On Bodies Visible and Invisible

Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Baptism, Catholicism, Ecclesiology, Exegesis, Featured, Incarnation, Protestantism, Reformed Theology | 367 comments

It has become apparent after the post addressing the Reformed dilemma regarding Infant Baptism and the New Covenant that another closely-linked Protestant issue needs to be addressed. That issue is the widespread (even universal) belief among Protestants that there is a “Visible Church” and an “Invisible Church.”

According to the Westminster Confession, the Invisible Church “consists of the whole number of the elect,” while the Visible Church “consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion” (Chapter 25.1-2). In making this distinction, Protestants don’t intend to say there are two Churches, but rather two ‘expressions’ of one Church. A popular way of understanding this distinction is to look at how modern Evangelicalism distinguishes between all those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior (members of the Invisible Church), regardless of what particular denomination each of these believers happens to attend (members of the Visible Church). This distinction was “devised” by men such as John Calvin as a way of explaining how there could be sin and error in the Church, while still recognizing the numerous Biblical references to Church members being “elect,” “holy,” etc. This is particularly how the Reformed are able to hold to the doctrine of Eternal Security and also explain why so many once-professing Christians can “fall away.” The Reformed say that it’s possible to be a member of a professing Christian community (i.e. in the Visible Church) but if that member “falls away” then they were never saved in the first place (i.e. never in the Invisible Church).

The most extreme version of this Visible/Invisible distinction is seen today among those who say, “I don’t need the Church, I just need Jesus.” While historical Protestantism would have cringed to hear such talk, that “extreme” is unfortunately the logical outworking of the distinction. In fact, even among the Reformed there are many prominent individuals who will classify most doctrines other than “essentials” like Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura as “non-essential” doctrines (which itself is an unbiblical distinction). Such “non-essential” doctrines today can include everything from sacraments to morals to church governance. But that’s another issue for another time.

The primary source of evidence Protestants will consult is obviously the Bible, so the question is: What are the Biblical proof texts that Protestants use? The Westminster Confession’s proof texts for the Invisible Church are Eph 1:10, 22-23; 5:23,27,32, and Col 1:18. But the problem is that these texts simply speak of Christ as head of the Church, His body, without any modifying terms to suggest a visible/invisible distinction. As noted above, the Protestant claim is almost purely an inference, stemming mostly from their assumption that no one denomination is completely pure in its teachings and lived examples.

If you look at the 112 verses which use the Greek term “Church,” it is plain in nearly every case that a visible group of people is understood. When Paul writes a letter to a specific group, e.g. “to the Church at Corinth,” he is obviously talking about visible congregations. And even when Paul isn’t addressing a specific congregation, he is still clearly talking about the visible institution. For example, when Paul laments that in his former life that he “persecuted the Church of God” (Gal 1:13), even though he is speaking of the Church as a whole, he clearly refers to persecuting visible assembly of Christians. (See also Mat 18:17; 1 Tim 3:5) In key texts like 1 Corinthians 12, Paul even describes the Church as Christ’s Body, which drives home the visibility of the Church, because a Body is typically realized as the visible part of a being, as opposed to their naturally invisible soul (cf 1 Cor 5:3). In other words, this forces Protestants to speak not just of an “invisible church,” but now they must speak of an “invisible body,” which is not only a major assumption to make, it would force one to embrace a problematic Christology (e.g. Christ’s flesh was a visible reality). The point of this Body-Church connection is plain: the visible body of Christians on earth is carrying out Christ’s work on earth each day.

One final key text to consider is Ephesians 5:23-32, briefly:

“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. . . . Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . . For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Taking this text at face value, the default assumption should be “Visible Church,” especially since no good case for Invisible Church can be found in any other texts. Also consider the language and examples Paul uses: “wife” is paralleled to “church,” and we know a wife is a visible being; the “saving” that Christ did pertained to our whole humanity, not just our soul; the “cleansing by water with the word” sounds strikingly like baptism and not invisible features; the term “flesh” is used in parallel to “body”; and finally, the “becoming one flesh” refers sacramentally to “Christ and the Church,” namely the Incarnation.

The most common text I’ve seen Protestants use to prove a visible/invisible distinction is 1 John 2:19, which says: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” Protestants read this as saying “some left our visible fellowship, but they were not really of our invisible fellowship, for if they had been of our invisible fellowship, they would have maintained visible fellowship.” In other words, those “Christians” who once were in the Visible Church by later leave proves that they were never truly Christian in the first place. But this reading assumes too much. For one, this reading does not suggest that it doesn’t matter what denomination you go to, but just the opposite: that there is one true visible body, and you must be in it to be saved. Next, contextually, the “they” refers to “antichrists,” who specifically deny the Incarnation, not simply sinful behavior in the Church (which is what Church discipline is all about: Mt 18:17; 1 Cor 5:5). This would suggest that these individuals never intended to be Christian but snuck in to subvert orthodoxy. In fact, the phrase “went out from us” most likely means the antichrists went out from the Apostles, acting as if the Apostles sent them, but their preaching of false doctrines shows they were never sent by the Apostles. This matches with Acts 15:24 at the Council of Jerusalem, when the Apostles said false teachers “went out from us” (identical language) in the sense of pretending to be sent by the Apostles. And 1 John 4:1 speaks of false prophets who “went out” (same term) into the world, clearly referring to pretending to be sent to preach (cf 2 Jn 1:7; 3 Jn 1:7). So John’s point is to warn the flock of deceivers, not to layout some abstract theological principle of invisible vs visible Church.

In conclusion, I would point out that for a distinction so crucial to Christian life and theology, Protestants should stop and ask why the concept of “Invisible Church” was never clearly spelled out in Scripture. The Catholic position doesn’t suffer from this dilemma, because both Scripture and Tradition show that the Magisterium is indefectible, as well as affirming the fact it is possible for a Christian to lose their salvation.

 

367 Comments

  1. Eric,

    You said:

    To me, invisibility is such a self-evident slam dunk that I cannot take your challenge to it seriously.

    Would you go on record as saying invisibility is self-evident in Scripture even though none of the 110 verses that mention “Church” plainly refer to an Invisible Church? If not, then which of the 110 verses that mention “Church” are plainly referring to the Invisible Church? (Surely you can come up with a handful of verses.)

    Do you honestly believe that when Christ prayed for us to be one, he was more concerned that we would be under one structural umbrella than that we would be of one heart and one mind, disseminating one truth in love?

    I see this as a false either-or. It’s possible to be under one clerical administration and be of one heart, one mind, and purity in doctrine. Or did this full package not even exist in the Apostolic Age? If it did, then it’s possible to have, and the only objection could be something failed later on.

  2. Nick–

    Yeah, that’s right. Only if Scripture explicitly mentions “invisible church” in those exact terms could the concept even remotely be biblical. I looked up every instance of the terms “trinity” and “kerygma” and “parousia” and “kenosis” and “theosis” and “immaculate” and “annunciation” and “assumption” in Scripture…and I came up blank! Nothing at all about “in partu” virginity. Boy, was I surprised! Double predestination, initial justification, purgatory, indulgences, treasury of merit, covenant theology, dispensationalism, condign and congruent…not a single citation. Queen of Heaven did manage a couple of hits (Jeremiah 7 and 44). Some Ancient Near Eastern goddess. Who knew THAT’S who these Catholics were talking about? I’m glad we cleared that up!

    And yes, it definitely IS possible to be under structural unity and theological purity. The very early church probably had this. Too bad no one has even attempted such a combination for at least 1400 years….

  3. Robert, you write:

    In your opinion these people are not practicing Roman Catholics.

    Robert, you are simply ignorant of what the Catholic Church teaches. It is not my opinion that a Catholic that rejects even one the Church’s doctrines of faith or morals is not a practicing Catholic. The definition of a practicing Catholic is a Catholic that assents to every doctrine of faith and morals of that the Church teaches, and does his or her best to conform oneself to what is taught.

    A nominal Catholic is a Catholic “in name only”, and a nominal Catholic that rejects even one of the moral doctrines of the Church is nothing but a Protestant.

    They sure look like practicing Roman Catholics to me.

    You insist on ignoring what the Catholic Church teaches on these matters, so I don’t really care what “it seems like to you”.

    The idea of automatic excommunication is incompatible with the “strong view” of the visible church that you guys pretend to have.

    You are a Protestant, and you don’t care what the Catholic Church teaches about latae sententiae excommunication. Your indifference to what the Catholic Church teaches is to be expected from a Protestant. A practicing Catholic most certainly does care about what the Church teaches about automatic excommunication. Quite obviously, the nominal Catholic (who is, at best, just another Protestant) also does not care about what the Church teaches about latae sententiae excommunication. The fact that Protestants and nominal Catholics are indifferent to what the church teaches about such an important matter does not translate into practicing Catholics holding to a “weak view” of the visible church. Your “argument” isn’t even rational.

    It is a de facto witness that you guys believe in an invisible/visible church distinction, which makes Nick’s piece pointless.

    This is hogwash, Robert. That the Catholic Church makes the distinction between practicing Catholics and nominal Catholics in no way makes Nick’s piece pointless!

    Oh, and I actually listen to the church. My church actually excommunicates people for impenitent adultery, cohabitation before marriage, apostasy, and other sins. Yours doesn’t, at least not anymore.

