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. In anticipation of coming objections, the first link is to a CTC article dealing in depth with the problems inherent in the Sola/Solo distinction, and the second link deals with the objection that Catholics, if they converted from Protestantism as rational adults, are in the same epistemological boat as Protestants since they, too, used their intellect and powers of investigation before doing so.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/the-tu-quoque/

    I would ask that any objections from either of these standpoints demonstrate an at least basic understanding of the issues here.

  2. Jason,

    Just a brief comment to get the ball rolling:

    1. Those articles make much of the fact that the true church is to be identified by apostolic succession defined by having a lineage of leaders who can trace hands-laying-on back to Peter and the gang. But that is not self-evident from Scripture or tradition.

    2. Unless one believes in the infallibility of Rome, what you have with Rome is a group of fallible leaders who got together, identified themselves as the true church, and then rejected all who don’t agree as a false church. You don’t gain anything without first demonstrating the infallibility of the church, and you’re still making a fallible decision at that point anyway. Simply saying that Christ gave authority to apostles who passed apostolic authority of like kind onto those after them doesn’t make it so. First you have prove that.

    The argument of CTC boils down to this: Given the truth of Roman presuppositions, Roman submission to authority is different than the Protestant submission.

  3. Where you’re wrong, Robert, is in the assertion that CTC presupposes Catholicism and thus reasons in a circle. Liccione, for one, has bent over backwards demonstrating how that is not true.

    Unless, of course, you can point to an example of where they do this?

  4. The Word contains the power to create and sustain faith. The Bible IS (for us) the final authority. It’s not the only authority…but it is the final word on the (whatever) matter.

    Tradition is fine…when it doesn’t contradict the Word, or detract from it.

    When the word of man, Protestant or Catholic, moves the sinner to the center, and Christ to the periphery, then it is going off the rails. A great deal of Protestantism and Catholicism goes that errant route.

    Romans 1:16 is the main one I use to back me up on what I’ve said here. But there are many others. And then just take a look at the Christian landscape out there and see who the subject usually is of the sermon. It almost always reverts back to ‘you’, and what ‘you do’ or ‘do not do’ to make yourself acceptable in God’s eyes. One would be better off just to rip out all the pages of the New Testament and join the synagogue.

  5. Jason–

    The Catholic Catechism is much longer than the WCF because there is so much in it derived just from Tradition without corresponding biblical support. As a result, there is far more to fudge on and wink at and misinterpret. There is a far greater range of belief in the Catholic church. The dispute between the FV and the Old School boys is but a friendly intramural tangle compared to some tussles within Rome.

    Whatever the solo scriptura camps may say (Charismatics, dispensational Baptists, Churches of Christ, Mennonites, etc.) is no concern of ours. They are not truly Protestant. Confessional Protestants have a far tighter system of theology on the ground in the local churches than any other branch of Christianity I am aware of. When I go into an OPC, PCA, LCMS, CRC. URC, ACNA denominational congregation, I know basically what I am getting into. I have no clue with the Church of Rome.

    Your guys added all sorts of Gnostic and pagan accretions to the faith, and then got intensely irritated when we ditched them. And you are going to accuse us of being able to interpret Scripture any way we please? You all are the masters of that. We could never begin to catch up to you.

  6. Just a quick note: The freedom that I allowed Protestants in the last thread to hurl insults will not be extended here. Anyone who desires to participate must do so charitably or they will have their comments deleted (and “Words of Wisdom” is not welcome here any longer).

  7. TOA: The problem with this is that it points back to the fact that people disagree about what the Bible “clearly” teaches or does not. So you’re back to each person deciding for themselves what’s “Biblical” and what’s not, and thus “anarchy,” as Jason presses.

    If you want to get down to brass tacks and try to show that some Catholic doctrine or other is “clearly” un-Biblical, I or any able Catholic apologist can show you what assumptions you’re making and why those are not necessarily warranted. The point there would not be to demonstrate conclusively that you’re wrong about this or that particular issue (which would fall afoul of the very point I’m driving at – that most substantive doctrines cannot be conclusively proven from the Bible alone or mere argument) but rather that reasonable people can disagree about such matters. If you disagree with that, be prepared to start your own church if necessary.

    Do you believe in the Trinity? Do you deny heresies like Pelagianism and Nestorianism? I submit that the root reason that you do is because of some independently-given ecclesial authority, not because those positions are “clearly” out of line with the Bible. The reason we tell that they’re Biblical is not by being able to independently derive them ourselves from Scripture alone, but because we accept them as part of Tradition.

    Robert: To your second point, I think “The Tu Quoque” article Jason linked to partly speaks to that. And in any case, saying that “and you’re still making a fallible decision at that point anyway” proves too much, as it would undercut any attempt to recognize true and bona fide ecclesial authority.

    To your first point, the way that we tell that a institution at its founding is identical with an institution we have today is by historical continuity. That is, logically, if x = y and y = z, then x = z. Apostolic succession gives us just that. Unless you can point to a time at which apostolic succession was suddenly no longer valid, or want to suggest that the Church went immediately off the rails after the Apostle John died. (Which would put you in qualitatively the same boat as the Mormons, and moreover would suggest that you shouldn’t accept any of the Councils, and would seem to contradict Jesus’ teaching that the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church.)

  8. Something is being overlooked by Jason’s (and CtC’s) critics here, and it is precisely that this case confirms what is argued in Jason’s first CtC link. PCAers are deciding for themselves whether the SJC was right or not, depending upon their personal views of FV. Bryan Cross’s observation is being validated: “If I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me.” The solo/sola distinction has no clothes.

    Fred

  9. Eric,

    The notion that Catholics are just as divided, is addressed in a CTC post titled “The Catholics are Divided Too Objection.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. +JMJ+

    [Moved from the “When I Find Myself in Times of Trouble” thread]

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    Incarno-Sacramentalism eliminates that (very real, though abstract) philosophical problem [that Catholics must make the same subjective choice to agree with Rome as the Protestant does with his own communion]. It ushers one into a New Creation where the subjective (the Sensus Catholicus) and the objective (the Magisterium) are unified within an organic, ontological, Personal Reality.
    Once one is sacramentally unified with the Church, then they can exercise Supernatural Faith and make the subjective choice to agree with the objective Magisterium because all is now bound together in that single Christic Reality that is the Church.

    Hugh McCann wrote:
    .
    Is not this super-faith someone making the choice/ taking a leap of faith? Doesn’t this precede baptism?

    No, that’s Natural Faith. And this is precisely where the belief in the basic goodness of the Natural Order comes into play. Natural Man using his natural powers and moved by grace, investigates the Motives of Credibility of the Church. He chooses the Church with his Natural Faith. He asks the Church for entrance. The Church then responds by choosing him, bestowing upon him sacramental initiation which ontologically incorporates him into Herself and superelevates him to a realm of Supernatural Faith. In this way man goes “from faith to faith”. From Natural to Supernatural Faith.

    Sacramentalism is key to this movement from Nature to Supernature as well as being the mediating function for the internal dynamic between Magesterium and Sensus Catholicus.

    Of course, if one presupposes Total Depravity, then this movement from faith to faith becomes unintelligible. Hence, Protestant Fideism.

  11. Woz & Co.,

    Thanks. Gottta get caught up before replyin’!

  12. Natural Man using his natural powers and moved by grace, investigates the Motives of Credibility of the Church

    Do those MOC compel the ‘natural man’ to an assent of faith or do they present ‘reasonable evidence’ to encourage ‘natural man’ towards an assent of faith?

  13. Jason,

    As my Roman apologetics online must-read library grows, can you point me to what Sola S. fails to do as in: ‘This is why Sola Scriptura — even in its more churchly expressions — ultimately fails.’ What are you looking for sola scriptura to “do”?

    Extra credit for this one: ‘So even if the proper formula is not Solo but Sola, the “A” at the end still stands for Anarchy.’ CUTE!

    _____________________________________
    Anarchy in the PCA – it’s coming sometime and maybe;
    I give a wrong time stop a traffic line;
    your future dream is a shopping scheme… [Sorry…]

  14. Hugh,

    SS cannot provide anything more than a fallible human opinion about what the Bible teaches, and therefore cannot provide a way to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials, or between orthodoxy and heresy. Moreover, it cannot provide us with a canon, but only the best-guess efforts of scholars at what they think the canon should be.

    Now, if the response is that the CC fares no better, then this means that the responder is admitting that God never intended for these distinctions to be possible. Of course, that is a possibility and a consistent position for the Protestant to espouse. but for my part, it is untenable (not to mention making God out to be a pretty poor planner. I mean, the hassle of the Incarnation and crucifixion only to set up a church that loses its visibility the first time a division arises?).

  15. Jason: …to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials…

    This is hypothetical even in Roman Catholicism. They have their “dogmas” (many of which they claim are “essential” but which are merely arbitrary and certainly are not Biblical), whereas at that fine line of “distinguishing”, that too is a fuzzy line. and you say “we don’t have to know it, we have the Magisterium to tell us”.

    But now, with Pope Bergoglio, you’ve got a guy who’s signalling that he’s going to change course from the JPII/BXVI trajectory, on an issue that’s as crucial as ecclesiology. Pope Bergoglio is going to be a point at which the rubber meets the road for you — and I’m sure you find yourselves disagreeing with him (and rationalizing why you do disagree with him) — even though he is THE Magisterium, and as Piux XII said, “these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me”

    Whether you all know this or not, Cardinal Walter Kasper and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger disagreed vehemently on a point of ecclesiology. You can find that disagreement summarized here:

    http://www.ts.mu.edu/readers/content/pdf/63/63.2/63.2.1.pdf

    Kasper is someone who treats realistically the notion that “there was no monarchical bishop in Rome the first 200 years”. Now, Pope Bergoglio is citing Walter Kasper not only with much approval, but the first public thing he says in his first public statement as pope (St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 17 March 2013) could not speak more highly of Kasper.

    [The question of importance in Kasper vs Ratzinger was “did the local church come first, or the Universal Church?” Ratzinger, of course, held to the priority of the Universal Church. Kasper spoke of the church as “simultaneously universal and local”].

    This has great consequence for Ratzinger’s version of the papacy, and what a new version of the papacy may look like. Bergoglio is simultaneously not wanting to be called “pope” (rather “bishop of Rome”, and he has also made as a priority “reform of the curia” (by only outsider Cardinals).

    Kasper, on the other hand, is cited in recent sources to the effect that Pope Francis is going to bring back the “spirit of Vatican II” that the two previous popes sought to suppress.

    I wonder if you and a lot of your CTC buddies are going to start changing your tune about “interpretations” real fast as things begin to shake out.

  16. Thank you Jason for deciding to step up the moderation. I very much enjoy the articles here, however the comment sections have been a tad frustrating at times.

  17. John,

    You said, of distinguishing between essentials and non-essentials:

    This is hypothetical even in Roman Catholicism.

    Are you, then, conceding Jason’s point in the post? Because invoking the tu quoque is no response to a claim made about the alleged solo/sola distinction even if Jason hadn’t anticipated it.

    Fred

  18. Argh. Missed a closing tag.

  19. John Bugay.

    I think we all agree that the Catholic Church needs some change. I can’t speak for anybody else but I view Pope Francis as truly a breath of fresh air.

    Now, as far as dismantling the papacy as you wish happens, I think this is a good example of some wishful thinking on your part.

  20. John,

    One part of your comment consists of speculation concerning what Pope Francis might do, and such speculation is fully compatible with the Catholic Church being able to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials. The other part of your comment suggests that the disagreement between Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Ratzinger shows that the Catholic Church cannot provide a way to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials. However, the disagreement between them was about a hypothetical interpretation of the CDF document in question, and about an open theological question that has not yet been determined definitively or non-definitively by the Church’s magisterium. That sort of disagreement is fully compatible with the Catholic Church’s ability to distinguish essentials from non-essentials, for the reasons I explained in “The Catholics are Divided Too Objection.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  21. Jason,

    Just on verbiage for a moment, the term “solo scriptura” is a whimsical attempt by one of Keith Mathison’s friends to find a more creative term than Heiko Obermann’s “Tradition 0.” But whether we look to Mathison or Obermann the issues at hand are two: 1) What was the ultimate standard of authority for the Church in her early centuries?, and 2) What ought this standard to be for the Church? Sola scriptura is the answer to both these questions in the minds of Mathison and Obermann. One thing I pointed out to Bryan Cross was that his article that you refer to entirely misses these core concerns.

    Sola scriptura was of course one of the rallying cries of the Reformation and the contention of the Reformers was that the emphasis on the sola of Scripture was a return to the position of the early centuries of Christianity. It is the work of Mathison and Obermann to defend this contention and they spend many hundreds of pages in their respective works doing just this. Now with the case of some of modern Evangelicalism the role that tradition plays is eliminated – they don’t debate the appropriate role that tradition plays at all, but instead toss tradition into the garbage. And it is here where we see the principled distinction between what Mathison terms “solo scriptura” with historical “sola scriptura.” To exemplify this we can look to 19th century Dispensationalists where any role for tradition as having a bearing upon theological questions at hand is explicitly denied. The result of this rejection was that Dispensationalism of the 19th century is dead in the seminaries, even at DTS, the most ardent proponent of the old school Dispensationalism of Chafer, Scoffield, etc.

    Again the Cross article does an end around all of this debate. What Cross focuses on, and what are you speaking of here, is the assessment that individual Reformed Christian make of Scripture. And here I would essentially agree with Bryan and you – there is a subjective assessment of Scripture that we don’t escape by appeal to sola scriptura. The only question then is whether anything is solved by becoming Catholic, and our answer to that is obviously “no.” All we see that you have done is changed standards. You now believe that your assessment of the tradition of the Church is the correct one and you have tossed in your hat with a certain subsection of Roman Catholics who agree with your interpretation. There are so many different interpretations of tradition, whether we are looking at just the world of Roman Catholicism, or more broadly at the larger Christian community, and you have picked one of these interpretations. So now it seems that your task is to try to convince us that things in your new Roman home are not so subjective as they might appear to all of us whom you left behind in Reformedville. Well, all I can say is good luck with this enterprise! I will certainly read your attempts with great interest.

    Cheers….

  22. Micah,

    Yes, people disagree on everything. But that Word that creates and sustains faith, the forgiveness of sins is primary. The law to expose. That is clear enough to tell others about it, so that they too will know.

    The Catholic Church has disagreed on matters also. Popes and Councils have contradicted each other. No one has a corner on unity. Christ knows who His followers are. Unity is great, but never at the expense of the gospel.

  23. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Do those MOC compel the ‘natural man’ to an assent of faith or do they present ‘reasonable evidence’ to encourage ‘natural man’ towards an assent of faith?

    I believe that we covered this in the Crap/PCA thread. But regardless, I suppose it depends on the type of Faith of which you speak.

    If you’re asking about Natural Faith then I suppose that the Motives of Credibility could be said to “compel” an act of Natural (or Human) Faith, inasmuch as the Catholic claims are solid, humanly speaking. But the truth of the RCC is not Self-Evident to the Intellect, if that’s what you’re asking. It is possible to come to a mistaken conclusion or the Motives could be presented poorly or whatever. So, it could just as well could be said that the MOC provide “reasonable evidence to encourage”.

    But if you’re asking about Supernatural Faith then, no, Supernatural Faith is never a necessary consequence of the MOC.

  24. Andrew,

    I suspect that the RC answer to your point would be that the Magisterium determines which interpretation of tradition is the correct one. Of course, that effectively means Rome can never be questioned and that she must always be right because whatever she says is the final infallible interpretation of tradition, no matter how strained it might be.

    Of course, that raises the question as to whether RC tradition is any more perspicuous than Scripture. If RC has to keep interpreting itself, that is functionally the same as Protestantism having to interpret the Bible. Moreover, it seems to render the whole enterprise of non-Magisterium apologetics useless. Why do we need Bryan, Jason, and company to interpret tradition for us, to answer our questions about apparent Roman contradictions, and so on? Why does the infallible church not do the heavy lifting?

    That Jason, Bryan, et al still take up the cause of trying to defend Roman Catholicism biblically, historically, and philosophically indicates that try as they might, they can’t shake the last vestiges of Protestant thinking and reasoning from their bones.

    I hope and pray that Francis is different and infallibly overturns a long-standing Roman tradition such as priestly celibacy. It would be so much fun to watch Roman apologists figure out an explanation for that one. Fun in a sad kind of way.

  25. Robert.

    I hope and pray that Francis is different and infallibly overturns a long-standing Roman tradition such as priestly celibacy. It would be so much fun to watch Roman apologists figure out an explanation for that one.

    Priestly celibacy is a disciplinary rule for the Latin Rite, not a doctrine or dogma of the faith. As such, it can (and has been) changed over time.

    I am friends with several married priests of the Eastern Rite and under the Anglican Oridinariate.

    That said, I am always perplexed by the Protestant obsession with celibacy. So often celibacy is viewed with suspicion yet Paul calls celibacy a gift from God (1 Cor. 7:7).

  26. Andrew,

    The only question then is whether anything is solved by becoming Catholic, and our answer to that is obviously “no.” All we see that you have done is changed standards. You now believe that your assessment of the tradition of the Church is the correct one and you have tossed in your hat with a certain subsection of Roman Catholics who agree with your interpretation.

    This objection has been addressed in “The Tu Quoque,” which Jason linked in his first comment above.

    There are so many different interpretations of tradition, whether we are looking at just the world of Roman Catholicism,

    Feel free to specify. It is easy to hand-wave with unspecified generalizations from 30,000 feet. But it takes courage to get into the particulars. Which “different interpretations of tradition” within “the world of Roman Catholicism” do you think undermine Jason’s claim that the Catholic Church has a principle means of distinguishing essentials from non-essentials?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  27. Jason, April 14 @ 11:36pm ~ “SS cannot provide anything more than a fallible human opinion about what the Bible teaches, and therefore cannot provide a way to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials, or between orthodoxy and heresy. Moreover, it cannot provide us with a canon, but only the best-guess efforts of scholars at what they think the canon should be.”

    So, [1] biblical doctrine, [2] distinguishing essentials & orthodoxy, and [3] establishing the canon are areas where sola scriptura ‘even in its more churchly expressions — ultimately fails.’ Thank you for that clarification.

    “Now, if the response is that the CC fares no better, then this means that the responder is admitting that God never intended for these distinctions to be possible.”

    Ah! 🙂

    “Of course, that is a possibility and a consistent position for the Protestant to espouse. but for my part, it is untenable (not to mention making God out to be a pretty poor planner. I mean, the hassle of the Incarnation and crucifixion only to set up a church that loses its visibility the first time a division arises?).”

    “Pretty poor planner”? By your light & Rome’s?

    It’s untenable only if one has first accepted Rome’s claims that she has succeeded in maintaining “God’s plan” for [1] right doctrine, [2] holding to essentials and orthodoxy, and [3] delineating the canon of Scripture, right?

  28. Sean Patrick,

    Pardon my question, but did you leave Reformed Protestantism for Rome?

    If not, you may not know that “the Protestant obsession with celibacy” is rooted in our perplexity with your church’s strange rejection (or ignoring) of I Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6, “husband of one wife,” with a well-ordered household as well (I Tim. 3:4).

  29. Hugh.

    Yes, I was raised Presbtyerian (PCA mostly) and became Catholic in 2007.

    And, the Catholic Church does not reject or ignore I Timothy 3:2,Titus 1:6 or I Tim. 3:4.

    Again, the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church since about AD 900 has enforced the dicipline that the priesthood is limited to men with the gift of celibacy.

  30. teachings of Federal Visionist Peter Leithart to be out of accord with the Westminster Standards (which I think they clearly are)

    It seems simpler (at least for this particular case), to stage the question not in the form of, “who is right, the church or scripture?” but rather as “we confess that scripture is right, and we confess that our confessions are scriptural, and also right, so why is our church (which is by definition defined by scripture and confessions) ‘clearly’ disregarding scripture and confessions?”

  31. Robert,

    If RC has to keep interpreting itself, that is functionally the same as Protestantism having to interpret the Bible.

    That claim ignores (a) the difference between persons and texts, and (b) the fact that the Catholic Church has a magisterium while Protestantism does not.

    Moreover, it seems to render the whole enterprise of non-Magisterium apologetics useless. Why do we need Bryan, Jason, and company to interpret tradition for us, to answer our questions about apparent Roman contradictions, and so on? Why does the infallible church not do the heavy lifting?

    Your implied argument is that if the Magisterium is perspicuous, then there would be no need for Catholic apologists who are not members of the Magisterium. But that conclusion does not follow from that premise. Many people to whom Catholic apologists speak do not even know what the Magisterium has said. In addition, the Catholic faith is something known most fully from within, and Catholic apologists have (hopefully) received this instruction [from the Magisterium or those appointed by them to teach for them]. What is perspicuous from the perspective of those who have been immersed in the Tradition as elucidated by the Magisterium, is not necessarily perspicuous when separated from that Tradition and the Magisterium’s teaching concerning that Tradition. So in this way the Catholic apologist, though not having in himself any magisterial authority, can explain and defend the teaching he has received from the living Magisterium. And this role and ability on the part of the Catholic apologist does not nullify the principled distinction between Protestantism and the Catholic Church regarding the ability to distinguish objectively and publicly what is essential from what is non-essential.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  32. Bryan,

    That sounds nice, but it does not address my objection. If the Magisterium really solves all the problems that you and Jason says it does, all you would need to do is hand over an official Magisterial explanation of doctrine to anyone who has questions. At the very least, one can accuse the Magisterium of doing a poor job of helping people understand the truth they are supposed to guarantee if they need the help of a layman like you or Jason to get through to the people.

    And for all the vaunted distinction between persons and texts, you are part of a communion that rules by texts, texts that have to be interpreted. If persons are in some way a better or surer interpretative authority, why write anything down?

  33. Robert,

    That sounds nice, but it does not address my objection. If the Magisterium really solves all the problems that you and Jason says it does, all you would need to do is hand over an official Magisterial explanation of doctrine to anyone who has questions.

    No, that’s not true, for the reasons I just explained. What the Magisterium says is not necessarily perspicuous to persons not immersed in the Catholic Tradition. It is known most truly and fully from within, as I just explained above.

    At the very least, one can accuse the Magisterium of doing a poor job of helping people understand the truth they are supposed to guarantee if they need the help of a layman like you or Jason to get through to the people.

    That’s like accusing the Holy Spirit of doing a poor job of inspiring Scripture, if there need to be preachers on Sunday mornings. It attacks a straw man by presupposing falsely that the thing is supposed to more than what it is designed to do.

    And for all the vaunted distinction between persons and texts, you are part of a communion that rules by texts, texts that have to be interpreted. If persons are in some way a better or surer interpretative authority, why write anything down?

    The ontological distinction between persons and texts does not nullify the usefulness of texts, for reasons that are sufficiently obvious. As Dei Verbum teaches:

    The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: “For the word of God is living and active” (Heb. 4:12) and “it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thess. 2:13). (Dei Verbum, 21)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  34. I’m always surprised by how quickly Protestants are willing to jump to the tu quoque reply. (FWIW, I was surprised by how quickly I myself was willing to jump to that answer when I was a Protestant). If the best reply to “You have no standard of orthodoxy!” is “Neither do you!”, then I’m pretty sure Unitarianism makes a heckuva lot more sense than Protestantism (or Catholicism) would. Yet many Protestants give the tu quoque argument as if it’ll keep someone from “going Catholic”. I find that puzzling.

    Also, in response to someone above, priestly celibacy is a discipline not a doctrine. Eastern Catholic priests (although not Eastern Catholic bishops) do not practice the discipline of celibacy – and the particular Roman Catholic Church could join the, say, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (a particular Eastern Catholic church) in not practicing that discipline. (“Could do”, of course, does not entail “would be wise to do” – there are many good reasons for priestly celibacy even if it is a discipline. In fact, plenty of Protestant pastors I’ve talked to express sympathy for the view that being a pastor is much easier to do when one isn’t married). Perfect and perpetual continence, however, is (I think) intrinsic to the sacrament of Holy Orders. So while changing “priestly celibacy” is one thing, changing priestly continence would be another matter entirely. But such topics fall within the domain of canon law (about which I know very little).

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  35. Jason —

    Let me start off by complementing you on how well you are holding it together with the accusations flying on Green Baggins. You really have presented yourself as a gentlemen in what has got to be an awfully uncomfortable situation where there is anger being directed your way for things you had limited control of. That his can’t be helped by a lot of anger and unhinged claims being directed at you. So kudos all around for being an adult when others haven’t been.

    I think there are levels here, there is a degree of nuance. I agree with you that functionally there isn’t much difference between sola and solo. But to my mind the real debate in the PCA is as Conservative Reformed Christianity is gaining the opportunity and reality for influence to what extent will it be factional and narrow and to what extent will it be broad. Do they want a church that can speak to .2%, 2%, 20% of the American people? Reformed Baptists in and outside SBC have broad influence on Evangelicals. The PCA is thus gaining intellectual influence over a huge audience and further can grow its membership. That being said communication is a two way street, if the PCA is influencing the broader evangelical culture the broader evangelical culture is influencing the PCA. There are real reasons to prefer narrow to broad and real reasons to pick broad. There is likely going to be some splitting on the right as the PCA tries to shift just a bit to the left.

    This is a real difference in the attitude towards schism. The PCA conservatives genuinely want the FVers out of the PCA and in CREC. Were the situation reversed Catholics would genuinely want the FVers in the Catholic church working out the differences inside the church. Baptists, Evangelicals see individuals participating in but not wholesale adopting the theology of their church which participates with parachurch organizations; as the natural state of affairs.

    Catholics = schism is terrible avoid schism at almost all cost
    Evangelicals = schism is the natural state of affairs between believers
    PCA = schism is bad. Work to avoid schism but don’t give up too much to avoid it.

    Formally of course you are absolutely right. There just are no authority mechanisms in Protestantism as it exists today to resolve disagreement. Disagreements as they exist are resolved by consensus and communication, which is the way Baptists traditionally resolved disagreements. The PCA still has a theology of formal mechanisms even though those mechanisms have mainly broken because the sub-denominations are just too small to exert meaningful discipline. Presbyterians used to be concerned that members could flee discipline. Now pastors simply leave one sub-denomination and join another as pastors.

    I think the RCC in America is in the same place the Presbyterian churches were prior to the Fundamentalist / Modernist controversies boiling over, late 19th century. I know lots of Catholics who responded to the anti-liberal crackdowns by coming to agree with the bumper sticker, “We are the church. They are the hierarchy”. Ultimately the authority of the Catholic hierarchy, like any other hierarchy that does not rule by force, is determined by the Catholic laity. Doctrine not believed by the membership doesn’t count.

    The PCA position is sort of a compromise. It may not be a workable one. But to me I don’t think the FV fight is so much about authority. The notion of what it even means to be a “catholic” (small c) church, to be in a church with people who disagree with you on lots of stuff is something that the but still are part of the same church family, is in my mind what’s really being debated. How narrow or how broad should the PCA be?

    I do think there is a real difference in tone. The fact that things don’t ultimately differ doesn’t mean they don’t differ. For example take the discussion on GB this weak about the WCF on whether it is inerrant or not. The Baptist (evangelical, general baptist) in me can’t help but hear full on blaspheme in even the suggestion. The very core of the 1st commandment is not treat things of men like things of God. The idea of some human council writing a document and putting it in the same category as the bible, would never have occurred to anyone in my old church. They wouldn’t consider them comparable anymore than a church member would try to win a fistfight with a supertanker.

    Some PCAers believe the WCF has intrinsic authority. Some believe it is inerrant. Some believe it is just really really good. There is a difference of degree there. And I don’t know if one should just ignore it.

  36. CD,

    I’ve been following GB for the last few weeks pretty closely but I seem to have missed the discussion on the inerrancy of the WCF. Now THAT would be an interesting discussion. Mind linking to it? Thanks

    Steve

  37. Thanks, Sean P.,

    And, the Catholic Church does not reject or ignore I Timothy 3:2,Titus 1:6 or I Tim. 3:4.

    But you all see marriage as optional, but not optimal for parish pastors.

    Again, the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church since about AD 900 has enforced the dicipline that the priesthood is limited to men with the gift of celibacy.

    I say this with all seriousness: I hope that your leaders acknowledge and root out the pernicious and scandalous sexual abusers who obviously DO NOT have this gift, and have been wrongly put in the priesthood, bishopric, or cardinalate.

  38. CD-HOST:

    You wrote:

    I think the RCC in America is in the same place the Presbyterian churches were prior to the Fundamentalist / Modernist controversies boiling over, late 19th century. I know lots of Catholics who responded to the anti-liberal crackdowns by coming to agree with the bumper sticker, “We are the church. They are the hierarchy”. Ultimately the authority of the Catholic hierarchy, like any other hierarchy that does not rule by force, is determined by the Catholic laity. Doctrine not believed by the membership doesn’t count.

    That’s a version of the tu quoque objection which Bryan has already answered at length in the two articles he’s cited in this thread. Your version fails for two reasons: (1) It doesn’t distinguish between the empirical and the normative; (2) In so doing, it rules out any normative distinction between orthodoxy and heresy, whether for Catholics or for Protestants.

    As to (1), from the empirical fact that American Catholics are all over the map theologically, it does not follow that Catholicism contains no principled way of drawing a normative distinction between views that fall within the pale of orthodoxy and those that fall outside it. In fact, Catholicism does contain such a way; all that follows from the empirical dissensus among Catholics is that some Catholics know about that way and care about observing it, and some do not. The latter are bad Catholics. But it is no objection to Catholic criteria for determining orthodoxy that some Catholics don’t follow them, any more than it’s an objection to seeing moral norms as universally binding that people in general regularly violate them.

    As to (2), if it were true that any and every doctrine about which there’s dissensus “doesn’t count,” then hardly any doctrine professed by Protestants would “count” either. That’s because, for almost any doctrine you pick, some Protestant denominations and/or individuals reject it. The logical outcome of your position is that there is no way, even in principle, to determine orthodoxy as anything more than a matter of opinion–which is the same as to say there is no universally binding orthodoxy at all. I’m sure that’s not the result you want, but it’s the result you’re going to get so long as you press your objection.

    Best,
    Mike

  39. Hugh.

    Neither I Timothy 3:2,Titus 1:6 or I Tim. 3:4 say that marriage is optimal for parish pastors.

    And, of course we agree that the scandalizers and abusers need to be rooted out. But the gift of celibacy was not the problem.

  40. Steve Royse –

    Of WCF & inerrancy/ infallibility – see “The Polity of the PCA” @

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/the-polity-of-the-pca/

  41. Hugh.

    Read this article.

  42. Sean P.,

    Neither I Timothy 3:2,Titus 1:6 or I Tim. 3:4 say that marriage is optimal for parish pastors.

    ~ Agreed, they say it is required of gospel ministers, along with good child-rearing.

    And, of course we agree that the scandalizers and abusers need to be rooted out.

    ~ You & I? Yea! The Cardinals & [Arch-]Bishops? Maybe another story. Hopefully the December report’s triumvirate will out some bad guys. Pun intended. But the problem is hard for peers to face.

    But the gift of celibacy was not the problem.

    ~ I certainly didn’t say that it was. I wrote of “the pernicious and scandalous sexual abusers who obviously DO NOT have this gift, and have been wrongly put in the priesthood, bishopric, or cardinalate.”

  43. Neither I Timothy 3:2,Titus 1:6 or I Tim. 3:4 say that marriage is optimal for parish pastors.

    ~ Agreed, they say it is required of gospel ministers, along with good child-rearing.

    Read the article I just posted.

  44. Thanks Sean, got it up & running.

    But is there scriptural precedent for this practice of restricting membership in the priesthood to those who take a voluntary vow of celibacy?

    I am bemused that you (C.A.) make much of 1 Cor. 7 which speaks not to ministers, but to the church at large. Timothy and Titus speak specifically to the fact that standards are actually higher for pastors.

    It also duplicitously says, and the father must raise his children well (1 Tim. 3:4). Every man must meet Paul’s standard of “managing his household well,” even if his “household” is only himself. When this verse is part of the admonition to Timothy about examining prospective overseers, not to men in general. Surely all fathers are called to be good ones (Eph. 6:1, etc.), but the Timothy passage is a higher standard. And yes, it takes more grace to lead a wife and rear children than for a single man to “manage himself,” again, something -for whatever reason- too many of your guys are having a devilishy hard time doing!

  45. Hugh,

    So, you would not approve of a pastor that was married but didn’t have children?

    Sean

  46. If you’re asking about Natural Faith then I suppose that the Motives of Credibility could be said to “compel” an act of Natural (or Human) Faith, inasmuch as the Catholic claims are solid, humanly speaking. But the truth of the RCC is not Self-Evident to the Intellect, if that’s what you’re asking. It is possible to come to a mistaken conclusion or the Motives could be presented poorly or whatever. So, it could just as well could be said that the MOC provide “reasonable evidence to encourage”.

    Clear as mud. So I will ask the question again, if someone else wants to respond please (Jason, interested in what you say as well)

    Do the MOC provide certitude in the epistemic state of a seeker prior to the assent of faith?

    or do they provide reasonable evidence (falling short of certitude) prior to the assent of faith?

  47. Sean P.,

    He’s unproven in that area at best. But what say the Scriptures?

    This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.
    2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;
    3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;
    4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
    5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).
    {I Tim. 3:1ff}

    Titus 1:6 ~ if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.

    The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

  48. Of course, that raises the question as to whether RC tradition is any more perspicuous than Scripture. If RC has to keep interpreting itself, that is functionally the same as Protestantism having to interpret the Bible.

    Eric,

    I would say that tradition is considerably less perspicuous. And this is why there are so many interpretations even within Catholicism of what the tradition of Christian faith teaches us. What happens when a Catholic theologian disagrees with the official Catholic teaching is that they form their own splinter group within the RCC. Both sides read the same historical documents but come to different conclusions. On so many important doctrinal matters, like for instance papal infallibility, the problem that the CTC-like conservatives face is that they cannot convince other Catholics that their interpretation is correct, let alone those in the various EO and Protestant communions. And it’s not like Catholics to the right and left of them are any less knowledgable or intelligent. They just have a different interpretation of tradition. Like we do.

    Bryan Cross’s answer to the challenge we raise is found in the Tu Quoque article that he and Jason reference. If you have not read it you should, particularly section 2C. This seems to be where the meat of his response is. I just cannot imagine how this answer could convince anyone, but there you have it. Bryan has been repeating this same kind of thing for years, but I’m interested to hear from Jason what he finds convincing since he is a relatively recent convert. If he has written something on his take on the TQ argument on this blog I don’t remember it, at least not post-conversion.

  49. Hi Michael (April 15, 2013 at 9:48 am)

    Lots of meat in your comment. Let me start with the most important and then pick off some side stuff

    (1) It doesn’t distinguish between the empirical and the normative;

    Interesting point. I’m going to concede part and and I’m going to respond with a slightly variation on the tried and true “I”m rubber and you’re glue” defense in arguing that I think I am distinguishing and you aren’t. 🙂

    When I make normative claim about the power of a church I’m simply indicating my moral preferences about what they should be able to do.

    “The PCA should allow female deacons” is a normative statement.
    “The PCA does allow female deacons” is an empirical statement.

    When CD-Host is making an empirical statement he is making a statement about objective physical reality with the expectation it is shared. When CD-Host is making a normative statement, that is a statement about his own psychological state, with at best a possible hope it is shared.

    When you make a statement that the magisterium’s authority should be binding on Catholics when there is widespread disagreement you are ultimately making a statement about Michael Liccone’s theology. I may agree with you, I may disagree with you, but the fact there is widespread disagreement proves empirically there is is no universal consensus. There is no existent objective “should”.

    Now even even if I did believe all normative questions were objective the fact that the Catholic church asserts a norm doesn’t mean it is one. I could just as easily (and to a great extent in reality do) agree with the bumper sticker crowd. I could believe that the church not the hierarchy has moral authority. That morality expounded by the magisterium rejected by the church, by the laity, cannot be binding. This is essentially the Orthodox Church’s argument against the Roman Primacy; the laity rejected it, therefore it is a false doctrine.

    But more importantly the claim was not about what Catholics should believe, but about what Catholics do believe. What they do believe is entirely an empirical question, norms play no role. Whether the magisterium is able to change opinion is not a normative issue at all it is a purely factual question. My opinion on whether I do or do not believe they should have that authority is irrelevent. I would argue confusing the two is not me failing to distinguish the normative from the empirical.

    But it is no objection to Catholic criteria for determining orthodoxy that some Catholics don’t follow them, any more than it’s an objection to seeing moral norms as universally binding that people in general regularly violate them.

    I would agree with you. It would absolutely be the case that if people believed doctrine X were Catholic orthodoxy and rejected it anyway (empirically) that this wouldn’t in any way impinge on the definition of orthodoxy. The Friday Fast is a good example of this, most Catholics agree that the Friday fast is righteous even though they themselves don’t follow it. Note there is both a normative and empirical aspect to this. Empirically the laity have to agree that it is doctrine.

    Humane Vitae is an example in the other direction. Here tens of millions in the Catholic laity have concluded that the hierarchy erred on a vital matter of faith and morals. Since the church cannot err on a matter of faith and morals the hierarchy is misrepresenting the church. Under your theory such beliefs are impossible, but we can empirically verify these beliefs exist. Millions of others have responded to HV by rejecting the doctrine that the church cannot err. They aren’t failing to follow the hierarchy’s theology they are genuinely disagreeing with it.

    So let me be clear here:
    Catholic beliefs are what Catholics believe (empirical)
    One might or might not believe that Catholics should believe what their hierarchy teaches (normative).

    I’ll hit the rest in the next post.

  50. But the Bible is not the supreme norm for your church, Sean P., so my quoting the Apostle may be interesting, but not definitive or absolute.

  51. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Do the MOC provide certitude in the epistemic state of a seeker prior to the assent of faith?
    or do they provide reasonable evidence (falling short of certitude) prior to the assent of faith?

    I would say that they provide the moral certitude of Natural Faith, rather than the metaphysical certitude that Supernatural Faith provides.

  52. But the Bible is not the supreme norm for your church, Sean P., so my quoting the Apostle may be interesting, but not definitive or absolute.

    The Latin Rite’s discipline of celibate priests in not contradicted by the Bible.

    The passages do not say that a bishop must have a wife, only that if he is married he be married to one wife. The passages do not say that a bishop must have children, only that if he has children he is a good father.

    And besides, this is not even doctrinal. This is about an ecclesial discipline. There are married Catholic priests and if the discipline were changed tomorrow it would not undermine the Catholic Church’s claims.

  53. Bryan–

    I was not so much arguing that “Catholics are divided, too” as I was declaring that both Confessional Protestantism and Confessional Catholicism are astonishingly unified systems within themselves. Thus, there is little need to fear the “flexibility” inherent in sola scriptura . (Nonetheless, though Confessional Catholicism possesses a fairly united system of doctrine, it is not a system that is demonstrably biblical. Much that lacks apostolic validity has been added.)

