Christianity and Protestantism

Posted by on April 21, 2013 in Atheism, Catholicism, Chesterton, Deification, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Featured, Holy Spirit, Incarnation, Protestantism, Sacramental Worldview | 122 comments

As I mentioned a couple posts ago, every now and then I hope to shift gears a bit and write from a more personal perspective about what becoming a Catholic has been like, and how Protestantism appears now that it is in my rearview mirror.

One thing I have begun to notice — especially after starting to fall in love with G.K. Chesterton about five years ago — is how practically and ecclesiologically atheistic Protestantism seems from a Catholic perspective. Now I realize that such a statement needs to be unpacked and substantiated, so bear with me.

When I was a Reformed Protestant I believed in the God-of-the-Bible’s miraculous power. I believed, for instance, that Elijah really did preserve the widow’s flour and oil, and that the shadow of Peter and hanky of Paul really were used by God to heal the sick. I don’t remember ever balking at those accounts or dismissing them as overly fanciful.

But here’s the thing: I realize now that I only believed those accounts because I sort of had  to. I mean, they’re in the Bible, it’s not like I can really question them without raising suspicion and plenty of eyebrows. The reason I now believe that this is how I once thought is that if you had asked me whether I believed in, say, Josephus’s account of Jerusalem’s destruction, with all of its accompanying apocalyptic phenomena, I would probably have said, “No, I don’t really believe that stuff actually happened.” But if you had asked me why I disbelieve that account when I claim to believe that, a mere 35 years earlier in that very same city, the sun was darkened for three hours and a series of earthquakes shook the town while a bunch of tombs opened up with dead bodies walking out of them and cruising around the city, I would have said I believe these things because they are contained in the canonical description of Jesus’ crucifixion. And then I would have quickly changed the subject.

You see, there was in my own mind a kind of invisible-yet-impregnable wall that cordoned off biblical times from the eras that followed, with the miraculous and supernatural being restricted to the former. So if a supernatural set of events was recorded in Scripture I would believe it, but if a nearly identical set of events was reported by some extra-canonical source, I would almost always dismiss it out of hand. Yes, Gabriel appeared to the young teenager Mary in the year 9-months BC, but no, Mary did not appear to that young teenaged girl in France in 1858 AD. Yes, the Holy Spirit took a gaggle of sinful fishermen and protected them from teaching error so that they could pen the New Testament, but no, the Holy Spirit could not possibly have supernaturally protected their successors from teaching error when they continued their ministry of governing the Church that Jesus founded.

This is not just unique to me: the same incredulity is displayed by most Protestants whenever they seek to rebut Catholic claims about the Magisterium: “God protecting the bishops from error? Impossible! They’re sinful men, after all. Look at the sordid history of the Catholic Church and you’ll find all the refutation you need of such a fanciful and fairytale idea.” This attitude, in addition to seeming rather Donatistic, smacks of blatant unbelief to the Catholic when he hears it. For us, magic is everywhere, and miracles happen all the time, especially on our altars. We live in a sacramental economy where spiritual blessings are communicated through physical things, where grace is not destroying nature but elevating it (kind of like how Christ’s divine nature did not destroy his human nature, but elevated it), where man is being divinized, and where the entire cosmos has been infused with a supernatural homesickness and longing to be liberated, along with the children of God, from its bondage to decay. We live in an age of eschatological overlap in which the Incarnation actually happened and the old world really is passing away.

(Chesterton wrote often about the need for Christians to recover that sense of childlike wonder which humility tends to foster, insisting that fairytales are only necessary because as we have grown bored of regular tales, and that red dragons are needed to amaze us because red apples no longer do so.)

One of my former seminary profs has likened medieval Catholic Europe to the world of Harry Potter, suggesting that one of the triumphs of the Reformation was ridding the ecclesial landscape of all that blasted magical and supernatural hocus pocus. I think that is a very apt, and very sad, description of the Protestant view of the visible church and of the Christian life in general: the Spirit protects the bishops of the church from error no more than he does the shareholders of Nike, the leftover communion bread is common enough to be used for sandwiches after the service has ended, the body of the Theotokos  rotted in an unmarked grave somewhere outside Ephesus, and the suspicion about ontological participation in the divine nature is so deep as to give the impression that the Incarnation, while certainly a grand gesture, was nonetheless a superfluous one whose aim was merely to bring onto the earthly scene someone who could be the earner of our extrinsic righteousness and the target of our sin’s imputation.

In a word, it’s as if the genie is locked in the bottle, the wardrobe is bolted shut and can provide no otherworldly passage, and all those miraculous displays of divine power and love are safely quarantined to a time long past when God would indulge the superstitious desires of pre-Enlightenment peasants until the printing press would finally be invented. But the problem with dismissing the childlike faith of Catholics on the grounds that their ecclesiology is too whimsical, too simple, or too good to be true, is that these are the exact same reasons for which atheists dismiss Christianity as a whole. “Sure,” they say, “it would be nice if there were a God up in heaven who made us and loves us and desires to save us, but such ideas are mere pious fiction in an age of science and sophistication.” Thus the irony is that the atheist is just a more consistent Protestant who is brave enough to dismiss as fanciful not only the assumption of the Blessed Virgin, but the resurrection and ascension of her Son as well. After all, if infallibility is hopelessly romantic when applied to the bishops who serve the Church, is it any less so when applied to the apostles who wrote the Bible?

But from where I now sit, it seems like appearing to peasants and preserving episcopal succession are precisely the kinds of things one should expect the God of the Bible to continue to do. I mean, if human nature has been raised up to participate in the divine life and worship of the Blessed Trinity (in other words, if the mysteries we celebrate at Advent and Easter reflect stuff that actually transpired), then expelling the spellbinding and marginalizing the magical should be the last thing we’d want to do.

If anything, it should be the Muggles who are sent packing.

 

122 Comments

  1. Just a quick comment before everyone freaks out about my altering of Machen’s book title: It is meant to be somewhat tongue in cheek. Also, this is not intended to be an argument, but merely my own personal reflections of how it feels for me to be a Catholic. In a word, it feels like I am finally fully Christian in the truest sense of that word.

  2. Hey Jason, I have just a quick question: can you clarify how you’re using the term “magic”? I’ve recently been delving into Tolkien a bit, and in his essay “On Fairy Stories” he distinguishes sharply between “magic” (the manipulable yet harsh sphere of the natural) and “mystery” (the in-breaking eschatological sphere of the supernatural). Something perhaps like the difference between ???????? and ???????? (though that may oversimplify the thing). Given your own experience, do you believe this to be a useful distinction, especially when it comes to interpreting catholic practice and worldview? Is the post-incarnational universe shot through with both magic and mystery, and what is to be our relation to it?

  3. Apparently, your blog only uses Latin characters. I had written “the difference between stoicheia and mysteria”. Sorry.

  4. I’m just using it to describe divine and supernatural activity in our world. Not a technical usage, perhaps, but this is a non-polemical reflection, so. . . .

  5. True, non-polemical :o ) I’ve been thinking about magic and mystery a lot lately, and I was just curious. Thanks.

  6. Jason,

    If magic makes a belief system more attractive, why not go with Mormonism or the occult? Or why not Eastern Orthodoxy?

  7. Jay,

    Supernatural and miraculous divine activity is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one!

  8. Jason–

    I’m glad you ditched the very worldly Protestantism you were in. I invite you to explore the heavenly Protestantism we, the newly living, will all share once the eternal dispensation is inaugurated.

  9. Sorry, Eric, but trying to paint me as some aberration-of-a-Protestant won’t work. I had the trust of the best your faith has to offer, so if I was some sort of imposter, better minds than you would have spotted it.

  10. Jason,

    If this is what you really believed:

    But here’s the thing: I realize now that I only believed those accounts because I sort of had to. I mean, they’re in the Bible, it’s not like I can really question them without raising suspicion and plenty of eyebrows. The reason I now believe that this is how I once thought is that if you had asked me whether I believed in, say, Josephus’s account of Jerusalem’s destruction, with all of its accompanying apocalyptic phenomena, I would probably have said, “No, I don’t really believe that stuff actually happened.” But if you had asked me why I disbelieve that account when I claim to believe that, a mere 35 years earlier in that very same city, the sun was darkened for three hours and a series of earthquakes shook the town while a bunch of tombs opened up with dead bodies walking out of them and cruising around the city, I would have said I believe these things because they are contained in the canonical description of Jesus’ crucifixion. And then I would have quickly changed the subject.

    I really don’t see how atheism will not be your next stop on your spiritual journey. I’ve seen many others go this route and then become disillusioned once they realized toast with an image burned on it that resembles Jesus is no miracle.

    The point is not whether God has the power to do any of what you have suggested. The point is whether He actually did it.

    The Roman Catholic view of the supernatural is too this-worldly. There is no difference between pagan belief in the manipulation of the elements and the belief that the priest turns the bread and the wine into literal flesh and blood simply by saying the magic words. There is no difference between wearing a medallion of Mary or a saint around one’s neck for protection and wearing a shamanistic totem. There’s a reason why pagan practices are condemned in Scripture.

    And since your infallible church won’t make a declaration as to which relics are authentic and which are not, what you have are a bunch of “peasants” whose faith is being sustained by something that may or may not be real. But that’s just fine as long as lip service is paid to the unity of the church and the people don’t convert to Mormonism or, horror of horrors, Protestantism.

    The suspicion about ontological participation in the divine nature is so deep as to give the impression that the Incarnation, while certainly a grand gesture, was nonetheless a superfluous one whose aim was merely to bring onto the earthly scene someone who could be the earner of our extrinsic righteousness and the target of our sin’s imputation.

    This quote just makes me sad because it reflects a very shallow reading of the Reformed tradition. While there may be some who speak of the incarnation that way, that just reflects a lopsided and incomplete reading of tradition and not what Protestants actually believe. And quite frankly, if Rome hadn’t chained grace to an institution in the medieval institution, the need to emphasize justification via faith-alone imputation may never have arisen.

