a good and necessary consequence of passages that extol the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16–17), as well as the fact that when God makes a covenant, written revelation always accompanies it, among other things.

  64. SS,

    Although you and I disagree on much, I hope you find it as laughable and ironic as I do that it is a person representing the “one true church,” “vicar of Christ,” and “God’s living voice on earth” who seems almost to go out of his way to deny any substantial difference between the Bible and Jesus and other figures.

  65. Robert,

    I find it sad, to be honest with you.

    By the way, when you get a chance can you please review my last response to you on the Participating in the Divine Nature thread. I’m thumbing through Justification and Variegated Nomism as we speak and would like to further the discussion there if possible at some point.

    Thanks

  66. SS,

    Sad is a better word, indeed.

    I’ll try and look at it when I get a chance. I’m buried at work at the moment. I did receive Shullam’s Galatians commentary a day or two ago, started thumbing through it.

  67. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    You assume that the church you speak of is the RCC, but this is question begging. Why?

    It’s not question-begging. It’s axiomatic. The Church is one who gave me Supernatural Faith.

    SS wrote:

    Someone can pick up a Gideon’s Bible in a hotel room and be convicted by God of His need for the Savior, the Christ.

    I don’t know that. Not by faith. In your scenario, I’m the Natural Man, remember? Someone could pick up a box of Frosted Flakes and be convicted of his need for Tony the Tiger. Some people probably are, actually.

    SS wrote:

    Isaiah 53 and its fulfilment in Christ was one of the strongest examples of why the Koran (or any other claimed holy books) was not in the same category as the Scriptures by comparison.

    Okay, that’s a Motive of Credibility. Who’s making the claim that this motive points to their Christ-derived authority? Messianic Jews?

    SS wrote:

    Secondly, textual analysis proving the wholesale lifting/plagiarizing (complete with scribal/copyist errors) of Jewish texts into the Koran was further compelling evidence for the natural origin of the Koran and good reason to reject it.

    I suppose that you could try to enter that into something like “Motives of Incredibility”. However, I’m not sure how helpful this is, considering that, in the context of this discussion, I’m most concerned as to what claims the Messianic Jews are making. Wos, the Natural Man, will get around to evaluating the Moslem claims on their own merits and in his own time.

  68. Wosbald,

    I don’t know that. Not by faith. In your scenario, I’m the Natural Man, remember? Someone could pick up a box of Frosted Flakes and be convicted of his need for Tony the Tiger. Some people probably are, actually.

    Most non-Roman Catholics (not sure about the EO) believe that the Spirit of God actually calls people through His Word to faith. Though this happens most often under the preaching of the Word, it can happen by a simple reading of it as well.

  69. It’s not question-begging. It’s axiomatic. The Church is one who gave me Supernatural Faith.

    I understand and respect your belief. I believe that God is not constrained by a paradigm, and can act outside of that paradigm that He may have Himself instituted, if He so wills. That’s why Paul is struck on His way to Damascus by Light, and not by the sundial’s brightness on the altar.

    I don’t know that. Not by faith. In your scenario, I’m the Natural Man, remember? Someone could pick up a box of Frosted Flakes and be convicted of his need for Tony the Tiger. Some people probably are, actually.

    Wozzie, you’re not da natural man. You da Filosofical man. Wouldn’t you say? 🙂
    You’ve axiomatically decided that the church has supernatural power to convict. You’re in the sandbox of faith too, and the castle you built you believe to be something much more fantastical than Tony the Tiger.

    Okay, that’s a Motive of Credibility. Who’s making the claim that this motive points to their Christ-derived authority? Messianic Jews?

    Sure is a MOC. This MOC, brought to you by the letter S and the letter S, is simply evidence to support the fact that conviction can and does take place outside the catholic church . Of course, when faced with reality, you are cornered into stating that every such conviction is of the Tony the Tiger delusional type, but I’ll let the reader decide whether this is a reasonable stance to take or not.

    I suppose that you could try to enter that into something like “Motives of Incredibility”. However, I’m not sure how helpful this is, considering that, in the context of this discussion, I’m most concerned as to what claims the Messianic Jews are making. Wos, the Natural Man, will get around to evaluating the Moslem claims on their own merits and in his own time.

    Well, the MOC have to be holistic non? Left brained and right brained? Any claim to truth is by definition a claim to exclusivity. A muslim is not offended by this fact, but interestingly you seem to be. You could indeed view as proceeding by elimination. And it is quite easy to show that the Koran is full of lifted passages, errors and all, from the Jewish Scriptures. That alone should give anyone great pause in considering your claim that every Holy book is on the same plane in the starting blocks.

  70. I’m most concerned as to what claims the Messianic Jews are making

    As far as I can tell, some of their best theologians are not making any claims, but simply going about their walk of faith. That said, they do point to a fundamental problem with church history, and that is the idea promulgated from the beginning by catholics and others, that there is no such thing as a Jewish believer in Christ, but only a jewish convert to Christianity/Catholicism. And they are saying, I’m sorry, but this has no basis in Scripture whatsoever. Now you can tell me my theologians know better than these men, and that’s fine. I’m just stating the facts here.

  71. Wosbald–

    You speak as if the route to salvation is merely incarnational and not supernatural, as well. That is not Catholic orthodoxy. The Motives of Credibility are insufficient for the Natural Man to come to Christ; they are merely the “preamble to faith.” Faith itself requires Prevenient Grace.

    The “Motives of Credibility,” by the way, is Catholic talk, and is not found particularly credible by anyone else. Personal acceptance of the authority of the church, based on its supposed glorious history, is a Catholic phenomenon. An individual Catholic, evaluating the Catholic church, finds her “pleasing to the sight and reaches out his hand to pluck her from the tree, saying: fruit good to eat.”

    I myself call them the “Motives of Gullibility.” Here is a quote from Vatican I:

    “The Church herself, is, by her marvelous propagation, her wondrous sanctity, her inexhaustible fruitfulness in good works, her Catholic unity, and her enduring stability, a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefutable witness to her Divine commission” (Constitution Dei Filius ).

    Grading the Catholic church on a continuum from the “Shining City Set on a Hill” at one extreme to “Whore of Babylon” on the other, I would find her somewhere in the middle, but probably a bit more toward the latter.

    St. Augustine said this:

    “The Apostles saw the Head and believed in the Body; we see the Body, and it lets us believe in the Head” [Sermo ccxliii, 8 (al. cxliii), de temp., P.L., V 1143].

    We Protestants believe that were Augustine living today, he could no longer say this with any confidence concerning the Roman church.

  72. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    I understand and respect your belief. I believe that God is not constrained by a paradigm, and can act outside of that paradigm that He may have Himself instituted, if He so wills. That’s why Paul is struck on His way to Damascus by Light, and not by the sundial’s brightness on the altar.

    Of course, God is not constrained by a paradigm. He can save the Moslem or the Aborigine. The Spirit can speak in a spring breeze, a baby’s smile, the Moslem call to prayer, the grandeur of Hindu sacred art, a natural reading of the Bible as being part of Mankind’s historico-spiritual legacy, or the wisdom of a Buddhist monk. As Catholics believe, God is bound to His Sacraments, but He is not bound by them.

    But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Or, at least, not what I’m talking about.

    I recommend that you (and Eric too, based upon the content of his post immediately above) cross reference my posts to you with my response to Hugh McCann above (Apr 5th @ 5:16 pm) in order to better get my drift. (And I don’t mean that snottily.) Peace to y’all.

  73. Wosbald –

    First, what is +JMJ+? I find in online, but not a definition of it.

    2ndly, y0ur post to SS recalls Barth’s dictum: “God may speak to us through Russian Communism, through a flute concerto, through a blossoming shrub, or through a dead dog: We shall do well to listen to him if he really does so.”

    I’ll stick to sola scriptura/ fideism/ dogmatism.

  74. Natural Man can use his intellect to examine the Motives of Credibility in order to choose the Church with his own natural human authority. He can petition the Church for initiation. The Church can then bestow the Gift upon him in Sacramental Baptism. The Sacrament, in its mediating function that connects Heaven and Earth, then unites the Man to the realm of Supernatural Faith.

    Woz,

    Models can be a good thing insofar as they are understood to be the map and not the territory. The territory tends to be a lot rougher, less discrete, more disruptive and apparently far more rugged than our nice greco-roman/enlightenment driven/mechanical thought processes. I prefer the ruggedness/rubber hits the roadness of the semitic mindset myself, instead of trying to construct the perfect black box, it has a built in deterrent against that called the fear of the Lord.

    What you describe above is a linear process which Scripture does not necessarily endorse. Consider Rahab, listend in the hall of faith. Or Moses, called outside of any institution by the Uncreated Energy in the burning bush. This is the reality of God’s revelation to a semitic people that you are bumping in. And He continues to reveal Himself in similar manner today even in the Middle East, through dreams, apparitions and so on. There is no necessity in the process which says, if Gunther in Germany is led by the MOC to investigate further claims, that this will necessarily lead him to the CC. This is the flying leap which gives the Tu Quoque its potency. He may very well consider the history of the church in his own country and conclude, within his natural understanding that this cannot be the fruit that Christ spoke of, and look elsewhere, and yes, be saved elsewhere.

  75. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    What you describe above is a linear process which Scripture does not necessarily endorse.

    What I’m putting forth is a typological description. Of course, the practical experiences (or spiritual walk) of men will be peppered with innumerably diverse potholes, detours and diversions. Since God is the God of Whole Man and the Whole Cosmos, then in all cases, the Natural Man is still united to Supernature in a manner which doesn’t violate the needs and prerogatives of each. Neither rationalism nor fideism suffices. Not only are they unacceptable to the Whole Man, they are unintelligible in light of the Incarnation. This demonstrates the preeminent importance that Catholicism places on Incarno-Sacramentalism.

    SS wrote:

    Consider Rahab, listend in the hall of faith. Or Moses, called outside of any institution by the Uncreated Energy in the burning bush. This is the reality of God’s revelation to a semitic people that you are bumping in. And He continues to reveal Himself in similar manner today even in the Middle East, through dreams, apparitions and so on.

    It seems like you’re continuing to argue in a faith-presuppositionalist manner. Either that, or you’re arbitrarily excluding the possibility of faith being publicly and formally proclaimed in a “shouted from the rooftops in full daylight” manner.

    And that’s okay. We’ve both put forth our positions adequately, methinks.

    SS wrote:

    There is no necessity in the process which says, if Gunther in Germany is led by the MOC to investigate further claims, that this will necessarily lead him to the CC.

    Agreed. The Motives of Credibility never, by necessity, culminate in Supernatural Faith. (This unifying of Nature to Supernature is accomplished by the mediatory function of Sacramentalism.)

    SS wrote:

    He may very well consider the history of the church in his own country and conclude, within his natural understanding that this cannot be the fruit that Christ spoke of, and look elsewhere, and yes, be saved elsewhere.

    Yes, that’s certainly possible. “God knows best” as the Moslems say.

  76. Would anyone here please be so kind as to tell me what +JMJ+ indicates?
    Thanks.

  77. +JMJ+

    Hugh McCann wrote:

    First, what is +JMJ+? I find in online, but not a definition of it.

    It means “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph”. It’s a Catholic thang.

    Hugh McCann wrote:

    I’ll stick to sola scriptura/ fideism/ dogmatism.

    It’s laudable that, at least, you know and own your paradigm. If you’re comfortable with fideism, then… fair enough, I suppose.

  78. Wosbald – Thank you. I figured it was an in-house abbreviation, but wanted to be sure it wasn’t an SJ sort of thing!

    Yes, quite comfy with “my” paradigm – or, as we like to say, “Safe in the arms of Jesus”!

    May he shine his light on thee, Mr Wosbald.

