What “Difference” Does the “Vowel Make”?

Posted by on April 14, 2013 in Church Discipline, Ecclesiology, Evangelicalism, Featured, Federal Vision, Gospel, Keith Mathison, Protestantism, Reformed Theology, The PCA | 488 comments

As many of you surely know, the Reformed distinguish themselves from evangelicals on the issue of the relationship between Scripture and the church by highlighting the all-importance of a single vowel. “We are not like those Bible-only, no-creed-but-Christ evangelicals,” we hear. “On the contrary, we believe in the genuine authority of the church — but that authority is derivative and penultimate, always secondary to our only infallible source of revelation, namely Scripture.” In other words, the difference between the evangelical and Reformed position comes down to the difference between Solo  and SolScriptura: the former disregards ecclesiastical authority while the latter greatly respects it.

The objection that the Catholic raises at this point goes like this: “Sure, the Reformed position claims to respect church authority, but the minute those so-called authorities say something that departs from your interpretation of the Bible, you reject it. Therefore your eccleiastical authority is only a farce, a thin veneer of submission masking the exact same individualism you fault the evangelicals for.”

The Reformed completely reject this charge, of course. But given the response on the part of confessional-leaning Presbyterians to the highest court of the PCA’s refusal to find the teachings of Federal Visionist Peter Leithart to be out of accord with the Westminster Standards (which I think they clearly are), the rejection of the Catholic charge, and the supposed difference between Solo  and SolScriptura, begins to ring hollow.

For example, in response to Doug Wilson’s remarks on the PCA’s decision, my friend Lane Keister has recently written:

His point to the critics is that [we] should dial down the rhetoric against the FV because a court of the church has spoken. . . . Alas for Doug. . . this critic will certainly not dial down the rhetoric (although I try to avoid rhetoric, actually, preferring straight logic).

.

Even though a church court has spoken, that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it, nor does it mean that church court decisions are above criticism. Or will we start saying that Machen should just have stayed quiet and been a good boy? Not to mention Luther.

Lane’s reaction is perfectly understandable given his ecclesiology: only the Bible has infallible authority, and therefore the decisions of church courts are to be followed only when they conform to Scripture. When they do not, Scripture must trump the church.

My point is not to criticize Lane for inconsistency, but is rather to use his position to illustrate the validity of the Catholic charge that church authority within Protestantism, even if spoken of with humbly submissive rhetoric, is a mirage. My suspicion that I raised a few weeks ago has been confirmed (as I knew it would): the side that won in this dispute is saying, “The church has spoken, we are orthodox,” while the side that lost says, “Yes, but in this  instance the church got it wrong, so you’re still heretical.”

This is further illustrated by a comment in the thread cited, in which Tim Harris writes:

What makes the Leithart case interesting is that he is ordained in a true church. That is why the case was important.

.

The CREC is not a church. It does not have the ordination, thus it does not have the sacraments, thus it does not have the marks of a true church, hence it is not a church. When you see “CREC,” substitute “CROCK.”  Or, more charitably, “Starbucks Bible Fellowship.”

For the confessional Presbyterian, the reason the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches is “not a [true] church” is that its theology disagrees with the interpretation of the Bible espoused by confessional Presbyterians, and therefore CREC pastors are not truly ordained and thus “don’t have the sacraments.” But of course, this is completely circular: “Our view is that the marks of a true church include properly understanding the gospel [or, agreeing with our interpretation of the Bible concerning what the gospel is], and since the CREC falls short in this regard, it therefore fails to meet our criteria of what a true church must be.” But this is a perfect recipe — indeed a license — for anarchy and schism. Any fallible group of people can now gather together, decide what counts as a true church, and then dismiss from that category everyone else who disagrees with them.

This is why Sola Scriptura — even in its more churchly expressions — ultimately fails. As long as there’s some sincere, Bible-believing Christian who disagrees with the church on some issue, all that will result from an ecclesiastical decision on that issue (even from a church’s highest court) is a never-ending “yeah-huh!” / “nuh-uh!”, he said / she said dispute.

In fact, it’s not just that this may  be the result, it’s that it must  be, for the irresolvability of any theological controversy is built into the whole Protestant system from the get-go. So even if the proper formula is not Solo but Sola, the “A” at the end still stands for Anarchy.

 

488 Comments

  1. SS,
    I’m still reading through your posts above and trying to follow through everything you guys are touching on. Some of the stuff you are bumping into and the bits that seems to concern you are addressed and embraced with in the Church by Hebraic Catholics. Things like the continued election of the Jews even within the Church for a special purpose and witness to God’s faithfulness. Please check out some of the stuff on the Hebrew Catholic Associations site. I really think you would find it quite interesting. There is a good interview by David Moss, the president, with Archbishop Raymond Burke that delves into it all pretty decently. I know they have the youtube videos of it on their site and think they have it in written form somewhere on there. If you are interested.

    Here is the topics covered in the videos:

    The first question concerns the continuing election of Jewish people who are baptized and enter the Catholic Church.

    The second question concerns the collective nature of the election of Jewish people within the Catholic Church.

    The third question concerns the legitimacy of celebrating various traditions of our Jewish heritage, in the light of Christ, within the Church.

    The fourth question concerns the way in which we are to approach, interpret, and understand the historical documents of Sacred Tradition. Statements by Pope Eugenius IV and Pope Benedict XIV are contrasted.

    Another aspect of this question concerns the way in which we interpret the relation between the shadow in the Old Covenant and the reality in the New Covenant.

    The fifth question concerns the life of Hebrew Catholics in the Church today and Archbishop Burke’s counsel.

    Peace,
    Mike

  2. That estimate was shared by a Jewish believer (not a convert to catholicism or any protestant branch), I can’t recall exactly who, I believe it was the leader of a congregation. It could be that it refers to the number of them worldwide, included in US and Israel, but regardless, there are thousands upon thousands in the Holy Land today. Part of what makes the estimate hard to make is that they face strong opposition and persecution, so it’s difficult to conduct any sort of official count.

    As far as your barking up the wrong tree comment, not sure what you’re talking about there since I was referring to the theological import of Jewish believers proper (not converts to catholicism). I couldn’t care less about inter-marriage statistics since that has absolutely nothing to do with my argument. You are correct in pointing out the Vatican’s anti-semitic stance however, yet another motive of incredulity for me.

  3. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    So evidently I’m not going further than the Protestants, though I agree she definitely represents the leftmost 20% of chaplains and ministers…

    I’m talking about going further than the Protestants who usually argue on this board and who accept Incarnation as an irreducible axiom. Draw the circle wider and, like I said, “my point doesn’t even apply anymore”.

    CD-Host wrote:

    How is your argument about history and incarnation an argument for…

    There is no rational argument for Catholic Faith. The Catholic Church is Her own Justification. You either believe, or… you don’t.

    CD-Host wrote:

    Your argument provides both
    justification for the Catholic view of apostolic succession
    and
    motive for the 2nd and 3rd century church fathers exaggerating / lying… about apostolic succession
    I don’t see how you think you can have the one without the other.

    Since you seem to be framing this within in the Sphere of Nature (Natural Faith/Motives of Credibility), then yep, you’re right. No argument there. It can cut both ways. One has to make a decision.

    And if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

  4. MichaelTX,

    I encourage you to take the time to watch this video despite its length and the translation going on:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vurLRBPXOrI

  5. There is no rational argument for Catholic Faith. The Catholic Church is Her own Justification. You either believe, or… you don’t.

    Correct, 100% fideism. I don’t know why your apologists bother with motives of credibility at all.

  6. Thanks SS. Will do.

  7. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    There is no rational argument for Catholic Faith. The Catholic Church is Her own Justification. You either believe, or… you don’t.

    SS wrote:
    .
    Correct, 100% fideism. I don’t know why your apologists bother with motives of credibility at all.

    Earlier in this very thread, Wosbald, speaking to SS, wrote:

    And Catholics hold to a “relation without a conflation” of Nature and Faith, so our position is clear: We can speak from Nature without porting Faith into the conversation.

    So, really, the question is… Where do you stand in regards to this issue? Have you ever even thought about it?

  8. And Catholics hold to a “relation without a conflation” of Nature and Faith, so our position is clear: We can speak from Nature without porting Faith into the conversation.

    There is no rational argument for Catholic Faith. The Catholic Church is Her own Justification. You either believe, or… you don’t.

    Clear as mud. So you were for the MOC before you were against them?

  9. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    And Catholics hold to a “relation without a conflation” of Nature and Faith, so our position is clear: We can speak from Nature without porting Faith into the conversation.
    .
    There is no rational argument for Catholic Faith. The Catholic Church is Her own Justification. You either believe, or… you don’t.

    SS wrote:
    .
    Clear as mud. So you were for the MOC before you were against them?

    I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.

  10. You a teacher? Thanks for the laugh.

  11. SS,

    “Did God ordain that we repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins? Yes, absolutely, I do believe in baptismal regeneration. Does that therefore imply that He has always operated in that precise manner? No, it doesn’t have to. God makes the rules and He side steps the rules when He needs to. So while, I full endorse baptismal regeneration as the pattern of salvation, I don’t deny that there are exceptions to that ordis salutis.”

    Agree with by this Catholic and my instructions of the faith. One thing to consider when hearing the Church speak on this is that She assumes you are hearing Her, therefore will say what was you said “believe and be baptized,” not if you don’t hear me you might be saved. Quite frankly why would anyone speak to does not hear, but only instruct those who do.
    Still following and trying to catch up.
    Peace,
    Mike

    “the hidden things belong to the Lord.”

  12. Someday I’ll learn to put the words in my head down while I write guys. Hope you understand.
    Sorry,
    Mike

  13. SS,

    Please refraining from being rude and using insults. Thank you.

  14. Jason,

    I don’t see how questioning someone’s claim to be a teacher to a ‘boy’ is an insult.

    Would you like to be told that you, a boy, have no patience and cannot be taught?

    SS.

  15. He was quoting Yoda, it was funny. But then you said that the idea of him teaching you is “a laugh.” That is insulting on purpose, whereas his comment may have been misunderstood as an insult because you didn’t get the reference.

    Let’s all just try to be charitable and treat one another as though there are actual people behind these avatars.

  16. @Wosbald

    There is no rational argument for Catholic Faith. The Catholic Church is Her own Justification. You either believe, or… you don’t.

    Hmmm odd position for an apologist. But OK nothing to argue with there.

    ———–

    @SS

    That estimate was shared by a Jewish believer (not a convert to catholicism or any protestant branch), I can’t recall exactly who, I believe it was the leader of a congregation. It could be that it refers to the number of them worldwide, included in US and Israel, but regardless, there are thousands upon thousands in the Holy Land today.

    100k in the USA seems plausible. But lets remember that’s mainly people with little or no biological Jewish connection crossing over from other forms of Charismatic Evangelical Christianity.

    Part of what makes the estimate hard to make is that they face strong opposition and persecution, so it’s difficult to conduct any sort of official count.

    They fact mild opposition and little persecution. A few signs hit by rocks over the last decade. An office burned down with no one in it, about 4 years ago. Some restrictions on immigration. Don’t get me wrong their are certainly key elements in the Israeli government that would like to up the persecution level but Messianic Judaism (AoG Christians mainly living in Israel) are a key part of the the alliance between Israel and the American Evangelical Community.

    The reason AoG doesn’t want good statistics pretty much always show the same result.

    Messianic Judaism is popular among people with little to no Jewish connection who enjoy AoG style Protestantism with a bit of Jewish flavor. And they like to claim to be something more than just AoG churches with an innovative liturgical style.

    It is secondary popular with intermarried families who have a biological Jewish connection but little religious connection. That would include recent immigrants from Russia some of whom religiously Christian, married nominal Jews but politically identify with Nationalistic Zionism.

    As far as your barking up the wrong tree comment, not sure what you’re talking about there since I was referring to the theological import of Jewish believers proper (not converts to catholicism).

    What exactly do you mean by “Jewish believers proper”? How would you define that?

    I couldn’t care less about inter-marriage statistics since that has absolutely nothing to do with my argument.

    Intermarriage has everything to do with conversion in practice. People mentally draw circles about religions that are within the scope they would consider. For most religions that are more than a generation or two old the way they get converts outside those circles is by getting married and having kids with people from other faith groups. So Catholics don’t (and again I’m talking in terms of hundreds of thousands not individuals) directly convert to Protestantism. Rather Catholics start to lose their affection for the church, intermarry and then convert. Jews are much more extreme than Catholics. They have great retention as far as a vanishingly small number that agree to be baptized. Jews have only so-so retention in terms of passing their faith on between generations. So any sort of Jewish mission that is looking for meaningful numbers is mainly going to be focused on getting intermarried Jews to raise their children as Christians, and keeping 1/2 Jewish kids inside Christianity.

    The AoG approach fulfills that need. My point is that Catholic / Jewish marriage is much more common than Charismatic Evangelical / Jewish marriage so the Catholics have a larger problem.

    I don’t know what your background is. I can understand you thinking this is perhaps dismissive and unfair to treat Messianic Judaism as nothing more than an interfaith form of AoG Christianity. I’m not trying to be dismissive. I’m just trying to create a level playing field where we don’t call converts (and especially non-converts) to Charismatic Evangelical Christianity “Jewish Believers” while ignoring the far more common Jews who attend Catholic Churches with their baptized children that they have agreed to help in raising Catholic.

    I really do believe that the AoG approach may in some senses be healthier for dealign with intermarriage issues. That being said I think most of what the AoG accomplishes could be accomplished by the RCC by having the USCCB set up a formal umbrella to share information between these various informal groups. A Catholic form of Messianic Judaism, could be nothing more than a Catholic community of practice which attempts to replicate some of the things Jews miss about Judaism. Many of the AoG issues like dietary cultures wouldn’t apply: Jews and Catholics have similar dietary culture. On other issues like sexuality I suspect the differences between their upbringings leave them miles apart and having access to a parachurch organization within the RCC with better insight could be helpful.

    But I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion.

    You are correct in pointing out the Vatican’s anti-semitic stance however, yet another motive of incredulity for me.

    Yeah. The Vatican is terrible on Israel.

  17. The charitable thing to do is not to assume that whoever you are speaking to shares your Star Wars proclivities. This would ensure that what you say doesn’t get misinterpreted especially given that this is a written forum only.

    Anything can be said in the form of a joke and I stand by what I said earlier, there was nothing insulting in my comment.

  18. They fact mild opposition and little persecution. A few signs hit by rocks over the last decade

    Have you lived in Israel as a Jewish believer? Their testimony is far graver than yours.

    What exactly do you mean by “Jewish believers proper”? How would you define that?

    Jewish believers who fit this description in Acts 21:

    “20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.”

    I’m not trying to be dismissive. I’m just trying to create a level playing field where we don’t call converts (and especially non-converts) to Charismatic Evangelical Christianity “Jewish Believers” while ignoring the far more common Jews who attend Catholic Churches with their baptized children that they have agreed to help in raising Catholic.

    Your desire to level the playing field is irrelevant to my argument, which has nothing to do with converts to catholicism or protestantism.

    Here’s a video to get you started:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vurLRBPXOrI&list=UU_5oKqHYoacR3QKim9M6JNw&index=2

  19. SS,
    I found a pdf with that interview and some other stuff in it that I think you would find quite relevant to your concerns. I’m about half way through your video. Here is the link.
    Thanks,
    Mike

    http://hebrewca.ipower.com/files/YouShallBeMyWitnesses.pdf

  20. MichaelTX,

    With all due respect to Michael Feingold and Hebrew Catholics, if their goal is to eliminate anti-semitism from the church (their words, not mine), being part of the Catholic Church is not the way to do it.

    Joseph Shulam’s words ring much more authentic to me, and they have basis in the history of the earliest church.

    SS.

  21. meant Lawrence Feingold, not Michael.

  22. SS,
    If it’s not the visibly unified manifestation of the baptised Christian people, I’d say you are right. If there is any chance it is, I’d say you are quite wrong and if possible true quite worth doing some reading of some Jewish converts into the Church to understand what they have come to see. I’m just passing along things that have help me understand those whom I did not understand before.
    Peace,
    Mike

  23. People, let’s regain our focus. This thread is not about the Catholic Church’s history with the Jews (in fact, it’s not about the Catholic Church at all). It is frustrating when I try to address a deficiency in Protestantism, and within a few days we’re talking about purgatory, Marian dogmas, and the evils of the papacy.

    Here is the question: Do you Protestants prefer to admit that you have no principled way to avoid the Sola/Solo collapse and employ the Tu Quoque in response? Or, would you rather argue that you can in fact avoid the claims I am making by providing a principled way to do so?

    It sure seems like the answer is the former, which I find understandable but quite tragic. But if the answer is the latter, then would someone please make that case?

  24. +JMJ+

    Jason Stellman wrote:

    People, let’s regain our focus. This thread is not about the Catholic Church’s history with the Jews (in fact, it’s not about the Catholic Church at all). It is frustrating when I try to address a deficiency in Protestantism, and within a few days we’re talking about purgatory, Marian dogmas, and the evils of the papacy.
    Here is the question: Do you Protestants prefer to admit that you have no principled way to avoid the Sola/Solo collapse and employ the Tu Quoque in response? Or, would you rather argue that you can in fact avoid the claims I am making by providing a principled way to do so?
    It sure seems like the answer is the former, which I find understandable but quite tragic. But if the answer is the latter, then would someone please make that case?

    Cue Lesbian Pagans in 3… 2… 1…

  25. Do you Protestants prefer to admit that you have no principled way to avoid the Sola/Solo collapse and employ the Tu Quoque in response?

    Why would you expect every Protestant to feel it necessary to defend Michael Horton’s book and his theory. Even Michael Horton himself has responded by indicating CtC is misrepresenting his position. That the sola and solo distinction is ultimately meant to be reducible a question of degree. 2x in this thread, I gave the degree issue as the “principled way” to avoid this collapse. Andrew has given an excellent OT argument that sola vs. solo is not meant to be uncollapsable. A few other Protestants have made similar claims. And the 1/2 dozen threads on CtC are filled with other Protestants making the same assertion.

    This is a weird CtC apologetic. CtC is asserting that Protestants must believe in a doctrine they deny, a doctrine that is part of Catholicism. In particular the existence of an church capable of creating pronouncements which infallibly command the conscience. Let’s call this doctrine “CtC-Sola Scriptura”. CtC then make an accurate argument that the creedal Protestant position (“Protestant sola-scriptura”) is ultimately reducible to another position (solo scriptura). When Protestants sola-scriptura believers are presented with solo-scirpture they assert their position differs in degree not in kind.

    Or, would you rather argue that you can in fact avoid the claims I am making by providing a principled way to do so?

    Generally in apologetics the goal is to address arguments your opponents are actually making. No one needs to offer a principled way to avoid something they agree with. You keep demanding that Protestants defend a theological position they deny. They guy who wrote the book from which you got the position took the time to respond several times and denied he holds the position you are attributing to him. Protestants are uniform in believing that ultimately you as an individual are answerable to God for your theology. The elect choose a theology close enough, the unelected may or may not.

    Tu queque is an argument that even if one needed Catholic sola-scriptura the Catholic church doesn’t possess it. It isn’t irrelevant at all. Tu Queque kills the argument that Protestant sola-scriptura is equivalent to solo scriptura dead in the water. If no church has a feature there is no point arguing about it. Like a theological argument that says that to be saved one needs to join a church that will give him the ability to flap his arms fly to the moon. Arm flapping certainly isn’t a good reason for joining the Methodist church.

  26. CDH,

    I wrote, “Do you Protestants prefer to admit that you have no principled way to avoid the Sola/Solo collapse and employ the Tu Quoque in response?” You responded:

    Why would you expect every Protestant to feel it necessary to defend Michael Horton’s book and his theory. Even Michael Horton himself has responded by indicating CtC is misrepresenting his position.

    I have no idea what you’re talking about here. I don’t know what “book” or “theory” you are referring to, or why you bring up Mike Horton. How is another blog’s alleged misrepresentation of another person’s position—a position that I didn’t even invoke—relevant to this discussion? Please try to keep focused.

    That the sola and solo distinction is ultimately meant to be reducible a question of degree. 2x in this thread, I gave the degree issue as the “principled way” to avoid this collapse. Andrew has given an excellent OT argument that sola vs. solo is not meant to be uncollapsable. A few other Protestants have made similar claims. And the 1/2 dozen threads on CtC are filled with other Protestants making the same assertion.

    I am sorry, but I am just having a really hard time understanding you. Your first sentence is not a complete sentence, and then you go on to say that it’s possible to “avoid the collapse” between Solo and Sola, but immediately afterward you say that Andrew has provided an argument “that Sola vs. Solo is not meant to be uncollapsable.” I am guessing there’s a typo in there somewhere, but could you just explain “the degree issue” you refer to, or point me to the comment where you unpack this? Because I have spoken with Horton at length about this issue, I have read Mathison’s book, and I have read all the threads on CTC that deal with this, and I don’t recall ever hearing anything about this being “a degree issue.”

    This is a weird CtC apologetic. CtC is asserting that Protestants must believe in a doctrine they deny, a doctrine that is part of Catholicism. In particular the existence of an church capable of creating pronouncements which infallibly command the conscience. Let’s call this doctrine “CtC-Sola Scriptura”. CtC then make an accurate argument that the creedal Protestant position (“Protestant sola-scriptura”) is ultimately reducible to another position (solo scriptura). When Protestants sola-scriptura believers are presented with solo-scirpture they assert their position differs in degree not in kind.

    Again, I can’t make heads or tails of this. I am sorry, I read this 3 times and I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

    I wrote, “Or, would you rather argue that you can in fact avoid the claims I am making by providing a principled way to do so?” You responded:

    Generally in apologetics the goal is to address arguments your opponents are actually making. No one needs to offer a principled way to avoid something they agree with. You keep demanding that Protestants defend a theological position they deny. They guy who wrote the book from which you got the position took the time to respond several times and denied he holds the position you are attributing to him. Protestants are uniform in believing that ultimately you as an individual are answerable to God for your theology. The elect choose a theology close enough, the unelected may or may not.

    You do realize this blog and CTC are two different blogs, right? Because you seem to think that Keith’s allegation that Bryan Cross misrepresented him is relevant to this post. But it’s really not.

    And I am “addressing arguments my opponent is actually making.” Mathison’s argument is that traditional Protestantism (T1) differs from evangelicalism (T0) in that the latter disregards the church and its pronouncements, while the former does not, but takes them very seriously. My argument is that T1 simply devolves into T0 the moment the church teaches something that contradicts the Reformed Protestant’s interpretation of the Bible. Lane’s example illustrates this perfectly. So I have no idea what you mean when you say that I “keep demanding that Protestants defend a theological position they deny.” I am showing the philosophical and practical non-difference between what they say they believe, and what they say they deny.

    Tu queque is an argument that even if one needed Catholic sola-scriptura the Catholic church doesn’t possess it. It isn’t irrelevant at all. Tu Queque kills the argument that Protestant sola-scriptura is equivalent to solo scriptura dead in the water. If no church has a feature there is no point arguing about it. Like a theological argument that says that to be saved one needs to join a church that will give him the ability to flap his arms fly to the moon. Arm flapping certainly isn’t a good reason for joining the Methodist church.

    I don’t think you understand what is meant by the TQ. You claim it “kills the argument that Protestant sola-scriptura is equivalent to solo scriptura dead in the water,” but it is not even intended by Protestants to do that (!). It is employed to say, “Yes, you’re right, we do ultimately follow our own interpretation of the Bible, but so do you.” It’s an admission, followed by a reason why it doesn’t really matter. I would suggest reading the Tu Quoque article I linked to above in order to understand the issues a bit better.

  27. Jason–

    It doesn’t seem to me as if you’ve engaged any of the arguments given.

    1. The OT church had an inspired text (and even an inspired oral tradition, in part, revelation supposedly spoken directly to Moses), but it had no infallible magisterium to protect the interpretation of these revelations. Seemingly, God prefers to use his own Spirit through divinely-appointed prophets and the like, instead of hierarchical institutions, to protect the accuracy of his message.

    2. For at least the first couple of hundred years of the Early Church, their was no infallible magisterium to call upon. Did God leave these unfortunate believers without recourse until he could establish the appropriate mechanism within the church?

    3. The Early Church was not at all monolithic but divided into various communities (Johannine, Petrine, Thomasine, Andrean, Markan, etc.)

    4. There’s no convincing evidence of an unbroken apostolic succession.

    I realize these fall mainly under the heading of “tu quoque,” but the basic Protestant position is that there is no principled way for anyone whatever to reach the kind of epistemic certainty the Catholics are claiming for themselves. You have not even begun to convince us that your claims for “apostolic succession” are true. And even if true, in what would the means of protection consist? How can extremely fallible, even horribly corrupt, officials safeguard the faith? You must be positing some sort of mystical, magical means whereby God safeguards dogma in spite of official faithlessness. You seem to be living in an epistemic fairyland. We believe God protects his message through the faithful church. This involves a modicum of invisibility and messiness, but it is at least as principled and as certain as the Roman Church actually is (in contradistinction to her ideals).

    You said:

    “My argument is that T1 simply devolves into T0 the moment the church teaches something that contradicts the Reformed Protestant’s interpretation of the Bible.”

    And that is true for individuals who strike out on their own, but it is not true for anyone who remains true to the confessions. For many, if not most, Reformed Protestants, nothing at all (or very nearly nothing) in their own personal interpretations contradicts their church’s confessional teachings. And your statement assumes that a Reformed church would start teaching something new all of a sudden, which is anathema in Reformed circles. I’m guessing you meant to say that T1 devolves to T0 whenever an individual’s theological convictions change and brings him or her into contention with the confession of their current church. In point of fact, every individual’s convictions are mostly based on sola voluntas though sola ecclesia or sola scriptura may be involved in the decision. Only churches can hold to anything near a pure sense of sola scriptura or even solo scriptura , for that matter.

  28. @Jason April 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    I have no idea what you’re talking about here. I don’t know what “book” or “theory” you are referring to, or why you bring up Mike Horton.

    Because Keith Mathison is the originator of this entire theme. He’s the one who who wrote the book The Shape of Sola Scriptura. The quote:

    The Latin slogan [sola Scriptura] means “by Scripture alone,” not “Scripture alone” (solo Scriptura). For example, both Lutheran and Reformed churches regard the ecumenical creeds, along with their own confessions and catechisms, as authoritative and binding summaries of Scripture, to which they are all subordinate.

    came from Keith Mathison. BTW notice even in his version the creeds are of subordinate authority, merely summaries. Nothing more than as a perfect or almost perfect set of lecture notes.

    then you go on to say that it’s possible to “avoid the collapse” between Solo and Sola … but could you just explain “the degree issue” you refer to, or point me to the comment where you unpack this

    On this thread my April 15, 2013 at 8:59 am and April 16, 2013 at 11:36 am

    but immediately afterward you say that Andrew has provided an argument “that Sola vs. Solo is not meant to be uncollapsable.”

    That’s two separate pieces of evidence. You were arguing that Protestants were failing to defend their doctrine of an absolute separation. Andrew is a Protestant. Andrew doesn’t believe there is an absolute separation. Hence the idea of an absolute sola/solo separation ain’t Andrew’s doctrine. And that’s a piece of evidence towards it not being true of Protestants in general.

    The point is simple. You are asserting a Protestant doctrine that Protestants don’t believe in.

    CD-Host This is a weird CtC apologetic. CtC is asserting that Protestants must believe in a doctrine they deny, a doctrine that is part of Catholicism. In particular the existence of an church capable of creating pronouncements which infallibly command the conscience. Let’s call this doctrine “CtC-Sola Scriptura”.

    Jason: Again, I can’t make heads or tails of this. I am sorry, I read this 3 times and I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

    Let’s try it by getting a bit more specific. What is a creed?

    1-Restorationist: An abomination in God’s sight. A corruption of the bible that has the form of godliness while denying the gospel. The first step of apostasy

    2-Pentecostal/Adventist: A summary that can be helpful for instruction. But it should be used with care since since dogmatic summaries often undermines the bible and the gifts of the spirit.