    Robert, you don’t listen to the church, you listen to a “church” that traces its roots back to a nominal Catholic named John Calvin that went into schism with the church. John Calvin is just a dissenter that founded his own personal “church” – as did Jim Jones, Mary Baker Eddy, Chuck Smith and the thousands upon thousands of other men and women that founded their own personal Protestant bible churches.

    The fact that your man-founded Protestant sect “excommunicates” a man may be important to you, but it is not anything that anyone outside of your little Protestant sect even cares about. Do you really think that the Methodist or the Southern Baptist that lives nearest to you cares your Presbyterian sect’s excommunications? Your sects’ excommunications are not taken seriously by anyone outside of your own little sect.

    If your sect excommunicates a man for teaching “heresy”, so what? That man can just go out and found his own personal bible church, and this new Protestant sect will have all the legitimacy that your little sect possesses. Which is to say, none whatsoever.

  4. Mateo,

    All you are giving me is your opinion of what the RC church teaches on these matters. Evidently, the Magisterium does not agree that abortion is all that important, given that they served the Eucharist to the pro-abortion politicians that your church produces in this country. Since you’ve established that you need a visible church of a certain nature, the only consistent application of your ecclesiology is to say that if the Magisterium embraces Pelosi, Biden, et al, they must be fully orthodox practicing RCs.

    So again, all you have given me is your opinion as to what the RC church says about who is a practicing RC and who is not. If the Magisterium agreed with you, they would not tolerate politicians and others who spend decades promoting what you consider to be mortal sin. Clearly the Magisterium does not agree with you. Since it is fundamental to the RC apologetic that people really can’t think for themselves in matters of religion, I have to go with the Magisterium, and the Magisterium evidently thinks it is great to embrace abortion.

    You don’t get to determine who a practicing RC is. Remember, as a RC, all private interpretation is forbidden. The Magisterium does the interpreting for you. And the Magisterium thinks that you can be a practicing RC and promote abortion.

  5. Mateo,

    Your sects’ excommunications are not taken seriously by anyone outside of your own little sect.

    So, the recognition of an outside party determines the validity of a religious body. You realize that you just invalidated Rome because 5 billion people don’t care what Rome says on, well, anything.

  6. @Robert:

    Sorry, you are wrong on this. The idea that there is a massa damnata and that God passes over some of them and elects others to salvation is what most Calvinists have believed when they talk about double predestination. Further, if you elect some to salvation then by definition you are predestinating the non-elect to damnation, at least in a passive sense.

    “Sorry, you are wrong on this” isn’t an argument. The difference is why there is a massa damnata in the first place. Is it because God ordained there to be a massa damnata (either as a consequent necessity of Adam’s sin, infralapsarianism, or absolutely, supralapsarianism)? Or is that beside the intent of the divine will? If you are predestinating the non-elect to damnation in a passive sense, then you are Catholic, not Calvinist; that’s the same sense that Augustine spoke of predestination to damnation. It is the very different idea that people are ordained to damnation by the divine will that is the Calvinist heresy, that God is not predestinating in a “passive sense” but an active sense. In Augustine’s case, he wasn’t even right about the massa damnata, but regardless, it wasn’t the Calvinist view.

    Wrong again. Augustine taught the essential Calvinistic concept of the two wills in God, as well as the fact that God can will something that evil men will and yet he is not morally culpable. Go read the Enchridion. I quoted it for you in the other thread. You aren’t right on his “principles.” You are picking what you like and what you think is compatible with his “principles” and then ignoring the rest. Then you have the audacity to tell us what Augustine would have thought was chaff.

    Again, Augustine is teaching the Catholic view, not the Calvinist view. This is the Catholic position from your quote:
    “This is the meaning of the statement, “The works of the Lord are great, well-considered in all his acts of will”–that in a strange and ineffable fashion even that which is done against his will is not done without his will. For it would not be done without his allowing it–and surely his permission is not unwilling but willing–nor would he who is good allow the evil to be done, unless in his omnipotence he could bring good even out of evil.”

    It’s not about audacity. It’s about reading. Augustine says what he means, but because what he says is inconvenient for you, you ignore those words even in the middle of an extended passage that allegedly supports your position. What Augustine means by “permission” is the same thing you keep accusing of being “bare permission” when I say it.

    Pure assertion. And it means that God’s voice had no authority before the time of Jesus. Abraham had no visible church to confirm God’s voice. Heck, even the Apostles didn’t; they had Jesus who was a self-autenticating authority. You guys make the church self-authenticating, displacing Christ speaking through His Word from the place he deserves.

    It has nothing to do with God’s voice having no authority. It simply means that there was no universal public revelation until after Christ; the oracles were delivered to the Jewish people (and indirectly, to those pagan cultures that encountered them). But you’re starting to get the point; yes, the Church is self-authenticating, just because it is the Body of Christ. The Church’s authority and the authority of the Word of God are the same authority, that of Christ. Your position essentially says that there was a universal public authority when Christ was on earth, but that it ended with Him (i.e., Christ’s authority no longer exists in a universal, public form on earth). If that were true, then universal public revelation ended on Ascension Thursday, but Scripture doesn’t teach that. That’s essentially Nick’s point; Scripture doesn’t teach that the universal, public authority ended with the death of the Apostles. It teaches that the authority persisted even after the Ascension.

    The Church doesn’t make the Apostle’s assertions authoritative, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit does. Regardless of whether you submit to Scripture or not, it has authority. In the temporal sphere, you need a visible church to enforce the authority on the human-human level, but the visible church’s failure to do so does not mean Scripture has no authority.

    I agree that you need a visible church to enforce the authority on the human-human level. Unfortunately for you, the authority is divine, so that means that people have to be able to exert divine authority over other humans. I agree that the visible church’s failure to do so does not vitiate the authority, but you’ve essentially explained why human authority is essential for Scripture to actually function as a binding authority.

    If the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is sufficient for that purpose, then we should all agree all of the time, and there should be no need for authority or public revelation in the first place. The Holy Spirit would just deliver revelation personally to each soul, which He could easily do, and we would have universal private revelation. The only reason that would NOT happen is if Jesus had another structure in mind when He established the Church on Pentecost. Again, that is Nick’s point.

    Which is determined not merely by the laying on of hands but by reflecting what that deposit is. The only deposit we have is Scripture. If you have laying on of hands but you have heresy, you don’t have authority.

    If the only deposit we have is Scripture, then there is no authority, because Scripture can’t enforce itself. As I said, unless there are people with divine authority to normatively enforce Scripture, then universal, public revelation doesn’t exist.

    And until Rome stops seeing the East as schismatics, then yes, you have a one home office view of authority.

    That would only be true if no one but the Pope has the authority to perform Sacraments. That is quite obviously false. Thus, there are true local churches, but only one universal Church. The best evidence is the fact that even the Orthodox recognize a universal authority in the Church despite the fact that they don’t accept papal authority.

    It’s called Scripture, primarily, and secondarily the continuity of witnesses within the church itself. Which is why all of the Magisterial Reformers turned to men such as Augustine as partial vindication of their claims.

    Unless those witnesses are themselves authoritative (i.e., they have divine authority themselves), then there is no continuity. “Partial vindication” is irrelevant. In the first place, the Reformers were, at least compared to contemporary scholarship, relatively incompetent at historical-critical methods, and most of their beliefs were simply wrong. In the second place, it doesn’t rely on the authority of the Church, outside of which context Augustine’s position makes no sense and lacks any authority.

    Protestants follow the visible church. They deny that Rome is that visible church or, for the more ecumenically minded, at least that it is the only visible church. Rome isn’t the church Christ founded, at least it isn’t any more or less than my local Reformed church is.

    If there is universal, public revelation, then there is one authority. If there are none, there is no universal, public revelation. This is really very simple; either there are only local churches, none of which have univeral authority, meaning that there is no authority, or there is a universal church with divine authority. Scripture tells us the latter exists, and indeed, the idea that Christ issued a universal public revelation, the very concept of Scripture, doesn’t make sense without it.

    Since it is fundamental to the RC apologetic that people really can’t think for themselves in matters of religion, I have to go with the Magisterium, and the Magisterium evidently thinks it is great to embrace abortion.

    You don’t get to determine who a practicing RC is. Remember, as a RC, all private interpretation is forbidden. The Magisterium does the interpreting for you. And the Magisterium thinks that you can be a practicing RC and promote abortion.

    Stop with this stupidity, or I’m going to get comments deleted. You admitted in a quote above that failure to enforce Scripture doesn’t undermine Scriptural authority. Failure to enforce Magisterial authority likewise doesn’t undermine Magisterial authority. Same exact concept. And there’s no reason to call us idiots. If you don’t understand (although it isn’t all that complicated, because you made the same argument), ask.

  7. Jonathan,

    Jonathan said: If you are predestinating the non-elect to damnation in a passive sense, then you are Catholic, not Calvinist;

    WCF 3.7 The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.

    Hmm, looks pretty Calvinistic to me. The only issue is whether God’s passivity guarantees damnation, which apparently you guys don’t believe.

    It’s not about audacity. It’s about reading. Augustine says what he means, but because what he says is inconvenient for you, you ignore those words even in the middle of an extended passage that allegedly supports your position. What Augustine means by “permission” is the same thing you keep accusing of being “bare permission” when I say it.

    No it isn’t. You’re ignoring the rest of what Augustine says. See my response on the other thread.

