On Being Graciously Worthy

Posted by on February 17, 2013 in Featured, Galatians, Gospel, Holy Spirit, John, Justification, Paradigms, Revelation, Romans, Sanctification, Sola Fide | 124 comments

If one’s understanding of the gospel is such that the only works that play a causal and contributory role in our gaining entrance into the eternal kingdom are Christ’s and never our own, and further, if distinguishing between Christ’s work imputed (justification) and our works done by the Spirit’s infusion of agape (sanctification) is essential to getting the gospel right, then one would certainly make every effort to communicate such a distinction, as well as beware of ever even subtly blurring these lines.

For example, such a person would be careful to never in a million years give the impression that our suffering and faithfulness somehow make us “worthy of the kingdom of God,” since the only suffering and faithfulness that makes us worthy of the kingdom of God are Christ’s, which we receive through the empty hand of non-meritorious and non-contributory faith. So a statement like this would be completely off-limits:

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering — since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (II Thess. 1:5-12).

Speaking of the final judgment, the person with such an understanding of the gospel as described above would certainly beware of ever giving others the mistaken idea that their works somehow cooperate with Christ’s in order to clothe us in the white garments that make us “worthy” to enter heaven with the “right” to eat of the tree of life. So he’d never say something like this:

Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. . . . “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. . . . “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates”  (Rev. 3:4; 19:7-8; 22:12-14).
 And since our hypothetical theologian knows that there is no cause-and-effect relationship between our suffering now and our glory later, he would never even hint at the notion that the latter is conditioned upon the former. For example, he would be extremely wary of saying something like:
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. . . . The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Rom. 8:12-13, 16-17).
In fact our imagined theologian, in his zeal to avoid drawing any kind of causal connection between Spirit-filled living and gaining eternal life would never, ever describe that connection using the most cause-and-effect communicating metaphor imaginable: sowing and reaping. A statement like this, therefore, would obviously set off all kinds of red flags:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Gal. 6:7-9).

On the other hand, if we were to imagine a theologian whose concept of the gospel included the idea that God is so graciously paternal that he assumes our nature in the Person of his Son and then indwells us by his Spirit so that he can reconstitute humanity under a whole new Adam and thereby enable us to become his deified children who actually participate in his redeeming work and thus become graciously worthy to share his estate, well, the passages cited above are exactly the kinds of things we would expect him to say.

124 Comments

  1. God does it.

    God makes us worthy, through the gift of faith.

    The Holy Spirit inspires whatever good works there may be. Not the law (being told that we have to do them to obtain a reward).

    You need to get that cart BEHIND the horse. Everything will fall into place then.

  2. TOA, you’re just agreeing with me and then telling me I need to align my view to yours! But then, with that wooden law/gospel hermeneutic of yours, I can’t really expect you to credit me with getting something right, now can I…?

  3. Jason,

    The day you give Jesus 100% of the credit for accomplishing all that is necessary for us, then I will give you credit, galore.

  4. OK, consider Jesus so credited. Make sure you spell my name right on the check when you make it out.

  5. It’s in the mail!

    Welcome to the club of freedom…in Christ!

  6. +JMJ+

    This is a powerful train of argumentation, since it shows that belief in Monergism is prior to even cracking open the Bible. This line of thought isn’t damaging to Catholicism, but it does put Reformism back on the same methodological turf as Catholicism.

  7. This is a powerful train of argumentation, since it shows that belief in Monergism is prior to even cracking open the Bible.

    As long as anything less than sheer monergism is tantamount to breaking into God’s kingdom and stealing his precious glory, there simply won’t be the openness or even the ability to really account for the way the NT describes the gospel.

  8. Jason,

    As long as anything less than sheer monergism is tantamount to breaking into God’s kingdom and stealing his precious glory, there simply won’t be the openness or even the ability to really account for the way the NT describes the gospel.

    It’s comments like this that make all your comments about respect for your past mentors and what you learned when you were passing through the Reformed tradition appear completely disingenuous. That’s really about the nicest way I could put it.

  9. Regarding the inevitable objection that is to come on this thread, I think it’s worthwhile (pun intended) to point out Paul’s language in his first epistle to the Thessalonians:

    1 Thess 2:19-20

    “19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy

    In addition to Jesus and John, Paul did not shy away from the language of worthiness at all, in fact he boldly embraces it. Contrast this with the defeatism (relating to the praxis of the faith) in the comments on this thread…The Thessalonians had a very real worthiness to Paul. and were his glory and joy because of his labor among them and their reception of it and steadfastness. They were enduring to the end, and hence being robed with the white linen unto salvation. Their sanctification was not something extrinsic to themselves, but something that they worked out actively, it most definitely had salvific import

    “7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God , who has also given us His Holy Spirit.”

    The rejection of holiness is the rejection of God Himself and there cannot be any salvation in this state as Heb 12:14 corroborates explicitly. Justification and sanctification are the two sides to the same coin and support each other with the view of the ‘deliveredict’ at the eschaton.

  10. Robert,

    It’s comments like this that make all your comments about respect for your past mentors and what you learned when you were passing through the Reformed tradition appear completely disingenuous. That’s really about the nicest way I could put it.

    I was responding to Old Adam and his Lutheran law/gospel hermeneutic, which I maintain (along with plenty of Reformed exegetes and WSC profs) completely fails to do justice to the newness of the New Covenant and the power the Spirit bestows for pleasing God.

    Should have been more clear, sorry.

  11. Jason,

    You are hereby absolved. And being the good Reformed Christian that I am, I agree that the strict law-gospel distinction of traditional Lutheranism is wanting. As one of my seminary professors said: “there is no law without gospel and there is no gospel without law.”

  12. We Lutherans (traditional, Confessional Lutherans) believe that most other Christian traditions that are ‘spiritual ladder climbers’, do not take God’s law seriously. They don’t take sin seriously. They may take sins seriously. But they fail to understand our boundness , our complicity.

    Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount tried to put all that ladder-climbing business to rest (“Be perfect…”)…but we just think too highly of ourselves to give up the self-justification projects.

  13. The Old Adam,

    Law and gospel are only opposed in justification. The law is our gracious guide in sanctification, but you probably already knew that such is what the Reformed teach.

  14. Robert and Old Adam,

    At its best, Reformed theology only opposes law and gospel when justification is being discussed, but makes room for sanctification categories like “law of Christ” which does not have an accusatory function, but rather presupposes the indwelling Spirit and thus the keepability of its commands. Hence Jesus: “My yoke is easy,” and John: “His commands are not burdensome.” Lutheranism never seems to get beyond the whole lex semper accusat mentality, which pretty much marginalizes the Spirit and the NC altogether.

    But I also think it likely that a Reformed person who likes Moo, Gordon, Irons, and those like them will eventually conclude what I did myself, namely, that if what those guys say about the NC is true and accurately reflects St. Paul’s own thought (not to mention the other NT writers), then the edifice of extra nos imputation begins to crumble. In short, if God does in Christ what the law could not, to the point where the “righteous requirement of the law is [actually] fulfilled in us,” then there’s simply no need for extrinsic righteousness. When that theological conclusion is reached and the NT data is examined in the light of this paradigm shift, everything just kind of clicks.

    Like The Dude’s rug, the Spirit really ties the room together.

  15. You like Bible?

    Here’s some Bible;

    “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, for all those who have faith.”

    “The law is written upon our hearts” (there’s another one)

    We know what to do. We just flat out refuse to do it.

    We really do need a Savior.

  16. This is pretty good (on the law);

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/turning-the-table-on-religion.mp3

    I never heard this stuff before I started attending our little congregation. But when I did hear it, it was like being reunited with my parents, after being captured many years earlier by the native warriors. I was home.

  17. Jason,

    re “But I also think it likely that a Reformed person who likes Moo, Gordon, Irons…”

    How are the federal vision people seen within the reformed community? (Wilson, Wilkins, Lusk etc) Have they officially been anathemized yet?

  18. It’s complicated. The PCA’s 35th General Assembly condemned the FV, but no individuals have been deposed (yet).

  19. Jason,

    Of course, Moo and Irons are not Roman Catholic but remain Protestant. I don’t know who you are talking about when you say Gordon.

    You are drawing the wrong conclusion that an extrinsic righteous is unnecessary if by the Spirit we fulfill the Law. The NT can speak of fulfilling the Law in different senses. After all, did Christ not say that He fulfills the Law? Do we fulfill it in the same manner as He did, especially since the NT emphasizes His sinless perfection?

    The outpouring of the Spirit does not also deal with the problem of sin and the justice of God. Paul says very explicitly that those who rely on the Law must do all of it if they want to escape the curse of God (Gal. 3:10; 5:3). Christ became a curse for us—and the only way that can work is through imputation of our sin to Him, because Christ knew no sin (Gal. 3:13). Ultimately, Law cannot be limited to the Torah, for Paul was not the only Jew to explain that Gentiles were obligated to obey the moral norms codified in the Torah. The whole proselyte system assumes that such is the case.

    It’s very interesting, is it not, that the two letters that contain Paul’s most extensive treatment of justification refer first to us being “dikaiosofied” and then go on to explain what it means to walk in the Spirit? You can’t have the Spirit without first being justified, and the Spirit cannot dwell in one whom the Father regards as not having met the demands of His law perfectly. The Galatians received the Spirit by hearing through faith, and not through baptism or works of the law, codified Torah or the moral law written on the heart (Gal. 3:1–2).

    The war between God and man must end before He can dwell in us by His Spirit. Romans 5:1 says we have the fullness of peace—shalom—with God in Christ Jesus. If this can truly be lost, it is not true peace but only a cease fire. And that is what you have in Rome and all other views of justification except the classical Reformed view. God puts down His weapons temporarily but it’s up to you to make sure they stay that way. That is not peace.

    When you take Romans 5:12–21, 2 Cor. 5:21; Isa. 53, and several other passages into account, it is clear that this peace can only come through the imputation also of the perfect righteousness of Christ. God justifies the ungodly, Paul says, He does not justify the godly.

    I’ll probably write more later about this specific post, but I’ll just note that the several passages you note do connect Spirit-filled living with eternal life, and no Reformed theologian would disagree. The real question is the nature of this connection and, ultimately, the reason why we choose to live by the Spirit. Simply quoting the passages and saying that one who believed Spirit-wrought righteous deeds merit eternal life would never write such passages will not do. It is irresponsible to say such things without at least interacting with the scores of commentaries written on these passages, as if there are no cogent answers. You must deal with them and not wave them away simply because you do not think someone holding to the Protestant position would have written these texts. Calvin, the Westminster Divines, Machen, and others had no problems with these texts and the doctrine of justification they defend, and I dare say that all of them knew Scripture, the theological context, church history, and everything else that impacts these texts and their interpretation far better than any of us do.

    The Reformed are not wrong simply because you don’t think that those who held to a Protestant gospel would have written these texts. And that applies also to the posts in which you attempt a more thorough exegesis. Your failure to specifically deal with the major Reformed presentations of all these positions may pick off individuals who do not know the tradition well, but it won’t address the real reasons why the Reformed refuse to accept the Roman reading of all these texts.

  20. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    if by the Spirit we fulfill the Law… do we fulfill it in the same manner as He did, especially since the NT emphasizes His sinless perfection?

    If you’ve been following along (and it’s stuff like this that really makes me wonder), then you wouldn’t even need to ask the question. “Agape paradigm”, remember? Christ’s sinless perfection consisted in agape, not in perfect law-keeping. Ring a bell?

    So, yes, if by the indwelling Spirit we have agape, then we fulfill the law in the same manner as Christ who fulfilled the law with agape.

    The rest of your post does little more than beg the question by assuming that an appeal to the Perfect Law-Keeper paradigm carries any weight within the Agape paradigm.

    Please keep the paradigms separate and try to deal with the texts instead. Then, and only then, can you begin to privately ponder whether the texts fit better into the Agape paradigm or the Perfect Law-Keeper paradigm.

  21. Wosbald,

    You wrote:

    If you’ve been following along (and it’s stuff like this that really makes me wonder), then you wouldn’t even need to ask the question. “Agape paradigm”, remember? Christ’s sinless perfection consisted in agape, not in perfect law-keeping. Ring a bell?

    So, yes, if by the indwelling Spirit we have agape, then we fulfill the law in the same manner as Christ who fulfilled the law with agape.

    The rest of your post does little more than beg the question by assuming that an appeal to the Perfect Law-Keeper paradigm carries any weight within the Agape paradigm.

    Please keep the paradigms separate and try to deal with the texts instead. Then, and only then, can you begin to privately ponder whether the texts fit better into the Agape paradigm or the Perfect Law-Keeper paradigm.

    First of all, Wosbald, I have been following along, and the idea that the New Testament presents an agape paradigm by which Christ fulfills the law has by no means been established. It is rather assumed and then used as a filter by which we can determine what we think the apostles should have said.

    Second, the idea that we fulfill the law in the same way as Christ is absurd and even blasphemous. On the simplest level, we can’t fulfill the law the way Christ did, because we are not bound to observe Sukkot or any of the other Old Testament festivals and sacrifices. When Peter says that Christ committed no sin (1 Peter 2), he does not merely mean that Christ showed agape at all times, and even if that were the case, none of us show agape at all times so, by the very nature of the case, we cannot fulfill the law in the same manner as Jesus.

    Third, all the talk of the agape paradigm is absurd even from a Roman Catholic perspective, for even you have a system in which perfection is demanded, at least in some sense. If you did not, there is no reason for the application of the merits of the saints via the treasury of merit, penance to make satisfaction for sin, and so on. More than one commenter has pointed this out to Jason on this blog and elsewhere.

    Fourth, are you a member of Called to Communion? You must be, because the minute anyone starts pressing any of you on issues that you do not want to answer, the accusation of begging the question starts being thrown around. I don’t have a PhD in philosophy, but I’m smart enough to see a dodge when it shows its head.

    The fact of the matter is that Jason keeps saying again and again that the agape paradigm, if there is such a thing, accounts for the New Testament better than Protestantism, but he is largely doing this by pulling isolated texts out of their context, as in this post, and then saying that it is just obvious that if Paul were Protestant, he never would have said such things. We’ve had very little extended discussions of the entire context in which these passages are found. In fact, we’ve had none of that. We started with some parables and gospel stories. Then we talked about Romans 2,3, and 4 before skipping over 5, 6, and 7 and dealing briefly with 8 but ignoring the promise that all who are truly justified will be glorified. Then we had an interesting look at James 2, and a couple of other isolated posts such as Psalm 106. There has been no substantial interaction with Reformed commenters, except for a brief mention in the post on Phineas. All of this works together to make it look to unsuspecting readers as if the issues are being considered thoroughly and fairly when, in fact, nothing of the sort has happened.

    You want to talk paradigms? Well, since Rome only allows for the final justification of the godly, Rome cannot account for Paul’s statement that the grace of God is seen most clearly in the fact that he justifies the UNgodly (Rom. 4). And your “agape paradigm” by no means deals with the fact that human beings are under a curse for not obeying ALL that the law commands (Gal. 3:10–14). That little word “all” is an interpretative addition by Paul which goes far beyond the mere presence of agape in the soul. The law prescribes specific deeds, specific acts of agape that must be fulfilled. If we fail to perform even one of these deeds we are under God’s curse no matter how much agape has been infused into us. (And again, the emphasis on ALL the law underscores Paul, and the New Testament’s teaching that what God demands from us is perfection. “Be perfect as God is perfect” does not leave any room for error. And those are the words of Jesus.)

  22. Robert,

    Of course, Moo and Irons are not Roman Catholic but remain Protestant. I don’t know who you are talking about when you say Gordon.

    My point was that arriving at their conclusions is enough to make the Catholic gospel at least feasible (while of course not dealing with other ecclesiological objections in any way). And I was referring to T. David Gordon, sorry about that.

    You are drawing the wrong conclusion that an extrinsic righteous is unnecessary if by the Spirit we fulfill the Law. The NT can speak of fulfilling the Law in different senses. After all, did Christ not say that He fulfills the Law? Do we fulfill it in the same manner as He did, especially since the NT emphasizes His sinless perfection?

    As has been pointed out, you are making a paradigm-specific objection without realizing that your paradigm is even at play. From a Catholic perspective, we do in fact fulfill the law like Jesus does because we have his very Spirit indwelling and animating us. He’s our elder Brother.

    The outpouring of the Spirit does not also deal with the problem of sin and the justice of God.

    On the contrary. While it is the Son and not the Spirit who atones for man’s sin, the Spirit most certainly plays a role in meeting the Father’s standard of justice in us since he infuses the agape that is itself the fulfillment of the law.

  23. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    First of all, Wosbald, I have been following along, and the idea that the New Testament presents an agape paradigm by which Christ fulfills the law has by no means been established.

    Precisely. Neither paradigm has been established commonly between us. And so, since we don’t appeal to the Agape paradigm as if it is normative for you, don’t appeal to the Perfect Law-Keeper paradigm as if it is normative for us. That way, neither of us will be begging the question.

    So, as I asked, please return to the text and keep the two paradigms separate. Then, and only then, will you and me and everyone be free to privately mull whether the texts fit better into the Agape paradigm or the Perfect Law-Keeper paradigm (or into some third, and as-yet undisclosed, paradigm).

    Thank you in advance.

  24. Wosbald–

    I have constantly had to ask Catholics to label the term “justification” so that I know whether or not they intend to use it in a Protestant or Catholic fashion. I would never, however, accuse them of question begging, as a result. The accusations of question begging, circular reasoning, ad hominem’s, and non sequitur’s (outside of a refereed debate) are nothing but rude. They do nothing whatever to advance the dialogue. Your paradigm is normative for you, and ours is normative for us. Such can be assumed without its detracting from the level of understanding between us.

    We Reformed don’t happen to subscribe to a perfect-lawkeeper or “list” paradigm any more than you do. We accept the perfect lawkeeping (or perfect agape) of Christ as sufficient. You hold to a system where the perfection of Christ must be added to. So if ours is a List paradigm, yours is List+.

  25. Robert,

    Not to pile on, but I’d like to comment on this crucial point you made:

    Second, the idea that we fulfill the law in the same way as Christ is absurd and even blasphemous. On the simplest level, we can’t fulfill the law the way Christ did, because we are not bound to observe Sukkot or any of the other Old Testament festivals and sacrifices. When Peter says that Christ committed no sin (1 Peter 2), he does not merely mean that Christ showed agape at all times, and even if that were the case, none of us show agape at all times so, by the very nature of the case, we cannot fulfill the law in the same manner as Jesus.

