Don’t Pity the Fool

Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Apostolicity, Catholicism, Church History, Ecclesiology, Featured, History, Protestantism, Theology of Glory, Theology of the Cross | 463 comments

Despite having become something of a douche in the past 15 years or so, any honest and knowledgable music fan must admit that one of the best, most talented, and most musically diverse singer/songwriters of the 1980’s was (wait for it, wait for it) . . . Sting, whose Dream of the Blue Turtles  (1985) and Nothing Like the Sun  (1987) were nothing short of brilliant.

My favorite song on the latter is “History Will Teach Us Nothing” (seriously, he was such a better lyricist back when he was an atheist). In it he sings:

If we seek solace in the prisons of the distant past,

Security in human systems, we’re told, will always, always last.

If motions are the sail, and blind faith is the mast

Without the breath of real freedom, we’re getting nowhere fast.

.

If God is dead and the actor plays His part,

His words of fear will find their way to a place in your heart;

Without the voice of reason, every faith is its own curse,

Without freedom from the past, things can only get worse.

Now Sting’s point in this song is the inevitability of repeating history’s greatest mistakes, and the corresponding desire to “throw the past away.” For our purposes here, though, I want to use the song as a springboard to discuss what Protestants constantly demand of Catholics when debating apostolic succession, namely, history and the role that historical evidence plays in what we believe as Christians.

It seems to me that the Catholic approach to this question strikes the proper balance between two extremes. On the one hand we can be completely dismissive of history and reduce the gospel to a burning in the bosom, saying, “You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart.” This is clearly an unbiblical posture to take — the apostolic preaching of the gospel focused strongly on the historia salutis, with the insistence that the events they heralded “were not done in a corner,” but actually happened and were witnessed by actual people.

The other extreme, however, focuses on history to the point where historical evidence is treated as both necessary and sufficient to establish an article of faith as trustworthy and true. This is the stance that Protestants often take when discussing things like apostolic succession, the infallibility of the Magisterium, and the primacy of Peter’s episcopal successor. The demand is made for historical proof, and when that proof is not furnished to the Protestant’s satisfaction, he dismisses the Catholic claims with a wave of the hand, often smugly uttering something under his breath about how gullible we Catholics are.

One problem with this posture is that it proves too much. If independent corroborative evidence from history is necessary in order to justify belief in a theological doctrine, then a whole host of doctrines immediately demand scrutiny and possibly rejection, beginning with the resurrection itself. Ironically (or perhaps not so ironically), this is the exact position that the atheist takes when examining Christianity as a whole: he expects a certain kind of scientific, empirical, and historical evidence for the claim that God became a man, was crucified, and then rose from the dead on the third day, and when he doesn’t find it, he dismisses our faith as a fanciful tale that would be wonderful if true, but at the end of the day cannot be substantiated by the evidence. So it is inconsistent for the Protestant to accuse Catholics of doing exactly what atheists accuse him of doing, namely, believing in supernatural and miraculous phenomena simply on authority, and without actual proof. Moreover, it is also inconsistent for Protestants to dismiss Catholics as gullible, when the Catholic response is virtually identical to the one the Protestant would give to an atheist who dismissed him  as gullible.

Another problem with the Protestant demand for historical proof in order to justify belief in something like apostolic succession is that it reduces the Christian faith to a mere human system. One of the things that distinguishes special revelation from general revelation is the fact that while the latter can use mere physical and empirical evidence to produce things that can be known, special revelation is “special” precisely because the truths it reveals cannot be discerned by mere human and earthly means. St. Paul says to the Corinthians that “we walk by faith and not by sight,” and that “the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are spiritually discerned.” By insisting that an article of faith like apostolic succession can be proven by empirical evidence, or disproven by the lack of it, is to conflate general and special revelation, as well as to collapse faith and sight, reducing trust to knowledge and allowing a theology of glory to swallow the theology of the cross.

This is why the Catholic approach to this issue is superior. For the Catholic, belief in apostolic succession is neither a-historical and irrational, nor is it mere assent to empirical facts. Rather, it is a matter of faith in the authoritative claims of the Church that Christ founded. Is there evidence that the Catholic Church is that church? Yes. Is there evidence for the historical succession of bishops from the apostles to the Catholic bishops of today? Again, yes. But the evidence for both of those things is not absolutely conclusive or as airtight as the evidence that JFK was shot and that 9/11 happened. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to be (any more than the evidence for the resurrection has to be). Instead, we have a case that is philosophically compelling and historically plausible.

And coupled with that, we exercise faith in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church, a Church against which, our faith assures us, the gates of hell will not prevail. Is this intellectually respectable enough to satisfy Protestants, atheists, and other skeptics? Of course not. But if the message of the faith is no longer supposed to be foolishness to Greeks, I never got the memo.

 

463 Comments

  1. Andrew,

    I had written, “So you are right that Athanasius exegeted Scripture (a completely uncontroversial and irrelevant point in this discussion). But once certain extra-canonical definitions were arrived at and agreed upon, they then became more fully developed parts of the apostolic Tradition. The reason they did is that the Church has the authority to explicate and interpret written revelation in a binding and authoritative way.” You responded:

    But Jason, why is it binding? It is because some ecclesiastical authority has said so or is it because the Word of God has said so? What does Athanasius have to say to the point? Please read through him and tell us! Our point is that Athanasius argues for his positions on the Trinity because he was convinced that the Scriptures supported what he believes. It was not because the ecclesiastical authorities of Rome said so (or for that matter any ecclesiastical authority said so), but because the Scriptures said so.

    That is just a dichotomy that Catholics do not accept. We do not create an “if this, then not that” competition between the Scriptures and the Church. And ironically, when we charge you with adapting a Solo position, you deny it, but then turn around and exhibit it perfectly. Adam did the same thing by appealing to the fact that John talks about the Spirit bearing witness to the truth, and concluding that this somehow precludes the Church’s necessary role in doing the same.

  2. CD host,

    You continually call me out on this so lets resolve the giant Jesus and sister holy spirit issue once and for all.

    “Hippolytus of Rome (Philosophumena, IX, 8-13) records that in the time of Pope Callixtus I (217-222) a Jewish Christian called Alcibiades of Apamea, came to Rome, bringing a book which he said had been received from Parthia by a just man named Elchasai.[2] According to Alcibiades the book had been revealed by an angel ninety-six miles high, sixteen miles broad and twenty-four across the shoulders, whose footprints were fourteen miles long and four miles wide by two miles deep. This giant angel was the Son of God, who was accompanied by His Sister, the Holy Ghost, of the same dimensions.[3]”

    ^ Luomanen 2008 “Son of God and the female was called ‘Holy Spirit.’ (Haer. 9.13.2–3)”

    You can easily see how these people would not be relevant to any honest conversation about AS. Your other groups fit into similar silly categories.

    ” 1) You haven’t provided any evidence for your belief that belief in AS had anything to do with the survival of orthodoxy Christianity since multiple non-Orthodox Christianities emerged and survived for centuries who believed in AS all claiming apostolic succession.
    2) You haven’t proven that orthodox Christianity even existed in earlier times. That is that it “survived” rather than it was created.
    3) You haven’t explained the evidence for the belief in AS forming rather than existing since earliest times”

    I will answer these in the order they were given.

    1. It isnt relevant in my view how many other groups believed in AS. If they DID believed they had AS and remained united for centuries because of that good for them. Whats important here is that my first premises is more logical than any alternatives. You admit that there was no textual unity. The state wasnt enforcing unity for centuries and in fact once it did attempt to do so did a fairly poor job achieving it…. So then what united early orthodox christians? The most reasonable conclusion would be an early belief in AS by the bishops and lay people. Scriptural evidence can be provided for AS as well as patristic writings…. Better minds then mine have well documented and expanded on these things. Im sure we are all well aware of the arguments. Unless anyone can provide an ALTERNATIVE reason I think the Catholic is justified in his view,

    2. The only person who would need this type of question answered is an atheist os some stripe. This website is for those who already confess some version of orthodox christianity. “in house ball” if you will. There is no need to defend such a belief since presumably all reformed theologians would agree with me that orthodoxy had survived from the earliest times and was not “created after the fact.

    3. Reference Cardinal Newmans development of christian doctrine.

    For a more complete case for AS visit shared link

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/06/dialogue-on-apostolic-succession.html

  3. @Kenneth —

    Catholic writers make up all sorts of nonsense about other sects. The reference to that angel is the same angel from Revelations 10. So that angel is in your bible as well, and that angel is not Jesus. Hippolytus of Rome is mistranslating Bene Elohim “sons of God” which is frequently used for angel. In fact it is translated as angel in your Catholic bibles. Hippolytus of Rome would have known that if for example he had tie to apostles who spoke Aramaic.

    You can easily see how these people would not be relevant to any honest conversation about AS.

    No I don’t. I can see you don’t like them. Unlike your sect their sect doesn’t grossly mistranslate Hebrew expressions which are common to the bible. Their sect demonstrate the kind of knowledge one would expect for a sect which arose from Jews. What I see is you engaging in a bunch of name calling as an argument why one should consider your sect credible and theirs which is far better pedigree to be beyond the pale.

    This translation is a perfect example of why I certainly I don’t consider your sect’s historical clais credible. I couldn’t imagine an Elkasaite or any of the early Gnostic sects saying something that shows the level of ignorance of Judaism which is common in Catholic writers. The idea that these people have any kind of deposit of faith when they don’t understand the most rudimentary things about the bible, the Book of Watchers and later the Book of Enoch which is constantly referred to in the New Testament. Remember under your theory these people are supposedly the authorities on people like Paul and Jude who make references to these very topics involving the very word plays that Hippolytus is obviously ignorant of.

    So then what united early orthodox christians?

    Backdating the definition. You pick subgroups and consider them orthodox.
    On top of that you oversimplify history to create more unity than existed.
    On top of that you ignore regional differences to create more unity than existed.

    and I’m sure if we kept going we’d hit more things you are doing.

    The only person who would need this type of question answered is an atheist os some stripe. This website is for those who already confess some version of orthodox christianity. “in house ball” if you will.

    You might want to expand your horizons. The overwhelming majority of Protestants are General Baptists and Pentecostals. They all / almost all believe “orthodox Christianity” was a creation of the Catholic church and reject it as being the original form of Christianity. Pagan Christianity! Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices
    By: Frank Viola, George Barna is a best seller among Evangelicals and is all about how virtually all the church structures are corruptions introduced by paganized Catholics.

    Among Liberal Christians, which BTW is a larger group than conservatives most of them have a belief that Orthodoxy evolved. They mostly believe that Jesus and his disciples had a pure form of Christianity which for them looks a lot like Liberal Protestantism and then Paul perverted it to something closer to Conservative Christianity and then later groups changed it further… They fully support a doctrine of the fall of the church, though in their case from a liberal humanistic religion.

    And finally even if we restrict ourselves to the Conservative Reformed who are the most hospitable to your views they freely reject doctrines like Mary as the New Eve and Real Presence even though you can provide outstanding evidence for these doctrines a century before Nicaea. So no, they don’t seem to really care about early Orthodoxy. Mostly their view is: Jews (as one big bundle of doctrines) -> Jesus -> Paul -> Luther -> Calvin -> PCA with little interest in anything that happened in between those steps.

    So no it is not a given among Christians that Orthodox Christianity, is the original form of Christianity.

    Reference Cardinal Newmans development of christian doctrine.

    Newman is freely ignored by Catholics. Time and time again I’ve found if you pull out his test for development and show that a Catholic doctrine fails and rather is an innovation they don’t care. Newman isn’t even good propaganda since Catholics can’t bring themselves to even plausibly pretend to believe in him.

  4. That is just a dichotomy that Catholics do not accept. We do not create an “if this, then not that” competition between the Scriptures and the Church. And ironically, when we charge you with adapting a Solo position, you deny it, but then turn around and exhibit it perfectly. Adam did the same thing by appealing to the fact that John talks about the Spirit bearing witness to the truth, and concluding that this somehow precludes the Church’s necessary role in doing the same.That is just a dichotomy that Catholics do not accept. We do not create an “if this, then not that” competition between the Scriptures and the Church. And ironically, when we charge you with adapting a Solo position, you deny it, but then turn around and exhibit it perfectly. Adam did the same thing by appealing to the fact that John talks about the Spirit bearing witness to the truth, and concluding that this somehow precludes the Church’s necessary role in doing the same.

    Jason,

    I don’t see any reason why you would think that I’m creating a dichotomy. I’m just asking you to tell me what the basis for Athanasius’ understanding of the Trinity was. What is his source of authority? You and I both believe that the Trinity, as this doctrine is defined at Nicea, is true, but we use different methods to get to this same conclusion. So my question to you is simply what methodology Athanasius used. And as in my question to Jonathan (which I and other have asked him a number of times with no answer), what does Athanasius have to say? I really would be interested in you quoting Athanasius on this matter as he addresses the Arians and giving me your understanding of what Athanasius is saying. I think that’s a reasonable request, no?

    What I’m in essence doing is asking us both to 1) define what is the Roman Catholic and Reformed paradigms are with respect to the rule of faith that we respectively use, and then 2) tell me how the claims that Athanasius makes against the Arians defends the Roman Catholic position. Doesn’t this kind of approach appeal to you? I would be very surprised if you said “no.” But If your answer is “yes,” then please take up my challenge.

    Just one more note – On sola scriptura, this term developed out of a debate that happened over a millennium after Athanasius. I’m trying to keep the discussion within the context of the times within Athanasius lived. Of course I think that he Reformers understanding of sola scriptura is fully compatible with Athanasius’ understanding of Scripture, but I don’t want to try to make Athanasius comment on a debate that happens many centuries after he dies.

    I’m on the road so it may take me a little to get to you, but I will get back to you if you answer.

    Cheers for now….

  5. @Kenneth —

    You can’t really site Dave Armstrong’s arguments. He doesn’t agree with your key notion that Protestants are “orthodox Christians”. He has always held that conservative Protestantism has 4 main branches and liberal Protestants more (though he doesn’t focus here). He mostly agrees with me that Protestantism doesn’t have much doctrinal content but rather has methodological content.

    Now if you just mean to site his biblical proof texts I’ll be happy to refute those but his broader and your’s conflict deeply.

  6. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    So my question to you is simply what methodology Athanasius used.

    This may strike at the root of the disconnect because I think that a Catholic would be hard pressed to say that there is such a thing as a “methodology” which Athanasius could have/would have used. Catholicism is an organic, cultural, personal dynamic; it is interrelational. Realities which are interrelational/interdependent don’t admit of methodologies. There’s no starting point except the Reality in itself.

    Catholics have tried to explain this many times and in many different ways, but it always seems to fall upon deaf ears. And this is why Catholics keep saying that Protestants refuse to approach Catholicism for what it, itself, says that it is. They keep asking questions that have no meaning within Catholicism.

    Just accept this about Catholicism and accept that you’re simply not going to get answers to the questions that you’re asking because they simply “do not compute” for Catholics. Once you accept this, then you can start approaching an understanding of Catholicism on its own terms. It will still be bizarre, of course, but maybe, less so. Instead of ‘bizarre’, just try thinking of us as ‘mysterious’ or ‘exotic’. Then maybe you guys can start thinking of new questions to ask, one’s that might have some cultural commonality and shed more light than heat.

  7. @Wosbald

    It would make things easy if Catholics didn’t make testable claims, things like methodologies. But Catholics do make such claims.

    They claim to be the church that Jesus founded. A historical claim.
    They claim to be the origin of other Christian sects. A historical claim.
    They claim to faithful to the bible. A hermeneutical claim.
    They claim to have a continuous tradition. A historical claim.
    They claim to have a church infallible on issues of morals. A historical / moral claim.
    They claim to have a church infallible on issues of practice. A historical claim.

    etc…

    Abandon those claims and make everything relative then sure the problem goes away. Imagine

    The Catholic church is the church founded by Jesus in a symbolic sense. In a historical sense other churches arose first and gave birth to Catholicism. Catholicism uses the bible symbolically as a springboard. It makes no claims to historical / critical accuracy. They claim to faithful to the bible. Catholicism has a continuous tradition which internally we consider development even though from an external critical sense development looks like contradiction and innovation. We posit a church infallible on issues of morals even but that’s a symbolic stance. In reality actual doctrines and practices as they exist, rather than in theory have often been gravely immoral.

    That sort of honesty and there would be nothing to debate.

  8. @Robert:

    Wrong again. Who is speaking in natural revelation but God? Who can give natural revelation but God? The difference is not the author but the medium and, sometimes, the content. Natural revelation gives us non-salvific revelation about God and His world. Special revelation gives us both non-salfvific revelation and salvific revelation.

    See, this is the sort of thing that belies your claim that your view of theology is just the same ordinary way that we know any other truth. I don’t think anyone is speaking in natural revelation; nature is not speech. That’s not a difference in medium or content but kind. And I don’t say to myself “is this piece of truth salvific?” before I decide whether I know something about nature. In fact, “salvific” and “non-salvific” are just made-up categories in this context. These are ad hoc artifacts of your theology, not principles. By contrast, I anchor my distinctions between, for example, special and general revelation in real properties, real difference between us and God. That is the difference between principled thinking about revelation and pulling things out of the air.

    We trust fallible authorities to interpret natural revelation accurately, so there is no trouble with trusting fallible authorities to interpret special revelation accurately. You do it all the time.

    Sure. I also know that I am incapable of knowing much about God’s nature using the same tools that I do to understand created nature, because God’s nature is utterly unlike any created nature. God has to tell me about Himself, and that’s why I can only rely on what is divinely authorized as a source of revelation and an object of faith.

    You trust and put your faith in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church even when it has not announced a de fide, infallible statement. You trust and put your faith in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church when it limits the priesthood in the Western rite to males only, even while recognizing that this might be a fallible teaching or at least one that is subject to change. I imagine you would say it was wrong for the Roman Church to burn heretics in ages past. Nevertheless, at the time, as a good Roman Catholic you would have put your faith in the Roman Church that it was dealing with heresy the best way it knew how.

    You’re equivocating on the term “faith.” Strictly speaking, I only give the assent of faith to otherwise-unknowable doctrines about God taught with infallible divine authority. I give obedience to the authority of the Church in other areas, but that hardly excludes that the authorities could be wrong or imprudent. There’s a more generic sense of “trust” and “faith” that might be covered by the latter concept, but that’s not faith in God.

    The fact that the church is fallible does not mean I cannot put my trust in her decrees. I trust Albert Einstein on Quantum Physics. But he is not infallible. I trust that the Spirit has been working in His church over the centuries to bring us to greater understanding. But I do not have to believe in ecclesiastical infallibility to trust the church.

    If you’re comfortable saying that you put the same degree of faith in Albert Einstein or the people in your ecclesial body that you do in God, then that’s fine. That’s essentially what the liberals say about the “historical Jesus,” so you would have company. But that isn’t appropriate for divine faith, because God is not like any of those things. To believe in God, you have to believe that He is infallible, that He cannot lie or err, meaning that you need to have that infallibility to believe He is speaking to you.

    The fact is that Special Revelation contains within itself the means by which to interpret it. Anyone can read the Bible honestly and see that it teaches that there is one God. Anyone can read the Bible honestly and see that it teaches the deity of Christ. I could go on. If you really think you can’t know those things or properly give a response of faith to such things without an infallible church pronouncement, then you have bigger problems.

    If special revelation isn’t certified by some infallible authority, then you can’t even know that it’s special revelation in the first place. And I don’t know how “anyone” can read the Bible and understand mysteries that are beyond human comprehension, like how God can be three-in-one or how God can become man, so it would appear that your claim is self-refuting. Fortunately, I don’t have those “bigger problems,” because I have an infallible authority on which to rely.

    You need to stop reading everything, including church teaching. You need to abandon all personal interpretation, which is impossible. You cannot escape your individuality, and you still must interpret in your own mind what Rome means in its teaching. As a thoughtful person, you will still remain Roman Catholic only insofar as you can agree with Roman teaching or at least read it in a way that overcomes your major intellectual objections to it.

    Fortunately, I am not exactly dependent on divine authority for most of the mundane things I do every day. Ordinary authorities do just fine, thank you very much. Nor am I particularly worried about God pulling the rug out from under me. As a thoughtful person, I would be worried if I had cause to be, such as if I was putting trust in something that couldn’t possibly be adequate for the task (such as a “divine authority” that is not fallible). But as you might have noticed, I don’t believe that to be the case.

    Measured by the same standards you and other Roman Catholics evaluate the practice of sola Scriptura, then you also devolve into solo Scriptura or solo Ecclesia.

    Everything I believe by faith is due to assent to an infallible divine authority, including everything that I cannot know about God by reason. You apparently believe all sorts of things about God that require divine revelation, but you have no infallible divine authority to certify them. You even admit that you don’t even claim to have such an authority. Measured by my standards, you have a problem that I don’t have.

    Scripture is revelatory to reason in itself by what it is, namely, literature that human beings have the capacity to interpret. We can know what it teaches. We cannot believe what it teaches apart from the Spirit’s work, but we can know what it teaches.

    Again, when Scripture teaches things about God that cannot be known by human reason, then we cannot know them. There’s no way you can know those things by definition. Therefore, unless you are denying that Scripture has any content of special revelation, so that its content is entirely knowable by reason and simply reproduces natural revelation, the first claim is false. If that is true and if you know what Scripture teaches, then there is no need to believe it; you know it. So you’ve made the Holy Spirit superfluous and removed the entire purpose of special revelation to boot. That’s what comes of confusing natural and special revelation.

    If you can only trust an authority when it is infallible, you won’t be able to be a very good Roman Catholic, since even Rome will say that not everything it teaches has been defined infallibly.

    I believe all sorts of things that are not taught infallibly. I just don’t put faith in things I can’t possibly know about God if those things aren’t taught infallibly.

    I’ll venture to speak for Andrew, and he can correct me if I’m wrong. We are not saying that Athanasius et al did not think the Alexandrian authorities were not real authorities or lacked authority. We are pressing that for Athanasius, the authority these men had was there’s only insofar as their teaching conformed to Scripture. Tradition outside of Scripture was a provisional, not absolute authority.

    As I said, there’s a term for “provisional” divine authority: not divine authority. “Provisional” and “absolute” are meaningless in this context. Here’s what Athanasius says about Alexander in the introduction to the Four Discourses against the Arians:
    when Alexander of blessed memory had cast out Arius, those who remained with Alexander, remained Christians; but those who went out with Arius, left the Saviour’s Name to us who were with Alexander, and as to them they were hence-forward denominated Arians. Behold then, after Alexander’s death too, those who communicate with his successor Athanasius, and those with whom the said Athanasius communicates, are instances of the same rule; none of them bear his name, nor is he named from them, but all in like manner, and as is usual, are called Christians. For though we have a succession of teachers and become their disciples, yet, because we are taught by them the things of Christ, we both are, and are called, Christians all the same.

    Do you think Athanasius thought the “things of Christ” were errors? Oh, but maybe he was talking about Scripture. Nope. We can just back up a paragraph or two:
    nay, that those who call these men Christians are in great and grievous error, as neither having studied Scripture, nor understanding Christianity at all, and the faith which it contains.

    Wow, that looks an awful lot like two divine authorities, and we haven’t even gotten out of the introduction!

    Apparently, Rome believes that an authority cannot be a true authority unless it is an absolute, infallible authority. If that is so, then Rome fails its own standards because it does not admit infallibility for everything it teaches

    Since I only believe infallibility is a requirement for special revelation, you need to find another tree to climb. Since you, by contrast, don’t seem to believe that infallibility is required for God’s statements about Himself, I think you’ve got a somewhat larger problem.

  9. What I’m in essence doing is asking us both to 1) define what is the Roman Catholic and Reformed paradigms are with respect to the rule of faith that we respectively use, and then 2) tell me how the claims that Athanasius makes against the Arians defends the Roman Catholic position. Doesn’t this kind of approach appeal to you? I would be very surprised if you said “no.” But If your answer is “yes,” then please take up my challenge.

    Just one more note – On sola scriptura, this term developed out of a debate that happened over a millennium after Athanasius. I’m trying to keep the discussion within the context of the times within Athanasius lived. Of course I think that he Reformers understanding of sola scriptura is fully compatible with Athanasius’ understanding of Scripture, but I don’t want to try to make Athanasius comment on a debate that happens many centuries after he dies.

    Irony, thy name is Andrew.

    I don’t see any reason why you would think that I’m creating a dichotomy. I’m just asking you to tell me what the basis for Athanasius’ understanding of the Trinity was. What is his source of authority?

    Based on the passage I quoted above, he recognizes at least two. Based on my earlier quotes from De Decretis, it’s more like three. Since you are limited to one, you have to introduce a dichotomy between them, but you never showed anywhere where Athanasius does this.

    You and I both believe that the Trinity, as this doctrine is defined at Nicea, is true, but we use different methods to get to this same conclusion. So my question to you is simply what methodology Athanasius used.

    I agree with you that it’s anachronistic to try to put the Catholic paradigm on top of Athanasius. He recognizes three authorities that Catholicism also recognizes (Scripture, Tradition, and ecumenical councils of the Magisterium), but he doesn’t recognize everything that a Catholic would. But since he recognizes any authority more than one, which he does before even getting out of the introduction of the Four Discourses, you’re finished early.

    And as in my question to Jonathan (which I and other have asked him a number of times with no answer), what does Athanasius have to say? I really would be interested in you quoting Athanasius on this matter as he addresses the Arians and giving me your understanding of what Athanasius is saying. I think that’s a reasonable request, no?

    Jason did, just as I did earlier. Athanasius recognizes authorities other than Scripture as being of the faith. If he does that in even one case, sola scriptura is defeated. Athanasius does this, and Kelly confirms it. If we can just all get on the same page that the Fathers rejected sola scriptura, which is a historical fact, then there’s a basis for a discussion of what the authority of Scripture actually is and why it is not incoherent to say that Scripture can be in some sense a higher authority while still being co-equal with others in terms of being infallible divine authorities. But that requires first the honest recognition that what they believed is not what Protestants believed.

  10. CD

    so your alleging that the “correct” interpretation is that an angel had a “sister” that was the holy spirit? Which had the same dimensions as giant angel son of God? That doesn’t seem like a very Jewish interpretation to me. That sounds like Gnostic nonsense. Btw naming it “nonsense” isn’t name calling. Certain sects don’t last because their worldview can’t compete in the marketplace of ideas. There are simply to many holes and unanswerable questions. All sects are not equal.

    I’m not just arbitrarily “picking” a sub group. The catholic faith has biblical and historical claims that compete better in the market place of ideas than the alternatives. There has always been a litany of competing claims when it comes to the biggest questions. The bottom line is that all ideas are not equal and we shouldn’t have to deal with every goofy claim to AS that pops up. Your “muddying the waters” again more than is necessary.

    Dave Armstrong (who corresponds with me frequently via email) would agree with me that what separates mainstream (or orthodox) Christianity from cults is a belief in the trinity and basic Christian dogmas that were defined in the earliest centuries. Perhaps Dave doesn’t consider protestants as “ultimately” orthodox as they variate from Marian doctrines and the real presence etc…. But they still share with Catholics the majority of our faith. Scott Hahn would say that mainline protestant denominations agree with about 90% of catholic teaching and only disagree with a fairly significant 10%. Huge difference between that and giant son of god angels with giant sisters named the holy spirit.