    3-Evangelical: Statements of belief and summaries of scripture that are reversible in light of new discoveries from scripture.

    4-Confessional: Creeds are statements of belief by churches binding on their members.

    5-Creedal: Creeds are statements of belief which are absolutely true statements about God, and thus binding on all humankind.

    Let’s assume you accept those 5 definitions as 5 points of view on the nature of a creed. There is an obvious continuum there. There is distance between a (1) and a (2), a (2) and a (3) but it isn’t absolute. One could be a member of a (3) church and hold a (2) or (4) position but probably not a (1) or (5) position.

    What is CtC is asserting in effect is because the above is a continuum it is impossible to make any meaningful distinction. By way of analogy, there is continuum in weight. That continuum of weight doesn’t mean there is not a difference between a 6 tall man who is emaciated at 100 lbs and one who is grossly obese at 400 lbs. There is no principled point along the continuum between 100 and 400 lbs, 237 is not a sudden breaking point which no one ever crosses. But not having a principled point doesn’t mean there isn’t a meaningful difference between emaciated and grossly obese. Most Protestants reject both (1) and (5). They don’t see their rejection of (1) as an assertion of (5) nor do they see their rejection of (5) as an assertion of (1). What they have never asserted is that there must be some principled difference between there position and along this continuum and those of other Protestants. That’s an assertion from the CtC crowd not a Protestant position.

    Protestants are perfectly OK with being on a continuum of understanding. They know there are some Protestants who take a more creedal position than they do, and others who take a less credal position than they do.

    Mathison’s argument is that traditional Protestantism (T1) differs from evangelicalism (T0) in that the latter disregards the church and its pronouncements, while the former does not, but takes them very seriously.

    Evangelicals don’t disregard the church but they do take its pronouncements less seriously than traditional Protestantism. There is a difference between less and none at all. Mathison is concerned that Evangelicals don’t treat the church’s creeds with enough authority, Mathison is likely a 4 or so on the scale trying to get the 3’s to side with him in disputes over the 2s. The same way that Obama tried to get moderates to side with him on tax policy over Romney. The existence of moderates and intermediate points between Obama and Romney’s tax policy doesn’t mean there is no difference between them.

    The argument you are making about Evangelical attitudes is contradicted by the very fact of Mathison’s argument, it is self defeating. If Evangelicals disregarded the church entirely, why would they care what Mathison had to say at all about what sola scriptura originally meant to Luther? The only reason his argument has any possibility to be persuasive is because Evangelicals don’t disregard the church and church history.

    Let’s also be clear Mathison when push comes to shove argues for dialogue and discussion not absolute authority:

    The fact of the matter is that people who believe equally in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture sometimes disagree in their interpretation of some parts of that Scripture. We know God’s Word is not wrong, but we might be. God is infallible; we are not. We are not free from sin and ignorance yet. We still see through a glass darkly. In hermeneutical and theological disputes, we need to make an exegetical case, and we need to examine the case of those who disagree with us.

    So Mathison is rejecting the authority position and is more in-tune with Evangelicals than Catholics.

    CD: Tu queque is an argument that even if one needed Catholic sola-scriptura [a form of bible reading completely off the continuum above with a principled difference between itself and the 3’s] the Catholic church doesn’t possess it.

    jason You claim it “kills the argument that Protestant sola-scriptura is equivalent to solo scriptura dead in the water,”…. I would suggest reading the Tu Quoque article I linked to above in order to understand the issues a bit better.

    I understand the article fine. I’m disagreeing with you that a lack of a principled difference is a lack of a difference.

  29. Jason–

    Sorry. I don’t know where my head was. You were hearkening back to your opening article in referring to Lane, who announced his intention to rebel against the Leithart verdict. Just wanted to ask how that was relevant to anything we have been discussing.

    Lane is not rebelling against the WCF in any way, shape, or form. He, I am sure, has never made a vow to agree with every verdict of PCA courts. Though they may have exonerated Mr. Leithart, that need not be seen as advocacy of FV theology. Personally, I think this is an intramural squabble. FV does not deviate enough to be officially censured. Neither does it comply clearly enough to be above criticism. As it develops, we shall see in which direction it heads. If Lane is correct, it will show its true colors soon enough and come under official reprimand. If it reigns itself in, Lane himself may be there to extend his hand and welcome them back in.

    You yourself happen to think this one was a slam dunk. Well, bully for you. I happen to think it was a gray area. They should be subject to criticism, but they should not be definitively and officially chastised, at least not yet. Sola scriptura is alive and well and working just fine in the PCA!

  30. CDH and others who are outside of the communion I am in,

    I’ll try and lay out some of my concerns and problems I see with the “degree differnce” that is being presented, as I understand you to be sayings CDH. Please correct me if I’ve missunderstood you.

    I agree that a reformed sola scripture view within the context of a functioning body which is assumed to be an Christ pleasing assembly that functions using Biblical church discipline to be far above the solo scriptura idea of “me and Jesus and my Bible” type of Christianity. If that is your basic premise CDH, I agree with you and think Jason would too.

    Here is my problems and I’m not high on philisophical terms or ideas. I just try my best to understand with what makes sense to me.
    So many of us are in separated communions who are discussion here. We are also basically in agreement that we are baptised into Christ by faith and we are be baptized. So, we agree there is one baptize of us all into Christ’s death and ressurrection, but any body here who in separated from communion with me as a Catholic would seem to be saying I should not be in this communion. Which makes perfect sense to me if I were to believed that the Catholic communion claimed false authority or could we say unbiblical authority. Here in lies my fundamental problem. I was not born in a communion or a local church family. I had to choose one. What I see in front, like the Bereans, is the scriptures and my love of Christ who loved me and gave Himself up for me and Paul who calls me not to forsake gathering of ourselves and Peter who calls me to believe and be baptized.
    So, as one who wishes to believe and be faithful and wishes to know I’ll be baptized properly as commanded by those sent by Christ to baptise and be in a true Christian communion; all I can do is funtion under the lesser “solo scripture” position. So, If the protestant communions say to not be in communion with the false prophet of Rome and the Catholic communion says join our communion for we have never rejected the continual chain of those who were ordained leaders in the Church by the Apostles which the Bereans accepted, as sent by God in Christ, after they searched the scriptures, like I recommend we all do; who do I accept? Those who say “In the beginning God created the” Church and we are called “by water and the Spirit” to join it and the gates of hell will never destroy this “new creation” in Christ and we continue to partake “of the cup New Covenant in My Blood”and we “do this in remebrance of Me” or should I join one of the communions who say the promises of God are to hard to figure out with all the bad xyz and know which communion is the best and we must just do our best and hope the promises of God work in the communion who fits best with what I can “solo scripture” figure out?

    We have the scriptures, so we all start out basically “solo”.

    And the Lord God said that it was not good that the man should be alone.
    For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall be one flesh. What God has joined together let not man separate.

    I’ll live by the until death do us part as I choose my bride, Christ’s bride, the body of Christ.

    This is my problem guys and I don’t think it is a bad problem, just a hard one.

    God made man in His own image. We are to be conformed to Christ.

  31. Here is the question: Do you Protestants prefer to admit that you have no principled way to avoid the Sola/Solo collapse and employ the Tu Quoque in response? Or, would you rather argue that you can in fact avoid the claims I am making by providing a principled way to do so?

    Please let me point out that I did present you with a principled distinction between sola and solo (see my April 15, 2013, 5:35 am response). But of course it was using Keith Mathison’s definition of solo scriptura. And since it was Mathison’s buddy who coined the term, and it was the term that Mathison used in his definitive text on sola scriptura that Bryan was responding to in his orignical post, I think it’s fair to ask you to use the term in the same way. And I did provide a principled distinction, and I don’t believe you responded to this. Please show me if you did.

    But as noted earlier, you (and Bryan in his original article) are not speaking of the same thing when you use the term “solo scriptura” as Mathison does. You are speaking of the assessment of Scripture by the individual. And yes again, I agree with you and Bryan that we can’t escape this subjective evaluation of Scripture by an appeal to sola scriptura. And again, the only real question that remains is whether the Catholic position has presented us a true alternative where there is any less of an objective assessment. And so yes, we are employing the “tu quoque” response, to use your and Bryan’s term. But if you can’t provide any evidence that the Roman Catholic response is any less subjective than the Reformed one then the “tu quoque” is valid. So far you have not provided such evidence that I can see.

    I put tu quoque in italics because I think the way Bryan uses the term creates more confusion than clarity. I pointed this out to Bryan some years ago but to no avail.

  32. Jason – Correction in the fourth sentence of the third paragraph above: It should be:

    And again, the only real question that remains is whether the Catholic position has presented us a true alternative where there is any less of a subjective assessment.

  33. @MICHAELTX April 19, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    I think there are two different issues:

    a) Is there a meaningful difference between Creedal / Confessional christianity and me and my bible?

    b) Is there an easy way to pick a church based on doctrine?

    Just to prove they are two different issues. Assume (a) were “yes”. That still doesn’t answer the question whether you should be in a creedal / confessional church or in solo scriptura church. The only thing it does is make the problem worse.

    Now getting on to the separation. Part of the problem with the whole CtC apologetic is that it exists in a fantasy world of a Protestantism that doesn’t exist a sort of hybrid of situations between the real world and a make pretend world where Protestant and conservative Reformed can be identified. In America conservative Protestants are 1/4 of the population and conservative Presbyterians are 1/90th of conservative Protestants. What actually exists are the believers in solo scriptura.

    And in terms of the separation the vast bulk of the conservative Protestants (which is still not all the Protestants) believe strongly in the local church. They conferences of churches, they have organizations that offer some level of cooperation and they have parachurch organization that provide broad based services, but they don’t meaningfully have denominations.

    Individual believers exist and those individual believers receive help on their spiritual journey by local churches and their brothers and sisters in Christ that they generally join in membership. But their earthly church has little tie at all to the invisible church of God’s elected. Which church belong to is not a decision that has massive effect on their eternal fate.

    When I was an Evangelical I wouldn’t consider you to be baptized and I would considering you to be weekly engaging in idolatry in church. That being said I would have still considered you a Christian and would have welcomed you to our communion. Most Conservative Protestants want to be in communion with most Protestants and with Catholics.

    On the Catholic side of the fence there Catholics now find themselves in an interesting situation where the majority of Protestant churches no longer make any claims about their churches that wouldn’t hold true for a lay ministry inside the Catholic church. The Catholic magisterium could consider these churches to be lay ministries inside the Catholic paradigm and engage with them that way. That’s a psychological change on their part. The RCC today doesn’t seem to be terribly bothered with a membership that disagrees with the hierarchy on most issues. And Latin American Protestants seem to view themselves that way, using the Catholic church for baptism (recording of births), a few masses and wedding while using the Protestant churches for their week to week attendance.

    Now on the liberal side, the conservatives have mostly left. Which means the grandchildren of the believers in the global peace movement exist. Those churches do have denominations in the formal sense but are tearing down walls between them all the time aggressively. It is the Catholics not the bulk of Protestants who want a closed table. Orthodox churches are in the NCC, the Catholic church could be a full member anytime they wanted.

    In other words if you find the situation as CtC paints it troubling just remember the situation they paint has little correlation with the reality of the world. It is sort of a theoretical fantasy.

  34. +JMJ+

    What’s interesting is that the Protestants (and CD-Host) keep shifting the language back to creedal/confessional grounds. Framed in this way, under a nominalist ground-rule shared by Protestants and other Moderns, the RCC will always succumb to the Tu Quoque.

    Built into this ground-rule is the implicit denial of Sacramentalism. Without ex opere operato Sacramentalism, there is no way that the RCC can be an Incarnational Reality: a Christic Reality. A union of Heaven and Earth, simultaneously visible and invisible. In lieu of this, the RCC becomes just another voluntary human association or institution. Without Sacramentalism, there is no real, 1;1, ontological Christic Identity to the Church.

    So really, the way that the Protestants are framing the Tu Quoque is as such: “Your human associations, too, have no Christic Identity, just like ours don’t. There’s no such thing as operatively efficacious Sacraments. Our human associations/churches, unless they are populated with individuals having an invisible Christic Identity, are no different, considered from God’s POV, than are the Elks Lodge or VFW. You guys are in the same boat as us; you just give yourselves fancier titles and finer robes.”

    Of course, the foregoing has no bearing on CD-Host, as he sure doesn’t seem to care one way or the other about ‘Christic Realities’, be they either Incarno-Sacramental or ineffably invisible and spiritual. I imagine that he sees all men as being in the same boat, except that those who associate under the name ‘Christian’ just spend their time stoking a tortured historical record of a long-dead man and uselessly debating about the nature of their personal identification with him.

  35. CDH,

    “Individual believers exist and those individual believers receive help on their spiritual journey by local churches and their brothers and sisters in Christ that they generally join in membership.”

    Your words here, “generally join in membership” is what I don’t see as a fullfilment what the scriptures call a believer to do. There for I would not be acting in the faith I am called to. Here is my wording which I believe to be the exhortations of scripture to the faithful. “Paul who calls me not to forsake the gathering of ourselves and Peter who calls me to believe and be baptized,” and the Apostles being sent by Christ to go out baptizing and telling the good news of reconciliation with God through Christ and to “do this in remembrance of Me,” and then I here Paul again in the letter to the Corinthians to “discern the body of Christ” lest I drink condemnation upon myself, which I see scripturally applying to both the gathered communion body of Christ(God’s elect) and the distributed communion(Christ’s body).

    “We who are many from one body, for we partake of the one Loaf.”

    I just do not hear the voice of Christ in basically any reformed or Protestand communion saying what I believe I would hear from the confident, cherished Bride of Christ who would birth Him His children(words like Christ) into the world.

    “Come unto me,” would be the fruit of this Bride,”I am the Vine,” would be the fruit of this Bride,”I am the Door,” would be the fruit of this Bride, “believe in me” would be the fruit of this Bride, “remain in me” would be the fruit of this Bride. This Bride would bear the life of Christ through out the world and His words are life, for “man shall not live by bread alone but by ever word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

    “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me.”

    I just don’t hear that from communions apart from the Orthodox and Catholic Church and some cults whom we all disagree would even have the chance of a pedigree to His Bride.

    I know you are guys are sincere, I just don’t hear what I believe the body of Christ would be able to say in any Protestant communions.

    And “solo” scripture is all I have to descern this body which bride to marry(join) and remain faithful to as Christ does, “until death do us part.”

  36. SS,

    This is how I have come to understand “knowing them by their fruit.” The fruit of the tree of life is the Word of life to the nations, the Word of Christ Himself present and active.

  37. CDH,

    The last thought I have about what you have brought up about the Catholic vision and understanding basically being “sort of a theoretical fantasy.” is that what scripturally comes to my mind is that “the just shall live by faith and not by sight.”

    Peace,
    Mike

  38. MichaelTX, I’m sure that “living by faith” means faith in the actual events of the Gospel (life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) rather than the theoretical fantasy which is the foundation of the “Roman Catholic” “Church”.

  39. @MICHAELTX April 20, 2013 at 7:45 am

    The first problem I have with your argument is the Jesus of scriptures hates religious institutions. There is probably nothing more indicative of the reality of running a material institution vs. a heavenly one than the temple money changers and we know how he felt about them. He attacks the righteous religious for spiritual pride. With Simon and the harlot he mocks the institution of discipline needed to build institution arguing for meeting people where they are on their spiritual journey. The Jesus I read hates religion.

    I don’t know how to read Heb 9:24 ” For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one” as anything other than a condemnation of the view that Jesus is conjoined with any institution made by humans. My read of the bible is that institutions are more likely to pull you away from Christ than towards him easily becoming falsification of God and perverting the gospel. They are not easily used as instruments of God. One of the things I love about Baptists is that they are aware of the danger, preach the danger and do their best to avoid the danger of idolatry. I see what you are talking about as the unabashed embrace of idolatry. Actual physical bread, actual physical wine, actual physical walls and some guy with a fancy shirt have nothing to do with God. That’s why graven images are forbidden to people more likely to make those sorts of identification. That’s why food sacrificed to an idol can be eaten.

    Sola gratia, which even Catholics agree with, precludes the church from being an instrument distinct from God. I think the book of Hebrews overall is exactly written to counter this idea that institutions effectuate salvation. So if we are talking personal opinions here I couldn’t disagree more.

    Now if your point was to prove that:
    i) There are some big disagreements
    ii) They end up getting resolved through personal opinion of scripture. Having to weigh things like Hebrews against Timothy.
    iii) These disagreement prevent any sort of seamless communion even if the level of friendship could be increased

    this is a good example.

    If you meant this more directly.. that you were asserting that the highest level of Christian living is joining the right institution and your relationship with God / Jesus is defined by your institution… then you are absolutely right in your choice of church. Catholic / Orthodox + few scattered are about the only organizations which even make these sorts of strong claims about themselves.

  40. Eric,

    It doesn’t seem to me as if you’ve engaged any of the arguments given.

    1. The OT church had an inspired text (and even an inspired oral tradition, in part, revelation supposedly spoken directly to Moses), but it had no infallible magisterium to protect the interpretation of these revelations. Seemingly, God prefers to use his own Spirit through divinely-appointed prophets and the like, instead of hierarchical institutions, to protect the accuracy of his message.

    I did address this in response to Anthony, who asked a similar question. I reposted a comment by Mike Liccione from CTC who addressed this issue brilliantly. I’ll post it again:

    David (#386):

    You write:

    I was…wondering if the conversation would be helped by considering other “revealed” religions, to keep the focus on the point at issue and not bring in all sorts of other Protestant/Catholic issues. Take Judaism. In Judaism, there is divine revelation, but there is no authoritative or infallible interpreter. So, Jewish practice is based on rabbinic law. And different rabbis would interpret the law differently, so that Jewish practice has never really been completely uniform. Given this situation, should Jews simply say “this ambiguity in interpretation is so vexing, we might as well not have divine revelation at all! Forego the next circumcision!” If Jews should say this, why has this not occurred to them? Have you realized a grave philosophical problem that strikes at the heart of their religion?

    Assuming that Judaism lacks any infallible interpreter of the Law–an assumption some Christians and Jews would reject–I don’t regard that as a problem for my account of how divine revelation as such is to be identified and intepreted. Why not?
    I do not regard Judaism as a revealed religion distinct from Christianity, which started as a Jewish movement that the other Jews were wrong to expel. Rather, I consider Judaism a revealed religion only because I am a Christian; as such, I see Judaism as distinct from Christianity only in the sense that, as a matter of historical fact, the majority of the ethnic Jews who practice their religion do so with the false assumption that Christianity is not the authentic and final stage of their own religion’s development. But as a Christian, I recognize OT Judaism as a stage in revelation’s unfolding; revelation proper, from the standpoint of which Judaism is rightly seen as as stage, is the divine person, life, death, resurrection, teaching, and exegesis of Jesus Christ (which I’ll call the “Christ-event” for brevity). From a broadly Christian standpoint, OT Judaism points to the Christ-event and the Church and finds its fulfillment in them. But as is indicated by the reaction of most Jews to Jesus in his time, that isn’t clear just from the OT canon itself (whether one takes that canon to be Septuagint or Masoretic). Indeed, like many Jews today, I see the OT canon taken in isolation simply as an impressive library of religious thought and history, not as divine revelation strictly speaking. Though it does convey authentic divine revelation (unlike what Marcion and most Gnostics thought), it does so only proleptically, in light of the Christ-event handed on by the Church. So Judaism’s lack of an infallible identifier and interpreter of divine revelation–if indeed there is such a lack–does not pose a problem for my account of how divine revelation proper is to be identified and interpreted. Given that Judaism is but a stage of revelation proper, the meaning of whose content is neither complete nor evident on its face, there is no reason to assume that anybody in OT Judaism could or would infallibly identify and interpret revelation proper, even when they happened to get some of it right. My account of how revelation is to be identified and interpreted assumes that there is a complete and definitive revelation that will not be augmented and illumined by further revelation.

    2. For at least the first couple of hundred years of the Early Church, their was no infallible magisterium to call upon. Did God leave these unfortunate believers without recourse until he could establish the appropriate mechanism within the church?

    I don’t understand how you can put forth the above as a premise in your argument. Do you really consider this a neutral statement?

    Catholics believe that the Magisterium existed when Jesus breathed the Spirit upon the apostles, and it continued as they laid hands on other men and conferred their authority upon them. There was never a time in the life of the church when the mechanism for exercising authority (whether doctrinal or practical) was absent.

    3. The Early Church was not at all monolithic but divided into various communities (Johannine, Petrine, Thomasine, Andrean, Markan, etc.)

    I haven’t argued for a monolithic church devoid of various communities, so this isn’t relevant to my position.

    4. There’s no convincing evidence of an unbroken apostolic succession.

    This would have come as a shock to the entire church for its first millennium and a half, since it was universally believed that validly ordained bishops had to be in succession from the apostles. And it would come as a shock to all Catholic and EO bishops today, all of whom believe they can trace their succession back to the apostles.

    I don’t have the time to unpack this in detail right now, but I think a case can be made that the circumstances necessary for apostolic succession to have been broken are actually less likely than those needed for it to remain intact.

    I realize these fall mainly under the heading of “tu quoque,” but the basic Protestant position is that there is no principled way for anyone whatever to reach the kind of epistemic certainty the Catholics are claiming for themselves.

    Yes, and I am saying that a religion that demands faith in human opinions about where divine revelation is found and what it means is not the religion of Scripture. By taking refuge in the TQ you are forfeiting everything, you are selling Christianity’s birthright like that profane man Esau, and you are reducing the faith to a purely human system, and the church to a purely human society of likeminded folks.

    You have not even begun to convince us that your claims for “apostolic succession” are true. And even if true, in what would the means of protection consist? How can extremely fallible, even horribly corrupt, officials safeguard the faith? You must be positing some sort of mystical, magical means whereby God safeguards dogma in spite of official faithlessness. You seem to be living in an epistemic fairyland.

    Do you not hear how much of a virtual atheist you sound like? You sound like you believe that if God exists at all, he certainly is no longer the God of the Bible who could protect a bunch of sinful fishermen from error while they wrote the NT. Since God cannot protect sinful men from error under certain conditions, then you may as well go ahead and deny the inspiration of Scripture. But if you affirm the inspiration of Scripture as well as the sinfulness of its authors, then there’s no reason to dismiss God’s protection of the Magisterium (unless, of course, it’s because what they say contradicts your interpretation of the Bible).

    I may post on this tomorrow night, but since leaving Protestantism I have begun to notice how rationalistic and anti-supernatural it is. There’s this implicit and very subtle idea that God either cannot or simply does not do the miraculous anymore. Hence Catholicism would be great if true, but in fact is just a pious fairytale. But that is true of the entire Christian religion! Everything we believe sounds like a fairytale to unbelievers. What distinguishes Catholics and Protestants is that the former believe that the miracle-working, supernatural God of Scripture still exists and is still miracle-working and supernatural, while the latter acts as if he will only believe in miracles because he has to (since some are recorded in Scripture), but once he gets to extra-canonical ground, he becomes a virtual deist.

  41. Wosbald–

    You are correct that confessional Protestants do not believe in ex opere operato Sacramentalism, but wrong that we downplay the Sacraments. We believe in the mystical union of the faithful, not the mystical union of the splashed. Your so-called “sacraments” are mechanistic or, at best, magical. They produce tons and tons of nominal Christians who have no union with Christ and thus, no meaningful union with one another.

    You must not spend any time around the Reformed, for we often speak of being the Bride of Christ, of being the sheep of his flock who hear his voice. And, I would maintain, we actually show evidence of being unified: we believe the same things and preach the same things and obey the same things. Our members show genuine evidence of repentance and regeneration. We don’t just speak of discerning the body, but try our best to do it. As a result, we become a people united around and following a Shepherd whom we all hear. We are not a people simply gathered together into one building who make much of the CHURCH and very little of the christ.

  42. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    Wosbald–
    You are correct that confessional Protestants do not believe in ex opere operato Sacramentalism, but wrong that we downplay the Sacraments.

    I said that you reject ex opere operato Sacramentalism, because, as you just confirmed, you do. It would make no sense for me to say that you ‘downplay’ operatively efficacious Sacramentalism when, in fact, you positively repudiate it.

    Eric wrote:

    We believe in the mystical union of the faithful…

    I mentioned that point, here: “Our human associations/churches… populated with individuals having an invisible Christic Identity…”

  43. Faithful submission to Jesus’ Body is akin to faithful submission to Jesus himself. If Jesus interpreted an OT text for someone in a way with which he didn’t agree (and this happened all the time), the responsibility of that person would be to bring his view into conformity with Christ’s, because of his divine authority.

    Agreed. But the elephant in the room is whether the body of Christ is infallible on this side of glory. Simply saying it is so doesn’t make it so.

    ”>Nowhere do I find in the NT the idea that, once Jesus passed from the scene and his mission was carried on by the Church, people would have the option of only listening to the Church when it conformed to their private interpretations (which is what Lane is doing). In fact, the NT says the very opposite.

    CD-Host did a remarkable job of pointing out that very rarely in the NT, if ever, do the writers say, “listen to me because I am the church.”

    In any case, it is true that people do not have the option of listening to the Church only when it conforms to their private interpretation because not every private interpretation is faithful to the meaning of the apostles. How do we know which interpretation is faithful? Well, here we have to trust the Holy Spirit and believe that He is working in His church to bring us to a unity of faith. What you want is completely infallible knowledge of and absolute certainty regarding that interpretation. (And don’t give me the BS that such is not what you are looking for. If it’s not, there is no point to making the whole “Rome is better because it has a principled distinction…” argument). You won’t get that kind of certainty on this side of glory. Simply by going to a body that claims infallibility for itself does not give you what you are seeking. You are just putting one more step between you and the text. Your decision to join Rome was a fallible decision, and it always will be as long as you are a fallen creature. You might have gone the wrong way. Simply by saying that “Rome is better because it has a principled way to make a distinction” does not eliminate that.

    Now, to you that might mean we are admitting that Christ did not intend to establish a church that can speak meaningfully about orthodoxy vs. heresy. But that presupposes that the only way a church can speak meaningfully is if it is infallible. That is absurd, not to mention something you haven’t argued for but just assumed. It’s also an epistemological leap that you do not require for knowledge in other areas. NASA is not infallible. Does that mean it can’t meaningfully distinguish between the math that will lead them to launch a rocket to the moon successfully and that math that won’t? You are not infallible. Does that mean there is no meaningful way for you to distinguish your wife’s love for you from your children’s love for you?

    Why do you demand infallibility to speak meaningfully about religious matters and not in other areas? Is it because religious matters are eternal matters? Okay, but you’re still left with the problem that you made a fallible decision to jump ship for Rome.

    I wrote:

    (Unstated Premise) The only way the Holy Spirit can bring assurance to people about anything spiritual is through an infallible ecclesiastical decree that eliminates disagreement.

    You replied:

    have expressly denied thinking that, so there’s no point in responding to a position that I have told you specifically I don’t hold to.

    Your unstated premise is just that, unstated. Jason, you have said more than once that without a visible, infallible body then God was a poor planner who left us with no way to distinguish meaningfully between orthodoxy and heresy, that without this charism of infallibility we cannot discern the difference between one fallible opinion and another. You have concluded that you MUST have an infallible visible body to know where to find God’s revelation with any confidence. If that is not your conclusion, why in the world did you write this blogpost?

    Even if you haven’t said so formally, at the end of the day you mean that assurance is impossible without an infallible visible authority. Therefore, for you, the only way the Holy Spirit can bring assurance or convince anyone of the truth is through the decree of a visible, infallible authority that the Spirit is working in. The only way He can reveal to people the truth between one man’s opinion and another is through a visible infallible institution. If that is not your belief, then there was no good reason for you to become Roman Catholic.

    I wrote:
    (Unstated Premise) Every opinion by everyone claiming to be a Bible-believing Christian is equally valid and I can’t use my own powers of reasoning to determine which is invalid with any degree of certainty or assurance (though I do that all the time here on my blog and call others to do the same).