  79. +JMJ+

    Hugh McCann wrote:

    May he shine his light on thee, Mr Wosbald.

    And on you, good sir.

  80. It seems like you’re continuing to argue in a faith-presuppositionalist manner. Either that, or you’re arbitrarily excluding the possibility of faith being publicly and formally proclaimed in a “shouted from the rooftops in full daylight” manner.

    My earlier point to you, which you did not seem to catch, was that you are arguing fideistically too. You claim not to be, but you are. Regarding the shouting of rooftops in full daylight, that is precisely part of what is in dispute. You assume that what is being shouted out must be found in the CC, thereby taking on by faith something which in and of itself is subject to the MOC.

    If His people aren’t faithful to His commands and worship Him with their deeds and not words/liturgies, even the stones will cry out…. Today, much more than stones are crying out, in truth.

  81. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    My earlier point to you, which you did not seem to catch, was that you are arguing fideistically too. You claim not to be, but you are. Regarding the shouting of rooftops in full daylight, that is precisely part of what is in dispute. You assume that what is being shouted out must be found in the CC, thereby taking on by faith something which in and of itself is subject to the MOC.

    Sorry, I must insist that I am not. What I’m saying to is that you should, paying special attention to the Motives of Credibility, listen to what is shouted out/preached/taught by all the world’s various authorities, groups, churches, holy men, traditions, etc. Find out if one is holistically satisfying to your intellect’s demands. Investigate. Come and see. And then, go and join.

    If you happen to decide to join the Catholic Church, She will complete the Natural Faith that you invested in Her by sacramentally superelevating you to Supernatural Faith.

  82. A conversation somewhere around the river Jordan, circa A.D 26-27:

    “Hey John, are you really listening to what is preached from the rooftops in Jerusalem?”

    “Yes, I have.”

    “You really should pay attention John. Hanging out with deadbeats and nobodies, that’s getting you nowhere. The teachers of the Law in the temple, however, they’ve been teaching the Law of Moses from day one”.

    “Says who?”

    “We say so… you should check them out. And if you join them, God will supernaturally elevate your natural faith, because right now, you’re in the wilderness you see.”

  83. Jason,

    Just wanted to say that I really appreciated your quotes from Leithart and your conclusions that in “no sense” is what Leithart says Reformed. Of course you have been saying that for a long time.

    I hope that you are planning to respond to Robert from his 6:53 pm comment last night. Concerning Acts 15, he makes the very good point that the Apostles were charged with giving new revelation to the Church. You agree with that, right? But Councils after the Apostles were not giving new revelation. I assume you will agree. So what the Apostles gave was the inspired Word of God, but what councils pronounced after the NT era was not inspired. So maybe you need to find some other rationale for according infallibility to post NT councils.

  84. 2 Tim 1:

    ” For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline….

    “13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. ”

    I can understand someone like Jason pointing to verse 6 and saying “lookit, there was an apostolic succession!”. This is undeniable, I agree. Here Paul, in chains and in prison, is exhorting his younger co worker in Christ, that he appointed, to ‘fan the flame’. Why? No one will ever know exactly to what extent that flame was threatened, but at any rate, let’s move on to v 13. Again, Paul references the transmission mechanism. So far so good, I have no problem with that. But then, here comes I think is overlooked in the typical C2C talking points, v 14: Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you. And then Paul points to those in Asia who abandoned him as if to say, Timothy, don’t follow their example, stand firm in the faith. This echoes Jude in v 3, who urges to contend for the faith once and for all delivered.

    Now that is precisely what I’d like to draw attention to: why does one presuppose that that faith was indeed guarded and contended for by the church in Rome and then eventually in Geneva? The answer invariably is along these lines: well, Jesus did promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church, so denying that the faith was indeed guarded is tantamount to calling Jesus a liar.

    And that’s exactly the reasoning I call into question. Why assume that there’s only one way to understand the ‘gates of hell shall not prevail’? (btw, this verse is part of a contingent of verses said to be interpolations into the text given the anachronistic use of the word ‘church/ekklesia’, but I don’t need to believe that to make my case). Given that Christ also lamented the state of affairs at His return “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when He returns?”, and earlier warned us in the parable of the leaven/mustard seed that birds of the air (unclean animals) would nestle in the tree, isn’t it possible to also understand that the gates of hell do not prevail not because the church faithfully guarded the deposit, but because God in His sheer mercy, preserved a remnant for Him, to honor His own Name and Righteousness?

    I adduce the history of the Jewish people themselves. Weren’t they given very strong/wonderful promises through Moses and the prophets? And so even the Qumran community believed that by law keeping/torah study/piety/separateness they could earn the protection of God against Rome. But they were slaughtered too.
    Yet in Romans 11, Paul tells us of a remnant whom God reserves unto Himself, an act which is of sheer grace and not work, otherwise grace would not be grace.

    So to sketch it out:

    – God’s promise to Israel
    – Israel disobeys with all manner of rebellion including rejecting Christ
    – God punishes but reserves a remnant.

    Analog:

    – God’s promise to the church
    – The church disobeys with all sorts of rebellion including denying Christ in deed
    – God punishes but reserves a remnant.

    So the gates of hell do not prevail in the sense that there remains a remnant who are faithful to Christ’s commands, in deed, and not in word/lineage/pedigree/succession only. This to me presents a compelling alternative to the leap of faith made in the motives of credibility, whether it be natural faith or supernatural faith.

    Or as the saying goes “One man’s motive of credibility is another man’s motive of gullibility”?

    P.s: All credit to Eric for the gullibility bit.

  85. Andrew–

    I’m glad that at least someone got back to the topic of this thread: Mr. Leithart.

    Are you quite sure that he and Wilson have actually–and not just technically–crossed the boundary of the Reformed nation into enemy territory? I’m not sure of that yet, so maybe you could point me to a given tenet of theirs, together with quotes in context, which clearly demonstrates their tresspass.

    As to the imputation of the active obedience of Christ, there is this from the Joint FV Statement:

    “We deny that faithfulness to the gospel message requires any particular doctrinal
    formulation of the “imputation of the active obedience of Christ.” What matters is that we
    confess that our salvation is all of Christ, and not from us.”

    Later, in that same document, they state that there is a difference of opinion within the ranks on this issue. Some members do in fact hold to the classic formulations of IAOC.

    Peter Leithart, for his part, does not deny IOAC, but wonders whether it is the best possible formulation. He tends to see it as of one cloth with union with Christ: the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness to us, the imputation of our unrighteousness to him, and our being declared justified as a result are one inseparable action. He also speaks of the active obedience of Christ as being essential to our salvation.

    I am not an apologist for the Federal Vision. I think they have done great harm to the PCA. Furthermore, I believe some of the beliefs of some members of the group to be scandalous.

    On the other hand, I do not believe the criticism of them has always been either accurate or gracious.

  86. Eric,

    In my view, everything on this thread has to do with Leithart, directly or indirectly. Because Leithart is the leitmotif for division in the church. The ekklesia is broken… Every splinter denies this and claims to be the one true church, but this ecclesiological brokenness speaks louder than any sectarian chest thumping, if you ask me.

    Shalom.
    SS.

  87. SS,

    I think the main issue in this thread and really in all the others is the question of how one identifies the remnant. Even if we take your understanding of the gates of hell not prevailing, we have to expect that in every generation there is a remnant of true faith somewhere. How do we determine the remnant?

  88. I suggest looking to an example of the remnant in the Gospel of Luke. Chapter 1, vv. 5-6, more precisely.

    Elizabeth and Zechariah are described as righteous in the sight of God and blameless in their law keeping.

    Jesus said you show yourselves to be my disciples by bearing much fruit. And John reinforces this here:

    1 John 3

    “19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us

    Let me put this into stark contrast for you: is calling for action against offending clergy keeping his commands? Or is expelling every offender keeping His commands?

  89. Robert,

    You wrote,

    The Council in Acts 15, while it may have some paradigmatic value for how the church is to settle controversies throughout history, cannot be equated with any subsequent church council because in Acts 15, the APOSTLES were making the decision. If you want to draw the parallel, you can, but then you have to admit that God is continuing to give new revelation in the church today just as he gave to the Apostles. But I thought Rome denied that?

    If you read Acts 15 again, you will see that you are clearly mistaken:

    And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question (v. 2).

    When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them (v. 4).

    The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter (v. 6).

    Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. . . .”

    As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem (16:4).

    Luke couldn’t have made it more obvious that the players at the Council, those making the decisions, were not just those whose office would expire, but included those who would continue to govern the church until the end of the age. Therefore your entire argument is completely specious (despite putting the word “apostles” in all caps).

    It’s also interesting that the “unwritten” traditions you mention did not stay unwritten…

    It’s not that interesting to me. None of the gospels had been written when the Council occurred, and yet those who were present during Jesus’ “declaration that all foods were clean” surely submitted that as evidence despite its not being found in any canonical Scriptures. It didn’t become relevant once it was written down, and if it had not been written down by Mark it still would have been binding on those who knew about it.

    Appealing to those traditions, in any case, does not violate the Protestant principle. Ultimately, sola Scriptura is about judging things according to apostolic revelation, and our only sure source of that is the New Testament. You can pretend that we have access to authentic oral tradition all you want, but the fact is you cannot demonstrate it or why your oral tradition is better than another group that claims oral tradition. And why hasn’t Rome written this oral tradition down? If it is as authoritative as Scripture, you’d think one would want a copy of it.

    I am not sure you understand what we mean when we talk about oral tradition—you seem to think it’s a list of whispered secrets or something. The fact is that loads of oral traditions were indeed written down by the fathers of the immediately post-apostolic church. Things like baptismal regeneration, the sacrifice of the Eucharist, prayers to and for the departed, and apostolic succession are all universally accepted and written about by the ECFs, without a hint of controversy.

    If you want to insist that the apostles taught nothing beyond the paltry content of the NT, or that they never fleshed out that content orally, or that the things they taught in addition to what they wrote were understood to be of an altogether different quality than their written teachings and therefore to be forgotten once they died and the canon was completed, that’s certainly your prerogative. But from where I sit, such a posture is ridiculous, not to mention that it has no biblical warrant (which means that Sola Scriptura ironically doesn’t even pass its own test).

    Sola Scriptura is the kind of governing principle you would expect if a copy of the Bible were unearthed centuries after the last Christian had passed from the earth. In that scenario, yes, Scripture would be all we had to go on. But if Christ actually founded a church, then Sola Scriptura becomes a completely unnatural and bizarrely truncated way to operate.

    PS – As an aside, placing so much significance on APOSTLES—as if their presence made all the difference between how the church functioned before and after they died—is to ignore the fact that only three of the twelve wrote anything canonical, and that almost half of the NT was written by a Gentile layman.

  90. SS–

    There are two things broken: purity (of doctrine and practice) and unity (of heart, mind, and hand). Get these two things right and the structural unity you seek will fall readily into place.

    Diluting the faith by promoting what few things we have in common while agreeing to disagree on everything of any significance means that any unity attained is meaningless. For there is nothing left to unify around. Therefore, sectarian (and even individual) quests for the truth are a good thing: a quest for the doctrinal purity we should aspire to. Of course, part of that sought-after truth is the supreme benefit of unity built into the system. Therefore, one must seek the unity of the body of Christ with as much passion as one seeks for Christ’s truth. It seems to me as if almost every believer does one or the other, but almost no one does both.

    I believe that part of the reason we are even here is to seek for truth with every sinew of heart, mind, and soul. To me, those who rely on indiscriminate “authorities” rather than discerning the spirit for themselves, deprive themselves of his services. It is a “cop out” pure and simple.

    One cannot be true to conscience by following “whatever is right in one’s own eyes.” True conscience seeks to follow that which is true, period.