    Both systems have unifying creeds and confessions. But those confessions have not been uniformly applied. Our country has a unifying document, but that document’s authority, in many ways, has been usurped by the current reign of the courts.

    You may wish to refer to doctrinal unity as needing to occur only at the magisterial level, but that is merely to redefine the terms of the argument. I was discussing the very real disagreements among those who call themselves Catholic, both among the laity…and in some of the highest reaches of leadership. You desire to label this “dissent.” That is your prerogative, but in response I will simply say that “dissent” among Confessional Protestants is far less than “dissent” among Catholics.

    I realize that comparing Confessional Protestants to Catholics in general is a bit like comparing apples with oranges. But that is the problem with a church which defines itself in visible terms (especially one which has in large part abandoned discipline). You end up with a church where whole parishes, even dioceses, are dominated by those who are syncretistic, Gnostic, neo-pagan, secular, and even atheistic. You end up with widespread apostasy! As you yourself stated, “This is why the unity of the Catholic faith does not consist in the level of doctrinal agreement among all those who call themselves Catholic.” (If we take this statement to its logical conclusion, at some point in the future, the church of Rome could have but two or three individuals still holding to the authority of magisterial truths, and you would still be touting the church’s overall “unity”!!)

    On the other hand, the Westminster Divines, were they to look in on present practices among the Confessionally Reformed, would be mostly pleased with the few changes brought about by the intervening centuries. At the very least, apostasy is not tolerated. (Undoubtedly, even many of his most vehement opponents would stipulate that Peter Leithart is genuinely and devoutly Christian!)

    What you believe to be unified, I do not affirm as unified. Abstract notions, wonderful as they might be within themselves, when no longer consistently applied…become irrelevant.

  54. Andrew,

    And this is why there are so many interpretations even within Catholicism of what the tradition of Christian faith teaches us. What happens when a Catholic theologian disagrees with the official Catholic teaching is that they form their own splinter group within the RCC. Both sides read the same historical documents but come to different conclusions. On so many important doctrinal matters, like for instance papal infallibility, the problem that the CTC-like conservatives face is that they cannot convince other Catholics that their interpretation is correct, let alone those in the various EO and Protestant communions. And it’s not like Catholics to the right and left of them are any less knowledgable or intelligent. They just have a different interpretation of tradition. Like we do.

    If the doctrine of papal infallibility is the example you want to bring up, then that is de fide, and stated clearly in the Catechism:

    “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. (CCC 891)

    And the First Vatican Council defined it infallibly:

    Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

    So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.

    So Catholics who deny papal infallibility have denied one of the dogmas of the faith, and fallen into [at least material] heresy. Do you have another example of a dispute that allegedly shows that the Catholic Magisterium is incapable of publicly and objectively distinguishing what is essential from what is non-essential?

    You wrote:

    Bryan Cross’s answer to the challenge we raise is found in the Tu Quoque article that he and Jason reference. If you have not read it you should, particularly section 2C. This seems to be where the meat of his response is. I just cannot imagine how this answer could convince anyone, but there you have it.

    You may have great difficulty imagining how this answer could convince anyone, but the question is not the ease or difficulty of your imagining how it could convince anyone; the question is whether what I said there is true. And you have not refuted its truth. Hence, so long as you choose not to refute it, it remains capable of convincing.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  55. Feel free to specify. It is easy to hand-wave with unspecified generalizations from 30,000 feet. But it takes courage to get into the particulars. Which “different interpretations of tradition” within “the world of Roman Catholicism” do you think undermine Jason’s claim that the Catholic Church has a principle means of distinguishing essentials from non-essentials?

    Bryan,

    You and I have discussed any number of such doctrines. I’m being general because there is probably no cardinal doctrine which one side or another in the RCC have not challenged. And I’m not addressing the question of whether Jason has a “principled distinction.” Referring to what the Pope/Cardinals says on all doctrinal matters is a sure way to distinguish what is to be believed. If it’s just about principled distinctions then Jason can stop right where he is at. But so can the JW’s and anyone else who has a supreme human authority. The question on whether one has a principled distinction is a different one from whether the standard we have for making such distinctions is a good one.

    So you want (again) a specific example. OK, take the aforementioned issue of papal infallibility. There is little to no historical basis for such a doctrine if we use the writings from the first few centuries of the Church as a standard. Protestants and Orthodox look to the same tradition as the conservative Catholics and yet come to different interpretations. But beyond this so many within the Catholic Church disagree over papal infallibility. And they have a very strong case given Early Church history, but of course that’s just’s my opinion. And you have your opinion. And the EO have theirs. And other Catholics have theirs. Whose to say who is right? You can take the kind of approach you do in your TQ article and tell us that your interpretation is not “merely” an interpretation and you have discovered the historic church and not a mere interpretation. But I don’t really think this conveys anything of substance. Whenever we get into the specifics of these debates (which we have done a fair amount of) you tell me what your interpretation is concerning the specific matter at hand. You try to get away from the subjectivity of your position when you speak generally (as in the TQ article), but you always end up returning to some sort of subjective assessment when we flesh out your argument.

  56. @Michael —

    As to (2), if it were true that any and every doctrine about which there’s dissensus “doesn’t count,” then hardly any doctrine professed by Protestants would “count” either. That’s because, for almost any doctrine you pick, some Protestant denominations and/or individuals reject it. The logical outcome of your position is that there is no way, even in principle, to determine orthodoxy as anything more than a matter of opinion–which is the same as to say there is no universally binding orthodoxy at all.

    Here is where you should be careful about reading my mind. I’ve also said that Protestantism doesn’t have much doctrinal content. What Protestantism has is methodological content: the 5 solas. Only when you start narrowing the question down quite a bit do you arrive at a wealth of doctrinal content. Maybe I could make a case for The Apostle’s creed, but as fewer and fewer Protestants believe in a bodily resurrection even that’s a stretch.

    Orthodoxy means literally “true opinion”. So yes I think Orthodoxy is a matter of opinion, that’s what the word means. An opinion is genuinely Orthodox if it is true. If you believe something spiritual and you are right it is an orthodox opinion if you are wrong it is heterodox. How do you determine if you are right or wrong? Ultimately the 5 solas:
    Is it taught in scripture?
    Does it glorify God?
    Is it about the grace we receive through Christ?
    Does it increase faith?

    People disagree about those questions. Some are right, some are wrong. You do your best and try and get it right, the same way there is an objective truth about the right collections of rights and lefts to get to a friend’s house on a complex route and you do your best to get it right to get there as easily as possible. We are saved by grace through faith made possible from the work of Christ and taught to us by scripture. We are not saved by our success in reading doctrines from scripture, because that would be a work.

    At least that was the Protestantism I was taught. There are parts of that I no longer agree with. But what you are hitting on I’m perfectly comfortable with.
    __________

    That’s a version of the tu quoque objection which Bryan has already answered at length in the two articles he’s cited in this thread.

    Its been a while since I’ve read those articles I must admit I’m not fresh on them. I agree with Bryan’s argument in Tu Quoque that the creeds are in Protestantism given authority by the church they don’t have authority over the church. I agree that there are other approaches to the correct doctrine approach than the 5 solas.

    Protestants are playing the “five solas game” while Catholics (in Bryan’s hypothetical) are playing “the church Christ founded”. There is still quite a bit of argument to be made like arguing

    a) That Christ founded any church
    b) That Christ founded only one church
    c) That this church is still existent in a single entity
    d) That the church founded by Christ must be the source of correct doctrine originally
    e) That the church founded by Christ must be the source of correct doctrine today
    etc…

    A good portion of this argument is on CtC, but not all. I would agree that if you grant that entire list of other theological argument it is possible to reduce the doctrinal question to a historical question. The problem is the historical question i.e. that Jesus Christ founded a single existent church, the Catholic church under a Pope Peter is still false. I’d agree that if you then ignore the falsity of the historical argument you have a core asymmetry between Protestants and Catholics. That was the core point of the Tu Quoque article and I don’t disagree with it.

    That core asymmetry, besides depending on accepting the very long CtC hypothetical is normative not empirical, to use your language. My point to Jason in this thread was purely empirical.

  57. Andrew,

    But beyond this so many within the Catholic Church disagree over papal infallibility. And they have a very strong case given Early Church history, but of course that’s just’s my opinion. And you have your opinion. And the EO have theirs. And other Catholics have theirs. Whose to say who is right?

    The “who is to say?” question is your standard move. It is where you return again and again over the last seven years in which I have been in dialogue with you, not because you have an answer to it, but precisely because you assume that there is no answer to it, and thus all positions are conveniently leveled under the power of this skepticism. But that skepticism does not refute the truth, either the truth of the gospel or the truth of the Church or Church dogma, or the truth of Christianity. It is an epistemic stance; not an argument. The truth pursuing stance, however, does not stop at the “who is to say question,” but allows for further discovery and elucidation of the truth.

    You can take the kind of approach you do in your TQ article and tell us that your interpretation is not “merely” an interpretation and you have discovered the historic church and not a mere interpretation. But I don’t really think this conveys anything of substance.

    This kind of hand-waving dismissal ensures that the argument I made there remains intact.

    Whenever we get into the specifics of these debates (which we have done a fair amount of) you tell me what your interpretation is concerning the specific matter at hand. You try to get away from the subjectivity of your position when you speak generally (as in the TQ article), but you always end up returning to some sort of subjective assessment when we flesh out your argument.

    Feel free to show how my argument when fleshed out reduces to some sort of subjective assessment. Merely asserting that it does is easy, but does not show that it does.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  58. Eric,

    You may wish to refer to doctrinal unity as needing to occur only at the magisterial level, but that is merely to redefine the terms of the argument.

    So far as I know, no Catholic has said that doctrinal unity needs only occur at the magisterial level; we’re not ecclesial deists. There will always be lay faithful who are loyal to the Magisterium and assent to the doctrine taught by the Magisterium.

    I was discussing the very real disagreements among those who call themselves Catholic, both among the laity…and in some of the highest reaches of leadership. You desire to label this “dissent.” That is your prerogative, but in response I will simply say that “dissent” among Confessional Protestants is far less than “dissent” among Catholics.

    First, let’s clear something up. It is not “my desire” to “label” this ‘dissent.” That’s just what it is, in the Catholic paradigm. And any honest Protestant will admit that. To thumb one’s nose at the Magisterium regarding authoritative Magisterial teaching, is dissent, or even heresy. Protestants don’t get to define or determine or stipulate what is dissent from the Catholic Church, just as Catholics don’t get to define what is dissent from the WCF.

    Regarding your claim that that “dissent” among Confessional Protestants is far less than “dissent” among Catholics, I grant that. That’s not the point in question, nor is it pertinent to the point in question. The question is not who has more dissenters, or a greater percentage of dissenters. The questions are (1) is affirming sola scriptura compatible with genuine Church authority, or merely a smokescreen for solo scriptura, and (2) does the Catholic Church have genuine Church authority?

    As you yourself stated, “This is why the unity of the Catholic faith does not consist in the level of doctrinal agreement among all those who call themselves Catholic.” (If we take this statement to its logical conclusion, at some point in the future, the church of Rome could have but two or three individuals still holding to the authority of magisterial truths, and you would still be touting the church’s overall “unity”!!)

    No, ecclesial deism is false. So your hypothetical scenario can never happen. But even if it could, the Church’s unity would still be constituted by her three bonds of unity.

    On the other hand, the Westminster Divines, were they to look in on present practices among the Confessionally Reformed, would be mostly pleased with the few changes brought about by the intervening centuries. At the very least, apostasy is not tolerated. (Undoubtedly, even many of his most vehement opponents would stipulate that Peter Leithart is genuinely and devoutly Christian!)

    For those on the other side of the FV controversy, FV is apostasy.

    What you believe to be unified, I do not affirm as unified. Abstract notions, wonderful as they might be within themselves, when no longer consistently applied…become irrelevant.

    It is not clear what you are talking about in these two lines. You seem to be saying that the Catholic Church is not unified. But the Church is unified, in the three ways described in the “Catholics are Divided Too” post. And that’s not an abstraction, but something concrete. Dissenters do not divide the Church; they separate themselves from the Church, as I explained in the post to which I just referred.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  59. I would say that they provide the moral certitude of Natural Faith, rather than the metaphysical certitude that Supernatural Faith provides.

    Does the moral certitude of natural faith then inevitably and necessarily produce the assent of faith?

  60. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Does the moral certitude of natural faith then inevitably and necessarily produce the assent of faith?

    Wosbald wrote:

    But if you’re asking about Supernatural Faith then, no, Supernatural Faith is never a necessary consequence of the MOC.

  61. Some brief responses to comments made thus far:

    I can’t stress enough the implications of Protestants taking the Tu Quoque route. Dismissing the Catholic challenge to Sola Scriptura by simply saying, “Well, you Catholics are no better off!” is to admit a lot of pretty damaging things. For example, employing the TQ tactic is basically admitting that Christ either never intended to establish a church that could speak meaningfully about orthodoxy versus heresy, or the church he established has since lost that ability. Stop and consider the practical and theological ramifications of admitting this kind of thing.

    Regarding the supposed divisions in the CC and the analogue to Protestantism, what is being missed in this version of the TQ is the fact that the CC has a Magisterium that, according to the Catholic paradigm, has the ability and authority to bind and loose in Jesus’ name in such a way that is protected from error. This makes all the difference. Protestantism, according to its own paradigm, cannot identify schism as such, since any division from a church can just be labeled a new branch of the church rather than a schism from it. There is no non-arbitrary way to say that the URC is a branch while the Unitarian Universalists are a sect.

    In the Catholic paradigm, by contrast, someone who denies some dogma of the faith is by definition a heretic, and someone who separates from the Church is by definition a schismatic. There’s no “who’s to say who’s right?”, because the Magisterium says who’s right. If you deny the papacy, you are not just a Catholic with a different opinion that is equal to the opposite opinions of other Catholics who affirm it. You are objectively not a Catholic anymore. This is not analogous to Protestantism, where you can just deny some position your current church teaches and then go start your own with impunity. Protestantism has no mechanism for defining itself or its parameters that is any way binding or authoritative.

    One of these things is not like the other.

  62. Mike Liccione says that the MOC do not provide certitude but rather ‘reasonable evidence’.

    So are you saying something different? What does the Magisterium say on the matter?

  63. Good words Jason.

    Here is a primer on Branches or Schisms if anybody is interested.

  64. In the Catholic paradigm, by contrast, someone who denies some dogma of the faith is by definition a heretic, and someone who separates from the Church is by definition a schismatic. There’s no “who’s to say who’s right?”, because the Magisterium says who’s right. If you deny the papacy, you are not just a Catholic with a different opinion that is equal to the opposite opinions of other Catholics who affirm it. You are objectively not a Catholic anymore.

    Right. So what is one to think when he’s also deemed separated brethren? Can you at least acknowledge that language is confusing? How can one be at once a heretical schismatic and a brother? Simultaneous sinner and saint I get, but at once in and out? And if the answer involves the difference between those who are born into the CC and leave and those who are not born into her and remain outside, such that the latter are less non-Catholic than the former, what meaningful incentive do the latter have in becoming Catholic? And if that answer has something to do with simply having spiritual nurture in provisional life, how does that not down play eternal life? In other words, for all the claim to infallibility, it still escapes me how it’s not the Reformed who have a higher view of the church, since we say that to remain outside of her is to forfeit eternal life.

  65. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Mike Liccione says that the MOC do not provide certitude but rather ‘reasonable evidence’.

    One can have Moral Certitude based upon reasonable evidence.

  66. Sean P.,

    Me: “But the Bible is not the supreme norm for your church, Sean P., so my quoting the Apostle may be interesting, but not definitive or absolute.”

    SP: The Latin Rite’s discipline of celibate priests in not contradicted by the Bible.

    Me: If the Bible is supreme and normative, then a celibate priesthood is indeed contradicted by 1 Tim. 3:2 & Titus 1:6.

    SP: The passages do not say that a bishop must have a wife, only that if he is married he be married to one wife.

    Me: Not so. They say, respectively: A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach… and, if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife…

    SP: The passages do not say that a bishop must have children, only that if he has children he is a good father.

    Me: They say, respectively, one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?, and, if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children…

    SP: And besides, this is not even doctrinal. This is about an ecclesial discipline. There are married Catholic priests and if the discipline were changed tomorrow it would not undermine the Catholic Church’s claims.

    Me: Good! 🙂

  67. I agree with Sean Patrick – “Good words, Jason” @ 1:43pm.

  68. If anyone is a fan of Creed Code Cult on Facebook (“liked” the page) you can visit a post containing Mr. Stellman’s audible conversion and the easily critiqued response to the catholic’s objection of tu quoque. I don’t know how to link it, sorry. But the whole response of catholics to the tu quoque is nothing but a strawman built upon begging the question of their biblical interpretation of the magisterium with which you must personally agree.

  69. Bradford, you’re going to need to actually substantiate that charge and argue for it, rather than merely asserting it to be true.

  70. For example, employing the TQ tactic is basically admitting that Christ either never intended to establish a church that could speak meaningfully about orthodoxy versus heresy, or the church he established has since lost that ability. Stop and consider the practical and theological ramifications of admitting this kind of thing.

    I never went to ministry. But I read comments like this and can’t help but wonder… did they not cover the theology of credobaptists at all? Did they not cover books like Foxe’s Book of Martyr in Westminster? This was a book that sat next to the KJV for several generations. They had to cover the rest of the Protestant world.

    We come now to a period, when persecution under the guise of christianity, committed more enormities than ever disgraced the annals of paganism. Disregarding the maxims and the spirit of the gospel, the papal church, arming herself with the power of the sword, vexed the church of God and wasted it for several centuries, a period most appropriately termed in history, the “dark ages.” The kings of the earth, gave their power to the “beast,” and submitted to be trodden on by the miserable vermin that often filled the papal chair

    Notice there is the “Papel Church” and the “Church of God” as two distinct entities?

    I was raised. Matthew 4:8-11 was prophecy. When the church was offered this temptation in 311 instead of answering as Jesus had they said “yes”. The theological implications are that God hates graven images designed to take man’s awareness from God and towards things of his own creation. This is quite literally original sin: eat of this fruit and you will become like God. In 311 it was: swear allegiance to Constantine and your church will be like a god able to raise up those who bless you and smite those who curse you. Your will get to walk about in really fancy robes, have lots of money and preach in pretty buildings… All Constantine and his master will ask in exchange for this wealth and power is that you throw away the gospel, teach a false one and try and make mankind forget they ever possessed it. The true church is driven underground and a masquerade of evil takes its place.

    This is more or less the version of history that 80% of the Protestant world believes. Its toned down a bit people try and avoid associated “popes” and “catholics” with the oppressors of the true church, “the church of God”. But more or less that is Protestantism. The gospel was mostly lost by the time of Luther and a counterfeit of Christianity had taken its place. There is some degree of disagreement about the how much by when, but .. what do they teach in Westminster as the history of the church?

    I have a much more nuanced view than that. But… it’s not Protestants aren’t willing to look those theological implications in the eye. That’s Protestantism. If the church didn’t fall then what basis is their for rejecting: infant baptism, marian worship & Mary as our new Eve, the mass as a sacrifice, apostolic succession passed on through authoritative bishops? Heck since we live in the west lets throw in the primacy of the Bishop of Rome as either over all other bishops or first among equals.

    Seriously what did you believe 2 years ago happened to the church? I’m not trying to be mean, but how do you not know this? What did they say about Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, …. ?

  71. One can have Moral Certitude based upon reasonable evidence.

    That’s not what Mike says, I quote:

    “If all you’re talking about is an epistemic state prior to the assent of faith, I would say that there typically is “room for reasonable doubt.” That’s why the assent of faith entails a choice to trust.”

    Again, what does your Magisterium say?

    Can someone else other than Wosbald answer please?

  72. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    “If all you’re talking about is an epistemic state prior to the assent of faith, I would say that there typically is “room for reasonable doubt.” That’s why the assent of faith entails a choice to trust.”

    There always room for reasonable doubt when dealing with Moral Certitude. For example, I can be morally certain that I’m smoking a Marlboro Red, right now. OTOH, maybe the clerk gave me the wrong package and I don’t end up noticing it until near the end of the pack. Or perhaps the factory mislabeled some Marlboro Mediums as Regular Red.

    I can have Moral Certitude that men have landed on the Moon. OTOH, if the internet conspiracists are right, I might find out differently one day.

    I can have Moral Certitude that there’s a continent called Africa, because, even though I’ve never been there, people I trust have told me that it is so.

    And on and on…

  73. There always room for reasonable doubt

    Let’s carry on then.

    What are the most important motives of credibility? Does the magisterium enumerate them and if so, can someone provide a link? Thanks.

  74. Jason,

    If I may, would you consider participating in the questions I raise? I’m particularly interested in your responses since you spent quite some time on CTC debating the Tu Quoque among other topics. I know that there are many parallel conversations taking place here, but it would be helpful to get your perspective.

    For example, in your conversion experience, what were the most important motives of credibility in leading you to an assent of faith in the CC as the one true church?

    Thanks.

  75. SS,

    If I may, would you consider participating in the questions I raise? I’m particularly interested in your responses since you spent quite some time on CTC debating the Tu Quoque among other topics. I know that there are many parallel conversations taking place here, but it would be helpful to get your perspective.

    For example, in your conversion experience, what were the most important motives of credibility in leading you to an assent of faith in the CC as the one true church?

    As far as the MOC go, there was the philosophical dimension focusing on the idea that in order for divine revelation to be identifiable and then meaningful, there needed to be some visible body that could tell me with authority what counted as divine revelation, and what that revelation meant (in a way that could compel the assent of faith). Only a couple of bodies claim to be able to do this.

    Further, there was the testimony of the ECFs, which seemed to rule Protestant ecclesiology out completely (regardless of whether they could make the case for the CC over EO).

    Then on top of this, there were the passages in the NT that sounded as if they came from writers with basic Catholic beliefs, and which began to sound less and less Protestant.

    Lots more could be said, but that’s the gist. Philosophical, historical, and biblical considerations all played a part.

  76. SS:

    From the CCC, a magisterial document:

    156 What moves us to believe is not that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”.28 So “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.”29 Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility” (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”.30

    157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32

    Best,
    Mike

  77. CD-HOST:

    I think you’re coming at these issues from the wrong epistemological angles. For one thing, the assent of faith fundamentally differs from that of opinion. The former is unconditional, rendered to divine authority by the freely accepted grace of that authority; the latter is the result of human reasonings that could change given new evidence or better arguments. See above, in my reply to SS, what the CCC says on those scores. For another, I do not believe that the case for Catholicism as opposed to Protestantism is primarily historical. It is primarily philosophical, and hinges on the question which interpretive paradigm is better suited for distinguishing divine revelation as such from merely human opinions about its content and interpretation.

    Rather than keep re-inventing the wheel here, I recommend you read an article I wrote for CTC a few years ago as a followup to the Cross/Judisch critique of Keith Mathison’s The Shape of Sola Scriptura. Jason liked that article, and if he is agreeable, our time would be better spent considering your objections to the main argument I made in it.

    Best,
    Mike

  78. @ CD-HOST
    April 15, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    ‘Hidden Christians’ because we all remember those pithy sayings of Jesus such as “Go and hide your light under a bushel” and “don’t go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation, stay hidden.” And of course how could anyone forget the big one “don’t even think about going and making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, or teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, even though I am with you always, to the close of the age, stick together keep the heads down and in about 1600 years I’ll found you a Church, you don’t need to bother with Peter or Simon or whatever he’s calling himself today ”

    The fact that it has been labeled as “hidden” will make it impossible to properly verify or disprove, This is exactly how conspiracy theories work (e.g. UFOs or the Da Vincci Code). They pertain to something “hidden” which cannot be proven or disproven, thus their issue never dies down. In my opinion, every debate doesn’t show the truth… It only shows who is the stronger debater

    If there is such a church “underground” how come they didn’t leave us any writings. I think it is reasonable to ask this question if we consider that Martin Luther (ML) did not appeal to any of the writings of the “underground church” if really existed

    As forML one can examine his believes and his journey to Protestantism. As a professed young Catholic priest (ML) did not know Protestantism. On Oct. 31 1517, when ML tacked his 95 theses, most Prots attribute that date as the start of Protestantism, they think that was ML stand for the Protestant faith for “biblical and true Christianity”. What they don’t know that in his 95 theses ML
    i – Acknowledged the office of the Papacy and the pope more than 20 times

    ii – Before, at, and for some time afterward , ML claimed to be a Catholic Priest and monk

    iii -in his 95 theses, ML clearly acknowledges the office of the Pope instituted by Christ although he detracts from its dignity and power the indulgences

    iiii- in addition to acknowledging the Pope, in # 25 to 29 of his theses, he acknowledge Purgatory although he depart from Catholic teaching in what he says about it

    v- ML declares his believe in indulgences #71 in his 95 these “let him be cursed who denies the apostolic Character of indulgences ”

    The point here, even in Oct. 31- 1517 the protestant faith still unknown to its founder and that “underground church” was nowhere to be found

  79. The “who is to say?” question is your standard move. It is where you return again and again over the last seven years in which I have been in dialogue with you, not because you have an answer to it, but precisely because you assume that there is no answer to it, and thus all positions are conveniently leveled under the power of this skepticism.

    Bryan,

    You are absolutely right that in my scenario all positions are no better off than each other. I say it again and again because it’s true. But you know very well I have an answer to the problem, right? Maybe the problem is that in my scenario we are all appealing to the wrong standard. The solution then is to look to what standard the Scriptures demand and secondarily what standard the Early Church utilized. Since there is no infallible Roman Magisterium mentioned either in Scripture or in the writings of the ECF’s do you think it might be reasonable to make this suggestion? Unfortunately you missed this whole question in your Sola/Solo article.

    So when we get into specifics like papal infallibility, quoting from the CCC does you no good since it is exactly these statements that are in question by so many within and without the RCC. You are working your conclusions into your premises here.

    But your spin on the matter in the TQ is to deny that your position is a product of “mere interpretation.” You say this kind of thing in the TQ:

    the prospective Catholic finds in his study of history and tradition and Scripture something that does not have a merely human source, either from himself or from other mere humans not having divine authorization. He finds in the first, second and third (etc.) centuries something with a divine origin and with divine authority. He finds the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and its magisterial authority in succession from the Apostles and from Christ. He does not merely find an interpretation in which the Church has apostolic succession; he finds this very same Church itself, and he finds it to have divine authority by a succession from the Apostles.

    This and the rest of the section says nothing about whether the current RCC is that Church which God ordained. As I said before we don’t answer that question until we get into the specifics. We all believe that Christ and His Apostles founded a church and that church is thus of divine origin, and so on. But what truths is that church suppose to teach on the role or the Bishop of Rome, on transubstantiation, on the Filioque, on the Assumption, and on any number of other issues? You wanted some specifics so there are some more specifics for you. Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants of all varieties look to the same Church tradition but often come to different conclusions. Your TQ does not resolve the problem here. We only begin to get to a resolution when we get into the question as to the Church ought to teach. And when we do get into the specifics of such topics (which we so often have) you give me your interpretation of what the tradition of the Church teaches. The defense on the specifics of what the Church ought to teach comes down to the Catholic interpretation of tradition. There is no escape to this subjective element here no matter how hard you try. Your TQ does not begin to address the matter.

    But if you feel like your TQ demonstrates more than vague generalities about the Church then feel free to show this from your article. And maybe it would be good if you can take on some of those specifics that I bring up here. Do you remember you asked for specifics? How do you establish what the Church ought to teach in regard to these specifics without appealing to your subjective interpretations of tradition? And feel free to come up with your own specifics if you like. I’ll take on any specific doctrines you like.

  80. employing the TQ tactic is basically admitting that Christ either never intended to establish a church that could speak meaningfully about orthodoxy versus heresy, or the church he established has since lost that ability.

    No Jason, it is professing that God never established a Church that was meant to appeal to the standards that Rome does today. It’s the peculiarly Roman element that is rejected. But there is not much Roman in the foundational documents of Christianity, is there? So maybe we are not rejecting anything which is foundational to Christianity.

    Do you honestly believe that the Reformed churches cannot speak meaningfully on orthodoxy vs heresy today? What was this debate you were so immersed with before you left? And then how effective is Rome in speaking against heresy? Does she make a clear distinction between orthodoxy and heresy to the world, or do those you consider to be heretics still find a comfortable place within the Roman walls?

  81. Andrew,

    My point was that as long as no ecclesiastical body on earth can speak with infallible authority on matters of doctrine, then one man’s orthodoxy is another man’s heresy.

    You accept the homoousios formula because you think it is biblical, and because it is accepted by orthodox Christianity in general. But if a biblical scholar comes along and denies it (or denies the Trinity altogether), what can you say? You can get into a prooftext battle with him, but if you’ve ever spoken at length with Mormons or JWs you know how maddening that kind of thing can be. Or, you could appeal to Nicaea. But his response could very well be, “Why should I accept Nicaea? You certainly don’t accept all its teachings, and you redefine many of the ones you do accept. Plus, since you draw the line at a certain point in history and accept no councils after that, why can’t I do the same thing and draw that line at 100 AD?”

  82. Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility” (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”

    Thank you Mike for the quote from the catechism.

    I’d like to focus on the last clause above: “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”. I think you have the most accurate and honest description of the probative force of the motives, when you describe them as evidence that leaves room for ‘reasonable doubt’. That to me, seems to fit the clause above much better than any claim that the motives provide ‘certitude’. If one bends over backwards to try and reconcile the two one ends up with a meaningless assertion altogether.

    Now, to tie this into Jason’s input above: he said the following:

    “there needed to be some visible body that could tell me with authority what counted as divine revelation, and what that revelation meant”

    I surmise that this was need for authority was probably not rooted in a reading of Matt 18:15-18, although it may have been, perhaps Jason can clarify. But it’s fair to say that the testimony of catholic converts usually heavily depends on that passage among others such as Matt 16:18 as Jason’s other point testifies to:

    “Then on top of this, there were the passages in the NT that sounded as if they came from writers with basic Catholic beliefs, and which began to sound less and less Protestant.”

    So, JJS, as the ‘natural man’ in his quest for truth, re-encountered the above passages (I will give you the keys, tell it to the church, on this rock I will build my church and the gates, bind and loose etc) and when combined with a philosophical argument for a principled basis to adjucate between competing claims, he had enough evidence which would qualify as being far from a ‘blind impulse of the mind’.

    It’s at this juncture, in the preliminary deliberations involving the MOC, that major question begging takes place. My question for Jason is this: why would the natural man stop at Matt 18? Why would he not also carefully weigh Matt 7:15-19:

    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them”

    Just today, the ChristianPost ran this article prominently featuring Pope Francis’ comments about the catholic church’s credibility:

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/pope-francis-says-catholic-churchs-credibility-at-stake-due-to-hypocrisy-93910/

    “Preaching with your life, with your witness. Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility ,” said the pope, who spoke on proclamation, witness and worship.” (emphasis mine).

    The presence of what I would call the motives of incredulity, as attested to the Pope’s own admission above, pose a significant problem for the catholic’s objection to the Tu Quoque. The defense rests on the idea that what the catholic discovers in his pre assent of faith deliberations is no ordinary object; it is nothing less than the church that Christ founded itself. But that is precisely what is question begging, given that there is a mountain of evidence, culled not just from the generation of which Pope Francis speaks, but from centuries, which suggests that while what one discovers in the NT isn’t the protestant church, neither does it inspire any confidence that it is the catholic church either!

    As a matter of fact, the natural man can turn to the book of Acts, and read of how the church lived together and shared all they had with one another, and compare with the opulence of the Vatican and naturally conclude that this is yet another motive of incredulity. Or one could look to the first council and observe how doctrinal deliberation was made by the elders in a collegial fashion, with James (not Peter! considered to be the first Pope by the CC) making the final decision/deliberation. Or one could consider the strong work ethic espoused by Paul (and repeated in the Didache for itinerant preachers) and conclude that the CC does not abide by that model at all. Should I also note the virtual absence of icon veneration from the NT or even the Apostolic Fathers (a subset of the ECF that played a role as motives of credibility to Jason), or the virtual absence of any written description of veneration given to Mary. Or what about the contravention of Christ’s command to give to caesar what is caesar’s and God what is God’s. How does the unholy alliance of the roman church with Constantine afford the seeker any confidence that this is indeed the one true church he/she is discovering?

    All these motives of incredulity play a key role in the pre-assent of faith work of the seeker. And that is precisely where a subjective opinion is formulated. Note that the latter is subjective does not necessarily entail that it is not true. But nevertheless, it is a subjective opinion and therefore, is fully subject to the charge of a Tu Quoque, when the deficiencies of the Protestant ecclesiology are laid bare.

    This is why I argue that the only way in which one can honestly argue about the presence of valid motives of credibility, is if one considers the whole data set of evidence and not just what one wants to focus on, or pick and chose. I submit that the church today is fundamentally broken, just as Israel was broken right at the dawn of Christ’s appearance. John the Baptist had no visible attachment to the ruling authorities of the day. If one was to go by Jason’s guiding principle (the most potent for him), that there ‘must be a visible body which is authoritative to adjucate on a principled basis’, then no true sheep would have gone to JTB to be baptized! What miracles did he do? He merely preached repentance of the kind that made the Pharisees’ blood boil. And yet, the sheep that the Father had given to the Son, i.e., those who were living in right covenant with God, recognized his voice and went to him to have their hearts prepared for the Messiah.

    Usually at this point, there are thunderous claims made about the ‘miracles’ and ‘holiness’ of the church and the amount of good works she does. I would simply say this, the Latter Day Saints sure do a lot of good works too in the USA. Does the latter necessarily then qualify as motives of credibility? To the gullible they do. But to those who look at the entire history of the movement, it is clear that this the good works do not mask the fact that the movement has its origins in evil and crime.

    Jason, your thoughts?

    Thanks
    SS.

  83. Isaiah 55

    Seek the Lord while He may be found,
    Call upon Him while He is near.
    7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
    And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
    Let him return to the Lord,
    And He will have mercy on him;
    And to our God,
    For He will abundantly pardon.

    8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.

    9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than your ways,
    And My thoughts than your thoughts.

  84. Andrew:

    The first sentence of Jason’s comment just above is the metaphorical bottom line. Your position reduces revealed religion to a matter of opinion. If you’re content with that, as your replies to Bryan pretty clearly indicate, then there isn’t much more we can say to you. If you have faith at all, that is because you happen to believe, for your own reasons, some things that have been taught with the necessary authority as calling for the assent of faith, even though that’s not the sort of assent you render because your magisterium speaks only with provisional academic authority, not with infallible divine authority.

    As for me and my house, we choose faith not opinion.

    Best,
    Mike

  85. SS,

    For my part, Jesus’ promise about the gates of hell never prevailing over the church rules out automatically the position that the church is “fundamentally broken,” and demands some other way to interpret what we see with our eyes when we look at the church. Plus, I find it frustrating when people criticize the history of the CC while they themselves either belong to denominations that are younger than they are, or even worse, have no traceable ecclesiastical roots at all. It just seems way too convenient to me. Does that make sense?

  86. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    That to me, seems to fit the clause above much better than any claim that the motives provide ‘certitude’. If one bends over backwards to try and reconcile the two one ends up with a meaningless assertion altogether.

    That’s only because you are defining Moral Certitude in a different way than the classic philosophical definitions. Moral Certitude is a type of certitude. Certitude can be greater or lesser.

    But since your words don’t betray you as a Skeptic, then you’re obviously not taking the position, “Either Metaphysical Certitude (Self-Evidency) or no certitude at all.”

    And that’s fine. It’s no skin off my back if don’t use the term ‘Moral Certitude’, since you’re using an equivalency. Just be aware of what I mean when I use the terms, and you can mentally make the necessary semantic adjustments.

  87. For my part, Jesus’ promise about the gates of hell never prevailing over the church rules out automatically the position that the church is “fundamentally broken,” and demands some other way to interpret what we see with our eyes when we look at the church. Plus, I find it frustrating when people criticize the history of the CC while they themselves either belong to denominations that are younger than they are, or even worse, have no traceable ecclesiastical roots at all. It just seems way too convenient to me. Does that make sense?

    But again, as I’ve said before on this site, the promise of the gates of hell does not necessitate a triumphant reading at all… Especially when you consider all the eschatological data, including this: “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when He returns?” That does not sound like a vindication of the church, in fact, it sounds ominous with implications for the judgment to come. That the gates of hell will not prevail can be understood as meaning that a remnant will be preserved, despite the church’s unfaithfulness, and not because of her faithfulness. The church today is Israel 2.0, she has rebelled and is living in open disobedience, catholics and protestants alike. It does not take a believer to say this: the secular world says as much, using the glimmer of natural light that remains in its heart. In the first church, no one could point fingers at James, Peter, Paul and the elders in the manner in which people today point fingers at institutions. Because they were blameless and beyond reproach. Can the same be said of leaders today?

    Regarding your second argument: why is it worse to have no traceable ecclesiological roots? Did John the Baptist have traceable roots via the then ruling authorities? No. Yet, God used him. That’s why I mentioned to you above that our ways are not His ways. Look, I fully grant you that what you see in the Protestant church cannot be supported by the Scriptural evidence and by the earliest post Scriptural evidence. But I would appreciate if you could engage with my logic above, and engage with the Tu Quoque I present.

    Your frustration does not make sense in that John the Baptist also critcized the ruling authorities of the day and refused to associate with them. I can see how a Pharisee could say, who is this nobody, with no ecclesiological lineage, who dares call us a brood of liars and vipers? That’s pretty frustrating to him, who could prove his lineage as a Kohanim from Aaron and Moses. But how would that prove anything? Note that I do not equate you with such, but I do have sizeable objections to the leadership of the CC, as does the secular world.

  88. To Catholic and Protestant Leaders reading this blog:

    If you want honest seekers to have legitimate motives of credibility to believe that you are the one true church:

    – Repent of your sectarian pride and actively seek unity, not mere conversion to your quarters. (Ephesians 4:4)
    – Seek the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3)
    – Sell your worldly wealth and give to the poor. (Act 2:44-47)
    – Embrace the long repudiated Jewish believers in Christ, as they were embraced in the beginning (Acts 21).
    – Appoint leaders among yourselves who are beyond reproach (1 Tim 3, John 15).

    These are but a few of the steps that are entirely achievable if we repent in the fear of the Lord. Is there anything too hard for the arm of the Lord to accomplish?

  89. +JMJ+

    Andrew McCallum wrote:

    The defense on the specifics of what the Church ought to teach comes down to the Catholic interpretation of tradition. There is no escape to this subjective element here no matter how hard you try.

    Actually there is an escape, and that escape is Sacramentalism.

    It is the mediatory and unifying function (the Incarnational character) of Sacramentalism which is at the heart of Catholicism. Without Sacramentalism, then yes, the Catholic Church’s dynamic would fall into the trap of circularity.