    You want supernatural? How about a God who takes sinners who have no interest in Him and turns them into saints? That’s far more powerful a work than taking a weakened but searching soul and completing his search by adding that extra little top off of grace to push him over the edge into the arms of the church? How about the joining of heaven and earth in the Eucharist where we actually communion with the whole Christ instead of an act that destroys the true humanity of Christ by making His physical humanity omnipresent? How about the interior witness of the Spirit that brings about a transcendent unity of faith instead of a work tied so closely to the church that man takes over and ignores those who deny the supernatural but continuing affirming their allegiance to mother church? How about the sovereign God who ordinarily works through means but is pleased to work above and without them as well instead of tying his hands to the church? How about a God who created a zeal in the hearts of Protestants long ago that led them to promote literacy so that people could read the Bible on their own instead of a lesser god who would rather peasants flock to open fields or gaze at the windows of office buildings and see a Mary that the church may or may not recognize? How about a God who actually accomplishes salvation instead of just making it possible?

    Rome is the communion that has domesticated God and cheapened the supernatural, not us.

  11. That is, to emphasize imputation to such a degree that other elements of salvation are sometimes dealt with in a more cursory manner. Imputation needs emphasis, but it’s not the whole of salvation.

  12. That is,

    if Rome hadn’t chained grace to an institution in the medieval church

    That’s far more powerful a work than taking a weakened but searching soul and completing his search by adding that extra little top off of grace to push him over the edge into the arms of the church.

    we actually commune with the whole Christ

  13. Jason–

    You’re a bit too cynical for your own good. I’m not trying to paint you as anything. I’m sure there are confessional Protestants whose experience echoes yours. I cannot vouch for them. But your experience and my experience are polar opposites….

  14. Jason, nobody believes in ontological participation in the pure divine nature. Theosis is about participation in the divine energies. And the reformed hold something very similar in our conception of union with Christ. As Calvin put it, the flesh of Christ is an inexhaustible fontain whereby the divine life is poured into us.

    But then again, I seem to recall you didn’t like all that mystical union stuff very much when you were a Protestant, so I wouldn’t expect you to understand it very well. To be sure, we don’t put any stock in Marian apparitions and the like. But there are other reasons, and indeed a more charitable interpretation, for that than the idea that we have driven out the mystical (a better word than magical, imo) entirely. I do believe your account of Protestantism is a caricature based on your own experience in a certain Protestant subgroup which fancied itself the only valid expression of confessional Calvinism.

  15. Jason,

    As Robert points out above, the magic of Rome is often so close to the magic of the old pagan world that it can be difficult to differentiate it. We see this starkly manifested in places like Africa where the light of the gospel has been dim or non-existent and the pre-Christian practices of thousands of years ago are still the major religious force. But oft what happens in such locales is that there will be converts to some aberant form of Christianity like the Benny Hinn version. The old religion was the attempt by the people to manipulate the local gods of the region to get what they wanted. But now in the Benny Hinn version of religion, with only a slight reorientation, the people try to manipulate Jesus to get what they want. In the Catholic version these same people, again with only a slight reorientation, try to manipulate Many and the saints to get what they want. It’s this kind of magic which confessional Protestantism seeks to destroy and it was this kind of paganism and magic which confessional Protestantism sought to destroy in Medieval Europe.

    I can never figure out why Roman Catholics are surprised that we are skeptical about the Roman Catholic magic contained in relics, Marian apparitions, etc when Rome can’t figure out herself what is truly Christian and what is superstitious. Surely even you would be skeptical of much of the cult of relics in Medieval Europe. If there was, as reported, enough wood comprising the cross of Christ in various European reliquaries to build a good sized cathedral then most of the Medieval magic was obviously false. And do really want to get into all the weirdness associated with apparitions of Mary?

    We Protestants hold to the supernatural every bit as much as the Roman Catholics, but of course the basis for the supernatural working of God and the means by which it is communicated is different. As an example, we hold that God can and does work supernaturally though the simple means of grace to build His Church. But the Roman Catholics cannot get their minds around such a possibility. The arguments that are leveled again the Protestants at this point are not so much exegetical or historical, but philosophical. It’s so difficult for the RC’s to conceive of the Church being miraculously built by the preaching of the Word, prayer, and administration of the sacraments within the context of the Church, as that Church is explicilty described in Scripture and subsequently practiced in the early centuries of Christianity.

    So the Protestant mindset towards the supernatural is to rid the Church of the pagan magical supernatural practices and replace it with a biblical and historical supernaturalism.

  16. Dear Jason,

    Thank you for sharing this personal reflection about your experience as a Catholic. I, too, shared your sentiments about miracles in the Bible as opposed to miracles in church history. At the time, I thought, “I have no reason to believe that such things are true,” and so I was generally skeptical of any non-biblical miracle. Now that I’m Catholic, I generally think, “I have no reason not to believe that such things are true,” and so I accept non-biblical miracles–especially those verified by the Church.

    For example, look at this:

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  17. Andrew McCallum,

    Your most recent comment sounds an awful lot like the claims of the Zeitgeist people.

    “The Jesus resurrection myth? Oh that is just like this ancient obscure Egyptian lore….you can’t separate Christian myth from pagan myth etc etc.”

    And, I really don’t get the problem with relics. The bible compels us to believe that people were healed by Peter’s cloak (a relic). St Augustine relates what he witnessed when Christians were carrying the relics of some saints through the town. This is Christianity. Not for muggles, I agree.

  18. Sean Patrick,

    Your response illustrates the need not only for sola Scriptura but for people to know some basic hermeneutics.

    1. I assume you are talking about the cloths that touched Paul in Acts 19. Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you tried to walk on water? I mean, if the Bible tells us something happened, that must mean it is proper and good for it to happen. If you want to apply such poor exegesis to the book of Acts, you really need to be consistent and start applying it to other stories in the Bible as well. The next time you make a decision, maybe you should put a fleece out in your yard and ask God to soak it with dew, because clearly that is what we were supposed to learn from that story in Judges.

    2. There is no parallel with the modern Zeitgeist. Those who want to draw parallels between Egyptian and Greco-Roman myths and Christianity do not typically believe in the supernatural. Protestants do. There is also a ton of historical evidence to support the fact that many of these myths are paganized versions of Christianity.

    3. Our argument is not that God can’t heal people by clothing that touched an apostle but that He does not ordinarily do so. There is no evidence in Acts that Paul approved of the practice. It is just the narration of an event. There is no suggestion that such should be normative. It is just the narration of an event.

    4. When physical objects that were used by God to heal became occasions for idolatry, they are destroyed in Scripture. Hezekiah destroyed the serpent staff that was the conduit of healing in Moses’ day.

    5. Roman “magic” really isn’t all that powerful if I can approach and consume the body and blood of Christ every day during my lifetime and then yet still die in a state of mortal sin.

    6. Luther’s view of the supernatural was, I guarantee, more real and true than any of us commenting here. Any Western Protestant that has a low view of the supernatural or is a practical deist is not being true to the Bible or his own tradition.

    7. In Rome, you have practicioners of voodoo (Haiti) and santeria (Cuba) that mix paganism with Roman saint veneration, and there is no systemic church effort to crack down on it. In the same “united” church you have Western Roman Catholic academics who look down superstitions such as potato chips shaped like Mary and apparitions of the Blessed Version in office windows. In the same “united” church, you have a leadership that turns the other way when actual pagans teach theology and religion at Jesuit institutions for decades.

    8. If this isn’t idolatry, I don’t know what is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7L8rcgP_jJY

    9. Satan disguises him as an angel of light, and is known for lying signs and wonders

    10. Rome will not crack down even on relics that are known to be fake.

    Yes, Roman supernaturalism is self-evidently more faithful to the apostles. Give me a break.

  19. What is the sufficient condition that makes the miracles associated with Roman Catholicism necessary?

  20. Robert.

    1) If Jesus returned for the 2nd coming and walked on water, I would believe it.

    2) I think there is a Parallel. Talk to somebody like Bill Maher. He is convinced that almost every biblical story has a pagan origin.

    3) That is one way to look at the narrative. Another way is to accept it for what it is.

    4) If a relic or statue or anything else truly became an object of idolatry, you’d have a point.

    5) That statement demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the sacrament.

    6) OK.

    7) “In Rome, you have practicioners of voodoo (Haiti) and santeria (Cuba) that mix paganism with Roman saint veneration, and there is no systemic church effort to crack down on it.” – that is not true. There are many efforts from the top down to teach that such things are not authentic and sometimes even Satanic.

    8) That video is a procession of a Marian statue at a church and the statue falls and people are startled. How you can take that 30 second clip and determine that its rank idolatry is beyond me. Are all processions of statues idolatrous? If you looked upon Israel carrying the Ark (which included statues of angels) would you accuse them of idolatry?

    9) Very true.

    10) Such as?

  21. Jonathan,

    Historically, there are many models of theosis on the market. Using the word means little. If the Reformed adhere to the divine energies, that would be a substantial claim in need of substantial support, particularly when Reformed writers such ad Bavink slam Palamas on just this score. Added to this is that Reformed adherence to and articulation of an Augustinian gloss on divine simplicity is incompatible with the patristic doctrine of the energies.

    Robust language in Calvin doesn’t amount to a demonstration that he is expressing a belief in realistic properties. If he did, he wouldn’t have the doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum as a mere exchange of names that he did. The Spirit produces amplified human properties in the flesh of Christ and likewise our own. Divinity as such never penetrates human nature. All Calvin’s language amounts to is the belief of the production of virtues in the soul by divine power along the same lines as his Christological schema. The Reformed talk of union with Christ, while extremely fuzzy itself, doesn’t change that schema. Nevin’s Idealistic organicism doesn’t change that.

  22. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    I assume you are talking about the cloths that touched Paul in Acts 19. Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you tried to walk on water? I mean, if the Bible tells us something happened, that must mean it is proper and good for it to happen.

    Exactly. It, truly, is proper and good. We should say to the mountain, “cast yourself into the sea”, and it should be done. The fact that it doesn’t happen for us shows just how far we have to go in holiness.

  23. @Jason –

    I think again you tend to confuse Conservative American Reformed and Protestant. The majority of Protestants believe in a God that is meaningfully active in their material lives. They believe that prayer is effectual in transforming material reality. You can go to Protestant churches where people handle snakes and get miraculous cures to disease. Cessationism is a Reformed doctrine not a Protestant one. Conservative Reformed are quite rare in believing in a highly supernatural world in biblical times and a highly natural world in modern times. Most Protestants believe in either one or the other.

    And I should mention I agree with you that it is implausible to try and maintain a belief in the literal truth of the supernaturality of the bible and a cessationist view of today. I certainly struggled with the same thing. Trying to separate out where the bible was being allegorical about miracles and what the modern interpretation should be. I think Liberal Christians have a better handle on this issue because they aren’t burdened with inerrancy. Catholic or not: my guess is you so not believe in the demon theory of disease or the existence of ephemeral powers that live in the sky and separate us from the heavens which are literally “up”.