    Cardinal Newmans test for development might not pass your standards (which are seriously called into question at this point) but they have been largely applauded and admitted as “genius” by even the most staunch anti-catholic commentators. I can’t help but notice throughout all of our dialog and back and forth you have yet to present a single solitary alternative to early belief in AS being the most reasonable explanation for the unity and survival of orthodox Christianity. Until you can provide one I must say my argument is rock solid

    1. Orthodox Christianity could not have survived without an early belief in AS

    2. Orthodox Christianity did survive

    3. Therefore early Christians must have believes in AS

  11. Jonathan,

    I’ll reply to your more lengthy comment later, but here is something you said to Andrew:

    Athanasius recognizes authorities other than Scripture as being of the faith. If he does that in even one case, sola scriptura is defeated.

    This is an ambiguous statement, the “of the faith” part. But Protestants recognize other authorities of being of the faith—the church, creeds and confessions, teachers living and dead. The only thing we impute infallibility to, however, is Scripture.

    Sola Scriptura stands regardless of what Athanasius believed specifically. But, again, you have not provided any evidence that Athanasius believed that the church was infallible or possessed an authority equal to that of Scirpture. A quote that says the non-Arians had a succession of teachers who taught them the things of Christ proves absolutely nothing. I follow a succession of teachers that has taught me the things of Christ. It does not follow that said succession is infallible or of equal authority to Scripture.

  12. @Kenneth —
    (part 1)

    so your alleging that the “correct” interpretation is that an angel had a “sister” that was the holy spirit? Which had the same dimensions as giant angel son of God? That doesn’t seem like a very Jewish interpretation to me. That sounds like Gnostic nonsense

    I doubt you know much Judaism then. This imagery of giant angels is all over the Talmud. The use of giant size to represent supernatural is rather common. Even the legends of the original human Adam being 1000 cubits tall and then reduced as the shorter angels complained to make him sorter than all the angels. The watchers, the giants are so tall not from their human parents but from their angelic parents. “Gnostic nonsense” like that quite often is apocalyptic and occultic Judaism, and that’s what early Christianity came from. Gnostic Judaism was a form of Hellenistic Judaism. Early Christians were people writing in Greek about Jewish variants. This kind of ignorance wouldn’t exist in a sect that was directly connected to Judaism.

    . Btw naming it “nonsense” isn’t name calling. Certain sects don’t last because their worldview can’t compete in the marketplace of ideas. There are simply to many holes and unanswerable questions.

    So your claim is that when sects lose in the marketplace of ideas that indicates structural problems. So for example when Catholicism got crushed by Islam in the marketplace of ideas all throughout the middle east and Africa that was evidence of holes in its worldview? Or when Catholicism got pushed out of England by Henry VIII that had do to with problems in its worldview?

    I happen to agree with that theory. I don’t think the early forms of Christianity could have survived outside of their 1st century Jewish environment. Catholicism was a reaction to and a solution to the need to create a form of Christianity which could survive in the “marketplace of ideas” of the 2nd and later centuries. But that theory denies the reality of Apostolic Succession. You can’t have both.

    Now incidentally under this theory Collyridian Christianity which also rejected Apostolic Succession and evolved into Islam suddenly becomes very important. If Collyridianism is important than Encratite Christianity which is what Collyridianism evolved from becomes very important because they are the form of Christianity which does have a notion of Apostolic Succession and one that is very different from the Catholic one. More importantly they are more likely to have been the group that first emphasized the key role of the apostles. So then suddenly you have two very different notion of Apostolic Succession and both are equally important since they both were successful in the marketplace of ideas.

  13. @Kenneth (part 2)

    I’m not just arbitrarily “picking” a sub group. The catholic faith has biblical and historical claims that compete better in the market place of ideas than the alternatives.

    No. That’s called selection bias. If I deal out 10 2 card Hold’em hands, and then deal out the 5 common cards one of those 2 card hands will win (excluding infrequent ties). Certainly “better hands” have a better chance of winning than worse hands. AA has a 40% chance while 27 off-suit has under 1% chance. But choosing the hand after the fact is very different than choosing before. More importantly, before the common cards were dealt there really are 10 poker hands not one, not just the hand that happened to win.

    More importantly you are mixing up something more complex. Gnostics saw themselves as individuals forming a fellowship. They were part of a movement, a movement which sometimes formed sects for organization. They had no desire or interest to form a religion and deal with the vast majority of people for whom religion was merely a familial / civic duty. They wanted to be part of a religious structure originally Judaism, later Marcionic Christianity, Catholicism, Neo-Platonism…. Gnosticism was always a movement for a spiritual elite. Marcionic Christianity helped to stabilize it, but the focus was still on a very high commitment subgroup; so the children of believers many times are not in the sect. Catholicism really was the first Christian sect that genuinely even tried to create the basis for a mainstream religion that could function for many generations. It is not shocking that if any Christian sect continued to exist Catholicism would be that sect.

    Apostolic Succession makes claims to being first. It doesn’t make claims to being the first stable. Those are two very different claims.

    There has always been a litany of competing claims when it comes to the biggest questions. The bottom line is that all ideas are not equal and we shouldn’t have to deal with every goofy claim to AS that pops up.

    That’s you name calling. You do have to deal with historical Christianity as it existed and it evolved if you want to make historical claims. You have every right to hate Gnostic, Marcionic / Encratite Christianity, Collyridian Christianity… you have no right to pretend they don’t exist. You are entitled to your opinion, you are not entitled to your own facts.

    If you want to make claims about history you don’t get to change it. I may not like the Nazis that doesn’t mean the World War II didn’t happen and there really weren’t two sides. The fact that the Allies continue to exist in a developed form the UN and the G8 while the Axis powers are gone does not mean the Axis didn’t exist. Similarly you cannot talk about a unified Christianity when you want to write off almost all (and possibly all) the Christian sects and the overwhelming majority (if not all) of the existent Christians as not being Christian at all.

    Your “muddying the waters” again more than is necessary.

    No. I’m talking history not fiction. The mud is reality.

  14. @Kenneth (part 3)

    Dave Armstrong (who corresponds with me frequently via email) would agree with me that what separates mainstream (or orthodox) Christianity from cults is a belief in the trinity and basic Christian dogmas that were defined in the earliest centuries. Perhaps Dave doesn’t consider protestants as “ultimately” orthodox as they variate from Marian doctrines and the real presence etc…. But they still share with Catholics the majority of our faith. Scott Hahn would say that mainline protestant denominations agree with about 90% of catholic teaching and only disagree with a fairly significant 10%. Huge difference between that and giant son of god angels with giant sisters named the holy spirit.

    I’m not sure the numbers are really that high. Suppose I were to take the CCC and break it into statements and write corresponding Gnostic statements and then ask what people believe (not theologians but actual mainline Protestants).

    Do you believe that people who are not a member of the Church are eternally tortured? (Catholicism)
    Do you believe that your eternal marriage will be with a soul mate and not merely someone whom you had material sex with? (Gnosticism)
    Do you believe in a bodily resurrection? (Catholicism)
    Do you believe in a spiritual salvation where you are redeemed into full unity with God (Gnosticism)

    or lets even take parts of Apostolic succession

    Do you believe that Jesus confers spiritual powers to people through a process of touch (Catholic)
    Do you believe that Jesus passed on knowledge and a method for salvation that you can learn (Gnostic)

    You really sure you would get anywhere near 90%? I wouldn’t be too shocked if Gnosticism already does better than Catholicism. I know lots of mainline Protestants they ain’t anywhere near 90% orthodox in their theology. Not remotely. It is possible it still comes out 60/40 in favor of Catholicism that Mainline Protestants are still closer to Catholicism than Gnosticism. That’s not shocking. Mainline Protestants evolved out of Catholicism. Protestantism has been slowly drifting back towards Gnosticism over the last four centuries but it has been very slow. Gnosticism is not stable, it can’t exist as a religion generation after generation after generation. Protestants are trying to simultaneously be authentic to the religion of the New Testament (many parts of which are pre-Catholic) and at the same time create a stable religion. That isn’t an easy project.

    Hitting on the topic of the other thread I think the Reformed movement has been and is an anchor for Protestants doctrinally. They themselves are getting dragged by under toe and becoming more Gnostic. The idea that actual physical water involved in an actual rite can play no role in salvation is getting pretty darn close to believing actual physical water belongs to God the Creator not God the Father and thus it can’t possibly have spiritual power (help you be saved towards God the Father). Are they there yet, no. Are they moving in that direction, yes. This generation of evangelicals is the first generation to meaningfully reject a core creedal doctrine (bodily resurrection). What is the effect on even confessional conservative Protestant the most orthodox when the membership refuse to believe the creeds? Phillip Lee has a good book on this.

    Cardinal Newmans test for development might not pass your standards (which are seriously called into question at this point) but they have been largely applauded and admitted as “genius” by even the most staunch anti-catholic commentators.

    I know lots of people who have all sorts of problems with Catholicism and they don’t speak highly of Newman. You know who speaks highly of Newman? Catholics. Protestants reject the idea of a continuous church tradition as being authoritative. That was one of Luther’s central points in the Reformation. Anglicans were historical more torn because they were attempting to not adopt Luther and thus they had a greater tolerance for tradition and development. Moreover they had to justify their own changes as being “development” and not blatant schism directed by political authorities. But at this point high church / low church issues have given way to conservative / liberal issues. So I don’t even hear Newman mentioned much by Anglicans.

    Regardless my issue with Newman was not this his test was bad but that Catholics don’t abide by it. Catholics are only willing to pay lip service to Newman’s ideas.

    I can’t help but notice throughout all of our dialog and back and forth you have yet to present a single solitary alternative to early belief in AS being the most reasonable explanation for the unity and survival of orthodox Christianity. Until you can provide one I must say my argument is rock solid

    I provided one in my last post and several other times. Orthodox Christianity didn’t survive. It was created and then evolved. Nothing unusual happened in the development of Christianity that doesn’t normally happen in the evolution of successful religions. Where there are early large divergences like Arianism you deny historical fact. Where are early large divergences that you can’t deny, like the existence of Islam, you deny their importance. The tremendous continuity you see comes from backdating your theology and distorting history to further solidify your claim. There is no tremendous unity.

    Let’s remember how this conversation started. It started with you making very broad claims about how orthodox Christians all unified instantly when an ecumenical council spoke and doctrine was continuous I think you even cited Arians as as example. Then confronted with the fact there were councils on both sides and the Catholic / Trinitarian councils weren’t binding on a good chunk of the planet for millions of Christians for centuries you had a problem because the evidence of history was showing the exact opposite of what you wanted to claim. Now normally this would make a person pause. And say something like “well if the evidence is showing the opposite of my theory maybe my theory is wrong”.

    And I honestly think you need to read on the Arian controversy some non propaganda. And think about what really happened and how huge regions of Europe did not go along with “orthodoxy” and there was no unity. But that’s not what you did. You wanted to maintain the pretense that this was not just a serious doctrinal disagreement whose eventual winner was determined by the Roman empire you wanted to roll it back to Arianism and Trinitarianism not being coequal because Trinitarianism was part of the apostolic deposit. This is question begging on a thread about Apostolic succession. But more importantly you end uo jumping from the frying pan of 4th century divergences from orthodoxy to the fire of 1st century when there is no orthodoxy. Now you are horrified to discover that early Christians were Jews and believed in Judaism not Catholicism. The Arians are far closer to your beliefs than anyone in the 1st century.

    Apostolic Succession was a doctrine that formed in the 2nd century in response to Christian diversity. It appears to have been invented in a limited form by Marcion / Encratites against Gnosticism and quickly adopted by Catholics as a tool against 2nd century prophetic movements. If you want to say it was an important part of what created the unity of orthodoxy, I can agree with that. But it didn’t preserve anything.

  15. CD-Host

    Where do you find evidence for this:

    This generation of evangelicals is the first generation to meaningfully reject a core creedal doctrine (bodily resurrection)

    I think most modern American professing evangelicals are ignorant of the final resurrection, just as they are ignorant of the creeds in large measure. But who is rejecting it?

  16. @Robert

    Ohio university did a survey I believe in 2005 if memory serves (link is dead) of orthodox Christian ideas in the general population. So they surveyed functional adults : Hindus, Jews, lapsed Christians, as well as conservative Christians on Christian theology and found pretty high levels of acceptance of most Christian ideas. So for example only 1/4 of Americans are Conservative Protestants but 63% believe Jesus resurrected (97% of evangelicals). Their interest was the degree to which America was still a Christian country and that most people accepted most Evangelical theology on most issues.

    The one exception was bodily resurrection which almost completely rejected including by Christians (evangelicals). They could only get the number up to 36% and that was with using terms like “I believe in a bodily resurrection”. If they used any other language to describe the doctrine, “I believe all Christians will have their body restored in the future” the numbers plunge. 59% of regularly church attending Evangelicals agreed on the bodily resurrection question, slightly below 50% if you include not regularly attending. Note that 72% of Americans did believe in an afterlife and were untroubled by that notion. There is very common belief in a spiritual resurrection.

    After Ohio’s study it became of more interest to evangelical research groups since this was an outlier. Barna has done a few surveys and found similar results. Al Mohler talks about this one a lot (which is who I learned about it from) because Americans tend to answer surveys in ways that demonstrate a greater correlation with orthodox Christianity than they actual have. So he suspects the number is in practice a lot lower. His push has been to change Christian funeral liturgies to make it clear the dead are in heaven awaiting a resurrection not in heaven as their permanent place.

    I can link to a newspaper article from the original Scripps press release though it is not terribly helpful:

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=20060412&id=LYw1AAAAIBAJ&sjid=qggGAAAAIBAJ&pg=6915,3499992

    What’s interesting on this topic is that Christians more and more don’t seem to even understand this is the orthodox faith, “In a radical departure from traditional belief, Wright says that Christians are not ultimately destined for a spiritual place called heaven. He says that at the end of time as we know it, God will literally remake our physical bodies and return us to a newly restored planet ” (http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=4330823 )

  17. +JMJ+

    Sorry, CD, I’m not ignoring you, but your response to me seems to be unrelated to my point. Besides, it seems that you are of a separate historiological school than am I, so I’m not even sure whether we could find any common ground for a profitable discussion in the historical arena.

  18. @ WOSBALD

    Before you were making a claim that there isn’t an objective standard, “Realities which are interrelational/interdependent don’t admit of methodologies. There’s no starting point except the Reality in itself“. I was pointing out there are objective historical and moral claims claims that can be tested outside the reality. There is a starting point. Lots of them in fact.

  19. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    Before you were making a claim that there isn’t an objective standard, “Realities which are interrelational/interdependent don’t admit of methodologies. There’s no starting point except the Reality in itself“.

    I was simply explaining that there was no Catholic “methodology” that Athanasius would have used since he was inside the Church Reality; he would have started from the Reality in itself. I’m simply giving a window into the Catholic worldview. Take it FWIW.

    CD-Host wrote:

    I was pointing out there are objective historical and moral claims claims that can be tested outside the reality. There is a starting point. Lots of them in fact.

    As I said, I don’t believe that we share historiological schools, so, an historical discussion would seem to be a dead end. A Philosophy of History discussion might be interesting, but would be outside the scope of this thread.

  20. @Robert:
    You’ve identified the issue, but it’s not an ambiguity. An authority cannot be “of the faith” and still fallible for the reasons I gave above. When Athanasius is talking about the faith, he doesn’t mean it like you mean it. That’s why he appeals to the “ecclesiastical scope” or the “faith” as a necessary guide to avoiding erroneous interpretation of Scripture (see, e.g., Discourse 3 against the Arians 29.58), and numerous “exegetical” arguments use these faith tenets as principles of interpretation rather than proving them from Scripture.

    I recognize that you believe the “things of Christ” you learn from teachers are fallible, but that’s you eisegeting your alien view into the text. Athanasius didn’t hold that view; his entire strategy of argumentation would be senseless if he did.

    You correctly summarize the disputed premise: that Protestants believe that fallible authorities can be “of the faith.” But you haven’t given any argument for how this is possible, and you certainly haven’t given an argument for Athanasius sharing that dubious belief. I have given an argument both for why the disputed premise is incoherent and for why Athanasius denies it. Yet you and Andrew M. both continue to assert the disputed premise as if it has some sort of intellectual viability simply because conservative Protestants claim that it does. Nonsense doesn’t cease to be nonsense simply because groupthink falls in line behind it. “Protestants believe X” is just autobiography unless there is a principled reason for believing X.

  21. “Apostolic Succession was a doctrine that formed in the 2nd century in response to Christian diversity. It appears to have been invented in a limited form by Marcion / Encratites against Gnosticism and quickly adopted by Catholics as a tool against 2nd century prophetic movements. If you want to say it was an important part of what created the unity of orthodoxy, I can agree with that. But it didn’t preserve anything.”

    I do want to say that it was important in creating the unity of orthodoxy and I am happy you will concede as much. Of course I disagree that it was an “invention” and not a preservation but that is another topic altogether.

    As tempting as it is to go back and forth with you CD host I would rather just give you the last word and move on! Thank you for taking so much time to respond to my challenges and questions. I will keep you in my prayers

  22. Nonsense doesn’t cease to be nonsense simply because groupthink falls in line behind it. “Protestants believe X” is just autobiography unless there is a principled reason for believing X.

    This is particularly rich… The insistence upon and imposition of the ‘principled reason’ premise that is utterly foreign to the semitic background of the faith.

    1 Kings 14

    “8 I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart , doing only what was right in my eyes. 9 You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me.

    10 “‘ Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. 11 Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country. The Lord has spoken!’”

    I guess Ahijah the prophet didn’t get the memo. Afterall, being a good catholic, Jeroboam should have retorted “What principled means and reason do you have to cast judgment upon me? Have I not been appointed by God and don’t you know that my sin therefore cannot nullify my reign?” But curiously, this appeal seems absent from the course of events.

    It will be argued in response (as has been done by Michael L et al) that this was Israel, and they had no principled means of deciding what was divine revelation or not. A stunning and priceless admission/concession, because this opens the door to unmasking the philosophical constraint for the deception and illusion that it is. Paul in Romans 11 tells us that the gentile church is grafted INTO the natural branches, i.e., those ethnic Jews who believe in Messiah. Therefore, it is impossible to argue that there has been a paradigm shift such that If anything the old paradigm is now magnified even further; Paul reminds us if they have been cut off, we gentiles can just as easily if not more easily be cut off too.

    “17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

    No paradigm change at all. Waving the ‘principled means’ wand can look and sound impressive, but it is essentially a meaningless act.

  23. SS,

    Your comment, I am assuming, attempts to argue that when religious leaders become sinful, they are no longer endowed with the authority which exists when someone enters into the office of leadership? And by this I am assuming throws out any claim to authority which at the same time does not show the worthiness of the authority.

    Let me give you an example: A guy really loves the bible, he goes to seminary, zealously lives a holy life, gets married to very holy and godly wife, spends 10 years in seminary obtaining a phD in ministry, all the while he plants a church and calls himself the planter and pastor. The Church is extremely strict in discipline, constantly excommunicating members who do not submit to the authority of the Pastor. The entry requirements are strict obedience to the laws of Jesus Christ. The Church is a reformed baptist church and condemns the majority of Christians in the world under the title of “Easy Believism”. Eventually the Pastor is excommunicated himself and then gets arrested for child molestation. The Pastor worked really hard to ordain men under him, so when he left a new pastor was voted in who believes the same way of the previous pastor. The stress is holiness, righteousness, and evangelism. If you do not evanglize on a consistent basis you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, and could be subject to the disciple of the church (matthew 18). If you do not attend small group your life is questions and your love for Jesus is also questioned. Eventually many of the members desire to leave to attend a different church and attend another local baptist church that is a bit calmer. Then the two churches rival each other on who is obeying Christ more or less. …

    Do you see where I am going? Is this the alternative that we are supposed to seek after? Or total seclusion?

  24. Erick,

    Are you catholic now?

    The alternative you are supposed to seek after you find in the book of Acts, especially chapter 2 and 15. If they did it, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, what keeps us from doing it?

  25. Roman Catholics,

    SS is right: “No paradigm change at all. Waving the ‘principled means’ wand can look and sound impressive, but it is essentially a meaningless act.”

    Peter didn’t ask for principled means in the form of a visible infallible body to identify Christ as Messiah.
    Paul didn’t.
    Abraham didn’t.
    David didn’t.
    Mary didn’t.

    But they all did have a Word from God that they were able to recognized apart from this imposition of “principled means.”

    And you are still pushing things back a step anyway. What is the principled means by which you can recognize the infallible body? Would that means not have to be a visible infallible body as well? Why not? Why do I not need a visible infallible body to give me a principled means of recognizing Rome as the visible infallible body that points me to special revelation?

    Thousands of words later, this CTC apologetic is still a tale told in sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  26. @SS:
    If the “semitic background of the faith” were adequate, the Incarnation would have been unnecessary. You’re focused on the broken shell when the egg has already hatched.

  27. SS,

    As you can probably sense I am on quite a bit of a journey. I am currently attending an Anglican Church part of the Anglican Province of America, which has no affiliation with the Church of England, and is very Catholic in doctrine and theology, holding to the 7 sacraments. It is quite an Anglo-Catholic Church.

    However, I see myself moving along in my journey, but still hitting barriers here and there. I see that many of my barriers are brought down through constant dialogue with Catholics and non-catholics as well as engaging with my own refutations and arguments against catholicism.

    What I was trying to demonstrate to you is a real life scenario. It is a life experience for me. I am a former reformed baptist, remember ? The hypothetical situation I posed is actually a true story.

    You have a man who is exciting with zeal for God and Jesus Christ and wants to plant a church. He goes to Seminary and is taught ultra-dispensationalism, denying the need for baptism and repentance for gentiles, bashing calvinists and calling them heretics, to being a strong pentecostal, to then condemning pentecostals, to being a reformed baptist who is now calvinistic who now condemns arminians. This is all within the time range of his office as pastor of a church. The church falls apart on one occasion with the shift from accepting pentecostal doctrine to being more evangelical, and the church goes through one controvery after another with certain excommunicated members, some who were excommunicated for questionable things. The emphasis on holiness was primary. The insistence on the danger of God’s wrath for a failure to live meticulously holy was frequent. And it was not a dark church at all, many of the people there were very happy and loving. However, in and all through this it was a common view to think that those who call themselves christians but who do not evangelize on a consistent basis are not saved themselves, if one does not attend small group their intentions for Jesus are questioned. If the members do not submit to the Elders authority, discsipline ensues. But then the Pastor himself is excommunicated, He himself tries to plant his own church, then there are people leaving the church to go to another baptist church, then there is a dispute between the two churches over the respect for the authority of the first excommunicating church over the church which excepts excommunicated people and restores them, etc,etc,etc…. And all the while the people themselves are following through which these major shifts in theology and practice.

    This church loved the principle that a leader must be holy and that if not he has no authority to be a pastor. So what do they do? They appoint someone else. And if it happens again. They appoint somone else. Until the Church splits and dies off….This is the issue with self-appointed leadership. Are we to turn to this? This particular church was always talking about becoming an “ACTS CHURCH” forcusing on Acts 2, etc,etc. Obvisouly the church is anti-catholic, anti-anglican, mocks and ridicules arminianism, constantly goes door- to-door bringing people out of other “false churches” (even baptist) who do not preach repentance and the necessity of a holy life, openly separates themselves from the wider body of Christ world-wide. They believe in the invisibility of the Elect people of God, essentially no way to identify the true Church.

    This happens many times when people with a holy zeal appoint themselves…with good intentions.

    But the other alternative is absolute seclusion. The hope that God will be pleased with my own holiness of life in isolation. Of course there will have to be an argument for this.

  28. Robert,

    Peter, James, Paul, and Mary had the form of the miraculous revelation of angels, Jesus, the voice of the Father from heaven, the testimony of the resurrection, the privelage of studying under the special communication of Jesus Christ.

    What we are here dealing with is a majorly post-apostolic church which the apostles themselves did not initially even know was to exist….

  29. @Robert:
    Are you suggesting that Christ Himself was not visible or infallible? Or that David and Abraham and Mary received no visible signs from God? Now if you thought that God was speaking to you or to your acquaintances in this fashion, maybe you would have a principled reason as well. But I doubt that you think that, and I would probably be a little worried if you did.

  30. @Erick Ybarra

    What we are here dealing with is a majorly post-apostolic church which the apostles themselves did not initially even know was to exist….

    Which of course creates a real problem for apostolic succession since under the Catholic theory the institution and the bureaucracy formed under Jesus. Whatever was missing, the apostles were commission to form an institution. So you can’t have them have them running around having near term apocalyptic expectations.

    Mind you I happen to think you are on the right track but that view isn’t agreeing with AS.

  31. The hypothetical situation I posed is actually a true story.

    Erick,

    I have to step out for a few hours. Will be back later to share some thoughts on your post above.

    If the “semitic background of the faith” were adequate, the Incarnation would have been unnecessary. You’re focused on the broken shell when the egg has already hatched.

    JP,

    Non sequitur through and through. He is King of the Jew as well as of the Gentile. The point was that the gentile does not get to play by his own rules, but is grafted into the already existing olive tree.

  32. @Erick —

    Those churches you are describing sound close to the ones I was raised in. It is nice to see someone else talking about the conservative Protestant reality what it really looks like in the field.

    OK so I agree with your descriptions. The churches you are talking about are centered around a dynamic pastor, they don’t have a diversified group of elders capable of holding him in check. It is a one off church dependent on charisma of that pastor.

    So…. I’m missing the big problem. That kind of church is unlikely to survive much past the pastor leaving and as you mentioned is fairly unstable even when he is there. So _______ (fill in the blank)?

  33. CD-Host,

    I am very familiar with Churches like this, and I believe it is one of the inevitable outcomes of self-appointed and isolated authority. Do you think that anyone called a pastor has the right to appoint himself to the office of Bishop? All the while initially believing in heresies left and right, to arriving to a stage of doctrinal transformation that no one can nail to the wall, and then eventually being excommunicated. The following leadership is then voted in by the very same people who had been indoctrinated by the excommunicated pastor.

    With regard to the apostles, St. Peter expected the arrival of Jesus Christ back from heaven even in his lifetime (Acts 2-3). He tells Israel to repent and turn to God “that He might send Jesus Christ whom heaven must receive until the times of the restoration of all things”. In other words, St. Peter was not expecting a 2,000 year delay for the coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it took time for the apostles to realize that there would be the need for an episcopate following their death. St. Clement of Rome compares the Episcopate to the consecration of the levitical priesthood. Just as God had selected one tribe among the Israelist to be the God-appointed religious governers of the priesthood, so also God, through the apostles, ordained the government of the Christ religion, as in the religion of Moses, with special conditions. These conditions are explained in terms of filling the office of a previously appointed Bishop, following back in time to either one of the apostles or one of their co-laborers.

    Another thing we must keep in mind is that Apostolic succession is an article of faith, not of historical fact alone which requires historical evidence alone. If you read Ephesians 4, Christ ascended into heaven in order to be the head of the Church and to fill all things in His body. So the real government of the Church begins with Christ’s ascension where he then bestows “gifts” (Ephesians 4) upon human beings (not just a book to read) that will provide the service to the body which will then cause the growth and strength that is needed for the catholic body of Christ to grow up into all things, to the unity of the faith in the son of God. St. Paul spoke about one of these gifts to St. Timothy “Do not neglect the spiritual gift which is in you which was bestowed upon you by the prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery” (1 Tim 4:14). If we take this talk seriously, then we will respect the greek words dia and meta the same way it is used in Paul, and that is that there are realities going on here. If we are justified through the blood of Christ (Rom 5:8-9), and the through actually means something, then when St. Paul says that St. Timothy was given a gift through the laying on of hands, then something really happened here. And since Jesus CHrist Himself stands as the Head of the Church in his glorious throne, he has the right to govern his church in this way. Therefore apostolic succession is a matter of faith, just as the rest of the gospel of our dear Lord.