    One may well disagree with Sacramentalism, but nevertheless, it is the mediatory function of Sacramentalism which prevents, for Catholics, the circularity which the Protestants mention. It is Sacramentalism which Incarnationally binds together the subjective and the objective within a single ontological Reality. Sacramentalism is why, for the Catholic, there is no need for a distinction between a Visible Church and an Invisible Church. Instead, there is only The Church. Visible and invisible aspects, perhaps, but still one and the same Church.

    Because of this mediatory and unifying function, when a specific Catholic subjectively affirms the Magisterial teaching, his very Being simultaneously speaks in unison with the objective Magisterium. Similarly, when the Magisterium declares objectively, it simultaneously speaks in union with the subjective Sensus Catholicus. They are both united in one and the same Church. When the Sensus Catholicus and the Magisterum speak, they are speaking Una Voce. It is The Church speaking.

    It is as if a man’s right hand and left hand were to shake each other. Regardless, of whether we are speaking of two distinct hands, we still speaking of two hands united in one and the same Being, just as in the Church, the subjective and the objective speak in unison because they are united in one and the same Reality.

  90. test

  91. SS cannot provide anything more than a fallible human opinion about what the Bible teaches, and therefore cannot provide a way to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials, or between orthodoxy and heresy. Moreover, it cannot provide us with a canon, but only the best-guess efforts of scholars at what they think the canon should be.

    Now, if the response is that the CC fares no better, then this means that the responder is admitting that God never intended for these distinctions to be possible. Of course, that is a possibility and a consistent position for the Protestant to espouse. but for my part, it is untenable (not to mention making God out to be a pretty poor planner. I mean, the hassle of the Incarnation and crucifixion only to set up a church that loses its visibility the first time a division arises?).

    Jason,

    I did not see this post by you above until now. A few thoughts in response:

    Yes, I fully agree that I offer my fallible opinions. But I do not offer the latter as an end in themselves, or to seek a following, create a new denomination. I offer them to encourage my brethren who are catholics and protestants to reconsider their assumptions and actively seek the unity which Christ prayed for in John 17. My thoughts are merely a nudge to push both sides to do the hard work of coming together and repenting from division. In that sense, they only have any worth to the extent that they are collectively debated in true ecumenism. Such an ecumenism would be devoted to doctrinal purity as well as unity. There is no reason to be fatalistic in believing that both are not achievable. If anything if we truly believe the Gospel and know of its Power, is a council too hard to call for? My contribution if any, would be to make sure that if such an effort ever takes place, it would involve Jewish believers/theologians (not converts to catholicism or protestantism). You cannot have a church council deliberating on doctrine without their input! They are here today as they were in the beginning (read of the many zealous for the law, which James took joy in in Acts 21), and should be at the table.

  92. Now regarding your charge that my position that the church is broken entails God being a poor planner. Does not follow at all. Was God a poor planner when He rescued and liberated an entire nation of Hebrews from Egypt, only to see the majority of them die in the desert? Was He being a poor planner when He fed them manna in the desert, only to see Joshua, Caleb and a select few ith enough faith to take the land He had promised them? Was He being a poor planner when He lavished wealth on Solomon and had him build a temple, only to allow that temple to be destroyed by the Babylonians? Same with the second temple rebuilt by Nehemiah and Ezra?

  93. Actually there is an escape, and that escape is Sacramentalism.

    No there isn’t an escape. See the discussion between Luis and Bryan, posts 117 to 131, especially post 129.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/the-tu-quoque/

  94. +JMJ+

    Jason Stellman wrote:
    .
    SS cannot provide anything more than a fallible human opinion about what the Bible teaches…

    SS wrote:
    .
    Yes, I fully agree that I offer my fallible opinions.

    I think that he meant “SS” as in “Sola Scriptura”.

  95. Yes, sorry about that, SS. I was speaking of Sola Scriptura, not you!

  96. Bryan—

    I don’t share your confidence that there will always be lay faithful who remain loyal to the Magisterium. What is the percentage right now? Without trying to be cute but rather taking the question quite seriously, I would guess around 10%. It is no longer a few tares scattered among the wheat but a few stalks of wheat scattered among the tares. When Christ returns, will he find faith on earth? Undoubtedly, he will. But it just may be that none of the still waiting remnant will be Roman Catholic.

    Your confidence in the permanence of Rome, of course, is based on far too slim evidence from Scripture. I reject your depiction of the possibility of a particular church’s demise as ecclesial deism. I have always found this accusation to be inherently offensive. No self-respecting Confessional Protestant would ever agree to such a description, just as you would never agree to the charge of ecclesiolatry, and would, no doubt, take offense. (Susan Vader, in a posting on C2C, admitted that if her confidence in the authority of the Catholic Church were shaken, she would not even consider Protestantism but would throw off Christianity entirely. I will let her speak for herself, but from where I’m sitting, that certainly smacks of something awfully close to ecclesiolatry.)

    Your view of the church seems to echo the first-century Jews’ interpretations of messianic prophecy. People naturally want physical structure, stable hierarchy, and military prowess. But Christ insisted his Kingdom was “not of this world.” Yes, it’s been a while since the Vatican was a military threat to anyone, but she is still powerful in a very worldly sense. That is the last thing I would expect of the body of Christ here on earth, for he came as a suffering servant and not as terrestrial potentate.

    I was not making an issue of your “desire” to label rebellious Catholics as “dissenters.” Nor was I implying that you somehow coined the label. I was simply submitting to you preference. Now, to be perfectly honest, it is a preference I disagree with. We Reformed believers restrict WCF “dissenters” from teaching or preaching. You allow your “dissenters” to become part and parcel of the hierarchy of your church. To my mind, that all but disqualifies you from disowning them. Your “dissenters” are legion. Our “dissenters” practically don’t exist. I believe that has significance in evaluating the purity of each church.

    Ah, but you said, “That’s not the point in question, nor is it pertinent to the point in question.” The problem with that, Bryan, is that you were responding to me…and that most certainly was my point (and thus, extremely pertinent indeed).

    Concerning your questions:

    1. “Is affirming sola scriptura compatible with genuine Church authority?”

    The answer is obviously yes. If it was good enough for the Apostolic Church, it should be good enough for us. There was no clear-cut structural harmony between the various communities: Johannine, Petrine, Markan, Pauline, Thomasine, Andrean, etc. What they had in common was a common sacred text.

    2. “Does the Roman Catholic Church have genuine Church authority?”

    To the extent that she still subscribes to and defends Scripture, the Nicene Creed, and the four consensus Ecumenical Councils, denouncing any and all additions to them…yes, she has some limited authority.

    You are quite wrong about FV. Lane Keister himself has said he looks forward to the day when Peter Leithart leaves to join the CREC, at which point he can serve a vital role in the church catholic. His more legitimate opponents view Mr. Leithart as unfaithful to the WCF, not the Christian faith. (To be sure, some truth-is-only-black-and-white types decry him and his fellow travelers as too uncomfortably close to Roman Catholicism or NPP. But such trolls count just about anyone who doesn’t toe their own particular line as having fallen off the ledge into apostasy. Can we please choose to ignore them?)

    As for the three bonds of unity, whether we formulate these as sacrament, doctrine, and polity (or creed-code-cult or head-heart-hands), all churches acknowledge these as significant, though some do a good sight better job at attaining them than others. Quite honestly, the Catholic Church does pretty well at achieving this balance among her confessional believers. She is compassionately incarnational in terms of ministry; passionately reverent in terms of worship; warmly experiential in terms of the sacraments; and both biblically and philosophically thorough in terms of doctrine.

    Conversely, most of the progeny of the Radical Reformation do not have well-thought-out doctrinal systems. A good many of the prissier Presbyterians deny the experiential and, as a result, come across as cold, both in worship and evangelism. (Of course, as you are aware, Pope Francis is now on record as being critical of weak RC evangelistic efforts. I have little doubt this is due, in large part, to the Catholic embrace of inclusivism though the pope highlighted far different causes. I also fault the Catholics for their de-emphasis on personal conversion… except in some Charismatic fellowships.) A few mainstream Evangelical groups, eager to show themselves as not legalistic—and decidedly not socialistic, thank you very much—forego any kind of social ministry to the poor and the oppressed.

    I find the highest degree of correspondence with all three of these priorities among Reformed Pietists in liturgical settings (in certain groups of Presbyterians, Anglicans, and high-church Baptists) so that is where I try to hang my hat. (Just to clarify, a “Pietist” in Reformed circles is a very different animal from a “Pietist” in Lutheran or Arminian circles. Think Puritanism or Dutch Second Reformation.)

    Again, when an idea is not fleshed out in consistent application, such is an abstraction. That’s what abstract means, Bryan!

  97. Eric:
    I don’t share your confidence that there will always be lay faithful who remain loyal to the Magisterium. What is the percentage right now? Without trying to be cute but rather taking the question quite seriously, I would guess around 10%.

    Me:
    Just out of curiosity, how did you arrive at the 10% value you quoted?

  98. @Michael Liccione (April 15, 2013 at 8:27 pm)

    Rather than keep re-inventing the wheel here, I recommend you read an article I wrote for CTC a few years ago as a followup to the Cross/Judisch critique of Keith Mathison’s The Shape of Sola Scriptura.

    I don’t think you are addressing my points against Tu Queque in Shape of Sola Scriptura. And that was based on your assessment that Tu Queque would fix the problems in Jason’s argument that differences in tone are not inconsequential even if not ultimately consequential. Your article fundamentally has the same problem (per my April 15, 2013 at 8:59 am comment). I agree with your thesis that there is no ultimate difference. But you don’t address the issue of tone.

    Even while agreeing with your conclusion I disagree with many of the steps in your argument. Let me start with your key point for example:

    First, the divine revelation in and through Jesus Christ is public, definitive, once-for-all, consistently and authoritatively identifiable through time, and expressible as the doctrinal content of the “deposit of faith.

    On definitive / authoritatively identifiable through time take an example of the text of the New Testament. Some Conservative Protestants believe that the valid text is that which was handed down and compiled through the centuries the TR/MT. Others believe that God in providence has given us a surge of knowledge through archeology and linguistics and so our text should reflect this new information the NA series. Both groups exist with conservative Protestantism, both acknowledge the other as faithful conservative Protestants.

    And this gets more serious on the issue of the canon. God raises up a bible for his people, that doesn’t mean it is the same bible. The Gothic bible didn’t contain acts that doesn’t mean those people were not Christian nor that Acts shouldn’t be part of our bible. The early Protestant bibles contained a 78 (not a typo) book canon there has been a debate in the last few hundred years about 12 of those books. That doesn’t mean the earlier Christians or the Anglicans today who use that canon aren’t faithful Christians.

    So given that the deposit of faith today is not identifiable why would be believe it would be through all time?

    On once-for-all & public again I’d disagree. Many conservative Protestants belong to denominations which were founded on modern prophets. Almost all of them on modern prophecy. Luther’s private struggles with guilt and his torments about his sins led him to the revelations that formed the very basis for Protestantism. Absolutely their public acceptance required appeals to scripture but they were born of his private revelations. Protestants acknowledge that. The slogan for Barack Obama’s denomination (not conservative by any means, but is reformed theologically) is “God is still speaking”.

    CtC is directed at Conservative Presbyterians which are a tiny fraction of Conservative Protestants. I’d say they talk out of both sides of their mouth on the issue. When talking to sects who have prophetic leadership they are firmly cessationist. When their doctrines are attacked on the basis of language / linguistics, history, science… then the personal intervention of the Holy Spirit is required and suddenly their doctrines are non public and require being personally led in a spirit of prophecy (though they would never use that language, that’s exactly what they mean) to understand.

    Now let me point out I don’t think Catholics believe that either. Saint Julian of Norwich had doctrinal revelations published in 1373 which came to her through private prophetic vision. That is accepted by Catholics and part of the deposit of faith. For example it is from her first revelation you know that the crown of thorns induced bleeding and became hot in the sun. There is no biblical revelation for those doctrines.

    (to be continued)

  99. @Michael Liccione (April 15, 2013 at 8:27 pm) (part 2)

    There are other problems I could pick on similarly but like I said I agree with your conclusion even while disagreeing with points in the argument. But one area where I think CtC in a deep sense fails at apologetics is demonstrated in this line

    But even though Mathison is well aware of that claim, and its logical difference from any claim of impeccability that would be a mere straw man, some of the evidence he cites against that claim is moral. Thus he argues that, prior to the Reformation, the papacy and the bishops had “abandoned the flock,” thereby and obviously forfeiting their claim to be successors of the Apostles. But even assuming that the pope and the bishops were often poor pastors, that sort of pastoral judgment is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    I think it is your major failing of CtC as an apologetics website to have a total unwillingness to actually to discuss the real Reformation in the real context in which it happened. There is sort of weird pretend argument about a Catholic church more or less like the one we have today with a monk named Luther who had some arguments about justification and decided to go start his own church which splintered into a bunch of sects. And now those sects should all come back.

    This is total nonsense. The church that emerged out of the dark ages had doctrinal disputes and enough peace with external enemies that it could focus on them. The Catholic church decided to resolve its theological disputes with its population “the faithful” through the use of state terror. This started off slowly, quickly built up intensity towards horrific violence and even one genocide. After a few successes it built up frequency to become routine policy. By the time of the Reformation there was a continuous ongoing process of terrorizing a population into upholding doctrines they no longer naturally believed in through this apparatus. When Pope Leo excommunicated Luther he did this in a context in which that signing his death warrant. A routine execution by a terror state.

    These weren’t “poor pastors” they were psychopaths with armies. The moral failings of the Catholic church in the centuries leading up to 16th century necessitated the Reformation. Something, anything, had to put an end to what Christianity was becoming under their leadership. This isn’t irrelevant this the absolute moral case for the righteousness of the Reformation despite any other possible philosophical or historical argument. One can debate the moral righteousness of 36% vs. a 39% tax on high incomes. Mass murder and systematic torture are not debatable evils they need to be stopped, period.

    The Catholic church today is not the church that existed at the time of the Reformation. The Reformation healed the Catholic church and turned it back into a church. One could like Pope Benedict or Francis one could dislike them. But Vatican City today is not a terror state. The Inquisition is not searching for secret Jews using modern surveillance drones, cellphone hacking, cameras on street corners where the Pope has authority. If Vatical City were to acquire ICBMs a Benedict or Francis would not gleefully kill hundreds of millions the way Innocent III killed hundreds of thousands to prevent dissent from his teachings.

    It may be that I’m right and Catholicism originated as a Christian sect in the 2nd century religion and that it has no structural ties to 1st century Christianity. It may be that I’m wrong. It may be that Luther is right that the Church was of God until it fell into deep sin in 607 CE it may be that it remained pure past that date. But when we start talking about the righteousness of the Reformation, I’m not wrong about that, Mathison is not wrong about that and Luther was not wrong about that. What really happened during the centuries leading up to the Reformation, during the Reformation and after the Reformation needs to be addressed. Otherwise quite simply the Reformation’s legitimacy, its moral necessity, in unquestionable even if I were to grant every single other argument on CtC.

    And if I were to point to a single place I most disagree passionately disagree with your article that would be it.

  100. Jason,

    I can’t stress enough the implications of Protestants taking the Tu Quoque route. Dismissing the Catholic challenge to Sola Scriptura by simply saying, “Well, you Catholics are no better off!” is to admit a lot of pretty damaging things. For example, employing the TQ tactic is basically admitting that Christ either never intended to establish a church that could speak meaningfully about orthodoxy versus heresy, or the church he established has since lost that ability. Stop and consider the practical and theological ramifications of admitting this kind of thing.

    No, it’s simply Protestants calling Rome to judge itself according to its own standards. Based on Rome’s claims, you need an infallible Magisterium to avoid the division and disagreement evident among Protestantism. If the results of that Magisterium are the same division and disagreement, Rome fails its own standards. Speaking meaningfully about orthodoxy versus heresy does not require an infallible Magisterium. If it did, the church was absolutely and fully clueless before Christ came. Based on Roman presuppositions, what you have said might be true, but the elephant in the room is whether or not Roman presuppositions actually reflect Scripture, primarily, and the earliest church tradition, secondarily.

    You are assuming that the church can only speak meaningfully about something if it is infallible. But that doesn’t lead necessarily to Rome anyway. Your other unspoken assumptions are that the church can only speak meaningfully if it has an address or PO Box in the form of apostolic succession such as bishops ordaining other bishops. But that doesn’t lead necessarily to Rome anyway.

    So, 1. you still need to prove that infallibility is necessary for meaningful and binding authority and 2. You still need to prove that such leads necessarily to Rome.

    Regarding the supposed divisions in the CC and the analogue to Protestantism, what is being missed in this version of the TQ is the fact that the CC has a Magisterium that, according to the Catholic paradigm, has the ability and authority to bind and loose in Jesus’ name in such a way that is protected from error. This makes all the difference. Protestantism, according to its own paradigm, cannot identify schism as such, since any division from a church can just be labeled a new branch of the church rather than a schism from it. There is no non-arbitrary way to say that the URC is a branch while the Unitarian Universalists are a sect.

    I’m glad that the Roman paradigm says it’s infallible. Again, the elephant in the room is whether or not that idea actually reflects Scripture. The secondary question is whether it reflects church tradition before the papacy became dominant in the West. Furthermore, all the qualifications that Rome places on infallible statements make it essentially meaningless, especially since we are all still waiting for that infallible list of infallible statements. If infallibility applies to conciliar decrees, then Rome again fails its own standard because it keeps changing its mind. If it applies only to certain papal statements, then Rome has only exercised this charism what, once or twice, and then to say things about the Marian dogmas which completely undercut all its supposed longings for Christian unity.

    Really? We have no non-arbitrary way to distinguish the URC from Unitarian Universalism? Have you been drinking the Kool-Aid that long. Just because you say infallibility is necessary to avoid arbitrariness doesn’t make it so. Based on that qualification, every decision you have made in your life was arbitrary because it wasn’t infallible. Was your decision to marry your wife arbitrary? What about your decision to convert to Roman Catholicism? Are the rules you lay down for your kids arbitrary?

    In the Catholic paradigm, by contrast, someone who denies some dogma of the faith is by definition a heretic, and someone who separates from the Church is by definition a schismatic. There’s no “who’s to say who’s right?”, because the Magisterium says who’s right. If you deny the papacy, you are not just a Catholic with a different opinion that is equal to the opposite opinions of other Catholics who affirm it. You are objectively not a Catholic anymore. This is not analogous to Protestantism, where you can just deny some position your current church teaches and then go start your own with impunity. Protestantism has no mechanism for defining itself or its parameters that is any way binding or authoritative.

    If you reject the WCF and the constitution of the PCA, you are objectively not a PCA Presbyterian. A PCA person who believes the PCA is the best current expression of biblical Christianity may say one’s beliefs might be lacking in some way, but they would say that such doesn’t necessarily mean you are not a Christian or even that one is not Presbyterian. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that your opinion is equally valid. The question is what view best reflects Scripture. And at the end of the day, you cannot get away from that being a decision with some measure of subjectivity. The same is true of Roman Catholics. According to your own church’s standards, rejection of the papacy makes one not a Roman Catholic but that doesn’t necessarily mean one is not a Christian. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that one is not small-c catholic, since today Rome believes we are in communion somehow with the pope even as Protestants. According to Rome’s own standards, I have a deficient theology, but I am not non-Christian nor non-catholic. The supposed infallibility does not give you the objectivity that you think Protestantism lacks.

    Dozens of Roman Catholics have rejected the current line of popes and gone off to form their own Old Catholic churches. Others remain in the church and claim the see of Peter is vacant. Why are they wrong and Benedict, John Paul, Francis are right? That’s the million-dollar question.

    The fact that a Protestant can disagree with his church and go off and start his own denomination does not mean he can do so with impunity. If he denies the Trinity, for example, he is a heretic according to Protestantism whether he acknowledges it or not. He has cut himself off from Christ and his church. The fact that he is allowed to start his own denomination reflects more the modern notion of separation of church and state more than anything else; it does mean one gets off theologically. The same is true of Rome. If I were a Roman Catholic and denied the Trinity, I could go off and start my own church with the same degree of impunity. (Of course, that is if I left, since Rome tolerates non-Trinitarians teaching theology in its institutions) Theologically, I have not escaped impunity according to Rome. There is no difference.

    You’ve bought into a view of Rome that sounds nice in theory but that Rome does not even follow when the rubber hits the road. And why should I accept your definition of who is and who isn’t a Roman Catholic? The LCWR has rejected vital aspects of ecclesiology and church dogma, and your infallible Magisterium has not yet said they are not Roman Catholics. How, then, have they objectively made themselves non-Catholic? I’ve sat in classes as an undergraduate under Roman Catholic ethicists who have while teaching denied Roman teaching on human sexuality and abortion while fiercely defending themselves as Roman Catholic to the core. The woman whom I am thinking of is a recognized scholar in the field of Christian ethics (liberal) and who has written much against official church teaching on such matters and others. She’s sat on the boards of Planned Parenthood and other organizations. Yet Rome hasn’t sanctioned her. You would want me to believe that she has made herself objectively non-Roman Catholic, but the Magisterium does not agree. I should believe you over them why, according to Rome’s standards?

    Protestantism does have a mechanism for binding authority—whenever a Protestant church reaches a decision that is faithful to Scripture, that decision is binding and carries the authority of Christ. The fact that there is disagreement does not mean the decision is not binding or lacks authority. All it means is that the decision is wrong or that the person not submitting to it is not listening to the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day, the Spirit must convince the hearer or reader of Scripture that the church he is listening to is making true and binding decrees. Rome does not get around that issue of subjectivity. At the end of the day, if you are right, the Spirit must convince the individual studying Roman doctrine that Rome is making true and binding decrees. If you are right, my failure to see the truth of Romanism is not the church’s fault or the Spirit’s fault but my fault for my obstinacy, ignorance, or other issue. If I am right, your failure to see the truth of sola Scriptura is not the Scripture’s fault or the Spirit’s fault but rather your fault.

    So, the tu quoque stands even if people with PhDs in philosophy but no Magisterial authority have written long papers on it. (BTW, where has the Magisterium addressed the tu quoque in a binding and infallible manner. That’s really where I should be going).

    One of these things is not like the other.

    Yep. The romanticized Roman Catholic view of authority presented here and on CTC versus the actual reality of the situation.

  101. SS:

    I appreciate your having read my two-paragraph quotation of the CCC and cited part of it, but your criitique of Jason’s stance indicates that you took only a part of the first paragraph into account. Thus you ignore §157 altogether, along with most of the MOCs cited in §156, basing your critique almost entirely on the “natural man’s” consideration of the Church’s apparently quite questionable “holiness.” And you don’t even get the relevant concept of holiness right. Let’s take it from the top.

    Jason had written: “…there needed to be some visible body that could tell me with authority what counted as divine revelation, and what that revelation meant.” That kind of consideration is relevant to §157, which I quote again here for convenience:

    157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32

    What’s relevant about Jason’s remark here is that, on his and my view, only a visible church that embodies divine and thus infallible authority is equipped to propose statements that are authentic expressions of divine revelation calling for the assent of faith that is “certain.” At CTC and elsewhere, I have presented arguments for that claim at great length, and Jason accepts those arguments in substance. But your critique of Jason’s stance ignores that entirely. Rather, you show how the natural man’s considerations on the sins of Catholic leaders would readily lead him to doubt the Church’s holiness, and thus her authenticity as “the” Church Christ founded. But nobody disputes that such a man would have doubts for such reasons. Jason and I certainly do not. And many people have such doubts. The more basic question needing consideration here is whether the sort of authority we accept is indeed necessary for the purpose I’ve indicated. If it is, and if we assume further that there is such a thing as divine revelation calling for the assent of faith, then the sort of difficulty you present need not and should not constitute a doubt.

    That consideration can and does occur on two levels: before and after the assent of faith in the Church’s claims for herself are made. Before the assent, it is important that all the relevant evidence be taken into account. That includes all the MOCs: “…the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability.” But you don’t do that. You focus on the relative lack of “holiness” in many Church leaders, as if the holiness and miracles of the saints were irrelevant, and you fail to appreciate what ‘holy’ means in the formula ‘one, holy, catholic, and apostolic’.

    In Catholic doctrine, to say that the Church is holy does not mean that her leaders aren’t sinners like the rest of her members. Rather, it is in her very nature the Body of Christ, which she is because the Bridegroom married her by pouring out his blood for her. As that Body, she is the “sacrament of salvation” for the world, i.e. the ordinary sign and instrument of God’s saving grace in the world, which are offered by the Faith, the sacraments, and the life of charity so evident in the works of mercy the Church does the world. Thus she is greater than and prior to the sum of her individual members, whose sins do not negate such holiness, but only obscure it in the eyes of the world. That’s what Pope Francis means by pointing out what we all agree on: that the sins and hypocrisy of Church leaders, when that is evident, makes much of the world unable or unwilling to appreciate the Church’s abiding holiness.

    Now after the assent of divine and Catholic faith is made, it is “certain.” Thus sin and other factors posing difficulties for the believer are only that: difficulties, not doubts. But the implicit premise of your critique renders such assent impossible. You proceed as though the decision to be Catholic is based entirely on a few passages of Scripture interpreted in a certain way, and proceed to cite others that can be interpreted to different effect. But proof-texting cannot, even in principle, suffice to settle these matters, and Jason knows that. The fundamental question, which he and I have addressed, is by what means can one distinguish authentic expressions of divine revelation, and thus objects for the assent of faith, from merely human interpretive opinions. Giving your interpretive opinions simply does not address that question. Protestantism cannot even permit itself to say that the means by which we identify the sources of divine revelation are anything but fallible, and therefore human opinions. Thus, in our view, it doesn’t address the root question.

    Accordingly, neither have you. The question s what sort of authority is necessary for making the assent of faith. Until you address that question on the appropriate level, your critique merely begs the question.

    Best,
    Mike

  102. CD-HOST:

    Making due allowance for the usual polemical overstatements, such as that the medieval Catholic Church was led by “psychopaths with armies” and engaged in “systematic torture,” I point out two things about your critique. First, you offer such statements as descriptions of the Reformers’ motives, which they are not; second, from the painfully evident fact that the late-medieval Church needed reform, it does not follow that “the Reformation” was necessary. All that follows is that reform was necessary, as Erasmus and many other faithful Catholics in the 16th century, including some canonized saints, knew and urged.

    As to the first, if the Reformers’ chief difficulty with the Catholic Church had been what you suggest, then Luther would not have enthusiastically supported the violent suppression of the Anabaptists and the Peasant’s Revolt, and Calvin would not have carried on as he did in Geneva. The fact is that during that time nearly everybody, Protestant as well as Catholic, believed that the state had a duty to suppress and punish heresy. That’s because the polities of the time were all confessional states whose legitimacy and integrity was assumed to rest on what was taken to be theological orthodoxy. From this historical distance, most of us have come to understand that the oppression and warfare which that belief occasioned are objective moral evils, regardless of the extent to which the actors may or may not have been culpable for committing them. (It took an even longer time for Christians to understand what’s wrong with slavery as such.) That’s why the relatively few countries in the world that still have established religions do not enforce profession of those religions with violence. But the fact that most Christians between the time of Constantine and the Peace of Westphalia had not learned the needed lesson is not a difficulty unique to the Catholic Church. It had been a problem in the Orthodox Byzantine Empire, and it was a problem for many Protestants too.

    Second, your argument is a non-sequitur. From the fact that the Catholic Church needed reform, it does not logically follow that the needed reform had to involve rejecting the Church’s dogmatic claims for herself. What does follow is that the leaders of the Church needed to practice the Gospel they preached–which is always the case. That’s why we had the Council of Trent, the Counter-Reformation, and Vatican II. And that’s why Pope Francis spoke two days ago as he did. As I and other Catholics committed to the New Evangelization realizes, ecclesia semper reformanda. That slogan is not opposed to Catholicism; it is presupposed by it.

    Best,
    Mike

  103. @Robert (4/16, 6:05AM),

    You wrote

    No, it’s simply Protestants calling Rome to judge itself according to its own standards. Based on Rome’s claims, you need an infallible Magisterium to avoid the division and disagreement evident among Protestantism. If the results of that Magisterium are the same division and disagreement, Rome fails its own standards.”

    Out of curiosity, are you familiar with the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions? I think your confusion, among other things, results from the crucial distinction between the two. I’ll put aside whether there is (true) division in Catholicism (since, of course, if the magisterium hasn’t pronounced on something then, to one extent or another, it’s “up for grabs” and if the magisterium has pronounced on something [like birth control], then a Catholic’s acting otherwise isn’t “disagreement” as much as some combination of ignorance or disobedience).

    But even setting all that aside, Jason’s point (and Mike’s, presumably), is that having a magisterium is necessary but not sufficient to end division/disagreement (indeed, better catechesis and a laity that actually gives a care about theology also strike me as some other things that must come into play if disagreement among Catholic laity is to be reduced). You, however, seem to think that Catholics believe a magisterium is both necessary and sufficient (or perhaps just sufficient?) to eliminate theological disagreement. Thus, when you see a thing that has a magisterium as well as disagreement, you correctly conclude that having a magisterium is not a sufficient condition of ending theological disagreement (as you understand disagreement). But that wasn’t the claim – the claim, I take it, was that Catholicism meets a necessary condition of ending theological disagreement (having a magisterium) and that Protestantism (of any kinds) does not meet the necessary condition. Anyways, correctly understanding and distinguishing between necessary and sufficient conditions is crucial in theological/philosophical dialogue, and unless I’ve gone awry somewhere you attribute to Catholics the (silly) belief that a magisterium is necessary and sufficient for ending disagreement (as you use the term) whereas Catholics actually hold that having a magisterium is just necessary for ending disagreement – and that Protestantism can never fulfill that necessary condition.

    Also, for what it’s worth, my (subjective personal anecdotal) experience indicates that you’re overstating the amount of “disagreement” and “division” among Catholics. Most of the Catholic laity I’ve spoken to know full well that Catholicism (and natural law) teaches that contraceptive use is immoral – they just do it anyways. That crazy dude going on Colbert advocating the abolishing of the priesthood (presumably) knows his views are contrary to Catholic orthodoxy – he just doesn’t care (for whatever reason). Heck, a good number of the “pro-gay” Catholics I’ve talked to even know they’re supposed to refrain from taking the Eucharist/Communion as long as they openly oppose Catholic teachings on homosexuality; they don’t care, but they full well know what they’re advocating is contrary to Catholic teaching. My $0.02 🙂

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  104. @Wassen (April 15, 2013 at 8:28 pm)

    What is your argument here? Because you don’t think the doctrine is correct it isn’t a mainstream Protestant doctrine and it shouldn’t have been taught at Westminster? That doesn’t seem to follow. Your post seems like mostly a stream of pithy putdowns based on an accidental or deliberate misreading of the doctrine that the church fell.

    Now I have a weird situation in defending mainstream “Landmarkism-lite” the idea that the Baptist / Protestant church existed historically in that I don’t happen to think it is true. I do happen to think it is a mainstream belief. I also happen to think it is really important to separate those two claims.

    Now what I do believe is something which may turn into the 21st century version of that, the Bauer hypothesis of Christian origins which argues that proto-Orthodox Christianity evolved out of Jewish Gnosticism just as Gnostic Christianities did and that Catholicism / Orthodoxy was a product of Gnosticism not its predecessor. Ideas that bled over from groups like the Bogomils that influenced Esoteric Christianity and thus Christian Humanism played a huge role in Luther’s development. The Protestant followers of Luther were influenced by sects like Brethern of the Free Spirit and the Beghards and they evolved into Lutherans.

    http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2012/09/sects-to-evangelicals.html

    If there is such a church “underground” how come they didn’t leave us any writings.

    They did. The Oration on the Dignity of Man which was a key writing of Christian Humanism predated Luther’s thoughts and he does site it. Oration is dependent ideas from Esoteric Christianity, the Corpus Hermeticum while written in the middle ages as part of the Theurgy movement has parts that are much earlier and clearly quotes the Islamic Secret of Secrets…

    So they both left us writings and left us a trail. The trail has gone faint. There are far fewer writings than we like. But if you want to look at proto-Protestantism before the days of Luther start with Mirror of Simple Souls.

    I think it is reasonable to ask this question if we consider that Martin Luther (ML) did not appeal to any of the writings of the “underground church” if really existed

    Because Martin Luther’s focus was on rediscovering Paul and pulling the church away from Catholic tradition. He was looking for common ground and the New Testament offered that, an ancient authority that could stand next to the Pope’s. While Luther cooperated with the Radical Reformers, some of whom openly embraced these alternative writings, he was firmly in the camp of the magisterial Reformation.

    . On Oct. 31 1517, when ML tacked his 95 theses, most Prots attribute that date as the start of Protestantism

    That’s false, absolutely not true. Protestants claim that Protestantism was the faith of the apostles. They talk frequently and openly about the primitive church and try and model their bodies on the primitive church. They total reject the idea that Luther was inventing his own religion starting in 1517.

    Now if you point is that in 1517 Luther was not a Protestant, but rather a Catholic reformer, yes I’d agree. Intellectually magisterial reformers don’t really understand they are creating a permanent institutional counter church until more like 1617. The non-radical Reformers in 1467, 1517 and 1567 all believed they were working for political and/or minor doctrinal reforms inside the Catholic church. They had no idea they were creating an entirely separate branch of Christianity. They mostly didn’t even envision that such a thing was possible. You really have to go to people like ArchBishop Laud who could genuine imagine that the Reformation could end up in a draw with both Protestantism and Catholicism existing as separate churches for a long time to come. So in some senses you can make the case that Luther when he died was not fully a Protestant in his thinking.

    Protestants are aware of that. Luther doesn’t have to have been infallible to have made tremendous contributions. The Magisterial Reformation failed to reform the Catholic church it setup a new church in most locations and then a situation of new churches. That is multiple Christian religious bodies exist right next to one another preaching different doctrines with no shared authority structures. The Magisterial Reformation didn’t anticipate that situation, the Radical Reformers did. Protestantism today is more and more descended from the ideology of the Radical Reformers because it is their ideology that fits with the empirical reality that exists today.

    And that’s why I was suggesting Foxe’s Book of Martyrs not Luther for an early source.

  105. Michael L and SS,

    Just some encourage from I silent brother… I’m not able to keep up with everybody’s posts, but thanks for both of you guy’s thoughts and work trying to present you concerns and conviction with respect for each other.
    Peace and God’s blessings on you both,
    Mike

  106. @Robert,

    Sorry for the blockquote fail. I also neglected to include the bit of yours I was replying to: “Based on Rome’s claims, you need an infallible Magisterium to avoid the division and disagreement evident among Protestantism. If the results of that Magisterium are the same division and disagreement, Rome fails its own standards.” As I read further, though, your next sentence might be understood to indicate that you think having a magisterium isn’t even a necessary condition to end theological disagreement. So now I’m just confused as to what you mean and what you think Catholics mean. Help?

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  107. Benjamin,

    What I’m saying is that ecclesiastical infallibility is not a necessary condition for Christian unity and the definition orthodoxy in a binding and meaningful way. That doesn’t mean the church or even a Magisterium (defined as duly ordained and worthy church elders) is unnecessary.

    The church is necessary for our growth into maturity:

    “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:11–16)

    Ecclesiastical infallibility is not necessary to accomplish this goal, and indeed, the arrogant claim to infallibility when pronouncements are made that violate the apostolic deposit that we are sure about—the NT—means that part of the body is not working properly.

    Further, IMO, I think that saying the infallible Magisterium is not a sufficient cause of Christian unity undercuts much of the Roman Catholic argument.

    Hope that helps.

  108. Robert,
    Kind of jumping in here. Hope you will forgive me.
    Your quote hits directly at the purpose of the unified body and I understand your point that infallibility does not seem necessary for the unity of that body, and I don’t disagree. Yet do we not have enough evidence else where to conclude that there will be a way to know the truths of the faith and be able to “stick it out together” until those are clearly proclaimed by the Church. Your quote even seems to point to that. “…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
    Basically, to invert the words: We will be adults knowing the truth and no amount of false doctrine presented with good arguments filled with tricks will prevent us from “speaking the truth in love”.

    Just some observations.
    Blessings to you,
    Mike

  109. MichaelTX

    Appreciate it, thank you. Look forward to your thoughts if you have time to post.

    SS.

  110. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    Actually there is an escape, and that escape is Sacramentalism.

    SS wrote:
    .
    No there isn’t an escape.

    I’m sorry, I wasn’t putting it up for debate. I’m simply talking about an internal faith issue, a theological issue, and am only porting it downwards into the realm of philosophy so as to show how the Catholic dynamic naturally (and Incarnationally) deals with an ancient philosophical paradox/mystery (the Subject/Object Dichotomy). Since we’re dealing with a mystery, I wasn’t offering a Motive of Credibility (strictly defined), but was instead, simply trying to give a little window into the Catholic dynamic and how, for us, Incarno-Sacramentalism solves this problem.

    To help illustrate my point, here’s a little flowchart…

    A man investigates the Motives of Credibility. —–> He invests his Natural Faith by choosing the Church. —–> The man asks Church for entrance. —–> The Church graciously chooses him in bestowing Sacramental initiation, giving the man the gift of Supernatural Faith. —–> Now, circularity is no longer an issue for him, since the very core of his Being now speaks from within a New Strata of Reality: the living, ontological Reality of The Church.

  111. @MICHAEL LICCIONE April 16, 2013 at 6:40 am

    First, you offer such statements as descriptions of the Reformers’ motives, which they are not

    No I offered them as moral justification for the Reformation. You and I both live in 2013. We have the a lot of knowledge in making our moral evaluating of the Reformation that the Reformers didn’t. For example CtC makes a strong case that the Reformation would permanently destroy Christiandom and leaving Christianity having a divided witness. It also argues that the Reformation would create a situation where the scope of intellectual authority for the church among most people was ever narrowing. None of the Reformers intended to do that, but they did. And you are comfortable evaluating the morality of their actions given what we know of their effects regardless of their intent. In the same way, we know that the Reformation put an end to the murder machine that the church had become. Even if I were to grant that they had no intention of putting an end to murder as the primary means of resolving theological disputes that doesn’t imply it wasn’t an effect of their actions and from our perspective in 2013 something we can weigh in morally evaluating the Reformation.

    Now over and above the 2013 perspective, it just so happens though that I do believe that it was a motivation for many of the Reformers. Let me start with a definition. There are 3 types of reformers.

    1) Political reformers who wanted to change the people running the church. Whether it be financial corruption, moral corruption, a desire for the church to be more subservient to the state governments they didn’t like the what the church was doing and who they were. Prince Frederick (Luther’s patron) would haven fallen into this group as well as Elizabeth of York (Henry VIII’s mother).

    2) Doctrinal reformers who wanted minor doctrinal reforms but wanted to keep the structure of the Catholic mostly intact. Calvin and Luther are in this group.

    3) Radical reformers. Who hated the Catholic church and wanted to create an entirely different type of structure.