  24. We just don’t have very much faith. It’s not about our obtaining more to be able to do tricks.

    We just don’t have even as much as the size of a mustard seed.

    It’s not how much we have that is important…it is the object of that faith that is important.

  25. @Robert

    There is no parallel with the modern Zeitgeist. Those who want to draw parallels between Egyptian and Greco-Roman myths and Christianity do not typically believe in the supernatural. Protestants do.

    First off that isn’t exactly true. For example both Justin Martyr and C.S. Lewis were advocates of the doctrine of pagan imitation. C.S. Lewis sees this as positive evidence for Christianity. For Lewis Christianity is the fulfillment of universal human prophecy, the same way that Jesus fulfills Judaism, Jesus fulfills the cult of Isis. Incidentally when I was a Christian that was my opinion as well.

    Justin Martyr agrees that such similarities exist but attribute to demonic imitation. Satan having read the Jewish scriptures falsely fulfills them with counterfeits to mislead mankind.

    There is also a ton of historical evidence to support the fact that many of these myths are paganized versions of Christianity.

    The denial you are talking about is possibly only for someone who doesn’t have nearby paganism. It is also easier since Reformed Christianity stripped the “superstition” out of Christianity and thus distanced it from the more direct parallels. Christianity, like all religions is an amalgamation of themes from older religions with some new content. That which is most drawing on us in Christianity is drawing and is emotionally powerful because of our humanity. So what we see is development:

    Hermes on the Ankh, Dionysos on the cross, Jesus on the cross.

  26. CD-Host,

    The first point of mine that you quote was me trying to say that many or most of those who draw parallels that were mentioned are themselves deniers of the supernatural. I think you may have misunderstood me—probably because I was unclear.

    Your link does not work, so I can’t read the post you linked to. I would agree that Christianity has an appeal to certain themes that recur again and again in the world and across cultures. Of course I would say that the reason for that is that such themes are embedded in the created order itself by the Creator. Essentially the same thing as Jason’s quote about the world bearing witness to all the good things that Christianity supplies. He’s essentially right about that.

    Similarities do not prove amalgamations, especially when you start drilling down and see vastly different theologies behind them. Scholars such as Machen and Ron Nash long ago demonstrated that the pagan-Christian influence was more of an influence of Christian stories on the pagans than anything else, at least when it came to the Greco-Roman mystery religions. For nearly 150 years, German scholars had convinced many that the gospel of John’s dualities (such as light/dark) proved that John reflected a Greek worldview. Then the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and that put an end to that myth.

    Of course, as a Reformed Christian, I would say that whatever “superstition” the Reformers purged from Christianity was not Christianity to begin with.

  27. I was just going to like this because I agree with it but I didn’t want to get into a lengthy exchange. In addition to Chesterton I’ve been influenced by Dwight Longenecker’s More Christianity and Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper and Hail Holy Queen. I’m currently an Anglican priest, but I consider myself a Catholic. I don’t understand why when someone like you writes about their love for the Catholic Church Protestants have to jump in with criticism. John Paul II called Protestants separated brethren. I don’t see why they can’t be equally charitable.

  28. @Robert –

    Interesting this blog dropped the leading “ like it should have but kept the trailing “. The first two links work, the last is just a crucifix with Jesus on the cross. If you drop the quote at the end of the last link it will link correctly.

    I would agree that Christianity has an appeal to certain themes that recur again and again in the world and across cultures. Of course I would say that the reason for that is that such themes are embedded in the created order itself by the Creator. Essentially the same thing as Jason’s quote about the world bearing witness to all the good things that Christianity supplies.

    I agree. That to my mind is the more defendable position.

    Similarities do not prove amalgamations, especially when you start drilling down and see vastly different theologies behind them.

    I agree that similarities in and of themselves don’t prove amalgamations. They are evidence for it though. You generally want more evidence. You want to be able to establish a timeline for the borrowing to really provide a basis for proof. For example evidence of sharing, contrasting and knowledge of one another. for the beginning. Evidence of the existence of intermediate forms which show the borrowing in a much rawer state for a later beginning. In an intermediate phase you would want hostile reactions to the sharing. Then you would look for the community that did the borrowing to assert that it was always theirs and attacking ingroups that deny the borrowing, etc..

    Scholars such as Machen and Ron Nash long ago demonstrated that the pagan-Christian influence was more of an influence of Christian stories on the pagans than anything else, at least when it came to the Greco-Roman mystery religions.

    There are two main periods where the mystery religions flourished.

    The first was from when Peloponnesian society died, the end of Mycenaean Greece starting around 1200 BCE and ending with the emergence of a healthy Dorian civilization around 750 BCE. I think you would agree based on nothing more than dates along that any borrowing from those older mystery religions could only run in one direction.

    The second period was as the Roman Empire came in contact with Egyptian culture and they flourished as Rome collapsed. For these, one could classify some of the early photo-christian groups as some of the Greco-Roman mystery religions, but with a strong Jewish flavor since they were drawing from a Jewish / God-Fearer population. What I would say here is that how you view Christianity in terms of the mystery religions has a great deal to do with your theories about the development of Christianity in general. Conservative scholars make a lot of conservative assumptions that drive the “who is borrowing from whom” analysis.

    To given an example, if you are a conservative scholar and are going to data a book as theologically sophisticated as Luke to before the temple (69 CE) then a theory of borrowing gets more difficult to justify. If on the other hand you date canonical Luke / Acts to being after Marcion say 90 years later then there is plenty of time for borrowing from 1st and 2nd century mystery religions and the shift in theology from Mark to Luke runs provides evidence in the other direction.

    Mostly I think talking about Christianity borrowing one time from the mystery religions is an oversimplification of the borrowing process. For example if one were to ask how the borrowing ideas works between the American Republican party, American Democratic party, UK Tory Party and the UK Tories and the UK Labor there is a complex of borrowing sharing and reacting. And all of them are being hit by common outside influences and common new events. The religions of the Roman Empire existed in the same time, in the same places in competition with one another. They played off against one as they competed for believers and often people wondered back and forth between the groups.

    For nearly 150 years, German scholars had convinced many that the gospel of John’s dualities (such as light/dark) proved that John reflected a Greek worldview. Then the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and that put an end to that myth.

    I don’t see how that evidence would put an end to the theory of Greek origins. Many of the DSS are products of Hellenistic Judaism. To prove the originated in pre-Hellenistic Judaism you would want stuff from the Persian period, the DSS are too late.

    Now I happen to think the influence earlier since Persian religions are loaded with Light / Dark dichotomies I’d be inclined to believe it came from the Persians. As a point of fact my belief would be something like Magians -> Sabians -> Dositheans -> John the Baptist’s sect -> Elkasaites -> Smyrnaean proto-Catholics which is where it got into canonical John. \

  29. My pastor was talking to his dentist (who is a Roman Catholic) this morning (during my pastor’s checkup) and his dentist remarked about my pastor’s clerical collar and how similar it is to a Roman catholic priest’s. My pastor said that there are many similarities…seeing how we are (were) a reform movement within the Roman Church.

    Then my pastor said that the differences are not insignificant and asked his dentist to mull over the difference between faith ‘for’ righteousness…and faith ‘as’ righteousness.

  30. Actually, I got the quote wrong. The word used was ‘grace’.

    Ponder the difference between grace ‘for’ righteousness…and grace ‘as’ righteousness.

  31. I recognize in the caricatures those evangelical types who scoff at having a Mormon President because who wants a man with that kind of power who believes in weird stuff like secret magic skivvies and a place called Kolob the heavenly body nearest to the throne of God, but who don’t quite grasp the supernatural and counter-intuitive nature of Christian orthodoxy.

    I don’t really recognize the confessional Reformed types who not only see little to no relevance between religious belief and political ability (which really suggests a this-worldly piety, as in true religion makes for trustworthy Presidents but everything else makes for kooks), but also know that if we’re going to impugn Mormons for having weird beliefs then doesn’t that make vulnerable the even weirder notion that a guy got up after dying and floated into the bright blue.

    Well, there are those in the ranks who should be otherworldly-at-ease-with-the-mystical-listen-to-the-sermon-and-eat-the-flesh-and-drink-the-blood-and-become-a-discipleconfessionalists but speak and behave like the this-worldly-allergic-to-the-mystical-take-notes-during-the-sermon-like-a-pupil evangelicals. So I can see why you’d get confused.

  32. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    As an example, we hold that God can and does work supernaturally though the simple means of grace to build His Church.

    In every time and place, whether before or after Incarnation, God has always worked by the ‘simple means of grace’, whether before or after the Incarnation. But this misses the point of the Christic Revelation, the meaning of which is that Man is no longer bound to dichotomize between matter and Spirit, exoteric and esoteric. Instead, the Christic economy of grace is Incarnational. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Those who confess an Incarnate God while confessing a Disincarnate Economy (invisible, spiritual, ineffable, intangible) would do well to meditate upon this disconnect.

  33. Dear Jason,

    My apologies. I meant to reference a YouTube link above, but I must have neglected to copy/paste it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jE0j8M1Pfo

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  34. “The Jesus resurrection myth? Oh that is just like this ancient obscure Egyptian lore….you can’t separate Christian myth from pagan myth etc etc.”

    So what exactly is your point here, Sean? You could not possibly be saying that we shouldn’t be skeptical about ANY relics, right? There is so many outlandish claims about heads of John the Baptist, and thorns from Jesus’ crowns, and wood form the cross, etc etc. It cannot all be true, can it? Just how much of the whole cult of relics can be proven to be true or false?

    So tell me this – When I was in Rome I visited the Peter in Chains Church near the Colosseum. It’s a beautiful structure and I would highly recommend the church for it’s architecture and Michelangelo’s masterpiece there (Moses). But the whole church was built to house the supposed pairs of chains that held Peter in prison. So how do we know whether these are authentic or not? And if they are not authentic (like so many of the rest of Medieval relics) why should we care?

    I don’t think your analogy with Peter’s garments really fits. After all, we are not debating the fact that God used Peter to perform miracles. Nor are we debating the fact that God used certain visible things (i.e. the bronze serpent) to represent some aspect of God’s miraculous working in His people.

