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. Superior?

    To trust in the fingertips of one particular person touching another person IN ORDER to make God’s Word effective?

    And that doesn’t go down the road of “reducing the Christian faith to a mere human system”?

    If trusting in God’s Word (God Himself) to change the hearts of men and give them, by his grace, a living faith…isn’t good enough…then what else shall we add to make it effective? How about some ethereal blue gas that emanates from only the right fingertips?

    Not necessary.

    Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for IT IS THE POWER OF GOD for all those who have faith.”

    Hmm…maybe the Lord has too high a view of His own power.

  2. If its any consolation, I was rocking out to Shakira coming home from church yesterday. And one of my favorite scientologists sings about a sun eyed girl. Catholics (at least Shakira says that’s how she was raised), scientoligsts, and atheists can write music just like my supposedly reformed five iron frenzy? What a world…what a world.

  3. “To trust in the fingertips of one particular person touching another person IN ORDER to make God’s Word effective?”

    That`s the sacramental principle, read the NT again, Jesus applied it and the apostles applied it, and you guess, the Church too.

  4. Jason,

    You wrote:

    “But if the message of the faith is no longer supposed to be foolishness to Greeks, I never got the memo.”

    But you are the one who has said that the Roman Catholic Church is to be preferred because:

    1. It is philosophically compelling.
    2. Jesus was no idiot and he just would have instituted the church the way Rome said He would.

    Furthermore, Rome has leaned on philosophical concepts more consistently than perhaps any other tradition.

    The ultimate issue is not the demand for empirical evidence in itself. The issue is that we would like to see empirical evidence that is consistent with Rome’s own claims for itself. I grant that such is lacking:

    1. If apostolic succession, especially of Peter in Rome is so important, why are there different lines of succession listed?
    2. If the church is infallible, why has the concept of EENS been changed over the years. Those who first formulated the doctrine actually thought it meant no non-Roman Catholic could be saved?
    3. If Rome is supposed to be a better way of providing Christian unity, why are so many heretics ignored?

    I could go on. The Roman case is historically plausible only if one accepts Rome’s definition of history. It is only philosophically compelling if you think the foolishness of the Spirit working through his Word among his people through a fallible church is worthless.

  5. @Jason —

    If a poor person in Pakistan were resurrected tomorrow there might be no way to prove it. There just wouldn’t be enough to trace to ever make a judgement one way or the other. Ultimately the resurrection is in the situation of Russell’s teapot, which is a hypothetical teapot orbiting the sun at Mars’ distance and thus undetectable to us. The resurrection, assuming you believe something like the gospel story is true, \is something that can neither be proved nor disproved by natural means. The atheist asserts that there is no good reason to believe something for which there is no evidence and the person of faith can assert there is no reason to disbelieve something for which there is no counter evidence.

    Apostolic succession in the broader sense of the existence of 1st century Catholic church which played a leadership role in Christianity went on to form the basis of the Christian faith and was governed by a monarchical episcopate is not like that. Christianity ended up becoming the dominant European faith. It disrupted the entire religious system of the Roman Empire. We have tremendous trace from that disruption. We have literary trace from groups that came both before and after the emergence of the Catholic church. We have artifacts and archeological evidence. While we do not have a perfect and we cannot fill in all the details we know a lot about how Christianity evolved.

    That is to say we have substantial impressive counter evidence to the claim of Apostolic Succession. To believe Catholics claims is not to believe without evidence it is to deny evidence. To believe Catholic claims is not to believe the bible despite their being no external reason it is to contradict the bible while claiming the opposite. To believe Catholic claims is not to fill in historical gaps with a romantic story, it is to contradict the clear historical record, to create those gaps to fill in with a romantic story.

    The question is not “am I willing to believe even though I can’t prove it” but rather “am I willing to believe even though I can prove it false?”

  6. A.H.,

    The principle of faith, given as a gift, does NOT come by touching…but “by hearing”…and the Word of God.

    That is the principle that gives God the greatest power and glory.

    Your way is Christ + (plus something that we must do)

    No thanks. My God is bigger than that. He can create and sustain His faith in us, without having particular fingertips having to touch people.

  7. “No thanks. My God is bigger than that. He can create and sustain His faith in us, without having particular fingertips having to touch people.”

    Jesus uses even muddy fingertips IN ORDER to make God’s Word effective?
    Read your bible por favor!

  8. A.H.,
    Don’t go too hard on Old Adam. He isn’t exactly wrong in the point he makes. It is true we often have a true lack of confidence in the power of God’s word in both camps of Christianity we addressing here. God’s word is quite powerful enough without it actually being a priest or bishop proclaiming it. Though the powerful word of which we speak does say there are those sent by Christ for the good of the whole body and scripture does powerfully teach we ought not reject our leaders in the Church.

    Old Adam,
    A.H.,

    So…. You are both right in your own way. God can call the sinner with the Word without an official leader of the Church, but the sinner is called to the Church to be in it and for it. In accord with all the truth and grace God gives him or her ’til death do us part.

  9. Old Adam,
    If you take your principle to the end of the road you must reject the truth that God used the physical Jesus to come to us and continues to use communion to truly and really come to the sinner in need of His true presence, comfort, and healing.

    Peace,
    MikeTX

  10. Jason, the point isn’t that you need to prove AS from history. The point is that you don’t ever look at the history that accompanies AS. Reading you on AS and the papacy is like reading someone who thinks Moses wrote all of the Pentateuch, even the parts about his death. You never deal with the difficult parts of Vatican and papal history. It’s all theory. Some might call it gnostic.

  11. DGHart.

    I’ve been reading Jason for years, well before he had any inkling of becoming Catholic, and in those years he has commented on and engaged the historical question of apostolic succession and the papacy quite aggressively.

    What ‘difficult parts’ of the Vatican and the papacy do you suggest he is not/has not ‘dealt with?’

  12. +JMJ+

    DGHart wrote:

    Some might call it gnostic.

    What’s not gnostic about Christianity? Unlike the “knowledge falsely so-called” [1 Tim 6:20], Christianity is true gnosis. It is the ontological and supernatural knowledge of Christ.

    The only question is, (and, I’d say, the key difference between Protestantism and Catholicism) is: “How does Natural Man acquire this gnosis?”

    Further, I’d say that Paul’s linkage of “so-called knowledge” (pseudo-gnosis) with “oppositions” doesn’t speak well of the absolute oppositions insisted upon by the staunchest of the Reformed (such as the opposition of a Visible Church with an Invisible one).

  13. Robert,

    But you are the one who has said that the Roman Catholic Church is to be preferred because:
    1. It is philosophically compelling.
    2. Jesus was no idiot and he just would have instituted the church the way Rome said He would.
    Furthermore, Rome has leaned on philosophical concepts more consistently than perhaps any other tradition.

    No one said anything about not employing evidence, philosophical and otherwise, so whomever you’re arguing against, it’s not me.

    The ultimate issue is not the demand for empirical evidence in itself. The issue is that we would like to see empirical evidence that is consistent with Rome’s own claims for itself. I grant that such is lacking:

    1. If apostolic succession, especially of Peter in Rome is so important, why are there different lines of succession listed?

    There is plenty of evidence that qualifies the CC’s narrative as eminently plausible (which is why there are a billion Catholics in the world). I don’t know what you mean by “different lines of succession.” All the apostles presumably ordained several people, which is why there would be several different lines of succession. The Catholic Church is a family, and its history resembles a family tree.

    2. If the church is infallible, why has the concept of EENS been changed over the years. Those who first formulated the doctrine actually thought it meant no non-Roman Catholic could be saved?

    Ugh, this again. How many times has this same issue been addressed here and elsewhere over the past year? If you are sincerely open to Catholicism but just can’t get past the development of the Church’s understanding of EENS, then how you manage to remain a Christian whose Bible talks about giants, tongues of fire, and suns standing still, is beyond me.

    3. If Rome is supposed to be a better way of providing Christian unity, why are so many heretics ignored?

    Red herring, not to mention I have said a million times that the issue is not how perfectly all of this is supposed to work in practice. By your demands, the early church should be dismissed because Arians existed.

    I could go on. The Roman case is historically plausible only if one accepts Rome’s definition of history. It is only philosophically compelling if you think the foolishness of the Spirit working through his Word among his people through a fallible church is worthless.

    Go ask an EO if he “accepts Rome’s definition of history.” Then ask him if anyone in his tradition would consider the PCA a true church and its ministers duly ordained with an ounce of ecclesial authority.

  14. “If you take your principle to the end of the road you must reject the truth that God used the physical Jesus to come”

    Yes, it is both spiritual and physical, why do Protestants always emphasize the first but leaving out the latter.

  15. Darryl,

    Jason, the point isn’t that you need to prove AS from history.

    Really? Because I have read almost nothing but demands for historical proof since we started talking about this issue.

    The point is that you don’t ever look at the history that accompanies AS.

    Bryan and others have been BEGGING you to simply produce an argument that shows either that V2 is incompatible with pre-conciliar teachings, and/or that their answers as to why the two are compatible are specious. You won’t or can’t do it, which is why it’s odd to hear you complain that Catholics are evasive. Pot. Kettle. Black.

  16. Bryan and others have been BEGGING you to simply produce an argument that shows either that V2 is incompatible with pre-conciliar teachings, and/or that their answers as to why the two are compatible are specious. You won’t or can’t do it, which is why it’s odd to hear you complain that Catholics are evasive. Pot. Kettle. Black.

    The church’s 180 on religious freedom “error has no rights” to a modern human rights perspective
    The church’s 180 on helo centrism
    Meat on Fridays (a mortal not a venial sin btw)
    The policy on indulgences
    The definition of celibacy from no legitimate heirs to an expectation of like life long chastity
    The 180 on the slave trade from active involvement to condemning it unequivocally
    The church redefining usury
    The changes to the unchangeable liturgy

    And on and on with standard lists anyone can find with 10 seconds of googling. There is nothing wrong with a human institution realizing they made a mistake and fixing it. This is only a problem because frequently these changes are accompanied by claims that “as the church has always taught”.

  17. So Reformed confessionalists are the ones who demand air tight philosophical arguments? But have you seen the way some Reformed logicians rage against confessionalists as Gnostics? Evidently faith is the sum of its logical parts. And don’t look now but you have your own version of that in Cross (minus the rage). I wonder if you can admit his undue dependence on philosophy and logic, but if the history that attends AS doesn’t phase you then chances are probably not. But to both Reformed and Roman epistemologists 1 Cor 1:18-25 will suffice.

    And despite what you suggest, Reformed confessionalists also don’t demand of Catholics what their atheistic critics do of them. We also are quite satisfied that Christ has led his church into all truth and gifted her as he promised. So much so that we don’t have to invent doctrines of ecclesial infallibility for good measure, you know, just to be sure.

  18. A.H.,
    I bet it has to do with the basic view received by those outside our understanding. We who hold both in valid tensions these truths often in our lives and within the history of that sacramental reality show not the glorified body of Christ to the world, but instead they see the mutilated and disfigured body of Christ. It is we who are closest to Him that He allows to harm Him most. We kick against the goads, too. Therefore we give rise to the ability of defamation of our Kings pristine Bride. Although, much in history and ourselves can often be presented as an exaggeration errors. We can not fail to admit that it is the Christian that often show the marred image of God to the world in need of His true image. The image of the faithful suffering Son of God. Lord have mercy on us all.

  19. Sean Patrick, Edgardo Mortara.

  20. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    The church’s 180 on religious freedom “error has no rights” to a modern human rights perspective

    I’ve tried to explain that a Catholic reading of Vat 2 (a dynamic reading that doesn’t force a reduction of Religion to either Authoritarian Absolutism or Libertarian Indifferentism) is the exact same as the Church’s position before the Council.

    Error still has no rights, just as it was before the Council. And one still has the right to follow an invincible conscience, just as it was before the Council. Authority and Freedom are, just like so many things Catholic, irreducible. They are as irreducible as are Jesus Christ’s Divinity and Humanity.

    And since the conditions of the world had changed such that the common good might best served, at least for the time being, by a Catholic toleration of social pluralism, this opinion was expressed at the Council. This is a prudential judgement, exclusively, and is not above criticism from within the Church. This prudential judgement is potentially reversible to a more pre-Conciliar position, if social conditions so dictate. After all, the Errors condemned by the Syllabus will always be errors.

    So, yeah, this irreducible dynamic tension of the Catholic Way is one of the reasons why outsiders see Catholics as “slippery” and “disingenuous”. That’s understandable, actually. We are a world unto ourselves. We judge all and are judged by no one.

  21. Jason, this isn’t poker. Everyone knows the church changed with Vatican 2. You’re constantly asking me to prove it is like asking me to prove the law of gravitation before I jump (not very far) in the air.

    But if you won’t listen to all the historians that I have cited — you never seem to mention Duffy, or Wills, or Chadwick — maybe history matters to you the way it does to fundamentalists — maybe you’ll listen to a man named Ratzinger on Vatican 2 and the Syllabus of Errors (for starters):

    “If it is desirable to offer a diagnosis of the text (Gaudium et Spes) as a whole, we might say that (in conjunction with the texts on religious liberty and world religions) it is a revision of the Syllabus of Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus. Harnack, as we know, interpreted the Syllabus of Pius IX as nothing less than a declaration of war against his generation. This is correct insofar as the Syllabus established a line of demarcation against the determining forces of the nineteenth century: against the scientific and political world view of liberalism. In the struggle against modernism this twofold delimitation was ratified and strengthened. Since then many things have changed. The new ecclesiastical policy of Pius XI produced a certain openness toward a liberal understanding of the state. In a quiet but persistent struggle, exegesis and Church history adopted more and more the postulates of liberal science, and liberalism, too, was obliged to undergo many significant changes in the great political upheavals of the twentieth century. As a result, the one-sidedness of the position adopted by the Church under Pius IX and Pius X in response to the situation created by the new phase of history inaugurated by the French Revolution was, to a large extent, corrected via facti, especially in Central Europe, but there was still no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the world that had come into existence after 1789. In fact, an attitude that was largely pre-Revolutionary continued to exist in countries with strong Catholic majorities. Hardly anyone today will deny that the Spanish and Italian Concordats strove to preserve too much of a view of the world that no longer corresponded to the facts. Hardly anyone today will deny that, in the field of education and with respect to the historico-critical method in modern science, anachronisms existed that corresponded closely to this adherence to an obsolete Church-state relationship…..
    “Let us be content to say here that the text serves as a countersyllabus and, as such, represents, on the part of the Church, an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789.” http://www.waragainstbeing.com/partvii

    Here that? Corrected. Didn’t correspond to the facts. So what planet do you live on where gravity doesn’t exist?

  22. CD Host

    The church’s 180 on religious freedom “error has no rights” to a modern human rights perspective

    The church’s 180 on helo centrism

    Meat on Fridays (a mortal not a venial sin btw)

    The policy on indulgences

    The definition of celibacy from no legitimate heirs to an expectation of like life long chastity

    The 180 on the slave trade from active involvement to condemning it unequivocally

    The church redefining usury

    The changes to the unchangeable liturgy

    Almost all of these are instances where the church changed not dogma, but practice. For instance, celibacy was never dogma but instead a matter of practice.

    The rest are instances of sin, like the selling indulgences, which according to you is something ‘the church changed.’ But that is not an instance of changing a doctrine because selling indulgences was never doctrine.

    Here are some examples of dogma – these are the type of things that it would matter, if changed:

    1) The canon of scripture

    2) The Trinity

    3) Apostlic Succession

    4) The seven sacraments

    etc.

    Meat on Fridays, Helio-Centrism was never ‘doctrine’ in the first place.

  23. DG Hart.

    “Edgardo Mortara.”

    Do you even know what the Catholic Church claims about apostolic succession? I don’t think you do because if you did you would not raise this over and over again as if its some magic defeater of apostolic succession.

    This would be like you preaching five point Cavlinism and me following you around repeating…”Michael Servetus, Michael Servetus, Michael Servetus.”

  24. Sean, and if you did we’d point to Kuyper who made no secret his disagreement with Calvin, our Confessions, and our Reformed theologians on the magistrate enforcing religion (and subsequently the revisions to theocratic Belgic 36 and WCF23). Where we revise doctrine in light of clear errors, you develop around them.

  25. Zrim.

    And we could point to St Thomas More, for example, when the abuses of indulgence selling was festering. What’s the point?

    And, I don’t think I’d brag that your church simply ‘revises’ doctrines when they start to disagree with those doctrines. That position leads to Unitarianism.

  26. Darryl,

    If you are going to criticize the Church’s claims of infallibility, then it won’t do to simply pull out of thin air what you think those claims should amount to or accomplish, and then complain that they fail to meet your standards.

    For the record, I do not deny that the Church changed at V2, especially regarding its posture towards the modern liberal world. The fact is that there was a time in western history when certain assumptions were held in common by just about everyone, whether Catholic or Protestant. Then as revolutionary ideals began to hold sway, people’s opinions changed, including those of the CC. No one denies this, and I for one do not lament it.

    But this relatively unremarkable phenomenon does not touch upon the dogma of infallibility, since the things adduced as examples of change are not de fide dogmas, but are merely more general postures, and in some cases practices that were never claimed to be irreformable in the first place.

    Again, the issue here is whether the Protestant paradigm can furnish its adherents with any theological statements that transcend mere human opinion. The fact that I am arguing that it cannot does not thereby rule out the CC also holding provisional opinions. What I am arguing, though, is that the CC can offer more than mere opinions, which Protestantism cannot.

  27. I wonder how dghart might react to a line of argument that went like this: “Everyone knows that the gospels are unreliable and full of errors” *and then proceeds to quote some historians*

    You’re being very silly, dghart, and that’s putting it nicely.

  28. Protestant, I think you should take a few glances at some points that Paul makes concerning the Church inconjunction with a bishops that he knew.

    EPHESIANS 4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

    The Unity of the bond of peace, which is God’s holy will for His Church, consists of there being one body (and therefore one church), one faith (which means there is a unity in the outward confession of religion), and the hope to which we are called is also one and the same. This is a very wide and broad scope of the substance of unity. But some of you think that this unity exists throughout the world invisibly only being visible in the sense that only those who are really obedient and on fire have this spiritual unity with people in another dimension. But notice that Paul speaks of the unity of the Spirit to consist in a visible manner at Ephesus, and of course implicit in this is universal church, precisely because the terminology is universal: There is only ONE Lord, Father, Faith, Baptism, Body, and Church. And if this unity was to be expressed visibly in a local city of Ephesus on the basis of this terminology, then the same unity is to be expressed universally because of the same principle in the terminology, namely the universal all-world encompassing character of Lord, Father, Baptism, Faith, and Church.

    But how can this be? How could it be that Christ would expect this kind of unity from a human race wherein he is not a visible shepherd? He is not flying through the sky continuinally visibly tending to the world-wide church…so how could he leave this responsiblity unto human creatures? This unity, remember, is not some partial invisible, other-dimension type unity, for the reasons briefly sketched in the previous paragraphs. Well, we get our answer in the next words of Paul, and I might add that it is not “Read the Scripture”:

    But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:

    EPHESIANS 4:7-15
    “When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people.”[b]
    9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill all things.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
    14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work

    Christ’s answer is: I AM GIVING GIFTS TO MY CHURCH. Paul uses the infinite and all encompassing travel that our Lord took in His passion, burial, and ascension into glory. Because Christ has been in and out of everything, he has now ascended to “fill all things”, which is to bring growth to His body, us, the Church. The gifts which Christ gives is specifically engineering and fine-tuned to maintain this unity, and lo and behold, the gifts are that of teaching! This means that the outward confession of the whole Church is the ground for the unity of Christ’s Church, which also means that there will need to be always human beings equipped with these “gifts from Christ” which are engineering to keep the whole Church in the same faith.

    Take this in conjunction with what Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership

    Paul doesn’t give some happy and lucky and charming appreciation of the ceremonial moment of having the Eldership lay hands on Timothy, rather Paul sees an actual “gift” which has been given to Timothy by the ceremony itself.

    Now the issue immediately in your mind is thus: It doesn’t have to be read that way.

    Ok grant it, but how do you reconcile Protestantism with what Paul says in Ephesians 4? Christ ascended to keep the Church unified! And this unificiation is set in direct and specific terms of faith! And this unificiation of faith is caused by human beings who are gifted by Jesus Christ to teach and eqiup the saints so that more growth in unity and common belief are effected.

    It is not a far stretch to believe that here in the New Testament we have a firm basis for believing that Christ has been continually gifting his Church without interuption with the view to unity.

    Now, does that mean that there will never be a Judas in a clerical position? It seems that you would say this is impossible, but the fact of the matter is that there are many Judas’ and there will be many more.

  29. Sean, I’ve gotten over Servetus. I’ve said repeatedly that Calvin was wrong as were the arrangements in Geneva. Can you say say Pius IX was wrong to have Mortara abducted?

  30. Darryl,

    Not being familiar with the situation and therefore just granting your version of it, I don’t have any problem with agreeing that it would be wrong for a pope to kidnap people. The fact that you think this is even relevant to the discussion calls into question whether you really understand what’s being discussed here.

    Also, if the pope hits his thumb with a hammer and says the F-word, that’s also bad, and also irrelevant.

  31. Jason, more poker face. Good. But your bluffing.

    If I pulled something out of thin air, then why concede that V2 changed?

    BTW, you still don’t get it. The doctrine of infallibility became a dogma precisely at the time that the papacy was losing its temporal power. John Henry Newman saw. http://oldlife.org/2013/05/development-of-loophole/

    So if you want to think that AS and PI are just great doctrines to carry around, the way you once had Jesus in your heart, fine. But you’re still not acknowledging the historical record, which plenty of RC historians do (even apparently the former pope).

  32. Jason, how could it not be relevant since for close to 500 years the papacy’s temporal and spiritual power went hand in hand and the abduction of Mortara (notice, I did not call it kidnapping) was a case of a defensive pope asserting his prerogatives at precisely the time when the Vatican’s rule over the papal states was up for grabs.

    So you want papacy that is all spiritual authority without any of the bad politics that went with those claims — as in being the top dog on earth and having both swords? That’s like a Mormon wanting Joseph Smith without all the wives.

  33. DGHART,

    The infallibility of the Pope was something which was implicit in the very early teachings of the Bishops. St. Cyprian speaks about the chair of Peter as the principle of unity for the divine world-wide Catholic church. How can this unity be if, as Ephesians 4 testifies to the need of Christ’s gift of doctrinal teaching, the chair of Peter is open to dogmatic error and prone to the gates of hell?

    The Church was led into all truth to believe in the model of the apostles in the Jerusalem council, namely, that with the Bishops together in one council, there secures some foundation for infallibility, and because the chair of Peter is the source of unity for the catholic church, it must be pronounced infallibly from there.

    This is already implicit in the 200’s and was expected by all the early bishops to be methodology of Christ until his glorious return. Therefore your previous argument does not provide a good basis from which to announce the novelty of the Papacy.

  34. +JMJ+

    DGHart wrote:

    So you want papacy that is all spiritual authority without any of the bad politics that went with those claims — as in being the top dog on earth and having both swords?

    This seems like a subtle distortion of Catholic teaching. The Pope wields one sword directly and the other only indirectly (duly noting that a Pope who is also a temporal ruler does not rule his demesne as Pope). This is what many theologians call the “Indirect Power” over the Nations. (But I trust that you’re, at least, somewhat familiar with this, right?)

    The relation between the Church and the State is directly analogous to the Catholic understanding of the relation between the Natural and Supernatural Orders: a relation without a conflation. IOW, it is a mystery, a dynamic tension that can’t be logically reduced to either absolute Secularism nor absolute Sacralism without violating the whole of Catholic Truth.

    The right ordering of society, the end in view, is that the Church informs (sets the boundaries) and society conforms, being morally forbidden to positively approbate that which is in direct violation of faith and morals, and regarding those practical matters that are its purview, according to its prudence in due submission to the Church’s Social Justice doctrine.

    This Social Kingship of Christ sets the pattern or goal according to which the practical Catholic response falls across a spectrum rather than the above-mentioned dichotomy. This response is a constant modulation which recognizes the interplay between the authority of the Church to teach and the freedom of the world to refuse. Where Jason may fall on that spectrum (what he thinks is most prudent for a particular society at this period in history) might be different than where I fall on that spectrum. And the hierarchy’s current policy may, again, be different than both of ours. Such is Catholic life.

    Whew! So… can we get back to Jason’s topic now?

  35. Darryl,

    So you want papacy that is all spiritual authority without any of the bad politics that went with those claims — as in being the top dog on earth and having both swords? That’s like a Mormon wanting Joseph Smith without all the wives.

    No, what I actually want is this:

    The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:

    “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,”419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421

    Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it. (CCC 890-892)

    Whatever failures and sins the bishops and popes have committed are no more occasions for discounting their authority than Peter’s denial of Christ was for discounting his.

  36. Jason–

    For the most part, we confessional Protestants haven’t bucked much over the historicity of succession. What we’re not at all sure of is whether the Roman line is any more apostolic than any other line, including Protestant lines.

    What we find difficult to accept are the sacramental, charismatic qualities claimed for the Roman line which don’t appear to have any biblical warrant. Nor do they seem to be recommendable in any pragmatic sense. They clearly did not protect the early church from a good many elements of folklore and paganism, particularly in terms of the cults of Mary and the saints. Contemporary philosophical influences of Neo-Platonism and Stoicism and such, likewise made inroads into the very heart of Christian belief systems. If this is what God himself set up, then God is not the brightest bulb on any random string of second-hand Christmas lights.

    Also, why pick on the Resurrection as an event which cannot possibly be confirmed historically? William Lane Craig and other eminent apologists have made great headway in showing the Resurrection to be more than merely reasonable or plausible as history.

  37. Jason,

    I wanted to just make a couple of comments on some things you say in this thread and then I will move back to the questions that you (and Mike) posed in the previous thread. You say here:

    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.

    As I’m sure you are aware there quite a number of apologetical works directed at atheists and skeptics who challenge such doctrines as the Resurrection. While I think some of these works do assume that the problem with the atheist/skeptic is foundationally an intellectual one (rather than a spiritual one) I think it’s very important to present to the skeptics the historical evidence for the Resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection was a historical event that is attested to by many thousands of manuscripts. The documentary evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is quite astounding. Again, I don’t think this kind of raw historical evidence is meant to be sufficient, if it was there would be no place for faith. But what historical evidence is available ought to be presented.

    There are some skeptics who will be skeptics no matter what we Christians have to say, and then there are some that are genuinely interested in such Christian doctrines as the Resurrection. To these skeptical but honest inquirers we ought to give them what historical evidence we have. And likewise when we are asking Catholics for historical evidence for the veracity of a doctrine or event or person I think it’s reasonable when we request such historical verification. We are not suggesting that such evidence is sufficient or that there are facts of history which we can appeal that can be judged in a neutral fashion. But what historical evidence there is for whatever the Catholic is claiming ought to be brought to bear. That’s reasonable, no?

    In my example of Dionysius, the entire Catholic Church was convinced for over a millennium of the authenticity of the authorship of these works ascribed to Dionysius, the companion of Paul in Acts. But what the Humanist scholars of the 15th century were asking for in terms of historical verification was reasonable. And I really don’t think the kind of thing that we are asking for in terms of historical verification is any different. In so many cases we ask for the historical basis of whatever is claimed and we get very little. And maybe that’s all there is, but I don’t think that it’s wrong for us to ask.

    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.>/i>

    And I appreciate this kind of answer on a certain level. You are sure that the current RCC is that very same Church which the Apostles founded when they began to appoint elders in various cities. And so you take what the RCC says concerning AS on faith. But for Protestants who have not seen the case that the RCC is the same Church that the Apostles founded, is it not reasonable for us to ask about the historical evidence that connects what the ECF’s believed with the beliefs of the current RCC on AS, papal infallibility, and other doctrines which divide us? Does not the answer to such historical questions help us to determine whether your claims concerning the RCC are accurate?

    So now to your question from the last thread:

    I’ll respond to the second half of your comment later, but you’re still missing the point of my hypothetical question. I am not asking about a newly unearthed manuscript and its authentication, I am simply asking “Into what category of authority would you place non-canonical apostolic writing and preaching?” If you are suspicious of authority that is non-inspired, then what would you do with the examples I listed?

    I’m not “suspicious” of authority which is non-inspired. But then we know that the Prophets and Apostles were capable of great good and great evil. David and Peter did really good things and really bad things at different times of their lives. So if we had extra-canonical writings from David, or Paul, or Peter or whatever other Apostles or biblical disciple we would not be able to say that what they wrote was perfect or even good. But whatever they wrote would of course be of tremendous historical importance and would undoubtedly be an important source for us in understanding the theology and practice of the early centuries of Christianity.

    And finally to Mike:

    What you’re not grasping here is that, if you treat the matter simply as one to be settled, if at all, by “historical evidence,” you’ve already precluded the Catholic answer. An account of divine revelation whose content is to be determined merely by such evidence must remain a matter of provisional opinion, pending further evidence and argument; this it precludes the assent of faith….

    Yes agreed. If it’s just a matter of analyzing pieces of historical evidence then we will never get anywhere.

  38. Messed up the formatting in one of the paragraphs above. Paragraph beginning with “And I appreciate…” should not be in italics. Maybe you could change formatting?

  39. Jason Stellman

    I dunno.

    Your assessment of rock presupposes (it would seem) rock ‘n roll is as good as it gets in this provisional age. Seems short-sighted me thinks.

    Whilst Sting, U2, Hendrix, The Doors even, and sundry others were talented, I would not place them above or beyond (only below) that of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and a plethora of Jazz musicians. Jazz is American brilliance at its best, teaming with syncopation and Afro-centric rhythms. Guys like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Monk, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, etc.

    That is brilliant!

    Sincerely,
    djbeilstein

  40. Eric,

    For the most part, we confessional Protestants haven’t bucked much over the historicity of succession. What we’re not at all sure of is whether the Roman line is any more apostolic than any other line, including Protestant lines.

    I don’t understand your meaning here. If we’re talking about “the historicity of succession,” which it seems like we are, and if there is general agreement about it, which I thought there was, then we would also be in agreement about the fact that Protestants in general do not have historical succession back to the apostles. Neither Calvin, nor Knox, nor any of the Puritans or Westminster Divines were ever ordained by a bishop with historical succession back to the apostles. I thought where we were was at the place where you had conceded the historical succession to the CC and EO, but claimed doctrinal succession for yourselves. For my part, I understand that position entirely, but am now somewhat confused.

    What we find difficult to accept are the sacramental, charismatic qualities claimed for the Roman line which don’t appear to have any biblical warrant. Nor do they seem to be recommendable in any pragmatic sense. They clearly did not protect the early church from a good many elements of folklore and paganism, particularly in terms of the cults of Mary and the saints. Contemporary philosophical influences of Neo-Platonism and Stoicism and such, likewise made inroads into the very heart of Christian belief systems. If this is what God himself set up, then God is not the brightest bulb on any random string of second-hand Christmas lights.

    Almost everything here presupposes the falsehood and early corruption of the CC, which is why I can’t really respond to it as stated. And I really don’t know how many more times I can repeat myself about the issue NOT being that the Catholic paradigm makes everything run smoothly.

    Also, why pick on the Resurrection as an event which cannot possibly be confirmed historically? William Lane Craig and other eminent apologists have made great headway in showing the Resurrection to be more than merely reasonable or plausible as history.

    I don’t doubt that they make a case that the resurrection is the best of the available options for explaining the data. That’s all paradigms are supposed to do. They do not furnish the kind of proof that demands assent from all who are not ignorant or evil. And yet, this is how Protestants like Darryl Hart speak of their own paradigm: anyone who thinks the Catholic narrative better explains the data than the Protestant one does is a fool, or is burying his head in the sand. But this is not how Catholics treat Protestants, because our claim is less bold, ironically. All we’re saying is that our historical, biblical, and philosophical case is eminently plausible and should be considered a viable option. But we also insist that like any doctrine that’s part of special revelation, it requires faith to believe it.

  41. And David, keep in mind that the musicians Sting recruited for his early solo work were among the best jazz artists at the time: Branford Marsalis, Omar Hakim, Darrel Jones, etc. Those albums are pure jazz:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfRCnA0-u7E&feature=player_detailpage#t=20s

  42. If we’re talking about “the historicity of succession,” which it seems like we are, and if there is general agreement about it, which I thought there was, then we would also be in agreement about the fact that Protestants in general do not have historical succession back to the apostles. Neither Calvin, nor Knox, nor any of the Puritans or Westminster Divines were ever ordained by a bishop with historical succession back to the apostles.

    Jason,

    Sorry for butting in here again, but we do believe in succession, in that the Apostles appointed elders, and those elders appointed other elders, and so on. But this order did not obviate every other criteria for succession, which it does effectively in the RCC. Or do you debate this? In the RCC the only thing that matters is that one bishop appoint another, even if the subsequent bishop has no Christian qualifications to be a bishop. Or have I missed something?

  43. Jason,

    No one has conceded succession to Rome or the EO. The apostles appointed elders, who appointed elders, who appointed elders, etc. In time, this came to be monarchical bishops, which most Reformed would say was an error (except for the Anglicans, of course). Nevertheless, we would not say that all those bishops were illegitimate. God is pleased to work through less-than-perfect ecclesiastical structures. These bishops ordained other bishops and ministers, etc. all the way down to the Reformation period. Luther, at least was validly ordained, though not as a bishop. Calvin was on his way to being a priest. Knox, Zwingli, etc., these were all men who had the approval of the Western church just before the Reformation. If you want to argue that they should not be followed because they taught contrary to the church and were excommunicated/disciplined, then that’s fine on one level. But then you cannot expect us to take Rome seriously when she will not discipline blatant heretics in our own day.

    The issue between us is that you believe we should listen to the bishop no matter what he teaches, even heresy. And now, with 2,000 years of church history to benefit us, plus ease of communication, etc., it is quite easy to deny that such is what you believe. But at the end of the day, that is Roman Catholicism. If the church is to be found wherever a duly ordained bishop is found, and if breaking with the church is always schism, then one must obey the bishop no matter what he says. That was particularly true before the ease of communication developed. The medieval German peasant—who had a bishop who was barely present and then when he was, was known for his many affairs and neglect of Christian instruction—was out of luck. According to Rome, one had to listen to that mostly absent bishop.

    I’ve had Roman Catholics on this thread tell me that if a priest or bishop tells them homosexual activity is not a sin, then said parishioner does not commit a mortal sin by engaging in it. If I am a Roman Catholic in the middle of the jungle and have a Bible but no access to the Magisterium and my priest tells me that such is not sin, then apparently I can sin with impunity. The whole system is irrational and authoritarian. It fails on a pragmatic level and on any basic reading of Scripture. When even Roman Catholic historians tell me that the papacy’s biblical foundations are extremely weak at best, then Houston we have a problem.

    As far as EENS. I’ve seen the tortured attempts to explain it, but until someone shows me that those who promulgated the doctrine de fide meant something other than one must be united visibly to the visible Roman Catholic Church, then those explanations are worthless. If the infallible declarers of a doctrine completely miss the point of it, infallibility fails.

    As far as the shot about how one can believe in the sun standing still, giants, etc. and not apostolic succession, all you are doing is proving your inability to actually believe apart from somebody patting you on the back and telling you it is okay to believe such “wild” stories. Don’t fault us for your insecurities.

  44. I’ve had Roman Catholics on this thread tell me that if a priest or bishop tells them homosexual activity is not a sin, then said parishioner does not commit a mortal sin by engaging in it. If I am a Roman Catholic in the middle of the jungle and have a Bible but no access to the Magisterium and my priest tells me that such is not sin, then apparently I can sin with impunity. The whole system is irrational and authoritarian

    Which Roman Catholics ‘on this thread’ have told you that if a priest or bishop tells them that homosexual activity is not a sin, then said person does not commit a sin by engaging in it????

    I must have missed that.

  45. Wosbald, but you really can’t get back to the topic. The Social Teaching of the Church, which is generally the teaching for which the Vatican is known these days, is generally an extension of the papacy’s old political ambitions.

    I’m surprised Jason Stellman, a former 2K man, didn’t notice that. Then again, there’s a lot that the converts don’t notice.

  46. Jason, everything you think you have with the magisterium I have with my little old minister at Hillsdale OPC. Plus, I have the advantage (since you’re making all of these claims about superiority) of being able to check and see whether he is actually teaching what God reveals in Scripture. Plus, there is a session, and a presbytery and an Assembly to help give oversight. You may think this is the death knell for Protestant ecclesiology. But how can you tell when the pope says something wrong (which has happened)? He’s not infallible all the time, right? Does a little light go on when the infallible bits are taught? So ultimately, the pope needs to conform to what the magisterium has already taught and held. In which case, the wonder working powers of AS, fail because someone still has to do the interpretive work of figuring out if what the pope says is true and meshes with the magisterium. You left the interpretive world of Protestantism for a whole different world of interpretation. The last I checked, Denzinger is a lot longer than the Bible. Both sides need oversight. (BTW, in a pre-Vatican 2 world you might not be able to write what you think about the church — welcome to the U.S. of A. where Americanism rules.)

    Superior my arse. I have a lot less explaining to do with 30,000 denominations (much overstated) than you do for the Renaissance popes, who were immune from criticism and questions thanks to papal supremacy and AS.

    But if you want to go theory for theory, inerrant word and sovereign spirit make as much sense as AS. Plus, they have the Bible in their favor.

  47. Andrew M.,

    You wrote:

    Sorry for butting in here again, but we do believe in succession, in that the Apostles appointed elders, and those elders appointed other elders, and so on. But this order did not obviate every other criteria for succession, which it does effectively in the RCC. Or do you debate this? In the RCC the only thing that matters is that one bishop appoint another, even if the subsequent bishop has no Christian qualifications to be a bishop. Or have I missed something?

    What you are missing is that “the subsequent bishop” must be a baptized male. That is absolutely necessary for a valid ordination. In addition, the Catholic Church typically requires seven years of seminary formation before ordaining a man to the priesthood, and many years of proven ministry as a priest are typically required before consecration to the episcopate.

    Thus, when you say that “the only thing that matters is that one bishop appoint another,” it is necessary to point out the sense in which this is true, and the sense in which it is false. As evidenced by the rigorous process of formation in training and experience in ministry that are typically required of men who become bishops, it is patently false that the Sacrament of Orders itself is the only thing that matters. The character, knowledge, dedication, and ability of the man to be consecrated bishop clearly matter–a lot. But there are many laymen who are men of high character, knowledge, and have proven ability in ministry of various kinds. But they are not ordained. So, what constitutes the specific difference between a layperson and a presbyter or bishop? In this sense, the only thing that matters is valid ordination by a bishop.

    But there are also theological criteria built into the Sacrament of Orders itself. On the Catholic view, Apostolic Succession essentially involves the sacramental transmission of Holy Orders from the Apostles to their successors, and so on, down through the ages. A sacrament does not consist in matter alone (e.g., the laying on of hands). The form of the sacrament is also essential; i.e., the doctrine expressed in the words spoken by the minister. But even these are not sufficient for sacramental validity. The minister of the sacrament must also intend to “do what the Church does.” The most obvious indicators that the proper intention is present is that the minister employees both the requisite matter and form in baptizing, ordaining, etc. However, there are circumstances in which the proper matter and form are used, but the Catholic Church deems the sacrament to be invalid.

    For example, Mormon baptisms have been judged to be invalid, even though they baptize with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Why is this? Because Mormon theology renders this form equivocal, such that their ministers are presumed not to intend to do what the Church does.

    Similar considerations can be found in Pope Leo XIII’s judgment that Anglican Orders are “absolutely null and utterly void” (Apostolicae Curae). This judgment did not at all depend upon any break in the tactile succession among the Anglicans; i.e., there was not presumed to be any deficiency in the matter of the sacrament–the laying on of hands. The deficiency was ultimately theological. Pope Leo cited changes in the Anglican formularies of 1552 relative to the priesthood, which indicate that the intention of Anglican ordinations no longer corresponded to “what the [universal] Church intends” in ordaining. Thus, even though the matter of the sacrament was preserved, the necessary form and intention were lacking, and the Apostolic Succession was therefore lost among the Anglicans sometime after 1552 (when the revised Prayer Book and Ordinal were promulgated in England).

    So, what matters in the Catholic Church, relative to the sacraments generally, and the Sacrament of Holy Orders specifically, is sound doctrine expressed in sound words with the intention to do what the Church does. The sacramental is not mechanistic nor magical. But it does of necessity include the material, whether anyone likes matter or not. Water. Bread and wine. Oil. Even the laying on of human hands.

  48. +JMJ+

    DGHart wrote:

    But if you want to go theory for theory, inerrant word and sovereign spirit make as much sense as AS. Plus, they have the Bible in their favor.

    Unfortunately, they don’t have Incarnation in their favor. Once one has sundered the union of hypostases in the Incarnational hermeneutic, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men and all that.

  49. Andrew P (& Andrew M),

    Not trying to pick on you 🙂 I just find your posts thought provoking.

    You said,

    “So, what matters in the Catholic Church, relative to the sacraments generally, and the Sacrament of Holy Orders specifically, is sound doctrine expressed in sound words with the intention to do what the Church does.”

    Isn’t this assuming that the RCC defines what true ordination is…which is the point of contention all along. I think that it would be another question altogether to substantiate that true AS must take form in an episcopal form of government where only the bishop has authority to ordain. If the episcopate was not established then your take on AS is null and void, right?

    I do appreciate your explanation of the sacrament of holy orders. It is well stated. But I believe Andrew’s point is that we can acknowledge a form of AS. Elders ordain elders–even through the power of the collegiality of presbyters–but this does not mean that the Roman system is therefore true. The way I see it, your response assumes the truth of the Catholic claim, which is the issue under discussion.

  50. Brandon,

    I was responding to Andrew M.’s speculations about “what really matters” to the Catholic Church. For this purpose, it is only necessary to explain what matters to the Catholic Church as evidenced by her teaching and practice regarding sacraments generally and the Sacrament of Holy Orders specifically.

  51. And we could point to St Thomas More, for example, when the abuses of indulgence selling was festering. What’s the point?

    Sean, the point is revision of doctrine and discipline of error beat development and sacraments of penance.

    And, I don’t think I’d brag that your church simply ‘revises’ doctrines when they start to disagree with those doctrines. That position leads to Unitarianism.

    First, it’s not bragging. Second, based on all the Reformed hemorrhaging to Rome over against New Haven, your theory, while perhaps good for stigmatizing Protestantism, leaves something to be desired. It also reveals a poor and simplistic grasp on western Christianity, where instead of there being three more or less dominant traditions (Roman, Reformation, and Radical), there is only Roman and everybody else. One doesn’t necessarily “lead to another.” Though it is interesting that two of them share a continuationist theology, papal infallibility and words of knowledge.

  52. Darryl,

    Jason, everything you think you have with the magisterium I have with my little old minister at Hillsdale OPC.

    I realize that you believe this to be true, but if we are comparing paradigms (which is what I thought we were doing), then you must admit that your paradigm doesn’t allow you to make the claim to “have everything” that the CC believes the Magisterium provides.

    But you have no desire to compare paradigms in the first place, do you? If you did, you would have begun the attempt by now.

    And I’m not going to bother responding to the rest of what you wrote, since your rhetorical zingers have been answered enough times here and elsewhere. If you ever feel like actually engaging your opponents’ positions as stated by them, let me know and we’ll try this again.

  53. What you are missing is that “the subsequent bishop” must be a baptized male….

    Andrew P – Fair enough, the bishop has to be a man. We agree with that. But I don’t think that fact reflects on the disgreement between Catholic and Protestant. The disagreement is over the Medieval Catholic practice of consecrating baptized men no matter what their conformance was to the standards for bishops set down in Scripture (besides what you point out). For the RCC the ordination is valid if the ordination conforms to the standard of canon law for such ordinations. It’s this assumption which we are questioning. And we are questioning it from the standpoint of the principles of Scripture long before there were any canonical rules which governed this partciular RCC sacrament. But first note that there is an assumption here, and it’s an assumption we have not granted.

    Let me paint an analogy. Let’s say you are part of an organization and your boss sends you into a new area of the world and tells you to hire good men to be managers for this new region and gives you proceedures as to how to go through the assessment and hiring process. Some months later your boss comes to you and complains that many of the people you hired don’t comform to company standards. Your response is that you hired people according to procedure. Your boss replies that your problem is that you were no just supposed to hire people according to company procedures, but that you were supposed to hire good people (that is, people who conform to company standards for the position) according to company procedure. Just following procedure was not sufficient.

    So during the Medieval period we have lots of folks who were ordained validly according to RCC procedure, but they were folks who often characterized the opposite of the biblical standards for bishop. And the answer from the RCC seems to be, “yes, but they were ordained validly.” And our response is that the ordination of men who with characteristics antithetical to biblical standards ought not to be considered as valid. So the disagreement is a sense is over whether the biblical and Medieval RCC conceptions of a valid ordination can be made to mesh. From our standpoint they cannot.

  54. So during the Medieval period we have lots of folks who were ordained validly according to RCC procedure, but they were folks who often characterized the opposite of the biblical standards for bishop. And the answer from the RCC seems to be, “yes, but they were ordained validly.” And our response is that the ordination of men who with characteristics antithetical to biblical standards ought not to be considered as valid

    And it’s not just the medieval period… This is really a key aspect which is willfully set aside by the false distinction between doctrinal/moral/administrative failure. The latter is the lemma that allows the convert to Catholicism the leeway to mitigate the cognitive dissonance resulting from even a casual inspection of history. And yet it is grounded in presuppositions that are foreign to the God we encounter in Scripture. I’ve given the example of Shebna being deposed for his sin and replaced by Eliakim in Isaiah 22. The difference here is that over history the replacement has tended to be no replacement at all, but rather a continuation of the old. Ironically, this very mindset is what drew Christ’s ire against the Pharisees, who argued in identical fashion.

  55. Almost every complaint against apostolic succession in this conversation is some variant of Donatism.

    Its a good illustration to compare IPs. Because of the Catholic IP, we know that Donatism is false because Donatism is contrary to Holy Tradition.

  56. Sean–

    The Donatists were neither excommunicated nor kicked out, but withdrew….

    They thereby committed schism.

    The magisterial Protestants were excommunicated and kicked out.

    Thereby, the Roman Catholic Church committed schism.