    It my position that for 5 centuries there were 3 groups of reformers / rebels existed. They mistrusted each other, they disliked each other and during those centuries they worked with the Catholic church in holding each other down. What happened in the Reformation, what made it unique from the rebellions prior to it, is these groups decided to work together to achieve their objectives. They felt there was enough urgency that they were willing to risk the dangers they saw in each other. The urgency came from the fact that the Catholic church was turning on groups (1) and (2) the way it had on group (3).

    The doctrinal reformers understood the sacrifices they were making in making their Reformation dependent on a secular army. I’m sure Luther didn’t like the fact that when Prince Frederick moved his hand a doctrine supporting his actions had to come out of Luther’s mouth. But he needed an army because that was theological disputes were being settled. Henry VIII spent his life trying to prevent Lutheranism from his political reforms to try and hold off meaningful doctrinal reforms. The Radical Reformers, knew that Calvin and Luther would fire up the stakes and burn heretics once they got a stable society going.

    But their willingness to cooperate fully knowing the dangers came from the fear. And the fear came from watching the last five centuries of escalating violence. Very quickly after the Reformation the violence started to fall off. I agree that Calvin certainly would have loved to have used far more state terror than he did in Geneva. But very quickly the Bernese government acting on the spirit of the Reformation put an end to Calvin’s violence against his own people. Calvin today is known as a theologian and not an early Pol Pot because of the Bernese Government. There were Reformers who wanted to put an end to the murder, even though Calvin was not one of them.

    It is entirely possible that the Catholic church was just as murderous in intent in the 8th century as they were in the 15th. But in the 8th century they lacked the means. Their intent only mattered as European states got more powerful, and they danger of their doctrine would have have been far greater in the states of the 18th century than it was in the states of the 15th. Similarly because of the Reformation very quickly the Protestant churches lacked the means. And once they lacked the means, their opinion universally changed and they lacked the will. Moreover this change in opinion passed on to Catholics. The Reformers were successful in breaking 12 centuries of doctrine on this issue. They did Reform the church, the entire church / Christendom / the west, on this issue.

    The fact is that during that time nearly everybody, Protestant as well as Catholic, believed that the state had a duty to suppress and punish heresy. That’s because the polities of the time were all confessional states whose legitimacy and integrity was assumed to rest on what was taken to be theological orthodoxy.

    So? In the 4th century Catholicism decided to become a state religion and work to benefit the Roman Empire and later the ruins of the Empire that were acting as a quasi-empire. As those ruins began to reform into something more functional the Catholic Church egged the states on in their violent tendencies and castigated those leaders who did not show violent tendencies towards non-Catholics. The states you are talking about had formed under Catholicism. The West had had Catholicism as an exclusive or almost exclusive state religion for 12 centuries. The theology that mandated a confessional state was Catholic. The idea that the legitimacy of the state originated from Christ through his vicar was Catholic.

    Where do you think they got the idea from that it was a vital state interest to kill heretics, from the Martians? How is the fact that Catholicism had created a belief that a state church, a state church supported by widespread terror and a belief that this was a desirable form of governance a defense of Catholicism? If Catholicism had fought against this system that would be one thing. But it not only encouraged it from secular leaders, it demanded it.

    But the fact that most Christians between the time of Constantine and the Peace of Westphalia had not learned the needed lesson is not a difficulty unique to the Catholic Church.

    Yeah it kinda was. Islam was becoming more tolerant and diversity was thriving. Hinduism in the 8th century went through a similar process to the reformation. The ancient forms of Hinduism weren’t working for the people and they went through a peaceful reform where changes came some sects broke others combined. Islamic-Hindu hybrids emerged. Yoga became a common practice. And in all this time no one decided this was a good reason to set people on fire or depopulate sections of India.

    In Japan Zen Buddhism comes over reforms the system there were people advocating for it, people opposed to it and they resolved their issues by preaching and teaching not killing.

    I want to make my response to the non-sequitur part dependent on this history so I’d like argue the facts first and then get into the moral issue dependent on these facts.

  112. What’s relevant about Jason’s remark here is that, on his and my view, only a visible church that embodies divine and thus infallible authority is equipped to propose statements that are authentic expressions of divine revelation calling for the assent of faith that is “certain.” At CTC and elsewhere, I have presented arguments for that claim at great length, and Jason accepts those arguments in substance. But your critique of Jason’s stance ignores that entirely. Rather, you show how the natural man’s considerations on the sins of Catholic leaders would readily lead him to doubt the Church’s holiness, and thus her authenticity as “the” Church Christ founded. But nobody disputes that such a man would have doubts for such reasons. Jason and I certainly do not. And many people have such doubts. The more basic question needing consideration here is whether the sort of authority we accept is indeed necessary for the purpose I’ve indicated. If it is, and if we assume further that there is such a thing as divine revelation calling for the assent of faith, then the sort of difficulty you present need not and should not constitute a doubt.

    The issue here is not whether people have doubts, but rather that the seeker who eventually converts to catholicism is in the same epistemic boat, hence the Tu Quoque. There is such a thing as divine revelation, but in a strangely calvinistic fashion you insist that such a revelation deterministically calls for an assent of faith. I argue that the will of man and the possibility of apostasy can thwart the revelation’s purpose.

    That consideration can and does occur on two levels: before and after the assent of faith in the Church’s claims for herself are made. Before the assent, it is important that all the relevant evidence be taken into account. That includes all the MOCs: “…the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability.” But you don’t do that. You focus on the relative lack of “holiness” in many Church leaders, as if the holiness and miracles of the saints were irrelevant, and you fail to appreciate what ‘holy’ means in the formula ‘one, holy, catholic, and apostolic’.

    That’s not true. My last paragraph in my post to Jason addresses his point. The presence of miracles, the size of the church, it’s wealth and so on are not necessarily works of God. The latter features appear in many religions, including the LDS member who points to his manicurely church lawn as evidence of a special blessing/approval from/of God. You are redefining holiness in such as way that takes the holy out the word and leaves the ness (holy-mess?), and you expect this to be accepted as a motive of credibility. As I explained above, it is precisely the existence of the motives of incredulity which casts severe doubt on the claimed motives of credibility. MOI>MOC (?). The greatest miracle any church can offer its people is this: leadership that is holy and beyond reproach. (Prov 21:3). That is of infinite more worth than crying statues, stigmata and the like.

    In Catholic doctrine, to say that the Church is holy does not mean that her leaders aren’t sinners like the rest of her members. Rather, it is in her very nature the Body of Christ, which she is because the Bridegroom married her by pouring out his blood for her. As that Body, she is the “sacrament of salvation” for the world, i.e. the ordinary sign and instrument of God’s saving grace in the world, which are offered by the Faith, the sacraments, and the life of charity so evident in the works of mercy the Church does the world. Thus she is greater than and prior to the sum of her individual members, whose sins do not negate such holiness, but only obscure it in the eyes of the world. That’s what Pope Francis means by pointing out what we all agree on: that the sins and hypocrisy of Church leaders, when that is evident, makes much of the world unable or unwilling to appreciate the Church’s abiding holiness.

    Your first sentence here encapsulates the problem. Under such reasoning, the warning given by Christ in Matt 7:15-20 is rendered moot and unapplicable. I believe Erick Ybarra over at CTC has pointed you to this fact as well.

    Now after the assent of divine and Catholic faith is made, it is “certain.” Thus sin and other factors posing difficulties for the believer are only that: difficulties, not doubts. But the implicit premise of your critique renders such assent impossible. You proceed as though the decision to be Catholic is based entirely on a few passages of Scripture interpreted in a certain way, and proceed to cite others that can be interpreted to different effect. But proof-texting cannot, even in principle, suffice to settle these matters, and Jason knows that. The fundamental question, which he and I have addressed, is by what means can one distinguish authentic expressions of divine revelation, and thus objects for the assent of faith, from merely human interpretive opinions. Giving your interpretive opinions simply does not address that question. Protestantism cannot even permit itself to say that the means by which we identify the sources of divine revelation are anything but fallible, and therefore human opinions. Thus, in our view, it doesn’t address the root question.

    Re your first sentence: that’s not where my focus is, re the Tu Quoque. The focus is on what takes place prior to the assent of faith and where the brunt of the subjectivity occurs. Regarding proof texting, I cry foul again. How does the seeker know that Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail? He knows this (as Jason pointed out) by reading the New Testament. Was Jason therefore proof-texting? I don’t think he was. What I think he was doing however, was this: cherry-picking which verses to lean on and which ones to ignore. Hence, the you too. I provided a list of other considerations that a seeker would have to assess, revolving around church-state relations, praxis, polity, doctrinal deliberation and so on. It would not be proof texting to take all of the evidence into account, as comprehensively as one can.

    “Thus sin and other factors posing difficulties for the believer are only that: difficulties, not doubts. But the implicit premise of your critique renders such assent impossible.”

    The above’s a very important bit. It’s not that the assent is rendered impossible. The problem is that the evidence does not warrant that assent! So, what are the ramifications of this? I fully grant you that there must be a principled means by which doctrinal issues can be settled, that is why I am calling for a true ecumenical council which involves all parties at the table, not just the victors of history presupposing their own superiority. But that there needs to be that divine authority does not necessitate that the authority be there right now. It is also possible, as I explained to Jason, that the church is going through the wilderness, not through the fault of an impotent God, but rather due to the deliberate rebellion of its leaders.

    Accordingly, neither have you. The question s what sort of authority is necessary for making the assent of faith. Until you address that question on the appropriate level, your critique merely begs the question.

    The catholic is in the same epistemic boat as the protestant and thus subject to the Tu Quoque. What is truly question begging is why a seeker would choose to uphold the so-called motives of credibility over the motives of incredulity prior to his assent of faith.

    Shalom,
    SS.

  113. SS,
    I woulds love to interaction a bit more with your thoughts throughout here, I hope to be able to . Just not able to right now.
    Just to give you some thoughts. I perceive you to have a gifted love of the Truth and love ignited for others by the Word of life. These only come from God, the Father of lights. I want to commend you to remain stead fast in prayer and hold to the conviction you have and only press forward in the Truth. God will bless you and give all the strength and guidance you need to remain faithful and free. God will make us one in Him who loved to the point of death. May we follow His way, the way of the cross. God did not remove my conviction while coming into the Church out of my Reform/Protestant background. He fulfilled them. I believe unity of the faithful is fought for by the Spirit of God both in the percivable visible unity and outside of it. Both of those wars work only in accord with the love of Truth.
    Peace,
    Mike

  114. +JMJ+

    Michael Liccione wrote:
    .
    Now after the assent of divine and Catholic faith is made, it is “certain.”

    SS wrote:
    .
    Re your first sentence: that’s not where my focus is, re the Tu Quoque. The focus is on what takes place prior to the assent of faith and where the brunt of the subjectivity occurs.

    As I keep saying… “Sacramentalism to the rescue!”

    Before Sacramental Initiation, Natural Man has no ability to make an assent of Supernatural (Divine and Catholic) Faith. He is only able to make an assent of Natural Faith. Sacramentalism initiates him into Supernature. Before this Initiation, he is not Christian. He has no (Divine) Faith-Claim upon, and cannot appropriate or presuppose, Christ and His Revelation. He is an outsider looking in.

    And that’s where I think you are missing the thrust of the Catholic argument. AFAICT, you are presupposing that there is a Christic Reality which exists prior to entering the Church. Presuppose that a man is already a Christian before he picks a church, rather than the Catholic view that it is The Church which makes him a Christian. Presuppose that one “knows Christ” with some sort of Supernatural, ontological connection before he even considers “joining a Church”. Presuppose that one already possesses (has some Divine Faith-Claim upon) Christ.

  115. want to commend you to remain stead fast in prayer and hold to the conviction you have and only press forward in the Truth

    Mike, pray for me, for my failures to be transcended by the love of Christ as I press on. I am tempted right now to do as some have said, to abandon all efforts and give up on the ministry. But if faith is the substance of things hoped for, I must continue to hope, that He is just and the justifier of our souls.

    Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

  116. Presuppose that a man is already a Christian before he picks a church

    No, in fact I presuppose the opposite.

  117. SS,
    Will do. There’s one in need of prayer and mercy over here too.
    Lord have mercy on us both. Baptized into His death already… might as well live it. ead to the world alive to Christ.
    Peace Bro,
    Mike

  118. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    Presuppose that a man is already a Christian before he picks a church

    SS wrote:
    .
    No, in fact I presuppose the opposite.

    You believe that the Messianic Jews actually bestowed Regeneration upon you? If so, that’s interesting, since it would put you, at least categorically, in the same realm as Catholic ecclesiology.

  119. SS,
    I presuppose that as well. It seem no one would be able to get around the fact that the Word which is used to convict the world sin and bring the world to repentance is carried by the faithful of Gods people. Who else would have wanted it? Heck i wish at times I could ignore it.
    I don’t know Wosbald, but I don’t think that is what he is trying to say.
    Wosbald?

  120. Sorry, I most defiantly meant to say “ignore Him.” instead of “ignore it.”

  121. You believe that the Messianic Jews actually bestowed Regeneration upon you? If so, that’s interesting, since it would put you, at least categorically, in the same realm as Catholic ecclesiology.

    No, that’s not what I believe. I do however believe that the refusal of the CC over the centuries to recognize Jewish believers in Christ and to embrace them as fully accepted of God in their own right (cf. Acts 21) is yet another motive of incredulity that a seeker has to contend with.

  122. Couple points of clarification (mainly in response to Robert, but not exclusively).

    You miss my entire point when you say things like (and this is a paraphrase, not a direct quote), “Jason thinks a Magisterium will eliminate divisions and disagreements, but the CC has more of those than Protestantism has.”

    Nowhere have I claimed that. My point is that (as Benjamin has said) an infallible Magisterium is a necessary condition for being able to resolve ecclesiastical disputes about doctrine in a way that is principled rather than arbitrary. In the same way that if someone were to ask Jesus whether he knew the hour of his return and got a negative answer (thus having his question answered definitively), so a Catholic can ask his pastor whether Jesus is consubstantial with the Father or not, and he can get a definitive answer. And the reason that answer is definitive is not because it is a different answer than would be given in a Protestant church. The reason it is definitive is that, according to the Catholic paradigm, the homoousios thing was formulated in one of those contexts when the Spirit protects the Church from teaching heresy. For the Protestant, homoousios is true because it comports with a person’s fallible interpretation of Scripture, and/or because it emerged from one of the councils that he arbitrarily designates as having taught fallibly-but-inerrantly. I trust you can see the difference in paradigms, and the practical significance of it.

    Moreover, the definitive nature of the Catholic answer to whether Jesus is consubstantial with the Father does not guarantee that the person hearing it will agree or submit. Your entire objection to me above assumes that I think the opposite, so the objection is completely species since it attributes to me something I don’t believe and have never claimed.

    But all of this aside, this thread is not about me, or about Catholics, at all. It is about whether or not, given the confessional response to the Leithart verdict, there is a meaningful and practical difference between Sola and Solo. So far (as usual), the responses do little besides avoiding the challenge and instead attacking the medieval papacy and various and sundry other problems with Rome.

    Let’s get back on track please.

  123. @Jason

    But all of this aside, this thread is not about me, or about Catholics, at all. It is about whether or not, given the confessional response to the Leithart verdict, there is a meaningful and practical difference between Sola and Solo

    And I did give you a practical difference. It is a difference of degree, a difference of tone. You may not agree but you were fairly comfortable with the idea that the church fell into error and thus preached a doctrine of justification that was not faithful to scripture. Let’s call that doctrine “PCA successionism”. We started talking about Baptist successionism a little here. You were a bit thrown by the idea of the mainstream church as a Satanic organization whose purpose was to counterfeit Christianity and thus suppress the gospel. The difference between that and what PCA successionism is one of degree.

    And the difference between Baptist successionism and restorationist Christianity is also one of degree. Was the gospel suppressed by the Catholic church or totally lost as a result of the church? There is a restorationist book about the 2 generations after Jesus called, “When the Lights Went Out”. This book argues that the apocryphal visions of the early apostles about the destruction of the early church happened: that the Catholic church came to being after apostolic Christianity was dead and tried and reassemble the pieces of that dead faith incorrectly. Both the PCA, the Baptists and Restorations agree that some level of research / prophecy / restoration is required to restore what was lost. But there is a huge difference in the degree of their beliefs in how much was lost. And that difference has practical implications.

    Differences of degree matter. If you are looking to address solo vs. sola that’s the difference. It is quantitative not a qualitative difference.

  124. SS:

    You write:

    The issue here is not whether people have doubts, but rather that the seeker who eventually converts to catholicism is in the same epistemic boat, hence the Tu Quoque. There is such a thing as divine revelation, but in a strangely calvinistic fashion you insist that such a revelation deterministically calls for an assent of faith. I argue that the will of man and the possibility of apostasy can thwart the revelation’s purpose.

    I’ll get to the TQ in due course, but I note here that you have once again misunderstood the Catholic conception of the nature of faith. If you had taken the trouble to follow up my quotations from the CCC by diving into the section from which they are drawn–which you could easily do here–you would have found the following:

    160 To be human, “man’s response to God by faith must be free, and. . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.”39 “God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. . . This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.”40 Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. “For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom. . . grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to himself.”41

    The certainty of faith, of which the CCC speaks a few paragraphs before that, derives not from any intellectual compulsion based on demonstrative reasoning, and still less from irresistible grace, but from the light of Truth itself encountered personally in the embodiments of divine authority. What God reveals is knowledge for God, and for the blessed in the next life, who see him; but for us who “see in a glass darkly,” faith is based on a free choice to trust the authority we encounter and thus believe what it proposes. Thus the certainty of faith does not derive from our reasons for making the assent. It derives from the grace to which we open ourselves after we make the assent by freely cooperating with prevenient grace.

    I had written that the MOCs include “….the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability,” and that you had not taken due account of those, especially what the Church means by her “holiness.” To that, you reply:

    That’s not true. My last paragraph in my post to Jason addresses his point. The presence of miracles, the size of the church, it’s wealth and so on are not necessarily works of God. The latter features appear in many religions…it is precisely the existence of the motives of incredulity which casts severe doubt on the claimed motives of credibility. MOI>MOC (?). The greatest miracle any church can offer its people is this: leadership that is holy and beyond reproach. (Prov 21:3). That is of infinite more worth than crying statues, stigmata and the like.

    Actually, you’re still doing what I criticized: misunderstanding what you cite and omitting much that is relevant. First, you construe the CCC’s references to the “growth,” “fruitfulness and stability” of the Church as meaning her “size” and “wealth.” But that is not what is meant. The numbers and wealth of Catholics are not what’s important at any given time, though they can either help or hurt, depending on the use she makes of them. There have been times when and place where the Church is small and/or poor; there still are; I expect she will become smaller and poorer overall in the decades ahead; and at the Second Coming, I expect she will be quite small and poor indeed. The qualities the CCC cited are the Church’s taking root almost everywhere, her manifold good works, and her general persistence over time. Those facts strike me as miraculous given precisely the sinfulness and/or ignorance of many of her members and leaders. Second, you grossly understate the sort of miracles the CCC cites. We’re not just talking about “crying statues,” which few have seen and nobody is required to credit, or just about stigmata, which are authentic but very rare. We are talking about miracles of healing, of deliverance, of publicly manifest apparitions, of the reading of souls, of raising the dead, and many other sorts of miracles. Since you don’t see the Church from the inside, I understand why you don’t see or credit such things. But I do criticize your failure even to acknowledge what Catholics as such take for granted.

    To such errors, you add a gratuitous assumption: “The greatest miracle the church can offer its people is leadership that is holy and beyond reproach.” Well, the Catholic Church has sometimes enjoyed such leadership, even as I grant that often she has not. But even when I was not Catholic, I was never intellectually troubled by bad priests, bishops, and popes. Indeed, my choice to be Catholic has never depended on my opinion of the clergy, who in my experience are no holier than regular lay churchgoers, and in some individual cases less holy than some people who don’t attend church much if at all. I tend to think more like Cardinal Consalvi, Pope Pius VI’s secretary of state. When told that Napoleon was threatening to destroy the Church, Consalvi replied: “We bishops have been trying to do that for centuries. He cannot succeed where we have failed.” The miracle is precisely that they have failed, and as a Catholic I believe they always will; whereas the miracle you require is not something any church can ever count on. If and when it happens, wonderful; but often, it won’t. That’s just life in this vale of tears.

    Accordingly, I had written:

    In Catholic doctrine, to say that the Church is holy does not mean that her leaders aren’t sinners like the rest of her members. Rather, it is in her very nature the Body of Christ, which she is because the Bridegroom married her by pouring out his blood for her. As that Body, she is the “sacrament of salvation” for the world, i.e. the ordinary sign and instrument of God’s saving grace in the world, which are offered by the Faith, the sacraments, and the life of charity so evident in the works of mercy the Church does the world.

    To that, you reply:

    Your first sentence here encapsulates the problem. Under such reasoning, the warning given by Christ in Matt 7:15-20 is rendered moot and unapplicable. I believe Erick Ybarra over at CTC has pointed you to this fact as well.

    Catholic ecclesiology by no means renders Matt 7:15-20 “moot and inapplicable.” The Church has been applying that passage to heretics, charlatans, and other malefactors within her ranks since her very first generation–including, in a good many cases, to bishops. It applies to herself, in her very constitution, only if the bad consistently outweighs the good. I don’t think it has, and many of us find much evidence to the contrary.

    I had written: “Now after the assent of divine and Catholic faith is made, it is “certain.” To that, you reply: “…that’s not where my focus is, re the Tu Quoque. The focus is on what takes place prior to the assent of faith and where the brunt of the subjectivity occurs.” I note that you have essentially robbed the TQ objection of its intended force, which is that the sort of assent one renders to the Catholic Church’s claims for herself is on an epistemic par with the sort of assent the Protestant renders to whatever he happens to assent to. Below I shall rebut that claim; but for now, note that nobody denies that, prior to the assent of faith, the sort of reasoning that might lead one to become Catholic is on a certain epistemic par with the sort of reasoning that might lead one to become Protestant. On the basis of the evidence one takes into account, one reaches conclusions that are not demonstrative, but are seen as sufficiently probable to warrant assent. The disagreement we are having so far is largely about the content and scope of the evidence to be taken into account. But I do not expect to persuade you to become Catholic on the basis of the evidence that I, along with the CCC, consider relevant. All I ask is that you fully acknowledge and take account of the evidence we do, and why we interpret it as we do. As yet, you are far from doing that.

    To that, your reply apparently is:

    Regarding proof texting, I cry foul again. How does the seeker know that Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail? He knows this (as Jason pointed out) by reading the New Testament. Was Jason therefore proof-texting? I don’t think he was. What I think he was doing however, was this: cherry-picking which verses to lean on and which ones to ignore. Hence, the you too. I provided a list of other considerations that a seeker would have to assess, revolving around church-state relations, praxis, polity, doctrinal deliberation and so on. It would not be proof texting to take all of the evidence into account, as comprehensively as one can.

    The mere fact that you ask how the seeker “knows” already indicates that you continue to misunderstand the nature of faith. For us who have neither experienced the Christ-event directly nor yet attained heaven, faith is not knowledge but trust in authority. What Jason has done on this site and elsewhere is collate the evidence from the Bible and the early Church as a whole, and found that the Catholic intepretive paradigm (CIP) makes better overall sense of that dataset than the Protestant IP he had once accepted; on that basis, he concluded that trusting the Catholic Church as a normative embodiment of divine authority is warranted. It is revealing, on the other hand, that a good deal of the “evidence” you claim above to take account of has little to do with that; it is primarily political in nature. Of course that evinces disagreement about what the relevant dataset is; but the question what the relevant dataset is can only be addressed by comparing IPs as such, since IPs are what we bring to the data, thus determining the range of relevant data and how they are to be interpreted. And the way to compare theological IPs as such is to inquire about how well they respectively achieve the purpose of such IPs, which is to supply a principled means of distinguishing authentic expressions of divine revelation from merely human interpretive opinions. On that score, I have long argued, the CIP wins hands down.

    An example of the dialectical move I’m talking about it my most recent reply to Erick Ybarra over at CTC:

    Were I to answer your hypothetical questions, I could do so only in terms of Catholic ecclesiology. As a matter of fact, your position is similar to that of the 4th-and-5th century Donatists, and St. Augustine rebutted them at some length in terms of Catholic ecclesiology. But my answering similarly in this context would only beg the question. For the basic question at issue is which IP, the CIP or the CPIP, is the more reasonable, and that question must be settled before we decide which ecclesiology, the Catholic or yours, is the truth in light of which the other is to be judged. And if your argument is that the CIP is unreasonable because it isn’t like the Donatists’, you too would simply be begging the question. Accordingly, I ask you to reconsider the aforesaid basic question before we proceed to particular ecclesiological questions.

    Interested readers may follow my conversation with Erick above that comment.

    Reacting to my main argument for the CIP, you write:

    I fully grant you that there must be a principled means by which doctrinal issues can be settled, that is why I am calling for a true ecumenical council which involves all parties at the table, not just the victors of history presupposing their own superiority. But that there needs to be that divine authority does not necessitate that the authority be there right now. It is also possible, as I explained to Jason, that the church is going through the wilderness, not through the fault of an impotent God, but rather due to the deliberate rebellion of its leaders.

    That oscillates between naïveté and cynicism. It is naïve to suppose that a “true ecumenical council” of the sort you have in mind would resolve anything. For self-styled Christians are not agreed on the question by what authority the decisions of such a gathering would bind Christians, or even on who counts as a Christian. Presumably we agree that truth is not determined by majority vote, and in any case we would not agree on whose vote otherwise counts for what, or why. But your stance is also cynical because it supposes either that “the true Church” does not already and visibly exist or that, if she does, she is in a “wilderness” that somehow veils her identity. Whatever she is, the Church Militant is always a pilgrim Church, and thus is always making her way through the wilderness of the world, the flesh, and the devil. But that’s no reason to suppose she isn’t the Church, and identifiably so, already.

    You conclude:

    The catholic is in the same epistemic boat as the protestant and thus subject to the Tu Quoque. What is truly question begging is why a seeker would choose to uphold the so-called motives of credibility over the motives of incredulity prior to his assent of faith.

    For the reason I’ve already given above, that fails to characterize what the TQ objection is really about. Nobody denies that, prior to the assent of faith, whatever reasons one might have for making it are not rationally necessitating, but at most yield moral certainty that leaves room for reasonable doubt. That holds as much for the Catholic as for the Protestant. The thrust of the TQ, however, is that neither is there any difference between them in the nature of the assent either goes on to make. Yet that conclusion does not follow from what I’ve conceded, nor is it even true. As you have already more-or-less acknowledged, for the Catholic as such, the assent of faith is unconditional, made on an authority that claims to be infallible by divine gift when proposing something for his assent. Thus his assent, once made, is as certain as its object. The Protestant as such, however, denies that anybody since the Apostles teaches infallibly with divine authority. Hence, even his belief that the Apostles so taught, along with his other theological beliefs, merit only the provisional assent of opinion, pending further evidence and argument. Hence the TQ as it was really posed, rather than your misunderstanding of it, fails.

    Best,
    Mike

  125. Mikel–

    First, let me assure you, I was not trying to be flippant or shocking or uncharitable.

    There is a reported 25% of the U.S. population identified as Evangelical (about the same percentage as Catholics), but any committed Evangelical will tell you that they suspect the number of genuine, practicing Evangelicals to be far closer to 10% or even 5%.

    My 10% figure (for confessionally-committed Catholics) was a shot in the dark. Nobody but nobody knows. But here are some things that went into my observation:

    1. Experientially, I have not found that even 1 in 10 of the Catholics I have met are true to their faith. My general impression of Catholics is pretty dismal. At ten percent, I was being quite generous. (And I do have opportunity: the town I live in is over 90% Catholic.)

    2. Ultra-traditionalist Catholics (SSPX, FSSP, Opus Dei, etc.) weigh in at only 1/2 of 1% of Catholics. (On the other hand, those Catholics attending Latin Mass here in America may approach 10%.)

    3. Approximately 10% of Catholic colleges and universities are compliant with “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” (between 20 and 30 out of 223). And only one of these (Catholic University of America) is a major institution. So probably far less than 10% of matriculating students attend a confessional Catholic school. (By the way, nearly 90% of Catholic college students emerge from their education as non-practicing Catholics.)

    4. Polls conducted of Catholic faith and practice reveal the following numbers:

    a. Belief in Transubstantiation………………………from 25 to 30%.
    b. Belief in abstaining from Birth Control……………………….18%.
    c. Belief in papal infallibility……………………………………….37%.
    d. Belief in the need to accept papal authority………………….30%.
    e. Belief that it is essential to be Catholic…………………………12%.
    f. Belief in clerical celibacy…………………………………………21%.
    g. Weekly attendance at Mass………………………………………15%.
    h. Holding to a pro-life position…………………………………….40%.
    i. Holding to a “seamless garment” position……………………..29%.
    j. Opposition to same-sex marriage……………………………….35%.

    I know that some of these numbers are a third or even more of all Catholics. Experience has taught me not to trust such numbers. People have “rose-colored” glasses when it comes to self-reporting their own behaviors and beliefs. (For example, close to two thirds of Catholics believe in Purgatory, but only one sixth think they’ll end up spending any time there.)

    In the end it will depend on what standard we use, what polls we trust, etc. My figure may be a bit low or slightly high, but it is most likely fairly accurate. (And even if the truth is in the thirty percent range, it hardly negates my point.)

    Hope that helps.

    P.S. For those who don’t know, a “seamless garment” is the official “consistent” pro-life stance of the Catholic Church, incorporating opposition to capital punishment along with opposition to abortion and euthanasia. It is a stance with which I firmly concur.

  126. Michael L,
    Long post, but well walked through. Blessing to you.
    Thanks, Mike

  127. Dear Eric,

    Thank you for the considerable statistics that you provide in the post above. Could you please let me know your source? I’d like to know whether it’s all anecdotal, or whether you’ve referred to a particular research group for this information.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul Weinhold

  128. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    You believe that the Messianic Jews actually bestowed Regeneration upon you? If so, that’s interesting, since it would put you, at least categorically, in the same realm as Catholic ecclesiology.

    SS wrote:
    .
    No, that’s not what I believe.

    Okay. To be clear, when I said… “AFAICT, you are presupposing that there is a Christic Reality which exists prior to entering the Church. Presuppose that a man is already a Christian before he picks a church, rather than the Catholic view that it is The Church which makes him a Christian.”… I meant ontologically prior (i.e. that there is a Christic Reality which is “more fundamental” than the Church), not necessarily chronologically prior.

    You’ve generally seemed reticent to share details like your ecclesiology. And that’s fine, because my main purpose is to explicate the importance of Sacramentalism in the Catholic milieu and how it addresses the issues raised.

  129. The certainty of faith, of which the CCC speaks a few paragraphs before that, derives not from any intellectual compulsion based on demonstrative reasoning, and still less from irresistible grace, but from the light of Truth itself encountered personally in the embodiments of divine authority. What God reveals is knowledge for God, and for the blessed in the next life, who see him; but for us who “see in a glass darkly,” faith is based on a free choice to trust the authority we encounter and thus believe what it proposes. Thus the certainty of faith does not derive from our reasons for making the assent. It derives from the grace to which we open ourselves after we make the assent by freely cooperating with prevenient grace.

    The certainty of faith does not need to derive from your motives of credibility for there to be an intrinsic link between the two. If it weren’t for the latter, in which the seeker subjectively assesses the data, the former would not exist. This is in keeping with the anthropology of the CC which states that the Imago Dei has not been erased in man but rather effaced, such that the fear of the Lord may lead such a seeker to investigate the facts.

    Actually, you’re still doing what I criticized: misunderstanding what you cite and omitting much that is relevant. First, you construe the CCC’s references to the “growth,” “fruitfulness and stability” of the Church as meaning her “size” and “wealth.” But that is not what is meant. The numbers and wealth of Catholics are not what’s important at any given time, though they can either help or hurt, depending on the use she makes of them. There have been times when and place where the Church is small and/or poor; there still are; I expect she will become smaller and poorer overall in the decades ahead; and at the Second Coming, I expect she will be quite small and poor indeed. The qualities the CCC cited are the Church’s taking root almost everywhere, her manifold good works, and her general persistence over time. Those facts strike me as miraculous given precisely the sinfulness and/or ignorance of many of her members and leaders. Second, you grossly understate the sort of miracles the CCC cites. We’re not just talking about “crying statues,” which few have seen and nobody is required to credit, or just about stigmata, which are authentic but very rare. We are talking about miracles of healing, of deliverance, of publicly manifest apparitions, of the reading of souls, of raising the dead, and many other sorts of miracles. Since you don’t see the Church from the inside, I understand why you don’t see or credit such things. But I do criticize your failure even to acknowledge what Catholics as such take for granted.

    Miracles of healing and deliverance are by no means common to the CC. Neither are manifest apparitions and raising of the dead (Smith Wigglesworth anyone?). That is why I argued that a seeker operating with a glimmer of light in his soul should not be swayed by the latter but place them in the larger context of the motives of incredulity.

    To such errors, you add a gratuitous assumption: “The greatest miracle the church can offer its people is leadership that is holy and beyond reproach.” Well, the Catholic Church has sometimes enjoyed such leadership, even as I grant that often she has not. But even when I was not Catholic, I was never intellectually troubled by bad priests, bishops, and popes. Indeed, my choice to be Catholic has never depended on my opinion of the clergy, who in my experience are no holier than regular lay churchgoers, and in some individual cases less holy than some people who don’t attend church much if at all. I tend to think more like Cardinal Consalvi, Pope Pius VI’s secretary of state. When told that Napoleon was threatening to destroy the Church, Consalvi replied: “We bishops have been trying to do that for centuries. He cannot succeed where we have failed.” The miracle is precisely that they have failed, and as a Catholic I believe they always will; whereas the miracle you require is not something any church can ever count on. If and when it happens, wonderful; but often, it won’t. That’s just life in this vale of tears.

    To the seeker perusing centuries and centuries of data (no small sample size….) is not trivial. I understand that you may not be swayed by such evidence, but it presents a stumbling block to many. 1 Tim 3 states unequivocally that our leaders should be blameless/beyond reproach. That you do not expect this of yours is your right, but to the one who is looking for evidence of continuity between the NT and what they see today, this is a motive of incredulity.

    Catholic ecclesiology by no means renders Matt 7:15-20 “moot and inapplicable.” The Church has been applying that passage to heretics, charlatans, and other malefactors within her ranks since her very first generation–including, in a good many cases, to bishops. It applies to herself, in her very constitution, only if the bad consistently outweighs the good. I don’t think it has, and many of us find much evidence to the contrary

    The seeker carefully parsing history, with no bias at all, does not see what you describe. He sees chaos and immorality in the ranks going up to the highest levels, as a pattern. That is the rule, not the exceptions you cite. Then there are all the other MOI which you did not mention at all in your response.

    had written: “Now after the assent of divine and Catholic faith is made, it is “certain.” To that, you reply: “…that’s not where my focus is, re the Tu Quoque. The focus is on what takes place prior to the assent of faith and where the brunt of the subjectivity occurs.” I note that you have essentially robbed the TQ objection of its intended force, which is that the sort of assent one renders to the Catholic Church’s claims for herself is on an epistemic par with the sort of assent the Protestant renders to whatever he happens to assent to. Below I shall rebut that claim; but for now, note that nobody denies that, prior to the assent of faith, the sort of reasoning that might lead one to become Catholic is on a certain epistemic par with the sort of reasoning that might lead one to become Protestant. On the basis of the evidence one takes into account, one reaches conclusions that are not demonstrative, but are seen as sufficiently probable to warrant assent. The disagreement we are having so far is largely about the content and scope of the evidence to be taken into account. But I do not expect to persuade you to become Catholic on the basis of the evidence that I, along with the CCC, consider relevant. All I ask is that you fully acknowledge and take account of the evidence we do, and why we interpret it as we do. As yet, you are far from doing that

    See bolded above. That’s precisely what I call into question: the fact that MOI > MOC leads one to believe that one does not have sufficient probability for an assent of faith. You ask me to ‘see the data as you do’, but I don’t. That’s the whole point of the disagreement. You simply cannot have an assent of faith without first passing the test of reasonable evidence. Consider Christ, did He not first turn water into wine to reveal more of His true identity to the disciples? The wine was reasonable evidence to the disciples that they were in the company of the Messiah. And there was more evidence provided to them. They never saw Jesus getting drunk and commiting immorality. Had they, they would have walked away and disbelieved.

    The mere fact that you ask how the seeker “knows” already indicates that you continue to misunderstand the nature of faith. For us who have neither experienced the Christ-event directly nor yet attained heaven, faith is not knowledge but trust in authority….

    No I understand the nature of faith fully. Faith derives from the Hebrew word aman, which carries with it the connotation of trusting, loyalty, steadfastness, placing one’s trust in, reliability. I was merely pointing to the fact that when a seeker opens his Bible, before God regenerates His heart through baptism, he can read of the gates of hell not prevailing and he can read of Christ warning His disciples against false teachers and their fruit. This collating of the evidence I have previously mentioned should also involve a look at the earliest post apostolic data in the writing of the Apostolic Fathers as the earliest witnesses. And as I have argued before, what does one find? Much that qualifies as MOI: a virtual silence on Mary veneration and icons, no mention of Peter as Pope, no mention of indulgences and penance, no mention of a willingness to align with the state but in fact the opposite.

    That oscillates between naïveté and cynicism. It is naïve to suppose that a “true ecumenical council” of the sort you have in mind would resolve anything. For self-styled Christians are not agreed on the question by what authority the decisions of such a gathering would bind Christians, or even on who counts as a Christian. Presumably we agree that truth is not determined by majority vote, and in any case we would not agree on whose vote otherwise counts for what, or why. But your stance is also cynical because it supposes either that “the true Church” does not already and visibly exist or that, if she does, she is in a “wilderness” that somehow veils her identity. Whatever she is, the Church Militant is always a pilgrim Church, and thus is always making her way through the wilderness of the world, the flesh, and the devil. But that’s no reason to suppose she isn’t the Church, and identifiably so, already.

    There’s nothing naive about it. If I believe that God raised Christ from the dead, I can certainly believe that He can help us to repent and turn back to Him and seek unity by way of a council. If such does not take place, it will not be due to naivete in proposing one, but because of the hardness and pride of the heart of man. May I note Jewish believers of different stripes have already begin this process and have met with the goal of having Jerusalem council II. Yes, I know folly to the CC and Protestant, but I’m just reporting the facts. The true church does exist, but she is in need of deep repentance, for long is the list of grievances against her. Same with Israel, she was chosen to represent God and be a light to the world, but she failed in that mission. So has the church failed over the centuries in the mission to be a true light to the world and it’s even more egregious this time, because of the Incarnation.