  35. In every time and place, whether before or after Incarnation, God has always worked by the ‘simple means of grace’, whether before or after the Incarnation. But this misses the point of the Christic Revelation,

    Wosbald – I’m suggesting that the simple means of grace are sufficient to build the Church as we find that Church identified by the Apostles and practiced by the Apostles and those that immediately followed them, without an appeal to the supposedly infallible ecclesiastical system of Rome. Such a belief requires an appeal to the miraculous work of God without which we would have no hope that such a Church could be built. The Roman Catholics are the skeptics here. They say that without the peculiar institution that evolved out of Rome in the Medieval era no such Church would be possible.

    We are both skeptics of each other’s systems, but we both believe that the miraculous work of God is necessary to build and preserve the Church. I don’t see that we Reformed folks are any more or less reliant on the miraculous than the Catholics. Certainly it’s true that we Reformed are highly skeptical of what perceive to be the cheap and tawdry magic of the supposed apparitions and relics and the like, but that hardly equates to us being skeptical of the miraculous work of God in the past and in the present.

  36. Father Jim–

    When those who are pro-choice or those who promote same-sex agendas proclaim their tolerance of your pro-life practices and your heterosexuality and then ask, “Why can’t you be equally tolerant?” what do you reply?

    A decade or so ago, I was struck by a joke that made the rounds, to the effect that having a “no smoking” section in a restaurant is kind of like having a “no urinating” section in a public pool. It is a lot easier for smokers to be tolerant of others not smoking around them than it is for someone allergic or highly sensitive to tobacco smoke to be tolerant of someone smoking in his or her presence.

    I take it from your website that you are a “three streams” Anglican, and I agree that the evangelical, charismatic, and catholic strands of Anglicanism are more-or-less compatible.

    One can also be Reformed and Anglican. What one cannot be is Reformed and Anglo-Catholic.

    They had a conference on the topic of justification recently at beautiful Nashotah House. Anglo-Catholics clearly hold to a Newmanesque version of double justification that is simply not compatible with Reformed soteriology. It is a step in the right direction (as it was at Regensburg in 1541), but certainly no more than that. Likewise, I am not at all sure that Anglo-Catholics can be said to interpret the 39 Articles in a faithful manner.

    There are many conservative and charismatic Roman Catholics who incorporate a good deal of Protestant theology and trappings into their worship: classic Protestant hymns and charismatic praise choruses. But even if they sing “Amazing Grace” or “A Mighty Fortress” or “Rock of Ages,” they surely do not emphasize or explicate the Reformed concepts inherent therein.

    Though I have every confidence that some, or even many, Catholics will be safe On That Day, I also fear that many will be led astray by Rome and come to a bad end. I cannot simply turn a blind eye to the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist. We defend eternal ideals here. These can lead to contentious dialogues among those with deep convictions.

    I understand (and applaud) your desire for unity, but in the end we must unite around compatible soteriologies.

  37. Jason, Bravo on an excellent post. You have distilled into one post much of what I too have noticed in the 9 years since I have put Protestantism in the rearview mirror. If we can believe that the God of the Universe can enter the world as a crying, stinky little baby, why can we not extend the same belief that HE can then come to us in the “breaking of the Bread,” the Eucharist?
    On a side note, I find it hard to not be offended by our brethren who choose to believe we are pagan and magical (in the occultish sense of the word) when Catholicism is the purest way of apprehending the God of the Universe and being apprehended by Him….through the “stuff of earth.”

  38. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    I’m suggesting that the simple means of grace are sufficient to build the Church as we find that Church identified by the Apostles and practiced by the Apostles and those that immediately followed them, without an appeal to the supposedly infallible ecclesiastical system of Rome. Such a belief requires an appeal to the miraculous work of God without which we would have no hope that such a Church could be built.

    Rather, I would say that such a belief requires an appeal to the irrevocably Incarnational work of God, primarily and preeminently made present in operatively efficacious Sacramentalism.

  39. @Paul –

    These incorruptible bodies are exactly the kinds of faked miracles that were the reasons Protestants turned on what they considered Catholic superstition. For example St. Teresa of Avila’s body (died 1582) is actually a woman who died in 1879. The face and the hands of that body have withered so badly they had to be replaced by wax.

    There are bodies that have much slower than average decomposition well over 20x slower. Most commonly when bodies in these conditions are tested they have been in a lime soil which bonds with humans fats in anaerobic conditions. Google “grave wax” and “mortuary fat” If the body was in pretty good shape to begin with and then is kept away from oxygen, light… it can last for years. Where you really see high concentrations is in the ocean. So given the much higher frequency there, the question is how many uncorrupted fish saints do you think the Catholic Church should recognize?

  40. OLD ADAM April 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm,

    “Ponder the difference between grace ‘for’ righteousness…and grace ‘as’ righteousness.”

    I’d say both function simultaneously in the Christian life, one being a function of forgiveness of rebellion and the other being the new life functioning in us by Christ. Those are my ponderings on that thought anyway.

    Peace, Mike

  41. Thanks for the post Jason,

    Captures a lot of my sediments, too. I know when I was talking with SS a couple of days ago in here I had no doubt that King Jesus could shine as much as He wished to bring about whatever was good in His sight.

    Peace,
    Mike

  42. Dear CD-Host,

    Could you please direct me to a source that establishes your claim that “St. Teresa of Avila’s body (died 1582) is actually a woman who died in 1879″?

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  43. Dear Mr. Stellman, at the end of the day, when the naysayers attempt to attack you and misrepresent you because of your desire to follow Jesus wherever He leads you, take some solace in the fact that you are one of the few converts ( if any) that ever had a theme song written about them.
    You fought the Church valiantly and the Church won!
    http://archive.org/details/IFoughtTheChurchAndTheChurchWon

  44. Joe Nickell of CSICOP. He did a study in the late 1980s. He’s the one who found the stuff about Saint Bernadette being dug multiple times… His most famous book “Looking for a miracle” has a few sentences each on most (all?) of the incorruptibles. I don’t see an online source though Amazon seems to have 1/2 the chapter available. I checked online and the articles from the 80s aren’t archived. They have Nickell stuff but only his later stuff which focused on UFOs and ghosts.

  45. Michael Tx,

    We believe that grace does inspire us to works, but that those works are no longer required by God for righteousness…but rather they are for the neighbor.

    So, our righteousness is free and total gift (unmerited favor – our definition of grace) and …that’s it. And now that we don’t have to do anything (as Gerhard Forde said)…what will we do?

    Thanks, friend.

  46. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    Joe Nickell of CSICOP. He did a study in the late 1980s. He’s the one who found the stuff about Saint Bernadette being dug multiple times…

    What does St. Bernadette Soubirous, who did die in 1879, have to do with St. Theresa Avila? St. Bernadette’s body was exhumed three times, being put back in repose twice. This is common procedure which is not a secret.

  47. I understand Old Adam,
    But is faith in His grace really and truly His revealed saving grace when it is not also understood to be full of the gift of His life living and moving in us and through us to save us and the world to the uttermost. I know this may be a difference between us.
    Time is what we deal with but to Christ and the Scriptures at times it is irrelevant. Our faith is what transcends time and space to trust in Christ our Divine Redeemer.
    Peace and blessings to bro,
    Mike

  48. Michael Tx,

    His grace does inspire us to do and to be (to greater and lesser extents, depending on what day it is and how we feel).

    But His grace is freely given. With no strings attached. He declares us righteous for Jesus’ sake. Not even our own sakes.

    What comes after follows as naturally as a baby grows.

    The good we do has no effect upon our righteousness in Christ…and neither does the evil that we do.

    That…is the good news that sinners need.

    God’s peace, Michael.

  49. Dear CD-Host,

    Ditto to Wosbald’s question. I don’t understand the relevance of the evidence you provide. Also, since I can’t see the evidence that you claim you have, I think I should delay assenting to your claims. Can you provide anything further that would help us arrive at an agreement?

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  50. The Anglicanism of the early church before the Schism which represents biblical Catholicism and Orthodoxy is a path many forego. It’s orders and faith are Apostolic being its origin goes to the beginning of the one holy catholic and apostolic church.. It didn’t start in Canterbury.

  51. Old Adam,
    We agree on so much, but like I said we will have some differences here. Not because in any way I believe I will or do have a righteousness of my own, but because I know I do not.
    You said: What comes after follows as naturally as a baby grows.
    Which I love your imagery here, because it is so Biblical, and I think it can easily show our differences. Like you I believe the Justification we receive is of God and God alone and a total gift like the life given to the virgin bride washed clean by the waters. Yet, I see scripturally we receive this gift and are called to nurture this justifying life unto it’s eternal maturity, which is in the likeness of Christ. I also see in scripture we are able to reject the justifying life we receive by grace, like in the world today so many of the children of rejected and neglected. I do not see this as a grace hampering feature of the Christian life, but a great asset. I know the man I am. I need the hedges of our loving God. I know how I would like to use my freedom and it would not be for the glorification of God. I am a sinner and I do not need freedom for darkness, but freedom for light. Therefor I am grateful that God has not made me able to mock His grace and think to myself I can just go to Him for His mercy. I have no reason to believe I would ever want to once I reject His counsel. Repentance is a grace He has not promised me. I do not believe this to be opinion, but with certitude I cast myself on the mercy of God and implore His grace though Christ keep my from wondering into the occasions of sin.

    “For if we sin willfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins, But a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries. A man making void the law of Moses, dies without any mercy under two or three witnesses: How much more, do you think he deserves worse punishments, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean, by which he was sanctified, and hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said: Vengeance belongs to me, and I will repay. And again: The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

    Sheppard us O’ God beyond our want beyond our ways,
    Mike

  52. MIKE April 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm,

    I like the name and I agree with you that Anglecanism has It’s orders and faith are Apostolic being its origin goes to the beginning of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. At lest as much of the history and such that I understand.

    Although, what I do not believe is that it “is” one holy catholic and apostolic today. Are its doctrines or practices or judgements of the faith remaining unified (one)? Is it set apart from all things and faiths(holy)? Is it universal(catholic)? It may be inline with apostolic origins but that is not all I understand the Church of the scriptures to be.

    That is just my thoughts and current understanding and am totally open to having my ignorance displayed if I have erred.