  91. Jason–

    Evidently, you do not wish anyone outside of Catholic circles to take you seriously:

    “If you want to insist that the apostles taught nothing beyond the paltry content of the NT, or that they never fleshed out that content orally, or that the things they taught in addition to what they wrote were understood to be of an altogether different quality than their written teachings and therefore to be forgotten once they died and the canon was completed, that’s certainly your prerogative. But from where I sit, such a posture is ridiculous, not to mention that it has no biblical warrant (which means that Sola Scriptura ironically doesn’t even pass its own test).”

    The content of any other literature of any other period looks paltry compared to the NT!!! There’s absolutely no need for anything else to be fleshed out definitively (so as to put it all in a nice, little box). Written teachings must always take precedence over oral teachings because they are public and unchangeable. There is nothing wrong with oral tradition corroborating written Scripture, but to grant it equality with inspired revelation is the true “ridiculous position.”

  92. Eric,

    Evidently, you do not wish anyone outside of Catholic circles to take you seriously

    I’m not in the mood to be insulted. If I’m not worth taking seriously, leave.

    Written teachings must always take precedence over oral teachings because they are public and unchangeable. There is nothing wrong with oral tradition corroborating written Scripture, but to grant it equality with inspired revelation is the true “ridiculous position.”

    Paul himself spoke of “the Word of God” as being both written and oral, with both needing to be submitted to. So if your position is true, then please show me where, in the written teachings of the now-canonical NT, we are taught to disregard the oral teachings of the apostles after they’d died.

  93. Jason (10:00),
    Beautifully said and here are a couple additions to your points.

    Firat, you mentioned many oral traditions which the ECFs *did* write down but some ECFs also explicitly said that much was handed down that was *not* written. The idea of oral tradition isn’t just something invented later to justify adding whatever new teachings one wanted…it was part of the Church’s heritage from the beginning.

    Second, there was one diverse group interacting with the early church that did in fact subscribe to sola scriptura…they were called heretics. Irenaeus, difficult as he is to slog through in his excruciatingly detailed descriptions of the heretics’ beliefs, offers about as strong a condemnation of the sola scripture ideal that one can find. His point was that scripture *must* be read and interpreted in communion with the whole church and in particular in line with the teachings, written or oral, handed down by apostolic succession. Those who simply took up scripture and made their own wacky interpretations (even if solely based on scripture!) were outside the Church.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  94. Jason,

    I’m sorry, but regardless of the elders, the presence of the apostles makes the council of Acts 15 qualitatively different than any council that followed it. Furthermore, at the end of the day, it was James—an apostle—is the one leading the council (and not Peter, the first “pope”). Unless you want to affirm that the Roman Church is the recipient of continuing revelation, than my point stands.

    The fact that only three of the twelve wrote the NT is also completely meaningless even according to your own church. Was Paul not an apostle? Was James not an apostle? Both weren’t members of the 12.

    The fact that the oral tradition of all foods being clean exercised authority despite not being written down during the council is also irrelevant. Again, the point of sola Scriptura is that the church is to be governed by divine/apostolic revelation. That teaching was apostolic revelation and, therefore, Scripture even if it had not yet been written down. The fact that the apostles thought it important enough to write that down only proves my point.

    The assumption that there was an oral tradition with content different than the New Testament is also just that, an assumption. It assumes, for one, a partim-partim view of revelation, which even Rome finds difficult to exist this day. I assume by your reference to Paul and written-oral traditions that you are referring to 2 Thess. 2:15. That passage only works for your position if, in fact, the partim-partim view is true. But again, the best Roman theologians have largely moved to a materially sufficiency view because the older view is untenable.

    If unanimity among the apostolic fathers counts as what makes for oral tradition, then even Rome does not follow its own practice of oral tradition. There was no unanimity on the primacy of Peter and the see of Rome in the early church. There was no unanimity on the assumption of Mary. And for you to cite that the ECFs were agreed on any topics is, I’m sorry, just ridiculous since you have admitted publicly that you didn’t pay attention in early church history classes. Where do the church fathers agree that the Eucharist is an unbloody sacrifice representing the transformation of the bread and the wine into Christ’s body and blood? Even Protestants could speak of the Eucharist as a sacrifice in the sense that it is part of our sacrifice of praise. The term sacrifice in itself needs contextual definition. Where is the agreement on praying to and for the departed?

    In practice, Roman oral tradition amounts to gnosticism. Where has Rome said that the unanimity of the fathers is how we know what is apostolic oral revelation? You cannot point to a list of oral revelation because Rome hasn’t written it down. To do so would be to bind its hands, with the result that indulgences, veneration of Mary and the saints, etc., could never have happened. Rome has no interest in producing a list of oral traditions, and you know it!

    2 Tim. 3:16–17 says Scripture is sufficient. The apostles sought to demonstrate their teachings were consonant with the OT. That and much more is the basis for sola Scriptura. To dismiss it as not passing its own test is sloppy thinking.

  95. SS,

    Both calling for expulsion of impenitent clergy and also expelling impenitent clergy (or defrocking penitent clergy in cases of gross sins such as adultery, child abuse, and so on) constitute obedience in the cases you suggest. Rome, I’m sure you will agree, is not really committed to doing either.

  96. JeffB,

    Protestants do not deny that the right interpretation of Scripture happens in the context of the church. The mere fact of disagreement does not prove otherwise, for if it did, then Rome is guilty as well. Again, you have people in your house that effectively give the Magisterium the finger; they just stay around and the Magisterium largely ignores them. We also do not deny that the church’s authority is binding or that other authorities can be used in the formulation of doctrine. What we reject are doctrines that cannot be proved by good and necessary consequence deduction from Scripture or explicit biblical warrant. Again, since the material sufficiency view appears to be in the ascendancy in Rome these days (who knows what will happen tomorrow), then Rome’s view is in effect quite similar. You all just perform exegetical gymnastics such as insisting that a verse about praying for pagans in the apocrypha is the seed-form of the doctrine of veneration

  97. Comment

  98. Robert,
    You wrote

    “That teaching was apostolic revelation and, therefore, Scripture even if it had not yet been written down.”

    You have just conceded that oral apostolic teaching is equal to scripture. It’s no stretch at all then to just concede that the Church preserves much more oral apostolic teaching than happened to be recorded in the NT and all of it is equal in authority to Scripture.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  99. I love this quote by Marty;

    “All upright sacred books agree on one thing, that they all collectively preach and promote Christ. Likewise, the true criterion for criticizing all books is to see whether they promote Christ or not, since all scripture manifests Christ. Whatever does not teach Christ is not apostolic, even if Peter and Paul should teach it. On the other hand, whatever preaches Christ is apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod should do it!” (LW 35:396)

    This applies to any apostolic teaching that happens to come out of anybody’s mouth. God uses earthen vessels. But that Word will accomplish it’s desired purpose whether it comes out of the mouth of an ECF…or a lowly pig farmer in Arkansas.

  100. Robert,
    You wrote:

    “Protestants do not deny that the right interpretation of Scripture happens in the context of the church.”

    However, effectively they do because the “context of the church” is empty of any real meaning. The “church” is just those whom one happens to be in agreement with at the present time. I would have said the same thing you’re saying a few years ago so I understand where you’re coming from. For Catholics, the Church is that visible body connected by real, historical succession from the apostles and it is *that* Church which gives us the context for rightly interpreting Scripture. Otherwise for Protestants, there are as many “contexts” as there are people almost. Note that’s the same thing Irenaeus said about the heretics in his time. I want to make it clear that I am not throwing around the word “heresy” here in a condemnatory way since I would be accusing myself a few years ago and I know I had nothing but the utmost desire to “get it right” and be pleasing to the Lord. But the principles I was going on (such as sola scriptura) effectively put me in the same category as those heretics of Irenaeus’ day. Recognizing that was a major step in my conversion.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  101. Eric (from yesterday at 5:10pm),

    Are you quite sure that he and Wilson have actually–and not just technically–crossed the boundary of the Reformed nation into enemy territory? I’m not sure of that yet, so maybe you could point me to a given tenet of theirs, together with quotes in context, which clearly demonstrates their tresspass.

    One of things that both sides of the FV controversy agree with is that FV does not represent a homogeneous theological system. It’s more a of a squishy soft movement with certain central tenets uniting it. From my standpoint the two folks you have picked, Wilson and Leithart, while agreeing on the need for holding to some sort of covenantal objectivity (to pick one example), have some considerable differences when it comes to specific theologies which address these core concerns. Most of what I have heard from Wilson I agree with and I doubt seriously he would say the kinds of things that Leithart does in the list of Leithart quotes that Jason lists towards the beginning of this thread (see post 4/4, 8:13pm). Specifically, see the quote beginning with “Through baptism….” as an example. As Jason points out, this in no way is Reformed. And I think it is fair to say that it is something that the RCC would agree with. For those who will listen, the theology that Leithart espouses is clearly outside the pale of biblical orthodoxy, but like the RCC, the FV has other paradigmatic drivers than just what is in the Bible. For the FV, the objectivity of the covenant is certainly one of them. So why might you ask, don’t the folks like Wilson take things as far Leithart does? My guess is that they are more concerned with obvious problems with the biblical texts that directly speak to the means by which we are justified.

  102. SS,

    Both calling for expulsion of impenitent clergy and also expelling impenitent clergy (or defrocking penitent clergy in cases of gross sins such as adultery, child abuse, and so on) constitute obedience in the cases you suggest. Rome, I’m sure you will agree, is not really committed to doing either

    Theoretically they might, but I was referring to the historical pattern of calls for ‘strong measures’ which have until now not resulted in any action (see latest reaction from victims and their comments on the latest pronouncements). Eric had asked “how do we identify the remnant” and I answered that part and parcel of that identification is the witness of the deeds of whatever group we belong to. This is not a wholesale condemnation of catholics, but rather a motive of incredulity. Here’s another one: being part of a movement with no financial transparency whatsoever. I could go on and on, but this isn’t necessary. You get my drift.

  103. After I read the Fathers and Doctors of the church and reviewed the reformation, I chose to become a Catholic. The The sacrament of Baptism and the Eucharist are clearly defined in scripture. Luther and other protestants ignored Christ’s words. Unless you eat the body of the Son of Man and drink his blood you do not have LIFE in you. Scripture tells us many of His followers left Him. He never said I am only talking figuratively or symbolically. One only needs to participate in the Easter Triduum, which I just did for the 19th time, (my confirmation date is April 4 1995) to realize the fullness and whole faith is present here. I encourage all Christians to read the Fathers and Doctors of the Church – there is so much there. St. Athanasius is my favourite. Many of these men and women gave their lives for the faith. Mary, was a problem when I first joined the church, but the Legion of Mary taught me to see her as a mother, the Mother Jesus gave to all of us from the Cross when he said behold your Mother. She helps me to lovingly approach my brother and sister regarding her Son Jesus. Please read the early Church Fathers and those who gave their lives for Christ. Also, study Luther and Calvin. What did they actually do? If we are true disciples of Jesus Christ we will seek the truth.

  104. Huh?

    “Luther… ignored Christ’s words”?

    We Lutherans believe the true body and blood of Christ in in the Supper.

    Luther put all his trust in the external Word, which includes Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

    No trust in ourselves. No trust in institution of the church (for righteousness of plan of salvation)…just in Christ and His Word…ALONE!

    Whew…I feel better now.

  105. Luther quotes:

    “I shall give you my sincere advice:
    First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn , so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. …

    Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them the fact that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

    Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

    Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor …..They wantonly employ the poor people’s obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy.

    Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews…Let them stay at home…”

    Yeshua:

    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you , 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

  106. Whew…. I sure don’t feel better now. Feel more like mourning.

  107. I’ve been mostly lurking following these discussions, but Robert’s 5:09 post has brought me out per http://xkcd.com/386/

    Robert said,

    Where do the church fathers agree that the Eucharist is an unbloody sacrifice representing the transformation of the bread and the wine into Christ’s body and blood?

    Your wish is my command.

    St. Clement (Letter to the Corinthians, AD 70):

    Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices.

    St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, c. AD 110):

    Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ, which have come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God …. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh that suffered for our sins and that the Father, in his goodness, raised up again.

    St. Cyprian of Carthage (Letters 62:14, AD 253):

    For if Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of himself, certainly that priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates what Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, where he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ himself to have offered.

    St. Serapion of Thmuis (Sacramentary of Serapion, c. AD 330):

    Accept therewith our hallowing too, as we say, “Holy, holy, holy Lord Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory.” Heaven is full, and full is the earth, with your magnificent glory, Lord of virtues. Full also is this sacrifice, with your strength and your communion; for to you we offer this living sacrifice, this unbloody oblation.

    St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures 23:7-8, c. AD 350):

    Then having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth his Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before him; that he may make the bread the body of Christ, and the wine the blood of Christ; for whatever the Holy Spirit has touched is surely sanctified and changed. Then, after the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless service, is completed, over that sacrifice of propitiation we entreat God … for all who stand in need of succor we all pray and offer this sacrifice.

    St. Gregory of Nazianz (Letter to Amphilochius 171, c. AD 383):

    Cease not both to pray and to plead for me when you draw down the Word by your word, when with a bloodless cutting you sever the body and blood of the Lord, using your voice for the sword.

  108. Robert said,

    Where is the agreement on praying to and for the departed?

    Acts of Paul and Thecla (c. AD 160):

    And after the exhibition, Thyphaena again receives her. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, so that she may pray for me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the just.

    Early Christian inscription (Christian Inscriptions 29, c. AD 250):

    Gentianus, a believer, in peace, who lived twenty-one years, eight months, and sixteen days, and in your prayers ask for us, because we know that you are in Christ.

    Tertullian (Chaplet 3, AD 211):

    We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries.

    Rylands papyrus 470 (c. AD 300):

    Mother of God, [listen to] my petitions; do not disregard us in adversity, but rescue us from danger.

    St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures 23, c. AD 350):

    [During the Eucharistic Prayer] we commemorate those who have already fallen asleep: first the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that in their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition. Then on behalf of … all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.

    St. Gregory of Nazians (Orations 18, AD 374):

    Yes, I am well assured that [my father’s] intercession is of more avail now than was his intercession in former days, since he is closer to God, now that he has shaken off his bodily fetters, and freed his mind from the clay that obscured it, and holds conversation naked with the nakedness of the prime and purest mind.

    St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on First Corinthians 41, c. AD 392):

    Let us then give them aid and perform commemoration for them. For if the children of Job were purged by the sacrifice of their father, why do you doubt that when we too offer for the departed, some consolation arises to them, since God is wont to grant the petitions of those who ask for others.

    St. Augustine (Sermons 159, c. AD 411):

    There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, in which the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for other dead who are remembered. It is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended.

  109. Leeda–

    1. Magisterial Protestants (Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians) believe we feed on the actual body and blood of Christ. It is not merely figurative or symbolic. We do not physically chew or rend his flesh, but neither do the Catholics if you study a little deeper. We also do not adore the consecrated bread and wine. It is difficult to focus one’s worship of God in close conjunction with a material object. People end up venerating the object (which you can clearly see in the veneration of the Cross during the Good Friday services: the Cross is in no way considered Christ himself). The bronze serpent which Moses set on a pole in Numbers 21 for legitimate spiritual purposes, later became an object of worship and was therefore ordered destroyed. Both the Temple and the Tabernacle were very careful not to set up any image representing God himself. He was invisibly enthroned in the Holy of Holies upon the “mercy seat” covering the Ark. But only the High Priest ever saw it (unless it was taken out for battle). Even if the wafer is Christ in every way, the richly decorated monstrance displaying it is not. We Protestants worship within the presence–the Real Presence–of Christ in the Eucharist, but we endeavor not to venerate any of the accouterments, but instead, Christ himself alone. I think Catholics almost know that what they are doing is wrong in calling their Perpetual Adoration practices the “adoration of the Eucharist” rather than the “adoration of Christ.”

    2. The sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are two of the least clearly defined elements of the New Testament. That’s part of the reason we have such variant practices. If you think otherwise, you have not studied the topic in enough depth.

    3. The Triduum is indeed marvelous. (I attended Masses on Good Friday and the Easter Vigil this year and have gone on numerous other occasions.) But the Eastern Orthodox paschal rites are probably even more marvelous. And you should see a well-done Lutheran “Tenebrae” service some Good Friday! Or, better yet, go to a Messianic Jewish synagogue during Rosh haShanah!!

    You simply cannot pick a church based on the beauty of its worship. Nor does your sense that “the fullness of the whole faith is present” actually make it so. I genuinely feel as if the faith has been “thinned out” when I attend Mass. Worship to me feels far more fully orbed when bathed in the solid preaching of the Gospel.

    4. You need to study the Catholic Reformation (or what used to be called the Counter-Reformation) that took place during the same time as the Protestant Reformation. If you don’t like what Luther and Calvin did, you will be horrified by the Catholic Church’s actions in the same time frame.

    5. I very much appreciate the Early Church Fathers and some (though not all) of the Doctors of the Church. I do not find them to be Roman Catholic (or Protestant, for that matter). There is almost no evidence of the Apostolic Fathers venerating Mary, certainly nothing anywhere close to hyperdulia, so you were right to have a problem with how the Roman Church exaggerates her salvific importance (to the detriment of the worship of her Son). In the early church, there was no Purgatory. There was no papal supremacy. There was no transubstantiation. They did pray to certain dead saints (though not to Mary early on), but they did not pray for the dead as far as we know, at least not during the ante-Nicene period.

    I echo what you said at the end of your post: If we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, we will seek the truth.

    Seeking it with all my heart has led me away from the Catholic Church. I will never stop seeking. I hope you don’t either.

  110. Faramir–

    It sure would be nice if those on both sides of the Tiber would be more academically honest with their quotes from the fathers.

    I’ll just highlight a few examples from your citations:

    1. The Greek text of the passage from St. Clement’s epistle is often rendered, “Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have fulfilled their duties.”

    2. St. Ignatius’ quote does not clearly cross any Protestant boundaries. I’m there right with him.

    3. St. Cyprian is speaking against the practice of using mere water in the chalice instead of wine. There is no indication here that he means anything by the word “sacrifice” out of accord with Protestant belief. His main point is that we must not follow the traditions of men, but we must imitate Christ as expressed in Holy Writ.

    4. Nazianzus, in his short message to the Bishop of Iconium, is waxing poetic (and thus hyperbolic), using such phrasing as “you are to me a good plectrum, and have made a well-tuned lyre to dwell within my soul.” In Catholic theology the body and the blood are not “severed” but remain entire in each species. Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is not re-performed (as in Gregory’s brief missive) but re-presented. He’s just gotten over being deathly sick and is quite emotional. As a result, I don’t think we can discover his exact theology on the matter from this passage.

    5. The “Acts of Paul and Thecla” is part of the NT apocryphal writings. It is most probably a work of fiction.

    6. The sepulchral inscription is an example of praying to a Christian saint. I don’t contest this happening.

    7. The Tertullian quote is from his Montanist phase. It is, therefore, not a Christian citation.

    8. Ryland’s papyrus is a fragment. The text has had to be reconstructed (many words are out-and-out missing). It clearly addresses the theotokos, the God-bearer (not literally the Mother of God). At 250 C.E., this is the first known mention of the theotokos (a term which became ubiquitous after the Council of Ephesus).

    9. Cyril of Jerusalem was a semi-Arian. You can trust him if you like, but he was not fully orthodox.

    10. The last three are all post-Nicene when these beliefs were coming into vogue.

    Your quotes may indicate what you think. Then again, they may not. The fathers often are not using terms in any modern sense. They are often addressing far different concerns. It is best not to make too much of them. If they sound an awful lot like you want them to sound, it is probably because you are interpreting them according to your paradigm. As Bryan Cross likes to say, “You’re shooting off your arrows, and then drawing targets around the spots they hit.”

  111. Andrew–

    Thanks for the response. Tell me what I’m missing.

    Here is the Leithart quote you directed me to:

    “Through baptism, we enter into the new life of the Spirit [regeneration], receive a grant of divine power, are incorporated into Christ’s body [baptized into the visible church], and die and rise again with Christ [ingrafting into Christ]. In the purification of baptism, we are cleansed of our ‘former sins’ [remission of sins] and begin to participate in the divine nature and the power of Jesus’ resurrection [to walk in newness of life].”

    And here is the WCF article on Baptism:

    “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.”

    They look pretty identical to me.

  112. JeffB,

    1. The assumption that Rome has preserved apostolic oral tradition is just that, an assumption.

    2. The example of oral tradition you and Jason have cited in Acts 15 was, in fact, written down.

    3. During the apostolic era there were apostles present, in any case, to verify whether a claim to oral apostolic tradition was necessary.

    4. The apostles wrote down apostolic traditions.

    5. Scripture is sufficient (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

    6. Even Rome pays lip service to Scripture having primacy.

    7. When God makes covenants in Scripture, there is typically written revelation to accompany it and preserve it. The old covenant had the Mosaic law, the new covenant has the New Testament.

    I could go on. I’ve conceded nothing. Scripture alone is the final infallible rule for faith and practice. Mythical, unproven and unproveable oral traditions are not and cannot be.

  113. SS–

    “If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian. They have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs rather than human beings; they have done little else than deride them and seize their property. When they baptize them, they show them nothing of Christian doctrine or life, but only subject them to popishness and monkery… If the apostles, who also were Jews, had dealt with us Gentiles as we Gentiles deal with the Jews, there would never have been a Christian among the Gentiles … When we are inclined to boast of our position [as Christians] we should remember that we are but Gentiles, while the Jews are of the lineage of Christ. We are aliens and in-laws; they are blood relatives, cousins, and brothers of our Lord. Therefore, if one is to boast of flesh and blood the Jews are actually nearer to Christ than we are…If we really want to help them, we must be guided in our dealings with them not by papal law but by the law of Christian love. We must receive them cordially, and permit them to trade and work with us, that they may have occasion and opportunity to associate with us, hear our Christian teaching, and witness our Christian life. If some of them should prove stiff-necked, what of it? After all, we ourselves are not all good Christians either.”

    Martin Luther, 1523 essay That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew

  114. Jason–

    Sorry. I really didn’t mean to offend. Loose lips sink ships. I’ll try to do better by you.

    I assume these are the passages whereby Paul espouses an enduring oral tradition:

    2 Timothy 1:13-14

    “Take as a model of sound teaching what you have heard me say, in faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the rich deposit of faith with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.”

    2 Timothy 2:1-2

    “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

    2 Thessalonians 2:15

    “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”

    But how are these anything more than instructions for disciples to be true to what they have been taught?

    At that point in time, what Paul was teaching had been heard from him “before many witnesses.” There is no way to consult any of these witnesses. They are all long dead. They could consult them. We cannot.

    The Oral Tradition from the Tanakh, supposedly given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and then enlarged upon by sages, was written down in approximately 200 C.E. (The Mishnah). Why, according to you, is it no longer authoritative, if we must follow both written and oral revelation from God through his anointed ones?

  115. Eric,

    Too bad the Nazis didn’t see what you posted, they took direct inspiration from his writings, as he did from Chyrsostom. We should be repudiating so called leaders/reformers, not defending them. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.

  116. Robert,
    You wrote:

    “1. The assumption that Rome has preserved apostolic oral tradition is just that, an assumption.”