    You replied:

    Not quite. I am of the persuasion that if God has revealed himself, then I need something more than educated guesses and fallible opinions telling me where that revelation is to be found, and what it means once I’ve found it. In other words, if Christianity reduces to human opinion (whether from this blog or from a theology text), then I cannot be expected to exercise faith in those opinions. Now if you can show how that fallible doctrinal pronouncements (which is all Protestant even claims to be able to offer) can somehow escape this dilemma, then please do so. But until then, the Catholic paradigm will continue to better provide the ability to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion (which, of course, is necessary in order for God’s revelation to be at all profitable).

    Okay, so this point largely admits that there is no way for the Spirit to assure you—at least you specifically—without an infallible visible body. So you’ve proven what I just said.

    You’re presenting a naïve epistemology and not applying it to your own church or other forms of knowledge. No thoughtful Protestant would say that Christianity reduces to human opinion, and of course you know that.

    Every affirmation of knowledge is in some sense an affirmation of faith. You are putting religious claims at a separate level than the claims of secular history, science, and every other discipline. Why does Christianity in a non-Roman Catholic view reduce to mere human opinion while the history of the United States does not? Why does 2+2=4 not reduce to mere human opinion?

    You are basically saying that without an infallible interpreter, we can’t know or at least we can’t have assurance about God’s revelation. Has Rome provided an infallible decree on all the intricacies of calculus? What about biological science? What about whether your wife loves you or not? I guess all of those questions are mere human opinions then and we’re left without hope in this world.

    The Protestant IP is not mere human opinion, for we believe that the Holy Spirit confirms truth in the hearts of those who will hear it. There is a degree of subjectivity there that cannot be escaped, and Rome has the exact same issue. Whether one believes a particular doctrine or not has no bearing on whether that doctrine is objectively true under the sola Scriptura paradigm as much as it has no bearing under the Roman paradigm. At the end of the day, even Rome has to give the Holy Spirit a say in convincing people of the truth. If Rome is right, the mere fact that I deny it does not make Rome false, it just means that I have hardened my heart or am not listening to the Spirit. If sola Scriptura is right, the mere fact of disagreement does not disprove it, it just means that somebody is not listening well.

  44. Jason,

    The above post and this one are replies to you.

    I wrote:
    (Unstated Premise) Confessional Presbyterians, Baptists, and Lutherans can have no meaningful degree of unity and have disagreements that prevent them from working together because they have different confessions and ecclesiologies (even though groups such as InterVarsity, the Gospel Coalition, Navigators, and a host of others exist).

    You replied:

    I don’t remember saying anything about various denominations working together. They clearly can, as can Republicans and Democrats, and those who think it’s “less filling” and those who insist it “tastes great.” But I also think that Christian unity is more than natural cooperation, and as long as Baptists will anabaptize your infant kids when they get older if you give them the chance, and as long as Lutherans won’t serve you communion, then whatever you may have, it is not the unity that the NT calls us to.

    Unity in the NT is a sacramental thing. We are one because we eat of the same loaf and drink from the same chalice. We are one because we have all been baptized into Christ Jesus. It is more than mere natural agreement about doctrines, although that is also necessary.

    Mostly agreed. But your unstated premise is that we cannot have true sacramental unity unless we are all united in one visible body. To some degree, even your own communion denies that. The RCC is not going to rebaptize me if I were to convert. They’ll let me take the Eucharist. After centuries of fighting Protestants, Rome had to admit at Vatican II that hey, maybe these other guys are Christians. But that wasn’t a change, no, when there was a price on Luther’s head, the infallible Roman pontiff and Magisterium were clearly convinced that he was a Christian.

    If I had my way, we’d have one church where those who were convinced of paedo-baptism would live in harmony with those who don’t. That neither would look down on the other and that it would be up to the individual to decide on the matter (some have argued that such was present in the early church). But I’m not going to break away from my church simply to found such a communion, a reality that, in itself, shows the principled difference between solo and sola Scriptura. It shows that I did not join a church with such a high view of my own opinion that I was going to withdraw at the first sign of disagreement.

    I know Presbyterians who joined a Reformed Baptist church and agreed to submit to its view of the sacraments—or at least not to cause a fuss about it—and I’ve known Reformed Baptists who have joined PCA churches and agreed to submit to their view of the sacraments—or at least not to cause a fuss about it. The mere fact that Lane is currently disagreeing with the SJC means very little. And even if he were to peaceably withdraw, that need not mean anything except that sometimes people just aren’t able to work together. Barnabas and Paul split up because of Mark. Did that mean Barnabas was disassociating himself from the visible body or causing schism?

    This just goes back to your insistence that I think an infallible Magisterium guarantees universal agreement and submission, which I have denied twice now. People disagreed with Jesus—he came unto his own but his own received him not. Does this reduce his authority? No, it just convicts the rebels of their rebellion.

    Actually, that is not quite what I am saying. You concluded in the blogpost above that sola Scriptura necessarily leads to anarchy and thus, because it necessarily leads to anarchy, it offers no principled distinction from solo Scriptura. Therefore, your unstated or unclearly stated premise is that Roman Catholic infallibility and ecclesiology is better because although it is not a sufficient cause for unity and so division exists, said division is not a necessary consequence of Roman ecclesiology.

    To put it more simply, part of what you saying is that sola Scriptura is clearly bad because it necessarily leads to anarchy while Roman ecclesiology is clearly better because it does not necessarily lead to anarchy. Protestant divisions are inevitable and necessary because of sola Scriptura. Roman Catholic disagreements are incidental and anomalous.

    But those are assumptions you haven’t proven. Quite frankly, I don’t know if one could prove or disprove them with the infallibility you want. Perhaps sola Scriptura leads to division not because of the inherent principle itself but because no one is applying it correctly. Perhaps Roman disagreements over the authority of popes vs. councils necessarily exist because of the arrogant place the bishop of Rome has claimed for himself. Perhaps division results from sola Scriptura not because of the principle itself but because the Spirit has ordained for such a process to take a very long time to produce the unity you are seeking. Perhaps the divisions within Rome are a necessary result of Roman ecclesiology so as to preserve the tension between the one and the many. Perhaps division results from sola Scriptura not because of the principle itself but because people are sinners and are more interesting in winning arguments than actually hearing what the other side has to say. Perhaps divisions within Rome that exist below the surface are necessary because the Roman definition of unity is so broad and vague that nearly anyone can claim full communion with the church despite what they believe (which is what you have in practice, at least in the U.S. And when such people aren’t kicked out, they are by definition in full communion with the church if, in fact, Rome’s doctrine of the visible church meant anything). I could go on.

    That SS leads to anarchy is evidenced by the last 500 years of the Protestant experiment, which was premised upon the idea that if people were just allowed to read Scripture free from Magisterial tyranny, unity would result (because of, you know, how perspicuous the Bible is). The reformers freaked out once they realized that SS wasn’t unifying non-Catholic believers, which is why they were so harsh with one another over what seem today to be pretty minor disagreements. They realized that the whole endeavor hinged on a unified Protestant church, which took about nine minutes to crumble.

    But if you think it would just take a few more centuries of schism, or a few more thousand Protestant sects, to falsify the claim that Sola Scriptura leads to anarchy, then I’d say you are either really naïve, or really patient!

    Ah the empirical proof is cited, along with the shot at perspicacity.

    Actually, I thought the Protestant experiment was premised upon the fact that when one compared Scripture and the earliest fathers to the medieval Western church, one found all sorts of beliefs and practices that could only be justified by appealing to forged decrees of Constantine or the arbitrary decisions of councils that could in no sense be ecumenical after 1054.

    Perhaps the earliest Protestants thought that freeing the Bible from Magisterial tyranny would guarantee unity. (Did they? Citations to back this up?) If so, they weren’t being true to their own understanding of sin, which should have told them that men would not be less sinful and prone to argue even if they could interpret the Bible for themselves. I thought the main thing the Reformers thought they were gaining from sola Scriptura was, I don’t know, the accessibility of the simple gospel to the laity, the potential to reform the worship of the church, the placing of Christ back at the center of the church’s life and worship, the proper place of the church in relation to apostolic revelation, sounder and firmer teaching by using the original languages and not the potential mistranslations and errors in the Vulgate…

    Sure, Protestants have had 500 years to work toward the unity you seek—organizational visible unity. Sure we haven’t made it there yet. But…

    • The church took nearly 400 years to work out how God is one in one sense but three in a different sense.
    • The church took nearly 500 years to work out the person and natures of Christ
    • It took God some 2,000 years to prepare his people for the coming of the Messiah (Abraham to the first century).

    And you can’t get around this by saying that the church wasn’t divided. It was divided. Nestorians vs. Cyrilians; homoousios advocates vs. homoiousios advocates; advocates of placing Constantinople on the same level as the Roman bishopric vs. those who wanted a crystal clear assertion of Roman primacy…

    Applying the same standards to your church, Rome fails:

    It took Rome, if you accept Roman legends about Peter being the first bishop of Rome, nearly 1900 years to work out the nuances of papal infallibility. Could someone living in 1750 look and legitimately say that Roman doctrine isn’t getting us anywhere because the conciliar vs. papacy dispute is going on? If you will not apply the same standards to Rome that you apply to Protestantism, you are not being intellectually honest.

    Confessional Protestants, in any case, are united on a host of issues. Organizationally, no, but confessional churches are going to seek out fellowship with one another and they are going to follow up on church discipline cases if a member tries to leave a Reformed Baptist church for a PCA church in order to escape excommunication. The Roman view of visible unity is very shallow. You all are fine as long as you can all live under the roof and pay rent to the same landlord. Even if those liberal Roman Catholic ethicists in the bedrooms on one end of the hall thumb their noses at Roman teaching on birth control and human sexuality and the staunch traditionalists at the other end of the hall try to burn down the ethicists’ bedrooms, all is fine because you are under the same roof. That is self-evidently vastly superior to that neighborhood association of Protestant homes down the road where they all agree to the same essential neighborhood covenant even if the Baptists want to live in a blue house and the Presbyterians want to live in a green one.

    At the end of the day, you and the CTC guys are demanding that God conform to what you want for assurance as a condition of faith. Michael Liccione has said as much explicitly when he said he couldn’t be a believer if the Roman Catholic or Orthodox communion isn’t true. Your stance is ultimately one of unbelief. You have no right to demand that God give you a visible infallible body so that you can make the kind of “principled distinctions” you think this body allows you to make. You are essentially saying to God, “I will not and cannot believe you unless you use an infallible body to tell me where to find you.” How is that different from the atheist who says, “I will not and cannot believe you unless you show yourself to me”?

  45. Jason–

    Don’t have a lot of time, so I’ll address your points one by one.

    First, Jesus himself viewed the Tanakh as inspired revelation and did not consider it dependent upon a (non-existant) NT. He also felt it was perspicuous enough for true believers in the OT to look forward to the Christ for their salvation (Hebrews 11, among other places). Jews who reject his Messiahship are depicted as hardhearted, rebellious, and stubborn. They killed the Prophets. They refused to listen to the voice of God. They disregarded the clear signs….

  46. Robert,

    Very good post above. I had a thought about this comment of yours:

    Sure, Protestants have had 500 years to work toward the unity you seek—organizational visible unity. Sure we haven’t made it there yet. But…

    I don’t think we necessarily need organizational unity to have the kind of unity that the Scriptures speak of. I do agree that many splits in the Protestant world ought to be reversed and repaired, but in many cases divisions exist because there is different ministerial focus. For the Catholic unity IS organizational unity and the issue of confessional unity is for all intents and purposes of no consequence. For Reformed Protestants unity means unity of belief, and unity of belief does not necessarily require that everyone answers to the same central authority.

    Would you agree?

    Cheers….

  47. @Eric —

    Excellent responses. I liked your response to Michael Liccione on the reformation. I agree with you on the FV, I’m still hard pressed to think of examples where FV differences with traditional Reformed come down to anything more than disagreements about whether to use terms in Reformed on the biblical sense. I agree with your excellent recent responses.

  48. Jason–

    I should mention that the Prophet Elijah had no access, as far as we know, to the official cult in Jerusalem, and yet he is considered one of the major spokesmen of the Word of God in the OT. There was no appreciable magisterial hierarchy, only men anointed by the Spirit and recognized as such.

    Despite your comment, it is demonstrable that the Early Church had no ruling magisterium. It had several separate magisteria, plural. And it sometimes met in council together, as at Jerusalem in Acts 15. This is conciliarism, as opposed to a pontificate and magisterium.

  49. @Jason —

    This would have come as a shock to the entire church for its first millennium and a half, since it was universally believed that validly ordained bishops had to be in succession from the apostles.

    It was not universally believed that bishops were even desirable. There was considerable disagreement as to who the apostles were, which ones were really apostles whether the apostles had understood Jesus, etc… We have a long documentary record of opposition to Catholic apostolic succession from Christian groups in the ancient world. I’d argue that what the record they left behind is enough to falsify the Catholic claim.

    Once the dark ages ended we similarly had groups that denied the Catholics had apostolic succession. For them there had to be a line of faithful Christians, faithlessness cut the link. For example the Cathars argued that moral perversion cut the apostolic link so a corrupt bishop could not properly lay hands. Conversely they held the apostolic link could be directly restored by spiritual connection with Jesus via. forgoing the two acts that tie us most to evil: sex and all of its products, and murder and all of its lesser forms.

    The Cathar idea of a regenerate church and the recovery of the idea that Bishops needed to have some level of righteousness to perform their cuty was central to the Reformation. The Cathari became active in the 11th century Parfaits (their righteous elect) were active in our earliest descriptions.

    If you want people between the ancient world and the high middle ages there plenty of groups like the Paulicans. So no, it was not universally believed. People throughout all of Christian history rejected the claim of the Catholic Church to be the sole representatives of the apostles and the successors to them.

    Now if you mean that your sect somewhere the late 2nd century began making lots of noises about apostolic succession in its debates with other forms of Christianity, found this to be an effective apologetic and made it a more central doctrine. I absolutely agree. But that falls far short of “the entire church”.

    ______

    The second issue is on Jews. The argument regarding Jews is that Orthodox Judaism maintains a complex, robust orthodoxy (by analogy in reality their focus is practice not theology) but without a shared hierarchy and without believing themselves to have an infallible interpreter or anything remotely close to that. I’m not sure who you believe they have as an infallible interpreter they don’t believe they do.

    So Orthodox Jews provide a counter example to the claim that lack of perfect interpreter leads to anarchy.

  50. Andrew,

    I go back and forth on the visible unity thing. In some ways, when I read the NT, I think you could say that a visible and organized unity is the goal, or should be. But on the other hand, you can also read the Bible and see that the organizational unity was a rarity, and when it existed, it didn’t do much for the church. More than once the institutional priestly hierarchy under the old covenant was apostate. Then when you get to the NT, the only real significant example of visible, institutional hierarchy was the Jerusalem Council. The local churches were clearly in communion one with another, but the distance between them and the length of time it took to get from one place to another made anything like a modern denomination with visible organizational unity all but impossible. You had elders in each city, and there was clearly communication, but it was nothing like even the most congregational of denominations such as the Southern Baptists, and certainly nothing like modern Roman Catholicism.

    I’m a PCA guy that is a member of an independent, essentially Presbyterian church, with many friends that are Reformed Baptists. I comfortably worship in any of those settings and minister alongside all of them. Our not having a visible organizational unity does not hurt us in one bit. In many ways, like you have said, I think it is inevitable because of different emphases. Even in Rome you have that. A whole lot of lip service is paid to the one infallible church, but when vast swaths of Roman Catholicism essentially ignore the pope and the curia with impunity, the unity Rome has is meaningless, or at least no greater than the unity of confessional Protestantism. The unity of confessional Protestantism is greater, in fact, because while we may not have organizational unity, we do have doctrinal unity.

    Anyone who honestly believes that Rome has doctrinal unity and that its “principled way” of settling theological disagreements actually works is a slave to a particular view of certainty. I’ve also been thinking recently that Rome’s view of authority is actually incredibly immature. When I was 6, I needed my parents to tell me what to believe and to give me assurance. Now that I am an adult, I don’t need such things. Roman ecclesiology treats laypeople like they are six years old. Do you think there is any truth in that?

    I also would note that it is ironic that Rome, who does not really believe our intellect is all that fallen, is convinced that people reading the Bible cannot really know the truth or at least be assured of it, and that they cannot be trusted to exercise provisional but not absolute trust in ecclesiastical authority. We, on the other hand, who are convinced of total depravity, believe the Holy Spirit can actually work through the Bible to assure us of truth and then trust in ecclesiastical authority truly but not absolutely. Go figure.

  51. Jason–

    Your comment that Protestantism is anti-Supernatural is nothing short of bizarre. So, I sound like a “virtual atheist” to you?? As the idiom goes, what exactly have you been smoking? Have all of your former Reformed buddies abandoned you, derisively rejecting your every opinion, so that now you are cynical of their faith?

    I am not cynical of your faith and do not believe you to be anti-Supernatural even though you do rely on the very human institution of the Magisterium to vouchsafe biblical fealty. We confessional Protestants put our trust in God working through faithful men. Both Peter and Judas were Apostles with a capital “A,” but only the former was faithful. There have been times in the history of the Roman church when the pope and his minions were despicable, Godless individuals. Sure, God can work his miracles in spite of faithlessness, but he very seldom does it directly through faithlessness. Joseph was raised to power indirectly through his brothers’ unfaithfulness, but he himself, through whom God worked directly, was quite faithful. I can think of no occasion in Scripture where godless men effect the cause of God among other godless men. Cyrus may have been the “anointed of God” to rain down punishment on the Chosen People, but whatever conquests he had elsewhere did not advance the Kingdom of God in any meaningful sense.

    Yes, the writers of the New Testament were sinful, but they were also elect: faithful men who passed on the message to other faithful men as they were taught to do. This is true Apostolic Succession, the succession of faith through the laying on of hands, not the succession of power through the laying on of hands.

  52. Eric,

    I totally realize how what I said sounds bizarre. I hope to post on that topic tomorrow night.

  53. John B,
    My understanding of Christian faith in God is that there are two things that always go together, God’s Word (let there be) and the Word became flesh (it was so).

  54. @Jason:

    But if you affirm the inspiration of Scripture as well as the sinfulness of its authors, then there’s no reason to dismiss God’s protection of the Magisterium (unless, of course, it’s because what they say contradicts your interpretation of the Bible).

    Well said. I expect you’ll tie this back to Mike Liccione’s argument explicitly, but it already drives home his fundamental point. Either one has a religious dogmatic standard that is principled or one’s religious standard is ad hoc, which devolves to personal opinion. In the end, what is used to determine dogma cannot be ad hoc; otherwise, it is not a fit object of faith.

    @Robert:

    Sure, Protestants have had 500 years to work toward the unity you seek—organizational visible unity. Sure we haven’t made it there yet. But…

    • The church took nearly 400 years to work out how God is one in one sense but three in a different sense.
    • The church took nearly 500 years to work out the person and natures of Christ

    You might want to take this up with your co-religionist, John Bugay (above), who seems to have said that the conclusions of the Church in the third and fifth ecumenical councils are wrong. That in itself displays the flaw in your paradigm.

    Conversely, if you think long and hard about what it means for “the church” to “work out” anything, then you will understand what the difference between the Catholic interpretive paradigm and the Protestant interpretive paradigm is. On your paradigm, “the church” is invisible, so it can’t “work out” anything. It is therefore incoherent for you (or Eric, as another example) to trust that the Holy Spirit is “working out” anything.

    Another way to think about it is that the difference between religious matters (matters about God Himself) and other matters is one of revelation; God is necessarily unknown in Himself unless He first reveals Himself. That creates a gap between knowledge about created things and knowledge about God in Himself that is a big as the Creator/creature divide, so the methodologies must be similarly different.

    Along those lines, the invisible and unknown working of the Holy Spirit therefore cannot possibly be the object of faith. The only proximate object of faith is a sure sign (by faith) of divine action; ad hoc action of the Holy Spirit could not constitute “revelation” in any coherent sense. Likewise, Scripture is not revelatory apart from the Church, since it fails to provide any principled way in itself to distinguish correct and correct interpretations in principle. Only the Scripture in the context of the Church can serve as a sure sign of divine revelatory action.

  55. Jonathan Prejean:

    You might want to take this up with your co-religionist, John Bugay (above), who seems to have said that the conclusions of the Church in the third and fifth ecumenical councils are wrong. That in itself displays the flaw in your paradigm.

    Most Reformed do not accept the “fifth” ecumenical council (“Constantinople II, 553 AD).

    The Council of Ephesus (431 AD) was a disaster from many different perspectives. First of all, its decisions were coerced by Cyril and his gang of thugs. Only two years later, Cyril himself did not adhere to the “doctrinal” decisions of that council, rather, meeting two years later, in a back-room deal with John of Antioch to formulate a deal that his own church, the monophysites in Egypt, did not accept. Language used about Mary at Ephesus was “corrected” by Chalcedon (not “mater theou” but rather “theotokos”, or “God Bearer”). Cyril’s big complaint against Nestorius, which prompted the Council of Ephesus in the first place, was that he was using the title “Christotokos” (“Christ-bearer”); however, in 1994, JPII issued a “Common Christological Declaration” with the Nestorian churches to the effect that “Christotokos” was both “right” and “legitimate”.

    You Roman Catholics are the ones with the convoluted mess on your hands.

    One huge problem with Ephesus was that Cyril was using a slippery-slope argument on Nestorius (“if you take this position, it collapses into that”) when clearly it didn’t – which is exactly the same thing that’s going on in this very thread (“if you take the Sola Scriptura position, it collapses into “Solo”). In spite of vigorous disagreement about the various points along the continuum.

    You Roman Catholics today are doing precisely what Cyril did to Nestorius.

  56. Jonathan Prejean,

    1. Protestants believe in a visible church that can work things out, we just don’t believe it is infallible.

    2. The reason we believe the church is fallible has nothing to do with the inspiration of Scripture. Of course, if God could use the apostles to give us infallible Scripture despite their sin, it is well within His power to do the same. The question is whether He, in fact, promised to do so. I submit that the New Testament does not tell us the church is infallible, which Rome implicitly recognizes by saying it is infallible only under extremely narrow circumstances.

    3. The apostles, in fact, expect problems in the church — elders will need to be rebuked, false teachers will arise, even an antichrist can set himself up in the temple of God. How do you know which teachers and leaders are false? What if false teachers call a council? If you believe that is impossible, show me where the New Testament says so. If we recognize false councils/teachers by the principle distinction of Rome’s authority in saying so, what you have is a Magisterium telling us when it is and when it isn’t fallible. The ultimate appeal is to itself. It is viciously circular.

  57. @JONATHAN PREJEAN April 20, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Well said. I expect you’ll tie this back to Mike Liccione’s argument explicitly, but it already drives home his fundamental point. Either one has a religious dogmatic standard that is principled or one’s religious standard is ad hoc, which devolves to personal opinion. In the end, what is used to determine dogma cannot be ad hoc; otherwise, it is not a fit object of faith.

    If you understand his point I’d love to hear it. I know a lot of intelligent people seem to find his argument about a standard convincing but I can’t see this anything more than a giant presupposition which huge leaps at a few critical junctures. If you get his argument well enough to defend it I’d like to explore it enough so that I either “get” what other people are seeing or become confident in my assessment that is nothing more than “if we assume Martians exist, then Mars is inhabited”.

    For example in your presentation. I don’t follow how choosing a standard is any different in some moral sense than choosing an “ad-hoc” method for resolving dogmatic truth. I don’t see how the last sentence follow at all. To me the “fit objects of faith” are those whose specific realization are overwhelming. They are almost always a one-off belief because of their unique and overwhelming character and thus almost always ad-hoc. I don’t have a systematic reason for believing I’m actually experiencing reality not just fabricating it rather I have a series of ad-hoc arguments that are totally specific to that philosophical point.

    I could see an argument that religions must be systematic and not ad-hoc. That’s sort of the distinction between a religion and a collection of beliefs. But the beliefs themselves, the objects of faith, I don’t see any reason they need to be systematic in their origins rather than systematized with other beliefs even inside a religion.

  58. CD-Host,

    Lord’s blessing to you this Lord’s Day. I hope you will forgive my delay in getting back to you. I try not to be caught up on the PC much on the weekend.

    I hope you will glance back over my post @April 19, 2013 at 8:35 pm & April 20, 2013 at 7:45 am, because they are not arguments they are my personal dilemma. I as I have seen in studying over the issue of being called by others to not be Catholic, all that is presented are arguments like what I spoke of earlier such as inconclusive history, sins of people, rebellions, lethargic action of people in the Church, too much action of people in the Church, etc; and what I do not think you have understood about me is that I do not worship the flesh. I worship in the Spirit and in truth. I do not worship walls or robbed men nor their predecessors neither a piece of bread nor am I fixated on the baptismal water. All these things are of the flesh, and I seek to worship the Eternal Creator Spirit whom has submitted all these things unto Himself, the Blessed Trinity. “The flesh avails nothing,” as Jesus said. In sending His only Son we have what no people have ever had, a real place to let God touch us, not with the flesh but through the flesh; though both will be experienced while I am in the body. I do not worship a piece of bread any more than doubting Thomas worshiped the flesh and blood bones and marrow of the resurrected Christ on the Lord’s Day in the upper room with the disciples. He worshiped the Lord and so do I. The Apostle couldn’t perceive the Lord with their eyes on the sea shore and disciple on the road to Emmaus couldn’t recognize the Lord with their visual perception until He blessed and broke the bread, but they all knew they were in the presents of the Lord and acted accordingly.
    CDH, I wish you could know my history and my heart. I will mention very little being we are in Jason’s blog.
    I am a married father of four, which would by God’s grace lay down my life for any of them. To lead them to heaven is my greatest calling in life. To lead them away from sin and to life with God is my goal. I do not want them to follow me I want them to follow the Lord completely. We have but one Lord and I am not Him. I have sought as much as I much as I can to understand the Catholic vision of the Church and I find in no way that it contradicts the scriptures where I met and continue to meet my Lord. This is my heart. My posts above are not an argument they truly are a dilemma, for I do not wish to lead my family into a false shepard’s flock, nor to listen to a voice that is not our Lord’s. I prayed for a year straight that the Lord would do anything the keep me from bring me or my family to blasphemy His name with idolatry. I even prayed that the Lord would let me die first, then my family would know not to continue. This is my heart.

    As for the understanding you have that Jesus hates religion, I’d say in some ways you are right. Yet I don’t think it is the orderly organization which is He hates, because I see the orderly way He has created and done all things and made them work together with peace and harmony in our world. It is disease and disorder He has come to destroy and protect His sheep from. What I do see Him hating is sin in either leaders or followers, husbands or wives, parents or children, businesses or consumers, kings or subjects; all of these seek to dull our ears and lead us out of the sheepfold to be able to hear the Shepard’s loving call.

    Blessings to you CD-Host,
    Mike

  59. @John Bugay:

    Most Reformed do not accept the “fifth” ecumenical council (“Constantinople II, 553 AD).

    Most Reformed? I wonder what it is called when one picks and chooses conclusions without any unifying principle. Might that be arbitrary? Ad hoc? Even when it comes to Jesus being God, you can’t seem to resolve on an answer.

    Only two years later, Cyril himself did not adhere to the “doctrinal” decisions of that council, rather, meeting two years later, in a back-room deal with John of Antioch to formulate a deal that his own church, the monophysites in Egypt, did not accept.

    You’ve read McGuckin. Is slander now acceptable, so long as it trashes Catholics?

    Language used about Mary at Ephesus was “corrected” by Chalcedon (not “mater theou” but rather “theotokos”, or “God Bearer”).

    So the third ecumenical council, which you allegedly accept, approves terminology and you reject it? That means you’re even arbitrary in receiving councils that you allegedly accept, which proves my point even further. You can’t even have consistency on the issue of whether Jesus is God.

    You Roman Catholics are the ones with the convoluted mess on your hands.

    As with theology generally, your opinion is not what matters. Nor does your historical opinion impress me; I know the literature better than you do.

    @Robert:

    Of course, if God could use the apostles to give us infallible Scripture despite their sin, it is well within His power to do the same. The question is whether He, in fact, promised to do so. I submit that the New Testament does not tell us the church is infallible, which Rome implicitly recognizes by saying it is infallible only under extremely narrow circumstances.