    It simply means that there was no universal public revelation until after Christ; the oracles were delivered to the Jewish people (and indirectly, to those pagan cultures that encountered them). But you’re starting to get the point; yes, the Church is self-authenticating, just because it is the Body of Christ. The Church’s authority and the authority of the Word of God are the same authority, that of Christ. Your position essentially says that there was a universal public authority when Christ was on earth, but that it ended with Him (i.e., Christ’s authority no longer exists in a universal, public form on earth).

    1. There’s always been universal public revelation. It’s called nature.
    2. I’m glad you finally admit that the RC sees the church as self-authenticating. Thank you for conceding that Rome’s position is sola ecclesia.
    3. Revelation was delivered to the church, which then delivers it to the nations. This is no different than under the old covenant when revelation was delivered to the Jews who then were to deliver it to the nation.
    4. The church is the public authority as long as it is teaching divine revelation. It is not in itself divine revelation. You guys collapse the two and put the church over revelation. We have to believe the church because the church says we have to believe the church.

    That would only be true if no one but the Pope has the authority to perform Sacraments. That is quite obviously false. Thus, there are true local churches, but only one universal Church. The best evidence is the fact that even the Orthodox recognize a universal authority in the Church despite the fact that they don’t accept papal authority.

    Any teaching of the church that conforms to divine revelation has universal authority, you don’t have universal authority just because you say so.

    Unless those witnesses are themselves authoritative (i.e., they have divine authority themselves), then there is no continuity. “Partial vindication” is irrelevant. In the first place, the Reformers were, at least compared to contemporary scholarship, relatively incompetent at historical-critical methods, and most of their beliefs were simply wrong. In the second place, it doesn’t rely on the authority of the Church, outside of which context Augustine’s position makes no sense and lacks any authority.

    Divine authority does not come merely by your particular view of apostolic succession. If it did, then there could be no heresy. Nestorius was duly ordained, as were all the heretical popes. There is a standard above the succession, and it is called divine revelation.

    To say the Reformers were “relatively incompetent at historical-critical methods” is the last bastion for for the desperate. Especially when you have already admitted elsewhere that Calvin was an excellent scholar for his time. You are flailing here, and you are again resulting to personal insult against these men because you can’t deal with the actual historical evidence.

    If there is universal, public revelation, then there is one authority. If there are none, there is no universal, public revelation. This is really very simple; either there are only local churches, none of which have univeral authority, meaning that there is no authority, or there is a universal church with divine authority. Scripture tells us the latter exists, and indeed, the idea that Christ issued a universal public revelation, the very concept of Scripture, doesn’t make sense without it.

    It’s not really very simple because even Rome has to hold that there is an invisible authority that is above the visible authority, and that is because the Magisterium can get things wrong. When the Magisterium teaches error in its non-official capacity (whatever that means, since you guys can’t agree on it), the invisible authority remains. And unless I am mistaken, the RC is under no obligation to obey heresy even when it is coming from the lips of the Magisterium.

    You are confusing universal authority with the idea that there must be only one denomination. That’s not self-evident, and it’s not the Eastern Position which has a much greater understanding of authority in the auto-cephalous sense than Rome does. Keep the episcopacy, and you have an ecclesiology that has much in common with Anglicanism and Lutheranism. Take away the episcopacy and you have an ecclesiology that has much in common with Presbyterianism. Even if you keep the episcopacy, you have an ecclesiology that is incompatible with Roman Catholicism.

    It boils down to the same home office view of authority. That is what is unique to Rome.

    Stop with this stupidity, or I’m going to get comments deleted. You admitted in a quote above that failure to enforce Scripture doesn’t undermine Scriptural authority. Failure to enforce Magisterial authority likewise doesn’t undermine Magisterial authority. Same exact concept. And there’s no reason to call us idiots. If you don’t understand (although it isn’t all that complicated, because you made the same argument), ask.

    It’s not the same concept because Scripture itself never fails to enforce its own authority. It always accomplishes what God intends it to accomplish. For some it is damnation, for others it is salvation. When the body that claims authority does not enforce its authority, you invalidate that authority. Your problem is not making the proper distinction between the Word of God and the Church. Protestants distinguish them, and our high view of the Bible means that the Bible always enforces itself. The authority of Scripture is separate from the authority of the church, the latter is subordinate to the former.

    I agree that you need a visible church to enforce the authority on the human-human level. Unfortunately for you, the authority is divine, so that means that people have to be able to exert divine authority over other humans. I agree that the visible church’s failure to do so does not vitiate the authority, but you’ve essentially explained why human authority is essential for Scripture to actually function as a binding authority.

    And the church has divine authority whenever it accurately speaks for God. The difference between us is how you identify that is the case. You say Rome has divine authority whenever it says it has divine authority, which is nice except that you guys can’t agree when the church has spoken with divine authority except on a few matters. Guess what, Protestants can agree when the church has spoken with divine authority in the proper proclamation of God’s Word. Which is why we have the same level of agreement between ourselves on doctrine that Rome has. The only difference is that we don’t have one visible church.

    Scripture can function as a binding authority apart from the church. It has done so for thousands of years. The issue is what that authority is supposed to look like. Scripture is clear that when it is rejected, people are authoritatively condemned by God regardless of what the church says. That’s because its authority is prior to the church. As I said above, you guys collapse the Word into the church, so if the one authority fails, the whole authority structure falls apart.

    If the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is sufficient for that purpose, then we should all agree all of the time, and there should be no need for authority or public revelation in the first place. The Holy Spirit would just deliver revelation personally to each soul, which He could easily do, and we would have universal private revelation. The only reason that would NOT happen is if Jesus had another structure in mind when He established the Church on Pentecost. Again, that is Nick’s point.

    This is just bare assertion. Why must the Holy Spirit act in this way? You might like for Him to do that, but there is no sense in which he must do so. He doesn’t have to reveal anything.

  8. Robert,
    Please. Your constant harping about who should or should not be be excommunicated over dissenting from the life issues is really getting monotonous considering your PCA doesn’t even have a consistent pro-life ethic to dissent from.

    Abuses in Catholic teaching on abortion coming from a guy whose church feeds the abortion industry is sickeningly hypocritical.

    Until you people condemn contraception, please get off your high horse. Your ministers counsel newlyweds to contracept instilling an anti-life mentality in them.

    And please don’t counter with your nonsensical appeal to those Catholics who dissent and disobey from the teachings. Your outfit doesn’t even have a teaching to disobey or dissent from.

    I am unaware of the PCA taking any real part in the fight against Obama’s culture of death and promotion of Planned Parenthood’s contraception/abortion policies.

    C’mon. You have already said none of it is a” salvation issue” for you folks haven’t you? So please, give your hypocrisy a day off.

  9. Jonathan,

    “Stop with this stupidity, or I’m going to get comments deleted. You admitted in a quote above that failure to enforce Scripture doesn’t undermine Scriptural authority. Failure to enforce Magisterial authority likewise doesn’t undermine Magisterial authority. Same exact concept. And there’s no reason to call us idiots. If you don’t understand (although it isn’t all that complicated, because you made the same argument), ask.”

    Really? Promise? Not just talking?

    Robert’s non stop assertion that we have no consistent teachings on such things as the prolife issues because we have disobedient and dissenting members although his PCA has no consistent teaching to disobey or dissent from has really gotten to be an abuse. ( They pour gasoline on the fire by having minister counsel newlyweds to contracept thus instilling an abortion mindset in them .)
    Despite months of having it explained to him, he keeps saying we are just as confused as them, demanding the Pope settle the Dominican/ Jesuit thing or risk the same anarchy that lost all of England to the Faith after imprudently excommunicating Elizabeth I, and worst of all, his silly , “Since you guys use your fallible human minds to trust an infallible Church, you are no different that Protestants using their fallible minds to trust scripture”.

  10. Eric,

    I asked you: Would you go on record as saying invisibility is self-evident in Scripture even though none of the 110 verses that mention “Church” plainly refer to an Invisible Church?

    You responded: Yeah [Nick], that’s right.

    Thank you for the honesty. While this admission doesn’t automatically mean the Invisible Church is an unscriptural and false doctrine, it sure provides a lot of doubt about it. It means the Holy Spirit wanted a term used 110 times but yet He never used it in the most crucial manner that Christians need to know. God gave us a *preponderance* of Biblical information in context of using the term “Church,” yet He was silent in those contexts about “Church” being invisible.

    You continued:

    Only if Scripture explicitly mentions “invisible church” in those exact terms could the concept even remotely be biblical. I looked up every instance of the terms “trinity” and “kerygma” and “parousia” and “kenosis” and “theosis” and “immaculate” and “annunciation” and “assumption” in Scripture…and I came up blank! Nothing at all about “in partu” virginity. Boy, was I surprised! Double predestination, initial justification, purgatory, indulgences, treasury of merit, covenant theology, dispensationalism, condign and congruent…not a single citation. Queen of Heaven did manage a couple of hits (Jeremiah 7 and 44). Some Ancient Near Eastern goddess. Who knew THAT’S who these Catholics were talking about? I’m glad we cleared that up!

    This kind of stuff is really unnecessary and a fallacious pointing of the finger at me so as to excuse yourself. If the Catholic church is espousing X and you say X is not in the Bible, that does not give you the excuse to say now you are allowed to embrace Y even though Y isn’t in the Bible.