  57. Almost every complaint against apostolic succession in this conversation is some variant of Donatism.

    Its a good illustration to compare IPs. Because of the Catholic IP, we know that Donatism is false because Donatism is contrary to Holy Tradition

    Non sequitur. Although one can understand why you reach for a semi-ad hominem. Holy Scripture gives you clear standards for the elders of a church. You nullify and uphold your ‘holy’ tradition and lineage above these, losing all credibility in the process. There was mention earlier of billion catholics, as if that proves anything. Islam has 1.6 bln adherents too…

  58. SS.

    Jesus himself chose Judas who betrayed Him. Of course elders of the church are supposed to be as outlined but there is nothing to suggest that if they fall short they cease being elders or the church ceases to be the church.

    Besides, I know several PCA Elders that do not have children and several that are unmarried, therefore the PCA violates Holy Scriptures standards for the elders of the Church anyway.

  59. Sean,

    In the PCA, if an elder is caught molesting children, cheating on his wife, or performing some other lapse of character, he is typically deposed from office. In Rome, they move him to a new parish and put him in charge of the children’s ministry.

  60. We know that Christ continues to give Himself to us in the Supper…as He has given Himself to us in Baptism.

    He certainly can do that without having to have ‘the proper person’ announcing it…or handing it over.

    His Word…is enough. It is enough.

  61. Robert.

    That is using the grossest possible example and smacks, once again, of Donatism.

    Its quite easy to throw stones at a Church with 2,000 years of history, some of it sorid, when your own church is less 30 years and the entirity of its members could fit into Tallededga Speedway isn’t it?

  62. I can only imagine some of you as Israelites.

    “That is not the true Temple because look at how bad some of your priests have been!”

    Would you, as an Israelite, have abandoned Israel and set up your own priesthood and built your own Temple because Israel was being wicked? Is that what the Judges did?

    Rome’s opulence, her political machinations down through the centuries, her tyrannies and hauteur and self-assertiveness, not to mention the Dionysian romp in the Vatican in the Renaissance, what with Borgia popes and catamites and so forth: all of that is bad — very bad. The Catholic Church knows that. Dante, of course, had half of the popes head down in fiery pits in hell.

    Chaucer, contemporary with the Lollard Wyclif, but himself a loyal Catholic, is merciless — scathing even — in his portraiture of filthy and cynical clergy. St. Thomas More and Erasmus, contemporary with Luther and Calvin, were at least as vitriolic in their condemnation of Roman evils as were the Reformers . . . [But] Israel was not less Israel when she was being wicked . . . The Church is in the same position in its identity as people of God. We have Judas Iscariot, as it were, and Ananias and Sapphira, and other unsavory types amongst us, but we have no warrant to set up shop outside the camp, so to speak . . .

    Evangelicals, in their just horror at rampant evils in Catholic history, . . . unwittingly place themselves somewhat with the Donatists of the fourth century, who wanted to hive off because of certain evils which they felt were widespread in the Church. Augustine and others held the view that you can’t go that far. You can’t set up shop independently of the lineage of bishops . . .

    As far as the ancient, orthodox Church was concerned, nobody could split off . . . The problems of the Roman Catholic Church (sin, worldliness, ignorance) are, precisely, the problems of the Church. St. Paul never got out of Corinth before he had all of the above problems. Multiply that small company of Christians by 2000 years and hundreds of millions, and you have what the Catholic Church has to cope with. Furthermore, remember that the poor Catholics aren’t the only ones who have to cope.

    Anyone who has ever tried to start himself a church has run slap into it all, with a vengeance . . . Worldliness, second-generation apathy, ossification, infidelity, loss of vision, loss of zeal, loss of discipline, jiggery-pokery, heresy — it’s all there.

    (Thomas Howard – “Letter to my Brother: A Convert Defends Catholicism)

    Now, none of this has anything whatsoever to do with the claims of apostolic succession and certainly this has nothing to do with why Protestantism is superior. So, maybe we can actually engage the topic at hand now?

  63. Darryl,

    But what if you do conclude that your OPC minister is teaching heresy? Presumably he is reading the same Scripture prayerfully but comes to a different conclusion. Suppose other church members catch word of your opinion of their pastor’s teaching. Half of them agree with you and follow you in forming a new church. The other half stick with the first guy. By what principled means do you determine who is heretical and who is orthodox? How about the less educated members of your church, not as schooled in hermeneutics. Who should they follow and why? If you respond with: “read the Scripture and test to see who is orthodox”, for reasons that I hope are obvious, you really haven’t answered the question, and you aren’t taking seriously the history that attends Sola Scriptura.

    Andrew M and Darryl,

    I agree wholeheartedly that the historical facts that impinge upon the RCC’s claims regarding AS and PI are entirely relevant, especially for those Protestants seeking to honestly understand those claims (present company included). If the RCC’s philosophical foundation is firmer than the Protestant’s, but history handily disproves their paradigm, then the philosophical argument is moot. I do wonder if some converts to the RCC gloss over the historical messiness and hold on too tightly to the necessity for an airtight philosophical system. However, if we claim to know the Truth, and the ability to define orthodoxy and orthopraxy in some way that goes beyond “me and my Bible”, then some form of compelling philosophical argument for Protestantism (as it relates to this topic) needs to be put forward, and I haven’t seen it yet. Sometimes I get the feeling that Reformed apologists put 90% of their effort into history-as-means-of-disproving-the-RCC because they simply lack a coherent and straightforward positive philosophical argument.

    Burton

  64. Old Adam,

    The question is not can He, but does He. That is where an authoritative Church comes in place.

    By the way, I dropped a Post on my blog day before yesterday you may enjoy. It’s on freewill and heaven.

    Peace,
    Mike

  65. Burton,

    Your last sentence is spot on. Protestantism is, by its very nature, a negative movement that defines itself in terms of what it rejects. This dynamic translates practically into what we see here: a complete ineptitude at setting forth a cogent and positive ecclesiology. When this happens, all that’s left is various forms of the Tu Quoque mingled with splashes of Donatism. The entire position amounts to claiming to be the only option left since the others have fallen into ruin.

    A claim that is rather difficult to take seriously when the denominations they contrast with the Church aren’t even a century old (and many of them aren’t even half that).

  66. Jesus himself chose Judas who betrayed Him. Of course elders of the church are supposed to be as outlined but there is nothing to suggest that if they fall short they cease being elders or the church ceases to be the church.

    So using your example re Judas, and taking it to its logical conclusion by way of reduction, you should be allowing all your offending priests to stay put and on active duty. You prove too much by pointing to Judas, he cannot help you because it is Christ Himself who warned us to be on guard against false teachers in Matt 7.

    “That is not the true Temple because look at how bad some of your priests have been!”

    Would you, as an Israelite, have abandoned Israel and set up your own priesthood and built your own Temple because Israel was being wicked? Is that what the Judges did

    You are comparing apples and oranges because Israel was an ethnic tribe/nation. You could not abandon it anymore than David could deny his Hebrew roots. And when you consider the history of Israel, you find that when the priesthood engaged in wickedness, God eventually wiped them off the face of the earth together with all those who supported that priesthood. In the meantime, as Isaiah 22 shows, he replaced a sinning leader with another, as opposed to allowing him to continue unfettered. By the time Jesus was born, Israel’s priesthood had been thoroughly rotted through the Hasmonean lineage that there wasn’t much to do. That’s why he told them, not one of these stones will remain. So, I don’t know what Bible you’re reading, but it’s time to wake up.

  67. A claim that is rather difficult to take seriously when the denominations they contrast with the Church aren’t even a century old (and many of them aren’t even half that).

    If God needs rocks and stones to cry out to worship, they will. So I wouldn’t worry too much about how old your institution is. It means zero to him who says it is better to do righteousness than to sacrifice (Prov 21).

  68. Protestantism is, by its very nature, a negative movement that defines itself in terms of what it rejects. This dynamic translates practically into what we see here: a complete ineptitude at setting forth a cogent and positive ecclesiology.

    Jason,

    Is this the way it was at Exile Pres? If that’s the case then that’s a real shame. I wonder if you are not taking some bad examples of Reformed Protestantism and projecting them on Reformation theology in general.

    Can I take one of the standard systematic texts, like maybe Berkhof, and ask whether what you complain of is true of his systematization of Reformed theology? I’m sure you are familiar with Berkhof. Would you say that he defines Reformed theology in terms of “what it rejects?” Of course Berkhof spends a great deal of time answering objections to Reformed theology, and that includes those from the Roman Catholic direction. But I think he provides a very nice positive exposition of Reformed theology, including ecclesiology. Would you disagree and if so why?

  69. Sean–

    Jesus deliberately chose Judas, perhaps in part to show the folly of assuming that appointment to ecclesial office (even by Christ himself!) implies continuing fidelity to Christ and his church. Something tells me that Judas ceased to be a valid apostle following his betrayal of our Lord. I seem to recall their even choosing someone in his stead, Matthias by name.

    In a true church, elders should cease being elders when they “fall short,” as you put it. Likewise, a church ceases to be a valid continuation of catholicity when it “falls short, ” in terms of upholding its responsibilities to discern theological error, as well as moral laxity, and to react by properly disciplining the individuals involved.

  70. Sean–

    Almost every believer believes his or her denomination to be the purest form of Christianity available: that’s why they chose it in the first place.

    As a result, the PCA adherent believes the PCA to be 2000 years old. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, at least in its current post-Vatican II version, is a mere 48 years old this year! (She’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother….)

  71. Michael Tx,

    Sure the church is there for good order and that we can hand over the Word and sacraments. But none of us have something that the others don’t when it comes to doing that. That shows the true power of the Word itself. That it is NOT dependent upon men to make it happen.

    Our pastor presides over Baptisms and the Lord’s Supper, for good order. But in truth any member of our congregation could, because it (His Word) is effective and powerful in and of Itself.

    I’ll check out your post, Mike.

    Thanks, friend.

  72. Sean,

    Every denomination can lay claim to some sordid activity in the past. The southern Presbyterian church in the United States supported the buying and selling of human beings, and much of the southern Presbyterian church evolved into what is now PCA and, thankfully, much of that particular sin is in the past.

    The difference is that neither the southern Presbyterian church nor the PCA have ever claimed to be infallible. The sex abuse scandal in itself does not prove Roman Catholicism to be false, but it certainly calls the infallibility of your church into serious, serious question. And the fact is, if your pope were to declare de fide that abuse was okay, then you would have to accept it, end of question. You could not exercise your own private judgment to say otherwise. Rome has tolerated gross sin in the past, so it is certainly possible that such could happen.

    But I am perfectly willing to set the scandal aside, since it could be construed as a low blow. How about the Roman Catholics commenting here set aside the notion that Protestantism is merely 500 years old? I am a member of the catholic church as it is expressed in the Reformed tradition. The catholic church is more than 2,000 years old even if the historical circumstances of my own particular denomination do not go back that far. From Peter to Athanasius to Augustine to Patrick to Anselm to Aquinas to Wycliffe to Luther to Calvin and beyond—2,000 years of orthodox Christianity gave birth to confessional Protestantism.

  73. Andrew M.,

    Along with the many good men ordained in the Apostolic, Patristic, Medieval, and subsequent eras, there have been some bad men ordained. Some of these men were notoriously wicked, and the memory of them has been preserved, to the shame of the Church. During each of these eras, particularly when abuses became more frequent, reformers have arisen within the Catholic Church, and worked for the reform of the clergy. So it is not true, not today, not in the beginning, and not in the intervening time, that all that has mattered to the Catholic Church is sacramental ordination. That is simply false. At all times, Catholics have known that ignorant and / or wicked, self-serving clerics are bad news. The question, therefore, is what is the necessary and sufficient conditions for a valid ordination? We already agree that only good and wise men (allowing for variations in the kind and amount of learning that should be required, relative to time and place) should be ordained. But you seem to be suggesting that only good and wise men can be ordained. Before proceeding further, I want to make sure that that is your position.

    Your analogy appears to confirm my position, rather than your own. In order for this analogy to work in your favor, it would have to be the case that the person deputized to do the hiring for the boss did not actually hire those incompetent persons. But what you wrote, quite naturally, suggests that those persons were actually hired–sort of like the unprofitable servant was really given a talent, and Judas was really chosen to be an Apostle.

  74. Andrew,

    I wrote, “Protestantism is, by its very nature, a negative movement that defines itself in terms of what it rejects. This dynamic translates practically into what we see here: a complete ineptitude at setting forth a cogent and positive ecclesiology.” You responded:

    Is this the way it was at Exile Pres? If that’s the case then that’s a real shame. I wonder if you are not taking some bad examples of Reformed Protestantism and projecting them on Reformation theology in general.

    I made a very conscious effort to avoid this when I planted the church, but it was hard (and this was years before the CC was on my radar). We would kneel during the prayer of confession and raise our hands during the Doxology, and when people balked at these things, which some did, I tried to explain that just because Papists did one and Pentecostals the other didn’t make those postures any less biblical.

    But that is beside my point. Protestants rarely attempt to construct a positive ecclesiology unless really pressed to do so by Catholics (which, even then, they sometimes fail to do). Rather, what often happens is that they define themselves over against all the expressions of the faith that they reject, especially Catholicism.

    Can I take one of the standard systematic texts, like maybe Berkhof, and ask whether what you complain of is true of his systematization of Reformed theology? I’m sure you are familiar with Berkhof. Would you say that he defines Reformed theology in terms of “what it rejects?” Of course Berkhof spends a great deal of time answering objections to Reformed theology, and that includes those from the Roman Catholic direction. But I think he provides a very nice positive exposition of Reformed theology, including ecclesiology. Would you disagree and if so why?

    You’re right, Berkhof does indeed spend a lot of time addressing other positions and then constructing a case for his view.

    That said, though, my point as applied to this discussion and others like them still stands. Speaking as a Catholic, I find it very hard to engage in a good discussion with a Protestant before it devolves into all the things that are wrong with Catholicism, from its idolatry to its kidnappings, from its legalism to its post V2 change. It’s as if as long as the Tu Quoque applies, there’s no need to argue FOR anything. As Bugay constantly says, “Once you’ve demolished the other alternatives, what’s left standing must be true.”

    I just find that cowardly and dishonest. To your credit, I haven’t really seen you pull those kinds of stunts.

    PS – To prove me wrong, would someone in a simple sentence or two explain the principled way Protestants distinguish divine revelation from human opinion? We’ve been asking for this for months, and all we get is the TQ, or a demand for us to prove our case historically (followed by attacks if it’s not airtight enough). When’s someone going to step up for your side?

  75. Eric,

    In a true church, elders should cease being elders when they “fall short,” as you put it.

    This just presupposes that “being an elder” is tantamount to “being a congressman,” and thus something that someone can simply stop being if he fails morally. But if ordination is a sacrament that actually does something to the one receiving it, then your statement doesn’t work.

    So you need to take one step back and talk about why you think ordination is what you think it is, rather than presupposing it.

  76. Jason–

    Fair enough. I wasn’t intending to take a stance on whether or not ordination is a sacrament by my statement. Rewrite it, “Elders should cease exercising eldership when they ‘fall short,'” if you like.

    Personally, I don’t believe it is a sacrament (though perhaps it has some sacramental qualities), but I wasn’t really getting into it with my argument above.

  77. OK, Eric.

    I would be curious to hear you, or any other Protestant, explain what you think of the Catholic charge that your ecclesiology is Donatist. Because either we are misunderstanding your objections, or we have differing understandings of what Donatism is.

  78. I don’t have time to say much, but I did want to say that this thread is profoundly depressing. Following the never-ending fountain of neo-Donatism, Robert, who strains at every gnat of supposed “conflict” in papal statements, proceeds to swallow the camel of Protestant continuity with men like Athanasius,Augustine, Patrick and Aquinas.

    Believe whatever nonsense you want, but kindly don’t insult the memory of these men, who fought their entire lives for things that you disdain, by claiming that Protestantism is their “offspring.” From a historical perspective, that whopper is more outrageous than all of the alleged papal errors and contradictions combined. Accuse them.of error, say they were all idolators and knaves like you say of Catholics today, but at least give their beliefs the dignity and honor to call them the enemies to your doctrine that they were.

    Aquinas was the guy who most clearly formulated the concept of a principled way to distinguish divine revelation, the same argument of Jason’s that you mock and refuse to answer. If you are really heirs of Aquinas, you would engage the argument and not dodge it. And if you won’t, you insult his memory by claiming to be his heir.

  79. Jason,

    You said:

    To prove me wrong, would someone in a simple sentence or two explain the principled way Protestants distinguish divine revelation from human opinion? We’ve been asking for this for months, and all we get is the TQ, or a demand for us to prove our case historically (followed by attacks if it’s not airtight enough). When’s someone going to step up for your side?

    ***

    Here is the Johannine approach to distinguish between divine revelation from human opinion:

    1) If you listen to us, apostles, you will be in the truth (cf. 1Jn 4:1-6). (This is what many would call an objective criterion.)

    2) The anointing (the Holy Spirit) teaches you (you, who are born of God) that it is us, apostles, who tell you the truth, and not others (cf. 1Jn 2:18-27). (This is what many would call a subjective criterion.)

    This implies that

    1) if we want to be in the truth we should study the writings of the apostles and believe only them, and

    2) we should trust that the Holy Spirit will help us understand and have confidence in what the apostles wrote.

    Here is my thesis where I explain Johannine epistemology on exegetical and philosophical grounds:

    http://szabadosadam.hu/divinity/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Szabados-ThM-Thesis.pdf

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  80. Jason–

    I have a few spare moments, so I’ll answer your question as best I can in the time allotted.

    I don’t know what other Protestants do, quite frankly. I only know what I do.

    Try as I might, I haven’t been able to figure out what Catholics even mean by “principled way.” It doesn’t appear to mean historically or empirically or even philosophically reasonable. I assume it’s Thomistic and has something or other to do with natural law, but besides that, I’m clueless. It comes across like some sort of Catholic psycho-babble. This may be part of the reason you get so few replies: you’re asking us to speak in what is to us a foreign language.

    First, I start with mere Christianity: that which is consensus among the major branches of orthodoxy. (It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that liberal “Christianity” is a completely different religion with its own unique Christology and soteriology.)

    This includes accepting as authoritative the Nicene Creed and the first four ecumenical councils. I do not totally discount the fifth, sixth, and seventh councils since they were accepted by almost the whole church at that time. In general, however, Protestantism does not accept them, and I believe there was much wisdom in Vincent of Lérins’ canon: “What all men have at all times and everywhere believed must be regarded as true.”

    I believe that corralling “mere Christianity” gets us probably 80% of the way there. As much as we exchange heated words on blogs such as this one, it’s almost always over the same things: justification, ecclesiology, authority, and Marian dogmas. When I read through the Catholic Catechism, there is so very much that we have in common which never gets spoken of.

    For the other 20%, I use a variety of sources as authoritative to one extent or another. I am not afraid to be subjective. God gave me a mind, and I will never apologize for using it. I can learn the biblical languages, textual criticism, exegesis, and proper hermeneutics. (These actually vary rather little among the various orthodox branches.)

    I can comb church history and the many rich traditions of Christendom. I can be assisted in my quest by prominent theologians, archaeologists, apologists, and philosophers. The experience and convictions of solid, mature believers can also be invaluable.

    When we quest in other fields, for example, the motivations behind the outbreak of Civil War in this country in 1861, we use similar methods. I was taught one thing growing up in the Midwest and quite another as a graduate student studying in the Deep South.

    To decide among conflicting voices, you must read as many primary sources as you can. You must seek out reliable historians. Those who are reliable in an area you yourself know well are more likely to be reliable in areas where your own expertise runs low. You can gradually gain a feel for those who know what they’re talking about, for those who are not inordinately agenda driven, for those who are insightful in their conclusions.

    And you know what? Quite often you end up agreeing with authors whose opinions you trust, with authors whose convictions appeal to you, and yes, with authors who agree with you. Not because you shoot your arrow and then quickly run to paint a target around it, but because you have done your homework. You end up agreeing with the best historians with whom you are familiar, which results in your choosing other authors to read who concur with the authors you have already read and trusted.

    Another thing I do is to find groups who have faithfully lived out the truths I myself have tested and found worthy. Are they humble? Do they persevere? Do they discipline? Do they minister? Do they evangelize? Do they worship and pray like they truly mean it, like they really know God? Do they pursue the truth all out? Are they balanced? Are they biblical?

    Finally, I know the voice of my Savior. I trust his spirit to guide me aright.

    It is more organic than organized for me. Sorry if I have wandered all over the map. I don’t have a simple answer for you to tie up in a neat little bow. I don’t happen to think God works like that….

    (I did think you were a little heavy handed on Reformed negativity. No doubt there are those who are that way. I have sometimes thought you must think me maudlin for the way I rhapsodize on the benefits of Calvinism to the well being of my heart and soul. Reformed ways of thinking and acting bring me such unearthly joy that it sounds astonishingly strange to my ears for someone to call them negative.)

  81. Jason, you want a short summary of how someone outside the Roman Catholic church, claiming to be one of Jesus’ followers, can distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion. I find expression of this in SC 88 and 89, especially 89.

    http://opc.org/sc.html

    My point is, God’s doing something during the preached Word. And if I have a struggle, a real question of whether God is revealing, I should go to church, and listen. I recall Dr. Godfrey making s point along these lines, in a conference I attended years ago. But now I’m rambling…

    I really mean it. I want to go away, and not bother Roman Catholics with me and my little opinions here, in a Roman Catholic blog. Do what you will with my sharing with you. I do seek to promote peace. Jason, sometimes I don’t understand why you are asking the questions you are. But then again, I’m not yet a year into finding the theology of the blogosphere. What goes on out here in all these blogs (so its not a swipe at yours) should cause Christians who care about how the church is run, some concern. These are a window for the world to see how Christians operate. Just a reminder, folks.

    With that, I bid you farewell. Thanks for blogging about music Jason. It had me rocking out to my favorite U2 CD on the way to work yesterday.

    AB

    PS if the existence of functioning Protestant communions gives anyone reason to doubt his own eclessiological leanings, it shouldn’t. All synods and councils err, and that includes the highest courts. If you think you have found a church that “has a lock on things,” just wait. Those fallible humans running things will find a way to show you that yes, even their church needs reform. Thus, my rhetorical flourish. Adios.

  82. Jonathan,

    Protestants are just honest that we stand in the tradition of those who came before us without necessarily having to swallow everything they said. BTW, Rome does not accept everything taught by the men you mention, you are just dishonest about it.

    To say that Athanasius and Augustine argued for anything remotely close to modern Roman Catholicism is absolutely ridiculous. Did they stand for a strong ecclesiology and apostolic authority? Sure. But so do confessional Protestants. We just locate apostolic authority where it belongs, in holy Scripture. As did the aforementioned men.

    Aquinas is a more difficult case, but he was living in a period when Rome had added so much more to the apostolic deposit of faith. He was a man of his time and gets a pass for much of his errors. He didn’t live at the time when Trent anathematized the gospel, and his doctrine of predestination is far stronger than just about anything you’ll get from Rome these days. The good Dr. may be your patron saint of theology, but much of the Roman Church left many of his views a long time ago.

    If you want to accuse me of insulting these men, fine. For Protestants, Rome’s claim to be the true heirs of these men is equally insulting and downright historically false. We refuse to play pretend in church history and find papal infallibility and ecclesiastical infallibility where our forefathers didn’t.

  83. Jonathan,

    BTW, Protestants have been answering the principled way question for centuries — the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture to His people who hear His voice and join His church. You just don’t like that answer. Fine, you don’t have to accept it if you don’t like it. But then you all cannot complain when we point out your principled way is no less subjective, no less fallible, and produces no less division. Our critique is not simply the TQ, but when Roman apologists keep telling us how much surer and better it is, it is our job to point out the flaws in it. For such a better method, you would expect that it would not produce the shielding of child molesters from the law, executing of heretics, changes in doctrine, having pagan lesbians teach theology at Jesuit institutions, and so on. The proof, so to speak, is in the pudding, and despite our many, many flaws, you just don’t see many of those things in confessional Protestantism.

    You have no principled way to determine whether your interpretation of Rome is correct. There are countless traditionalist Roman Catholics who remain in the church but kick against Vatican II. You have no way to determine whether your interpretation of church history or Scripture that “led” you to Rome is correct or principled. I can read a dozen different Roman Catholic historians and biblical commentators and read a dozen different conclusions, many of which are quite Protestant in nature.

    Welcome to the epistemic condition of fallen human beings.

  84. “We just locate apostolic authority where it belongs, in holy Scripture. As did the aforementioned men”.

    That is not true, e.g.:

    In his commentory on Genesis the bishop of Hippo says: we have to follow the fides catholicea disciplinae to interpret the Scripture. (De Genesi ad literam imperfectus liber 1).

    Robert, plain Scripture cannot have authority.

  85. Burkholder, I can see the problem you pose. I trust God. Can you see the problem of having 2 popes? Can you also see that the resolution of the Western Schism may have produced the Reformation?

  86. Jason, you wrote: “Protestantism is, by its very nature, a negative movement that defines itself in terms of what it rejects.”

    So your conversion narrative, or rejecting Protestantism and claiming superiority over your foe, is positive? Nattering nabob of negativism, positivize thyself.

  87. Jason, so you won’t answer any more historical claims. Wow, that’s reasonable. Remember all that Faith and Reason stuff. Look, if you don’t like the zingers, then get out of the business of claiming your faith is superior.

    But I suspect you are bluffing once again, that you are in over your head when it comes to the history that has actually been written by RC historians.

    As for comparing paradigms, I actually have lots of talks here with Roman Catholics about differences. You continually sell me short. But I think you are like Christian Smith trying to justify thyself.

  88. Jason, and one more thing. You say Protestantism hasn’t made an positive contributions in ecclesiology. Well, sorry to bring up history again, but conciliarism was a big deal for trying to resolve this messy business of three popes. And the papacy shot concliarism down. Protestants (at least Reformed ones) did not.

    But then again, when you don’t know history you can sound awfully superior.

  89. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    You have no principled way to determine whether your interpretation of Rome is correct.

    Yes, we do. It’s called Sacramentalism.

    Considering that a rejection of Incarno-Sacramentalism seems to be the only (non-Catholic) ‘essential’ upon which the umbrella of Protestantism is unified, it’s understandable that you don’t get this.

    Robert wrote:

    Welcome to the epistemic condition of fallen human beings.

    This, more than anything else, seems to sum up (most of) the Protestant interaction in this thread. It is the word of discouragement, of denigration, skepticism and sneering cynicism. This seems to be the subtext of the Protestant Message to Mankind.

    However, the Catholic Message to Mankind would be something more like “We, Christ, invite you to the onto-epistemic renewal that is the Incarno-Sacramental Life. The New Creation that is the Christic Life. Come and see!”

  90. @Robert:
    All of those men were ordained, sacrificial priests who considered the Sacraments essential for grace and salvation, the same teaching that you would call “another Gospel” when applied to Catholics. They venerated icons, saints, and most especially the Eucharist, all of which you consider idolatry. Whatever disagreement they had on peripheral doctrines such as the exact authority of the papacy or the exact nature of predestination; they agree with Catholics against you on the mode central and essential matters of the Gospel, including Christology. If you can’t see the intellectual dishonesty involved in claiming to be their heirs, then you’re too detached from reality for an honest discussion. Epistemic limitations are no excuse for calling black white.

  91. Protestant friends,

    imagine today Vatican 3 was called by pope Francis. Lets say for the first time ever he invites all major protestants and EO to come participate as well. John Macarthur, Joel Osteen, td jakes, the whole lot. For the sake of argument lets imagine that the pope gets a 100% success rate and all EO and protestant ministers agree to join the roman catholic church. What would happen when those men went back to their congregations? The EO Church would all gladly accept the news and follow their bishops. Why? They believe in AS. The “grace to you” congregation would simply look at MacArthur and say “No, John, you have decided that YOU are going to be catholic but that doesn’t decide it for us!” why? Because in stark contrast to the EO his church DOESN’T believe in AS.

    Rewind the clock now to the first church councils. When the ECF were ironing out the trinity, the hypostatic union, the canon etc, what happened? What would have happened if the congregants and bishops THEN operated like you all do now? Why didn’t their congregants say “sorry mr bishop, you may have decided that YOU don’t accept the book of Hermes as inspired…. But that doesn’t decide it for me!”

    The fact that the early church did not function that way is very strong evidence that the early bishops and Christians did believe in AS. Otherwise why don’t we have 30,000 canons and 30,000 different formulations of the God head etc? The principled way that the early church used to separate human opinion from transcendent truth is the same we Catholics have today. AS

    PS Robert,

    it was me who told you the bit about mortal sin and homosexuals. I didn’t say that a person would not be commiting a grave sin… I said it wouldn’t be MORTAL (end their friendship with God) because they wouldn’t have adequate knowledge of what they were doing which is a condition of mortal sin. The context of our conversation was couched in heavily hypothetical language and I didn’t want you to misread me.

  92. @Sean May 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Almost all of these are instances where the church changed not dogma, but practice. For instance, celibacy was never dogma but instead a matter of practice.

    The rest are instances of sin, like the selling indulgences, which according to you is something ‘the church changed.’ But that is not an instance of changing a doctrine because selling indulgences was never doctrine.

    Here are some examples of dogma – these are the type of things that it would matter, if changed:

    1) The canon of scripture
    2) The Trinity
    3) Apostlic Succession
    4) The seven sacraments

    The problem with defining “dogma” that narrowly and then saying everything else is just “practice” is that it fundamentally undermines the church not erring on faith and morals. If practice can err, and faith and morals falls under practice then the church on all but a few things can err. Essentially you reduce the church’s infallibility to nothing different than what creedal Christians believe, who believe some creeds are inerrant and everything else is just opinion. You could list the kinds of dogmas you have in a few paragraphs.

    Now, in addition to my objecting to that list as being to small. It also happens to be the case that virtually everything in your has also changed.

    The canon wasn’t really defined until Trent there were ecumenical councils that had made lists and bibles in circulation with different lists. The Western church in effect had a 78 book canon. The attempts in the 16th century to get the in use canon n line attempt to get it down to 75 books (Vulgata Sixtina) failed, which is why the Clementine Vulgate still had 78. Your Nova Vulgata finally got your bible in line with your “canon”. So yes I think there has been substantial change. including in your lifetime. Even more importantly in terms of this being part of some “deposit of faith” the eastern churches have all sorts of other canons some with close to 100 books. So there is no evidence that the canon wasn’t a matter of varying practice.

    Apostolic Succession in terms of change we’ve talked about on here plenty and the evidence for change is very substantial. I think the “anti” group presented the evidence for change over and over so I won’t bother to repeat.

    The seven sacraments definitely underwent change. We know there are debates all throughout the centuries on the relations between bishops and priests that eventually got resolved indicating change in the sacrament of Holy Orders. In terms of the marriage sacrament there was debate until the 3rd century if the sacrament of marriage was effectual between slaves without a father’s consent. All during the middle ages there is debate as to whether marriage is a sacrament among the baptized or among all people.

    And finally on the trinity there is a large body of work demonstrating pretty clearly the changes with regard to Trinitarian doctrines and the debates including schisms.

    So even using your list of dogmas those all exhibit strong evidence of change not perfect continuity and uniformity.

  93. Kenneth,

    Your understanding of AS and such in the early church is incomplete. If it were what you say it were, there would have been no need for Athanasius to defend the Nicene Creed against Arian bishops. They just would have accepted the canons as such because of the council’s apostolic authority. Furthermore, our listing of this council and several others as an ecumenical council is a later development. The bishops at Nicea were not sitting around saying “All right, we feel the authority here, we’re about to make an infallible declaration, here we go.”

    The creed has authority, as does the council, but their authority do not depend on ecclesiastical infallibility or Roman notions of apostolic succession.

  94. @Wosbald

    I’ve tried to explain that a Catholic reading of Vat 2 (a dynamic reading that doesn’t force a reduction of Religion to either Authoritarian Absolutism or Libertarian Indifferentism) is the exact same as the Church’s position before the Council. Error still has no rights, just as it was before the Council. And one still has the right to follow an invincible conscience, just as it was before the Council. Authority and Freedom are… irreducible…..And since the conditions of the world had changed such that the common good might best served, at least for the time being, by a Catholic toleration of social pluralism, this opinion was expressed at the Council.

    First off when the old doctrine was stated it was not stated in utilitarian terms about what best served the common good.

    Which false and perverse opinions are on that ground the more to be detested…

    For you well know, venerable brethren, that at this time men are found not a few who, applying to civil society the impious and absurd principle of “naturalism,” as they call it, dare to teach that “the best constitution of public society and (also) civil progress altogether require that human society be conducted and governed without regard being had to religion any more than if it did not exist; or, at least, without any distinction being made between the true religion and false ones.”

    Or classifying as an insanity, “liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.”

    The argument was made in absolutely moral terms. Crown and alter were God’s rightful and chosen means to govern society and denial of the authority of crown and alter was denial of the authority of Jesus. That is as clear cut a moral claim as anything else in Catholic doctrine.

    Everything is a situation. If I tell people the best way to get to my house is the HWY 31 and then traffic picks up and I advise them to take local roads I’m changing my opinion. The vast majority of changes or opinion are driven by changes of circumstance. And that’s why most people talk about their opinions as provisional, this is true until circumstances change. Sometimes people put forward opinions which are absolute: this is true regardless of circumstances i.e. 2+2=4 anywhere and forever.

    To say that something this clear cut is not change is to bastardize the notion of change. Nowhere for hundred of years as the church fully and unequivocally endorses state apply terror against their own population as a means of informing their moral opinions do they indicate that this moral endorsement is provisional.

    Now if you want to say that it never occurred to them there would be situations were people like Queen Elizabeth or Oliver Cromwell could do to Catholics what Catholics had done to other heretical groups. Sure no problem. But that’s not a change in circumstance. The very core of morality is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

  95. As for this Donatism argument I don’t think this analogy works very well. Donatists argued that baptisms weren’t valid unless the minister performing them was righteous. The Protestants here are making the argument that laying of hands isn’t valid (in whatever sense it may be valid within their scheme) isn’t valid unless the recipient was righteous. The analogy here would be something like a forced baptism or baptism of the dead where the recipient is unfit at the time the sacrament is being administered.

  96. Ádám,

    Thanks for your comments, it’s nice to hear from you again.

    Here is the Johannine approach to distinguish between divine revelation from human opinion:

    1) If you listen to us, apostles, you will be in the truth (cf. 1Jn 4:1-6). (This is what many would call an objective criterion.)

    Would you divorce this from the church? I ask, because Arians in the first century and JW’s today claim to fulfill this “objective criterion.” If either had sat down with Ignatius (a disciple of John and thus quite familiar with his Johannine approach), he would have told them that despite their claim to fulfill this directive they also need to submit to their bishop as to Christ himself.

    2) The anointing (the Holy Spirit) teaches you (you, who are born of God) that it is us, apostles, who tell you the truth, and not others (cf. 1Jn 2:18-27). (This is what many would call a subjective criterion.)

    Of course. But again, when such an approach is divorced from the visible church it becomes arbitrary and thus non-principled. No heretic has ever claimed to be receiving his ideas from some other source than the Spirit and/or the Word of God. So these two points, while necessary, are not sufficient.

    This implies that

    1) if we want to be in the truth we should study the writings of the apostles and believe only them…

    Why “the apostles and only them”? What about the writings of Luke, which make up half the NT? What about Mark and James? They weren’t apostles. Moreover, what were John’s audience supposed to do with a letter from Andrew or Bartholomew if they had received one? They were both apostles. Into what category ought they to have placed a sermon by Paul that never wound up canonized in the book of Acts? And what were they to make of John’s disciple Ignatius and his instruction to submit to the bishops? Were they to disregard that instruction since he wasn’t an apostle? And even though he wasn’t, why has he been so revered by the Church for 1900 years when he clearly failed to communicated the “Johannine approach” that you are outlining?

    2) we should trust that the Holy Spirit will help us understand and have confidence in what the apostles wrote.

    Yes, we should. But none of that does away with the biblical, patristic, and Catholic emphasis upon the church. The things you suggest are good, but don’t tell the whole story. Nor do they provide a principled means to distinguish divine revelation from human opinion, and therefore they do not really answer my question.

    Here is my thesis where I explain Johannine epistemology on exegetical and philosophical grounds:

    Exegesis of what? The canonical NT texts? What if I, through my own study and prayer, have come to disregard from the canon all the texts to which you appeal? I realize I may be sounding ridiculously cynical, but I am only trying to show that Protestantism needs to borrow from the Catholic Church many of the things it needs to even make an attempt to work.

    Without a visible church that claims to be protected from error under certain conditions, none of the things you suggest are helpful for the task we are discussing. Some of them are not even possible.

  97. I’m no history buff Robert, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t the Arians exiled and disciplined precisely because they disagreed with the council? I think that by broader point still stands that without AS there would be no way to combat such things. If AS and church authority wasnt at least implicitly believed by the bishops and congregations at large we should have had far more fragmentation. The fact that the Church was able to stand unified against heresy before an orthodox position had even been established shows that there simply MUST have been something holding them together (contrast with the protestant church today). Early belief in AS is the best answer in my view unless you have an alternative? (again I make no claims to being a history major)

  98. @ SEAN PATRICK May 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I can only imagine some of you as Israelites.
    “That is not the true Temple because look at how bad some of your priests have been!”
    Would you, as an Israelite, have abandoned Israel and set up your own priesthood and built your own Temple because Israel was being wicked?

    Yeah I can imagine that. Here is what I picture after abandoning the temple as a fake temple made impure by the corruptions of a king who wasn’t even Jewish. What would happen? They might focus on achieving purity, not pursue wealth and seek spiritual purith through focusing on the mikvah which in greek would translate to something like “baptism”. Ritually they would probably begin to apply Jewish messianic theology in a mystic sense, belief in a messiah who incorporated those ethic values rather than a purely material warrior king.

    Yep, good thing Protestant don’t emulate those sorts of people.

  99. To prove me wrong, would someone in a simple sentence or two explain the principled way Protestants distinguish divine revelation from human opinion?

    What God says to do in scripture: if there is confusion apply the prophetic test to a prophet and after that prophet has passed that test follow their lead.

  100. @ JONATHAN PREJEAN May 8, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Believe whatever nonsense you want, but kindly don’t insult the memory of these men, who fought their entire lives for things that you disdain, by claiming that Protestantism is their “offspring.” From a historical perspective, that whopper is more outrageous than all of the alleged papal errors and contradictions combined. Accuse them.of error, say they were all idolators and knaves like you say of Catholics today, but at least give their beliefs the dignity and honor to call them the enemies to your doctrine that they were..

    Very well put. Now if only you would apply this same standard when talking about bulk of Christians of the 1st and 2nd century and how you shouldn’t call them Catholics at least we would applying this very good standard uniformly.

  101. http://www.crisismagazine.com/2010/bring-a-friend-in-out-of-the-cold
    7) The Novus Ordo Missae was crafted by an ecumenical committee (including Protestants) that aimed at Christian unity. In a creative compromise, the committee cut large sections from the Mass — those that made it screamingly obvious that the Mass was a sacrifice and a wedding. The committee also trimmed away many rituals designed to underscore those doctrines, adding other practices to boost the role of the laity and undercut the role of the priest.

    These changes didn’t vitiate the sacrament, but they did cloud its symbolic and catechetical clarity. They also reduced its dignity, gravity, and beauty. The Dies Irae gave way to “Gather Us In.” Or, as then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “In the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living, process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it — as in a manufacturing process — with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”

    8) The most important elements that distinguish the priest’s role from the people’s, and hence Catholic sacraments from Protestant prayer services, are the following: The priest facing the altar; the prayers of the old Offertory (which survive in the First Eucharistic Prayer); the exclusive claim of the clergy (priests and deacons) to handle the Sacrament; the all-male priesthood; and kneeling for Communion on the tongue.

    9) Each practice we add to the liturgy that blurs the difference between the people and the priest adds to confusion about what the heck is going on up on the altar. It’s no surprise that after 40 years of liturgical “renewal,” only 30 percent of American Catholics still believe in transubstantiation. More troublingly, those who are receiving Communion rarely bother with the Sacrament of Penance. The old terror of blasphemy that was underlined by gold patens tucked under our chins gave way to a shrug and a smile as we take in our hands a wafer from a neighbor.

    10) Dissenters from key Catholic doctrines of faith and morals took ruthless advantage of the hype surrounding the Second Vatican Council and the symbolic confusion sowed by radical liturgical changes — which seemed to signal, like a new flag flying over a country, a new regime in the Church. Maybe a new Church altogether. Some of these dissenters, like Archbishop Rembert Weakland, were also involved in creating the new liturgy itself.

    11) That liturgy kept on metastasizing, “renewing” itself seemingly every year. The same bishops who pushed relentlessly for Communion in the hand, extraordinary ministers of Communion, altar girls, and standing for Communion were the men who appointed feminists and pro-gay, pro-contraception, and even “pro-choice” delegates to dissident conferences such as the Call to Action (1976). Such bishops also persecuted adherents of the old liturgy and clergy who preached Humanae Vitae. The same men repeatedly defied Pope John Paul II, who avoided a schism and decided instead to replace them as they retired with more faithful bishops. He mostly succeeded.

    All of the above is simply, uncontroversially true. And in saner times, it would be none of a layman’s business. We have enough on our plates pursuing our own vocations and staying in a state of grace, and we really shouldn’t have to shop around for the least sacrilegious parish, or fight with our bishop’s religious education office against nuns who deny the Creed. But here we are, still gasping for breath as the smoke of Satan slowly lifts, and there’s no excuse for pretending the air has been clear all along. The Bride of Christ has been battered, hounded, and hunted by the Enemy — but she’s still standing, as we were promised. Now it’s our task to bind her wounds, repair the rents in her gown, and lovingly comb her hair.

    To do this, we should view every celebration of the Mass in whatever form first and foremost as a miracle. In my own snarky experience as an amateur liturgy critic, there’s no sense — and probably some sin — in distracting ourselves from the holy sacrifice the priest really is performing by focusing on the flaws in the form. If you’re like me, it’s all too tempting to sit at a lackadaisical modern Mass (often all that’s available) and check off every abuse, or even to mutter “Cranmer!” whenever you hear the Third Eucharistic Prayer. Does this advance you in holiness? If so, you’re a better man than I.

    Why not instead imagine the Church’s liturgy as a great Gothic cathedral that was bombed during World War II? Some sections are still intact, while others lie mostly ruined. Some of the people praying are shell-shocked, while others have no memory of what the place looked like in 1939. Large numbers have grown accustomed to makeshift services on broken altars, and actively prefer them to the grand ceremonies we had before the war.

    It doesn’t make sense to shout at them. It’s tempting to grab such people by the ear and drag them to a side-chapel the bombers missed. But not everyone’s ready to make the move. A casual joie de vivre has developed among the rubble. People pray quite contentedly on broken bits of stone, looking up at shattered windows — and who are we to condemn them? We can curse the bombers, of course, but these people are our fellow victims, so there’s no excuse for smugness. When you offer one or more of the unhappy facts I adduced above, make sure you do it gently — in the spirit of someone who loved the old cathedral, not someone who hates its ruins.

    If we can’t make our way across the rubble to one of the intact side-chapels, we should pray as best we can where we stand. We should do our best to remember what this place of glory looked like once, and how it can look again. While we do our work of piling stones and piecing the windows back together, we’ll be tempted to bitter thoughts of vengeance. But the bombers have already winged away, to face a Judgment more exacting than ours, or a Mercy more magnanimous. It’s not our job to throw pieces of rubble at our fellow refugees — but instead, with solemn joy, to practice love among the ruins.

    If I might speak from experience — and from a rich array of pharisaical mistakes I used to make — let me offer a few ideas for helping convince people to come in out of the bare, ruined choirs. When we speak to people who’ve never attended the Church’s ancient liturgy, we should do so with humble patience and brotherly love. Stock up and freely hand out inexpensive missal booklets, or print the text offline. Offer them to friends as spiritual reading that will enrich their attendance at the Ordinary Mass — pointing out that their Sunday prayers can only be enriched by reading those that formed St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, and St. Joan of Arc. Urge your friends to observe a liturgy much closer to the old Mass — and to the intentions of Vatican II — such as those broadcast on EWTN. If your bishop has followed the pope’s wishes and the traditional liturgy is available in your area, you might invite a friend to tag along. But make sure it’s a “sung” or “high” Mass, attended by all the beauty proper to the mystery. (No sense in going on a first date with curlers in one’s hair.) Encourage your friend, at his first Mass, to ignore the Latin and follow along in English — but don’t hover over him turning pages and pointing to things. Remember that he’s going through the same austere experience you did when you first attended the ancient liturgy.

    He will probably find the language barrier humbling — likewise the fact that the priest is facing the tabernacle, behind an altar rail that clearly marks his province (the sacred) off from ours (the profane). The rituals may seem strange to him, even over the top. But its message will run crystal clear. If he speaks to you afterwards of a feeling of alienation, don’t argue that it’s “just because you’re not used to it.” Quite the contrary. That newcomer is experiencing reality: a stark sense of a sacrificial ritual enacting a solemn marriage between the fallen muck of earth and fire falling from Heaven. That’s how it’s supposed to feel, at least at first. Remind him that the consolations come later.

  102. @Jason

    Protestants rarely attempt to construct a positive ecclesiology unless really pressed to do so by Catholics (which, even then, they sometimes fail to do). Rather, what often happens is that they define themselves over against all the expressions of the faith that they reject, especially Catholicism.

    Most religions define themselves negatively with respect to the religions they competed against or rose out of. The Old Testament is loaded with condemnation of the worship of Canaanite Gods and distinctions between Judaism and the Canaanite and Babylonian faiths. Christianity defines itself in a negative relationship with Judaism often talking about what was rejected. That is to be expected. The people who founded Protestantism did so because they were unhappy with the Catholic Church.

    That being said Protestantism does have a positive ecclesiology. The church exists to preach the word. Teaching, education, resources, discipline. The church exists to serve the faithful to help where institutionalization can help in bring the faithful to the bible. To quote the WCF, “Unto this catholic visible Church Christ has given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and does, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto”. The purpose of gas stations are to disseminate gasoline, the purpose of shoe stores are to disseminate the shoes and the purpose of churches are to disseminate God’s word.

  103. As for this Donatism argument I don’t think this analogy works very well. Donatists argued that baptisms weren’t valid unless the minister performing them was righteous. The Protestants here are making the argument that laying of hands isn’t valid (in whatever sense it may be valid within their scheme) isn’t valid unless the recipient was righteous. The analogy here would be something like a forced baptism or baptism of the dead where the recipient is unfit at the time the sacrament is being administered.