  34. Do you think that anyone called a pastor has the right to appoint himself to the office of Bishop?

    The kind of churches you are talking about don’t in any meaningful sense have Bishops. They have a local church and the authority doesn’t extend beyond the local church.

    All the while initially believing in heresies left and right, to arriving to a stage of doctrinal transformation that no one can nail to the wall, and then eventually being excommunicated.

    Well that’s a bit extreme.

    In other words, St. Peter was not expecting a 2,000 year delay for the coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it took time for the apostles to realize that there would be the need for an episcopate following their death. St. Clement of Rome compares the Episcopate to the consecration of the levitical priesthood. Just as God had selected one tribe among the Israelist to be the God-appointed religious governers of the priesthood,

    That’s the kind of thing that makes believe that St. Clement had no idea what he was talking about with regard to Judaism. The Levitical Priesthood was in charge of the sacrificial cult, they didn’t exercise religious rule at all. I’ve talked about this before and it is one of the reasons I consider Catholicism anti-biblical in that it conflates the office of priest with offices like teacher. Teachers of the law should not be the people in charge of the rituals they are different people and different criteria.

    I know this is a tangent but it is a major point of disagreement.

    so also God, through the apostles, ordained the government of the Christ religion, as in the religion of Moses, with special conditions. These conditions are explained in terms of filling the office of a previously appointed Bishop, following back in time to either one of the apostles or one of their co-laborers.

    God ordains a government for his religion that is outlined in the earliest books of the old testament and carries through the new. The system that was put in place by the Catholic Church afterwards bears no resemblance to the divine ordained system, it is a blatant rejection of it.

    Another thing we must keep in mind is that Apostolic succession is an article of faith, not of historical fact alone which requires historical evidence alone. If you read Ephesians 4, Christ ascended into heaven in order to be the head of the Church and to fill all things in His body.

    And look at the offices established in Eph 4: apostles (those to send forth), prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. I don’t see the Catholic offices there there is an entirely different list of offices.

    to the unity of the faith in the son of God.

    henotes (what you are calling unity) has an implication of unity through agreement not unity through dictate. If I coerce or bribe someone that is not henotes. Thy have to honestly agree. So even this verse works against the Catholic position of unconditional submission.

    And since Jesus CHrist Himself stands as the Head of the Church in his glorious throne, he has the right to govern his church in this way.

    Of course he has the right to govern the church in this way. It isn’t Jesus’ rights that are in question. The question is about the Catholic Church’s rights to construct a system contrary to the Bible we have.

  35. CD-Host,

    I never said that the Levitical priesthood would bear the exact same form as the religious episcopate of Jesus Christ. I just said that St. Clement uses the principle and concept of ordained order as was in the formation of the Old Priesthood to then form his argumentation for the officers of the episcopate not elligible to be cast out of offce. Of course, St. Clement puts conditions to the permanence of one’s office, and it is assumed that a Bishop who is in grave sin can be ejected from that office.

    St. Clement argues that the Apostles knew that there would be a question to the government of the Church after their death. That is the initial thought whether we like it or not. Having known that there would be bickering about who and what and how the Church of Christ should be governed, the Apostles appointed Bishops to be the overseers of the future believers and made dictated that other men should succeed to their office.

    Notice that this supposed structure of men being appointed to succeed the successors of the apostles cannot suppress the original problem of bickering, which was the original cause of the dictation, if indeed the episcopate was open to just any person who wishes to become an ordained minister of Christ’s Church. If St. Clement, and presumably the apostles, desired the question of the Church’s government to be answered upon and following their death, whatever structure they left for their disciples cannot be open to re-construction, re-engineering, and post demolition construction.

    When someone denies apostolic succession, they are in effect figuratively going back in time and responding to the apostles with the following “Yeahhhhhh……well that was not going to work….”. In other words, with every reformation which splits from the heirarchy of apostolic succession answers the question to the episcopacy with an answer that is contradictory to the apostles, according to St. Clement, for it leaves indefinitely open the question of who and how and what governs the people of God in post-apostolic times. Your service is counter-active of the apostolic schematic. If indeed this is what you are doing, then you must believe that this recollection of St. Clement was not a fixed inflexible rule but rather an accidental suggestion based on good conditions which can be subject to change given the conditions go wrong. In effect, you are the new apostles giving a new answer to the question of who and what and how the Church will be goverened in our post-apostolic times.

    The very best you can go with this is to convince people of your own holiness and intelligence with communicating the truth of Jesus Christ and begin your own religion.

    This is exactly the task that was understaken with Dr. Luther, John Calvin, the English reformers, and the anabaptists. They in effect gave different answers to these questions and knew they would have to justify their actions. The only justification is that they “felt” that God willed the Church to go in the direction into which they were moving it.

    What principle do you have to provide unity amongst the body of Christ? What gift (Ephesians 4)? Why must the unity of the first churches be a mode that the modern church cannot enjoy?

  36. Erick,

    If you have been following my contribution to this site, you will have noticed that I have never supported the protestant epistemic model, quite the opposite. What I have called for, and I have been the only one doing so , is for an ecclesiological reassessment on both catholic and protestant fronts. One of my key points is that the gentile church has overstepped its boundaries and has been out of fellowship with Jewish believers in Messiah for 1,900 years + now. In addition, the history of the church offers the objective outsider no motives of credibility whatsoever to believe that she is truly kosher in God’s sight. So right from the onset, I point to the fundamental brokenness of the church and submit that the only way to come out of this morass is via sincere repentance and willingness to set aside all stumbling blocks for the cause of Christ: ill gotten wealth, immorality, greed, corruption, adultery with the state and so on, a disregard for the examination of the lives of those would be our teachers and theologians etc.

    Coming to your example: it is painfully obvious that the protestant epistemic model is broken, as the story you shared makes vividly clear. That said, it does not follow therefore that the other alternative, the catholic model, is necessarily correct. As I have demonstrated before via Isaiah 22 and 1 Kings 14, we as believers do not have an authority which is impervious to the laws of God. We cannot simply wave the wand of ‘apostolic succession/principled means of distinguishing truth from opinion (PMDTO)’ and expect it to suffice in granting our cause legitimacy from on high! In fact, since we have been grafted into Israel, as wild branches whom by nature would have been otherwise opposed to the truth, and this by the sheer grace of God, we ought to conduct ourselves with the fear of God in our hearts, as was done in the beginning, as evidenced in the book of Acts.

    Regarding doctrine and what to believe in this current state of affairs, I have suggested that falling short of a true ecumenical council (one which has to include Jewish believers in Messiah and their theologians, almost by definition), the best we can do is to calibrate our beliefs to those of the first century church. These beliefs can bring together both catholics and protestants, if both are willing to let go of their ‘all or nothing’ approach (which is grounded in conversion, not true ecumenism). And given the heavy emphasis on humility and holiness/obedience in the teaching of the early church, we must conduct ourselves with a renewed willingness to forgo the condemnation of those who disagree. Live and let live, it is the best we can do for now. For every example of a church which goes through multiple personality changes (as you’ve described), there may be one which does not, and is faithful to God.

    Again, Jeroboam could have easily said to Ahijah, “Look you have no PMTDO, so talk to the hand”. But there was no such appeal. The only appeal is this: The proof of the pudding is in the eating, aka is it is better to do righteousness than to sacrifice (Prov 21:4). I am sorry that you had to experience what you did as part of that reformed Baptist church. But if that church had been aware of the teaching of the early church, it never would have followed up with certain decisions that we ultimately made.

    So at this point you will say, “But they did believe they were the church of the book of Acts”. And I will simply say that Ahab and Jezebel also believed they worshipped the one true God, Baal. Yes, it is messy and ugly. But Jesus warned us, by their fruit you will know them. Could you really have assurance amidst all the fighting and arguing and backbiting that this was a church where the love of God reigned in hearts? Elijah was vindicated over the prophets of Baal by his victory over them. Not by an appeal to a philosophical argument or even apostolic succession. I suggest that you ponder that, and its implications for our modern day ecclesiology.

  37. SS,

    Thank you for sharing your viewpoint.

    Couple of responses

    1) The Church of God is indeed, by way of historical analogy, ingrafted into the tree which is of Israel, to whom the promises were made. However, we cannot extend this analogy so far as to deny that with Christ has come a new human race proleptically a reality with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Now, in some sense, there is netiher jew nor greek, but only Chrsitic human beings. This one new humanity is made out from the old one, and thus the distinctions from the old humanity cease to provide a barrier anymore when once looking at each other in the new humanity, which is the body of Jesus Christ. God’s intentions even with the people of Israel is to re-gain the glory lost from creation, most vividly seen in the expulsion from Eden, the muder of Abel, the flood of Noah, the dividing of man at Babel, etc,etc….the Jewish people have served the purpose of being God’s chosen vessel for providing the world blessing in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. But they have indeed stumbled at the stumbling stone and are now branches broken off.

    2) Your interpretation of Church History is not something to think so quickly about. In fact, one is judging Christ when one begins to judge the Church. This of course does not justify any sin whatsoever. It is truly a depressing and scandalizing thing when the Church has some of the worst of mankind. But tread this ground lightly, for since it is our faith that our Lord Jesus did rise from the dead to be head of the Church, his body, we must respect the prior goings of the people of Christ on the geography of the planet for 2,000 years.

    3)You seem to suggest that the Church has fallen at one point in time and is in need of a restoration? I wouldn’t argue with you. But what do you mean? How would such a unification occur without the ordaining of leadership? If leadership is ordained how does it fail to be self-legislated? Maybe your expectations for the Church are higher than realistic and unable to see God’s ability to draw straight when the lines are all crooked.

    4) Your construct still falls victim to an ecclesiology which is essentially protestant, for any restoration of the Church in terms of trying to go back and restart everything is to deny the claims of Jesus, that he would never leave His church to the powers of Satan. Is this some invisible aggregate number of separated people all hiding in seclusion until the Church comes to a world-wide repentance? (Which of course would be good).

  38. SS,

    A good book for you to read is called “The Russian Church and the Papacy” by Vladimir Soloviev.

    In some parts of this book, he harps on the truth that God’s intention with the whole Church program is to bring humanity into a perfect union with God and with each other. It is Babel reversed. It is the shame of Eden undone. It is commitment to be our brothers keeper. It is that oneness that humanity has never once seen as a full reality of our life. He also argues that because God’s intention with the human race from the beginning was “unity of love” with the Trinity (hence the commission to baptize in the Trinity) and with our fellow man as a VISIBLE reality, and not just an INVISIBLE underground exclusive pneumatic and variegated dispered experience.

    Imagine the unity which would have existed if Adam and Eve never sinned and if sin never entered the world? This is God’s intention in our world with the Church and thus the Church must be a unified body of humanity who hold the same faith, the same baptism (That trinitarian intercommunion), one Lord, one Hope, one calling, etc,etc,etc….But he also argues that such a thing can never exist without a head of authority. Just as in the Trinity, the Son never does what the Father forbids Him, so also on earth there can be a Vicar for the authority of Christ, and this is for the principle of unity. The Unity of the Godhead is mutual while there is real authority. So the same is in the body of Christ.

    If there are more than one Heads to the body, then we have a divisble body, which cannot exist. Therefore, only one person can hold this unification-leadership ability, one person who is undivided and who represents the authority of heaven by holding the keys to it, Simon the apostle. The holding of the keys seems to suggest that there is a heavenly authority still living here on earth…..and it seems that the structure of the Papacy is a principle for the unity of the human race.

  39. Erick,

    1. Paul also says that there is no more male, nor female. Does that mean that you are no longer male? You do not understand Romans 11. Paul cites unequivocally that the gifts of God are irrevocable, in reference to the promise made to the descendants of Abraham, who are not only ethnic gentiles, but ethnic jews as well. The thousands of jewish believers in Messiah in Israel, this very day, attest to the fulfillment of this promise.

    2. Yes, we can respect and learn from those who have fought and upheld the faith once and for all delivered, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. But I am under no compulsion to respect or patronize authorities which trample the Son of God underfoot.

    3. Leadership would be appointed in a true ecumenical council. But such has not been held since the first council took place in Jerusalem.

    4. As I have explained many times, the current state of affairs is not a denial of the promise of Christ that the gates of hell shall not prevail. That the church has not been destroyed by evil is not a function of her holiness, but in fact, in spite of her unholiness. Regarding your last question: there is nothing invisible about those who are faithful to God. If they keep the commandments of God, by this we know that they are in Him. And what’s more, the current situation is no different than that right before the Incarnation. Most were not repentant and ready to receive him, but a minority was, such as Elizabeth and Zechariah, righteous in the sight of God. And yet, they had no claim to PMDTO, only their keeping of the commandments. As in their days, and as in the days of Elijah, where 7,000 were reserved unto God. So it is today.

  40. Erick,

    A good book for you to read is “Planted in the House of the Lord” by Joseph Shulam.

    http://www.netivyah.org/index.php/en/publications/books/other-books

  41. SS,

    1) I never denied that there is a divine purpose for ethnic Israel. I AK not sure where I denied this. What I mean is that christic humanity has one ethnicity in the resurrection, not that there won’t be ethnicities or genders but that such things will itself be under the unification of love in Christ. Unbelieving Jews do not partake though we hope they become jealous.

    2) there has not been a legitimate council since Acts 15? Why do you think this has been? What are the conditions for ecumenical council?

    3) SS, I have had many true brothers and sisters in the Lord who I have rightfully accused’s of sin but which gave me no right to break Fellowship. If I hop into the car with a brother in the Lord, and he feels he doesn’t have to wear a seat belt and argues with you, has he trampled the christ underfoot? Warranting not just my separation from him but also his parish? It seems that you will be similar to the Essences who were in the mountains when Christ came to the savage beasts of Israel as the Qumran saw it.

    3) the leadership of thisnew ecumenical council hears no difference materially than the claims of the Mormon church

  42. SS,

    The attempt to still find foundational roots in Judaism to suppose that its been wrong all along is materially no different than the protestants, just with the attempt of a.more nobler cause in the original people of God. But you see the Church honors the Jewish people by following Christ. It is love. Love for man and God. Nothing else matters when there is love. But how can we love without the authority of God?

  43. 1. If what you call being under the ‘unification of love in Christ’ involves the CC, there are thousands upon thousands of Jewish believers in the Messiah who disagree with you and your assumption that the CC is the church we read of in the Scriptures.

    2. The 1st council consisted of leaders who were Jewish believers in Messiah. Has any of the subsequent councils included such?

    3. Christ tells us to beware false teachers, known by their fruit. It is my prerogative not to condone or support/patronize their activity anymore than John the Baptist patronized the Pharisees. Will you accuse him of being a separatist too?

    4. And how do you know this? Has a genuinely ecumenical council been held yet where all parties have agreed to repent of their sin and seek God’s face and will? I don’t think so.

  44. But how can we love without the authority of God?

    A Pharisee to John the Baptist, circa 28-30 A.D.:

    “By what authority do you baptize? How can you claim to love your brother and produce fruit in keeping with repentance without the authority of God?”

  45. The attempt to still find foundational roots in Judaism to suppose that its been wrong all along is materially no different than the protestants, just with the attempt of a.more nobler cause in the original people of God.

    No Erick, you are mistaken. It is not a question of nobility, but of the fulfillment of the very words of God:

    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…

    16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports 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. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

  46. SS,

    I tell you what I am not going to condemn Mary, Jesus, Zechariah, Joshua, moses, Elizabeth, etc etc for failing to separate. Jesus told people to honor the chair of the Pharisees and to attend to priests. These were people of Israel and understood Gods judgement of individuals.

  47. Erick,

    John the Baptist was not one a Pharisee and part of the ruling authorities of the time. It is no coincidence that Christ was baptized by him and not a Pharisee.

    Secondly, re Jesus telling the people to do what they were told: why did they disobey him and deliberate that circumcision was not binding on gentiles? Were they wrong for failing to obey Christ?

  48. SS,

    John the Baptist was raised in a Jewish home who did not teach that God had abandoned Israel butthat promises were coming to pass for Israel. Anyone who is catholic today who preaches against the sins of the people is a he who speaks the truth. But john was not repulsed by all synagogue worshippers ….after all he revered Jesus. And Jesus repudiated the sins of the Pharisees. So it follows that if a catholic preaches against sinful bishops, how can he be wrong.? But there is a difference between this and the total seclusion you subscribe to.

  49. And Jesus repudiated the sins of the Pharisees. So it follows that if a catholic preaches against sinful bishops, how can he be wrong.? But there is a difference between this and the total seclusion you subscribe to.

    If Jesus repudiated the sins of the Pharisees and endorsed their authority, why was he not baptized by one and why did he not pick His disciples from their own?

    There is no difference between this and my call for repentance, issued to both catholic and protestant alike.

  50. SS,

    If you read the book of Acts, including Luke, as well as some other books, you will notice that there were some people in Israel who were “blameless, walking in all zeal for the Law”. Annanias is one that comes to the top of my head. These were righteous people that did not get infected with the corruption of the authority of the Israel state. Did they attend worship? Yes. Did they follow the customs? Yes. Did they honor the priests. Presumably.

    Jesus chose the 12 apostles and not some of the Pharisees because Jesus was all about going to the sick and making them beautiful. Not every Pharisee was less worthy than the disciples, at least there is no reason to think that. And the reason Jesus did not get baptized by one of the Pharisees is because no one sent them and they would not have taken it upon their own authority to do so.

    I am interested in how you can justify saying that the Church of Christ is only the Church of Christ worthy of my participation when every single member is filled with righteousness, joy, sacrifice, humility, love, exuberant zeal, fearless of man, etc,etc,etc….ultimately this standard will lead you right own again into your own domain.

    And how would you differentiate between the Mormon claim that the Church fell away in the 1st century and your claim that since Jersusalem (Acts 15) there has been no authentic form of authority?

    Also are you yourself a Jew? You may want to look up Lawrence Feingold.

  51. @Erick

    I never said that the Levitical priesthood would bear the exact same form as the religious episcopate of Jesus Christ. I just said that St. Clement uses the principle and concept of ordained order as was in the formation of the Old Priesthood

    Let’s not call this the episcopate of Jesus Christ. There is simply no evidence for this being Jesus’ intention, command…. at all. The problem with Clement’s analogy is he isn’t using the concepts embedded in the Levitical system. He’s created a system with opposite properties. The Levitical system has outside checks and balances he wants his priests hierarchy to answer to no one. The Levitical system has rigid separation of functions he wants all functions performed by the same people, a unified hierarchy. Were his theory to be true, Jesus would have had to decided that his previous system with properties like separation of function was a really bad idea and instead he liked the idea of absolute hierarchical monarchy much better.

    We know the apostles didn’t agree with Clement because in the very passages you are citing like Ephesians 4 they have an entirely different list of offices. That’s not a minor problem with your theory. Your claim that this this Jesus’ episcopate and not Clement’s episcopate is just not plausible.

    to then form his argumentation for the officers of the episcopate not elligible to be cast out of offce. Of course, St. Clement puts conditions to the permanence of one’s office, and it is assumed that a Bishop who is in grave sin can be ejected from that office.

    Correct. Clement wants Bishops to have total authority over their governed population, because we all know how well putting people in power with no checks and balances has served the church for the last 2000 years. His argument for that is an analogy to the Levitical priesthood which has essentially no authority functions but merely service functions, far closer to the role of Deacon than Bishop in the Catholic structure. He then makes claims that priests can’t be removed from office when of course they can be.

    So other than showing that Clement made a terrible argument, that was however believed and historically influential, what does this show?

    * This is not how the Levitical Priesthood worked
    * Jesus never said anything remotely like this
    * The apostles never said anything like this
    * And the use of Clement’s system has been an unmitigated disaster for humanity

    Even today the Catholic church’s lack of accountability to its membership is the number one reason that the church has far and away the most disgruntled membership of any major Christian denomination and it is hemorrhaging members. Your Baptist example shows that even in the absolute worst cases all that happens is a church split.

    St. Clement argues that the Apostles knew that there would be a question to the government of the Church after their death. That is the initial thought whether we like it or not. Having known that there would be bickering about who and what and how the Church of Christ should be governed, the Apostles appointed Bishops to be the overseers of the future believers and made dictated that other men should succeed to their office.

    Or he is lying and the apostles did no such thing. Ignatius of Antioch has to write complex documents about how to pressure house churches to accept the rules of Bishops who reject them. That wouldn’t be necessary if the apostles who had established these churches had already put in place bishops with the kinds of broad powers you envision. Certainly by the 3rd century the hierarchical episcopate was a defining feature of Catholic / mainstream Christianity and people who didn’t want such a structure just generally joined a sect with different gods. But in the 1st century? No we don’t see that at all.

    Notice that this supposed structure of men being appointed to succeed the successors of the apostles cannot suppress the original problem of bickering, which was the original cause of the dictation, if indeed the episcopate was open to just any person who wishes to become an ordained minister of Christ’s Church. If St. Clement, and presumably the apostles, desired the question of the Church’s government to be answered upon and following their death, whatever structure they left for their disciples cannot be open to re-construction, re-engineering, and post demolition construction.

    Why not? Under your theory St. Clement and the Apostles make up an entire system which re-constructs and re-engineers the entire biblical system which was set down for all time by God to Moses and to which the Apostles appealed to in scripture. So obviously under that hypothesis these for all time systems aren’t really for all time but more for a while until some someone in leadership like Clement gets tired of them and decides to do something else and….

    You can’t have it both ways. God was unequivocal and clear about the system of governance he sets forth to Moses. That system is maintained in scripture. Then after the close of scripture you have a new system arise which early church fathers came about by orders of apostles based on secret orders from Jesus. If God has no problem reversing his unequivocal public orders with secret, why would he have any problem changing his equivocal secret orders to something else?

    When someone denies apostolic succession, they are in effect figuratively going back in time and responding to the apostles with the following “Yeahhhhhh……well that was not going to work….”.

    Or they are responding to the early Catholic church fathers with “The apostles never said anything like that. Stop usurping prophetic authority when you are not a prophet. As a teacher you are not entitled to change or add to the content of prophetic revelation. If you want to put yourself forward as a prophetic candidate then fine, otherwise teach scripture.”

    In other words, with every reformation which splits from the heirarchy of apostolic succession answers the question to the episcopacy with an answer that is contradictory to the apostles, according to St. Clement, for it leaves indefinitely open the question of who and how and what governs the people of God in post-apostolic times. Your service is counter-active of the apostolic schematic. If indeed this is what you are doing, then you must believe that this recollection of St. Clement was not a fixed inflexible rule but rather an accidental suggestion based on good conditions which can be subject to change given the conditions go wrong. In effect, you are the new apostles giving a new answer to the question of who and what and how the Church will be goverened in our post-apostolic times.

    With the exception of the ritual system which is killed via the Book of Hebrews, Protestants mostly do follow the system outlined by God. They have the office of teacher that has the authorities appropriate to teachers. They office of prophet which has the authorities appropriate to prophets, though they often disagree about whether there is a non-zero number of recent occupants of this office. They have other governing structures which they agree are man made, which teachers are entitled to do.

    Do I think the Protestant systems are ideal? No I don’t. I think a lot of the system is based on historical accident. I think they could learn a lot from today’s Jews who have had to operate without state enforcement for 1800 years. But do I think they are honoring biblical structures? Yes I do.

    The Catholic system has had many of the same problems that face monarchies in terms of the legitimacy of the leadership. They have managed to alienate their traditional core in Catholic Europe. In America the falloff is staggering. In Latin America they are losing ground rapidly to Pentecostalism. They have a disgruntled membership with a leadership which is apparently totally indifferent to that upset and unwilling to engage in their membership in any sort of negotiation about the future of the church. Whatever problems may exist with the Baptist system, something like this would never happen.

    The result of this situation among Liberal Catholics has been the “we are the church, they are the hierarchy” movement whose goal is to reduce “priests” to the rightful role of priests. People in charge of the ritual cult with no governing authority over doctrine. This may or may not work. But if it does work it will create a wide range of claimants to who governs the the Catholic people on matters of morals.

    The very best you can go with this is to convince people of your own holiness and intelligence with communicating the truth of Jesus Christ and begin your own religion.

    I certainly wouldn’t consider each Baptist church its own religion. People, resources, teachings, materials… flow between them. No one considers moving to another church a conversion process. Your example of the pastor going from general baptist to reformed baptist to pentecostal and the congregation following shows how these are properly though of denominations within a broader religion.

    The question then is are Protestantism and Catholicism part of the same religion? And again we see dialogue like this. Protestants still consider Catholics to be part of their religion. Catholics consider Protestants to be part of their religion by baptism. Again denominations not different religions.

    This is exactly the task that was understaken with Dr. Luther, John Calvin, the English reformers, and the anabaptists. They in effect gave different answers to these questions and knew they would have to justify their actions. The only justification is that they “felt” that God willed the Church to go in the direction into which they were moving it.

    That’s not exactly true. You are intermixing different groups with different intentions. If we want to talk this broadly then I think far more accurate would be after 5 centuries of attempting reform and compromise with the Catholic hierarchy three different groups joined together to break away. Nobody on either side knew that they were ending Christiandom and establishing permanent schism. But they did.

    The justification for their actions was the Inquisition, the Albigensian Crusade. The Catholic church had by then long ceased to be at its core about anything but maintaining power through the use of violence. It was a deeply deeply diseased and corrupt institution and any action to have broken up the power of the middle ages Catholic church was justified by the moral state it had fallen into. The reforms that happened at Trent and later should have happened much faster and much earlier. Had they happened there might have been a unified church.

    I agree with your analogy with Clement. The people Clement was dealing with no longer believed their Bishop was the right person for the job and they wanted alternative leadership. Clement argued for submission regardless. By the 1520s had become like a Bishop demanding child sacrifice to Jesus and they decided Clement was wrong and replaced him.

    What principle do you have to provide unity amongst the body of Christ? What gift (Ephesians 4)?

    The principle of the word itself. Unity through agreement. Convincing people you are right. Engaging them respectfully and winning over their heart and mind to your point of view. We’ve been discussing Athanasius vs. Arianism. Ellen White had the same problem with Arianism. She didn’t run around calling people heretics, exiling people, firing them or as would become fashionable later burning them at the stake. She used persuasion, preaching and slowly moved her leadership and her congregation from Arianism to semi-Arianism to Trinitarianism. All without a single harsh word.

    That’s what Christian leadership should look like. That’s how you achieve genuine unity and not the sort of unity that existed in Stalin’s Russia. Here is another example of unity being achieved:
    http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2009/08/ubs-process-ecumenicalism-at-its-best.html

    Why must the unity of the first churches be a mode that the modern church cannot enjoy?

    I think the bible is rather clear the first churches didn’t have unity. The apostles are constantly arguing against a diversity of theologies. And the way they argue against it is mostly scriptural appeals. And that is the unity we see today within Protestantism, how a growing number of para-church organizations exist that are able to cross denominational lines and work together. That a church can smoothly flow like you described.

    There is no hint in the apostles of Clement’s notion of an absolute religious dictatorship. What you are asking for is not the unity of the first churches but another system entirely. You evidently don’t like the apostolic system and like Clement’s better, which is fine, but let’s not confuse the two.