    And yes, it definitely IS possible to be under structural unity and theological purity. The very early church probably had this. Too bad no one has even attempted such a combination for at least 1400 years….

    This would mean that your problem really isn’t with Catholicism, but the Bible itself. What you’re saying is that you see in the Bible and first few centuries of the Church the way things were and are supposed to be, but you also say those days are long gone and a mere pipe-dream now. Catholicism doesn’t say that’s a pipe dream, and if it was true then it can be true now. You’re espousing something very radical, even defeatist, suggesting that there’s no place where this ideal is a reality, despite the fact you have 500 years of Protestants claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit with the proper interpretation of Scripture.

    Eric, please realize that what you’re saying here is a slippery slope to defeatism-skepticism, where on one hand the Bible is perspicuous, while on the other hand no denomination can actualize the Bible’s perspicuous teachings. Where’s your faith in God’s Providence? Go ahead and call the Catholic position on the Church’s Indefectibility *unbelievable*, but at least realize the amazing confidence (even if fake) we Catholics have in God’s Providence to keep the Ship moving all these centuries and all those storms.

  11. Nick, you need to look at the church of Sardis. Only a few hadnot soiled their garments. Elect, invisible. Christ said only a few would be clothed inwhite robes. We Reformed believe holy catholic church, you belive in Holy Roman Catholic visible church. Our unity is Spiritual in Visisble church, yours is orginazational.

  12. Indulgence,

    You said:Only a few had not soiled their garments. Elect, invisible.

    But if the garment is the Imputed Righteousness of Christ, then how does a person soil their garment?

    How does a person get the Imputed Righteousness of Christ and not be saved?

  13. Jim,

    dissenting from the life issues is really getting monotonous considering your PCA doesn’t even have a consistent pro-life ethic to dissent from.

    Sure it does. You can read the PCA position papers on abortion for yourself.

    Abuses in Catholic teaching on abortion coming from a guy whose church feeds the abortion industry is sickeningly hypocritical.

    Until you people condemn contraception, please get off your high horse. Your ministers counsel newlyweds to contracept instilling an anti-life mentality in them.

    This is just an assertion. The most faithful opponents of abortion that I know personally use contraception. The only reason to oppose barrier methods of contraception is if you think the sole purpose for sex is to produce children, which has long been the de facto RC position.

    And please don’t counter with your nonsensical appeal to those Catholics who dissent and disobey from the teachings. Your outfit doesn’t even have a teaching to disobey or dissent from.

    It’s called the Westminster Confession of Faith. Read it sometime.

    I am unaware of the PCA taking any real part in the fight against Obama’s culture of death and promotion of Planned Parenthood’s contraception/abortion policies.

    Of course, you realize that PCA is overwhelmingly republican while a majority of professing RCs in this country favor gay marriage and are reliable votes for Democrats, including Obama. RC Health organizations were also strong proponents of Obamacare. Anyone who didn’t see that contraception mandate coming should not be allowed to have a say about public policy.

    C’mon. You have already said none of it is a” salvation issue” for you folks haven’t you? So please, give your hypocrisy a day off.

    It’s conceivable that one could be pro-choice and not be saved, particularly if one is a new Christian. Anyone who’s been a Christian for any length of time and doesn’t oppose abortion on demand, however, either does not study Scripture or rejects its teaching. Both groups should be worried about.

  14. Jim,

    Robert’s non stop assertion that we have no consistent teachings on such things as the prolife issues because we have disobedient and dissenting members although his PCA has no consistent teaching to disobey or dissent from has really gotten to be an abuse. ( They pour gasoline on the fire by having minister counsel newlyweds to contracept thus instilling an abortion mindset in them .)

    This is abuse because you disagree with my point? I’ve said it many times—if you guys want to stop talking about how unified your visible church is because you have a Magisterium that claims infallibility for itself when it is as plain as day that this Magisterium hasn’t guaranteed unity, I’ll be happy to stop with pointing out your division. If you are going to point out Protestant division as proof of its error, you must apply the same standards to yourself. You can’t laud your unity of doctrine when maybe a million RCs worldwide hold to the most conservative interpretation of its statements.

    Despite months of having it explained to him, he keeps saying we are just as confused as them, demanding the Pope settle the Dominican/ Jesuit thing or risk the same anarchy that lost all of England to the Faith after imprudently excommunicating Elizabeth I, and worst of all, his silly , “Since you guys use your fallible human minds to trust an infallible Church, you are no different that Protestants using their fallible minds to trust scripture”.

    I know the explanation, and my contention is that it doesn’t work and that for all the touting of the church’s authority, you have a very gnostic and disembodied understanding of ecclesiastical authority. Authority that doesn’t do anything when confronted with error in its ranks is useless. It’s like the nominal authority of the Queen of England who has power merely in theory and doesn’t really exercise it.

    And yes, if you are going to complain about Protestant fallibility, then I’m going to point out that your infallible authority is only as good as your fallible ability to discern it.

    I get that you disagree, but to call it abuse is, well, absurd.

  15. Nick,

    This would mean that your problem really isn’t with Catholicism, but the Bible itself. What you’re saying is that you see in the Bible and first few centuries of the Church the way things were and are supposed to be, but you also say those days are long gone and a mere pipe-dream now. Catholicism doesn’t say that’s a pipe dream, and if it was true then it can be true now.

    Eric’s (very true) point is that according to Rome’s understanding of itself, this is impossible. The papacy is not present in the first few centuries of church history, and there is no notion that the church would never err whenever it said it wouldn’t err. That’s a development long after Nicea.

    In other words, Rome itself is the impediment to Christian unity. Don’t just ask us, ask the East. Rome has decided on its own authority that it is always right whenever it says it is right. That is the problem.

  16. Robert,
    ” Rome has decided on its own authority that it is always right whenever it says it is right.”

    Yeah, kind of like it did at the Jerusalem Council the Church, without searching the scriptures, abrogated the law of Circumcision. Or when, the Pope decided to replace Judas’ bishopric on his own.
    Why would you want to be in a Church that doesn’t claim to be the One? Do you like being in a waffling, procrastinating, doubting church that is sort of right sometime?

  17. Jim–

    The confessional Protestant church DOES claim to be the ONE. And when its teachings are matched up to Scripture, it appears to be a credible claim. When Rome’s teachings are matched up to Scripture, it is readily apparent that its claims are false.

  18. But Eric,

    I would argue that confessional Protestant churches do not have a theology that matches up with Scripture. As a Catholic myself, I am willing to appeal to the Scriptures, and not automatically to the teaching Church.

  19. Robert,

    You said:

    In other words, Rome itself is the impediment to Christian unity. Don’t just ask us, ask the East. Rome has decided on its own authority that it is always right whenever it says it is right. That is the problem.

    Robert, that’s not the problem *at all*. The problem is that the Reformed embrace a serious contradiction: they say on one hand that the Holy Spirit guides all true believers into the perfect understanding of the Scriptures, while on the other hand the Reformed say the Holy Spirit after the Apostles has not led a single true believer into the perfect understanding of the Scriptures. You and Eric need to really let that sink in.

    Stop saying “Rome is wrong,” because that’s completely irrelevant. Let Rome the false church fade away. You need to start saying “I’m elect, I have the Holy Spirit, thus I should know how to reconstruct/find the church professing 100% pure doctrine.” But you don’t do that.

    Please note the distinction between saying “Rome is wrong” and “I’m led by the Holy Spirit.” You want to keep asserting the former while not asserting the latter, while pretending that asserting the former is equivalent to asserting the latter.

    You really have no reason to believe in the Scriptures and Holy Spirit if you don’t believe a 100% correct interpretation is available to you. Going around proud of yourself that you have 50%-70% of Christian theology correct is a mockery of God giving us His Word. God gave us the Bible so we WOULDN’T be in darkeness, and yet you and Eric go around saying every believer is in darkness to one degree or another.

  20. Robert,
    “The most faithful opponents of abortion that I know personally use contraception. The only reason to oppose barrier methods of contraception is if you think the sole purpose for sex is to produce children, which has long been the de facto RC position.”

    Oh? Have you ever actually bothered to read what the Church teaches on sex and children, You have just demonstrated you haven’t. Therefore, since you really don’t know why the church condemns contraception, you don’t know the how oxymoronic it is claim the most ardent anti-abortion people use contraception.
    They aren’t anti-abortion although they pat themselves on the back for being so. They are no more anti abortion than an arms dealer who supplies machine guns to terrorists is a pacificist. Mike Huckabee, James Dobson, whoever do a lot of harm by pushing the mentality that says sex and children can be separated just so long as it is married people who are doing it. Married people doing it make it especially wrong.

    Robert, why was sex confined exclusively to married people since time immemorial? Until the 1960s anyway?
    Answer; Because marriage is the only appropriate environment to get pregnant and raise children in.
    What is so unique about marriage? What is it for?
    Answer; To bind parents to each other and to the children they bear.

    Once you take children out of marriage, you have no reason to keep sex within marriage. You have no reason to keep it between separate genders even.

    Please don’t respond by saying that as long as a couple intend to have children or have had children within their marriage that it is permissible therefore to sterilize the marital act occasionally or for a while.

    Each and every “marital act” is a renewal of the marriage vows. If one can tear asunder the renewal why can they not tear asunder the marriage? Do you not see a connection between the introduction of the pill and other forms of contraception and the divorce epidemic that followed.