    Blessings and peace to you,
    Mike

  53. @Andrew McCallum:

    I’m suggesting that the simple means of grace are sufficient to build the Church as we find that Church identified by the Apostles and practiced by the Apostles and those that immediately followed them, without an appeal to the supposedly infallible ecclesiastical system of Rome. Such a belief requires an appeal to the miraculous work of God without which we would have no hope that such a Church could be built. The Roman Catholics are the skeptics here. They say that without the peculiar institution that evolved out of Rome in the Medieval era no such Church would be possible.

    On the contrary, Catholicism explicitly recognizes that particular churches are possible without the papacy; Eastern Orthodox churches are examples of such churches. The problem is that your theological perspective is unbalanced. In Catholicism, miracles in Christ’s Church are Trinitarian in nature, something that was obscured in the Old Testament and revealed in the New (although still as through a glass darkly). The Incarnation was the miracle that rewrote (or, more accurately, restored) the Word in the universe; it is the mystery from which all other mysteries proceed.

    That Incarnation is the Rock on which the universe is built, the Rock affirmed in Peter’s proclamation of faith on which the Church is built. That is the “magical” foundation that Jason identifies, and it is not peculiar to Catholicism; rather, it is shared by the churches who follow the Fathers and Holy Tradition. And it starts with the holy mysteries, the mysteries from the mystery. This is why icons were forbidden in the Old Testament except with specific and exceptional warrant (essentially, direct divine action). But once the Incarnation is revealed, believers can distinguish between correct use and incorrect use.

    The reason I call your perspective unbalanced is that it lacks this sort of organizing principle. I bring this back to Perry’s comment above: if your concept of the Incarnation is defective, then your concept of union with Christ is defective; therefore, your concept of the “miraculous” is defective. Ironically, one of the works that most clearly sold me on the defects of Reformed theology in this regard was Dennis Tamburello’s Union with Christ, an ecumenical outreach. He correctly concludes that Calvin centers his concept of union around faith rather than love, as St. Bernard did. But once the concept of love is analyzed in Western theology, particularly with respect to the Trinity, it is clear that Calvin has simply gone off the rails from the patristic antecedents all the way back to Augustine. The iconoclasm against the Christian practice of icons demonstrates that he has lost touch with the Incarnational principle.

    The reason that Catholicism can be more open to these sorts of practices is that the worshipper’s heart is often in the right place, so to speak. Even if the object itself is not what it purports to be, the devotion that it incites might well be real, and there is nothing necessary about the qualities of the “relic” itself. In that case, rather than being a physical record of the miraculous intervention of God, it is the equivalent of an icon made by the believer, and what separates an icon from an idol is this Incarnational understanding. So rather than attacking the practice itself, which could well be salutary, the Church goes after defective underlying beliefs: superstition, Santeria, voodoo and other forms of syncretism. From an Incarnational perspective, icon veneration is a good thing, so we don’t want to jeopardize that practice, except perhaps in extreme cases.

  54. Michael Tx,

    Repentance isn’t a work that we do. We are led to repentance by the Holy Spirit.

    Realizing that we are not up to this Christian life is where we should start…and where we should end.

    “The entire life of the Christian is one of repentance.” (the very first of the 95 Theses)

    __

    So then should we do nothing? Of course not! We have all kinds of work to be doing. It’s just that none of it is for righteousness sake. That was accomplished for us on the cross. “It is finished”.

    Thanks, Mike.

  55. You had me all with you until your second to last sentence.
    It’s just that none of it is for righteousness sake.

    Christ is our righteousness, therefore in the love of God it is done all for His sake.

    Like I said we will have a remainder of difference between us. I differ on what was meant by “It is finished.”

  56. Old Adam,

    As it can be easily misunderstood, I agree whole heartedly with this:

    “I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ: And may be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ Jesus, which is of God, justice in faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death, If by any means I may attain to the resurrection which is from the dead.”

    And it is with that vision that I live and move and press forward to attain.

  57. Thanks, Michael.

    I also live, and move forward…just not to attain. All that He has…is mine.

    I live outwardly…for the neighbor. When I’m at my best, anyway.

  58. I guess that is the part so hard to get across to anybody. Even when “I ‘m at my best” as you say, “It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me,” therefor He can work unto my salvation through me while it is a righteousness that while being “found in Him, not having a justice of my own, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ Jesus.”

    It is just hard to see and relay the line which tries to hide in there. Sharper than a two egded sword we might say.

    Good stuff,
    Mike

  59. Now I recall what I was searching for in this noggin. “Workout your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God at work in you.”

  60. Ditto to Wosbald’s question.  

    I was making an appeal to authority: Joe Nickell of CSICOP. He’s the recent author who did a review of incorruptibles along with many other such miracles: http://www.joenickell.com/books.html

    St. Bernadette I was bringing up as a similar example. In 1919 she’s dug up in horrible condition, mummified, mildew has eaten chunks of flesh and bone has decayed leaving behind calcified salts. Chunks of skin missing. Pierre Imans who is a manequin designer builds her a new face. In America all this is forgotten as the Lourdes myth grows. The wax is displayed today, her picture is all over the place…. The connection is I assumed you knew this case and agreed with the assessment.

    I don’t understand the relevance of the evidence you provide.

    Other than the name of the person and organization, I haven’t provided any evidence. I had considered this on the “refuted list” up until you all started making a serious claim for it.

     Also, since I can’t see the evidence that you claim you have, I think I should delay assenting to your claims.

    I would agree you should delay. I would have figured CSICOP would have had an online internet archive going all the way back 15 years ago. I’m floored they don’t. I can point you to 3 line summaries from Nickell but the summaries just refer to old articles.

    Can you provide anything further that would help us arrive at an agreement?

    There are a lot of non saints preserved. Assuming you consider this a miracle how to you explain the large number of non saints who underwent similar degrees of preservation?

  61. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    In 1919 she’s dug up in horrible condition, mummified, mildew has eaten chunks of flesh and bone has decayedleaving behind calcified salts. Chunks of skin missing.

    She was dug up in excellent condition, which is why she’s considered an Incorruptible. Sure, the skin had darkened, some skin was missing, facial features were sunk, and there were salt deposits. But this was not a secret. This was well documented, as was the decision to use a wax max for decorum and the sensibilities of society.

    Besides, getting mired in the particularities of specific relics or purported miracles would be to largely veer from the heart of Jason’s point.

  62. Dear CD-Host,

    It seems we’re at an impasse that would require either a great deal of inductive work or a shift in one of our authority paradigms to overcome. I think we both agree that miracles are possible, but we disagree about whether some particular bodies are actually miraculously incorrupt. In this matter, neither one of us has made a personal investigation of the evidence by a direct, scientific observation of the bodies, nor (I’ll speak for myself) was I alive when many of them were exhumed. Instead, we rely upon an authority. I’m inclined to believe the Church; you’re inclined to believe Joe Nickell.

    From my perspective, then, we’ve been dramatizing Jason’s point throughout our brief exchange.

    One final comment. You ask how I would explain the miraculous preservation of a non-saint’s body. Well, I don’t explain miracles; I believe them.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  63. Sure, the skin had darkened, some skin was missing, facial features were sunk, and there were salt deposits. But this was not a secret. This was well documented, as was the decision to use a wax max for decorum and the sensibilities of society.

    “Sensibilities of society”????
    If her body were incorrupt as a result of a supernatural miracle there would be no sensibilities of society to protect. She would be in perfect condition.
    If her body, 70 years ago was mummified with sunken eyes and nose black skin and obvious signs of a drying out process that slowed decomposition and decay then that might be a bit upsetting to people.

    And well documented or not. The minimum requirement to avoid a fraud is to actively disclose anything that’s not obvious It is dishonest to display a wax version of her face and hands while keeping the rest of her body covered by her habit and claiming this is miraculous preservation. It wouldn’t be if they had a picture right next to her displaying her active condition.

    In any case Wikipedia has a good image of what an “incorruptible” (Saint Zita) kept in dry and preserved with chemicals looks like without the wax: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lucca.San_Frediano17-2.JPG

  64. Paul–

    I’ll have to admit I don’t see the point of incorruptibility. You can be a Catholic saint without it, so it doesn’t corroborate sainthood. There have been small children and non-Christians found incorrupt, so it doesn’t appear to even corroborate election. What is it for? Is it designed to make the relics of Christianity appear much like circus attractions? Does this really seem like something God would do? Since the simple often have quite a pure faith without the assistance of this type of “miracle,” it doesn’t seem necessary to aid their faith? I repeat: what is it for?

    Can God keep a body miraculously incorrupt? Without question. My Protestantism does incline me to disbelieve. My first inclination is actually to believe God has done it for some reason. I just don’t think that reason would be a corroboration of Catholic authority. If Protestants start digging their “saints” up, we just might find some of them to be incorrupt. Then the Protestant Fundamentalists could have macabre my-incorruptible’s-better-than-your-incorruptible skirmishes.

    Roman Catholicism does not end up looking noble for their faith in these bizarre “miracles.” They end up looking ridiculous just like snake handlers do. Charismatics claim to raise people from the dead and to get them to actually walk on water. Or gold and feathers fall from the ceiling. Or people crow like roosters and bark like dogs.

    You may prefer grandiose and public “wonders” to the simple and personal miracles of answered prayer, but this inclination of yours is not particularly biblical. You believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. For many, not even seeing someone “rise from the dead” will transform their unbelief to faith.

    Read of the life and ministry of George Mueller. He had great faith and saw great miracles in answer to his prayers. Miracles that fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and found a home for the orphan. This sounds more like the miracles I would expect from a compassionate Savior. Spectacle just doesn’t resonate as well with what I know of his character.

    When I read of Catholic “miracles,” they strike me as tawdry by comparison. God is fully capable of making the sun stand still in the sky for a full day (as he did in Joshua 10) and fully capable of making it dance (as he might have at Fatima). We aren’t at all suspicious of miracles as Protestants, but wary of calling every imaginable extraordinary occurrence a special act of God. What is your opinion of the backwoods groups who drink strychnine in obedience to what they read in the longer ending of Mark (found in their KJV Bibles)? Fairly often, they drink and live. Are these occasions “miraculous” in your book?

    The more I read Catholic thought the more what you all see as “incarnational” strikes me as plainly idolatrous. The Ancient Near Eastern cults of Chemosh and Dagon and Molech were quite “incarnational” in this sense, while the cult of YHWH remained aniconic (or one could even say, iconoclastic).

    There is a tinge of braggadocio inherent in the glitz of Roman Catholic ritual and worship. I find Pope Francis’ inclination to forego some of the historic pomp of the papacy rather refreshing. After all, he is supposed to be the Vicar of Christ here on Earth, a Christ who was born humbly in a manger and who rode humbly into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.