    The reason you can’t enjoy that unity (henotes) is that the American state is not willing to kill tens of thousands through millions to force people to join the Catholic church and submit to Catholic Bishops. Clement doesn’t have an answer except violence when somebody responds to his demand for submission with “no”. Americans are used to vendor choice and they like it and they want it. A religious system designed around Americans is going to have choice as a core principle. Baptists created an alternative vision of Christian unity that honors the notion of agreement implied in henotes while at the same time providing for choice.

  52. Comment

  53. @Erick

    But he also argues that such a thing can never exist without a head of authority. Just as in the Trinity, the Son never does what the Father forbids Him, so also on earth there can be a Vicar for the authority of Christ, and this is for the principle of unity. The Unity of the Godhead is mutual while there is real authority. So the same is in the body of Christ.

    So lets unpack this analogy:

    Head of Trinity :: Head of the Earthly Church
    Son’s submission to the father :: Church’s submission to the vicar
    Unity of Godhead :: Unity of church

    Your analogy keeps skipping levels.

  54. For any who are interested,

    In my mind, these are some of the fatal flaws in the Roman concept of apostolic succession:

    1. There is not one statement in the New Testament that says we are to identify the church by finding the bishop.
    2. The pervasive warnings about false teaching in the New Testament imply that it is at least theoretically possible for institutional leadership as a whole to teach error of such a kind that the gospel is lost. At that point, its the laity that maintain orthodoxy. In fact, it has always been the laity who have maintained orthodoxy.
    3. It does no good to say that the early church was agreed on the Roman idea of apostolic succession, since Roman Catholics don’t follow everything the early church fathers taught. Indeed, no professing Christians did.
    4. Apostolic succession, which is supposed to be the way we can be certain about the identity of the true church, has not created any less fragmentation than any other system. If fragmentation and rampant error exist and are not really dealt with, there is just no pragmatic appeal to be made.
    5. In the only OT models we might have for apostolic succession—the priests who anointed successors and kings with a lineage that go back to David—we have rank apostates who eventually sit in those positions. If apostolic succession works the way Rome ultimately wants it to, there is no principled way to differentiate a true bishop from a false one. All the false pope has to do is claim that what he is doing is a part of universal tradition, get enough bishops to agree with him, and then declare that what he is doing is infallible. The fact that Antipopes can arise actually shows that the system has no cash value for those who are under the Antipope. If it takes later councils to sort out who was pope and who wasn’t, the poor people who actually lived under the reign of the Antipope were out of luck when they were told that what said Antipope was doing was by God’s authority. There is no real way to question it because in the Roman system, your interpretation of Scripture and tradition is always wrong when it conflicts with the interpretation being offered by the current, living Magisterium.
    6. There is no evidence in the New Testament that the church is given the gift of infallibility.

  55. +JMJ+

    The common theme here is that every single Protestant (including SS) sees themselves as being Christian ontologically independent of the (visible) Church instead of seeing themselves as the Natural Man who’s reception of Christ is ontologically grounded in his ontological incorporation into the (visible) Church.

    The practical result of such a stance is foreordained, since, of course, the Protestant would necessarily have the ground of authority to judge the (visible) Church.

    It goes without saying that such a stance is not unworkable per se (it being just as unequivocally authoritative and unfalsifiable as the Catholic claims), but it does explain every instance of self-authoritative Protestant judgement ranging from declaring Jesus to be the God-Man and ‘the Bible’ to be the Word of God, all the way to judging the criteria of ‘true’ apostolic succession, whether it the be of a human school of doctrinal successors of the Magesterial Reformers or of johnny-come-lately, propheto-restorationist Jews.

    To reiterate, the Protestant view is just as absolute, unfalsifiable and unequivocal as the Catholic claim. The only thing it is not is Incarnational.

  56. For the Roman Catholics:

    Does the pope have real authority when he is not exercising the charism of infallibility?

    If so, welcome to the beginnings of Protestant ecclesiology.
    If not, why should I follow canon law again?

  57. Robert,
    You asked

    “Does the pope have real authority when he is not exercising the charism of infallibility?”

    In the USA, do the president and congress have real authority even when you don’t agree with the laws they pass or executive orders they enact or are you free to disregard them and do as you see fit?

    Going beyond the civil government analogy, the difference is that we need not be content with the “this is our best guess at the time” or “let’s try this for awhile and see what happens” approach, but rather we can be certain that some things are objectively true because they have been received by revelation from Christ and the Apostles.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  58. If you read the book of Acts, including Luke, as well as some other books, you will notice that there were some people in Israel who were “blameless, walking in all zeal for the Law”. Annanias is one that comes to the top of my head. These were righteous people that did not get infected with the corruption of the authority of the Israel state. Did they attend worship? Yes. Did they follow the customs? Yes. Did they honor the priests. Presumably.

    That some may have still been part of worship at the synagogue is besides my point. The point is that the authority that John the Baptist had in preparing the way of the Lord did not derive from the existing ruling authorities, i.e., the Pharisees. Neither did the authority of the disciples.

    Jesus chose the 12 apostles and not some of the Pharisees because Jesus was all about going to the sick and making them beautiful. Not every Pharisee was less worthy than the disciples, at least there is no reason to think that. And the reason Jesus did not get baptized by one of the Pharisees is because no one sent them and they would not have taken it upon their own authority to do so.

    Nicodemus was a Pharisee and he was rebuked by Jesus “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t understand these things?”. Part of the reason why they not part of Jesus disciples is because they had hearts hardened by their belief in a self-ascribed infallibility.

    I am interested in how you can justify saying that the Church of Christ is only the Church of Christ worthy of my participation when every single member is filled with righteousness, joy, sacrifice, humility, love, exuberant zeal, fearless of man, etc,etc,etc….ultimately this standard will lead you right own again into your own domain.

    Not at all, and a straw man. The standard is not mine, but Scripture’s: 1 Tim 3 states that our leaders should be blameless/beyond reproach. It also says to beware false teachers who work iniquity. There is a very clear standard given for those would call themselves leaders and teachers, and it behooves us to uphold it. This does not mean that we elevate our leaders to the status of sinlessness, but rather that we are never to condone leadership which persists in immorality, greed, cover ups (sin that keeps anyone from inheriting the kingdom of God) and so on. By contrast, consider the leadership of James the Just in Jerusalem, he was respected even by his enemies for his God fearing.

    And how would you differentiate between the Mormon claim that the Church fell away in the 1st century and your claim that since Jersusalem (Acts 15) there has been no authentic form of authority?

    Mormons have their origins in embezzlement, polygamy and crime. Do you need me to go further?

    Also are you yourself a Jew? You may want to look up Lawrence Feingold.

    I’m not. I am a gentile who has learned not to boast over the natural branches. You may want to look up Joseph Shulam.

  59. The fact that Antipopes can arise actually shows that the system has no cash value for those who are under the Antipope. If it takes later councils to sort out who was pope and who wasn’t, the poor people who actually lived under the reign of the Antipope were out of luck when they were told that what said Antipope was doing was by God’s authority

    The fact that this is a ‘move on here people, nothing to see here’ moment with catholics demonstrates how far an a priori stance will go to justify a need for identity and belonging. Once one’s team has been found, anything and everything will be swept under the rug as perfectly legitimate. So, the doctor who writes a deadly prescription on the back of the envelope and not on his office pad is excused of responsibility, because it wasn’t written with his insignia on it. All sorts of technicalities which may work in a court of law but not in the eyes of God.

  60. SS,

    Let me ask you this. If you were a Corinthians, and you had been baptized by a presbyter, one who was leading some of the divisions in Corinth, particularly (one which I think you’d gravitate to) the group which said “I am of Christ”. You are day to day fellowshipping with some who question the bodily resurrection of the dead. Your closest friend is being sued by one of the readers for not paying him back from some money he loaned him. The majority of the people exonerated the mercy of allowing the man who was living with his step-mother to the point that he is somewhat favored in the congregation. There is a wild confusion with the spiritual gifts, each brother is against the next.

    So you leave.

    And begin staying at home.

    You observe your own Lord’s Supper, supposedly a meal of unity with the people of Christ.

    You would have missed the epistle of Paul, who addresses this church, in spite of all it’s failure, as the Church of Jesus Christ, and if anyone seeks to destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him. That the Corinthians Church was still sanctified in Christ Jesus, that they still had a responsibility to make up for their baptismal promises (1 Cor 6:11), that they still have the wisdom of the Spirit, thouh in infant form (to their shame).

    I can go and on. But based off of your conclusions, I picture you leaving….and either remaining in seclusion….or starting a new church. Now what kind of content would the epistle contain if Paul were to write to you?

  61. Erick,

    The issue has never been with the people, for they will be judged with less severity than the leadership. If leadership is appointed by other leaders who have demonstrated a pattern of gross sin, and then repeats that pattern (not the case at Corinth) you have a God given prerogative to 1) confront them and ask them to repent immediately and desist from the activity 2) if they don’t do this, you have no choice but to walk away, not out of a desire for sedition, but so as not be complicit in the sins of another and have your conscience condemn you.

  62. “There is no evidence in the New Testament that the church is given the gift of infallibility”.

    To his disciples in John 16:

    12″I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

    13 However when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak from Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will show you things to come.

    14 He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.

    15 All things that the Father hath are Mine; therefore I said that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you.

  63. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    For the Roman Catholics:
    .
    Does the pope have real authority when he is not exercising the charism of infallibility?
    .
    If so, welcome to the beginnings of Protestant ecclesiology.
    If not, why should I follow canon law again?

    This is a false dichotomy because the issue is not “real” authority versus “unreal” authority.

    Instead, the issue is “doctrinal” authority (authority either, firstly, “of the Faith” or, secondly, “of the Creation”) versus “canonical” or “jurisdictional” authority (authority of the law).

    If you’re interested in fruitful dialogue and want us to unpack this further, we’d be more than happy to do so.

  64. SS,

    So why do you not find a local parish that is godly in leadershp and laity? Or do you expect them to answer for the sins of their predecessers?

  65. @AH —

    In your theory where John is talking about the church and not the Holy Spirit are you then identifying the Paraclete with the church? If so, given that Catholic tradition refused this identification that Montanus and Mani both made was the tradition in error?

  66. So why do you not find a local parish that is godly in leadershp and laity? Or do you expect them to answer for the sins of their predecessers?

    Erick,

    Unlike your former pastor/church, I do not condemn any catholic, so I do not expect anyone to answer for sins. I do however believe that they are mistaken and cannot in due conscience patronize their institution, which shows no signs of repentance whatsoever from its financial corruption and ill gotten gains, adultery with the state, internal immorality and so on. If you and others feel comfortable being part of such, that’s your freedom.

  67. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    That some may have still been part of worship at the synagogue is besides my point. The point is that the authority that John the Baptist had in preparing the way of the Lord did not derive from the existing ruling authorities, i.e., the Pharisees. Neither did the authority of the disciples.

    This only seems to strengthen the Christic Revelation as being a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift which you’d earlier said was “impossible” and that “if anything the old paradigm is now magnified even further”.

  68. SS,

    But if you do not mind…what is the plan for your life? If you are to preach the gospel as the Lord command you to, do you bring them over your house? Do you tell them to stay home?

  69. Roman Catholics,

    Perhaps my recent question on papal authority should have been directed more clearly to Jonathan, who unless I have misunderstood him, has said that a body cannot have divine authority without infallibility.

    So, Wosbald and JeffB, is it that a non-infallible papal pronouncement lacks divine authority? And if the answer is yes, why should I follow it?

  70. But if you do not mind…what is the plan for your life? If you are to preach the gospel as the Lord command you to, do you bring them over your house? Do you tell them to stay home?

    The plan for my life is to trust God, do His will, and leave all the consequences to Him. This involves being as faithful as I possibly can to the pattern of worship in Scripture: weekly gathering on the Lord’s day for partaking of the bread and wine, preaching of Scripture, communal prayer and confession, singing hymns and spiritual songs, collecting tithes to right there and then share with those in need within the congregation. It is preferable that the elder/president (one presiding) has his own means of income (see Didache) and would not be remunerated from tithes, but instead working with his own hands and leading a quiet life. Holding an agape meal after the service, sharing food with those who otherwise do not have enough to eat. Gathering with elders, deacons and believers during the week to be strengthened in the faith and to pray. And so on, according to the pattern which has been given.

  71. Robert,
    All authorities are ordained by God and it is our duty to submit to them. In that sense, there is “divine” authority behind *any* authority. But “divine” authority in the sense of being free from error is a different case. That’s Wosbald’s point, I think, about the doctrinal vs jurisdictional distinction.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  72. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    So, Wosbald and JeffB, is it that a non-infallible papal pronouncement lacks divine authority? And if the answer is yes, why should I follow it?

    The answers to your questions, lies in my earlier post (May 16th @ 8:36 am). To wit…

    The issue is “doctrinal” authority (authority either, firstly, “of the Faith” or, secondly, “of the Creation”) versus “canonical” or “jurisdictional” authority (authority of the law).

    If you’re interested in fruitful dialogue and want us to unpack this further, we’d be more than happy to do so.

  73. Robert,

    In my mind, these are some of the fatal flaws in the Roman concept of apostolic succession:
    1. There is not one statement in the New Testament that says we are to identify the church by finding the bishop.

    First, that presupposes that anything we believe today must have an explicit NT warrant, which begs the question. Secondly, succession is implied when Jesus says that those who reject him thereby reject the Father, and that those who reject the ones he himself sent are thereby rejecting him. Then, once the apostles began their ministries, they began to ordain bishops to whom they bestowed divine authority. And after that, 1500 years elapsed during which no one questioned the Western/Eastern notion of apostolic succession. What more can you reasonably ask for? Without demonstrating yourself a Solo-ist, I mean?

    2. The pervasive warnings about false teaching in the New Testament imply that it is at least theoretically possible for institutional leadership as a whole to teach error of such a kind that the gospel is lost. At that point, its the laity that maintain orthodoxy. In fact, it has always been the laity who have maintained orthodoxy.

    Nowhere does the NT teach that the entire Church can lose the gospel. Yes, individual leaders can fall into error, but no one denies this, which makes your point irrelevant.

    3. It does no good to say that the early church was agreed on the Roman idea of apostolic succession, since Roman Catholics don’t follow everything the early church fathers taught. Indeed, no professing Christians did.

    That’s ridiculous. You’re saying that the claim that the ECFs taught AS, and that the CC of today follows suit, is “no good” because we disagree with Irenaeus about how old Jesus was when he died? That’s not even worth responding to.

    4. Apostolic succession, which is supposed to be the way we can be certain about the identity of the true church, has not created any less fragmentation than any other system. If fragmentation and rampant error exist and are not really dealt with, there is just no pragmatic appeal to be made.

    This is like saying that since the Jews rejected their Messiah, that there’s therefore no way to truly locate and identify the Messiah. It’s a non-sequitur. Jesus was Israel’s Messiah regardless of whether they accepted him.

    5. In the only OT models we might have for apostolic succession—the priests who anointed successors and kings with a lineage that go back to David—we have rank apostates who eventually sit in those positions. If apostolic succession works the way Rome ultimately wants it to, there is no principled way to differentiate a true bishop from a false one. All the false pope has to do is claim that what he is doing is a part of universal tradition, get enough bishops to agree with him, and then declare that what he is doing is infallible. The fact that Antipopes can arise actually shows that the system has no cash value for those who are under the Antipope. If it takes later councils to sort out who was pope and who wasn’t, the poor people who actually lived under the reign of the Antipope were out of luck when they were told that what said Antipope was doing was by God’s authority. There is no real way to question it because in the Roman system, your interpretation of Scripture and tradition is always wrong when it conflicts with the interpretation being offered by the current, living Magisterium.

    I have told you several times that we are not claiming anything about how AS “works” or creates a happier healthier ecclesiastical environment.

    By your pope example you demonstrate that you don’t understand things work. If I stand up and claim myself a pope and then persuade a thousand bishops to follow me, it makes no difference other than demonstrating that there are 1,001 new schismatics from the Church.

    6. There is no evidence in the New Testament that the church is given the gift of infallibility.

    If this is the kind of thing you’re still arguing after all this time, there’s no point in bothering to continue. The discussion has moved way beyond your ability or willingness to follow.

  74. @Jason

    And after that, 1500 years elapsed during which no one questioned the Western/Eastern notion of apostolic succession.

    You’ve been doing this for subject for 1000 posts now. You know that isn’t remotely true. There is no history of even being seriously suggested for 150 years. There is limited acceptance of it for another years after that. It shows obvious signs of development and addition. And it was regularly questioned all during the centuries in between.

    It is time to make some progress on this thread and stop pretending that this dishonest Catholic propaganda which which has been refuted and rejected is anything other than just a pack of lies. You might be able to say something like “if you define orthodox Catholics as those who accepted apostolic succession then no orthodox Catholics rejected it” which shows how obviously tautological the claim really is. You might be able to say that from the “4th century onwards to the 16th claims of Apostolic succession were mostly accepted uncontested”. And that’s both honest and much weaker.

    But you have been in this thread too long to try and pretend you don’t know that there is no way you can argue that no one rejected these claims during the 1500 years when many many people whole groups did. What do you think is the advantage of citing obviously refutable historical fictions? You have had 1000 posts now of Protestants rightfully rejecting claims contradicted by the historical evidence. You can’t get around evidence by pretending it isn’t there. We have books now of people rejecting apostolic succession.

  75. +JMJ+

    Though raw history isn’t my forte, my suspicion is that there is no group which denies Apostolic Succession and which also lays claim to what-is-today by both Catholics and mainline Protestants considered orthodox Incarnationalism and Trinitarianism.

    If so, then these are what really hang in the balance.

    And in that case, those Protestants, for whom orthodox Incarnationalism and Trinitarianism are negotiables, have all kinds of options and all sorts of great company in which to find themselves.

  76. +JMJ+

    CD-Host,

    I’ve really been holding my tongue regarding the liberality with which you throw around terms like “lie” and “liar”. This is Catholic blog frequented. mostly, by Catholics and mainline Protestants. As such, orthodox Trinitarianism & Incarnationalism as well as a Philosophy of History which is not necessarily Positivistic are all presupposed. As such, we are under no obligation to qualify every claim with a disclaimer such as “If one assumes orthodox Incarnationalism and Trinitarianism…” or “Assuming that one is not an Historical Positivist…”

    If anything, it is you, good sir, who should be qualifying your statements and claims with your own equivalent disclaimers, such as “Assuming that one is an Historical Positivist, then for one to claim ‘X’ would make them a liar.” Even then, the term might be a bit abrasive, but at least it would frame the debate transparently.

  77. WOSBALD May 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Though raw history isn’t my forte, my suspicion is that there is no group which denies Apostolic Succession and which also lays claim to what-is-today by both Catholics and mainline Protestants considered orthodox Incarnationalism and Trinitarianism.

    Well first off in the early centuries it is hard to argue there are any groups at all that support orthodox Incarnationalism and Trinitarianism. Once you move forward those criteria narrow you down to Catholics. So really what you are demanding are Catholic offshoots that reject AS, presumably well prior to Protestant. And I’ll give you one the Lollardy

    * they believed in a regenerate church
    * they believed the Catholic church had been corrupted by temporal authority
    * they asserted that most of the traditions: relics, blessings… were basterdizations
    * they denounced clerical celibacy

    etc..

    And while some were non-Trinitarian the vast majority support the orthodox creeds.

  78. CD-Host,

    For purposes of discussion with Reformed and other Protestant confessionalists, Catholics tend to assume that the pre-Nicene Church had an identity that excluded Judaizers, Gnostics, Marcionites, Montanists and other sects. We can assume this here, because such Protestants tend to agree that the communion that was soon being designated by the name “catholic Church” is the Church in view when we (Catholics and Protestants) severally lay claim to being contiguous with that Church.

    Thus, although we disagree as to what was a part of the original deposit of faith and practice within the Church that Christ founded, which either naturally developed with the unfolding of the Church’s life (which is the view that Catholics tend to take of AS and the monepiscopacy) or else was later corrupted at various places within the Church, which corruptions slowly came to predominate in the entire catholic Church from the 4th century onward to the 16th (which is the view that Presbyterians tend to take of AS and the the monepiscipacy), there is general agreement on which groups do not “count” in this particular intermural discussion of the early data set.

    It seems that you want to pull back the lens and include the aforementioned sects along with what you must regard (in what is at least linguistically incongruous) as the “catholic sect” as integral to the “phenomenon” to be accounted for as the pre-Nicene “Church (on your view we can’t describe this Church as a body or a society or anything concrete). Thus, you think that we ought to incorporate data such as the Gospel of Thomas and the deliverances of the Montanist prophets in making our respective cases for the doctrinal content of divine revelation and the nature of the Christian ministry.

    That’s all well and good, but its also largely a separate discussion. I don’t know whether in this instance either Catholics or Protestants would wish to apply the aphorism that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” But with reference to a couple of stock CTC arguments, I will at least say that your position is a most exemplary case in point of both “ecclesial deism” and “solo scriptura.”

    Whether or not that renders you a friend or an enemy to the Protestant cause, others will have to say. But at least you all can rejoice together in the fact that you do “have books now of people rejecting apostolic succession,” which books the early Gnostics and Montanists would no doubt rejoice to read. But not the early catholics (cf. Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, and so forth). There were of course no early Presbyterians or Lutherans, but there are some now, and they can weigh in on the debate between the early catholics and the early sects if they want to do so. I for one would be interested to know if your comments have led any of the Protestant participants in this thread to broaden their ecclesiology.

    Andrew

  79. @WOSBALD May 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I am not an intellectual nihilist. I stand firmly behind the “you are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your facts”. Whether the incarnation did or did not happen, has no bearing on the existent historical record. It may have some slight bearing in some edge cases on interpretation but not beyond that.

    You weren’t clear in your post but I think I’ve addressed, “1500 years elapsed during which no one questioned the Western/Eastern notion of apostolic succession”. I’ve addressed it at length and I’ve addressed it many many times. There is simply no way whether there was 1, 2 or 50 incarnations that you can argue that no one questioned apostolic succession given the groups we’ve talked about: Simonians, Mandaeans, Dositheans, early Hermetics, Ebionites, Marcionites, Montanists, Nazarenes, Boroties, Cainites, Basilidians, Elkasaites, Carpocraitans, Cainites, Cerinthians, Alogi, Collyridians, Muslims, Paulicans, Bardaisainites, Sethians, Ophities, Barbolites, Marcosians, Adamites… (and I’m going to stop at 25, but I could probably get to 100) are “no one”.

    That of course is all on top of the other evidence, like the biblical evidence and the early church evidence that the biblical authors and ECFS never heard of the doctrine either. I don’t care whether you believe in the incarnation or not, that’s just not true. It doesn’t become true because of the incarnation. I know you consider the incarnation to be an answer to lots of philosophical problems, it doesn’t solve this one.
    If you want to talk about the history of earth then there is only one earth. If you want to talk about fantasy history that has no bearing on the real history of the real earth then you can feel free to consider the philosophical dimensions.

    What happened, happened. Belief in an incarnation doesn’t change what happened. It is one thing to be ignorant of those groups once you are no longer ignorant then it becomes simply intentionally false and misleading. If we are going to make progress the proven false gets dropped. Otherwise there is no point in discussing anything.

    Another place I used it was, “Within this group [Catholics] every time a council dogmatically pronounces a thing to be dogma the rest of the Church gets in line.” Which I pointed out was a version of history taught to Catholics designed to mislead them, a lie in other words. And yes any Catholic historian can tell you that councils pronounced all sorts of things and lots of people in the church diverged. There have been many wars and schisms after council pronouncements. Catholic historians know that, and the incarnation doesn’t change that. Statements like that need to be qualified with “in theory” or “for almost all council decisions the majority of Catholics get in line” or…

    ___

    As an aside, to the best of my knowledge there are no mainline Protestants posting here. The Protestants posting here AFAICT all come from Conservative denominations.

  80. In the interest of full disclosure, there are certain positions espoused by commenters here that I consider to be so beyond the realm of (what I would consider) mainstream Christian ecclesiology that I have chosen not to engage them. Generally speaking, if someone sees themselves as heirs of the early church (whether they’re Protestant, Catholic, or EO), I respect that stance and will do my best to interact. But when someone starts from the premise that the immediately post-apostolic church went completely off the rails and virtually every Christian today has been duped into some grand conspiracy, well, I take that position about as seriously as the one where aliens killed JFK and 9/11 was a hologram.

    I would encourage the Catholics here to choose their dialogue partners wisely, is what I’m saying.

  81. @ANDREW PRESLAR May 16, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Hi Andrew excellent comment.

    I agree with you on Ecclesial Deism. As far as I’m concerned what Bryan called Ecclesial Deism is orthodox Protestantism. This is the position that Protestants have always believed as exemplified by Foxe’s Book of Martyrs that the church fell. I was raised that Matthew 4:8-11 was prophecy and when the church was given that temptation it answered “yes” and married the Roman State. Now I’ve gone from what is typical for a Baptist, believing in the fall of the church, to full on restorationism, that very little of primitive Christianity survived the fall of the church. So that puts me on the edge but I would be something like 85+% of the Protestants in the world believe in Ecclesial Deism.

    In terms of solo and sola scriptura I consider it a question of degree. I think there is a meaningful difference but it is quantitative one not a qualitative one. Ultimately sola scriptura does boil down to solo scriptura in the same way ultimately my house boils down to my foundation and support beams. That doesn’t mean my house doesn’t have furniture.

    Let me clarify 5 main points of disagreement.

    1) I’m not sure this conversation is limited to confessional Protestants.

    2) I’m not sure even confessional Protestants agree with you on limiting to Catholics. I am sure that Protestants in general do not.

    3) In terms of existence of sects I’m keeping the objective separate from the subjective ideas.

    4) I don’t think most Protestants agree there is a substantial deposit of faith outside of scripture. Scripture is the entirety or almost all of the deposit.

    5) If it impossible to talk about the Reformation pretending it came ex-nihilo in 1517 from Luther.

    ____

    Hitting these in more detail.

    1) I’m not sure this conversation is limited to confessional Protestants. SS sounds to me like Assemblies of God. I’ve seen at least one liberal Christian post. I think if I went back I could find a few others. Moreover I don’t think you should be using the word “Protestant” to mean Conservative Reformed. In America for example conservative Presbyterians are about .5% of the Protestant population. I have more or less the same objection to using “Protestant” to really mean Conservative Reformed that I do to using “Christian” to mean the Catholic sect of the early church, for much the same reason.

    More than that though one of my objections to the CtC apologetic, and this does come up a lot, is that it gets very frustrated whenever the Protestant doesn’t answer the question in the way the CtC wants.

    2) When I was a conservative Protestant I believed in Baptist successionism. The idea that the Catholic church was the enemy of the church of God had gone out of fashion but theologically a lot of the holdover was still in the air. I was always taught the only church that Jesus founded was the Jerusalem one and that was destroyed lest it become an idol. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/09/modern-scholarship-rome-and-a-challenge/

    Just to pick an example you’ve talked about on CtC John Bugay has been quite willing to use Peter Lampe whose entire argument is dependent on the idea that even in Rome Catholicism was the minority form of Christianity well into the 2nd century. I’m seeing a lot of people on Green Baggins make this argument.

    Confessional Protestants don’t seem to be willing to conflate “the early church” and “the early Catholic church” the way you claim they must. I think if you read this thread you’ll see Robert and Eric for example refusing to do precisely that. This for example is how they deny things like Mary as the New Eve.