    For the reason I’ve already given above, that fails to characterize what the TQ objection is really about. Nobody denies that, prior to the assent of faith, whatever reasons one might have for making it are not rationally necessitating, but at most yield moral certainty that leaves room for reasonable doubt. That holds as much for the Catholic as for the Protestant. The thrust of the TQ, however, is that neither is there any difference between them in the nature of the assent either goes on to make. Yet that conclusion does not follow from what I’ve conceded, nor is it even true. As you have already more-or-less acknowledged, for the Catholic as such, the assent of faith is unconditional, made on an authority that claims to be infallible by divine gift when proposing something for his assent. Thus his assent, once made, is as certain as its object. The Protestant as such, however, denies that anybody since the Apostles teaches infallibly with divine authority. Hence, even his belief that the Apostles so taught, along with his other theological beliefs, merit only the provisional assent of opinion, pending further evidence and argument. Hence the TQ as it was really posed, rather than your misunderstanding of it, fails.

    I do not deny that there is a need for a divine authority, only that it is not located in the CC (hence the need for a council). Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, the assent of faith cannot take place without the first preliminary search involving the motives of credibility and incredulity. It is precisely the nature of the object that is supposed to be assented to, the nature of that divine authority, that is measured and observed prior to the assent of faith. And if the evidence cannot bring one to reasonably expect that object to the Catholic church, while recognizing that in theory, there should be a divinely appointed authority (as we can see in Acts 15, where James not Peter issues the final decision by virtue of the authority he had), then the catholic is as subjective as the protestant in his analysis.

    Shalom.
    SS.

  130. I adduce Ray Stamper’s own questions on the matter as further evidence for my argument:

    http://thomistica.net/news/2011/10/18/aquinas-on-the-epistemology-of-authority.html

    “Thank you for this article. Though tangentially related to your showing that Aquinas holds the argument from authority, even outside the ambit of sacred doctrine, in higher esteem than some scholars recognize; I cannot help notice how crucial is the question of the precise role played by “motives of credibility” in understanding Aquinas’ overall epistemic stance with regard to the claim that sacred doctrine is scientia. He writes:

    “Nor does this take away from the dignity of this doctrine, for although the argument from authority based on human reason is the weakest, yet the argument from authority based on divine revelation is the strongest”

    But, of course, this raises the question concerning how one knows that some authority making a revelatory claim (specifically some authority claiming to be the proximate/instrumental possessor or communicator of a revelation from God) is, in fact, an instrument of God’s revelatory activity. This, in turn, seems to depend upon the persuasive or argumentative force of so-called “motives of credibility” , which are designed (presumably by God), to validate the claims and message of God’s revelatory (human) instrumental authorities. Thus, it seems that the bridge which joins that which can be known through reason alone and that which can be know through revelation (the bridge which justifies the designation of the study of sacred doctrine as scientia), crucially depends upon the epistemic role of “motives of credibility”. Are we to maintain that the historical motives of credibility offered on behalf of Christ, the apostles and the Church, as true instruments (authorities) of divine revelation, are sufficiently persuasive to human reason so as to demand rational assent to the relevant authority claims?

    Once rational assent to some revelatory authority claim is given (presumably based on motives of credibility open to human reason), I can understand Aquinas’ position concerning the strength of the argument from authority as it pertains to sacred doctrine (for, by definition, articles of faith proper reveal content unavailable to unaided reason). In like manner, after one knows that a revelatory claim is true, it is clear that sacred doctrine could be described as scientia. But again, the crucial link in the argument seems to be the rational force of the arguments or data related to the “motives of credibility” which lend “credibility” to revelatory authority claims in the first place. I am unclear as to the level of rational certainty which a Catholic must attach to such motives in order to maintain the bridge which supports sacred doctrine as scientia. Is it a moral certainty to the effect that the motives of credibility are open to unaided human reason and are rationally persuasive (demonstrative?) such that one’s rejection of revelatory authority claims is culpbale? Or does Aquinas envision a much stronger certainty or persuasive force attached to such motives of credibility? ”

    Hence the debate on the probative force of the MOC between Bryan Ortiz, yourself and Bryan

    Posts #472 to 479 at:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/mathisons-reply-to-cross-and-judisch-a-largely-philosophical-critique/#comment-49972

  131. CD-HOST:

    When I encounter such claims as that the medieval Catholic Church was a “murder machine” run by “psychopaths”; that Islam was more “tolerant” and “diverse” than Catholicism; and that the eventual cessation of religious warfare in 17th-century Western Europe was due more to Protestantism than to Catholicism–when, in reality, it was mostly due to exhaustion and revulsion on all sides–I know that what I’m being presented with is not serious historical inquiry but propaganda, ignorance, and hatred. I have no interest in debating that. Cooler heads would spend their time far better consulting the fine, serious historians who give a balanced picture of such matters. That’s what I did when I attended a major secular university, where I also studied Scripture and comparative religion with scholars who were non-Catholics and, in some cases, complete unbelievers.

    I am, however, interested in addressing your theological points. The sole such point you make in your last comment to me is this:

    The theology that mandated a confessional state was Catholic. The idea that the legitimacy of the state originated from Christ through his vicar was Catholic.

    The first Catholic “confessional state” was the Roman Empire in the 4th century. If your first sentence were true, we would either see the evidence for its truth explicitly in the theological sources between the apostolic church and the Council of Nicaea, or at least find things in those sources which would justify claiming that the Church convinced emperors Constantine and Theodosius that they were morally obligated to make Catholicism the state religion as they did. But of course, there is no such evidence. Hence your first sentence is false.

    What about your second? After the fall of the Western Roman Empire–I’m leaving aside Byzantine caesaro-papism, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish–the papacy became, by default, the main source of political legitimacy in the West. Given the chaos left in the Empire’s wake, that was all but inevitable. That in turn led gradually to the rise of confessional states on the ruins of the old empire, the first major example of which was Charlemagne’s “Holy Roman Empire”–which, as a wag once pointed out, was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. There’s nothing in Catholic dogma, however, from which it follows that confessional states are necessarily the best way to ensure public morality or the integrity of the Faith. The belief that they are was natural, given how society developed in Western Europe between the 4th and the 15th centuries; our belief that they are not is also natural, given what happened after that. It is indeed possible for either belief to be true, depending on historical circumstances. But that is not a de fide issue; it is a matter of prudential judgment and pastoral exigencies, about which anybody, including church leaders, can err. Thus, I believe the 19th-century popes were wrong to continue insisting that confessional states were necessary. They were simply behind the times, as the times soon showed. But that acknowledgement is fully compatible with Catholic orthodoxy, as Vatican II showed.

    Best,
    Mike

  132. SS:

    I have long been quite explicit about the epistemic weight I believe the MOCs can have in principle, whatever their scope and content may be. I have indeed been explicit about it in this thread. I don’t think my position is any different in substance from that of the Magisterium; if turns out to be, I will be happy to stand corrected. But that is not our real disagreement in any case. Our real disagreement is about the scope and content of the MOCs themselves, and about how they stack up against what you regard as the MOIs. About that, I have two points to make.

    First, I believe that the epistemic weight of some of the MOCs can only be duly appreciated from within the true Faith. For instance, Jesus and the Apostles taught that he was the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, including and especially the prophecies. Most Jews of the time didn’t see it that way, and most still don’t, because the Christian position could be not logically inferred just from the texts, and many Jews had been deceived before by messianic pretensions. It could only be seen that way only by those who had accepted Jesus’ authority as divine, either directly or through the Apostles. The Apostles so accepted it because they had experienced it directly and seen it confirmed through his miracles, of which the supreme was the Resurrection. That’s what prepared them to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as they waited apprehensively in prayer. But even getting miracles often required faith, as Jesus himself made plain during his earthly ministry.

    Second, much the same goes quite generally for making the assent of faith for reasons. Unless one has at least incipient faith, one is unlikely to see much that the MOCs contain as MOCs, and thus as reasons for making the assent of faith. To a certain extent, people see what they want to see, and they don’t see what their prejudices or other commitments prevent them from seeing. I am reminded of the journalist Emile Zola, who was present at the Fatima “miracle of the sun” witnessed by over 20,000, but who said that he preferred the hypothesis that it was a mass hallucination in which he shared. To a lesser extent, I believe, you are like that. You play up “chaos and immorality” when it has occurred in the Church, and play down much of what I consider evidence when taken together, even though none of it taken in isolation is dispositive. There is little I can say to change that attitude, save that if you reject Catholicism, you are only going to get opinions, not faith, in its place.

    Best,
    Mike

  133. Hey SS,
    We all know Jesus was not a drunkard and a sinner by faith in the message sent to us all, but we also know he was called “a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners” by some who heard him. As a one who recently struggled with the same things you are talking about, I see this has not changed. Now, Jesus still speaks and he is still defamed by us whom He associates himself with. So, I agree with you that at many times we are who mar the image of Christ to the world as it has happened ages before. The bigger question is will we be the ones with faith to live with the promised gift and power of the Spirit or not. The promises of unity and commands to persevere in love for one another doesn’t change with the weight of each others sin. They only make the cross harder to bear. We have not been promised a easy road, but a narrow hard one all the way to Jerusalem bearing our share of the appointed cross of Christ.
    Blessing,
    Mike

    Hey, you ever read Paradoxes of Catholicism by Robert Hugh Benson?

  134. Paul Weinhold–

    Only the observations I referred to as my own experience are anecdotal. The rest I cobbled together rather quickly from 10 or 12 websites, mostly Catholic, as I recall. Obviously, polls can be manipulated to fit the agenda of the sponsoring group. I don’t have the time at the moment to look them all back up for you. I believe the numbers to be largely non-controversial, but if you have problems with certain ones, let me know. I’m not at all wedded to these data.

    I should have mentioned that besides the phenomenon of believing too little, many Catholics believe too much. There are all kinds of syncretistic practices, and there are problems such as the one I read about several years ago–wish I could find it again. A seminary prof in Puerto Rico polled his students and found that a full 25% of them held beliefs that amounted to the full divinity of Mary.

    I’m really not trying to dump on Catholicism here. Evangelicalism has similar problems, especially with the influence of secularism. The lack of effective catechism portends huge problems for all of Christendom in the years ahead unless trends are reversed.

  135. First, I believe that the epistemic weight of some of the MOCs can only be duly appreciated from within the true Faith. For instance, Jesus and the Apostles taught that he was the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, including and especially the prophecies. Most Jews of the time didn’t see it that way, and most still don’t, because the Christian position could be not logically inferred just from the texts, and many Jews had been deceived before by messianic pretensions

    This argument in and of itself to me, is another motive of incredulity. When a seeker reads through the book of Acts, as one would read a novel, and he comes to Acts 21, what does he see?

    “17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

    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. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do?”

    When the seeker acknowledges the presence of ‘many thousads of Jews’ who had believed and all zealous for the law (clearly not converts to a gentile faith therefore), how can he be faulted for not finding any corroboration of such an account in Catholicism? To the catholic, there is no such thing as a Jewish believer, only a convert to the ‘true faith’, as your paragraph above shows.

    To a certain extent, people see what they want to see, and they don’t see what their prejudices or other commitments prevent them from seeing. I am reminded of the journalist Emile Zola, who was present at the Fatima “miracle of the sun” witnessed by over 20,000, but who said that he preferred the hypothesis that it was a mass hallucination in which he shared. To a lesser extent, I believe, you are like that.

    No offense taken at all. I understand that you believe me to be biased. But are you unbiased? Have you given due weight to the MOI or have you rationalized them? Regarding Fatima, should we not be very careful with such given the warnings we are given in Scripture about false signs? Does not the Devil himself masquerade as an angel of light? A much more powerful sign to me than Fatima to me, would have been any of the more recent popes exposing and expulsing all offending priests. But no sign was given….

    As Mark Twain once said, it’s not what I don’t know that bothers me, it’s what I do know. And what I do know about the history of the CC is that to this very day, it has harmed countless souls through violence and abuse. The harming of children especially (a by product of an unconscionable rule of celibacy which has no basis in the Scriptures or the earliest church) by refusing to take decisive action against offenders, is particularly damaging. As victims have said, there are many calls for action, but no credible action, at the end of the day.

    It’s too late Mike, all of it is evidence that demands a verdict. The reader will decide for himself.

  136. We all know Jesus was not a drunkard and a sinner by faith in the message sent to us all, but we also know he was called “a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners” by some who heard him.

    Michael,

    As the Divine Man, that was Christ’s privilege. We however, are instructed as follows:

    1 Cor 5:

    12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

    So, the appropriate response to an offending priest is not to shuffle him around to different dioceses, but to expel him altogether and remit him into the hands of the law. Yes, then you can visit him in prison and pray for him, that his soul may not be lost. That’s part of bearing our cross, as painful as it is.

    And then there is the injunction to ‘go and sin no more’. So if we live in a state of financial opacity, with zero transparency to the outside world, we should be doing our best to be friends of the greedy, and compel them to open their hands, and give to the poor. Then we will be doing what the Master requires of us.

    I haven’t read the book, thanks for the suggestion.

  137. Dear Eric,

    When you do have time to cite your sources, I would like to see those citations.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  138. SS,
    I agree. It is shameful what we hear at times. The point I was trying to make was less what I would do in someone else’s position and more what we are called to understand and do from our position.
    Benson has some really good works. I felt like I was reading myself write in his book Confessions of a Convert.
    Peace,
    Mike

  139. SS, I forgot to mention It is free on Amazon kindle and elsewhere.

  140. SS:

    You asked me, rhetorically perhaps: “But are you unbiased?” Well, assuming you actually read the exchange between Erick Ybarra and myself at the CTC thread you referred to, you know why I have more reason than most people to hate the Catholic Church, or at least to be irretrievably biased against her. And I gave only one of what might be thought several such reasons in my own case. But you haven’t even acknowledged the rather egregious one I did give. That’s the sort of thing I mean by ascribing “bias” to you.

    On the other hand, I am not shy about claiming that it took a certain objectivity of mind on my part to make an adult decision to be Catholic. As an undergraduate at a major secular university, I double-majored in philosophy and religion, and took several world-history courses, so as to facilitate constructing a belief-system about whose truth I could feel reasonably confident. To that study, I brought no presumption that Catholicism would end up being that belief-system. But after spending several years exploring all the major alternatives, both religious and secular, I decided to make the assent of faith in the Church’s claims for herself. That is in part because I acquired a much broader and deeper knowledge of the relevant evidence than your comments have so far shown. But such evidence in itself did not and could not compel my intellectual assent. The decisive consideration for me was that, unless either Catholicism or Orthodoxy is true, religion is basically just a matter of opinion. So if there is such a thing as divine revelation at all, we cannot distinguish it from opinions, which is effectively to leave us without epistemic access to divine revelation as such, even if the content of some provisionally held opinions happens to coincide with it. I did not believe, and have never been able to believe, that God would leave us in that position if he actually has revealed himself to us. But that’s exactly where Protestantism, whether your version of it or anybody else’s, leaves us.

    Note that the above is a philosophical argument whose force you seem to appreciate, at least to a degree. But you don’t quite get its ecclesiological implications. Protestantism as such assumes that the doctrinal content of the deposit of faith and morals can be reliably known by fallible individuals independently of established ecclesial authority, at least in principle, so that their choice of church, if any, is to be made on the basis of such independently acquired knowledge. On the other hand, Catholicism as such assumes that said content cannot be reliably known independently of her authority, that indeed a Magisterium which is infallible under certain conditions is necessary for reliably identifying and interpreting the sources by which divine revelation is transmitted to us. And that kind of authority has to be continuously inherited from Christ through the Apostles and their succession, if it is to serve its purpose at all; for if it is not, then the question who’s got it and when is itself a matter of opinion, which renders it effectively nugatory. So if there is indeed such an authority, then it is the Church that is authorized to judge our theological and moral nostrums, not we hers. Accordingly, and as I explained to Erick, the norms by which you judge the Church merely beg the question. You are pretending to an authority you do not have, and which, for all you know, the Church does have.

    There is nothing “biased” about my argument because it does not assume that Catholicism is true. It merely exhibits one necessary condition for making the assent of faith as distinct from that of opinion. For reasons I need not elaborate further, your grand, “true ecumenical council” would not meet that condition.

    Best,
    Mike

  141. I’m sorry, Jason, but to deal with your argument we have to deal both with the stated and unstated premise that you are making:

    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 ecclesiastical authority is only a farce, a thin veneer of submission masking the exact same individualism you fault the evangelicals for.

    1. (Stated Premise) The solo vs. sola distinction Reformed Protestants make is a distinction without a difference when it comes to submitting to church order.

    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.”

    2. (Unstated Premise) It is a distinction without a difference because true submission to and respect for church authority means unquestioning and immediate acceptance of the decisions of the church’s highest court the first time they consider the matter.

    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.

    3. (Unstated Premise) It is a distinction without a difference because continuing disagreement today means there will be continuing disagreement tomorrow (even though Protestants of different stripes are presently united on a host of different issues).

    4. (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.

    5. (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).

    6. (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).

    7. (Unstated Premise) The Holy Spirit does not work through Scripture to bring people to a unity of faith but requires an infallible church decree, and the lack of unity of faith on certain matters over time proves that He can’t or is not working to do this.

    8. (Unstated Premise) Roman Catholic ecclesiology does not necessarily leads to theological anarchy, and because it does not necessarily lead to anarchy, I can ignore the lack of discipline, the teaching of heresy, the priestly pedophilia, the traditionalist who hate Vatican 2 but stay in the church, and so much more that shows Roman unity exists in name but not in reality.

    I’m sure there’s more. But the main thing you need to address is how sola Scriptura necessarily leads to anarchy. Despite your post, you have not done that. You’ve given an example of how people in a small Protestant communion differ over whether a council is right or wrong and extrapolated from that the idea that sola Scriptura necessarily leads to anarchy.

    Sola Scriptura only necessarily leads to theological anarchy if all theological opinions are equally valid. Even you, I think, don’t believe that. It’s also ironic that you evidently find human reason incapable of judging and coming to a true evaluation of different interpretations of Scripture when your new tradition places a much higher value on human reason than Protestants who are true to Luther and Calvin do. Perhaps you would say human reason cannot infallibly make such judgments, in which case you are in the same boat and should reject Rome as well, since you made a fallible decision.

    All we want is consistency. But Rome is good at applying standards to others that it will not apply to itself.

  142. My point was that as long as no ecclesiastical body on earth can speak with infallible authority on matters of doctrine, then one man’s orthodoxy is another man’s heresy.
    You accept the homoousios formula because you think it is biblical, and because it is accepted by orthodox Christianity in general. But if a biblical scholar comes along and denies it (or denies the Trinity altogether), what can you say? You can get into a prooftext battle with him, but if you’ve ever spoken at length with Mormons or JWs you know how maddening that kind of thing can be. Or, you could appeal to Nicaea. But his response could very well be, “Why should I accept Nicaea? You certainly don’t accept all its teachings, and you redefine many of the ones you do accept. Plus, since you draw the line at a certain point in history and accept no councils after that, why can’t I do the same thing and draw that line at 100 AD?”

    Jason,

    Lots has happened in the last 24 hours! I’m going to answer your post and then back out and read everything else up to the present. Hopefully I am not repeating things that one of the other Reformed folks here have said.

    Let me take your last point first. I’m sure you know that we don’t reject everything after a certain point in time. Catholic, EO, and Protestant all have their standards and judge previous dogmatic statements (whether these be part of an “ecumenical” council or not) based on these standards. So Catholic, EO, and Protestant all look back at the tradition of the Church and judge some of it to be correct and some of it to be in error. The Catholics and the EO, even though they share a general agreement on their philosophy towards ecumenical councils, don’t agree on every statement that is made by what you would consider to be an ecumenical council. So how do you judge between Catholic and EO at this point? Just noting that a certain dogma proceeded from a given council is obviously not sufficient, so my suggestion is that you have to figure out whose standard for judging a given council is correct. Maybe the EO have a better standard than you do and in fact their judgment is correct. So same with the Catholic Protestant debate over certain conciliar statements. Just noting that a certain dogma was pronounced by an ecumenical council does not mean that it was correct. We need to take a step backwards and judge the respective standards for evaluating the pronouncement in question. Same for the Protestant EO debates, although I would guess you are not interested in that discussion.

    I would also note that in some cases the RCC later comes back to even what was previously considered to be an ecumenical council and judges it to be in error. This happened more than once in the Medieval Church. And the Protestants in their assessments of some councils judge some of their statements to be in error. From my standpoint the appropriate question is whether the standard they used to judge the previous council was a good one or not. That’s just the kind of question that Obermann and others delve into.

    So now moving to your question about what happens when a biblical scholar denies “the homoousios formula.” Well that’s exactly what happened to Athanasius and my response would be similar to what he said. What he did NOT say was that the Arians were out of accord with the infallibly pronouncements of the Church (and please note that much of what Athanasius wrote against the Arians was written decades after Nicea). But instead his tactic was to pound the Arians with relevant Scripture texts and then tell them that they were denying the clear words of Scripture. Now since the Arians grew significantly after Nicea this tactic did not always produce the results that Athanasius might have liked. But Athanasius was not worried about how many converts he made, he was concerned about being true to the Scriptures. And in time Athanasius’ tactic produced many converts from Arianism.

    And why do you think that preaching the Scriptures produced converts to Trinitarian Christianity in Athanasius time? Well for the same reason it produced converts in the accounts we read from Scripture. How many times do you read something in the Bible where the Jesus or the Apostles preached to a crowd and SOME in the multitude were convicted and came to hold to the truth of what was preached? When they preach to the multitudes, the Apostles did not appeal to the pronouncement of an institution but rather to the Word of God which we later read in Hebrews ” is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit…” (something we cannot say of the post-biblical councils). And what happened when one of the brilliant scholars of the Sanhedrin came to the Apostles with some idea which opposed the biblical truth? Isn’t it fair to say that they took the approach that if this scholar would not believe the Prophets gone before them nothing would convince them?

    My observation is that the Church of the fist century turned the world on its head without appeals to an infallible Roman Magisterium. They did not need such an appeal. And further the Reformers of the 16h/17th century turned the world on its head in the same way as the Early Church had, and again without appeals to an infallible Magisterium.

    So that Apostolic and Athanasian approach is what I would also adopt if I was approached by some biblical scholar who denied the Trinity or some other basic tenent of what you and I both agree to be foundational to Christianity. So let me now ask a question to you: If the scholar in question won’t listen to Scripture what good will it do if I tell him that this dogma has always been believed by the historic Christian church? Will they be more likely to believe based on arguments from a certain ecclesiology? And since this tactic does not work with so many scholars within Rome why would you want to use it on someone outside the RCC?

    I do understand the concern over how the various Protestant churches can resolve their doctrinal disputes. But as I look at the various Reformed confessions I don’t see all that many disputes. There are certainly some, particularly on the matter or church polity and the nature/efficacy of the sacraments. But just like with the case of Athanasius, even these debates can be resolved in the providence of God. And if I go to Rome then the seriousness of the theological debates between me and those I’m in communion with goes up by some orders of magnitude.

    And speaking of preaching to the multitudes, I wanted to ask you about the kinds of arguments that Cross/Liccione put forth. Recently you told me that you are not a philosopher. But you are a man in the possession of advanced degree in theology, and you do obviously have a certain attraction to and comprehension of philosophically based sorts of arguments. So if the only way to resolve the matters that we are debating here is to first apprehend the Cross/Liccione philosophical treatises, what hope do the multitude have?

  143. SS,

    Since my name has been invoked . . . For what its worth, I am not sure how my questions addressed to Dr. Trabbic at thomistica.net give evidence of the argument you have here been making (which I must admit to having a difficult time following). The context of the original article, as well as my subsequent post, was that of philosophical epistemology. In particular, I was interested in the means by which theology might be described as a scientia (in the classical sense) from a purely epistemic POV (prescinding from the action of divine grace). In other words, I wanted to confirm with a scholar, the position I had reached, with respect to the warrant for approaching sacred theology as a science in terms of how such warrant might be explained to a non-believer. In that case, the accent must surely fall upon the persuasive force of the MOC.

    By contrast (and as Dr. Trabbic indicated in his reply), in the case of Christian faith, the motives of credibility (MOC) are for the intellect, what the motives of faith (MOF) are for the will. Christian faith, as an existential matter, involves a conjunction of the intellect and will under the influence of grace. The reason that the MOC cannot, by divine design, reach an epistemic arc higher than moral certainty (as distinct from –say – strict demonstration) is in order that there always remain a moral element to faith seated in the will (without which it would not *be* faith). In short, there is a fundamental necessity with respect to the inception of faith, that the will be actively seeking the truth within its reach. In this way, faith remains a true and free human act, yet fully in accord with human reason.

    To gain a comprehensive understanding of the Christian notion of faith as it has been developed and clarified across the entirety of Christian history, you cannot do better that to take the advice that Dr. Trabbic gave to me; read Avery Dulles “Faith: the Assurance of Things Hoped For”. It will clear up a great deal in the current discussion you are having with others concerning the nature of faith and the respective role of the MOC, MOF, grace, intellect, will, etc.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  144. Ray,

    As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to clear up.

    Best,
    SS.

  145. Michael

    The theology that mandated a confessional state was Catholic. The idea that the legitimacy of the state originated from Christ through his vicar was Catholic.

    The first Catholic “confessional state” was the Roman Empire in the 4th century. If your first sentence were true, we would either see the evidence for its truth explicitly in the theological sources between the apostolic church and the Council of Nicaea, or at least find things in those sources which would justify claiming that the Church convinced emperors Constantine and Theodosius that they were morally obligated to make Catholicism the state religion as they did. But of course, there is no such evidence. Hence your first sentence is false.

    I see your point. If this were true you would expect to see something like Bishops arguing for and then being given the direct authorities of secular magistrates in particular the rights to rule on cases involving Christian slaves. Or maybe Ambrose of Milan telling Constantine that because he favored the church he had earned God’s grace and thus imperial victory. Or maybe having Constantine colors associated with earthly powers being used for churches, thus associating Jesus with the emperor and legitimizing Constantine to Christians as having been chosen by Jesus. Or maybe church biographies like Eusebius’ tying Constantine to old testament prophecy, or declaring him a direct representative of God on earth. Or the church officiating at his tomb where he was buried as the 13th apostle. Yeah, good thing there is no evidence of anything like that for Constantine.

    But with Theodosius it could be so much worse because then it would institution. So you would expect to see things like bishops going to Valentinian I asking for permission to hold a council to draft binding church law. You could have Bishop Gregory of Constantinople asking Theodosius to pay for bribes to get the Nicene Creed through. You could have something like the moment Theodosius becomes emperor he starts firing Bishops, Demophilus and his faction, to advance Gregory. That’s encouraging outright control. Good thing nothing like that happened.

    Should I keep going listing all the missing evidence?

    What about your second? After the fall of the Western Roman Empire… The belief that [confessional states] are natural, given how society developed in Western Europe between the 4th and the 15th centuries

    Lots of societies have gone through collapses and recoveries and their religious institutions did not create state coercion. There is nothing natural about what the Catholic Church did. It very easily could have chosen to have played a benign role as a host of creeds and faiths developed around it. A traditional center surrounded by more vibrant spikes. That’s the norm. Religions that ask the state to consistently interfere with the development of religions so as to maintain central control are an exception. The degree of violence, and the length of time it was willing to utilize this violence is without peer. There are 0 other large societies I know of whose religious institutions have ever done what the RCC did for centuries. Most religious leaders do not feel comfortable murdering, terrorizing and torturing people into believing in their religion. And when they do, like after a conquest, they don’t keep it up for generation after generation after generation. That’s not natural, that’s very rare. I can’t think of another example that’s even all that close.

    But that is not a de fide issue; it is a matter of prudential judgment and pastoral exigencies, about which anybody, including church leaders, can err. Thus, I believe the 19th-century popes were wrong to continue insisting that confessional states were necessary. They were simply behind the times, as the times soon showed. But that acknowledgement is fully compatible with Catholic orthodoxy, as Vatican II showed.

    So is your argument that the church has great doctrine, but terrible judgement? We are talking about a matter of tremendous consequence and a doctrine which you agree lasted for 15 centuries. How does that help an argument that they should be an authority? People with good grasp of facts though bad analysis or execution shouldn’t be put in positions of authority. So even if I were to buy this distinction I’m not sure how it advances the case that the Catholic church is fit to be an authority.

    The Catholic church does not teach that only de-fide statements are worthy of attention and thus everything else can be freely ignored. Statements made by pastors from the pulpit aimed at influencing behavior are all any church has once it no longer has access to state enforcement. In particular 1Tim 3:2 demands that a bishop /overseer must be didaktikov didaktikos, an able teacher, apt. Bad judgement in what to teach contradicts that. Anything taught in churches by Catholic officials in the name of the Catholic church is Catholic doctrine in every meaningful sense, unless it is immediately strongly contradicted by higher ranking officials once the statement is known. A banana is a banana whether or not it has the Dole sticker. The sticker doesn’t change anything. I can’t go have sex with another women and tell me wife “hey that wasn’t de-fide sex”. You do it, it counts. Similarly you say it, it counts.

    The doctrine on the necessity of confessional states was taught for centuries from the highest levels and put into practice at the cost of unbelievable human suffering. So I can grant it doesn’t have the Dole sticker but how would having the Dole sticker have changed the effect?

    Let me link you to a funny video by a Protestant apologist to Mormons. Mormons try and do the same thing about teachings that they have disowned. They argue that those teachings were never really part of Latter Day Saint theology because they are “not official”. Maybe seeing this from the outside will help you realize how this de-fide / prudential judgement is a complete non-answer to the moral issue: not official

  146. Sorry missed an end tag for this paragraph

    Lots of societies have gone through collapses and recoveries and their religious institutions did not create state coercion. There is nothing natural about what the Catholic Church did. It very easily could have chosen to have played a benign role as a host of creeds and faiths developed around it. A traditional center surrounded by more vibrant spikes. That’s the norm. Religions that ask the state to consistently interfere with the development of religions so as to maintain central control are an exception. The degree of violence, and the length of time it was willing to utilize this violence is without peer. There are 0 other large societies I know of whose religious institutions have ever done what the RCC did for centuries. Most religious leaders do not feel comfortable murdering, terrorizing and torturing people into believing in their religion. And when they do, like after a conquest, they don’t keep it up for generation after generation after generation. That’s not natural, that’s very rare. I can’t think of another example that’s even all that close.

    That should not be bolded in the post above.

  147. Robert,

    (Unstated Premise) It is a distinction without a difference because true submission to and respect for church authority means unquestioning and immediate acceptance of the decisions of the church’s highest court the first time they consider the matter.

    I would put it differently. 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. 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.

    (Unstated Premise) It is a distinction without a difference because continuing disagreement today means there will be continuing disagreement tomorrow (even though Protestants of different stripes are presently united on a host of different issues).

    I don’t get your point here, unfortunately.

    (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.

    I 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.

    (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).

    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).

    (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).

    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.

    (Unstated Premise) The Holy Spirit does not work through Scripture to bring people to a unity of faith but requires an infallible church decree, and the lack of unity of faith on certain matters over time proves that He can’t or is not working to do this.

    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.

    (Unstated Premise) Roman Catholic ecclesiology does not necessarily leads to theological anarchy, and because it does not necessarily lead to anarchy, I can ignore the lack of discipline, the teaching of heresy, the priestly pedophilia, the traditionalist who hate Vatican 2 but stay in the church, and so much more that shows Roman unity exists in name but not in reality.

    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.

    I’m sure there’s more. But the main thing you need to address is how sola Scriptura necessarily leads to anarchy. Despite your post, you have not done that. You’ve given an example of how people in a small Protestant communion differ over whether a council is right or wrong and extrapolated from that the idea that sola Scriptura necessarily leads to anarchy.

    Sola Scriptura only necessarily leads to theological anarchy if all theological opinions are equally valid. Even you, I think, don’t believe that. It’s also ironic that you evidently find human reason incapable of judging and coming to a true evaluation of different interpretations of Scripture when your new tradition places a much higher value on human reason than Protestants who are true to Luther and Calvin do. Perhaps you would say human reason cannot infallibly make such judgments, in which case you are in the same boat and should reject Rome as well, since you made a fallible decision.
    All we want is consistency. But Rome is good at applying standards to others that it will not apply to itself.

    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!

  148. Paul Weinhold–

    I can’t find a good number of the sites I could before. I guess one can never wade into the same (internet-search-engine) river twice. I should have gone more slowly and recorded sources. A couple of things I’m seeing now: weekly attendance more in the neighborhood of 23 to 31% (though I did have a source which said differently) and what I stated as percentages of opposition to various issues was not direct opposition itself but “how important” individual Catholics felt opposition was. Sort of the same thing, but certainly not exactly. Personal opposition may exist in some cases even if the expressed opposition is rather “squishy.”

    At any rate, here are a few of the sites I was able to find again:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/many-catholics-do-not-believe-church-teachings-1.1063895

    http://servusfidelis.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/servus-fidelis-or-servus-infidelis/

    http://cara.georgetown.edu/CARAServices/FRStats/dembackg.pdf

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-10-24/catholic-religious-identity-survey/50891152/1

    I know that Dave Armstrong and Jimmy Akin have taken issue with the idea that “70% of Catholics do not rightly understand Transubstantiation.” They may very well be right. I can’t make the call one way or the other. Do you have an opinion?

  149. To whom it might concern,

    I found this gem and thought it might be applicable to the current thread. It concerns a 1980 journal article by well-known liberal Catholic scholar, Rosemary Ruether:

    [Rosemary Ruether] characterized the status quo as being, “in effect, an internal schism…. The lack of consensus in the Catholic church on basic theological and exegetical matters, has nothing to do with academic disagreement and cannot be resolved on that basis. Fundamentally, it is a schism between two magisteria, the magisterium of the professors and the magisterium of the pope and the hierarchy. It is a power struggle, not an intellectual debate.”

    She then outlines the strategy that for nearly three decades has been enormously successful in keeping some of the most important Church institutions, i.e., their schools of higher learning, out of Church control: “In short, one must use the liberal institutions of the secular society against the illiberal practices of the monarchical church to limit the latter’s power.”

  150. Jason–

    In your reply to Robert, you mistake Confessional Protestantism (which holds to sola scriptura ) and the rest of Protestantism (which mostly does not).

    There are, perhaps, dozens of Confessional denominations, but certainly not thousands. Most of these extra groups are infinitesimally small and hardly relevant. There are, of course, a lot of little Catholic sects in the world today, as well, shepherded by aberrant wanna-be popes. I don’t see how this reflects on Catholicism: it is just a display of the fact that religious institutions tend to attract the mentally ill and the eccentric.

    And now, or the fifteenth time without benefit of a reply (do you all have one?), why is the blame for the Reformation placed solely on Protestantism by you all? It is Western Christendom as a whole which has split into so many tiny pieces. Eastern Christendom remains largely intact. Perhaps, the biggest, most powerful Western Church should, at long last, be humble enough to admit that it was her own ill-advised policies that, for the most part, led to wholesale schism.

  151. Eric,

    I noticed you based your entire analysis on the USA. Do you have any data for other parts of the world, Africa for example? I doubt if a study based of Catholics in one country should be used as a bases for evaluating Catholics the world over.

    For example over here (Nigeria) there is this common belief that the western world is more or less pagan. This generally held belief is based primarily on reports from the western media and Nigerians who have lived in or visited western countries.

    So a valuation like yours of any branch of Christianity based on a sample space of Americans is likely to be dismissed outrightly because of the belief that there no Christian there in the first place.

    And I do not think you will agree with that conclusion.

  152. @Eric

    Fundamentally, it is a schism between two magisteria, the magisterium of the professors and the magisterium of the pope and the hierarchy. It is a power struggle, not an intellectual debate

    I think the situation advanced a bit since the 1980s. The Vatican has been appointing conservative so the Bishops are more in conservative Catholicism, in general. Priestly dissent is not as tolerated. But the lack of vocations has led to a huge shortage. So the conservative strategy of owning the Bishops -> Priests -> Membership breaks at the Priest -> Membership phase.

    There is also much more formal dissent then there was of an institutional nature. Cardinal Dolan (Archbishop at the time) was trying to negotiate on behalf of the RCC as far as what would be acceptable policy for birth control for Catholics.taking a hard line. Sister Carol Keehan felt comfortable undercutting him and negotiating an independent compromise with V.P. Biden and Secretary Sebelius. A clear challenge which amounted to “I control the hospitals therefore I control doctrine having to do with healthcare”. This is important because the Catholic Healthcare system controls a tremendous number of resources and staff. I think by most measures it is larger than the church proper. If they don’t view themselves as needing to submit to the magisterium on HealthCare policy, then they aren’t in submission on anything that matters.

    In 2008 we had Nancy Pelosi, at the point the highest ranking Catholic politically in the United States formally state that the magisterium was misrepresenting the Catholic tradition on a vital matter of faith and morals. Sh argued that the official 2008 (and still today) teaching of the church amounted to preaching the heresy of traducianism and that the church should return to Aquinas’ position. It was a well reasoned, historical argument, and the Bishops responded by ducking the argument and name calling. I think this whole issue with Pelosi is important because she is not an academic but an influential leader of tens of millions. She was making precisely the sort of argument that Lane did, that Jason started this thread with. The difference between Lane and Pelosi is that she has about 100-1000x the reach. If very high ranking officials are willing to publicly state that the Catholic faith is other than what the Vatican indicates it is, that ain’t far removed from the situation prior to the Reformation.

    Last year the Pope directly ordered the US Bishops to assume greater control over convent organizations because he didn’t like their political positions. The sister’s refused to yield and accept that oversight.

    Both Liberals and Conservative Catholics by large majorities do not want to move from informal schism to formal schism. And I think they will be successful in avoiding it. The church is not going to heed the calls of conservatives to do those things (like excommunicate liberal politicians) that would lead to this becoming a formal schism. Everyone is happy to pay lip service to the idea of being in a unified hierarchy when they are in practice in more of a situation of affiliated institutions that cooperate, more like what American Protestantism looks like.

  153. I noticed you based your entire analysis on the USA. Do you have any data for other parts of the world, Africa for example? I doubt if a study based of Catholics in one country should be used as a bases for evaluating Catholics the world over

    Mikel it shouldn’t. Religious forms in America have always been different. America is fundamentally a Baptist country. Once Protestantism arrived here, Baptists thrived and dominated. Even the mainstream denominations which preserve paedobaptism have adopted many other parts of Baptist theology. American Catholics agree with Baptist teaching much more than Baptist teaching on many theological issues. Heck, the forms of Judaism that were created and thrived in America have more in common with American Baptist church than they do with traditional European Jewish synagogues. The Hindu community in the United States is having Baptists forms mix with Hindu theology, Hindu conservatives are appalled at what American Hinduism is starting to look like. America has a very distinct religious culture. You shouldn’t generalize from America to the rest of the world.