  65. Paul–

    Sorry. I should have edited. My post ought to read: “My Protestantism does NOT incline me to disbelieve.”

    Also, the sentence, “Then the Protestant Fundamentalists could have macabre my-incorruptible’s-better-than-your-incorruptible skirmishes,” should end: [...skirmishes with the Catholics. ]

  66. Jason

    “One thing I have begun to notice — especially after starting to fall in love with G.K. Chesterton about five years ago — is how practically and ecclesiologically atheistic Protestantism seems from a Catholic perspective. ”

    What an absurd statement! Reflections and “feelings” do not reality make. But as an American Negro—and Old School Presbyterian—I appreciate you regardless.

    Blessings,
    djbeilstein

  67. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    If her body were incorrupt as a result of a supernatural miracle there would be no sensibilities of society to protect. She would be in perfect condition.
    If her body, 70 years ago was mummified with sunken eyes and nose black skin and obvious signs of a drying out process that slowed decomposition and decay then that might be a bit upsetting to people.
    And well documented or not. The minimum requirement to avoid a fraud is to actively disclose anything that’s not obvious It is dishonest to display a wax version of her face and hands while keeping the rest of her body covered by her habit and claiming this is miraculous preservation. It wouldn’t be if they had a picture right next to her displaying her active condition.

    That you believe that, then that’s one thing. But if you’re trying to impute your opinions and standards to Catholics, then that would just be setting up a straw man. Your beliefs and “minimum requirements” are not ours.

    No biggie. Peace.

  68. The reason I call your perspective unbalanced is that it lacks this sort of organizing principle. I bring this back to Perry’s comment above: if your concept of the Incarnation is defective, then your concept of union with Christ is defective; therefore, your concept of the “miraculous” is defective.

    Jonathan,

    You are referencing Perry who is EO, and perhaps you are too. I understand something of where Perry is coming from, but note that I was answering a distinctly Roman Catholic perspective. When we talk about the simple means of grace as they are outlined in Scripture as providing the foundation for building Christ’s Church, without the need for an infallible and hierarchical ecclesiastical system, we are generally told by the RC’s that we have a defective principle of unity and we are operating from a nominalistic perspective and so on. That’s the direction I was aiming my comments at. If I need to address Perry and the EO crowd then it will likely be a different conversation.

  69. On another tangent but always at the center of Pauline thought is Eucharist, the body of Christ, and we in Him, as one loaf through water baptism in the Spirit. This is mind blowing. The body of Christ corporealy and corporately. Jason, your thoughts.

  70. Dear Eric,

    You wrote,

    My first inclination is actually to believe God has done it for some reason.

    I am pleased to know that we agree on this point. Given that your first inclination is to believe in a reported miracle, what evidence has caused you to change your initial opinion?

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  71. @Andrew:

    You are referencing Perry who is EO, and perhaps you are too. I understand something of where Perry is coming from, but note that I was answering a distinctly Roman Catholic perspective. When we talk about the simple means of grace as they are outlined in Scripture as providing the foundation for building Christ’s Church, without the need for an infallible and hierarchical ecclesiastical system, we are generally told by the RC’s that we have a defective principle of unity and we are operating from a nominalistic perspective and so on. That’s the direction I was aiming my comments at. If I need to address Perry and the EO crowd then it will likely be a different conversation.

    No, I’m Catholic, and I’m pretty sure that Perry would say that the principle of unity articulated in Catholicism and our theology of grace suffers from the same flaw that I pointed out in yours. My point was just that the notion of moral union as somehow miraculous, as being divine action in itself, effectively excludes the possibility of miracles. Miracles are by definition divine irruptions into nature, and if God overrides the nature, He overrides the possibility of miracles as well.

    Now, if the papacy is viewed as some sort of Platonic unity by which the many are absorbed into the one, then it’s just a really oversized version of the same thing (which is where Perry might chime in). But assuming that the papacy functions as an organic part of the Church within its life, then the unification expressed the voluntary communion of the Church, and the miraculous assistance of infallibility is just an elevated sense of the Church’s own self-expression.

  72. Hi Jason. Belated “welcome home” to the Church. Had some additional thoughts on what you write here, because it mirrors a lot of my own thoughts recently, and put it up as a post on my blog. http://bit.ly/15HUCpB. God bless.

  73. Paul–

    I don’t understand your question. Nothing in me has changed.

  74. Dear Eric,

    Here’s what I mean. You say that your first inclination is to believe in a reported miracle. I take that to mean that, unless some evidence causes you to doubt a miracle, you believe it. So, since you seem not to believe that incorrupt saints are true miracles, I’m asking you what evidence caused you to doubt.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  75. Scott Alt–

    I found the post on your blog silly enough that I didn’t find it offensive (though that appears to be how you intended it).

    Not long ago, I was part of a Calvinist fellowship that just about worshiped the ground upon which Chesterton walked (which is commonplace among the Reformed). During worship, an English professor would often stand and rattle off large sections of Gerard Manley Hopkins poems, by heart.

    I am sorry you hate Calvinists so. The hatred, however, is not returned in kind.

  76. @Eric, sorry you seem to want to find offense where none was intended. I’m sure you’ve heard many the Protestant say, “I don’t hate Catholics; I hate Catholicism.” What was said in my article–I’m sorry you missed this–was that G.K. Chesterton hated Calvinism. Nothing was said about Calvinists, and the sentiment was attributed to Chesterton, not myself. In your effort to find silliness, you seem to have missed the meaning of the sentences.

  77. Paul–

    You misunderstood me. Without evidence to the contrary, I believe that Catholics are telling the truth. They see visions of Mary; the sun dances amid a myriad of colors over Portugal. I may be wrong, but I wait for evidence to convince me of my mistake.

    They may indeed be miracles. They may indeed be from God.

    On the other hand, even if they are miracles, they may not be positive in their portent. And they may have no validating significance for the question of Roman authority. Perhaps, even, quite the opposite.

    They simply don’t seem to accomplish much, other than to firm up faith in the wrong way.

    Some of them clearly lead people astray. Perhaps God has left you to the consequences of your (what I can only call) idolatry. I wish it were not so. I wish there were another explanation. The more I study it. The more I hear explanations from devout and educated and articulate Catholics. The more I think on it and pray over it…the more the only possible answer is idolatry.

    What you are catching me in is my ambivalence toward Catholicism. Flannery O’Connor, J.R.R. Tolkien, Walker Percy, G.K. Chesterton…all Catholic. Heck, C.S. Lewis was arguably Anglo-Catholic (and T.S. Eliot definitely was). Much of Reformed thought is riddled with Roman Catholic literary and philosophical inspirations.

    It appears as if God has blessed you–and cursed you–in some of the same sorts of ways one could speak of the Jewish people. You have turned aside, and he has–for the time being, at any rate–turned his back on you. But the light of his former presence still radiates from your faces….

  78. @Eric “I wait for evidence to convince me of my mistake.”

    “Unless I see the nail marks in his hand and put my fingers where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

    “Thomas, because you have seen, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet still believe.”

  79. Scott–

    When you hate what someone else loves most, it is difficult to keep that impersonal. You not only reported the Chesterton quote, but seemed to relish in it.

    That’s what I found silly. You painted with too broad of brush strokes. I don’t hate Catholics or Catholicism. I dislike the imperfections in Catholicism that keeps it from accurately disseminating the gospel. I dislike its idolatry, unintended though it may be, and its less than graceful soteriology. Beyond these little “quibbles,” however, I find much to admire and emulate.

  80. Scott–

    Read my post again: I await evidence to prove that these were NOT miracles, not the other way around.

    You must learn to reply to what I actually write! :)

  81. Eric,
    I hear where you’re coming from, and it’s hard to take it when you love the thing that someone else hates. But please understand the spirit in which the remark is intended: Chesterton’s love for the truth was so great that he hated what was false. Because Calvinism is false, therefore Chesterton hated it because he loved the truth. That kind of passion is admirable in a person; it reveals a person of a grand integrity. To take an opposite example, even though James White in my view is terribly wrong about Catholicism, it is hard not to admire him for the largeness of his passion. Some things said on a blog are said in the spirit of passionate tweaking in order to make a point, not out of rancor or an attempt to offend. I hope that makes better sense to you. I see by some of your comments here that you seem to have something of an ambivalent attitude toward Catholicism. And that’s okay. Just try not to mistake someone else’s passion for hatred or offense.

    Blessings of God to you.
    Scott

  82. @Eric
    Oops, I guess I goofed at reading too. I saw what you were saying after I already posted my reply and then couldn’t take it back. Chalk it up to it being late at night. :)

  83. Scott–

    In your post you said, “In his great book Ortho­doxy , Chester­ton (who hated Calvin­ism, which is why I love Chester­ton) talks about what it means to be mad.”

    I take it then, that you love Chesterton for his hatred of falsehood, not for his hatred of Calvinism, per se. (That is not, however, what you actually said.)

    I can handle that.

    Sometimes, in our headlong pursuit of the truth, we end up censuring that which we, by rights, ought to praise. I adore Chesterton in spite of his blind spots!

  84. @Eric
    To the extent that I also believe Calvinism to be false, I would say the real answer to the question is “both.” But if you take what I said at mere literal face value, then you could say that the primary and the sole reason I love Chesterton is because of his hatred of Calvinism, which isn’t true. Think of it in the sense of a wife doing something that her husband admires, and he says, “See, that’s why I love you.” He doesn’t mean he loves her only for that reason, or primarily for that reason, but simply that he’s admiring one of the “flowers” in the great garden of his love. Thus it is with my remark about Chesterton. There’s a combination of truth, exaggeration, and tongue-in-cheek there. There are often multi-layered meanings in “one-liners” like the kind I wrote there, and it’s difficult to take them solely at literal face value.

    As far as Protestant pastors who love Chesterton or Hopkins, I accept that. What I wrote there has to do with the ability to *understand* Hopkins, not necessarily with the ability to *admire* him. Would you admit that a lot of writers you admire you don’t fully understand–even if sometimes you think you do? “The world is charged with the grandeur of God”: The way I see it, there’s something in the Protestant paradigm that hasn’t fully incorporated the fullness of what that truly means. You may like the sentiment, it may be pretty to your ears, but you don’t have it in your gut because you’re not fully living it out in the way you practice religiosity.