    3) “Did the Montanists exist and were they Christian?” is a mostly separate question from the ones divine revelation. You don’t have to believe Montanus was anything other than a fake prophet, you do have to believe he led a Christian sect which had distinctly non-Catholic view. When it comes to questions of history this theological stuff becomes completely irrelevant.

    4) I don’t have much to add to my initial comment that I don’t think the Conservative Reformed believe in a non-biblical deposit beyond perhaps a few doctrines. Most Conservative Reformed fundamentally reject any doctrine with the exception of the canon that they believe cannot be derived directly from scripture. I think they are grossly overestimate what can be derived from scripture but I cannot charge them with hypocrisy, they genuinely do believe that Calvin’s read of scripture is the only one that is truly faithful to the text. Just read a Systematic Theology they are entirely scriptural.

    The only exception I’ve seen in dialoguing with Conservative Presbyterians has been on the issue of negative inferences. For example if the bible says something 2x but not 3x that there is information that be derived from the fact the bible choose not to repeat a 3rd time. Or if a statement can be made 46 ways in Hebrew if the bible only choose two of those ways in its 2x, the other 44 are thus less true than the two selected. In my experience when confronted with this broad hermeneutical issue, Calvinists agree they don’t make negative inferences, and agree that this is a legitimate dispute between Jews and Calvinists in terms of hermeneutics where they may be wrong.

    5) Without talking about the 500 years of “heretical sects” that came during the middle ages to lay the groundwork. It is impossible to talk about those sects without talking about diversity of Christianity that existed in Eastern Europe and the Middle east. It is impossible to talk about that diversity without talking about early diversity. You cannot talk about Luther without talking about Christian Humanism. Christian Humanism arises out of esoteric Christianity which is picks literature from alternative ancient christianities like the Neo-Platonic Sethians. You cannot avoid talking about the Gnostics if you want to talk about the Reformation they come up again and again and again.

    Or to pick another example, obviously Islam had huge impact on the development of Christianity. How do you discuss the history of Catholic Christianity without discussing Islam and how do you discuss Islam pretending that Arabic Christian sects in particular Collyridian Christianity never existed?

    Honestly it doesn’t make any difference whether conservative Reformed Protestants want to consider sects like Brethren of the Free Spirit to be medieval heretics they reject or proto-Protestants they embrace. The history of the Reformation is the history of the Catholic church having more and more trouble repressing these medieval heretical sects as their population grows increasingly unhappy with being under Catholic rule until one of them, is successful and goes on to become Protestantism.

    Most Conservative Protestants want to make the Reformation about the theology of justification. Most 16th century Reformers as far as I can tell had few or any theological issues with the Catholic church they just hated the leadership and wanted to run or at least exercise more control over their own church. Despite the romantic notions of conservative Protestants nobody fights wars over infused righteousness vs. imputed righteousness. Lots of people were willing to fight wars about which nobles are going to collect a percentage from the entire basket of social services the church provides and the land it managed. That desire for nobility doesn’t change the fact that the only Reformation you can talk about in terms of Justification is a Reformation that never happened. At the end of the day the Reformation was fought by 16th century politicians about issues that were specific to the 16th century.

  82. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    2) I’m not sure even confessional Protestants agree with you on limiting to Catholics. I am sure that Protestants in general do not….
    Confessional Protestants don’t seem to be willing to conflate “the early church” and “the early Catholic church” the way you claim they must. I think if you read this thread you’ll see Robert and Eric for example refusing to do precisely that.

    I think that you’re wrong on that because Andrew was careful to write “catholic” with a small ‘c’. IOW, there’s a general presupposition that there was an early church which believed in orthodox Incarnationalism and Trinitarianism and which had a Rule of Faith.

  83. @WOSBALD

    I think that you’re wrong on that because Andrew was careful to write “catholic” with a small ‘c’. IOW, there’s a general presupposition that there was an early church which believed in orthodox Incarnationalism and Trinitarianism and which had a Rule of Faith.

    I partially agree. Though most of them believe that the doctrine of Trinitarianism came about through study. They don’t really have a huge problem believing the church “figured it out”. The don’t have to defend an apologetic of an original deposit beyond scripture.
    They’ve seen things discovered in the bible during their lifetime and have no problem with believing this might have happened in centuries past.

    But more to the point. They also read the bible where the apostles are regularly battling Judaizers, Gnostics, angel worshippers, false churches… They don’t find my talking about alternative Christianities shocking. If anything it is rather positive that secular history and the bible mostly agree about what the diversity looked like in early Christianity. For them there is nothing threatening with say Atheists support the story of Acts 8 and spend a lot of time researching Simon Magus. “Great atheist scholarship is agreeing with the bible on something”. And then this Atheist scholarship provides good information for them if anyone is interested in more details about Simon Magus’ life and theology. Calvin himself linked: Pelagians, Manichees, Anabaptists and Epicureans. I don’t agree with Calvin there but Epicureans date back to 4th century BCE, so even predating the Christians is not such a huge problem. Moreover they believe in election, the reprobate should be attracted to things not of God. For Calvinism Christian variants that would attract the reprobate are just short of a theological necessity.

    There is a real psychological difference with Catholics on this. Confessional Protestants deal with a diversity of Christianities on an equal basis everyday. A PCA minister is dealing with people from Pentecostal or Church of Christ or Catholic or Mormon or Liberal Christian backgrounds everyday. If Robert or Eric is confronted with a church member coming from Oneness Pentecostalism who believes in Modalism, he doesn’t get to question the guys presuppositions and talk about apostolic authority. All of them agree the bible is the authority so the two of them sit down and look at the verses and on equal terms. Robert or Eric hope to win the Oneness guy over to Trinitarianism based on scripture. They don’t find it an impossible task because they do it successfully all the time.

    Conservative Presbyterians operate in the Protestant world and they can see how they are able to exercise influence only being 1/90th of the evangelical world. They understand what orthodoxy in an environment of theological diversity would look like, because they live it. So because of this lived reality they don’t find it impossible to imagine the apostles handled things in much the same way. Moreover the fact that scripture presents a picture of the apostles having to actually handle things in much the same way provides evidence for that position.

  84. +JMJ+

    Jason Stellman wrote:

    But when someone starts from the premise that the immediately post-apostolic church went completely off the rails and virtually every Christian today has been duped into some grand conspiracy, well, I take that position about as seriously as the one where aliens killed JFK and 9/11 was a hologram.

    I once heard a dude on the radio say that Fatima was a hologram. Because, as you know, RCC R&D had holograms back in 1917. Probably alien tech, now that you mention it. It’s all coming together.

  85. CD-Host,

    I appreciate your points. For one thing, you help to bring out the gist of the non-Catholic (or more generally no-Apostolic-Succession) yet broadly Christian position, which is that the Christian ministry is essentially charismatic, and the extent and meaning of the deposit of faith is discerned not by tracing the succession but by testing the prophets, so to speak. Without being relativistic, this position leaves things relatively wide open, at least compared to the Catholic one faith once delivered guarded and expounded by official teachers view. To the extent that Protestants approach the Catholic view, their position vis-a-vis Apostolic Succession grows tenuous.

    One other point: The amount of diversity among Christians, using that term broadly, in the first few centuries or subsequent centuries is not particularly telling if we only grant that Christ did indeed intend to found one universal Church. Granted that, then we are justified in asking which of the many groups emerging from the period immediately after Christ is the Church that he founded? And if this question is legitimate to ask of the first few centuries, then it is legitimate to ask of every subsequent century. In this lies the strength of the Catholic case, at least with respect to Protestantism, because the Church of history from the fourth century onward is recognizably “catholic” and still more obviously not Protestant.

    Once the question of “which Church?” is admitted, the further questions of whether that Church is particularly healthy at a given time and place and how many folks depart from her and form sects opposed to her become moot.

  86. Andrew Preslar,

    Once the question of “which Church?” is admitted, the further questions of whether that Church is particularly healthy at a given time and place and how many folks depart from her and form sects opposed to her become moot.

    I can see why you would say this and could in some measure agree. However, the question then becomes how you determine the folks who “depart from her.” The assumption among Roman Catholics is that is was the Protestants who left to form sects and that the form of visible unity under the headship of the pontiff is the type of visible unity that Christ intended. However, that is an assumption that must be proven. It is relatively easy to demonstrate that there was no such thing as the Roman Catholic Church until the period of the Reformation and that Christ’s desire for visible unity to be defined by submission to the Roman pontiff is an article of blind faith, not faith informed by either the biblical evidence or the historical evidence prior to the more audacious claims of the Roman Bishop started to be made in force from roughly Chalcedon onward. You admit as much when you say that the church was not “recognizably Catholic” until the 4th century onward.

  87. @Andrew Preslar

    To the extent that Protestants approach the Catholic view [believing in a deposit], their position vis-a-vis Apostolic Succession grows tenuous.

    I would agree. I wrote a post about CtC on this theme: http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2012/01/rock-paper-scissors-of-apologetics.html

    One other point: The amount of diversity among Christians, using that term broadly, in the first few centuries or subsequent centuries is not particularly telling if we only grant that Christ did indeed intend to found one universal Church.

    A lot of responses:

    1) That’s a huge “if”. Protestantism basis itself on the gospel not on human institutions. I for was taught the that the one church with any close association with Jesus had to be destroyed less it become an idol. Protestants would consider the idea of a human institution as the gospel as blasphemy. I agree that once you start talking about a human institution as the gospel then embedded within that is something which makes Catholic theology easy to accept.

    2) CtC doesn’t deal well with the theology that this plan was thwarted, the church fell. They throw out the “gates of hell will not prevail” line while ignoring whole chapters which do show churches falling into heresy. They also fail to deal with Israel having fallen into apostasy and needing to be recovered by prophets. You want to categorically rule that out, but that is Protestantism.

    3) The problem with a doctrine that Christ founded the Catholic church is there is simply too much development in evidence for that. Under the Catholic view of history people like Paul are Catholic Bishops belonging to a structured hierarchy reporting to Peter. Yet their writings indicate they are completely oblivious to this fact. If Jesus founded the Catholic Church why don’t we signs of its existence in the 1st century?

    4) If we are going to insist on a form of the religion that existed in 30 CE then we are talking some variant of apocalyptic and occultic Judaism, not Catholicism. Madonna’s Kabbalah religion becomes far closer to the true church than yours. And while that’s meant in sort of a light hearted way, there is something serious there. Catholicism is both too ignorant of and indifferent towards Judaism to have emerged as a Jewish sect. It had to have had several sects in-between. Catholicism cannot possibly pass the “first church” test.

    In this lies the strength of the Catholic case, at least with respect to Protestantism, because the Church of history from the fourth century onward is recognizably “catholic” and still more obviously not Protestant.

    Again a few responses.

    1) You are only considering the larger churches. The most certainly were smaller groups that rejected Catholicism, that existed and believed in a sola-scriptura approach. To pick a classic example of Baptist Successionism: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/The_Trail_of_Blood.jpg
    Pentecostals have in the last 50 years explicitly tended to identify with the Montanists not the Catholics. There is not a Pentecostal successionism yet, but certainly I don’t think it is hard to string together prophetic groups through the centuries if they were so inclined.

    So I don’t think this is as strong an argument as Catholics tend to believe it is.

    2) I think the situation is much more of a web than a chain ( http://tinyurl.com/axs6x8b
    ). Protestantism emerged from a confluence of different factors coming together. But if I want to oversimplify the way the Catholic apologetic is doing then I could do so and create a chain:

    Lutherans <– Hussite <– Brethern of the Free Spirit <– Cathari <– Bagnolians <– Manichees <– Bardaisanites <– Valentinians <– Elkasaites <– Essense

    There you go. The church that Jesus founded and with a historical pedigree that is consistent with the evidence and that skips Catholicism all-together.

    3) I think there is a bit of hidden assumption which is that you want to look at only groups that became really big today. That gives you a huge problem with Islam and thus Collyridian Christianity. We don’t know for certain where the Collyridians came from, but for the purpose of argument let’s work with the not unreasonable hypothesis it was a syncretic hybrid between the Encratites and the Cult of Isis. If you want to throw down on historical pedigree Cult of Isis leaves Catholicism’s pedigree in the dust. Encratite Christianity beats Catholicism by decades in terms of leaving behind historical trace. I can make a fairly good case for Encratite Christianity being the first church.

    So by the very standard you are using you still have a very serious problem in that as far as I can tell, you come in 2nd not 1st and the “true Church” is Islam. I doubt most Conservative Presbyterians would raise this but a Muslim apologists certainly would.

    Once the question of “which Church?” is admitted, the further questions of whether that Church is particularly healthy at a given time and place and how many folks depart from her and form sects opposed to her become moot.

    Possibly. But I’m still not sure you are there. Let’s assume I grant that the Catholic Church is the church that Jesus founded and in 311 CE the church decides to sell itself to Satan for material power and wealth. That still doesn’t mean they are the church to follow today.

    Or let’s assume the more traditional view that the church falls into gradual decay and by the 16th century the church has decayed so far that it no longer even possess the memory of the gospel. That church when confronted with it tries to actively represses it. This is more or less what the least hostile to tradition Protestants believe, and it is still hard to go from there to “I should follow this fallen church”. One could come to believe that just as God judged that Judea needed the Babylonian exile to bring them to repentance the Catholic Church needed the Reformation to bring it to repentance and it didn’t repent.

    I’ll make an aside that the doctrine of a late fall is becoming less historically plausible then it was 500 years ago. It is becoming increasingly clear that most of what the Protestant were objecting to theologically was very early. So either the church fell early or it never fell at all. But if we want to talk confessional Protestants, late fall is what they believe.

  88. Robert,

    In your opinion, was there such a thing as the Roman Catholic Church in the 14th and 15th centuries?

    CD-Host,

    The “if” in my syllogism really only depends upon the authenticity of Matthew 16:18, which records Christ as intended to build “my church.”

    From that point onward, the endurance of that one church in-continuity-of-identity-through-change-over-time would seem to be guaranteed once we consider collectively the more “theological” descriptions of the church found in the NT. Even where some of those descriptions in their immediate context seem to apply more directly to a local church or set of local churches, insofar as these presuppose union with Christ, and hence communion in the universal church, they apply in some way to the one church.

    One other point: We have dealt with the analogy of Israel, with its divided kingdom, conquered and deported tribes, and prophetic ministry, in several posts and threads at CTC, most recently, or at least at most length, in our response (written by Matt Yonke, Bryan Cross, and myself) to Peter Leithart’s “too catholic to be Catholic” stance.

  89. @Jason

    and virtually every Christian today has been duped into some grand conspiracy, well, I take that position about as seriously as the one where aliens killed JFK and 9/11 was a hologram.

    Yes believing that Christianity arose from the same sorts of cultural processes that caused any other religion to evolve from its ambient culture is completely beyond the pale. No question it should be dismissed. Because we all know that the Apollo really does push the chariot across the sky to make the sun. And we all know that the Aztec cult as it moved towards human sacrifice couldn’t possibly have gone off the rails. And we all know that Vamana, the incarnation of Vishnu, really did chase demons out of India and allow it to be settled.

    We should dismiss it out of hand when it so obvious that God decided to come to earth, walk around and then found a human institution with a history of vivid corruption and evil in all respects that is inerrant in faith and morals.

    And Mr. Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa you know perfectly well that not every Christian believes or even most of them believe in your theory of Jesus founding an existent material church.

    Religions never ever ever

  90. @CD-HOST:
    Jason rightly identified the Trinity and the Chalcedonian formula as necessary beliefs for the Christian religion to be rationally coherent. That was likewise Andrew P.’s point as I took it. These sects that failed to maintain Trinitarian orthodoxy are therefore irrational, and the fact of maintaining Trinitarian orthodoxy is dispositive for identifying the continuity of potential true churches.

    Mike L. tried to explain this to you to no avail: correct dogma actually matters for determing whether sects are rational or irrational. Irrational sects are simply irrelevant except as historical curiosities. If you argue that Catholicism originated from Encratism, an irrational sect, or that Islam evolved from Collyridianism, another irrational sect, then you would simply be arguing that those religions are irrational, and no one should believe them.

    I just don’t understand the point of this theosophistry. You are wasting everyone’s time, including your own. You haven’t motivated anyone; at best, you’ve just pointed out that primitive Christians were just as contemptibly foolish as the Lollards and other medieval nutters. How does that help anything?

  91. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    It is relatively easy to demonstrate that there was no such thing as the Roman Catholic Church until the period of the Reformation and that Christ’s desire for visible unity to be defined by submission to the Roman pontiff is an article of blind faith, not faith informed by either the biblical evidence or the historical evidence prior to the more audacious claims of the Roman Bishop started to be made in force from roughly Chalcedon onward.

    Yes, it is relatively easy to demonstrate that if one starts from a position of Historical Positivism. This allows people to interpret the data in such as way as to demonstrate that the RCC sprang from the gnostics or that the doctrine found in Pseudo-Denys’ must certainly be a 5th century invention unattributable to St. Dionysisus Areopagite. That’s good for your side. The enemy of my enemy and all that, as Andrew Preslar put it.

    OTOH, it also allows people to demonstrate that what you would call ‘orthodox Christianity’ also sprang from the gnostics. that the Jesus Phenomenon is a late-derivation, dying/rising god narrative, etc.

    The real question is… “Is Historical Positivism (Selective Skepticism) an authentically and comprehensively human set of philosophical assumptions?” And that’s a question which, on behalf of Mankind, I can authoritatively answer in the negative. However, beyond simply giving philosophical testimony, I can’t force this answer upon you or upon any other specific human person. It’s simply part of the fabric of Nature, and if you choose not to conform to that Reality, then not even God can force it upon you. That’s the price of Man’s Radical Freedom. You’ll have to choose to listen to the inherent goodness speaking within the depths of your own Human Nature.

    As Jason said, the Catholic narrative is merely “historically plausible”. It can splendidly account for the data, but only depending, of course, upon the historio-philosophical assumptions which one brings to the table before examining it.

  92. +JMJ+

    CD-Host,

    Considering that, on other sites, I’ve seen you self-identify as an “atheistic theosophist’, I have to ask… “What’s the deal?” Is your being here just another data-mining operation to feed your historio-religious sociological models? Are we nothing but so many lab rats, interesting only on a detached, academic level? Or do you have an overarching, atheistic theosophical narrative to contribute?

  93. @Andrew

    The “if” in my syllogism really only depends upon the authenticity of Matthew 16:18, which records Christ as intended to build “my church.”

    My feeling and I think most Protestants would agree is that if the Jesus of the gospels had meant to merely establish a hierarchical bureaucracy why would there only be one verse? Why would there not be far more discussion on that topic? Under your theory Jesus’ entire ministry makes no sense, why isn’t he building up Peter from far earlier on?

    But even if we were to allow a doctrine to be derived from just one verse more or less out of context of the entire, that verse still has problems. Look at the very word chosen for church “ekklesia”. Ekklesia is used by the Septuagint to mean the voluntary temporary gatherings of israelites for deliberation. What you would like Jesus to mean by that, a permanent institution, leaves open the question “why choose that word?” There are words in Greek for permanent bureaucratic institutions why not choose one of those words?

    Finally, even if I were to grant one verse derivation of a doctrine and ignore the weird choice of ekklesia for your purpose I still think there is a grammatical error in your translation. Now let’s be clear, this error didn’t originate with you. I think the English you are citing here represents the Vulgate tradition. I think the Vulgate tradition is theological by Jerome’s time Catholics read this verse the way you do.

    But if I’m going to read the Greek directly I think Jerome blew the wordplay on he petros, he petra in having “this” pointing to Peter not Jesus. I’m going to go with the Shepherd of Hermas’ treatment of this verse with Jesus as the Rock. You also see this in other early church fathers. Sop I think a fairer translation is something like Ann Nyland’s treatment:

    I certainly say that you Peter, the stone, and I will build my assembly upon me, the rock, and Hades’ gates will not triumph in an encounter with my assembly!

    And that translation doesn’t say what you need it to. Protestants agree the church was built upon Jesus they don’t agree it was built upon Peter.

    16:19 incidentally doesn’t have the same translation problems in the Vulgate. That verse is very strong. But without 16:18 it lacks this tie any further than Peter. It becomes a one shot deal that applies to Peter and not his successor, the Prophetic Office applies to the Prophet only and the Prophet is chosen directly by God.

    ____

    From that point onward, the endurance of that one church in-continuity-of-identity-through-change-over-time would seem to be guaranteed once we consider collectively the more “theological” descriptions of the church found in the NT.

    Slow down. That is a huge jump.

    Even where some of those descriptions in their immediate context seem to apply more directly to a local church or set of local churches, insofar as these presuppose union with Christ, and hence communion in the universal church, they apply in some way to the one church.

    One other point: We have dealt with the analogy of Israel, with its divided kingdom, conquered and deported tribes, and prophetic ministry, in several posts and threads at CTC, most recently, or at least at most length, in our response (written by Matt Yonke, Bryan Cross, and myself) to Peter Leithart’s “too catholic to be Catholic” stance.

    From Article: All this, of course, presupposes that the historical trajectory of the Church must follow the historical trajectory of Israel. And that presupposition is not itself theologically neutral. As explained above, insofar as such a presupposition carries with it the assumption that the New Covenant Church must be divisible because the Old Covenant people were, it is an implicit denial of the incarnation.

    I think what I quotes was the line you were talking about in that link. If not let me know. Assuming I got it right… this seems like the argument you all made on Ecclesial Deism that you one can’t deny the incarnate Christ and also deny the incarnate Church. Which is an odd argument to be making to Protestants since of course the vast majority of Protestants do deny the incarnate church while believing fully in the incarnate Christ. So I think I can just point out the window to disprove that this is a denial of the incarnation in any kind of immediate sense. So my counter argument is pretty simple, Protestants disprove your theory.

    The Catholic ecclesiology is an unfixable contradictory mess. They are Israel while at the same time they are Jesus body which is totally unlike Israel. Protestants have stepped back from this and are trying to reconstruct a more Pauline theology. And that theology weighs the Israel analogy more heavily and the Christ’s body less heavily. So for example dispensationalism is allowing Protestants to a have consistent theology which allows for both a new covenant and continuity. Even though dispensationalism proper isn’t part of confessional Protestantism in a diluted form it is creeping in.

    That being said… I think Bryan was on to something in that I think he is picking up on a gradual shift towards Gnosticism which is going on within all of Protestantism. Slowly Protestants are rediscovering for themselves Gnostic views and adopting them. I think it is fair to say something a bit weaker than “implicit denial of the incarnation” rather: had Protestantism been the dominant faith in the 2nd-5th centuries it is likely that the orthodox trinity would not have become part of the creeds. Once can imagine if there even was an orthodoxy, which is unlikely to have meaningfully developed in a Protestant frame at all, Christology might very well have gone with something more like the Encratite theology of joint fulfillment that Christ did the heavenly crucifixion and the apostles the earthly one just as there is a heavenly church and an earthly church.

    So let’s for a moment assume that’s right. Encratite theology evolved from Jewish Gnosticism it is going to be more faithful to the Old Testament than orthodox Catholicism’s Christology which was based on a “all of the above” approach. Creedal Protestants believe the creeds because they believe they are fully supported by scripture, they believe them to believe summaries of scripture. Protestants have already, by definition, said given the choice between being biblical and being traditional they will go with biblical. Most Protestants have never seriously considered what the alternatives were to orthodox creedal approaches. Most Protestants perforce have a well thought out ecclesiology. I don’t disagree with Bryan that Protestants have a quasi-Gnostic ecclesiology and a Catholic Christology and that bringing them closer together might make sense. But in that case I would suspect the more likely way to resolve that conflict would be to adopt a quasi-Gnostic Christology not a Catholic ecclesiology. Convince the PCA that creeds contradict scripture and they will dump the creeds.

  94. Andrew Preslar,

    My basic outline of church history would go something like this, although I know that the data does not fit so neatly into the paradigm—ie, things are a lot messier in history. It is essentially defensible, however, far more so than traditional Roman views of Church History:

    1. Christ established His church
    2. The church continued in united form, more or less, for 1,000 years, during which time there was growth in theological understanding and several heresies were dealt with.
    3. During this period, largely because of political developments and the filling of a power vacuum created when the center of the Roman Empire moved to Byzantium and the success in Roman bishops in maintaining some kind of order during the barbarian invasions in the West, the Roman bishop began making more and more audacious claims for his authority.
    4. Largely as a result of Rome’s arrogance, but with cultural factors in play as well, the one church of Jesus Christ split into the Eastern Church and Western Church round about the year 1,000 (the convenient date of 1,054 is helpful but not absolute).
    5. In the West, for the next 500 years, the bishop of Rome continued to make claims that were even more audacious.
    6. Ca. 1500, the attempts of church leaders in the West to get the Roman bishop to move in a more small-c catholic direction began to be shown to be futile.
    7. The events of 1517 through the Council of Trent led to a division that birthed both the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions. Essentially, the bishop of Rome anathematized key aspects of Augustinian soteriology, the work of its best Old Testament scholars in establishing the canon, much early church tradition on the collegiality of bishops, the primacy of Scripture, and more. This forced the true catholics into a position where they could no longer remain in fellowship with the Roman bishop and much of the hierarchy because of the innovations and heresies adopted during the medieval period. Protestantism, thus, was a sadly necessary development of the Western church’s failure to remain catholic.
    8. Since the Reformation, there has been further division. Those who adhere to the formal principles of the Reformation have divided visibly into several denominations that differ ecclesiologically but remain united on core understandings of Scripture, soteriology, and other areas. Rome has maintained visible institutional unity but at the expense of tolerating within its body even those who vocally reject its teachings. Roman Catholic apologists continue to pretend that their church is united and has not changed substantially. Roman Catholic scholars and historians whose books receive imprimaturs and who are appointed to papal commissions teach otherwise. The Magisterium doesn’t care much any longer as long as it can protect itself from the law and the money keeps flowing into the Vatican’s coffers.
    9. The East has, more or less, remain more unchanged since 1,000, largely because of the political pressures of Mohammad and Marx.

  95. @JONATHAN PREJEAN May 17, 2013 at 8:10 am

    the Trinity and the Chalcedonian formula as necessary beliefs for the Christian religion to be rationally coherent.

    I don’t see how an self contradictory doctrine like the trinity can possibly be a pre-requisite for rational coherence. I don’t think any Christianity is terribly coherent but the trinity and Chalcedon sure don’t help. So no sorry I consider this more of your argument by name calling.

    I don’t buy the Catholic argument that because ancient Catholics didn’t like other sects they didn’t exist. Christianity in the 2nd century is whatever sets of beliefs people calling themselves Christians held. And that is without further qualification. And for exactly the same reason Christianity in the 21st century is whatever sets of beliefs people calling themselves Christians hold today.

    I consider the your theology of a material church that is divine to be an outright blasphemous contradiction of the 1st commandment. That blasphemy doesn’t mean you don’t exist and I get talk about 21st Christianity while excluding Catholics. You don’t cease to exist just because I disagree with you.

    If you argue that Catholicism originated from Encratism, an irrational sect, or that Islam evolved from Collyridianism, another irrational sect, then you would simply be arguing that those religions are irrational, and no one should believe them.

    I’m arguing what I say I’m arguing. Irrational is your term not mine. But if you feeling is that you can’t believe in Catholicism if Catholicism arose naturally from the pressures on the Judaism of the Roman Empire and later developments they OK. You can’t believe in it. Catholicism came out of other more primitive Christian sects. Catholicism was not the original form of Christianity.