    While it is true that we do not fulfill the law in the same ‘prefiguratory’ sense as Jesus, since the OT prefigured Jesus in e.g. the Passover Lamb, this admission is precisely what Catholics are looking for because it demolishes the thesis that “fulfill = keep the law perfectly”. For example, a Reformed can no longer confidently point to Jesus assenting to Baptism by saying “this is fitting to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15) and “I came not to abolish but to fulfill”. These can only refer to Jesus realizing the full-potential of the Law, not perfectly keeping it (though he did), or to getting Baptized in our place. Once this ‘sinks in’, then the Reformed must look (frantically) elsewhere for a text that says Jesus kept the law perfectly in our place (as a condition for Justification). And without this missing piece, the (Protestant) Gospel is no good news at all.

    This is further driven home when you realize the two key texts that speak of Christians “fulfilling the law” (Romans 13:8ff & Galatians 5:13ff) say this is done by loving God and neighbor. This is precisely what we should expect to see reserved to Jesus alone, but it’s applied to us, and no amount of twisting can reduce these into suggestions or out-of-reach ideals. It makes no sense to say Jesus fulfilled the Law *in our place* by loving God and neighbor (something the Bible never says anyway) while Christians also being called to fulfill the Law by loving God and neighbor.

    This is why Paul can say “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom 13:11), further showing the Protestant conflating of Conversion and Judgment into one event is erroneous. I can tell you one thing, a Reformed person would never say what Paul does in 1 Corinthians 4,

    2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. [dikaioo, justified] It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

    Final Justification if Paul is found faithful; not before.

  26. Nick,

    You wrote: These can only refer to Jesus realizing the full-potential of the Law, not perfectly keeping it (though he did), or to getting Baptized in our place.

    So, if Jesus had committed sin, could he still have saved us?

    1 Corinthians 4 is completely irrelevant to the discussion, as Paul is talking about his apostolic office and his judgment in the eyes of men. He is unaware of anything against him in the eyes of men, but he does not use that as an argument that other men should receive him. God will judge his apostolic ministry and it is not their job to judge it in lieu of the Lord or before its time. At that point, Paul will be commended. The passage is not about justification in a personal soteriological sense, and the context makes that plain.

    Yes, Christians can truly love God and neighbor, and in so doing we fulfill the law. Of course, Galatians 5 and Romans 13 follow Paul’s extended treatment of justification, and the fact that by our works we have no claim upon God. We are justified by His grace as a sheer gift before we can even attempt to fulfill the law.

    (BTW, and this is incidental, but I notice on your blog that you have high hopes for a conservative pope who will be able to deal with the wolves who are trying to undermine truth in your church. Of course, you also imply that there is a possibility that you could get a liberal pope. Remind me again of what the hierarchy of Rome is supposed to accomplish if the infallible Vicar of Christ and the Magisterium can go apostate?)

  27. Jason–

    “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

    All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-5)

    Moving back just a couple of verses from you (in order to show context), doesn’t verse 5 (of 2 Thessalonians 1) sound more Reformed than a Romanist Paul would? Their perseverance and faith under persecution is an indication that God got it right (in the past) when he justified these particular people, and that (as a result) of this previous justification, they will be counted worthy of the kingdom.

    I realize that there is a lot of squishiness here as to which antecedent certain terms refer (e.g., is the “evidence” an indication of their perseverance, their suffering, or both? Or does it refer to the believer’s attested worthiness?), but this is not a Reformed translation (it’s NIV) and your version (ESV?) doesn’t change things much. The Greek seems to allow for a number of valid interpretations, only one of which is your (supposedly straightforward) one.

    You know very well that theological paradigms cannot be established by isolated pericopes as you are attempting to do. Perhaps, as Wosbald mentioned above, you’re simply trying to show that the Reformed are on the “same methodological turf” as Catholics (presumably that we have a paradigm informed primarily by creed/confession/catechism). Your acceptance of his notion that the belief in monergism is logically prior to “cracking open a Bible” shows a profound misunderstanding of sola scriptura . The initial creeds come from countless hours of intense study of Scripture, commentary, and tradition by countless individuals. What they don’t come from are exegetes willing to accept clearly extra-biblical traditions as happens in the church of Rome.

  28. Robert–

    The pope as Vicar of Christ is not considered infallible, and you know it. He is only considered infallible when speaking ex cathedra , and the church is guarded from an apostate pope pronouncing heresy as truth in such a manner. It is fully appropriate for Nick to pray for a faithful shepherd for the flock. Personally, I pray for one who will be even more disposed toward dialogue with Protestants than B16 (who was much better than JP the Great).

    Of course, all of the above is a matter of faith. It cannot be conclusively shown that there have been no heretical pronouncements proclaimed ex cathedra . But Nick’s sentiments ought to be honored and given the “benefit of the doubt” as it is certainly part of his beliefs.

  29. Nick–

    Get it through your head that no Reformed adherent believes that Jesus had to keep all of the literal law (because, quite simply, he didn’t). We actually go with you that his perfection was a perfection in obeying the spiritual intention of the law. In other words, he perfectly obeyed the Law of Liberty, the Law of Agape Love, the spirit of the Law, the Law of Christ.

    Where we differ from you is that we believe this perfection had a serious purpose (other than as a “shining example”). That’s why we keep telling you that your paradigm doesn’t really need a sinless Christ. Job or Enoch or Josiah (or the “blameless” Zechariah and Elizabeth) would have done just fine.

  30. Robert (first), Eric (second),

    Robert:

    So, if Jesus had committed sin, could he still have saved us?

    No. I don’t know where or why you came to this conclusion. Jesus was sinless, keeping the law perfectly, but no text says Jesus did this *in our place*. He was sinless for a few reasons, e.g. He was Divine, this made him a worthy sacrifice, but that’s not the same as being sinless *in our place*. When the text says Jesus “fulfilled,” this term does not mean “keep perfectly,” so that is not the reason the Bible says Jesus “fulfilled” something, but rather the Biblical term means “reach the full potential of”.

    1 Corinthians 4 is completely irrelevant to the discussion, as Paul is talking about his apostolic office and his judgment in the eyes of men. God will judge his apostolic ministry and it is not their job to judge it in lieu of the Lord or before its time. The passage is not about justification in a personal soteriological sense, and the context makes that plain.

    Really, the term dikaioo appears, in the very context of judgment, speaks of needing to be faithful and avoid sins, and all this is talking about is his apostolic office? This would be some kind of abstract, impersonal “acquittal”, that really doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. Not only does this seem like a desperate attempt to avoid the implications of this text, it almost introduces a new kind of “justification,” one of non-soteric vindication in a courtroom scene, which I’d argue undermines any idea of “Justify=Forensic”.

    Yes, Christians can truly love God and neighbor, and in so doing we fulfill the law. Of course, Galatians 5 and Romans 13 follow Paul’s extended treatment of justification, and the fact that by our works we have no claim upon God. We are justified by His grace as a sheer gift before we can even attempt to fulfill the law.

    This is confusing, but it seems we’ve been here before. I agree this “fulfilling the law” is part of Paul’s “extended treatment of justification,” and in fact I’d argue “fulfilling the law” has a clear forensic (justification) component to it. It’s impossible to somehow compartmentalize “fulfilling the law” into a distinct Justification vs Sanctification category.

    Eric,

    Get it through your head that no Reformed adherent believes that Jesus had to keep all of the literal law (because, quite simply, he didn’t). We actually go with you that his perfection was a perfection in obeying the spiritual intention of the law. In other words, he perfectly obeyed the Law of Liberty, the Law of Agape Love, the spirit of the Law, the Law of Christ. Where we differ from you is that we believe this perfection had a serious purpose (other than as a “shining example”). That’s why we keep telling you that your paradigm doesn’t really need a sinless Christ. Job or Enoch or Josiah (or the “blameless” Zechariah and Elizabeth) would have done just fine.

    The problem with this answer, as I said on an older thread (I’m not sure if it was to you or to Robert), is that it makes nonsense of the way “fulfilling the law” through love is commanded of Christians. So it cannot be something Jesus did in the sense of Active Obedience. In the other thread I said something to the effect that if “fulfilling the law” is akin to active obedience and thus justification by works, then Paul was being somewhat disingenuous in Rm13:8ff and Gal 5:13ff, since the Reformed would be forced to read these as Paul saying Christians are called to “fulfill the law” not because they actually could, but only to get them to attempt to, then see themselves flop miserable, and then realize they’re sinners and thus be reminded the hard way that Christ actually “fulfilled the law” in their place and they’re fools to try and do it themselves. In other words, I don’t see how your approach comes off as anything other than Paul daring them to try and be justified by their works, despite his warning a few verses earlier that attempting to do so will cause them to be “severed from Christ, fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4).

  31. Eric,

    … doesn’t verse 5 (of 2 Thessalonians 1) sound more Reformed than a Romanist Paul would? Their perseverance and faith under persecution is an indication that God got it right (in the past) when he justified these particular people, and that (as a result) of this previous justification, they will be counted worthy of the kingdom.

    I don’t see how Paul’s boasting about the Thessalonians is more Reformed than Catholic. From what I can see all he is doing is saying that they are exhibiting love and faithfulness and are steadfast under trials, and therefore he is thankful for them. The result of this faithfulness will be final salvation, which demonstrates the justice of God. If anything, appealing to the Thessalonians’ faithfulness as proving God’s righteousness for justifying them on the last day is problematic for the Reformed view, since it places works as the factor that results in their being “counted worthy of the kingdom.”

    I realize that there is a lot of squishiness here as to which antecedent certain terms refer (e.g., is the “evidence” an indication of their perseverance, their suffering, or both? Or does it refer to the believer’s attested worthiness?), but this is not a Reformed translation (it’s NIV) and your version (ESV?) doesn’t change things much. The Greek seems to allow for a number of valid interpretations, only one of which is your (supposedly straightforward) one.

    Yeah, I noticed that as well. My instinct is to say that it should go, “All this [faithfulness on your part] is evidence that God’s judgment is just, and as a result [of this faithfulness] you will be counted worthy…” (since Paul then goes on to talk at greater length about their faithfulness). But it is a bit ambiguous.

    You know very well that theological paradigms cannot be established by isolated pericopes as you are attempting to do.

    That’s not what I am doing at all. If anything, it is the Sola Scriptura advocate who does this by insisting that our theology must be derived from Scripture rather than recognizing that if the apostolic tradition and preaching predated the NT, then therefore Scripture merely reflects an already-existing paradigm and was never intended to provide one.

    Perhaps, as Wosbald mentioned above, you’re simply trying to show that the Reformed are on the “same methodological turf” as Catholics (presumably that we have a paradigm informed primarily by creed/confession/catechism).

    On the one hand, yes, we all bring our paradigm to the text(s). The big difference is that I think the Catholic approach rightly places the NT in the position of resulting from, rather than giving rise to, a systematic paradigm, for the reason I just mentioned.

    Your acceptance of his notion that the belief in monergism is logically prior to “cracking open a Bible” shows a profound misunderstanding of sola scriptura .

    You’ll have to recite to me where exactly I said this, because it doesn’t sound familiar.

    The initial creeds come from countless hours of intense study of Scripture, commentary, and tradition by countless individuals. What they don’t come from are exegetes willing to accept clearly extra-biblical traditions as happens in the church of Rome.

    Not to be pedantic, but the Nicene and Constantinopolitan creeds were written before there was a universally-recognized canon. And your second sentence is too broad for me to know what to do with it. I don’t really understand your point there.

  32. Jason–

    1. You said the following:

    “The big difference is that I think the Catholic approach rightly places the NT in the position of resulting from, rather than giving rise to, a systematic paradigm, for the reason I just mentioned.”

    The Reformation resulted in large part from the Reformers’ evaluation of the validity of this supposition…wherein it came up far short. The NT clearly does not rise from the Catholic paradigm. It is in establishing the paradigm that it naturally would have risen from (and in reconstructing such a paradigm) that the “Re-formed” paradigm came [back] into being!

    2. I was actually comparing Catholics and Protestants credally and confessionally, so I was thinking of Augsburg and the WCF every bit as much as the Nicaeo-Constantinopolitan creed and the Tridentine catechism. But that said, it’s pretty naive of you to state that there was no recognized canon before the official listing of all the biblical books. There was no definitive listing of the deutero-canonical books until Trent.

    3. Your interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 1:5 is one that it cannot possibly be:

    “All this [faithfulness on your part] is evidence that God’s judgment is just, and as a result [of this faithfulness] you will be counted worthy…”

    One cannot be “counted worthy” as a result of faithfulness that is the effect of being justly judged (because one has already been justly judged before one’s faithful acts, and thus, not as a result of them).

    (There are, however, interpretations which are compliant with your paradigm that are not ruled out by syntax.)

  33. Eric,

    I wrote: “The big difference is that I think the Catholic approach rightly places the NT in the position of resulting from, rather than giving rise to, a systematic paradigm, for the reason I just mentioned.” You responded:

    The Reformation resulted in large part from the Reformers’ evaluation of the validity of this supposition…wherein it came up far short. The NT clearly does not rise from the Catholic paradigm. It is in establishing the paradigm that it naturally would have risen from (and in reconstructing such a paradigm) that the “Re-formed” paradigm came [back] into being!

    First, this doesn’t “come up short,” it’s a historical fact (unless you believe that once the NT canon was completed and recognized, the entire church’s theology was rebooted and derived from it de novo.

    Second, you utterly dismiss this entire project by waving it off as “clearly” wrong. My, it must be nice to just pronounce things as true or false with a perlocutionary speech-act! Unfortunately many haven’t gotten the memo, and judging from the public and private comments and correspondence I am receiving, it is becoming clear to plenty of people that the Reformed system, while perhaps cogent as a closed system, it utterly unlikely to have given rise to the kinds of statements we have been dealing with here, statements that it simply and obviously cannot account for.

    I was actually comparing Catholics and Protestants credally and confessionally, so I was thinking of Augsburg and the WCF every bit as much as the Nicaeo-Constantinopolitan creed and the Tridentine catechism. But that said, it’s pretty naive of you to state that there was no recognized canon before the official listing of all the biblical books. There was no definitive listing of the deutero-canonical books until Trent.

    I did admit that I was perhaps being pedantic there, but if you want to take an off-handed and admittedly somewhat irrelevant remark as a chance to charge me with naiveté, that’s your prerogative I guess.

    Your interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 1:5 is one that it cannot possibly be:
    “All this [faithfulness on your part] is evidence that God’s judgment is just, and as a result [of this faithfulness] you will be counted worthy…” One cannot be “counted worthy” as a result of faithfulness that is the effect of being justly judged (because one has already been justly judged before one’s faithful acts, and thus, not as a result of them).

    You’re right, if you presuppose your own paradigm, what I am saying makes no sense (which you’d think you wouldn’t still be doing that after all this time). But if justification has, as I have been arguing, a past, ongoing, and future dynamic, then God can indeed justify us initially in baptism (like in Tit. 3:5ff), justify us when we display faithfulness in our lives (like in Jas. 2), and justify us on the last day when we persevere to the end by his grace (like in Rom. 2:13).

    If you disagree, you’ll need to argue in some other way than by presupposing the Reformed definition of justification and using it to show how impossible what I am saying is.

  34. Jason–

    Obviously, you didn’t understand what I had to say. Could be my fault, I suppose.

    The Reformers did not agree with you that the NT arose from the Roman Catholic paradigm (in either its medieval or Tridentine forms, let alone its supposed Apostolic form). Now, that is an historical fact!

    No one, not even Alister McGrath, believes that “the entire church’s theology was rebooted and derived from [Scripture] de novo.”

    In context, I was saying that the Reformers found the Catholic assumptions “clearly” in the wrong. I’m not sure how much they were into “perlocutionary speech-acts,” but I do believe they actually did some research.

    Yes, I’m sure there are all kinds of vulnerable, trusting people out there whom you are helping to make “twice as fit for [error] as you are yourself.” Why on earth would I be impressed by that?

    No, I did not presuppose my own paradigm. What I did was I momentarily forgot how convoluted your personal paradigm is: a veritable shape-shifter! I wish I had one that could fit that many variable contexts….

  35. Eric,

    True, I know that the Roman Catholic church qualifies papal infallibility and that it is at least theoretically possible for the church to be invaded by wolves at even the highest level. My only point is that since Rome makes such a big deal about finding the church where the bishop is and that you need the Magisterium to know with certainty what Scripture teaches, I don’t really know what you actually get by swimming the Tiber other than claims that cannot be fulfilled.

  36. Jason,

    That’s not what I am doing at all. If anything, it is the Sola Scriptura advocate who does this by insisting that our theology must be derived from Scripture rather than recognizing that if the apostolic tradition and preaching predated the NT, then therefore Scripture merely reflects an already-existing paradigm and was never intended to provide one.

    Alright, getting to some core issues that separate us! Good job!

    Actually, since the only evidence for the “already-existing paradigm” is the NT, that is where we need to go to find the Apostolic paradigm. I asked you earlier how you are building your paradigm, and you said it didn’t matter, that you could have made up the whole thing de novo. But the fact of the matter is that it does matter how you build your paradigm, and you are bringing Roman Catholicism to the text. In one sense, that might be perfectly fine, but if you are going to do that, you need to bring the whole shebang. Do you really want to argue that the Roman Marian dogmas, indulgences, a celibate priesthood, the sacrifice of the Mass and more were part of the paradigm that gave birth to the NT?

    Outside of the NT, where is this already existing apostolic paradigm? The church fathers? Where do they agree on the soteriology you are presenting? Sure, you can find statements that sound Roman Catholic, but you can also find statements that sound Protestant? Who wins? Does Rome win because they have the successor to Peter in the chair? If that’s the case, why do we not find the papacy in the earliest fathers?

    Not to be pedantic, but the Nicene and Constantinopolitan creeds were written before there was a universally-recognized canon.

    Actually, as Michael Kruger is demonstrating, and I hope you are reading his work, the scope of the NT canon was recognized as early as Origen, though not necessarily across the church, as not every church had access to every NT book. However, everyone by the time Nicea and Constantinople happened did recognize a core canon of at least the Gospels and Paul’s letters (including Hebrews), with a few other books such as Acts and 1 Peter undisputed. Those books are more than sufficient to establish the teachings of those creeds, and what is more, when there is a dispute about what tradition has taught in those matters settled by the creeds, the fathers again and again and again go to Scripture to disprove the claims of those who would rail against those creeds.

    The Reformers knew the church fathers better than any of us, having read them in Latin and classical Greek, and making use of the more than 36 volumes or so in Schaff’s set. If you remember anything from your church history classes (and it is fairly obvious from what you say here and your CtC interview that you don’t know church history), then you know that the Reformers did not think they were reinventing the wheel but believed they were returning the church to much of what the fathers had taught. Before you pronounce them wrong, you might want to actually spend time studying all of what the fathers said. If you did, it would at least make you hesitate before making grand pronouncements about what the apostolic paradigm actually was.