    I loved Hopkins, and C.S. Lewis, and O’Connor, and Chesterton, and all kinds of Catholic writers when I was a Protestant. Now that I’m a Catholic, I feel I understand better what they meant, because now what they meant is not just in my mind but in my eyes.

    Anyway, I don’t know what time zone you’re in, but it’s past midnight where I am so I better call it a night here so I can get up tomorrow morning.

  85. Dear Eric,

    I think I see where you’re coming from now. You’re not doubting that incorrupt saints are, in fact, incorrupt. You’re simply pointing out that it’s not necessarily logical to say, “Look! An incorrupt saint! Therefore, the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded, and I should assent to her teaching.” If that’s what you’re saying, then I agree with you.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  86. Paul–

    Yup. Ya got it.

  87. . But if you’re trying to impute your opinions and standards to Catholics, then that would just be setting up a straw man.

    A strawman argument is attacking an argument X didn’t make but one that sounds similar. Attacking something X did as immoral that X did in fact do, is not a strawman. You may disagree that it is immoral for religious leaders to imply supernatural events using trickery, but calling it trickery cannot be a strawman.

    Let me quote something else on lying, the CCC: Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.

    I can only imagine a Catholic whose faith was built on the Church’s divine character as demonstrated by incorruptibility discovering they were looking at a wax mannequin without being directly told having no question that they were lied to. The entire presentation of showing wax without showing the actual body is designed to “undermining the ability to know”. One needs only read the various comments to immediate grasp that people who are being shown those pictures are being misled to believe the bodies are in far better condition than they are.

    They are being told that the bodies are not undergoing decomposition.
    They are being shown images whose implications are that the bodies are not undergoing decomposition.
    They are being told that medical examinations are being performed certifying this miracle.

    Most conmen doing time are doing time for less than that. All Bernard Madoff was change the dates and thus the profits on the reports he sent to investors. The trades were real, just the only the dates were fake. All J.R. Weil used to do was drop a few extra tape works into people’s feces. The feces was real, the drugs were real and the abdominal cramping that came from the drugs were real. J.R. evidently believed his cures worked he just thought the effects weren’t dramatic enough.

    If the intent was not to deceive the RCC would have accurate pictures of the bodies up all over the place. They would be making it very clear that people were looking at wax not human faces and what the real partially decomposed but classified as miraculously incorruptible faces really look like. I had started with some of the others on the assumptions that no one was going to raise a mannequin as incorruptible perfection. I can’t believe I’m even having this argument.

    If the point of Jason’s post is that Protestants don’t go in for miracles like that. Well that’s a huge point in their favor. At least if they are going to get conned let it be by good stage magicians like you would see at a revival and not this sort of obvious fakery.

  88. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    A strawman argument is attacking an argument X didn’t make but one that sounds similar. Attacking something X did as immoral that X did in fact do, is not a strawman. You may disagree that it is immoral for religious leaders to imply supernatural events using trickery, but calling it trickery cannot be a strawman.

    Sure, it could. If someone were were to imply that we hold to such-and-such a standard, but in reality, we really don’t hold it, then that would be a strawman.

  89. Scott–

    Much of the grandeur of Hopkins and the profundity of Chesterton has little to do with their Catholicism and everything to do with their impassioned Christianity.

    C. S. Lewis did not just speak of “mere Christianity” but lived it. His literature sets forth a faith that is subtly nuanced and universal. No one knows for sure to what extent he was Anglo-Catholic as opposed to Anglo-Evangelical though Austin Farrer did give the homily at his funeral.

    One can “understand” Catholicism fairly completely without becoming Catholic. But certainly there is a “depth perception” that is added to one’s sight when one embraces a paradigm. Acceptance of a particular “truth” colors how one views it.

    I understand the falsehood of sections of Catholicism. You understand the falsehood of sections of Calvinism. If I am right, you misunderstand Calvinism. More’s the pity. If you are right, I misunderstand Catholicism. May God have mercy on my soul.

    Chesterton is famous for saying that Catholicism is ever so much larger on the inside than on the outside looking in. Well, Calvinism is as large as the universe, with the twinkling stars shining down on me, and all of the “pied beauty” of nature shouting and clapping its hands!

  90. Scott–

    And I should have added…

    “Praise him.”

  91. The reason I ask what is the sufficient condition that makes the miracles associated with Roman Catholicism necessary is because of the way you described your belief in miracles prior to your conversion as being something you were kind of forced to do. You wrote, “I realize now that I only believed those accounts because I sort of had to. I mean, they’re in the Bible, it’s not like I can really question them without raising suspicion and plenty of eyebrows.” The implication is that now that you’ve entered Roman Catholicism this is no longer true, since the miraculous is so common place in Roman Catholicism. But is it? It seems to me that the sufficient condition behind the necessary condition (i.e. commonplace miracles) is the teaching of the Roman Church. This is why Pentecostalism just won’t do. So, at the end of the day, you are really left with the same scenario: trusting an infallible authority to set your expectations regarding the miraculous along with every other aspect of your religion, right?

  92. M. JAY BENNETT April 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm
    ….. So, at the end of the day, you are really left with the same scenario: trusting an infallible authority to set your expectations regarding the miraculous along with every other aspect of your religion, right?

    Of course, Jason can correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s not what I understood from his article.

    I understood him to say that in Protestantism, the supernatural (i.e. miraculous) was restricted to that which was recorded in the Bible.

    Whereas, Catholicism recognizes that God is transcendent and therefore the supernatural can’t possibly be restricted to a few pages in a book.

    Now, I would have to agree with Jason Biblically, at least, I believe this verse is pertinent:
    John 21:25
    And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

    I’m supposing that St. John is here speaking of all the signs or miracles which Jesus did and most of them were not recorded. Therefore, that means that all miracles are not recorded in the Bible.

    And Jesus also said:
    Mark 16:17-19
    King James Version (KJV)
    17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

    Thus predicting that miracles would continue to be performed by those who call upon His name. And the Catholic Church continues to this day, canonizing Saints, in part because God produced miracles through their intercession.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  93. But why do you believe the miracles associated with Roman Catholicism (note the qualification) are necessary. Why not those of Pentecostalism? Isn’t it because your expectations have been set by an infallible standard? This is the same for Protestantism.

  94. M. JAY BENNETT April 25, 2013 at 9:04 am
    But why do you believe the miracles associated with Roman Catholicism (note the qualification) are necessary.

    For the same reason they were necessary in the Apostolic age. As signs which lead one to Christ.

    Why not those of Pentecostalism?

    I haven’t read all the messages, but I didn’t see Jason mention Pentecostalism. Nor did I. And the Catholic Church teaches that the Holy Spirit blows where it will. And also, that God is greater than His Sacraments. The Catholic Churhc is one of His Sacraments since it is one of the signs of His activity in this world.

    As for me, I believe this is something which Pentecostals have in common with Catholics since they are also belittled and their miracles denied by other Protestants.

    Isn’t it because your expectations have been set by an infallible standard? This is the same for Protestantism.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but we have now moved to a discussion of the “rule of faith”. As for Protestants, their rule of faith is Sola Scriptura. But that is a doctrine which is absent from Scripture and contradicts Scripture.

    Whereas, the Catholic Church accepts that Jesus established a Church and directed that Church to teach His Traditions. The Church then wrote these Traditions down in the book now called the New Testament. This New Testament is an authoritative resource which the appointed authority uses in order to decide matters of doctrine. But it is neither the only resource nor the only authority nor the only infallible statement.

    Scripture is the Word of God. But so is Sacred Tradition. And with the Magisterium, they compose the three legs upon which Catholic Doctrine stands.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  95. Again, all the doctrine and practice you just explained is based on some infallible standard. That’s my point.

  96. M. JAY BENNETT April 25, 2013 at 6:46 pm
    Again, all the doctrine and practice you just explained is based on some infallible standard. That’s my point.

    My point now, is, that if you are a Protestant, yours is not. Your doctrine and practice is based, not on the Bible, but on your interpretation of the Bible. The Bible is infallible. But you are not.

    Whereas, the Catholic position is quite different. We don’t rely upon our own understanding. But upon that of the Church. The Bible is infallible. The Church is infallible. Therefore the explanation of the Doctrine which we receive is infallible.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  97. De Maria,

    Is your understanding of the Magisterium infallible?

  98. ROBERT April 26, 2013 at 3:30 am
    De Maria,
    Is your understanding of the Magisterium infallible?

    There’s a difference between Catholic and Protestant in this respect.

    I don’t interpret the Magisterium. I obey. Therefore, I need not be infallible.

    Whereas, Protestants interpret the Scriptures. Create their own doctrines which may or may not agree with Scripture. And essentially live according to their own designs

    I’ll give you an example. When I first came back to the Church, there were several doctrines with which I disagreed. But I sucked it up and accepted them anyway.

    Protestants are never in that situation because they essentially make up their own religion. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  99. Comment

  100. De Maria,

    Confessional Protestants routinely believe and follow the teaching of their elders even when they do not understand or fully agree with it.

    Is there no condition under which you are allowed to disobey the Magisterium?

  101. ROBERT April 26, 2013 at 5:44 am
    De Maria,
    Confessional Protestants routinely believe and follow the teaching of their elders even when they do not understand or fully agree with it.

    I’ve never met any. In fact, I have posted this question perhaps a thousand times and never received an answer. Here’s the question:
    Scripture says:
    Hebrews 13:17
    Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

    To which leader of your church do you obey and submit? Even if it goes against your opinion.

    Is there no condition under which you are allowed to disobey the Magisterium?

    Why would I want to do that? The Church teaches the Wisdom of God? If I disobey the Church, I disobey God whom the Church represents on this earth.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  102. De Maria,

    As an example, I submitted to the elders of my church and the Westminster Confession of Faith on the matter of infant baptism long before I was convinced of it and, for a while, while I thought the evidence for it was weak at best.

    I would think you would not want to submit to the Roman Church when it has taught heresy, such as when Honorius was condemned for monothelitism.

  103. Hey Robert,
    I know you are well intended here, but have you read a Catholic account of the history of Honorius?
    Just google: “new advent pope honorius”
    The first one on the list give a decent account of that period.
    Peace,
    Mike

  104. Kenneth,

    … this raises a very deep and difficult issue for me. Once anyone accepts the existence of God and therefore the miraculous…. How can one make these types of judgment calls at all in a consistent manner? How do we distinguish the probability that a man named Moses split the red sea from the odds that there is such a thing as apostolic succession? Why is it just a basic obvious given that the bible is reliable but not Tradition?