    Our entire point is that God logically can’t give us infallible Scripture without a Magisterium and that He didn’t even try. He can give us inerrant Scripture, but “infallible Scripture” is a category error. That category error is essentially what means that your interpretive paradigm fails.

    If we recognize false councils/teachers by the principle distinction of Rome’s authority in saying so, what you have is a Magisterium telling us when it is and when it isn’t fallible. The ultimate appeal is to itself. It is viciously circular.

    No, what we have is a coherence of inerrant Scripture, infallible authority and a life of worship (Tradition) collectively by their consistent coherence demonstrating its capability of distinguishing between what is and is not revealed. It is not unusual even in mundane practice to take measurements multiple ways to make sure that they all produce the same result, and if they do, you would call it more reliable. In your case, you have a tool that isn’t even suited to make the measurement in the first place, at least in the way that you are using it, and yet, you argue that my measurements using three methods correctly are wrong. Good luck with that.

    @CD-HOST:

    For example in your presentation. I don’t follow how choosing a standard is any different in some moral sense than choosing an “ad-hoc” method for resolving dogmatic truth. I don’t see how the last sentence follow at all. To me the “fit objects of faith” are those whose specific realization are overwhelming. They are almost always a one-off belief because of their unique and overwhelming character and thus almost always ad-hoc. I don’t have a systematic reason for believing I’m actually experiencing reality not just fabricating it rather I have a series of ad-hoc arguments that are totally specific to that philosophical point.

    It’s the same principle you would use in any other field where there is a true object of study. Take the measurement analogy; a measurement device has to operate based on a principle, by which the measurements taken correspond to some physical quantity. A measurement device with an ad hoc relationship to reality is useless. The truths obtained likewise have to cohere systematically; if you are measuring the same real object, you can’t get three different answers and have them be true. Conversely, if you measure multiple times with multiple different principles of measurement, all of which cohere in an answer, then you have a good reason to believe that answer is true.

    This is essentially the calibration exercise that the Catholic interpretive paradigm allows you to perform; it lets you set any of the other measurements against the other two. If I’m wrong, I have other ways to know it. With sola scriptura, you can’t calibrate the measurement even in principle, because you don’t affirm (except on an ad hoc basis from your interpretation) that the other measurements are accurate. Ecumenical councils, papal decrees and the like can be analogized to such calibration exercises, where one of the measurement means (Magisterial authority) is aligned against Scripture and Tradition to get an answer. The motives are credibility are essentially the reasons that I think these measurements are accurate, why I would trust my instruments in the same way that I might when I was flying a plane. Based on my review of Christian history, I strongly believe that these instruments are most accurate, and indeed, the only accurate and reliable set.

  60. JONATHAN PREJEAN April 21, 2013 at 8:49 am

    It’s the same principle you would use in any other field where there is a true object of study. Take the measurement analogy; a measurement device has to operate based on a principle, by which the measurements taken correspond to some physical quantity. A measurement device with an ad hoc relationship to reality is useless.

    I’m starting to suspect we may be defining these terms differently. I like your analogy because I think it does simplify it. I would say that a measurement device does have an ad-hoc relationship with reality. There is no principled reason that a day is divided into 24 hours. That’s completely arbitrary, the first division could be 100 units or 30 units or 4 periods. Similarly the division of an hour into 60 minutes Those are all ad-hoc. The degree was defined as the expansion of mercury in a particular tube, an absolutely ad-hoc system from start to finish.

    What made measurement useful was not that it wasn’t ad-hoc but that it was consistent. Once I tell you that water at sea level freezes as 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees and that each degree represents the same amount of added heat, you have no choice but construct scale I have.

    My first question is: are we really talking about consistency or principled / non ad-hoc? If we are just talking consistency then at least I’m understanding the argument better. Certainly it is true that sola scriptura has a terrible track record on consistency, I can agree with that. I certainly would agree the magisterium is more consistent. But I can pick many systems that are vastly more consistent than either. So I’m not sure how consistency is terribly winning argument for the magisterium.

    This is essentially the calibration exercise that the Catholic interpretive paradigm allows you to perform; it lets you set any of the other measurements against the other two.

    I get what you are saying and I agree with you. Independent verification is a vital and important means of knowing truth. Let me give you some interpretative paradigms:

    solo scriptura — only scripture is a meaningful authority
    sola scriptura — all authorities are subordinate to scripture
    prima scriptura (Wesleyan) — Scripture, tradition, reason and experience check one another and provide independent verification.
    prima scriptura (Orthodox) — Scripture is the largest and most important of the traditions by which the know the deposit of faith.
    sola ecclesia — The church is guided by tradition and scripture in determining the rule of faith.

    I think American Liberal Catholics can make a case for the superiority multiple independent verification because they most use the prima scriptura paradigm. But Conservative Catholics are unabashed hostile to that paradigm. I don’t see how a conservative Catholic, Liccione in particular can make that case. His whole shtick is attacking the sort of private judgement that is required to weigh between multiple independent sources of knowledge like Liberal Catholics do. Scripture means whatever the church says scripture means, tradition is whatever the church says it is, and the correct inferences that can be drawn are whatever inferences the church chooses to draw. This is the argument against private conscience that CtC specializes in. The whole point of Liccione’s argument is to avoid “personal opinion” because “personal opinion is not a proper object of faith”, whatever that means.

    From the perspective of a believer sola ecclesia denies the validity of any kind of cross checking. CtC’s core argument against Luther is not that Luther was wrong but that Luther was wrong in his application of scripture, tradition, reason and experience but that Luther was intrinsically wrong to disagree with the church.

    So either I’m finding an easy contradiction, or I’m misunderstanding you. I assume the later because I would assume that someone before me would ahve found this easy contradiction.

  61. Jonathan,

    Why is infallible Scripture a category error? Is it because infallibility only pertains to persons?

    The Holy Spirit is a person and He breathed out the Scripture. He continues to illumine the text of Scripture. Ergo, the Scripture is infallible. Much of modern Rome is quite comfortable saying that and not inerrancy, so it’s a bit odd that you want to make the distinction.

    The idea that inerrant Scripture, tradition, and infallible authority are three perspective measurements sounds nice. It would be even better if that were Rome’s approach. But if Rome determines the content of tradition and defines the canon, Rome is the final authority. Sola Ecclesia.

    Rome offers no principled way to distinguish which of her pronouncements are infallible and which are not. Whenever somebody here or on C2C brings up examples as to where Rome has changed or contradicted itself, the solution is basically, “well, the Magisterium says that it is not inconsistent with itself or that it hasn’t changed.” Sola Ecclesia.

    Look, it would be much better if you all would just admit it and quite trying to argue from Scripture and tradition. You are not infallible like your Magisterium. You believe the church can’t err. Be consistent. Just tell us which council to go to, which pope to hear, etc. Your final, ultimate authority is Rome. It’s okay to admit it.

  62. Jason, not sure if you saw my second follow up post amid the sea of comments. Here’s another go to bring out the issue.
    It’s somewhere between 400-200 BC and two Jews are having a disagreement, each representing a different group. Jeshar believes that there is future bodily resurrection whereas Tobias believes that there is no resurrection, while Zaza believes that only the soul survives death (they also disagree over the timing of the feast of of first fruits and a number of other issues). Each one accuses the other of following a false interpretation. This and the other issues are radically dividing the community into 3 different groups (with more fracturing possible). How do they find out what is the truth?
    Hope you get a chance to reply. God Bless

  63. Jason, you do know that RC T2 tradition devolves into T0 Protestant opinionizing, right? Remember the kerfuffle over Caritas et Veritate?

    “Weigel admonishes us to divide Caritas in Veritate into sections that are “obviously Benedictine” and those that clearly “reflect current Justice and Peace default positions” (presumably, Weigel wants us to take the former seriously and to look suspiciously and, perhaps, dismissively at the latter). The “Benedictine” parts include the discussion of charity and truth, the link between life ethics and social ethics, and the relation of economic development to religious freedom. The Justice and Peace parts include the discussion on foreign aid, redistribution of wealth, and world public authority. Now, is it only a coincidence that the political and economic positions attributed to Benedict in the National Review piece are those with which Weigel already agrees and that the positions attributed to Justice and Peace are those with which Weigel already disagrees? Perhaps, perhaps not, but the villainizing of the Council for Justice and Peace may help to mitigate the backlash against the Pope’s encyclical from two ideologically American-conservative organizations that support Weigel’s work, namely the National Review and the Ethics and Public Policy Center. These ideological outfits turn to Weigel as one of their main point-men in Catholic matters, and I assume they don’t want to be disappointed by Catholicism.”

    http://evangelicalcatholicism.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/on-the-sheer-implausibility-of-george-weigels-story-part-1/

    I used to think papal supremacy and infallibility was a great theory that didn’t work out so well historically. The more I think about it, what the popes say — if in fact they say what they say — is only words that need to be interpreted.

    We’re all interpreters now.

  64. JOHN BUGAY,

    As to your April 20, 2013 at 10:30 am post,

    I would like you to consider something I have come to see. In every way that people rejected Jesus as being sent by the Father as the coming King, people now reject the Church as being sent by Christ to be His ambassadors to the world.

    You said:
    “MichaelTX, I’m sure that “living by faith” means faith in the actual events of the Gospel (life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) rather than the theoretical fantasy which is the foundation of the “Roman Catholic” “Church”.”

    To be clear I want you to know I completely believe in the actual events of the Scriptures and the physical life of Christ and His bodily resurrection, but I want you to look at what was spoken to a man believing Jesus’s while walking physically in His 33AD body in John 9,

    “They reviled him therefore, and said: Be thou his disciple; but we are the disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses: but as to this man, we know not from whence he comes.”

    Now I would like you to see again what you have said to me in this biblical parallel to this John 9 wording:

    — You are wrong therefore, and “be thou a disciple of the Church; but we are disciples of Christ. We know that God spoke to Christ: but as the “Roman Catholic” “Church”, we know not from whence “the theoretical fantasy””foundation” comes.”

    What I hope you think about John is that I believe Christ sent out disciples and called those disciples “to make disciples of a peoples” and “to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” I also believe we who are baptized into Christ have been made one people in Him and we are not called not to say, “I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I am of Cephas; and I of Christ.” But we are called to wonder,”Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

    Answer: No. There is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”

    “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment.”

    Be “careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. ”

    I believe the Church can be one, single and unified in Christ’s mystical body. Undivided as Jesus was having no “broken bones.” I have found no principled way to reject the unified Catholic Church, the mystical body of Christ, with out knowing I would 2000 years ago in that same principled way reject the physical Jesus Christ.

    I just hope it will be something you think about John. We all start out “solo”, but it “is not good that the man should be alone.”

    Peace and blessings to you in our common Lord,
    Mike

    “For you are all the children of God by faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

  65. @CD-ROM:

    I’m starting to suspect we may be defining these terms differently. I like your analogy because I think it does simplify it. I would say that a measurement device does have an ad-hoc relationship with reality.

    What made measurement useful was not that it wasn’t ad-hoc but that it was consistent. Once I tell you that water at sea level freezes as 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees and that each degree represents the same amount of added heat, you have no choice but construct scale I have.

    If you think the rotation of the Earth or the thermal expansion coefficient of mercury are ad hoc, then we certainly are looking at things differently! But I think you see that what makes a measurement accurate is its relationship to a real physical phenomenon, and what makes it precise is what you call “consistency,” i.e., how well repeated measurements of the same phenomenon produce the same result. The units of any such measurement can be arbitrary, but the scale that they establish based on some relationship with reality is not. Likewise, theology deals in reality, real metaphysical properties. Although they are not sensed, this does not prevent us from affirming theological “measurements” (dogmas) as true descriptions of reality.

    My first question is: are we really talking about consistency or principled / non ad-hoc? If we are just talking consistency then at least I’m understanding the argument better. Certainly it is true that sola scriptura has a terrible track record on consistency, I can agree with that. I certainly would agree the magisterium is more consistent. But I can pick many systems that are vastly more consistent than either. So I’m not sure how consistency is terribly winning argument for the magisterium.

    Consistency in the sense you describe above, which should probably better be described by the term “precision,” is a necessary quality of a reliable instrument. But an instrument that is precise but inaccurate is useless; an example might be a miscalibrated instrument that will consistently give you the same wrong answer. Consequently, precise but highly inaccurate instruments may be no better than accurate but imprecise instruments. As an example of the latter, take eyeballing the height of mercury in the thermometer; the mercury really responds to the temperature, but your ability to consistently take a reading is probably not great.

    An instrument can also be imprecise just because it is inaccurate. In that case, the measurement simply doesn’t mean anything. Say you have some voltage measuring instrument that includes a element that is highly temperature-sensitive. You might get different voltage measurements for the same actual voltage, because the temperature variations disrupt the dependence of the current in the device to the input voltage. It may be measuring something (it might be an excellent thermometer, for example), but that’s not what you’re trying to measure, so the instrument is useless.

    I would take sola scriptura as being something analogous to that situation. It’s not that the instrument is defective in itself; it just that the instrument isn’t even designed to be used in that way. When we say that there is no principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion, that’s what we mean. Sola scriptura doesn’t even have a principled reason why it should be accurate or even that we should expect it to be accurate, so it is unsurprising that neither ends up being the case.

    I get what you are saying and I agree with you. Independent verification is a vital and important means of knowing truth.

    Unfortunately, we’ve got something of a unique problem with theology, in that many of God’s properties are simply inaccessible to human reason. If we want to have independent verification with respect to theology, God has to give such a method to us. Of the examples you cited, only Orthodoxy and Catholicism have that kind of feedback mechanism between multiple legitimately independent and divinely provided forms of revelation. The problem with the Wesleyan quadrilateral is that reason and experience aren’t “given” in the sense of being supernatural, and neither is Tradition to the extent it is uncorrelated to the episcopacy. That leaves the Wesleyan quadrilateral in the same boat as sola scriptura, and for the reasons Dr. Liccione has outlined, sola scriptura really doesn’t even count as one such instrument.

    I don’t see how a conservative Catholic, Liccione in particular can make that case. His whole shtick is attacking the sort of private judgement that is required to weigh between multiple independent sources of knowledge like Liberal Catholics do. Scripture means whatever the church says scripture means, tradition is whatever the church says it is, and the correct inferences that can be drawn are whatever inferences the church chooses to draw. This is the argument against private conscience that CtC specializes in. The whole point of Liccione’s argument is to avoid “personal opinion” because “personal opinion is not a proper object of faith”, whatever that means.

    Maybe the analogy will be helpful then. Anything that doesn’t establish a principled distinction between divine revelation and personal opinion can’t “measure” divine revelation by definition. It is an instrument that is not even designed to work.

    From the perspective of a believer sola ecclesia denies the validity of any kind of cross checking. CtC’s core argument against Luther is not that Luther was wrong but that Luther was wrong in his application of scripture, tradition, reason and experience but that Luther was intrinsically wrong to disagree with the church.

    This simply isn’t true. On the contrary, it was the fact that Luther denied cross-checking that we had a problem. The entire idea of cross-checking is that all three instruments are both accurate and precise. They are calibrated against each other based on the fact that all are true. If they conflict, then none is wrong, which gives you some basis for correcting anomalous readings (viz., it is my personal misreading of the instrument, not the instrument itself). If it appears that one contradicts either of the other two, then I know I’ve done something wrong. By denying the authority of anything but Scripture, Luther rendered this kind of cross-checking impossible, because you could never be confident that the other two forms of revelation were correct as well.

  66. @Robert:

    Why is infallible Scripture a category error? Is it because infallibility only pertains to persons?

    I suppose there are cases that a message might be infallible at conveying meaning; take a stop sign conveying to Americans who know how to drive that one is to stop before entering the intersection. One might legitimately say that there is no way except in some truly pathological case that the sign could fail to convey its meaning. But that would be a highly contextualized cases intended specifically for the conveyance of that meaning, and nothing like that would be the case with Scripture.

    The Holy Spirit is a person and He breathed out the Scripture. He continues to illumine the text of Scripture. Ergo, the Scripture is infallible. Much of modern Rome is quite comfortable saying that and not inerrancy, so it’s a bit odd that you want to make the distinction.

    We need to make multiple distinctions if you want to accurately understand the Catholic view. In terms of content, what Scripture affirms is inerrant. The Holy Spirit is likewise infallible in that content being recorded in the intended manner, so in that sense, Scripture “infallibly” records the meaning that the Holy Spirit intended. And by the way, that covers translations, textual variants, and all of those things; the Church will never be deceived into accepting a text contrary to the Christian faith. So whether or not the Johannine comma is actually part of the original Gospel of John, for example, its content doesn’t conflict with dogma. Consequently, treating it as the Gospel will not be harmful to the faith.

    The problem is that it doesn’t follow that God intended Scripture to be do what you think it is intended to do. That doesn’t say anything about God’s infallibility; it just says something about your assessment of God’s intention, which is certainly fallible. If we don’t perceive the content of Scripture because we don’t use it in the way in which God intended to convey things to us, then the failure is not God’s, but ours. That is where I made the analogy to an uncalibrated instrument; you don’t know what Scripture is intended to do in the first place, so you’re misusing it, and you’re getting wrong answers. If you calibrated your readings against Tradition and the Magisterium, you wouldn’t make those mistakes.

    Rome offers no principled way to distinguish which of her pronouncements are infallible and which are not. Whenever somebody here or on C2C brings up examples as to where Rome has changed or contradicted itself, the solution is basically, “well, the Magisterium says that it is not inconsistent with itself or that it hasn’t changed.” Sola Ecclesia.

    Look, it would be much better if you all would just admit it and quite trying to argue from Scripture and tradition. You are not infallible like your Magisterium. You believe the church can’t err. Be consistent. Just tell us which council to go to, which pope to hear, etc. Your final, ultimate authority is Rome. It’s okay to admit it.

    The problem with admitting it is that it’s not true, because I don’t believe that any of those three things can err. That in itself delineates infallible subject matter; if Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium all independently agree, there is no way that could possibly be wrong. Consequently, if my interpretation of Scripture, Tradition or the Magisterium conflicts with either of the other two, that cannot possibly be a divinely revealed proposition, and I need to revise my understanding. So it is certainly the case that where there is not conflicting Magisterial doctrine that arguments from Scripture and Tradition are both fair game, and likewise, I don’t need the Magisterium to find error, because I can identify conflicts with Scripture and Tradition.

    I could still be wrong in my interpretation, in which case I could in principle be corrected by the Magisterium, but having three intersecting methods meaning I will rarely (if ever) be able to accidentally stray into flat-out denial of true and essential theological propositions, particularly after the first seven ecumenical councils resolved virtually every one of the mandatory theological proposition about God Himself and the Word Incarnate. That’s why I can easily dismiss someone who, for example, rejects Ephesus and Second Constantinople, because Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium unanimously testify to Jesus Christ being the Word of God. As to supposed change or contradiction, I’ve literally never seen such a claim proved successfully, and given the considerable investment people have in doing so, that would be a telling witness in favor of the Church simply as being the anvil that has worn out so many hammers.

    If you think you can do better at telling me who Christ is than the Church can, show me. Answer Christ’s question: who do you say that I am? Say what it means for Christ to be true God and true man, the only Mediator. These are answers that must be given before you could be trustworthy as a spiritual guide.

  67. @Dr. Hart:

    Jason, you do know that RC T2 tradition devolves into T0 Protestant opinionizing, right? Remember the kerfuffle over Caritas et Veritate?

    I used to think papal supremacy and infallibility was a great theory that didn’t work out so well historically. The more I think about it, what the popes say — if in fact they say what they say — is only words that need to be interpreted.

    We’re all interpreters now.

    I don’t know why people always assumed that the doctrinal authority on “faith and morals” means that they are taught the same in both circumstances. Morals are matters of principle and application. Teaching on morals is teaching of principle; on matters of application and judgment, there can always be differences of opinion. Whether Weigel is right in terms of who was making the judgment, the point is that this sort of prudential judgment could always be liable to error, even if the underlying principle isn’t.

    The inability to separate the two, attributing infallibility even to prudential judgments under a “key of knowledge,” was exactly the sort of kookery that got the Spiritual Franciscans into trouble. Given this sort of radical moral self-righteousness was a good part of the Reformation itself, I’m not surprised that you are interpreting Catholicism this way, but I would respond that there’s a reason these sorts of people have been excommunicated. Claiming false and exaggerated authority for private opinion is not a new phenomenon, and it has been the habit of liberals who want to disregard the authority of the Church to try to defuse that authority in exactly this way. I am not surprised that Weigel made a concerted effort to head this off at the pass.

  68. Jonathan,

    You wrote:

    If you think you can do better at telling me who Christ is than the Church can, show me. Answer Christ’s question: who do you say that I am? Say what it means for Christ to be true God and true man, the only Mediator. These are answers that must be given before you could be trustworthy as a spiritual guide.

    Here is the problem—I have never said, nor would I affirm, that I’m better at telling anyone who Christ is than His church.

    No magisterial Protestant Reformer thought that. In fact, what they thought was that the medieval church had so far devolved from what Christ intended and had so far devolved from what the early fathers actually believed that reform was necessary to restore the church’s ability to tell the world who Christ is. Indulgences, the papacy, Marian devotion, relic veneration obfuscate Christ’s role as the one perfect mediator between God and man.

    Your entire response is an excellent example of sola ecclesia. If you approach the Magisterium believing that it cannot err, than the Magisterium is your final authority and not Scripture and tradition. The pronouncements of the current Magisterium are what are binding, even when they contradict Scripture and tradition. It’s nice to say that they don’t, but then when you refer me to Magisterial interpretation to prove that they don’t, you are returning to your final infallible authority—the Magisterium. No one reading the Scripture on their own would come up with either the doctrine of indulgences or the assumption of Mary. No one reading tradition from the first four centuries apart from the Magisterium would come up them either. But it doesn’t matter. The Magisterium says they are there, and who are you to question the Magisterium?

    One council says that there is no salvation without visible union with the Roman pontiff, and you see historical evidence that such is what was actually believed because the church tried to kill “schismatics” and “heretics.” But Vatican II comes along and essentially denies that/defines union in a way that earlier popes and councils would not have dreamed of. No matter, the Magisterium of today tells us what the Magisterium of hundreds of years ago meant even if its pronouncements contradict early ones. Sola Ecclesia.

    No one is advocating reading Scripture apart from the church. If to read Scripture with the church means the church is infallible, then where does Scripture say that? If all three sources of authority are working together, then where does Scripture say the church is infallible? I have too high a view of man’s depravity (because of Scripture) to believe the church is infallible just because the church says so and because it can trace a pretended line of succession back to the apostles.

  69. Comment

  70. @JONATHAN PREJEAN April 22, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    If you think the rotation of the Earth or the thermal expansion coefficient of mercury are ad hoc, then we certainly are looking at things differently

    I didn’t say that though I might not disagree with that. What I said was that choosing to divide the rotation of the earth into a 24x60x60 system was ad-hoc. I said that choosing to assign 32 to the thermal expansion of mercury at the point where water freezes at sea level is ad-hoc. To what extent choosing our experience of “day and night” vs. other temporal phenomenon to make the basis of our measurement is ad-hoc is a much deeper question than we need to address.

    But I think you see that what makes a measurement accurate is its relationship to a real physical phenomenon

    I’m going to nitpick a bit in case we need this analogy. We have real physical phenomenon we can’t accurately measure. We have things that are accurate that don’t have ties to objective physical phenomenon, i.e. someone can spell accurately. What I’d say is that we have via. mercury developed a means of objectively determining magnitude. So we reduced a complex problem regarding heat to a simple problem of math and we have very strong social agreement on math.

    Likewise, theology deals in reality, real metaphysical properties. Although they are not sensed, this does not prevent us from affirming theological “measurements” (dogmas) as true descriptions of reality.

    OK now this does get to Liccione’s argument about objective. I’d like to go a bit slower here philosophically. Are these definitions or theorems? That is, is he defining the terms this way in terms of one another or making assertions about what most logically follow?

    If it is definitions I’m not following the chain. What is being defined in terms of what?

    If it is an argument for these statements being true they seem to non specific for me to make heads of tails of what he’s saying. What does it mean to say that there are “real metaphysical properties”. How would I know a real metaphysical property from a fake one? And in what sense can something not sensed by a true description of reality as opposed to a fake one?

    For example I can create an imaginary metaphysical reality call it M.. I can assigning dogmas to it, D1, D2, D3… Dn. I can then use laws of logic and derive a series of theological statements from these dogmas: T1, T2… Ta. Where D1..Dn are in the T’s. And that theology is objective to that metaphysical reality, anyone who agreed with D1, D2… Dn must (in principle) agree with my theology. That is anyone can independently verify the theology and I agree there. And if that’s all that is meant that’s fine. If you are saying that any objective theology must have socially agreed upon dogmas I can completely buy that.

    But the objectivity of the dogmas doesn’t mean anything about the actual “metaphysical reality” of M. Let’s assume there is such a thing as a unique “real” (again skipping what that even means) metaphysical reality M0. To actually verify the D’s against M0 and not just M, we need some way to conduct experiments against M.

    Let me do this in terms of sense:
    20130423070611_Sense Experience: See black blob out of corner of eye
    20130423070611_Theorem: My sock is in the corner of the room

    Which of those are dogmas? In the material world, you to verify that my sock is in the corner of the room are capable of having an independent sense experience. Otherwise you both need to know of and agree to use my sense experiences as dogmatic truth. If you are using the Theorems then you also have to just consider my analysis as unassailable fact since you don’t have an independent way of getting to it.

    I’ll hit the sola scriptura stuff in my next post but I figured these claims were independent of any particular religion so could be isolated.

  71. Jonathan, I have heard it over and over again. All that the popes write is not infallible. This is what generally happens when an RC is uncomfortable with what the pope has written. So great, the authority of the papacy is limited.

    Then how does that solve the problem that Jason raises in this post? If sola scriptura doesn’t yield unity, how does papal authority properly understood? Rome has as many opinions as Heinz has varieties. And yet Rome is not supposed to be that way (and at one time it wasn’t, back in the day — 1950 — when you has as a lay RC obtain permission from your bishop to read Hume).

  72. Robert:

    Though I haven’t had time to plow through this entire thread, your latest comment indicates that you understand neither the Catholic IP nor your own. E.g., addressing Jonathan, you write:

    Your entire response is an excellent example of sola ecclesia. If you approach the Magisterium believing that it cannot err, than the Magisterium is your final authority and not Scripture and tradition. The pronouncements of the current Magisterium are what are binding, even when they contradict Scripture and tradition. It’s nice to say that they don’t, but then when you refer me to Magisterial interpretation to prove that they don’t, you are returning to your final infallible authority—the Magisterium. No one reading the Scripture on their own would come up with either the doctrine of indulgences or the assumption of Mary. No one reading tradition from the first four centuries apart from the Magisterium would come up them either. But it doesn’t matter. The Magisterium says they are there, and who are you to question the Magisterium?

    To call the the Catholic IP sola ecclesia is a polemical distortion. On the CIP, the Magisterium does not determine or invent the content of Scripture and Tradition. Those latter are the means by which divine revelation is transmitted to us, and their content is a fixed “given” simply because divine revelation itself is. The Magisterium’s necessity is epistemic, not ontic. Thus, by virtue of being divinely protected from error under certain conditions, it identifies and interprets Scripture and Tradition with divine authority, so as to transcend human opinion about what’s in them and what they mean. But on your IP, everybody after the Apostles is always fallible; therefore, nobody can teach with divine authority, which is infallible. Hence, even the beliefs that the biblical canon is to contain only such-and-such books, is divinely inspired and thus inerrant, and on disputed points means A rather than B, are fallible.