    Well, it’s explicitly stated by numerous ECFs going right back to the beginning so I think it’s more than merely an “assumption,” unless it’s one of the things you think they got wrong. Perhaps it’s the one thing in which they were all in universal agreement! (and universally wrong).

    Peace,
    Jeff

  117. JeffB,

    And when Early Christians claim to preserve competing apostolic traditions, how do we know who is right? Cyprian certainly didn’t think he had to bow to the bishop of Rome. Jerome only relented and included the apocrypha in the Vulgate at the behest of the great Augustine. And when later Christians suggest apostolic traditions that directly conflict with Scripture, such as praying to/through the dead, purgatory, indulgences, the veneration of Mary, the bodily assumption, and more, do we perform exegetical gymnastics and pretend that Christians everywhere did these things or do we go to the sure source of apostolic revelation to verify them? Protestants aren’t into playing pretend with the eternal fate of people.

    And I’ll say it once more, if binding apostolic oral tradition is to be determined by the unanimity of the fathers, then Rome fails the test on several doctrines, not the least of which is the papacy.

  118. Eric,
    Those verses you mention are certainly examples, yes. But think about it more broadly. For example, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained all about how the OT taught of him. Paul in Acts 17 is said to have reasoned from the OT repeatedly about the Messiah. Yet, there is actually much less explicit exegesis in the NT about OT typology or prophetic fulfillment than you can get in a few weeks of preaching at many churches. Did Jesus and Paul *only* mention those things that happened to get written down explicitly in the NT? I just think it’s more reasonable that there were days, weeks, years worth of teaching like this and more that was passed on to the apostles’ successors but was never formally written down as in Phillipians or Romans or Galatians. John also said that there was vastly more about what Jesus said and did than could even be written down if he tried (hyperbole aside, you get the point).

    Peace,
    Jeff

  119. Robert,
    Your responses are all over the map and I don’t think it’s fruitful for me personally at this point to continue further. I’ll just say that, if you haven’t already, try going directly to Cyprian and Jerome (and others) and reading them in their entirety before basing any major conclusions on anti-catholic sound bites. In my experience, I used to argue similar things as you are doing but when I actually went past the Protestant spin and out of context quotes I wielded constantly (thinking I was doing the right thing) into the actual documents, I found that I had been greatly mistaken. And secondly, if you dive into what the Church actually teaches about all those other topics in your long litany of objections, I think you will find as I did that in fact they are *not* in direct conflict with Scripture. I was as avid an arguer as you are that certainly things like purgatory and prayers to Mary were just *clearly*, *obviously* unscriptural….yet when I actually studied what the Church taught (and didn’t just follow that Protestant spin and out of context quoting approach), I once again found that I was mistaken.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  120. prayers to Mary were just *clearly*, *obviously* unscriptural

    There is ZERO evidence of prayers directed to Mary in the Apostolic Fathers, let alone the Scriptures.

  121. SS, There’s a big difference between something not being in Scripture and something being directly in conflict with Scripture (as Robert said). My point is that there is no *conflict*, not necessarily that you will find some explicit chapter/verse.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  122. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    And when Early Christians claim to preserve competing apostolic traditions, how do we know who is right?

    I think the core of JeffB’s point was that they were unified in believing that there was such a thing as unwritten Apostolic Tradition.

  123. My point is that there is no *conflict*, not necessarily that you will find some explicit chapter/verse.

    “25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself. ””

    No conflict? Think again.

  124. Jeff—

    You are dead on about the “Protestant spin and out-of-context quoting approach.” It drives me crazy when otherwise intelligent guys prove they haven’t actually gone to the fathers in context by misconstruing them completely. That just sets up most wannabe Protestant apologists (who follow on their mentors’ heels in lockstep) to get their fledgling wings burned to a crisp by better prepared Catholics.

    What you are not quite so “hep” about is that many Catholic apologists (most of whom are ex-Protestants, after all) often do the same thing, and their minions quote them verbatim, never knowing what fools they have been made to look like.

    At least a few Protestant academics have gone far beyond the talking points in studying the works of the fathers, and I am afraid to tell you that they do not reach your conclusions. Calvin and Luther and the like read Latin fluently, and devoured the fathers profusely and in context. Fairly intelligent men to boot. And yet they did not reach your conclusions.

    The more I read the fathers, the less and less I am persuaded of the truth claims of the Catholic church.

  125. SS–

    I’m actually not trying to defend the Reformers…just offering a counterbalance to your relentless negativity. I have a modicum of sympathy for your Messianic agenda, but you keep ticking me off. I don’t begrudge your criticizing these guys. I just wish you’d keep it objective.

    No one knows for sure, but Luther may well have had neurological difficulties. In Roland Bainton’s biography, Here I Stand , he states the following:

    “Luther had come to perceive that the entire man is in need of forgiveness. In the course of this quest, he had wrought himself into a state of emotional disturbance passing the bounds of objectivity.
    When, then, his confessor said that he was magnifying his misdemeanors, Luther could only conclude that the consultant did not understand the case and that none of the proffered consolations was of
    any avail.

    “In consequence the most frightful insecurities beset him. Panic invaded his spirit. The conscience became so disquieted as to start and tremble at the stirring of a wind-blown leaf. The horror of night-
    mare gripped the soul, the dread of one waking in the dusk to look into the eyes of him who has come to take his life. The heavenly champions all withdrew; the fiend beckoned with leering summons to
    the impotent soul. These were the torments which Luther repeatedly testified were far worse than any physical ailment that he had ever endured.

    “His description tallies so well with a recognized type of mental malady that again one is tempted to wonder whether his disturbance should be regarded as arising from authentic religious difficulties or
    from gastric or glandular deficiencies. The question can better be faced when more data become available from other periods of his life. Suffice it for the moment to observe that no malady ever impaired his stupendous capacity for work; that the problems with which he wrestled were not imaginary but implicit in the religion on which he had been reared; that his emotional reactions were excessive, as he would himself recognize after emerging from a depression; that he did make headway in exhausting one by one the helps proffered by medieval religion.”

    He was favorable towards the Jews early in his career. His comparative kindness toward them, however, did not produce the desired results, and he got angry at their stubbornness. Plus, some have theorized he had a beef with a particular Jewish individual that further inflamed his temper….

  126. Thanks Eric. I do respect those who do their homework and try to better job of it myself as I get older and have a trail of personal mistakes behind me where I didn’t do as thorough a job. I think we all, whether Protestant or Catholic, understand that we can’t all be experts in everything nor have the time to research everything personally in detail…we rely on sources we trust. Unfortunately, too often the “trustworthy” sources are anything but, whether they realize it or not. Again, thanks for the good comment.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  127. Jeff–

    Yes, there was a lot of oral teaching that didn’t get written down. To my human mind, that’s unfortunate. I’d love to read that stuff. One day, I guess, we will.

    The Gnostics had all kinds of material that had only been revealed to them. As a result, some of the early fathers espouse something similar to the Protestant notion of sola fide. Or they point to orthodox consensus and creeds. What they did not do is become like the Gnostics!

    Revealed truth had to be written down and checkable. What is its provenance? (Who authored it? Where did it come from? How many have read it and how regularly?) All the criteria that brought us the canon of Written Scripture must be able to be applied to Oral Tradition. It must pass these tests to be authoritative, and it never has.

    Other than that, read my response to Jason (4:12 am, above).

  128. Jeff–

    Thank you for your kind observation.

    If I ever misquote, mistranslate, or misconstrue the fathers, feel free to hold my feet to the fire. You are right: none of us can be expert in all of this. Iron must sharpen iron. We were meant to work through these things together. I do not mind admitting to a mistake or going back to recheck contexts.

    I’m not in this to “win one for the Gipper” (assuming “the Gipper” is not Ronald Reagan, but Reformed theology).

    On the contrary, I am in this to discern the truth….

    (When it comes to relying on trustworthy sources, there are none that do not require us to do our “homework.” Read all sides of an issue if you have the time. If you only spend time with your “homeboys,” your point of view will become more and more slanted. Simple human nature.)

  129. Eric,

    Yes, thank you. There have been many a Protestant who have tried to turn Augustine into a 5-point Calvinist who affirmed sola fide in the same way Luther did. That’s just as wrong as when Roman Catholics read something abut the “chair of Peter” and think, “oh boy, there’s proof for the papacy.”

    Not a few actual patristics scholars, even many Roman Catholic scholars, have affirmed that whatever else you have in the church fathers, you don’t have Roman Catholicism or Protestantism. And the notion that the ECFs were Roman Catholics with a Roman Catholic worldview would be the quickest way to get you laughed out of any convention of historians of antiquity.

    Everyone needs to let the ECFs be the ECFs. It really is okay.

  130. I’m actually not trying to defend the Reformers…just offering a counterbalance to your relentless negativity. I have a modicum of sympathy for your Messianic agenda, but you keep ticking me off. I don’t begrudge your criticizing these guys. I just wish you’d keep it objective.

    No one knows for sure, but Luther may well have had neurological difficulties. In Roland Bainton’s biography, Here I Stand , he states the following

    Well Eric, I’m sorry that you feel angered by a presentation of the facts. I would suggest to you that there’s no point in ‘getting ticked off’ because doing so is 1) not helpful to your health 2) will not prevent me from stating the facts. If anything, a legitimate cause for anger is to see how Luther’s careless words have been fodder for one of the greatest mass genocides in history.

    I was well aware of Luther’s neuroticism. That is another reason why one should take his theology not as gospel truth, but as the product of man embattled. He was the furthest thing from objectivity when it comes to understanding grace and salvation.

    When I see people here debating the eucharist and Luther’s understanding of it while ignoring the realities which I point, it reminds me of this quote

    “You strain at a gnat, but swallow a camel”

  131. SS,

    Luther’s words on many things are indeed regrettable. Indeed his words were used as fodder for mass genocide (though one might argue misused, as Luther was not an anti-Semite in the traditional racial sense). Such things are tragic and wrong.

    I would say, however, that one should not dismiss everything he said simply for being embattled. Some of the greatest thinkers an artists in history have been the depressed and those who just aren’t otherwise psychologically “normal.” You sort of have to be in order to leave a mark on history.

  132. SS–

    If you were giving me all of the facts (rather than haphazardly grabbing a few and ignoring the others), I would have no quarrel with you.

    When it comes right down to it, however, I don’t give a fig whether Luther was a child molester and a serial killer, his ideas stand on their own.

    Were you to find out tomorrow something absolutely scandalous about the life of Joseph Shulam, are you seriously going to stand there and tell me that you would have to reorder all your of current beliefs as a result?

  133. When it comes right down to it, however, I don’t give a fig whether Luther was a child molester and a serial killer, his ideas stand on their own.

    And that’s precisely the problem, your anthropology. When Jesus said speaking of teachers, you shall know them by their fruit, He is giving you a real epistemological principle as a tool to discern whom you should listen to. The EO have a dictum: ““If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian”. Deeper behind the surface of this, is the idea that our theologians should not be concerned with the academy, or ivory towers, or book sales, or positive peer reviews or any of these idols, but instead with prayer and solitude not as ends in themselves, but as means towards acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly. Only then will their theology be of any worth.

    It’s the curse of scholasticism which has wrought this out of the West’s approach to the faith. It is a curse on humanity because instead of allowing the mind to be light to the heart, it has severed the mind from the heart, transforming mind into an object of worship, when in fact it ought to be washing the feet of a heart dedicated to living out the commands of Christ.

    I see the same brokenness in the CC, with its own twist on scholasticism, you see it at C2C where philosophy has been made King, and where an attempt is made to delineate the fruit of the CC from its ‘infallibility’. To the semitic mind, this is utterly foreign to the God who revealed Himself not to those wise in their own eyes, but to the humble and foolish by the standards of the world.