    @ SEAN PATRICK May 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I can only imagine some of you as Israelites.
    “That is not the true Temple because look at how bad some of your priests have been!”
    Would you, as an Israelite, have abandoned Israel and set up your own priesthood and built your own Temple because Israel was being wicked?

    Yeah I can imagine that. Here is what I picture after abandoning the temple as a fake temple they might focus on achieving purity, not pursue wealth and seek spiritual purith through focusing on the mikvah which in greek would translate to something like “baptism”. Ritually they would probably begin to apply Jewish messianic theology in a mystic sense, belief in a messiah who incorporated those ethic values rather than a purely material warrior king.

    Yep good thing Protestant don’t emulate those sorts of people.

    @Jason

    Protestants rarely attempt to construct a positive ecclesiology unless really pressed to do so by Catholics (which, even then, they sometimes fail to do). Rather, what often happens is that they define themselves over against all the expressions of the faith that they reject, especially Catholicism.

    Most religions define themselves negatively with respect to the religions they competed against or rose out of. The Old Testament is loaded with condemnation of the worship of Canaanite Gods and distinctions between Judaism and the Canaanite and Babylonian faiths. Christianity defines itself in a negative relationship with Judaism often talking about what was rejected. That is to be expected. The people who founded Protestantism did so because they were unhappy with the Catholic Church.

    That being said Protestantism does have a positive ecclesiology. The church exists to preach the word. Teaching, education, resources, discipline. The church exists to serve the faithful to help where institutionalization can help in bring the faithful to the bible. To quote the WCF, “Unto this catholic visible Church Christ has given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and does, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto”. The purpose of gas stations are to disseminate gasoline, the purpose of shoe stores are to disseminate the shoes and the purpose of churches are to disseminate God’s word.

    A church of Jesus Christ is a body of baptized believers, associated together in one place to preach the gospel, to keep the ordinances and represent the interests of Christ’s kingdom in the world. Churches do not have territory so Church of England,” “The Protestant Episcopal Church of America” are just nomenclature they have no theological importance. There is no theology of an aggregate of a denomination “Presbyterian Church” “The Methodist Episcopal Church” or “The Roman Catholic Church” are human super structures applied to the church.

  104. +JMJ+

    Dr. Hart,

    Perhaps ALL CAPS would better suit the tone of your dialoguing intentions?

  105. Eric,

    I am working on a response to your last long comment, but I may not be able to post it until later in the day.

  106. @Sean + Jason

    Sorry for the accidental repeat in the above of my earlier response to Sean. I only meant to grab the text to Jason.

  107. Eric,

    Here’s part one of my response:

    Try as I might, I haven’t been able to figure out what Catholics even mean by “principled way.” It doesn’t appear to mean historically or empirically or even philosophically reasonable. I assume it’s Thomistic and has something or other to do with natural law, but besides that, I’m clueless. It comes across like some sort of Catholic psycho-babble. This may be part of the reason you get so few replies: you’re asking us to speak in what is to us a foreign language.

    We often use “principled” as an antonym for “ad hoc.” By it we mean a way by which something can be distinguished from something else that is not arbitrary. For example, I’m a big U2 fan, and I often kid around with others about how that any true U2 fan knows that their ‘90s music is superior to anything they’ve done since (just like a rare filet is superior to a Big Mac). But of course, the joke here is that I am making an arbitrary distinction between two musical eras and speaking of it as though my opinion were obviously factual.

    Similarly, when a Protestant appeals to something like the Trinity while rejecting the authority of the Magisterium, one of his choices is to say that the Trinity is a matter of knowledge. The problem with that is, as I argued in the post, it reduces a supernatural article of faith to something that can simply be known by study of the relevant sources (thus collapsing general and special revelation and removing the component of faith). But if he chooses to say that the Trinity cannot be “known” in that natural kind of way, but if he still rejects the authority of the Magisterium, then all he can say is that the doctrine is, by his admittedly fallible conclusion, taught in the books that he fallibly thinks constitute the Bible. Thus the Trinity is reduced to a matter of opinion, even if it is a very educated guess.

    What the Catholic is asking for stems from the supposition that if God revealed himself, then he wants us to be able to locate and understand that revelation in a way that escapes the dilemma set forth above. In other words, there needs to be a way in principle to say that “the Trinity is divinely revealed truth” that is more than human fallible opinion. Our argument is that the only way to do this is to be able to appeal to an ecclesial and visible body that claims to be protected from error when formulating dogma. And apostolic succession is precisely what makes this body visible (since doctrinal succession is ad hoc and in the eye of the beholder).

  108. @ KENNETH May 8, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I’m no history buff, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t the Arians exiled and disciplined precisely because they disagreed with the council?

    I’m correcting you, you are wrong. The Arians fought back and forth for control of the church. They had their own churches for centuries. The Arian sect/religion thrived within the military with Catholicism being the religion for “women and slaves” during the dark ages. Eventually Catholicism triumphed over Arianism but it is a long slow battle, not a quick displacement.

    I think that by broader point still stands that without AS there would be no way to combat such things.

    During the mid 19th century in the United States there was a huge surge in interest in reading the bible in concordant Greek. Out of the burned over district in New York and Unitarianism came a widespread adoption of Arian theology. Codex Sinaiticus and Westcott and Hort fed the interest all during the 19th century. Trinitarian Protestant leaders within a bit more than a generation of WH pushed this upsurge in Arian theology down from Arianism to semi-Arianism back to trinitarianism.

    The 19th century Arian movement happened mostly among credobaptists sects that rejected any sort of creed or any claim what-so-ever to church continuity. So we know your claim isn’t true because Protestants can and did fight off Arianism easily. They did so in decades not centuries. And, while Catholics didn’t use violence to combat Arianism like they did other sects it is worth commenting that the Protestants did this without calling people heretics, burning anyone at the stake slaughtering cities full of infidels… They just read and preached the scriptures and slowly turned people to their point of view.

    If AS and church authority wasn’t at least implicitly believed by the bishops and congregations at large we should have had far more fragmentation. The fact that the Church was able to stand unified against heresy before an orthodox position had even been established shows that there simply MUST have been something holding them together (contrast with the protestant church today).

    OK let’s contrast that with the Protestant churches today. Should we talk about 1st century, 2nd century or 3rd century Christianity. Prior to the use of state sponsorship and then state terror how effective was the Catholic church in maintaining Christian unity?

    No question state terror is far more effective in maintaining doctrinal unity than Sola Scriptura. So between the late 4th till the late 5th century and about the 11th to the early 16th I won’t debate that the Catholic church maintained doctrinal unity. But let’s not confuse the doctrinal effectiveness of widespread torture and murder with the doctrinal effectiveness of Apostolic Succession.

  109. Wosbald, I don’t know how many times Jason and Bryan have tried the shuck and jive that I never make any arguments and don’t know what I’m talking about. So I may need to alert folks to what everyone outside the CTC bubble knows. Zmirac, for the record, is a conservative RC.

  110. +JMJ+

    For those Protestants interested in dialogue rather than in simply scoring rhetorical points, I think that addressing the charge of epistemic circularity, and the role of Catholic Sacramentalism in circumventing this issue, is in order.

    The following link shows a chart that illustrates the schematic interrelationship of the Church’s doctrinal function.

    http://tripletopper.com/wosbald/MagisSensusChart.jpg

    Due to the mediating function of Sacramentalism (operatively efficacious Sacramentalism), the Sensus Catholicus participates in the Magisterium, just as, conversely, the Magisterium participates in the Sensus. As such, the lay Catholic is saved from the vicious circle of having to subjectively interpret an objective Magisterium, since what he brings to the table (the Spirit of Christ) when esoterically interpreting the Deposit of Faith is one-and-the-same Spirit that the Magesterium brings to the table when exoterically interpreting that same Deposit.

    As such, the chart shows that the exoteric “3-legged stool” of Magisterium-Tradition-Scripture has a correspondent, esoteric “3-legged stool” composed of Sensus-Tradition-Scripture. Due to the mediating function of Incarno-Sacramentalism, both of these stools work together in concert: the Sensus affirming the Magisterium and the Magisterium affirming the Sensus. This is an organic and personal dynamic, internal to the Catholic Church, which is bound together by the cement of Incarno-Sacramentalism.

    But without the Incarnational character of Catholic Sacramentalism, this would never work, and Catholics would be stuck in the exact dilemma of circularity as Protestantism. Catholicism would devolve into Protestantism: a dichotomous mixture of purely external, denominational collective (or “club”) and purely internal, individual conviction. This helps to explain why, in order to bring the Church down to the level demanded by the needs of fledgling Protestantism, the Reformers incessantly attacked Catholic Sacramentalism.

  111. Cd host

    I understand that the Arian heresy wasn’t immediately discarded. However, it is my understanding that all throughout the theological battle with the heresy the catholic church remained intact as a recognizable body. Certain roman emperors may have swayed back and forth but the Church at large never did. There is no council that promotes Arian theology. From the council of nicea forward we have the established position of the church. The speed of victory is nit relevant to my challenge I was questioning why there was a unified body to resist the Arians at all and not 33,000. It could not have been a textual unity because as you say there was apparently no certainty of canon. So what’s the alternative if not a belief in AS? I don’t see one and you didn’t offer any.

    the protestants of the 19th century had the tremendous advantage of standing on the shoulders of giants. Theologians had already hashed it out with the Arians in centuries prior. At the actual time of the Arian outbreak there was no establishes orthodox position. Enormous difference in my opinion.

    it is my assertion that the early church in any of the 1st three centuries was more united that protastantism today. Despite ironing out some of the mist difficult theological issues of the ages with no precedent to refer back on. Pick whatever century you would like

  112. Darryl,

    I trust God, too. I suspect everyone commenting at this blog has placed their trust in God. I would guess that heretics through the ages also believed that their trust was in God. Do you believe that it is necessary for Christians to be able to define orthodoxy in a way that goes beyond their own interpretation of Scripture? To make it practical, is it important for me as a layperson to know whether or not baptism is regenerational? Is it important to know whether or not to baptize my infant? How do my wife and I determine whether or not contraception is gravely sinful? If I read my Bible and become convinced that my elders are teaching heresy, should I leave for a new church or submit myself to their authority?

    These are very real rubber-meets-the-road issues. I don’t see how a Protestant can reconcile these and other similar difficulties. If there is such a means (principled means?), then please share, brother! If not, then I have to conclude that either God did not intend for us to be able to know true doctrine with any clarity or authority, or that He did establish such a means but it is outside of Protestantism. At this point in my line of questioning, what that “other” may be is of no consequence. RCC? Maybe, maybe not – could be too many historical inconsistencies. EO? Perhaps. The issue of the Protestant’s means of dealing with these questions should be answerable without resorting to a negative argument, and in fact doing so comes across as a dodge.

    Burton

  113. Burton,

    I won’t venture to speak for Dr. Hart here, but he is an OPC minister who subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith. You want a positive ecclesiology, go read the confession.

    The negative case must be presented and Rome must be judged on the same standards that it imposes upon others. That is because the Roman position becomes remotely plausible only when one sticks one’s head in the sand and ignores church history, as a church historian such as Dr. Hart has pointed out again.

    The “principled way” is the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture. It seems the main reason Roman Catholics don’t like that is because there are dozens of denominations that all profess to be following Scripture. Rome offers nothing better, and neither do the EO, because there is no “principled way” to separate the claims of Rome as the authoritative apostolic interpreter from the JW’s according to the line of thought proposed herein.

  114. Robert,

    Would you say that sincere believers in Jesus Christ in the early decades of the Church were heretics for believing in Transubstantiation? Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, PolyCarp, Ignatius, and Tertullian are very early witnesses to the belief in the bread and wine being the true flesh and true blood of Jesus Christ and even argued that in the same way that Christ became a living human creature by the word of God, so the same transformation is taking place when the Bishop prays over the bread that we bless.

    Justin Martyr, Apology, I.66-67, 2nd century
    For we do not take these things as ordinary bread or ordinary drink. Just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh by the word of God and took on flesh and blood for our salvation, so also were we taught that the food, for which thanksgiving has been made through the word of prayer instituted by him, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished after the change, is the flesh of that Jesus who was made flesh

    or

    St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Philadephians, 4:1, 110 A.D.:
    Be ye careful therefore to observe one eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup unto union in His blood; there is one altar, as there is one bishop, together with the presbytery and the deacons my fellow-servants), that whatsoever ye do, ye may do it after God.

    or

    Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 6, 110 A.D.:
    Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God … They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.

    Even if you wish to argue that these men took it differently than transubstantiation, which itself is an extremely difficult case to defend, they still regarded participation in the Eucharist as the means of eternal life. This added clarity from the early church fathers separates them from the OPC right there in itself, which means you have no ancestral connection to the faith of these early fathers.

    Should it not bother you that men who were holy and gave up their lives for the sake of the gospel and for Jesus Christ their Lord living in just mere decades after the apostles, some of them being discipled by the apostles themselves, were not just believing in Catholic Doctrine (Transubstantiation, Baptismal Regeneration, Holy Orders, Monorchial Episcopate, the necessity to honor the office of Bishop, etc,etc) but were claiming that this is what they were taught, and not just around a few corners here and there but so wide spread in each and every city to which Paul, John, and Peter wrote that they called themselves members of a catholic Church, one that is protected by Christ?

  115. +JMJ+

    DGHart wrote:

    Wosbald, I don’t know how many times Jason and Bryan have tried the shuck and jive that I never make any arguments and don’t know what I’m talking about. So I may need to alert folks to what everyone outside the CTC bubble knows. Zmirac, for the record, is a conservative RC.

    That just proves my point: If you want to get in on the internal dialogue going on inside the Church, you have to first be sacramentally nourished and united to the Church and affirm the whole of the Catholic Dogmatic Corpus. As it is, you’re on the outside, pointing to an internal Catholic dialogue that you can’t possibly begin to penetrate with faith, and using this internal dialogue as an excuse to remain on the outside. You gotta be “in” before you can get in on the Catholic conversation.

  116. Similarly, when a Protestant appeals to something like the Trinity while rejecting the authority of the Magisterium, one of his choices is to say that the Trinity is a matter of knowledge. The problem with that is, as I argued in the post, it reduces a supernatural article of faith to something that can simply be known by study of the relevant sources (thus collapsing general and special revelation and removing the component of faith).

    Jason,

    A matter of knowledge? What do you mean this? When Athanasius attacked the Arians he told them that they were ignoring the plain meaning of Scripture, and this he said after quoting many relevant texts. Athanasius was not appealing to mere “knowledge,” he was appealing to the authority of Scriptures as such was mediated by the Church defined in Scripture. This was an appeal to the supernatural, not the natural. Now I’m not saying that Athanasius’ ecclesiology was identical to that of Reformed Protestantism, but neither was it the same as modern Rome’s (not by a long shot!). But let’s be straight – Athanasius appealed to the supernatural. That is, he appealed to Scripture. I have said this over and over again. See my response to you and Mike above – it’s not just a matter of objective study of the sources. Mike stated this (remember?) and I agreed with him. But you keep on saying the same thing as if we have never responded to you. So what is the difference between Athanasius’s appeal and ours? Read his attacks on the Arians.

    The rejection of the Magisterium, as modern Rome defines this entity, is that is has no grounding in Scripture nor in the doctrine of the Early Church. The Scriptures do say that the Father is God, they do say that the Son is God, they do say that the Spirit is God. But they say nothing of the elements of the modern Roman Magisterium. The Church of Rome plays no particular importance in Scripture, nor is the life of the Church immediately following the biblical era.

    You asked in your last comment to me about how we distinguish between revelation and opinion. If there is an infallible human authority to appeal to it’s obviously much more straightforward as to how we answer this. Same thing could be said of any religion that has an autocratic and absolute human court of authority. But let’s say just for sake of argument that God has NOT ordained such a thing. Can God not work in this world to convey His will without such an infallible human body? Is it epistemological suicide to posit a system of religion where no such court exists? If it is not, then why all of this talk of collapsing natural and supernatural?

    Perhaps the eventual triumph of the claims of Athanasius on the Trinity came from the fact that what Athanasius was saying was true from the standpoint of God’s Word, and God used the power of His Word operating through His Church (such as this Church is defined in Scripture) without the mediation of any infallible human court. Is this not a conceptual possibility, Jason?

  117. Jason–

    Let me get you straight. The conclusions of intense, methodical research are always ad hoc, but appealing to established authority is always principled? Research and reliance on sacred texts is always non-spiritual, but blind submission to human authority is super spiritual?

    “Ad hoc.” I don’t think that means what you think it means.

    The next time I cannot figure something out, the next time I simply cannot make up my subjective mind and decide, I’ll consult an authority that I can count on. Just like most common folks, I’ll just use my trusty “eight ball” or look up my horoscope or visit a palm reader. Then I won’t have to listen to these infernal accusations of my decisions being “ad hoc.”

    Definition of AD HOC
    1
    a : concerned with a particular end or purpose
    b : formed or used for specific or immediate problems or needs
    2
    : fashioned from whatever is immediately available : improvised

  118. @Kenneth

    There is no council that promotes Arian theology.

    Sorry no. And there are lots more like this. I’ll quote completely:

    Antioch creed of 341: We believe, conformably to the evangelical and apostolical tradition, in One God, the Father Almighty, the Framer, and Maker, and Provider of the Universe, from whom are all things.

    And in One Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, Only-begotten God (Joh. i. 18), by whom are all things, who was begotten before all ages from the Father, God from God, whole from whole, sole from sole, perfect from perfect, King from King, Lord from Lord, Living Word, Living Wisdom, true Light, Way, Truth, Resurrection, Shepherd, Door, both unalterable and unchangeable; exact Image of the Godhead, Essence, Will, Power and Glory of the Father; the first born of every creature, who was in the beginning with God, God the Word, as it is written in the Gospel, and the Word was God’ (John i. I); by whom all things were made, and in whom all things consist; who in the last days descended from above, and was born of a Virgin according to the Scriptures, and was made Man, Mediator between God and man, and Apostle of our faith, and Prince of life, as He says, ‘I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me’ (John vi. 38); who suffered for us and rose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven, and sat down on the right hand of the Father, and is coming again with glory and power, to judge quick and dead.

    And in the Holy Ghost, who is given to those who believe for comfort, and sanctification, and initiation, as also our Lord Jesus Christ enjoined His disciples, saying, ‘Go ye, teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost’ Matt. xxviii. 19); namely of a Father who is truly Father, and a Son who is truly Son, and of the Holy Ghost who is truly Holy Ghost, the names not being given without meaning or effect, but denoting accurately the peculiar subsistence, rank, and glory of each that is named, so that they are three in subsistence, and in agreement one.

    Holding then this faith, and holding it in the presence of God and Christ, from beginning to end, we anathematize every heretical heterodoxy. And if any teaches, beside the sound and right faith of the Scriptures, that time, or season, or age, either is or has been before the generation of the Son, be he anathema. Or if any one says, that the Son is a creature as one of the creatures, or an offspring as one of the offsprings, or a work as one of the works, and not the aforesaid articles one after another, as the divine Scriptures have delivered, or if he teaches or preaches beside what we received, be he anathema. For all that has been delivered in the divine Scriptures, whether by Prophets or Apostles, do we truly and reverentially both believe and follow.

    Certain roman emperors may have swayed back and forth but the Church at large never did [with regard to Arianism]…. From the council of nicea forward we have the established position of the church.

    Assume that the church had swayed back and forth and been divided on this issue. What would that have looked like?

    Well you would expect to see some bishops adopt the Arian positions and others the Trinitarian position. You would expect to see councils fall apart. Once the empire falls apart with Christianity remaining a state church you would expect this to happen at the level of kingdoms being divided as to which was the dominant faith. You would expect to see whole territories unify around Arianism while other whole territories unified around Trinitarianism. Eventually since we know that Trinitarianism won we’d expect to see previous Arian areas have Catholic / Trinitarian churches right next to Arian churches with the population divided and then finally after a very long time we’d see just Trinitarianism with little or no Arianism anywhere.

    And of course that paragraph above is precisely what did happen. Conversely in my estimation had the church been unified on this issue we would expect to see this dispensed with quickly. No great councils, no great controversy and the few renegades who disagreed not leaving behind any following.

    The speed of victory is nit relevant to my challenge I was questioning why there was a unified body to resist the Arians at all and not 33,000.

    Because you are living in the world of fiction. The unified body produced the Arians, there were multiple factions and the factions split. You are after the fact calling one of those factions “the church” and thus arguing the church was unified. The church at the time the Arian controversy was a state church, it was unified for the same reason there is only one Veterans Administration in the USA. Once the state apparatus began to collapse the unity began to collapse. Not completely, but partially. By say 800 there were probably about 3 dozen radically different forms of Christianity being practiced.

    As as aside the 33,000 Protestant sects claim comes from a very aggressive count. Using that way of counting there are a couple hundred distinct Roman Catholics sects. A fairer number might be something like 250 Protestant sects.

    it is my assertion that the early church in any of the 1st three centuries was more united that protastantism today. Despite ironing out some of the mist difficult theological issues of the ages with no precedent to refer back on. Pick whatever century you would like

    OK I’ll pick middle of the 2nd.

    Valentinus, Nazarenes, Logos Christianity, Smyrnaean sects (Polycarp), Elkasaites, Ophites, Basilidians, Carpocratians, Cainites, Borborites, Nicolaitans, Encratites, Barbeloites, Naassenes, Sethians.

    Now explain to me how that is more unified than today.

  119. Erick,

    The Reformed confessions talk of the Eucharist nourishing people unto eternal life as well as the need to honor the bishop or, better translated, presbyter. Jesus himself said his flesh and blood were true food and drink, so I have no problem saying the same. The question is whether he meant the medieval Roman doctrine of transubstantiation.

    Where do the fathers affirm the idea of holy orders in the sense that modern Rome does? I believe in the holy ordination of elders, but not the Roman doctrine of holy orders.

    What bothers me is the Roman Catholic willingness to read phrases in the early church fathers through the lens of later church tradition. I would also say that if the apostles in their own lifetime had to fight heretics who were their own disciples, then it is certainly possible for bishops two or three generations removed to have false ideas that they were willing to die for.

  120. Wosbald,

    Thanks for affirming what the CTCers mainly imply, namely, that one must accept the truth of Roman Catholicism before one can criticize or understand it. At least you’re honest about it.

    Of course, by that standard, you can’t criticize or understand Protestantism…

  121. @ ERICK YBARRA May 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Would you say that sincere believers in Jesus Christ in the early decades of the Church were heretics for believing in Transubstantiation? Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, PolyCarp, Ignatius, and Tertullian are very early witnesses to the belief in the bread and wine being the true flesh and true blood of Jesus Christ and even argued that in the same way that Christ became a living human creature by the word of God, so the same transformation is taking place when the Bishop prays over the bread that we bless.

    I think that’s a fair standard Erick. We go with early best sources. So what Justin, Ireneaus, Polycartp, Ignatius, Tertullian believe should stick. So for example most of them held to the doctrine that human souls could not be generated by the sex act and thus ensoulment happened later. Which means that Nancy Pelosi and other pro-choice Catholics are 100% correct in their arguments rejecting the Pope’s doctrines in favor of those of the early church fathers.

    Or doesn’t it work that way?

  122. Wosbald, if I have to be in to participate in the conversation, why don’t you tell Stellman to make this a website accessible only by password?

  123. Burkholder, I see that you think Protestants have issues. What RC’s here never seem to admit is that you have issues. These are merely “historical zingers.”

    Then how about these issues — posted earlier today — by John Zmirac, a conservative RC, about Rome’s real life issues:

    “7) The Novus Ordo Missae was crafted by an ecumenical committee (including Protestants) that aimed at Christian unity. In a creative compromise, the committee cut large sections from the Mass — those that made it screamingly obvious that the Mass was a sacrifice and a wedding. The committee also trimmed away many rituals designed to underscore those doctrines, adding other practices to boost the role of the laity and undercut the role of the priest.

    “These changes didn’t vitiate the sacrament, but they did cloud its symbolic and catechetical clarity. They also reduced its dignity, gravity, and beauty. The Dies Irae gave way to “Gather Us In.” Or, as then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “In the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living, process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it — as in a manufacturing process — with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”

    “8) The most important elements that distinguish the priest’s role from the people’s, and hence Catholic sacraments from Protestant prayer services, are the following: The priest facing the altar; the prayers of the old Offertory (which survive in the First Eucharistic Prayer); the exclusive claim of the clergy (priests and deacons) to handle the Sacrament; the all-male priesthood; and kneeling for Communion on the tongue.

    “9) Each practice we add to the liturgy that blurs the difference between the people and the priest adds to confusion about what the heck is going on up on the altar. It’s no surprise that after 40 years of liturgical “renewal,” only 30 percent of American Catholics still believe in transubstantiation. More troublingly, those who are receiving Communion rarely bother with the Sacrament of Penance. The old terror of blasphemy that was underlined by gold patens tucked under our chins gave way to a shrug and a smile as we take in our hands a wafer from a neighbor.

    “10) Dissenters from key Catholic doctrines of faith and morals took ruthless advantage of the hype surrounding the Second Vatican Council and the symbolic confusion sowed by radical liturgical changes — which seemed to signal, like a new flag flying over a country, a new regime in the Church. Maybe a new Church altogether. Some of these dissenters, like Archbishop Rembert Weakland, were also involved in creating the new liturgy itself.

    “11) That liturgy kept on metastasizing, “renewing” itself seemingly every year. The same bishops who pushed relentlessly for Communion in the hand, extraordinary ministers of Communion, altar girls, and standing for Communion were the men who appointed feminists and pro-gay, pro-contraception, and even “pro-choice” delegates to dissident conferences such as the Call to Action (1976). Such bishops also persecuted adherents of the old liturgy and clergy who preached Humanae Vitae. The same men repeatedly defied Pope John Paul II, who avoided a schism and decided instead to replace them as they retired with more faithful bishops. He mostly succeeded.

    “All of the above is simply, uncontroversially true. And in saner times, it would be none of a layman’s business. We have enough on our plates pursuing our own vocations and staying in a state of grace, and we really shouldn’t have to shop around for the least sacrilegious parish, or fight with our bishop’s religious education office against nuns who deny the Creed. But here we are, still gasping for breath as the smoke of Satan slowly lifts, and there’s no excuse for pretending the air has been clear all along. The Bride of Christ has been battered, hounded, and hunted by the Enemy — but she’s still standing, as we were promised. Now it’s our task to bind her wounds, repair the rents in her gown, and lovingly comb her hair.

    “To do this, we should view every celebration of the Mass in whatever form first and foremost as a miracle. In my own snarky experience as an amateur liturgy critic, there’s no sense — and probably some sin — in distracting ourselves from the holy sacrifice the priest really is performing by focusing on the flaws in the form. If you’re like me, it’s all too tempting to sit at a lackadaisical modern Mass (often all that’s available) and check off every abuse, or even to mutter “Cranmer!” whenever you hear the Third Eucharistic Prayer. Does this advance you in holiness? If so, you’re a better man than I.
    Why not instead imagine the Church’s liturgy as a great Gothic cathedral that was bombed during World War II? Some sections are still intact, while others lie mostly ruined. Some of the people praying are shell-shocked, while others have no memory of what the place looked like in 1939. Large numbers have grown accustomed to makeshift services on broken altars, and actively prefer them to the grand ceremonies we had before the war.

    “It doesn’t make sense to shout at them. It’s tempting to grab such people by the ear and drag them to a side-chapel the bombers missed. But not everyone’s ready to make the move. A casual joie de vivre has developed among the rubble. People pray quite contentedly on broken bits of stone, looking up at shattered windows — and who are we to condemn them? We can curse the bombers, of course, but these people are our fellow victims, so there’s no excuse for smugness. When you offer one or more of the unhappy facts I adduced above, make sure you do it gently — in the spirit of someone who loved the old cathedral, not someone who hates its ruins.

    “If we can’t make our way across the rubble to one of the intact side-chapels, we should pray as best we can where we stand. We should do our best to remember what this place of glory looked like once, and how it can look again. While we do our work of piling stones and piecing the windows back together, we’ll be tempted to bitter thoughts of vengeance. But the bombers have already winged away, to face a Judgment more exacting than ours, or a Mercy more magnanimous. It’s not our job to throw pieces of rubble at our fellow refugees — but instead, with solemn joy, to practice love among the ruins.
    If I might speak from experience — and from a rich array of pharisaical mistakes I used to make — let me offer a few ideas for helping convince people to come in out of the bare, ruined choirs. When we speak to people who’ve never attended the Church’s ancient liturgy, we should do so with humble patience and brotherly love. Stock up and freely hand out inexpensive missal booklets, or print the text offline. Offer them to friends as spiritual reading that will enrich their attendance at the Ordinary Mass — pointing out that their Sunday prayers can only be enriched by reading those that formed St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, and St. Joan of Arc. Urge your friends to observe a liturgy much closer to the old Mass — and to the intentions of Vatican II — such as those broadcast on EWTN. If your bishop has followed the pope’s wishes and the traditional liturgy is available in your area, you might invite a friend to tag along. But make sure it’s a “sung” or “high” Mass, attended by all the beauty proper to the mystery. (No sense in going on a first date with curlers in one’s hair.) Encourage your friend, at his first Mass, to ignore the Latin and follow along in English — but don’t hover over him turning pages and pointing to things. Remember that he’s going through the same austere experience you did when you first attended the ancient liturgy.

    “He will probably find the language barrier humbling — likewise the fact that the priest is facing the tabernacle, behind an altar rail that clearly marks his province (the sacred) off from ours (the profane). The rituals may seem strange to him, even over the top. But its message will run crystal clear. If he speaks to you afterwards of a feeling of alienation, don’t argue that it’s “just because you’re not used to it.” Quite the contrary. That newcomer is experiencing reality: a stark sense of a sacrificial ritual enacting a solemn marriage between the fallen muck of earth and fire falling from Heaven. That’s how it’s supposed to feel, at least at first. Remind him that the consolations come later.”

    When RC’s admit that there are issues on the other side, then maybe we can talk about Protestant issues. Until then, the idea that Rome is the solution to Protestantism is docetism — a denial of the historicity of Roman Catholicism.

  124. CH-host

    The standard is not what they early sources say. Otherwise, the heretics would have to be considered to be some measure of “support” for another belief system. I never once proposed that this was the standard. However, it is to show that there is early testimony to a self-exclaimed universal (catholic) church that understood itself to be one society of people meeting together all over the world with the same faith. Now being as it were that there was not instant telecommunications for each specific problem, it is not surprising that you find some disagreements here and there undealt with.

    Where do you have proof that PolyCarp, Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, and Tertullian all together denied that a soul was given in the sex act? It seems to me that there is evidence that the use of contraception was even forbidden.

    The alternative you have is to read Scripture and settle alone on this, in cooperation with righteous tradition that honors the Scripture. But you are not realizing, or you are not open to the fact that the New Testament is a very small fragment of the discussions that took place in the 1st century. Some of that is one-sided and even not even, for we do not have response letters to the writers of the new testament, nor do we have some letters which caused the writers to write (1 Corinthians).

    When the original recipients of the writings of the new testament received these letters, they already had an education from the apostles or apostolic men, so they had their own understanding of the terminology. When they read “baptism”, they already knew what this meant and all it’s attending questions. However, when we read it, we are very limited on narrowing it down to a specific thing since the compatible possibilities are more than one, and this is precisely what separates us from the original churches who were the intended readers of these writings. To approach the new testament with the intention of scientifically explaining the whole meaning of these writings goes directly against the fact that Paul was endowed with the assumptions that his readers would be familiar with his own discussion and use of terms, where as he would have spoken much different if he knew you were going to read it. This fact alone, which is something derived from hermenutics, makes you as an uninformed reader at an extreme disadvantage to be a reliable communicator of what Paul is speaking about. Now you might look at me and say that the same standard applies to me, but you already know that I do not claim to jump on this task of interpreting the full disclosure of divine revelation simply by reading to the best of my ability writings that were not written sensible (to the possibility of full understanding) to my context. You however, are jumping on this task, but some are trying to demonstrate the difficulty with this position. It limits you in your journey and it also makes for division, both of which are not God’s plan for your life. This division is not simply in your own life in the context of our present world, but also with the Church Christ has been building for 2,000 years.

    I was attempting to get down to simply showing that there is very early testimony from more than 1 source that there was a belief in the Eucharist being the real body and blood of Christ and that participation in this was essential for Salvation. This belief continued on into the Council of Nicea, which is something you would have to reject as well if you count Transubstantiation as idolatrous. For in that Council, there was a canon concerning the Viaticum of the Lord that is to be given to someone who is near death. Well, just a simple mode of investigation would hint only to the fact that these Bishops believes that the “Viaticum of the Lord”, whatever this us, is contained in the bread of Holy Communion (Eucharist) and that “death” calls for an immediate reception. This means they not just in Paul (1 Corinthians 10-12), not only St. Clement, not only St. Ireneaus, not only St. Justin Martyr, not only Tertullian, but even the Bishops of the Council of Nicea were under this impression that the Eucharist, the physical blessed bread and wine of the Mysterious Supper, was a remedy which worked against death, without which death is only an gate to destruction. This fact right here puts you at an alien stage from the faith of the early believers, many of whom walked to their death for Jesus Christ. This is all I am saying, in addition to what others have said.

  125. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Wosbald,
    Thanks for affirming what the CTCers mainly imply, namely, that one must accept the truth of Roman Catholicism before one can criticize or understand it. At least you’re honest about it.
    Of course, by that standard, you can’t criticize or understand Protestantism…

    What I said was that one outside of the Church cannot understand with Faith. As you are operating as the Natural Man, all that you need to know is that the Church claims to offer you something from God, something that you cannot (normatively) get in any other way.

    But the Good News is that We can give you Supernatural Faith. Just ask. We profess an Incarnate God who has an Incarnate Economy.

    The same can’t be said for Protestantism.

  126. @BVBURKHOLDER May 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    To make it practical, is it important for me as a layperson to know whether or not baptism is regenerational? Is it important to know whether or not to baptize my infant? How do my wife and I determine whether or not contraception is gravely sinful? If I read my Bible and become convinced that my elders are teaching heresy, should I leave for a new church or submit myself to their authority? These are very real rubber-meets-the-road issues. I don’t see how a Protestant can reconcile these and other similar difficulties. If there is such a means (principled means?),

    Protestants believe in sola scriptura which ranges from a simple biblical literalism to some variant of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Ultimately you read your bible, you decide — with the help of the church — what you believe. That is the principled means. Protestants are not nihilists about these sorts of issues they believe that their are objectively discernible truths which believes can individually and collectively come to know. The same way that their are objectively discernible truths about chemistry which people individually and collectively can come to know.

    For Protestants, yes it is important for you to know these things. But you are saved by faith not knowledge nor perfect practice. So for example when I was credobaptist I consider paedobaptism to be sin, but that doesn’t mean it was damning. I believed (and still do) that “believe and be baptized” pretty clearly excluded people who can’t or don’t believe. That means no forced baptisms, no baptisms of the dead and no infant baptism.

    No it is not important whether baptism is regenerational. The sects that believe baptism is an ordinance believe you are saved by faith and so being genuinely repentant is fine. Conversely the sects that believe that baptism is regenerational agree that pride in sin is a new sin, so being unrepentant is not fine for them. There is no substantial difference.

    Finally in terms of your elders preaching heresy. No you should not submit. Ultimately you are the one called to account for your beliefs. You are obligated to listen and make your judgement carefully and respectfully whether you are willing to remain or need to go. You are not obligated to act against scripture, ever.

    ___

    See those questions weren’t hard to answer.

    The issue of the Protestant’s means of dealing with these questions should be answerable without resorting to a negative argument, and in fact doing so comes across as a dodge.

    Protestants deal with these questions all the time without resorting to a negative argument. The only reason the negative arguments come up is the Vatical I style apologetic precludes the Protestants from giving the positive argument for their positions. So the argument ends up being about the Vatican I apologetic. Outside the apologetic in real life Catholicism doesn’t come up very much when Protestants deal with these issues. They way they deal with these issues is open the text and interpret it.

    Everyday people open up a phonebooks to get an answer to a question. They have to decide which part of the book to consult read the available information and then successfully interpret the book to determine which keys to press on their phone to talk to the person or business they wanted to.

    You want to discuss Protestantism in positive terms…

    Protestants are perfectly content with how the Reformation turned out. Almost none of them regret having broken with the Catholic church. It isn’t a point of controversy.

    Protestants are mostly content with the direction they are moving in of micro denominations tied to individual taste with larger scale problems being handled by parachurch organizations. This rich alternative structure seems to capture many of the advantages of large denominations and many of the advantages of niche churches so that most Protestants are getting the advantages of both.

    Protestants are thrilled at having ended religious violence inside western society mainly. American Protestant modes of worship have been so successful that most non-Protestant religions in America have developed either Protestant attitudes, Protestant structures or both. Protestants are quite happy in having found a way to provide many of the unifying advantages of a state church while offering tremendous surface diversity and without the need for any coercion at all.

    Protestants would mostly like to welcome the Catholic Church in to these larger structures as “a church”. Their insistence of being “the church” makes this difficult but mostly they ignore this distinctive and are able to treat them as a church with great architecture and a real good classical style liturgy.

  127. +JMJ+

    DGHart wrote:

    Wosbald, if I have to be in to participate in the conversation, why don’t you tell Stellman to make this a website accessible only by password?

    Howzabout simply participating in the conversation that Jason actually started? Like comparing paradigms, for example. For starters, you could answer Jason’s question as to “whether the Protestant paradigm can furnish its adherents with any theological statements that transcend mere human opinion.”

    You could answer this in many ways. You could say, “Yes, Protestantism can furnish such statements” and then maybe try to parse out the ways. Or you could say that Dogma is unknowable and that a rough analogy in the form of human opinion (a moral certitude) is good enough. Those would be fair answers that would actually engage on the thread’s subject.

  128. CD,

    Ultimately you read your bible, you decide — with the help of the church — what you believe. That is the principled means.

    This sounds like an acknowledgement that Protestantism boils down to Biblicism. Is this what you intended?

    For Protestants, yes it is important for you to know these things. But you are saved by faith not knowledge nor perfect practice.

    How is this saying anything other than those who generally practice biblicism think it’s kinda important, but not necessarily real important (in terms of salvation) to know the things Burton asked about? After all, many Christians (confessional Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics, EO, Copts, etc) believe it is important to be baptized in terms of effecting regeneration. I assume you would think believing in the Trinity is a big deal (nevermind that most Christians of any stripe cannot articulate it in a non-heretical way). Why is believing in the Trinity a big deal and baptismal regeneration is not a big deal? I take it you would say because Protestants have studied the Scripture and concluded the Trinity is a big deal and baptism isn’t. Isn’t that textbook firing of the interpretive arrow and then painting the target around it? Can’t any heretic do the same thing?

    Finally in terms of your elders preaching heresy. No you should not submit. Ultimately you are the one called to account for your beliefs. You are obligated to listen and make your judgement carefully and respectfully whether you are willing to remain or need to go. You are not obligated to act against scripture, ever.

    Of course the Catholics here will agree that no one is obligated to act against Scripture, ever. You are saying something different. Namely, that noone is obligated to act against their interpretation of Scripture, ever. Again – bliblicism right?

    See those questions weren’t hard to answer.

    But you didn’t answer Burton’s main question. That is, how does Protestantism distinguish orthodoxy from heresy in a way that goes beyond individual opinion. If you did answer, you essential said that it doesn’t go beyond opinion. Correct?

    They way they deal with these issues is open the text and interpret it.

    and

    Protestants are perfectly content with how the Reformation turned out. Almost none of them regret having broken with the Catholic church. It isn’t a point of controversy.

    Except when they are not content like in the case of Burton, me, and others who have or are struggling with these issues. Some have converted to RCism with this issue being a major factor. Further, there is great disagreement over the reformation. Hauwerwas sees it as something to be lamented. Others openly celebrate it and roll out the potlucks. Most Protestants I know, couldn’t tell you when Reformation Day even appears on the calendar. So what? The fact that most Prot’s don’t care doesn’t mean Prot’ism works philosophical, theologically, or otherwise.

    When I compare these two sides I think that both have to deal with significant sin problems in history and the present day. I see Catholics saying there are historical, theological, and philosophical reasons for believing that the entity known as the RC Church is the place Christ wants us to be. There is and has been serious sin in this church including, at times, all the way at the top. But, they believe Christ wants us always to stay loyal to the institution and be committed to working for reform. They form pockets of holiness and faithfulness to the church and make the best of things. If they are right about their paradigm, there is a way to distinguish orthodoxy from heresy. I see conservative Protestants saying there are historical and theological reasons for not trusting any institution. They split off and form impressive pockets of holiness here and there. However, even if their paradigm is correct, there is no means to get beyond opinion.

    When we look around the western world, I think anyone committed to traditional christian morality is in a small minority, whether that’s a minority among the greater Protestant west or Catholic west. Conservative Protestants look at the Catholics and think they’re burying their heads in the sand by not deciding that these sin problems make the RC paradigm unworthy of belief. Conservative Catholics look at the Protestants and think they are burying their heads in the sand by not deciding that the philosophical and theological problems of sola scriptura are too much to make that paradigm worthy of belief.

    Anyway, I appreciate the discussion by all.

    Mark

  129. Jason,

    The First Epistle of John is arguably the most important text to go to when you want to learn how to distinguish between divine revelation and (false) human opinion. The situation then and there was acute and dangerous. False teachers were threatening the church of Jesus Christ. These teachers claimed to be the spokesmen for the true faith. They had many followers. What principles could possibly help true Christians navigate through this epistemological morass? And who are the true Christians? How can you tell who is right? How can you distinguish between divine revelation and (false) human opinion?

    John certainly could have said what you are suggesting he should have said, but he didn’t. I’m not sure you have given sufficient weight to what the apostle John actually emphasizes related to this issue. He gives two main criteria to help Christian communities distinguish between truth and falsehood.

    1. THE UNIQUE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLES

    According to John, the apostolic witness is unique. In the phrase “listen to us” (1Jn 4:6) the “us” refers to the eyewitnesses of Christ: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1Jn 1:1-3).

    Accepting the claims of the apostles to be the exclusive and authoritative witnesses of Jesus Christ, the early church viewed the writings of these apostles as a unique and authoritative witness. Even Irenaeus held the apostolic tradition as a unique tradition (distinct from the authority of the bishops), and called the four canonical Gospels (even Mark and Luke!) the “Gospels of the Apostles,” “handed down to us from the apostles” (Adv. Haer. 3.11.9). There is something foundational in the tradition of the apostles, preserved in their writings (often authenticated by second- and third-century churches that could be traced back to an apostle). Irenaeus emphasizes that “the plan of our salvation” and “the Gospel” was “handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith” (Adv. Haer. 3.1.1).

    According to the early fathers, Mark and Luke also represented the authoritative apostolic tradition. Papias explains how Mark wrote for Peter, and we know Luke was a close companion to Paul. Justin Martyr called the four Gospels (including Mark and Luke) “memoirs of the apostles” (I. Apol. 66.3). Tertullian called Mark and Luke “apostolic men” (Marc. 4.2), and characterized Luke’s Gospel as a summary of Paul’s gospel (Marc. 4.5). “We lay it down as our first position, that the evangelical Testament has apostles for its authors, to whom was assigned by the Lord Himself this office of publishing the gospel. Since, however, there are apostolic men also, they are yet not alone, but appear with apostles and after apostles; because the preaching of disciples might be open to the suspicion of an affectation of glory, if there did not accompany it the authority of the masters, which means that of Christ, for it was that which made the apostles their masters. Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instil faith into us; while of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards.” (Marc 4:2) “The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence to the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage — I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew — while that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s whose interpreter Mark was. For even Luke’s form of the Gospel men usually ascribe to Paul. And it may well seem that the works which disciples publish belong to their masters.” (Marc 4:5)

    Athanasius emphasizes the unique and unrepeatable role of the apostolic foundation when he says, “But what is also to the point, let us note that the very tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, was preached by the Apostles, and was preserved by the Fathers.” (Letters to Serapion of Thmuis, 1.28) In Athanasius’ view, the Catholic Church was not fully identical with the church that claims Apostolic Succession, nor was it – anachronistically – the Roman Catholic Church. Remember, Athanasius thought many of the bishops (!) were not even Christian, and thought that the true Christian spirit was preserved in the Egyptian desert by lay people like Anthony! When Liberius, bishop of Rome, signed the three formularies of Sirmium, he condemned Athanasius as a heretic. Athanasius, Hilary, Sozomen, Jerome, and others report on the event, and even many respected RC historians admit that Liberius did condemn him. For Athanasius (just like for Irenaeus), Apostolic Scriptures (not Apostolic Succession) was “the ground and pillar of our faith” (Irenaeus). This is what Vanyó László (the best known Hungarian RC patristic scholar) says on Athanasius’s view of the church (you will probably understand these Hungarian sentences): „Athanasziosz számára az egység princípiuma… a múlt fel?l adva van az egyház apostoli hitében, és csak az ehhez való helyes viszonyulás lehet a hitegység alapja… A közös hit az isteni tekintély? apostoli hagyománnyal azonos, ezért örökérvény?, nem változhat. Ez az alapvet? meggy?z?dése minden kés?bbi írásában is jelen van, meghatározó jelleg?, számos más nézete is ennek függvénye.” (Szent Athanasziosz m?vei, 21) Vanyó’s point is that for Athanasius the principle of unity was not administrative (like the ecclesiology of the emperors, or, I would add, that of the RCC), but was given in the past in the apostolic Scriptures. What matters for Athanasius is our attitude to THAT unchanging tradition.

    The early church made great efforts to make sure they preserved only those writings as Scripture that could be traced back to the apostles. When a line of apostolic succession could be demonstrated in some churches (certainly not all of them were founded by apostles – cf. Tertullian, Marc. 4.5), the witness of these churches could be a strong evidence for the apostolic origin of certain writings. But the apostolic origin of the writings was the main issue, not apostolic succession (or Apostolic Succession) per se. Also, related to your question, the issue was not how many apostles actually left their writings to the church (this is of little significance), but whether the writings that the church possessed had apostolic origin (faithfully representing the tradition of the apostles taught to them by Jesus). This leads to the fascinating topic of canonization (remember, even your new denomination has the same closed NT canon as we do!), of which F. F. Bruce, H. Ridderbos, B. Metzger, and more recently M. Kruger wrote excellent historical and theological monographs. I heartily recommend Kruger’s work, which addresses the most relevant questions in this discussion.