    Accordingly, if those beliefs are to be accepted as anything other than provisional opinions, you have to present them not as articles of faith taught with divine authority and, as such, commanding the unconditional assent of faith, but as items of human knowledge established like other such items–e.g., that the shape of the Earth is roughly spherical. Yet, even though we can do that in science, we cannot do it in theology. Scientists in general merit their authority because their very methods supply the means to rationally verify their claims independently of their authority; but theology ponders divine revelation, expressible as truths that cannot be discovered by any method of human reason; instead, God must communicate them to us on his authority. Therefore, there is simply no way to verify authentic expressions of divine revelation as such by human reason, independently of such authority. And so the question before us simply becomes who bears divine authority and when. But your IP rules out answering that question. For on your IP, the belief that Scripture bears divine authority is not itself taught with divine authority, and thus might be wrong; nor is it an item of knowledge like the shape of the Earth, because there is no means of verifying it independently of divine authority. Even if you uphold Scripture as “self-attesting,” that is only a fallible opinion unless you can show that it’s actually an item of human knowledge, verifiable with known methods of acquiring such knowledge. But you cannot show that, for the reason I’ve already given. We can use quasi-scientific methods (e.g., the grammatico-historical method) to learn, in many cases, what the human authors of Scripture meant to assert; but no such method can suffice, even in principle, to tell us that what’s thereby asserted expresses divine revelation, or exactly what that means in disputed cases.

    That is why, on the CIP, the triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium is such that the three elements are mutually attesting and necessarily interdependent. As Vatican II said, “none can stand without the others.” That’s because pitting any one of them against the other essentially rules out identifying any proposition as an authentic expression of divine revelation rather than a human opinion.

    Now to your credit, you recognize that Scripture should not be read apart from something called “the church.” But you don’t grasp the implications of that; instead, your very argument undermines your own position. Thus:

    No one is advocating reading Scripture apart from the church. If to read Scripture with the church means the church is infallible, then where does Scripture say that? If all three sources of authority are working together, then where does Scripture say the church is infallible? I have too high a view of man’s depravity (because of Scripture) to believe the church is infallible just because the church says so and because it can trace a pretended line of succession back to the apostles.

    By raising the question: “Where does Scripture say that?”, as if the answer could trump the Magisterium’s claims for itself, you are proceeding as though the content and meaning of divine revelation can be reliably known independently of any church’s authority. If that were the case, then we ought to read Scripture independently of any church’s claim to authority, so as to assess such a claim for ourselves like any other matter of human knowledge, and pick our church accordingly. That would make us Protestants. But given your own interpretation of Scripture as teaching the “total depravity” of human reason, you can’t do that. Hence you and those who agree with you are left only with your opinions, which have no authority whatsoever. And that renders your question is altogether idle.

    Against the CIP, your objectively strongest argument is that the Magisterium, even when teaching with its full authority, has contradicted itself over time. But that is just to beg the question. High-level magisterial statements as you interpret them are thus mutually contradictory, but the question is whether they can and should be interpreted otherwise, whether by individuals or the Magisterium itself. They can be, as evidenced by the fact that thoughtful Catholics and the Magisterium itself, over time, have seen no such contradictions. And if the Magisterium does bear the authority it claims, then they should be so interpreted.

    Against that, you have cited the favorite example of contemporary Protestants, namely that Vatican II contradicted the traditional Catholic dogma of extra ecclesiam nulla salus (“Outside the Church there is no salvation; ‘EENS’ for short). But there is no historical evidence that EENS was taken by the Magisterium to mean that people in general can only be saved through “visible union” with the Catholic Church. For a little over a millennium (roughly, 400-1600), most Western-European Catholics understood EENS that way because they lived in a profoundly Catholic culture, so that a person’s lack of visible union with the Church was presumed to be radically culpable. But given the persistence of the schism with the Orthodox, the discovery of the “New World” full of religiously ignorant natives, and the entrenchment of Protestantism, the Magisterium came to reject that presumption. Even Aquinas recognized that “invincible ignorance” is exculpatory; Popes Pius IX and XII, and in due course Vatican II, merely expanded the application of that concept to allow for exculpatory “imperfect” communion with the Church.

    It won’t do to cry foul here, claiming that the Magisterium’s self-interpretation is self-serving. What looks that way from the standpoint of your IP doesn’t look that way from the standpoint of the CIP. And so the question which IP is the more reasonable, given the subject-matter of divine revelation, must be addressed before the question who gets to interpret magisterial pronouncements, and how. You have not done that.

    Best,
    Mike

  73. Therefore, there is simply no way to verify authentic expressions of divine revelation as such by human reason, independently of such authority.

    I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.

  74. Darryl:

    Addressing J9nathan, you write:

    So great, the authority of the papacy is limited.

    Then how does that solve the problem that Jason raises in this post? If sola scriptura doesn’t yield unity, how does papal authority properly understood? Rome has as many opinions as Heinz has varieties. And yet Rome is not supposed to be that way (and at one time it wasn’t, back in the day — 1950 — when you has as a lay RC obtain permission from your bishop to read Hume).

    The “problem” you pose is only a problem if you indulge a non-sequitur: From the fact that the Catholic Church harbors many theological opinions, and always will, she harbors no way in principle to distinguish between theological opinions and authentic, binding expressions of divine revelation. But that doesn’t follow. All that follows is that employing such a means still allows for many theological opinions. That would only be a problem if the means employed were itself a matter of opinion. But on the CIP, it is not, and the fact that many “Catholics” proceed as though it were does not make it so. The difference between the CIP and your IP is that the latter not only lacks such a means, but rules it out in principle by denying ecclesial infallibility.

    Best,
    Mike

  75. SS:

    You cannot “teach” me what you think you can because, given that the subject-matter is divine revelation, you have no authority, either divine or human, to do so.

    Best,
    Mike

  76. Mike L,

    Pope Honorius was anathemized by Pope Leo II. At the 6th council:

    “with these we likewise provide that Honorius, who was bishop of Rome, should be cast forth from the Church of God, and anathematized; because we find by his writings to Sergius that he followed his mind in all things, and confirmed the impious dogmas.”

    and Pope Leo II also added:

    “also Honorius, who did not illuminate this apostolic see with the doctrine of apostolic tradition, but permitted her who was undefiled to be polluted by profane teaching.”

    Was Pope Honorius unable to verify authentic revelation as pertaining to the monothelite controversy?

    Thanks.
    SS.

  77. You cannot “teach” me what you think you can because, given that the subject-matter is divine revelation, you have no authority, either divine or human, to do so.

    Mike,

    I was quoting Yoda, you didn’t get it. 🙂

    None of us are teachers here. I address all of you as equals.

    (Reread the earlier part of the thread if you can spare the time)

    Best,
    SS.

  78. SS:

    As a Jedi, the (fictional) Yoda had (fictional) authority over the (fictional) Luke Skywalker. I’m reassured to see that you don’t think that amounts to much. But if you want to play Darth Vader, I’ll be happy to oblige. 🙂

    As to the Honorius issue, which I have debated more times than I can count, Honorius was anathematized by his successor because he didn’t see monothelitism as a heresy and thus allowed that “profane teaching” to spread unchecked. Since you can Google and read Vatican I’s definition of papal infallibility for yourself, I invite you to do so, quote it in full, and explain to us benighted, logic-deprived Catholics how the example of Honorius contradicts it.

    Best,
    Mike

  79. The “problem” you pose is only a problem if you indulge a non-sequitur: From the fact that the Catholic Church harbors many theological opinions, and always will, she harbors no way in principle to distinguish between theological opinions and authentic, binding expressions of divine revelation. But that doesn’t follow. All that follows is that employing such a means still allows for many theological opinions. That would only be a problem if the means employed were itself a matter of opinion. But on the CIP, it is not, and the fact that many “Catholics” proceed as though it were does not make it so. The difference between the CIP and your IP is that the latter not only lacks such a means, but rules it out in principle by denying ecclesial infallibility.

    By what IP did John the Baptist speak and baptize?

  80. SS,

    I thought the Yoda flashback was funny being I’ve been following, though of course you could probably imagine I agree with Michael L in his understand, though I’m sure Michael L is deficient in areas of understand like each of us are. He probably gains more understand while interacting with others as each of us does. “As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I would imagine he would agree with me.

    Peace,
    Mike

  81. Michael Liccione, re. your comment at April 23, 2013 at 7:15 am, I am gratified that the Internet is enabling your Protestant interlocutors to how you Roman Catholics do things, and how utterly meaningless your methods actually are, and how absolutely thin and meaningless is “Vatican I’s definition of papal infallibility” within your own “CIP” — that in all of church history, you actually know just one thing with the certainty with which you claim it (“Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven”) — every other portion of your dogma suffers from the same shifting sand that you attribute to Protestantism.

  82. SS:

    By what IP did John the Baptist speak and baptize?

    Your question is relevant only if the CIP entails that those who, according to the CIP, received divine revelation directly must rely on precisely the same IP as those who have not, such as ourselves. But the CIP entails no such thing; it describes only how divine revelation is transmitted to and understood by those who have not. Therefore, your question is irrelevant.

    Best,
    Mike

  83. John Bugay:

    We’ve been over this ground many times before at CTC. I have no interest in going over it with you again.

    Best,
    Mike

  84. As a Jedi, the (fictional) Yoda had (fictional) authority over the (fictional) Luke Skywalker. I’m reassured to see that you don’t think that amounts to much. But if you want to play Darth Vader, I’ll be happy to oblige.

    See comments April 19, 11.37 am – 1.33 pm.

    As to the Honorius issue, which I have debated more times than I can count, Honorius was anathematized by his successor because he didn’t see monothelitism as a heresy and thus allowed that “profane teaching” to spread unchecked. Since you can Google and read Vatican I’s definition of papal infallibility for yourself, I invite you to do so, quote it in full, and explain to us benighted, logic-deprived Catholics how the example of Honorius contradicts it.

    So I assume you meant to say: ‘that was a private letter and not an ‘official’ pronouncement’…

    If a doctor writes your child a deadly prescription on a blank piece of paper as opposed to his office pad, is he any less guilty of the mistake?

    What you claim in logic you lose in credibility… Johnny Cochran’s logic was air tight too, you know.

  85. Michael Liccione, you have no interest in going over it again with me, but you will find yourself going over it again and again with others. Your little secret is out of the bag: your CIP is meaningless because it only gives you one piece of information with the certainty that you claim: “Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven” — every other Roman dogma suffers from the shifting sand syndrome.

  86. SS:

    Since Catholic doctrine has never held that popes can never err at all, but only that they cannot err under certain (specified) conditions, your counterexample is not a counterexample. I’m sorry if you think Catholicism is not credible for that reason, but that says a lot more about your attitude than about anything else.

    Best,
    Mike

  87. In response to my question: By what IP did John the Baptist speak and baptize?

    Mike L said:

    Your question is relevant only if the CIP entails that those who, according to the CIP, received divine revelation directly must rely on precisely the same IP as those who have not, such as ourselves. But the CIP entails no such thing; it describes only how divine revelation is transmitted to and understood by those who have not. Therefore, your question is irrelevant.

    Your first premise is question begging: how do you know that John the Baptist received divine revelation?

  88. SS:

    You asked:

    Your first premise is question begging: how do you know that John the Baptist received divine revelation?

    That question is itself question-begging. It presupposes that I either could or should be able to say how I “know.” But I don’t claim to “know,” and needn’t; I claim only to believe by faith, by trusting the Catholic Church, and therefore Scripture, as an embodiment of divine authority. And until I get to experience divine authority face-to-face after I die, that’s all I can claim.

    Best,
    Mike

  89. Since Catholic doctrine has never held that popes can never err at all, but only that they cannot err under certain (specified) conditions, your counterexample is not a counterexample. I’m sorry if you think Catholicism is not credible for that reason, but that says a lot more about your attitude than about anything else.

    Re my attitude, to quote a wise man, “Let’s all just try to be charitable and treat one another as though there are actual people behind these avatars.”

    Re “Since Catholic doctrine has never held that popes can never err at all, but only that they cannot err under certain (specified) conditions, your counterexample is not a counterexample”

    That was precisely the point of my example. In my view, catholic doctrine has hedged and counter hedged itself so much to the point of voiding its positions of any credibility.

    A doctor if sued in a court of law can be acquitted for lack of evidence if he had written the mistaken prescription on blank paper vs his office pad which has his name on it. He is off on a technicality and can claim consistency all he wants, but no one thinks he’s innocent. The catholic stance is no different.

  90. SS,
    Let us not miss the value of all Catholics for near 400 years hearing in the prayers of the Church this man’s cowardice in settling heresy in Christ’s Mystical Body.

  91. A doctor if sued in a court of law can be acquitted for lack of evidence if he had written the mistaken prescription on blank paper vs his office pad which has his name on it. He is off on a technicality and can claim consistency all he wants, but no one thinks he’s innocent. The catholic stance is no different.

    The “Catholic stance” entails that Honorius erred by expressing a falsehood and leaving it unchecked. So he wasn’t innocent on any account. What you mean is that the Catholic Church isn’t “innocent,” because “no one thinks”…well, what exactly? Honorius signed his letter to Sergius approving monothelitism. That was the crime, and nobody thinks otherwise. But as you know perfectly well, he did not thereby bind the Church to his error by any criterion the Church has ever recognized. So what you see as a problem, I don’t, and you have presented no reason to believe I should.

  92. SS,
    I sse it is a great asset we as Christians have to see the Church has fought continually with one hedge then another to keep the faith from holding on to error. Even when all that fighting makes opportunity for the look of foolishness.
    Fools for the sake of wisdom in Christ,
    Mike

  93. I said:
    Your first premise is question begging: how do you know that John the Baptist received divine revelation?

    You answered:
    That question is itself question-begging. It presupposes that I either could or should be able to say how I “know.” But I don’t claim to “know,” and needn’t; I claim only to believe by faith, by trusting the Catholic Church, and therefore Scripture, as an embodiment of divine authority. And until I get to experience divine authority face-to-face after I die, that’s all I can claim.

    John the Baptist is a catholic saint, Saint JTB.

    How did he know that He had divine revelation from God?

  94. John the Baptist is a catholic saint, Saint JTB. How did he know that He had divine revelation from God?

    I don’t know. Can you explain why I should?

    Best,
    Mike

  95. that in all of church history, you actually know just one thing with the certainty with which you claim it (“Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven”) — every other portion of your dogma suffers from the same shifting sand that you attribute to Protestantism.

    John,

    Do you have link to your unpacked thoughts on the above, re the assumption?
    Maybe a discussion you’ve had with Mike or other catholics on the topic?

    Thanks.

  96. I don’t know. Can you explain why I should?

    You don’t know.

    Why then, given that JTB is a catholic saint , do you ask the protestant for a principled basis on which he can delineate doctrinal truth from falsehood?

  97. Mike you wrote: “But there is no historical evidence that EENS was taken by the Magisterium to mean that people in general can only be saved through “visible union” with the Catholic Church. For a little over a millennium (roughly, 400-1600), most Western-European Catholics understood EENS that way because they lived in a profoundly Catholic culture, so that a person’s lack of visible union with the Church was presumed to be radically culpable. ”

    Apparently that outlook informed the papacy down to 1860 since Pius IX seemed to be following the logic of no salvation outside the church when he abducted Edgardo Mortara from his parents. http://www.amazon.com/Kidnapping-Edgardo-Mortara-David-Kertzer/dp/0679768173

  98. Mike, since the mechanism of infallibility is not disrupted by a diversity of Roman Catholic opinions, the same goes for Protestantism. We have word and Spirit and divisions among Protestants do not undermine the Protestant mechanism of authority.

    So it’s just your opinion.

  99. To make it clear: I don’t claim that the Protestant epistemic model is correct. I do see the need for authority, as it was expressed in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem council. That I recognize that need does not necessitate that I locate its fulfilment in the CC however. The motives of incredulity simply overwhelm claimed motives of credibility. This stance need not entail ecclesial deism any more than God being guilt of selfsame at the time of Christ when the authorities in power were confronted by John the Baptist and His disciples.

  100. SS, I’ve given you the “unpacking”, in several links — that post got trapped in moderation because of the links, I’m guessing. Here is probably the primary place where that is discussed:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/01/michael-liccione-interpretive-paradigms.html

    He wants to say then that it’s not “Papally-defined” dogmas that we can know with the certainty, but “indeed to every papal ratification of conciliar dogmatic decrees set forth to bind the whole Church, going back to the 4th century.”

    However, when you look at what’s actually been defined, even within these councils, it’s very easy to prove that “councils err” — and nobody, absolutely nobody, has the correct answer.

    You can follow back some of the links in that article for verification for the things I’m saying.

  101. John,

    Thanks.

  102. SS, thanks for standing in there and challenging him.

  103. By the way, God does give “certain specified conditions” by which one may discern “divine revelation” from “fallible human opinion”:

    “And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that Yahweh has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of Yahweh, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that Yahweh has not spoken” (Deut 18:21–22)

    HT: Scott Clark, Heidelblog.

  104. SS,

    ” I do see the need for authority, as it was expressed in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem council. That I recognize that need does not necessitate that I locate its fulfillment in the CC however.”

    You are on the right path. God is good all the time.
    Mike

  105. SS:

    I’ve now spent the better part of my morning on this thread, dealing with replies to my comment to Robert from people other than Robert. This will be my last comment until Robert returns with a reasoned reply.

    1. I don’t claim to know much of anything about John the Baptist, save that he existed and was considered by some to be some sort of prophet. What I claim to believe, by faith, about John the Baptist is that he is a saint and that he experienced divine revelation directly. But from that, nothing in particular follows about exactly how he “knew” he was doing so. I infer that he knew he was experiencing divine revelation directly because I believe, by faith, that the account of his baptism of Jesus given in the Gospel of Matthew is an inerrant expression of divine revelation. But again, no particular account follows about exactly how that experience, either alone or in the context of his general relationship with God, caused John t0 “know” it was divine revelation. Nor does the CIP require us to adopt any particular speculation about that.

    2. It is not difficult to learn and understand the Catholic Church’s general account of the conditions under which she is infallible. There is no disagreement ab0ut when popes have unilaterally taught infallibly, or that conciliar dogmatic canons, ratified and intended by popes to bind the whole Church, are instances of infallible teaching. Both are exercises of the “extraordinary” magisterium. Nor is there disagreement about the original and most common case: the “ordinary and universal magisterium” of the bishops is infallible, such as when formulating and affirming the Apostles’ Creed to be recited by adults being baptized. There is disagreement among Catholic theologians about some cases of “ordinary and universal” teaching; but those are addressed by Rome from time to time; the most recent to be addressed was that of women’s ordination. In 1995, Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger presented the Church’s teaching on the subjust as having been “infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium.”

    3. You write:

    I don’t claim that the Protestant epistemic model is correct. I do see the need for authority, as it was expressed in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem council. That I recognize that need does not necessitate that I locate its fulfilment in the CC however. The motives of incredulity simply overwhelm claimed motives of credibility.

    Understood. But what you’re not taking due account of here is that, unless the teaching authority of Christ is inherited from him through the Apostles by their visible and traceable successors, then the questions who’s got such authority and when becomes a matter of opinion, thus rendering the authority essentially nugatory. You may not like the “Protestant epistemic model,” but yours yields exactly the same result.

    Best,
    Mike

  106. @JONATHAN PREJEAN April 22, 2013 at 7:35 pm (part 2)

    CD: From the perspective of a believer sola ecclesia denies the validity of any kind of cross checking. CtC’s core argument against Luther is not that Luther was wrong in his application of scripture, tradition, reason and experience but that Luther was intrinsically wrong to disagree with the church.

    JP:This simply isn’t true. On the contrary, it was the fact that Luther denied cross-checking that we had a problem. The entire idea of cross-checking is that all three instruments are both accurate and precise. They are calibrated against each other based on the fact that all are true. If they conflict, then none is wrong, which gives you some basis for correcting anomalous readings (viz., it is my personal misreading of the instrument, not the instrument itself). If it appears that one contradicts either of the other two, then I know I’ve done something wrong. By denying the authority of anything but Scripture, Luther rendered this kind of cross-checking impossible, because you could never be confident that the other two forms of revelation were correct as well.

    OK that’s an excellent answer! I really get that. Now there is a bit of a problem. If I 3 instruments which are accurate, precise and perspicuous then I don’t need to cross check them. The only reason I would need to cross check is if there is a chance of user error.

    And there does seem to be a change of user error. This is the argument against sola scriptura that people misread scripture. I frequently hear claims that people misread the magisterium when for example they understood them to be declaring horrific violence against other Christian populations to be a Christian duty they were wrong in their understanding. It is clear that there is a misread of tradition since most of the 4th and 5th century heresies were about arguments from tradition.

    So I have 3 instruments: scripture, tradition and magisterium. With accuracy As, At, Am respectively for me; that is not the chance they are wrong but the chance I read them wrong. I’m not sure if my inaccuracy in using them is correlates: i.e. if I stink at reading scripture am I also less likely to understand tradition? If we assume not, the best possible case my accuracy then all 3 will read wrong Atot = 1-(1-As)(1-At)(1-Am). Example if they are all 90% accurate when I use them and independent of one another I’ll still be wrong .1% of the time. If you assume I’ll also err when 2 of them read wrong, and the outlier is correct my error number explodes, for example it will be 3.1% in my example where each of Aa, At and Am was 90% having grown 31x larger). So the important thing is I can still err in using these tools.

    Now let me stop here on this analogy. Agree, disagree?

    Now let me compound this. I can think of
    Aa = Ca + Ua
    where Ca denotes CD’s chance of error and Ua is the error in the underlying instrument. I can do that for At and Am as well. In particular Liccione’s apologetic depends crucially on Um = 0, and I’d argue he is vague but almost seems to be asserting that Am = 0. If Am = 0, I don’t need the other two instruments at all, this is the Protestant charge of prima ecclesia. If on the other hand Am > 0 there are two cases:
    a) Um = 0 and Cm > 0.
    b) Um, Cm are both non zero.

    Why are these two cases so crucially different? Moreover the Conservative Protestant position is that Us = 0 with Um, Ut > 0. I’m unclear how that’s any different in a principled way from Um = 0. Which gets to the whole, “. Sola scriptura doesn’t even have a principled reason why it should be accurate or even that we should expect it to be accurate, so it is unsurprising that neither ends up being the case”.

    Unfortunately, we’ve got something of a unique problem with theology, in that many of God’s properties are simply inaccessible to human reason.

    I’m very iffy on that one. Saying something is permanently inaccessible to human reason would imply that is cannot be meaningfully true. In other words if I have a statement X and its opposite ~X and I can’t form propositions with either X or ~X then saying X is true isn’t even a statement. If you wanted to make a weaker statement that God’s properties cannot be derived from reason I’m fine with that. This opens a huge can of worms and may just be a side point so I thought I’d flag and move on.

    Of the examples you cited, only Orthodoxy and Catholicism have that kind of feedback mechanism between multiple legitimately independent and divinely provided forms of revelation. The problem with the Wesleyan quadrilateral is that reason and experience aren’t “given” in the sense of being supernatural, and neither is Tradition to the extent it is uncorrelated to the episcopacy.

    What does “legitimately independent” mean? Why would reason need to be supernatural? All reason does is manipulate statements. Why would experience need to be supernatural if the content of religion has any ties to the earthly world? In terms of tradition what does, “uncorrelated to the episcopacy”. Is this an additional requirement?

    Maybe the analogy will be helpful then. Anything that doesn’t establish a principled distinction between divine revelation and personal opinion can’t “measure” divine revelation by definition. It is an instrument that is not even designed to work.

    My primary objection would be that Christianity generally asserts that revelation is given through persons who retain some degree of agency. There are no Oracles possessed by spirits in Christianity. Similar to posession prophetic vision and divination aren’t on your list of 3 instruments. Those overpowering means are going to be far better at separating out revelation from personal opinion. So even if I were to agree with this argument, and that’s not unreasonable, I’d be hard pressed to see how that’s an argument for rather than against Conservative Catholicism. Something like Voodoo would be king here. But among major religions Buddhism or Hinduism both work very hard at separating out your opinions of revelation from revelation, that’s what the 4 noble truths of Buddhism are about. It is a weird apologetic that amounts to, “you should be Catholic because Buddha was right about the nature of divine truth”. Even within Catholicism such an approach would pull one towards Hermetic or Mystic Catholicism and not Conservative Catholicism.

    But lets assume we get past that. I’m not sure how the 3 instruments you mention have that distinction.

    The magisterium clearly makes claim to directed revelation. On the other hand the stylistic elements of the various Pope’s i.e. their personal opinions shine through.

    Scripture has authors and those authors have opinion. There is no principled distinction between their opinions and divine revelation.

    Tradition similarly has writers who have agendas. Since the individual components aren’t protected from error those are going to be the strongest area.

    The three instruments you have are kinda middling based on the personal opinion criteria.

    ___

    If by personal opinion you must mean my personal opinion and not all personal opinion that’s different. In theory at least those 3 instruments are at least capable of being consistent that’s a somewhat different claim. In practice they seem to have something of a mixed track record. Most subgroups of Protestants would do worse. But this directed against the Conservative Reformed. And when we talk about Conservative Reformed theology

    — They both make claims to initially being based on divine revelation
    — The are both consistent / objective with respect to believers. Believers in the Conservative Reformed paradigm seem much more able to consistently identify doctrines with a high success rate.

    So given this criteria what’s wrong with Jesus should be understood through Paul who should be understand through Calvin and Dort for creating a system of objective revelation?

    Now let me just respond early to the “God given” objection. Catholics typically make 3 arguments for Catholic doctrine being God given:

    a) Historical one. Liccione attacked the idea of historical evidence rather specifically. So I assume he’s not going to argue that historically you can prove a direct connection between Jesus and the early church.

    b) Scriptural. And of course this one falls apart specifically in the Calvin / Dort area since they make their argument from scripture. So begging the question.

    c) The other type is a theological claim. That God must have created a material church so as to achieve One God, One Faith, One Baptism… We are in the middle of a variant of that so that one becomes circular.

  107. Mike,

    Earlier you said:

    Therefore, there is simply no way to verify authentic expressions of divine revelation as such by human reason, independently of such authority.

    That’s precisely why Christ asked the Pharisees “By what authority did John the Baptist baptize, heaven’s or human?”

    JTB, a catholic saint, did not derive his cred from the authority of the Pharisees (the most ‘visible, you can find them on any block’ argument of Jason’s). That is why you claiming that you don’t need to know how JTB knew that he had divine revelation only proves my point that you are in Tu Quoque that is the logical consequence of your own systematics.

    Further, the contention is not that it is hard to learn of the conditions under which the CC is infallible. The contention is that these ‘conditions’, when put to the light of history, have been shown to be moving goalposts for the sake of retaining a deeply contrived internal consistency. Whether it’s Pope Liberius’ ex-communication of Athanasius, Zozimus and the pelagian controversy, the anathemizing of Pope Honorius by Leo II, or other examples, major acrobatics have to be done to retain said consistency. What you lose in the process however is credulity.

    Re your last point about ‘where does authority lie then?’. I will answer you if you answer this question:

    Did John the Baptist baptize by human authority or divine authority? If you say divine, that will also be my answer to your question.

  108. SS,
    John the Baptist is basically an incarnation of the purpose of Isreal. Therefor he has by divine choice the mission and needed revelation of Isreal to draw from for his mission. I liked this line by Fiengold in a lecture given at the conference You Shall Be My Witnesses … in 2010 called “The Mission and Glories of the Chosen People:

    “Psalm 147:19–20:
    “He (God) declares his word to Jacob, his statutes
    and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any
    other nation; they do not know his ordinances. Praise
    the Lord!”
    All of Judaism is summarized in John the Baptist, the
    last of the Jewish prophets, a voice crying in the wilderness
    to prepare the way for the Lord Himself who is coming.
    All of Judaism is like the finger of John the Baptist who
    points out Christ as the Lamb of God. All of Judaism could
    say, like John the Baptist, that it is not worthy to tie the
    sandals of the One who comes in the name of the Lord.”

    That is also the call on each one of us who has had Christ revealed to us.

    Here is the pdf for the whole talk:
    /files/THC88.pdf

    Just put their home page in front of it.