    It is precisely the je m’en fout pas malisme expressed in the quote above that is at the very root of the brokenness of the church today.

  134. If you were giving me all of the facts (rather than haphazardly grabbing a few and ignoring the others), I would have no quarrel with you

    What good will the ‘other ‘ quotes do to the 6 million men, women and children murdered in Europe?

    The French have a saying “Quand on a chie dans son pantalon, ca ne sert a rien de se serrer les fesses”.

  135. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    It’s the curse of scholasticism which has wrought this out of the West’s approach to the faith. It is a curse on humanity because instead of allowing the mind to be light to the heart, it has severed the mind from the heart, transforming mind into an object of worship, when in fact it ought to be washing the feet of a heart dedicated to living out the commands of Christ.

    You’ve been lending too much ear to hardcore Orthodox polemicists. As I’ve said before, the beauty of Theo-Philosophical musing is in its provisional multivalency, and thus, to be truly catholic/universal in its infinite capacity to accommodate and adapt to the needs and dispositions of all men. Both the Western and Eastern theo-philosophical outlooks are parallel consonants. They are coequal perspectives gazing upon the same Dogmatic Corpus, however much the egotistic Integralists might think otherwise. (Unfortunately, there are a good number of those on both sides of the East/West divide.)

    If you value humility, humble yourself before the Church’s Dogmatic Corpus. Just my 2¢.

  136. If you value humility, humble yourself before the Church’s Dogmatic Corpus. Just my 2¢

    ““It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”

  137. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    If you value humility, humble yourself before the Church’s Dogmatic Corpus. Just my 2¢

    SS wrote:
    .
    “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”

    My point exactly.

    Peace.

  138. Robert (April 5, 2:11pm)

    “Even the Reformed could trace a laying on of hands back to the apostles if they wanted to…”

    I just wanted to point out that this is wrong as far as I know (although I am willing to be corrected). As far as I know, there is no claim to apostolic succession by any Reformed that I know of, and none is even possible if they wanted to show it, (which I have never seen attempted by any Reformed that I know of). I may be wrong, but I don’t believe any Catholic bishops became Reformed, so no succession is possible even if it were desired (which of course it is not). Calvin was never a Catholic priest let alone a bishop. St. Francis De Sales was the bishop of Geneva and in the line of succession, however, and he was Catholic.

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  139. David,

    I think it would depend on how broadly you construe the term Reformed. Presbyterians, of course, do not typically speak of apostolic succession in the sense of the laying on of hands that can be traced back to the apostles, though that practice in ordination is still there. Calvin, of course, never became a priest, but Bucer and Knox were ordained priests before they became Protestants. Farel was licensed to preach by his bishop. So there is a historical lineage that can be traced, even though the Reformed would not say that is determinative. If one does not preach apostolic doctrine but is in a line of orthodox bishops, and then he appoints other unorthodox successors, how can one legitimately claim to be in the line of apostolic succession? It would be like me claiming to be American even though I have renounced my citizenship and spit on the Constitution.

    Anglicans believe in apostolic succession in a maner closer to what Rome confesses, and the official doctrinal standards of that church are thoroughly Reformed. My major critique of that movement would be similar to my critique of Rome not holding people accountable for its doctrinal standards. I appreciate faithful Anglican brothers, but that church has held such a wide latitude in practice and belief that it is pin many of them down. When Anglo-Catholics, the Episcopalian Church, and orthodox African Anglicans are all in communion with Canterbury, then you have a problem. It looks, however, that the orthodox will eventually kick the heretics out. Good on them.

    Then there is Luther, who is claimed by the Lutherans and the Reformed. He was a priest.

    So, again, while most Reformed people in the U.S. would be hesitant to speak of apostolic succession in the manner that Rome does, even we can make a claim to it according to Rome’s standards. The lineage might be harder to see and have fewer people, but it is there. Plus, we also try to hold to apostolic beliefs, which is an added bonus! 🙂

  140. Robert,

    “I think it would depend on how broadly you construe the term Reformed.”

    I am construing it as capital R Reformed, as in not Lutheran, Anglican or Radical Ref.

    Again, you had said:
    “Reformed could trace a laying on of hands back to the apostles if they wanted to…”

    No, they can’t, not even if they wanted to.

    “Bucer and Knox were ordained priests before they became Protestants. Farel was licensed to preach by his bishop. So there is a historical lineage that can be traced, even though the Reformed would not say that is determinative.”

    I think you may be misunderstanding how apostolic succession works. It is only passed on by Bishops (what Presbyterians call Elders). In a threefold episcopal church government Priests and Deacons cannot ordain, only Bishops. And the only groups who have maintained that succession are Catholics, Orthodox (Eastern and Oriental), and Anglicans, with some question as to some Lutherans.

    “Then there is Luther, who is claimed by the Lutherans and the Reformed. He was a priest.”

    A priest cannot ordain.

    “If one does not preach apostolic doctrine but is in a line of orthodox bishops, and then he appoints other unorthodox successors, how can one legitimately claim to be in the line of apostolic succession?”

    This sounds as if you meant it to be a rhetorical question, as if the question has not been considered and answered by churches with apostolic succession. But it has. One step to understanding where we are coming from would be to ask yourself what the difference between heresy and schism is. The church fathers made a clear distinction between the two, as do modern Catholics and Orthodox, but the Reformed can no longer make a distinction between the two, but are forced to conflate them. If you can look into the Tradition and understand how and why our Christian brothers throughout the ages (Augustine very notably) have made the distinction between the two, then you will have the answer to your question.

    “Plus, we also try to hold to apostolic beliefs, which is an added bonus!”

    Well, yes. I suppose trying to hold to apostolic beliefs is a good thing. Of course the Judaizers in Acts 15 also were trying to do so, and every other Christian who has ever lived. So you are in a vast company of fellow try-ers.

  141. David,

    It really is special pleading to say that the Reformed have no valid claim to apostolic succession because priests cannot ordain. It presupposes the truth of the episcopal model of church government, which I reject. It also assumes that there could never be a case where the bishops all go apostate but the priests remain faithful. I could go on.

    Merely asserting that we do not have apostolic succession just because we don’t affirm it in the same way the Roman Catholic church does proves nothing except that we disagree. But we already knew that.

    The Reformed can also distinguish between heresy and schism. If a group breaks away from the PCA, for example, the PCA is not going to necessarily say they are heretics.

    I guess if we’re all just trying to hold to apostolic doctrine then the Holy Spirit cannot convince us of the truth. Of course, you have to ultimately say that for the Roman Catholic, it is the Spirit who must convince you of the church, which is evidently more perspicuous than the Scriptures. I could, of course, point out that Roman perspicuity is a paper tiger since Rome apparently believes these days that all good dogs go to heaven, so as long as I’m good I’m in. But that point has been beaten to death.

  142. AB

    Thanks for the thoughts on Machen and Owen and the link above.

    I didn’t see anything substantially different in the above’s discourse on the IAOC when compared with what I was already aware of. The fundamental problem with much of such typical Western analysis is that it is grounded in a paradigm which is foreign to the semitic milieu of the Scriptures. It’s simply question begging to point to Rom 5:15-16 and say “see, I told ya it was there”. The obedience that Paul speaks of there, when read in context, refers to the faithfulness of Christ as true Israel in being obedient unto death to conquer death, not a vicarious law keeping that needed to be ‘achieved’. Christ was already inherently righteous as the sinless lamb of God (cf. Psalm 22:10), and the righteousness He demonstrated He displayed as proof of His identity as the Messiah, not in order to earn merit before God.

    Further Rom 8:2-4 encapsulates the recapitulation of man in Christ. That’s what it is referring to, not the IAOC. The Father desires to transform us into the image of the Son, hence the role that walking in the Spirit plays in that process. Yes, it is because we are not counted/reckoned as sinners anymore, and because Christ’s blood purified us that we can now walk in the Spirit, thereby being united to Him, and participating in Him. The IAOC fails to recognize Paul’s main theological contribution, i.e., participation/union in/with Chirst, by rendering the 2nd half of Rom 8:4 redundant. And yet a cursory look at second temple Judaisms whill show that if there was one thing that Jews of all stripes believed in, it was nomism, whether covenantal or not. This reality alone should cause one to wonder whether said redundancy makes any logical sense.

  143. SS,

    You are setting things in opposition that are not in opposition in your first paragraph. The IAOC is not opposed to Christ being obedient to death in order to defeat death, and no Reformed thinker would confess as much. And again, if inherent righteousness was all that was needed for our salvation, there is no reason why Christ had to live His life. We have plenty of examples of righteousness and righteous living, of people who kept God’s law faithfully under the old covenant, so having Christ’s life merely as an example is unnecessary. We have people under the old covenant who were willing to lay down their lives for their friends—Uriah is the first one who comes to mind.

    It’s also not at all clear how the IAOC renders Rom. 8:2–4 redundant. And few Protestants have said as much about union with Christ as the Reformed. Finally, in one sense it does not matter what the rest of second temple Judaism said about covenantal nomism. Paul counts all those views as rubbish in Philippians 3, and not merely because it was law-keeping without a view to Christ. Galatians 3 says a curse is on those who fail to all that the law says. That is Paul’s addition. That is his insight. If covenantal nomism, rightly practiced, under the old covenant was good enough, then there would be no curse on people such as Zacharias, Elizabeth, and the others who are called righteous and no need for Christ. But if there is one thing Paul is clear on, it is that there is no salvation outside of Christ.

    Though birthed in the context of 2nd Temple Judaism, what the earliest Jewish Christians were saying was opposed to what the worldview was saying. Why else do you think so many Jews failed to believe in Jesus?

    Second Temple parallelomania is all the rage in scholarly circles this day, but the simple fact is that our knowledge of how much the apostles knew, let alone depended on those sources. But we do know they relied on the OT.

    Out of curiosity, how would you reconcile these two passages from David if there is no sense in which God demands absolute perfection of us:

    Ps. 18:

    The Lord dealt with me (AM)according to my righteousness;
    according to (AN)the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
    21 For I have (AO)kept the ways of the Lord,
    and have not wickedly departed from my God.
    22 For (AP)all his rules were before me,
    and his statutes I did not put away from me.
    23 I was (AQ)blameless before him,
    and I kept myself from my guilt.
    24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

    Ps. 143:1–2

    Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    (A)give ear to my pleas for mercy!
    In your (B)faithfulness answer me, in your (C)righteousness!
    2 (D)Enter not into judgment with your servant,
    for no one living is righteous (E)before you.

  144. SS–

    Had “On the Jews and their Lies” never been written, six million Jews would still have died.

    I am certain Martin Luther himself would have appreciated your earthy little French saying!

    I’m guessing Martin Luther King, Jr. was wrong on desegregation in your eyes due to his ongoing adulterous behavior.

    If I reject Reformed thought based on the disobedient lives of Calvin and Luther, should I take it back up again based on the obedient lives of George Mueller and Wilhelmus a Brakel?

  145. That is,

    We don’t know how much the apostles knew about or had access to the nonbiblical documents of Judaism.

  146. Robert,

    “It really is special pleading to say that the Reformed have no valid claim to apostolic succession because priests cannot ordain. It presupposes the truth of the episcopal model”

    No, you are not getting it. I am not presupposing anything. Let’s turn the table. Lets say I claim that Catholics believe in Sola Fide. You might rightly point out that is just not true, and that I would have to redefine what Sola Fide means for it to be compatible with Catholicism.

    Likewise, for you to say that the Reformed can claim apostolic succession would mean you would have to redefine what the doctrine of AS even means. I am not presupposing or arguing for a position here, just pointing out what every Reformed person would tell you (ask them): they do not have apostolic succession, and they do not think it is necessary.