    But going back to John… He emphasizes something else, too, that I think is absolutely essential to a Christian epistemology.

    2. THE INNER TESTIMONY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

    According to John, the confidence that comes from a contact with the reality of God is a more firm foundation for Christian epistemology than any objective certainty could ever be. For example, “And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” (1Jn 3:24) Or, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1Jn 4:13) Or arguably the most fascinating paragraph, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1Jn 5:9-12) John speaks of this same inner testimony (the testimonium internum spiritus sancti) when he says that we have received an anointing that teaches us and gives us confidence in the truth (1Jn 2:20-27).

    This is extremely important. Experiencing union with God the Father and Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit is the most powerful form of assurance, according to John. Confidence is a gift, and it is existential. It is also circular, because it cannot be tested from a purely critical, non-engaging perspective. There is no “principled way to distinguish divine revelation from human opinion” in that (Cartesian) sense. You have to be in the truth to have confidence. But being in the truth is the most powerful form of confidence because being in the truth is being in the fellowship of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (not +JMJ+). This fellowship is self-authenticating and confirms the apostolic witness. Is there false confidence? Certainly there is. The anti-anointed ones (antichrists) had a kind of confidence, from false spirits (1Jn 4:1-6). Is there true confidence for those outside the truth? Not according to John. The True One has to be experientially known in order to have confidence in him. Welcome to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is not the God of the philosophers! (Pascal)

    I realize that you have a problem with this approach, otherwise you wouldn’t have joined the RCC. But you are finding John’s epistemology insufficient, not mine. Just substitute Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons for Antichrists in 1Jn 2:20-27 and 4:1-6, and see if you would have said the same thing as John. If not, why not?

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  130. Wosbald, are you kidding? You think that historical developments like the Reformation, the Solemn League and Covenant, foreign missions could happen with only human opinions?

    If Jason wants to create caricatures, and if he is going to keep this a public blog, then he is going to get challenged on the superiority of Roman Catholicism and whether Rome has done much to reign in the human opinions that abound among Roman Catholics.

    But if you want your Fox News version of Roman Catholicism – “we’re great and we’re winning” — then keep ducking the difficulties that afflict your church and ignore what happened at Vatican 2.

  131. Just to add to what Ádám writes above, Athanasius said that principled distinctions concerning what God would have use to believe could be made from Scripture, but Athanasius never appealed to an infallible Roman ecclesiastical government. And as Ádám points out, Athanasius relationship with the Bishop of Rome was often on very rocky ground. If Rome had to be the final adjudicator then Athanasius admonitions concerning the clear and plain meaning of Scriptures are meaningless.

    What Jason proposes as a means of adjudicating between revelation and opinion is unknown to Athanasius and the Early Church. If we Protestants are wrong then we are wrong in very good company.

  132. @ERICK YBARRA May 8, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    The standard is not what they early sources say. Otherwise, the heretics would have to be considered to be some measure of “support” for another belief system. I never once proposed that this was the standard. However, it is to show that there is early testimony to a self-exclaimed universal (catholic) church that understood itself to be one society of people meeting together all over the world with the same faith. Now being as it were that there was not instant telecommunications for each specific problem, it is not surprising that you find some disagreements here and there undealt with.

    Well no. In the previous post your argument had the structure of:

    i) Early guys (early church fathers) are great
    ii) You (Robert) shouldn’t reject the early guys because they are great
    iii) Early guys believed in Transubstantiation.
    iv) If you consider transubstantiation a heresy then early guys are heretics
    v) (implied) early guys are not heretics
    vi) Therefore transubstantiation.

    My point was that you could run this same argument with different doctrines you disagree with. Hence you really don’t support yielding to the early church fathers at all, you support yielding to the early church fathers when you agree with them. But the structure of your argument doesn’t allow for that. If you want to support the early church fathers absolutely without playing games we can stop talking apologetics and start talking matters of faith.

    Where do you have proof that PolyCarp, Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, and Tertullian all together denied that a soul was given in the sex act? It seems to me that there is evidence that the use of contraception was even forbidden.

    Yes contraception was forbidden as was abortion. The issue is the definition of these two terms has changed. I assumed you were familiar with the liberal Catholic argument on this point. My apologies. I’ll explain briefly. The difference between their position and yours is how ensoulment occurs. Let me quote Aquinas to make this easy:

    I answer that, It is impossible for an active power existing in matter to extend its action to the production of an immaterial effect. Now it is manifest that the intellectual principle in man transcends matter; for it has an operation in which the body takes no part whatever. It is therefore impossible for the seminal power to produce the intellectual principle.

    Again, the seminal power acts by virtue of the soul of the begetter according as the soul of the begetter is the act of the body, making use of the body in its operation. Now the body has nothing whatever to do in the operation of the intellect. Therefore the power of the intellectual principle, as intellectual, cannot reach the semen. Hence the Philosopher says (De Gener. Animal. ii, 3): “It follows that the intellect alone comes from without.”

    Again, since the intellectual soul has an operation independent of the body, it is subsistent, as proved above (Question 75, Article 2): therefore to be and to be made are proper to it. Moreover, since it is an immaterial substance it cannot be caused through generation, but only through creation by God. Therefore to hold that the intellectual soul is caused by the begetter, is nothing else than to hold the soul to be non-subsistent and consequently to perish with the body. It is therefore heretical to say that the intellectual soul is transmitted with the semen. (Summa I.118.2.0)

    For them the soul is the substantial form of the human being. A substantial form requires matter capable of receiving it. In the case of the human being this means that the human soul can exist only in a highly organized body. Hence they have a theory of serial ensoulment — first a vegetative soul, then a sentient soul, and finally a rational soul. The animation of the new being is immediate at fertilization. But the soul that animates the body is commensurate with the kind of life lived by the body and the degree of organization of the body. So in the early stages the body of the human being is animated by a vegetative soul which organizes the operations of nutrition and growth — vegetative activities. As the new being develops in complexity and activities, such as sensation a new soul, an animal soul, replaces the vegetative soul. As the development in complexity continues and as the development of sense organs and nervous system progresses, another threshold is crossed. When the material substratum is sufficiently disposed, the rational soul appears and the human being as human being is constituted. (Paraphrasing and Quoting Dr. Hogan from his lectures)

    That is not your theology. It has however the theology of the church prior to the mid 19th century and the theology of Liberal Catholics today. The definition of abortion is a place where Conservative Catholics deny the early church fathers in place of the current magisterium and Liberal Catholics are rejecting the magisterium’s right to do that and instead upholding the theology of the early church fathers.

    But you are not realizing, or you are not open to the fact that the New Testament is a very small fragment of the discussions that took place in the 1st century. Some of that is one-sided and even not even, for we do not have response letters to the writers of the new testament, nor do we have some letters which caused the writers to write (1 Corinthians).

    I don’t think any Protestants reject the idea that very little survived of 1st century beliefs and we have fragments. I think what they do reject is that the Catholic Church has a great deposit.

    I was attempting to get down to simply showing that there is very early testimony from more than 1 source that there was a belief in the Eucharist being the real body and blood of Christ and that participation in this was essential for Salvation.

    You don’t really mean “real body and real blood” either. I have a priest do the blessing and then put it under a microscope it still looks like wine and crackers. The idea of a continuing sacrifice is present and dominant in the early literature. When the Reformers attacked sacramental theology and guessed that all of it was middle ages idolatry, they were wrong the truth was a bit more complex. The idea of Jesus as eternally dying with us for our sins is starting to be discussed, and Protestantism may shift on this one.

  133. +JMJ+

    DGHart wrote:

    Wosbald, are you kidding? You think that historical developments like the Reformation, the Solemn League and Covenant, foreign missions could happen with only human opinions?

    SS has some land in “Israel” that he wants to sell you.

  134. @Marks

    CD-HostUltimately you read your bible, you decide — with the help of the church — what you believe. That is the principled means.

    Marks This sounds like an acknowledgement that Protestantism boils down to Biblicism. Is this what you intended?

    Not quite. Biblicism is a particular theory of biblical hermeneutics which is rejected by most Protestants. Protestant mostly managed to achieve an consensus on Historical-Critical hermeneutics and rejected pure literalism. That doesn’t mean that Protestant theology doesn’t owe a great deal to biblicism and that biblicist interpretations aren’t given a seat at the table.

    If you didn’t mean biblicism in a technical sense but rather in a more metaphorical sense (a bit or irony proving my point) then yes Protestantism boils down to reading and interpreting the bible. Sola scriptura. I’d also add that my house ultimately boils down to foundation and support beams. Those are important, without a good foundation and support the house would collapse. But… those are not the house. What a thing ultimately boil down to tells you something about that thing but not very much about that thing.

    CD-HostFor Protestants, yes it is important for you to know these things. But you are saved by faith not knowledge nor perfect practice.

    MarksHow is this saying anything other than those who generally practice biblicism think it’s kinda important, but not necessarily real important (in terms of salvation) to know the things Burton asked about?

    It isn’t. Same argument. The biblicists are right and in the company of almost all Protestants in being right about that.

    After all, many Christians (confessional Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics, EO, Copts, etc) believe it is important to be baptized in terms of effecting regeneration.

    The question was whether believing in baptismal regeneration was important for being regenerated, not whether being baptized was important for being regenerated. You are shifting the ground, a lot.

    I assume you would think believing in the Trinity is a big deal (nevermind that most Christians of any stripe cannot articulate it in a non-heretical way). Why is believing in the Trinity a big deal and baptismal regeneration is not a big deal?

    The trinity is a big deal because it is tied directly to the early creeds, that is by virtue of historical accident. Most, but not all, Protestants do not want to completely reject the early creeds. They want to maintain a relationship with the early Catholic fathers or “use but use with caution” not “reject entirely”. I talked above about the 19th Arian movement. People like Ellen White successfully argued with their community that sola fide tend to collapse and you end up with legalism with Arianism. That was unexpected to the 19th century people who advocated concordance in biblical interpretation and thus often came to believe in Arianism.

    I take it you would say because Protestants have studied the Scripture and concluded the Trinity is a big deal and baptism isn’t. Isn’t that textbook firing of the interpretive arrow and then painting the target around it? Can’t any heretic do the same thing?

    Yes they can. Any heretical scientists can disagree with the idea that gravity decreases with the square of the distance. What they can’t do is find experiments that verify it. If someone can find experiments that verify a scientific opinion at odds with mainstream science then they are advancing the field. Similarly in Protestantism, if someone can make a biblical case for an unusual view that’s how Protestantism progresses. In the last century our knowledge of 1st century history has improved and thus our knowledge of the historical context has changed our understanding of many of Jesus’ sayings. Those very same views would have been “heresies” 150 years ago.

    “Heretic” in the sense that Catholics mean it, is a notion that Protestants are starting to free themselves of. It is baggage from their Catholic past. We should revert to what the word means translated, “wrong belief”. You can be right or wrong about the bible and your goal is to be right. And right doesn’t mean agreeing with CD-Host.

    But you didn’t answer Burton’s main question. That is, how does Protestantism distinguish orthodoxy from heresy in a way that goes beyond individual opinion. If you did answer, you essential said that it doesn’t go beyond opinion. Correct?

    I don’t think that was Burton’s main question. Burton wanted a positive constructive system for resolving theological questions without reference to Catholicism. Which is what Protestants on a day to day business do.

    You are now asking a Catholic question, an entirely different question than Burton’s question. The first thing is that it isn’t individual opinion it is collective. Protestants talk to one another, discuss things with one another, learn from one another. That have institutions and organizations that help vet complex issues. So we aren’t talking “individual opinion” but “collective opinion”.

    Now this collective opinion can ultimately be right or wrong. Mostly it is going to be right. When it is wrong individuals, whom you would call heretics, can instruct the church in God’s word and sometimes they are listened to. If that doesn’t work then scripture tells us what will happen. When the situation has arisen that teachers of God’s word have become so confused that they no longer can distinguish or know God’s word, God calls forth a few of the righteous as prophets. Prophetic candidates need pass prophetic tests, and from there all their words spoken in prophetic voice are binding on the faithful.

    Protestants don’t reject the idea that situations may occur where something that plays the role of the magisterium may be needed. But one of the key problems that Protestants have with Catholicism is that it confuses the office of prophet with the office of scribe / teacher. Pope’s are claiming the authority based on ordination by man to powers the bible reserves for prophets. And prophets are called directly by God. No earthly institution has any say in the office of prophet for the very reason that prophets stand over all earthly institutions. When speaking in prophetic voice, they really are Christ’s vicar on earth.

    But, they [Catholics] believe Christ wants us always to stay loyal to the institution [of the Catholic Church] and be committed to working for reform.

    The Catholic church is either mostly or totally indifferent to the desires of its membership for reform. There is no mechanism for staying loyal to the church and working for reform. Catholic Reformers tried the stay in the tent and work for Reform 1000-1500 with disastrous results. The method they advocate was tried and proven unsuccessful. I agree that Catholics are willing to talk about the church having sinned in the past. What they aren’t willing to talk about is the structure flaws that led to those sins.

    Your point at the end is a good one. Protestantism may very well end up destroying the very idea of “one God, one bishop, one baptism, one faith”. It may very well turn Christianity into something like Hinduism a family of overlapping practices, philosophies, sects and institutions with nothing that anyone would call a cohesive faith. I’ve often said that Protestantism has methodological content not doctrinal content very much like Hinduism. That being said the CtC apologetic wants to compare a narrow form of American Conservative Catholicism to all of American Protestantism. That’s not really a fair comparison.

    The fair comparison would be something like all of Catholicism to all of Protestantism or all of Conservative Orthodox Catholicism to Conservative Orthodox Protestantism. And there there isn’t much difference in the degree of theological spread. I’d say in general that Protestantism overall in 2012 is more theologically united then it was in 1912, 1812 That may be a historical aberration. Or it may be the start of a trend.

  135. @Robert:

    Where do the fathers affirm the idea of holy orders in the sense that modern Rome does? I believe in the holy ordination of elders, but not the Roman doctrine of holy orders.

    What bothers me is the Roman Catholic willingness to read phrases in the early church fathers through the lens of later church tradition. I would also say that if the apostles in their own lifetime had to fight heretics who were their own disciples, then it is certainly possible for bishops two or three generations removed to have false ideas that they were willing to die for.

    I find it hard that you can know the name “Athanasius” and yet be that ignorant. There is no doubt that Athanasius was an ordained sacramental bishop; that is more sure historically than anything we know about the lives of the Apostles or even the authorship of Scripture. He vehemently denied the false charge at Tyre that he had knocked over a chalice after consecration, specifically saying that it was impossible because the deacon whom he supposedly attacked would not have had the proper ordination to even perform a consecration. No historian, Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, denies this. To think of him as an “elder” in the Presbyterian sense, as opposed to an ordained bishop in a sacramental priesthood, is the grossest anachronism, one that no historian takes seriously. I find it hard to believe in such an echo chamber that you could actually believe such incredible falsehoods, but I suppose anything’s possible. But for you to criticize Catholics after seriously asking the question I quoted above amazes me.

    And for the record, the “medieval doctrine of transubstantiation” is not the only possible formulation of the Real Presence. The latter was affirmed absolutely universally among all ordained bishops and priests, while the former was sometimes charged with being too dogmatic or too specific for the mystery. The fact that you swallow the nonsensical and ahistorical hypothesis of the Real Presence as a medieval innovation, one that has been discredited so convincingly that you might as well be espousing that the earth is flat, says a great deal about the degree of delusion you espouse.

    @Andrew McCallum:
    Athanasius a sola scripturist? Have you actually read anything about the polemics of the time or Athanasius’s rhetorical style? He was clearly appealing to Holy Tradition and the regula fidei as an interpretive criterion for Scripture, not suggesting that there was some objective external meaning of the original sense of Scripture to which they would commonly appeal. I’ve read his anti-Arian works, and a boatload of secondary scholarship to boot, and the thesis that he was appealing to Scripture as some kind of “neutral” judge apart from the rule of faith absolutely does not hold water. Your position is entirely and thoroughly incompatible with his later pro-Nicene argument after Serdica; if the Nicene Creed has no authority as a restatement of the rule of faith, Athanasius’s entire pro-Nicene argument becomes incoherent.

    I’m just amazed, stunned even, that people can seriously offer this crazy, anachronistic nonsense with a straight face.

    @Kenneth:
    Speaking of anachronistic nonsense, Arius was recalled by the emperor after Nicaea, and half of the bishops who signed on to Nicaea later espoused semi-Arian beliefs. It took almost fifty years after Nicaea and diligent work by the pro-Nicene Fathers to consolidate and unify the Church in orthodoxy. The assertions about any conflict between Athanasius and Rome are pure invention; Alexandria and Rome were loyal allies to one another. But that hardly represented the situation in the East or even most of the Western Church.

    It certainly doesn’t help the Church for Catholics to endorse historical theories that are just as ridiculous as the Protestant theories that I’ve just excoriated.

  136. Jonathan,

    Good all around.

    You said, “Speaking of anachronistic nonsense, Arius was recalled by the emperor after Nicaea, and half of the bishops who signed on to Nicaea later espoused semi-Arian beliefs. It took almost fifty years after Nicaea and diligent work by the pro-Nicene Fathers to consolidate and unify the Church in orthodoxy. “

    This calls to mind DG Hart’s insistant that the 2nd Vatican Council is supposed to be some huge problem for us. He can find some ‘conservative Catholic’ online who questions Vatican II and that means that we have a big problem on our hands and the Catholic claim is fautly.

  137. He was clearly appealing to Holy Tradition and the regula fidei as an interpretive criterion for Scripture, not suggesting that there was some objective external meaning of the original sense of Scripture to which they would commonly appeal.

    Jonathan,

    You have to understand the other side’s position before you can intelligently respond to it. We are not debating the fact that Athanasius used tradition and the regula fidei as an interpretive framework through which to view Scripture. Go back and reread my post you responded to.

    I’ve read his anti-Arian works, and a boatload of secondary scholarship to boot, and the thesis that he was appealing to Scripture as some kind of “neutral” judge apart from the rule of faith absolutely does not hold water.

    Again, go back and read what I wrote to Mike and Jason. None of us believe that Scripture or tradition can be appealed to neutrally. That’s the mistake of the liberals. I’m not going to bother responding to you if you won’t read what I’ve written.

  138. Adam,

    Good to hear from you.

    Couple of problems with your comment before moving on to deal with the exegesis of John in his epistles.

    1) You are quoting early church fathers that you believe were heretics, and who also condemned evangelical beliefs. To quote these people who you believe were heretics in an attempt to use some of their other beliefs as support for your beliefs is very problematic. Why believe their statements concerning the tradition of scripture, and claiming that this is correct, while condemning other beliefs that they had which you believe makes them heretics. In the end, you are simply going to their writings and picking and choosing what you think they wrote that was correct and what was not correct.

    2) their other beliefs that you believe are condemnable and heretical were based off their understanding of not just oral tradition but of their understanding of Scripture. These men had a Christian education from Tradition through which they read the Scriptures and which they did not believe was negotiable. You however are living 2000 years later, having no early christian education in the form that would have been in the 1st and 2nd century, and are claiming that you can use their insistence on the preeminence of Scripture to then justify the use of Scripture as your sole material for finding truth, while at the same time excommunicating the men you are quoting. You are basically saying, I believe the Scriptures! These men claimed to believe in the Scriptures! But their interpretation was wrong! So I can go back and correct their errors! Then I can call them heretics even though I thrive off their view of Scripture! While at the same time viewing myself as orthodox based on my reading of the bible!.

    3) Lastly, these men believe in doctrines which only the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations have kept faithful in the transmission of divine revelation. You believe the EO and RC are heretics, therefore these early fathers have no material for you to quote from in order to support your conclusions, since those very people are not the words that they wrote but the actual lives that they lived and the teaching they lived under, which was thoroughly catholic. If the modern RC is not faithful to the early fathers, then no denomination today is, if we exclude and excommunicat the EO and RC.

    Blessings

  139. Erick,

    Greetings to you as well. Let me respond briefly.

    1. I have NEVER said that the RC and EO were heretics. I certainly disagree with a lot of things in their theological and ecclesial systems, some of those issues I consider very serious indeed, because they can be damaging to true faith, but I never called RC and EO heretics, especially not en bloc as denominations. In fact, I’ve just had a public debate with a RC theologian whom I considered and treated as a brother in Christ (and vice versa).

    2. NONE of the church fathers I quoted are heretical in my eyes. I don’t know why you said that. But even if they were, I could quote them as witnesses to the prevailing opinion in the early church regarding apostolic authority.

    3. I will not have time to respond to more than one person under this thread. Previous experiences taught me to stay focused. If Jason wants to engage with my comments I will try to stay engaged, too, but even that might prove too much for me now. I apologize.

    I hope you are well and I wish you clear guidance from the Lord in your path. You are a deep thinker.

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  140. Adam,

    Thank you for pointing that out. I apologize for assuming you would consider RC’s and EO’s, as well as the Church Fathers, as heretics. I assumed so for wrong reasons. I have to remember that I come from a reformed baptist tradition which is heavily engaged with hunting heresies and drawing lines around just about everyone on who is saved and who is not. Not all baptists are like this.

    Having revised my response a bit, here goes what I have.

    1) We must never forget that the early church fathers were not what they wrote. These were human beings who come from a different school altogether. Ireneaus saw Polycarp in his youth, and was exposed from a very young age to catholic orthodoxy, a faith which had blossomed all over the world in places which were the disciples of the original apostles and their corroborators. Ignatius was a disciple of the original apostles, taking the chair of Antioch in 76AD (I believe), succeeding one person after the apostles Peter ordained that one person. Tertullian was no question a student from a school which carried on the tradition which Ireneaus and Ignatius come from (not that he necessarily followed it completely). St. Justin Martyr likewise continually says in his writings “We have been taught”, which from a historian’s perspective leads to a prior dating of whatever teaching Justin himself received. The point I am trying to make here is these people wrote from their standpoint, and we cannot simply jump in and read one section of their writings where they put Scripture at a priority without recognizing their own assumptions and perspectives. For example, Irenaues could think that the whole catholic teaching on the Eucharist celebration can be fleshed out from the gospel accounts, but he believed that the gospel narrative itself taught that the bread and wine were the real flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. So while he can say that Scripture alone is pre-eminent (which by the way he did not support sola scriptura) he is reading that Scripture with an assumption that comes from the tradition he received, which puts him on a totally different playing field than you are standing on, and this is why you can read the same gospel narrative of the Last Supper and come to two radically and mutually contradictory views of the Holy Supper itself. We have to respect these men historically, which involves the schools from which they comes from. They were not innovators, they were carriers of the tradition which they believed was divinely protected in an ecclesiological mode. But let’s just set that aside and assume they did not think in terms of ecclesiology when they thought of the divinity of gospel transmission, and let’s assume they just believed that whatever the scripture says is true, you still cannot separate them from the school from which they derive their understanding. So again, if Tertullian believed that the Scripture were pre-eminent (which he did not) in the final assize over truth versus error, his version of truth still has the assumption and the presuppositions which were acquired from the education he received as a growing disciple of Jesus Christ. He was taught, in other words. It is not as if the words of the Scripture were the ever-present teacher. Tertullian himself was taught the Scriptures. And this is why when he reads the Scriptures there is no question that the miracle of water in baptism regenerates the soul, and that the bread and wine are the souls food feeding on the sacrifice of the Lord’s body, and that the laying on of hands brings upon the person the seal of the Holy Spirit.

    These early testifiers of the gospel can only be cited as supporting a modern evangelical view of truth and authority if you separate them from the school from which they derive their understanding, and their understanding is something which is assumed when they defend the truth. We cannot bifurcate these things. If the early church fathers were hear today, they would not accept any correction that the modern evangelical has to offer through a fresh reading of the greek text, for they did not believe it a negotiable thing the school from which they came from. They stand as teachers of a faith that was taught to them, and the Scriptures were at the center, but they were taught how to read the Scriptures, and this extra-biblical matter of instruction is what was infused into their minds when reading Scripture. They draw a line between them and the modern reformed, there is no question regarding that.

    2) Ignatius was an early disciple of John. PolyCarp was also an early disciple of John. Ireneuas received his education from men who knew the apostles and from PolyCarp (at a young age). Ignatius believed that the Eucharist was the real presence of Christ’s flesh and blood and that pre-requisite to a proper observance of the celebration was the presence of a real Bishop who was a single man. Ignatius believed that proper adherence to God the Father was proper adherence to the Bishop and the clergy. If this is wrong, then Ignatius himself stands to be corrected, which I acknowledge every protestant to feels necessary to believe. Because Ignatius was a close contemporary to PolyCarp and because one of the many letters written to PolyCarp were a collection that Ignatius wrote to many church which include teachings concerning the monarchial episcopate, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the divinity behind the office of bishop, baptismal regeneration, and the collection of relics, we can assume with historical accuracy that PolyCarp himself held the same beliefs which Ignatius held. If these two men were wrong on very serious issues, which is the way you worded it, we have to believe that two disciples of the apostles who were highly revered in the world-wide catholic orthodox faith which grew from the teaching ministry of the apostles immediately began to teach serious error in the Church of Jesus Christ. Something tells me they were operating under a whole set of different assumptions, presuppositions, and notions than the modern evangelical, no matter how much you can find support for the pre-eminence of Scripture in their writings.

    The same goes for Tertullian. In fact, both PolyCarp and Irenaues speak about the early dispute which took place between the East and the West concerning the days of fasting on easter and the date of the Easter eucharist. If these men were true children of a sola-scriptura foundation, they would have simply pointed to Romans 14 and Colossians 2 where Paul repudiates the need for observing any days for worship. But it is amazing that they did not do this. In fact, Polycarp would not budge on the eastern date of Easter, which means that he himself believed that certain fast days and religious observance days was something authoratatively handed down from the apostle John and that such a thing was inexcusable for someone to wave off as unnecessary. Do you see how these early men did not operate with a modern sola-scriptura mode of thinking? Irenaues himself also believed in the necessity of having the 40 days of religious observance prior to the day of Easter. Tertullian as well.

    All this is to say that the men are not students of a school which protestants come from and therefore modern protestants cannot go back and find a piece of their discussion and try using that for support of something they themselves would have never accepted as valid truth. And if we examine closely, the real reason why they would not accept any correction from a modern day protestant who is scientifically exegeting the scriptures is because they were students of a tradition that they believed was non-negotiable. And right there demonstrates that they did not operate under the Lutheran view of Scripture.

  141. ÁDÁM,

    Thank you very much for your comment on divine revelation and (false) human opinion. I think you hit the nail on the head and provide the biblical prescription for the epistemological angst that exists in the postmodern world. It doesn’t make the trouble of interpretation neat and tidy, but it is a biblical epistemology. Thanks again.

  142. All,

    I am obviously falling way behind in responding to comments. You Catholics, feel free to answer questions addressed to me, I won’t mind. . . .

  143. +JMJ+

    Szabados Ádám wrote:

    He [St. John] gives two main criteria to help Christian communities distinguish between truth and falsehood.
    .
    1. THE UNIQUE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLES
    .
    But going back to John… He emphasizes something else, too, that I think is absolutely essential to a Christian epistemology.
    .
    2. THE INNER TESTIMONY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

    Groovy. Now, all you need is Incarno-Sacramentalism in order to tie the two of these together into a single, organic, Personal, Christic Reality (a Sacred Culture/Communion) and you’re golden.

    The following chart might help illustrate what I mean.

    http://tripletopper.com/wosbald/MagisSensusChart.jpg

    For more info explaining the chart, check out my earlier post on this thread (May 8th @ 1:36 pm)

    Oh, and BTW, Happy Ascension, y’all!

  144. Jonathan,

    You need to read what I have said, because it’s clear you aren’t.

    1. I never said Athanasius was not an ordained bishop.
    2. I have never denied that the early church believed in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament.
    3. I have never said that Athanasius’ view of ordination was the same as the Presbyterian one.

    What I have denied is what Rome has read back into these things, namely, a fully developed view of sacramental priesthood and transubstantiation. Are there seeds of later Roman doctrines in the early church? Of course. Are there seeds of later Protestant doctrines in the early church? Of course. Do I expect to find fully developed Protestantism in the early church? No. Do you expect to find fully developed Roman Catholicism in the early church? Yes. You are the one reading history anachronistically, my friend.

    And BTW, I do believe in the true/real presence of Christ in the sacrament. That’s what the Westminster Confession teaches. It denies transubstantiation, as do I.

  145. @Andrew M.:
    Athanasius is appealing to the authority of his interpretation of Scripture by the rule of faith, which is an appeal to the authority of the rule, not of Scripture itself. Otherwise, Athanasius’s appeal to the authority of Scripture would be just as vacuous as that of the Arians, based on nothing supernatural but mere human invention. If Athanasius were doing what you accuse him of doing, namely, relying on the “authority of Scripture,” he would be a fool. The Arians (and the liberals) are the ones doing what you accuse Athanasius of doing, relying on some imagined intrinsic authority in the Scriptures opposed to the authority of rule of faith passed down in Holy Tradition, that which gives Scriptural interpretation its authority. This is a textbook application of how two harmonized sources of revelation have authority that neither has separately.

  146. CD host,

    The antioch creed of 341 is generally credited to Lucious (although thats now doubted). I should have clarified my position earlier. There are no Catholic ecumenical councils that dogmatically promote Arian theology. If the Church had “swayed back and forth” as you say that is one evidence that I would expect. I find your form of argumentation very common among protestants. Ill call it the “muddy the waters” argument. The only recourse a protestant has whom finds that the ECF were definitively Catholic is to “muddy the historical waters”. All of a sudden the early church becomes this murky shadowy thing. Who can ever know what those guys taught or believed. Who can say what church was even the right one? Gnostics? Arians? Catholics? etc etc on and on

    The catholic claim of AS doesn’t require some sort of ABSOLUTE unity where there are no heretics in existence. Im sure that over the course of history there have been many versions of Jesus and many different “forms” of christianity. That has nothing to do with what we are talking about. The far and away MAIN FORM of christianity that claims for it self AS and to being the Church that Christ established is and was the Roman Catholic tradition. It is from her councils, saints and theologians that the majority of Christianity reads from and studies (not gnostic councils and gnostic groups and arian creeds). Within this group every time a council dogmatically pronounces a thing to be dogma the rest of the Church gets in line. Why? I believe that an implicit (if not explicit) belief in AS is the only possible answer. Your alternative is that “the state” was enforcing unity. Whats confusing to me is that you admit that at the time of the arian controversy things were run by the state! People were taking turns on both sides being tortured, exiled and killed for their beliefs regardless of what the state wanted them to say. So apparently “state” cant be credited with a very effective unity. My point is not that belief in AS made all people on the planet who claim any form of christianity submit to their belief….. but that throughout history the gospel never could have reached us without an implicit belief in AS due to theological splintering and disagreement a la protestantism today. It is my firm belief that protestantism will become so splintered and so heterodox in our lifetime that it will not even be recognizable as christian. We are already seeing the first signs of this with Benny Hinn and Co claiming that the god head is actually 9 persons not 3.

    I challenged you to compare any period in the Churches history to protestantism fragmentation today and you responded with the following

    “OK I’ll pick middle of the 2nd.
    Valentinus, Nazarenes, Logos Christianity, Smyrnaean sects (Polycarp), Elkasaites, Ophites, Basilidians, Carpocratians, Cainites, Borborites, Nicolaitans, Encratites, Barbeloites, Naassenes, Sethians.”

    Valentinus, ophites basilidians, Carpocratians Cainites Borborites Encratites Barbeloites Naassenes and Sethians were all gnostic. The heretical Nazerene sect is in the 1st and 4th century not the 2nd. What in the world your talking about when you say “logos christianity” is totally unclear to me. I cant find anyone in the second century identifying themselves as such. Elkasaites claimed to have recieved a new book of revelation from an angel 96 miles high who was the son of God and by his sister the holy ghost. Nicolaitans is an unknown heresy that was condemned in the bible and by the earliest christians. These would hardly fall under the umbrella of “Christian” accept in the most liberal sense and certainly wont be confused as catholic. Im not sure if your engaging in sophistry here or you just dont understand what Im saying. Again, I am not claiming that AS completely eliminated wacky heretics and gnostics. I am for the sake of this conversation comparing the denominations and beliefs of what we would all call orthodox christianity. JWs and Mormons are technically “Christian” but protestants would chaff to hear them included as valid protestant denominations. Lets try to keep grounded in reality. My argument still ramains valid and untouched that the implicit belief in AS is the only reasonable explanation of how the early church could survive early heresies and remain so unified. If the protestant view of “church” had been the prevailing view then we would not recognize christianity at all. Thank goodness for AS.

  147. @Robert:
    Hint: when the CtCers accuse you of not reading, it’s because you actually aren’t reading their argument. It’s not a “get out of argument free” card, which seems to be how you and Andrew M. are using it.

    Your handwaving about a “fully developed sacramental priesthood” is just avoidance of reality. Athanasius believed that the sacraments (baptism, confession and the Eucharist) conveyed actual grace and that it was essential to remain in a state of grace to be saved. He believed that only ordained. bishops and priests in the apostolic succession could celebrate the Eucharist. He believed that the Eucharist was a genuine offering by the priest. He prayed to saints and venerated icons.

    It’s not a question of him not being a Presbyterian elder; it’s a question of him directly and explicitly contradicting everything they believe, including sola fide, sola Scriptura, sola gratia (in the sense of monergistic regeneration), and the instrumental understanding of the Real Presence. There aren’t any “seeds” there; it’s a fully developed contradiction. Your alleged belief in the Real Presence would have gotten you thrown out of Athanasius’s church for blasphemy. So don’t even *pretend* that it’s like Catholics and Protestants are on the same footing here. I am certainly not an enemy of Athanasius’s faith, even if his beliefs weren’t “fully developed,” whatever that means. Any man who worships the elements of the Eucharist he consecrates cannot be far from a “fully developed sacramental priesthood.”

    This is the level of dialogue I’ve come to expect, and it’s why this whole process is depressing. You’ll accuse us, with no basis whatsoever, of believing things that we don’t; for example, I would certainly not say that Athanasius conceded the full and immediate jurisdiction of the Pope over the entire Church as modern Catholic bishops do. I would also never say that Athanasius believed in the doctrine of transubstantiation, although he did certainly believe in a real transformation of the elements. I am honest about those things; I do not claim that Athanasius believed what he did not.

    You, on the other hand, claim “seeds” that don’t exist, deny overwhelming evidence that Athanasius would have been heretical by the same standards by which use accuse Catholics, and blind yourself to direct and essential contradictions to the WCF. You accept conspiracy theories about contrary beliefs having sprung into existence in medieval times, thus conveniently justifying your favorite apostasy, while ignoring everything we now know about the beliefs of Christians centuries before. We are not the same at all.

  148. @Kenneth

    I find your form of argumentation very common among protestants. Ill call it the “muddy the waters” argument. The only recourse a protestant has whom finds that the ECF were definitively Catholic is to “muddy the historical waters”. All of a sudden the early church becomes this murky shadowy thing. Who can ever know what those guys taught or believed. Who can say what church was even the right one? Gnostics? Arians? Catholics? etc etc on and on

    Let me give this process another name: Accurate history.

    I’l quote you exactly here, “ However, it is my understanding that all throughout the theological battle with the heresy the catholic church remained intact as a recognizable body. Certain roman emperors may have swayed back and forth but the Church at large never did. There is no council that promotes Arian theology. From the council of nicea forward we have the established position of the church ”.

    While what really happened is that:

    a) The Catholic Church split into at least 2 factions with both factions lasting for centuries and involving millions of people.
    b) Prior to the split, the church not just the emperors swayed back and forth
    c) There were councils that promoted Arian theology
    d) These councils occurred after Nicea.

    In your 3 statements 4 major historical inaccuracies. So if by “mudding the waters” you mean not agreeing with unmitigated BS then I’m glad to muddle the waters. Protestants with whom you have argued are responding to your fictional history with accurate history. That’s not confusing the situation that’s telling the truth. Every claim you made in the above paragraph except for emperors swaying back and forth was false. The version of history you are proposing is as fictional as the Martian invasion of 1640 which led to the empire of Senegal.

    The far and away MAIN FORM of christianity that claims for it self AS and to being the Church that Christ established is and was the Roman Catholic tradition

    This also is not true. We have maps of Arian Christianity they controlled huge areas of land for centuries and quite possibly a majority of the population. No one would ever have claimed that Catholicism was far and away the main form of Christianity for centuries after the Arian dispute.

    Going back further to 150 CE and before we have a diverse literary record for Christianity which shows a diversity of thought and sects not a Christianity unified around Catholicism If Catholicism existed at all in 150 CE. it certainly was a minority form of Christianity not the main form and absolutely not “far and away the main form”.

    Within this group every time a council dogmatically pronounces a thing to be dogma the rest of the Church gets in line.

    No. That isn’t what happened with councils. Within this group (non Arians) many times a council dogmatically pronounced something and the church split over it. A century after those Arian councils the Catholics spit over Nestorianism with India, Iraq, Iran.. going there on way. Assyrian Church of the East still exists from that split. Two more sects, which still exist today incidentally, broke off over the monophysitism issues those churches today are the Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Eritrean Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church / Indian Orthodox Church and Armenian Apostolic Church.

    Your everyone gets in line when the Pope speaks view of history is CtC propaganda. It never happened. It is fiction. The people who taught it to you lied to you. There certainly is no reason Protestants should buy those lies.

    People were taking turns on both sides being tortured, exiled and killed for their beliefs regardless of what the state wanted them to say. So apparently “state” cant be credited with a very effective unity.

    When did I say anything about people taking turns being tortured? Anyway for most of the period of the Arian controversy Arianism thrived where the Roman empire did not rule and later after it collapsed Arianism moved south. Christianity was split between multiple governing entities, there was more than one state during the period in question.

    .throughout history the gospel never could have reached us without an implicit belief in AS due to theological splintering and disagreement a la protestantism today.

    Seems to me Protestants have a pretty good track record of preserving and spreading the gospel. You can believe what you want but they have a long successful track record.

    Valentinus, ophites basilidians, Carpocratians Cainites Borborites Encratites Barbeloites Naassenes and Sethians were all gnostic…These would hardly fall under the umbrella of “Christian” accept in the most liberal sense and certainly wont be confused as catholic

    So what? This is the typical Catholic argument, asserting that everyone agreed with the Catholics on everything once you exclude everyone who didn’t agree. That ain’t selling here. All Christians being united means everyone who confesses Christ not everyone who joins your sect. You were the one who claimed Christians were united. That the disunity of Christians was a result of Protestantism. Those groups existed, they confess Christ, they weren’t united with Catholics, ergo… Christians weren’t united.

    So obviously Catholicism didn’t lead to united Christianity. Now if your claim had been that in 150 your particular sect was theologically united… then we can ignore those groups but that doesn’t mean much. A sect unifying itself is not nearly as impressive as a sect unifying a religion. However in 150 CE I’d disagree. I think the evidence is rather clear that in 150 your sect was having horrible debates between Encratites and Christians who partook of wine, sex and meat. Your sect was on the verge of being torn apart by Prophets and the coming of the Paraclete. I think your sect was having horrible debates between those who believed in joint fulfillment between apostles and Christ and those who believed in something like a hypostatic union. So I still wouldn’t consider your sect united.

    I am for the sake of this conversation comparing the denominations and beliefs of what we would all call orthodox christianity. JWs and Mormons are technically “Christian” but protestants would chaff to hear them included as valid protestant denomination

    Well then don’t use the word Christian, use the word “Catholic”. In which case your claim just boils down to Catholics were Catholic and says nothing about Christianity as a whole. I am not for the sake of this conversation allowing for that sort of circular argument. Of course “orthodox Christians” if they existed at all in 150 CE were Catholic! The Catholics were the ones who defined orthodoxy in the later centuries.

    I could have just as easily pick the PCA and have them define orthodoxy as any Protestant who agrees with the WCF. Then after excluding all “unorthodox” Protestants all Protestants agree with the WCF. Wow that was easy, instant unity.

    As for the JWs, of course the Jehovah’s Witnesses are Protestant. The Congregationalists in the NE became the Adventist founded the Bible Study Society and the part of the bible study society that studied under Charles Taze Russell mostly became a church under Joseph Franklin Rutherford are that’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yes they are Protestant. They have a better Protestant pedigree than many other Protestant sects. In 2003 they started making overtures to join the National Council of Churches and now have low level ties which means they are formally becoming part of Protestant organizations as well as historically clear and theologically rather close. They aren’t orthodox but they aren’t even borderline on being Protestant.

    As for Mormons I’d consider them Hermetic Christians not Protestants. They reject the 5 solas. They reject the Protestant definition of the bible. They aren’t Protestant. There is no reason to group them.

    My argument still ramains valid and untouched that the implicit belief in AS is the only reasonable explanation of how the early church could survive early heresies and remain so unified.

    You didn’t make an argument. You made an assertion and then tied it to various false historical claims. If you want to make an argument go ahead.

  149. Robert,

    I am aware that Dr. Hart is a Presbyterian minister. I have read the relevant portions of the WCF and Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, but it has been a while – wouldn’t hurt for me to read them again.

    I am not trying to trivialize the idea of the Holy Spirit speaking through Scripture to the individual, but I truly do not understand how it provides for a clear understanding of orthodox belief and a clear and binding definition of moral practice on a wide range of important issues. This strikes me as a real problem for Protestantism, and as a lifelong Protestant, that is a bit of a burr under my saddle.

    As far as whether or not the RCC or EO offers anything better, why is that relevant to my question? Would you agree that the Protestant “principled means” of Holy Spirit+Bible+individual means that each individual Christian has the authority to determine for themselves what is orthodox and what is heretical, and that no one can impose their definition as binding on anyone else? If that is not our situation, then why not? If it is (in which case it seems the concept of heresy and orthodoxy become rather meaningless theoretical concepts), do you see any problem with that, or is simply the best we can do?

    Burton

  150. Darryl,

    If you would rather not dig into the questions I am asking about the Protestant issues, I won’t push. I am very interested in understanding how those issues can be resolved from a strictly positive line of reasoning, but this may not be the most appropriate forum. For the record, I’m not Roman Catholic.

    Burton

  151. @Kenneth:
    @Kenneth:
    Well said, and with your explanation there, I can’t see any good argument against your account. My concern was the idea that Nicaea “settled” the dispute, and it was instead effective as such only through a great deal more exposition and articulation. But there clearly was an orthodox group of bishops who rallied around Nicaea as the true exposition of their faith, and that faith continues today.

    Since you’ve said your piece, I recommend not feeding the troll.

  152. CD-Host,

    I’m just getting around to reading your exchange with Marks as it relates to my previous post. I think Marks is closer to the intent of my questions than you are. I have a decent idea of the construct Protestant’s use to debate and answer doctrinal and moral questions, but I don’t understand how that construct helps the average layperson distinguish orthodoxy from heresy if ultimately this determination rests with each individual. It sounds like what your saying is that, yes, in fact it is up to each individual to make this determination, and as long as you are really seeking the truth you will get the important stuff right and that the doctrinal content of one’s faith and moral practice are not all that important for salvation anyway. Am I understanding you?

    I think that the concept of heresy/orthodoxy implies that the content of one’s doctrine can have an impact on salvation, i.e. believing/doing the wrong things matters eternally in some circumstances, so its important to have a sure and authoritative means of defining right belief and right practice, and an authoritative way to decide which issues are important with regards to salvation and which are peripheral. I don’t see this as a solely Catholic question or concept. So maybe we need to take a step back and decide whether or not this idea of heresy and orthodoxy is basically correct from your viewpoint, and if not, why not?

    As someone who swims daily in the waters of science and critical reading of scientific literature, I’m not sure your analogy is apt. Scientific knowledge is qualitatively different from doctrine and particularly special revelation. Also, when we include the doctrinal beliefs of all who claim to be Christian (even if we limit ourselves to those who use generally accepted hermeneutic principles) the range of learned doctrinal opinion on issues central to salvation is all over the map and in many cases contradictory. There is no doctrinal consensus analogous to scientific consensus unless you very narrowly pre-select certain theologians, pastors, etc.

    Burton

  153. They venerated icons, saints, and most especially the Eucharist, all of which you consider idolatry. Whatever disagreement they had on peripheral doctrines such as the exact authority of the papacy or the exact nature of predestination; they agree with Catholics against you on the mode central and essential matters of the Gospel, including Christology

    Hey Prejean,

    Show me one piece of written evidence which supports the belief that the earliest believers venerated icons in the years A.D. 33 to AD 100 at the close of the century. Just one.

    If you cannot produce one piece of evidence, why do you make the claim you do above?

    If you say it is because of your tradition, do you recognize that such is an unfalsifiable claim?

  154. SS has some land in “Israel” that he wants to sell you.

    I suppose this is one of those ‘jokes’ that Jason finds funny again?

    Regardless of what it is (bad taste to me whichever way), suffice it to say that you, like the gentiles Paul spoke to in Romans 11, have no regard for the natural olive tree into which gentiles are grafted. I would recommend that you re-read the chapter, and heed.

  155. SS,

    I am not sure about the veneration of icons. But we do have evidence that the presbyters that co-labored with Polycarp took in the bones of Polycarp to save in a special place where they kept certain things for yearly commemoration. They held sacrifices in honor of these dead, praying to saints for prayers and making supplications for the rest of the dead. This honor given to the physical here is quite close.

    Other than that I know by sheer reason that a veneration of an icon is not forbidden by God. If nothing in heaven can be pictured by us, then any picture of a person (like Mother Teresa) who is most likely in heaven is also sinful, for it would be an image of what is in heaven. No one claims to make an image of God the father with the intention that the image has the character of God.

  156. I am aware that Dr. Hart is a Presbyterian minister.

    Darryl is not a Presbyterian minister, he is a ruling elder in the OPC.

  157. Erick,

    Nowhere in Scripture do you find any saint or believer bowing before a painted image of anyone. If it were that obvious that the NT church did, and if it were essential to the life of the believer, you would expect mention to have been made of it. But there is zero evidence of such, not only in Scripture, but also in the documents of the 1st century. It is more than likely that the veneration of icons was an accommodation by the Roman church to bring in pagans who were accustomed to worship such.

    Later on Irenaeus would say about the Carpocrates:

    “They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honoring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles.