    It is a good talk.
    Mike

  109. +JMJ+

    Michael Liccione wrote:

    I don’t claim to know much of anything about John the Baptist, save that he existed and was considered by some to be some sort of prophet. What I claim to believe, by faith, about John the Baptist is that he is a saint and that he experienced divine revelation directly. But from that, nothing in particular follows about exactly how he “knew” he was doing so. I infer that he knew he was experiencing divine revelation directly because I believe, by faith, that the account of his baptism of Jesus given in the Gospel of Matthew is an inerrant expression of divine revelation. But again, no particular account follows about exactly how that experience, either alone or in the context of his general relationship with God, caused John t0 “know” it was divine revelation. Nor does the CIP require us to adopt any particular speculation about that.

    John the Baptist, along with St. Joseph, were essentially OT saints. They are included in the NT canon due to their immediate relation to the Christ.

    However, being OT, they didn’t need any sort of infallible teaching authority, precisely because the Jews had no public divine revelation to offer the world. The gates to the secrets of Heaven were closed. Other than their prescriptive/proscriptive, ceremonial, organic covenant relationship (which has nothing to do with doctrine, much less, infallible authority), the Jews had nothing to offer the world doctrinally other than yet-another iteration of the Natural Law/Common Wisdom of Mankind/Sanatana Dharma, though one which was attested and approbated by the manifestation of ‘signs and wonders’. IOW, the Jews were only able to offer something which men already should should have known (and which many pagans already did know and followed). The ‘signs and wonders’ simply added extra force to the already-forceful testimony of Nature.

  110. However, being OT, they didn’t need any sort of infallible teaching authority, precisely because the Jews had no public divine revelation to offer the world.

    What was the Law then, if not public divine revelation?

  111. Wosbald, However, being OT, they didn’t need any sort of infallible teaching authority, precisely because the Jews had no public divine revelation to offer the world.

    What you are suggesting is the error of Marcion, that the “divine revelation” of the OT is somehow less than that of the NT.

    However, I’ve already given the criterion that God gave, those “certain specified conditions” by which one may discern “divine revelation” from “fallible human opinion”:

    “And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that Yahweh has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of Yahweh, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that Yahweh has not spoken” (Deut 18:21–22)

    My question to you is, when did God change this criterion? And how do you know he changed it, other than that, at some point in history, Rome pronounced itself to be “infallible”?

  112. I was kind of thinking the same thing SS. Just kind of thought of it for a moment and realized the main difference. The Law of Moses was not Public revelation but private revelation to Israel. This is why those out side of Isreal after Christ the public revealation need not follow the perticularly Jewish national laws yet Jews may still do that and Paul can say to Those under the law I became as one under the law that I might save some and not be against the revealtion of Christ, but still for it.
    Peace Bro,
    Mike

  113. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    What was the Law then, if not public divine revelation?

    If you mean the Moral Law/Decalogue, it was just an iteration of what Man already knew by Nature. Nothing new to see here, dat’s fer sure.

    If you mean the ceremonial law, then, whatever it is, it’s certainly not public proclamation of Heavenly Mysteries (preeminently, the Trinity revealed through Incarnation), and as Mike Liccione said, it only conveys it’s meaning proleptically. As such, the Jess had nothing to offer the world at that time but, rather, only in promissory preparation.

  114. SS,
    It would kind of being God calling a father to do certain devotions and have certain traditions that he forms within his home, but not requiring the whole church community to follow suit though there will be certain “Laws” within that “private revealation,” which is public to that family, that will be binding on the whole Church.

    Makes sense to me anyway. You?
    Mike

  115. WOSBALD,
    I have to stand strongly against you on this:

    the Jess had nothing to offer the world at that time but, rather, only in promissory preparation.

  116. Anthony,

    It’s somewhere between 400-200 BC and two Jews are having a disagreement, each representing a different group. Jeshar believes that there is future bodily resurrection whereas Tobias believes that there is no resurrection, while Zaza believes that only the soul survives death (they also disagree over the timing of the feast of of first fruits and a number of other issues). Each one accuses the other of following a false interpretation. This and the other issues are radically dividing the community into 3 different groups (with more fracturing possible). How do they find out what is the truth?

    I would refer you back to Mike’s comment that I reproduced a couple times above. The OT Scriptures find their fulfillment in Christ, and Christ’s resurrection itself answers the rabbis’ dispute. But until the definitive revelation of God was given to the church, the data that God’s people had was incomplete and at times incapable to providing thorough and complete answers to questions like the ones you pose (much like the data we currently have about Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, while all true, is insufficient to determine for us if she will ever sit upon the Iron Throne. Only five books have been written, and when the final volumes are published we will know the full mind of Martin, the author). Likewise, debates among OT rabbis provide answers that are as inconclusive as Protestantism’s, because in neither case is the full scope of divine authority and revelation being accessed.

  117. “You adore that which you know not: we adore that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews.”

    The people of Israel are like the lump of leaven which contains the necessary ingredient to, with the power of God in Christ, to leaven the whole lump.

  118. If you mean the Moral Law/Decalogue, it was just an iteration of what Man already knew by Nature. Nothing new to see here, dat’s fer sure.

    The Law, described as holy and good by the apostle, is not mere iteration of already held knowledge and this, neither in quality or depth. Paul ascribes to the Law properties which other iterations (I’m not going to get into the evidence for these, other than to say they pale in comparison to the fulness of the Mosaic Law) do not have.

    No other mere iteration of knowledge could account for a situation as this:

    Rom 2:

    “12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law , and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.”

    Rom 7:

    “7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead.

    The Law was also given for the gentile and foreigner/slave among the Jews, so the notion that it was private revelation only is mistaken.

  119. Jason,
    I think also, as your background would suggest, even Protestantism contains enough of the leaven from the Church in union with Christ to leaven the whole person into the lump, just like Israel had previous to Christ. All seek to find there truest fulfillment in proclaim “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

    I love my previous Christian communities truths with were imparted to me for my growth in Christ.

    Mike

  120. SS,
    Of course it would be for the foreigner and the sojourner too. You come to stay or travel at my place you have to abide by the rules God have lead me to teach in my house.
    Peace,
    Mike

  121. But until the definitive revelation of God was given to the church, the data that God’s people had was incomplete and at times incapable to providing thorough and complete answers to questions like the ones you pose

    The data God’s people had wasn’t incomplete. John the Baptist is a notable example of the truth of that statement. Zechariah and Elizabeth are more evidence that salvation did not necessitate a prerequisite infallibility.

    ” There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God , walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

  122. SS,
    The big difference will come in if I on my own direction go out to apply the perticular order which God has called me to and begin to press that on others outside.

  123. SS, saints existing in OT times has nothing to do with the question that Anthony asked and I was answering.

  124. SS,
    You got the vision brother! Yea ha!
    Just like Jason and myself who did not need a infalible interpreter to find Christ, nor did Israel though we both required seeing through a glass darkly. But, it was not the truths that were incomplete only our presumptions that needed clearing up.

    Love it Bro,
    Mike

  125. SS, saints existing in OT times has nothing to do with the question that Anthony asked and I was answering.

    I understood that this your perspective. But I believe it’s question begging for reasons explained above.

    Further, the notion that the Law was only applicable to gentiles belonging to jews is just as mistaken:

    Acts 13:

    “46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us:

    ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
    That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

    48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

    When Paul spoke those words, He spake as Jew who thought the Law holy and good.

  126. SS,
    This is sort of what struck me as odd in the video you dropped for me to watch. He talked about revoking the Acts 15 counsel and it made no sense to me being it was not directed at Jews. Nothing that I know of says you can’t follow the inter-Judean laws as a Christian.

  127. @John Bugay:
    Christ Himself gave the criterion for knowing divine revelation in both the Old and New Testament is built: who do you say that I am (Matt. 16:15)? No one knows the Father who does not know the Son (Matt. 11:27). The Old Testament saints recognized this before they had seen it (John 8:56, Luke 1:43, Mark 1:7). If you think the ecumenical councils have erred, then you evidently don’t know how to answer that question.

    You claim to have knowledge of God without affirming the truth about His Son, which all these saints of the Old Testament affirmed. Why on earth should anyone trust you?

  128. SS,
    Shoot me a email. I would like to shoot you a book I am about to start reading. Called “Jewish Identity” by Fr Elias Friedman. It looks really good. I have it in pdf or could convert it to some other format if you would like. Let me know.
    michaeltx2013@gmail

  129. @SS:
    Your question to Jason assumes your own view that salvation is based on faith in assent to some or another set of propositions for belief (which is the Protestant view) rather than faith formed in charity. The Old Testament saints could have the latter even though their dogmatic knowledge was incomplete. Likewise, even today, people can be saved despite being mistaken or ignorant about certain doctrines, even important ones.

    @Robert:
    Your entire comment is self-defeating. Without any principled method of discerning divine revelation, you can’t even ascertain what “the church” is, much less interpret it as speaking truly. If that is the case, then there can be no truth affirmed as divinely revealed. Mike Liccione’s response covers this well, so I won’t repeat it.

    @CD-Host:
    I can’t knock out a response to your comments quickly, but I haven’t forgotten about it. Perhaps I can return to it later.

  130. To any who would like to reply.

    What is the principled method of discerning that the Roman Catholic Magisterium is the principled method by which I can distinguish true revelation from mere opinion?

  131. Robert,
    Can you describe the principled way in which one comes to accept the Resurrection?

  132. @Dr. Hart:
    If I shared your view, I certainly wouldn’t be Christian, so I’m a bit mystified as to the point of the discussion. Yes, the Church has done bad things, made mistakes, and tried to behave more wisely. In so doing, the Church has also not failed in preserving the Sacraments and the true dogma about the nature of Christ in the Incarnation. You’re asking me to trade my faith in Christ over the fact that the Church went overboard and denied political and academic freedom to people out of zeal for the salvation of souls. Is there any doubt about how this will end? I recognize that your concerns are with political and temporal matters, because that’s all you see the Church as being, but it is hard for any faithful Catholic who sees the Church as an object of faith to take them very seriously.

  133. Robert,

    This is how it works in a nutshell: A person supposes that distinguishing between divine revelation and human opinion is a necessary component of an interpretive paradigm. He then looks at the options and discovers that Protestantism makes no claim to be able to do so, but the CC and EO do. He then examines the evidence (the “motives of credibility”) and believes that Rome’s claim, while not indisputable, is nonetheless the most persuasive. He then submits to the Catholic Church and begins to believe her teachings on the basis of her authority, of which the evidence convinced him.

    Nothing circular to see here. . . .

  134. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    The Law, described as holy and good by the apostle, is not mere iteration of already held knowledge and this, neither in quality or depth…. The Law was also given for the gentile and foreigner/slave among the Jews, so the notion that it was private revelation only is mistaken.

    I think that the distinction between what the Jews had to offer regarding the Natural/Moral Law (acting as beacons and witnesses of what Man already knew by Nature) and the Ceremonial Law (that which was offered in dogmatically-obscure, promissory preparation of things to come) is clear. Though I’m not sure, it seems as if your perspective is leading you to conflate the two.

  135. Jonathan Prejean (April 23, 2013 at 11:38 am):
    You said:

    If you think the ecumenical councils have erred, then you evidently don’t know how to answer that question.
    You claim to have knowledge of God without affirming the truth about His Son, which all these saints of the Old Testament affirmed. Why on earth should anyone trust you?

    First off, I’m not the only one who believes ecumenical councils erred. Augustine thought this, and he knew of only two: Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381).
    “But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the truth, either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them” – Augustine (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, 2:3)

    So I’m not out of bounds in saying that even plenary councils err. Augustine himself insisted that even ecumenical councils err and may be refuted or corrected by later councils; Scripture alone is qualitatively above contradiction and correction.

    As for “why on earth should anyone trust me”, it’s because I speak the truth; the theology I assert is only that which has been asserted by other Reformed teachers, and the history I assert is not only affirmed by Reformed teachers, frequently it is also asserted by Roman Catholic writers and theologians.

    For example, when I cite Archbishop Roland Minnerath to the effect that Eastern Orthodox churches “never shared the Petrine theology as elaborated in the West,” I not only cite a small snippet of a phrase, but I also provide a way for readers to see the whole thing themselves.

    How the “Petrine ministry” was viewed in the first 1000 years is critical for you – it was not accepted the way the West formulated it – and papal authority just happens to be the epistemological lynchpin for all of your efforts on sites like this one.

    There were stories recently, and just today, about certain high church officials who actually obstructed a government investigation into the sexual abuse scandals. This sort of thing has been happening all along. One might ask, “how long has Rome been obstructing justice with respect to its crimes?” A follow-on question might be, why in the world would a holy God protect His doctrines using a church hierarchy that’s not just comprised of sinners (we can accept that), but who are blatantly criminals?

    I know about doctrines, and “who Christ is”, from the Scriptures. There is no other source that I may know truly “who Christ is” than from the Scriptures. I may be taught by subordinate authorities, but when two of the three legs of your “three-legged” epistemological stool are (a) unverifiable and (b) intentionally criminal in nature, I would by far rather balance on the one leg of Scripture alone than on what you say is equivalent in comparison to the God-breathed Scriptures.

  136. I think that the distinction between what the Jews had to offer regarding the Natural/Moral Law (acting as beacons and witnesses of what Man already knew by Nature) and the Ceremonial Law (that which was offered in dogmatically-obscure, promissory preparation of things to come) is clear. Though I’m not sure, it seems as if your perspective is leading you to conflate the two.

    Distinction or no distinction, Paul speaks of the Law as no mere iteration among many. If it were, then all who sin apart from the law would not perish but be saved by adhering to one of the iterative moral codes you posit. Secondly, Paul states that apart from the Law, sin is dead. Meaning that it is the Law which defines and gives cognizance of missing God’s mark of holiness.

    Zechariah and Elizabeth both kept the law blamelessly and were righteous in the sight of God (saved). It is completely question begging to dismiss such people (Jonathan Prejean) as ‘some people’ randomly saved. They were in fact, part of the chosen people of God for whom God had infallibly promised to Abraham:

    “7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. ”

    And they were saved without an existing infallible authority to declare them so.

  137. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Distinction or no distinction, Paul speaks of the Law as no mere iteration among many.

    Like I’ve said before, I’m just giving windows into Catholic ways to nuance the issue. You don’t agree; I get that. S’all good.

    SS wrote:

    And they were saved without an existing infallible authority to declare them so.

    Right along with the holy Hindu or Mormon or Moslem, etc. This goes on, even today, even considering the plenary revelation of The Church. God be praised.

  138. What is the principled method of discerning that the Roman Catholic Magisterium is the principled method by which I can distinguish true revelation from mere opinion?

    Despite claims to the contrary, there is no principled method in the catholic process described by Jason above, because the latter is grounded in a subjective assessment of the motives of credibility. Once that step is taken, what follows inevitably carries that arbitrariness forward and builds upon it.

  139. Right along with the holy Hindu or Mormon or Moslem, etc. This goes on, even today, even considering the plenary revelation of The Church. God be praised.

    One understands why you must add this, ad hoc, but let it be said that the promises of God in Gen 17 were not made to ‘holy’ hindus or moslems. They, however, are more than welcome to recognize YHWH as the one true God and worship Him only, and be counted among the faithful.

  140. @John Bugay:
    Incredible. You could just say “I believe ecumenical councils can err,” but instead, you try to co-opt St. Augustine into your insanity, a man who spent his entire Christian life arguing for pro-Nicene orthodoxy. You, who deny what they affirm, claim this man’s witness to deny his beliefs and to try to cloak your denial in his holiness.

    First off, I’m not the only one who believes ecumenical councils erred. Augustine thought this, and he knew of only two: Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381).
    “But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the truth, either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them” – Augustine (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, 2:3)

    So I’m not out of bounds in saying that even plenary councils err. Augustine himself insisted that even ecumenical councils err and may be refuted or corrected by later councils; Scripture alone is qualitatively above contradiction and correction.

    First, you cut the quote short. Here’s the rest:
    even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them, when, by some actual experiment, things are brought to light which were before concealed, and that is known which previously lay hid, and this without any whirlwind of sacrilegious pride, without any puffing of the neck through arrogance, without any strife of envious hatred, simply with holy humility, catholic peace, and Christian charity?

    So you managed to omit entirely the conditions under which such a revision can take place. If you include them, it is clear that the “correction” is in the nature of clarification for some new information or new question, which is well within the semantic range of emendare in Latin. I wonder what Augustine might have had in mind where a creed would be revised. Didn’t that happen in Constantinople? Quelle surprise!

    But it gets better, because the context of the quote and of the entire work is the repudiation of people who take the word of their preferred teachers (in this case, St. Cyprian) against the contrary word of the entire church. In fact, the very chastisement you cited implicitly accuses them all of a “whirlwind of sacreligious pride,” “puffing of the neck through arrogance,” and “strife of envious hatred” for refusing to be corrected by the Church.

    Now I could maybe understand why through foolishness, rashness, ignorance or arrogance, you might grab some random quote, see the word “corrected” in it without bothering to check the meaning or the origin, and jump to the conclusion that Augustine was saying councils can err. But when you truncate the quote, ignore the textual context, and ignore the historical context in order to fabricate support for your position, that is at least prima facie evidence that you are either so biased that your judgment can’t be trusted or so dishonest that you are willing to lie to support your position. If you’re honest, you need to either defend your actions or retract the claim.

    As for “why on earth should anyone trust me”, it’s because I speak the truth; the theology I assert is only that which has been asserted by other Reformed teachers, and the history I assert is not only affirmed by Reformed teachers, frequently it is also asserted by Roman Catholic writers and theologians.

    Roman Catholic writers and theologians deny the truth of the ecumenical councils? I would like to see the citations for that.

    For example, when I cite Archbishop Roland Minnerath to the effect that Eastern Orthodox churches “never shared the Petrine theology as elaborated in the West,” I not only cite a small snippet of a phrase, but I also provide a way for readers to see the whole thing themselves.

    When it suits you. You cut the quote from Augustine off in the middle of a sentence.

    How the “Petrine ministry” was viewed in the first 1000 years is critical for you – it was not accepted the way the West formulated it – and papal authority just happens to be the epistemological lynchpin for all of your efforts on sites like this one.

    Have you lost your grip on reality? I have Peter Lampe on my bookshelf, and that’s one of probably a dozen books I’ve read on the early development of the papacy that come to the conclusion that the monarchial papacy did not exist in Rome for the first couple of centuries. The last history of this period I read has St. Ambrose of Milan as the first truly monarchial bishop in the West, and St. Leo the Great as the progenitor of the full-blown papal monarchy. And I suspect that Fr. Raymond Brown’s read on Matthew 16:18 is probably right as well, in that it isn’t papal infallibililty in nuce, at least not in terms of articulating dogma (it probably would have been more like a rabbinical judge).

    The only historical question that has any relevance at all is whether bishops of Rome were appointed in succession, even if just as a spokesman or first among equals in a college. If that is true, then it doesn’t matter how they saw their office or even if they realized what their authority was, only that they were in fact appointed as successors of Peter’s ministry. That was so clearly acknowledged in Rome that I don’t even understand how it can seriously be denied. You’re completely wasting your time if you think any of this somehow removes the “epistemological lynchpin” of my faith.

    There were stories recently, and just today, about certain high church officials who actually obstructed a government investigation into the sexual abuse scandals. This sort of thing has been happening all along. One might ask, “how long has Rome been obstructing justice with respect to its crimes?” A follow-on question might be, why in the world would a holy God protect His doctrines using a church hierarchy that’s not just comprised of sinners (we can accept that), but who are blatantly criminals?

    A holy God doesn’t need to “protect” His doctrines. You’re confusing the messenger with the message. A better question is whether God can use sinners or even criminals to spread the Gospel. If He can, then your question is idle; if you deny that He can, then evidently your faith in God’s omnipotence leaves something to be desired.

    I know about doctrines, and “who Christ is”, from the Scriptures. There is no other source that I may know truly “who Christ is” than from the Scriptures. I may be taught by subordinate authorities, but when two of the three legs of your “three-legged” epistemological stool are (a) unverifiable and (b) intentionally criminal in nature, I would by far rather balance on the one leg of Scripture alone than on what you say is equivalent in comparison to the God-breathed Scriptures.

    Unfortunately, that’s not an option for you, because the Scriptures don’t magically convey God’s message directly into your head. In that respect, when the other two legs are removed, Scripture ceases to even be a “leg” at all; it supports nothing. Given that is the case, what you are actually saying is that you trust what you think about God more than anyone else who has ever lived, even to the point where you are willing to deny the doctrine that Jesus is God, which is articulated by the ecumenical councils, to do it. As between your personal opinion that the ecumenical councils are wrong and the Church’s millennia-long witness to the contrary, this is not a hard call.

  141. @SS:

    Despite claims to the contrary, there is no principled method in the catholic process described by Jason above, because the latter is grounded in a subjective assessment of the motives of credibility. Once that step is taken, what follows inevitably carries that arbitrariness forward and builds upon it.

    That’s saying that all faith is arbitrary, in which case there’s no reason to believe any religion. If that were true, then as I said earlier, I would have no reason to be Christian in the first place. It would be completely fideistic and therefore irrational.

    The problem is that the conclusion about sola scriptura is that God has left us with nothing other than human opinion, viz., that he hasn’t actually revealed Himself at all but left it entirely up to varying human experience in which one can never determine what is true (essentially, liberal Christianity). That’s a possible conclusion, because God could have in principle just created us and left us on our own, but it’s not a particularly attractive one if there are any alternatives.

  142. That’s saying that all faith is arbitrary, in which case there’s no reason to believe any religion. If that were true, then as I said earlier, I would have no reason to be Christian in the first place. It would be completely fideistic and therefore irrational.

    Not at all, non sequitur. There is good evidence to suggest that Christ is Lord, and also to suggest that the church is irretrievably broken and severed from its first century origins (see Acts 15, first council).

  143. Jason, thanks for the reply especially amid this mammoth series of comments and the many conversations you have to follow. Your answer is a good one in many respects but I think still doesn’t fully answer the issue.
    Christs resurrection does answer all our questions about resurrection, however, when Jesus confronts this problem before he has undergone death and resurrection he rebukes the Sadducee’s because they know not “the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Jesus’ answer implies that the Scriptures were clear and sufficient about this before his personal resurrection and they should have known (they were not in need of a magisterium but to know the Scriptures). They apparently had the full scope of divine authority and revelation that was needed/adequate to answer that particular question (Jesus quotes Scripture from Exodus).
    Also your answer, while addressing the resurrection debate doesn’t address the issue of the timing of the feast of first fruits, and any other issue etc. How would OT believers settle such a difference of opinion? Did God deliberately leave them in a position where there was always going to be division and nothing more than personal opinion? One view was as good as another? Was no knowable dogma/doctrine possible, no distinguishing of truth from error, revelation from opinion? An age of mere opinion? The apologetic thrust of the Catholic position against Protestants seems to imply that this is indeed the case for OT believers. God left them stranded without escape from the cycle of opinion, unable to know opinion from revelation. And yet that stands in contrast to Jesus response to the Sadducee’s which implies they were not stranded. Does God only care about clarity of truth in the NT that he bothers to send a magisterium then? Michael L view doesn’t address these issues.

  144. So I have 3 instruments: scripture, tradition and magisterium. With accuracy As, At, Am respectively for me; that is not the chance they are wrong but the chance I read them wrong. I’m not sure if my inaccuracy in using them is correlates: i.e. if I stink at reading scripture am I also less likely to understand tradition? If we assume not, the best possible case my accuracy then all 3 will read wrong Atot = 1-(1-As)(1-At)(1-Am). Example if they are all 90% accurate when I use them and independent of one another I’ll still be wrong .1% of the time. If you assume I’ll also err when 2 of them read wrong, and the outlier is correct my error number explodes, for example it will be 3.1% in my example where each of Aa, At and Am was 90% having grown 31x larger). So the important thing is I can still err in using these tools.

    Now let me stop here on this analogy. Agree, disagree?

    Now we have to work on the analogy a little bit more. In this case, the object is more binary (in that propositions are either true or not), and the answer is intended to be conveyed, so the probabilistic analogy is going to break down. It’s more analogous to taking different views and identifying the one that provides the best vantage on the particular issue of interest. But in the same sense that the intersection of three instruments is useful for showing that one of them isn’t wrong, the fact that different views are available makes it much more likely that the answer to any question about the object can be seen. Subjectively, it reduces my individual chances of error, but objectively, the nature of the instruments all being accurate by necessity provides absolute limits on what the collection of them can say.

    Why are these two cases so crucially different? Moreover the Conservative Protestant position is that Us = 0 with Um, Ut > 0. I’m unclear how that’s any different in a principled way from Um = 0. Which gets to the whole, “. Sola scriptura doesn’t even have a principled reason why it should be accurate or even that we should expect it to be accurate, so it is unsurprising that neither ends up being the case”.

    The problem with sola scriptura is that it’s not even configured to see the object in the first place. If we stick with our view analogy, you’re switching the viewfinder from the object (theological truths about God) to something else (human opinion). There’s not even a calibration to make sure that you’re looking at the right object in the first place, and that leaves subjectivity as the only guide. If you look at whatever you decide you want to see, that doesn’t tell you anything about the object on which your gaze is supposed to be fixed.

    Saying something is permanently inaccessible to human reason would imply that is cannot be meaningfully true. In other words if I have a statement X and its opposite ~X and I can’t form propositions with either X or ~X then saying X is true isn’t even a statement. If you wanted to make a weaker statement that God’s properties cannot be derived from reason I’m fine with that.

    That is the statement that I was making, so I am fine with the reformulation. This does not apply to all of God’s properties, since there are some that can be known by reason, but many of those of interest to us cannot be achieved by reason alone.

    What does “legitimately independent” mean? Why would reason need to be supernatural? All reason does is manipulate statements. Why would experience need to be supernatural if the content of religion has any ties to the earthly world? In terms of tradition what does, “uncorrelated to the episcopacy”. Is this an additional requirement?

    I simply mean that God has to establish anything as revelatory about Himself, due to the limitations on reason we discussed above. Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium are all independently established in this way. In the Wesleyan quadrilateral, tradition is really a mundane historical inheritance, reason and experience are likewise mundane, and Scripture alone doesn’t function. Therefore, none of the sides of the quadrilateral support divine revelation.

    I’m quite honestly not sure what to make of the possession/divine overpowering argument. Obviously, if God wanted to do something like that, He could convey what He wanted to convey to individuals constantly in an absolutely unambiguous way. Forget possession; it could be absolutely immediate. But for a number of reasons, revelation is not even intended to operate that way, but rather to allow free assent or rejection.

    – They both make claims to initially being based on divine revelation
    – The are both consistent / objective with respect to believers. Believers in the Conservative Reformed paradigm seem much more able to consistently identify doctrines with a high success rate.

    They may be able to make claims, but I have no reason to think they are true. On the contrary, they believe things that are false: imputed justification, denial of the Real Presence, etc. If I want to produce beliefs that are likely to be wrong, there are a number of easier ways to do it. The whole point of sola scriptura is that it’s not structured to produce sure answers by its very nature. Everything is permanently up for grabs even if you believe it.

    Hope that helps to make the point clearer. The criticism against sola scriptura is that it’s not a measuring device. Anything that produces the answer “X, but X is subject to verification against Scripture, so it may or may not be accurate” is not producing answers at all. Catholicism and Orthodoxy may not have all the answers, but where they answer, there is no mincing of words about it.

  145. @SS:

    There is good evidence to suggest that Christ is Lord, and also to suggest that the church is irretrievably broken and severed from its first century origins

    That’s your subjective assessment, and this arbitrariness carries itself to all of your conclusions.

    See how that works? It proves too much if it proves anything (which it doesn’t, by the way).

  146. Jonathan,

    Yes, the Pharisees also thought John the Baptist was just a little too subjective too, in his analysis of things.

    Best,
    SS.

  147. @SS:
    And Jesus thought the Pharisees were too subjective. That’s why we need to start with the truth about Jesus and work our way outward to peripheral doctrines like the mechanisms of salvation. The Pharisees tried to get the latter right before the former, and look where it got them. Get Jesus right first, and the rest falls into place. If you worry about what Jesus can do for you (salvation) before you worry about what you can do for Him (worship in the Holy Eucharist), your theology comes out all backwards.