    Judging from the public and private comments and correspondence I am receiving, it is becoming clear to plenty of people that the Reformed system, while perhaps cogent as a closed system, it utterly unlikely to have given rise to the kinds of statements we have been dealing with here, statements that it simply and obviously cannot account for.

    Thank goodness you are showing us the light with these paradigm posts. Why, if you and the CtCers had been around during the Reformation, Luther and Calvin never would have gotten as far as they did. No Reformed exegete has ever dealt with these texts as thoroughly as you have.

    By the way, and this proves little, but have you seen the recent statistics that say one in ten Americans are former Roman Catholics and that half of these are Protestants. Rome does not seem to care all that much about this, leaving the task of calling people “home” to groups such as Catholic Answers and the isolated individual such as yourself. That’s not very surprising given Rome’s full-on march toward universalism, however.

  37. Jason,

    One more thing: You make a lot of assumptions about your paradigm, namely that the apostles taught things that are not recorded for us in the New Testament. How do you know this? And the whole “they just would’ve taught other things” is not an answer, nor is your whole “Jesus just would’ve established a church like the Roman church” answer acceptable either. How do you know what the apostles would have or should have done?

  38. Hi Robert (3:07 am). You asked how we know that the apostles taught things not recorded. Apart from Scripture references about ‘traditions’ which have been mentioned, the early church fathers explicitly stated that much that was unwritten has been handed down from the times of the apostles.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  39. Eric and Robert,

    What is the Scriptural basis for the ‘active obedience’ of Christ?

  40. The Reformers knew the church fathers better than any of us, having read them in Latin and classical Greek, and making use of the more than 36 volumes or so in Schaff’s set. If you remember anything from your church history classes (and it is fairly obvious from what you say here and your CtC interview that you don’t know church history), then you know that the Reformers did not think they were reinventing the wheel but believed they were returning the church to much of what the fathers had taught

    Is that so? Can you show me where Calvin quotes the Apostolic Fathers?

  41. +JMJ+

    Jason wrote:

    Unfortunately many haven’t gotten the memo, and judging from the public and private comments and correspondence I am receiving, it is becoming clear to plenty of people that the Reformed system, while perhaps cogent as a closed system, it utterly unlikely to have given rise to the kinds of statements we have been dealing with here, statements that it simply and obviously cannot account for.

    Aye, it is interiorly cogent if we are are limiting the “interior” to Reformed Soteriology in abstract isolation. But when Monergism is put into relation with the living, organic reality of the Incarnation, it is then that dissonance really shows. Monergism is not mutually consonant with Incarnationalism, and it is this, precisely, what people are starting to realize. Simply put, people are beginning to see the dissonance that results by simultaneously professing both an Incarnate God and a Disincarnate Economy. The texts that you cite demonstrate this amply. When read in the light of Monergism, the Reformed exegesis of these verses make sense. But when read in the light of Incarnationalism, the Reformed readings are incoherent.

    This is the great crisis that some people are having. They are realizing that they are bringing something to the text (not which is intrinsically incompatible with the text, per se, since the text is virtually compatible with anything) but which is incompatible with the living, personal reality of an Incarnate God. They simply cannot explain how an Incarnate God is compatable with a Disincarnate Salvific Economy.

  42. JeffB (and Robert),

    There’s also John’s reference at the end of his gospel to the fact that he hadn’t included everything about Jesus in his book. Just to give another example.

  43. Robert,

    Actually, since the only evidence for the “already-existing paradigm” is the NT, that is where we need to go to find the Apostolic paradigm.

    Not exactly. We know from history and from the ECFs that there were a couple of decades of real and legitimate church ministry before the first NT book was even begun. By the time the canon was completely written there had been 60 years of apostolic preaching and ministry. And by the time the canon was universally recognized there had been over 3 full centuries of church ministry, preaching, liturgy, and sacraments happening across the known world. At no point did anyone suggest the need to stop and “derive” a doctrine of baptism from Rom. 6, Acts 2, and I Pet. 3. No, the apostolic doctrine of baptism gave rise to those texts, it didn’t derive from them. This is simply historical fact.

    … you are bringing Roman Catholicism to the text. In one sense, that might be perfectly fine, but if you are going to do that, you need to bring the whole shebang. Do you really want to argue that the Roman Marian dogmas, indulgences, a celibate priesthood, the sacrifice of the Mass and more were part of the paradigm that gave birth to the NT?

    I have addressed this question of yours enough times now, I’m not going to do it again.

    Outside of the NT, where is this already existing apostolic paradigm? The church fathers? Where do they agree on the soteriology you are presenting? Sure, you can find statements that sound Roman Catholic, but you can also find statements that sound Protestant? Who wins?

    Rome wins, didn’t you know?

    It is a necessary tactic for you to paint a picture of the ECFs that shows them to be all over the map in order to then say that Reformed theology agrees with them in some places and disagrees with them in others (just as they themselves agree and disagree with each other). But when it comes to the most basic soteriological issues such as baptismal regeneration, the sacrifice of the Eucharist, and the possibility of true apostasy, the consensus is there (and it would be recognized by you if you agreed with them on these points).

    But if you want to show me an ECF with a proto-Reformed theology who could have passed an ordination exam on soteriology 101 in a NAPARC church, have at it. But you can’t.

    If you remember anything from your church history classes (and it is fairly obvious from what you say here and your CtC interview that you don’t know church history), then you know that the Reformers did not think they were reinventing the wheel but believed they were returning the church to much of what the fathers had taught. Before you pronounce them wrong, you might want to actually spend time studying all of what the fathers said. If you did, it would at least make you hesitate before making grand pronouncements about what the apostolic paradigm actually was.

    It cracks me up when Reformed people say this kind of thing. As if the problem is that I simply don’t know what your claims are, and that if I only paid enough attention in class to know what the Reformers’ intentions were, I would change my tune immediately. As if I would say, “Whaa? Calvin actually cited the fathers and claimed to agree with them? Why didn’t someone say so! Where can I apply for readmittance?!”

    I am quite aware of what the Reformed project was, Robert. But the thing is, I don’t agree with it, and neither do plenty of other people who also have studied it. The issue is not a lack of knowledge, and to indicate that it is is extremely arrogant, as though if we only had the awareness of the facts that you do we’d finally see the light.

    Why, if you and the CtCers had been around during the Reformation, Luther and Calvin never would have gotten as far as they did. No Reformed exegete has ever dealt with these texts as thoroughly as you have.

    This just demonstrates that you are still not really grasping what I am trying to do in this series, for if you did, you wouldn’t couch the discussion in terms of who’s the better exegete. Have you ever talked with a Mormon? Because they can exegete the NT and somehow make it fit their system as well. My point is that their system simply wouldn’t have given rise to these texts, and neither would yours have. In fact, if we took a group of intelligent but religiously-neutral people and presented our paradigms and asked them each to list all the NT passages that seemed problematic fits for those paradigms, the list of problem passages for the Reformed paradigm would be larger than the list of passages that fit it well.

    One more thing: You make a lot of assumptions about your paradigm, namely that the apostles taught things that are not recorded for us in the New Testament. How do you know this? And the whole “they just would’ve taught other things” is not an answer… How do you know what the apostles would have or should have done?

    On the one hand, we can know what people thought by the things they wrote (even though this project is more about likelihood than about knowing). The apostles didn’t write the NT and then read it so see what they thought, they thought things first that they communicated in writing. So we can ask whether justification, in the minds of the NT figures, was a once-for-all event or an ongoing dynamic by reading what they wrote about it. When you do that, as I have been showing, you discover that the only answer that makes sense out of all the relevant data is that they considered justification an ongoing dynamic. The only way around this, as you Reformed keep demonstrating, is by taking all the passages that don’t fit your once-for-all theory and dismissing them as not really speaking to the issue. And you do this at the expense of everything Jesus said about it, everything James said about it, and much of what Paul said about it.

    Your paradigm is horribly faulty and it’s time for a new one, my friend. Even if you still reject the papacy and Marian dogmas, there’re still Protestant paradigms out there that make better sense of the NT than Geneva’s does. You should at least look into these.

  44. Jason–

    You know what? I’m convinced. The cogency of your arguments has been too much to bear up under. From this point forward, I will embrace Catholic soteriology because it is far more biblical and Apostolic than the mere 500-year-old tenets I have been espousing heretofore.

    Furthermore, I’ll take your advice and go biblical and Apostolic all the way, eschewing hyperdulia, the immaculate conception, the assumption, the papacy, penance, indulgences, purgatory, and eucharistic adoration. I’ll be giving up all those cute scapulars and shiny rosary beads and impressive hair shirts I have been toying with. No more self-flagellation for me! This year I’ll not be participating in all those divine mercy novenas and chaplets…and the androgynous, multi-ethnic statues of Mary and Jesus on my lawn (complete with that horrific congenital defect “ectopia cordis”) will be tossed to the curb.

    I guess I’ll become…Methodist (except they don’t believe in baptismal regeneration of any kind). Well, scratch them. I’ll go with the Lutherans (except they’re seriously into that monergism crap, not to mention an odd view of the separation of law and gospel). I’ll try the Anglo-Catholics (nope, too many of those same Marian dogmas). I know…I’ll become a free-will Baptist (nope, again, anti-Sacramental out the wazoo). What on earth is left for me? Not much. Perhaps a very narrow high-churchy segment of the evangelical wing of Anglicanism that still buys into some slight portion of baptismal regeneration and yet holds to a fairly Wesleyan soteriology. I’ll track some down. Even if there are only two or three of us left…that’ll be enough, right? Then maybe the poor ECF’s can quit spinning in their graves and rest in peace.

  45. Glad you’re finally convinced, Eric. I knew you’d come around (although others I know secretly doubted you’d ever see the light).

    As you search for a new church, don’t complicate things too much. Just make sure it is visibly one, that it is holy due to the holiness of its founder, that it is apostolic as understood by the early fathers, and that it is catholic and worldwide.

    If you need any help, I can make a suggestion. . . .

  46. +JMJ+

    Jason Stellman wrote:

    Have you ever talked with a Mormon? Because they can exegete the NT and somehow make it fit their system as well. My point is that their system simply wouldn’t have given rise to these texts, and neither would yours have…. the only way around this, as you Reformed keep demonstrating, is by taking all the passages that don’t fit your once-for-all theory and dismissing them as not really speaking to the issue. And you do this at the expense of everything Jesus said about it, everything James said about it, and much of what Paul said about it.

    Ka-chow!

    One either has to say that the Apostle’s did an amazingly poor job of expressing themselves or else, one has to say that a universal hermeneutic of NT praxis is needed to unlock the meaning. For the Reformed, this is Monergism. This is demonstrated by Robert’s comments on another thread: “Only those who have had a true revelation of their sin and the holiness of God will understand this. Only those who truly understand that the love of God is a holy love will understand this.”

    But when Reformed people finally sit up and take notice that the “critical hermeneutic key of Christian life” is not identified as Incarnationalism but, rather, as Monergism, the disconnect is often too much to bear.

  47. Jason–

    Feel free to make suggestions. (Just realize that I find Roman Catholicism to be about as Apostolic as Rastafarianism.)

    I believe I once asked you whether you thought the present Princeton Theological Seminary was the selfsame seminary that “Archibald Alexander founded.” It has, after all, the same continuous hierarchy and institutional structure. I never did get an answer.

    Roman Catholicism is indeed the “church Christ founded” (together with the able assistance of 21 councils, 265 popes, a smattering of wack-a-doodle theologians, and bishops and priests too numerous to mention). They all did a “bang-up” job together!!!

  48. Eric,

    Feel free to make suggestions. (Just realize that I find Roman Catholicism to be about as Apostolic as Rastafarianism.)

    Rastafaris don’t like it when it’s called an “ism,” but haytahs gon’ hate. Plus, apostolicity to the ECFs was more concerned with historical succession through the laying on of hand and less about whether one “finds” the church to be apostolic as defined by their own criteria. But it’s OK, you’re a Protestant, so I’ll forgive the fact that your individualist skirt is showing.

    I believe I once asked you whether you thought the present Princeton Theological Seminary was the selfsame seminary that “Archibald Alexander founded.” It has, after all, the same continuous hierarchy and institutional structure. I never did get an answer.

    Sorry, I don’t remember that. If the church were what Protestants say it is, namely, an invisible organization whose visibility were defined solely by one’s own judgment about how well or poorly a particular body conforms to the Bible, then your parallel would stand and my personal answer would be no, Princeton is no longer “the Princeton of Alexander (or Warfield or the Hodges).”

    But when it comes to the CC, its claim to be the Church Christ founded cannot be lowered to the level of whether it has retained the ethos and mission of the early church as defined by each and every individual. If that were the case, there would be no way to speak meaningfully about anything, whether heresy, schism, or authority. One man’s sect is another man’s bastion of truth and orthodoxy.

    As long as you are judging the CC through the lens of Protestantism, it will never appear authentic to you since it fails to conform to what you think the Bible says the church should teach.

    Now back on topic, please!

  49. Wherever His gospel is proclaimed, and people believe it, and wherever His sacraments are being administered in accordance with the gospel…there is the Church.

    Authentic. Inauthentic.

    The wheat and tares grow together. There are Christians and non Christians in every church where Christ is proclaimed.

    To judge others on the basis of what Christian church they happen to belong to, or not…or to use that judgmental phrase “we are the Church in it’s fullness”, seems to me to be begging for judgement to heaped upon oneself for the pride of it all and for going against Jesus’ command not to judge other’s salvation.

    Nope. We are the ONLY TRUE game in town.

    Give me a break.

  50. Jason,

    Whoa boy,

    Not exactly. We know from history and from the ECFs that there were a couple of decades of real and legitimate church ministry before the first NT book was even begun. By the time the canon was completely written there had been 60 years of apostolic preaching and ministry. And by the time the canon was universally recognized there had been over 3 full centuries of church ministry, preaching, liturgy, and sacraments happening across the known world. At no point did anyone suggest the need to stop and “derive” a doctrine of baptism from Rom. 6, Acts 2, and I Pet. 3. No, the apostolic doctrine of baptism gave rise to those texts, it didn’t derive from them. This is simply historical fact.

    Not exactly. I’ll grant that by the time the canon was completely written there had been 60 years of apostolic preaching and ministry, but if the NT does indeed contain primitive creedal statements and hymns, the writing of it began far earlier than what you suggest. But I won’t quibble over this point.

    No, what is simple historical fact is that when rival claimants to having apostolic doctrine in the early church, rival claimants who also appealed to apostolic succession, the orthodox appealed to Scripture to prove their point decisively. We see this when theological controversies over the Trinity, the person of Christ, and more arose. They certainly did not appeal to the bishop of Rome in the earliest councils. But if the visibility of the church is so important, and if one confirms this visibility by being in communion with the bishop of Rome, which you must believe as a Roman Catholic, somehow the church was able to get the Trinity right without even caring much what the successor of Peter had to say about it. Maybe that whole Roman definition of visibility does not work as well as it is supposed to.

    Of course, that raises the question of what good a visible church defined by apostolic succession actually is when the apostolic church allows lesbian pagans to teach theology for decades in Catholic institutions, makes up documents in the medieval era to legitimate papal authority, and keeps transferring pedophile priests from one diocese to another. None of these things in themselves disproves Rome’s claims, but perhaps you’ll forgive Protestants for questioning rather Rome’s doctrine of visibility really accomplishes all that it is supposed to. Remember, we don’t claim to be the only true church that goes back to the apostles, nor do we claim infallibility.

    As far as my question about soteriological paradigms, you have still never answered this fundamental question: Where does the Roman church give you the right to assert that the proto-Roman paradigm was all that existed prior to the New Testament? I don’t expect an answer, but I just want to point out to interested readers that you do not want to deal with this issue. But if you are in true submission to Rome, this is a question that is relevant, especially since you are a layman and not a part of the Magisterium.

    It is a necessary tactic for you to paint a picture of the ECFs that shows them to be all over the map in order to then say that Reformed theology agrees with them in some places and disagrees with them in others (just as they themselves agree and disagree with each other). But when it comes to the most basic soteriological issues such as baptismal regeneration, the sacrifice of the Eucharist, and the possibility of true apostasy, the consensus is there (and it would be recognized by you if you agreed with them on these points).

    It is a necessary tactic for you to paint a picture of the ECFs that shows them to have a consensus on the most basic soteriological issues. But do they? What do the early Fathers teach about the Eucharist? Do they say it is a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice? Do they affirm transubstantiation or simply agree that Christ is truly present without explaining it in either Roman or Protestant categories? Can apostasy be meaningfully called true apostasy when someone like Augustine affirms that the elect will most certainly persevere to the end? What about baptismal regeneration? Is the consensus that the connection is inevitable or, as Robert Letham has put it, theological? Please tell me, because I really would like to know. You seem quite confident of it. Have you read through even the entire Schaff set since your CtC interview? You have said the fathers played little if any role in your “conversion to Rome” (your words in the same interview), so if you are going to present these ideas, you really should back them up.

    The early fathers, even when they agreed Jesus preexisted His incarnation, could not even agree on the mode in which that preexisted occurred. What about the person of Christ? There’s certainly no consensus on justification. It had to be imposed on the Western Church at Trent, along with a dogmatic definition of the canon and other things. Are those things not rather basic to soteriology as well.

    But if you want to show me an ECF with a proto-Reformed theology who could have passed an ordination exam on soteriology 101 in a NAPARC church, have at it. But you can’t.

    Cute. Of course demanding that an ECF pass a NAPARC exam is so historically anachronistic that it betrays the fact that you really think there is an ECF who would pass Roman ordination. Who would fail that test, Hmm. Clement, Cyprian, Athanasius, Augustine, the Cappadocian Fathers, Chrysostom…

    Of course, I will not claim that any of those men would pass a NAPARC exam or that they were Reformed or Protestant. Such categories make no sense. That means they are not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox either. They are the early church fathers. Protestants can let them be the early church fathers without reading Roman dogma back into them when they mention terms such as Eucharist, apostolic succession, etc. etc.

    More to come…

  51. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Where does the Roman church give you the right to assert that the proto-Roman paradigm was all that existed prior to the New Testament? I don’t expect an answer, but I just want to point out to interested readers that you do not want to deal with this issue. But if you are in true submission to Rome, this is a question that is relevant, especially since you are a layman and not a part of the Magisterium.

    I think that you’re confusing Catholicism with Reformism. “Anything which is not allowed is forbidden” is a Sola Scriptura scruple.

  52. Hi Justin,

    I believe you asked Eric and Robert the following:

    What is the Scriptural basis for the ‘active obedience’ of Christ?

    I’d be interested in the Catholic commenters’ opinions on Romans 5:6-11. Especially noting vs 10.

    6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.[e] 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

    I’m sure there is a way of understanding this passage from the Catholic paradigm, but I am new to a lot of this discussion and have been enjoying Jason’s posts and the resulting comments as a way to clarify my understanding on the differences.