    Protestants don’t have that problem. They’ve always viewed Catholicism as a corruption. It strengthens their hand.

    Liberal Catholics don’t’ have that problem. They love viewing the church as a process of discovery. They don’t want a deposit of faith but rather a system of becoming. So it strengthens their hand.

    And on. The facts are the facts. The implications of the facts don’t change the facts.

    . You haven’t motivated anyone; at best, you’ve just pointed out that primitive Christians were just as contemptibly foolish as the Lollards and other medieval nutters. How does that help anything?

    I’m a lot less bigoted than you are John. I don’t think the Lollardy are nutters. I don’t think Catholics are nutters. I don’t think Gnostics are nutters. At the same time all of them believed stuff I disagree with or that is false.

    Unlike you I don’t think I have to agree with everything someone says to be unable to learn from them. I think primitive Christianity has lots of gorgeous elegant wonderful things to teach modern Christians. There is a lot to gain by examining all the church fathers. The Gnostics were able to create a form of Eastern Mysticism using Western symbology. Let me quote April DeConnick, “The Gnostics were the first to view traditional religion as the opiate of the masses, the drug that keeps people satisfied to serve the gods and their kings as obedient slaves and vassals. Obedience and submission, the traditional postures of worship, are turned upside down by the Gnostics, as the individual person is no longer viewed as a mere mortal created by a powerful god to do his bidding. Religion is not about obeying the gods, but transcending them in order to find spiritual union with the supreme source of all existence.”

    I just don’t understand the point of this theosophistry

    I don’t understand why people keep asserting stuff they know to be false. So we tie.

    At the base to get some genuine honesty. “All X” in English does not mean all people who agree with me that are X’s but all X’s irrespective of whether they agree with me. Basic honesty is not complex. Don’t use the word “all” if you mean “some”. Learn to qualify and see if your arguments still hold up. I think that when you have to throw in the qualifiers you will see pretty quickly that saying “if I preselect people for whether they agree with me, they all agree with me” doesn’t prove too much about the validity of your claims.

    I agree how long this sort of basic standards is taking is a huge waste of time. This shouldn’t be so difficult. We’ve had over 1000 posts on the apostolic succession and we can’t get past the most basic issues because your side refuses to deal with real objections that have been repeatedly raised for a month and a half by every participant here. Nobody is willing to grant that theology allows you to fabricate history. Stop saying nonsense about a history that never happened. Forgot my points, address Robert’s.

    When you talk about history talk about a history consistent with the full documentary record. When you talk about theology don’t confuse that with history. If your claims require that the recipient be ignorant of history for them to be accepted then they are fraudulent. Call me a naive idealist but I don’t think fraud should be acceptable of any argumentation. That’s morality 101.

    If that fails then at least whenever these apologetics about the ancient world come up, that people start checking the facts. Notions like “irrational sects” being irrelevant and therefore nonexistent disappear. I’d like it if other Protestants become educated about the ancient world. So maybe a year from now on some board I don’t even know about when they hear that “no one objected to apostolic succession at the time” they throw forward Gospel of Mary, heck maybe they’ve even read it and love seeing a 2nd century defense of Priesthood of the Believer. The rest of that board goes from hearing how “nobody objected” to what that really means “among the people who didn’t object nobody objected”. Which of course is true for any theological claim, means nothing, and that forces better arguments that aren’t dependent on ignorance of early sources.

  96. @CD-HOST:
    Beliefs that are incoherent should be rejected by rational people. That’s not “preselection” in the sense of anything other than the use of your God-given brain, if you will pardon my theological phraseology. So if one believes, as everyone that Jason mentioned does, that the Trinity and Chalcedon are the only possibly coherent Christian theology, then it isn’t “preselection” to consider those the only viable candidates. I can’t possibly believe what is contrary to reason, so we can rule out all beliefs that can’t possibly be true before we even start looking at historical continuity. If you believe that we transcend our reason to reach God by contradiction, then as I said, you are wasting everybody’s time. If we can’t even agree that we should reject incoherent beliefs, then reasoned discussion ceases to be possible.

    It would therefore help if you would understand that when we say “nobody,” this means nobody in the Church accepting Trinitarian and Chalcedonian orthodoxy. That is an entirely reasonable assumption that is thoroughly consistent with what people actually mean when they are saying it. The point is to look at beliefs correlated with the people who held Trinitarian and Chalcedonian orthodoxy. It may also be of some interest that people who did not share those beliefs still considered these beliefs dogmatic, but the primary goal is to identify the constellation of beliefs associated with Trinitarian and Chalcedonian orthodoxy.

    So it is not that we don’t know that these sects existed, we just don’t care. If it turned out that the Catholic tradition was invented out of one of these sects, rather than arising contemporaneously then that would simply add one more name to the list of sects about which we don’t care. Likewise, the increased knowledge about these sects has made me no more inclined to care.

    Is it clear now that the situation is that we *know* but we do not *care*? And that when we say “nobody” we mean “nobody we care about” or “nobody who matters to us”? It should not be so difficult for you to comprehend that we first identify the beliefs that we actually care about and apply this as a relevance filter.

  97. @Robert:
    3, 4, 7, 8 and 9 are all ahistorical nonsense. There is no reason to believe any of them. In fact, they’ve all been studied extensively and rebutted. It’s not a case of data not fitting in so much as there being clear data demonstrating their falsehood. I’d even grant you 5 and 6 being precipitating causes of the Reformation, but the rest are just sixteenth century fairy tales.

    This is, I think, where we have a problem. You don’t seem to have a grasp of just how far outside the zone of historical possibility you are. These things just did not happen; the points I mentioned are about as credible as the claim that the moon landing was faked.

    So my question becomes this: where on earth are you getting this stuff? Give me a book: I’ll buy it. Point me to some close readings of the patristic texts. Give me *something* that demonstrates that you aren’t just residing in a land of fairy tales and myths. Show me somebody who even generally outlines that thesis based on a survey of the scholarship. Just give me some reason to believe that you have some grounding in reality.

  98. +JMJ+

    Jonathan Prejean wrote:

    So it is not that we don’t know that these sects existed, we just don’t care. If it turned out that the Catholic tradition was invented out of one of these sects, rather than arising contemporaneously then that would simply add one more name to the list of sects about which we don’t care. Likewise, the increased knowledge about these sects has made me no more inclined to care.

    It should be worth noting that the various gnostic sects arose out of a profound jealously of the preeminent and supreme Gnosis found in the Christic Mysteries: a Gnosis inappropriable by human wisdom and, thus, proprietary to the Catholic Church. Therefore, the gnostics variously deviated the integrity of these Mysteries by subjecting them to the demands of human systematics (i.e. they made them into simple, logically progressive formulae). Thus, for the gnostics, in regard to Trinitarianism, The One necessarily excludes The Many. And, in regard to the Incarnation, The Uncreated necessarily excludes The Created.

    It is, further, interesting to note that, in the Protestant Reformation, this logically systematizing pattern is repeated, though it is applied, not to the historical fact of these Mysteries in themselves (these Mysteries as considered in the abstract), but rather, to these Mysteries as they apply to the praxis of the Church (to the hermeneutical value of these Mysteries).

  99. @Robert:
    And by the way, this money you’re talking about isn’t there. Harvard has ten times the budget. Yet another myth, and in this case, a nasty and hateful one.
    http://fathershane.com/post/10767271477/vatican-wealth

  100. @Jonathan Prejean

    Beliefs that are incoherent should be rejected by rational people.

    Stop intermixing topics. Whether people should do things and whether they stop existing if they don’t do things are totally unrelated concepts. Everyone should make their bed in the morning, the billion people that don’t aren’t subtracted from world population statistics.

    So if one believes, as everyone that Jason mentioned does, that the Trinity and Chalcedon are the only possibly coherent Christian theology,

    That’s simply not true. Protestants most certainly do not believe that the Trinity is the only possibly coherent Christian theology. They may believe it is correct that don’t believe that non-trinitiarians are incoherent or non-existent. Nor do most Catholics.

    This is your theology. Islam exists. Oneness Pentecostals exist. Arians exist.

    I can’t possibly believe what is contrary to reason, so we can rule out all beliefs that can’t possibly be true before we even start looking at historical continuity

    No we can’t. Whether you agree with a belief or not has zero baring on who evolved from what. Those are not related questions. The fact you don’t think something is reasonable has nothing to do with whether groups that preceded your sect believed those things or not.

    You both have stupid beliefs and exist. Your church has stupid beliefs and yet it still exists. Trinitarian and Chalcedonian orthodoxy is stupid and it exists. Sects that believe dumb stuff don’t cease to exist. That is a simple categorical error. All is a statistical term and has nothing to do with theology.

    If we can’t even agree that we should reject incoherent beliefs, then reasoned discussion ceases to be possible.

    No what I’m saying is that
    a) Is belief X true
    b) Did group Y believe X
    are unrelated questions and you don’t get to intermix them.

    I think Nascar is boring. That does not change whether Nascar exists.

    It would therefore help if you would understand that when we say “nobody,” this means nobody in the Church accepting Trinitarian and Chalcedonian orthodoxy…So it is not that we don’t know that these sects existed, we just don’t care. If it turned out that the Catholic tradition was invented out of one of these sects, rather than arising contemporaneously then that would simply add one more name to the list of sects about which we don’t care.

    No you don’t otherwise you would be quite comfortable speaking correctly. The reason you are fighting so hard is because you don’t want to say what would be required if you didn’t care. You don’t use the term “all religions” because you don’t have any problem admitting that Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans and Animists disagreed with the early church. But you do want to make claims that are false about Christianity.

    Just imagine what using this definition would mean:

    * “Christianity came into existence around the 4th century with the invention of Trinitarian and Chalcedonian orthodoxy”.

    * “Most Christians in the 2nd century had never heard of apostolic succession and when they did they rejected it. However we have no record of anything but wild acceptance by Trinitarian and Chalcedonian orthodox Christians”

    * Sola Scriptura was a belief which well over 100 Christian sects all through history preached variants of. However prior to the 14th century we have no record of any Trinitarian and Chalcedonian orthodox Christians believing in it.

    The reason you are having this argument is because you want the force that comes from “all”. You don’t want to admit that Catholicism was just one of many Christian sects, an important one but still just one of many. In terms of the early world, “Trinitarian and Chalcedonian orthodox” is just a synonym for Catholic.

    If you mean Trinitarian and Chalcedonian orthodox Christians then say that. Or just be honest with yourself about what you mean and say “Catholic”. But don’t say “Christians”. The fact that you don’t like many of the Christian groups doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    It should not be so difficult for you to comprehend that we first identify the beliefs that we actually care about and apply this as a relevance filter.

    Then say that. “After applying a filter which excludes all non-Catholics we find that only Catholics remain”. If I’m only interested in Pennsylvanians I don’t get to use the word “American”.

  101. Jonathan Prejean,

    Well, for starters, it is clear that Cyprian rejected the primacy of the bishop of Rome, or of any other bishop for that matter:

    http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume05/ECF05THE_SEVENTH_COUNCIL_OF_CARTHAGE_.htm

    That’s a pretty telling indictment of the papacy’s nonexistence in the earliest centuries of the church, especially since Rome loves to confess Cyprian’s statement that one cannot have God as father without the church as his mother. Of course, confessional Protestants agree with Cyprian on this point, we just reject that the Roman Catholic church is the church to which Cyprian refers.

    The other significant difference between us is that I have no problem confessing that Cyprian wasn’t a Protestant. There weren’t any Protestants in the third century. But as a good Roman Catholic, you must say Cyprian was a Roman Catholic. Unfortunately for Rome, there weren’t any Roman Catholics in the third century either.

    Then, there is the significant problem of Rome’s own archbishops admitting that the Eastern Church never recognized Rome’s primacy or claim to be the unique successor of Peter and that the first time Rome’s active participation in a council was made a qualification for ecumenicity was more than 750 years after Christ:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=SZ2vkWM8IpwC&pg=PA47&lpg=PA47&dq=only+the+emperor+would+have+the+power+to+convoke+an+ecumenical+council+and+protect+the+church.&source=bl&ots=f4kmL1Rjo7&sig=_-I84Fcp2C8eektb0O4xdaShFa0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=3I-WUeGzKImy8QSq4IH4Aw&ved=0CD8Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=only%20the%20emperor%20would%20have%20the%20power%20to%20convoke%20an%20ecumenical%20council%20and%20protect%20the%20church.&f=false

    When the Roman Magisterium of today admits that its binding authority was not recognized in the earliest centuries while the Roman Magisterium of the past says that Petrine primacy was always accepted, Rome has significant problems.

    Again, this would be less of a problem for you if Rome did not claim infallibility. Unfortunately, the historical record cuts completely against so many Roman claims, which is evident even to the current Roman curia (though they tend to be kind of quiet about it). When the ones who can make “principled distinctions” between special revelation and personal opinion cannot establish their own principled historical credibility, the whole system collapses.

  102. @CD-HOST:
    Catholicism was one of many Christian sects. I’ll go you one better: Catholicism has always been one of many Christian sects and continues to be one of many Christian sects.

    I do not care. It does not matter. That fact has no more relevance to me than the price of rice in Upper Mongolia. I also don’t care that people believe (erroneously) that their Christian theology is coherent when it isn’t.

    In Catholic theology, Christian is used specifically to refer to people who are validly baptized, which at least implicitly requires Trinitarian belief. “Trinitarian” sounds anachronistic before the fourth century, and “Catholic” is understood as meaning Roman Catholic, so it would be construed as excluding Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East. So we use the term “Christian” to catch that broader concept. We recognize that there are many sects that consider themselves Christian that could be more broadly called “Christian sects,” so context is important.

    “Every sect that calls itself Christian” is not the relevant sense of the term here, so you can be confident that the Catholics are using Christian as a synonym for Trinitarian. Again, we really, honestly do *not* care about whether people do or do not call themselves Christian sects. If you can avoid that misunderstanding, maybe there’s potential for some useful discussion.

  103. @Robert:
    My question had nothing to do with papal primacy. It had to do with the support for a number of historical claims you made above. Since you have not ponied up a source for those claims, is it safe for me to conclude that you are making them up?

  104. @Robert:
    PS, I am a Catholic. I have no problem saying that St. Cyprian denied papal infallibility or that the Eastern Church didn’t recognize it. I don’t “have to” believe what you say I “have to” believe. How do you explain that?

  105. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Well, for starters, it is clear that Cyprian rejected the primacy of the bishop of Rome, or of any other bishop for that matter:
    .
    http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume05/ECF05THE_SEVENTH_COUNCIL_OF_CARTHAGE_.htm

    That’s a rather superficial reading of Cyprian. At the very least, it is one which doesn’t account for the Catholic claims.

    Note carefully the wording of what Cyprian says here…

    For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops…

    This is precisely the point of Cyprian and it is perfectly applicable to the Catholic worldview. What Cyprian is reaffirming is that there is no “strata” of Holy Orders beyond that of Bishop (i.e. The fullness of the Episcopacy). The Roman Pontiff is, certainly, not a “bishop of bishops”; he has no sacerdotal dignity higher than any other bishop. He is, simply, a bishop. The Bishop of Rome. Neither more nor less than any other bishop. Though he is the Universal Pastor, he is never to be considered the Universal Bishop. This may be a subtle distinction to non-Catholics, but it is an important one to understand in order to penetrate the Catholic worldview (assuming that productive dialogue is your goal).

    To unpack this distinction further, it must be stressed that the unifying function proper to the office of Bishop of Rome is wholly unrelated to the sacerdotal dignity referenced by Cyprian. Unlike the sacerdotal character, the Papal function is an ephemerally impermanent charism, pure and simple, which is proper to the current officeholder and which ‘localizes’ or ‘manifests’ that Infallibility which is proper to the Church as a whole.

    Like I said, Catholics have answers. You may not like ’em. But we got ’em.

  106. @Johnanthan

    In Catholic theology, Christian is used specifically to refer to people who are validly baptized, which at least implicitly requires Trinitarian belief.

    When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    In Mormon theology valid baptism requires the keys which were lost prior to the trinity. Who cares what any one sect believes when we are discussing definitions? Contradictions like this are why words with this kind of overlap are avoided. Again if you mean “Trinitarian baptism” then use that term. Christian is taken and it means something else. Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians. Onenesss Pentecostals are Christians. Unitarians are Christians. Quakers are Christians. And Marcionites were Christians.

    Your sect is not entitled to redefine common words.

    Catholics are using Christian as a synonym for Trinitarian

    First off you have to make up your mind here. Are the Oriental Orthodox in or out? Do you want Chalcedonian or Trinitarian as your definition?

    Now beyond the constant change up. You/they are not entitled to that usage when discussing history. Particularly when discussing early history because it entirely distorts cause and effect. This thread is about apostolic succession, under that definition it no longer becomes a given, or even likely, that any of the apostles are Christian. It no longer becomes a given that there were any Christians at all, until the 4th or 5th century. Trinitarian sounds anachronistic for good reason.

    It is a completely unacceptable definition for Christian. Moreover were that the definition of Christian than most of the Christians executed for heresy were innocent since they weren’t Christian at all. Your church was just bumping off people who belonged to unrelated religions.

    You are sitting here yelling at Robert at his historical problems when you are asserting that the early church would have had any clue about the Chalcedonian definition? I don’t even think you believe the nonsense you are spouting anymore. You know there weren’t any Chalcedonians. Nor do Catholics believe the early church was Chalcedonian. Catholics generally have no problem admitting that the definition developed over time.

  107. +JMJ+

    EDIT: Sorry. Meant to write above “(i.e. the Episcopacy is the fullness of the Priesthood)”.

  108. @CD-HOST:

    Who cares what any one sect believes when we are discussing definitions?

    Because we were having what was essentially an intra-sect discussion between conservative Protestants and Catholics. There is a narrower sense of the term “Christian” that both recognize, and we were using it. Nobody asked you to butt in. On the contrary, people have been asking you to butt out more or less explicitly for a hundred comments or so.

    First off you have to make up your mind here. Are the Oriental Orthodox in or out? Do you want Chalcedonian or Trinitarian as your definition?

    That’s irrelevant for my purposes, since the parties in question ostensibly accept both. If it mattered, then I would make a distinction. Moreover, as I said above, I consider the Chalcedonian dogma a necessary logical inference for the coherence of Christian belief, so I consider the Oriental Orthodox to be inconsistent to the extent they reject Chalcedon anyway.

    Now beyond the constant change up. You/they are not entitled to that usage when discussing history. Particularly when discussing early history because it entirely distorts cause and effect.

    Again, when there’s a recognized meaning between the people in the discussion, then they’re entitled to use the term in that way. Someone who then butts into the conversation should listen and understand how the term is being used before talking. Just basic courtesy.

    This thread is about apostolic succession, under that definition it no longer becomes a given, or even likely, that any of the apostles are Christian. It no longer becomes a given that there were any Christians at all, until the 4th or 5th century. Trinitarian sounds anachronistic for good reason.

    As I said, my definition was “at least implicitly.” If they believed things that logically entailed Trinitarian belief, then it doesn’t really matter whether they did or didn’t believe it explicitly. That confusion is why I don’t use the term “Trinitarian” in a way that would imply explicit Trinitarian belief. I believe that Trinitarian belief is a necessary logical consequence of the apostolic doctrine.

    It is a completely unacceptable definition for Christian. Moreover were that the definition of Christian than most of the Christians executed for heresy were innocent since they weren’t Christian at all. Your church was just bumping off people who belonged to unrelated religions.

    There is some irony with your judgment that we can’t specify the meaning of a term when you are specifying how we can use a term. Not having Christian belief doesn’t mean that you are innocent; that’s been my point all along. If you should have believed something (because it was true) and you denied that belief through your own fault, that is evil.

    You are sitting here yelling at Robert at his historical problems when you are asserting that the early church would have had any clue about the Chalcedonian definition? I don’t even think you believe the nonsense you are spouting anymore. You know there weren’t any Chalcedonians. Nor do Catholics believe the early church was Chalcedonian. Catholics generally have no problem admitting that the definition developed over time.

    And neither do I. I believe that they held it implicitly, and I believe that there was a real Christian sect from the beginning, including the Apostles themselves, who held beliefs that logically entailed Trinitarian and Chalcedonian belief. Nor do I believe that is a stretch from the historical evidence.

  109. @JONATHAN PREJEAN May 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Because we were having what was essentially an intra-sect discussion between conservative Protestants and Catholics.

    No you aren’t. Oneness Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witnesses are conservative Protestants. The definition you are using isn’t one they would accept. We have Assemblies of God guy on here and the reject rebaptism for non-trinitarian Christians. So they don’t accept your definition.

    Nobody asked you to butt in. On the contrary, people have been asking you to butt out more or less explicitly for a hundred comments or so.

    There is one history. I know you like to fabricate history but there is only one. What happened is neutral.

    Finally, I was conservative Protestant for a very long time. I didn’t forget those years when I stopped believing. There was not one day I would have rejected Arian Adventists as Christian. There is not one day I would have rejected Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christian. There was not one day our church didn’t consider the Wulfila to be a Christian book written by Christians, knowing full well the authors were Arian. And there was not one day when modalists in our church were not considered brothers in Christ.

    And there was not one day that when I said Catholics were Christian my brothers in Christ thought I was being too liberal for including people who worshipped crackers and Ishtar. The sacrament of penance is seen by most conservative Protestants as outright denial of the cross. 2Thes 2:3-4 was applied to the very church fathers you are citing. If conservative Protestants are throwing anyone out of the tent, you better believe you are the first to go.

    So no there is no group discussion where Catholics comfortably inside the circle with conservative Protestants except in your imagination.

    So I consider the Oriental Orthodox to be inconsistent to the extent they reject Chalcedon anyway.

    So now we drop Syria, Egypt.. from all your claims about Christians.

    Again, when there’s a recognized meaning between the people in the discussion, then they’re entitled to use the term in that way.

    Probably not. You can’t even come up with a consistent definition. You keep changing your mind. Moreover, this is the internet. You do not get to use “soap” to mean “egg” and then say that it is the fault of other people for butting in because after all everyone knows that soap is used to mean egg.

    As I said, my definition was “at least implicitly.” If they believed things that logically entailed Trinitarian belief, then it doesn’t really matter whether they did or didn’t believe it explicitly

    So now we have definition #4. And that definition is not people who believe in the trinity or Chalcedonians but people who should believe in those things based on other stuff they believe. Now definition is clear as mud. Under your theory the trinity is intellectual necessity so therefore everyone must believe in it. It is also a necessary consequence of apostolic doctrine so therefore everyone who believes in apostolic doctrine which is all Christians believe in it.

    So this doesn’t pan out. Do you really think you won’t be on definition #10 within a week?

    Just basic courtesy

    A guy using a term in a way designed to offended doesn’t get to talk about courtesy.

    There is some irony with your judgment that we can’t specify the meaning of a term when you are specifying how we can use a term.

    There is no irony at all. Words which have a meaning should be used in ways consistent with that meaning. In cross religious conversations you don’t get to use words consistent with your religion.

    Nor do I believe that is a stretch from the historical evidence.

    Then do what I’ve been asking for 2 months. Give me a plausible timeline for the various sects that explains the documentary evidence we have consistent with your theory of the apostles being Catholic. I’m not even asking you to prove just don’t contradict the evidence we have.

    Simple questions. For example If Paul is a Catholic Bishop writing to Catholic Churches whose letters were collected by another Catholic Bishop then why prior to Marcion do the 3 datable mentions of Paul by Catholic authors indicate they don’t know about the epistles with the possible exception of 1Corinthians?

  110. +JMJ+

    I, for one, welcome our new theosophist overlords.

  111. @CD-HOST:

    Moreover, this is the internet.

    Holy moly, I can’t remember cracking up that much at a line on the Internet in a long time. Thanks for the laugh, if nothing else!

    Rave on, man, rave on. It wouldn’t be the City without the crazy guy yelling at random pedestrians.

  112. “Moreover, this is the internet.”

    Still laughing. Not even kidding. I’ve gotta use that line somewhere…

  113. Wosbald,

    Oh, I know Roman Catholics have answers. They aren’t good ones but in some ways I feel sorry for you all. Vatican II has really made you have to jump through hoops to pretend fundamental Roman doctrines didn’t change. Gotta give some of you a A plus for trying, however.

  114. Catholicism was one of many Christian sects. I’ll go you one better: Catholicism has always been one of many Christian sects and continues to be one of many Christian sects.

    I do not care. It does not matter. That fact has no more relevance to me than the price of rice in Upper Mongolia. I also don’t care that people believe (erroneously) that their Christian theology is coherent when it isn’t.

    It’s not upper Mongolia. It’s either Outer or Inner Mongolia, Jonathan. The fact is biblical and historical facts are relevant even if you’re ignorant of the price of meatloaf in some shanty town on the East Coast.

    The irony is – as shown by the likes of Perry Robinson and Joseph P Farrell in his God, History & Dalectics – is that the less savoury parts of Augustinianism became the theological basis of the papacy where the Many is subordinated to the One. This is something one should recoil from, i.e. what is to become Roman triadology. Not predestination; yes, a very difficult doctrine to accept. But Luther took Augustine’s predestination, i.e. the kernel of the inviolate Catholic faith as hidden in the ecclesial deposit of the Augustinian Succession of the magisterial Church and formed it as the theological basis of *proclamation* – so that predestination becomes the greatest comfort for Christians. This was what the Reformation was all about: Re-connecting Christ and His Body through the proclamation of the Gospel of justification by faith in Word and Sacraments. Thus, the Chalcedonian Definition in all of its evangelical clarity and implications – pushed by Luther even beyond the boundaries of the common understanding towards “breaking point” so that Jesus Christ is truly deep in the flesh FOR YOU runs through the very veins of Reformation theology and proclamation (even if minimied, neutralized, obscured or neglected subsequently).

    But the Reformation is “there” – Its *impact* continues until today. Such is the power of the Gospel of the Reformation so that we are reminded of Our Lord’s words that the gates shall not prevail against the Church …

  115. How things have changed! Good on Wedgeworth. It’s a far cry from the days when he, Kevin Johnson, Tim Enloe and their ilk had a romanticised version of church history and tradition. How the scales have fallen from their eyes …

  116. Jonathan Prejean,

    If you want to know my sources for my basic outline of church history:

    Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church
    Roger E. Olson’s Story of Christian Theology
    Kenneth Scott Latourette’s History of the Church
    William H.C. Frend’s The Early Church

    Various Articles in different publications by Robert Godfrey

    • My Christian Ethics Course at Florida International University (taught by a Roman Catholic ethicist in good standing in your church despite not toeing the line on many issues such as contraception)
    • My Contemporary Issues in Christian Theology course at Florida International Unversity (taught by the same RC ethicist)
    • My Early Church History course at Florida International University (taught by an evangelical Christian)
    • My Introduction to Christianity course at Florida International University (taught by an ecumenically-minded Lutheran pastor who participates in spiritual exercises with Roman Catholic monks)
    • Two Church History courses at Reformed Theological Seminary taught by a recognized expert in Peter Martyr Vermigli and the Reformation period in Italy
    • My course in relations between Roman Catholics-Eastern Orthodox-Protestants at Reformed Theological Seminary (taught by a Baptist scholar from Romania)
    • Carl Trueman’s lectures on Medieval Church History (from Westminster Seminary via iTunesU)

    My own readings over the years of fathers in the faith including Cyprian, Augustine, Athanasius, Chrysostom, 1 Clement, Calvin, and Luther

    The date 1054, I realize, is a matter of convenience, a formal marking of the split that many recognize had already essentially happened (used largely for pedagogical purposes). I also realize that saying the RC Church was birthed at Trent is not exactly common, but it makes no sense to refer to the Roman Catholic Church until there is something to define it against. That means the Reformation. Before that, there was no Roman Catholic Church but only the Western catholic church. Both Rome and Protestantism, historically speaking, could be viewed as heirs to that church because each communion takes different elements of the Western catholic tradition and runs with them. The question is how does one pick the wheat from the chaff in the Western catholic tradition (as well as the East).