    Against Heresies, 1.25.6

  158. As far as whether or not the RCC or EO offers anything better, why is that relevant to my question? Would you agree that the Protestant “principled means” of Holy Spirit+Bible+individual means that each individual Christian has the authority to determine for themselves what is orthodox and what is heretical, and that no one can impose their definition as binding on anyone else? If that is not our situation, then why not? If it is (in which case it seems the concept of heresy and orthodoxy become rather meaningless theoretical concepts), do you see any problem with that, or is simply the best we can do?

    Burton,

    This is the key. It’s clear that God intended for His church to be led by men of honor and faithfulness, as we witness in Acts 15. And it’s also clear that there is in the protestant m.o., sola scriptura reduces to solo scriptura, and that the protestant leader has no way to bind and loose, because each protestant is his/her own authority.

    The question that every protestant should be asking themselves is this, if the RCC is not an authority approved by God (which I agree with) and the Protestantism is epistemologically in a no man’s land, does it not behoove them to seek the authority we see in Acts 15?

    I recently asked a minister about Acts 15 and said “By whose authority was the decision to allow gentiles the right not to be circumcised issued?” Sensing no way out, he said “The Bible”. LOL. Which I was expecting, so I replied that even though the Bible was used in the process (James quoting Amos), the final deliberation was issued by James, an authority figure, after deliberation in the council with other Jewish leaders of the church. The minister was clearly frustrated… So simply claiming the Bible for authority does not remove the necessity for binding and loosing, a halakhic endeavor which informs us of what is acceptable and not in God’s eyes.

  159. Was everything about the gentiles incompatible with proper worship?

  160. Was everything about the gentiles incompatible with proper worship?

    The right question to be asking is not that, but this: “Was there anything about the gentiles compatible with proper worship?”

    And the answer is very little, if anything. I give you an example, when Cornelius falls at the feet of Peter, and worships him. But Peter rebukes him and says, “I too, am just a man”. In the Jewish context, a gentile falling at the feet of someone was not merely an act of honor, the very act of honoring the person was blasphemous because it was tantamount to worship. The dulia-latria-hyperlatria distinction, in the proper Jewish milieu, is meaningless and an anachronistic palliative designed to mitigate damage to the doctrine. So if Peter, being alive, rejected someone falling at his feet, why do you believe that he would approve of someone falling at his feet before an icon of him today?

  161. @SS:
    Please go back and look at the people I listed. Which one of Athanasius, Augustine, Patrick and Aquinas was alive between 33 and 100 AD?

  162. BVB, I’m not sure I can answer your questions, or if this is the place. But when you write, “I am not trying to trivialize the idea of the Holy Spirit speaking through Scripture to the individual, but I truly do not understand how it provides for a clear understanding of orthodox belief and a clear and binding definition of moral practice on a wide range of important issues” I am wondering if that is the right question (or even if it is a fairly individualist question — after all, you say it is a burr under YOUR saddle.

    I myself am not troubled by the diversity. And the reason we have it has a lot to do with having political authorities out of religion (remember, the Spanish Inquisition was run not by the church — though it approved — but by the Spanish kingdom). If Protestants and Roman Catholics have a lot of diversity in their ranks, it has a lot to do with the freedoms granted after 1789 on both sides of the Atlantic.

    And I believe that not even such diversity or such privatized religion can prevail against God’s purposes.

  163. SS,

    Was it sinful of Peter to recommend building a tabernacle for Moses and Elijah? And Jesus?

    And how many people do you see bowing down and honoring an image of Peter? I was born and raised Catholic and I have never seen people on the floor in front of an image. But even if, maybe Peter would not approve, the question is does God condemn?

  164. Erick,

    You are making a distinction without a difference by pointing to bowing vs falling at the feet of. The jewish context does not allow for such a distinction. That is the problem with anachronistic reasoning or reasoning which imports an entirely different culture (a gentile one at that) onto Scripture which is fundamentally Jewish (cf. Romans 11).

    The question is not whether God condemns or not. The question is why do something that there is no evidence for in the praxis of the earliest church?

  165. I was born and raised Catholic and I have never seen people on the floor in front of an image.

    By the way, this reminds me, why do catholics genuflect before the Pope, when Peter himself did not accept that behavior? (granting you for a minute that Peter was the first Pope, which I do not believe).

  166. Please go back and look at the people I listed. Which one of Athanasius, Augustine, Patrick and Aquinas was alive between 33 and 100 AD?

    Fair enough.

    Do you believe that the earliest Christians, within the 1st century, venerated icons? If so, what is the basis for that belief?

  167. What category of Jewish theology maintains and does not maintain a binding force over the human conscience?

    It is still required to attend to the services and prayers on the Sabbath? Are we allowed to eat Pork? Is it a sin to enter the house of a uncircumcised gentile? Can we baptize the non-Jew? The Jews have very meticulous views of righteousness and sin, things which would have put the Lord Jesus Himself on the street, ready for stoning. In fact, it was a very strict view of Jewish Law that formed one of the catalysts to the crucifixion of Jesus.

    What is more sinful? Separating from the Church of God in schism because of uncertain practices in the Church or to fellowship with people who may have too much of a view of images?

    The Lord Jesus will be the judge. There are many needy people out there that the holy few who abstain from any contact from the “sinful” will never get a chance to speak to, comfort, feed, and accompany.

  168. And I believe that not even such diversity or such privatized religion can prevail against God’s purposes.

    Agreed, DG. He will have a remnant reserved for Himself, regardless.

  169. What is more sinful? Separating from the Church of God in schism because of uncertain practices in the Church or to fellowship with people who may have too much of a view of images

    I do not condemn anyone who venerates icons, but it is my prerogative to disagree with the practice and argue that it is extra biblical. Your argument re schism does not hold, because it is the CC itself which disrespected those of a different faith and excommunicated those who refuse to venerate icons. Begin by asking yourself whether that was a sin in and of itself and then you will have ground to argue with me.

    Re genuflecting (and sometimes lying prostrate) before the Pope/Bishop .as contrasted with Peter’s reaction, what say you?

  170. Since when is it a matter of faith to believe in bowing down to icons and people? I personally think it is ridiculous.

  171. @SS:
    I doubt it. It’s a derived theological belief, and it requires development of Christian theology from the combination of Jewish culture, which would have not recognized it due to the way theophanies had been delivered in the OT, and Greek philosophy, which could recognize the distinction between worship and veneration. Much like the Jewish dietary laws, the Apostles followed the prohibitions, but they gradually fell away as they were less useful.

  172. SS
    kneeling down in front of someone doesn’t necessarily mean you worship them if that would be the case then we have worshiping all over the bible like in Genesis 33:1-3 Jacob and Esau Jacob hasn’t seen Esau for long time and when he sees his brother he bows himself down to the ground in front of his brother not because he is worshiping him rather he is honoring his elder brother we see it also in 1st King2 with the case of Salomon mother, queen Bathsheba, Salomon bows himself in the present of his Queen mother this is never understood worship or adoration as we say in the CC today. The CC condemns and has infallibly condemned in the 2nd council of Nicaea 787 AD the worship of anything or anyone other than almighty God. The honor that we give to Mary and the saints is just that, honor, just like Jacob honored Esau just like Solomon honored his mother queen
    God command the children of Israel not to make images of Himself and He gives them the reason because He says “I didn’t come to you in any form “and to take it deeper in the OT God didn’t take any form. However in the NT we have something very deferent, we should mention too that in Denial 7:13 we get a little hit of the fact that God is going to reveal Himself in a from because in Daniel 7 we have the first and this is very late in the OT history but God does reveal Himself to Daniel. Daniel sees God sitting on a thrown as an ancient of days with the white beard and such this is the first image of God in the OT and it is a radical departure from the thousand plus year before there was no form of God
    This is the later salvation history God perhaps preparing His people for time when of course we see in Philippians 2:5 when saint Paul says Jesus Though He was n form of God———————————)
    So now in the NT God has taken a form and so He has opened for us a whole new economy of icons and statuary and such that we did not have in the OT.
    The problem is this, we have a very cold culture we so left behind our biblical understanding of embracing and honoring our brothers and sisters in the faith. In the book of Acts for example chapter 20 when Paul was saying farewell to the elders in Ephesus they wept hugged embrace each other they kissed one another we don’t do that in our culture we are very cold. In Catholicism we don’t change based on a culture we continue to honor, we kiss the rings of our bishops and the pope and such which seems odd in our cold culture. And that is why we are accused of worshiping the pope and this and that where in fact we are doing something very biblical. The honoring of our brothers and sisters in the faith is absolutely biblical. The Bible tells us in my places for example 1st Tim5:17 to give double honor to the elders

  173. Since when is it a matter of faith to believe in bowing down to icons and people? I personally think it is ridiculous.

    The 7th council did not think it ridiculous. Neither did those who were ex-communicated for refusing to venerate icons.

  174. it requires development of Christian theology from the combination of Jewish culture, which would have not recognized it due to the way theophanies had been delivered in the OT, and Greek philosophy, which could recognize the distinction between worship and veneration.

    That’s the problem right there. Jude, the brother of Christ, says to contend earnestly for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. That faith was entirely salvific, and was in no need of development. That’s also why Paul beseeched Timothy to guard the deposit. What was there to guard if there were all these wonderful things to throw in from greek culture? Salvation is of the Jews, Jesus said.

  175. SS,

    Can you not imagine that if the apostles were to remain alive forever from the 1st century until our present time, continually sitting in chairs in Jerusalem governing the Church of God via their own churches, councils, conferences, phone calls, television, legislation, etc,etc….that they would not have understood the need for any development?
    And the Catholic Church does not believe in the development of doctrine as something which introduces new theology but unanswered theology. For instance, how can the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be one? This is relatively unanswered from the very earliest years of the church. Another would be how to respond to the freedom of religion 313 (Edict of Milan) and the State’s support for the Church, which many imprisoned bishops viewed as an act of God through Constantine (Romans 13). So it is not an introduction of new beliefs, but confirming old questions unanswered.

  176. Wassan,

    If you want to bow before a person of honor, in accordance with a tradition of respect, that is fine. And the examples you mention are well taken, but these are examples of a greeting. We’re not discussing greeting somebody in the street here, but rather what we do in the assembly, where God is present.

    You do not have Scriptural basis however, to make a painted or graven image of that individual and bow before them, in the context of a worship. The icon is present in the same place where worship to God and Him only is due. That’s what makes it problematic. It is not a mere greeting.

    Again, there is no evidence whatsoever that bowing before images was something done by the earliest believers. Jonathan above admits this.

  177. Can you not imagine that if the apostles were to remain alive forever from the 1st century until our present time, continually sitting in chairs in Jerusalem governing the Church of God via their own churches, councils, conferences, phone calls, television, legislation, etc,etc….that they would not have understood the need for any development?

    Jerusalem, yes. Rome, not so. But at any rate, yes, development to the extent that it does not add to the faith. That’s where De Lerin’s suggestion gets tricky in practice. Again, there’s no need to introduce bowing down before images when such a practice simply did not exist in the 1st century. If one considers the possibility that such bowing may give an unnecessary opportunity for idolatry, as I’m sure you will concede has happened in the past, one should be even more adamant about guarding the faith once and for all delivered.

    Again, if Peter did not want Cornelius at his feet, why do people genuflect before the Pope?

  178. +JMJ+

    Don’t feed the golem.

  179. Jason,

    Do you find this ‘golem’ business funny too?

  180. SS,

    The simple fact of the matter is that Peter did not want Cornelius to bow down to him. Simple as that. Peter still regarded Cornelius as a just man who was accepted by God, who shows no partiality. If in truth Cornelius just performed a gross act of idolatry, then how could he be approved of God when men died for such idolatry?

    To use this apparent inconsistency as a worthy weight to stand against the whopping force of the life of Christ’s Church throughout the ages is a bit of a stretch, no? I mean I understand the inner detestation for what a person might be really doing by all this bowing down…I struggle with that….but to make such an amount of this with the cost of one’s involvement with the poor people of Christ is not allowable in my conscience.

  181. Athanasius is appealing to the authority of his interpretation of Scripture by the rule of faith, which is an appeal to the authority of the rule, not of Scripture itself.

    Jonathan,

    I don’t know how many times this thread and last thread I have said I agree with such statements as what you write above, but the message never seems to get across. When Athanasius talked about aspects of the Trinity being “clear” or “plain” or “evident” from Scripture, he was speaking within the context of the regula fidei, such as he understood that to be. The Scripture did not speak by itself, such a thing would be impossible. The Scripture is always mediated by the Church through the tradition of that Church. OK, do you understand that? If so can you please stop telling me that I’m speaking of the authority of Scripture apart from the mediation of the Church? I never said any such thing and you are reading this into what I write.

    The Athanasians and the Arians both firmly believed that they represented the true Church that had been established by the Apostles. It was not going to do Athanasius any good to tell the Arians that he represented the Church founded by the Apostles, because the Arians believed they represented this same Church. So Athanasius appeals to the clear and evident meaning of Scripture. And many of the Arians did read the Scriptures, and many were convinced. But again, I’m not by any means trying to set apart Scripture (or tradition) as something neutral that we can appeal to apart from tradition. My point is that in the final analysis for Athanasius the foundation of the Church is not any kind of infallible ecclesiastical authority which has been granted to the Church, let along an infallible Roman authority. For Athanasius it is the Scriptures which are the final rule of authority for the Church.

    In essence what I’m pointing to is the fact that the regula fidei for Athanasius did not rely upon any infallible ecclesiastical authority. The concept of ecclesiastical authority has not arrived in Christendom in Athanasius’ time, and any inklings of papal infallibility are still many years removed.

  182. Robert,

    What do you suppose than Athanasius was relying on?

  183. but to make such an amount of this with the cost of one’s involvement with the poor people of Christ is not allowable in my conscience.

    Again, it was the 7th council which broke with the poor people of Christ who would rather not venerate icons. That’s when the anathema was issued. Have you thought about that? Going by responses, it seems like you’re not listening at all.

    Look, if you are going to play the ‘now allowable in my conscience’ game, we will be here for the rest of our lives. I agree with you, the church is broken, fellowship is broken, and it is all a sin in God’s eyes. That’s why I call for repentance from all, protestant and catholic alike.

    But of course, I am only a ‘golem’, so what do I know.

  184. The Athanasians and the Arians both firmly believed that they represented the true Church that had been established by the Apostles. It was not going to do Athanasius any good to tell the Arians that he represented the Church founded by the Apostles, because the Arians believed they represented this same Church.

    Andrew,

    I presented this argument in great detail in the “How the church won” thread at CTC. What it came down to, was a guy by the name of Mateo admitting that it was the sensus fidelium in Athanasius which preserved the truth. I then explained to Mateo that he had just tied the noose around the neck of his own argument, in that, he was no longer immune from the Tu Quoque as a result of his admission.

  185. SS,

    Can you support your view that the Iconoclasts were humble and poor people?

    I am not required to venerate images of Christ. What of movies made by Catholics wherein the movie there is depictions of persecution against Catholicism which involve destruction of images, such as “Greater Glory”? Are the directors in sin? The images are just material itself. The thought which emanates from the picture are analogous to the thoughts which emanate from the spoken words of Scripture, just like thoughts which emanate to the blind when they read the Scripture in brail.

  186. I don’t approve of what the iconoclasts did. They will answer to God for their murders and violence, as by the way, the iconodules will too.

    The question should instead be: Do you support the view that one can choose not to venerate icons and still be accepted in God’s sight and therefore be worthy of table fellowship? (hint: that is contrary to the anathema of the 7th council).

  187. I can only give the same honor to an icon in the way I give honor to the paper and ink of the Holy Bible. Whatever honor this is can be compatible to veneration in the sense that I adore the characters and the meaning which is attached to it.

    Similar to this would be my respect for a picture of a police officer who saved my son (hypothetically) from an impending danger and died in doing so. I would not be drawn to destroy the picture, that is for sure.

  188. @bvburkholder

    Well then you are back to asking Catholic questions. Essentially you are asking how do you know which forms of idolatry are pleasing to God? My 2 year old niece will be starting nursery school next year. Which of her classmates will do a painting worthy of being hung in the Met? And which of her classmates will be expelled from nursery school for their failure? If your answers are none and none you get the point. The differences between you and God dwarf the distances between a master artist and 3 year olds.

    You do not get to control God. In Luther’s time conmen were running around telling people that giving money to the right church building fund could them or whomever they wanted into heaven. In your time conmen are running around telling people that believing in the right incantation could get them or whomever they wanted into heaven.

    Any beliefs you hold will be so far from right ones that they will not earn your salvation. Any incantations you perform or have people perform on your behalf will be so far from right ones that they will not earn your salvation. Any works you do will be so tainted that they will not earn your salvation. What Protestantism holds to is Sola Fide.You are saved by faith alone. Not Faith plus works. Not faith plus the proper creed. Not faith plus the right incantation. Faith, period, no plus after it. Reject that and you reject Protestantism.

    The favor that God shows you will be unmerited, you won’t merit it by solving some puzzle and getting through the right maze of doctrines. God is not impressed by your skill as a theologian, either directly or by picking the right institution. That is sola gratia. Reject that and you reject both Protestantism and Catholicism.

    The means of your salvation will by Christ. Not a church, not a pope, not a creed. All the churches that claim otherwise are idols. All the religious leaders that claim otherwise are hell-bound. And any creed that you believe will impressive God enough earn you way into heaven is your first step towards apostasy. You are a priest of God there is no mediator between you and the father other than Jesus. That is Sola Christus.

    And finally SS is absolutely right about his criticisms in this thread towards idolatry. God gets all the glory. The 1st commandment is to be strictly applies Soli Deo gloria.

    That is the core of Protestant Orthodoxy if you want to use those terms. Those things frame all the other doctrinal points.

    As someone who swims daily in the waters of science and critical reading of scientific literature, I’m not sure your analogy is apt. Scientific knowledge is qualitatively different from doctrine and particularly special revelation.

    Really? How do you do scientific research? By reason you extend your existing knowledge to new areas. By experience you formulate hypothesis. You can read and learn from other scientists who went before you. And you test your hypothesis against the natural world.

    How does a Protestant study? By reason you extend your existing theology to new areas. By experience you formulate hypothesis about what is true or right. You can read and learn from other scholars who went before you. And you test your hypothesis against scripture. And that is sola scriptura.

    There is no doctrinal consensus analogous to scientific consensus unless you very narrowly pre-select certain theologians, pastors, etc.

    Of course there is. You are focusing on the areas of disagreement with theology. Why are galaxies rotating so fast and light passing through them bending so much? Are the constants in General Relativity wrong? Are we missing a term that accumulates for large amounts of mass? Is there some repulsive gravitation effect over large distances? Is there dark matter which is increasing the mass?

    Scientists disagree. If you focus on those areas you would find wide disagreement. Conversely there are huge areas of agreement, like the 5 solas I just mentioned.

  189. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    I presented this argument in great detail in the “How the church won” thread at CTC. What it came down to, was a guy by the name of Mateo admitting that it was the sensus fidelium in Athanasius which preserved the truth. I then explained to Mateo that he had just tied the noose around the neck of his own argument, in that, he was no longer immune from the Tu Quoque as a result of his admission.

    Not when one factors in the critical variable of Incarno-Sacramentalism. This is the one piece of the puzzle which ties together the Magisterium and the Sensus Catholicus (Sensus Fidelium), the two of which exist in tension in the Catholic paradigm. Without this critical piece, then yes, the Tu Quoque would apply. Noose, unloose!

    http://tripletopper.com/wosbald/MagisSensusChart.jpg

    For more info on the chart, see my above post (May 8th @ 1:36 pm).

  190. CD-Host,

    Is it necessary to believe in the five solas in order to be saved?

    Burton

  191. Not when one factors in the critical variable of Incarno-Sacramentalism. This is the one piece of the puzzle which ties together the Magisterium and the Sensus Catholicus (Sensus Fidelium), the two of which exist in tension in the Catholic paradigm. Without this critical piece, then yes, the Tu Quoque would apply. Noose, unloose!

    Incarno-Sacramentalism?!?

    But the *dividing* the Body of Christ into Magisterium and sensus fidelium is *Nestorian*!

  192. @BVBURKHOLDER May 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Is it necessary to believe in the five solas in order to be saved?

    No. Catholics can be saved for example. It is necessary to believe in the five solas to be a Protestant.

  193. +JMJ+

    Jason Loh wrote:

    Incarno-Sacramentalism?!?
    But the *dividing* the Body of Christ into Magisterium and sensus fidelium is *Nestorian*!

    This is why the Catholic Dogmatic Nexus can never be broken or reduced. It is not something exclusively exterior, like a denomination or club. Nor is it something exclusively interior, like an individual conviction. Nor is it one of the various, discontinuous and disunified shoe-hornings of the two, as in Protestantism (and as we can see here, if anything, it is the Protestant paradigm’s Visible Church/Invisible Church’s dichotomy which might be called “Nestorian”).

    Instead, the Church is a Living, Personal, Incarnational Reality.

  194. Burton,

    As far as whether or not the RCC or EO offers anything better, why is that relevant to my question? Would you agree that the Protestant “principled means” of Holy Spirit+Bible+individual means that each individual Christian has the authority to determine for themselves what is orthodox and what is heretical, and that no one can impose their definition as binding on anyone else? If that is not our situation, then why not? If it is (in which case it seems the concept of heresy and orthodoxy become rather meaningless theoretical concepts), do you see any problem with that, or is simply the best we can do?

    It’s a relevant question because the RC critique on this blog and elsewhere is that Protestants have no principled means for settling dogmatic questions. But when RC’s are pressed and shown that their principled means is a paper tiger, it means their criticism is largely empty. RC failures don’t prove Protestantism, but they do show that it lacks the principled means that it thinks Protestants lack.

    I wouldn’t quite put things the way you did, but if I have or have been confusing, I apologize. This is what I would say, in your phraseology:

    The Protestant “principled means” is the Holy Spirit speaking through His Word, the Bible, to the individual in the context of His community, the church. Each individual Christian has the responsibility to recognize for themselves what is orthodox and what is heretical. The church, guided by Scripture, defines orthodoxy and heresy. But the church is recognized by its fidelity to the Holy Spirit speaking through His Word. The church does not need to be infallible to accurately define orthodoxy and heresy truly. And while my evaluation of the evidence is fallible, I have enough faith in my own reasoning faculties to tell me that despite Rome’s contortions, it fundamentally denies much of what we actually know the apostles believed and taught.

    At the end of the day, no one can escape their own individuality. We all interpret evidence and make choices according to what seems to be best to us. That doesn’t mean we do so rightly at all times. But it does mean that we cannot escape our own personal interpretative situation. Jason now believes the Roman Church is infallible because he has weighed the evidence and finds that position compelling. My argument is that he has not examined all the evidence and that he has overlooked much of what destroys his position. I am well aware that the Protestant position can devolve into the “solo Scriptura” position that we are critiqued for, but that comes not from the position itself but from the failure to practice it rightly. Our models in this are to be the magisterial Reformers and bodies such as the Westminster Assembly, all of them who affirmed liberty of conscience but who were by no mean individualists.

    Any thoughtful Roman Catholic is Roman Catholic only because his reading of the evidence tells him Roman Catholicism is the best way forward. Bryan Cross has tried his best to argue otherwise, saying that something changes when the conversion is made to Rome. But he’s wrong. He remains Roman Catholic only because he can read the evidence in a way that is convincing to him.

    I’m not advocating mere subjectivism, just trying to point out the reality of the epistemic situation we are in. Some readings of the evidence are better than others according to the standards that we humans have developed for acquiring knowledge. In my judgment, Roman Catholics want to play pretend with the evidence and read Roman Catholicism back into the early church fathers. Some Protestants have done the same, reading Protestantism back into the early church fathers. In both cases, they are approaching church history in a way that they would never approach secular history. Roman Catholics think they need an infallible authority to escape subjectivism, but they do not follow that point of view when they look at science, math, or other disciplines.

    I can’t impose my definition of orthodoxy on anyone else. But the church can impose its definition of orthodoxy as long as its definition is consonant with Scripture or the good and necessary consequences thereof. As an individual, I have the freedom to submit to that imposition or reject it. But my rejection of a fallible church decision does not render that decision necessarily invalid anymore than my rejection of 2+2=4 renders it invalid.

    This may seem rather subjective to some, but there is no evidence that God has given us any other means to recognize his truth than by the study of His Word in the context of a church that is striving to be faithful to that Word. Are Protestants divided. Sure. But not nearly as divided as Rome would have us believe. And unlike Rome, confessional Protestants actually discipline their heretics.

    I trust the Holy Spirit to bring about the unity of faith in his time. God is exceedingly patient, far more patient than Rome thinks he should be.

  195. This is why the Catholic Dogmatic Nexus can never be broken or reduced. It is not something exclusively exterior, like a denomination or club. Nor is it something exclusively interior, like an individual conviction. Nor is it one of the various, discontinuous and disunified shoe-hornings of the two, as in Protestantism (and as we can see here, if anything, it is the Protestant paradigm’s Visible Church/Invisible Church’s dichotomy which might be called “Nestorian”).

    Instead, the Church is a Living, Personal, Incarnational Reality.

    No, the Catholic dogmatic nexus can never be broken. But the Magisterium in infallibly pronouncing on the Immaculate Conception and Heavenly Assumption as examples have showed yet again that the RCC cannot claim to be part of the Catholic dogmatic nexus. This is because by the very fact of such a very late pronouncement (history) and the fact of or need for such a pronouncement in the first place (logic). Marian doctrines by themselves/ per se are not equivalent to christological dogmas. That is, the apostolic and sub-apostolic church were *never* ever conscious of IC and HA – their faith were formed and informed bythe Gospel, Incarnation and the Trinity. The same faith held by Protestants but understood in the original evangelical meaning re the Gospel as the *summary* of the Catholic Faith.

  196. And if the Church is a living Incarnational Personal Reality, then the proclamation of the Word and Sacraments are enough. There is no need for an institution in addition to, or over or within the Church as institution.

    Proclamation simply reflects that the Word and Sacraments are Eternal Word Himself Who speaks efficaciously, and gives Himself completely holding nothing back. If Jesus Christ is Logos and if the Logos is no mere Logic but *divine* Logic (= divine *Person*) and thus “actus purus” (re Person), then Jesus Christ continues to speak the effective Word today – in Word and Sacraments since and as the external Word is His voice and the Sacraments are His Baptism and Body and Blood.

    The papacy and Magisterium in binding the consciences of men according to the legal way of thinking do not fit or match Jesus Christ as the divine active Word who is continuously creating and re-creating.

  197. Not when one factors in the critical variable of Incarno-Sacramentalism.

    Is this ‘critical variable’ taught by the Magisterium? Or is it of your own making?

  198. @Andrew M.:
    I’ll quote you to head off the charge that I am not reading or asserting things that you did not say:

    I don’t know how many times this thread and last thread I have said I agree with such statements as what you write above, but the message never seems to get across. When Athanasius talked about aspects of the Trinity being “clear” or “plain” or “evident” from Scripture, he was speaking within the context of the regula fidei, such as he understood that to be. The Scripture did not speak by itself, such a thing would be impossible. The Scripture is always mediated by the Church through the tradition of that Church. OK, do you understand that? If so can you please stop telling me that I’m speaking of the authority of Scripture apart from the mediation of the Church? I never said any such thing and you are reading this into what I write

    The fact that “Scripture did not speak by itself” or that interpretation comes through the “mediation of the Church” of that it is interpreted “in the context of the regula fidei” is completely irrelevant to what I said. What I said was that your assertion that Scripture was being used by Athanasius as an independent authority based on its “clear” or “plain” or “evident” teaching, whether or not interpreted in the context of the Church, is nonsense. It doesn’t matter how Scripture is “mediated”; that is completely off the point. What matters is whether the regula fidei is the authority by which interpretations of Scripture are judged, or whether the “clear” or “plain” or “evident” teaching of Scripture is in fact the authority by which the regula fidei is judged. And contrary to your assertions, Athanasius judges *by* the regula fidei, the authoritative Tradition; he does not allow the regula fidei to be judged by Scripture.

    The Athanasians and the Arians both firmly believed that they represented the true Church that had been established by the Apostles. It was not going to do Athanasius any good to tell the Arians that he represented the Church founded by the Apostles, because the Arians believed they represented this same Church. So Athanasius appeals to the clear and evident meaning of Scripture. And many of the Arians did read the Scriptures, and many were convinced. But again, I’m not by any means trying to set apart Scripture (or tradition) as something neutral that we can appeal to apart from tradition. My point is that in the final analysis for Athanasius the foundation of the Church is not any kind of infallible ecclesiastical authority which has been granted to the Church, let along an infallible Roman authority. For Athanasius it is the Scriptures which are the final rule of authority for the Church.

    That explanation is so tortured it doesn’t even rise to the level of being wrong. You appear to be able to recognize (correctly) that both Athanasius and the Arians were making authority claims based on apostolic tradition. Had you stopped there, then you would have remained within the boundaries of both good sense and historical fact. But then you go completely off the reservation with this wild argument that it “wasn’t going to do any good” for Athanasius to argue from tradition, which would have been news to Athanasius given that is exactly what he did. Then you make the preposterous assertion that instead of doing what he did, he in fact did the exact opposite, which was to appeal to the “clear and evident meaning of Scripture” to judge between competing tradition claims. And while you do this, you perversely insist that somehow you are not claiming Scripture as a “neutral” authority, presumably meaning the same hermeneutical mishmash you asserted in the first paragraph about Scripture being “mediated” and “contextual” and whatnot. None of that mattersl if you think Scripture can judge between tradition claims as an arbiter, you are doing exactly what I claimed, and you are directly contradicting Athanasius’s position.

    Athanasius does not appeal to Scriptural authority as an arbiter between claims. Rather, he accuses the Arians of falsely claiming authority from Tradition because they do not read Scripture in the manner the Tradition does. His argument is not “we should use Scripture to judge Tradition.” His argument is that people within Tradition read Scripture in a certain way, and because the Arians do not read Scripture in this way, they have shown that they are *not* within Tradition. This foolish invention that Athanasius made the Scriptures “the final rule of authority for the Church” is nowhere in his argument; on the contrary, it is contradicted all over the place.

    In essence what I’m pointing to is the fact that the regula fidei for Athanasius did not rely upon any infallible ecclesiastical authority. The concept of ecclesiastical authority has not arrived in Christendom in Athanasius’ time, and any inklings of papal infallibility are still many years removed.

    Yes, clearly, Holy Tradition is *not* an infallible ecclesiastical authority, and the regula fidei certainly isn’t binding doctrine for Athanasius. And he never affirmed the Nicene Creed as an infallible statement of that faith; that whole Council of Serdica thing never happened. What impresses me most is that after accusing Catholics over and over of historical naivete, it doesn’t even cause a blink when this jaw-droppingly inaccurate characterization of history gets passed off as if it were nothing.

    Again, if you want to go full goofball with the assertions that the Church flew off the handle with the ante-Nicene Fathers, go ahead and join in with CD-HOST and SS. I can respect that at least they have a historical argument, however questionable I may find their theology or philosophy. But don’t come with this “the Protestants were just being faithful like Athanasius when he was alone against a corrupt Church,” sixteenth- century-vintage garbage. If the medieval Catholic Church was guilty of doctrinal corruption, then it was corruption they inherited from Augustine and Athanasius. In the sixteenth century, the historians had simply lost track of the historical chain that we have since reestablished, but there’s no excuse in the twenty-first. We know to an excruciating degree what beliefs Augustine and Athanasius had; we know that they condemned and rejected the distinctive beliefs of Protestantism. If you will reckon with that historical fact, then at least we can have an honest discussion.

  199. Again, if you want to go full goofball with the assertions that the Church flew off the handle with the ante-Nicene Fathers, go ahead and join in with CD-HOST and SS.

    Can you and others make an effort to stay civil please? There’s no need for gratuitous name calling, whether it’s goofballs or golems.

  200. Jonathan said:

    We know to an excruciating degree what beliefs Augustine and Athanasius had; we know that they condemned and rejected the distinctive beliefs of Protestantism. If you will reckon with that historical fact, then at least we can have an honest discussion.

    Athanasius held to penance as the 2nd plank of justification?!?!

    Athanasius affirmed papal infallibility?!?! As you said, Tradition (regula fidei) is not necessarily synonymous the Magisterium (as institution)

    Could Athanasius by himself have constituted the Magisterium?!?!

    Augustine condemned *unconditional* or gratuitious *predestination*?!?!

    Augustine held to transubstantiation?!?!

    Augustine held that the gift of peseverance is given to all the baptised?!?!

  201. @SS:

    Can you and others make an effort to stay civil please? There’s no need for gratuitous name calling, whether it’s goofballs or golems.

    I apologize. That was supposed to be a backhanded compliment, because your position is at least consistent, even if I am completely at odds with the methodology (hence, the negative description).

    @Jason Loh:

    Proclamation simply reflects that the Word and Sacraments are Eternal Word Himself Who speaks efficaciously, and gives Himself completely holding nothing back. If Jesus Christ is Logos and if the Logos is no mere Logic but *divine* Logic (= divine *Person*) and thus “actus purus” (re Person), then Jesus Christ continues to speak the effective Word today – in Word and Sacraments since and as the external Word is His voice and the Sacraments are His Baptism and Body and Blood.

    The papacy and Magisterium in binding the consciences of men according to the legal way of thinking do not fit or match Jesus Christ as the divine active Word who is continuously creating and re-creating.

    In contrast to Wosbald’s formulation, this seems obviously heterodox. To say that there is an eternal and necessary action in creation by God being actus purus (i.e., His divine nature) is to say that it was necessary for God’s existence to create and act in creation: hello, Origenism. This is just a heterodox (monophysite) account of divine synergy, confusing the natures. It’s no wonder you (wrongly) accuse Wosbald of Nestorianism; that is what monophysites always do to the orthodox.

    Athanasius held to penance as the 2nd plank of justification?!?!

    Sure. That description is from Tertullian, and he believed it many years before.

    Athanasius affirmed papal infallibility?!?! As you said, Tradition (regula fidei) is not necessarily synonymous the Magisterium (as institution)

    He certainly had faith in Rome’s faithfulness to the Tradition. Whether that is “papal infallibility” or not probably depends on what inference you consider most likely. He appealed to Rome as against heretical bishops. That sure seems to view Rome as an authority on apostolic tradition, and if apostolic tradition is infallible, I would draw the inference that Rome was a sure guide on doctrine.

    Could Athanasius by himself have constituted the Magisterium?!?!

    That’s kind of a silly hypothetical. There were plenty of pro-Nicene bishops, including the popes.

    Augustine condemned *unconditional* or gratuitious *predestination*?!?!

    No. Neither does the Church. Divine causality is a mystery by definition; just as people have different opinions on how the Trinity is three, people have different opinions on how God predestines the saved but does not actively cause the evil by which the damned are damned. We may not know that answer even in eternity.

    Augustine held to transubstantiation?!?!

    Augustine wasn’t a systematic philosopher, so I doubt he even considered the question. He affirmed what the Church affirms about the Eucharist being the literal Body and Blood of Christ, but he never gave any particular metaphysical account.

    Augustine held that the gift of peseverance is given to all the baptised?!?!

    That’s an odd question, because it seems to support my point. He believed in baptismal regeneration, even in at the end of his life (see his works against Julian), and he clearly didn’t believe that the grace of regeneration necessarily entailed the grace of perserverance. In other words, he rejected the Protestant position of monergistic, once-for-all regeneration entirely.

  202. Jonathan, you said:

    In contrast to Wosbald’s formulation, this seems obviously heterodox. To say that there is an eternal and necessary action in creation by God being actus purus (i.e., His divine nature) is to say that it was necessary for God’s existence to create and act in creation: hello, Origenism. This is just a heterodox (monophysite) account of divine synergy, confusing the natures. It’s no wonder you (wrongly) accuse Wosbald of Nestorianism; that is what monophysites always do to the orthodox.

    But I don’t *equate* being with nature (I don’t hold to a western triadology), and by extension I do not reduce God’s power (energies) to His essence. Hence I do *not* affirm that it was necessary for God’s existence and to create and act in creation.

    Natures do not act; they don’t do anything. Only Persons *do*. This is something I know you’d be familiar with from your interaction over at Energies of the Trinity.

    But positing a Magisterium that is ontologically distinct within the Body of Christ is Nestorian. By its very nature, the Magisterium as the teaching church (ecclesia docens) is distinct from the faithful as the hearing church (ecclesia audens) – hence the internal division produces two Churches which can only be joined EXTRINSICALLY.

    This is because magisterial authority is INTRINSIC (only) to the Magisterium.

    Hence, there is, ironically (in light of the RC critique of Protestant extrincism), a certain *extrincism* in the ecclesial union and communion between the magisterium and the laity — i.e. “where Peter is, there is the Church” means that whilst the *ecclesial* membership of the laity is “dependent” on Magisterium, the *ecclesial* authority of the Magisterium is “independent” of the laity. Again, if the pope is the Vicar of Christ, then the union and communion between the Head and Body seems to be Nestorian.

  203. Sure. That description is from Tertullian, and he believed it many years before.

    How is the Athanasian dictum “God became man so that man can become God” compatible then with the RC theology of merit? The RC understanding of penance includes temporal liability/ debt. If Athanasius held to penance as the 2nd plank of justification and the EO claim him as an Eastern father, why then do the EO reject the notion of temporal liability?

  204. Jonathan,

    Again, if you want to go full goofball with the assertions that the Church flew off the handle with the ante-Nicene Fathers, go ahead and join in with CD-HOST and SS. I can respect that at least they have a historical argument, however questionable I may find their theology or philosophy. But don’t come with this “the Protestants were just being faithful like Athanasius when he was alone against a corrupt Church,” sixteenth- century-vintage garbage. If the medieval Catholic Church was guilty of doctrinal corruption, then it was corruption they inherited from Augustine and Athanasius. In the sixteenth century, the historians had simply lost track of the historical chain that we have since reestablished, but there’s no excuse in the twenty-first. We know to an excruciating degree what beliefs Augustine and Athanasius had; we know that they condemned and rejected the distinctive beliefs of Protestantism. If you will reckon with that historical fact, then at least we can have an honest discussion.

    This quote is simply absurd. How do we know that Augustine and Athanasius condemned and rejected the distinctive beliefs of Protestantism? There was no Protestantism in their day, just as their was no Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

    Corruption inherited from Augustine and Athanasius? So it’s their fault that the bishops were buying and selling their offices during the medieval period. It’s their fault that so many of the popes were fathering children illegitimately?

    This is particularly rich:

    But don’t come with this “the Protestants were just being faithful like Athanasius when he was alone against a corrupt Church,” sixteenth- century-vintage garbage.

    There’s a reason why we say Athanasius Contra Mundum. It’s because he was virtually the only voice speaking against the Arianism that reared its head in the visible catholic church, the same visible catholic church that is supposed to protect me from error because of its infallibility, after Nicea.

    Andrew is right about Scripture being interpreted in light of the regula fidei. The problem for Roman Catholics is the regula fidei was essentially the Apostles Creed, all of which can be drawn from Scripture and, incidentally, does not include all of the later Roman accretions such as penance, ecclesiastical infallibility, the hyper-dulia of Mary, and more.

    The Reformers problem with the medieval Western Church, one of them at least, was that the church had ceased to read Scripture in light of the regula fidei. Calvin, Luther, et al attempted their best to reestablish that practice. The rest of the Western church did not. Hence, the birth of Roman Catholicism in the sixteenth century.

    The early church fathers were not Protestants, Roman Catholics, or Eastern Orthodox. For you to read them as if they were is intellectually dishonest and not credible history. No thoughtful Protestant would say that Athanasius et al were Protestants, or that we hold everything in common with them. We believe, of course, that the church needs to be Reformed, and these men did as well, for we do not have them setting the church above Scripture or proclaiming its infallibility. Whether they came to all the same conclusions we have is another issue.

    In the main, however, if Athanasius and Augustine were alive today, they would laugh at papal infallibility, ecclesiastical infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, the Bodily Assumption of Mary, and a host of other Roman beliefs. They would hold a stronger view of the real presence than many professing Protestants, but not a stronger view than confessional Anglicans, and one that Reformed confessionalists could, in the main, affirm. They certainly would not be teaching Transubstantiation. And they would certainly be decrying the Roman attempt to hide the sex abuse scandal from the world.

    We know with “excrutiating detail” what these men believed and one thing is for sure: They were not Roman Catholics or Protestants. Things that later developed into BOTH of these traditions are present in both men. That’s not a problem for us, since we believe Scripture is the final authority. For Romanists who like to pretend the fathers were united on Roman doctrines, however, it is a big problem. Sola Ecclesia, however, demands it.

  205. He certainly had faith in Rome’s faithfulness to the Tradition. Whether that is “papal infallibility” or not probably depends on what inference you consider most likely. He appealed to Rome as against heretical bishops. That sure seems to view Rome as an authority on apostolic tradition, and if apostolic tradition is infallible, I would draw the inference that Rome was a sure guide on doctrine.

    But the later Augustine was different from the early Augustine. He changed his mind. Does this indicate the existence of a Magisterium? When Augustine changed his mind on grace and free will, why didn’t appeal to the Magisterium? Why instead it was the study of Scripture independent of the Magisterium? Appeal was made to the church fathers before him but again no Magisterium as in infallible pronouncements. Where is the magisterial document? Do writings of the church fathers possess magisterial authority by themselves? Furthermore, why did Pope Zosimus waver, change his mind??

    Again, if Augustine acted with magisterial authority, why are his teachings on gratuitous predestination, the salvific will of God not accorded infallible status?

  206. After all, Augustine’s teaching on grace and free-will precisely has unconditional predestination and the selected giving of perseverance at its *core.* To decline or deny this is precisely to distort his teachings.

  207. That’s kind of a silly hypothetical. There were plenty of pro-Nicene bishops, including the popes.

    Plenty? Then what was motto “Athanasius contra mundum” all about?!?

  208. “No. Neither does the Church. Divine causality is a mystery by definition; just as people have different opinions on how the Trinity is three, people have different opinions on how God predestines the saved but does not actively cause the evil by which the damned are damned. We may not know that answer even in eternity.”

    But that’s not the issue (here). It cannot be denied that Augustine himself would have contended against the *synergism* of the RC. Heck, even the controversy over de Auxiliis controversy between the Dominicans and the Jesuits in the early 17th century were fierce enough.

    What about Jansenism? Jansenius produced copious quotations from Augustine’s works that were eventually condemned by RCC. Why didn’t the RCC tolerate Jansenism? After all, the papacy or even magisterial authority of the Magisterium weren’t disputed. The Jansenists saw themselves as faithful to the Catholic tradition(!) and rejected Calvinism.

  209. +JMJ+

    Jason Loh wrote:

    But positing a Magisterium that is ontologically distinct within the Body of Christ is Nestorian. By its very nature, the Magisterium as the teaching church (ecclesia docens) is distinct from the faithful as the hearing church (ecclesia audens) – hence the internal division produces two Churches which can only be joined EXTRINSICALLY.

    There is no ontological distinction. That’s the whole point of Incarno-Sacramentalism. There’s no more ontological distinction between the Outward (Exoteric) expression (aspect, mode, operation, etc.) of the Church and the Inward (Esoteric) expression of the Church than there is between the outward expression of Jason Loh and the inward expression of Jason Loh. We’re still talking about one-and-the-same Jason Loh, just as we are still talking about one-and-the-same Church.

    This very problem, the ancient and irresolvable systematic paradox that you are attempting to re-inaugurate by breaking the wholeness of the Incarnation, is preciesely what Incarno-Sacramentalism has come to solve. And it solves the problem, not in some abstractive systematic, but in the living, organic unity of a Person.

  210. Augustine wasn’t a systematic philosopher, so I doubt he even considered the question. He affirmed what the Church affirms about the Eucharist being the literal Body and Blood of Christ, but he never gave any particular metaphysical account.

    Why then does Augustine had the habit of referring the sacramental species of bread (and wine) to the *mystical* body of the Church?! This implies some disjunction between the historical literal corporeal Body of Our Lord and the Mystical Body of the Church??

    It’s no wonder that Jesuit scholar Francis Clark argued that Augustine held to a spiritual interpretation of the real presence in Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation. Hence, there is a strong plausibility and reasonable grounds for Protestants who do not hold to a real presence to claim Augustine as an authority. The issue therefore is not decisively settled.

  211. That’s an odd question, because it seems to support my point. He believed in baptismal regeneration, even in at the end of his life (see his works against Julian), and he clearly didn’t believe that the grace of regeneration necessarily entailed the grace of perserverance. In other words, he rejected the Protestant position of monergistic, once-for-all regeneration entirely.

    Read J Patout Burns’s Augustine’s doctrine of operative grace. Burns as you’d know is a RC scholar. No one is saying that the grace of regeneration necessarily entailed the grace of perseverance. But that his teaching of the grace of perseverance is NOT compatible with RC doctrine of POST-baptismal justification.

    How does Augustine’s undoubted teaching that not all the baptised receive the GIFT of perseverance compatible with synergism? The gift of perseverance is co-related with the gratuitous predestination, is it not? Gratuitous predestination implies monergism so that even those baptised non-elect do not play any part in their justification or conversion.

  212. There is no ontological distinction. That’s the whole point of Incarno-Sacramentalism. There’s no more ontological distinction between the Outward (Exoteric) expression (aspect, mode, operation, etc.) of the Church and the Inward (Esoteric) expression of the Church than there is between the outward expression of Jason Loh and the inward expression of Jason Loh. We’re still talking about one-and-the-same Jason Loh, just as we are still talking about one-and-the-same Church.

    This very problem, the ancient and irresolvable systematic paradox that you are attempting to re-inaugurate by breaking the wholeness of the Incarnation, is preciesely what Incarno-Sacramentalism has come to solve. And it solves the problem, not in some abstractive systematic, but in the living, organic unity of a Person.

    Then you’s just undermined your own position on the infallibility of the Magisterium since by its very nature magisterial infallibility is intrinsic to itself or else the whole Church would be infallible and this include private opinions which would be absurd.

  213. Robert@ 9, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Burton asked this:

    As far as whether or not the RCC or EO offers anything better, why is that relevant to my question? Would you agree that the Protestant “principled means” of Holy Spirit+Bible+individual means that each individual Christian has the authority to determine for themselves what is orthodox and what is heretical, and that no one can impose their definition as binding on anyone else? If that is not our situation, then why not? If it is (in which case it seems the concept of heresy and orthodoxy become rather meaningless theoretical concepts), do you see any problem with that, or is simply the best we can do?