    So let’s take Latin America for an entirely different perspective.
    Pentecostalism is more or less a Baptist movement that believes in directly personal revelation from the Holy Spirit as a vital component of Christian experience. Pentecostalism has migrated down from the United States about a century ago and has exploding in Latin America for a century. What you are getting in Latin America as a middle class norm is more and more is a situation where people go to the Catholic church for baptisms (particularly recordings of baptisms), weddings and occasional mass while their majority religious experience is coming from Pentecostals (who btw rebaptize Catholics). This is well over 1/4 of the population some would put it at a 1/3rd. This is a huge chunk of the highly religious belongs to a Protestant / Catholic hybrid. I wouldn’t consider that total submission to the magisterium either.

    Protestantism is something of a middle class movement in Latin America, among the very poor you have some weird pagan / Catholic hybrids. To pick an example which is becoming active among US Hispanics as well we have the Santa Muerte religion. Members of the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) cult worship a human skeleton (many times real) dressed in fancy garb similar to Latin American depictions of the Virgin Mary. They use Catholic rites invoking the name of God, Jesus and Mary. The believers identify as Catholic and often participate freely in mainstream Catholic activities as well. Formally the Catholic church considers Santa Muerte to be devil worship. So where do you stand? Catholic or not? Obedient or not? Add all these cults together and you could be at another 50-100m or so.

    So…. I think what Eric is talking about would likely be worse if you were to survey Latin American Catholics though different issues of disagreement.

  154. Mikel,

    One additional point—I don’t think anyone is trying to evaluate the RCC as a whole by what American Roman Catholics do. The point is that if such views exist and are tolerated despite them going against infallible church pronouncements, the supposed unity and principled way of settling theological disagreements that Rome has is wishful thinking. Its a vestige of organizational unity that exists on paper only.

    It also questions the validity of the principle. If the principle is not put into practice completely, which would require excommunication, then one should question either whether the principle works, whether the church really believes in it, or both.

  155. CD Host,

    My experience is quite different.

    I agree there is a problem of syncretism in Christianity but it appears to be more serious with Protestantism (especially the indigenous Pentecostal Churches) over here.

    Black Africans are very attuned to the supernatural. When bad things happen, the question asked here is not ‘what caused it’ but ‘who caused it?’ So people tend to look for the source of their misfortunes in the direction of their neighbours or extended family members.

    Churches have sprung up to take care of this fear of the ‘who’. Churches whose whole theology is summed up by Ephesian 6:12. We have large churches where the entire congregation spend hours, gesticulation and stamping on the ground while simultaneously cursing and shouting ‘let my enemies die, let my enemies die, let my enemies die’ or other expressions of similar intent. It is quite a sight to behold.

    There are other churches called white garment churches whose manner of worship bears a remarkable resemblance to traditionalist method of worship.

    Another very serious issue affecting churches is the ‘get rich quick’ mentality. Being a poor country, lot of people desire any form of financial security. So again churches have sprung up to service this fear. The wealth and health gospel is very strong and thriving here. At least within the pastors whose latest fad is the acquisition of private jets. The religious leaders have joined the corrupt political/economic elite to exploit the masses.

    The Catholic Church recently withdrew from CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria). The Catholic Church sited politicization of the leadership of CAN as one the reasons for the withdrawal. Similarly the broadcasting authorities of the country some years back had to ban church miracle programs from TV when the miracles were found to be either trivial or bogus.

    Our God is not a poor Good. It is better to give than receive. The Lord loves a cheerful giver. Verses like these are constantly tossed at the congregation. All manner of offerings, tithes and seed planting exercises fill the programs of these churches to exploit an already impoverished people.

    This leads to peculiar situations like churches whose only reason for being is to provide spiritual assistance to people who want to travel abroad. Now understand these are large churches with national spread. I once attended a prominent Pentecostal church where the GO (General Overseer), when it got to offering time asked the members to display their offering money in the air (this is now becoming the standard). Saying that he knew what Jesus said about the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing but he was changing it that day.

    If you can’t provide a quick fix to either or both of these problems, your church is likely to dwindle. It is now starting to affect the more ‘orthodox’ churches like the Baptist Churches who have to adapt somewhat to keep their members especially the youths from migrating to the ‘happening’ churches.

    I believe the problem here is with a lack of central structure and control. For these Pentecostal Churches there is no standard or framework within which they are supposed to operate. Anybody can just wake up, say God spoke to him and start a church. Depending on the appeal of his message and more importantly his ability to perform miracles, people soon flock to his church in very large numbers and he starts opening branches nationwide. There is no question of the truth and scriptural basis of his teaching. He is not accountable to anybody. If something happens to him, his wife or son takes over. The church becomes a family heirloom.

    The centralized liturgical nature of the Catholic Church has protected it from these influences. There may be isolated cases of priests going overboard but it usually doesn’t last long before the offending priest is removed. And The Church is growing.

  156. Eric:

    I’ll let Jason remind you that he is perfectly well aware of the difference between confessional Protestantism and the rest of Protestantism, and also why he thinks the difference doesn’t matter. In the meantime, I just had to say something about this paragraph of yours:

    And now, or the fifteenth time without benefit of a reply (do you all have one?), why is the blame for the Reformation placed solely on Protestantism by you all? It is Western Christendom as a whole which has split into so many tiny pieces. Eastern Christendom remains largely intact. Perhaps, the biggest, most powerful Western Church should, at long last, be humble enough to admit that it was her own ill-advised policies that, for the most part, led to wholesale schism.

    First of all, I don’t know many educated Catholics who believe that the late-medieval Church had no faults that cried out for rectification. Jason and I sure don’t. Erasmus and Thomas More sure didn’t. And if the Church herself, in the 16th century, had believed that, there would have been no “Counter-Reformation”–which was largely successful. But it doesn’t follow that the Church was largely responsible for the Protestant Reformation. Many factors–individual, economic, and political as well as ecclesial–contributed. From a Catholic standpoint, it’s safe to say that men of both sides were to blame. That’s what Vatican II acknowledged. At this historical distance, trying to play the blame game more precisely than that is pointless.

    Second, your claim that “Eastern Christendom remains largely intact” is ridiculous. Since the 5th century, the Oriental Orthodox who rejected the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon have been in schism with the Eastern Orthodox. Some Eastern churches never went into schism with Rome like the Orthodox, and some that had joined the Orthodox in schism eventually reconciled with Rome, much to the continuing disgust of the Orthodox. And in a good many Eastern jurisdictions, there are several bishops not in full communion with each other. Eastern Christians all agree, of course, that they don’t want to be Western Christians. That is perfectly understandable, but it also poses a challenge for overall Church unity.

    You would do well to lay off the historical polemics and stick to theology.

    Best,
    Mike

  157. Dear Eric,

    Thank you for taking the time to provide some citations for your original claims. I do not have an opinion about whether or not any of the data you provide is accurate. Now that you’ve provided some citations, however, anybody who would like to fact-check those claims can do so, and I think that’s a good thing. For instance, an article from The Irish Timescites an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll as indicating that “the church is strongest in rural areas but falls off significantly in urban areas”. The poll was taken not by Catholics only but from among “1,000 voters aged 18 and over.” As the article indicates, only “89 per cent of respondents were Catholic. The remainder were either not religious (6 per cent), Protestant (3 per cent) or from other faiths.” So, given that information, a reader could ask several questions: 1) to what extent does The Irish Times (who conducted this poll in the first place) provide reliable reporting?; 2) were the 1,000 voters polled mostly urban or rural?; and 3) If 11% of the people polled were not Catholic, then is this a reliable poll for making conclusions about the Catholic Church in Ireland?

    I’m sure that there are many other questions that one could ask about that poll and, indeed, about any statistical information. As I said, I do not have any opinions about the accuracy or inaccuracy of these numbers, but now we can all do the research if we desire, so thanks for your conscientious work!

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul Weinhold

  158. Dear Eric,

    Mike claims above that Vatican 2 acknowledged “men of both sides were to blame” for schism. You can find that acknowledgment here. It’s in chapter 1, paragraph 3.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  159. I truly do not pretend to have a clue as to what is going on in America or the Western World. But I get puzzled when the supposed division in the Catholic Church is likened to the expected division in Protestantism.

    I am a Catholic because I am in communion with the Pope and accept the teachings of the Church. If I knowingly disagree with the Pope and the teachings of the Church I am either in heresy or schism. Simple. It doesn’t matter if I insist on calling myself a Catholic or that the Church tolerates me.

    What is all these obsessing with Magisterium of Professors, SSPX, Sedevecantist, etc. Exactly how are they types of Catholics?

    But please who is a Protestant?

  160. @Mikel —

    I’d second what Robert said. The point is not reading the entire world into the USA but rather the USA provides a really good recent example of the binding magisterium failing. There were pressures on the church the liberals responded with Vatican II. Conservatives struck back and limited the scope. The pressures increased and Humanae Vitae shattered the agreement towards a binding magisterium. Attempts to enforce discipline in one place have exacerbated disagreements in others. Under the rhetoric of a binding magisterium theory, what’s happening in the United States shouldn’t be happening. Since most of the people on this board are Americans, talking about the USA Catholic Church seems natural.

    When they meet Catholics on a daily basis in their lives:

    John believes in birth control, that women should be priests but strongly supports the belief in the real presence.

    Cathy believes that Jesus is another incarnation of Vishnu like Krishna, just like her yoga teacher taught her. But she strongly believes in Sunday dinner after mass with the whole extended family so she considers herself a religious Catholic.

    Marisa is very doctrinaire in her beliefs. She thinks about 80% of the Bishops are selling out the true Catholic faith, drives 20 miles away from her parish to go to a traditionalist priest and thinks about 95% of all the supposed Catholics should be excommunicated.

    etc… and then you have people trying to serious argue about unity in the Catholic church. Especially when talking to PCAers who are able to have ferocious arguments about whether evidential apologetics should be considered sinful because they mentally deny God or just inferior to presuppositional ones.

    _______

    Anyway responding to your interesting post about Africa.

    In terms of syncretism you have us beat. Chrislam has 1 USA adherent AFAIK.

    That prosperity gospel ain’t just Africa. It is like that in the United States too. Joel Osteen runs the largest church in the USA with a television show and he preaches that same nonsense. Families taking over, justification through miracles, a very non systematic approach to biblical theology. Yes, yes, yes. That ain’t Africa that’s Pentecostalism. So good. You know exactly what I’m talking about when we talk Pentecostalism. That’s the sect becoming huge in Latin America and displacing Catholicism.

    And here as well this competition plays out to different degrees. So for example there are Charismatic forms of Christianity that are theologically much more orthodox and that reject the prosperity gospel but still have very dynamic, to use your term, “happening” services. They would make fun of PCA style church with “the only time someone stands up in those churches is when someone drops a golf ball”.

    The who, the belief that extended family members or neighbors are cursing you isn’t part of any US churches as far as I know. So that does sound uniquely Nigerian / African and doesn’t sound terribly healthy for a society.

  161. CD-Host:
    John believes in birth control, that women should be priests but strongly supports the belief in the real presence.

    Me:
    The fact that you can point to John in this example indicates that you believe he is somehow different from who the traditionally defined Catholic is. Same goes for all the other instances you site. They are examples because you are comparing them to something. Something different.

    Please could you site such an example with Protestantism? It would be meaningless. I tell you, when I first found out that paedobaptism is practiced by Protestants, I actually thought I had misread the article.

  162. Eric & Paul W. ~

    These are not endorsed by me, simply given as two pieces of RC evidence of concerns in the RCC.

    One stat source: http://catholicmoraltruth.com/churchstatistics.htm says that
    Those [of] that call themselves Catholic:
    77% believe it is not necessary to attend Sunday Mass
    65% believe Divorce and Remarriage is acceptable
    53% believe abortion is acceptable
    74% believe artificial birth control is acceptable
    66% believe the Eucharist is only symbolic and not the Body and Blood of Christ.

    P. 3 of St Patricia’s bulletin states that
    15% of RCs attend Mass.
    15% never attend but consider themselves RC.
    20% only attend Xmas, Easter, wedding or funeral.
    50% attend Mass 1-2x per mo. b/c of family activities.

    http://stpatriciaparish.com/images/August_5_Bulletin.pdf

    I didn’t see St Pat’s sources.

  163. Another source: The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University

    cara.georgetown.edu/CARAServices/requestedchurchstats.html

    CARA gets many inquiries from Church agencies and the media about the numbers for vocations, seminary enrollments, priests and vowed religious, parishes, Mass attendance, schools and the Catholic population. Below are some comparative statistics from 1965. Generally, these data reflect the situation at the beginning of the calendar year listed. The sources for this information include The Official Catholic Directory (OCD), the Vatican’s Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae (ASE), and other CARA research and databases. All data are cross checked as much as possible. For the U.S, the numbers reported here include only figures for those 195 dioceses or eparchies who belong to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and all U.S. military personnel stationed overseas. This page also includes links to other areas of the CARA website that provide answers to frequently asked questions.

    For more information about CARA research and statistics, including our national and parish surveys, demographic studies, trend analyses and projections, and focus groups visit CARA Services. For more information about CARA’s beginings read the following Review of Religious Research article from 1967 by Francis X. Gannon entitled, “Bridging the Research Gap: CARA, Response to Vatican II.”

  164. +JMJ+

    All of these stats and objections only prove Catholic Unity. They prove that there is a Content to Catholic Faith. Conversely, in Protestantism, there is no formal content to Faith. For Protestantism, “faith in doctrine” has replaced the Doctrine of Faith. Faith has gone from Dogmatic Faith (a Knowing Faith) to Fiducial Faith (a Trusting Faith).

    In a nutshell, Reformism’s distinction between the Visible and Invisible Churches also applies to doctrine. One simply trusts that Invisible Doctrine, though epistemically ineffable, is always right and true, and that Visible Doctrine, although analogically representative of Invisible Doctrine, has no intrinsic identity with it.

  165. Woz,

    Hilarious! Nuts, but v. funny about ‘Reformism.’

    As (I think) the token fideist / dogmatist/ scripturalist here, to the extent that I *think* I understand you, agree with you:

    Invisible Doctrine, though epistemically ineffable, is always right and true, and… Visible Doctrine, although analogically representative of Invisible Doctrine, has no intrinsic identity with it.

  166. Woz,

    If the stats are true (even approximately), how do they prove RCC unity? Both sources are scandalized by the results, apparently believing they show DISunity…

  167. From what I can see all around me, in societies that are poor and mainly illiterate, the dogmas and doctrines, the liturgy and clearly defined structures of the Catholic Church are requirements. They serve as guard dogs and electrified fences to the ingress of both native and corrupting influences.

    Protestantism on the other hand usually appears attractive and more tailored to the needs of the society initially. But inexorably the individualism and lack of clearly defined authority and structure inherent to Protestantism, combines with the poverty and illiteracy of the people to lead to all manner of strange happenings. I could tell stories of such happening here that will be truly shocking.

    CD-Host you said
    That prosperity gospel ain’t just Africa. It is like that in the United States too

    Me:
    I agree. But factor in the level of poverty and illiteracy in Africa, our sensibilities to the supernatural, and you have something far beyond what you can imagine in the USA. These churches are exploding by the day.

  168. @Mikel —

    Please could you site such an example with Protestantism? It would be meaningless. I tell you, when I first found out that paedobaptism is practiced by Protestants, I actually thought I had misread the article.

    I’ve often said that Protestantism doesn’t have doctrinal content it has methodological content. (See my April 15, 2013 at 11:43 am post). What you are asking for, a point of comparison is the sort of thing you would see in a Protestant denomination but not in Protestantism more broadly. There are thing that are believed across Protestantism (all or overwhelmingly) like the Apostle’s Creed (excluding bodily resurrection) or Sola Fide we are justified by Faith. I think I could take a PCAer, PCUSA (liberal Presbyterians), Pentecostals who believe in the prosperity gospel, Quakers, Methodists and all of them would uphold Sola Fide. But there isn’t much in that pool of shared beliefs.

    Let’s be clear in terms of the Catholic case about two claims:

    (a) There exists a doctrinal “center” that all Catholics acknowledge. They may not agree with these doctrines, they may even not believe they are a genuine and vital part of Catholic tradition. But there is a unified collection of very specific doctrines that all Catholics agree come from the hierarchy. They all believe themselves to be personally challenged by those beliefs in that they individually accept them or reject them. Magisterial doctrines have an intrinsic ability to command the conscience to consider them .

    (b) There exists a doctrinal definition that all Catholics acknowledge. All Catholics believe the Catholic faith is defined by a set of doctrines. They all acknowledge that disagreement with those doctrines is the sin or heresy because the magisterium has final say on the will of God. Magisterial doctrines have an intrinsic ability to command the conscience to obedience.

    The claim has been that Catholics have (b). If you are weakening the claim to argue that Catholics have (a) that’s a much weaker claim and one I’d be inclined to agree with. But that doesn’t solve the sola vs. solo scripture claim of perfect doctrines believed in by faith. Catholics by and large reject their church’s claim to possess perfect doctrine. They do not reject their church’s claim to possess doctrine worth of consideration.

  169. @Mikel

    From what I can see all around me, in societies that are poor and mainly illiterate, the dogmas and doctrines, the liturgy and clearly defined structures of the Catholic Church are requirements. They serve as guard dogs and electrified fences to the ingress of both native and corrupting influences.

    When I was growing up Saint Patrick’s day celebrations were right after Christmas and Easter in its relative importance. And that developed when the Irish were poor and illiterate and came over.

    If you want to pick something more recent let’s use my example of Santa Muerte. I think it is reasonable to go with the anthropology and consider this to be a Catholic version of Mictlantecuhtli (Aztec God of death) worship. That cult was formally attacked in 1519 and pretty much completely wiped out in 1535. We know that it was a secret underground movement in the 18th century. It became open first in the 1940s, that is 400 years it survived underground in Mexico. For it to be exploding in popularity now means that the CC ain’t able to keep native influences out. More importantly Mictecacihuatl, the wife of Mictlantecuhtli , festivals are fully normalized within Catholicism as “the day of the dead” celebrations.

    The poorest Latin American countries are twice per capita income of Nigeria. Similarly the illiteracy rate of Nigeria is twice the levels in the worst Latin American countries. So you win the poorer and less literate battle. That being said this is among the poor and the church ain’t fencing.

    I suspect Protestantism probably ends up picking up more local flavor because the focus on the local church and that there is nothing like Rome. But let’s not overstate the case. No popular religion is going to be able to keep local doctrinal or ritual practices out.

  170. CD, while we’re all over the place topic-wise, I might as well address your Sante Muerte claim. You wrote:

    If you want to pick something more recent let’s use my example of Santa Muerte. I think it is reasonable to go with the anthropology and consider this to be a Catholic version of Mictlantecuhtli (Aztec God of death) worship. That cult was formally attacked in 1519 and pretty much completely wiped out in 1535. We know that it was a secret underground movement in the 18th century. It became open first in the 1940s, that is 400 years it survived underground in Mexico. For it to be exploding in popularity now means that the CC ain’t able to keep native influences out. More importantly Mictecacihuatl, the wife of Mictlantecuhtli , festivals are fully normalized within Catholicism as “the day of the dead” celebrations.

    Regarding “Sante Muerte,” (“Saint Death”) the Catholic bishops in Mexico have repeatedly condemned this cult, even referred to it as Satanic. This is not Catholic, even if some Catholics participate in it. The leaders of the “Sante Muerte” cult are not Catholic priests or bishops, even though they imitate (and even dress like) Catholic priests and bishops. Satan is an angel of light, and so he imitates the Church, in order to deceive people. We should expect this. We should expect Satan to imitate the truth, and mix some truths in, in order to make his lies palatable to the naive. That’s why the ‘Sante Muerte’ ‘chapels’ have images of the Blessed Mother as well. It makes it seem Catholic, to the simple. In our prayers, we pray for a holy death, but praying for a holy death is not the same as praying to a person named “Death.” It is wrong, and condemned by the Church, and demonic. But the fact that some (or even many) Mexican Catholics have participated in this does not mean that the Catholic Church is not the Church founded, and to which we all should be in full communion, just as the common use of contraceptives among American Catholics doesn’t change the fact of the identity of the Catholic Church. It means instead that bishops have not done well in teaching the faithful, in training catechists in Catholic schools, etc., and that people need to be better catechized.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  171. Hi Bryan —

    I agree with most everything you wrote factually. The first post where I mentioned the cult I stated, “formally the Catholic church considers Santa Muerte to be devil worship”. I also agree this is a movement that is almost exclusively among the laity, though I would hedge a bit from your comment and say some Catholic Priests are active in the movement. I don’t know if there are any leaders formally in Santa Muerte, it is fairly egalitarian religious movement. The people who seem to fulfill a role closest to leadership seem to come from from drug dealers and automatic weapons smuggling communities not the CC so we agree there. Though we’ll have to see over the next generation as Santa Muerte
    _____

    Now to the point of misunderstanding The argument that was being made on CreedtoCult was that the strong identification with Catholicism while openly disobeying the church on matters of doctrine was a particularly American phenomenon. That American Catholics are a unique case and that Americans shouldn’t consider the issue like disagreements about birth control to be anything more than a localized problem. I offered Sante Muerte and the dozens of similar cults do disprove that only Americans feel comfortable identifying as Catholic while openly disagreeing the magisterium on a matter of faith. You and I both agree the Latin American Catholic church has been crystal clear in the attitude towards worshipping an Aztec death God even if he’s decided to start dressing like the Virgin Mary. But that was the point.

    Sante Muerte worshippers consider themselves Catholic and the society treats them as Catholic
    Sante Muerte worship is prohibited and known to be prohibited
    and this activity is happening mostly outside the United States. And even within the United States no one is going to claim it is the white liberal Irish, Italian, Polish… Catholics that are the ones involved.

    I don’t think you’ve ever made the claim that Americans are uniquely bad Catholics so while we have 100s of other areas of disagreement I suspect this topic isn’t one of them.

  172. So as I was closing browser windows on this whole topic Google showed me a new news item from April 10th. http://www.albawaba.com/editorchoice/bershka-boycott-christians-483598

    Bershka T-shirts (Spanish company international sales)_ produced a Santa Muerte tee-shirt for the 2013 collection. Lebanese Christians ( Maronites) seeing the image believed it to be mocking the virgin Mary. Lebanese Christians and Mexican Christians in Lebanon identified the short as representing Santa Muerte, “it was not a mockery of Christianity, but in fact a part of Mexican Catholicism”. The issue being that there are blaspheme laws in Lebanon which could have been applied to Bershka. By arguing that this is part of Mexican Catholicism they are arguing that Bershka T-shirts are protected religious expression even if offensive to Lebanese Christians.

    This is interesting because this is educated, middle class, non-hispanic Catholics belong to a Church formally in full communion with Rome who believe that Sante Muerte is part of Mexican Catholicism. Which again is a disagreement on a matter of faith, involving yet another group since as we all agree the RCC does not consider Sante Muerte to be part of Mexican Catholicism.

    I think the casualness with which they disagree with the magisterium on this I think proves that non-conformity is global.

  173. Bryan,

    With all due respect: In our prayers, we pray for a holy death, but praying for a holy death is not the same as praying to a person named “Death.” It is wrong, and condemned by the Church, and demonic.

    Can you point us to official, magisterial condemnation?

    …bishops have not done well in teaching the faithful, in training catechists in Catholic schools, etc., and that people need to be better catechized.

    Is this copasetic to say as a faithful son of the church?!

    Which bishop &/ or catechist would you DARE say this too?! I am serious.

  174. Mikel–

    I do not know the spiritual state of the Catholic Church in Nigeria. I do know that in certain areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds. The former archbishop of the Anglican Church in Nigeria liked to say he was training and sending men to plant not new churches but whole new dioceses.

    Partly because of the faithfulness of the missionaries who brought Christianity to Africa, the church there tends to be more traditional (i.e., there are far fewer liberal churches infecting theology).

    But the poverty and lack of education of much of the native leadership also means that many are not protected from the ravages of syncretism and the prosperity gospel and off-the-wall Charismatic subjectivism. From people I have known on the ground in eastern and southern Africa, the faith of the faithful is often uninformed or ill-informed. As one said, “Their understanding of the faith is a mile wide and an inch deep.” Great enthusiasm, but not much maturity. Is that at all what it is like in Nigeria?

    Concerning Latin America, at the time of the 2010 catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, the news media reported:

    “The mixture of gods and goddesses and Catholic saints is an integral part of Haitian life – one common saying is that Haitians are 70% Catholic, 30% Protestant, and 100% voodoo.” From other sources, the actual Catholic population may be closer to 80% and the Voodoo involvement more like 90%, but you get the point. There is almost no such thing as pure Catholicism in Haiti.

    I don’t understand your country’s impression of American Christianity. Who do they think brought Christianity to Africa? Sure, Europe is in the process of losing the faith entirely, but much is made of American “exceptionalism” in terms of religion. Though highly infected by liberalism, it is also a hotbed of traditional faith. Conservative theology here affects conservative theology around the world. Admittedly, this is partly due to the influence of wealth…but also the influence of education. The world sends her sons and daughters to American seminaries to be nurtured in the faith. America is still one of the largest sending nations of missionaries. (Unfortunately, some of the more egregious Pentecostal and prosperity-gospel errors have been spread from here, as well.)

    The problem here in the U.S. is mostly secularism. In Latin America, Africa, and large swaths of Asia, it is syncretism. That’s why I made the comment about certain cultures accepting most of Rome’s teaching, but then adding layer upon layer on top of that. The problem is less that they don’t believe all of the official tenets of the church and more that their beliefs extend far beyond that.

  175. Dear Hugh,

    I looked at all three of the statistical sources that you gave. One is a personal website, another is a blurb from a parish bulletin, and yet another is the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown. Which of those three seems to be a more reliable source in your view?

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  176. Some brief responses to a couple of you. . . .

    Andrew,

    When you insist that Protestantism, EO, and Rome all accept certain aspects of tradition (and are therefore similar in that regard), you miss the point of the third leg of Rome’s stool, the Magisterium. If all that mattered were how many traditions a communion espoused, or who had the oldest doctrines, or who could cite the most ECFs, then this would just be a new version of Sola Scriptura, only now with other ancient texts being cited instead of just biblical ones. Indeed, without a Magisterium, it’s all just a prooftext war, whether Scriptural or patristic. This is why the Magisterium is crucial, and why it sets the CC apart from both Geneva and Constantinople. In the Catholic paradigm, the Magisterium can authoritatively define Tradition and interpret Scripture, thus giving a principled way to know what counts as each.

    Your statements about the apostles preaching the Word and not appealing to an institution are either anachronistic or just Gnostic, maybe both. But my point would be that when the apostles were exercising their full authority, they did not consider their message to be subject-able to the private interpretations of their hearers. Rather, as Paul said to Timothy, “speak with all authority and let no man dismiss you.”

    Your claim about there being very few disputes among confessional Protestants rings hollow when you consider that confessional Baptists would anabaptize your kids of you let them, and that LCMS Lutherans wouldn’t commune you. In fact, many families from your PCA would be denied membership in the URC, and those are two very closely-associated confessional Reformed denominations.

    As to what the commoner is supposed to do with the Cross/Liccione set of philosophical arguments, the beauty of Catholicism is that those arguments (and I am happy to lend my voice to theirs, albeit in a much less sophisticated way) are intended to ensure that common peasants don’t need to know or understand sophisticated arguments like that in order to know that they’re in the right church! The whole genius of Catholicism is that it’s visible, and that you can just locate a bishop who is in communion with the Pope and know that you’re in the church that Christ founded. Protestantism, by contrast (with its insistence that the intricacies of the biblical gospel must be properly presented in order for the church to count as legit), virtually makes knowing if you’re in the right church impossible without a command of Koine Greek and a host of other exegetical and hermeneutical skills. Catholicism doesn’t make those demands, and the philosophical arguments you cite are not intended for simpletons, but they are intended to protect them.

    Eric,

    Your attempt to distinguish between small and irrelevant non-confessional sects and Reformed denominations (and to equate this situation with splinter groups in Rome) fails for the reasons that Mikel highlighted. There simply is no such thing as “the Protestant church,” only Protestant denominations, each of which exists independently of the others. It is divided by design.

    Catholicism on the other hand, since it has true formal and objective content, is actually something that one can splinter from (and because of that objective content it can be demonstrated that some group or another is a splinter from, rather than a branch within, the Catholic Church).

    So there is no analogue between some group of people who call themselves Catholic but reject a host of dogmatic teachings of the Church on the one hand, and, say, the CREC on the other. In the case of the latter, there simply is no “Protestant church” from which they divided themselves. Indeed, the same can be said of almost any bizarre Protestant sect, since you have no principled way to say that this is orthodoxy, and that is heresy. But rather than camping out on the tu quoque, please feel free to show us what the principled way is, assuming you think there is one). That’s the point of my post, after all.

    Your claim that the East has remained intact is an interesting one. Since there is no real hierarchy or centralized authority that can define for them all who’s in and who’s out, it makes the claim to unity both easy and suspicious (much like claiming that Protestantism has remained intact). When there is no dogma and no leader, remaining intact is kind of easy, but it also has little meaning since there is no dogma to deny and no visible head to reject.

    Jesus came to bring a sword and his coming served to divide the house of Israel against itself. He was the visible Spokesman of YHWH on earth, and having that kind of thing happen was extremely dangerous since it created the possibility of easy-to-spot schism and heresy: deny Jesus’ teachings and wham!, you’re a heretic. Divide from him and bam!, you’re a schismatic. The existence of the Catholic Church is like that: it makes it very easy to spot dissent, both moral and doctrinal.

    But when you’ve got no authority that can speak infallibly with Jesus’ voice, and no visible hierarchy to delineate exactly where the Church is and where it’s not, then claiming to remain unified and intact rings rather hollow. We’re not called to remain unified with an undefined –ism, but with the visible church that Jesus founded.

  177. All Protestants:

    You have the burden of proof in this thread (although you often refuse to bear it). Bryan doesn’t need to supply Magisterial documentation to substantiate his claim about the Saint Death thing. That was a red herring from the moment it was brought up.

    Stick to the point and respond to the claims I have made in the post. Enough smoke screens.

  178. Hey Hugh,
    When I was finishing up my catecheses, my group was given a chance to point out weaknesses or ways to improve the program, and this now “faithful son of the Church” pointed out the desire for greater doctrinal content and moral instruction among other things. Don’t per se think this would require my going to the Bishop or anything. But if one felt the need, why would that person not take it to their pastor?
    Respect for the elders in the Church seems to entail addressing grievances openly and one on one to me.
    Just dropping some history,
    Mike

  179. Paul AMDG,

    Not being in your camp, I merely supplied them for the interested to research. Why does my opinion matter to you?

    I can’t pretend to be able to judge the accuracy or veracity of info from a personal website, a church bulletin, and CARA. But the latter I would guess to be the most reliable source.

    Though I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the statistical reporting done by CatholicMoralTruth & the editor of St Patricia’s bulletin.

    Soli Deo Gloria,
    Hugh

  180. MichaelTX,

    All good. Keep it up, re: “greater doctrinal content and moral instruction.” I was hoping others would answer my questions, too.

    I was querying Bryan specifically b/c made he allueded to specific failures. So again I ask:

    With all due respect, Bryan, you wrote:

    In our prayers, we pray for a holy death, but praying for a holy death is not the same as praying to a person named “Death.” It is wrong, and condemned by the Church, and demonic.

    Can you point us to official, magisterial condemnation?

    …bishops have not done well in teaching the faithful, in training catechists in Catholic schools, etc., and that people need to be better catechized.

    Is this copasetic to say as a faithful son of the church?!

    Which bishop &/ or catechist would you DARE say this too?! I am serious.

    My guess is, given the issue of Santa/ Santisima Muerte, that Bryan would want such specific troubling, misunderstood issues to be brought to the attention of one’s bishop or your local parish’s catechist. My question is, in reality, would someone be so bold as to offer such advice to his/ her bishop? Really?

    Ultimately the issue will probably be woven into Roman Catholic practice, won’t it?

    À la dia de los muertos/ dovetailing seamlessly with All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints & All Souls Days…

  181. Dear Hugh,

    I appreciate your bringing that research to all of our attention. Since CARA is, in your opinion, the most reliable source, would you please let us know what specific information from their website you find relevant to our conversation here?

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  182. Is this fair to say (taking a post from JJS):

    For the faithful Roman Catholic, the reason the Presbyterian Church is not a true church is that its theology (e.g. soteriology, ecclesiology, sacramentology, hamartiology, pneumatology, just about everything!) disagrees with the interpretation of the divine revelation –as well as its sources– espoused by confessional Catholics, and therefore, Presbyterian pastors are not truly ordained and thus ”don’t have the sacraments.”

    Rome provides an infallible human authority about what the Bible teaches, and therefore provides a way to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials, and between orthodoxy and heresy. Moreover, it provides a canon, not merely the best-guess efforts of scholars at what they think the canon should be.

    THIS Prot admits that God never intended for these distinctions to be possible.

    Though, to you all, this is untenable (not to mention making God out to be a pretty poor planner)? You’re concerned that after his incarnation and crucifixion, the Lord Jesus Christ ‘only’ set up a church that loses its infallibility after the apostolic age?

  183. @Paul

    If you want reliable sources that are recent: http://www.pewresearch.org/2013/02/25/u-s-catholics-key-data-from-pew-research/

    Another one is a rather long survey run by National Catholic reporter: http://ncronline.org/AmericanCatholics

    This one has a direct line regarding magisterial authority, “Fewer than one in three (30 percent) says that the Vatican’s teaching authority is very important to them, 46 percent say it is somewhat important, and 20 percent say that it is not important at all.”

  184. Dear CD-Host,

    Thank you for providing that helpful information.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  185. But my point would be that when the apostles were exercising their full authority, they did not consider their message to be subject-able to the private interpretations of their hearers. Rather, as Paul said to Timothy, “speak with all authority and let no man dismiss you.”

    And that is not true at all. Virtually every book of the bible argues its position. Rarely do the apostle’s claim direct authority. Their authority, the truthfulness of their claims again and again is based on scripture.

    Romans, the very first epistle the very first line Paul identifies himself as a servant of the gospel not the church. His right to speak comes from the fact that he proclaims the gospel not the fact that some person appointed him to this office. Throughout the first few chapters almost every verse is a scriptural paraphrase and then in 3:9-18 he weaves together ecclesiastes, psalms and Isaiah . Nowhere in does he assert his own authority. In Galatians Paul doesn’t argue that he has better credentials than the Judaizers that scripture, that Abraham was saved by faith, prove the righteousness of his views. In Colossians where he faces an alternative Christianity he argues that their regulations are inconsistent with their understanding of baptism, not that he has more authority.

    Paul most certainly does demand his hearers apply private interpretation. That is how they are to determine if gentiles can be grafted into the new convent. That is how they are to determine if circumcision is still needed. That is how they are to determine whether ritual purity leads to spiritual purity. When we move beyond Paul to Hebrews the author of Hebrews doesn’t even bother to name him/herself. Their authority comes from the persuasiveness of the believer coming to understand Psalm 110 they way they do. The question is “do you submit to Jesus whom God has placed above the angels”, not “do you submit to me your priest/bishop or whatever”.

    Same thing in Jude the teachers Jude opposes are wrong because they are immoral and by the readers individual understanding of scripture they can grasp that. Contrast that with Revelations we do see something like what you would want. The information is God as the source Christ as the mediator the angel as the mechanism of delivery to John who teaches the churches. Notice the difference between that and the other books?

  186. Eric,

    I mentioned the three sites since they cite stats on RCs’ adherence to RC dogma & practices, which seemed similar to those stats cited by Eric yesterday. I do not endorse any of them; I merely sent them for info from RC sources.

    I note that Eirc had already mentioned CARA, and so I apologize for being redundant here. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure what you’re driving at.

    CARA looked to be pertinent, but I may be mistaken.

    soli Deo gloria,
    Hugh

  187. This should have been addressed to Paul Weinhold:

    Paul ,

    I mentioned the three sites since they cite stats on RCs’ adherence to RC dogma & practices, which seemed similar to those stats cited by Eric yesterday. I do not endorse any of them; I merely sent them for info from RC sources.

    I note that Eric had already mentioned CARA, and so I apologize for being redundant here. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure what you’re driving at.

    CARA looked to be pertinent, but I may be mistaken.

    soli Deo gloria,
    Hugh

  188. Bryan — I haven’t read this whole thread, but I’ve fleshed out a comment that I made on April 15, 2013 at 4:00 am, and responded to your comment in response to it April 15, 2013 at 4:56 am, here:

    Bergoglio’s Gig, Part 3: Opposing Ratzinger

    Your point is that “a hypothetical interpretation of the CDF document in question, and about an open theological question that has not yet been determined definitively or non-definitively by the Church’s magisterium.”

    This point is neither hypothetical nor is it a small one. It has to do with the very form of ecclesiology that “the Church” will have in the future — and likely the near future, based on the speed with which this pope is moving to “reform” things as deeply-settled as “the curia”.

    He is doing this “reform” purely with outsiders – that is, the Curia is not being consulted on how it is to be reformed.

    A key point of the article, too, is that Kasper is the former assistant to Hans Küng. Bergoglio’s oogling over Kasper is coming at a point quite separate, too, from his proposed reform of the Curia. It is almost as if he is giving his blessing to the Kasper side of the Kasper/Ratzinger “hypothetical interpretation”.

    Above you said this issue was “a small issue, undecided but permissible.” But who is “permitting” it? In fact, who is bringing it up again, as one of the opening comments in a new papacy?

    Really this is a “the-pope-is-boss” issue vs “let’s-subsume-the-papacy-back-into-the-episcopacy-for-ecumenical-reasons” issue.

    The biggest issue for Kasper in his debate with Ratzinger was “actual history”, a thing that you have made vigorous efforts to sidestep. The “historical scholarship” you decry is what propelled Kasper, and it appears to be what is motivating this pope as well.

    I wonder how many of your articles about ecclesiology and the papacy you will have to go back and revise before this papacy is over?

  189. Just a further word to those of you who may not be inclined to follow up and read the article that I linked to.

    As I note in the article, Ratzinger understands this, and he argues that the relationship between “pope and bishops” is at stake. “This office of Peter and his responsibility cannot in any way exist, if the universal Church were not already presupposed. Were that the case then it would be a grasping in the void, and would represent an absurd claim”.

    Of course, I agree that “the office of Peter and his responsibility” is an absurd claim. That is what I have been arguing all these years.

    On the other hand, this is precisely what Kasper is arguing: For Kasper, “if one insists with Ratzinger that the pre-existent Church is only the universal Church apart from the local churches, then one has opted for an ecclesiological abstraction”

    Killian McDonnel, whom I am citing in this article, notes, “this warning, from a bishop of Kasper’s credentials, needs to be taken seriously.”

    How seriously will you take it?

  190. +JMJ+

    Hugh McCann wrote:

    If the stats are true (even approximately), how do they prove RCC unity? Both sources are scandalized by the results, apparently believing they show DISunity…

    Woz,
    I believe that I covered that in my above post (Apr 17th @ 8:40 am), the core of which is succinctly summed in the 2nd sentence.