    I am also confident that such a basic outline would be essentially acceptable to all church historians except those who have bought into a Catholic Answers/CTC romanticized apologetic. But as Darryl Hart has said, many of the CTC writers show little awareness of the complexities of history. They have to in order to maintain their position, which is the height of fideism.

    If the East never recognized papal authority, then Rome is teaching something that goes against the consensus of the fathers, thereby violating its own standards that one may not interpret Scripture in a manner contrary to the consensus of the Fathers.

    Measured by its own standards, Rome fails and she fails miserably. Again, there would be less of a problem if Rome were more honest about it’s history and did not claim infallibility for itself. Protestants are not perfect, but we do a far better job of dealing with what actually happened in church history than the average Roman Catholic apologist.

    The only sure deposit of apostolic teaching that we have is the New Testament. An early church father’s claim to hold to something passed down from the apostles , even for Rome, is not enough to get it accepted as an authentic part of the apostolic oral tradition. Rather, there is much talk of consensus. The problem with that, especially for someone like Jason, is that in his interviews he has expressly said that we don’t determine orthodoxy by counting votes but by siding with Peter and his successor in Rome. You all try to have it both ways—only the consensus of the fathers represents authentic tradition but then when there is doubt, you have to side with whatever side goes with Peter’s successor in Rome.

    Nothing I have said is sufficient as an argument for the truth of Protestantism. But it is certainly enough to show that Rome’s claims are unsubstantiated. You have to seriously question an institution whose power was originally based largely on forged documents such as the Donation of Constantine and the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals. You have to seriously question an institution whose main means of achieving conformity from the Middle Ages up through the end of the nineteenth century was the wielding of the sword. You have to seriously question an institution that claims to be the representation of the One whose “kingdom is not of this world” and yet has adopted all the pomp of the kingdoms of this world, raised armies, maintains a secretary of state, and so much more.

    I could go on, but Rome’s historical plausibility for its claims is only slightly better than the LDS historical plausibility, and that’s a fact.

  117. Yes, indeed.

  118. Robert said:

    I am also confident that such a basic outline would be essentially acceptable to all church historians except those who have bought into a Catholic Answers/CTC romanticized apologetic. But as Darryl Hart has said, many of the CTC writers show little awareness of the complexities of history. They have to in order to maintain their position, which is the height of fideism.

    Yes, indeed.

  119. Nothing I have said is sufficient as an argument for the truth of Protestantism. But it is certainly enough to show that Rome’s claims are unsubstantiated. You have to seriously question an institution whose power was originally based largely on forged documents such as the Donation of Constantine and the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals. You have to seriously question an institution whose main means of achieving conformity from the Middle Ages up through the end of the nineteenth century was the wielding of the sword. You have to seriously question an institution that claims to be the representation of the One whose “kingdom is not of this world” and yet has adopted all the pomp of the kingdoms of this world, raised armies, maintains a secretary of state, and so much more.

    Theology of glory …

  120. “The only sure deposit of apostolic teaching that we have is the New Testament”.

    Yes, the magisterium of the Church is a not self presumed pretention, and especially the power to govern the Church by Peter (and his succesors) has been ordered by the Lord himself.

    Indeed “roman-ticizing” is- despite the complexities -the correct expression.

  121. Robert,

    You claim that the only deposit of faith is the New Testament. The written new testament. But you see the problem with that is that the new testament was not written to you. It was written to people who lived 2,000 years ago in totally different settings. Some of these writings only spell half (maybe less) the truth since the assumptions of the writers concerning the understanding of the hearers is was such that the writers were expecting the hearers to understand some of the concepts which they brought up, which without prior discussion requires more explanation. We as readers of someone elses mail assume we are as well equipped to understand the concepts, terminologies, assumptions, etc,etc.

    For instance, when the Romans read Paul’s wording “baptized into Christ”, who is to say dogmatically that they did not immediately understand this as the grace of baptismal regeneration in water? How do you know? The readers do not then crack open the rest of the bible (wait a second, what bible?) to check the rest of the scriptures for what baptism means and then understand what Paul said. No, they knew immediately what it meant. We however, are at that disadvantage of not being under the school of Paul’s teaching, and therefor we can only guess what he means on a number of different occasions.

    For example, when modern protestants read “we are justified by His blood”, they understand this to mean a bare blood atonement completely setting slaves to sin as righteous. But when early Christians read this, they did not divorce this from inward transformation. But who is to say with authority? You? Not only has every protestant proven to be disunified on just about every doctrine in Scripture, besides maybe the names of the books of the bible, there is also a huge progression in understanding. For example, I knew a minister who went from being a dispensationalist ultra arminian to a pentecostal to a reformed baptist. All the while he held the same office in his church as Pastor. It is because there is so much room for speculation and different ways to build systems of theology.

    Who is to say who’s right?

    One of the weaknesses of being a Presbyterian is infant baptism. The doctrine original came about because of the belief in the removal of original sin needed for infants. And you guys still practice this without believing there is any effect in the sacrament, a real effect of forgiveness of sin. Yet you find a way to settle the issue based on the wisdom of history and a few constructions from the Old Testament covenant theology.

    If all we have is the written new testament, then the scholars are the pastors. If however, the Church is preserved by Christ in the three-legged stool of tradition and Scripture, then those who are churchmen remain our teachers (Ephesians 4).

  122. Robert,

    So, would it be right to infer from what you’ve written above that, in your opinion, the Roman Catholic Church did not exist in the 14th and 15th centuries? That was (and is) my question.

  123. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    I am also confident that such a basic outline would be essentially acceptable to all church historians except those who have bought into a Catholic Answers/CTC romanticized apologetic. But as Darryl Hart has said, many of the CTC writers show little awareness of the complexities of history. They have to in order to maintain their position, which is the height of fideism.

    At least, for Catholics, mounting a positive apologetic is a categoric possibility. Protestants have no positive apologetic that doesn’t presume Christian Identity a priori. Talk about “the height of fideism”!

  124. Andrew Preslar,

    My basic answer to your question is this:

    During the 14th and 15th centuries, there was the Western church, under an authority that had been centered in Rome as a result of centuries of political developments—except, of course, during the Avignon papacy—and the Eastern Church, centered in Byzantium as a result of centuries of political developments but not with the same authoritarian structure as the West.

  125. Erick,

    The church does not only have the written New Testament. It has tradition and the teaching office as well that are real but subordinate authorities. But the only infallible authority is the New Testament, which means when the others conflict with it, Scripture wins.

    Whose to say that the early Christians reading Romans would have seen “baptized” and thought “baptismal regeneration”? Whose to say that the practice of infant baptism arose originally to wash away original sin? I know that both of those positions are what the church came to believe, but who is to say that’s how they started? Do you have a record of the first person to practice these things that says so, or do you have later men claiming to receive the beliefs from earlier men, who claim to have received them from earlier men, who claim to have received them from the apostles, the record of whose teaching on infant regeneration on baptism we can never be sure about or really know because it wasn’t written down?

  126. Wosbald,

    Protestants have no positive apologetic that doesn’t presume Christian Identity a priori.

    You’ve obviously never read a classical apologist such as R.C. Sproul or John Gerstner, or a more evidentialist apologist such as William Lane Craig, John Warwick Montgomery, or Josh McDowell.

    Even presuppositional apologists such as Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, and John Frame would take issue with that statement.

  127. Erick,

    Not only has every protestant proven to be disunified on just about every doctrine in Scripture, besides maybe the names of the books of the bible, there is also a huge progression in understanding. For example, I knew a minister who went from being a dispensationalist ultra arminian to a pentecostal to a reformed baptist. All the while he held the same office in his church as Pastor. It is because there is so much room for speculation and different ways to build systems of theology.

    The pastor, in all those phases, would have believed:

    1. The doctrine of the Trinity
    2. The hypostatic union
    3. justification by grace alone through faith alone
    4. The priesthood of all believers
    5. The final infallible authority of Scripture (maybe not while Pentecostal, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt as a part of an orthodox Pentecostal group)
    6. The necessity of faith in Christ for salvation

    And many more.

    Meanwhile, heirs of the Reformation such as confessional Baptists, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Presbyterians agree on all of the above plus

    The real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper (though the manner is differently defined)
    Ecclesiastical authority.

    So no, you are quite wrong. When your church excommunicates Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden for their support of the murder of infants in the womb, then you can tell me how wonderfully united your church is in faith and practice.

  128. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    Protestants have no positive apologetic that doesn’t presume Christian Identity a priori.

    Robert wrote:
    .
    Wosbald,
    You’ve obviously never read a classical apologist such as R.C. Sproul or John Gerstner, or a more evidentialist apologist such as William Lane Craig, John Warwick Montgomery, or Josh McDowell.
    Even presuppositional apologists such as Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, and John Frame would take issue with that statement.

    Okay, then please give us a positive apologetic, one which is directed at the Natural Man. Assume that you’re talking to the Natural Man and tell him how he can become a Christian/follower of Christ (a ‘true’ Christian, mind you; one with Christian Identity; one who is Regenerate).

  129. @Robert:
    That’s pretty typical, and it’s what I expected. You’re relying on dated historical surveys, a couple of which written by scholars who are not patristics specialists. You left out Justice Gonzalez and Harold O.J. Brown, but the common theme is that they are old. And that has essentially been my experience; the Protestants are in the mainstream of scholarship from the seventies.

    They’re still talking about logos-sarx/logos-man from Grillmeier, as if the whole neo-patristic renaissance never happened. They talk about Western and Eastern theology as balanced perspective between unity-first and person-first as if, again, orthodoxy was the Goldilocks position between two wrong extremes. This presents patristics as if it were some sort of consensus between people who were sort of right and sort of wrong who, by working out their disagreements, basically came to some sort of consensus, as opposed to revealed truth.

    The only people I know who actually believe that are unapologetic liberals and Protestants who haven’t caught up with or even acknowledged the existence of the last twenty years of patristics scholarship. The people who actually take theology of individual authors seriously have constantly been coming out with theses demonstrating the internal coherence of patristic theology through the councils and in their own writings,,including especially their theologies of the Church and Sacraments. It is ironic that Protestants who would never want to use liberal methodologies on Biblical theology will cheerfully endorse it for patristic theology.

    The problem with your analysis is that you’re assuming the Catholics adhere to Vatican I triumphalist accounts of history, which we don’t. That went out a long time ago; nobody believes that stuff anymore. You’re having a fight with Victorian-era Catholicism when your opponents are on the cutting edge of ressourcement and the neo-patristics renaissance. In the meantime, you’re relying on guys who are basically dinosaurs in terms of keeping up with patristics.

    I agree that “most historians” thirty or forty years ago might have viewed your thesis as plausible, although plenty would have disagreed. These days, they would have to be ill-informed or out of touch.

  130. Robert,

    I understand what you are saying, but what you are saying still does not answer the question that I have twice asked. So I’ll try again:

    In your opinion, did the Roman Catholic Church exist in the 14th and 15th centuries?

  131. Andrew,

    No. There was the Western Church and the Eastern Church.

  132. Jonathan,

    If no one adheres to Vatican I triumphalist accounts of history, then I guess that means the council wasn’t infallible, was it. Are you trying to weaken Rome’s case for infallibility? Were Vatican I and the surrounding writers/curia/etc. not making pronouncements on faith and morals?

    I have not once said that there is not a coherence to be found in patristic theology. All I have said is, essentially, that said coherence is not what Rome says that it is. Furthermore, there is far more theological coherence between the first seven ecumenical councils than between those councils and the other sixteen or so Rome has said that occurred since then. Which is one reason why Protestants are far more favorable to those councils, with an exception to the seventh depending on the Protestant.

    What we don’t find as a matter of theological consensus is:

    The investiture of the papacy with a theological primacy, at best we have a first among equals, and even then Leo I wasn’t really big on being only the first among equals.
    An understanding that the church is infallible.
    The doctrine of Transubstantiation
    The Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption of Mary (though some like Augustine speak of the former as a matter of conjecture)

    And more.

    Where have modern patristics scholars demonstrated otherwise?

    The scholars I have listed above are not liberals, with the exception of the RC ethicist and maybe Frend (but I’m not sure). Take them out, and what I have said still stands.

  133. Robert,

    Thanks for answering my question.

    Andrew

  134. @Robert:

    If no one adheres to Vatican I triumphalist accounts of history, then I guess that means the council wasn’t infallible, was it. Are you trying to weaken Rome’s case for infallibility? Were Vatican I and the surrounding writers/curia/etc. not making pronouncements on faith and morals?

    Most matters of history aren’t matters of faith and morals, unless they’re necessary for some dogma. The Resurrection, the Assumption, and the Immaculate Conception are a few such events. The events recounted in Scripture generally are, unless there is some indication that they weren’t intended that way. Take something like this:
    At open variance with this clear doctrine of Holy Scripture, as it has ever been understood by the Catholic Church, are the perverse opinions of those who, while they distort the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church, deny that Peter, in his single person, preferably to all the other Apostles, whether taken separately or together, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction; or of those who assert that the same primacy was not bestowed immediately and directly upon Blessed Peter himself, but upon the Church, and through the Church on Peter as her Minister.
    There’s some posturing in there obviously. I don’t think that most people would see this as a “clear doctrine of Holy Scripture” in the sense of being unambiguously derived from the text, nor do I think it has “ever been understood by the Catholic Church” in the sense of universal acceptance at all times. Regardless of whether the case is “weakened” in some sense by acknowledging that this is, in significant part, the sort of puffery that often occurs in the Christian tradition doesn’t strike me as being particularly troubling. Infallibility covers dogmatic pronouncements, not editorial commentary.

    I have not once said that there is not a coherence to be found in patristic theology. All I have said is, essentially, that said coherence is not what Rome says that it is. Furthermore, there is far more theological coherence between the first seven ecumenical councils than between those councils and the other sixteen or so Rome has said that occurred since then. Which is one reason why Protestants are far more favorable to those councils, with an exception to the seventh depending on the Protestant.

    My point is that the patristic consensus excludes everything that Protestantism considers essential to the Gospel. It affirms apostolic succession (through ordination of bishops and priests), rejects imputed justification, affirms what Protestants call synergistic “works-salvation” and the intrinsic efficacy of the Sacraments, affirms the infallibility of ecumenical councils, rejects sola scriptura. But more importantly, these doctrines are essential to the unity of patristic theology; they are believed because of their doctrine of the Church. So you say that papal infallibility is not part of the patristic consensus; as I said, I’d probably agree with that, at least in general. But if you don’t agree with their theology of the Church, everything else falls apart, because their entire understanding is based on the unity of Christ’s divine nature with man in the Church.

    What we don’t find as a matter of theological consensus is:

    The investiture of the papacy with a theological primacy, at best we have a first among equals, and even then Leo I wasn’t really big on being only the first among equals.
    An understanding that the church is infallible.
    The doctrine of Transubstantiation
    The Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption of Mary (though some like Augustine speak of the former as a matter of conjecture)

    And more.

    Where have modern patristics scholars demonstrated otherwise?

    The understanding of the church as infallible has been amply demonstrated. That’s the only one where I don’t think anyone can argue anymore; it’s unanimously agreed that the Fathers considered apostolic Tradition as embodied in the life of the Church as having infallible divine authority. Even Protestants like Kelly and Pelikan (before his conversion) had to concede at least that much. This is why I say that you are reading patristic history like a liberal; you are reading in a possibility of error in their theology that they themselves denied, much as liberal historians of Scripture read the Scriptures as if they were written with a possibility of error in mind. The rest, as I said, are neither shown nor contradicted in the historical record. Not a problem.

    The scholars I have listed above are not liberals, with the exception of the RC ethicist and maybe Frend (but I’m not sure). Take them out, and what I have said still stands.

    The problem isn’t that they are “liberals” in whatever sense it is you mean by that term, which I assume means that they have some particular collection of beliefs that you consider “conservative” as opposed to “liberal.” What I mean is that for purposes of patristics, they read history in the same way that liberals read Scripture: imputing a possibility of error that the authors themselves don’t recognize and denying that the beliefs are based on a reality accurately expressed by their theology. I don’t see any difference between the way liberals read Scripture and the way you read the Fathers. And yes, if you read the Fathers as a liberal, then they’re perfectly compatible with Protestant beliefs, just as if you read Scripture like a liberal, it’s compatible with all sorts of liberal beliefs.

    You’re doing the same thing with the Fathers; the historical evidence absolutely supports that they considered their Tradition authoritative, but you consider that a product of their cultural context, so they might have been in error. But if they can be wrong about that, they can be wrong about anything, so you no longer have any reliable basis to accept their testimony on the authority of Scripture either. There’s a real and serious scholarly debate about whether the patristic consensus is compatible with Catholic belief, and I have spent years studying that debate. But at some point, we have to all admit that barring a liberalizing account of the Fathers, which I do not think Protestants want to do, the idea of Protestant continuity with the patristic consensus is simply a bridge too far. You can’t get from the Fathers to imputed justification, once-for-all salvation, receptionism on the Sacraments, selection of elders outside of priestly ordination, exclusive authority to Scriptures … essentially every Protestant distinctive.

    As a Catholic, I can accept that the historical claims we made in the Victorian era aren’t going to hold up. I would ask you, as a Protestant, to likewise accept the reality that Protestantism was contradicted by the patristic consensus based on the best available scholarship and numerous close readings of the texts, unless we are going to liberalize patristic history to the point that it’s just as meaningless as liberal scholarship on Scripture. Calvin and others thought they could make such a claim, but like Vatican I triumphalism, we know for a fact that it won’t hold up. If we can get to the point where we at least take Protestantism as a contradiction of the patristic consensus, then we can at least start to have a meaningful discussion. But as far as I can see, Protestants are going full ostrich on patristics, relying on theories essentially unchanged since before I was born, and that’s a real problem.

  135. Well put, Jonathan. This is the basic argument of my post (the last handful of them, actually): Protestants are just almost-liberals, or, liberals are just more-consistent Protestants. Both groups employ an identical hermeneutic of suspicion, it’s just that liberals are willing to subject Scripture to the faithless kind of historical enquiry with which Protestants read the fathers.

  136. Again, it is quite telling that we are still waiting for a statement from Athanasius, Augustine, or someone else to the effect that the church is infallible when making a pronouncement on faith and morals. Do I approach the fathers with a “hermeneutic of suspicion.” I approach everything except Scripture with a “hermeneutic of suspicion.” That is not a liberal methodology. If the fathers were infallible and inerrant, it would be a liberal methodology. But we humble Protestants are still waiting for a demonstration of the infallibility and inerrancy of the fathers, or at least a demonstration that the fathers believed that about themselves.

    You are well within your rights to turn to scholars to find a “consensus.” But you can’t do that and remain a good Roman Catholic, especially when you are trusting patristic scholars who are not a part of the Magisterium. If the Magisterium is infallible in its interpretation of Scripture and tradition, then it is the Magisterium with whom you must contend. You are relying on your own personal interpretation of the evidence and doing exactly what you, Jason, and the others say about sola Scriptura devolving into solo Scriptura.

    You have not once demonstrated that the early church considered itself infallible or even that it considered unwritten apostolic tradition infallible. You have leapt from Athanasius appealing to tradition and the regula fidei in his arguments against the Arians to Athanasius believing that unwritten tradition is infallible. That is a conclusion that does not follow from your argument. In fact, to come to the conclusion, you must include it as an unspoken premise. As Andrew McCallum has said, the fathers did believe that the interpretation of Scripture must be done within the context of the regula fidei. But every time they mention the content of the regula fidei, it contains things that are derivable from Scripture and not the later accretions that Rome believes.

    So again, you’ve in no way demonstrated that Protestants are not legitimate heirs of the church fathers. You may not like that idea. I wouldn’t if I were Roman Catholic, so I don’t blame you. But I’ll say it again—Protestants are the true catholics.

  137. Jonathan,

    There’s some posturing in there obviously. I don’t think that most people would see this as a “clear doctrine of Holy Scripture” in the sense of being unambiguously derived from the text, nor do I think it has “ever been understood by the Catholic Church” in the sense of universal acceptance at all times. Regardless of whether the case is “weakened” in some sense by acknowledging that this is, in significant part, the sort of puffery that often occurs in the Christian tradition doesn’t strike me as being particularly troubling. Infallibility covers dogmatic pronouncements, not editorial commentary.

    Thank you again for proving my point that your final authority is your personal reading of tradition. Where does the Magisterium of the era that produced that say that the passage you quote is mere editorial comment and not a dogmatic statement? You are engaging in what you and other Roman Catholic apologists accuse Protestants of doing, except that you’re doing it with sacred tradition.

    When even Rome doesn’t believe its own hype, there’s a problem.

    As for the things you say that the fathers believe but that Protestants don’t, I had a long comment that got lost. However, you are quite wrong:

    1. Protestants don’t believe in the exclusive authority of Scripture. We believe that Scripture is the only infallible authority. There are other authorities that are real and are to be followed, but they are not infallible.
    2. Reformed Protestants don’t believe in once-for-all-salvation; we believe in the perseverance of the elect.
    3. Reformed Protestatnts don’t believe the sacraments lack intrinsic efficacy. They are effectual to harden the hearts of those who do not receive them in faith and effectual to strengthen the hearts of those that do.
    4. Protestants can trace a historical lineage of ordination back to the church fathers.

    I could go on.

  138. Identical hermeneutic of suspicion?

    So liberal Protestants are simply the mirror image of conservative RCs since the latter employ the hermeneutic of blind faith/ obedience/ submission? IOW, two polar extremes on the opposing side of the spectrum basically proceeding from the same *Gnostic* logic, i.e. the clarity/ interpretation of Scripture is ultimately the exclusive preserve of a special class of Christians – be it the priesthood of AS or priesthood of scholars.

    OT1H, Rome claims supernatural charism in the form of the Magisterium which allows for continuing dogmatic pronouncements; OTOH, liberal Protestants make the natural claim of scholarship and continuing discovery of textual findings. These recent and later pronouncements and discoveries then become the prism by which Scripture is interpreted, respectively.

    Thus, instead of the Holy Spirit interpreting Scripture in the proclamation of the Word and Sacraments, that is to say, the external (proclaimed) Word which is identical (not in the Aristotelian sense) to the Internal Word is the Subject that interprets the exegete/ interpreter, in the case of Rome and liberal Protestantism, Scripture becomes internalised and a “passive” object to be exegeted/ interpreted by the Church. IOW, the *creature* of the Gospel presumes to *reverse* the role of Scripture.

    This is why both Rome and liberal Protestantism are simply two forms of the same *subjectivism*.

    Instead, the Reformation model proposes that it is we who become internalised into Scripture, i.e. incorporated into (the narrative of) salvation-history in the proclamation of the Word and Sacraments as contextualized and recapitulated in the divine liturgy. The internal clarity of Scripture “becomes” clear when its external clarity by way of the distinction between Law (covenant) and Gospel (testament) results in the death of the Old Adam and resurrection of the New Adam in Jesus Christ.

  139. ‘”Instead, the Reformation model…….”.

    You mean that every day one has to be prepared to protest in his own church?

    No, we can`t!

  140. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    You are engaging in what you and other Roman Catholic apologists accuse Protestants of doing, except that you’re doing it with sacred tradition.

    As has been said numerous times, Catholicism does not resolve or remove the need to interpret from within the interior of the Church. So, as Jason says, you are arguing against no one. Yet again.

    Robert wrote:

    3. Reformed Protestatnts don’t believe the sacraments lack intrinsic efficacy. They are effectual to harden the hearts of those who do not receive them in faith and effectual to strengthen the hearts of those that do.

    This just reinforces my earlier point that Protestantism presumes Christian Identity a priori.

    (BTW, I’m still waiting for that positive apologetic directed at the Natural Man. Feel free to keep it short and simple.)

  141. This is the basic argument of my post (the last handful of them, actually): Protestants are just almost-liberals, or, liberals are just more-consistent Protestants. Both groups employ an identical hermeneutic of suspicion, it’s just that liberals are willing to subject Scripture to the faithless kind of historical enquiry with which Protestants read the fathers.

    Jason,

    I just read through your “last handful” of posts and I’m really not sure what specifically you are referring to. What we often refer to as theological liberals are called this because they start with anti-supernatural assumptions. It’s not the critique of the texts which is at issue as much as the assumptions concerning those texts. They start with disbelief concerning the supernatural origin of those texts.

    So with the writings of the ECF’s we are not generally starting with a skepticism about the writings of Athanasius or Augustine or any of the other ECF’s. Our skepticism, if you can call it that, concerns the particular interpretation that Roman Catholics place on them. To often we see RCC dogma being forced onto the writings of the ECF’s. Obviously you disagree, but it’s not a matter of liberalism in terms of the assumptions we bring to the writings of the texts of the ECF’s.

    Let me give you an example – Over at CTC Mike L makes an interesting statement about AS which I agree with. He says that Catholic dogma on AS “is historically plausible but not historically demonstrable.” I agree with this. If I thought that AS, as Rome defines it, was impossible, then maybe there might be something analogous to what we do and the liberal critique of Scripture. But I agree that God could have worked through AS, as modern RCC dogma defines this. The Reformed are just asking the question as to whether there is historical evidence that He did work this way. I think it’s a reasonable question. If you disagree maybe you could tell us why.

    I think a reasonable way to look at the ECF’s is to define our respective understanding of the rule of faith which guides the respective systems and then ask whether various statements from Athanasius and other supports one paradigm or another. I suggested this before and I was a little surprised you said nothing since you were so enamored with this kind of methodology in previous threads.

    Cheers for now….

  142. Wosbald,

    As has been said numerous times, Catholicism does not resolve or remove the need to interpret from within the interior of the Church. So, as Jason says, you are arguing against no one. Yet again.

    I think you have completely missed my point. Jason, Bryan, Michael, Jonathan, you (I think), et al, say that the Roman Catholic Magisterium offers a principled way to distinguish personal opinion from divine revelation. But then, when Vatican I says that the church has always affirmed the primacy of the Roman bishop as a matter of consensus and I point out that such is not true historically, and he agrees, he tells me that infallibility does not apply to “editorial commentary” on a dogmatic statement. So it is his personal opinion now that becomes his final authority as to which parts of the Magisterium statements are dogmatic and infallible and which are not. And that is because there is no evidence that I know of that the “editorial commentary” he is talking about was seen by the Magisterium of Vatican I as anything less than an infallible pronouncement.

    Rome can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell me that councils cannot err in their dogmatic teaching and then when that dogmatic teaching is proven wrong historically that it wasn’t really dogmatic teaching—especially when you are not a part of the Magisterium that is supposed to give me the principled and infallible way to understand special revelation. I realize what I am saying here is directed first against Jonathan, but you are the one that have brought it up.

    If a dogmatic teaching made by an ecumenical council is subject to being discarded by the individual Roman Catholic’s reading, as Jonathan has done, you’ve absolutely destroyed the whole CTC argument, which isn’t even sound to begin with.