    Also, I would be interested in the Catholic position on Romans 5 wherein Christ and Adam are compared. Jason gave me the recommendation of getting the Ignatius Study Bible, but I’ve yet to go purchase it. I’m just being lazy and asking for some comments on the aforementioned passages here. Thanks! 🙂

    Have a good night,
    Daniel

  53. Wosbald,

    In my response to whether the Roman church allows Jason to hold that only a proto-Roman paradigm existed, you said:

    I think that you’re confusing Catholicism with Reformism. “Anything which is not allowed is forbidden” is a Sola Scriptura scruple.

    Actually, Sola Scriptura has nothing to do with this particular question. Jason is asserting again and again that a proto-Roman paradigm better explains the rise of the NT than the Reformed paradigm. It’s an interesting concept that betrays the fact that one cannot find the fullness of the Roman paradigm in the earliest church. My question is whether the Roman Catholic Magisterium, to which you all supposedly submit, gives you the right to say that only a proto-Roman paradigm existed. If the answer is yes, please show me where.

    It is inconsistent to claim that there are teachings outside of Scripture to which one which must submit, teachings the apostles handed on apart from the NT, and then fail to answer the simple question as to whether Rome allows for a proto-Roman paradigm to exist at all, especially when there is so much that your church requires for belief for salvation that is not found anywhere in the NT or in the early church fathers. At least this is what they required historically. These days, it’s anyone guess

    But when Reformed people finally sit up and take notice that the “critical hermeneutic key of Christian life” is not identified as Incarnationalism but, rather, as Monergism, the disconnect is often too much to bear.

    Nice. Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll start believing that Rome actually makes the incarnation the center of its life and piety when your church goes back to its historical position of believing that there is no salvation outside of the Roman church. It’s really kind of hard to accept that the incarnation even matters when you say that those who explicitly deny it—such has Jews and Muslims—have a share in salvation.

    Let’s go there, first. Then, admit that Christ is sufficient to save His people, and I’ll believe you. As it is, Christ just hasn’t done enough for you has he?

  54. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    My question is whether the Roman Catholic Magisterium, to which you all supposedly submit, gives you the right to say that only a proto-Roman paradigm existed. If the answer is yes, please show me where.

    I just told you right up above, yo. “Anything which is not allowed is forbidden” is not the way we roll.

  55. Daniel,

    I (not Justin?) had asked the question.

    “9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

    Isn’t it interesting to see Paul delineate justification and final salvation so clearly, which protestants by and large so naively conflate. Paul is speaking of the death and resurrection of Christ who is the sinless offering for our sins. “Saved by His life” refers to the wonder working Resurrection-Power which abides in the believer who walks in the Spirit. As is said in Gal 2:20

    “20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me ; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

    and Phil 3:10

    10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection , and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead

    Paul in Rom 5:10 is referring to his central doctrine of Participation in/Union with Christ. This is substantiated by the great amount of effort he puts in in chapters 6-8 to elaborate on what he means exactly by ‘saved by his life’. The great majority of Romans deals with Participation/Union and not Justification, as foundational as the latter is. This simple fact should help you place Rom 5:10 into context and realize that it is most certainly not referring to any sort of ‘imputed active obedience’.

    Christ did not have to earn merit before the Father, His death and resurrection were sufficient to do what the Father intended, i.e, to bring salvation to the world! Christ’s entire life on earth was instead a demonstration of the fact that he was a sinless offering.

    There’s no such thing as the imputed active obedience of Christ. It has no Scriptural basis whatsoever.

  56. Another thought related to this topic: where on earth do protestants get the idea that the events leading to Christ’s death and resurrection should be referred to as his ‘passive’ obedience? Are there any biblical grounds for this?

    Was Christ passive when He carried the cross for our sake to Calvary? Was Christ passive when He rose again on the 3rd day by His own accord?

    “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”

  57. Robert said:

    The Reformers knew the church fathers better than any of us , having read them in Latin and classical Greek, and making use of the more than 36 volumes or so in Schaff’s set. If you remember anything from your church history classes (and it is fairly obvious from what you say here and your CtC interview that you don’t know church history ), then you know that the Reformers did not think they were reinventing the wheel but believed they were returning the church to much of what the fathers had taught

    Is that so? Can you show me where Calvin quotes the Apostolic Fathers?

  58. Hello Robert,
    You wrote:
    “No, what is simple historical fact is that when rival claimants to having apostolic doctrine in the early church, rival claimants who also appealed to apostolic succession, the orthodox appealed to Scripture to prove their point decisively.”

    Although it’s true that Scripture was appealed to, it’s important to understand that a large part of the reason is that it was heretics who were misusing Scripture and that they had to be beaten at their own game, so to speak…their errors exposed. The fathers make it abundantly clear that Scripture must be understood in a way consistent with apostolic teaching…apart from the anchor of apostolic teaching (i.e. “tradition”), Scripture could be interpreted in as many ways as there were people. The appeals to Scripture to refute heretics were essentially a demonstration of the proper way to interpret Scripture in a way consistent with apostolic teaching handed down that predated the actual writing of Scripture.

    You also wrote:
    “Where does the Roman church give you the right to assert that the proto-Roman paradigm was all that existed prior to the New Testament? I don’t expect an answer, but I just want to point out to interested readers that you do not want to deal with this issue. But if you are in true submission to Rome, this is a question that is relevant, especially since you are a layman and not a part of the Magisterium.”

    I’m not sure really what you’re getting at, but it seems to me (correct me if I’m wrong) that you think, based on your understanding of the Magisterium, that it’s improper for any individual Catholic to make statements about Scriptural interpretation. If so, then I think you are misunderstanding the nature of the Magisterium. The Magisterium defines rules or boundaries that one must adhere to in reading/interpreting Scripture but not does create a verse by verse set of “official” interpretations. I think of it as rules of the road, such as red lights mean stop, green lights mean go, one way street signs mean you can only go in the direction the arrow is pointing, etc. Everyone, for safety(!), has to follow these rules but that doesn’t mean every person has a Magisterium official sitting with them in the car telling them what streets to turn down, etc. So long as you abide by the rules (there is a Trinity, Jesus was God incarnate, born of a virgin, etc), there is virtually limitless freedom. To me Jason’s points in these exegetical posts is something along the lines of saying that one way street signs make a lot more sense if the arrows point in the direction you’re allowed to travel in. Such signs could, in principle, have been agreed upon to mean that you’re allowed to go in the *opposite* direction the arrows point in, but that’s much less intuitive. One would have to be constantly reminding drivers to go opposite the arrow, just like in Protestant interpretations, there is constant reminding of readers that James only means “vindication before men”, etc. I know it’s somewhat of a weak analogy but hopefully you understand what I’m getting at.

    You also wrote:
    “You have said the fathers played little if any role in your “conversion to Rome” (your words in the same interview), so if you are going to present these ideas, you really should back them up.”

    I’d just to say that the fathers were an essential part of my “conversion.” I had always wanted to read them and when I finally got to it, I expected to find proto-Protestant ideas…certainly lots of smoking guns that made sense in Protestant terms and demolished Catholic claims. What I was shocked to find in reading them cover to cover (taking notes, writing summaries, etc…not just looking up random, out of context quotes published by Protestant authors) was that it was my Protestant claims that were in fact demolished. It’s not that every single Catholic idea is there plain as day in whatever form it has developed into, but one can clearly see proto-Catholic doctrines and practices and in many cases explicit support *for* Catholic ideas and explicit evidence *against* (in no uncertain terms) doctrines I formally held very dear as a Reformed Protestant.

    That’s probably enough from me. I like the fact that you stay in the dialog. I’m an infrequent contributor and I only speak up to try to help where it seems to me at least, you’re not understanding some basic assumptions. It took me years to overcome all the hidden assumptions in my Reformed paradigm, so my comments are just offered in the spirit of one who was in the same place a few years ago but appreciated dialog and learning and eventually came to a different conclusion.

  59. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:

    But when Reformed people finally sit up and take notice that the “critical hermeneutic key of Christian life” is not identified as Incarnationalism but, rather, as Monergism, the disconnect is often too much to bear.

    Robert responded:

    Nice. Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll start believing that Rome actually makes the incarnation the center of its life and piety when…

    All I’m saying is that many of the Reformed are beginning to question whether an Incarnate God is compatible with a Disincarnate Salvific Economy. They are beginning to see that Monergism is not mutually consonant with Incarnationalism. Now, as to where they might find an Incarnate Economy or of what it might consist, those are other issues entirely.

  60. SS,

    Perhaps you were unaware that the Reformed do not equate passive obedience with passivity. Passive obedience does not typically include the resurrection anyway, but it refers to his enduring the curse from the Father for our sin, as Paul says in Galatians 3:10–14. The law pronounces a curse upon all those who do not keep all its stipulations. It is passive in the sense that He is receiving something primarily and not doing something, such as keeping God’s law perfectly in a positive sense.

  61. Robert,

    No, what is simple historical fact is that when rival claimants to having apostolic doctrine in the early church, rival claimants who also appealed to apostolic succession, the orthodox appealed to Scripture to prove their point decisively.

    Which heretics in the early church appealed to apostolic succession? It was the orthodox who appealed to it because they alone had it, and everyone knew it. And while both the orthodox and the heretics appealed to Scripture, it was apostolic succession that made adjudicating those appeals possible. Otherwise, it would have been a mere he said / she said. You don’t have to read very deeply in the fathers to find out that they unanimously considered apostolic succession a necessary (although not sufficient) condition for valid ministry. This is what they all meant when they said “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” But if you can find an ECF who thought AS was unnecessary, please feel free to show us.

    And from where I sit, Protestants don’t grasp the distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions (e.g., they treat appeals to Scripture as though they make A.S. superfluous).

    Of course, that raises the question of what good a visible church defined by apostolic succession actually is when the apostolic church allows lesbian pagans to teach theology for decades in Catholic institutions, makes up documents in the medieval era to legitimate papal authority, and keeps transferring pedophile priests from one diocese to another. None of these things in themselves disproves Rome’s claims, but perhaps you’ll forgive Protestants for questioning rather Rome’s doctrine of visibility really accomplishes all that it is supposed to. Remember, we don’t claim to be the only true church that goes back to the apostles, nor do we claim infallibility.

    If I could get Protestants to agree to one thing, it would be to agree to only use arguments against Rome that Geneva doesn’t also fall prey to. I could just as easily turn around and ask you, using your unstated major premise, what good it is to hold to Sola Scriptura when countless churches that adopt it disagree over essential doctrines. And the difference between my answer to your question and yours to mine is that at least the CC can say that groups that allow lesbians to teach are disobeying actual Magisterial authority, whereas with Protestantism nothing can ever be nailed down dogmatically.

    And this thread is not about ecclesial authority, so please try to stay on point from now on.

    As far as my question about soteriological paradigms, you have still never answered this fundamental question: Where does the Roman church give you the right to assert that the proto-Roman paradigm was all that existed prior to the New Testament? I don’t expect an answer, but I just want to point out to interested readers that you do not want to deal with this issue. But if you are in true submission to Rome, this is a question that is relevant, especially since you are a layman and not a part of the Magisterium.

    The question is meaningless, which may be why I never answered it. The Magisterium also never “gave me the right” to watch the Lakers last night, but I certainly don’t owe them an apology for rebellion.

    It is a necessary tactic for you to paint a picture of the ECFs that shows them to have a consensus on the most basic soteriological issues. But do they?

    It seems you’ve run out of arguments against the actual points I am making in these posts, which explains all the stuff about the ECFs and lesbian pagans (and don’t get me wrong, I’m not being intolerant—a lot of my friends are pagan lesbians. But this isn’t the place for discussing them). And I have not brought up the ECFs at all, other than to respond briefly to off-topic comments. Feel free to return to the issues under discussion.

    I wrote, “But if you want to show me an ECF with a proto-Reformed theology who could have passed an ordination exam on soteriology 101 in a NAPARC church, have at it. But you can’t.” You responded:

    Cute. Of course demanding that an ECF pass a NAPARC exam is so historically anachronistic that it betrays the fact that you really think there is an ECF who would pass Roman ordination. Who would fail that test, Hmm. Clement, Cyprian, Athanasius, Augustine, the Cappadocian Fathers, Chrysostom…

    I knew you would miss the subtlety of my point. I wasn’t asking whether an ECF could pass a full-blown exam on Reformed soteriology, but whether one could pass an exam on the basics of it (hence the “101” bit). I maintain that none of them could, but feel free to show me one that could have. Just one. Can you name one single father who held to a proto-Reformed paradigm that included just the basic points? I understand if you cannot, so please do not respond with more tangents on the fathers unless it is to actually adduce what I am asking for. Otherwise drop it, please.

  62. Jason–

    Novatians, Donatists, Monophysites, Monothelites, Arians, Sabellians, Nestorians, and Docetists all appealed to Apostolic succession back then.

    Just as Greeks, Ukrainians, Russians, Assyrians, Ethiopians, Armenians, and Copts (as well as Anglicans, Old Catholics, and Swedish Lutherans) still do.

  63. Perhaps you were unaware that the Reformed do not equate passive obedience with passivity. Passive obedience does not typically include the resurrection anyway

    And what is the Scriptural basis for ‘passive obedience’ not including the Resurrection? Why is that the case? Because some baptists in London decided it to be so?

  64. Jason–

    In answer to your question:

    “Can you name one single father who held to a proto-Reformed paradigm that included just the basic points? I understand if you cannot, so please do not respond with more tangents on the fathers unless it is to actually adduce what I am asking for. Otherwise drop it, please.”

    The example that has been given so often that surely you are familiar with it is from the pen of the anonymous Apostolic Father, “Mathetes,” writing to his student, Diognetus:

    “But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it has been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous one, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

    I’d say that covers “Reformed 101” quite nicely!

  65. Eric,

    I asked, “Can you name one single father who held to a proto-Reformed paradigm that included just the basic points? I understand if you cannot, so please do not respond with more tangents on the fathers unless it is to actually adduce what I am asking for. Otherwise drop it, please.” You responded:

    The example that has been given so often that surely you are familiar with it is from the pen of the anonymous Apostolic Father, “Mathetes,” writing to his student, Diognetus:

    “But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it has been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous one, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

    I’d say that covers “Reformed 101? quite nicely!

    Well, I will grant that there’s nothing in that snippet that is inconsistent with either Reformed or Catholic theology (for more detail, see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/07/ligon-duncans-did-the-fathers-know-the-gospel/#diognetus).

    I’ll modify the question in the light of this: Is there any church father who you think goes beyond merely providing benign statements about the gospel that we could all agree with, but actually teaches distinctly Reformed ideas that a Catholic could not affirm? (Keep in mind that I am not asking for seventeenth century-level nuances, but only for things that necessitate a Reformed rather than Catholic understanding of the gospel.)

    Secondly, I would be curious to know (1) whether you think that later second- and third-century fathers taught distinctly Catholic things, and (2) whether you think they were contradicting the letter to Diognetus when they did.

    I hesitate to completely derail this thread, but I think your reply warrants a bit more leeway from me to explore this a bit further.

  66. Jason,

    they [Protestants] treat appeals to Scripture as though they make A.S. superfluous

    Which Protestants would that be? The Anglicans, who have a doctrine of apostolic succession that is somewhat close to Rome’s? Presbyterians? Well, we affirm apostolic succession, just not in a Roman sense. Instead of following chains of ordination back to an apostle as if they were infallible, we affirm that the people who stand in line with the apostles are those that teach apostolic doctrine.

    Which chain of ordination do we follow? The early fathers who wanted to exalt the bishop of Rome in some sense cannot even agree on the chain that supposedly goes back to Peter. What if people in that chain start teaching heresy? What good is the chain if a heretic ordains others? Why should I trust them?

    Again, the fundamental question is this: Where do we find a sure source of apostolic doctrine, belief, and practice besides the New Testament? We find early church writers claiming things not found in Scripture, buy how do you know you can trust them? How do you arbitrate it? Because a church claims to have visible apostolic succession?

    You cannot assume that there is apostolic tradition that exists that differs from the NT. Sure the apostles preached for several years before the NT, but where is the evidence that they said anything substantially different or in addition to what we have in the NT? “They just woulda” is not an argument. Where has Rome defined this tradition? Where can I go to find what Peter or Paul said that is not in the NT? Where has it been written?

    If I could get Protestants to agree to one thing, it would be to agree to only use arguments against Rome that Geneva doesn’t also fall prey to. I could just as easily turn around and ask you, using your unstated major premise, what good it is to hold to Sola Scriptura when countless churches that adopt it disagree over essential doctrines. And the difference between my answer to your question and yours to mine is that at least the CC can say that groups that allow lesbians to teach are disobeying actual Magisterial authority, whereas with Protestantism nothing can ever be nailed down dogmatically.

    Everything you say is about ecclesiastical authority, because one of your formal reasons for converting to Rome was that Protestants have no way to nail down anything dogmatically. You can’t escape it. You may want to because that way you can keep unsuspecting evangelicals to avoid answering the really hard questions, but YOU embraced a system that claims to speak infallibly and that is absolutely necessary to be sure of your interpretation of Scripture.

    And the simple fact is that Protestantism has nailed down an awful lot dogmatically. Where do the Protestant creeds and confessions that come from the magisterial Reformation differ on the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of justification, the marks of the church, and more? How are these creeds less dogmatic than Rome’s, especially since Rome has changed her mind on essential doctrines such as whether one can be solved without submitting to the papacy? In principle, even Rome allows for revision, it’s just revision based not on documents known to be from the apostles but vague traditions that no one but the Magisterium can nail down with certainty. That effects Reformation how?

    And again, what good is nailing things down dogmatically when the dogma is not enforced. At least the church of the Inquisition stood for something, even if it were wrong.

  67. Jason,

    I’ll first thank Eric for listing all the groups that claimed visible apostolic succession, proving my point that simply having some kind of visible succession is nearly absolutely meaningless when it comes to evaluating faithfulness to apostolic doctrine.

    I’ll modify the question in the light of this: Is there any church father who you think goes beyond merely providing benign statements about the gospel that we could all agree with, but actually teaches distinctly Reformed ideas that a Catholic could not affirm? (Keep in mind that I am not asking for seventeenth century-level nuances, but only for things that necessitate a Reformed rather than Catholic understanding of the gospel.)

    I guess the whole “no early church father taught this” is a meaningless objection isn’t it? As far as I am aware, there are few people who would say that any ECFs taught things that no Roman Catholic could affirm. That is the whole point! You don’t find developed soteriology in the early church outside of the Trinity and the person of Christ. Those were the flashpoints, the areas that needed discussion and were most disputed at the time. No Protestant should claim that the ECFs were Protestant, and no RC should claim they were RC. Depending on the father, depending on the issue, and depending on the situation they were addressing, they could be proto-Roman or proto-Protestant. But even that is anachronistic—they were the early church fathers.