  148. Get Jesus right first, and the rest falls into place

    Funny, that’s what I’ve been telling Jason too.

    Jesus gives us a warning in Matt 7:15-22 about the fruit of our leaders. And yet, the CC renders that warning moot by insisting that it’s only about the message and not the messengers. Talk about backwards.

  149. Hey SS,

    Looks like you guys still been plugging away.

    About your previous post above@ 6:41,
    The fruit is important to the extreme in my mind. Christ words are what lead my life and I pray by God’s grace I die before I let them loose. I have one sheppard and that is Christ and by Him the leaders He has allowed in His Church we are to submit to, but we will know them by their fruit. The question is, which Christ does not delineate in the passage, what is this fruit? And who is righteous enough to bear this fruit for Him? If it is you and you have been sent by Him to teach me and us all, I beg you to show me what you have for me and us all. I do not speak tongue and cheek here. I truly wish to find greater sources of wisdom. The problem that I see is that one of those fruit is that they are submitted to and obedient to their Christ given apostolic sent ministry, even if they fail miserably at fulfilling it with the holy requirements of that preached fruit spoken by the Church of Christ to the world in which we dwell.

    “How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent”

    Even Christ had to be sent by the Father who much more His messengers.

    “Some indeed, even out of envy and contention; but some also for good will preach Christ. Some out of charity, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. And some out of contention preach Christ not sincerely: supposing that they raise affliction to my bands. But what then? So that by all means, whether by occasion, or by truth, Christ be preached: in this also I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”

    Paul rejoiced in the message even though the messengers my be poor wretches with selfish desires who got sent with divine authority. This is the incarnation in action. Christ came to take on humanity and in humanities falleness still lift it up to meet Him in glory by going through the suffering of the cross. We bear His cross with Him because he still take on the cross of our sinful condition to draw us to the Father. God be merciful to me the greatest sinner I know, for i know me well. I assume you are better than me. I know my heart.

    Just some of my thought on it for the night.

    Peace til later fellows,
    Mike

  150. Jonathan Prejean @ April 23, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    It doesn’t matter how much you rant, because you can’t unsay the words “councils err” from Augustine. It doesn’t matter “what sense” in which they err. They just do, and he knew it, and for as much as he believed in the church hierarchy of his day, he didn’t hold to the pretense that they never erred. And you can’t un-say that.

    Aside from that, Luther, Calvin, the WCF and others all agreed, “councils can and do err”. It is only Rome, bent on holding up its supposed (and that’s all it is – “supposed”) infallibility, must maintain that they’ve not erred in doctrinal matters.

    Your own beloved Cyril is a case in point – and his “back room” meeting to adjust the doctrinal content of the “Ecumenical” Council of Ephesus – and he didn’t bring his thugs with him to that meeting. He simply held a back-room meeting (having bribed his way out of prison, while Nestorius was the humble one to remain in prison) to admit that he’d gotten things wrong at Ephesus, and he “without any puffing of the neck through arrogance, without any strife of envious hatred, simply with holy humility, catholic peace, and Christian charity” sold out his folks in Alexandria.

    “On Easter Sunday in 429, Cyril publicly denounced Nestorius for heresy. With fine disregard for anything Nestorius had actually said, he accused him of denying the deity of Christ. It was a direct and incendiary appeal to the emotions of the orthodox, rather than to precise theological definition or scriptual exegesis, and, as he expected, an ecclesiastical uproar followed. Cyril showered Nestorius with twelve bristling anathemas…As tempers mounted, a Third Ecumenical Council was summoned to meet in Ephesus in 431 … [it was] the most violent and least equitable of all the great councils. It is an embarassment and blot on the history of the church. … Nestorius … arrived late and was asking the council to wait for him and his bishops. Cyril, who had brought fifty of his own bishops with him, arrogantly opened the council anyway, over the protests of the imperial commissioner and about seventy other bishops. … “They acted … as if it was a war they were conducting, and the followers of [Cyril] … went about in the city girt and armed with clubs … with the yells of barbarians, snorting fiercely … raging with extravagant arrogance against those whom they knew to be opposed to their doings, carrying bells about the city and lighting fires. They blocked up the streets so that everyone was obliged to fee and hide, while they acted as masters of the situation, lying about, drunk and besotted and shouting obsceneties….

    Samuel Hugh Moffett, “A History of Christianity in Asia, Volume I” (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, ©1998, pg 174). That’s a Roman Catholic publishing house, by the way.

    In the center emerged a peace party characterized not so much by theological position as by a desire for unity. It was composed of a coalition of political and ecclesiastical moderates determined to save both church and empire from the perils of religious division. Their first step was to negotiate a theological truce in 433 between Alexandria and Antioch. Alexandria would drop its twelve anathemas against Antioch and accept “two natures” in Christ as taught in the Bible. But this represented theological surrender for the implacable Cyril and was predictably unacceptable to the Alexandrian right wing”.

    The “doctrinal” agreements of “the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus” were thrown overboard in a back-room meeting that was not accepted by either church, Alexandria or Antioch.

    On the other hand the compromise also stipulated that Antioch, in turn, must accept the popular phrase “Mother of God” for the Virgin and assent to the excommunication of Nestorius.

    This requirement for the “acceptance” of the phrase “Mother of God” was overturned in a 1994 document promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1994.

    * * *

    You said:

    Have you lost your grip on reality? I have Peter Lampe on my bookshelf, and that’s one of probably a dozen books I’ve read on the early development of the papacy that come to the conclusion that the monarchial papacy did not exist in Rome for the first couple of centuries. The last history of this period I read has St. Ambrose of Milan as the first truly monarchial bishop in the West, and St. Leo the Great as the progenitor of the full-blown papal monarchy. And I suspect that Fr. Raymond Brown’s read on Matthew 16:18 is probably right as well, in that it isn’t papal infallibililty in nuce, at least not in terms of articulating dogma (it probably would have been more like a rabbinical judge).

    The only historical question that has any relevance at all is whether bishops of Rome were appointed in succession, even if just as a spokesman or first among equals in a college. If that is true, then it doesn’t matter how they saw their office or even if they realized what their authority was, only that they were in fact appointed as successors of Peter’s ministry.

    You will get an argument from some of your compatriots on this one. (However, I agree with Lampe, and apparently you, on this one). However, Lampe also points out that the “succession” at Rome wasn’t a “succession” at all, merely a collection of remembered names from the church at Rome. None of them were “bishops”, and in any event, the “developed” concept of “succession” wasn’t formulated (it was borrowed from the Gnostics) in the mid- to late-second century.

    I’m willing to say that the Reformers were correct to throw out that whole notion of “succession” as a later, un-biblical “development.

    You contradict yourself in two successive paragraphs of your own. First you say:

    A better question is whether God can use sinners or even criminals to spread the Gospel. If He can, then your question is idle; if you deny that He can, then evidently your faith in God’s omnipotence leaves something to be desired.

    Of course God uses sinful men to spread the Gospel, for all are sinful.

    But he doesn’t bind “the Gospel” to “the Church”. That is ludicrous.

    the Scriptures don’t magically convey God’s message directly into your head. In that respect, when the other two legs are removed, Scripture ceases to even be a “leg” at all; it supports nothing.

    You fail to understand a number of things here. First, God’s word itself is “living and active” – and it accomplishes his intention (Isaiah 55). God’s Word upholds the universe. He spoke to Balaam through an ass; he could have raised up “descendants for Abraham” out of stones. He did (at the Reformation) continue the “unbroken succession” of his Gospel by rejecting “the Roman Catholic Church” and enabling the Reformers to preach his Gospel.

    And also “How, then, can [anyone] call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

    The Word of God is preached – the Gospel (not “the Church”) – you are the one who mocks and blasphemes God’s word. God is accomplishing his purposes – and his church and kingdom exist and are thriving quite apart from the Roman Catholic Church.

  151. JONATHAN PREJEAN April 23, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Hi John. Looks like you are arguing with a bunch of people and it is keeping you busy. I think you some of the specifics in our thread and returned to the more “high level” themes.

    The key point of the probability argument for now in terms of consistency is as I mentioned:
    3.1% of the time the guy using all 3 methods and choosing 2 out of 3 will get the wrong doctrine

    10% of the time the sola scripture person will get the wrong doctrine

    That doesn’t seem to me to fundamentally an entirely different animal rather than a claim Catholicism has a better system.

    More importantly as I indicated I’m not sure that John Prejean’s theory of Catholicism isn’t leaking into Liccione’s argument. I think you are diverging a bit. This is most evident here:

    I simply mean that God has to establish anything as revelatory about Himself, due to the limitations on reason we discussed above. Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium are all independently established in this way. In the Wesleyan quadrilateral, tradition is really a mundane historical inheritance, reason and experience are likewise mundane, and Scripture alone doesn’t function. Therefore, none of the sides of the quadrilateral support divine revelation.

    Liccione was creating an apologetic. He was trying to use this as an argument for Catholicism. You are arguing that Methodists are wrong because their traditions are mundane while Catholic ones are divine. That is assuming Catholicism in an apologetic. If we know that Catholic ones are divine while non-Catholic ones mundane there is simply no reason to debate Catholicism at all.

    Methodists do believe in the incarnation and do believe that God guides his church. So they don’t contend that tradition is mundane but rather is a source of revelation. As far as experience I would argue that because Methodists believe so strongly in personal salvation, they more than most Conservative Catholics can argue that their experience is not mundane but rather a direct source of divine revelation. They will mostly claim to have personally experienced divine revelation and they understand the conditions under which that occurred. Fundamentally the distinction between tradition and experience is taking into account the non mundane aspects of both.

    As for reason, reason must be entirely earthly. If it is not mundane then it is not reason.

    But getting to the point of Wesleyan’s they meet all your criteria. They have multiple independent systems for evaluating divine revelation. Their list is fairly close to the Catholic list. Their list contains 1 additional element and thus (in theory) should have an even lower chance of error. I’m having a hard time seeing how the multiple independent argument is an argument for Catholicism and not just an argument against sola scriptura.

    The criticism against sola scriptura is that it’s not a measuring device. Anything that produces the answer “X, but X is subject to verification against Scripture, so it may or may not be accurate” is not producing answers at all. Catholicism and Orthodoxy may not have all the answers, but where they answer, there is no mincing of words about it.

    I don’t see how that is unlike the situation regarding Church teachings that you and John Bugay are discussing. People may understand a Church teaching to be the teaching at any point in time. But those teachings are subject to revisions which change the popular understanding. The Catholic and Orthodox do mince words.

    Take the Albigensian genocide. Is the appropriate way to deal with people who disagree with you on spiritual matters the deliberate intentional systematic destruction of a culture through the annihilation of the people: men, women and children, who belong to that culture? Catholics in the 13th century, including 2 popes, understood the doctrinal answer to this question to be “yes”. The claim of Catholics and Orthodox today is that they wrongly understood the deposit of faith.

    Catholics to maintain the doctrine that the Church’s teachings have never changed have to constantly argue that the magisterium’s teachings are badly understood by practicing Catholics. There is no question that the understanding of Catholic doctrine is changed in history, so either you have to have Catholic doctrine that is poorly understood (i.e. a higher error rate on understanding the magisterium), a magisterium which changes its mind or a magisterium which errs one of those 3 must be true. You choose poor understanding.

    In exactly the same way Protestants claim to have a bible which is perfect, unchanging in its interpretation but inconsistently interpreted in practice. I can’t see how that isn’t an analogous situation.

    There are Protestants who produce systematic theologies. These books acts as if Scripture was an objective source text which could be rightly understood by anyone who approaches with good will. These books attempt to analyze evidence and draw conclusions in a way designed to drive broad consent. And I should comment that Conservative Reformed Systematic Theologies are used by Protestant denominations which disagree with them on some points. Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology is hugely popular with evangelicals and I was given Berkhof’s when I was a baptist. That is they are successful in driving broad consensus on many points.

    I will hedge this, it does get a bit tricky because the Conservative Reformed in particular, talk out of both sides of their mouth. They also argue that the Holy Spirit’s intervention is required to successfully read scripture. That to my mind constitutes a denial of the existence of objective scripture. If you combine that doctrine with sola scriptura I’d agree there is no possible way to distinguish objective truth from personal opinion. But the problem one doesn’t need to, the Holy Spirit overpowers the will of those predestined to believe and those who are not predestined can believe whatever they want.

  152. John B,

    I respect you and your passion, but I can’t understand how the verse from Paul along with the words of Christ doesn’t point out that Christ has joined together both the Good news and the People of the good news. Your quote points directly to it.

    “How, then, can [anyone] call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

    “You are the light of the world.”

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    The question remaining is who is this sent out light and where do I sign up as a disciple of the light That I might not walk in darkness?

    John you said,
    The Word of God is preached – the Gospel (not “the Church”)

    But, I hear Christ say do not separate what God has joined together.

    I know you don’t believe the the collective body of the Catholic Church is that light unto the nation, but the scriptures point out that someone sent is here to make disciples. Can you point me to where I might go if a abandon the ones I believe to be sent when I give up on that belief?

    Please also remember that in the Universal Catholic Church the “Roman” Catholic Church is not the limit to the Catholic Church it is just a part of the body which ought not be rejected.

    Peace John,
    Mike

  153. @John Bugay:
    Before I go on with this, I need to get some clarity on your motives, because that will affect how I can respond.

    1. Do you not realize that Augustine did not say the words “plenary councils err”? You can re-read the quote; that is a false statement. Given that Augustine did not say those words, why did you claim that I had to un-say them?

    2. With the caveat that I don’t necessarily agree with Lampe or Brown completely and wholeheartedly any more than I do any scholar, why would you think that this is a “gotcha” moment? In other words, why do you think that this historical data is even relevant? After all, claims of papal authority are theological claims, not historical claims, except in a very minimal sense.

    3. Why is it that you accept Moffett’s characterization as if I can’t disagree with it? You know that conclusion is much disputed, yet you assert it as if it isn’t.

    Just in general, I don’t understand what your aim is. It seems to be to make a lot of innuendo and rhetorical noise without actually producing any facts. If that’s the case, the truth doesn’t matter to you, and you’re a complete waste of time.

  154. Anthony:

    You write:

    How would OT believers settle such a difference of opinion? Did God deliberately leave them in a position where there was always going to be division and nothing more than personal opinion? One view was as good as another? Was no knowable dogma/doctrine possible, no distinguishing of truth from error, revelation from opinion? An age of mere opinion? The apologetic thrust of the Catholic position against Protestants seems to imply that this is indeed the case for OT believers. God left them stranded without escape from the cycle of opinion, unable to know opinion from revelation. And yet that stands in contrast to Jesus response to the Sadducee’s which implies they were not stranded. Does God only care about clarity of truth in the NT that he bothers to send a magisterium then? Michael L view doesn’t address these issues.

    You’re overlooking a crucial distinction: that between believers who receive and profess what in fact belongs to divine revelation, but who do not possess the necessary, principled means for distinguishing it from human opinion, and believers who receive and profess divine revelation precisely by such a means. It is quite possible to be the first sort of believer without being the second, and indeed that’s sometimes the case. That’s why, on the Catholic IP, we can and do affirm that some people who do not recognize the authority of the Catholic Church can nonetheless have a degree of faith and even be saved. They receive and possess much of what is in fact divine revelation, and are sanctified to a degree as they live accordingly, but they cannot explain how they can distinguish it in a principled way from human opinion, because they do not recognize the authority needed for that purpose.

    Now some of the “righteous” of the OT and inter-testamental periods–such as Abraham, Moses, the later prophets, Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and John the Baptist–experienced divine revelation’s unfolding directly. Thus they knew they were believing God; they didn’t have to rely exclusively on a secondary authority for the content of their faith, even though the fullness of revelation was not yet known to them. Many others, however, were in a position similar to the people I described in the previous paragraph. They did not experience divine revelation directly, nor did they receive and profess the definitive revelation in Jesus Christ, because they could not. But they did receive and profess, through what was in fact Scripture and Tradition, the preparatory stages of that definitive revelation by grace, and responded to it appropriately by grace. Since all grace comes ultimately from Christ, they thus participated proleptically in that definitive, revealed reality which they did not see in its fullness. Accordingly, though they were in no position to explain how to distinguish that definitive revelation from human opinion, what they affirmed and lived by was not, in fact, a matter of opinion. For that reason, they had faith as a virtue, but not the fullness of “the faith” as the object of their assent of faith.

    But here’s the thing. Given that the definitive revelation in Jesus Christ has occurred, and has been handed on to us through Scripture, Tradition, and the Church to whom those have been entrusted, we are now able to do what they could not: distinguish, explicitly and reliably, divine revelation from human opinion. The Catholic IP exhibits how that works. But if one holds that nobody after Christ is ever infallible by divine gift, then one cannot explain how to distinguish divine revelation as such from human opinion, even if much of what one professes happens, as a matter of fact, to be divine revelation. Hence, one cannot even explain why the NT’s treatment of “the righteous” of the OT and inter-testamental periods is anything more than the opinions of the writers and those who choose to believe them.

    This is why all appeals to Scripture against the Catholic Magisterium’s claim for itself simply beg the question. If one denies that any such ecclesial authority has the authority it claims, because everybody’s always fallible, then such appeals cannot present themselves as anything more than one opinion among others, which is not to present divine revelation as such, even when some of one’s religious opinions otherwise happen to be true. And that’s exactly what you’re doing.

    Best,
    Mike

  155. we [Catholics] are now able to do what they could not: distinguish, explicitly and reliably, divine revelation from human opinion.

    Except of course you can’t.

    Asking different Catholics in the same time what constitutes divine revelation and what constitutes human opinion results in getting different answers.
    Different Catholics in different places have wildly different answers
    Different Catholics in different times but in the same culture have wildly different answers

    Even Popes don’t seem to be able to distinguish the deposit for faith from their opinion, frequently confusing the two according to common explanations for apparent doctrinal changes. If the Catholic Magisterium claims to possess perfect knowledge of otherwise undiscoverable unchanging divine revelation there is no way to test that. If the Catholic Magisterium claims to be able to effectually communicate to its membership, including the very highest levels of its leadership, otherwise undiscoverable unchanging divine revelation then that is testable and it has been falsified repeatedly.

    Which because you are in the same boat as all the other Catholics in different places, in different times and having somewhat different opinions. No you are not able to distinguish divine revelation from mere human opinion. Anymore than the other Catholics who disagree with you nor anymore than the other non-Catholics who disagree with you. You just like to elevate your opinions to the status of revelation.

    The bible is unequivocal that the ability to speak for God, the prophet gift, comes from ro’eh the ability to personally see what is God’s will to have spoken to his people. It does not come from joining an institution whether it be the Catholic Church or Fairview Golf Association.

  156. CD-HOST:

    Asking different Catholics in the same time what constitutes divine revelation and what constitutes human opinion results in getting different answers. Different Catholics in different places have wildly different answers Different Catholics in different times but in the same culture have wildly different answers

    All that proves is that some Catholics are better-informed than others, and some hardly at all. Which everybody knew already. That does not show that the Catholic IP doesn’t exist, or doesn’t do what I say.

    Even Popes don’t seem to be able to distinguish the deposit for faith from their opinion, frequently confusing the two according to common explanations for apparent doctrinal changes.

    You have offered no evidence for that assertion, and as an unqualified generalization, it is false. There have been cases when popes have erred as you describe, but that is the exception not the rule, and they have never used their full authority to bind the Church to their errors.

    If the Catholic Magisterium claims to possess perfect knowledge of otherwise undiscoverable unchanging divine revelation there is no way to test that.

    The Magisterium makes no such claim. Nor would it, since divine revelation is inexhaustible, and the Church’s understanding of it develops over time. The Magisterium does claim that God never had and never will allow it to use its full authority to bind the Church to an ostensibly de fide statement that is false. But that does not imply “perfect knowledge.”

    If the Catholic Magisterium claims to be able to effectually communicate to its membership, including the very highest levels of its leadership, otherwise undiscoverable unchanging divine revelation then that is testable and it has been falsified repeatedly.

    Again, the Magisterium makes no claim that the revealed truths it preserves and expounds are “otherwise undiscoverable.” From what it does claim, all that follows is that the sort of authority it’s been given is necessary for making a principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion. Otherwise, people after the Apostles can discover and assent to what is in fact divine revelation, but cannot receive and profess it as anything more than opinion.

    …you are in the same boat as all the other Catholics in different places, in different times and having somewhat different opinions. No you are not able to distinguish divine revelation from mere human opinion. Anymore than the other Catholics who disagree with you nor anymore than the other non-Catholics who disagree with you. You just like to elevate your opinions to the status of revelation.

    The magisterial basis for my position is Vatican II’s Dei Verbum §10 (emphasis added):

    Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort. (7)

    But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, (8) has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, (9) whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

    It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

    Most Catholics haven’t read that passage, and some who have, don’t believe it. But again, that doesn’t mean Catholicism lacks the “principled means” indicated. All it means is that many Catholics are either uninformed or faithless, which is not exactly news.

    The bible is unequivocal that the ability to speak for God, the prophet gift, comes from ro’eh the ability to personally see what is God’s will to have spoken to his people. It does not come from joining an institution whether it be the Catholic Church or Fairview Golf Association.

    That begs the question in two ways. First, it assumes that something called “the Bible” is divinely inspired and thus inerrant, thus making it a fit authority to appeal to for doctrinal purposes. But that is only an opinion, unless the authorities who compiled the canon and affirmed its inspiration and inerrancy were divinely protected from error when doing so. To hold that they were so protected in that case, but not in any others, is ad hoc not principled, and thus begs the question.

    Second, you interpret the Bible to mean that the “spirit” of God, the ro’eh, operates exclusively through special individuals so gifted–who indeed did and do exist–rather than also through God’s people in general and their authorized leaders, albeit in different and complementary ways. That interpretation is by no means obvious; many Christians, not just Catholics, reject it; and you have offered no argument for it. Even if you do offer an argument, you would be giving only an opinion, which binds nobody. To avoid begging the question, then, you would have to show that what appears to be just your opinion is so clearly true, given the assumption of the Bible’s inspiration and inerrancy, that denying it could only stem from either sheer ignorance or culpable blindness. I am, to say the least, skeptical about your prospects.

    Best,
    Mike

  157. Michael Liccione: You have offered no evidence for that assertion, and as an unqualified generalization, it is false.

    We say that about the Marian dogmas, transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the Mass, “the full-blown papal monarchy” as Jonathan Prejean put it up above (based on “Roman adoption laws” — except applied to “successors” instead of heirs for the first time ever — talk about “no evidence for that assertion”) — and Apostolic Succession to boot. There is no evidence at all to support these things, other than “we have the [quite evidence-less assertion] authority to say so”.

  158. There is no evidence at all to support these things, other than “we have the [quite evidence-less assertion] authority to say so”.

    That’s not how it looks to informed Catholics, including many Catholic philosophers and theologians. Perhaps you think we don’t know what counts as “evidence” and need some lessons in critical thinking. Or perhaps you think we do know, but have just chosen culpably to suppress the knowledge. It hardly matters which; if there’s “no evidence at all” to support distinctively Catholic doctrines, then people like me are either fools or knaves. You may enjoy indulging in that kind of reasoning, but it persuades nobody, and I myself can find no other reason to use it against my theological opponents.

    Moreover, you continue begging the larger question. On your PIP, what is not explicitly stated in the early sources that have come down to us, or is not otherwise logically inferable from them, does not belong to the deposit of faith. Not only is that an argument from silence and thus a non-sequitur; it presupposes that the deposit of faith can be reliably identified and understood as such independently of the sort of authority the Catholic Church claims for herself, which is precisely the point at issue.

  159. Mike — you’ve made fun of my “scholars” in the past, but up above you’ve got a committed, conservative Catholic (Jonathan) throwing them up in my face as if I don’t know about all that.

    He says that the papal claims are more theological than historical, but really, when I was growing up Catholic, it was all about the history — 25 years as “Bishop of Rome” — which Schaff 150 years ago called “a colossal historical error” (without knowing the kinds of things we know today) — the unbroken succession going back to Peter, each and every one of them a Vatican I-style pope, with Vatican I-mandated “jurisdictional authority”. Really, though, there was no one watching the house. They were all fighting to see who was first:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/01/isnt-it-pretty-to-think-so.html

    You probably know better than I do whether you’re a fool or a knave. It seems to me, however, that you’ve just got to keep turning up the volume so you don’t really have the opportunity to think about the trouble you’re in. How many times have you written the phrase “principled way to distinguish divine revelation from human opinion”? Do you have a macro set up on your keyboard for that?

    How about “verifiable apostolic succession”. This is just the point. The further along we go into this, the more historically unverifiable your “apostolic succession” gets. “Begging the question” … “argument from silence”… Yet you just scream the same words, louder and louder.

    I’ve explained to you how Tertullian, who wrote a treatise on “resurrections from the dead”, covered every reported biblical instance of it, and was in a position to know if such a thing happened to Mary, but he completely ignored it. That is why being critical of “the Assumption of Mary” is not an “argument from silence”. You ought to know that. Speaking of “completely ignoring” a thing.

    You know, you also chide that centuries of Catholic theologians didn’t know about this. What they didn’t know was that Aquinas based much of his work on a couple of frauds — Pseudo-Dionysius and the False Decretals. All believed by Roman theologians for centuries to be the real thing. Where was that charism when they were writing frauds into doctrine and canon law? They’ve disavowed the canon law, but they’ve canonized the frauds!

    It’s guys like Kung and John Meier and “Fr Brown” and others, whom you decry as “liberals”, who are really telling the truth about this sort of thing. It almost looks as if “Bishop of Rome” Bergoglio is going to go with that flow.

    Let me give you Sean Patrick’s “challenge”, but with a twist. Give me two pieces of evidence that haven’t been discreditedthat your “apostolic succession is what it says it is.

  160. Jason — Please delete the previous version. Missed closing tag.
    @Michael Liccione

    CD-Host:
    The bible is unequivocal that the ability to speak for God, the prophet gift, comes from ro’eh the ability to personally see what is God’s will to have spoken to his people. It does not come from joining an institution whether it be the Catholic Church or Fairview Golf Association.

    Michael Liccione

    That begs the question in two ways. First, it assumes that something called “the Bible” is divinely inspired and thus inerrant, thus making it a fit authority to appeal to for doctrinal purposes.

    I get that’s the standard rejoinder to any scriptural quotes, but I don’t need that in this case. I have a much lower bar. ro’eh the vision of God is a central theme of the Old Testament. This theme is referred to positively in the New Testament multiple times. So either:

    a) The Old Testament is so fundamentally flawed as to not be a reliable source on the nature of divine communication at all
    b) Ro’eh, divine sight is a prerequisite for prophecy. Prophets are seers.

    If (a) is true then you are absolutely correct my argument that you lack divine sight and therefore cannot speak for God falls apart. But then Conservative Catholicism falls apart on much more critical grounds. A core component of its scripture and quite possible its divinity are now unreliable. So therefore, for the purpose of argument I’m not begging the question by assuming (b). Assuming (a) would be begging the question.

    Second, you interpret the Bible to mean that the “spirit” of God, the ro’eh,

    I didn’t say spirit of God I said sight. Ro’eh is a seer A hard requirement of speaking for God is having visions of his will.

    That interpretation is by no means obvious; many Christians, not just Catholics, reject it; and you have offered no argument for it.

    1Samual 9:9 (note “seer” is how they are translating ro’eh). And I’ll quote Catholic bibles here:

    NAB (official Catholic bible): In former times in Israel, anyone who went to consult God used to say, “Come, let us go to the seer.” For he who is now called prophet was formerly called seer.

    NJB (most popular Catholic bible): In Israel, in olden days, when anyone used to go to consult God, he would say, ‘Come on, let us go to the seer,’ for a man who is now called a ‘prophet’ used to be called a ‘seer’ in olden days.

    DR (classic Catholic bible): Now in time past, in Israel when a man went to consult God he spoke thus: Come, let us go to the seer. For he that is now called a prophet, in time past was called a seer.