    As far as the positive apologetic, I would probably employ an eclectic approach that would combine evidence from history and archaeology, some traditional proofs for the existence of God (such as God being the “uncaused cause”), a transcendental argument that shows how God is necessary for ethics and knowledge, a narration of the basic Jesus story, and a critique of other religious systems based on facts and historical data (i.e., the Qur’an misunderstands what Christians teach about the Trinity so it can’t be divine revelation). Where my stress would be using any of these would depend on the person, but I think all are helpful and necessary.

    In presenting such evidence, some won’t believe it at all. Others, by their “natural reason” could come to conclude that what I am saying is true, tell me it is true but reject it anyway because they don’t want to change their life. (Ultimately, I would put all people who reject the Christian gospel in this group; ie, the only reason why anyone rejects Christ is because they don’t like his demands). Others will conclude what I am saying is true and commit themselves to Christ.

    At the end of the day, the only ones who will believe are those who are regenerated by the Spirit apart from their asking or effort. But one can know that Christianity is true and yet reject it. It happens all the time, indeed, it happens every time the gospel is presented and it is rejected.

  143. A.H.,

    No, one has to be prepared to protest his own church when it teaches things that are contrary to Scripture. It’s the kind of thing that Roman Catholics are disincentivized to do, hence the propensity in Roman Catholic history for cover-ups such as we have seen in the recent abuse scandals. If the Magisterium is infallible, the Magisterium believes it can get away with anything and that the most important thing is not the safety of the sheep but the protection of the Magisterium and its interests. Raising money for St. Peter’s by selling indulgences, which sparked the Reformation, would be another example of how infallibility leads to practices that protect the interests—political, monetary, and otherwise—of the Vatican at the expense of the lay faithful.

    Of course, Roman Catholics like Jonathan are prepared to buck the infallible Magisterium even when it is speaking via an infallible council, so it all depends on the Roman Catholic you are talking about. You also have the extreme cases of people like Nancy Pelosi saying the Magisterium are wrong on abortion, though for some reason she remains a Roman Catholic in good standing in the church. For a church that is supposed to be united and to not have people protesting based on their personal opinions all the time, Rome is doing a poor job.

  144. Jason-

    you have written several times now that the Catholic case is is not full proof but “historically plausible and philosophically compelling.” I was hoping you might unpack that statement a little more for us. it seems to be a favorite of yours and I think may be telling on what your “principled way” is of selecting a world view. A couple of questions

    1. I can’t help but notice the ambiguity of “historically plausible”. It seems like you may be moving the goal posts here. Plausible? Of all the adj. plausible? It seems to me that anything can be historically plausible if viewed through the correct lenses. What makes you use a term like “plausible” instead of “probable” or “persuasive”? With the goal posts moved to such an easy goal as plausible can’t Protestantism basically claim the same thing?

    2. Philosophically *compelling* much stronger language here. When you refer to philosophy are you speaking to the authoritative claims of the Church contrasted against sola scriptura? Or something else all together?

    3. The statement reads overall like you have put a much higher stock in a worldview being philosophically sound than on any sort of historical criteria. Is that accurate? If so, why?

    I think that in the Christian world hermeneutics, philosophy and history are the three pillars of any given theology. The fact that the Roman Catholic tradition blends all three together in a sort of chain makes for a very formidable theological system. Which of the three was the largest contributing factor in your conversion?

  145. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    I think you have completely missed my point. Jason, Bryan, Michael, Jonathan, you (I think), et al, say that the Roman Catholic Magisterium offers a principled way to distinguish personal opinion from divine revelation. But then, when Vatican I says that the church has always affirmed the primacy of the Roman bishop as a matter of consensus and I point out that such is not true historically, and he agrees, he tells me that infallibility does not apply to “editorial commentary” on a dogmatic statement…
    Rome can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell me that councils cannot err in their dogmatic teaching and then when that dogmatic teaching is proven wrong historically that it wasn’t really dogmatic teaching…

    Well, I’ll have to let Jonathan further unpack and speak on his own school of thought, if he feels so inclined.

    Though I fully agree with Jonathan that Infallibility only covers certain elements of Magisterial documents (this is no Catholic secret), this doesn’t mean that every school within the Church is necessarily ready to unequivocally concede that Vat 1 historical claims , ‘don’t hold up’, regardless of their not being covered by Infallibility. The problem is that you are mistaking a completely healthy and legitimate philo-theological debate for a dogmatic one. This is a big mistake, but one that is not surprising considering that everything in Protestantism is theological and not dogmatic. And this is so because, having jettisoned Sacramentalism, Dogma becomes a categorical impossibility. One has to live within the Church’s Sacramental Nexus before one can even stake a claim in a particular school and add one’s voice to the Church’s internal dialogue.

    The Good News is that you can easily and freely enter this Sacramental Nexus, and then, stake out your own turf, find your own school, and add your own voice to the Church’s internal dialogue.

    ——————————————————–
    Switching gears, thanks for addressing the issue of the “positive apologetic directed to the Natural Man”.

    Robert wrote:

    At the end of the day, the only ones who will believe are those who are regenerated by the Spirit apart from their asking or effort.

    And that, right there, proves my point that Protestantism cannot possibly mount a positive apologetic that doesn’t presume Christian Identity a priori. It’s simply a categorical impossibility.

    Protestantism has no Sacramentalism and, as such, has no positive apologetic to offer the Natural Man. You cannot possibly, as I said earlier, “tell him how he can become a Christian/follower of Christ (a ‘true’ Christian, mind you; one with Christian Identity; one who is Regenerate).” When Protestantism says “Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee”, it turns out its pockets only to find them empty.

  146. Robert,
    “The church is always to be reformed” is one of the basic tenets of the Protestant Reformation.

    Please keep the things focused, it is about the teachings of the Church on faith, not about bad behavior of Catholics. I live in the Netherlands, and I don`t even know who Nancy Pelosi is. A Church that claims infallibility does not mean that its adherents are sinless, far from it.

    But if you believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the legitimate continuation of the early Church you could accept the Church which is preserved by a wonder of the Spirit of Truth from error.

    Of course it is true, in the Roman Catholic Church of today the things have had a juridical firmness that was lacking in Antiquity. But that does affect the essence of the matter. Only two factors are decisive here: infallibility and primacy, both are closely related. It is neither arbitrary for reason nor without basis in Scripture.

    Why do you separate what God has joined so clearly together, why do you accept hierarchy and tradition but why do you reject infallibility and primacy.

    Si non credideritis non intelligetis.

  147. A.H.,

    I reject ecclesiastical infallibility and papal primacy because there is no evidence for either in the apostolic deposit of faith—the New Testament. That is the primary and sufficient reason.

    Secondarily, I reject ecclesiastical infallibility and papal primacy because there is no evidence that anyone in the first few centuries of Christian history accepted the bishop of Rome as the supreme head of the church except for select Roman bishops. I also don’t find it in my reading of church history or the church fathers. I’m still waiting for someone to produce a statement or some kind of evidence that the bishops of the first few centuries of the church thought that they were infallible when they were making dogmatic pronouncements. The best I’ve seen from the Roman Catholics on this board is that the bishops believed the church had real authority and interpreted Scripture within the context of the regula fidei. That is exactly what confessional Protestants believe as well.

    I bring up Nancy Pelosi only because she is the perfect illustration of the Tu Quoque. Jason, Bryan, et al have said that the Protestant position of authority is really that our final infallible authority is our own opinion of what the Bible says. Pelosi is a public figure in one of the most important countries currently on the world scene. She has relied on her own opinion and has essentially told others in public statements that the current Roman Church’s position on abortion goes against its historical statements and position on the matter. She is allowed to write laws, lead the minority party in the House of Representative, and more, impacting policies all around the world through U.S. funding of population control groups and much more. Rome does nothing with her, which shows that Rome basically does not care if its own people are relying on their own interpretation of tradition and not what the Curia says. We’re not talking about some nobody here, we are talking about one of the most powerful and influential woman in the world.

    Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States, is a Roman Catholic in good standing who supports policies that have effect worldwide and that are completely against His church’s teaching on marriage and the family. Benedict XVI has said that the Roman Church’s current teaching on abortion and related matters is unchangeable. Biden is welcomed to the Eucharist at Francis I inaugural mass.

    You have two incredibly powerful Roman Catholics whose actions and positions are a matter of public record, and when they rely on their own private interpretation of Roman tradition and Scripture that contradicts infallible Roman teaching, Rome does absolutely nothing. Rome Doesn’t Care if It’s People Submit to Its Infallible Dogmatic and Moral Teaching!

    None of that proves in itself that Protestantism is true. But it shows that Rome’s view of its own infallibility has absolutely no practical value. You might be a cradle Roman Catholic, I don’t know. But Jason and many other Roman Catholics writing here left their Protestant tradition for the “superiority” of the Roman paradigm. To proclaim the glories of Rome in the face of much of the aforementioned evidence shows that whatever argument there might be for Rome, it is certainly not that its ecclesiology is superior or accomplishes anything like what they want to believe that it does.

  148. Wosbald,

    Though I fully agree with Jonathan that Infallibility only covers certain elements of Magisterial documents (this is no Catholic secret), this doesn’t mean that every school within the Church is necessarily ready to unequivocally concede that Vat 1 historical claims , ‘don’t hold up’, regardless of their not being covered by Infallibility. The problem is that you are mistaking a completely healthy and legitimate philo-theological debate for a dogmatic one.

    Essentially, I’m waiting for somebody here to show me where this statement from Vatican I does not derive from the Roman church’s exercise of the charism of infallibility:

    To this absolutely manifest teaching of the Sacred Scriptures, as it has always been understood by the Catholic Church, are clearly opposed the distorted opinions of those who misrepresent the form of government which Christ the lord established in his Church and deny that Peter, in preference to the rest of the apostles, taken singly or collectively, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction.

    I don’t know that such is your position, but it is Jonathan’s. Which means that he is relying finally on his own personal opinion of history and tradition as his standard, which the awful thing that you Roman Catholics falsely accuse Protestants of.

    Either way, Rome loses. The catholic or universal church has not always believed that the Roman bishop’s authority was supreme. The East denies it, though it is willing to impute to Rome a primacy of honor, something that Vatican I also hates. That denial goes all the way back to the early church when the East was the center of theological debate, dialogue, and orthodoxy. That is a well-established historical fact, as Jonathan has recognized. So, if you say Rome was exercising a charism of infallibility when it made this statement, then Roman infallibility is proven false. If you say Rome wasn’t exercising this charism in the above statement, then you are denying the clear indication from the Vatican I documents that the above statement is part of the infallible, dogmatic pronouncement of papal infallibility.

  149. +JMJ+

    Robert,

    If you are trying to pit me against Jonathan, then you’re not going to get very far. I’m not personally sure what parts of said Magisterial documents are or are not infallible; I’m only sure that infallibility only pertains to certain parts. As to which parts, I’ll just have to defer to those more versed in the subject. My only point is that the discussion regarding the non-infallible elements of Magisterial documents (just as with all of the constant dialogues between the various historical, exegetical, philosophical and theological schools within the Church) are part of an internal Church dialogue that you willingly eschew. Thus, these are “family matters” from which you are excluded, at least, for the time being.

    You’re also not going to get very far in trying to separate the East from the West. I’ve been in discussions with various Orthodox who admit that the Papal Primacy is, at the very least implicitly, contained in the Apostolic tradition held by the East and that, thus, seeing the Roman Pontiff as the locus, or “touchstone”, who actualizes the Church’s Infallibility would, or could, also be consonant with the Eastern worldview. Other than the long-standing and purely human institutional resentments, the things that are keeping the East apart from the West is, primarily, a barrier of theological temperament (the East being more intuitive and holistic and the West being more rational and analytical) which is ultimately surmountable. The Eastern and Western viewpoints are parallel and consonant. Though in the crush of online East/West polemics from those who are convinced that their own philo-theological predilections (which are good and legitimate in and of themselves) are integral to the Faith, one might easily think otherwise.

  150. Robert

    your argument is outlined as follows

    1 There are very famous and influential Catholics who are not faithful to the Roman magisteriums infallible teachings

    2. The curia does not discipline said catholics

    3. Therefore Roman Catholic ecclesiology has no practical value.

    Do you honestly think that 1 & 2 really entail 3? I don’t remember any Catholics on this forum claiming that our church has an impeccable disciplinary system. You are setting up straw men. You knock them down with style though! We have listed a litany of ways that Catholic ecclesiology is superior to reformed. … Instead of tackling those issues as presented you continually pursue criteria of your own imagination to critique.

  151. Wosbald,

    I’m not personally sure what parts of said Magisterial documents are or are not infallible; I’m only sure that infallibility only pertains to certain parts. As to which parts, I’ll just have to defer to those more versed in the subject.

    I’m not trying to pity you against Jonathan. But the doctrine of ecclesiological infallibility and its ability to mean anything anyone wants it to mean is perfectly shown in this statement. The Roman criteria is so ambiguous and ephemeral that it allows later Magesteria to say about earlier Magisteria: “No, no, we didn’t really mean that such was infallible when we said it was…” It’s a convenient way of saying councils can err without saying councils can err.

  152. Kenneth,

    your argument is outlined as follows
    1 There are very famous and influential Catholics who are not faithful to the Roman magisteriums infallible teachings
    2. The curia does not discipline said catholics
    3. Therefore Roman Catholic ecclesiology has no practical value.
    Do you honestly think that 1 & 2 really entail 3? I don’t remember any Catholics on this forum claiming that our church has an impeccable disciplinary system. You are setting up straw men. You knock them down with style though! We have listed a litany of ways that Catholic ecclesiology is superior to reformed. … Instead of tackling those issues as presented you continually pursue criteria of your own imagination to critique.

    I’m not sure that such is my argument exactly, but perhaps I haven’t been clear. My argument would be more like this:

    1. Rome claims to be a mediator of salvation and to care for its parishioners, having the practical ability and authority to do so because of the charism of infallibility.
    2. Rome says this makes her superior to Protestant ecclesiology (among other superior elements)
    3. There are famous, world-known, infuential, and no-one-can-miss Roman Catholics, including powerful world leaders, who openly reject infallible teaching and, in fact, promote what is antithetical to it. They even use their world influence to shape government policies in other countries to promote these anti-Christian values, even majority Roman Catholic countries.
    4. Rome does not discipline these individuals, and it would be easy to do so.
    5. Roman ecclesiology is not superior on the discipline front, which is intimately connected to superiority on matters of salvation.

    I don’t think I have ever said that Rome claims to have an impeccable discipline system. No church does. What I, and other Protestants are looking for, is for a discipline system that actually exists. (Rome used to have one, back when it wielded the sword. For a community that is supposed to have supreme spiritual authority, the fact that such is not exercised now when the church has spiritual authority but not the sword is very strange).

    If no one disciplines me for violating infallible teaching, then the church is demonstrating a lack of concern for my soul. In Roman Catholic terms, It is allowing me to take the Eucharist while being in a state of moral sin (promoting abortion is promoting murder). It is doing nothing to help bring me to repentance so that I might maintain my justification or grow in it. I’m supposed to trust my salvation into the hands of such a body, why??

    Were Rome to possess what it says it does and were it to actually exercise it on the rubber-meets-the-road aspect of discipline, it would be superior to all other ecclesiologies. But the fact that no one has yet demonstrated that it does have what it says, and the fact that it doesn’t even exercise what it falsely claims to have, shows that Roman boasting is hollow indeed, even a bunch of hooha.

    It does provide false comfort for former professing Protestants who apparently found it hard to believe Scripture, though.

  153. @Robert:

    Again, it is quite telling that we are still waiting for a statement from Athanasius, Augustine, or someone else to the effect that the church is infallible when making a pronouncement on faith and morals. Do I approach the fathers with a “hermeneutic of suspicion.” I approach everything except Scripture with a “hermeneutic of suspicion.” That is not a liberal methodology. If the fathers were infallible and inerrant, it would be a liberal methodology. But we humble Protestants are still waiting for a demonstration of the infallibility and inerrancy of the fathers, or at least a demonstration that the fathers believed that about themselves.

    You have not once demonstrated that the early church considered itself infallible or even that it considered unwritten apostolic tradition infallible. You have leapt from Athanasius appealing to tradition and the regula fidei in his arguments against the Arians to Athanasius believing that unwritten tradition is infallible. That is a conclusion that does not follow from your argument. In fact, to come to the conclusion, you must include it as an unspoken premise. As Andrew McCallum has said, the fathers did believe that the interpretation of Scripture must be done within the context of the regula fidei. But every time they mention the content of the regula fidei, it contains things that are derivable from Scripture and not the later accretions that Rome believes.

    Have you not been reading? I quoted examples of Athanasius doing exactly that!

    Athanasius clearly says that the Arians themselves err by teaching that the Fathers can err (De Synodis 1.13):
    What then will they proceed to teach the people who are under their teaching? That the Fathers erred? And how are they themselves to be trusted by those, whom they teach to disobey their Teachers?

    As I said above, Athanasius relies on this “ecclesiastical scope” as an infallible guide for interpreting the Scriptures (Discourse 3 against the Arians 29.58):
    Had Christ’s enemies thus dwelt on these thoughts, and recognised the ecclesiastical scope as an anchor for the faith, they would not have made shipwreck of the faith, nor been so shameless as to resist those who would fain recover them from their fall, and to deem those as enemies who are admonishing them to be religious.

    In Epistle 53, Augustine teaches that the Donatists err by failing to commune with Rome, and thereby, the Catholic Church to which the Scriptures themselves were address. He also responds explicitly to the charge that the failures of the Pope, in somehow ordaining heretical Donatist bishops, would somehow vitiate their office:
    2. For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: “Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!” Matthew 16:18 The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these:— Clement, Anacletus, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Iginus, Anicetus, Pius, Soter, Eleutherius, Victor, Zephirinus, Calixtus, Urbanus, Pontianus, Antherus, Fabianus, Cornelius, Lucius, Stephanus, Xystus, Dionysius, Felix, Eutychianus, Gaius, Marcellinus, Marcellus, Eusebius, Miltiades, Sylvester, Marcus, Julius, Liberius, Damasus, and Siricius, whose successor is the present Bishop Anastasius. In this order of succession no Donatist bishop is found. But, reversing the natural course of things, the Donatists sent to Rome from Africa an ordained bishop, who, putting himself at the head of a few Africans in the great metropolis, gave some notoriety to the name of “mountain men,” or Cutzupits, by which they were known.

    3. Now, even although some traditor [Donatist bishop] had in the course of these centuries, through inadvertence, obtained a place in that order of bishops, reaching from Peter himself to Anastasius, who now occupies that see—this fact would do no harm to the Church and to Christians having no share in the guilt of another; for the Lord, providing against such a case, says, concerning officers in the Church who are wicked: “All whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” Matthew 23:3 Thus the stability of the hope of the faithful is secured, inasmuch as being fixed, not in man, but in the Lord, it never can be swept away by the raging of impious schism; whereas they themselves are swept away who read in the Holy Scriptures the names of churches to which the apostles wrote, and in which they have no bishop. For what could more clearly prove their perversity and their folly, than their saying to their clergy, when they read these letters, “Peace be with you,” at the very time that they are themselves disjoined from the peace of those churches to which the letters were originally written?

    Those are just a couple of examples, but as I said, the scholars who have surveyed massive sections of the patristic corpus have come to the undisputed conclusion that Tradition and Scripture represented parallel sources of authority. I will repeat J.N.D. Kelly’s quote that I already provided to you; I recommend that you read it this time:
    Throughout the whole period Scripture and tradition ranked as complementary authorities, media different in form but coincident in content. To inquire which counted as superior or more ultimate is to pose the question in misleading and anachronistic terms. If Scripture was abundantly sufficient in principle, tradition was recognized as the surest clue to its interpretation, for in tradition the Church retained, as a legacy from the apostles which was embedded in all the organs of her institutional life, and unerring grasp of the real purport and meaning of the revelation to which Scripture and tradition alike bore witness.

    The point is that everyone who reads the Fathers honestly, rather than as an atheist or a skeptic, understands that they consider Tradition and apostolic succession infallible, just as a matter of good history. Your methodology here is the same as with liberals who do not think that Jesus condemn sexual sins because there is no specific condemnation of committed, monogamous relationships between men, as opposed to what they consider promiscuity. The argument is so tortured that anyone who didn’t have an agenda to reject the belief would not have taken it seriously even as a matter of mundane history. You are parroting the same sort of argument: we don’t see Athanasius *say* word for word “the church is infallible in all matters of faith and morals,” so we can ignore the relevant teaching, even when (as I quoted above) there are explicit statements that should reasonably be taken to that affect. There’s nothing “humble” about that argument; it’s an obstinate denial of facts.

    The fact that the teachings were “derivable from Scripture” in your much later opinion is irrelevant. It doesn’t follow from the fact that they were “derivable from Scripture” that Scripture was the only inerrant authority. Athanasius and Augustine considered the creed and Tradition as parallel authorities, so if someone was abusing Scripture, they could be refuted with the Tradition, and vice versa. And as I said, people who recognize multiple inerrant authorites necessarily reject sola scriptura

    Your last argument is essentially the same tired old misinterpretation of Catholic teaching that Catholic dogma requires me to prove every doctrine as having been universally held at all times. This is your misinterpretation of the sources of Catholic dogma.

    In the first place, as I said, most of this is just a rhetorical formula that has been common throughout Christian history. In fact, most of the formulas talking about the clear teaching of Scripture that only the heretics deny in the Fathers fall into this category. They don’t actually believe that it is so clear that there is no possible misinterpretation; instead, they are chastising the opponents for failing to adhere to the doctrine of the faith they have received. So these exaggerations about the greatness and universality of teaching that “no one can deny” and all of these kinds of statements are frou-frou recitations of the genre that don’t actually mean much.

    In the second place, what actually matters for dogmatic teaching are the canons, the rules of faith. I’m looking at Denzinger’s publication of Pastor Aeternus right now, and it lists exactly two statements as canons, the anathemas. Denzinger isn’t exactly a flaming liberal publication, and it doesn’t include *any* of the statements you quoted as being infallibly taught. So either you know Catholic teaching better than Denzinger, or you have no idea what you’re talking about. Given the general agreement from other Catholics (see, e.g., Wosbald), I’m going with the latter.

    Lastly, you keep talking about Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden as if these people actually matter. The world in general, and these people in particular, are completely unimportant to Christianity. The United States, compared to the Kingdom of God, is nothing. If people are so concerned with secular politics that it actually affects or taints their obedience to God, then so much the worse for them. They should be worrying about their own souls and not Nancy Pelosi’s or Joe Biden’s.

  154. @Robert:

    1. Protestants don’t believe in the exclusive authority of Scripture. We believe that Scripture is the only infallible authority. There are other authorities that are real and are to be followed, but they are not infallible.
    2. Reformed Protestants don’t believe in once-for-all-salvation; we believe in the perseverance of the elect.
    3. Reformed Protestatnts don’t believe the sacraments lack intrinsic efficacy. They are effectual to harden the hearts of those who do not receive them in faith and effectual to strengthen the hearts of those that do.
    4. Protestants can trace a historical lineage of ordination back to the church fathers.

    Re: 1, since divine authority is by definition infallible, this denies divine authority to anything else. That is what is refuted by the Fathers. The fact that there are other kinds of authority is irrelevant.

    Re: 2, they don’t believe people who are actually regenerated can become unregenerate. That belief is denied by the Fathers.

    Re: 3, they don’t believe that the Sacraments actually work grace in the hearts of those who are unregenerate, which is the same problem as above.

    Re: 4, not in the sense that Athanasius and Augustine point out above. In fact, this is the erroneous assertion of Donatist apostolic succession that Augustine explicitly condemns above.

  155. @Jason Loh:
    The problem I have with what you’re saying is that you aren’t saying anything. “The internal Word is the subject that interprets the exegete/interpreter” could have come out of Derrida. Metaphors about Scripture being “living and active” don’t turn Scripture into an agent; what is a nice image otherwise turns into a category error if you try to make it a metaphysical explanation. I can understand how Luther might have believed something like that coming out of medieval nominalism, which is essentially what your theology is. But absent those truly bizarre metaphysical commitments, which I deny as having any basis in reality, the idea of the “internal Word” is just nonsense on stilts.

  156. Post super captivant !!!

  157. Jonathan,

    I don’t know if it’s worth resurrecting this discussion, but I never saw this. I’m citing it but bolding a different portion:

    Those are just a couple of examples, but as I said, the scholars who have surveyed massive sections of the patristic corpus have come to the undisputed conclusion that Tradition and Scripture represented parallel sources of authority. I will repeat J.N.D. Kelly’s quote that I already provided to you; I recommend that you read it this time:

    Throughout the whole period Scripture and tradition ranked as complementary authorities, media different in form but coincident in content. To inquire which counted as superior or more ultimate is to pose the question in misleading and anachronistic terms. If Scripture was abundantly sufficient in principle, tradition was recognized as the surest clue to its interpretation, for in tradition the Church retained, as a legacy from the apostles which was embedded in all the organs of her institutional life, and unerring grasp of the real purport and meaning of the revelation to which Scripture and tradition alike bore witness.

    The issue is what happens when it becomes demonstrably true that what is claimed as tradition is not coincident in content with Scripture—the supreme jurisdictional authority of Rome, the Assumption of Mary, etc. According to Kelly at least, the fathers didn’t believe there were things taught in tradition that could not be found in Scripture. Rome explicitly allows for the opposite view in the partim-partime view of tradition.

    The point is that everyone who reads the Fathers honestly, rather than as an atheist or a skeptic, understands that they consider Tradition and apostolic succession infallible, just as a matter of good history. Your methodology here is the same as with liberals who do not think that Jesus condemn sexual sins because there is no specific condemnation of committed, monogamous relationships between men, as opposed to what they consider promiscuity. The argument is so tortured that anyone who didn’t have an agenda to reject the belief would not have taken it seriously even as a matter of mundane history. You are parroting the same sort of argument: we don’t see Athanasius *say* word for word “the church is infallible in all matters of faith and morals,” so we can ignore the relevant teaching, even when (as I quoted above) there are explicit statements that should reasonably be taken to that affect. There’s nothing “humble” about that argument; it’s an obstinate denial of facts.

    The fact that the teachings were “derivable from Scripture” in your much later opinion is irrelevant. It doesn’t follow from the fact that they were “derivable from Scripture” that Scripture was the only inerrant authority. Athanasius and Augustine considered the creed and Tradition as parallel authorities, so if someone was abusing Scripture, they could be refuted with the Tradition, and vice versa. And as I said, people who recognize multiple inerrant authorites necessarily reject sola scripture

    You are conflating inerrancy and infallibility, and thus you do not understand what I am asking for. You can have inerrancy without infallibility. I’m happy to agree that the Nicene Creed is inerrant, containing no errors. The question is whether the actual people at Nicea and Constantinople believed they were protected by some umbrella of guaranteed infallibility. That’s a different claim than saying what Nicea produced is inerrant. There is no evidence that the people at Nicea thought they were gathering to infallibly settle a matter, the idea that this happened occurred much later, and then only after the Arians had finally been put away.

    One can believe in multiple inerrant authorities and believe in sola Scriptura. The very fact that Protestantism retained such things as the Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon shows that they believed those things to be without error. If they believed them to be in error, they would have been changed or rejection. Inerrancy is simply the fact that something does not teach anything false. Infallibility is stronger, the belief that someone can not err.

    The issue isn’t whether the Fathers believed the tradition had erred. The issue is whether the Fathers believed an ecumenical gathering had guaranteed protection from error. The latter is what needs to be proven.

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