    The funny thing is that Rome simply cannot admit this. Which is why it is a dodge to not want to talk about the failure of the ECFs to affirm so many doctrines that Rome has taught are essential to soteriology—like indulgences, the papacy, etc. etc.

  68. Jason–

    In the planning stages of writing this whole series of threads, you were already aware that you would make no headway getting your Calvinistic readers to “affirm” any biblical pericope as incompatible with Reformed orthodoxy. Therefore, I will edit your following request slightly:

    “I’ll modify the question in the light of this: Is there any church father who you think goes beyond merely providing benign statements about the gospel that we could all agree with, but actually teaches distinctly Reformed ideas that a Catholic could not affirm?”

    Very much like you, I would insist that my burden of proof should only rise to the level of texts which teach distinctly Reformed ideas that a “Catholic” father “would not naturally articulate.”

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

    As a matter of fact, I would love to have an honest dialogue concerning the intentions of the Early Fathers. And by “honest” I mean one in which I relent and admit that there are some ECF’s who sound distinctly proto-Tridentine, and you reciprocally relent and admit that some ECF’s sound distinctly Reformed. If you cannot at least admit that “Mathetes” sounds distinctly Reformed, we are at an end. You are nothing but a poser. (Can the Letter to Diognetus be fit into the the Catholic paradigm? Sure. Is this the way one would expect an early “Catholic” to write? Heck no!)

    It is mystifying that the ECF’s often sound so unlike the NT. The tone, the content, the rhetoric are all on a significantly lower trajectory. Why is that? Some of these guys supposedly sat at the Apostles’ feet and yet they’re derivative at best. Don’t get me wrong: they are VERY worth reading. Of the AF’s I particularly like Hermas and the writer(s) of the Didache. Plus, Irenaeus is early enough to really be worth looking at. After Origen, the writing seems to change to me and become more dogmatic. There’s no problem finding Protestant sounding texts coming from Ambrose, Augustine, and Prosper. Gregory the Great, on the other hand, sounds decidedly Tridentine.

    (I really would like to ditch the term “Catholic” when discussing the early fathers. Because that is precisely the concept which is in contention. I think most of the ECF’s are rather Catholic in the Vincentian sense, but not particularly Catholic at all in the Tridentine sense.)

    Another thing. Why is it that we have so few extant writings from folks like Pelagius and Arius? (Actually, I’m not sure if we have any authenticated texts from Arius.) The Roman Catholic church decided which writings would survive and which would not. They were not likely to keep anything that smacked distinctively of Ref0rmed dogmatics. So I am at an overwhelming disadvantage here. Surely, there were all kinds of writings which, though not heretical, sounded unfamiliar and were thus discarded. Men famous for other reasons, such as Origen, had writings preserved in spite of being found heretical. But, for the most part, the winners (a mix of Nicene [sacred] and Constantinian [secular] scholars and priests) wrote the history. A purely sacred history, starting from the beginning, would be incredibly difficult to piece together.

    I actually believe we should see evidences of a more evangelical faith in the early church. We may find it in archaeology and personal wills and pagan histories. I don’t know. There are ways in which I am quite disappointed by the ECF’s, but that may well be as a result of Rome dominating the study of them for so long. Or it may be as a result of which authors escaped the Dark Ages unscathed.

  69. The post just prior to this one by Eric was actually written by me. I typed in Jason’s name by accident (I’m writing some of this in the midst of a conference and I got distracted.) My apologies. Jason is still Roman Catholic, as far as I know.

  70. Jason.
    You must find it painful and exhausting dealing with some of the replies here, especially attacks from people you may have considered friends a few months ago.

    Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason says in one of his short videos about us never knowing who we’re affecting that might just be ‘looking in’, and our courteous winsomeness and care in our replies is often having more effect on them than one’s direct interlocutors.

    I want to say thanks so much for what you’re writing. Your insights are very helpful, and your courage, exceptional.

    I pray fervently that God gives you the grace and strength to continue this demanding but great work you’re doing.

  71. Thanks, Paul!

    All: This is not a thread about apostolic succession, but about the fact that a Reformed or proto-Reformed paradigm cannot account for the passages I listed. Judging by the fact that all the Reformed people here desperately want to change the subject, I’ll just assume I am right.

    PS – From the very beginning until the present day among East and West, apostolic succession meant one thing, and one thing only: being ordained by a bishop who could stretch his sacramental ordination back to the apostles. It never meant mere doctrinal agreement with the apostles (something which all heretics claim). That’s the last I’ll say on the subject.

  72. Jason–

    You do an awful lot of “assuming” that you are “right,” as well as a lot of claiming of victory. I guess you need somebody slapping you on the back! 🙂

    By the way:

    From the very beginning until at least sometime in the 400’s, apostolic succession has meant three things: being ordained by a bishop who could stretch his sacramental ordination back to the apostles, being genuinely in the faith, and being in doctrinal agreement with the apostles.

    Through the “development of doctrine” and the sheer apostasy of the church, these three requirements have been whittled down to one.

    (If he had been born in our place and time, Nestorius may well have become a saint. There is no question that he would at least have been a beloved Catholic bishop. He would have been seen as a rock of orthodoxy compared to most of his fellows in the episcopate. )

    (Evangelical Protestants still hold to at least two of the requirements…some of them, such as conservative Anglicans, hold to all three.)

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

    We Protestants don’t necessarily stay on topic in these threads because that’s not what an organic conversation naturally does. Plus, sometimes your arguments are stronger than at other times. We tend to ignore the weaker ones, which we feel require little or no refutation. (I have never seen an argument of yours to which I felt I had no reply; none to which I would feel uncomfortable responding.)

    Besides, there are all sorts of things which we write to which we receive no reply from you (or which receive but short shrift). Should we assume that these are points to which you have no cogent response?

    All of us could afford to be a tad more respectful, methinks!

    For the most part, I agree with Paul Rodden that you are gentlemanly and courageous. Of course, I fervently wish that your efforts might be in defense of the truth…instead of Rome.

    This is (in part) how Greg Koukl responded to accusations that he is a “Catholic basher”:

    “It is the process of hammering these things out in the public forum that allows us both to refine our understanding of truth, burning off the dross as it were–iron sharpening iron. But this doesn’t happen by patting each other on the back and gurgling and cooing at each other. It only happens when specific issues of truth are raised, articulated in a clear way and challenged based on our understanding of authority, sound reasoning and clear thinking.”

    If I (Eric) ever say anything outside of these lines, I will repent in sackcloth and ashes! I have a sarcastic sense of humor, but it is just that…humor. Jason gives and takes the same, and I tremendously appreciate that.

    Sometimes, I am just plain serious, however. If I were to say that I am more of a candidate for conversion to Mormonism than Roman Catholicism, that would be hyperbole, and meant for shock value. (After all, Roman Catholicism is at least unambiguously Trinitarian, Christologically orthodox, and–usually–upholds the Creator-creature distinction.)

    If I were to say, on the other hand, that it would be difficult for me to decide which religion were more bizarre, Mormonism or Roman Catholicism, that would be the truth. That’s just my take on the plain facts of the case. No gurgling or cooing.

  73. Eric, I am planning to respond to your last couple comments, but right now I gotta run.

  74. Jason,

    Here are a couple of the big issues with your posts and why the conversation gets “off track” so to speak:

    1. You are assuming the existence of a proto-Roman paradigm, which I’ll say again, is something that I don’t think you have a right as a Roman Catholic to affirm. There is ample testimony throughout church history from your popes and councils that Rome believes more than a proto-Roman paradigm existed in the early church.

    2. You asset again and again that there were decades of ministry before the NT was written. In some sense this is true, in some sense it is false, as the NT clearly contains a few creedal statements that were in writing or in preaching before they were included in the NT.

    3. Finally, and as evident in this post, you jump immediately to the end of arguments and say that someone holding a proto-Roman paradigm would never write what we have. In this post it is particularly clear in your use of Galatians. You jump right to Galatians 6, ignoring what Paul says beforehand in Romans 3:

    1. That it is a grievous error to think we are perfected by works of the law (vv. 1–6). But that is what Roman Catholicism believes we must do. Paul makes no distinction between Spirit-wrought and man-wrought works in this passage.

    2. That we are justified by faith (vv. 7–9), not that we are initially justified by faith and then must complete it by good works.

    3. That those who rely on the works of the law are under a curse if they don’t obey ALL the works of the law (v. 10). This does not refer merely to the Mosaic law or merely the ceremonial works of the law, which is a traditional Roman position even if you might reject it. The ancient Jews believed the law of Moses was but the written form of the moral law written on the hearts of all Gentiles, hence the traditional understanding in Judaism that Gentiles are bound by at least the Noahic commandments.

    4. That Jesus redeems us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—this is a clear reference to penal substitution, which you apparently now deny. Christ pays the full penalty, the full curse for our sin—and that includes even the mortal sins that you allege to exist without proving. If the curse has been borne, there is NOTHING that the elect can do to take themselves out of faith. They will persevere to the end (v. 13)

    5. That we receive the Spirit through faith, not that we receive the Spirit through faith, lose some of its grace through sin, and then recover it by penance (v. 14).

    6. That we are heirs according to promise—not heirs in any sense by our works, and not heirs that can lose their inheritance (v. 29).

    7. That we are free (4:31; 5:1), not that we are bound to bondage in purgatory, to having to receive the pope as the Vicar of Christ, to having to venerate Mary and the saints, to believe all sorts of things that are just simply absent from what we actually know the Apostles said with certainty—the NT!!

    8. That if we belong to Christ we have crucified the flesh—that it has been dealt the mortal blow that will never allow it to take control of the believer and take him out of God’s grace (5:24).

    9. That adding even one work to faith obligates us to keep the whole thing perfectly (5:3).

    Then, and only then, does he write what he does about reaping and sowing. You have been justified, now prove it by sowing to the Spirit.

    You can’t jump to the conclusion, assume that it means something, and try to read it back into the beginning of an argument. That is a basic hermeneutical principle that you seem to have forgotten. You have done it again and again, even in your few posts about Romans, where you jump from Romans 4 to Romans 8, where you ignore Romans 1, etc. etc.

    As a Roman Catholic you have to do that. It’s a good way to get your team to cheer, but it is never going to convince a Protestant who actually understands and practices sola Scriptura, not the caricature you have painted of it implicitly and explicitly throughout your posts.

  75. Eric,

    If you cannot at least admit that “Mathetes” sounds distinctly Reformed, we are at an end. You are nothing but a poser. (Can the Letter to Diognetus be fit into the the Catholic paradigm? Sure. Is this the way one would expect an early “Catholic” to write? Heck no!)

    OK, let’s look at the actual quote. The bolded parts are simply citations or allusions to Scripture:

    “But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it has been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous one, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

    I hope you will admit that all orthodox Catholics believe and wholeheartedly affirm the biblical passages to which those statements allude. The non-bolded statements are less obviously allusions to Scripture, but they still bear resemblance to biblical texts, and therefore pose no threat to, or display no inconsistency with, Catholic theology. Every single thing here can both be affirmed by a Catholic and could easily be said by a Catholic today (as in, there’s no James 2-type statement that a Catholic would have to blush over and then try to explain). In fact, it wouldn’t be too difficult to piece together an almost identical set of statements from the Catechism and the Catholic Encyclopedia.

    It is mystifying that the ECF’s often sound so unlike the NT. The tone, the content, the rhetoric are all on a significantly lower trajectory. Why is that? Some of these guys supposedly sat at the Apostles’ feet and yet they’re derivative at best.

    I have heard this claim before, but I am suspicious of it. I think it would be an interesting (albeit nearly impossible) experiment to take a list of passages from the Protestant Bible, the deuterocanonicals, and the ECFs, mix them up, and show them to a new believer to see how good the Holy Spirit really is at testifying in Calvin’s black-or-white way to which statements are inspired Scripture and which are not. Call me a cynic, but my guess is that we are so familiar with Scripture that non-canonical writings stand out simply because we know their status already. I mean, I could easily put together a carefully selected list of NT passages that sounds every bit as legalistic as the stuff Leonard Ravenhill and Keith Green used to say.

    (I really would like to ditch the term “Catholic” when discussing the early fathers. Because that is precisely the concept which is in contention. I think most of the ECF’s are rather Catholic in the Vincentian sense, but not particularly Catholic at all in the Tridentine sense.)

    The problem is that the fathers themselves used this label and applied it to themselves. Now, if all they meant by that were “universal,” that’d be one thing. But they clearly understood the term to be connected to apostolic succession, and they distinguished themselves from sectarians in precisely this way. Thus when Augustine talks about going to a new city and “finding the Catholic church,” he is talking about finding a church whose bishop is a successor from an apostle.

    Another thing. Why is it that we have so few extant writings from folks like Pelagius and Arius? (Actually, I’m not sure if we have any authenticated texts from Arius.) The Roman Catholic church decided which writings would survive and which would not. They were not likely to keep anything that smacked distinctively of Ref0rmed dogmatics. So I am at an overwhelming disadvantage here. Surely, there were all kinds of writings which, though not heretical, sounded unfamiliar and were thus discarded. Men famous for other reasons, such as Origen, had writings preserved in spite of being found heretical. But, for the most part, the winners (a mix of Nicene [sacred] and Constantinian [secular] scholars and priests) wrote the history. A purely sacred history, starting from the beginning, would be incredibly difficult to piece together.

    I actually believe we should see evidences of a more evangelical faith in the early church. We may find it in archaeology and personal wills and pagan histories. I don’t know. There are ways in which I am quite disappointed by the ECF’s, but that may well be as a result of Rome dominating the study of them for so long. Or it may be as a result of which authors escaped the Dark Ages unscathed.

    Well, arguments from silence or from the perspective of counter-factuals are always interesting, but they don’t get us anywhere. For my part, I would think the ECFs sounded really Catholic regardless of what my religion was. Luther’s approach just seems much more honest than Calvin’s: “All those fathers and doctors were retards! You should listen to me because I understand Paul better than they did.” And while in some respects they were a “mixed bag,” I think the things they agreed on they agreed on in a very Catholic direction.

    From the very beginning until at least sometime in the 400?s, apostolic succession has meant three things: being ordained by a bishop who could stretch his sacramental ordination back to the apostles, being genuinely in the faith, and being in doctrinal agreement with the apostles.

    Through the “development of doctrine” and the sheer apostasy of the church, these three requirements have been whittled down to one.

    My point was that there was never a time when sacramental, laying-on-of-hands succession was not a necessary condition in both east and west, and to this day that has not changed. The Reformation introduced a complete novelty in that respect.

    Lastly, the reason I am loath to discuss the fathers in detail is that I simply do not have the expertise that I feel I would need to do so credibly. A lot of people have made a big deal out of my statement in the CTC interview about not liking my ancient church history class at Westminster, and when they bring this up it usually turns very condescending and pedantic. In my defense, I was being rhetorical in order to make the point that I had a hard time taking seriously the fathers when they spoke in ways that were so foreign to my Reformed paradigm, while failing to affirm the things that I considered to be essential to the biblical gospel.

    Maybe I actually was a quasi-Lutheran back then. . . .

  76. Robert said:

    The Reformers knew the church fathers better than any of us , having read them in Latin and classical Greek, and making use of the more than 36 volumes or so in Schaff’s set. If you remember anything from your church history classes (and it is fairly obvious from what you say here and your CtC interview that you don’t know church history ), then you know that the Reformers did not think they were reinventing the wheel but believed they were returning the church to much of what the fathers had taught

    Is that so? Can you show me where Calvin quotes the Apostolic Fathers ?

  77. SS–

    Do you have a point? Are the Apostolic Fathers particularly important to you for some reason? There are only about a half dozen of them, and their theological insights are not terribly significant.

    But yes, Calvin does reference both Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch in his Institutes (roughly four times each). The Didache also rates a couple of citations.

    He references Justin Martyr 5 times, Irenaeus 18 times, and Tertullian nearly 50 times. When we get around to names like Jerome and John Chrysostom, he cites them 40 times a piece. Cyprian gets around 70 citations, Gregory I gets nearly a hundred, and Augustine–of course–several hundred.

    Did these guys know the fathers? You bet your sweet #@%&! (I wasn’t sure how to spell “patootie.”)

  78. Jason–

    Actually, I have always gotten the sense that Catholics “hated” phrases like the following worse than the Reformed “hate” James 2:

    1. He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities.

    2. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness?

    3. By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God?

    4. That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous one, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

    Catholics I have spoken with are loathe to say Christ “took on our sins” or that he “covered our sins.” They certainly don’t want to admit that the ungodly may be justified (since only becoming godly justifies) in spite of Romans 4:5. And heaven forbid that anyone should claim that Christ’s [alien] righteousness justifies anybody!

    So, no, Jason, by no means will I admit that all orthodox Catholics believe and wholeheartedly affirm the biblical passages to which those statements allude. Liberal Catholics are still “orthodox”–they haven’t been excommunicated or even forbidden to teach in official capacities (outside of an infamous number we could count on one hand)–and could care less about what “Scripture” has to say. You’re still just a neophyte, but you will find out that “traditional” Catholics are not far behind on that score. They would never think to let something biblical constrain them. You are personally far more conservative in your biblical hermeneutics than the rank-and-file “traditional” Catholic. Therefore, yes, I will admit the possibility that you (and perhaps a handful of your friends) may have no problem with these passages. But I believe even you have railed against them on several threads.

    (For what it’s worth: I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with James 2. I never have had. To tell the truth, the only passage that gives me the slightest pause is Hebrews 6:4-6.)

    I will agree with you to some extent on the deuterocanonicals: I personally adore the “Wisdom of Solomon” and “Ben Sirach” (the latter, we now know, even possesses a Hebrew ur-text). Much of the rest, however, is second rate rhetorically. (I could say the same about canonical books like Chronicles and 2 Peter.) We don’t canonize something purely on the excellence of its style. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist, however, to see the huge drop off rhetorically from Paul to Clement and Ignatius. I really like Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians, but it is too easily spotted as a mere ripoff, consisting almost solely of Pauline and other NT phrases.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

    Neither here nor there, but I always really impressed by Keith Green’s compassion and sincerity. He was somewhat (well, probably more than somewhat) naive theologically and was led astray by Ravenhill and others. His Finneyite tendencies were spurred by his intense passion for evangelism, and he was stung by the accusations of Pelagianism (so much so that he wrote the song “Except for Grace, by which I’m Saved” in reaction to them).

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

    In terms of catholicity, I think you misunderstand me. Yes, they would call themselves Catholic and would hold to a version of apostolic succession. But it would almost certainly not be Rome’s current version, and if you were to transport them to the 21st century, most if not nearly all of them would end up joining an apostolic succession more in line with (something like) the traditional Anglicans.