    Contracepting couples, even married ones, are the people who get abortions. Contraception fails and when it does, the couple are all already geared up to see the baby as an accident, not a gift.

    Contraception leads to promiscuity and risk taking , just as handing out clean needles to junkies only increases addiction and AIDS rather than lessening it.
    The message is be good but if you can’t be good be careful.

    No Christian married couple violating the God of nature’s laws by contracepting have any moral high ground to condemn fornicators or gays. And they sure have no right to call themselves prolife.
    Amen!

  21. Nick–

    The garments in Revelation 3 are clearly NOT the imputed righteousness of Christ. Imagine that. Not every robe in Scripture means the same thing.

  22. Erick–

    Except that confessional Protestant theology is directly derived from Scripture, so your opinion that it doesn’t match up is just that…your opinion.

    Catholic theology, on the other hand, does NOT prioritize Scripture, so some of its tenets are pure tradition and at times are allowed to stand in spite of being directly contrary to Scripture…or speaking to issues upon which Scripture is silent.

    If you are willing (theoretically) to prioritize Scripture, that is a great first step…and much appreciated. Brian Cross has said something similar at C2C. I really respect such an attitude.

  23. Eric,

    You said:

    The garments in Revelation 3 are clearly NOT the imputed righteousness of Christ. Imagine that. Not every robe in Scripture means the same thing.

    Then what do the Robes refer to? Mr “Indulgence” said those who had not soiled their garments refers to the Elect, Invisible Church. But the not soiling of a robe certainly seems like a visible reality before the community.

    The text reads:

    3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 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. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.

    Clearly, these are not literal robes. The “soiling” refers to sin, so this is a spiritual stain. If these people were never saved, then they don’t have clean robes to begin with. Unless you’re saying God doesn’t care if they are unconverted as long as they have a clean robe? (simul iustus et peccator?)

    Is Jesus pronouncing Judgement on a Church that was really just a majority of unconverted hypocrites?

    The “Robes” in question have to refer to salvation, otherwise the text makes no sense. And unless these Robes are the Imputed Righteousness of Christ, then the Book of Revelation is teaching heresy: worthiness of heaven based on keeping your garment unsoiled.

  24. Eric,

    It is pretty clear that the NT does not support Reformation theology. The Eucharist is just one clear example. Since you all think the NT teaching on the Eucharist is a heresy, that puts you outside of its realm of focus.

  25. Erick–

    What on earth are you talking about? Our view of the Eucharist is quite similar to yours. We’re just careful to preserve the Creator/creature distinction.

  26. Eric,

    In what way is your view of the Eucharist similar to the CC? And how does this Creator/creature distinction work out in relation to that?

    The Catholic view of the Eucharist is that within the celebration is a true and present sacrificial death that the worshipers participate in, and which imparts eternal life. The fathers of the Council of Nicea knew that the Eucharist was essential for eternal life, and would administer it to the penitents upon closeness of death.

    I don’t see anything close to that in the Reformed churches.

  27. @Robert:

    WCF 3.7 The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.

    That’s either Catholic or wrong. If by “ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin,” it means to ordain them to sin (and thus to incur dishonor and wrath), then it’s heretical and not Augustinian. If not, then it’s Catholic.

    The only issue is whether God’s passivity guarantees damnation, which apparently you guys don’t believe.

    You keep using the word “guarantee,” and I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean in that context. A guarantee is a promise. Does God promise someone that He will damn them? Does He promise someone else? God’s non-election is not passive, because He is still sustaining in existence the person who commits moral evil. He simply is not the cause of the moral evil that person commits. Yes, we don’t believe that God causes moral evil, and Augustine didn’t either.

    No it isn’t. You’re ignoring the rest of what Augustine says.

    On the contrary, you don’t understand what he’s saying.

    1. There’s always been universal public revelation. It’s called nature.

    That’s not special revelation, so it’s only “revelation” by analogy. Let’s stick to the point.

    2. I’m glad you finally admit that the RC sees the church as self-authenticating. Thank you for conceding that Rome’s position is sola ecclesia.

    It’s no different than you thinking that the Gospel of John is self-authenticating and the Epistles of Paul are self-authenticating. If self-authentication means that there is only one authority, then by the same reasoning, there could only be one authoritative book in Scripture. Since that is obviously false, it reduces your argument to absurdity.

    3. Revelation was delivered to the church, which then delivers it to the nations. This is no different than under the old covenant when revelation was delivered to the Jews who then were to deliver it to the nation.

    That’s what the Judaizers believed. Christians believe that Christ changed all that. Revelation doesn’t follow that model anymore; the Gospel was delivered once for all.

    4. The church is the public authority as long as it is teaching divine revelation. It is not in itself divine revelation. You guys collapse the two and put the church over revelation. We have to believe the church because the church says we have to believe the church.

    The Church is part of act of divine revelation. We believe Scripture because the Church testifies to it; we believe the Church because Scripture testifies to it. Like the books of the Bible work together, the Bible and the Church function together. We believe all because of all. If any of them conflict, then there is no revelation.

    Any teaching of the church that conforms to divine revelation has universal authority, you don’t have universal authority just because you say so.

    If there is no authority, then there is no act of divine revelation to which to be conformed.

    Divine authority does not come merely by your particular view of apostolic succession. If it did, then there could be no heresy. Nestorius was duly ordained, as were all the heretical popes. There is a standard above the succession, and it is called divine revelation.

    Being duly ordained did not give Nestorius any authority over the universal Church. It is only the universal Church that is collectively infallible as such.

    To say the Reformers were “relatively incompetent at historical-critical methods” is the last bastion for for the desperate. Especially when you have already admitted elsewhere that Calvin was an excellent scholar for his time. You are flailing here, and you are again resulting to personal insult against these men because you can’t deal with the actual historical evidence.

    He was an excellent scholar for his time, but that’s kind of like saying Galileo was a good physicist for his time. I wouldn’t stack him up against Einstein or even Newton. I’ve dealt with the historical evidence extensively; you’re the one who can’t seem to read what Augustine actually said or admit that Calvin got him wrong, even though that’s pretty obvious to everyone who isn’t desperately trying to make Calvin into some eternal supergenius among patristics scholars.

    It’s not really very simple because even Rome has to hold that there is an invisible authority that is above the visible authority, and that is because the Magisterium can get things wrong. When the Magisterium teaches error in its non-official capacity (whatever that means, since you guys can’t agree on it), the invisible authority remains. And unless I am mistaken, the RC is under no obligation to obey heresy even when it is coming from the lips of the Magisterium.

    I’d be interested to see how Nicaea or Chalcedon were invisible. That’s a heck of a lot of invisible bishops. I guess the Pope gets invisibility when the white smoke comes out as well. Come on now. The authority is not invisible; it is not the internal testimony of the Spirit. Authority is real people doing real things.

    You are confusing universal authority with the idea that there must be only one denomination. That’s not self-evident, and it’s not the Eastern Position which has a much greater understanding of authority in the auto-cephalous sense than Rome does.

    No offense, but you don’t have a clue what the Orthodox believe. They likewise believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and it isn’t invisible. Autocephaly is an order within one visible Church, not a collection of churches within the invisible church.

    Keep the episcopacy, and you have an ecclesiology that has much in common with Anglicanism and Lutheranism.

    No, because they don’t actually believe in the oneness of the Church. Anglicans believe in branch theory, and Lutherans believe in the invisible church.

    Take away the episcopacy and you have an ecclesiology that has much in common with Presbyterianism.

    Which means you have no eccelsiology, in the sense of a universal church, at all.

    Even if you keep the episcopacy, you have an ecclesiology that is incompatible with Roman Catholicism.

    No, we have the same ecclesiology as the Orthodox in terms of believing in one visible church. We simply disagree on the exact structure and how it operates. You obviously don’t realize just how alien the Protestant concept of the invisible church is to Christianity.

    It’s not the same concept because Scripture itself never fails to enforce its own authority. It always accomplishes what God intends it to accomplish.

    It doesn’t accomplish anything by itself; it never fails to enforce its own authority, because it can’t even try to enforce its authority. People accomplish things; people with divine authority enforce Scripture’s authority.

    Your problem is not making the proper distinction between the Word of God and the Church.

    I distinguish them. I just don’t distinguish the basis of their authority. There is one Christ, the Church is His Body, and the Scriptures testify to Him. Deny any of them, and you deny all of them.

    Protestants distinguish them, and our high view of the Bible means that the Bible always enforces itself. The authority of Scripture is separate from the authority of the church, the latter is subordinate to the former.

    And your low view of the Church drags the Scriptures down. Disrespect for the Church is disrespect for the Scripture, no matter how “high” a view you claim to have. Augustine understood that very well.

    And the church has divine authority whenever it accurately speaks for God. The difference between us is how you identify that is the case. You say Rome has divine authority whenever it says it has divine authority, which is nice except that you guys can’t agree when the church has spoken with divine authority except on a few matters. Guess what, Protestants can agree when the church has spoken with divine authority in the proper proclamation of God’s Word. Which is why we have the same level of agreement between ourselves on doctrine that Rome has. The only difference is that we don’t have one visible church.

    If you don’t have one visible church, then you have no divine authority at all by your own admission.

    Scripture can function as a binding authority apart from the church. It has done so for thousands of years.