    Me:
    You answered with 9 paragraph of which 7 mentioned either Rome or the Roman Catholic Church. I believe Burton wants you to put forth a defense of Protestantism on its own strength, its own merits. Without constantly referencing the ‘failures’ of Catholicism.

  214. Mikel,

    I did provide a rudimentary form of that defense, as well as suggesting several resources that he can look at. But Rome must be held accountable to the same standard it holds others to. If Rome and the EO provide no more principled way or better way to answer the questions people are asking, that must be pointed out.

    Jason, Bryan, Jonathan, and the other Roman Catholic apologists on this blog who have been posting in the comments are like the tailor in the Emperor’s New Clothes and the Protestants are like the little kid at the end. In this case, the tailor wants the kid to make a positive argument for why his clothing made of cotton thread is sufficient to protect him from the elements while trying to keep the kid from pointing out that the emperor whom the tailor is supposed to have clothed is naked. I will not buy it, nor will any thoughtful Protestant.

  215. +JMJ+

    Jason Loh wrote:

    Then you’s just undermined your own position on the infallibility of the Magisterium since by its very nature magisterial infallibility is intrinsic to itself or else the whole Church would be infallible and this include private opinions which would be absurd.

    The entire Church, hierarchy and laity, share in Magisterium through Incarno-Sacramentalism. Just as the entire Church, hierarchy and laity, share in the Sensus Catholicus through Incarno-Sacramentalism. The Sensus affirming the Magisterium and the Magisterium affirming the Sensus, all by way of Incarno-Sacramental unity.

    This is a great Mystery and all attempts at rational understanding fail at the end. It is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?

    This is why Protestantism, which professes an Incarnate God and a Disincarnate Economy, will always be at odds with itself. Always trying, by way of innumerably diverse formulae (variously weighted systems of exterior authority/conviction and interior authority/conviction), to put Humpty-Dumpty back together. Simply because it ruled out Incarno-Sacramentalism from its inception, Protestantism necessarily misses the solution: Incarnate God = Incarnate Economy.

  216. . I believe Burton wants you to put forth a defense of Protestantism on its own strength, its own merits.

    Robert put together a pretty strong affirmative statement about Protestant beliefs on its own strengths and on its own merits. Like for example it conforms to the methods we use to gain knowledge about history of science, history of math, history of language rather than being an entirely different system. His question has been answered now several times all saying mostly the same thing all with very different expositions.

    But there is no way to answer Catholic questions without some reference to Catholicism. As a Catholic how would you answer the question of “Is it better to restrict input (yoga) or transmute input (tantra) to reduce your dependence on the world?” Ultimately that question has assumptions embedded in it that you as a Catholic need to address and reject.

  217. I did provide a rudimentary form of that defense, as well as suggesting several resources that he can look at. But Rome must be held accountable to the same standard it holds others to. If Rome and the EO provide no more principled way or better way to answer the questions people are asking, that must be pointed out.

    Jason, Bryan, Jonathan, and the other Roman Catholic apologists on this blog who have been posting in the comments are like the tailor in the Emperor’s New Clothes and the Protestants are like the little kid at the end. In this case, the tailor wants the kid to make a positive argument for why his clothing made of cotton thread is sufficient to protect him from the elements while trying to keep the kid from pointing out that the emperor whom the tailor is supposed to have clothed is naked. I will not buy it, nor will any thoughtful Protestant.

    Yes, indeed.

  218. CD-Host,

    I appreciate your well summarized description of the five solos. I do understand that these form the basis for “Protestant orthodoxy”, at least for some Protestants. This definition of true doctrine is your personal opinion. It happens to be an opinion shared by others, but I doubt that you would claim that it is binding on other believers. I personally disagree with your description of Sola Fide and Sola Christus and I have serious reservations about Sola Scriptura. Are my opinions on these matters any less orthodox than yours? By what authority do you decide that certain pastors teaching doctrine with which you disagree are “hell-bound”?

    Why are questions regarding orthodoxy and heresy “Catholic Questions”? I truly don’t understand what you mean by that. If you mean that systems of doctrine can becomes objects of idolatry, that charge can be leveled at both camps. Can you flesh that out a bit?

    Burton

  219. CD-Host,

    I meant the “five Solas”. Typo on my part.

    Burton

  220. This is a great Mystery and all attempts at rational understanding fail at the end. It is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?

    This is no mystery at all, but rather a band aid on an otherwise untenable position. It is entirely question begging and seeks to prove what it already assumes. Sorry, you’re going to have to try much harder than that if you want to convince anyone.

  221. Robert,

    To summarize, your principled means for determining true doctrine is the scientific approach of hermeneutic technique applied the the data set called the Protestant Bible. Orthodoxy is then those teachings that all Protestant scholars, theologians, pastors etc who use this same hermeneutic agree on. Heresy are those teachings that they all agree are false, and the stuff they can’t agree on is labeled as secondary or peripheral. Is this accurate?

    Can I also summarize your last comment by saying that you agree that Protestants can’t distinguish true doctrine from personal opinion, but since no one else can either, you are not obliged to offer any positive argument for Protestantism in that regard. (I’m not wearing any clothes, but since the emperor isn’t either I don’t have to give reasons for my own nakedness?). I would like to think of myself as a thoughtful Protestant, but I’m not sure I qualify by your definition.

    Burton

  222. Robert,

    Is the defense of a principled Protestant way to distinguish divine revelation from human opinion the one you submitted at 6:29 this morning? I want to respond to it, but I want to make sure I am responding to the right comment.

  223. Burton–

    Confessional Protestants–those “Protestants” who are the product of the magisterial Reformation, as opposed to the radical one–are basically of one mind when it comes to doctrine. It’s truly amazing, a miracle even, how “sola scriptura,” which is supposed to produce all these wild, subjective renderings, simply doesn’t. What it does produce is an inordinate fussiness concerning the picayunish details of systematics. Catholics get their backs up about all the hundreds of denominations we split into, but the fact of the matter is, most confessional Reformed churches are incredibly interchangeable. If you move from one town to another, it doesn’t much matter that the “good” church in town is PCA or OPC or EPC or CRC or URC. You’re basically getting the exact same thing as you had before (much, much more so than moving from one town’s Catholic parish to another in the next town).

    So, if it’s “just our personal opinion,” then that particular “personal” opinion belongs to all of us. Plus, I have known a number of folks, when coming into the Reformed fold, who simply recognized in Reformed theology what they had been reading all along in their Bibles but had no label for.

    The “Reformed” hermeneutical method is rather simple, straightforward common sense. We just do exegesis without a lot of frills and add-ons.

    Calling the conclusions of a mostly objective process “personal” opinion is kind of like calling the concept that the earth orbits around the sun a “personal” opinion. The fact that individuals have certain particular opinions doesn’t make those particular opinions subjective.

  224. @BVBURKHOLDER

    This definition of true doctrine is your personal opinion.

    No it isn’t. God establishes a biblical system of offices:

    Priests to carry out religious rituals
    Scribes / Teachers to record and explicate the words of prophets
    Prophets to give the people revelation
    Government to carry out divine will in law

    The bible, not me, puts the ultimately authority for determination of true doctrine with God. The bible not me puts the onus for revelation on prophets. The bible not me puts the onus for retention and explication on scribes. And the bible not me puts the onus for obedience on the people.

    None of this is my personal opinion. If it were my personal opinion CD-Host would have a much more prominent role. 🙂

    I personally disagree with your description of Sola Fide and Sola Christus and I have serious reservations about Sola Scriptura. Are my opinions on these matters any less orthodox than yours?

    In answer to the question below let me demonstrate by changing this into the Protestant question. Are your opinions right and mine wrong? Notice the distinction. My version is objectively testable. What does it mean to be right on a historical / religious term. Well we would check:

    a) Good quality Protestant sources on the 5 solas
    b) Luther’s original definitions.

    If they both agree with me I’m right. If they both agree with you you are right. If they split then the issue is complex and further investigation is called for. And this is more or less the same procedure you would undergo if you and I were disagreeing about what goes in a Beef Wellington. What the word “Beef Wellington” means is a matter of social agreement. But social agreement is more than arbitrary personal opinion.

    Why are questions regarding orthodoxy and heresy “Catholic Questions”? I truly don’t understand what you mean by that.

    Heresy means “wrong belief”. Heresy should’t mean anything more than being wrong on theological matters. What should be the opposite of heresy is not orthodoxy but being correct, i.e. “biblical beliefs”.

    Orthodoxy just means conformist or traditional. That shouldn’t imply being the opposite of being wrong. Opposed to Orthodoxy are negative things like ignorance and positive things like truth overcoming establish error. Conflating being in line with church tradition and being right on matters of the bible and divine will is Catholicism. Knowing what is Orthodox tells you who won various power struggles within the church. That may be evidence for who was right but they are not the same thing.

    In other words time and custom define orthodoxy. Properly understood God defines heresy by scripture. By using the term “orthodoxy and heresy” as opposites you are buying into a Catholic paradigm that the Church has the prerogatives of God.

  225. Adam,

    The First Epistle of John is arguably the most important text to go to when you want to learn how to distinguish between divine revelation and (false) human opinion. The situation then and there was acute and dangerous. False teachers were threatening the church of Jesus Christ. These teachers claimed to be the spokesmen for the true faith. They had many followers. What principles could possibly help true Christians navigate through this epistemological morass? And who are the true Christians? How can you tell who is right? How can you distinguish between divine revelation and (false) human opinion?

    John certainly could have said what you are suggesting he should have said, but he didn’t.

    You are reading him in a vacuum, it seems. John was told by Jesus that whoever heard the apostles heard Christ, and whoever heard Christ heard the Father who sent him. He was also given authority, along with Peter and the other apostles, to remit and retain sins, and to bind and loose on earth and thereby bind and loose in heaven. Moreover, John’s own pupil, Ignatius, very clearly taught what he himself considered to be the uncontroversially apostolic idea that the bishop is to be obeyed as Christ himself, and that no Eucharist is valid without the duly ordained bishop.

    So nothing you say in any way refutes what I am arguing. I affirm I John, as well as the need for the apostles’ and Holy Spirit’s testimony. No Catholic denies these things. But what is also needed is a visible church with the authority to judge that an epistle like I John is canonical in the first place. Your whole position needs to steal from Catholicism to even begin to argue against Catholicism.

    The early church made great efforts to make sure they preserved only those writings as Scripture that could be traced back to the apostles. When a line of apostolic succession could be demonstrated in some churches (certainly not all of them were founded by apostles – cf. Tertullian, Marc. 4.5), the witness of these churches could be a strong evidence for the apostolic origin of certain writings. But the apostolic origin of the writings was the main issue, not apostolic succession (or Apostolic Succession) per se. Also, related to your question, the issue was not how many apostles actually left their writings to the church (this is of little significance), but whether the writings that the church possessed had apostolic origin (faithfully representing the tradition of the apostles taught to them by Jesus). This leads to the fascinating topic of canonization (remember, even your new denomination has the same closed NT canon as we do!), of which F. F. Bruce, H. Ridderbos, B. Metzger, and more recently M. Kruger wrote excellent historical and theological monographs. I heartily recommend Kruger’s work, which addresses the most relevant questions in this discussion.

    The issue is not whether we can construct, or reconstruct, some scholarly criteria that will produce the proper result of a 27-book canon. The issue I am raising is what kind of confidence we can have in that canon given Sola Scriptura. It seems to me that for you and all Protestants, your 27-book NT is something you can trust in merely on the academic authority of your experts. But if that expertise is fallible, then that reduces the contents of the NT to mere scholarly human opinion.

    Experiencing union with God the Father and Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit is the most powerful form of assurance, according to John. Confidence is a gift, and it is existential. It is also circular, because it cannot be tested from a purely critical, non-engaging perspective. There is no “principled way to distinguish divine revelation from human opinion” in that (Cartesian) sense.

    Thank you for admitting it. You adhere to the doctrines that you arbitrarily consider “essential” because they conform to your interpretive opinions about what the books that you think comprise the NT teach. Obviously, I do not find that epistemology biblical, apostolic, or patristic in any way. It reduces Christianity to Mormonism’s burning in the bosom, and/or to the magisterial dictates of the Academy.

    I realize that you have a problem with this approach, otherwise you wouldn’t have joined the RCC. But you are finding John’s epistemology insufficient, not mine. Just substitute Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons for Antichrists in 1Jn 2:20-27 and 4:1-6, and see if you would have said the same thing as John. If not, why not?

    No, I am finding your interpretation of John’s epistemology insufficient. And the reason I would exclude a Mormon or JW from the true faith is that they do not hold to the teachings of Scripture as understood through the lens of the Tradition, and they have no divine authority to speak in Christ’s Name since their leaders appointed themselves, or were appointed by those who appointed themselves. They have not been sent, so how shall they preach?

  226. Eric,

    Why should I prefer the subset of Confessional Protestants you list over any other subset of “conservative” Protestants? Of course Reformed Protestants of various flavors will share most doctrine in common. That’s like being surprised that most Bostonians are Red Sox fans. Why should I prefer this subset? Because of the simplicity and purity of their hermeneutic principles? To suggest that Reformed conclusions on soteriology, justification, ecclesiology and sacraments are as obvious as the earth orbiting the sun (if one simply follows the Reformed no-frills exegesis) is an awfully big assumption, and one that I do not share. So, yes, the belief that the Reformed system gets all these things right does ultimately boil down to your opinion of what the Bible teaches.

    As a practical example, when I read the Bible I find the case for infused righteousness and the inseparability of faith/agape for salvation to be more compelling than the case for imputed righteousness and sola fide (as understood by Luther and Calvin). I suspect you would tell me that I am simply wrong, that I have not followed the proper exegesis of the text. But at the end of the day it would boil down to your opinion of true doctrine versus my opinion, and we could both cite numerous proof texts and reputable theologians and church Fathers. So I’m not sure how your post advances a positive argument for Protestant orthodoxy as anything more than private opinion.

  227. CD-Host,

    Your last post to me was quite helpful. I think we were talking past each other on the orthodoxy/heresy thing. I’m happy to use the language of “wrong belief” and “true belief” or “Biblical belief”. This is what I meant by those terms. The question still remains. Do the five solas represent “true belief”? If, after both of us read the Bible, we come to different conclusions regarding regarding the five solas, whose belief is right and whose is heretical or wrong? Your first several paragraphs regarding the roles of priest, prophet, scribe etc don’t address this, or maybe I just don’t understand how you are connecting those dots. Your statement that God is the ultimately the authority on true doctrine is true, but also doesn’t address this question. So we objectively test who has right belief and who has wrong by reading Luther and “good Protestant sources”? Can you not see the inherent subjectivity of your criteria? Why not read Aquinas and several reputable Catholic sources instead? Because they don’t adhere to the five solas. Which puts us right back to square one.

    You state that God defines heresy through Scripture. OK. Should we use the Protestant canon or the RCC/EO canon? Is my interpretation as authoritative as yours when using the Scripture to define heresy? Please don’t tell me your right and I’m wrong because I haven’t read enough Luther or consulted the right Protestant sources 🙂

    Burton

  228. Dear Jason,

    Thanks for your answer. Let me respond sentence by sentence. (I cannot use blockquotes.)

    JASON:

    You are reading him in a vacuum, it seems. John was told by Jesus that whoever heard the apostles heard Christ, and whoever heard Christ heard the Father who sent him.

    MY RESPONSE:

    I don’t know why you say that I read John in a vacuum. Together with Tertullian (whom I quoted extensively on this) and others (both from the early church and from the Protestant tradition) I also think that apostolic authority is the delegated authority of Christ.

    JASON:

    He was also given authority, along with Peter and the other apostles, to remit and retain sins, and to bind and loose on earth and thereby bind and loose in heaven.

    MY RESPONSE:

    Yes, of course, and both of us have an explanation as to what exactly that means. But the authority you talk about only confirms my point that the apostles of Jesus had unique authority and the early fathers recognized this.

    JASON:

    Moreover, John’s own pupil, Ignatius, very clearly taught what he himself considered to be the uncontroversially apostolic idea that the bishop is to be obeyed as Christ himself, and that no Eucharist is valid without the duly ordained bishop.

    MY RESPONSE:

    Yes. I didn’t question that. Paul uses a similar language about husbands (Eph 5:22; 1Cor 11:1-10) and masters (Eph 6:5-7; Col 3:23), too. It is obviously very important for Ignatius that presbyters (and especially bishops, whom he distinguishes from the elders) would be recognized in the individual congregations as God-appointed leaders to whom they should submit. But even Ignatius made a clear distinction between himself and the apostles (cf. Trall. 3.3), just like Clement of Rome (1Cor V.3; XLII.1-3; XLVII.1), Papias (in his Fragments), and Polycarp (Phil. 3.3), and later fathers like Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Athanasius.

    JASON:

    So nothing you say in any way refutes what I am arguing. I affirm I John, as well as the need for the apostles’ and Holy Spirit’s testimony. No Catholic denies these things. But what is also needed is a visible church with the authority to judge that an epistle like I John is canonical in the first place. Your whole position needs to steal from Catholicism to even begin to argue against Catholicism.

    MY RESPONSE:

    I don’t deny the role of the Catholic church in preserving the apostolic witness (I quoted Athanasius on this). I affirm that role, and I am happy to be part of that Catholic church which made great efforts in the early centuries to preserve the apostolic tradition by making sure only apostolic writings were received as Scripture. Clearly it was a stance of humble submission as opposed to authoritative arbitration. Moreover, no one in the early centuries (that we know of) disputed that 1 John was of apostolic origin and therefore authoritative.

    JASON:

    The issue is not whether we can construct, or reconstruct, some scholarly criteria that will produce the proper result of a 27-book canon. The issue I am raising is what kind of confidence we can have in that canon given Sola Scriptura. It seems to me that for you and all Protestants, your 27-book NT is something you can trust in merely on the academic authority of your experts. But if that expertise is fallible, then that reduces the contents of the NT to mere scholarly human opinion.

    MY RESPONSE:

    You originally asked for a simple sentence or two that explain the principled way Protestants distinguish divine revelation from human opinion. I gave you 2+2 sentences as a summary of what the apostle John taught us on how we can distinguish divine revelation from (false) human opinion. John’s point is exactly the opposite of what you are insinuating. He says, “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1Jn 2:26-27)

    JASON:

    Thank you for admitting it. /That “There is no ‘principled way to distinguish divine revelation from human opinion’ in that (Cartesian) sense.’/

    MY RESPONSE:

    I don’t just admit it. I actually rejoice over this. It is extremely liberating to me.

    JASON:

    You adhere to the doctrines that you arbitrarily consider “essential” because they conform to your interpretive opinions about what the books that you think comprise the NT teach.

    MY RESPONSE:

    No, I have accepted the judgment of the early Christians on this. As I said, they have put a lot of effort into the job of filtering through the writing that were then circulating among them to only accept those as Scripture that evidently had an apostolic origin. Most of the books (e.g. 4 Gospels, at least 10 Pauline letters, 1 John, 1 Peter) were never debated, and there is absolutely no debate among Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholics as to which writings belong to the NT (the same 27 books).

    JASON:

    Obviously, I do not find that epistemology biblical, apostolic, or patristic in any way. It reduces Christianity to Mormonism’s burning in the bosom, and/or to the magisterial dictates of the Academy.

    MY RESPONSE:

    In light of what I said, I honestly don’t understand how you came to this conclusion.

    JASON:

    I am finding your interpretation of John’s epistemology insufficient.

    MY RESPONSE:

    Have you read my thesis? I know it’s long, and it’s not fair to ask this, but since you have made a judgment on my interpretation, could you please show me where you disagree with me and why?

    http://szabadosadam.hu/divinity/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Szabados-ThM-Thesis.pdf

    JASON:

    And the reason I would exclude a Mormon or JW from the true faith is that they do not hold to the teachings of Scripture as understood through the lens of the Tradition, and they have no divine authority to speak in Christ’s Name since their leaders appointed themselves, or were appointed by those who appointed themselves. They have not been sent, so how shall they preach?

    MY RESPONSE:

    What you say could be helpful in some contexts, but they are not much of a help in other contexts. The Arian bishops had been sent. Pope Honorius had been sent. And many others, who were later condemned as heretics, had been sent and in their lifetimes claimed to have divine authority to speak in Christ’s Name. They claimed Tradition and Scripture were on their side. What if the current Pope (and his teachings) will be condemned in 70 years from now? Who tells you NOW that Francis does indeed interpret the Scriptures through the lens of Tradition (unlike Pope Honorius)?

    John taught us different criteria about the antichrists from what you are presenting here.

    Üdv:
    Ádám

  229. Adam,

    Could you respond to my comment follow up?

    Thanks

  230. Erick,

    As I said in my previous comment (May 9, 9:10 am), unfortunately I will not be able to answer other comments beside Jason’s. Nor do I want to deviate from my focus on 1 John. You said many things that were far removed from the purpose of my comment. I hope you are not offended. I have a very limited amount of time to spend on this website. Thanks for your understanding.

    Brandon,

    I’m glad you found my thoughts helpful. I’m encouraged. God bless you!

  231. Adam,

    I apologize for not writing directly on I john,
    But I did write much material that I believe undoes your use of the early Christians, so much so that it calls into question your understanding of 1 john.

  232. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    This is no mystery at all, but rather a band aid on an otherwise untenable position. It is entirely question begging and seeks to prove what it already assumes. Sorry, you’re going to have to try much harder than that if you want to convince anyone.

    I think that you need to follow the train of the argumentation more closely. I offered Incarno-Sacramentalism as the Catholic solution for the Tu Quoque argument that you claimed “tied the noose around the neck” of Mateo’s argument. Whether or not you think it is a good or convincing solution is a secondary issue.

    Regardless, this does show that the Catholic Sacramental Economy is intimately consonant with Incarnation. This doesn’t necessarily make it true, of course, but it does show a homogeneity and dynamic holism to our paradigm which is absent from all of the Protestant variations of a Disincarnate Economy.

  233. The fact that “Scripture did not speak by itself” or that interpretation comes through the “mediation of the Church” of that it is interpreted “in the context of the regula fidei” is completely irrelevant to what I said. What I said was that your assertion that Scripture was being used by Athanasius as an independent authority based on its “clear” or “plain” or “evident” teaching,whether or not interpreted in the context of the Church, is nonsense.

    Jonathan,

    Let me remind you of the fact that you were responding to me, rather than the other way around (see our first interaction in your response yesterday at 7:06am). What I said about the “mediation of the Church” etc was part of MY point which you were responding to. And yes it is relevant. You are confused because you don’t understand my point.

    But let me try again to explain it to you. Whenever a theologian appeals to Scripture there is a basic interpretative framework through which Scripture is interpreted. That was true of Athanasius, it was true of both Roman Catholics and Protestants at the time of the Reformation, it is true of Catholics and Protestants today. We all ascribe to a regula fidei, a system of truth given to all believers for judging faith and practice. But again, no I was not saying that Athanasius was using Scripture as an “independent authority.” He was judging what the Scripture said through the lens of tradition. We all have traditions and we all view Scripture (and tradition) through that lens. None of us can escape this. Nobody looks at Scripture independently. Both Catholic and Protestant hold to a regula fidei (although this term is not used today to the degree that it was in the Early Church). The point I was making was first that for Athanasius the regula fidei did not include judging matters of religion through a Church which was Roman or infallible. Just stating that Athanasius adhered to the regula fidei does not say anything we don’t already agree with. But where we don’t agree is what the elements of this rule of faith are, nor what the ECF’s understood them to be, nor how these elements were formed in the minds of the ECF’s. I’ll quote Robert here:

    The problem for Roman Catholics is the regula fidei was essentially the Apostles Creed, all of which can be drawn from Scripture and, incidentally, does not include all of the later Roman accretions such as penance, ecclesiastical infallibility, the hyper-dulia of Mary, and more.

    Robert here speaks to the matter at hand, but you don’t. If you would like to address our issues you will tell us 1) what the regula fidei in Athanasius’ works, 2) how he knew it, and 3) what part Scripture played in forming it. It would be nice if you gave us a primary source.

    And contrary to your assertions, Athanasius judges *by* the regula fidei, the authoritative Tradition; he does not allow the regula fidei to be judged by Scripture.

    Please give me a quote from Athanasius to justify this belief of yours. I don’t know where you are getting this from.

    then you go completely off the reservation with this wild argument that it “wasn’t going to do any good” for Athanasius to argue from tradition, which would have been news to Athanasius given that is exactly what he did. Then you make the preposterous assertion that instead of doing what he did, he in fact did the exact opposite, which was to appeal to the “clear and evident meaning of Scripture” to judge between competing tradition claims

    Again I don’t know where you are getting this from in the Athanasian corpus. Tell me what Athanasius “did” in his own words, not yours. Please give me a quote and we can go from there.

    My response to Jason was addressed to his point on the Trinity so I thought that Athanasius would be a good place to start. The source that I am using from Athanasius is his discourses to the Arians. We can start with Discourse 1. Athanasius has a general methodology of hitting the Arians with many Scriptures which he feels are relevant and then telling the Arians that they are ignoring the plain meaning of Scripture. If you want me to pull out a full quote I will do so, but I really don’t think you will have to read far before you find an instance of what I’m referring to.

    I don’t think it’s worth going further in your comment until I understand what your source is.

  234. @Burton / BVBURKHOLDER May 10, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Your last post to me was quite helpful. I think we were talking past each other on the orthodoxy/heresy thing. I’m happy to use the language of “wrong belief” and “true belief” or “Biblical belief”. This is what I meant by those terms.

    Good. Dropping the authority thing and moving it over to objective public standards is huge progress towards the biblical frame.

    The question still remains. Do the five solas represent “true belief”? If, after both of us read the Bible, we come to different conclusions regarding regarding the five solas, whose belief is right and whose is heretical or wrong?

    Ah. Let me splice this into two questions:

    a) Are the 5 solas presupposed by Protestantism?
    b) Are the 5 solas intrinsic to the bible outside a Protestant read?

    (a) is yes, (b) is no. In other words I think it is entirely possibly you could come to a different conclusion regard the five solas. But once you do that, you aren’t talking Protestantism anymore. There are non-Protestant frameworks which read the bible without the five solas: for example Gnosticism and Judaism which allow you to read the bible and reject Protestant ways of understanding. Protestants assert the five solas are obvious from the bible, but they are only obvious from the bible if you start off reading it like a Protestant.

    So you are facing a fork here in the conversation. We can talk about stepping outside the framework to a place where Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Gnosticism… all sit by side and trying to use: bible, reason, experience and tradition to decide between them. But that is not Protestantism it comes before Protestantism.

    Alternatively we can assume a Protestant read and the five solas and discuss Protestantism. But we can’t discuss Protestantism holding the five solas in a grey state. Those are axiomatic within Protestantism and only debatable outside it.

    Your first several paragraphs regarding the roles of priest, prophet, scribe etc don’t address this, or maybe I just don’t understand how you are connecting those dots. Your statement that God is the ultimately the authority on true doctrine is true, but also doesn’t address this question. So we objectively test who has right belief and who has wrong by reading Luther and “good Protestant sources”? Can you not see the inherent subjectivity of your criteria? Why not read Aquinas and several reputable Catholic sources instead?

    The question originally was how to determine the right statement of the five solas. And for that (oversimplifying here and in the other examples) Luther is the defining source. If you wanted to look at the doctrine of the original sin then for that Augustine is the defining source. If you want a source on the doctrine of the man’s intellegence’s relationship with Supreme intelligence than Aquinas is the source.

    a) What is the right statement of doctrine X?
    b) Is doctrine X biblical?

    (a) can be determined by the human authors of the doctrine. It is essentially a historical question. (b) is a theological question. And than needs to be determined by checking the doctrine against the bible. And that’s objective neither Luther nor Aquinas nor Augustine is a source (assuming you do not believe any of them to be prophets).

    You state that God defines heresy through Scripture. OK. Should we use the Protestant canon or the RCC/EO canon?

    That’s an entirely different question. That’s how to find legitimate prophets which is entirely different process than now to interpret prophets. That means that God outlines for deciding on a prophet is:

    a) They must see visions of things they could not know. Especially future unpredictable events.
    b) These must all be true.
    c) They must not be preaching to encourage you to worship other Gods.

    You unless you choose to yield your authority are obligated to pick a canon based on that criteria. That is totally unrelated to the heresy / orthodoxy question for the reasons you are hinting at. God wants to avoid the circularity. Prophets authenticate scripture they don’t authenticate themselves against scripture. The question of the canon is the question of which prophets you believe meet that above criteria.

  235. I’m having a hard time believing that I am having a debate in the 21st century with people who think “Athanasius contra mundum” could be taken literally. Do you also think that St. Jerome’s statement that “the world woke up and groaned to find itself Arian” literally meant that the entire world was Arian as well? The emperor was coopted by the Arians, so the political force of the empire was deployed against the orthodox. That’s all it means. There was a significant orthodox counter-party, maybe not as ubiquitous “on the ground” as John Henry Newman thought it was, but it certainly was more than one man.

    Turning rather wearily to the points at hand…

    @Jason L.:

    But I don’t *equate* being with nature (I don’t hold to a western triadology), and by extension I do not reduce God’s power (energies) to His essence. Hence I do *not* affirm that it was necessary for God’s existence and to create and act in creation.

    Natures do not act; they don’t do anything. Only Persons *do*. This is something I know you’d be familiar with from your interaction over at Energies of the Trinity.

    Actus purus is a Western account of the divine nature (which the East rejects, by the way). In other words, the account I quoted confused nature and person in exactly the way you say that you aren’t. I think you just don’t understand, and it is hard to have a debate with someone who doesn’t understand the concepts.

    How is the Athanasian dictum “God became man so that man can become God” compatible then with the RC theology of merit? The RC understanding of penance includes temporal liability/ debt. If Athanasius held to penance as the 2nd plank of justification and the EO claim him as an Eastern father, why then do the EO reject the notion of temporal liability?

    The divinized will is righteous and can do righteous and meritorious acts. That is the same East and West. Temporal punishment has nothing to do with anything. Again, both East and West believe in penance as being necessary, but the East tends to view it more as “rehab” for the will, where the West views it in terms of a debt to divine justice. Some people make a big deal of that difference, but it didn’t seem to be in the fourth century. Anyway, both East and West agree, as against Protestantism, that those in a state of communion with Christ can do acts that are meritorious.

    But the later Augustine was different from the early Augustine. He changed his mind. Does this indicate the existence of a Magisterium? When Augustine changed his mind on grace and free will, why didn’t appeal to the Magisterium? Why instead it was the study of Scripture independent of the Magisterium? Appeal was made to the church fathers before him but again no Magisterium as in infallible pronouncements. Where is the magisterial document? Do writings of the church fathers possess magisterial authority by themselves? Furthermore, why did Pope Zosimus waver, change his mind??

    Again, if Augustine acted with magisterial authority, why are his teachings on gratuitous predestination, the salvific will of God not accorded infallible status?

    I was talking about Athansius, not Augustine. But in the same way, Augustine appealed to Rome to settle a dispute with other bishops. In the case with Pope Zosimus, Pelagius and Caelestius lied to him. Augustine pointed that they misrepresented what they actually taught, and Zosimus condemned their actual doctrine. Infallibility doesn’t entail a magical ability to read people’s hearts about what they believe, and it doesn’t prevent popes from being misled. Same thing happened with Pope Honorius and Sergius but with even worse consequences, so serious that the unrepentant Honorius was later condemned as a heretic.

    Anyway, so long as you don’t contradict the Magisterium, you don’t have to appeal to them to resolve every issue. You can speculate all you want as long as you don’t set out to contradict what they have said, which neither Athanasius nor Augustine ever did. Both appealed to the Pope and were vindicated. Had they, like St. Cyprian, set themselves against the Pope after they were rebuked, that would have been wrong.

    After all, Augustine’s teaching on grace and free-will precisely has unconditional predestination and the selected giving of perseverance at its *core.* To decline or deny this is precisely to distort his teachings.

    As I said, Catholics are free to believe in unconditional predestination. It’s a speculative belief, not dogmatic, so it isn’t essential either to Augustine’s dogmatic beliefs or to the Church’s. Predestination is a peripheral issue, not a core belief.

    But that’s not the issue (here). It cannot be denied that Augustine himself would have contended against the *synergism* of the RC.

    Predestination has nothing to do with synergism. Those are entirely separate issues. Augustine was a monergist with respect to conversion of the will, but a synergist with respect to salvation through the Sacraments.

    Heck, even the controversy over de Auxiliis controversy between the Dominicans and the Jesuits in the early 17th century were fierce enough.

    What about Jansenism? Jansenius produced copious quotations from Augustine’s works that were eventually condemned by RCC. Why didn’t the RCC tolerate Jansenism? After all, the papacy or even magisterial authority of the Magisterium weren’t disputed. The Jansenists saw themselves as faithful to the Catholic tradition(!) and rejected Calvinism.

    And they were not resolved, precisely because the issue is not dogmatic. The Jansenists were condemned for going beyond Augustine (and the Banezian Thomists) by denying not only the ability of will to reject grace (which is fine; that’s just unconditional election) but even the necessity for the will to act synergistically at all. That went too far, even though it did not go to the ridiculous extremes of Calvinism.

    Why then does Augustine had the habit of referring the sacramental species of bread (and wine) to the *mystical* body of the Church?! This implies some disjunction between the historical literal corporeal Body of Our Lord and the Mystical Body of the Church??

    It implies a disjunction only in your mind, where “mystical” apparently isn’t “real.”

    It’s no wonder that Jesuit scholar Francis Clark argued that Augustine held to a spiritual interpretation of the real presence in Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation. Hence, there is a strong plausibility and reasonable grounds for Protestants who do not hold to a real presence to claim Augustine as an authority. The issue therefore is not decisively settled.

    Likewise, the disjunction between “spiritual” and “real” is in your mind. Clark also concludes that Augustine had Christ as sacrifice in the liturgy, which differs from the later Catholic belief only in metaphysical technicality.

    Read J Patout Burns’s Augustine’s doctrine of operative grace. Burns as you’d know is a RC scholar. No one is saying that the grace of regeneration necessarily entailed the grace of perseverance. But that his teaching of the grace of perseverance is NOT compatible with RC doctrine of POST-baptismal justification.

    How does Augustine’s undoubted teaching that not all the baptised receive the GIFT of perseverance compatible with synergism? The gift of perseverance is co-related with the gratuitous predestination, is it not? Gratuitous predestination implies monergism so that even those baptised non-elect do not play any part in their justification or conversion

    It’s been a while since I’ve read Burns, but even with that rather distant recollection, I wonder who you thought you were reading. Gratuitous predestination by no means implies monergism or that the baptised non-elect do not play any part in their justification or conversion. It means that they play no part in inclining their will to do the things that bring them to justification, not that they do not act to bring their justification. Monergistic grace leads to synergistic action, by which the person is saved, as opposed to monergistic grace itself working salvation (this was the error of the Jansenists that they shared with the Calvinists).

    Augustine believed that the will could do nothing to will towards its salvation without grace, but with grace, it absolutely could work towards its salvation as well as to do meritorious acts. The same is true of the gift of final perserverance; if one fell away, then grace could cause the will to do what is necessary to come back to the faith (confession and penance), so that one would not fall away permanently. Perhaps the best evidence is that Augustine explicitly says the opposite of what you say here:
    Let, then, the damnable source be rebuked, that from the mortification of rebuke may spring the will of regeneration—if, indeed, he who is rebuked is a child of promise—in order that, by the noise of the rebuke sounding and lashing from without, God may by His hidden inspiration work in him from within to will also. If, however, being already regenerate and justified, he relapses of his own will into an evil life, assuredly he cannot say, “I have not received,” because of his own free choice to evil he has lost the grace of God, that he had received. And if, stung with compunction by rebuke, he wholesomely bewails, and returns to similar good works, or even better, certainly here most manifestly appears the advantage of rebuke. But yet for rebuke by the agency of man to avail, whether it be of love or not, depends only upon God.
    On Rebuke and Grace Ch. 9

    St. Augustine thus believes in a second “will of regeneration” for those who have lost the grace of God they previously had. While either type of rebuke “depends only upon God” to prevail, the latter no less than the former, the will toward regeneration thereby produced also acts to produce that regeneration.

    In short, I don’t think you understand the difference between monergistic grace (which unconditional election affirms) and monergistic salvation, which is both condemned by Catholicism and rejected by Augustine. If you can’t get that basic distinction, then we’re going to spin our wheels for a long, long time. I have no interest in that exercise. Hence, the question: does Augustine believe that the acts of the will in receiving the Sacraments are necessary for salvation? The answer is yes. Does he also believe that the grace inclining the will to act is an unconditional grace? Again, the answer is yes. Those positions are entirely consistent, and many Catholics hold them as well.

  236. Actus purus is a Western account of the divine nature (which the East rejects, by the way). In other words, the account I quoted confused nature and person in exactly the way you say that you aren’t. I think you just don’t understand, and it is hard to have a debate with someone who doesn’t understand the concepts.

    Are you saying that I CAN’T use the term, actus purus in a different way as understood in Western scholasticism?!?! You might as well say that Protestants can’t use the term justification too …

  237. The divinized will is righteous and can do righteous and meritorious acts. That is the same East and West. Temporal punishment has nothing to do with anything. Again, both East and West believe in penance as being necessary, but the East tends to view it more as “rehab” for the will, where the West views it in terms of a debt to divine justice. Some people make a big deal of that difference, but it didn’t seem to be in the fourth century. Anyway, both East and West agree, as against Protestantism, that those in a state of communion with Christ can do acts that are meritorious.

    Sure. It remains the fact that the EO reject temporal debt and by extension purgatory as unscriptural and contrary to the consensus partum. IOW, it has no place in Tradition. That is, the EO’s understanding of penance is SIGNIFICANTLY different from the RC’s. How do you explain the “discrepancy”??

  238. was talking about Athansius, not Augustine. But in the same way, Augustine appealed to Rome to settle a dispute with other bishops. In the case with Pope Zosimus, Pelagius and Caelestius lied to him. Augustine pointed that they misrepresented what they actually taught, and Zosimus condemned their actual doctrine. Infallibility doesn’t entail a magical ability to read people’s hearts about what they believe, and it doesn’t prevent popes from being misled. Same thing happened with Pope Honorius and Sergius but with even worse consequences, so serious that the unrepentant Honorius was later condemned as a heretic.

    Anyway, so long as you don’t contradict the Magisterium, you don’t have to appeal to them to resolve every issue. You can speculate all you want as long as you don’t set out to contradict what they have said, which neither Athanasius nor Augustine ever did. Both appealed to the Pope and were vindicated. Had they, like St. Cyprian, set themselves against the Pope after they were rebuked, that would have been wrong.

    You might be confusing between speculation as a technical term to refer to a theology or theological system in which the divine will, decrees as a shorthand is transparent (in the abstract though not necessarily knowable concretely). Hence, Augustine’s doctrine of predestination is a type of speculative theology. But that did not mean that Augustine considered predestination as speculation in the pejorative or colloquial sense. He believed predestination as he taught in to be the very teaching of St Paul himself and of course of Our Lord. So, predestination is at the core of Augustine’s belief and this shows that the Magisterium did not follow Augustine in this regard – which is to say, Augustine’s CORE teachings CONTRADICT the Magisterium’s (even if it is put ever so anachronistically).

  239. If I may add, core teachings which Augustine regarded as none other than the teachings of the CATHOLIC faith itself.

  240. Predestination has nothing to do with synergism. Those are entirely separate issues. Augustine was a monergist with respect to conversion of the will, but a synergist with respect to salvation through the Sacraments.

    Then what’s Augustine’s GIFT of perseverance which is given ONLY to the elect (i.e. the predestined) all about?

  241. @Robert:
    Your bluffs don’t impress me. If you have the cards in terms of historical evidence, then show them. I’ve got a couple hundred books on Church history sitting on my bookshelves, and I’m not afraid to call out people who haven’t read them.

    This quote is simply absurd. How do we know that Augustine and Athanasius condemned and rejected the distinctive beliefs of Protestantism? There was no Protestantism in their day, just as their was no Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

    You’re calling my quote absurd in the context of a line like that? Athanasius and Augustine (*gasp*) had beliefs. Protestants also have beliefs. Athanasius and Augustine had beliefs, which we have adequate historical evidence for concluding that they held irrespective of our religious commitements and which contradicted the Protestant beliefs.

    Corruption inherited from Augustine and Athanasius? So it’s their fault that the bishops were buying and selling their offices during the medieval period. It’s their fault that so many of the popes were fathering children illegitimately

    No. I mentioned specifically the beliefs that you would call idolatry, like the Sacrifice of the Mass, veneration of idols and prayer to saints. They contradicted both sola fide and sola gratia by their views on the efficacy of the Sacraments. By your lights, they (or their predecessors) originated this corruption that Catholicism only inherited.

    This is particularly rich:

    There’s a reason why we say Athanasius Contra Mundum. It’s because he was virtually the only voice speaking against the Arianism that reared its head in the visible catholic church, the same visible catholic church that is supposed to protect me from error because of its infallibility, after Nicea.

    It is indeed rich to be “corrected” on history by someone who takes a hagiographic slogan seriously. There’s a nice book on the history of the Arian conflict pointing out that this isn’t literally true that was only written over one hundred years ago by John Henry Newman. Perhaps you should pick it up sometime. Or read Ayres, T.D. Barnes, Hanson, Kopecek, Purvis, or basically anyone who has written a history of the Arian conflict in the last century. And for the record, as Sean and I both pointed out, nobody, Catholic or otherwise, thinks that Nicaea settled the Arian controversy or that Magisterial authority automatically settles and resolves all disputes.

    Andrew is right about Scripture being interpreted in light of the regula fidei. The problem for Roman Catholics is the regula fidei was essentially the Apostles Creed, all of which can be drawn from Scripture and, incidentally, does not include all of the later Roman accretions such as penance, ecclesiastical infallibility, the hyper-dulia of Mary, and more.

    We would make progress if Protestants would even believe by faith that the Apostles Creed was infallible. Unfortunately, you won’t even admit that, meaning that you hold that it could also be false (infallibility not being admissible to degrees). That is not faith; it’s opinion.

    Athanasius believed in penance; that was absolutely universal in the Church. Athanasius believe in ecclesiastical infallibility. He believed that the regula fidei was infallible, and he did not believe that the regula fidei was exclusive of other beliefs taught in Tradition. Athanasius believed in reverence for the Holy Virgin above all saints. The things you cite as “accretions” were all things that Athanasius believed by faith, so you’re not really helping your case. And those are historical facts; you just need to read the literature. As I said, you would be better off if you just said that Athanasius was corrupt, just like all the other bishops of his time, and that his corruption spawned the corruption of the Catholic Church. If you would at least accuse Athanasius of the same corruption, then we could have an honest discussion.

    The Reformers problem with the medieval Western Church, one of them at least, was that the church had ceased to read Scripture in light of the regula fidei. Calvin, Luther, et al attempted their best to reestablish that practice. The rest of the Western church did not. Hence, the birth of Roman Catholicism in the sixteenth century.

    And there’s the conspiracy theory. It’s like clockwork.

    The early church fathers were not Protestants, Roman Catholics, or Eastern Orthodox. For you to read them as if they were is intellectually dishonest and not credible history. No thoughtful Protestant would say that Athanasius et al were Protestants, or that we hold everything in common with them. We believe, of course, that the church needs to be Reformed, and these men did as well, for we do not have them setting the church above Scripture or proclaiming its infallibility. Whether they came to all the same conclusions we have is another issue.

    How about the fact that they held as essential articles of faith doctrines that you consider corruptions? “Thoughtful Protestants” knife the Fathers in the back when it comes to those beliefs for not being Apostolic, never mind that they were considered by the Fathers to be necessary and true consequences of their entire theological system. When it comes to the Fathers, “thoughtful Protestants” turn into the liberals that they really are at heart. And that’s all your position is here: pure liberalism. The truth of patristic theology doesn’t matter at all to you; the fact that it contradicts what you believe in doesn’t matter. That’s why theology being principled as opposed to opinion matters; the contrary means that you are a theological liberal, so you pick and choose what suits you. The denominational coherence within Protestantism is no surprise at all; you simply cluster with those who share your opinion in the same way that liberals always do.

    In the main, however, if Athanasius and Augustine were alive today, they would laugh at papal infallibility, ecclesiastical infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, the Bodily Assumption of Mary, and a host of other Roman beliefs. They would hold a stronger view of the real presence than many professing Protestants, but not a stronger view than confessional Anglicans, and one that Reformed confessionalists could, in the main, affirm. They certainly would not be teaching Transubstantiation. And they would certainly be decrying the Roman attempt to hide the sex abuse scandal from the world.

    I would surely hope and expect that they would decry the attempt to hide the sex abuse scandal from the world. It was absolutely disgraceful. Given that both Athanasius and Augustine appealed to Rome and to councils to resolve theological disputes, I would not expect them to laugh at themselves. I do appreciate your use of liberal weasel words like “in the main” for beliefs you can’t actually stomach to give the appearance of broad-mindedness though. It would be idolatry if Catholics said it, but consistency and liberalism have never been all that great of friends. As to not teaching transubstantiation, they were so close to it that I don’t see what objection they would have raised, nor do I find any in their writings. But as long as you’re making things up without evidence, I suppose that is not much of a consideration.

    We know with “excrutiating detail” what these men believed and one thing is for sure: They were not Roman Catholics or Protestants. Things that later developed into BOTH of these traditions are present in both men. That’s not a problem for us, since we believe Scripture is the final authority. For Romanists who like to pretend the fathers were united on Roman doctrines, however, it is a big problem. Sola Ecclesia, however, demands it.

    That doesn’t even make sense. If we were truly sola ecclesia, then we wouldn’t care about this any more than you would. Nor is this even about Catholic versus Protestant. It is about the historical fact of the contradiction between the beliefs of these men and your beliefs. If you really believe that it’s not a problem for you, then denounce them. Call them the heretics they were; reject their corruptions and accuse them of teaching another Gospel. Say that they stubbornly resisted the authority of Scripture, even though they claimed to follow it, just as you would to Catholics.

    The problem is that you know in your guts that you need a patrimony and admitting that would mean that you didn’t have one. Even you crave that tradition, no matter how much you claim you don’t need it.