    “The Reformed can also distinguish between heresy and schism. If a group breaks away from the PCA, for example, the PCA is not going to necessarily say they are heretics.”

    I am not sure I understand you here. Are you saying that a breakaway group from the PCA would (potentially) be in schism? Or that they would (potentially) neither be in schism or heresy.

    Could you provide examples of each scenario so that I may see how you distinguish between the two please?

    My point is that a Protestant can not distinguish between them. So if for instance, Peter Leithart decided today to form his own breakaway denomination (let’s call it the PCFV, Presbyterian Church of the Federal Vision), you would have no categories to define that denomination as a schism as opposed to a heresy.
    Yet in the early church, we see schism as distinct from heresy. So please distinguish them for me.

    Thanks,

    David Meyer

  147. David,

    Your point on redefining apostolic succession is well taken. So, since you are a Roman Catholic, I won’t say “apostolic succession” any more. But I will say this—the Reformed can point to a lineage stretched back to apostolic times. That doesn’t mean everyone in that line taught 5-point Calvinism (there was no such thing prior to the Reformation—not that the ideas were entirely absent but that the formulation did not exist, just as the formulation of many Roman doctrines did not exist either).

    As far as the PCA example, I’ll do a hypothetical with Leithart and then a historical using the OPC, since to my knowledge there haven’t been any major church splits in the PCA, at least not yet.

    If Leithart were to leave the PCA and start a new denomination, I can’t see the PCA as an institution labeling him a heretic. There might be individuals, but the study report, to my knowledge, refrains from using the word heresy, instead speaking of how the FV is contrary to the Westminster Standards on certain key points. Now, while the PCA believes the WCF is the best summary of biblical teaching yet produced in the church, it does not condemn all those who reject or teach certain things contrary to those standards as heretics guilty of soul-damning beliefs. We don’t say the Lutheran are heretics because they reject WCF teaching on baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for example.

    Part of the issue with the FV is that it is notoriously difficult to get a handle on it. Some, such as Doug Wilson, show more of a refusal to use concepts in the way they have been understood in the contemporary Reformed church than a denial of the standards. In fact, Wilson believes his language is more true to the standards. Others fail to distinguish IAOC from other doctrines but it is not at all clear that they reject what the PCA would call the biblical gospel. So, I guess one of the main things the FV is guilty of is unclarity as well as a schismatic refusal to speak in terms the mother church is comfortable with. The report of the SJC admits as much and admonishes Leithart to be clearer. Whether they were right or wrong is an open question, but one could easily see that if the SJC reached another conclusion and agreed that FV was teaching things that opposed the WCF, Leithart would have been defrocked or even excommunicated if he refused to leave. But that would not necessarily mean the PCA thought he was on his way to hell.

    Soon after the OPC was founded, several congregations broke away to form the Bible Presbyterian Church, a denomination with more dispensational leanings. The OPC, to my knowledge, has not said these men and this denomination are heretics, though they would believe their understanding of Scripture is deficient.

    So, to say that the Reformed cannot distinguish between heresy and schism is patently untrue, and to pretend that Rome has a better way of doing such things is to ignore the evidence of the modern church. Even today, a church’s claim to authority is only as good as its willingness to enforce that authority via discipline and excommunication. Rome leaves heretics in place for decades—unless they start sounding too Protestant, like Hans Kung did. To say Rome has a principled difference because of the infallible Magisterium is just to close one’s eyes. I could claim infallibility for myself, but if my own followers do not listen to me or I have no power, recourse, or willingness to do anything about it, my claim is hollow. Moreover, there are all sorts of groups around the world that claim to be the true continuation of the Roman Catholic church but have broken away from Rome. Why are they wrong? Why are they schismatic? If you merely define the church by a visible line of bishops and they start teaching things contrary to tradition and Scripture, why should we believe they are successors to the apostles in any meaningful sense?

    Surely allowance has to be made for some kind of exercise of true and effectual ministry even when an apostate is in office, especially when that apostate won’t identify himself as such. The Reformed do allow for this, which is one reason why most Presbyterian churches do not rebaptize converts from Roman Catholicism. But when the church as an institution abandons apostolic teaching, am I still supposed to see it as the voice of God? What if the pope called a council tomorrow that ended up condemning the doctrine of the Trinity? Would the Roman Catholic faithful be obligated to accept it as binding if all of the qualifications for infallibility were met and pronounced? Now you could say that such would never happen, but there have been heretical popes in the past. You could say that such won’t happen because God preserves his church. I agree. The issue is that your definition of the church, for all its purported catholicity, is far too narrow. God never promises to preserve an institution that has a legitimate claim to a line of bishops stretched back to Peter. And that’s even assuming Rome’s line is legitimate, since the early papal lineage is by no means unclear, not to mention the fact that it assumes that Peter was the monarchical bishop of Rome.

  148. Robert,

    I didnt claim one needs to believe in an infallible magisterium to recognize the difference between schism and heresy. And it has nothing uniquely to do with Catholicism. I am sitting about 10 feet away from a devout Orthodox believer right now, and he would be asking you the same question: How do you distinguish between schism and heresy?
    My point is that the early church did make this distinction, yet Protestants do not. I am not interested in proving to you that there is such a distinction, only in confirming that you don’t believe there is such a distinction possible.
    By your last comment I will assume you don’t believe such a distinction is possible, and that schism and heresy are synonymous.

    Thanks,

    DM

  149. David,

    I would distinguish schism and heresy in this way:

    1. Heresy would be a soul-damning belief such as a denial of the Trinity. A heretic would be one who professes a heresy.

    2. A schismatic would be one who teaches contrary to a church’s confession on a matter not essential to salvation and refuses to leave peaceably.

    So, yes, I do believe there is a difference.

  150. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    I would distinguish schism and heresy in this way:
    1. Heresy would be a soul-damning belief such as a denial of the Trinity. A heretic would be one who professes a heresy.
    2. A schismatic would be one who teaches contrary to a church’s confession on a matter not essential to salvation and refuses to leave peaceably.

    What’s interesting is that you frame both Heresy and Schism in propositional and discursive terms. It seems that, for you, schism is more analogous to what, for Catholics, would be more like a prudential, disciplinary, theological censure.

    For Catholics, Schism is something far different and is bound up with the ontological constitution of the Church. It is bound up with the Church as an Incarnational, Sacramental, Christic Reality.

  151. You are setting things in opposition that are not in opposition in your first paragraph. The IAOC is not opposed to Christ being obedient to death in order to defeat death, and no Reformed thinker would confess as much. And again, if inherent righteousness was all that was needed for our salvation, there is no reason why Christ had to live His life. We have plenty of examples of righteousness and righteous living, of people who kept God’s law faithfully under the old covenant, so having Christ’s life merely as an example is unnecessary. We have people under the old covenant who were willing to lay down their lives for their friends—Uriah is the first one who comes to mind.

    In my first paragraph (see earlier post) I simply argued that the verses do not necessitate IAOC at all, by Occam’s Razor. I wasn’t arguing that IAOC was in opposition , but rather that it is extraneous to the text. It only finds its way into the text via the brute forcing of an alien paradigm into said verses. Regarding the few old covenant faithful, it is precisely because they pursued the law by faith, meaning that their law keeping was infused with ‘kavanagh’ or the intentionality of faith, that they were righteous in God’s sight. It was still Christ, nevertheless who stood behind their ordinance keeping and faithfulness, so He was entirely necessary to Elizabeth and Zecharias’ being righteous in God’s sight. Regarding Uriah, he made no claim to be the Messiah who would atone for the sins of Israel and what you are missing is this: Christ did not die only for the sins of His people to be washed away, but also so that they would walk in newness of life and be the fruits of His harvest unto the Father. No one but Christ would be sufficient for that mandate.

    It’s also not at all clear how the IAOC renders Rom. 8:2–4 redundant. And few Protestants have said as much about union with Christ as the Reformed. Finally, in one sense it does not matter what the rest of second temple Judaism said about covenantal nomism. Paul counts all those views as rubbish in Philippians 3, and not merely because it was law-keeping without a view to Christ. Galatians 3 says a curse is on those who fail to all that the law says. That is Paul’s addition. That is his insight. If covenantal nomism, rightly practiced, under the old covenant was good enough, then there would be no curse on people such as Zacharias, Elizabeth, and the others who are called righteous and no need for Christ. But if there is one thing Paul is clear on, it is that there is no salvation outside of Christ.

    If the IAOC is necessary, there is no need to walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Because according to Reformed logic, the irrevocable credit to the account of the believer has already taken place and the transaction is forever sealed. While one could say that participation in Christ would then bring the ‘gravy’ or ‘rewards’ to a believer, that possibility still does not preclude one from being apathetic or ambivalent towards rewards altogether, given that one’s salvation, the main course, is eternally secured by the credit.

    It does matter tremendously what STJ was about, because it affords us an opportunity to hear Christ without anachronistic tendencies imported into the text from the medieveal or contemporary age. Whether it is the Tannaitic literature, Targums, Wisdom, Qumran, Philo etc, the combined body of evidence overwhelmingly illustrates the commonalities between the various Judaisms: they all shared some type of nomistic assumptions, and this regardless of whether getting in was viewed as being by virtue of election/covenant or not. Therefore, it is unreasonable and exegetically irresponsible to argue for example, that a 2nd temple Jew hearing Matt 7: 24

    24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock..”

    at the conclusion of Christ’s intepretation of the Law and giving of the new commandments, would hear anything else but a direct and simple call to obedience. To argue that the 2nd temple jew would instead be led to infer that the entire sermon was meant to demonstrate his need for the IAOC simply flies in the face of the data and begs the question entirely.

    Though birthed in the context of 2nd Temple Judaism, what the earliest Jewish Christians were saying was opposed to what the worldview was saying. Why else do you think so many Jews failed to believe in Jesus?

    It’s not the fact that it was opposed to the worldview that is in debate here. What’s in dispute here is this: what was the contention about? And the answer is: it was not about faith/fulness to God, but rather the object of one’s faith/fulness. Paul and Peter and the earliest Jewish believers encountered significant success (see Acts 21) as well as significant resistance to the Gospel (see Paul’s missionary journeys). This is a subtle point: the fact that many thousands of jews believed in Messiah Yeshua is incredibly significant because it throws a wrench into contemporary supersessionism and poses an existential threat to the latter. Everything they did, they did by faith/fulness of and in Christ, since it was no longer them living but Christ in them (cf. Gal 2:20). As Paul said emphatically “We as Jews know that we are justified by faith…” He did not say we as Christians believe, but we as Jews. I know that this brings objections lying in Gal 3:10-12, and I will address this below.

    Second Temple parallelomania is all the rage in scholarly circles this day, but the simple fact is that We don’t know how much the apostles knew about or had access to the nonbiblical documents of Judaism.

    Charges of parallelomania gratituitously leveled must be supported and argued for. Simply leveling them does nothing for the debate. I could just as easily point to the Reformed belief that Adam was under a ‘covenant of works’ to charge them with parallelomania and seeing parallels with the Mosaic law (as it is understood by the Reformed). So the question is not what the apostles knew about or had access to, but rather, the sitze in leben of their writings, hence the importance of reading the Gospels and epistles in their proper semitic milieu.

    Let’s look at Gal 3:10-12 and the curse of the law:

    10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”

    Paul uses Deut 27:26, Hab 2:4 and Leviticus 18:5 to frame a dialectical argument by way of a chiasmus taking this iteration ABB’A, where:

    A: But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident
    B: For the just shall live by faith
    B’: But the law is not of faith
    A’: But the one who does them shall live by them.