    No, it hasn’t, and it can’t possibly. That’s a ridiculous assertion, and repeating the ridiculous assertion won’t make it true. It is impossible for the Scripture to function as a binding authority absent people with divine authority, just as it is impossible for a law to serve as a law without a government.

    This is just bare assertion. Why must the Holy Spirit act in this way? You might like for Him to do that, but there is no sense in which he must do so. He doesn’t have to reveal anything.

    I agree. As Nick pointed out, the Holy Spirit decided to make universal (special) revelation public and not private. If He wanted universal revelation to be private, He could have done that as well. My point is exactly that He didn’t do that, but He would have if your theory on an invisible church were true. You’re the one complaining about the Holy Spirit choosing to reveal God in a way that needs both Scripture and Church, not me. That’s essentially Nick’s point; Protestants are complaining that God didn’t choose sola scriptura as the mode of revelation, because it isn’t convenient for your beliefs.

  28. @Eric:

    We’re just careful to preserve the Creator/creature distinction.

    If that were correct, then you would worship the Creator on the altar. When you start worshipping the Holy Eucharist as God Himself, then I’ll believe you know where the Creator/creature distinction is, because that will be the point at which you know that Jesus really is God.

  29. Jonathan–

    I worship the Creator at the altar and on the altar. What I do NOT do is worship the created substances of the elements.

    And Jesus was made flesh…and blood. He was not made bread and wine. Ascended to the right hand of the Father, he remains Incarnate. I can worship the hypostatic union. But the hypostatic union is inimical. It cannot be cloned in baked wheat and fermented grapes. In the Eucharist, we spiritually feast on his ACTUAL flesh in heaven. Not some carbon copy or fax. Catholics believe Jesus’ resurrected body REMAINS in the celestial realm. Well, that is where we go.

  30. Erick–

    The more I delve into the RC Eucharist, the less problem I have with it. I think you all have given it the worst PR in the history of the world. Most of what I read in the CCC I have little difficulty accepting, once proper nuances are carefully explained and thoroughly comprehended.

    As regards transubstantiation, however, you have stuck with an inferior medieval explanation over subsequent improvements. I personally consider Calvin’s solution as rather exquisite though I am sure it could be further enhanced and clarified. One of the unfortunate consequences of y’all’s choice is the disastrous Eucharistic cult of adoration. Creator/creature messiness!

  31. Nick–

    The “garments” in Revelation 3 are just regular clothes, representing an individual’s state of morality. They have become defiled by a complete breakdown in personal righteousness (in Sardis, probably either as a result of fornication or idolatry or both).

    The “white garments” mentioned are indeed eschatological / salvific. (Revelation 7 speaks of relatively unsullied garments–those of saints who have spiritually survived the tribulation–being washed white in the blood of the Lamb.)

  32. Nick–

    I assume that you agree that the present visible church–the Catholic Church, the Church Militant–is a mixture of wheat and at least a few tares…and that we inferior Protestant assemblies grow at least a few stalks of wheat among our copious fields of weeds.

    In your opinion, what could we legitimately call the whole collection of sheaths of wheat inside AND outside the visible church?

  33. Eric,
    Calvin is an improvement on Transubstantiation? Oh my! If you had appealed to Luther’s theory, that would not have been so bad as his theory had some precedence.

    Still, you have already shown that any theory of the Eucharist to be unimportant with your statements on Baptism and Ordination. Only the elect get any grace or actually receive the Sacrament for you.

    You say you guys spiritually feast on Jesus ACTUAL flesh in heaven. Well, Jesus’ Body is just that, a physical body contained by space and time. Since your physical body doesn’t go to heaven nor does His Body come out of heaven, how does your teeth, tongue and belly come in contact with that ACTUAL Body?
    We Catholics do not multiply Christ’s Body. Think about the “multiplication” of the loaves and fishes. Was it really a multiplication. The Bible says Jesus fed the multitude with 5 fishes, not 5000.
    (Jonathan, Mr. Physicist, please explain how a body transverses space. I am getting out of my area of expertise now .)
    Transubstantiation is a brilliant explanation of how Christ can remain in heaven and at the same time we on earth can partake of that ACTUAL Body.

  34. Eric,
    Big feast day. The Sacred Heart of Jesus. You say,

    “I worship the Creator at the altar and on the altar. What I do NOT do is worship the created substances of the elements….Jesus was made flesh…and blood….he remains Incarnate. I can worship the hypostatic union….”

    Again, you Calvinist guys err in your preoccupation with election. Sorry, but it seems for you guys, Jesus is necessary only to secure and make official the salvation of those who were never really lost as they are elect. The cross also justifies a “just god” in condemning the poor slobs who, though never given the Holy Spirit’s promptings to repent, are held responsible for rejecting that cross.

    The devotion to the Sacred Heart was spread by the Jesuits specifically to stem the Calvinist influence seeping into France. This devotion asks us to ponder the Heart that loves ALL men. While your starting point is election in eternity past, our is Jesus. From there we work back to the Father’s love for all men revealed in the Heart of Jesus.
    We worship that Heart. The human Heart of Jesus is still a human heart as you seem to know.
    The Calvinized Jansenists were stressing God’s election and scariness to the point people were afraid to approach the Eucharist due to their peccadillos. The Jesuits said to receive often and adore Jesus in the Host as an antidote to the vile heresy.

    The Eucharistic adoration you scorn is how to draw near to the Heart of Jesus.

  35. Jim–

    Your Jesus loves ALL men and yet saves the same number as under our system. Your Eucharist, in the long run, benefits only the elect…kind of like, oh, I don’t know…our system. Hmmm.

  36. Jim–

    In my experience, idolatry only alienates us from God. We Protestants draw very, very near to the heart of Jesus without the supposed “assistance” of idolatry. I’m sure you mean well. But I’m not sure that matters.

    In the end, though, it is between you and God.

  37. Jim–

    According to C2C, you all meet the dying Jesus at the foot of the Cross in the Eucharist. So why is it so difficult for you to imagine our meeting the risen Christ at the right hand of the Father?

  38. Eric,
    And I am sure you mean well too. However, you mistakenly say we Catholics worship the “elements”. I assume you mean the elements of bread and wine.
    And you use the pejorative “idolatry”.
    As a guy who obviously likes to study, how is you don’t know we don’t worship the bread and wine? Perhaps ( I know you have ) you have been slumming over on “that other blog” whose name I won’t mention other than to say the blog owner uses the term “Graven Bread”and accuses Catholics of being “bread worshipers”.
    He erects imaginary windmills to tilt at from his”white horse” nag and and then sends his brutish Sancho Panza to blat out the blasphemous slurs he pretends to be above uttering himself.

    Not the best source to go to Eric.

  39. Eric,
    We can indeed imagine what you do. We do likewise. All the time. But that is not receiving Holy Communion.

    Oh, to be sure, we even receive a spiritual Communion at times. If we can’t get to Mass, we can always make a spiritual communion as St. Catherine of Siena is said to have done hundreds of times everyday. Some folks ( usually Irish ) send their Guardian Angel to Mass for them.

    But those pious practices, including, the good one you do, is not what I am talking about.
    We Catholic folk are not as spiritual or”ghostly” as one might think. We are not angels either. We are carnal, fleshy and greasy. Christ came into our material world, swam in Mary’s amniotic fluid for 9 months, pooped his swaddling clothes, kept Joseph up by crying all night while cutting his teeth. He got sun burnt, hungry and dirty trudging the dusty roads of Israel. He cured folks with His spit and mud. Even the hem of His tunic healed a woman with a bloody secretion.
    On the cross His Heart was cut open to pour out the blood and water of the Sacraments. The life of the Trinity gushed out of a human Heart. We want to become one with that source of Divine life. That’s what Baptism, the Eucharist, His Sacred Heart,His mother, His Church, His vicar, are all about.
    Again, we are not idolaters. And we are not angels. We are flesh and blood men. And that is how we go to Him.

  40. Robert,
    “Keep the episcopacy, and you have an ecclesiology that has much in common with Anglicanism and Lutheranism.”

    Well, yes and no. For low church Episcopalians and Lutherans, it’s only a form of church government. Which is fine as it keeps uniformity in doctrine rather that the “every man for himself” anarchy of non-denominationalism.

    But that’s as far as the analogy goes. For Catholics, Ordination DOES something.
    Lutheran and Episcopalian ministers are just laity.

  41. Eric,

    We don’t have any “pure traditions”. Scripture, Magisterium and Tradition mix together to form one Revelation.

  42. Jonathan,

    That’s either Catholic or wrong. If by “ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin,” it means to ordain them to sin (and thus to incur dishonor and wrath), then it’s heretical and not Augustinian. If not, then it’s Catholic.

    So when God passes over those who do not know Him, that does not ensure that they will stay in their sin? There is going to be someone whom God passes over who will not stay in sin and will be saved?

    “Guarantee” only means that by passing over the sinners, they will assuredly remain in their sin. His passing by ensures that it will happen because election MUST occur for the sinners to come out of their sin and persevere.

    Revelation doesn’t follow that model anymore; the Gospel was delivered once for all.

    Great. Where do we find the content of that gospel that was once for all delivered? If it is in the ongoing preaching and work of the church, it wasn’t delivered once for all.

    And the fact that God’s revelation was given to the church primarily is plain from Scripture — all of which was written to people whom the Apostles assumed were already Scripture.

    the Bible and the Church function together. We believe all because of all. If any of them conflict, then there is no revelation.