    Jason, Bryan, Jonathan, and the other Roman Catholic apologists on this blog who have been posting in the comments are like the tailor in the Emperor’s New Clothes and the Protestants are like the little kid at the end. In this case, the tailor wants the kid to make a positive argument for why his clothing made of cotton thread is sufficient to protect him from the elements while trying to keep the kid from pointing out that the emperor whom the tailor is supposed to have clothed is naked. I will not buy it, nor will any thoughtful Protestant.

    What I have been discussing here is purely a matter of history. I am not making an argument for Catholicism based on history. I am not saying that Augustine or Athanasius were Catholics. I am simply standing up for their beliefs, not mine. In response, you have cited a hagiographic slogan and a conspiracy theory as if they were facts, and you have not given any serious credence to the theological beliefs of these men. I agree that one of us is trying to hide from something.

  242. Likewise, the disjunction between “spiritual” and “real” is in your mind. Clark also concludes that Augustine had Christ as sacrifice in the liturgy, which differs from the later Catholic belief only in metaphysical technicality.

    The issue is of course not the eucharistic sacrifice but the real presence. If as you concede that Augustine differ from the later (i.e. medieval catholic) belief in metaphysical technicality, that’s highly significant isn’t it? The Caroline divines held to an eucharistic sacrifice which was based on Augustine’s. Hence it is not surprising that despite a very high view of the sacrifice – that is which goes beyond the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, they nonetheless held to a “spiritual” presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

  243. Jonathan,

    How can salvation be both monergistic *and* synergistic when Augustine *denied* that the GIFT of perseverance is given to *all*?!?!

    Let me quote from Augustine (On the Gift of Perseverance – Addressed to Prosper and Hilary in reply to their letter. A.D. 428 or 429):

    Chapter 33.–God Gives Both Initiatory AND Persevering Grace According to HIS Own Will.

    “From all which it is shown with sufficient clearness that the grace of God, which both begins a man’s faith and which enables it to persevere unto the end, is NOT given according to our MERITS , but is given according to His own most SECRET and at the same time most righteous, wise, and beneficent will; since those whom He predestinated, them He also called, [Rom viii. 30] with that calling of which it is said, “The gifts and calling of God are WITHOUT repentance.” [Rom. xi. 29] To which calling there is no man that can be said by men with any certainty of affirmation to belong, until he has departed from this world; but in this life of man, which is a state of trial upon the earth, [Job vii. 1] he who seems to stand must take heed lest he fall. [1 Cor. x. 12] Since (as I have already said before) [above, ch. xiv] those who will not persevere are, by the most foreseeing will of God, mingled with those who will persevere, for the reason that we may learn not to mind high things, but to consent to the lowly, and may “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” [Phil. ii. 12, 13] We therefore will, but God worketh in us to will also. We therefore work, but God worketh in us to work also for His good pleasure. This is profitable for us both to believe and to say,–this is pious, this is true, that our confession be lowly and submissive, and that all should be given to God. Thinking, we believe; thinking, we speak; thinking, we do whatever we do; [2 Cor. iii. 5] but, in respect of what concerns the way of piety and the true worship of God, we are not sufficient to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. [Ambrose, On Flight from the World, ch. 1] For “our heart and our thoughts are not in our own power;” whence the same Ambrose who says this says also: “But who is so blessed as in his heart always to rise upwards? And how can this be done without divine help? Assuredly, by no means. Finally,” he says, “the same Scripture affirms above, `Blessed is the man whose help is of Thee; O Lord, [Ps. lxxxiv. 5 (LXX)] ascent is in his heart.’” [LXX: “In his heart he has purposed to go up.”] Assuredly, Ambrose was not only enabled to say this by reading in the holy writings, but as of such a man is to be without doubt believed, he felt it also in his own heart. Therefore, as is said in the sacraments of believers, that we should lift up our hearts to the Lord, is God’s gift; for which gift they to whom this is said are admonished by the priest after this word to give thanks to our Lord God Himself; and they answer that it is “meet and right so to do.” For, since our heart is not in our own power, but is lifted up by the divine help, so that it ascends and takes cognizance of those things which are above, [Col. iii. 1] where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, and, not those things that are upon the earth, to whom are thanks to be given for so great a gift as this unless to our Lord God who doeth this,–who in so great kindness has chosen us by delivering us from the abyss of this world, and has predestinated us before the foundation of the world?”

  244. @Andrew M.:

    Again I don’t know where you are getting this from in the Athanasian corpus. Tell me what Athanasius “did” in his own words, not yours. Please give me a quote and we can go from there.

    My response to Jason was addressed to his point on the Trinity so I thought that Athanasius would be a good place to start. The source that I am using from Athanasius is his discourses to the Arians. We can start with Discourse 1. Athanasius has a general methodology of hitting the Arians with many Scriptures which he feels are relevant and then telling the Arians that they are ignoring the plain meaning of Scripture. If you want me to pull out a full quote I will do so, but I really don’t think you will have to read far before you find an instance of what I’m referring to.

    I don’t think it’s worth going further in your comment until I understand what your source is.

    I’ve got a much better idea. How about you come up with one or more reliable secondary sources who support your belief, and then maybe we can get to the interpretive biases that are (somehow) turning Athanasius’s texts into prooftexts for sola scriptura. I’d suggest T.D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius for the purely historical, Peter Widdicombe’s The Fatherhood of God from Origen to Athanasius for the Alexandrian background of Athanasius’s theology, and Khaled Anatolios’s Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought to understand the theological considerations that drove his theological method. If you come out of those three thinking that Scripture is driving Athanasius as the “final arbiter” for doctrinal controversies, rather than Athanasius’s fundamental theological convictions received in his theological tradition, then I’m not sure how. If you have anything to back up your claims to the contrary, let’s see that and not some exercise in prooftexting.

  245. @Jason L.:

    You might be confusing between speculation as a technical term to refer to a theology or theological system in which the divine will, decrees as a shorthand is transparent (in the abstract though not necessarily knowable concretely). Hence, Augustine’s doctrine of predestination is a type of speculative theology. But that did not mean that Augustine considered predestination as speculation in the pejorative or colloquial sense. He believed predestination as he taught in to be the very teaching of St Paul himself and of course of Our Lord. So, predestination is at the core of Augustine’s belief and this shows that the Magisterium did not follow Augustine in this regard – which is to say, Augustine’s CORE teachings CONTRADICT the Magisterium’s (even if it is put ever so anachronistically).

    I know what speculative theology is. Augustine was reasoning from what St. Paul said to a particular explanation in terms of divine causality (hence, speculative). That explanation is acceptable in Catholicism, but the truth of its premises are neither so clear nor so certain that they can be said to be dogmatic. On the contrary, many Catholics dispute them, although no Catholic denies predestination, which is a matter of dogma. The only speculative matter is the exact mechanism by which this predestination occurs, and as I said, I’m not sure that there even can be a compelling articulation of that mechanism.

    How can salvation be both monergistic *and* synergistic when Augustine *denied* that the GIFT of perseverance is given to *all*?!?!

    Because we remain prone to sin even after regeneration, so that it still requires support from God to avoid falling into sin and out of grace, even though this is the result of our own will. It’s been described as a statistical certainty, rather like walking on a tightrope without assistance. There may be a question about how many steps you will get out across the wire, but there is no question you’re not going to remain balanced, so you will eventually fall. Hence, God still has to maintain the will from falling even after it is regenerated, and if one is chosen to have the gift of final perserverance, to provide the grace to confession and penance if one falls. For Augustine, grace unto salvation is a continual gift from God; He gives not only the grace of regeneration but maintains this grace all the way to the end. And he understood this to be the Pauline teaching as well.

  246. The elect are predestined to be eternally assumed into Christ, as He was predestined to be assumed into God the Son

    On the Predestination of the Saints and the Reprobation of the Invincibly Ignorant:

    “Saint Augustine illustrated his vision of the predestination of the elect by comparing it with the predestination of Christ. As He was predestined according to His human nature to be God the Son, assumed into the Son and One Person with Him, even so, the elect are predestined to be assumed into the Mystical Body of the Son, which is the Church. Both predestinations are wholly gratuitous on the part of God, His giving of a Christ for salvation, and His application of that to the elect.”

    It is clear that Augustinian predestination EXCLUDES synergism – this is incompatible with RC synergism. And it is also clear that Augustine made a *distinction* between the Church as the mystical Body and the historical Body of the Son. Hence his habitual reference to the Mystical Body in the Lord’s Supper (as an *initiation* rite alongside Baptism).

  247. Predestination is the preparation of God’s gratuitous gifts whereby the elect are eternally assumed in Christ

    “Therefore God’s predestination of good is, as I have said, the preparation of grace; which grace is the EFFECT of that predestination. Therefore when God promised to Abraham in his seed the faith of the nations, saying, “I have established thee a father of many nations,” whence the apostle says, “Therefore it is of faith, that the promise, according to grace, might be established to all the seed,” He promised not from the power of our will but from His own predestination. For He promised what He Himself would do, not what men would do. Because, although men do those good things which pertain to God’s worship, He Himself makes them to do what He has commanded; it is not they that cause Him to do what He has promised. Otherwise the fulfilment of God’s promises would not be in the power of God, but in that of men; and thus what was promised by God to Abraham would be given to Abraham by men themselves. Abraham, however, did not believe thus, but “he believed, giving glory to God, that what He promised He is able also to do.” He does not say, “to foretell”–he does not say, “to foreknow;” for He can foretell and foreknow the doings of strangers also; but he says, “He is able also to do;” and thus he is speaking not of the doings of others, but of His own.”

  248. Augustine’s undoubted and indubitable Catholic teaching (not followed by the Magisterium and RCC):

    “This is the predestination of the saints,–nothing else; to wit, the foreknowledge and the preparation of God’s kindnesses, whereby they are most certainly delivered, whoever they are that are delivered. But where are the rest left by the righteous divine judgment except in the mass of ruin, where the Tyrians and the Sidonians were left? who, moreover, might have believed if they had seen Christ’s wonderful miracles. But since it was not given to them to believe, the means of believing also were denied them. […] But what the Lord said of the Tyrians and Sidonians may perchance be understood in another way: that no one nevertheless comes to Christ unless it were given him, and that it is given to those who are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, he confesses beyond a doubt who hears the divine utterance. […] Because, “To you,” said He, “it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” Of these, the one refers to the mercy, the other to the judgment of Him to whom our soul cries, “I will sing of mercy and judgment unto Thee, O Lord.” (The Gift of Perseverance, 35)

  249. I couldn’t cope and paste quotations from Burn’s PhD thesis not least because it was scanned and hence requires a optical character recognition (OCR) tool for copying and pasting.

    A couple of points as a summary of Burn’s (not necessarily in any order of sequence):

    1. Augustine clearly teaches that God’s will to save is limited only to the elect and the elect alone. This means also – and Augustine clearly teaches also (as a co-relation) that God’s will therefore cannot be resisted or frustrated. This excludes SYNERGISM. Rome therefore is rejecting its own *infallible* teaching by refusal to counterbalance, neutralise, weaken, marginalise, suppress synergism since the “10th century.”

    2. Not all baptised are given the gift of faith except only the elect. That is, Augustine also teaches that there can be a lack of coincidence between the external means and interior grace. There is no ex opera operato understood in the Roman sense.

    3. Burns states that the distinction between divine operation and cooperation does NOT describe *two* different forms of *grace (i.e. operative and co-operative grace as in Thomism) NOR does it assert the inter-dependent coordination of divine and human operations; instead it simply highlights the *simultaneity* of the divine activity with the human action which it effect. IOW, the distinction is not a *theological* description of the divine-human *relationship* but descriptive of the cause and effect of such a relationship (in the Christian life and experience), pp. 156-157.

    4. The only difference between the baptised elect and baptised non-elect is that the former is given the grace of perseverance and the latter is not.

    6. There is a (continuing) *development* in Augustine’s thinking on grace and free-will. Burns specifically mention that Augustine’s later writings lack “intransigent dogmatism.” Aside from the fact that Augustine changed his mind in later years, he also continued to refine his understanding – all of which does not indicate the existence of a Magisterium. Recall that the doctrine of absolute predestination lies at core Augustine’s thinking on grace and free-will.

    7. Recall also that Augustine developed his doctrine of absolute predestination in response to the *heresies* of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. That is, these two heresies were recognised as such in the context of gratuitous, efficacious and infallible(!) predestination propounded an explicit and mature form by Augustine. IOW, had there been no Augustine, Semi-Pelagianism (or some variant thereof) may have ended up as the default position of the Catholic Church vis-à-vis Pelagianism.

  250. Hi CD-Host,

    Yeah, I’m with Burton. I find your writing helpful as well. Glad you hang out with us in theology blogs.

    Regards,
    AB

  251. I’ve got a much better idea. How about you come up with one or more reliable secondary sources who support your belief, and then maybe we can get to the interpretive biases that are (somehow) turning Athanasius’s texts into prooftexts for sola scriptura.

    Now that’s an interesting admission Jonathan – you would rather have someone tell you what to believe about Athanasius then going directly to Athanasius himself. But of course there are all sorts of reliable secondary sources (i.e. Kelly, Oberman) that go into great detail on the way in which the ECF’s used Scripture to show how fundamentally different the ECF use of Scripture was to the use of Scripture by RCC Medieval scholars may years later. But what good does pitting one set of theologians/scholars against another? In the end you have to go back to the sources and read what the Father of interest actually said himself.

    I do not suggest for a moment that Athanasius made a direct appeal to sola scriptura. I’m just simply starting with the observation that Athanasius appeals to Scripture in a way that is unlike anything in the dogmatic theology of the RCC in later centuries. For Athanasius the regula fidei that he accepted and used did not rely on a Church that was either Roman or infallible.

    But again you are never going to understand how any of the Fathers viewed Scripture and tradition until you read what they have to say.

  252. I forgot to provide the link to Burn’s thesis …

    Here it is:

    http://www.romancatholicism.org/burns.pdf

  253. Augustine:

    “I assert, therefore, that the perseverance by which we persevere in Christ even to the end is the GIFT of God; and I call that the end by which is finished that life wherein alone there is peril of falling. […] And the believer of *one* year, or of a period as much *shorter* as may be conceived of, if he has lived faithfully until he died, has rather had THIS perseverance THAN the believer of many years’ standing, if a little time before his death he has fallen away from the steadfastness of his faith.” (The Gift of Perseverance 1)

    ““We see that many come to the Son because we see that many believe on Christ, but when and how they have heard this from the Father, and have learned, we see not. It is true that that grace is exceedingly secret, but who doubts that it is grace? This grace, therefore, which is hiddenly bestowed in human hearts by the Divine gift, is rejected by NO hard heart, because it is given for the sake of first taking away the hardness of the heart. When, therefore, the Father is heard within, and teaches, so that a man comes to the Son, He takes away the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh, as in the declaration of the prophet He has promised. Because He thus makes them children and vessels of mercy which He has *prepared* for glory.” (The Predestination of the Saints 13)

    Letter (194) to Sixtus
    “Who are these that reply to God, when He says to Rebecca, who had twin sons of one conception of Isaac our father, ‘when the children were not yet born nor had done any good or evil (that the purpose of God according to election might stand)-the election, namely, of grace not of merit, the election by which He does not find but makes elect-’that it was not of works but of him that calleth, that the elder should serve the younger’? To this sentence the blessed Apostle adds the testimony of a Prophet who came long afterward: ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated,’ to give us to understand plainly by the latter utterance what was hidden in the predestination of God by grace before they were born. For what did He love but the free gift of His mercy in Jacob, who had done nothing good before his birth? And what did He hate but original sin in Esau, who had done nothing evil before his birth? Surely, He would not have loved in the former a goodness which he had not practised, nor would He have hated in the latter a nature which He himself had created good.”\

    In another passage, the same Apostle shows most plainly that the election of grace is effected without any antecedent merits, when he says: ‘Even so, then, at this present time also, there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace. But if by grace it is not now by works, otherwise grace is no more grace.’ And applying thereupon the testimony of the Prophet to this grace, he says: ‘Jacob I have loved but Esau I have hated,’ and goes on to say: ‘What shall we say then? is there injustice with God? God forbid!’ But why ‘God forbid’? Was it because He foresaw the future deeds of the twins? God forbid this even more! ‘For he saith to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.’ So also in the case of the vessels which are fitted for destruction, a consequence of their doomed clay, let the vessels made of the same clay unto honor recognize what the divine mercy has bestowed on them. For he says: ‘The Scripture saith to Pharao: And therefore have I raised thee that I may show my power in thee and my name may be spoken of throughout all the earth.’ Finally, he concludes both passages with the words: ‘Therefore he has mercy on whom he will and whom he will he hardeneth.’”

  254. I’m cracking open Guido Stucco’s “God’s Eternal Gift” … looking at pp. 168-169 quoting from Pope Gregory in his Moralia (Book xxix):

    “Whence it is so ordered, that even the *abandoned* life of the reprobate benefits the life of the elect, and that while their ruin further(!) our interest, it is thus marvelously *ordained*, in order that even everything which is lost, may not be lost to the elect of God” (xxix, 37)

    Limited atonement?

    “The Lord sought this depth of the sea (i.e., the world) when He entered the lowest part of the pit (i.e. death) in order to rescue the souls of the elect” (xxix, 23)

    “As it is written, ‘I will harden the heart of Pharaoh.’ For because He refused to soften it, He *plainly* announced that He had *hardened it by His severity (xxix, 62).

  255. Jonathan,

    A post full of bluster does not help your case. You want me to believe there is direct continuity between modern Roman Catholicism and Augustine/Athanasius, and you’ve quoted nothing. And then you’ve commended the reading of secondary sources.

    If Nicea did not immediately solve the Arian question or was not immediately recognized as a infallible ecumenical council, that crushes Rome’s position.

    My point in Athanasius Contra Mundum is not that he was the only orthodox one. No one believes that. But the situation at the time was such that he might as well have been the only one. So much for your infallible college of bishops.

    Where do Athanasius and Augustine unambiguously affirm:

    1. The propitiatory nature of the sacrifice of the Mass
    2. The transformation of the elements a la transubstantiation
    3. The immaculate conception and bodily assumption of Mary
    4. The final authority of the Roman bishop

    Note that referring to the Eucharist as a sacrifice without any qualification won’t do, nor will any notion of the elements’ transformation, nor will just any high words of praise of Mary, nor will any mere citation of Rome’s position in order to prove an argument because:

    1. Though its not very common, Protestants can speak of the Eucharist as a sacrifice of praise
    2. Confessional Protestants, particularly those of a strong liturgical bent can affirm that something special happens when the Eucharist is celebrated (even Lutherans can confess a transformation of some kind, if I understand Lutherans properly, which is difficult)
    3. Though it is not very common because of the need to avoid idolatry in relation to Mary, Protestants can affirm that Mary was the most blessed woman who has ever lived. How could she not be?
    4. Protestants quote lesser authorities all the time in theological argumentation, even, gasp, the bishop of Rome.

    Note also that I do not know of one Protestant who would say that the Eucharist is not essential for salvation if, in fact, one is a professing Christian and has access to the sacrament. The sacrament, at the very least, is a command, and a willful, impentitent refusal to keep a command of the Christ demonstrates that one is actually not in a state of salvation. Furthermore, the Reformed, including me, believe God makes use of means in our perseverance and that not availing oneself of the means of grace threatens one’s perseverance (though not one’s election. The elect will persevere and those who persevere are the elect).

    What we deny is that the Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice, that it is essential as a grounds of our salvation (only Christ’s perfect righteousness satisfies God’s demands), that it has any salvific benefit apart from the individual’s active faith in Christ, and that God’s hands are so tied to it that He cannot save anyone apart from it.

    Augustine and Athanasius argue in ways that are forbidden if, in fact, the pontiff is primer inter pares and is infallible. They argue in ways that are impossible if the church is infallible. To call Athanasius and Augustine Protestant or Roman Catholic is extremely anachronistic. That is not a problem for Protestants. We believe the church is ever in need of reform. That two of the greatest leaders in the “unbroken” chain of church authorities back to the apostles held beliefs that are impossible for modern Rome to hold is a severe problem. Sola ecclesia means that you see the church as your final infallible authority, so if Rome says these men believed things that they didn’t, you must go with Rome. It prevents you from reading history except through secondary Roman sources, sources that even modern Rome would not necessarily accept.

    And as far as liberals, I’ll just point out once again that the Roman Catholic Church had a lesbian pagan teaching religion and theology for three decades at a Jesuit institution. You cannot find that in confessional Protestantism.

    Call us liberals all you want. I am quite confident that if you were to take my congregation and an average Roman Catholic parish and ask questions about the exclusivity of Christ, Bible content, and church history, your going to get more orthodox Christian answers than the Roman Catholic parish. In many ways, that’s not the laity’s fault. When you create a system that disincentivizes people to study but to take everything from Rome at face value, you’re going to get an uneducated laity that bows to the culture. Hence the vast numbers of nominal Roman Catholics in the world.

  256. CD host

    “ Let me give this process another name: Accurate history. “

    As accurate as your list of “second century” christian sects? One has to wonder.

    “ While what really happened is that:
    a) The Catholic Church split into at least 2 factions with both factions lasting for centuries and involving millions of people.?b) Prior to the split, the church not just the emperors swayed back and forth?c) There were councils that promoted Arian theology?d) These councils occurred after Nicea.
    In your 3 statements 4 major historical inaccuracies. So if by “mudding the waters” you mean not agreeing with unmitigated BS then I’m glad to muddle the waters. Protestants with whom you have argued are responding to your fictional history with accurate history. That’s not confusing the situation that’s telling the truth. Every claim you made in the above paragraph except for emperors swaying back and forth was false. The version of history you are proposing is as fictional as the Martian invasion of 1640 which led to the empire of Senegal. ”

    There you go again CD Host trying to make things much more murky than they really are. My assertion was that belief in AS made unity possible where as it would not have been without that belief as evidenced by the protestant chaos. My claim was not that AS eliminated controversy or diversity of theological opinion. Only that early belief in AS could effectively end said controversies and bring the Church together in a time where there was not even textual unity. Namely, through ecumenical councils. Post Nicea did the Arian controversy surge on for centuries and centuries involving millions and millions of people? NO. Nicea delivered what would be the decision of the Church in 325 and we see the effective end of Arianism at Constantinople with the creed of 381. Hardly centuries and centuries of struggle.Name for me one Catholic ecumenical council that promoted Arianism post Nicea. Was it Constantinople? Ephesus? Chalcedon? Please show me what ecumenical council promoted Arianism forcing the Church to sway back and forth? There isn’t one.

    “ We have maps of Arian Christianity they controlled huge areas of land for centuries and quite possibly a majority of the population. No one would ever have claimed that Catholicism was far and away the main form of Christianity for centuries after the Arian dispute.
    Going back further to 150 CE and before we have a diverse literary record for Christianity which shows a diversity of thought and sects not a Christianity unified around Catholicism If Catholicism existed at all in 150 CE. it certainly was a minority form of Christianity not the main form and absolutely not “far and away the main form ”.

    Early belief in AS wouldn’t have been helpful in the earliest stages of Arianism as there were validly ordained Bishops who sided with the Arians. This doesn’t effect my case in the slightest. Of course apostles could have disputes as could their successors. Thats not evidence against early belief in AS. What we should look to as evidence one way or the other is what happened after these bishops gathered at nicea and constantinople! Here I maintain that the Church (with some growing pains) united and the heresy was defeated. Something that would have been utterly impossible without an early belief in AS by the bishops themselves and also by their congregations.

    “ So what? This is the typical Catholic argument, asserting that everyone agreed with the Catholics on everything once you exclude everyone who didn’t agree. That ain’t selling here. All Christians being united means everyone who confesses Christ not everyone who joins your sect. You were the one who claimed Christians were united. That the disunity of Christians was a result of Protestantism. Those groups existed, they confess Christ, they weren’t united with Catholics, ergo… Christians weren’t united.
    So obviously Catholicism didn’t lead to united Christianity. Now if your claim had been that in 150 your particular sect was theologically united… then we can ignore those groups but that doesn’t mean much. A sect unifying itself is not nearly as impressive as a sect unifying a religion. However in 150 CE I’d disagree. I think the evidence is rather clear that in 150 your sect was having horrible debates between Encratites and Christians who partook of wine, sex and meat. Your sect was on the verge of being torn apart by Prophets and the coming of the Paraclete. I think your sect was having horrible debates between those who believed in joint fulfillment between apostles and Christ and those who believed in something like a hypostatic union. So I still wouldn’t consider your sect united. “

    One has to wonder…. when you read the early church fathers do you include in that group Arias, Lucious, Nestorians, and gnostics who thought that Jesus was a giant and had a sister who was the holy spirit? If yes, then your point here is consistent. If no, then how are these types of objections even relevant? You act like these heretical groups have equally as valid churches and theological beliefs. These sects are not like catholics, baptists and methodists hashing it out over sacraments. These are extreme heretics who would today not be excepted by ANY of the mainline branches of christianity. If someone is “claiming christ” but by christ they mean a nazi then obviously they are not in the conversation. IT IS OK TO USE HINDSIGHT when examining history! In my opinion the only reason why you are doing so is because if NO ONE got it right and EVERYONE was a wacky heretic and there really isn’t any way to fairly distinguish between anyone who “claimed christ” then you can justify your Johnny come lately theology a whole heck of a lot easier.

    “ Well then don’t use the word Christian, use the word “Catholic”. In which case your claim just boils down to Catholics were Catholic and says nothing about Christianity as a whole. I am not for the sake of this conversation allowing for that sort of circular argument. Of course “orthodox Christians” if they existed at all in 150 CE were Catholic! The Catholics were the ones who defined orthodoxy in the later centuries.
    I could have just as easily pick the PCA and have them define orthodoxy as any Protestant who agrees with the WCF. Then after excluding all “unorthodox” Protestants all Protestants agree with the WCF. Wow that was easy, instant unity. “

    It would be unreasonable to discard all other protestant denominations because fundamentally you agree on generic christianity. You fundamentally even agree on what generic form protestantism takes and the solas. There is an ENORMOUS gap between that kind of disunity and schism of people who believe that the holy spirit is the sister of giant Jesus. If you want to be taken serious provide legitimate examples of what 98% of the world would consider legit christians divided throughout church history and not united by a belief in AS.

    “ You didn’t make an argument. You made an assertion and then tied it to various false historical claims. If you want to make an argument go ahead. “

    Orthodox Christianity could not have survived without an early belief in AS
    as is evidenced by the disunity in belief among protestant christians
    as is shown by the ecumincal councils constantly being adhered to at the end of the day in settling doctrinal disputes.
    which is highlighted by the contrast of Trent and the protestant reaction to the council of Trent. As soon as AS is doubted christian unity flies out the window.
    Orthodox Christianity did survive
    The Catholic Church
    E.O church
    mainline protestant denominations
    therefore belief in AS must have been present from the earliest times

    gotta get to work god bless!

  257. @AB —

    Thanks

    ____

    @Kenneth —

    As accurate as your list of “second century” christian sects? One has to wonder.

    Yes as accurate as that list. I was accepting your drops because I didn’t need to debate the few your disagreed with on that list.

    O. Nicea delivered what would be the decision of the Church in 325 and we see the effective end of Arianism at Constantinople with the creed of 381. Hardly centuries and centuries of struggle.Name for me one Catholic ecumenical council that promoted Arianism post Nicea. Was it Constantinople? Ephesus? Chalcedon? Please show me what ecumenical council promoted Arianism forcing the Church to sway back and forth? There isn’t one.

    I named one for you last time, Antioch. I could name a 1/2 dozen others. I also gave several other examples in my May 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm post. It at the time was a Catholic council. Later the churches split and your sect rejected it as an ecumenical council because in your theology councils can’t contradict one another. That’s the way schisms work.

    Moreover the issue is not “Catholic councils” it is the fact that Arianism involved millions and existed for centuries.

    Early belief in AS wouldn’t have been helpful in the earliest stages of Arianism as there were validly ordained Bishops who sided with the Arians. This doesn’t effect my case in the slightest. Of course apostles could have disputes as could their successors. Thats not evidence against early belief in AS. What we should look to as evidence one way or the other is what happened after these bishops gathered at nicea and constantinople! Here I maintain that the Church (with some growing pains) united and the heresy was defeated

    I see so why was the Catholic church reconverting the Goths and the Vandals in the 6th century if Arianism was defeated in 381? Lomabards remained official Arian until king Garibald in 671 CE. How is that possible under your theory?

    One has to wonder…. when you read the early church fathers do you include in that group Arias, Lucious, Nestorians, and gnostics who thought that Jesus was a giant and had a sister who was the holy spirit?

    There were no Gnostics who believed Jesus was a giant. Your characterization of the Elkasaites is complete nonsense. We have Gnostic books and we know what they believed and they didn’t buy into characterization. That being said of course you include Gnostics in the history of early Christianity.

    If someone is “claiming christ” but by christ they mean a nazi then obviously they are not in the conversation.

    Nope. They are in the conversation. If you are talking about Christian unity then yes they count. Everyone counts. Besides you aren’t counting Arians or 8 churches that exist today as existent.

    In my opinion the only reason why you are doing so is because if NO ONE got it right and EVERYONE was a wacky heretic and there really isn’t any way to fairly distinguish between anyone who “claimed christ” then you can justify your Johnny come lately theology a whole heck of a lot easier.

    Well your opinion is wrong. I’m an honest historian. I start with the facts not what I want to be true. I’m not the one who has to fabricate a fake 1st century origin for my sect.

    It would be unreasonable to discard all other protestant denominations because fundamentally you agree on generic christianity. You fundamentally even agree on what generic form protestantism takes and the solas. There is an ENORMOUS gap between that kind of disunity and schism of people who believe that the holy spirit is the sister of giant Jesus. If you want to be taken serious provide legitimate examples of what 98% of the world would consider legit christians divided throughout church history and not united by a belief in AS.

    I see. Your the one with a fantasy giant Jesus and I have to be taken seriously? 98% of the world includes Protestants far too numerous to consider any “papist” or any believer in the real substance or any believer in apostolic succession legit Christians. The 2nd largest sect of Christians connects themselves to Montanism explicitly and would reject primitive Catholicism with its focus on the liturgy and rejection of biblical works, particularly Pauline.

    as is shown by the ecumincal councils constantly being adhered to at the end of the day in settling doctrinal disputes.

    Except they aren’t adhered to and didn’t end the disputes. Where do you think the churches I mentioned in my previous post came from if not rejection of what you claim are ecumenical councils?

  258. @Jason L.:
    I went back and read Burns’s thesis just to make sure that I was sure he was saying exactly what I thought. He was he confirms Augustine’s belief that the grace of initial regeneration and the grace of final perserverance are different graces, although they operate in the same way. In other words, he rejects Calvinism, because those actually regenerated can lose that grace through sin (loss of justification), and he affirms the possibility of recovering justification after its loss, since the grace of final perserverance could bring one back to faith in the same way that one can be brought to initial justification.

    You seem to have a very unusual understanding of what synergism means in Catholic doctrine and, more generally, how Catholic doctrine works at all. There’s no dogma on how grace operates, but there are plenty of Catholics who affirm that grace is infallibly efficacious in causing the will to act (see Banez on physical premotion and Garrigou-Lagrange providing the recent theology; operative and cooperative grace are an entirely different subject). So there’s certainly no Catholic dogma requiring anyone to believe that the synergistic consent of the will is required for justification; on the contrary, there are Catholics who believe that the consent of the will must be caused by grace, rather than grace being enabled by it. Synergism simply means that both God and the person are acting, not that God is not causing the action. When Catholics reject monergism, we are simply rejecting that God acts alone without the person.

    As to Augustine, he gives a particular account of divine causality that does not appear to be objectionable to Catholic theology. But his particular explanation is not essential to the rejection of Pelagianism either. There are numerous different causal explanations that all reject Pelagianism, so particular reasons for rejecting Pelagianism are not required, as long as you affirm that grace is required for the action of the will.

    @Andrew M.:
    Really? You’re suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand about competent scholarship because … why exactly? That we will have a poorer understanding of the texts by careful reading and full context? My point was that excerpting tiny passages is almost always misleading unless it falls in the scope of a larger thesis.

    As to the secondary scholarship, I assume you’re referring to Oberman’s overarching thesis on Tradition 1 and Tradition 2. Oberman is a medieval historian, so I’m not sure how persuasive I find his opinion on patristics generally. Kelly is a patristics scholar, and he says:
    “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.” Early Christian Doctrines, pp. 47-48

    “Thus in the end the Christian must, like Timothy [cf. 1 Tim 6:20] ‘guard the deposit’, i.e. the revelation enshrined in its completeness in Holy Scripture and correctly interpreted in the Church’s unerring tradition.” p. 51

    That’s two authorities that can’t conflict, not one judging the other. I don’t even know that it’s coherent to talk about Athanasius judging Tradition by Scripture or vice versa. It’s rather like a Catholic talking about judging the Magisterium by Scripture or Scripture by Tradition. We believe they’re all true. So I’ve seen one source that has a relevant thesis on the point, and his contradicts yours by saying that they were co-equal, inerrant authorities. That Scripture and Tradition were considered co-equal authorities is, as far as I can tell, an undisputed fact among everyone who isn’t a conservative Protestant Internet apologist; I am not aware of any serious contemporary dispute about the Fathers rejecting the Protestant authority tradition and accepting the co-equal authority of Tradition to judge doctrine. If you want to argue that the Magisterium wasn’t there, then sure, you can do that. Plenty of people do. But don’t tack on this little “and to tell the truth, they were really closer to the Protestant view of things.” That’s just nonsense; adopting the Protestant authority principle would require them to reject what they considered an inerrant guide to correct doctrine.

  259. Jonathan,

    But you still can’t escape from the fact that perseverance is a GIFT which is given only to the *elect*. This is not compatible with Tridentine RC where such a notion does not exists since all who baptised are then expected to *cooperate* with the sacramental graces. *Final* justification that is dependent on initial justification *and* cooperation and the Augustinian notion of a gift of perseverance which is given *gratuitously* and *infallibly* are worlds apart – at odds, in opposition to each other. That is, both EXCLUDE each other.

    Burns is clear that Augustine excludes synergism in toto in his theology. Let me quote him again:

    The distinction between divine operation and cooperation does NOT describe *two* different forms of *grace (i.e. operative and CO-operative grace as in Thomism) NOR does it assert the inter-dependent coordination of divine and human operations; instead it simply highlights the *simultaneity* of the divine activity with the human action which it effect. IOW, the distinction is not a *theological* description of the divine-human *relationship* but descriptive of the cause and effect of such a relationship (in the Christian life and experience), pp. 156-157.

    In short, the modern RC contradicts its own Church Doctor on such fundamental aspects of the western Catholic faith.

  260. Jonathan,

    Since you aren’t paying attention, let me say it again:

    No one disputes that for the fathers, the interpretation of Scripture is conducted within the scope of the rule of faith. No one disputes that inerrancy in itself is a property limited to Scripture, what would be limited is full inerrancy. I make inerrant statements all the time—”My name is Robert.” “2+2=4.”

    The issues are 1. What is the scope of the rule of faith and 2. Was the church infallible as it formulated it or passed it on. Rome wants to say that the rule of faith includes far more than what the evidence shows it was, namely and essentially, the apostles Creed. “On the third day he rose again” is an inerrant statement, not because it was written by an infallible church but because it conforms to the infallible and inerrant sure deposit of apostolic revelation, namely, sacred Scripture. Rome also wants to say that the church is protected from falling into doctrinal error. The scope of history shows that such is not the case, that one must be ever vigilant. Emperors tried to reimpose Arianism on the empire after Nicea, usually with the complicity of the institutional church. It was the patient arguing from Scripture</i> over time by Athanasius and others that lead to Nicea being established finally and fully, not some mythical appeal that said “hey, we were infallible when we put the creed together.”

    I can prove everything in the Nicene Creed from Scripture. What I can’t prove is the veneration of saints and relics, transubstantiation, papal infallibility, and a host of other doctrines. If you want to say that was handed on from the apostles, then you have to prove it, and the mere statements from somebody that they heard it from somebody who heard it from somebody who heard it from the apostles is not enough when the actual writings of the apostles deny all of those points. Furthermore, the only way so much of Roman doctrine works is if you hold to a partim-partim view of divine revelation, which Rome has largely abandoned because the actual history proves it impossible. Too bad they didn’t know that for centuries when so much of Rome affirmed it.

  261. +JMJ+

    It should be noted that, because of the Discipline of the Secret in force in the early RCC, the hard proof for Athanasius’ Rule of Faith will probably be significantly more obscure than many Protestants might desire. That the entrance to the Church is made available to all men does not necessarily entail that the Holy Mysteries are to be democratically laid open to the judgement of the unillumined.

    If Protestants are going to insist upon exclusively positivistic criteria (a very Modern mindset, I might add), then the positive evidence of the Discipline of the Secret should be enough to admit an, at least partial, appeal to an argument from silence. Otherwise, Catholics are always going to have one hand tied behind their backs in these sorts of discussions.

    And to bring it all back home, this only underscores the basic point of Jason’s OP:

    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.

  262. Cd

    instead of going tit for tat with what I consider to be ridiculous and irrelevant claims on your part…. We can just avoid this game of semantics all together with a quick reformulation of the argument

    orthodox Christianity could not have survived early heresies without the early belief in AS by ORTHODOX christians

    orthodox Christianity did survive

    therefore the earliest orthodox Christian bishops and congregations must have believed in AS

    my goals are modest here. It isn’t my aim to show for sure that AS is true. Only that it was believed in the earliest times. Maybe not by giant Jesus worshipers…. But by orthodox Christianity as a whole.

  263. Really? You’re suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand about competent scholarship because … why exactly?

    Now Jonathan, how could you have possibly gotten such a thought out of my previous post? What I said we cannot rely just on what somebody said about the ECF’s, and that if we are ever really to understand the Fathers we need to read what they actually said. Such an endorsement of reading the ECF’s directly hardly equates to the denigration of utilizing secondary sources. And remember it was you who told me that Athanasius believed certain things about the relationship between the regula fidei and Scripture. When I asked you tell me where Athanasius said such things you had no answer, but you only referred me to secondary sources, and even then you did not quote from them (see your May 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm post).

    Here’s one of the quotes I was thinking of from Kelly (also from his Early Christian Doctrines):

    “The clearest token of the prestige enjoyed by Scripture is the fact that almost the entire theological effort of the Fathers, whether their aims were polemical or constructive, was expended upon what amounted to the exposition of the Bible. Further, it was everywhere taken for granted that, for any doctrine to win acceptance, it had first to establish its Scriptural basis”.

    The great EO Patristics scholar, George Florovsky (from his Bible, Church , Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View), says something similar:

    ….exegesis was at that time the main, and probably the only, theological method, and the authority of the Scripture was sovereign and supreme.

    Where I think that Oberman is so important is that he traces the evolution of thought concerning the relationship of Scriptures from the earliest Christians through the Medieval period and beyond. Oberman is comprehensive but not exhaustive. What he forces you to do is to get into the theologians whose works he analyzes to determine whether what he is saying is true. We all need to do this.

    My original post which you responded was making the simple case that Athanasius’ understanding of the relationship between Scripture and tradition was predicated on a Church which was neither Roman nor infallible in its orientation. This is why Athanasius has to appeal to the supreme authority of Scripture and cannot appeal to a hierarchical Roman infallible authority – the later did not exist in the mind of Athanasius. But please read his discourses to the Arians and see for yourself.

    Your last statement is this:

    That’s just nonsense; adopting the Protestant authority principle would require them to reject what they considered an inerrant guide to correct doctrine.

    So we see nothing in Athanasius or any of his contemporaries which would justify such a conclusion. I’m sure you could quote me a secondary source that supports such a theory but I don’t think you can quote anything from Athanasius which would justify this notion. Does Athanasius make a formal defense of sola scriptura? No, of course not. But our point is that Athanasius’ understanding of the use of tradition stands in stark contrast to the understanding of tradition of the RCC in later centuries. The later is not a development of the former, the later is a repudiation of the former.

    If you do nothing else Jonathan, please address Robert’s two issues in his second paragraph above. You speak about Athanasius’ use of the regula fidei but you have nowhere tried to define it.

  264. Jonathan Loh

    gratuitous and efficacious grace is absolutely comparable with Trent. Are you familiar with the Dominican Thomast tradition? You would be shocked to know just how close a catholic can agree with TULIP in general. Jimmy Akin wrote a classic piece on this. I’ll share the link

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/TULIP.htm

  265. Erick,

    You said:

    But I did write much material that I believe undoes your use of the early Christians, so much so that it calls into question your understanding of 1 john.

    My response:

    You read too much into my argument (e.g. I was not projecting an evangelical epistemology back into the fathers, I exegeted 1 John), and my understanding of 1 John does not depend on early Christian witness.

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  266. Andrew M. and Jonathan P.,

    I would like to add a piece of information to your discussion. Let me introduce a secondary source on Athanasius that, due to language barrier, probably neither of you are familiar with.

    Vanyó László is a Hungarian Roman Catholic patristic scholar. He edited the 20-volume publication of the Early Church Fathers in the Hungarian language. One of the volumes is the Works of St. Athanasius. Vanyó wrote several books on patristics, including a 1079 page monograph on the literature of the early church (Az ókeresztény egyház és irodalma) and a book of similar length on the dogmatic development of the first centuries (Bevezetés az ókeresztény kor dogmatörténetébe), and other significant monographs on the ECF.

    Vanyó argues that Athanasius was a less systematic but more authentically biblical theologian than Origen (Szent Athanasziosz muvei, Szent István Társulat, 1991, 33).

    Vanyó emphasizes a major difference between the ecclesiology of the emperors and the ecclesiology of Athanasius. The emperors wanted to achieve unity by administrative means. Athanasius believed in a different kind of unity. According to Vanyó, “For Athanasius, the principle of unity was given in the past in the apostolic faith of the church. The only basis of the unity of faith is a correct attitude to this past… The emperor wanted an outward unity that was not always in harmony with the inner principles of the unity of faith… Athanasius explained his views on the unity of faith already in his early writings. The common faith is identical with the apostolic tradition, which has divine authority and is therefore eternal and unchanging. We find this basic conviction in all of his later writings, it is determinative, and many of his views depend on it.” (Szent Athanasziosz muvei, 21) This is a Roman Catholic scholar speaking.

    I carefully read through the collection of the works of Athanasius myself. I can only confirm what Vanyó says. To decide on dogmatic questions, Athanasius refers to Scripture as an authoritative source all the time. I started to underline such examples in his writings, but there were so many that after a while I stopped doing it. It is obvious that for Athanasius Scripture was the deposit of apostolic faith. Athanasius emphasizes the unique and unrepeatable role of this apostolic foundation: “But what is also to the point, let us note that the very tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, was preached by the Apostles, and was preserved by the Fathers.” (Letters to Serapion of Thmuis, 1.28) In Athanasius’ view, even the Council of Nicea was right only because it was faithful to the testimony of the apostles who were the eyewitnesses of Jesus, not because it was the decision of bishops. (cf. De Decretis, 26)

  267. CD-Host,

    I think we need to back up and get back to my original question, as we seem to be drifting a bit. Look back to my original interaction with DGHart on May 7th at 2:40 pm. Look back at your interaction with Marks, specifically regarding my “main question”. Marks was right on the money. I am interested in whether or not you claim to have a means of defining right doctrine that goes beyond opinion, and the implications this has for how you define orthodoxy and heresy. I agreed to avoid the word “orthodoxy” because to you this is a RCC concept. I did not therefore abandon the necessity of authority in defining true doctrine versus heresy. Many of your comments since then to me and others have shown that you agree that each individual has the authority to define right doctrine, but since the Reformed interpretation is apparently as clear as basic mathematics, we really don’t need an authority higher than the individual. Some individuals will get it wrong, but it is because they are either spiritually blind or not too bright. Am I reading you right?

    When I tell you that I read Scripture and disagree with your interpretation, you point me to Luther and Reformed sources to show me the error of my ways. I, in fact, disagree with your basic premise – that Scripture clearly teaches the five solas (the way you define them) and Reformed soteriology etc. When I ask if baptism is regenerational and whether or not this is central to salvation, you simply tell that it is not central because you and like-minded Protestants disagree on it (so it can’t be all that important). So, no, you still have not provided a means of getting beyond your opinion versus my opinion, so according to your paradigm defining true doctrine versus heresy in any way that is absolute or binding becomes meaningless.

    Again, if I read my Bible and decide that my elders are teaching heresy, but they are convinced that it is my interpretation that is heretical, how would we decide who is correct in a way that goes beyond my opinion versus their opinion (or do you think that even matters) and that would therefore help the heretical party to return to true doctrine?

    Feels like we are starting to spin our wheels a bit here.

    Burton

  268. Ádám,

    Very interesting comments, thank you! What you say is so true. It’s not about an isolated text here or there, but rather about Athanasius’ entire methodology and his understanding of Scripture as a whole. I wish the Catholics could see it!

    What is so interesting about Heiko Oberman’s writings on these matters is that he takes you through the evolution of the thinking in the Medieval Church that gave birth the the concept of an infallible tradition that was extrinsic to Scripture. Such a notion was entirely foreign to Athansius’ thinking but certainly exists in the theology of the High Middle Ages. Exactly where it appeared and why it appeared is a complicated but fascinating subject.

    This is sort of an unrelated comment, but your mention of Vanyó László made me think of Jan Comenius, another scholar who wrote in a Slavic languge, in this case Czech. Do you know Comenius? He was a 17th century Czech Reformer who was an amazing scholar. He wrote and taught on many subjects, theology being just one of them. So much I could say about Comenius, but what made me think about him was the fact that some of his works were written in Czech which basically isolates these works from the rest of the world unfamiliar with the Slavic languages. Comenius is actually buried in Naarden in the The Netherlands and my family visited Comenius’ mausoleum in one of our trips through Holland.

    Cheers…

  269. Burton,

    Again, if I read my Bible and decide that my elders are teaching heresy, but they are convinced that it is my interpretation that is heretical, how would we decide who is correct in a way that goes beyond my opinion versus their opinion (or do you think that even matters) and that would therefore help the heretical party to return to true doctrine?