    On a related note, what I’m also saying is that, in contradistinction to the RCC, there’s not a single aspect of classical Protestantism, neither Doctrine nor Praxis nor Morals, that is Incarnational. Everything is bifurcated into two separate realities: one Visible and the other Invisible.

    Considering that Protestants confess belief in an in Incarnate God, I think that the question for Protestants to ask themselves is whether they think that it is consonant, or apt, that an Incarnate God would have a Disincarnate Economy.

  191. Michael Liccione–

    No doubt, the Allies in WWII might be said to be “partly to blame” for the Holocaust. After all, the countless ignominious sanctions foisted on the Weimar Republic by the Treaty of Versailles put “a bee in Hitler’s bonnet.” Shame on us and our obvious genocidal involvement!

    What exact sort of blame are you pinning on the Reformation Germans? Impatience with oppression, high taxes, and indulgence mongering?

    If you can look upon the mind control and the brutal atrocities of the Reformation-Era Catholics and not hang your head in utter shame, you, my friend, are not a civilized human being.

    They were the aggressors in the Thirty Years’ War, fought almost exclusively in Protestant territories, a war that literally left between 1/4 and 1/2 of the population of the Germanies dead. They animalistically butchered thousands of Huguenots in France, then hounded and harried the rest from the country. Very big of you to acknowledge “some blame.”

    The Catholic church is a very different institution these days. I am grateful for the ways in which she has cleaned up her act. But the fact that she has been, at various points in her past, an unequivocal force for evil is beyond debate.

    Thomas More had his moments of courage and honor, but he was no saint by any stretch of the imagination. Erasmus kept himself to safe venues and died in Protestant Basel. Reginald Pole might have been in danger, as well, had he not kept himself to the Venetian Republic and to his homeland, Bloody Mary’s England.

    I’m guessing that a doctorate in philosophy doesn’t guarantee one any competence in the knowledge of history. (Just kidding, Michael, but you jabbed at me…. 🙂 )

  192. Jason and Mikel–

    Yes, there is a (confessional) Protestantism, and it adheres to the WCF, the 3FU, and Augsburg. It is far more monolithic than the Roman Church and easily identifies those who are outside its bounds. Plus, it actually brings those who dare poke their big toe out of that closely guarded circle to trial. (Jason might have some firsthand experience with that….)

  193. @Wosbald

    Considering that Protestants confess belief in an in Incarnate God, I think that the question for Protestants to ask themselves is whether they think that it is consonant, or apt, that an Incarnate God would have a Disincarnate Economy.

    You are hitting on one of my favorite themes. Given Protestantism’s invisible church why bother with the incarnation? What function does the incarnation serve if the real church is invisible? In other words:

    An earthly church needs a incarnate founder for authority
    so contra-positively
    A heavenly founder doesn’t provide authority needed authority for an earthly church

    So we have a test. If the earliest literature of proto-Christianity speaks in heavenly terms then gets more incarnational it would be evidence of an earthly church looking to extend its authority. If the earliest literature of proto-christianity is purely material and full of appeals to authority then the intent of the earthly founder was to create an earthly church.

    Wosbald you sure you want to stay on this road? This argument is very sharp and cuts both ways.

  194. Wosbald,

    Wha…?

    I asked you: “If the stats are true (even approximately), how do they prove RCC unity? Both sources are scandalized by the results, apparently believing they show DISunity…”

    Now you say first, I believe that I covered that in my above post (Apr 17th @ 8:40 am), the core of which is succinctly summed in the 2nd sentence. Huh?!

    That post reads [2nd sentence in bold]:

    All of these stats and objections only prove Catholic Unity. They prove that there is a Content to Catholic Faith. Conversely, in Protestantism, there is no formal content to Faith. For Protestantism, “faith in doctrine” has replaced the Doctrine of Faith. Faith has gone from Dogmatic Faith (a Knowing Faith) to Fiducial Faith (a Trusting Faith).

    In a nutshell, Reformism’s distinction between the Visible and Invisible Churches also applies to doctrine. One simply trusts that Invisible Doctrine, though epistemically ineffable, is always right and true, and that Visible Doctrine, although analogically representative of Invisible Doctrine, has no intrinsic identity with it.

    Now you say secondly, “On a related note, what I’m also saying is that, in contradistinction to the RCC, there’s not a single aspect of classical Protestantism, neither Doctrine nor Praxis nor Morals, that is Incarnational. Everything is bifurcated into two separate realities: one Visible and the other Invisible.”

    That sounds a little over the top (hyperbolic), but I’ll chew on it awhile…

    Thirdly you now say, “Considering that Protestants confess belief in an in Incarnate God, I think that the question for Protestants to ask themselves is whether they think that it is consonant, or apt, that an Incarnate God would have a Disincarnate Economy.”

    It may be we aren’t “incarnate” the way you’d like, given your CIP.

  195. Woz,

    Cliff Notes recap:

    You said in part, “All of these stats and objections only prove Catholic Unity. They prove that there is a Content to Catholic Faith.”

    I asked : “If the stats are true (even approximately), how do they prove RCC unity? Both sources are scandalized by the results, apparently believing they show DISunity…”

    Now you say first, “I believe that I covered that in my above post (Apr 17th @ 8:40 am), the core of which is succinctly summed in the 2nd sentence.”

    How does your assertion that the statistics prove that the Catholic faith has content, prove RCC unity?

    OK, there’s content in RCC doctrine. Many professing RCs appear to deny some of its cardinal tenets. I ask for the last time:

    How does this prove not that your faith has content (none is contending otherwise), but that there is unity among professing RCs?

  196. Dear Hugh,

    Thank you for the data that you provide. My present concern is only that the data we use be reliable and verifiable. Anecdotal data, statistical and polling data given without a citation, and data taken unreliable sources does not, to my mind, bear much argumentative weight. That said, CARA, the Pew Research Center, and the NCR seem reputable enough to my amateurish mind. Now I’d like to know what relevant argument you or Eric would like to make on the basis of that data.

    Speaking of data, here’s some. The Pew Research Center also reports that the Catholic Church tripled in size over the last century, and that, while only 1 in 10 American Catholics who were raised Catholic left the faith (source), Protestant America is in steep decline (source). They also provide data about the reasons why anybody, Catholic or Protestant, leaves his or her faith to join another (source).

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  197. Hugh,

    It seems we are slightly of topic and I hope Stellman doesn’t mind our topic being a midst the posts. But to your thought of who would be so bold. I would think any Christian should be so bold. God calls us to it. I don’t think I am called as a layman to go around correcting the priest or bishops of some other area God has not put me in to be taught at, but where my kids are at it is my call as a father and fellow brother of any Catholic to point out when they are outside of the teachings of the Church. Either I find out I am wrong or we will grow together. Like I said I pointed out my concerns to my Catechist and felt there to be no need to bring it up to the pastor, but the concerns I had were with it not being full enough. It would be quite another thing if it were full of doctrine contrary to Church teaching.

    I believe much of the weaknesses we experience throughout society isn’t because the leaders of both Church and state are corrupt in and of themselves, but largely because the families which are the pool of all people come out of are weak. A strong laity will lead to a strong leadership, a more holy laity will lead to a more holy priest. God leads his people both in the “leadership” of the Church and in the society not only through the current leaders around us, but from the faith leaders that we are by being faithful to Him everywhere. Most especially as Fathers and mothers of the gifts of God he gives us who will be the leaders in both the Church and governments of the future.

    Peace Hugh,
    Mike

    Jason, please let me know how tight you are wanting to keep the thread here. You can drop any of my posts you wish. Thanks.

  198. Paul – Thanks. I’m not wanting to make any argument at the present time on the basis of any of the data.

    MichaelTX – Thanks for your honest, thorough answer to my question. I await Bryan’s response to the same since he it is who said that the confusion over Santa Muerte amongst some Catholics is due to the fact “that bishops have not done well in teaching the faithful.” I wonder if he or any of you who agree with his assessment would tell a bishop such a thing. But it is, as you all say, off-topic.

  199. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    Thirdly you now say, “Considering that Protestants confess belief in an in Incarnate God, I think that the question for Protestants to ask themselves is whether they think that it is consonant, or apt, that an Incarnate God would have a Disincarnate Economy.”

    Hugh McCann wrote:
    .
    It may be we aren’t “incarnate” the way you’d like, given your CIP.

    Just something for you to chew over. No need to answer out loud. And given your answer here, you also may want to ponder the way in which your Economy is Incarnational.

  200. Back to Jason’s post… You wrote,

    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.”

    So, all: Do laity need care to follow proceedings such as a Vatican Council beyond taking in the pageantry and agreeing with to all final decisions? You simply nod assent and smile, right? I’m serious. Implicit faith does have its practical advantages…

    In other words, when Rome speaks, one never can or ever shall say, “but in this instance [or that] the church got it wrong”?

  201. @Paul

    only 1 in 10 American Catholics who were raised Catholic left the faith

    You accidentally misread that, what it said was, “1 in 10 American adults has left the religion after being raised Catholic”. That’s not 1 in 10 Catholics that’s (1/10) / (% of catholics in the population) a much larger number.

    When this data came out I wrote a blog post on the inflows and outflows: Michael Bell on inflows and outflows, which covers this and more usefully has a nice graph. Catholics are not doing well, firstly because when they intermarry 2::1 the Catholic converts out rather than the Protestant or other converting in. Secondly, Catholics are far and away the biggest group feeding the growing Non-religious category consisting of: Atheist, Agnostic, None, Don’t know, Don’t care. So far this is a problem with white Catholics and not Hispanic catholics but… Hispanic Catholics are showing signs of low morale in particular rapidly falling off marriage in the church and baptism. So I suspect you will see similar longitudinal numbers by around 2030 for Hispanic Catholics.

    The Catholic percentage of the population has remained steady because of strong immigration.

    Now if you want to gloat a bit the average age of Evangelicals is skyrocketing. Evangelical Christianity looks primed to go through the demographic changes that Mainline Christianity when through from the 40’s to the 90s.

    _____

    In terms of the data on reasons for leaving, Barna did a study on reasons for diminishing enthusiasm and also found the “meanness” issues were high on the list:

    * antihomosexual 91%
    * judgmental 87%
    * hypocritical 85%
    * old-fashioned 78%
    * too political 75%
    * out of touch with reality 72%
    * insensitive to others 70%
    * boring 68%

  202. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    Considering that Protestants confess belief in an in Incarnate God, I think that the question for Protestants to ask themselves is whether they think that it is consonant, or apt, that an Incarnate God would have a Disincarnate Economy.

    CD-Host wrote:
    .
    An earthly church needs a incarnate founder for authority
    so contra-positively
    A heavenly founder doesn’t provide authority needed authority for an earthly church
    .
    So we have a test. If the earliest literature of proto-Christianity speaks in heavenly terms then gets more incarnational it would be evidence of an earthly church looking to extend its authority. If the earliest literature of proto-christianity is purely material and full of appeals to authority then the intent of the earthly founder was to create an earthly church.

    If your test is saying that an Incarnate God is up for grabs, then you’re one step beyond the Protestants and my point doesn’t even apply anymore.

  203. Dear CD-Host,

    Thanks for your response. This is why we cite sources! So, I’m reading the following from the NPR article:

    Today, about 1 in 10 American adults raised as Catholic has left the religion, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center poll. Pew reports that more than half of them say they are unhappy with the church’s stance on abortion and homosexuality. About 70 percent say they simply drifted away.

    When I read what’s above, I don’t see (yet) how I’ve misread the article. Will you please show me?

    Also, I certainly wouldn’t gloat over a demographic downturn in evangelicalism. Secularism is clearly a problem for all Christians in Europe and America, so please, let’s pray together that our Lord will re-evangelize all of our hearts.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul

  204. “…let’s pray together that our Lord will re-evangelize all of our hearts.”

    Great prayer.

  205. Jason,

    When you insist that Protestantism, EO, and Rome all accept certain aspects of tradition (and are therefore similar in that regard), you miss the point of the third leg of Rome’s stool, the Magisterium.

    But the Magisterium is part of the tradition of the Church, is it not? The existence and the functioning of the Magisterium, as Rome came to define that teaching office, is a derivative matter. If I asked you to defend the teaching authority of the Catholic Church (both infallible sacred magisterium and the fallible ordinary magisterium) I imagine you would take me back to the early tradition of the Church and show me that the current RCC dogmatic teaching on the Magisterium is consistent with the earliest Christian traditions. So the Magisterium proceeds from tradition and thus I speak of both together as the “tradition” which I am critiquing.

    We both believe that there is a teaching authority for the Church but we have differences concerning what we believe that teaching authority to be comprised of. And don’t we try to resolve our differences over what this teaching authority is by appealing to what the Church taught in her early centuries? Doesn’t it all come back to interpreting tradition? Either your understanding of the Magisterium of the RCC is correct or it is not. And I don’t know any way to figure out whether you have gotten it right than by looking at the foundation of Christian tradition to see if it’s consistent.

    Your statements about the apostles preaching the Word and not appealing to an institution are either anachronistic or just Gnostic,…

    When Jesus preached he certainly did not appeal to an institution, and when the Apostles preached they generally did not either. Just look at the sermons that Jesus and the Apostles preached. But here I am only pointing out that the basis of their commands to repent were an appeal to the Word of God. Of course once visible churches had been established people were commanded to be part of them. God establishes a Church, we can read about what the elements and functions of that Church are in Scripture. So I am not divorcing gospel from church, I am only making the case, as per my Athanasian example, that the authority by which such folks as Athanasius used was the Word of God, not an infallible Roman institution.

    Your claim about there being very few disputes among confessional Protestants rings hollow when you consider that confessional Baptists would anabaptize your kids of you let them, and that LCMS Lutherans wouldn’t commune you.

    I remember the Protestant Jason Stellman responding to that point by saying that was the Baptist/LCMS problem, not ours. If the Lutheran pastor wants to treat me as an outcast because of differing perceptions of the efficacy of the sacraments, that’s his issue not mine. He is always welcome to partake in my church.

    The whole genius of Catholicism is that it’s visible, and that you can just locate a bishop who is in communion with the Pope and know that you’re in the church that Christ founded.

    But what happens when the bishop who this Catholic layperson is following is what you would term “unfaithful.” Shouldn’t the Catholic parishioner make some types of judgments on the bishops in his diocese and put himself under a faithful bishop? Isn’t that what you would do? On Protestants finding a good church, I think you are right that some knowledge of the Christian faith is necessary. There are some judgments that ought to be made by the parishioner and it definitely helps to be a knowledgeable Christian. But I would think that it would help to be a knowledgeable Catholic when making decisions one which local body to be part of. I mean if you joined the first Catholic communion you wondered into, goodness knows what you might be getting involved with!

    There simply is no such thing as “the Protestant church,” only Protestant denominations

    So if you mean that there is not one hierarchically organized Protestant Church with one bishop as the supreme leader, then I would agree. But such a Church is not what was defined in Scripture and was not what we see in the Church following the time of the Apostles. The Church in the West becomes centralized in time, but I don’t see good spiritual reasons for this happening. Perhaps you do, but of course that would be just your interpretation of tradition. My position is that God never intended the Church to possess the hierarchical function and possess the kind of centralized power that she did in the Medieval West. And no doubt you disagree, but on what basis can you refute this contention?

    The existence of the Catholic Church is like that: it makes it very easy to spot dissent, both moral and doctrinal.

    I agree with that. And if God intended for spotting dissent to be “easy” then I suppose that’s an argument for the truth of the claims of the RCC. That’s a big “if” of course….

  206. The Catholic viewpoint seems to clash with Scripture in this way:
    God didn’t not prevent Israels disunity in OT period or intertestamental period.God didn’t give an infallible Old Testament magisterium. Many sects, heresies and divisions developed. There was a shared text but no unity of interpretation (tradition didn’t help bring unity). This was all before Jesus appeared. Surely God should have had an infallible interpreter in preparation for the central event of history? But he didn’t. God apparently failed to provide OT believers and intertestamental believers with anyway to know the truth beyond private personal opinion. It means that there was [to paraphrase Jason]- “no ecclesiastical body on earth who could speak with infallible authority on matters of doctrine, and so one man’s orthodoxy was as good as another man’s heresy”.
    Why would God do this? As much was at stake then before Christ as after Christ. And basically God provided them no way out of the TQ dilemma. God did send prophets. But they rebuked the people as fully culpable for not following the covenant and previous revelation (which obviously was adequate = clarity + sufficiency of the Word to me). And prophets were situational and independent not successional and institutional.
    Now people could easily identify the succession of leaders who God himself established as teachers for Israel (the priesthood). But this was no guarantee that they would infallibly give the right interpretation or dogma. Indeed these guys often lead out in apostasy and eventually helped kill Jesus. A divinely instituted group was no escape from the TQ problem either. It seems every claim for the Catholic position necessitating an infallible magisterium is also an argument against Gods OT work.
    It thus appears that the Catholic solution seems to be an answer to a problem that God has chosen not to eliminate and appears instead to operate amid it and utilize it as a shifting, separating work.

  207. A confessional Baptist, Presbyterian, and Luther (BPL) walk into a bar and find Jason Stellman (JS). They sit down, order some drinks—even the Baptist! :)—and have a conversation.

    BPL: Justification is by faith alone. Just read Romans 3–4.

    JS: But how do you KNOW your interpretation is correct.

    BPL: Well, the context proves it.

    JS: But you can’t KNOW your interpretation is correct without an infallible interpreter.

    BPL: Well, we work with the text as best we can, always seeking to improve our understanding, but at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit must convince us (1 Cor. 2:6–16).

    JS: But how do you KNOW your interpretation is correct without an infallible interpreter.

    BPL: First, we investigate the original text, learn the languages, see if it is consonant with the rest of Scripture, secondarily, we consider what the writings of great Christians throughout history have to say on the matter.

    JS: But how do you KNOW you are reading all those things rightly.

    BPL: Well, if you are talking about knowledge that is fully and completely infallible, I suppose we don’t have that. But on this side of glory we can’t have that knowledge because we are fallen. But if the Bible is right, God expects us to trust Him and His Word even if that trust in some sense, from a human perspective, fallible.

    JS: But how do you KNOW you are supposed to do that. You Protestants are divided, clearly the text isn’t good enough on its own. It lacks the perspicacity you claim for it.

    BPL: Well, we are actually united on a host of issues such as the Trinity, the Chalcedonian definition, justification by faith alone, the need to judge all things by Scripture. We can even agree that Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper, though we do not agree on how. Sure, we differ over baptism and predestination, which are certainly not unimportant issues, but we trust the Spirit, in time, to bring about a unity of faith on such things. We don’t infallibly know that such would happen, but God has brought us to a unity on many things already, why should we not believe that he can’t do the same here?

    Even if he doesn’t, our only sure source of apostolic revelation tells us that one does not have to be united on the issues of baptism or predestination to be saved. It just says we have to know and believe the essential doctrines of the faith.

    JS: But how do you KNOW what those are.

    BPL: Well, they would be the things Scripture says we must believe in order to be saved. Jesus said we must believe who He says He is in order to be saved (John 8:24). So, clearly we must affirm His deity, and by good and necessary consequence, how He relates to the Father and Spirit, since we have to know His teaching on that in order to know what He says about Himself. In other words, we have to make a basic affirmation of the Trinity.

    We must also understand that justification is not by our works in any sense. Paul anathematizes those who say otherwise.

    JS: But how do you KNOW that is all. 1 John also says we must love our brother and walk in righteousness.

    BPL: You are right, but those things aren’t objects of faith in the same way. They are more the evidences of it and the ways by which we know we are in Christ. We examine ourselves for such things, and also true doctrine, for John puts a premium on that in his first epistle as well.

    In any case, how do you KNOW you are reading the text correctly and that you must also believe such things.

    JS: Well, I have an interpreter that is infallible in some cases. You have to have one in order to make things not a matter of mere human opinion.

    BPL: How do you KNOW that?

    JS: Because some really smart guys with PhDs in philosophy have proven that to be the case. Without that infallible interpreter, solo and sola Scriptura amount to being the same thing. Plus, my infallible interpreter tells me that.

    BPL: How do you KNOW those smart guys are right about that?

    JS: Just look at the Protestant division and the disagreements between them. It’s been 500 years of complete anarchy.

    BPL: So, is your argument that if sola Scriptura were true, there would be no fragmentation or at least that there would have been visible unity after 500 years of trying?

    JS: Yes.

    BPL: How do you KNOW that?

    JS: Because my infallible interpreter tells me so. Besides, it’s just common sense.

    BPL: So your “common sense” and reading of the evidence of history and Scripture tell you that is how things are supposed to be. Plus your infallible interpreter.

    JS: I don’t know if I’d put it exactly that way, but essentially, yes.

    BPL: How do you KNOW that should be the standard? And how do you KNOW you’ve interpreted the evidence properly?

    JS: Because my infallible interpreter tells me so.

    BPL: How do you KNOW you’ve found the right infallible interpreter?

    JS: My study of history, philosophy, and Scripture led me to that conclusion.

    BPL: Well, our study of those things led us to the opposite conclusion. How do you KNOW we are wrong?

    JS: Because God would be a poor planner otherwise.

    BPL: So, what you are saying, ultimately, is a few things:

    1. God must reveal Himself in a way YOU find credible and that leads YOU to affirm that He made a good plan according to YOUR standards.
    2. God must bring visible unity within at least 500 years in order to prove a principle right.

    Did it ever occur to you that you that maybe you are demanding things that you shouldn’t?
    Did it ever occur to you that you are essentially arguing like an atheist: If God wanted to convince me, He must do x?
    Did it ever occur to you that you sound like a 2-year-old who demands things go his way?
    Did it ever occur to you that you are inconsistently demanding standards of religious knowledge that you don’t demand of other kinds of knowledge? (I mean, you don’t demand an infallible interpreter to know 2+2=4, do you?)

    Crickets.

  208. Eric:
    Jason and Mikel–
    Yes, there is a (confessional) Protestantism, and it adheres to the WCF, the 3FU, and Augsburg. It is far more monolithic than the Roman Church and easily identifies those who are outside its bounds. Plus, it actually brings those who dare poke their big toe out of that closely guarded circle to trial. (Jason might have some firsthand experience with that….)

    Me:
    A couple of years back I started looking at the truth of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. What became apparent almost immediately was how little I knew. There is a whole wide world out there. It is actually fun reading the history and theology of the Catholic Church.

    Along the way I also started learning about Protestantism. Slowly I found out that the Protestant world is far more complex than I ever imagined. And the thing is after more than two years I am nowhere close to getting a grasp of the various branches and theology of Protestantism.

    Eric, I do not know much about Confessional Protestantism. I have gathered it refers to the branch of Protestantism that have written documents like a catechism/confession that is adhered to, but I don’t know which denominations belong to this group.

    It is for this reason I try not to get drawn into theological debates on Protestant belief since I know I can not present them correctly and thus fairly.

    I know about Anglicans, Methodist, Baptist, Lutherans. Then I found out there are groups called Reformed, Congregational, Quakers, Anabaptist. I hear mentions of Arminians (they appear to be always arguing with the Reformed group), non denominationals. That there are different types of Baptist, different types of Anglicans (high, low). Then PCA, OPC, PCUSA, etc. Honestly I can’t keep track of all these in my head. I really get impressed when you all talk about these groups so confidently and knowledgably.

    Let’s say I grant you that Confessional Protestants are more monolithic the Catholicism. But that is comparing a section of Protestantism with the entire Catholic Church. What about the other branches of Protestantism? What am I to do with them? Ignore them? Is there some way they are not factors in this comparison?

    My fear and worry is not about the more orthodox Protestantism per se (they have done a lot of good for the people). It is with the highly individualized and accountable-to-no-one Pentecostal Churches that these orthodox Protestant Churches are rapidly morphing into. I actually have a bit of sympathy for these Churches in Nigeria. They have the conservative ‘boring’ worship of Catholicism, without the protection of its clear dogmas, structures and authority. So they are either forced to adapt (especially the Baptist) or they lose members to the quick fix ‘happening ‘ Pentecostal Churches.

  209. Mikel,

    Let’s say I grant you that Confessional Protestants are more monolithic the Catholicism. But that is comparing a section of Protestantism with the entire Catholic Church. What about the other branches of Protestantism? What am I to do with them? Ignore them? Is there some way they are not factors in this comparison?

    My fear and worry is not about the more orthodox Protestantism per se (they have done a lot of good for the people). It is with the highly individualized and accountable-to-no-one Pentecostal Churches that these orthodox Protestant Churches are rapidly morphing into. I actually have a bit of sympathy for these Churches in Nigeria. They have the conservative ‘boring’ worship of Catholicism, without the protection of its clear dogmas, structures and authority. So they are either forced to adapt (especially the Baptist) or they lose members to the quick fix ‘happening ‘ Pentecostal Churches.’

    You don’t escape the problem simply by going to a church that claims infallibility. How does one get a handle on Romanism? The institutional Roman Catholic Church with Pope Francis is not the only church that claims to be the true Roman Catholic Church. You have Old Catholic churches, the Polish National Catholic Church in the U.S., and many isolated churches that reject Vatican 2 and the popes after it. One still has to study the different churches and make up their own mind as to which one is right. The mere fact that Pope Francis claims to lead 1.2 billion Catholics doesn’t give that church an automatic pass as the one true church. God has had a extremely small remnant in the past, why not today?

    There are Arminians and strict predestinarians in the Roman Catholic Church as well. Why is that less confusing than the Methodist and Presbyterian churches next door to each other? Because they don’t have visible organizational unity? But I can go from parish A to parish B and receive different answers on what constitutes a mortal sin, whether or not non-Roman Catholics should take the Eucharist, and much more. Rome is better because one has an authority to submit to that is infallible. But when Rome crafts documents to form a consensus that all can agree to and yet still differ over key matters, how effectively is it exercising its charism of infallibility?

    Any Roman Catholic could break away today and form their own church and Rome could do nothing about it. Rome doesn’t have armies to kill heretics any more. Sure, you can say that said person is objectively no longer a Roman Catholic. But you can do the same in Protestantism.

    The repeated refrain on this thread from Roman Catholics seems to be—sure, things are messy in practice but at least we have a way in principle to settle disagreements authoritatively. But is there any evidence that the principle actually works. Forgive me for being too pragmatic, but if the principle isn’t working, is it valuable in any true sense.

  210. Robert,
    I’d say it is less a pragmatic ability of the Church to be able to settle disputes and more the truth that the body of Christ is lead by the mind and love of Christ, His Spirit, enlivening it to recognize and in one voice proclaim the infective disease by its name; heresy. Then the infected cells have to deal with the choice of separating from the head or conforming to its source of life, the True Vine, the voice of the Good Shepard who will never leave His sheep to wonder to far from His voice. In a sense I see no way to believe God wishes his people to be separated from a living single voice of the Good Shepard, by the promises I read in the scriptures, so to me the scriptures point to there being a way for me to find that living voice even if it is difficult in our age.
    Peace,
    Mike

  211. Now people could easily identify the succession of leaders who God himself established as teachers for Israel (the priesthood). But this was no guarantee that they would infallibly give the right interpretation or dogma. Indeed these guys often lead out in apostasy and eventually helped kill Jesus. A divinely instituted group was no escape from the TQ problem either. It seems every claim for the Catholic position necessitating an infallible magisterium is also an argument against Gods OT work. It thus appears that the Catholic solution seems to be an answer to a problem that God has chosen not to eliminate and appears instead to operate amid it and utilize it as a shifting, separating work.

    Indeed.

    The thrust of this debate pits two realities against each other: a need for infallibility vs trust/faith in God. Catholics will say that there is no distinction between the two since God grants the the CC infallibility, but as I have suggested, this is epistemologically untenable. And behind this dialectic lies a deeper battle, one that has its origins in our genesis:

    In the garden, the serpent offered Adam and Eve the idea that they too could become infallible, as God was. You will become like God was the promise. One wishes that Eve would have retorted:

    “But Serpent, isn’t that begging the question?”

    “What question, dear?”

    “Why do I need infallibility, when I have faith in our Father of Lights?

    God only asked of them that they trust Him and leave all need of infallibility to Him alone. But faith wasn’t enough, sadly. And likewise today, faith and faithfulness are not enough.

    When I suggest that what the church needs is this: to do righteousness which is better than infallibility (cf. Prov 21:3), I am met with scoffers who say that I have no right to speak, I am a usurper with no authority. They say, here, eat of this fruit, and you will have infallibility too. “You shall have no other gods before you”, is my reply.

    In Acts 15, we witness James issuing his final verdict a the doctrinal question. Was he not infallible? I say He was faithful in carrying out the Great Commission. Faithful to Christ’s teaching, faithful to those he had been given charge of and everyone knew it, so much so that even his enemies had great respect for him. We ought to have imitated James and the elders, in conduct and in faithfulness.

    But history shows otherwise.

  212. P.S. To me this is one of the principle differences in the OT people of God and the post-incarnational lost sheep ingrafted into the body of Christ born of the OT people of God.

    “11For thus saith the Lord God: Behold I myself will seek my sheep, and will visit them. 12As the shepherd visiteth his hock in the day when he shall be in the midst of his sheep that were scattered, so will I visit my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13And I will bring them out from the peoples, and will gather them out of the countries, and will bring them to their own land.”

  213. In a sense I see no way to believe God wishes his people to be separated from a living single voice of the Good Shepard, by the promises I read in the scriptures,…

    That He does not wish so does not imply that they cannot be:

    “5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

  214. Robert:
    You don’t escape the problem simply by going to a church that claims infallibility. How does one get a handle on Romanism? The institutional Roman Catholic Church with Pope Francis is not the only church that claims to be the true Roman Catholic Church. You have Old Catholic churches, the Polish National Catholic Church in the U.S., and many isolated churches that reject Vatican 2 and the popes after it. One still has to study the different churches and make up their own mind as to which one is right. The mere fact that Pope Francis claims to lead 1.2 billion Catholics doesn’t give that church an automatic pass as the one true church. God has had a extremely small remnant in the past, why not today?

    Me:
    Now I am really confused. Excuse me but who is the Pope of the Old Catholic Church? The Polish National Catholic Church? How can a Church with the name of a single country be the universal Catholic Church? Ok I desire to be a member of the Polish National Catholic Church, how do you suggest I go about achieving that from Nigeria. (This is one of the issues I have with the Eastern Orthodox Churches. I have never seen one nor have I ever met anyone who has seen one).

    You yourself have defined why these are not the Catholic Church. You said

    1. They reject Vatican II. (Heresy)
    2. They reject the Popes after Vatican II. (Schism)

    Robert:
    There are Arminians and strict predestinarians in the Roman Catholic Church as well. Why is that less confusing than the Methodist and Presbyterian churches next door to each other? Because they don’t have visible organizational unity? But I can go from parish A to parish B and receive different answers on what constitutes a mortal sin, whether or not non-Roman Catholics should take the Eucharist, and much more. Rome is better because one has an authority to submit to that is infallible. But when Rome crafts documents to form a consensus that all can agree to and yet still differ over key matters, how effectively is it exercising its charism of infallibility?

    Me:
    I have never had to go visiting different parishes to obtain an answer about the teaching of the Catholic Church. They are preached from the altar at Mass everyday at my parish. I have a copy of the Catechism of The Catholic Church. I have the documents and Papal encyclicals of the Church. There are more resources than I can ever fully access on the Catholic Church.

    Honestly this is puzzling. What is actually going on over there in the USA? What is this differences in teaching that is constantly being mentioned on this blog? Is it that there is/are hidden Pope/Popes in USA with his/their own separate and different teachings and doctrines?

    Robert:
    Any Roman Catholic could break away today and form their own church and Rome could do nothing about it. Rome doesn’t have armies to kill heretics any more. Sure, you can say that said person is objectively no longer a Roman Catholic. But you can do the same in Protestantism.

    Me:
    If a Catholic forms his own Church today it will not be a/the Catholic Church. It will most likely be a Protestant Church.

    It has never been a question of numbers. Where is the Bishop of Rome? What does the Magisterium of the Church teach?

    Robert:
    The repeated refrain on this thread from Roman Catholics seems to be—sure, things are messy in practice but at least we have a way in principle to settle disagreements authoritatively. But is there any evidence that the principle actually works. Forgive me for being too pragmatic, but if the principle isn’t working, is it valuable in any true sense.

    Me:
    Catholicism is working for me. I know it is working in my parish. I know it is working in my Archdiocese. I know it is working in my country. And I know it is working in the USA. The greater proportion of what I know about the Catholic Church, I found from books and online resource of the USA. And I am not the sharpest tool in the shade.

    If anything it is Protestantism with its march towards the highly individualized and accountable-to-no-one quick fix Pentecostalism that appears not to be working here.

    I will post something from Michael Liccione. (Michael, I hope you are okay with my borrowing your post. But you put it better than I can ever begin to dream of. Please my apologies if I am taking too much liberties.) He made this post on C2C in response to a similar objection you are raising here. His definition of who a Catholic is, is so on point.

    Micheal Liccione’s Post:
    I suggested that your characterization of Protestantism would be accurate only if you qualified it with ‘conservative’. To support that, I noted that “plenty of liberal Protestants would deny we can be sure that Jesus Christ is the final and definitive revelation of God Himself.” You replied: “Plenty of liberal Catholics would deny the same.” But that tu quoque doesn’t help your case.

    It should not have been, but apparently is, necessary for me to highlight the relevant difference. Nobody claims, because nobody can claim, divinely bestowed authority to speak for and to Protestants as such. Accordingly, your characterization of Protestantism is no more accurate normatively than it is empirically. But the pope and the bishops together do claim divinely bestowed authority to teach Catholics and speak for them as Catholics. So, while your point about liberal Catholics is true empirically, it is false normatively. With respect to divine revelation, Catholics can and do believe whatever their judgment dictates; whether that should be so or not, it is simply an empirical fact. But that is not what makes a Catholic a Catholic. What makes a Catholic a Catholic is that he believes, if only implicitly, whatever the Church teaches irreformably, with her full authority. If he conscientiously disbelieves something the Church so teaches, he is a bad Catholic by the only authoritative criteria there are for being Catholic, and many such people cease to consider themselves Catholic altogether. But if a Protestant conscientiously disbelieves something his church teaches, that does not make him a bad Protestant. He can and often does simply join another Protestant church that shares his beliefs. By thus following his own judgment, he is a good Protestant, not a bad one. So the fact that there are as many liberal Catholics as liberal Protestants does not put Catholicism and Protestantism on an epistemic par. Catholicism as such has authoritative norms for distinguishing orthodoxy from heresy; in Protestantism as such (as distinct from this-or-that Protestant church), there are no such norms. One church’s heretic is another church’s orthodox believer, and that’s that.

  215. 13And I will bring them out from the peoples, and will gather them out of the countries, and will bring them to their own land.”

    Yes, He has done this. Israel was reconstituted in 1948 and today, beyond belief, there are about 100,000 Jewish believers living in their own land again, many of whom are not converts to one of the gentile branches, but none other than those natural branches regrafted into their own tree as Paul prophesied in Romans 11.

  216. SS,
    Me and you love the scriptures Bro. I supposes I could toss echos and echos of the scripture the are in my head, but I know that you will continue to do that and that is good. Follow the Word and he will lead us both. I do wish for you to consider what you left out of the Genesis conversation. “You will know Good and evil.” God said to man what was not good for Man; death(separation from Gods Word/Command not to eat). The voice of Christ still proclaims what is “not” Truth, but not the perfect know of Good and evil. “For the hidden things belong to God.”
    Love your heart SS,
    Mike

  217. When we do not have what is presented in an authoritative voice, it is we who must sort through the good or evil of action in our own eyes. We “know good and evil” apart from the voice of God. Though to hear the voice of God or the voice of the Tempter always requires a choice. Faith in what God has revealed or Rebellion to that revelation.
    Peace all,
    Mike

  218. The voice of Christ still proclaims what is “not” Truth, but not the perfect know of Good and evil. “For the hidden things belong to God.”

    The voice of Christ proclaimed “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s”

    Why then, is the Vatican a nation state, hoarding wealth untold? Why then, is the Orthodox church in bed with the Greek and Cypriot states, so much so that she will probably be bankrupt with Cyprus when all is said and done?

    I say faithfulness not fallibility should be our concern.

    Only One is Infallible.

  219. Amen! To this part certainly.

    “I say faithfulness not fallibility should be our concern.
    Only One is Infallible.”

    If you never discern the Catholic Church to be the body of Christ stay away from it, but if you do… embrace not the Church for her own sake, but the God who became flesh that He might embrace the Church. Though in embracing your King you will embrace His body the Church, too.

  220. Though in embracing your King you will embrace His body the Church, too.

    The conclusion only follows the premise if one assumes that the body is still connected/remains in the Vine. There is very little evidence if any to suggest that this is the case however. Presuppositionalism gets us no where, repentance does.

  221. SS,
    I understand, but what has Pope Francis done to you that you can say he is not a valid leader of the Church. And if you believe him to have something against you is it not incumbent on you as his brother in Christ to bring it to his attention?

  222. Micah 6:8

    Let Pope Francis lead a church which has given away its great wealth and ill gotten gains to the poor and he will be the leader of the church.

    Let Pope Francis lead a church that repents for its sins against the Jews and Jewish believers and once again allows them a seat at the table and he will be the leader of the church.

    Let Pope Francis lead a church which has appointed elders and Bishops who are blameless and beyond reproach, and evicted all culpable leaders, even the most vulnerable, and he will be the leader of the church.

    Let Pope Francis lead a church which has held a true ecumencial council with all parties at the table, not just the victors aided by State powers, and he will be the leader of the church.

    Wisdom is proved right by her deeds, not her symbolic gestures.

  223. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    The conclusion only follows the premise if one assumes that the body is still connected/remains in the Vine. There is very little evidence if any to suggest that this is the case however. Presuppositionalism gets us no where, repentance does.

    You certainly seem to be presupposing. You seem to be presupposing that there actually is a God-Man, that he’s got (or had) a Body, that “the Bible” is the Word of God, etc.

    Presuppositions are fine, of course. However, to have an equitable conversation and not just shout at each other across the table, we have to drop the Faith-presuppositions and start with the presups of the Natural Man. Either that, or we have to join in with the Faith-presups.

    Considering that Protestants are Fideists, their Faith-presups are understandable. Their opening bid is going to be from a Faith-position.

    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?

  224. SS,
    That is basically my point. You judge him without taking your case to him, which is the scriptural command of Christ. Therefore, you judge yourself guilty and presume that on Him and reject his(Pope Francis) fellowship which would lead to just what you say should happen. Counseling together as one unified body.

  225. Mikel,

    My point is that with all the rival claimants to being the true Roman Catholic Church, how do you know which one is correct? Simply calling other bodies claiming to be Roman Catholic but rejecting Vatican 2 heretics begs the question. You have to appeal to some standard beyond the church itself to identify the church. The 1 plus billion Roman Catholics, pope Francis, etc., why should I accept that church as my authority? How do I know. At the point at which I make that decision, I am fallible.