    I think you are right, in a sense, that the Protestants in general (aside from the Anglicans) were wrong to ditch apostolic succession. But I don’t think the power of the succession was ever its unbroken line back to the Apostles (which can never be proven anyway) but in the connection to a body that followed biblical precepts as closely as possible and reverenced Christ with all of its corporate being. And if those are the criteria, the OPC is currently far more “catholic” than the church of Rome.

    @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

    I don’t know if you were a quasi-Lutheran or not back then, but you certainly were an “odd duck” when it comes to a typical Reformed reaction to the fathers. I don’t read them at all as you did. And I have no particular agenda I’m aware of. Reformed theology does not put any substantial reliance on the ECF’s to corroborate our interpretation of biblical concepts (i.e., Reformed distinctives). Luke and John and Peter and Paul, alone are sufficient, even if every last ECF balks. (You read the ECF’s without much enthusiasm; SS reads the AF’s with eager abandon; we Reformed rely on the Apostles themselves.)

  79. SS,

    Calvin quotes Augustine throughout the Institutes, has high regard for Cappadocian Trinitarian thought, and more. As far as the Apostolic fathers, as far as I am aware, he thought that at least some of what is attributed to Ignatius was falsely attributed. I could go on. But I’m sure you were aware of that. His emphasis is on Nicene and certain post-Nicene fathers

    I noted that Calvin is well-versed in the early church fathers, I did not, as far as I am aware, say that he quotes the Apostolic fathers specifically and extensively.

  80. Eric,

    As you have noted, but perhaps not specifically in the way that I am about to say it, Trent actually and ironically made Rome less the least catholic of all theological traditions.

    But that is not important when you believe that the Holy Spirit can’t really guide people into the truth. And I’m still waiting to meet the person who, never having been exposed to Christianity, reads a New Testament, believes in Jesus, and then says “I’ve got to find the line of authorities that can visibly trace their ordination back to Peter.”

    As I have said again and again, Jason is still far too Protestant in his thinking to be regarded as anything close to an authority on Roman Catholicism and Roman Catholic soteriology. I don’t mean to be cruel; men far more well-versed in the intricacies of Roman theology than I am have said the same. That is to be expected, being that he’s only been officially Roman Catholic for about 6 months.

    The only sure evidence we have for what the Apostles actually taught is the NT. One simply cannot assume, as Jason does, that there are things Paul taught that the early church remembered flawlessly but that are not recorded in Scripture.

  81. Eric (12:24pm),
    You wrote

    “Actually, I have always gotten the sense that Catholics “hated” phrases like the following worse than the Reformed “hate” James 2:

    1. He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities.

    2. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness?”

    and

    “Catholics I have spoken with are loathe to say Christ “took on our sins” or that he “covered our sins.” They certainly don’t want to admit that the ungodly may be justified (since only becoming godly justifies) in spite of Romans 4:5. And heaven forbid that anyone should claim that Christ’s [alien] righteousness justifies anybody! ”

    I can’t speak for your experience in talking with Catholics, but I don’t know why any Catholic would “hate” such ideas. Jesus took on our flesh which was stuck in a corrupted state (“the burden of our iniquities”) in order to redeem us. Catholics are very happy to affirm your statement 1. And His great offering of Himself in love and obedience to the Father is sufficient to cover all of humanity’s sins, so Catholics can happily affirm your statement 2 as well. I’m honestly not sure why you would say these things after all the conversation that’s gone on but taken at face value, there is certainly no hesitation for Catholics to affirm these statements.

    I think possibly it comes down again to your thinking of what Jesus did primarily in terms of legal payment of a penalty (His death) rather than the entire Incarnation. It was not just in His death that He “took on our sins” but in His entire life. His taking on of our human nature and suffering with us from infancy right on through His death was “bearing the burden of our iniquities”. He redeemed human nature in all its phases including conquering death itself by actually experiencing it and overcoming it. It’s His righteousness alone that won the victory and we share in that victory by participation in Him and in His life, not merely by stating we have certain beliefs and receiving a legal judgement in our favor….participation means we are truly *made* righteous by sharing His righteousness. So yes His “alien” righteousness justifies us, but only in the sense that it was alien while we were still ungodly but once united to Him, it truly becomes our righteousness as well (i.e., infusion, not merely imputation).

    Peace,
    Jeff

  82. As far as the many comments on the apostolic fathers, Jason at one point indicated he wanted to sort of shut down going too far in that direction but the conversation has been somewhat opened up again. I’ll just offer some short responses.

    Yes, Calvin quoted the fathers. But my experience with many Protestant authors I’ve read and once held in high esteem is that the quotes tend to be highly selective and typical of the approach of looking for “proof texts”, regardless of the actual context. When I finally read many of the fathers, seemingly slam-dunk (to get back to the main point of this thread which is the picture of James Worthy) statements confirming Protestant ideals like sola scripture, perspicuity of scripture, etc turned out to really say in context the exact opposite. I don’t have the time to cut and paste numerous references for evaluation and going too much farther just degenerates I think into “this is what they say”…”no they don’t”…etc. There are great articles at C2C with explicit quotes and discussion on the fathers, but I would simply urge those interested to read them directly cover to cover.

    As far as apostolic succession, I think it’s incorrect to say it was merely adherence to doctrine…otherwise, early authors would not have made such a big deal of trotting out explicit lists of names running back to the apostles.

    Lastly, I agree that there are many things in the fathers both Catholics and Protestants can affirm together. Similarly, I can look at human babies and see common features in all of them. However, when I look at my daughter as she is now and then go back and look at pictures and videos of her as an infant, I can clearly see that that little infant is the one who became *my* daughter whereas other infants (although sharing certain features common to all baby girls) are not those that became *my* daughter. Similarly, when we read the fathers and when we read Scripture passages like those Jason has offered, I can see that they are describing what has become the Catholic church and not some other community (like the OPC), even though there are certain common features like Trinitarian belief.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  83. +JMJ+

    This is reaching the level of absurdity. First, it is said that Jason doesn’t really understand Reformism. Then, it is said that he doesn’t really understand Catholicism, either. Can he understand anything?

    This seems like a form of gaslighting. Seems like something calculated to make the target collapse into a quivering mass of nescient jelly, burbling “Homina, homina, homina. I don’t know what I believe anymore! Is it even possible to know anything?!? Help me, Jesus!!!” Then, he can be welcomed home to Protestantism.

    “Let us reason together”, indeed.

  84. Do you have a point? Are the Apostolic Fathers particularly important to you for some reason? There are only about a half dozen of them, and their theological insights are not terribly significant.

    Not terribly significant? Oh my…

    Yes, I do have a point: Robert doesn’t know church history well enough to avoid a massive tu quoque when it comes to pointing out deficiencies in other people’s knowledge. See below:

    But yes, Calvin does reference both Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch in his Institutes (roughly four times each). The Didache also rates a couple of citations.

    No Calvin does not reference Clement of Rome and Ignatius “roughly four times each”. Where do you get that? He quotes Clement of Rome (A.D. 92-) ONCE in a discussion on the claimed successors of Peter… The other references to Clement are references to later popes (not that Clement ever was Pope, there is very little evidence, if any, for that).

    With regard to Ignatius, also, only ONCE, and even that quote is uncertain, for he is ruminating on the origin of certain writings that included laws concerning Lent.

    Here’s my main point: There is absolutely no evidence that Calvin knew of the WRITINGS of the Apostolic Fathers. . In the 1,000+ pages of the Institutes, his so called opus, there’s not a single reference to their epistles and teaching spanning roughly 70 years. Nowhere does he interact and engage with them, and for good reason, because it wasn’t until the 17th century that 1 & 2 Clement, Barnabas, Ignatius and Polycarp were published. The Didache wasn’t available until 1873!

    Can you show me the ‘couple citations’ of the Didache in the Institutes?

    Robert’s claim that ‘the Reformers knew church history better than any of us’ is utter nonsense. I understand that the Reformed have an a priori theological bias against the earliest church fathers, but that in no way obviates their importance. As a matter of fact, recent scholarship has begun to catch up with them and realize that they were far from the simpletons they are often portrayed as. Their theology was indeed the “faith once and for all delivered” (Jude 3) and their conduct blameless. Polycarp was burned at the stake for the faith, he didn’t go around burning people at the stake with green wood for daring disagreeing with him.

    The AF believed in salvation by grace through faith, in the possibility of apostasy even for regenerate believers, in the real presence, baptismal regeneration, among other key doctrines. Well respected church historian Justo Gonzalez says that they were remarkably united in their beliefs, even though their expression of it varied because they were not writing for the sake of writing but rather to exhort and instruct (Clement’s appeal for peace in Corinth and obedience, Polycarp’s plea for holiness and right living and so on)

    He references Justin Martyr 5 times, Irenaeus 18 times, and Tertullian nearly 50 times. When we get around to names like Jerome and John Chrysostom, he cites them 40 times a piece. Cyprian gets around 70 citations, Gregory I gets nearly a hundred, and Augustine–of course–several hundred.

    I only asked about the Apostolic Fathers (~ A.D. 70 to 140-150).

    Did these guys know the fathers? You bet your sweet #@%&! (I wasn’t sure how to spell “patootie.”)

    Hey Patootie man, I call bull on you and Robert’s grandiose claims, the historical evidence gives you no ground to argue in this manner. The reasonable thing to say is this: they had access to a cross section of the ECF but by no means all, and even then chose to heavily favor Augustine over everybody else, a completely arbitrary approach which shows their theological bias and naivete.

    Enjoy the weekend,
    SS.

  85. Robert said:

    I noted that Calvin is well-versed in the early church fathers, I did not, as far as I am aware, say that he quotes the Apostolic fathers specifically and extensively.

    The AF are an integral part/subset of the ECF. Were it not for the the faithfulness of the AF, there would be no ECF. As a result, your above quote is a contradiction in terms, Calvin was not ‘well versed’. He was heavily biased in favor of Augustine and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.

  86. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist, however, to see the huge drop off rhetorically from Paul to Clement and Ignatius. I really like Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians, but it is too easily spotted as a mere ripoff, consisting almost solely of Pauline and other NT phrases

    This type of a comment betrays the scholasticism that dominates so much of academic thought today. Who cares about rhetorical flourishes? Yes Paul had a beautiful mind and had unparalleled depth, to God the glory for that. But Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius and other AF are very much in line (rhetorically) with the writing you see in James, Peter, Jude, 1-3 John. The reason why you really like Polycarp’s letter is precisely because it is holy in its exhortation and tone. It balances the grace of God so beautifully with our responsibility towards an honoring stewardship of that grace. This is the patron client paradigm which was vividly present in Paul’s writing and naturally appears in the AF as well, not surprising given their proximity to the source. Not to mention that before the canon was declared much later in the 4th century, some of the writings of the AF were considered as canonical.

    To characterize Polycarp’s epistle as ‘mere ripoff’ is to do great violence to the text. He gives credit to Paul in all humility

    “For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom” of the blessed and glorified Paul”

    but also quotes from Isaiah, the Gospels, Peter, John. Ripoff? I think not. Try again.

  87. Perhaps you were unaware that the Reformed do not equate passive obedience with passivity. Passive obedience does not typically include the resurrection anyway

    And what is the Scriptural basis for ‘passive obedience’ not including the Resurrection? Why is that the case?

    This is directly related to the topic of this thread.

  88. SS–

    Lions and Tigers and Apostolic Fathers…oh, my!

    1. Are you done with your adolescent games of “gotcha”?

    2. Some of the content of the Didache was indeed available to the Reformers in the Latin version of the Apostolic Constitutions, portions of which are based on the Didascalia and the Didache. They hunted for a Greek original for the Didache (without success) during the Renaissance. Yes, a copy (from 1056 CE) was found in 1873. But that is irrelevant since they had access to much of the content. Calvin references the Didache in 4.15.19 and 4.17.38 of his Institutes (unless you would care to prove that he didn’t get these illustrations from there…).

    3. What is your point anyway? The current Catholic Catechism references Augustine nearly 90 times (and poor Clement of Rome, only 5 times). Augustine is undoubtedly the single greatest post-Apostolic theologian in the history of the church, no matter who is evaluating the matter. (Aquinas himself only gets around 60 references in the CCC.) By the way, a “Latin version of the seven genuine but interpolated letters [of Ignatius of Antioch] was first published by Lefevre d’Etaples (Jacobus Faber) in 1498.” It was the somewhat infamous Anglican Bishop Ussher who discovered in the 1640’s that they had been interpolated.

    4. I’ll “tu quoque” your “tu quoque” and “up the ante” by throwing in a few [unspoken] “ad hominem’s” just for good measure! (Are your ears burning?)

    5. I probably was amiss to dismiss the AF’s so cavalierly. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. I still don’t see them as particularly relevant to a declaration of the Reformers’ overall understanding of the ECF’s.

    6. Polycarp is a great guy. But he is not a great historical literary figure…more of an–admittedly humble–plagiarist.

    7. As far as we know, the AF did not believe in infant baptism, penance, indulgences, purgatory, hyperdulia, the bodily assumption and immaculate conception of Mary, the papacy, transubstantiation, the anathematizing of lay reading of Scripture, the restriction of the cup from the laity, non-vernacular liturgies, or the possibility of apostasy for the elect (i.e. the truly regenerate).

    Quite a list!!

  89. Wosbald–

    If Jason feels inundated, I am truly sorry. Certainly not my intention. I know how I have felt on blogs like C2C.

    But if we Reformed types believe our system to be the truth, the only possible understanding of Jason’s repudiation of his former beliefs is that he did not genuinely understand them. We know he can spout off the catechism’s answers to this, that, and the other thing. That’s not at all the same as authentically comprehending them (unless he were correct in dismissing them, which we do not think he was). So that one is simply a “given” of his changed world view.

    Jason is still quite young in his Catholicism. Probably some of his Reformed interlocutors know the literal ins and outs of Catholicism better than he does (at least on paper). I doubt very much that he would debate this.

    Again, if Catholicism is true, then we do not understand it as well as he does (for he has accepted its veracity). If it is untrue, then we may very well know it even better than you or he do.

    I wish Jason the conviction of the Spirit and a return to the truth. I do not wish him the slightest bit of ill.

    What I wish SS, on the other hand….. 😉 jk!!!

  90. Jeff–

    We Reformed do not believe that what Jesus accomplished was primarily forensic. We do not even believe that what Jesus accomplished was primarily salvific! We believe that it was primarily for the glory of God (soli deo gloria!)

    What forensic justification did is settle everything once and for all. It does not in any way, shape, or form obviate the need for sanctification. In some sense it’s not all that important in our soteriology (speaking within the system). Ever play Jenga? A block pulled out from the very bottom will send the whole tower crashing down. But the game is actually played focusing on the looser blocks: the ones which can be pulled free. For the Reformed, union with Christ or mortification of the flesh is much more worth exploring unless one is defending the faith against others.

    Yes, Jeff, I realize what Catholics mean when they say that Christ “takes on our sin” or “covers our sin” or “dies for us.” I understand what they mean when they agree that Jesus justifies the ungodly. But in each case the meaning is indirect and unnatural. I don’t see any way “Mathetes” could have meant them in this manner. We believe he actually meant what he said. (Furthermore, Catholics “hate” to speak of any kind of “exchange” because it smacks of substitutionary atonement, which they disavow.)

    You can go back and reread what I wrote, but I never said that apostolic succession was ever mere adherence to doctrine. It quite pointedly was not. Augustine admitted the orthodoxy of the Donatists, but excoriated them anyway for fomenting schism. What I said, is that it always included adherence to doctrine, something it no longer does in practice. The Catholic church has myriads of heresiarchs ensconced “in cathedra,” wearing bishops’ mitres and toting shepherds’ staves.

    In terms of babies resembling their parents, read my next post…to Jason.

  91. 1. Are you done with your adolescent games of “gotcha”?

    You can expect to be called out when unsupported and unsupportable claims are made. See below.

    2. Some of the content of the Didache was indeed available to the Reformers in the Latin version of the Apostolic Constitutions, portions of which are based on the Didascalia and the Didache. They hunted for a Greek original for the Didache (without success) during the Renaissance. Yes, a copy (from 1056 CE) was found in 1873. But that is irrelevant since they had access to much of the content. Calvin references the Didache in 4.15.19 and 4.17.38 of his Institutes (unless you would care to prove that he didn’t get these illustrations from there…).

    4.15.19 nowhere mentions the Didache. Calvin refers to the ‘primitive’ church but does not explicitly mention the Didache. By primitive he could have easily had in mind the church described in the book of Acts.

    4.17.38 again nowhere mentions the Didache!

    On what basis do you make claims? Look, you can’t just say “the Didache rates a couple of citations ” to bolster an inexistent argument and expect not to be called out… at least not in any serious conversation. Your digression into the Apostolic Constitutions has nothing to do with the claim that Calvin ‘knew church history better than any of us’. How could he if he didn’t have access to those documents? That they ‘hunted’ for them is irrelevant, they didn’t have them, hence the total silence in the record.

    3. What is your point anyway? The current Catholic Catechism references Augustine nearly 90 times (and poor Clement of Rome, only 5 times). Augustine is undoubtedly the single greatest post-Apostolic theologian in the history of the church, no matter who is evaluating the matter. (Aquinas himself only gets around 60 references in the CCC.) By the way, a “Latin version of the seven genuine but interpolated letters [of Ignatius of Antioch] was first published by Lefevre d’Etaples (Jacobus Faber) in 1498.” It was the somewhat infamous Anglican Bishop Ussher who discovered in the 1640?s that they had been interpolated.

    Augustine the single greatest post Apostolic theologian in the history of the church? According to whose definition? Eric’s? The Reformed? Once again, scholasticism in full throttle. Why is their even a need to glorify one over the other? Reminds me of the mother arguing on her sons’ behalf, “can he be the greatest Lord?”…

    4. I’ll “tu quoque” your “tu quoque” and “up the ante” by throwing in a few [unspoken] “ad hominem’s” just for good measure! (Are your ears burning?)

    My ears are wide open. And for now I’m not hearing anything that constitutes evidence for your argument that the Reformers had a fully orbed historical view of the early church. Which btw, is necessary before one begins to pontificate whilst claiming to reform the church.

    5. I probably was amiss to dismiss the AF’s so cavalierly. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. I still don’t see them as particularly relevant to a declaration of the Reformers’ overall understanding of the ECF’s.

    A mea culpa is correct and relevant here. So you don’t see how the earliest evidence that we have regarding the teaching and belief of the earliest church outside the New Testament is extremely valuable information? Without the AF, there would be no ECF. And further, it is critical that we understand the divergences that occurred in the train of thought of the early church and that presupposes that one is, at the very minimum, aware of the genesis of that thought.