    But the Bible and the Roman Church do conflict and you are required to believe that the Roman Church can never contradict the Bible based solely on the testimony of Rome. Sola ecclesia.

    I’ve dealt with the historical evidence extensively; you’re the one who can’t seem to read what Augustine actually said or admit that Calvin got him wrong, even though that’s pretty obvious to everyone who isn’t desperately trying to make Calvin into some eternal supergenius among patristics scholars.

    Did Calvin get Augustine right at every point? Unlikely. Does modern scholarship get Augustine right at every point? Unlikely. And the latter is exactly what you claim, even as you ignore the counter evidence from Augustine’s own writings based on “well, we know what Augustine’s principles were.” For you that ultimately ends up being whatever Augustine says that sounds too Calvinistic.

    There are clear points where Calvin follows Augustine, including in his reading of Romans 9. But that’s not Augustinian because had Augustine had the benefit of you to point out his error, he would have changed his mind. Whatever.

    I’d be interested to see how Nicaea or Chalcedon were invisible. That’s a heck of a lot of invisible bishops. I guess the Pope gets invisibility when the white smoke comes out as well. Come on now. The authority is not invisible; it is not the internal testimony of the Spirit. Authority is real people doing real things.

    Well if you want to deny that the Holy Spirit is a real person, I’ll let you take that up with Nicea and Constantinople.

    It is impossible for the Scripture to function as a binding authority absent people with divine authority, just as it is impossible for a law to serve as a law without a government.

    What you are doing is reducing Scripture to the level of a merely human document. If you want to deny that it is living and active, be my guest, although it won’t go well for you on judgment day.

    Basically what you are saying is that Scripture could not have been binding upon the people of God until the church was established. I guess Jesus was wrong to expect people to obey Scripture until Pentecost.

    You’re the one complaining about the Holy Spirit choosing to reveal God in a way that needs both Scripture and Church, not me. That’s essentially Nick’s point; Protestants are complaining that God didn’t choose sola scriptura as the mode of revelation, because it isn’t convenient for your beliefs.

    Sorry, where I have I denied the church as a subordinate authority as a necessary part of revelation? The church does not have the same authority as Scripture, a fact that even Rome pays lip service to by limiting the church’s authority only to certain matters, denying that the modern Magisterium is equivalent to the Apostles, and affirming that the type of inspiration that the church receives is different than what the Apostles received.

    Scripture, on the other hand, is divinely authoritative and inerrant on every matter to which it speaks, is the living and active Word of God, and is God-breathed. Very different than the church, which means they cannot be equivalent in terms of how they function as authorities.

    Let me conclude by asking you the same question Eric asked Nick:

    I assume that you agree that the present visible church–the Catholic Church, the Church Militant–is a mixture of wheat and at least a few tares…and that we inferior Protestant assemblies grow at least a few stalks of wheat among our copious fields of weeds.
    In your opinion, what could we legitimately call the whole collection of sheaths of wheat inside AND outside the visible church?

  43. *written to people who were already Christians

  44. Nick,

    Robert, that’s not the problem *at all*. The problem is that the Reformed embrace a serious contradiction: they say on one hand that the Holy Spirit guides all true believers into the perfect understanding of the Scriptures, while on the other hand the Reformed say the Holy Spirit after the Apostles has not led a single true believer into the perfect understanding of the Scriptures. You and Eric need to really let that sink in.

    The Reformed do not say this, so the entire point is wrong. The only conceivable way it could be correct is to make it eschatological, but Rome would not differ with this on that regard.

    Stop saying “Rome is wrong,” because that’s completely irrelevant. Let Rome the false church fade away. You need to start saying “I’m elect, I have the Holy Spirit, thus I should know how to reconstruct/find the church professing 100% pure doctrine.” But you don’t do that.

    The Reformed say that even the purest church on this side of the eschaton is a mixture of truth and error. Finding the church that professes 100% pure doctrine is impossible on this side of heaven. Rome essentially believes something like that, but gets around it by limiting infallibility to a few believes that no one can exhaustively identify.

    Please note the distinction between saying “Rome is wrong” and “I’m led by the Holy Spirit.” You want to keep asserting the former while not asserting the latter, while pretending that asserting the former is equivalent to asserting the latter.

    I affirm both. What I deny is that the leading of the Spirit produces guaranteed infallibility as long as sin abides. Nobody’s doctrine is perfect on this side of eternity, but that doesn’t entail that nobody can know whether it is correct apart from a body that claims infallibility for itself.

    You really have no reason to believe in the Scriptures and Holy Spirit if you don’t believe a 100% correct interpretation is available to you. Going around proud of yourself that you have 50%-70% of Christian theology correct is a mockery of God giving us His Word. God gave us the Bible so we WOULDN’T be in darkeness, and yet you and Eric go around saying every believer is in darkness to one degree or another.

    But I believe the Trinity is a 100% correct interpretation, Justification by faith alone is 100% correct interpretation, Christ is one person in two natures is 100% correct. I am as certain of all those things and many others as I am that 2+2=4.

    Why do I say those things. First, the church testifies to them but more importantly because the Scriptures teach them. I possess a mind and I can see from exegesis where the church has gotten these things right. You, on the other hand, though you have a mind, have to believe what the church says whether the exegesis is correct or not. The church’s exegesis is by definition always correct. The problem is that even RC exegetical scholars point out where Rome has been wrong.

    You don’t get around the problem of human limitations by limiting Christian theology only to what has been dogmatically defined. The Bible says that we have the Bible and the church to grow up into maturity. That’s not an instantaneous process, as even Rome would agree. Rome has left the church in darkness on many matters. There’s no official interpretation that sets Molinism as right and Thomism wrong, and vice versa.

  45. Robert,
    You asked Jonathan, “Basically what you are saying is that Scripture could not have been binding upon the people of God until the church was established. I guess Jesus was wrong to expect people to obey Scripture until Pentecost.”

    If two guys had dispute, what would they do? Turn to the Bible? How would they decide the winner?
    You speak of ” the people of God “. Christians or pre Christian Jews? Which one didn’t have a visible authority, Moses, Jesus for 3 years,or, for the 50 days before Pentecost, Peter? ( Starting on Pentecost day itself there would be no doubt for 1500 years it was Peter. )

  46. Robert,
    To Nick you said, “But I believe the Trinity is a 100% correct interpretation, Justification by faith alone is 100% correct interpretation, Christ is one person in two natures is 100% correct. I am as certain of all those things and many others as I am that 2+2=4.”

    Did you have a little help figuring this out or did you learn it from your own private Bible study?
    No way “Faith Alone” is the default reading of ” a man is not justified by faith alone”.
    You had to be indoctrinated to see faith without Baptism in Mark 16:16.
    And there is no way you, without any kibbitzing, you saw regeneration preceding faith in, ” you have been saved/regenerated by faith…”. That is a definite cart before the horse.
    Please, don’t tell us you could see what it took 1500 years for anyone else to see.

  47. Jonathan said to Robert ” A guarantee is a promise. Does God promise someone He will damn them?” Jude ” for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever” Even a Christian Physist should be able to understnd that. Incidentally I have studied Augustine for many years. Trust me he is a calvinist. Nick said to Robert ” The Reformed have a serious contradiction” Would that be like when Paul says ” not of yourselves” “not of works” it really means a final evaluation on your works. Incidentally the saved in Sardis were members of God’s elect, the invisible church and the visible church. The rest were only visible members. Can it be any clearer. And yes they had the righteouness of Christ imputed to them. 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 5:18-19.

  48. Indulgence,

    May I call you Partial or do you prefer to be addressed as Plenary?

    Anyway you said,”Paul says ” not of yourselves” “not of works” it really means a final evaluation on your works. ”

    You’re spoofing huh? Titus 3:5 clearly denies we merit initial justification. No way. It’s by the free gift of Baptism.
    As for Ephesians, the same. Not by works of the law lest any Jew should boast in Jewish nationalism. It okay to boast in Christ. Paul does it.
    We are saved by coming to Faith and getting Baptized ( Mk 16:16 ) which regenerates ( Titus 3:5 , Jn 3:1-21 ).
    Good works have nothing at all to do with initial justification.

  49. Jim,

    Aside from the fact that baptism does not regenerate or justify—one of Rome’s major blunders at Trent is to make baptism the instrumental cause of justification whereas the NT always says it is faith—dead men can’t ask for regeneration. We’re dead in sin (Eph. 2:1–10), not merely weakened.

  50. Robert, Wrong! DEAD wrong. Dead to grace only but not actually physically dead. It’s hyperbole Robert.
    James says, “a body without a soul is dead”. But it is still a body, right? He says, ” faith without works is dead”. But it does not cease to be faith.
    A man “dead in sin” is still a man, is he not? Men have free will or they are not men. Animals and robots don’t have free will. Men do.
    The Prodigal Son was dead and was able to come to his senses, yes?

    Check out all the references to Baptism in Ephesians Robert. 5:26 speaks of washing with water and words ( the Trinitarian formula ), 4:5 says there is one Lord and one Baptism, 4:25 says we are all members of each other harkening to 1 Cor. statment on Baptism and of course, 4:30 speaks of the Seal of the Holy Spirit, a.k.a. the Character I have waxed on so many times.