    This dialetic is the product of a very sophisticated mind, and one that is easily misunderstood (cf. 2 Peter 3). Paul in the above is not simply saying that the law is powerless to save. If that were all he needed to say he most certainly would have not chosen such a complex literary tool to make the point he wanted to make… He’s a bit more nuanced than that, unfortunately for naive western minds accustomed to thinking in binary terms.

    He begins with the A statement, that no one will be justified by the law in the sight of God, echoes of Gal 2:15-16 where he affirmed earlier that Peter and himself as Jews already know that, hence the ‘evident’ bit. He would have been very aware of the parable of the Pharisee and Publican, taught by a fellow Jew, his master Yeshua and he begins by an appeal to that fact. It is our intention that matters, our heart, not the externals. Then comes B where he now appeals to Hab 2:4. Why does he appeal to Habakkuk? For two reasons, one tactical and the other dialectial: the Jews themselves would not be in any position to deny that faith/fulness is in view (given the covenantal overtones of the verse and the promise of return from exile) and secondly, faith/fulness stands in stark contrast to law keeping devoid of intention. Note that this is not by any means law-keeping as ‘legalism’ but rather a nomism which is devoid of the kavanagh which comes from belief in Messiah. This is fundamentally about the salvation-historical/cosmic significance of the Christ-Event. Paul is saying the Scriptures bear witness to this reality: there are two fundamentally opposed ideas here which we must resolve.

    He then repeats the dialectical argument in B’ and A’ by introducing a variation on B and appealing to Leviticus 18:5 for the variation on A. At this point what the Jew really wants to know is this: how will we live by them? How is this possible? They may very well at this juncture, point to David’s pessimism in Psalm 143, that no one is righteous before God.

    And it is precisely at this point of vulnerability that Paul delivers the coup de grace: he resolves the tension and synthesizes the two fundamentally opposed ideas in vv. 13-14: in the liberation from the curse by the Messiah’s faithfulness:

    “13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law , having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

    It is through this same Spirit that we can now be doers of the law and be justified, and that is why we sing “Far as the curse is found”. This takes place when we walk in the Spirit and not after the flesh, by virtue of the redemption afforded us by Christ.

    Out of curiosity, how would you reconcile these two passages from David if there is no sense in which God demands absolute perfection of us

    God demands perfection of us (Matt 5:48) and we should make perfection our goal, but He has also graciously allowed us a means to have our sins forgiven when we fail en route to said perfection (cf. Matt 6:9-13). Under such a view, there’s nothing to reconcile in the two passages you mention here.

  152. Had “On the Jews and their Lies” never been written, six million Jews would still have died.

    And you know this how? Even if you could prove the above assertion (you can’t) the elephant in the room would still remain. Luther’s anti semitism and calls to violence is evidence that demands a verdict regarding his fitness as a teacher of the Scriptures.

    I’m guessing Martin Luther King, Jr. was wrong on desegregation in your eyes due to his ongoing adulterous behavior.

    Straw man. MLK was not setting himself as a teacher of the Scriptures but rather as a civil rights advocate. Nowhere does MLK tell me that I should follow his interpretation of the Scriptures.

    If I reject Reformed thought based on the disobedient lives of Calvin and Luther, should I take it back up again based on the obedient lives of George Mueller and Wilhelmus a Brakel?

    That is entirely up to you. All I am saying is that Calvin and Luther are disqualified by biblical standards. That assuming one is objective enough to not drink the kool aid and actually enforce the commands of Scripture (1 Tim 3).

  153. SS,

    I’ll try and reply to more later, but I want to briefly comment on this statement here:

    If the IAOC is necessary, there is no need to walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Because according to Reformed logic, the irrevocable credit to the account of the believer has already taken place and the transaction is forever sealed. While one could say that participation in Christ would then bring the ‘gravy’ or ‘rewards’ to a believer, that possibility still does not preclude one from being apathetic or ambivalent towards rewards altogether, given that one’s salvation, the main course, is eternally secured by the credit.

    False. While the irrevocable credit has sealed the transaction forever, that does not make walking after the Spirit unnecessary. It is necessary for sanctification, the fruit of justification. If nothing else, walking by the Spirit is the evidence of our justification, but what is more, apathy or ambivalence are ruled out as impossible. Apathy and ambivalence indicate an unconverted heart, as Paul illustrates in Romans 6 and elsewhere. If one is apathetic, one has not been eternally secured.

    You are repeating a common objection that is not unlike the charge Paul anticipates. If our obedience is in no way the meritorious grounds of our justification, it is easy to see why people would accuse Paul of saying that obedience was unnecessary or that one can sin in order that grace may abound. According to the view you present, the objection he anticipates would not stand, and it would not even be possible. No one would ever have accused Paul of teaching that we can sin so that grace may abound if he was teaching that our law-keeping empowered by Christ is what finally justifies us. That is exactly what the Judaizers believed.

    Some people are rightly charged with antinomianism. Others are not, but Lloyd-Jones was on to something when he said that we need to ask ourselves if we are preaching the gospel if no one could accuse us of antinomianism.

  154. It is necessary for sanctification, the fruit of justification.

    You are merely begging the question. And what makes sanctification a necessary consequence of justification in the life of the believer, since you believe that this sanctification involves synergy? You will point to Romans 8:28-31 etc or Phil 1:6, John 6:36-40 etc but these have been addressed at length already. There’s nothing that necessitates the reformed reading of those verses.

    The free gracers have a much more internally consistent set of beliefs in that regard. As Charles Stanley/Ryrie put it, nothing you can ever do or not do will ever affect the salvation imputed to you by the IAOC. To them it’s not a question of showing whether you’ve been truly saved or not, it is an irrevocable thing regardless.

  155. SS,

    I’ve read your interpretations of those passages and they are unconvincing. The fact that you say that those passages do not necessitate a Reformed reading does not make it so. So, I’ll just repeat my charge that you cannot account for the passages that promise certain salvation for those who have been once justified, and you end up putting the final decision as to whether or not I will be saved in my hands. In your system, God is not strong enough to save those all those whom He wants to save or He has chosen not to be strong enough to save all those he wants to save. That’s not the sovereign God of the Bible. It’s very ironic, because that is the God of the Greek philosophers, not the God of the Old Testament.

    Ryrie and his ilk cannot deal with the passages that say those who do not persevere to the end won’t be saved. You and others cannot deal with the passages that God will glorify those whom He will justify, that Christ has perfected forever those whom He is presently sanctifying. There are no qualifications in those texts. The Reformed alone can hold both passages in harmony and tension.

  156. If our obedience is in no way the meritorious grounds of our justification, it is easy to see why people would accuse Paul of saying that obedience was unnecessary or that one can sin in order that grace may abound.

    That is not the reason why Paul was charged with antinomianism. It was this instead: they did not understand that Paul was calling people to the obedience of faith enabled by the faithfulness of Christ as opposed to a letter-of-the-law keeping void of Christ. That is why he spends the ending chapters of Galatians and Romans with halakhic teaching reoriented around obedience to Christ’s commands.

    For a jew in Paul’s day, the minute you say circumcision is not required for a gentile, you are a law breaker. But for someone like Paul, a true Jew who understands that the Christ-Event was a paradigm change which brought gentiles into the family of God, this is the fulfilment and the establishment of the law.

  157. I’ve read your interpretations of those passages and they are unconvincing.

    Certainly your prerogative. Happy to have the conversation.

  158. SS,

    You’re interpretation of the charge leveled against Paul cannot work at the end of the day.

    That is not the reason why Paul was charged with antinomianism. It was this instead: they did not understand that Paul was calling people to the obedience of faith enabled by the faithfulness of Christ as opposed to a letter-of-the-law keeping void of Christ. That is why he spends the ending chapters of Galatians and Romans with halakhic teaching reoriented around obedience to Christ’s commands.

    The Judaizers very clearly believed in Jesus. They would have confessed that they relied on the faithfulness of Christ to keep HIs commands. The issue is the significance they were investing in the work, namely, that the work was necessary as a ground of their salvation. Simply substituting another command for circumcision violates Paul’s entire point, especially when he says that circumcision and uncircumcision do not mean anything or that neither count for anything. If that is truly so, there is no reason to object to Gentiles being circumcised. The only reason to object is because although neither status means anything, the Gentiles, as taught by the Judaizers, thought that they were making up for something Christ lacked. That they had to add a work to faith for their justification.

    For a jew in Paul’s day, the minute you say circumcision is not required for a gentile, you are a law breaker. But for someone like Paul, a true Jew who understands that the Christ-Event was a paradigm change which brought gentiles into the family of God, this is the fulfilment and the establishment of the law.

    More or less true, but incomplete. See above.

  159. The Judaizers very clearly believed in Jesus.

    How do you know this?

  160. SS,

    How do you know this?

    Well, aside from the consensus of the Christian church throughout the ages, as well as believing and unbelieving scholars:

    Gal. 1:12 refers to the Judaizers as men coming from James (not that they really did, but that was their claim), the leader of the Jerusalem church.

    Gal. 5:2 indicates that the Galatians thought they were adding to something to Christ, that circumcision would benefit them without separating them from Christ. That belief does not make sense if the Judaizers were denying Christ.

    Acts 15 — There would be no reason for the council to meet and discuss things if the circumcision party was denying Christ. The question was whether believing in Christ was enough to make one a follower of the Messiah or if circumcision was also required. Clearly, the circumcision party said you had to believe in Jesus and be circumcised. (The difficulty with this chapter is determining how closely related it is to the events described in Galatians. I happen to believe Galatians does not deal with this council at all and that the events it narrates happened before this council. But that is not the universal position, so if Galatians refers to this council, my contention is strengthened).

  161. Gal. 1:12 refers to the Judaizers as men coming from James (not that they really did, but that was their claim), the leader of the Jerusalem church.

    You mean Gal 2:12. This verse does not refer to the agitators but rather belongs to part of the narrative by Paul which serves to establish him as an apostle called by God. His confrontation with Peter serves in effect to prove that he is fully established as one of the apostles and it is within that story that the men from James appear. But there is nothing in the epistolary development that necessitates that they be equated with the agitators.

    Gal. 5:2 indicates that the Galatians thought they were adding to something to Christ, that circumcision would benefit them without separating them from Christ. That belief does not make sense if the Judaizers were denying Christ.

    Paul is speaking to the Galatians, not the agitators. This is evident from the context:

    Gal 4:31
    31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free”

    which leads to

    5:1-2
    “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.”

    Nothing in the above gives any clues to the identity of the agitators. It does speak however to their goal, which was to have the Galatians circumcised. And that goal can have been held by a Jewish non-believer or even a gentile non believer who may have had affiliations with well placed and prominent Jews. For the latter possibility, see Acts 13:50:

    48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.

    These ‘devout and prominent/chief men of the city’ were gentile god-fearers, and could very well have been those agitating for circumcision.

    Acts 15 — There would be no reason for the council to meet and discuss things if the circumcision party was denying Christ. The question was whether believing in Christ was enough to make one a follower of the Messiah or if circumcision was also required. Clearly, the circumcision party said you had to believe in Jesus and be circumcised. (The difficulty with this chapter is determining how closely related it is to the events described in Galatians. I happen to believe Galatians does not deal with this council at all and that the events it narrates happened before this council. But that is not the universal position, so if Galatians refers to this council, my contention is strengthened).

    As per your own admission, nothing necessitates that the circumcision party be the agitators to the Galatians. The council in Acts 15 is dated at A.D. 50, which makes it’s relevance to the story in Galatians very hard to determine. Scholars have detected strong tendencies towards irony in Paul’s letter, and this lends me to believe that what he calls ‘another gospel’ was in fact no gospel at all. It was the product of either non believing Jews who wanted to affirm their existence apart from the believing community and thereby avoid persecution for the cross of Christ, or of gentile non believers with connections to the Pharisees (see Acts 13:50).

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