    6. Polycarp is a great guy. But he is not a great historical literary figure…more of an–admittedly humble–plagiarist.

    Just drop it man, this is ridiculous. Polycarp a plagiarist? What does that make Calvin then who basically regurgitates Augustine (miunderstanding him in many ways)? A muppet? This line of thinking is clearly uncalled for. To quote Paul is not to plagiarize Paul. I’ve already mentioned that Polycarp quotes many others besides Paul.

    7. As far as we know, the AF did not believe in infant baptism, penance, indulgences, purgatory, hyperdulia, the bodily assumption and immaculate conception of Mary, the papacy, transubstantiation, the anathematizing of lay reading of Scripture, the restriction of the cup from the laity, non-vernacular liturgies, or the possibility of apostasy for the elect (i.e. the truly regenerate).

    Quite a list!!

    All true expect the last clause. You will not be able to defend this view in front of any scholar of the early church. But I’m not here to argue about the above, I’ve discussed this at length at C2C and will be back later there on the Tu Quoque thread. But none of this has anything to do with the unsubstantiated claims made you and Robert about church history. My advice to you is, check twice, think thrice, then make a claim. Much better than just firing off random (totally made up?) claims left right and center.

  92. What I wish SS, on the other hand….. jk!!!

    Yeah, I know. I’m just glad this ain’t the dark ages and that I’m not in Geneva. I’d be headless and handless by now if that were the case….

  93. I don’t see any way “Mathetes” could have meant them in this manner. We believe he actually meant what he said

    It’s not about what the Bible ‘says’. Everyone knows what the Bible ‘says’. It what it MEANS that’s at stake. There is nothing in the epistle to Diognetus that refers to the reformed understanding of imputation. ‘For our sins’ and ‘the just for the unjust’ are not shorthand for the alien imputation of the active obedience of Christ. Nothing in the text itself, and in the broader context of the AF, supports that. Same with Romans 5:17-18. Pointing to those verses and saying “See, I told ya! Read for yourself!” Really? Come on now, let’s at least pretend like we’re pretending to be doing honest work here.

  94. Eric (2:12 pm)
    I feel kind of silly even posting this but you wrote

    “In terms of babies resembling their parents, read my next post…to Jason.”

    and I just wanted to say that babies resembling their parents was not in any way the point of my analogy. It was grown up versions of a person recognizably resembling their infant/toddler versions. The more mature Catholic church (and not Protestantism) can be recognizably identified in its infant form in Scripture and the fathers in a way one can recognize that *this* infant developed into *that*adult and not some other one. Again, I feel silly even adding this but I wanted to make sure the point of my analogy was understood and your comment seemed to indicate otherwise. Sorry if this is an unneeded clarification.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  95. Robert,

    I was in the middle of a long response to your comment in which you listed 9 or so things you think I have ignored in Galatians, but I don’t think I am going to finish and post it. I simply do not have the time to exegete the entire epistle for you in order to earn the right to appeal to a passage in ch. 6 of the letter. After looking at all the data you think I have ignored, it is clear that you are interpreting that data according to your paradigm and then faulting me for failing to agree with you. I don’t see the profit in responding to every single point you raise. I know what you think about Galatians. Now if you’ll just trust me on that, I would then invite you to respond to the points I make in this post without stomping your feet and insisting either that I expound the entire book, or that I agree to prove that the ECFs agreed with every single thing the current CC teaches (which demand is completely anachronistic on your part).

    This kind of brings me to a broader point, which is that it is becoming harder and harder for me to respond to every single comment addressed to me. When I post again on Sunday night I will probably start taking a bit more of a hands-off approach in the combox, only participating when I feel the need to. If others who agree with my approach cannot pick up the slack, or if the discussions can’t really flow without my active daily participation, then I will reconsider. We’ll see how it goes.

  96. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    But if we Reformed types believe our system to be the truth, the only possible understanding of Jason’s repudiation of his former beliefs is that he did not genuinely understand them. We know he can spout off the catechism’s answers to this, that, and the other thing. That’s not at all the same as authentically comprehending them (unless he were correct in dismissing them, which we do not think he was). So that one is simply a “given” of his changed world view.

    So…

    1) Reformism is so preeminently true that, if one disagrees with it, then one must not understand it.

    2) Catholicism is so deviously false that, if one agrees with it, then one must not understand it.

    If that’s the case, there’s no reason for the Reformed to even be on this site. If the World of Reason can’t synergize with the World of Faith, then Reformists are just spitting into the wind.

  97. SS–

    What?! W. A. Mozart and J. S. Bach, the 2 greatest composers of all time? According to whose definition? Eric’s? The Germans?

    Go ahead and make your case for Erik Satie….

    You’re yelling at me to “check twice” after I just got through making corrections on your bald assertions? (Exactly which AF’s are you still contending the Reformers had no access to? Papias is only found quoted in Irenaeus and Eusebius; Reformers did have access to Ignatius in Latin and to the Didache through the Latin translation of the Apostolic Constitutions; they had access to 1 Clement; according to Jerome, Hermas was not well known in the West (I do not know whether the Renaissance corrected this oversight); the epistle to Diognetus was extant in medieval Europe though probably not particularly available; as to Barnabas and Polycarp and the rest, I have no clue and could barely care less.) Why again am I supposed to be concerned? Were the “scholars” who took part in Trent so spectacularly erudite? (Actually, for the most part, they were pretty decent. They clearly did not understand Reformed theology one whit. But otherwise….)

    I make mistakes. I admit to them. I don’t have the time to check absolutely everything first. (Obviously, you don’t either!) None of this is ever going to be published, my friend….

    Who says those two references were likely to the Didache? John T. McNeill, that’s who. Seminary prof at Union Theological in NYC, editor of the Library of Christian Classics edition of the Institutes .

    I’d much rather be a Catholic tried in Calvin’s Geneva than an Alumbrado tried in Ximenez’ Spain. The East beat up on Paulicians and Bogomils. (And note their treatment of Kyrillos Loukaris for how they would have acted toward any Reformed in their midst.) Calvin was nowhere near the worst in terms of persecuting religious minorities. Nowhere near. There was no imposed doctrinal conformity in Geneva that I’ve ever heard about, other than not being an out-and-out heretic: are you secretly Socinian? Moral conformity, political conformity–sure, these were enforced. So, SS, headless and handless? Whose jewelry have you been pilfering? Whose daughter have you been defiling? What rebellion have you been fomenting?

  98. Jeff–

    I perfectly understood you analogy. It’s part of the reason I said what I did. It’s actually easier to say which baby came form which parent than it is to say a particular adult matches a particular baby picture. I have a hard enough time matching a middle-aged face with someone I knew as an adolescent when I attend high-school reunions!

    Would the early church more likely grow up to be the present Lutheranism or the present Catholicism?

    Does anybody really know?

  99. Wosbald–

    Do you honestly not understand the nature of conviction?

    Reformism, as you call it, is so preeminently true TO ME that if you don’t accept its validity, there must be something you don’t understand about it.

    There is absolutely nothing arrogant in believing that what I believe to be true, actually is true. That’s why we have these debates. You believe one thing. I believe another. You put forth your best arguments for your version of the truth. I put forth mine.

    Simple really.

  100. Wosbald–

    Here’s a speech given by Phillip Carey (well-known Augustine expert among other things) that says what I just tried to say but far more effectively:

    http://www.academia.edu/1720035/Religious_Pluralism

  101. Hey Eric (4:56pm),
    Even though Jason has said his conversion was not due to lack of understanding of Reformed theology and even though I, similarly ex-Reformed, can assert that my journey towards Catholicism was not due to lack of understanding, I can fully understand your assumption that somehow that lack of understanding *must* be there. I would have said the same thing and felt just as strongly a few years ago; it seems to me a natural response, regardless of whether appropriate or not. I’m appreciative of those who maintain charitable dialog even when disagreeing.

    For me, the process of changing my mind took years so perhaps part of the frustration in these discussions at times is a sense that with just a few verses here and there or a few simple analogies or references to history, that the logic of your (or my) side will be so overwhelming that the other person will immediately capitulate, shaking their head at how they could have been so blind on something so obvious. But it just doesn’t work that way I think for most folks.

    One thing that helps though is when each party honestly and with dedication tries to get inside the head of the other party and truly understand what the other is saying. My perception is that that’s not always happening (and often doesn’t in Catholic/Protestant discussions). When I was a staunch Calvinist, I bristled at those who criticized Calvinists as teaching that the elect could basically do as they pleased (because they’re elect) or that sincere believers might be excluded from heaven because they happened not to be elect….have you ever had arguments along these lines? I would defend Calvinism in part by explaining that those wrong ideas are not at all what Calvinism teaches and I would find it extremely frustrating to come back later and find the same people making the same assertions…it was like they never heard or thought about what I had to say. In these discussions here where I now fall on the Catholic side, sometimes it feels like the same thing is happening. I just want to encourage as much as possible trying to see things through the lens Jason (and others) are suggesting, whether or not in the end you come to agree with it now or in the future. That will advance the dialog.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  102. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    Do you honestly not understand the nature of conviction?
    Reformism, as you call it, is so preeminently true TO ME that if you don’t accept its validity, there must be something you don’t understand about it.

    I’m just going by what you and Robert have been saying over the course of a number of threads: that no one really understands unless they understand Reformism to be true and Catholicism to be false. This is a consequence of Monergism, since Reason has no participatory power with Faith. For the Natural Man to come to Monergism (the preeminent and unique Christian distinctive, as Robert said), something discontinuous with the Natural Order must transition him. They must have, as Robert said, “a true revelation of their sin and the holiness of God” in order to understand.

    From the Catholic POV, for the Natural Man to come to Synergism, nothing special or discontinuous with the Natural Order needs to happen to him. He doesn’t need public divine revelation. He simply has to accept, from the testimony of his own intellect, that synergism is reality. This is freely available to him, and doesn’t require anything extraordinary. He only needs to freely assent to this truth of Nature.

    This is why I sat that Monergism is first and foremost a metaphysical or philosophical error. It is a metaphysical error before it is ever a religious error. But, as I’ve mentioned before, when Monergism finally does enter into the religious arena, the preeminent synergetic truth of the Incarnation only serves to double-down on the condemnation.

    And as I’ve said, accepting the truth of Synergism does necessitate that any theology of Nature and Grace can never be perfectly resolved and consistent in the abstract. But that’s the price of believing in the Mystery of the Incarnation. The Mystery isn’t resolvable within the confines of an abstract system. It’s resolved in a living Person.

  103. Wosbald–

    You totally misunderstood everything I had to say. Read the Carey speech if you really wish to respond to me. I wasn’t discussing epistemology.

    Concerning what you did say:

    “From the Catholic POV, for the Natural Man to come to Synergism, nothing special or discontinuous with the Natural Order needs to happen to him.”

    If “nothing needs to happen for a man to come to synergism,” then the natural man can initiate the move toward God. This is classic semi-Pelagianism. It is neither Reformed nor Catholic. Catholic soteriology requires prevenient grace (which is not a part of the natural order).

  104. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    If “nothing needs to happen for a man to come to synergism,” then the natural man can initiate the move toward God. This is classic semi-Pelagianism. It is neither Reformed nor Catholic. Catholic soteriology requires prevenient grace (which is not a part of the natural order).

    I didn’t say “for a man to come receive the grace of Justification” or “to come to Divine and Catholic Faith”. I simply said to “to realize the truth of synergism”. This is part of the Natural Order. Perhaps you might reread my post in this light?

  105. I would love to meditate more on these things and then post something exploring the whole debate over grace perfecting nature (as opposed to disrupting it), especially as it touches on the mystery of the incarnation. Maybe one day. . . .

  106. What?! W. A. Mozart and J. S. Bach, the 2 greatest composers of all time? According to whose definition? Eric’s? The Germans? Go ahead and make your case for Erik Satie….

    That was precisely my point, this isn’t American Idol and about who is the greatest. Again, we shouldn’t be concerned with who is the greatest and gets to sit at the right hand of Christ.

    You’re yelling at me to “check twice” after I just got through making corrections on your bald assertions? (Exactly which AF’s are you still contending the Reformers had no access to? Papias is only found quoted in Irenaeus and Eusebius; Reformers did have access to Ignatius in Latin and to the Didache through the Latin translation of the Apostolic Constitutions; they had access to 1 Clement; according to Jerome, Hermas was not well known in the West (I do not know whether the Renaissance corrected this oversight); the epistle to Diognetus was extant in medieval Europe though probably not particularly available; as to Barnabas and Polycarp and the rest, I have no clue and could barely care less.) Why again am I supposed to be concerned? Were the “scholars” who took part in Trent so spectacularly erudite? (Actually, for the most part, they were pretty decent. They clearly did not understand Reformed theology one whit. But otherwise….)

    The claim was that the Reformers ‘knew church history better than any of us’. I have shown that is patently untrue: Calvin, a figurehead in the Reformation, never engages once with the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. Not once in 1000 pages. That he may or may not have known that they exist is irrelevant. You cannot claim to represent an accurate reformation of the church without engaging with the beliefs of the earliest disciples of the disciples. This would be analogous to claiming to know US history better than your neighbor and writing a book on it without once referencing the first 10 presidents and their beliefs.

    I make mistakes. I admit to them. I don’t have the time to check absolutely everything first. (Obviously, you don’t either!) None of this is ever going to be published, my friend….

    This site is published for tens of thousands to read globally. I think they would appreciate it.

    Who says those two references were likely to the Didache? John T. McNeill, that’s who. Seminary prof at Union Theological in NYC, editor of the Library of Christian Classics edition of the Institutes .

    Again, that was my point. Calvin never once mentions these documents. Mr McNeill’s speculation is welcome, but the cold hard fact is that there is ZERO theological engagement with the Apostolic Fathers’ writing and teaching. Not citations, no quotes, nothing. A massive problem for the Reformed case. You can’t just run and hide behind Augustine and ignore extremely valuable information about the earliest followers of Christ. Was not the faith ONCE and FOR ALL delivered? The AF give us great insight into what that faith consisted of. And of course that does not necessitate that Rome is correct and that all the things you mentioned are there in embroyonic form. That doesn’t follow at all. But it does behoove us to be careful with the facts.

    I’d much rather be a Catholic tried in Calvin’s Geneva than an Alumbrado tried in Ximenez’ Spain. The East beat up on Paulicians and Bogomils. (And note their treatment of Kyrillos Loukaris for how they would have acted toward any Reformed in their midst.) Calvin was nowhere near the worst in terms of persecuting religious minorities. Nowhere near. There was no imposed doctrinal conformity in Geneva that I’ve ever heard about, other than not being an out-and-out heretic: are you secretly Socinian? Moral conformity, political conformity–sure, these were enforced. So, SS, headless and handless? Whose jewelry have you been pilfering? Whose daughter have you been defiling? What rebellion have you been fomenting?

    Blessed are those who are relatively less morally bankrupt due to cultural accomodation, for they will inherit the earth. The beatitudes according to Eric.
    Sorry, that will not do. Christ never gave us any grounds for excusing cruel behavior (which was rife among the leadership in Geneva) and being aggressors. Did Christ come to teach us coercion? Is the Kingdom of God gained by compulsion and violence while we await His return? Or is it gained by the meek, the poor in Spirit?

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/03/john-calvins-sanction-of-torture-of.html

    Get the most favorable biographer of Calvin, and even he will detail truths about his regime that would cause nausea. And before you resort to the old and tired defense of “Oh everybody behaved like that back then” let me remind you that countless believers refused to engage in violence (among them, many anabaptists) and they were just as much part of the culture as anyone else. No, I’m sorry, Christ did not provide these kinds of provisos in his most important sermon. These are the rationalizations of Calvin’s fans who refuse to acknowledge the truth that he was a violent man, through and through. There’s no getting out of this: they killed the prophets behind the curtain Jesus said. They also killed God’s children in the streets and tortured them as well. I say shame on any protestant who upholds Calvin as a teacher of the Scriptures in contravention of the Biblical requirement that our teachers be blameless and beyond reproach!

  107. Jason,

    I understand that you don’t have time to exegete an entire epistle. But if you are going to go to Romans 8:1–4 and Galatians 6 to defend the Roman gospel, you aren’t going to convince anyone who is halfway biblically knowledgeable by going to the middle or the end of an argument without tracing that argument. I could go to the end of any of Paul’s epistles, read his imperatives, come up with a scheme of salvation that has no place for grace at all, and then read it back into his argument. That proves what—absolutely nothing! I don’t mean to be rude, but the fact that in your CtC interview you jump right to Romans 8 and say that you lost sleep over Zechariah and Elizabeth demonstrates that you not only found church history boring but also hermeneutics and systematic theology.

  108. SS,

    The charges against Calvin are old and tired. He is one of the most maligned figures in all of church history, which again proves my point that the Reformed present a different way of salvation than any other religion on the planet. There is no place for works in our right standing before God, and fallen man hates that. You and other traditions such as Roman Catholics will pay lip service to grace, but at the end of the day, you are presenting a soteriology that differs little from Judaism or Islam, especially since you still have given no reason for Jesus’ life and death other than perhaps as a good example. Rome does that to. In your system, there is absolutely no reason for Jesus to have died. If the sole import of his death was that we needed his blood to cleanse us, God could have just pricked him and let him bleed. You present a God who is a liar. When he said that sinners must die, he did not really mean it.

    Back to Calvin, heresy was a capital crime throughout much of Europe in the Middle Ages. It was a capital crime in the Old Testament as well. It is understandable, even if not necessarily entirely justifiable, that professing Christian governments would hold it as such. Calvin was not sitting in his tower, rubbing his hands together, and sending out roving gangs throughout Europe to find and kill people. He told Servetus not to come to Geneva. He wrote to him repeatedly to get him to change his views, and even after he was convicted, he pled with him to change his views because he actually did not want Servetus to go to hell after his execution. That’s hardly the portrait of a monster.

    I don’t expect you to care about any of this, since you apparently don’t believe there were any true Christians from the time of Polycarp to Joseph Shulam, a man who is relatively unwilling to speak the language of Christian history and orthodoxy on the Trinity (http://www.hebrew-streams.org/works/hazak/shulam-on-trinity.pdf). Of course, all this makes Jesus a liar for promising that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. But since you think he was apparently lying when he commanded us to be as perfect as God is perfect, I guess that doesn’t matter.

  109. Jason,

    This comment is revealing:

    After looking at all the data you think I have ignored, it is clear that you are interpreting that data according to your paradigm and then faulting me for failing to agree with you.

    Several people have referred to “Called to Communion” as “Called to Confusion” since their “philosophers” assume postmodern epistemology with a vengeance. I have my paradigm, you have yours. I guess we really can’t communicate then. Sort of makes one wonder why you would have a blog to begin with.