    Of course the NT say we are saved by Faith. Look at Mk 16:16. Faith AND Baptism.
    Those other references to faith never say “Alone” as Faith for Paul is usually a synechdoche for Faith formed by Love, obedience, and Baptism.

  51. Robert,
    Baptism does not regenerate? What of the whole Nicodemus business?
    Titus calls it the “laver of regeneration”. Deal with those verses please

    Ephesians, ” You are saved by grace through Faith…”. Sure looks like Faith precedes regeneration as a cause precedes its effect.
    Unless you want to say men are saved before they have Faith. Paul wouldn’t like that. Neither would Luther. Nor the Pope.
    As for the blunder of Trent making Baptism the instrumental cause of justification, what about, “You have been washed, sanctified and Justified” in that order.
    Finally, Peter said it so clearly, ” Baptism saves you now”. What would the Bible have to say to make it any more perspicuous?

  52. Jim–

    You need to realize that Robert may well believe Mark 16:16 to be missing from the canonical text as it is a part of the longer ending which does not appear in our oldest copies of the gospel. Be that as it may, have you actually read it? It talks of one who BELIEVES and then is baptized. Do you just conveniently skip that part? 1 Peter speaks of a good conscience. Is that something infants have in your experience? (A headline from “The Onion” once trumpeted, “New Study Reveals Infants Unrepentent Sociopaths.” As a father of three toddlers, I can relate!)

    By the by, was Nicodemus a baby?

  53. Jim–

    “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God, and such we are.”

    What was he called again, the Prodigal what? Oh, yeah, the Prodigal SON!

    He was alive. He just needed to come to his senses.

  54. Eric,

    Bingo on Mark 16:16. And interestingly, the vast majority of Vatican-approved NT scholars are going to hold the exact same position on whether the longer ending of Mark is part of the canonical text.

    Which is yet another evidence that Rome either erred (by including the longer ending in the Vulgate) or just doesn’t care (by sanctioning those who dissent from her teachings.).

  55. Eric,
    Thank you for proving my point. Although the father saito the elder son about the younger brother, ” my sons was dead…” even though he was very much alive and just needed to come out of the fog.

  56. Eric,
    Have I actually read Mk 16:16? ( If you continue with the gratuitous sarcasm, I will remind you of the infamous absinthe incident just to give you some humility. )

    Eric, Nicodemus was not a baby. And you say your little kids show signs of moral corruption. And your point is?

    Why should a child have faith? If Faith Alone justifies, I could see your point. But I don’t concede that point. And as justification is free, why is faith needed? To earn salvation for the baby.

    Faith does not earn justification for an adult either Eric.
    So why is it needed for the grown up but not the baby? Because Faith is needed to dispel the heretical opinions the adult ( but not the baby ) may have had. Heresy is an obstacle to the free flow of grace.

    I have read the text Eric. I see, for the adult preached to, a necessity for Faith AND Baptism. Since you must have read the passage, why do you not the two words, ‘ and is Baptized”.

  57. Jim–

    Just to refresh your fading memories, there never was an “absinthe incident,” infamous or otherwise. I cited the myth and the mystique of the drink (for which it was banned in a good number of countries for decades), and you countered with the more mundane reality. You were really impressed with yourself as I recall….in fact, sometimes that’s all I recall.

    1. My point with the Prodigal is that he was clearly elect…he belonged to his father, and no amount of profligate living changed that fact.

    2. My point with babies and baptism is that whatever alone justifies…it should be demonstrable after some fashion that it actually DOES justify. You douse babies who are pagans when they are baptized and who remain pagans for the remainder of their lives. Since there are no infant baptisms in Scripture which you can point to, it would behoove you to show what such an action could do other than make them wet and scared.

    3. If justification is free in the way you say it is, then let’s start giving it out to unbelievers or believers of other religions. They don’t have faith either, and I’ll bet some of them would love to have “all their bases covered.” Not only that, but there ARE people who have no opinions or convictions to speak of concerning spiritual things. They could not be said to espouse any heresy whatsoever. Let’s ferret them out and sprinkle them, shall we?

    4. Pretty much every baptism and discussion of baptism in the NT connects the witness of faith and baptism, the cleansing of conscience and baptism, the forgiveness of sin and baptism, the renewal of life and baptism. These are all ADULT experiences. We don’t give the Eucharist to those who MAY come to faith. We don’t ordain guys who MAY make good pastors or priests sometime in the distant future. We don’t marry a couple who MAY fall in love a decade or two from now.

  58. Eric,

    1. The Prodigal son was clearly elect? The father says he was dead. Now, from our bird’s eye view of knowing the end of the story, yes, he was elect. Was that election due to foreseen merits? The Calvinist preoccupation with who is or is not elect determines everything huh?
    2. For the thirty fifth time, babies who are baptized not only receive the divine life of grace that they will retain until they grow up and possible commit a mortal sin.
    Now, again, they also receive a seal. Whether they retain their baptismal grace or not, whether they are raises Catholic or pagan, the seal remains. The Church requires parents and God parents to attend instruction in order to impress upon them their duty to make sure the child is indeed raised in the faith.
    Yes Eric, there are indeed many Baptized who are living the life of pagans today. TODAY. In a post Christian society, people are going to be lax in their duty. Kids are going to grow up and fall away.
    I have tried to explain this seal to you before. Deacons and priests have a seal too although some of them leave the Church and it’s grace. The seal remains. Even in hell.
    As some one who identifies as an Anglican type, I can’t believe I have to keep explaining this to you. I have, several times now, encouraged you to look into your own history and read up on the issue of Anglican orders. Episcopalianism is not just about a form of church government. It’s about this seal.
    I could go into how the reality of this seal can be demonstrated from the story of Cyprian and those lapsed who wanted back in the Church. Or I could point out that we have never rebaptized. But I think a perusal of the issue of Anglican orders would help you see what I am talking about.
    3. Read againwhy adults need to make a profession of faith before getting the free gift?
    4.
    “We don’t give the Eucharist to those who MAY come to faith. We don’t ordain guys who MAY make good pastors or priests sometime in the distant future. We don’t marry a couple who MAY fall in love a decade or two from now.”
    We don’t either. But neither you nor we can make that ordained man stay true. We can’t keep that married couple from divorcing, especially in that post Christian world ushered in by the deformation.
    Should we stop baptizing, ordaining and marrying people because they may not live out their Sacramental lives?

  59. Jonathan–

    A “character” that guarantees you nothing beyond a neat tattoo to brag about in hell is utterly useless.

    Someone who is baptized after they come to faith is much more likely to remain in that faith than some random person on the street.

  60. +JMJ+

    Jim wrote:

    Eric,
    .
    1. The Prodigal son was clearly elect? The father says he was dead. Now, from our bird’s eye view of knowing the end of the story, yes, he was elect. Was that election due to foreseen merits? The Calvinist preoccupation with who is or is not elect determines everything huh?

    Booyakasha!

  61. Eric,
    I think you meant to direct that shot at me, yes?
    Not only is the “neat tattoo” utterly useless in hell, it adds to the suffering.

    By the way, who Baptizes random people from the street? I am sure I mentioned the fact that parents and God parents have to undergo instruction so as to understand their obligation.

  62. Jim–

    Yeah, names get muddled n the middle of the night.

    I’m sure Michael Corleone “had received instruction in the faith” before baptizing his kid at the exact same time as carrying out a bloody vendetta against his enemies. All a parent has to be is a member in good standing in a Catholic church if that. Pretty much the same as a random person on the street.

    Anglicanism has diverse groupings of extremely divergent theological tenets. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, a liberal Anglo-Catholic, has almost nothing in common with the former Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, who is low-church, conservative, and Reformed. Millions of Anglicans believe in an indelible character etched into one’s soul at baptism, and millions of others don’t. Millions of them believe in Apostolic Succession, and millions of others don’t. They all used to have the Book of Common Prayer “in common,” but you can’t really even say that anymore (plus, there are umpty versions of it out there). My wife and I were married, by the way, by the newly minted Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America, who began his duties just a few days ago. A neat honor for him. He’s a good guy.

  63. Jim and Wosbald–

    The father also says that his son was lost. So, let’s say the father, as soon as the younger son walked out in him, went to the nearest precinct station to report him missing. Would he have declared him dead…or lost? Was he surprised years later to see him alive…or to see him returning? What say, maybe just maybe, his reference to a dead son may have been a tad metaphorical?

  64. Eric,
    So dead son is figurative but i never knew you in matthew is absolutely literal?

  65. James–

    How on earth could an “I never knew you” coming from the Omniscient One be “absolutely literal”?

  66. Eric,

    What I mean is that a common Reformed critique of those who believe the just can lose salvation is that Christ says I never knew you, not I once knew you. non-Reformed take that verse in a hyperbolic sense. In a similar way, it seems you are taking the dead son talk to be hyperbolic. I am just wondering if you then also disown the common Reformed critique related to I never knew you or you still affirm it while at the same time taking the hyperbolic stance on the dead prodigal son.

  67. James–

    Yeah, I see where you’re coming from, so let me try and clarify:

    Even the elect are dead in their sins until they are raised to newness of life. The Prodigal is dead in some sense…temporarily “dead” to his father, temporarily spiritually dead. My original point is that he–like the lost sheep and coin–belongs to someone. He is the father’s SON. He has been the father’s son all along.

    How do YOU make sense of “I never knew you” without resorting to an appeal to election (and no back-and-forth, up-and-down sense of “salvation”)??

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