    I agree with you about the difficulty. As I say in this post, it is extremely difficult to understand the Protestant’s (and especially the Protestant historian’s) complete incredulity about God possibly protecting the church from error when he believes in the miracles recorded in Scripture, particularly since the biblical miracles are way more miraculous. I mean, infallibility is only a negative miracle: it involves God keeping something from happening. This is way less remarkable than raising the dead or parting the Red Sea.

    Speaking from personal experience, what made the difference for me was whether the miracle was canonical. If it was, I’d believe it, despite disbelieving nearly identical miracles if their source was extra-canonical. A good example is the Assumption of Mary. I disbelieved it, partly because there was no corroborating evidence from the extant historical record which, I argued, there should have been if something that momentous actually occurred. But then if you look at the teaching of Jude that Michael and Satan disputed about the body of Moses, there is no independent Jewish records of that episode, and neither is there any non-canonical accounts of the resurrected saints walking around Jerusalem on Good Friday. So for me the operating assumption was that unless a God-breathed source reported a miracle, the report was probably false (but this stance was subtle and unrecognized by me at the time).

    … there are problem popes…. There are problem scriptures…. Yet we believe in spite of these issues and use apologetics to defend our stance. It seems to me that when we gaze outside of our own belief system we adopt the eyes of an atheist. How is it that a protestant is to honestly evaluate the evidence for apostolic succession and the papacy and say “nahhhh I just don’t think your claims are probable” when all the while believing in the miraculous!!!! I’m not sure how the two sides can honestly evaluate each other when points like this are raised? What are your thoughts?

    It all comes down, I think, to an openness of heart and mind, and a concomitant desire to believe or disbelieve something. As Mike Liccione has so masterfully shown in the Succession thread, Catholic claims about apostolic succession and Petrine primacy are plausible given the historical record, but not demonstrable. But then, neither is the resurrection (a miracle far more difficult to believe). But despite the independent evidence for the resurrection being more minimal than it is for AS, Protestants will embrace the former and ridicule the latter. This posture of skepticism the farthest thing in the world from unbiased, and seems to me to be first the seed of liberalism, and then of agnosticism.

  105. Jason,

    The incredulity arises not because we think God protecting the church from error is impossible but because there is no evidence in the apostolic witness that he promised to do that. It’s also from the reading of history. It’s not as if the bishops at Nicea stood up and said, “Get ready everybody, we are about to make an infallible pronouncement.”

  106. Robert,

    They didn’t need to. The Bishops knew they were guided by the Holy Spirit then as they do now.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  107. In Protestantism the Holy Scripture contained in the Old and New Testaments is the infallible rule for faith and practice.

    In RCism it’s the pope.

    Same principle (i.e. necessity of an infallible rule), different infallible rule.

  108. Robert,

    “Is there no condition under which you are allowed to disobey the Magisterium?”

    Yes, I can imagine situations where Catholics are allowed to disobey and follow their own conscience, but when it comes to faith and morals Catholics are not allowed to disobey.

  109. As I say in this post, it is extremely difficult to understand the Protestant’s (and especially the Protestant historian’s) complete incredulity about God possibly protecting the church from error when he believes in the miracles recorded in Scripture, particularly since the biblical miracles are way more miraculous.

    Even biblical infallibility Protestants have problems with miracles for which there is substantial counter evidence. For example the sun stopping in Joshua 10. The vast majority of miracle believing Protestants believe that had to be something other than the earth suddenly not rotating, because of the incredible forces that would have released on the planet. They believe Joshua’s battle was lit but that he misunderstood the source of the light. Similarly Matthew’s description of the resurrection with zombies and so forth. That’s very different than the resurrection for which even most atheists believe there is no counter evidence.

    The Catholic Church has a 2000 year of looking and acting very much like a human institution. Believing that it is protected from error when it has so obviously made so many errors requires fundamentally altering the definition of error or the very core definition of properties of things like morality or God. Believing the Catholic Church is meaningfully protected in matters of faith and morals requires believing truly horrific acts are morally perfect. That’s strong counter evidence.

  110. M. JAY BENNETT April 26, 2013 at 8:03 pm
    In Protestantism the Holy Scripture contained in the Old and New Testaments is the infallible rule for faith and practice.
    In RCism it’s the pope.
    Same principle (i.e. necessity of an infallible rule), different infallible rule.

    On the contrary. In Protestantism it is Sola Scriptura, as you describe. But that rule is not in Scripture. Thus you have a self-contradicting doctrine which says that the rule is Scripture. But Scripture does not say this.

    In Catholicism, we have three rules. Sacred Tradition which is the infallible basis of the New Testament and the fulfillment of the Old. And Sacred Scripture, which is the infallible exposition of Sacred Tradition. They are one and the same Word of God which is taught and explained by the infallible Catholic Church.

    So, we have three infallible rules. Whereas you have one and you have no infallible interpreter nor teacher to expound upon that infallible rule. Which, by the way, was brought to you by the infallible Catholic Church.

    So, in essence, all you really have is your own fallible, personal opinion.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  111. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    The Catholic Church has a 2000 year of looking and acting very much like a human institution. Believing that it is protected from error when it has so obviously made so many errors requires fundamentally altering the definition of error or the very core definition of properties of things like morality or God. Believing the Catholic Church is meaningfully protected in matters of faith and morals requires believing truly horrific acts are morally perfect. That’s strong counter evidence.

    Some people, when they see things through a post-Enlightenment, egalitarian, democratistic, libertinistic and individualistic lens, will see all kinds of things as ‘horrific’ and unconscionable offenses against the sacred cows of their ideological sensibilities. This would seem to show that both Protestants and Skeptics are children of the same god and would only end up reinforcing the substance of Jason’s blog post.

  112. Some people, when they see things through a post-Enlightenment, egalitarian, democratistic, libertinistic and individualistic lens, will see all kinds of things as ‘horrific’ and unconscionable offenses against the sacred cows of their ideological sensibilities. This would seem to show that both Protestants and Skeptics are children of the same god and would only end up reinforcing the substance of Jason’s blog post.

    I don’t think things ordering a genocide, the deliberate butchery of children was seen as moral by almost any society. It might be a nice excuse to argue that the church is moral it is just the modern world whose values are screwed up except that many of the most horrific acts were seen as terrible brutal awful acts at the time. The Reformers who were not post-Enlightenment, egalitarian, democratistic, libertinistic and individualistic and still saw the RCC as cruel.

  113. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    I don’t think things ordering a genocide, the deliberate butchery of children was seen as moral by almost any society. It might be a nice excuse to argue that the church is moral it is just the modern world whose values are screwed up except that many of the most horrific acts were seen as terrible brutal awful acts at the time. The Reformers who were not post-Enlightenment, egalitarian, democratistic, libertinistic and individualistic and still saw the RCC as cruel.

    I would say that the Reformers were the immediate precursors for the Enlightenment. ‘Birds of a feather’, one might say. Nick and I unpacked this a bit on the “And the Verdict Is…” thread, starting with my post on Mar 10th @ 11:56 am and pretty much ending with Nick’s on Mar 11th @ 12:34 pm.

    Besides, I never said that many of the accusations hurled at the Church is done by a modern world that is ‘morally-screwed up’ (though this is sometimes the case). But rather, that often, the modern world morally absolutizes something which is, instead, morally neutral. This is the essence of Ideological Absolutism, or “Ideolatry”.

    But back to point, this shared umbrage directed against violations of enlightened values shared by both Protestants and Skeptics seem to be yet another point of correspondences that underscores Jason’s thesis.

  114. Jason,

    thank you so much for taking time to reply to my question. You seem to agree with my earlier assertion that there seems to be no criteria by which we can evaluate and compare competing miracle claims… My problem is that if we can turn this on protestants…. Why can’t JWs and Mormons turn it on us? If I was attempting to evangelize a diest would there really be no way at all of establishing the probability of our miracles over another belief systems? This seems to me to be incredibly problematic. You said that earlier on you wouldn’t accept a miracle unless it was canonical…. I’m assuming that now you are accepting a multiplicity of miraculous claims as long as they are predominantly catholic or Christian in general? I wonder if that is a ridiculous and hypocritical way of looking at the world or all together proper? Kenneth Samples wrote a book on testing worldviews. He lists and discusses nine of these tests: coherence (logically consistent), balance (balanced between simplicity and complexity), explanatory power and scope, correspondence (agrees with well-attested facts and experience), verification (verifiable and/or falsifiable), pragmatic (practical, workable), existential (internally satisfying), cumulative (has multiple, converging lines of evidence), competitive competence (competes well with other views) would something like this be a prerequisite screen before any claim is considered? If we just admit that there is no proper way to distinguish our claims at all that is the first step toward agnosticism indeed!

  115. The foundation of Christian theology is expressed in the early ecumenical creeds which contain claims predominantly accepted by followers of the Christian faith. These professions state that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, and was subsequently resurrected from the dead in order to grant eternal life to those who believe in him and trust him for the remission of their sins…

    So long
    <http://www.caramoan.co

  116. The problem with that position, Ellis, is that it provides no principled reason why we should accept just those creeds as opposed to all of them or none of them.

  117. Jason,

    What is your principled reason for accepting some form of Christianity and not, say, Islam or Buddhism?

  118. De Maria,

    Based on that logic (the bishops knew they had the Holy Spirit), there would be no reason for Rome to define the scope of its infallibility. The bishops at Nicea knew they weren’t infallible.

  119. ROBERT April 28, 2013 at 10:36 am
    De Maria,
    Based on that logic (the bishops knew they had the Holy Spirit), there would be no reason for Rome to define the scope of its infallibility.

    That logic is flawed. The definition is for us, not for them.

    The bishops at Nicea knew they weren’t infallible.

    They knew that the Pope is infallible. And they knew that the Church united with the Pope is infallible. And they knew that they are part of that Church, which together with the Pope is infallible when teaching on matters of faith.

  120. De Maria,

    Where do the bishops at Nicea indicate that they or the pope was infallible?

  121. Robert,

    Where did they say that they weren’t?

  122. Hmm is anyone else encountering ?roblems ?ith the images ?n this blog loading?
    ?’m trying to figure out if its a ?roblem on my end ?r if it’s th?
    blog. Any feedback ?ould ?e greatly appreciated.

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