  110. The charges against Calvin are old and tired. He is one of the most maligned figures in all of church history, which again proves my point that the Reformed present a different way of salvation than any other religion on the planet. There is no place for works in our right standing before God, and fallen man hates that. You and other traditions such as Roman Catholics will pay lip service to grace, but at the end of the day, you are presenting a soteriology that differs little from Judaism or Islam, especially since you still have given no reason for Jesus’ life and death other than perhaps as a good example. Rome does that to. In your system, there is absolutely no reason for Jesus to have died. If the sole import of his death was that we needed his blood to cleanse us, God could have just pricked him and let him bleed. You present a God who is a liar. When he said that sinners must die, he did not really mean it.

    Calvin:

    “Servetus has just sent me a long volume of his ravings. If I consent he will come here, but I will not give my word; for if he comes here, if my authority is worth anything, I will never permit him to depart alive (Latin: Si venerit, modo valeat mea autoritas, vivum exire nunquam patiar).”

    A premeditated murder. But as this link shows:

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/03/john-calvins-sanction-of-torture-of.html

    Servetus is just the tip of the iceberg , many others were tortured and murdered. Why isn’t this a topic of discussion at one of your Desiring God conferences? You rave at Calvin’s so called intellectual brilliance and excuse/ignore his wickedness! Absurdity if there ever was such. His victims’ blood cries out to God and they will find justice.

    Re this nonsense: “If the sole import of his death was that we needed his blood to cleanse us, God could have just pricked him and let him bleed.”

    This only shows that you do not understand the Incarnation and God’s economy of salvation, which is not surprising given that you are Reformed, it goes with the territory and medieval theology. I write the following not for you, because I do not expect you to listen and learn, but for the readers: God took on flesh in Christ Jesus and voluntarily laid down his life for us, tasting death fully, so that our sins may be forgiven, being our ransom from bondage to sin and death. His sacrificial death (prefigured in the Old Covenant) via the Cross provides the indispensable mechanism through which we can participate in death to our sin, being buried in His death and raised to life in our baptism and subsequent walk in the Spirit. It is because He died , and not simply bled, that we can now die to our sinful nature and be filled with His Spirit. No amount of bleeding could have secured that for us, but only the righteous death and resurrection of the Just for the unjust.

    Back to Calvin, heresy was a capital crime throughout much of Europe in the Middle Ages. It was a capital crime in the Old Testament as well. It is understandable, even if not necessarily entirely justifiable, that professing Christian governments would hold it as such. Calvin was not sitting in his tower, rubbing his hands together, and sending out roving gangs throughout Europe to find and kill people. He told Servetus not to come to Geneva. He wrote to him repeatedly to get him to change his views, and even after he was convicted, he pled with him to change his views because he actually did not want Servetus to go to hell after his execution. That’s hardly the portrait of a monster.

    You work hard to call evil good…. See above.

    I don’t expect you to care about any of this, since you apparently don’t believe there were any true Christians from the time of Polycarp to Joseph Shulam, a man who is relatively unwilling to speak the language of Christian history and orthodoxy on the Trinity (http://www.hebrew-streams.org/works/hazak/shulam-on-trinity.pdf). Of course, all this makes Jesus a liar for promising that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. But since you think he was apparently lying when he commanded us to be as perfect as God is perfect, I guess that doesn’t matter.

    Your ad hominems only prove the weakness of the Reformed arguments. I believe that there has always been, from the beginning, a visible church in the existence of believers who have been proved right by their deeds and fruit. . Matter of fact I believe that this visible church has been comprised of believers of all stripes despite the gentile church’s great and many errors and sins (see Scottish Archbishop news today for example, among many other, or pick any scandalous headline from American protestant churches, Sovereign Grace (a reformed group) child abuse scandal, Pentecostal and Baptist leaders’ moral failures). Christ was entirely correct in saying that His church would prevail, because despite these great grievances, there are nevertheless still today a remnant which is undefiled and which is doing the work of the Kingdom quietly.

    Regarding your Ad Hominem against Shulam: why am I not surprised? Shulam believes that Christ is God. In fact, He has been beat up by thugs in Israel over this by orthodox jews for this very fact and continues to be persecuted there to this very day for His belief in the divine Messiah. He would heartily come alongside any protestant to denounce any Arian doctrine. But his point is simply that, as a natural branch and jewish believer, he doesn’t need the Nicene formula to affirm the latter! Were any believers saved before Nicea was convened? What about the hundreds of thousands who believed in the earliest days, when there wasn’t even a Bible circulating? Should we condemn them as well? The irony here is rich…. gentiles boasting over the natural branches. Paul saw it coming and didn’t write Romans 11 for nothing after all did he. The other irony is this: you speak of the ‘language of Christian history and orthodoxy’ when in you appeal to the Nicene council or Chalcedon. And yet these councils were put together by the RCC which you believe contains nothing but false believers. As Bryan Cross has correctly pointed out, this is ecclesial deism and logically bankrupt.

  111. Robert,

    I understand that you don’t have time to exegete an entire epistle. But if you are going to go to Romans 8:1–4 and Galatians 6 to defend the Roman gospel, you aren’t going to convince anyone who is halfway biblically knowledgeable by going to the middle or the end of an argument without tracing that argument. I could go to the end of any of Paul’s epistles, read his imperatives, come up with a scheme of salvation that has no place for grace at all, and then read it back into his argument.

    Last I checked I had written several posts on the topic of justification in the last several months, drawing especially from Rom. 2-4. I can’t assume that each reader approaches a post dealing with Paul’s imperatives with a blank slate, as though I need to re-say everything I have ever said on the matter of justification.

    Plus, I have argued extensively that Paul is talking about justification (and not sanctification only) in Gal. 5-6, which, if you had remembered it, makes your objection unnecessary.

  112. Robert, you wrote:

    “Several people have referred to ‘Called to Communion’ as ‘Called to Confusion’ since their ‘philosophers’ assume postmodern epistemology with a vengeance.”

    I’m a PhD Candidate in Philosophy at a secular university after getting my MA in Philosophy from a secular university after getting my BA in Philosophy from a secular college. I’ve had more bellyfulls of postmodernism than I’d care to think about. As someone who gets paid the big bucks (that’s a joke if you know anything about grad students) :-p to study philosophy, I can assure you that nobody at CtC writes within a postmodern epistemology. Nobody. If anything, they’re writing within a radically Aristotelian epistemology – and that’s about as anti-post-modern as one can get. I’m just sayin’ that if I showed members in my current or any previous departments who adopted a postmodern epistemology a CtC article their response wouldn’t be “Oh, these guys and I are basically on the same page!” More likely than not, they’d chuckle derisively at those Catholics and their antiquated epistemologies and – talk about the Unknowability of The Other or some such rot. Regardless, that means CtC ain’t post modern.

    You also wrote “I have my paradigm, you have yours. I guess we really can’t communicate then. Sort of makes one wonder why you would have a blog to begin with.” The existential despair and rejection of the possibility of rational dialogue displayed in that sentence is FAR more within a postmodern strain of thought than anything I’ve ever seen on CtC. Maybe you were shooting for irony?

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  113. SS–

    I was simply talking about scholarly consensus. Ask any music historian who the three greatest composers of all time are and the names of Mozart and Bach will appear more times than any others (even if you asked Asians). Beethoven would, of course, be right up there, as well. Without much question, one can make fairly objective evaluations of the fine arts (e.g., Shakespeare is a “tad” better than Stoppard).

    Any church historian who did not put Augustine in his top five of the most influential post-Apostolic theologians would never make tenure (unless, perhaps, he was employed in an Eastern Orthodox seminary or the like). I have never come across an historian who didn’t believe Augustine was the most influential post-Apostolic theologian prior to the Renaissance. For at least 900 years he has no rivals. This is not my subjective opinion. This is the scholarly consensus: whether we speak of Catholic scholars, Protestant scholars, or secular scholars.

    ****************************************

    I do not make excuses for Calvin (or Zwingli or Luther, for that matter), and I far prefer the pacific natures of Bullinger and Bucer. I don’t even let Owen off the hook for advocating (or at least acquiescing to) regicide. But if you get nauseous from studying the lives of Reformational firebrands, then never study the exploits of the contemporaneous Dominicans and Jesuits. For you will lurch for the bathroom door and spend your entire night, hunched over the toilet wretching. (And the Iconoclast-Iconodule clashes in the East were not exactly non-violent!) You can charge me with “tu quoque” if you like. But if we make an evaluation of relative violence levels on the two sides, it will no longer be “you, likewise” but “you, only.” (In other words, Protestant violence is nowhere near to being in the same “league” with Catholic violence in the 16th and 17th centuries.)

  114. Benjamin–

    I would have to agree with you that the dominant philosophy at C2C is Thomistic (and thus, Aristotelian).

    I would have to agree with Robert, however, that their stated motivation of reconciliation comes across far more as an unstated goal of assimilation. It is a triumphalistic Thomism that gives proper respect neither to Reformed theological history, nor to Reformed adherents. (There is a good bit of Calvinistic triumphalism rearing its ugly head, as well, from our side of things.)

    I have come to believe that their hearts are actually in the right place. It is their methodological commitments (and ours) that stand in the way of true dialogue. (Admittedly, inter-paradigm dialogue is extraordinarily difficult.)

  115. But if you get nauseous from studying the lives of Reformational firebrands, then never study the exploits of the contemporaneous Dominicans and Jesuits. For you will lurch for the bathroom door and spend your entire night, hunched over the toilet wretching. (And the Iconoclast-Iconodule clashes in the East were not exactly non-violent!) You can charge me with “tu quoque” if you like. But if we make an evaluation of relative violence levels on the two sides, it will no longer be “you, likewise” but “you, only.”

    You didn’t get the memo. God doesn’t grade on a curve but to each according to his deeds. I am well aware of the history of the CC and the Orthodox. I am neither a part of them or of the Reformed, as this reluctantly, since I greatly desire for the church to be united. You however, are Reformed and are therefore the product of a movement which has its very genesis in violence and wickedness (That the catholics may have killed more is irrelevant to my point). There’s no escaping that no matter how much lipstick you put on it.

  116. SS–

    At 0ur very “genesis” we were violent? Jesus was violent? Paul was violent? Ambrose was violent?Augustine was violent? Prosper was violent? Bradwardine was violent? Wycliffe was violent?

    Calvin merely picked up where they left off….

  117. Nonsense and you know it. Show me where in the Gospels Jesus cut somebody’s hand off for breaking the law, or any form of torture, or where He murders another for disagreeing with Him. When His disciples asked him to rain down fire on the Samaritans for refusing them hospitality, what does He say?

    Luke 9:55-56

    55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “ You do not know what kind of spirit you are of ; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives , but to save them”

    Maybe your Beatitudes read “Blessed are those who torture and murder others in the name of their idea of the truth, for they shall be richly rewarded”. Mine say “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”.

    Calvin’s violence and wickedness will never be justifiable, so quit digging.

  118. and also:

    “43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?”

    Not: “Servetus has just sent me a long volume of his ravings. If I consent he will come here, but I will not give my word; for if he comes here, if my authority is worth anything, I will never permit him to depart alive (Latin: Si venerit, modo valeat mea autoritas, vivum exire nunquam patiar).”

    but rather

    “59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep”

  119. SS–

    What on EARTH are you talking about? I have never justified Calvin’s harsh and violent ways. I never have and I never will. Furthermore, nothing within the Reformed paradigm requires that I do.

    Also, why do you bother to claim neutrality, and then solely attack Reformed comments? You may take Catholics to task from time to time on C2C. Here, you’ve pretty much taken a side.

  120. You may take Catholics to task from time to time on C2C. Here, you’ve pretty much taken a side.

    Read the combox to “How the Church Won” at C2C and then tell me if I’ve taken sides.

  121. To SS’s credit he has stayed on topic here and not ventured into all the reasons he has for not being Catholic. If I ever get around to posting on the CC’s authority, you Protestants can expect an ally then in your objections to the papacy and Magisterium.

  122. I have a question concerning faith and works, and I was hoping to get some answers. In the book of Romans, Paul declares that all men are “under sin” (3:9), which means there is an internal corruption of the mind and heart of man so that he is inflicted with the power of sin to fill him with desire to sin and transgress (Rom 6-8). Because all men are under sin and have fallen short of God’s glory, all men are disabled from being “just” in the eyes of God by the works of the Law, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin.

    It is important to realize that Paul is not very concerned about the ceremonial aspects of the Law when is speaking about the “works of the Law”, for when Paul is speaking about the “Law” or “Letter” (particularly in Romans, not Galatians), he is speaking about the Law’s ministerial function to deliver death and the life of sin, which comes most vividly through the moral commandments (Rom 7- Thou shalt not covet). When Paul is contrasting the Spirit and the Law, he does not merely have a contrast in the subjects of observance, as if he is contrasting the life of the Spirit where there is loving God and neighbor with Jewish customs which were exterior and celebratory. No, rather he has in mind the contrast of a covenant where the fallen humanity is under the control of sin through the commands of God (Moral!- see Rom 7) versus the new covenant where the Spirit fufills the righteous requirements of the Law in us, when we walk according to the Spirit. In Galatians, Paul has more in mind on the subject of observances, as is clear with Peter’s hypocrisy. But interwoven even there is this idea that with the death of Jesus, there has come the putting away of the old creation and the birth of a new creation where the human being is now alive to God once again (Garden of Eden) and can live in love to God and neighbor. Therefore, despite some efforts of some theologians who wish to define the Pauline contrast of Law and Gospel in terms of the Law being an strictly ethnic identity with the Gospel which is the incorporation of all people’s without needing to become Jewish, they are simply deficient in their understanding of Paul. It is not simply a matter of what observances are different, but also a difference in modes of human existence, the Law being that of the flesh (adamic mode of human life) and the Spirit (the Christic mode of human life).

    However, I am still struggling with the Catholic doctrine of justification. I struggle even more with the reformed doctrine. It is simply phenomenal how much forcing one must do in the text to come out with the idea of an alien righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner’s account.

    Can we just take a look at the most pertinent text and then I will lay out my thoughts.

    “What has our forefather, Abraham, found according to the flesh? For if he was justified by works, he has reason to boast, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness’. Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace, but as debt. But to him who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness” (Rom 4:1-5)

    In the first place, “works” here cannot be limited to the exterior laws of Jewish custom, such as circumcision, dietary laws, holy days, purification rites, offerings, etc,etc….but also must be including commands such as “thou shall not covet”, for Paul’s old man came into contention with this command and found nothing but death and transgression….not justification. Abraham was not justified by immediately keeping all the moral commands of God, for Paul says no man shall be justified by the works of the Law, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin, and Paul himself tells us the moral command against covetousness had disabled him from being justified by the commandments, for through these moral commandments Paul came to know sin, transgression, and death. Therefore,when Paul says that Abraham was not justified by works, he means to insist that Abraham was not “just” in God’s sight either by following Jewish customs or maintaining the fulfillment of the moral commandments, love.

    So we have enough evidence in the epistle to the Romans that when Paul disables mankind from being “justified” by the “works of the Law”, he actually has the moral commands mostly in mind. There is simply no way to deny this fact in my mind. For Romans 7, Paul clearly demonstrates how justification can never happen when the fallen human being is confronted with the divine pronouncement “thou shalt not covet”, for that human is subjected to the law of sin and death. Justification could never come about through the moral commands of God, particularly when it is met with a creature who is afflicted with Satanic power and the dominion of evil.

    So Abraham was not justified by any works, whether strictly an a-moral mosaic stipulation or the adherence to moral commands, for Paul’s argument on the disability of mankind from being justified by works covers a much wider scope than simply outward ritual observances, but most eminently, the moral commands (Rom 7).

    Rather than being justified by works, we are told “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness”. We also can deduce from the text of Romans 4:1-4, that Abraham, the man, is identified with the ungodly man, and he is also identified with the man who is a non-worker. Abraham had no works worthy enough to be “just” in the eyes of God, otherwise Abraham would be able to boast. Abraham had no “earnings” through which he could accumulate a “worthy quality/value” to exchange for the status of being righteous in the eyes of God. Therefore, if we simply define “faith” as another way of covering righteousness, law-fulfilling, and obedience to God’s moral laws, then it is very difficult to see how Paul makes any sense….if we define faith in this way. If Abraham was not justified by works, then that means whatever justification Abraham had must not have come to him through his own works. Faith, we are told, was reckoned for righteousness, and so by this means he was justified. But then that would make “works” and “faith” diametrically opposite. If Justification by works is a wage earned by debt, then justification by faith is a free gift of grace. This would mean that “faith” cannot have a “value” or “worth” attributing to it or intrinsic in it, for this would immediately qualify faith the ability for the exchange: I give God faith (high value) and he sees me with righteousness (equal value). This would ruin the logic that Paul has set forth here.

    On the other hand, if faith is really destitute of any quality of worthiness for the person who has it, one wonders how different a person who has faith in God and Satan who has faith in God. I mean, if faith is really nothing of any worth or merit, then Satan and the human being can both have faith in the same way! Because if we widdle down the moral worthiness of faith in Abraham’s justification to absolutely nothing, to the begging empty hand for an alien righteousness, then what makes Satan incapable of doing this? I beg to suggest that the only thing which makes Satan and the human being not able to do this at the same time is that salvation has not been offered to fallen angels. But theoretically speaking, if salvation would be offered to fallen angels, then Satan and the human being can have “faith” in the very same exact way, because faith is not righteous nor is it unrighteous, it is simply accepting, receiving, resting, and relying on the alien righteousness of another.

    Given these complications, my question is how is it possible for God to calculate faith as righteousness when in the very argument of Romans, Paul defines faith as something the “non-worker” and “ungodly” man has? ? ?

    Could anyone comment?

  123. Steve Martin sent me here; it looks lively but our host remains very gracious! And I love your opening style (‘such a one could not possibly say…’)!

    Two early points, if I may, ahead of digesting it all

    1. Those ‘worthy’ in Sardis were ‘worthy’ because Jesus had had mercy on them; He had given them a heart of flesh, protected them (as with Peter) and led them into paths of righteousness. But this is not synergism – Jesus was still the author and perfecter of that work. (With Laodicea , He simply allowed the atrophying effect of evil to start to take its toll). We could therefore extend Augustine to read ‘Lord, Command as thou wilt; Will as thou hath commanded, and reward as thou has Willed’. God wants His glory seen on earth and will reward as He chooses even if He has brought about that which He wishes to reward. Biblical language might imply synergism (as in Lk 18 v22) but v 27 utterly devastates the notion.

    2. I must dig up your argument on Gal 5-6 but I have always taken that to be about sanctification not least because the Galatians were already believers and did not need to know about justification (other than to the extent that their fatally wrong views on sanctification would undermine even their justification ‘were that possible’)

  124. now ‘checked’ for follow-up comments – please!

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