    If I am a Roman Catholic, and I read my Bible and come to the conclusion that my priest and the Roman curia is teaching heresy but the curia is convinced that my interpretation is heretical, the mere fact that they claim infallibility does not help. Arguing by the same standard that Rome wants to foist upon Protestants, there is nothing to differentiate my opinion from Rome’s at that point. Moreover, I would remain a Roman Catholic only as long as my own interpretation agrees with Rome’s, or I could be convinced that I should trust Rome even though I don’t understand how it came to its conclusions, presently find its reasoning faulty, or have some other issue. That is exactly the same as Protestantism. In every area of life, we are in one sense our own final authority because we are the one making the choice whether to submit to another authority or not, be it a fallible creed or a body that professes infallibility.

    Believing in Roman infallibility makes Roman Catholics feel good, but it is a fairy tale. They have no epistemological advantage. Bryan Cross, Mike Liccione, and others have made valiant attempts to prove otherwise, but their arguments ultimately fail. If sola Scriptura devolves into solo Scriptura (which I do not contend), the Roman Catholic view does not escape the problem. Each Roman Catholic retains himself as the final interpretive authority. Each Roman Catholic must continually decide to trust his church and his interpretation of church pronouncements just as each Protestant must continually to trust his own church and his interpretation of Scripture and the creeds.

    At the end of the day, one must trust the Holy Spirit to speak through His Word to His people. One trusts that there is always at least a faithful remnant in church history, and one looks for it. One employs the best exegetical standards one can in order to arrive at what the apostles actually meant when they wrote. One looks at church history, including the absolute primacy given to the Scriptures in the early church, evident revivals such as the Protestant Reformation, and so on. One looks at the creeds and confessions and works to see if what they say is biblical.

    There is a large measure of subjectivity here, as there is with any decision we make as subjective individuals. But it is not subjectivism, and generations of Christians have been able to arrive at the truth without claiming infallibility for themselves. As James White has said, if the Holy Spirit speaking through His Word is not enough, then one is looking for a standard or measure that God has not provided and that God has never provided.

  270. Adam,

    I carefully read through the collection of the works of Athanasius myself. I can only confirm what Vanyó says. To decide on dogmatic questions, Athanasius refers to Scripture as an authoritative source all the time.

    That in no way takes away from the Catholic’s claims (any more than you could have convinced Athanasius himself that he was being less of a Catholic by doing so).

    It is obvious that for Athanasius Scripture was the deposit of apostolic faith.

    Yes, but it was the apostolic faith to which Scripture bore witness. The problem with the Arians was not only that they were teaching unbiblical notions of God and Christ, but that they were teaching notions that were foreign to the apostolic deposit (which Athanasius would have said was both written and unwritten).

    Athanasius emphasizes the unique and unrepeatable role of this apostolic foundation: “But what is also to the point, let us note that the very tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, was preached by the Apostles, and was preserved by the Fathers.”

    No Catholic today would deny this, and Athanasius would be surprised to hear that this snippet was adduced to demonstrate your ecclesiology, according to which apostolic succession is unnecessary.

    In Athanasius’ view, even the Council of Nicea was right only because it was faithful to the testimony of the apostles who were the eyewitnesses of Jesus, not because it was the decision of bishops.

    Yes, this is what Jonathan has been arguing: It is against the testimony of the apostles (whether written or unwritten) that the teachings of the Arians, or any other heretics, are to be judged. No one is saying that as long as a handful of bishops teaches something, that it is therefore correct. What we are saying is that the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome, taken collectively, cannot teach heresy in any official sense.

  271. Andrew,

    Yes, Athanasius’s use of Scripture as the final arbiter of truth is very clearly his methodology, pervasive in all his works. Some Catholics – like Vanyó – see it. Jonathan and Jason obviously do not.

    I know Comenius, but I have not studied him as much as I should. Thank you for recommending him!

    I don’t read every comment on this website, but when I come here I almost always read yours. I like your tone and your clarity of thought.

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  272. Jason,

    For Athanasius, the testimony of the apostles is written: it is the inspired Scriptures (cf. I. Against the Arians I.4; III.9; III.10; Letters to Serapion IV.6; IV.8). The inspired and inscripturated apostolic tradition is the foundation of the church (cf. Letters to Serapion IV.32; IV.33). It is a given in the past, given to the church from the very beginning, once for all, never to be changed. Athanasius constantly exegetes this written apostolic testimony which he calls the sacred or inspired Scriptures. His entire methodology is exegetical. “For, behold, we take divine Scripture, and thence discourse with freedom of the religious Faith, and set it up as a light upon its candlestick” (I. Against the Arians III.9). And that is exactly what he does in his polemic books. “Which of the two theologies sets forth our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Son of the Father, this which you vomited forth, or that which we have spoken and maintain from the Scriptures?” (I. Against the Arians III.10) When there is disagreement over the meaning of Scripture, he believed, further exegesis gave you discernment (cf. Letters to Serapion, II.7). Read any of his books, that’s exactly what he does all the time.

    He believed that the fathers preserved that inscripturated apostolic tradition and taught the people in harmony with that tradition (hence the teachings of the Arians were the new stuff), but even the tradition of the fathers had to be examined and tested by scriptural exegesis (cf. Letters to Serapion IV.12), because it was the written apostolic tradition not the teaching of the fathers that carried divine authority. For Athanasius, the final authority was clearly the divine Scriptures. He tested exegesis by further exegesis, not by referring to ecclesiastical authority. As I said, even the Decretals of Nicea were true in his eyes because they cohered with the inspired Scriptures (De Decretis, VI.26). Yes, it was a great and noble Council (De Decretis, II.4), just like the Westminster Assembly, which must not be easily discarded or spoken against, but ultimately it is also subject to the apostolic scriptures (cf. De Decretis, IV.15 + the entire book is basically an exegetical defence of the decisions of the Council). “And we have proof of this, not from external sources, but from the Scriptures…” (De Decretis, IV.17) is a typical argument.

    I don’t think Athanasius would have agreed with this sentence of yours: “bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome, taken collectively, cannot teach heresy in any official sense.” His entire experience was the opposite, especially when Liberius signed the Three Formulae of Sirmium and condemned him (cf. Vanyó L.: Az ókeresztény egyház és irodalma, 492, 850).

    I have no illusions about my ability to convince you that the RC approach represented by you and CtC is wrong. You have sacrificed too much for this a year ago. I just wanted to add a few thoughts to this discussion. I’m fine with leaving it at that.

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  273. gratuitous and efficacious grace is absolutely comparable with Trent. Are you familiar with the Dominican Thomast tradition? You would be shocked to know just how close a catholic can agree with TULIP in general. Jimmy Akin wrote a classic piece on this. I’ll share the link

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/TULIP.htm

    Last time I read Akin’s article was donkey’s years ago. Same thing with the late William Most’s Predestination and the Salvific Will of God.

    My sympathy and empathy are with this particular Traditionalist website

    romancatholicism.org

  274. What is compatible with Trent is epitomised in Henri Rondet’s classic “The Grace of Christ.” Garrigou-Lagrange is of course better than William Most but still fall short of the Augustinian Succession as represented by Hilary of Poitiers, Caesarius of Arles, Fulgentius of Ruspe, the Scythian monks (East), Isidore of Seville, Gottschalk of Orbais, Servetus Lupus of Ferrières, Ratramnus of Corbie, Prudentius of Troyes, Florus of Lyons, Peter Lombard, Thomas Bradwardine, Gregory of Rimini, Johann Staupitz, etc.

  275. Dom John Farrelly’s (OSB) “The Problem of Predestination and Grace: A Re-Examination in Light of Modern Biblical and Philosophical Developments” – originally a PhD thesis – and published by Westminster and Newman Press (the same publisher of Rondet’s The Grace of Christ) is only slightly better – pursuing a “middle” position between Banez and Molina (neo-Thomistic??).

    No, one would be hardpressed to find a “Banezian” Dominican these days, let alone someone who is aware of predestination in Thomism in the RCC. More to the point, the vast majority of RCs would be shocked to learn that gratuitous, efficacious and infallible predestination lie at the heart of Augustine’s theology and Augustinianism, i.e. authentic western Catholic faith.

  276. @Jason L.:

    [1] But you still can’t escape from the fact that perseverance is a GIFT which is given only to the *elect*. [2] This is not compatible with Tridentine RC where such a notion does not exists since all who baptised are then expected to *cooperate* with the sacramental graces. [3] *Final* justification that is dependent on initial justification *and* cooperation and the Augustinian notion of a gift of perseverance which is given *gratuitously* and *infallibly* are worlds apart – at odds, in opposition to each other. [4] That is, both EXCLUDE each other.

    I’ve numbered the sentences to facilitate the response.
    [1] As noted above, I don’t have to escape that, although it’s not at all clear that Augustine was right about that. He carries certain metaphysical assumptions to that analysis that are by no means certain.
    [2] As noted above, this is purely a question of causality. Augustine simply says that an additional grace is required to cooperate in this manner, and that failure to cooperate comes through the person’s own fault. That is entirely compatible with the Tridentine teaching. Trent does not affirm the sufficiency of cooperative grace. You’re assuming something about the meaning of the term “cooperate” that goes well beyond its theological meaning.
    [3] Final justification is NOT dependent on initial justification, except for the fact that initial justification must have happened some time in the past. Burns’s entire point is that they are two separate graces. There is no requirement that final perserverance be given only to people who persist in initial justification; if that were the case, then Augustine’s position on rebuke for those who lost the grace of justification (not to mention Gregory’s) would be unsustainable.
    [4] Given your assumption that final perserverance depends on continuing initial justification, an assumption that is nowhere supported and even implicitly contradicted by Burns, is defective, the conclusion does not follow.

    But again, Augustine is just guessing about the metaphysical explanation. He might be right; he might be wrong. He was certainly wrong about the massa damnata, so it’s by no means certain that his metaphysical explanation for his (correct) theological conclusions that we need grace.

    @Andrew M., Robert, and Adam:
    Jason’s gotten to the heart of the response I was going to draft, so I don’t know that it’s worth spending the time on a full-blown explanation. You all seem to have missed the point of Mike Liccione’s argument (again), which is essentially that all of the discussions about the material content of revelation (T1 versus T2, material sufficiency of Scripture vs. partim-partim, etc.) completely miss the point. Before you can even get to the question of content of divine revelation, you have to have a principled way to determine what divine revelation is.

    Robert’s recourse to language like “full inerrancy” shows this confusion. There is no binary divine authority, and there are no degrees of infallibility. Authority is either divine (hence, infallible), or it isn’t. You don’t even get to the content before you ask the question: what authority is understood to be infallible? If it makes the cut, then there aren’t any degrees. Consequently, this idea that there are other authorities, but Scripture is somehow the “highest authority” or the “most inerrant” is incoherent; either it is a divine authority, or it isn’t. Scripture may be superior as a form of revelation in some or another sense, but it cannot be superior in that sense.

    The Protestant vs. Catholic vs. Orthodox dispute must start with those questions, and as I said above, I am not making an argument for Catholicism. I am only arguing that Protestantism’s view of these things are absent. For Protestantism to be supported, one would have to demonstrate that the people in question reject all other forms of authority as being divinely authorized and infallible, because in Protestantism, only Scripture is divinely authorized and infallible. And as I said, it must be binary; any weasel words about things being “fully inerrant” or “as close to infallibility as possible” are nonsense. It IS or IS NOT divinely authorized; therefore, it IS or IS NOT infallible. That is the consequence of Mike Liccione’s argument; this is why all sola scriptura must effectively devolve to tradition zero, because tradition can never be held as divinely authorized and hence infallible (except, for purely ad hoc reasons, the canon of Scripture). Oberman’s discussion about the material sources simply obscures that this is not at all what the dispute is about.

    What Kelly says above is that the whole patristic community believed that their apostolic tradition was inerrant and served as an infallible authority. The material content revealed by those authorities may have been the same, but they were separately considered infallible. What you would need to show is an admission by these Fathers that the articles of faith of their own Tradition could err and using Scripture to correct their own Tradition’s error. I have never seen such a thing; even the heretics won’t admit revision of their “traditions” (hence, the Antiochene adherence to Lucian, Diodore and Theodore of Mopsuestia even after sheer logical incoherence absolutely excluded their traditions as apostolic). On the other hand, if the Father says that anything other authority but Scripture is infallible and a normative authority for faith, even by one single example, then that person is on the wrong side of the dichotomy from Protestantism. Likewise, the scholarly consensus, as noted by Kelly above, appears to be unanimously opposed.

    Let’s stop discussing material authority and start working on the right question, which is what formal authority (divine authorization) is given to various authority sources. That question is binary, and you are all on the wrong side of it. I can tick off some of Robert’s examples relating to the material content of revelation above, but as I said, it’s pointless until we get clarity on the formal question.

  277. +JMJ+

    Jason Loh wrote:

    No, one would be hardpressed to find a “Banezian” Dominican these days, let alone someone who is aware of predestination in Thomism in the RCC. More to the point, the vast majority of RCs would be shocked to learn that gratuitous, efficacious and infallible predestination lie at the heart of Augustine’s theology and Augustinianism, i.e. authentic western Catholic faith.

    There is no theological school, regardless of how orthodox, which equals “authentic” Catholic Faith, thank God. Catholic Faith, because it is an organic, Personal reality (and thus surpasses merely-human abstractions) admits of many coequally orthodox (and coequally insufficient) theologies. To think otherwise is Theological Integralism (or what I call “One, True, Theology Syndrome”).

    Though single theology could be defined as Catholically unorthodox (heretical), a single theology could never define Catholic orthodoxy.

  278. Jonathan

    Robert’s recourse to language like “full inerrancy” shows this confusion. There is no binary divine authority, and there are no degrees of infallibility. Authority is either divine (hence, infallible), or it isn’t. You don’t even get to the content before you ask the question: what authority is understood to be infallible? If it makes the cut, then there aren’t any degrees. Consequently, this idea that there are other authorities, but Scripture is somehow the “highest authority” or the “most inerrant” is incoherent; either it is a divine authority, or it isn’t. Scripture may be superior as a form of revelation in some or another sense, but it cannot be superior in that sense.

    Wrong again. Scripture is our divine authority and insofar as any person’s pronouncement conforms to the intent and meaning of Scripture, that pronouncement has divine authority as well. The fact that an ecclesiastical body’s failure to understand Scripture at time does not somehow make it less of a divine authority when it does get things right. The ecclesiastical divine authority is derived from Scripture, which carries the authority of God Himself. Scripture does not derive its divine authority from the church, which is perilously close to what Rome affirms.

    It is not incoherent to view Scripture as fully inerrant and to view other authorities as partially inerrant or only inerrant at times. We do it all the time. Classically, Christians believe God’s natural revelation is inerrant but that not every interpretation of it is inerrant. When the mathematician gets it right that 2+2=4, that statement has divine authority because it accurately reflects what God has said. Even Roman Catholicism posits an ecclesiastical authority that is limited in the scope of its divine authority, because not everything Rome says is inerrant and infallible, hence the strict qualifications for infallibility. Tu Quoque.

    God is well within His right to establish an authority that is fully infallible and inerrant at all times and also secondary authorities that derive their inerrancy from that final authority. We are going with what God has said and not what a bunch of philosophers demand of him in order to give the assent of faith. The latter stance is one, fundamentally, of unbelief. It does not follow that God must have a visible, infallible body in order for us to determine divine revelation, and in any case, if that visible body is not infallible at all times, then it does not meet the standard you have laid out for divine authority. If that visible body is not infallible at all times, you can’t trust it to tell you where to find divine revelation. Scripture, which is infallible at all times, however, can be trusted to show us where the true church is, namely, the church that is most faithful to apostolic teaching. On that measure, Rome fails.

    Roman Catholics want to have their cake and eat it too. They want this principled way, which according to you, Jonathan, does not allow for partial authority or divine authority only at certain times, but then they go and admit that even the Magisterium is not always infallible. Measured by its own standards, Rome fails again.

  279. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Scripture is our divine authority and insofar as any person’s pronouncement conforms to the intent and meaning of Scripture, that pronouncement has divine authority as well. The fact that an ecclesiastical body’s failure to understand Scripture at time does not somehow make it less of a divine authority when it does get things right… It is not incoherent to view Scripture as fully inerrant and to view other authorities as partially inerrant or only inerrant at times. We do it all the time. Classically, Christians believe God’s natural revelation is inerrant but that not every interpretation of it is inerrant. When the mathematician gets it right that 2+2=4, that statement has divine authority because it accurately reflects what God has said.

    What this seems to indicate is that, just as Reformed theology radically separates the Natural and Supernatural Orders as regards the “Invisible Church”, it, conversely, radically conflates the two as regards the “Visible Church”.

  280. @BVBURKHOLDER May 12, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Burton I think we are spinning our wheels because you keep essentially asking Catholic questions. The problem is not the word orthodoxy / heresy, the problem is the idea. The keep trying to have a material earthly church have meaningful direct spiritual authority and they don’t. Churches are not empowered to add or subtract in any way to the prophet teachings. They are empowered explicate not authorize. Protestants do not believe Francis I is the wrong guy for the job, as head of Christianity, they believe the job doesn’t exist.

    I gave this analogy before: As a Catholic how would you answer the question of “Is it better to restrict input (yoga) or transmute input (tantra) to reduce your dependence on the world?” Changing from yoga to “restricting input” or any other change in terms doesn’t alter the fact that the questions you are asking are Catholic. Protestantism isn’t designed to answer Catholic questions. Protestantism is designed to answer Protestantism. If the question is going to be “what religion does the best job answering Catholic questions?” then Catholicism is likely to do quite well. Mormonism might do better, high church episcopalians might be in the running, but in general almost all forms of Protestantism drop off. Your questions are making assumptions that Protestantism reject.

    I am interested in whether or not you claim to have a means of defining right doctrine that goes beyond opinion,

    And I’ve answered this a dozen times. Yes. The prophetic system.

    and the implications this has for how you define orthodoxy and heresy.

    And I’ve answered this a few times already, that the system of how you define doctrine does not imply a system of orthodoxy and heresy. That implication is Catholic.

    I did not therefore abandon the necessity of authority in defining true doctrine versus heresy. Many of your comments since then to me and others have shown that you agree that each individual has the authority to define right doctrine,

    I’ve never said anything remotely like that. That’s you trying to impose a Catholic paradigm on what I have said. No one gets to define right doctrine, doctrine is right / true regardless of anyone’s definition. I don’t get to define right doctrine than I get to define the right value for pi, the right plank constant or the right number of chromosomes in human DNA. “Binding and losing” as a function of the church is Catholic. For Protestants right doctrines is defined by God not churches. When the University of Illinois puts out the digits of pi it isn’t based on their authority as a university; it is based on the fact that this long numbers really does satisfy testable trigonometric identities. Any university that claimed final authority over pi and argued you should believe them because the digits of pi were handed to them say Gauss or even Euclid is a completely distorting what it means to know pi.

    since the Reformed interpretation is apparently as clear as basic mathematics, we really don’t need an authority higher than the individual. Some individuals will get it wrong, but it is because they are either spiritually blind or not too bright. Am I reading you right?

    I don’t think I would say that about the Reformed interpretation. They would however. And that is typical of Protestant thinking.

    When I tell you that I read Scripture and disagree with your interpretation, you point me to Luther and Reformed sources to show me the error of my ways.

    No I didn’t.

    I, in fact, disagree with your basic premise – that Scripture clearly teaches the five solas (the way you define them) and Reformed soteriology etc.

    I think I wrote you a long post on this addressing it.

    When I ask if baptism is regenerational and whether or not this is central to salvation, you simply tell that it is not central because you and like-minded Protestants disagree on it (so it can’t be all that important).

    No I didn’t. You had originally asked if the doctrine of baptismal regeneration was necessary for salvation and I explained that no doctrines were. Again it might help if you read the post I wrote.

    Again, if I read my Bible and decide that my elders are teaching heresy, but they are convinced that it is my interpretation that is heretical, how would we decide who is correct in a way that goes beyond my opinion versus their opinion (or do you think that even matters) and that would therefore help the heretical party to return to true doctrine?

    If you and I disagreed what the correct 833 digit of pi was who would decide? Well who would decide would be the generating function. Either my 833rd digit would satisfy the inequality, yours would or neither of them would and we both have the wrong digit. In other words we would test it. This is not an existential dilemma, we just test.

    Now if you have a notion of “heresy” the way you are using it above of something that a church gets to define arbitrarily there is nothing you can do. Heresy is whatever your church says it is, and thus there is no objective test beyond the church. There can be no meaning to that beyond the church.

    If on the other hand you reduce heresy to what it should be “wrong belief” then there are objective tests. And you perform those and verify. Wrong beliefs are those views contradicted by prophetic revelation. You test your view and your church’s view against the prophetic revelations. If you are clearly contradicted, you are wrong. If they are clearly contradicted they are wrong. If it is unclear, you work to make it clear.

    Feels like we are starting to spin our wheels a bit here.

    We are. I wrote a lot of posts to you and you keep trying to ignore what I write so you can redirect this to the CtC script. I understand I’m throwing you off script by saying their is an objective standard besides the Catholic church. We are spinning our wheels because you are not willing to go off script.

    CtC’s apologetic is just the Vatican 1 style apologetic. This is the intellectual environment that Protestantism evolved in. The the theology of CtC is the theology that the Reformers (radical primarily) were rejecting. CtC’s apologetic is very good at catching Reformed hypocrisy on issues of church authority. It is worthless in dealing with Protestantism as it exists today because today’s Protestantism mainly came from the radical reformation.

  281. Adam,

    For Athanasius, the testimony of the apostles is written: it is the inspired Scriptures. . . . It is a given in the past, given to the church from the very beginning, once for all, never to be changed. Athanasius constantly exegetes this written apostolic testimony which he calls the sacred or inspired Scriptures. His entire methodology is exegetical.

    You continue to seemingly misconstrue the Catholic position by arguing for things that Catholics do not reject (in this instance, you treat exegesis as a deal-breaker for Catholic theology, as if all we do is appeal to papal decrees or something).

    That said, is it your position that what we now call orthodox Trinitarianism is something that can just be demonstrated from the perspicuous and clear teachings of the Bible? So, the Bible teaches clearly that God has one ousia that subsists in three hypostases? That the Son is homoousios with the Father, and that he is not a human person, but a divine person who assumed a human nature together with his divine nature? And therefore the Arians’ fault was just not reading the Bible closely enough?

    For my part, I think such a position would be incredibly naïve. What we call orthodox Trinitarianism resulted from arriving at definitions—and in some cases redefinitions—of terms in order to create the categories needed for even discussing such a mystery. And in many cases, the Greek and Latin glosses on the same term created an even greater challenge.

    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.

    But given your ecclesiology, if I disagree with the way the early church defined the Trinity, I can just dismiss their fallible opinions and invent my own Trinitarianism.

  282. @JONATHAN PREJEAN May 13, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Bent of Mike Liccione’s argument (again), which is essentially that all of the discussions about the material content of revelation (T1 versus T2, material sufficiency of Scripture vs. partim-partim, etc.) completely miss the point. Before you can even get to the question of content of divine revelation, you have to have a principled way to determine what divine revelation is.

    The bible offers such a means through the prophetic test, and Michael had no interest in it. So whatever he is or isn’t interested in, we’ve established pretty clearly it is not the question of how to establish a principled way to determine what divine revelation is. Because we know that when God presents one over and over and over again in the scriptures it made no impact on his alternative system

  283. @Kenneth

    orthodox Christianity could not have survived early heresies without the early belief in AS by ORTHODOX christians

    orthodox Christianity did survive

    therefore the earliest orthodox Christian bishops and congregations must have believed in AS
    my goals are modest here. It isn’t my aim to show for sure that AS is true. Only that it was believed in the earliest times. Maybe not by giant Jesus worshipers…. But by orthodox Christianity as a whole.

    You still have 3 big problems:

    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

    ____

    And there was no belief in a giant Jesus. I’ve explained that already. Next time you mention you go from someone misinformed to a liar.

  284. Dear Jason,

    JASON:

    You continue to seemingly misconstrue the Catholic position by arguing for things that Catholics do not reject (in this instance, you treat exegesis as a deal-breaker for Catholic theology, as if all we do is appeal to papal decrees or something).

    MY RESPONSE:

    You are too defensive, Jason. Take what I said as a piece of scholarly information on Athanasius. That’s what it was. It wasn’t even aimed at you (although my comment appeared under your article on your blog). I do believe the example of Athanasius is damaging to the epistemological perfectionism of the CtC-type RC position, and is a strong example for a belief in the final authority of the Scriptures, but in my comment I simply introduced Vanyó as an interesting contribution to back up Andrew M. in his discussion on Athanasius with Jonathan P. You responded to that original comment (twice already).

    JASON:

    That said, is it your position that what we now call orthodox Trinitarianism is something that can just be demonstrated from the perspicuous and clear teachings of the Bible?

    MY RESPONSE:

    Yes, if you mean by that the concept and not the exact wording. I’ve done that a year ago when I gave a four-part lecture series on the Trinity, arguing exclusively from 1 John. I wanted my audience to see that you can discover the Trinity even in that little book, and there is no way you can understand references to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit otherwise. If the Trinity is not in the Bible, it is not something I want to believe in. But we don’t have to read our Bibles alone. We live in community. We read the Scriptures in community. This community is worldwide and historical. There have been many studies done on this subject, not least at Nicea and Constantinople, and I don’t want to ignore those when reading the Bible. But Trinitarianism comes from the Bible and it is true only as much as the concept can be demonstrated from the inspired, divine Scriptures. Athanasius would agree.

    JASON:

    So, the Bible teaches clearly that God has one ousia that subsists in three hypostases? That the Son is homoousios with the Father, and that he is not a human person, but a divine person who assumed a human nature together with his divine nature?

    MY RESPONSE:

    Ousia, hypostasis, homoousios, subsistence are ways of human conceptualization. The purpose of those words was to communicate clearly what was taught in the Scriptures. The exact words themselves are not essential to the concept of the Trinity, just like the word Pantokrator is not essential to understand the concept that Christ is Lord of all. Language is always metaphorical (signs standing for something else). Besides, not everyone understands Greek or Latin, and words change their semantic range once they are translated into another morpheme in another language. The greatness of Athanasius was that he recognized this when he allowed the Cappadocians to refine the Nicean language that arguably left the door open for Modalism. The Old Niceans and the New Niceans had to find a language that united them in their belief in the Trinity. The Syrian and Ethiopian churches obviously used different words, and so did Augustine who didn’t have a good grasp on Greek.

    JASON:

    And therefore the Arians’ fault was just not reading the Bible closely enough?

    MY RESPONSE:

    This is exactly what Athanasius accused them of. Did you check the references from his works in my previous comment?

    JASON:

    For my part, I think such a position would be incredibly naïve. What we call orthodox Trinitarianism resulted from arriving at definitions—and in some cases redefinitions—of terms in order to create the categories needed for even discussing such a mystery.

    MY RESPONSE:

    Wow, Jason. Did you really want to say this? What you have just said means that the apostles, the Christians of the NT churches, the Apostolic Fathers, the Christians living at their times, the Apologists, and again, the Christians living in those centuries, could not even begin to discuss the mystery of the Trinity! I’m sure you want to modify that.

    JASON:

    And in many cases, the Greek and Latin glosses on the same term created an even greater challenge.

    MY RESPONSE:

    Absolutely. And they still do. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant scholars (in all kinds of languages) still try to find the best way to formulate and explain the dogmatic nuances of Trinitarianism.

    JASON:

    So you are right that Athanasius exegeted Scripture (a completely uncontroversial and irrelevant point in this discussion).

    MY RESPONSE:

    The point is not simply that he exegeted Scripture. The point is that he considered the inscripturated apostolic tradition the foundation of the church, and exegesis was his methodology to distinguish between divine revelation and false human opinion.

    JASON:

    But once certain extra-canonical definitions were arrived at and agreed upon, they then became more fully developed parts of the apostolic Tradition.

    MY RESPONSE:

    Not according to Athanasius. For him the apostolic tradition was given in the PAST, from the beginning, once for all, unchanged. The wordings of Nicea were important to safeguard this tradition, not to develop it.

    JASON:

    But given your ecclesiology, if I disagree with the way the early church defined the Trinity, I can just dismiss their fallible opinions and invent my own Trinitarianism.

    MY RESPONSE:

    First, let me be a little bit personal. Jason you are talking about a congregation of evangelical Christians that for years you supported in various ways. You preached the Word among us and taught us things you now reject. It is painful to hear what you say or think of us now, though we haven’t changed. But secondly, your picture of us is even distorted. You know that we have a lot of respect for the Trinitarianism of the early church. And we cannot invent our own Trinitarianism, the same way the Council of Nicea could not invent their Trinitarianism. Trinitarianism was given in the apostolic tradition preserved in the Scriptures by the fathers. If not, Athanasius would have been the first to reject it.

    Ironically, there is a church fellowship that can be rightfully accused of changing the Nicean-Constantinopolitan creed, and you know which group it is. (The Church of Rome.) Was the Roman Church right in changing the NCC? Probably. But the Eastern bishops are still angry because they consider the Filioque a new invention and a distortion of Nicean Trinitarianism.

    Üdv:
    Ádám

  285. CD-Host,

    OK. Re-boot.

    So we don’t define right doctrine, God does. But we need some means of ascertaining God’s truth. I believe you would call that the prophetic office. By that I assume you mean the text of the Bible (I want to be sure I am understanding you). When we have disagreement over any doctrine we use a test, like a mathematical formula, to see who is correct.

    What is that test and how does it work?

    Please do not assume my motives or over-interpret my questions. I have no particular “script”, CtC or otherwise. We have either a basic disagreement or a basic misunderstanding and I am truly trying to see it more clearly.
    Your answers to my question, from my perspective, aren’t answering my questions. Perhaps this is a function of slow thinking on my part

    Burton

  286. +JMJ+

    Szabados Ádám wrote:

    Yes, if you mean by that the concept and not the exact wording. I’ve done that a year ago when I gave a four-part lecture series on the Trinity, arguing exclusively from 1 John. I wanted my audience to see that you can discover the Trinity even in that little book, and there is no way you can understand references to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit otherwise.

    I’d really thought that the one good fruit of Postmodernism was that it was finally putting to rest such modern ideas.

    But, rather than fight such ideas head on (and considering that Adam is only responding to Jason, anyway), it might be better to try to unpack Scripture’s interrelational integration within Catholicism. This is not a simple task considering that we’re talking about a something which is an organic dynamic instead of a logical progression or rational derivation.

    The following is, IMO, an excellent exposition from one of my favorite authors. I know that it’s wordy and involved but other Catholics are welcome to riff on it if they so choose…

    “The apostolic doctrine is, then, of Christic origin. It is not the result of a relatively late elaboration wrought from scriptural data, as claimed by many Modernist critics, a thesis which seems unintelligible: I do not see how it was possible to deduce the Christian doctrinal corpus from the text of the Scriptures; from one to the other there is a hiatus, a humanly insurmountable break in continuity. And moreover the same critics, or at least their rationalist ancestors (Voltaire and his ilk), have not failed to speak ironically about the fragile support that Scripture offers dogmas, ignoring without doubt that it is the truth of the doctrine of the faith that determines the meaning of Scripture, not the reverse: faith (the doctrine of faith) comes ex auditu (from hearing = from oral tradition) and not ex visu (from sight = from reading). In the light of the trinitarian mystery, the Scripture’s teachings on the Father, Son, and Spirit are illuminated and make sense; without this illumination, the same teachings might sanction the most divergent theological constructions, as proven by the history of the heresies, each one of which can refer to a Gospel verse. Besides, reason suffices to show that it could not be otherwise: the meaning of no text is determined on the basis of its intrinsic significance, and, to know what it is saying, it is first necessary to know what it is speaking about. The principle ‘scriptura sola interpres ipsius’ is philosophically false: Scripture is neither the only, nor the first, interpreter of itself. (Present-day catechesis too often forgets this philosophic truth.) I am certainly not saying that Scripture is not the source of faith. Of this faith it is the first signifier. Just as a sign is “a signifier that looks to a referent by means of a sense”, so Scripture is the sacred and immutable signifier in its textural concreteness that looks to the theo-christic referent which the doctrine of faith (Church dogma) expresses by means of the sense that a reading of it produces, a reading conjointly exegetical and theological. And just as the knowledge of a sign presupposes a knowledge of its significance, so the knowledge of faith can only start from a doctrine of truth, abstractly expressed and objectively conceived. Is this to say, then, that Scripture serves but to verify a posteriori the conformity of abstractly expressed doctrine to the culturally dated presentation of it offered by Scripture? This would be derisive. Doctrinal knowledge, of a mental nature, goes to Scripture as to its vivifying source, because this Scripture is the most direct and the most concrete testimony that we have of the very Word of God: God is really present in Scripture, not in his substance (which is reserved to the Eucharist), but in his form (since Scripture is a formal reality, and not a substance like bread and wine): as for dogmatic expression, God is only intentionally present there, and not ‘in reality’. The outcome of these precisions, I note in passing, is that Christianity, contrary to an all-too-widespread opinion, is not a ‘religion of the Book’ but a religion of the Word made flesh.” [emphases in original]
    – Jean Borella, Guenonian Esoterism and Christian Mystery (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 1st English Edition, 2004), pp. 281-282

  287. CD-Host,

    Another thing. Would you agree that doctrine is man’s articulation of God’s Truth? In other words, there is a very real sense in which we do define right belief. God does not directly send us a list of inspired books, we must in some way define that list by some process. God does not directly explain the true nature of the Trinity (consubstantiality, etc). God does not directly tell us whether righteousness is imputed or infused – these things must be ascertained by humans through some means. God does not directly tell us whether or not the practice of contraception is deeply sinful or acceptable for Christians.

    Answers to these doctrinal and moral questions are answered by man through some means. You have answers that you think are perfectly clear, like a mathematical formula. But the answers are not clear and the mechanism is not like mathematics. Perhaps this is where our basic disagreement lies. If man must define doctrine (though the Truth originates from God), and if each man can and must define it for himself, then any concept of “right doctrine” is inherently subjective.

    Do you agree that we in some way must define doctrine, and that your mechanism of interpretation of the Protestant canon is not equivalent to “right belief defined by God?”

    Burton

  288. Hi Benton

    So we don’t define right doctrine, God does. But we need some means of ascertaining God’s truth. I believe you would call that the prophetic office.

    The prophetic office is about communicating God’s truth. Prophets are given visions, we (the faithful) are responsible for determining which prophets are true prophets. Anything they say in prophetic voice then is God’s truth. So I would say the means of ascertaining are:

    1) Does the prophet preach Yahweh or other Gods?
    2) Has the prophet had visions they could not have known (generally the future)?

    That is the method of ascertaining the validity of the prophet. Once you say the prophet is a true prophet anything they say in prophetic voice is binding. There is no complex system beyond that.

    By that I assume you mean the text of the Bible (I want to be sure I am understanding you).

    If you believe the biblical authors are true prophets then yes. Protestants believe that so for them it holds.

    When we have disagreement over any doctrine we use a test, like a mathematical formula, to see who is correct. What is that test and how does it work?

    You test is against prophetic revelations. If a prophet spoken on that matter directly then it is determined. If a prophet hasn’t spoken on that matter directly but it follows directly from prophetic revelation then teachers are free to teach it as a teaching. Anything a prophet hasn’t said word for word is man’s truth. That doesn’t mean it is arbitrary opinion. There are only about a dozen axioms for geometry and from those you can derive hundreds of important theorems. The axioms are the only divine truths. Everything else is theology. Theology isn’t arbitrary it can be argued but it is not infallible and it is not divine.

    Another thing. Would you agree that doctrine is man’s articulation of God’s Truth?

    No. I think that is presumption. Doctrine is man’s attempt to interpret God’s truths. That is a legitimate function of the church. Conflating that with God’s truth though is idolatry.

    God does not directly send us a list of inspired books, we must in some way define that list by some process.

    Absolutely. Let’s use this example. The church is commanded to record and interpret the words of the prophets. The faithful are commanded to determine who are the true prophets. The church is commanded to write the books, the faithful are commanded to choose the canon. The faithful are also commanded to make sure the church is writing what the prophets say. So God did directly setup a system.

    Now beyond the system he has sent prophets repeatedly who have spoken of other prophets and directed the shape of the canon moderately. Around the edges there have been borderline cases and God’s non intervention indicates he is disinterested beyond that.

    God does not directly explain the true nature of the Trinity (consubstantiality, etc).

    Another good example. And you are absolutely right. Prophets have not spoken on this issue. Men of good faith and intelligence have disagreed on this issue in reading the words of prophets for centuries. These debates have existed quite prominently and God has refused to send prophets to clarify.

    Recently (the 19th century) in the United States for example we had a debate like this among Protestant with the 19th century Arian movement. America’s great prophet at the time (if you believe in her) Ellen White did not get revelation on the trinity. What she did get was revelation that Arianism was harmful to Christian practice, not that Arianism was false. So assuming you believe the bible God keeps refusing to speak on this topic, and appears to want to keep the trinity really as arbitrary human opinion with no divine sanction.

    Which is why it is a statement of creed not a statement of scripture.

    God does not directly tell us whether righteousness is imputed or infused –

    That depends whether you consider Luther a prophet and speaking in prophetic voice on these issues. Erasmus accused him (rightly) of assuming prophetic authority. And Luther did have visions. I think a Protestant can rightly grant imputed as direct revelation.

    God does not directly tell us whether or not the practice of contraception is deeply sinful or acceptable for Christians.

    On what basis would it be deeply sinful? Teachers of the law aren’t empowered to create their own sins. Contraception existed during periods of time when there was prophetic revelation. So yes God does directly tell us, based on him having never sent such a message to a prophet on contraception.

    Answers to these doctrinal and moral questions are answered by man through some means. You have answers that you think are perfectly clear, like a mathematical formula. But the answers are not clear and the mechanism is not like mathematics. Perhaps this is where our basic disagreement lies. If man must define doctrine (though the Truth originates from God), and if each man can and must define it for himself, then any concept of “right doctrine” is inherently subjective.

    I don’t agree the answers are unclear.

    Do you agree that we in some way must define doctrine, and that your mechanism of interpretation of the Protestant canon is not equivalent to “right belief defined by God?”

    Obviously we can define doctrine. If by “my mechanism of interpretation” you mean the existence of prophetic office, the existence of the teaching office and their respective authority. Yeah, if you believe the bible that was defined by God.

    Now if you mean my opinions on many other issues on which prophets haven’t spoken like say the trinity then you are right those things are not defined by God and I can’t claim the status of divine truth for them.

  289. 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.

    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. But don’t take my word for it, read Athanasius yourself. This is why I was so interested to have Jonathan quote from Athanasius rather than quote from some secondary source than Jonathan liked. I already knew Jonathan could not defend his position from the original source, that’s why I asked him to go there. He had to rely on a secondary source because the primary source would not support his position.

    So I give you the same challenge – tell me where Athanasius argues for a position that is compatible with RCC dogma. Or tell me where he argues that any aspect of the Trinity is true because it has been defined as true by an infallible ecclesiastical authority. Go to the Discourses against the Arians and tell me what is “plain” to Athanasius. Are the teachings of the Scriptures plain or are the teachings of some infallible ecclesiastical authority plain?

  290. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    So I give you the same challenge – tell me where Athanasius argues for a position that is compatible with RCC dogma. Or tell me where he argues that any aspect of the Trinity is true because it has been defined as true by an infallible ecclesiastical authority.

    It seems to me that, if the infallible ecclesiastical authority had already dogmatically defined and settled the Trinitarian controversy in question, then he wouldn’t have had to argue in the first place.

    Just sayin’.

  291. Adam,

    If we continue our discussion, I think it should be offline.

  292. “Or tell me where he argues that any aspect of the Trinity is true because it has been defined as true by an infallible ecclesiastical authority”.

    In his “Orationes contra Arianos” Athanasius explicates Scripture according the ecclesiastical Tradition, and it is in principle this Tradition, that he sets against the Arians, not Scripture itself. The belief in the Trinity was already there before the term even was invented or before even any gospel was written.

  293. CD-Host,

    I think I now am beginning to see where you are coming from. I disagree with your understanding of the prophetic office and its purpose in defining right doctrine. In my opinion, we aren’t getting to the root of what I consider to be the inherent subjectivity and relativity of your “principled means”, but I can imagine you are getting tired of repeating answers that to your eyes are obvious and to my eyes aren’t really addressing the basic philosophical question. I do appreciate the time you have devoted to the discussion.

    God Bless,

    Burton

  294. @Robert:
    I wrote a big, long response that I can post if you think it will be helpful, but I suspect that we need to get down to brass tacks.

    Only God can provide special revelation, and God cannot lie and err. That is the only proper and credible object of faith. Your statements about natural revelation are irrelevant; nature and logic are revelatory to reason in themselves by what they are. God does not have to turn around and “say” truths embedded in nature (although He could), because they are already implicitly contained in what things are.

    You can’t have faith in an authority that isn’t infallible. This is because if the authority is fallible, then that means the authority can err. If the authority can err, then it is not God speaking, but man. You obviously can’t have faith in man’s speech providing special revelation, but only God’s speech, because only God can reveal Himself. Hence, any time you say an authority is fallible, you are saying that it cannot provide articles of faith.

    That is why I say divine revelation is binary. If you hold to sola scriptura as the only infallible authority, this means that nothing else at all can be a divine authority, and you cannot reasonably give the assent of faith to anything other than what is explicitly in Scripture. No interpretations, no paraphrases, no translations …. only what was literally said by God, which you claim is entirely exhausted by the content of Scripture. Whether it’s the Nicene Creed or the WCF, you can’t believe it by faith. That strikes me as problematic.

    The solution is to concede that authorities other than inspired authors can act with divine authority and can be infallible in that capacity. It’s what every Christian for over a thousand years believed.

  295. @Andrew M.:

    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?

    Based on Kelly, the source you yourself quoted, this is a false dichotomy. He believes it because Scripture says so AND because the ecclesiastical authority says so. He believes this of Tradition and later of the councils as well; all have divine authority, and all speak to the same truth. But because of sola scriptura and its incoherent reductionism, every time you see two different things, you assume they have to be in a conflicting hierarchy. It is your willingness to introduce this anchronistic dichotomy into Athanasius’s writings that causes you to see what you want to see there.

    In De Decretis, where I am frankly not sure what Adam is seeing, Athanasius makes an argument from natural reason and Tradition for why Scripture has to be read in a certain way, noting that the “clear-sighted” will read it as he does and reading Scripture outside of this Tradition is introducing “strange fire” (III.10):
    Is then the Son’s generation one of human affection? (for this perhaps, as their predecessors , they too will be ready to object in their ignorance;)— in no wise; for God is not as man, nor men as God. Men were created of matter, and that passible; but God is immaterial and incorporeal. And if so be the same terms are used of God and man in divine Scripture, yet the clear-sighted, as Paul enjoins, will study it, and thereby discriminate, and dispose of what is written according to the nature of each subject, and avoid any confusion of sense, so as neither to conceive of the things of God in a human way, nor to ascribe the things of man to God. For this were to mix wine with water , and to place upon the altar strange fire with that which is divine.

    He likewise does not accuse the Arians of holding some other authority, but rather maintains that they acknowledge the authority of the Scriptures but read them in the context of an “irreligion” (IV.15-16):
    But if they agree with us that the sayings of Scripture are divinely inspired, let them dare to say openly what they think in secret that God was once wordless and wisdomless ; and let them in their madness say, ‘There was once when He was not,’ and, ‘before His generation, Christ was not ;’ and again let them declare that the Fountain begot not Wisdom from itself, but acquired it from without, till they have the daring to say, ‘The Son came of nothing;’ whence it will follow that there is no longer a Fountain, but a sort of pool, as if receiving water from without, and usurping the name of Fountain.

    Note the conjunction in Athanasius’s attack in IV.17:
    while they are loth to say that there is no Word of God at all, yet they do not confess that He is the Son of God—which is ignorance of the truth, and inexperience in divine Scripture.

    Athanasius’s diagnosis is not that the Arians deny the authority of Scripture or even that they have not read Scripture, but that this alien tradition is causing them to read passages that should give them correction wrongly. They do not know the “scope of Scripture,” Christ Himself, which is primarily received from right Tradition and not “objective” exegesis. In other words, Athanasius’s argument is that recognizing the authority of Scripture doesn’t help them if they don’t know how to use it, a perfectly Catholic argument that we make against Protestants all the time. There’s no sola scriptura in that argument, no exclusion of other authorities, simply a positive endorsement of multiple authorities.

    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.

    This is why I said you were bluffing. That latter negation is nowhere found in Athanasius. He never says that his own Alexandrian Fathers, for example, lacked authority, and that would be completely ahistorical given his relationship with St. Alexander. Tradition is one form of ecclesiastical authority, and Athanasius accepts it. He also accepts the authority of the Church acting collectively in this Tradition, although at the time, the ecumenical council was a novel way of exercising it.

    But don’t take my word for it, read Athanasius yourself. This is why I was so interested to have Jonathan quote from Athanasius rather than quote from some secondary source than Jonathan liked. I already knew Jonathan could not defend his position from the original source, that’s why I asked him to go there. He had to rely on a secondary source because the primary source would not support his position.

    Good secondary sources don’t lie about their sources. So now that I have exposed that the text itself supports Jason’s argument, so that he doesn’t even have to take either of our word’s for it, where will you go? Now that your own position of denying parallel authorities has been exposed as the anachronistic one unsupported in Athanasius, where will you hide?

    So I give you the same challenge – tell me where Athanasius argues for a position that is compatible with RCC dogma. Or tell me where he argues that any aspect of the Trinity is true because it has been defined as true by an infallible ecclesiastical authority. Go to the Discourses against the Arians and tell me what is “plain” to Athanasius. Are the teachings of the Scriptures plain or are the teachings of some infallible ecclesiastical authority plain?

    I’ve met your challenge. Now you go back and show us where Athanasius has a “closed” authority system that positively rejects all non-Scriptural authorities, including Tradition and Nicaea, because that is what he must do if he is a Protestant. As I said, this is a binary question; either you accept parallel infallible authorities, or you deny all of the others. It is incoherent to say that there are “lesser authorities.” Either they are authorities or not, and I see nothing in Athanasius that denies that Tradition or councils can be authorities, although he obviously denies that the false inventions of the Arians have any authority.

  296. Jonathan,

    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.

    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. 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.

    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.

    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. 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. 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.

    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.

    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.

    Tu Quoque.

  297. Jonathan,

    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.

    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.

  298. “Tradition outside of Scripture was a provisional, not absolute authority”.

    It is the other way round, Scripture is a part of that Tradition (with capital T).

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