    Similarly 1Ch 21:19 calls Gad (David’s prophet) a seer. 2Ch29:30 Asaph is a seer. Isa 30 talks about prophecy in terms of visions. Tying the word to eyes. The verb form is used 1313 times. It is translated in KJV with a variant of see about 900x, look, behold, show, appear almost all the rest. Similarly in Catholic bibles. Prophets must have vision, prophecy is speaking for God. Everyone else can teach God’s word as they understand it but that is all.

    If that ain’t the bible tying prophecy to sight, ro’eh then we can toss the bible being meaningful about any topic at all. My argument is that scripture is crystal clear on the issue.

    Even if you do offer an argument, you would be giving only an opinion, which binds nobody. To avoid begging the question, then, you would have to show that what appears to be just your opinion is so clearly true, given the assumption of the Bible’s inspiration and inerrancy, that denying it could only stem from either sheer ignorance or culpable blindness.

    That’s right all I have is an opinion. Because neither one of us has divine sight. That being said, there is a lot of culpable blindness in the world. This one though I don’t think there is much disagreement we still talk about “see the future” in our culture today.

    CD-Host: Asking different Catholics in the same time what constitutes divine revelation and what constitutes human opinion results in getting different answers. Different Catholics in different places have wildly different answers Different Catholics in different times but in the same culture have wildly different answers

    ML:All that proves is that some Catholics are better-informed than others, and some hardly at all. Which everybody knew already. That does not show that the Catholic IP doesn’t exist, or doesn’t do what I say.

    Yes it does.

    1) Actual divine revelation if it exists does not contradict itself
    2) Catholics make contradictory claims about divine revelation

    C) Ergo Catholics are not able to distinguish divine revelation from their opinions about divine revelation. Your claim was that Catholic IP “allows one to distinguish divine revelation as such from human opinion”. I’ll hit the education in the next passage

    And this is not off the cuff contradiction. But contradictions after careful consideration, deeply examining the teaching of the church, the fathers, tradition the bible and weighing these statements.

    You have offered no evidence for that assertion, and as an unqualified generalization, it is false. There have been cases when popes have erred as you describe, but that is the exception not the rule, and they have never used their full authority to bind the Church to their errors.

    I’m not saying they are binding the church. What I’m saying is that all the way up the chain of command Catholics are evidently unable to distinguish their opinion from revelation. Doesn’t matter a whit if they are binding others. Popes aren’t uneducated. They have access to tremendous tremendous theological resources to help them distinguish. If Catholicism led anyone ever to be able to distinguish their opinion from divine revelation you would expect Popes to be excellent candidates. Yet, even here with Popes, conservative Catholics are confronted with contradictions that require that the Popes erred in their read of the deposit of faith and intermixed their opinion with divine revelation. Far far more cases of Cardinals and Bishops, whom again were this system of differentiation to be successful we would expect would be able to differentiate there.

    In terms of binding that’s a compounding factor Catholics at the time thought the teaching you disagree with today were binding. You just believe that they were mistaken about the teachings being binding and mistaken about the teachings. Which proves the method isn’t even successful at distinguishing binding teachings from the non binding ones. So I don’t see how that adding an extra special level of divine revelation helps.

    If you were to say that individuals are prone to these errors but the church more broadly isn’t again we see disagreements today between churches in different cultures and huge disagreements between different times.

  161. @John

    What they didn’t know was that Aquinas based much of his work on a couple of frauds — Pseudo-Dionysius and the False Decretals.

    I wouldn’t call Pseudo-Dionysius a fraud. I don’t think he was trying to mislead.

    I think it does disprove preservation of a deposit of faith. If the church wasn’t able to distinguish material from the supposed 1st century “Bishop of Athens” from 5th century material particular material that all but says it was written by a student of a 5th century philosopher it is hard to place too much credit in their claims of preservation.

    Moreover if I am not mistaken the 649 Lateran Council pronounced the authorship 1st century. So, let it be put to rest. Councils can err.

  162. John,

    You asked Mike for two pieces of evidence, that have not been discredited, that the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession is true. Of course, there are more than two pieces of evidence for the truth of this doctrine. But I’ll cite just two, both from the first century, and Mike or anyone else can cite others if they care to do so.

    1. The Pastoral Epistles of St. Paul provide evidence for apostolic succession, according to Arnold Erhardt:

    “We may therefore state with confidence that in the Pastoral Epistles the attempt was made to establish a succession after St. Paul through Timothy. It is less evident, however, what sort of succession was envisaged. The ministers who were to be ordained by Titus (Titus 1:5) were presbyters, and therefore it is possible that the presbyters only ordained missionaries who founded new churches for which they, on their part, ordained presbyters. On the other hand, the elaborate advice about the episcopal ministry in 1 Timothy 3 points to the idea of an episcopal succession. There is a way out of this dilemma if the analogy of the presbyter-bishops at Ephesus (Acts 20:17-28) is used. It seems, however, that 1 Timothy 3, as well as the corresponding passage in Titus 1, contemplates a form of monepiscopacy.” (The Apostolic Succession in the First Two Centuries of the Church, 34)

    Certainly Erhardt did not think that there is much evidence in the NT for the doctrine of apostolic succession, but apparently there is some such evidence. In this way, apostolic succession is analogous to infant baptism. One difference is that the evidence for the succession is more direct than that for infant baptism.

    2. The first century letter of Clement to the Corinthians teaches succession from the Apostles to the Christian ministry:

    “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.” (Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, 42)

    Since the Catholic doctrine of succession involves laying on of hands by already ordained ministers, who were themselves ordained to ordain by an Apostle (such as Timothy and Titus by Paul), which seems to be what Clement is describing, there is evidence for the Catholic doctrine of succession in the first century.

  163. Andrew Preslar — What you’re citing from Ehrhardt is really a minor conclusion of his work. Much larger is that “he attributes to Irenaeus the combination of the chief different conceptions of ministerial succession” — meaning that yes, the apostles “laid hands” on people, but no, it was not “apostolic succesion” as you understand it. That is a second century concept.

    This is confirmed by von Campenhausen, as well, who located Irenaeus’s “succession” in the adoption of a second century Gnostic concept:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/06/kruger-vs-ratzinger-2-apostolic.html

    The first and only usage of the concept of “a succession (???????) of teachers and instructors” [within the context of Christianity] prior to Irenaeus is found in the Gnostic Letter to Flora of the Gnostic teacher Ptolemaeus (c. AD 90 – c. AD 168). Von Campenhausen notes in a footnote, “this is the only pre-Irenaean attestation of that conception of ?????????? [tradition being handed on] which from now on is the determinative one” (von Campenhausen, 158).

    At any rate, Ehrhardt wrote in 1953; later writers Leon Morris (Westminster Theological Journal, issue 35, Winter 1973, “Luke and Early Catholicism”) and I. Howard Marshall (who wrote a major commentary on the Pastoral epistles, and writing here in “New Dimensions in New Testament Study, Zondervan 1974) both note that any elements of “early catholicism” found in the New Testament (in which the idea of “succession” is a component”) point more to the Reformation understanding of the term than the Roman understanding of it. The thing that you call “succession” is not biblical, but rather, it is the idea of Ptolemaeus in his “Letter to Flora”.

    Morris is clear about “succession” in Luke: “elders are appointed in order to serve the tradition. The church and its ministry are brought under the judgment of the apostolic word. It is the Word which legitimized the church and its ministry and not vice versa. He also cites C.K. Barrett emphasizing the same point.

    Both make the point that “the recognition that the so-called early Catholic elements in the NT do not lead to “late Catholicism” but to the Reformation”.

    So your use of Ehrhardt as “evidence” is severely strained.

    Your point regarding 1 Clement fails because it falls within the analysis of these men. So, you are zero for two.

  164. The first set of “?????’s” in my comment at April 24, 2013 at 3:19 pm is “diadoke” (“teaching”), the second is “paradoseis”, “tradition”.

  165. John,

    This is confirmed by von Campenhausen, as well, who located Irenaeus’s “succession” in the adoption of a second century Gnostic concept

    This was addressed in the comment #283 of the “Joshua Lim’s Story: A Westminster Seminary California Student becomes Catholic” article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  166. CD-HOST:

    I must confess to finding the point of your argument about OT prophecy opaque. Suppose, for argument’s sake, that in order to qualify as a prophet in OT Judaism, a person had to have “divine sight,” i.e. visions from God, not just locutions from God (both visions and locutions are had by the “spirit” of God). I’m not sure that’s true, but that hardly matters for present purposes. Divine visions of the sort described in the OT are direct experiences of divine revelation in its process of unfolding. But even they could only have constituted public revelation, as distinct from private, by being spoken of to the people and handed on to posterity. And even in the OT, the overwhelming of people received divine revelation by means of reports and interpretations handed on through written and unwritten tradition. Hence, while it is absolutely necessary, both in the OT and the NT, that some people have direct experience of divine revelation in order for faith to have an object for assent, it is by no means necessary for the vast majority of believers, who have no such experience. Their faith must involve a decision to trust some ensemble of secondary authorities, preserving and expounding written and unwritten tradition, as an embodiment of divine authority. The bone of contention between Catholicism and Protestantism is the nature and scope of that ensemble. That issue cannot even be addressed by pointing out a qualification for the role of prophet/seer in the OT, whether you’re right or wrong about that qualification.

    You argue:

    1) Actual divine revelation if it exists does not contradict itself
    2) Catholics make contradictory claims about divine revelation
    3) Ergo, Catholics are not able to distinguish divine revelation from their opinions about divine revelation.

    Your conclusion does not follow from your premises. All that follows is that some people baptized as Catholics either don’t know or don’t believe what the Church, claiming the authority she does, teaches as divine revelation. That doesn’t mean she lacks the means to make the necessary distinction, or has failed to do so. All it means is that some people don’t know it and others don’t accept it.

    You claim, once again without qualification, that popes and bishops don’t get it. But once again, you offer no specific evidence for that unqualified claim. I have already acknowledged that there are cases in which they didn’t, and claimed that those are the exception not the rule. You have offered no evidence to contradict that claim.

    You write:

    In terms of binding that’s a compounding factor. Catholics at the time thought the teaching you disagree with today were binding. You just believe that they were mistaken about the teachings being binding and mistaken about the teachings. Which proves the method isn’t even successful at distinguishing binding teachings from the non binding ones.

    Development of doctrine is a historical fact that cannot be denied, regardless of what one’s theology is. Normatively, DD takes the form of the Church’s discerning, over time, whether a given expression or viewpoint authentically expresses the faith-once-delivered, or whether that expression or viewpoint is in fact a corruption thereof, or whether it’s just an opinion that could be true, but which Catholics needn’t believe. In many cases, the Church has successfully and definitively deployed her criteria of discernment, thus requiring the assent of faith from believers. In some cases, she has not yet done so. From the latter set of cases, however, it does not follow that she lacks the means to do so. Sometimes it just takes a long time.

    Best,
    Mike

  167. John Bugay:

    Suppose–purely for argument’s sake, of course–that my constant refrain is correct: that without the sort of authority the Catholic Church claims for herself, we can make no “principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion.” The next point that needs making is this: Unless some visible body has continuously inherited the teaching authority of Christ from the Apostles as their successors, there is no principled way to make that distinction either. For if such authority were not so inherited, then the questions who’s got it, when, and where would themselves be matters of opinion, and thus render the authority nugatory.

    Of course that doesn’t suffice to show there actually is such an authority, or that it has been inherited by apostolic succession. What it does show is that, without continuous AS, there’s nothing to appeal to as divine revelation distinct from human opinion. That suggests that, when confronted with the state of the independent historical evidence for AS–whatever that may be, a matter in which I claim no expertise–the person who believes the principled distinction in question is available and applicable should interpret the evidence “charitably.” That is to say, if we lack incontestable documentation that AS has been preserved by some recognized means in every generation of bishops, one should assume that it has been preserved, unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.

    At that point, the question becomes: What would qualify as evidence for or against AS? That is a primarily theological question to be settled by divinely constituted authority, not a primarily historical question to be settled by raw data or the lack thereof. For the very concept of AS is a normative theological concept, prior to its historical application. Hence from the fact, if it is a fact, that the early written sources that have come down to us supply insufficient evidence that AS was preserved by some particular, sacramental means that had been and/or would later be considered necessary, it does not follow that AS was not preserved. Such an argument from silence is a non-sequitur. And in any case, your underlying assumption is that the deposit of faith can be reliably identified and understood as such independently of the sort of authority the Catholic Church claims for herself, which only begs the question.

    What I question is not the data, or lack thereof, that your preferred scholars point out, but the theological premises by which you, and in some cases they, interpret such data for theological purposes.

    Best,
    Mike

  168. +JMJ+

    Even if one concedes the substance of Denys Areopagite’s writings to be of a “Pseudo-Denys” (something which I’m not necessarily wont to do), there are other considerations involved.

    “This is why it was useful to close this study with the testimony of the Dionysian corpus, for, whatever its antiquity might be, it is a fact that it appeared publicly around 530 with stylistic, liturgical and ecclesiastic characteristics that make it truly difficult to date it back to the end of the first century, even if one concedes that these books ‘were not unknown to the first Fathers, who transmitted them from hand to hand as expressing an esoteric doctrine for use by the more advanced disciples’, as Mgr. Darboy writes in 1845 in his introduction to Oeuvres de saint Denys. Made public in this way, and despite some soon expressed doubts, the Church has not disavowed them and recognizes its teaching therein. But, although the late manifestation of this work testifies in favor of the continuity of sacramental tradition down to ourselves, its supposed antiquity testifies in favor of the primitive character of this tradition, at least indirectly, since it was able to be presented in the sixth century, without an outright denial, of being of apostolic origin. To even suppose that there was, not fraud, but a symbolic representation, it would still mean that this representation had to be acceptable and not in contradiction with what was known of the early sacramental tradition, and this was already a lot, as is clearly proven by many texts by ecclesiastical writers between 200 and 500, or again and above all as do compilations as venerable and venerated as the Apostolic Constitutions, which present numerous parallels to the liturgical data of Denys. It is therefore absolutely impossible to question the identity of the sacraments of Christian initiation from the beginning to the sixth century and from the sixth century to our own day, just as it is absolutely impossible to find the least trace of major initiatic rites other than the three sacraments of Christian initiation [Baptism, Confirmation, Communion], not taking into account specific rites of priestly initiation, the study of which would add nothing to our thesis.” [emphases in original]
    – Jean Borella, Guenonian Esoterism and Christian Mystery (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 1st English Edition, 2004), pp. 376-377

  169. Mike/John,

    I think a good method of approach is asking the following questions: “What set of circumstances has to have transpired in the early church for apostolic succession to be a historical fact?” And, “What set of circumstances has to have transpired in the early church for apostolic succession to be a historical falsehood?”

    It is my distinct impression that these two questions are answered very differently by each side, thus making meaningful discussion impossible. For example, if one side thinks the lack of an exhaustive list of names negates AS, while the other thinks it does not, then any appeals to such a thing will go nowhere. Likewise, if one side thinks that the mere existence of duly ordained men in Rome with full ecclesial powers from Peter until Francis sufficiently establishes AS, while the other denies this, again, we will get nowhere.

    So before any more comments are made…

    John: What is the minimal set of historical circumstances that you consider necessary in order for AS to be an historical fact (regardless of whether it has any theological significance)?

    Mike: Same question.

    Please address these two question specifically. Thank you both.

  170. Let’s start with the basic facts: why is it James and not Peter (as presumed Pope) who delivers the final deliberation concerning a key doctrinal matter in Acts 15?

  171. SS, I would suggest that your question is less basic than mine, since it seems to presuppose as necessary something about Petrine primacy that Catholics do not insist upon

  172. So catholics do not insist that Peter was the first pope?

  173. You are assuming that Catholics think that a pope must deliver the final doctrinal deliberation at a council. Moreover, you are assuming that what James delivered was a doctrinal deliberation.

    Let’s address the two questions I asked of Mike and John above.

  174. ‘deliver’ was a poor choice of words. What I meant was that it was James who decided the matter, finally:

    “14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

    16 “‘After this I will return
    and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
    Its ruins I will rebuild,
    and I will restore it,
    17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
    even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
    says the Lord, who does these things’—
    18 things known from long ago.

    19 “ It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

    If the paradigm were petrine primacy, we should see Peter deciding the matter and giving his judgment, not James’. But that’s not the basic facts indicate.

  175. I hope to redirect the discussion to a new post tonight, but until then, you are making an assumption about what James did that Catholics do not necessarily agree with.

  176. @Jason:

    What is the minimal set of historical circumstances that you consider necessary in order for AS to be an historical fact (regardless of whether it has any theological significance)?

    Good question, and I agree with Mike that it’s a negative question. We aren’t starting at neutral for the reasons provided above, so what we would need is a good reason NOT to believe it.

    I would therefore put this class of evidence in the same category as the sort of evidence that would defeat the Resurrection or equivalent core doctrines. If we had multiple reliable sources testifying that the body never left the tomb or that one or more Apostles fabricated the whole thing or never intended it to be take literally or the like, then it would be very hard to sustain faith in those propositions. If we similarly had compelling evidence that Peter died before he went to Rome without leaving any claimed successor or a persuasive record of denial of successive ordination to office by laying on hands, that would be hard to sustain belief in apostolic succession.

    However, that requires taking theological convictions of the authors seriously as a fundamental matter. I can contrast this with Mr. Bugay’s view as follows:

    you’ve made fun of my “scholars” in the past, but up above you’ve got a committed, conservative Catholic (Jonathan) throwing them up in my face as if I don’t know about all that.

    He says that the papal claims are more theological than historical, but really, when I was growing up Catholic, it was all about the history — 25 years as “Bishop of Rome” — which Schaff 150 years ago called “a colossal historical error” (without knowing the kinds of things we know today) — the unbroken succession going back to Peter, each and every one of them a Vatican I-style pope, with Vatican I-mandated “jurisdictional authority”.

    As Mike said, I don’t think it’s a question of the scholars so much as the conclusions drawn from them. Hagiography and triumphalism of orthodoxy has a long literary tradition, and its purpose is NOT to be “all about history.” Its purpose is to glorify the works of God, and it greatly embellishes the defeat of heresy and the victory of orthodoxy. That’s not a Catholic tradition intended to protect the bishops of Rome; there’s a much longer and more elaborate tradition in the Byzantine Church, and Rome was actually victimized by it in the Photian Schism.

    There’s a whole field of heresiology that deals specifically with how the orthodox cast their opponents, and “objectivity” is not high on the list of the characteristics of the genre. The good historians in this area delve into the theological convictions that drove them to this strident style of attack; the bad ones dismiss the theological issues as unimportant, instead trying to “objectively” judge based on mundane considerations, ignoring the genre entirely. For example, forging documents makes sense in the context of people seriously authoring documents as what the author would have said if his theological convictions were represented at the time. But that requires that the authors actually have theological convictions that they believe were shared by their predecessors.

  177. John,

    I cited the Pastoral Epistles, referring to Erhardt’s conclusions about the strands of data found in them relative to the rest of the NT, and 1 Clement. I did not refer to Irenaeus, therfore your doing so is beside the point of my comment, which was to cite two bits of evidence for the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession.

    Insofar as the episcopate to which Clement refers, which is the ministry to which selected men “succeeded,” includes the duties to teach and instruct (which it clearly does), then the succession of teachers and instructors prior to Irenaues is found in the first century, which is when Clement wrote.

    Ah, but Morris and Marshall wrote in the early 1970s. Contemporary scholars, such as John D. Zizioulas (Eucharist, Bishop, Church, 2001) and Aidan Nichols (Holy Order, 1990) come to different, more up-to-date conclusions regarding whether the NT data supports the Catholic understanding of the ministry.

    Thus, judging by your own criteria as evidenced in your argumentative strategy, it seems that your use of Morris and Marshall is severely strained, and that my appeal to Erhardt is vindicated.

    Andrew

  178. All: Please continue the discussion in the Mini-Me thread. Thanks.

  179. Jason:

    You asked:

    What is the minimal set of historical circumstances that you consider necessary in order for AS to be an historical fact (regardless of whether it has any theological significance)?

    I shall answer that question before explaining why I find it somewhat misformulated.

    The “minimal set” would consist of historical evidence, in the records that have come down to us, that the Church has always believed that the Apostles appointed successors to carry on their teaching and governing authority over the Church, ones who in turn appointed their own successors, and so on continuously to whatever day one reckons back from. Clearly, there is such evidence. The mere persistence of such a belief over the centuries, as documented, is at least “minimal” evidence. It begins in earnest with St. Irenaeus in the 2nd century.

    But does such minimal evidence suffice to persuade anybody who isn’t otherwise persuaded? Of course not. The mere fact that a belief B has been generally held for as far back as we have records does not, by itself, suffice to show that B is actually true. Yet in the nature of the case, whatever evidence there for AS is cannot prescind from questions of “theological significance.” That’s because the claim for which evidence is being considered is, itself, theologically significant. Of course one could disprove AS, as the Catholic Church traditionally understands AS, by the historical means Jonathan Prejean has envisioned above. But such means are not available, unless one so defines ‘AS’ that the sort of evidence we do have would disprove it. But then the question would become which definition of AS is normative in the first place, so that the historical existence for AS so defined can then be considered. And that is not a question that can be answered by purely historical means.

    This is no mere academic difficulty. Protestants who claim that the Catholic Church somehow lost AS, or indeed had never had it, do so not because they have examined the records of episcopal appointments and consecrations and found them insufficient, but because they believe they reliably know the deposit of faith without relying on ecclesial authority, and reject the Church’s claim to apostolic authority on the ground that she does not conform to the faith so known. So, given the “minimal” evidence I began by noting, the question whether AS has been preserved or ever existed in the Catholic Church becomes primarily a theological not a historical question.

    Best,
    Mike

  180. Mike Liccione,

    Per Jason’s request, I’ve moved to the other thread, if you are interested in my response to your lengthy response to me.

    Thanks.

  181. @Michael

    I must confess to finding the point of your argument about OT prophecy opaque.

    Remember your argument is about who speaks for God. True prophets of Yahweh are the only people who speak for God. To be a bit more pedantic the bible has a large number of offices:

    1a) Prophet/Seer of God
    1b) False Prophet / Seer
    1c) Prophet / Seer of another god
    2) Scribe / Teacher
    3) Different classes of priests

    Only (1a) speaks for God. (2)’s are empowered to
    i) Record the words of prophets
    ii) Interpret the words of God.

    And even in the OT, the overwhelming of people received divine revelation by means of reports and interpretations handed on through written and unwritten tradition.

    This conflation isn’t consistent with the OT. The congregation generally receives the word from prophets or from teachers. Prophets receive visions, revelations. The bible doesn’t group like you are doing.

    Their faith must involve a decision to trust some ensemble of secondary authorities, preserving and expounding written and unwritten tradition, as an embodiment of divine authority.

    Two things. The bible doesn’t authorize anyone to
    a’) preserving and expounding written and unwritten tradition with divine authority

    it authorizes
    a) preserving the words of prophets.
    b) teaching about the words of prophets.
    There is no general permission given to all traditions. Anything other than that which is taught by prophetic voice is to use your term, “human opinion”. Moreover anything other than a word for word reproduction of the prophecy is an interpretation and belongs to the teacher. If is forbidden for this to be conflated in with God’s word, i.e. that which is delivered to his people via. prophets.

    The second thing is you are conflating two very different things:
    a) preserving the words of prophets and teaching about them
    b) being an embodiment of divine authority.

    No one is empowered to be an embodiment of divine authority. Priests and civil governments are embodiments of authority which has divine authorization. That doesn’t come from their teaching functions but their ritual or enforcement functions. Their authority is the authority to act on the teachings.

    The bone of contention between Catholicism and Protestantism is the nature and scope of that ensemble. That issue cannot even be addressed by pointing out a qualification for the role of prophet/seer in the OT, whether you’re right or wrong about that qualification.

    I beg to differ, I think they are very much related. We got on this topic when you were asserting prophetic authority for yourself. The primary argument between Catholics and Protestants has been the Magisterium / Popes claiming prophet authority without having been selected by God for prophetic vision. I believe a teacher could legitimately believe based on church tradition in the Assumption of Mary. A teacher cannot legitimately assert that his belief in the Assumption of Mary constitutes the very will of God. An assertion of God’s beliefs requires his voice, prophetic voice, or a very broad assent of believers. When Erasmus complained about Luther asserting Prophetic Authority when he declared his interpretations of scripture unassailable, he was right to do so, and this is an ongoing sore point.

    Finally this is not just OT. For example: 1Cor 9:1-2 what makes Paul have Prophetic authority is that he:

    a) Claims to have had a vision — he has seen the Lord
    b) Is believed (i.e. is not thought of as a false prophet since he has converts)
    c) [implied] Doesn’t teach other gods (i.e. is a prophet of Yahweh)

    I’m not saying that every problem between Catholics and Protestants would be resolved if Catholics stopped claiming prophetic authority for their leaders even though those leaders themselves don’t put themselves forward as prophetic candidates, but I think well over half would. By claiming the Pope has

    i) The authority of a prophet
    ii) The right to freely interpret and interject opinion like a teacher
    iii) The right to intermix (i) and (ii) in total contradiction to scripture
    iv) The ritual powers of a priest

    The Catholic Church has legitimate Prophetic candidates but then undercuts those. Saint Bernadette, as an example whom we have been talking about in the incorruptible subthread, did put herself forward as a prophetic candidate. For those who believe her vision she should have prophetic authority when speaking in prophetic voice.

    You claim, once again without qualification, that popes and bishops don’t get it. But once again, you offer no specific evidence for that unqualified claim. I have already acknowledged that there are cases in which they didn’t, and claimed that those are the exception not the rule.

    If you agree it happens you are agreeing with me not disagreeing.

  182. Hey, WOSBALD.

    I have been following your back and forth with SS. The motives of credibility, certitude, natural faith, and supernatural faith are all very interesting topics to me. I have raised questions about them at Called to Communion, so you might already know that about me! I think I have not been able to settle the issues for myself because I equivocate on many of the terms being used – I hope to get past that difficulty by reading some Catholic texts on epistemology.

    Anyway, you said that moral certitude always allows room for reasonable doubt. To illustrate that, you cited the possibility for doubting some historical facts. I think one can doubt those facts, sure, but can it really be said that those doubts are reasonable, especially the moon-landing example? I think those would be unreasonable doubts. Otherwise, how can anyone be found guilty of a crime in the United States? It seems “beyond all reasonable doubt” would be impossible!

    My own understanding, based on reading a number of theologians and Church documents, is that the motives of credibility provide as much of a scientific moral certitude that the subject is capable. It does not exclude all doubts, but it does exclude serious or reasonable doubts. I could be wrong about that.

    -Brian

  183. +JMJ+

    Brian Ortiz wrote:

    I have been following your back and forth with SS. The motives of credibility, certitude, natural faith, and supernatural faith are all very interesting topics to me. I have raised questions about them at Called to Communion, so you might already know that about me!

    Well, I’ve only been on CtC a small handful of times and have never posted there. It’s just not my bag. Very Scholastic and formalized. Not to detract from their excellent apologetic, of course, but, being a Platonist and much more conversational, I would probably just get in the way. This doesn’t preclude me from ever posting there, I suppose, if I thought that I had something productive to add, but it doesn’t seem imminently likely.

    Pleased to meetcha, regardless!

    Brian Ortiz wrote:

    My own understanding, based on reading a number of theologians and Church documents, is that the motives of credibility provide as much of a scientific moral certitude that the subject is capable. It does not exclude all doubts, but it does exclude serious or reasonable doubts. I could be wrong about that.

    Well, for Natural Man Metaphysical Certitude (such as Aristotle’s self-evidencies) only covers a relatively small number of things. And so, my point is that Moral Certitude is a human certitude. That which is considered to be “reasonable” is a human judgement. As such, it is always fallible. For example, many convicted by evidence considered to be “certain beyond a reasonable doubt” are exonerated, years later, when new evidence is brought to light. This is one reason why the Church so emphatically stresses that faith is never a necessary consequence of studying the Motives of Credibility.

    As Vatican I says… “If anyone says that the assent of Christian faith is not free, but that it necessarily follows from the arguments which human reason can furnish in its favor… let him be anathema.”

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    Sorry, bro-heem.

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