    A thousand plus words by Bryan Cross on why the tu quoque doesn’t apply to Rome is irrelevant because it does not finally address that real issue. What is the “principled” way by which one differentiates the Roman church as the true church from ALL rival claimants? Its a standard that goes beyond the church itself and it ultimately involves a degree of subjectivity, the very same subjectivity that Jason deplores in his posting above. You are not judging by the Magisterium’s pronouncements, you are judging by your reading of the evidence from Scripture, tradition, etc. If you weren’t, you would have to say that the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church Christ founded because the Roman Catholic Church says so.

    As far as U.S. Roman Catholics—I’m sure that in Nigeria the church is far different, probably because Americans have a natural tendency to question all authorities (that’s not a good thing, BTW). Over here, however, a lesbian pagan taught religion and theology at a Jesuit university for 30 plus years and was finally forced to retire not for heresy but for violating civil equal opportunity laws. Roman Catholics who don’t like what their priest says about contraception can easily go to another parish where Roman teaching is affirmed verbally but the leadership winks at the prevalent use of contraception in their parish. Cardinals and bishops across the country thought it more important to protect the reputation of the church and not children, thereby they swept priestly pedophilia under the rug and moved offending priests to locations where they would find new victims. I could multiply examples.

    All churches have problems with discipline, but if you have a “principled” way to root out heretics and don’t do it, your hierarchy is but a paper tiger.

  226. I want everyone in the world to gather around one table too. It will come when we stop judging others guilty before God; while fully knowing we are guilty before Him ourselves.

  227. In the days of James and Peter, one could meet them in the Temple and talk to them in person. (they lived in poverty, not opulence). Can this be done today? If it can, will you pay for my plane ticket to Rome? I will gladly take the first flight.

    Besides, I don’t need to take my case to him to discern what has already been done in the name of Christ.

  228. It will come when we stop judging others guilty before God; while fully knowing we are guilty before Him ourselves.

    This is rationalization which renders moot Christ’s warning to discern the fruit of our teachers. I do not condemn any catholic to the fire of hell. But I do reserve my God given right to discern that this institution does not do the will of God as evidenced by its fruit.

    That we all fall short of the glory of God in no way diminishes our responsibility to discern. And yes, repentance begins at home.

  229. I’m pretty broke, but my King owns everything. If it means giving you the ability to follow the commands of Christ which we love so much. I’ll do whatever I can. Jason has my email and I give him permission to give it to you if you message him and ask. We have a God where nothing is impossible to us who trust in Him.
    In the love of Christ,
    Mike

    P.S. Don’t forget he has sent out legates(the Bishops) all over the world. It can pretty easily be brought up by us to the ordained chain, and move up as needed.

  230. .S. Don’t forget he has sent out legates(the Bishops) all over the world. It can pretty easily be brought up by us to the ordained chain, and move up as needed.

    I’ll tell you what you can relay to Pope Francis (forget me): first go and listen to the cries of the victims’ family and evict all offenders from your ranks. Don’t just call for action. KICK THEM OUT.

    If you do that, then I will have reason to believe that a meeting with the Pope will be worth it and will look forward to getting on the first flight.

  231. My point being: that if catholic victims’ voices are not heard, why should I expect mine to be heard?

    I am a nobody.

  232. SS,
    Then your problem in not per se with the Bishop of Rome, but with me the faithful son of scripture and the Church I understand to be the Church of Christ. Because I have tested the fruit of my parish pastor and my local bishop and the bishop of Rome and believe I have no ground to judge them as heretics or open sinners which will defames the Gospel of Christ. And if that changes it is Christ call on me to go to my brother in Christ, which they are, and bring it up to be resolved. Help me to understand what I need to do to help you?

  233. No one has ground to judge. We are given ground to discern however.

    How can I help you better discern the realities of the CC?

  234. SS,
    I am only called to be faithful where I am and with what I know. If you have something for me concerning anything, please help me help resolve any injustice you observe? I see this as the call of all Christians. Love justice and hate iniquity. Yet, we must also truth God with what He doesn’t bring to our hand to deal with. “Many are called but few are chosen.”

  235. Your neighbor is not only the one in your parish.

    Do you see the plight of your neighbor and injustice outside your parish?

    Something to think about.

  236. SS,
    In brotherhood with me, if there is some injustice you know of that you need to bring to you local priest or bishop which is defaming my King’s name, I beg you to move forward if you are convicted by the Spirit with the Word.

  237. SS,
    If it is somewhere else and the Spirit calls you to battle injustice, for God’s sake move forward to where God is calling you to.

  238. I have already shown you the injustice:

    SS April 18, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Do you see the plight of your neighbor and injustice outside your parish?

  239. SS,
    All you brought up there was for future action, not present injustices Pope Francis is doing or you are judging him for the sins of other. If you see injustice he is putting forward please show and I will give you what direction I and help can. Much of what you present is what I see him teaching and urging the faithful to do.

  240. Andrew,

    We both believe that there is a teaching authority for the Church but we have differences concerning what we believe that teaching authority to be comprised of. And don’t we try to resolve our differences over what this teaching authority is by appealing to what the Church taught in her early centuries? Doesn’t it all come back to interpreting tradition? Either your understanding of the Magisterium of the RCC is correct or it is not. And I don’t know any way to figure out whether you have gotten it right than by looking at the foundation of Christian tradition to see if it’s consistent.

    There are philosophical issues that divide us before we can even begin to appeal to evidence in order to “figure out of we have gotten it right.” For example, I reject the idea that Christ founded a church that is only more or less visible depending on how well it exhibits certain marks, marks which are themselves only discernible through invisible things like private interpretation of the Bible independent of the church. Rather, I believe that when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and gave them the power to bind and loose, and to forgive or retain sins, the Magisterium existed. It was visible, and although their job was to preach the Word and reason from the Scriptures, that ministry carried with it the kind of divine authority that, if you refused to hear them, you have thereby rejected Christ and the Father who sent him. And that same authority was wielded by those whom the apostles laid hands upon and ordained.

    But the idea that I can, completely independently of the church, sift through the evidence and locate the content and meaning of divine revelation in such a way as to demand the assent of faith, is not a philosophical position that I share with you.

    When Jesus preached he certainly did not appeal to an institution, and when the Apostles preached they generally did not either. Just look at the sermons that Jesus and the Apostles preached. But here I am only pointing out that the basis of their commands to repent were an appeal to the Word of God. Of course once visible churches had been established people were commanded to be part of them. God establishes a Church, we can read about what the elements and functions of that Church are in Scripture. So I am not divorcing gospel from church, I am only making the case, as per my Athanasian example, that the authority by which such folks as Athanasius used was the Word of God, not an infallible Roman institution.

    I also do not see the need to pit the Word against the Church, as you seem to do. Every time I see Jesus or the apostles appeal to their authority (which they do all the time), I do not see this as inconsistent with their appeals to the Word of God. The Word is authoritative in a unique way, and the apostles are its authorized interpreters. I don’t see the need to force a choice here.

    I wrote, “Your claim about there being very few disputes among confessional Protestants rings hollow when you consider that confessional Baptists would anabaptize your kids of you let them, and that LCMS Lutherans wouldn’t commune you.” You responded:

    I remember the Protestant Jason Stellman responding to that point by saying that was the Baptist/LCMS problem, not ours. If the Lutheran pastor wants to treat me as an outcast because of differing perceptions of the efficacy of the sacraments, that’s his issue not mine. He is always welcome to partake in my church.

    I agree with that guy. But your claim is that Protestantism in its confessional variety is remarkably unified. I then and I now would say that, despite whose fault it is, the claim is false on its face (and I used to say this all the time back then). Even though the PCA is not culpable, if Baptists don’t recognize your baptism, if the LCMS won’t commune you, and if a URC consistory would reject your membership transfer, then the claim that confessional Protestantism is united is either specious, or true only in a Gnostic and non-sacramental sense (which would be equally specious for a Catholic).

    I wrote, “The whole genius of Catholicism is that it’s visible, and that you can just locate a bishop who is in communion with the Pope and know that you’re in the church that Christ founded.” You responded:

    But what happens when the bishop who this Catholic layperson is following is what you would term “unfaithful.” Shouldn’t the Catholic parishioner make some types of judgments on the bishops in his diocese and put himself under a faithful bishop?

    Our job is to trust our ecclesiastical authorities (Heb. 13). If a bishop is openly teaching things that the CC deems heretical (which is possible but not as common as many would have us believe), he will be dealt with. Someone with some knowledge of canon law can speak to how this would work (and no one claimed this whole thing is easy or always pretty), but the point is that there is a mechanism in place to identify heresy in an objective and principled way. Protestantism has no way to make these determinations that does not devolve into a he said / she said dispute.

    I wrote, “There simply is no such thing as “the Protestant church,” only Protestant denominations….” You responded:

    So if you mean that there is not one hierarchically organized Protestant Church with one bishop as the supreme leader, then I would agree. But such a Church is not what was defined in Scripture and was not what we see in the Church following the time of the Apostles. The Church in the West becomes centralized in time, but I don’t see good spiritual reasons for this happening. Perhaps you do, but of course that would be just your interpretation of tradition. My position is that God never intended the Church to possess the hierarchical function and possess the kind of centralized power that she did in the Medieval West. And no doubt you disagree, but on what basis can you refute this contention?

    I disagree. I see no evidence in Scripture that there was to be one self-contained and autonomous church in one city, and another somewhere else, et cetera. Rather, I see Jesus founding a single church whose leaders can make decisions that bind the whole. Whether it was conciliar or papal is not the issue. The issue is that it in no sense whatsoever resembled Protestantism, in which we have several sacramentally divided sects with no relation to one another, whose doctrines often contradict one another’s, with no way of distinguishing in principle which one, if any, “gets it right.” I see the same thing in the post-apostolic church. Even if there was no papacy, then you should still quit Protestantism and become EO.

    The entire church for 1500 years, and the CC and EO to this day, is in complete agreement on this issue. Apostolicity means having sacramental succession from the apostles and does not only refer to having doctrinal agreement with them (which is invisible). Protestantism stands in splendid isolation from the entire church on this matter, and bringing up the extent of the papacy’s jurisdiction doesn’t help you in the least. Rome and EO disagree on the “how exactly” and not on the “what.”

  241. All you brought up there was for future action, not present injustices Pope Francis is doing or you are judging him for the sins of other.

    All I brought up there?

    Lazarus made four fold restitution for what he had stole (past injustice).

    Is he not our example?

  242. And that same authority was wielded by those whom the apostles laid hands upon and ordained.

    100% question begging in light of the historical evidence.

  243. I apologize to post off-topic, but continuous reading of Catholic-Protestant dialogue leaves me feeling a bit heartbroken. As a Catholic, I see the division between Catholics and Protestants to be the most significant obstacle to the spread of the Gospel of Christ today.

    I realize that it is differing beliefs about the Gospel that divides us, however, I would just like to remind us all to continue to pray for God’s will to be done and the grace for us all to follow Christ’s command to love as He loved. I pray for the reunion of all separated brothers and sisters.

  244. SS,
    Sure but you and me personally are called to be the good Samatitan to who picks up those whom the Lord puts in our path and not walk around them. If there is someone in your path help them, but I beg you with brotherly love to not judgmentally assume I or other Catholics have ignored someone in my path because of others action, and then demand retribution. Remember no one forced or demanded that four fold repayment from him either.
    I’m truly sorry but I will be out of pocket for a while. I truly am enjoying talking with you SS.
    Peace,
    Mike

  245. Robert,

    JS: But how do you KNOW your interpretation is correct without an infallible interpreter.

    First, I would never ask a question and leave off the question mark. That’s almost as bad as forgetting to close a parenthesis.

    BPL: First, we investigate the original text, learn the languages, see if it is consonant with the rest of Scripture, secondarily, we consider what the writings of great Christians throughout history have to say on the matter.

    JS: But how do you KNOW you are reading all those things rightly.

    I probably wouldn’t even concede that they can know what counts as “Scripture” in the first place. I mean, if all ecclesiastical pronouncements are fallible, then claiming to know certain things based upon exegesis of Scripture presupposes a whole lot, things which I certainly don’t believe.

    BPL: Well, if you are talking about knowledge that is fully and completely infallible, I suppose we don’t have that. But on this side of glory we can’t have that knowledge because we are fallen. But if the Bible is right, God expects us to trust Him and His Word even if that trust in some sense, from a human perspective, fallible.

    The NT writers were fallen, and yet somehow the Spirit overcame that and protected them from error while they wrote the verses about how we’re fallen. If your head doesn’t explode upon considering that, mine doesn’t need to either.

    JS: But how do you KNOW you are supposed to do that. You Protestants are divided, clearly the text isn’t good enough on its own. It lacks the perspicacity you claim for it.

    BPL: Well, we are actually united on a host of issues such as the Trinity, the Chalcedonian definition, justification by faith alone, the need to judge all things by Scripture. We can even agree that Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper, though we do not agree on how. Sure, we differ over baptism and predestination, which are certainly not unimportant issues, but we trust the Spirit, in time, to bring about a unity of faith on such things. We don’t infallibly know that such would happen, but God has brought us to a unity on many things already, why should we not believe that he can’t do the same here?

    See my comments to Andrew about how the claim of unity among confessional Protestants is false on its face due to their sacramental division from one another.

    Plus, whatever agreement you have with Baptists and Lutherans is simply the natural agreement that random people often happen to have. I also have profound agreement with 9/11 conspiracy theorists and Branch Davidians: we all like pizza and think Malcolm in the Middle sucks.

    But the kind of unity you all cannot have is the kind that results from submitting to a mutually-held ecclesiastical authority as such. Just agreeing on an arbitrary list of things because you all happen to think they’re true is very different.

    JS: Well, I have an interpreter that is infallible in some cases. You have to have one in order to make things not a matter of mere human opinion.

    BPL: How do you KNOW that?

    JS: Because some really smart guys with PhDs in philosophy have proven that to be the case. Without that infallible interpreter, solo and sola Scriptura amount to being the same thing. Plus, my infallible interpreter tells me that.

    I would say that I don’t KNOW that, because Christianity is a revealed religion, the tenets of which, while reasonable, are not rationally or scientifically provable in a classroom or lab. My religion is supernatural, and thus its teachings must be received by faith. So none of the things JS says above would be said by me.

    Did it ever occur to you that you sound like a 2-year-old who demands things go his way?

    Did it ever occur to you that you are inconsistently demanding standards of religious knowledge that you don’t demand of other kinds of knowledge? (I mean, you don’t demand an infallible interpreter to know 2+2=4, do you?)

    Crickets.

    Please don’t use insults. Saying I sound like a two year-old for insisting upon things I actually do not insist upon only shows the weakness of your position after all this time.

    And I love how you write “Crickets” immediately after finishing your comment, as if my inability to stop time and answer your objections right after you post them indicates that you think you’ve won or something. That kind of juvenile stuff just hinders dialogue, makes you a less attractive conversation partner, and significantly lessens my willingness to continue to engage you.

  246. Jason said “And that same authority was wielded by those whom the apostles laid hands upon and ordained.”

    SS replied “100% question begging in light of the historical evidence.”

    Robert says: “Not only question begging but a fanciful reinterpretation of history once one accepts Rome’s own story of itself.”

  247. If there is someone in your path help them, but I beg you with brotherly love to not judgmentally assume I or other Catholics have ignored someone in my path because of others action, and then demand retribution. Remember no one forced or demanded that four fold repayment from him either.
    I’m truly sorry but I will be out of pocket for a while. I truly am enjoying talking with you SS.

    Michael,

    I don’t judge you and neither do I demand retribution. It is the victims’ blood and tears which cry out, not mine. You are doing well by testing the fruit of your local parish. But the point of the Good Samaritan story is that we would not limit ourselves to those who are of us, but to move beyond that. Move beyond your parish, look out to the great injustice that needs addressed. You belong to the CC. Therefore you are part of an institution which has committed great injustice and never repented of such. The best you can do is to take action to ensure that said injustice is addressed. You are right, one cannot demand it. But one can bring the issue to light.

    No one forced Lazarus’ hand. I cannot force anyone’s hands. It has to come from the heart. If it does, the world will have credible evidence to believe in the self ascribed authority of the CC. Until then, don’t hold your breath.

  248. Jason,

    You are most certainly saying that one cannot KNOW what the truth is apart from an infallible interpreter.

    You wrote almost a year ago:

    Unless the church’s interpretation of Scripture is divinely protected from error at least under certain conditions, then what we call the “orthodox” understanding of doctrines like the Trinity or the hypostatic union is reduced to mere fallible human opinion. I have searched long and hard, but have found no solution within the Sola Scriptura paradigm to this devastating conclusion.

    If you think everything is mere fallible human opinion apart from an infallible interpreter, then you are saying that we cannot know the truth without an infallible interpreter. That is your position, which is why my critique stands.

    You are looking for a way to KNOW the truth in a manner that offers full epistemological satisfaction, and simply by saying that you can’t know something but are just receiving it by faith is simply false, as if one could even separate faith and knowledge, ESPECIALLY in the traditional Roman worldview.

    You are demanding that God do things in a certain way in order for you to believe it. That is arrogant and it is childish.

  249. Anthony,

    Mike Liccione answered a similar question to your raised by David on CTC back in October of last year. Here’s the response:

    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.

    Hope that helps.

  250. Robert,

    Quit it with the ad hominems.

    My point all along is that if Christianity is a revealed religion then its teachings compel the assent of faith. But if all we have are human opinions about the content and meaning of those teachings, then we cannot be expected to exercise faith in those human opinions. This has nothing to do with having perfect scientific knowledge about the truth of our religion that we can achieve independently of the church.

    I don’t think you’re grasping the epistemological point I am making.

  251. Robert.

    Jason said “And that same authority was wielded by those whom the apostles laid hands upon and ordained.”

    SS replied “100% question begging in light of the historical evidence.”

    Robert says: “Not only question begging but a fanciful reinterpretation of history once one accepts Rome’s own story of itself.”

    What history have you read that demonstrates that Jason’s statement is wrong?

    We can site history from very early in the life of the church that shows, in clear terms, that the church at that time believed that their bishops received succession from the apostles.

    For instance:

    “Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2 (A.D. 180).

    In light of that, what historical evidence do you have that demonstrates the Catholic (and Orthodox) understanding of apostolic succession false?

  252. 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

    This is deeply mistaken. See Acts 21. More on that later, I have to step out.

  253. I understand that exactly what you are saying holiness is the essential Christian witness, and like Nehemiah’s individual families building each section of the wall I will build where I am set at. I will let you know I feel you are judging me by how other people have let there portion of the wall fall down while not showing where I can fix my section and refusing to work at your section saying Jerusalem walls are broken down. Please correct me if my feelings are wrong.
    Peace, Mike

  254. 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

    Jason, (replying to your reply to Anthony)

    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.

    Any objective reader, even a non believer, recognizes that James is speaking of many thousands of Jewish believers in Christ, the Messiah. It was clear to them from their Scriptures, the Law and the Prophets that Christ was the Messiah. Likewise, turning to Acts 17:

    “10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed

    Once again, many of them Jews believed as result of the witness of the OT itself (The NT canon did not exist yet).

    So Mike’s attempt to diassociate those believers from those that followed them seems quite strange and forced. It is obvious that he is trying to shield from the ramifications of the fact that God accomplished His purposes in the first century without needing any help from infallible men.

    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.

    Again, to the Berean Jews, it was authentic divine revelation proper. So authentic that they too believed and existed in their own right, very much like Elizabeth and Zecharias existed in their own right as believers righteous in the sight of God, prior to the Incarnation. The lack of infallibility had no bearing on their existence.

    I have said and it will say it again: the existence of the Jewish believer in Christ, as witnessed in Scripture and as witnessed by the right hand of God today in Israel, is a wrench into the church’s supersessionism (catholic or protestant). It is therefore pointless to presuppose such when dealing with the history of the Jews and the ekklesia, as if that resolves anything.

  255. will let you know I feel you are judging me by how other people have let there portion of the wall fall down while not showing where I can fix my section and refusing to work at your section saying Jerusalem walls are broken down.

    MichaelTX,

    I disagree with your characterization above so we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    Shalom.
    SS.

  256. SS,

    I am running out the door, but to be clear, Mike’s point and mine would be that the OT Scriptures do indeed point to, and substantiate belief in, Jesus Christ when interpreted through the lens of the apostolic tradition handed down. But the fact that before the apostles began preaching many Jews rejected their own Messiah — killed him even — shows that it was not clear on its face that Jesus was the fulfillment of Judaism.

  257. That many Jews rejected Him is not the issue. The issue is that many believed in Him as Jews , and were righteous in the sight of God, even cause for rejoicing by the apostles.

    So that fact prevents one from reshaping the story to make it sound like the lack of infallibility in their day is irrelevant to our discussion.

  258. I don’t see how what you say is inconsistent with wat Mike has said. Sorry.

  259. 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

    Mike L says above that the Christ event was not clear judging by the reaction of most Jews. But I adduced Acts 17 and 21 to show that there were many thousands of Jews for whom the Christ event was very clear and this from the OT canon itself and preaching derived from it.

    Therefore, when he says

    “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.”

    he is mistaken. The OT canon was divine revelation, strictly speaking.

  260. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    The issue is that many believed in Him as Jews, and were righteous in the sight of God…

    I don’t believe there is any reference to Jews believing as Jews. I think that’s a word and an inference which you are adding. Neither does it say that they became righteous (Regenerate/ontologically incorporated into the Church) immediately upon appropriating the Name of Christ (i.e. affirming that they ‘believed’ in Jesus).

    IOW, I think that you’ll find it difficult to support the idea that believing (“naturally believing”) Jews didn’t have to petition the Church for admittance. Assuming that’s what you’re really saying, of course. And if it is, then, as Jason always says, you’ll have to argue for that position in a way which exceeds script slinging.

  261. Oh yes, there is:

    “11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed , as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.”

    The burden of proof is upon you if you choose to argue that they were not really saved.

    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.

    and more Jews believing as Jews:

    Romans 15

    25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.

    Will you tell me then that Paul was advocating for gentile believers to share material blessings with non believers? I’ll let the reader decide whether that’s a reasonabe position (overstatement).

  262. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Oh yes, there is:
    [script sling]
    The burden of proof is upon you if you choose to argue that they were not really saved.
    [script sling]
    [script sling]
    Will you tell me then that Paul was advocating for gentile believers to share material blessings with non believers? I’ll let the reader decide whether that’s a reasonabe position (overstatement).

    I’m not claiming that they (or many of them) didn’t enter the Church and receive Regeneration. Neither do I claim that some scripts may be referring to Jews who had already entered the Church.

    But now that we know your position, you’ve got a case to make. And now that we know your position, others can make their own cases.

  263. SS:

    You’re distorting what I wrote and generating a couple of non-sequiturs in the process. You wrote:

    Mike L says above that the Christ event was not clear judging by the reaction of most Jews. But I adduced Acts 17 and 21 to show that there were many thousands of Jews for whom the Christ event was very clear and this from the OT canon itself and preaching derived from it.

    I didn’t say the Christ-event was “not clear.” It was clear enough to those who directly experienced it straight through, namely the Apostles and their associates. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit as recounted in Acts, some Jews experienced Christ’s authority indirectly through the bold teaching and miracles of the Apostles, and assented to the Gospel mainly for that reason. But most Jews didn’t experience it in either way, and thus saw no reason to credit the apostolic hermeneutic of their scriptures, which was not logically inferable from the texts.

    The Jews who assented to the Gospel indirectly, in the manner I’ve noted and you’ve quoted, were simply not most Jews. They weren’t even most Jews in Palestine, and they certainly weren’t most Jews in the “diaspora,” who for all we know were at least as great in number as those in Eretz Israel. Hence, it does not follow from your citations that most Jews saw the Gospel as the fulfillment of their scriptures. In fact, they did not. The war with the Romans in 66-70, resulting in the destruction of the Second Temple; the expulsion of Jewish Christians from the synagogues not long afterwards; the Jewish opposition Paul faced almost everywhere he preached; and the massive, calamitous Bar-Kochba rebellion crushed by the Romans in 134–all that and more adds up to evidence that most Jews saw Christianity as a heretical sect, nothing more. And most have seen it that way ever since.

    I had written: “…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.” To that, you reply that I’m “mistaken. The OT canon was divine revelation, strictly speaking.” But you’re criticizing something I didn’t say.

    What I believe as a Catholic is that the OT records the preparatory stages of the central, definitive, once-for-all revelation of God to humanity, namely the person and event of Christ. In that sense and that sense alone, it is divine revelation. But it can only be understood accurately as such proleptically, when seen in light of the Christ-event. So when the OT is seen “in isolation” from the Christ-event and the apostolic hermeneutic thereof, what makes it an inerrant record of divine revelation–as opposed to just an impressive body of national literature–is simply not clear, even though that’s what it was in fact. And that’s what explains why the Jews didn’t and couldn’t have an infallible magisterium clearly constituted as such. Even though God preserved the OT scribes from error in recording revelation’s preparatory stages, the Jews had no way of knowing that prior to Christ.

    Best,
    Mike

  264. +JMJ+

    EDIT: The first paragraph in my last post (Apr 18th @ 3:20 pm) should read as follows…

    I’m not claiming that they (or many of them) didn’t later enter the Church and receive Regeneration. Neither do I deny that some scripts may be referring to Jews who had already entered the Church.

  265. I didn’t say the Christ-event was “not clear.” It was clear enough to those who directly experienced it straight through, namely the Apostles and their associates. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit as recounted in Acts, some Jews experienced Christ’s authority indirectly through the bold teaching and miracles of the Apostles, and assented to the Gospel mainly for that reason. But most Jews didn’t experience it in either way, and thus saw no reason to credit the apostolic hermeneutic of their scriptures, which was not logically inferable from the texts.

    Acts 17:

    “10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed”

    The Gospel was preached from the Jewish Scriptures. Not just in the example above in Berea, where they examined what Paul had said against the Scriptures as is explicitly stated, but also when Peter preached the Gospel as well. The Scriptures played an indispensable role in the conversion of many Jews.

    And it is enough, to disprove the assertion that all swans are white, that there is such a thing as black swan, by pointing to one black swan. In this case, there isn’t just one black swan, there are many thousands of them.

    Your attempt to disassociate the preaching of the apostles from the Scriptures is disingenuous and laughable. What do you think made up the content of their message? Homilies from Augustine? These were Jews, through and through. They worshiped in the temple, not the cathedral. (Acts 2:46).

    The Jews who assented to the Gospel indirectly, in the manner I’ve noted and you’ve quoted, were simply not most Jews. They weren’t even most Jews in Palestine, and they certainly weren’t most Jews in the “diaspora,” who for all we know were at least as great in number as those in Eretz Israel. Hence, it does not follow from your citations that most Jews saw the Gospel as the fulfillment of their scriptures. In fact, they did not. The war with the Romans in 66-70, resulting in the destruction of the Second Temple; the expulsion of Jewish Christians from the synagogues not long afterwards; the Jewish opposition Paul faced almost everywhere he preached; and the massive, calamitous Bar-Kochba rebellion crushed by the Romans in 134–all that and more adds up to evidence that most Jews saw Christianity as a heretical sect, nothing more. And most have seen it that way ever since.

    The ‘most’ argument has no weight in this inductive mess, see above.

    I had written: “…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.” To that, you reply that I’m “mistaken. The OT canon was divine revelation, strictly speaking.” But you’re criticizing something I didn’t say.

    What I believe as a Catholic is that the OT records the preparatory stages of the central, definitive, once-for-all revelation of God to humanity, namely the person and event of Christ. In that sense and that sense alone, it is divine revelation. But it can only be understood accurately as such proleptically, when seen in light of the Christ-event. So when the OT is seen “in isolation” from the Christ-event and the apostolic hermeneutic thereof, what makes it an inerrant record of divine revelation–as opposed to just an impressive body of national literature–is simply not clear, even though that’s what it was in fact. And that’s what explains why the Jews didn’t and couldn’t have an infallible magisterium clearly constituted as such. Even though God preserved the OT scribes from error in recording revelation’s preparatory stages, the Jews had no way of knowing that prior to Christ

    Why is the OT divine revelation in the sense and that sense alone? Are there any other senses? The Messiah is all over the OT, He is in the Law, Moses spoke of Him. He is in the Prophets. He is in the Psalms. All Scripture is inspired. That verse makes no qualification about the ‘sense’ in which it is inspired. This is your insertion into the text about the text.

    The Jews had no need of infallibility and yet they were saved. They were saved in Acts 2, 17, (cf. Acts 21) and it was clear to them why Christ was the Messiah. Again, the fact that many rejected the Gospel does not erase the fact that many embraced the Gospel, because it was clear to them that Christ was Messiah.

  266. First you say this:

    I don’t believe there is any reference to Jews believing as Jews. I think that’s a word and an inference which you are adding.

    Then when presented with facts, you deride the facts as ‘script sling’ and hide behind this:

    I’m not claiming that they (or many of them) didn’t later enter the Church and receive Regeneration. Neither do I deny that some scripts may be referring to Jews who had already entered the Church.

    So I will ask you again: you can claim all you want (or not claim), where is your evidence? I presented mine. Where is your evidence that they did not believe and this unto salvation? As I said, the burden of proof is on you to back your claim up. Acts 17 says they believed. Elsewhere Paul says believe on the Lord and you shall be saved. What will you present to convince us that the Bereans did not believe unto salvation?

  267. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    First you say this:
    .
    “I don’t believe there is any reference to Jews believing as Jews. I think that’s a word and an inference which you are adding.”
    .
    Then when presented with facts, you deride the facts as ‘script sling’ and hide behind this:
    .
    “I’m not claiming that they (or many of them) didn’t later enter the Church and receive Regeneration. Neither do I deny that some scripts may be referring to Jews who had already entered the Church.”

    Here are my position points…
    1. You’ve added the word “as” to the text. “Jews believed as Jews” is not in any script you’ve produced.
    2. Even if one admits the precise semanticity of your gloss, your nuancing of the phrase “Jews believing as Jews” is foreign to the Catholic IP.
    .
    Here are the position points which you’ve affirmed…
    1. Jews became righteous (Regenerate/ontologically incorporated into the Church) immediately upon affirming a ‘belief in Jesus’. (You might want to clarify as to whether or not this goes for everyone or just for Jews, because earlier you seemed to affirm Baptismal Regeneration.)
    2. The Jews were exempt from petitioning the Church for entrance.

    Now, are you prepared to argue for this beyond script slinging? Please recall that it is you who broached this subject.

    And feel free to retract, clarify or augment your position points, if necessary.

  268. SS,
    I’ll drop it if you wish. Yet, I see no reason we can’t come to understand each other. I see true ecumunism not only as a need for all peoples seeking understanding and talking at the one table but also each individual willing to talk at the table, too. Hope you forgive my poor grammar earlier I was flying out the door.
    I think I understand why you would see it as a mischaracharazation. Yet, I know God has called us to stand against injustice when we are confronted by its carnage. I think you feel the same way and I commend you for it. But you seem to present the idea that if I love justice and because I am Cathlic I ought seek out the sinners in my communion and confront them all and even take the blame for the sinners of history. My problem with this is that I am called by Christ primarily to correct my own sinful heart of pride and rebellion. Now no doubt I am called to defend the weak and vulnrable I see unjustly treated and by God’s grace I will. I hope by God’s grace you will to in the places he allows you to do so.
    I hope you realize if I felt in anyway I needed to confront the direction of my elders in my Church I would, not because I don’t respect God’s authority but because I do. I hope you would do the same and that you would do it with gentlness and respest as the scriptures we both love teach us. I don’t see the Catholic Church as Christ’s Church because its leader have or will always be holy, but because Christ’s command is that we love one another as he has loved us and I see that as meaning we will not abandon our leaders or our brother in their sin but are called to admonish the sinner. Please I ask you to join me where everyou are in doing the same to those sent by Christ to be the light of the world. We are one people let us act like it and love. Pray for me SS. I’ll be praying for you.
    Blessings,
    Mike

    Oh yeah did you catch that link from the Hebrew Catholic Association?

  269. Mikel–

    Without question, understanding Protestantism is complicated. Whatever confidence I might have in my knowledge of different denominations, I come by it honestly. I grew up in the Lutheran [ELCA] church (20 years or so) and was a member of the PCA (a conservative Presbyterian denomination) for around 16 years, a member of a conservative Anglican parish for about 5 years, and a member of a Reformed Baptist church for another 5. I have visited Evangelical Covenant, Evangelical Free, United Methodist, Free Methodist, Nazarene, Calvary Chapel, Mennonite, Evangelical Presbyterian, Orthodox Presbyterian, United Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Church of God, Missouri Synod Lutheran, and Wisconsin Synod Lutheran congregations. I have attended a good number of Eastern Orthodox services and at least a dozen Catholic churches just in my present locale (in the three or so years I have lived here).

    One thing you must get straight–and I grow tired of fighting this battle with supposedly knowledgeable Catholics–and that is today’s definition of “Protestantism” includes any quasi-Christian group that is NOT Catholic. (Well, also not Eastern Orthodox and not heterodox by consensus. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are not counted as Protestant, but Oneness Pentecostals [despite not being Trinitarian] and the Metropolitan Community Church [a blatantly gay-affirming organization] usually are.)

    In other words, “Protestantism” is a grab-bag term which is essentially meaningless.

    Though on this site (and C2C, for the most part) we are having a conversation between confessional Protestants and confessional Catholics, all kinds of miscellaneous non-Catholics are brought up. Groups which–historically and theologically–we confessional Protestants have absolutely no ties to. Why should I care what Unitarian-Universalists or Oneness Pentecostals or Prosperity-Gospel Adherents or Mainstream (Liberal) “Protestants” believe? These churches are not even CHRISTIAN!!!

    I would be more than glad to leave off the huge apostate contingent within Roman Catholicism and dialogue only with confessional Catholics. But they insist on including these losers whom they are in communion with (because everyone knows that unity around nothing at all is superior to the bogeyman of “schism” even if it comes with the benefit of purity of fellowship and doctrine). So I am often left with no choice but to compare confessional Protestantism with all of Catholicism.

    Within confessional Protestantism you would have:

    1. Conservative Presbyterianism (including the conservative Dutch Reformed denominations).

    2. That splinter of Anglicanism which is still both Reformed and Evangelical (e.g., the Diocese of Sydney in Australia). In other words, those who are still true to the 39 Articles.

    3. Conservative Lutherans (except those who misunderstand their own heritage and have become virulently anti-Calvinistic).

    4. Reformed Baptists (although, unfortunately, some bring over Dispensationalist errors when they come into the movement).

    These are really the only groups which count.

    On the other hand, the following do not:

    1. Mennonites and Anabaptists and most Charismatics are daughters of the Radical Reformation rather than the Magisterial Reformation. You can basically say that they split off so early that they more or less split off from the Roman Catholics. (The Swiss Brethren, for example, “split off” in 1525, before the Magisterial Reformation was really even slightly established. Menno Simons, for whom the Mennonites are named, went straight from being a Catholic priest to being an Anabaptist. He was never a Magisterial Protestant for even one moment.

    2. Arminian Anglicans, in their Broad-Church, Evangelical, and Anglo-Catholic varieties, are really syncretistic with either Catholic or Mennonite Arminianism. They shed any real element of true Protestantism long ago.

    3. Methodists and Dispensational Baptists are mixed breeds. Methodism formally split off from Anglicanism, but Wesley was deeply influenced by Moravianism and his Anglo-Catholic mother. General and Free-Will Baptists, likewise, have roots springing from various camps.

    4. Lutheran Pietism (for example, the Evangelical Covenant Church) has many of the same problems as Arminian varieties of Anglicanism. (It had a great deal of influence on Moravianism, by the way.)

    5. Charismatics sprang mostly out of Wesleyanism, but they have pretty much eschewed any of the remaining Anglican flavor of Methodism.

    6. Mainstream (Liberal) “Protestants,” who, one by one, cut themselves off from their founding confessions and are in free fall numerically. They are not Christian, let alone Protestant (and they have lost so many members that they no longer fit the description of “mainstream.” So mark liberal Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Congregationalists (e.g., the UCC), and Baptists right off your list.

    Now, Jason will tell you stuff like this:

    “[Eric’s] attempt to distinguish between small and irrelevant non-confessional sects and Reformed denominations (and to equate this situation with splinter groups in Rome) fails for the reasons that Mikel [you] highlighted. There simply is no such thing as “the Protestant church,” only Protestant denominations, each of which exists independently of the others. It is divided by design.
    Catholicism on the other hand, since it has true formal and objective content, is actually something that one can splinter from (and because of that objective content it can be demonstrated that some group or another is a splinter from, rather than a branch within, the Catholic Church).”

    Now, this is blatantly untrue. (And Jason full-well knows it!)

    Mikel, you give me an example of any denomination you can find under the sun, I will tell you whether or not they are confessionally Protestant. No ifs, ands, or buts. (Well, except for groups like the LCMS and the Reformed Baptists, which require the qualifications I listed above.)

    Confessional Protestants are at least as monolithic as the Catholics in terms of formal doctrine (the confessions, catechisms, etc.) and much more monolithic in terms of the practice of members being in line with doctrine and in terms of the leadership being held to agreement and accuracy regarding established theological teachings. There is simply no comparison!

    Mikel, you say you have been looking at the patch-work quilt which is Christianity for a couple of years now. Be true to the Spirit within you and keep looking! You have discerned how superficial many of the Prosperity-Gospel and Charismatic groups are theologically. They have taken away so much from the richness of the gospel. Good for you for seeing that! Eventually, you will also see just how much that Rome has added to the gospel. They will tout their long history, but then they will discount churches with just as long a pedigree (the EO, the Oriental Orthodox…Georgians, Armenians, Copts, Ethiopians, Mar Toma churches, Syriacs, Nestorians, Marionites, etc.)

    For some reason, they have problems with people figuring out the truth for themselves. This to them is “fallible” and “subjective.” When one studies Science as a kid and discovers that instead of the sun orbiting the earth (after all, the sun “rises” every morning and “sets” every night) in actuality the earth orbits the sun. They are shown all the evidence. They make the decision for themselves, by observation and by trusting proper authority. So, too, confessional Protestants, after perusing church history, learning ancient languages, exegeting the Sacred Text, comparing their findings with all of Tradition and all of their contemporaries, make decisions for themselves. As with most of those decisions in this life which we call objective, intense study and self confidence in one’s own ability to discern fact from fiction are necessary. Catholics would have us abdicate that responsibility and accept truth on a platter, descended directly from on high. We really have no other means to make decisions than our own minds and wills. If you study hard enough, you will find that some of what the Catholic Magisterium declares to be true is empirically false. (But they have stated that whatever they declare infallibly true is indubitably true.) You then have the choice of accepting established dogma and turning your back on the truth, or of going your own way no matter where truth leads. If we truly belong to Jesus, we hear his voice and follow it. If we do our homework and know how the voice of the Spirit has spoken in the past (through Scripture and Tradition), we will know it is his voice we hear and not a substitute. In this manner, I KNOW that Catholicism is wrong. Scripture and history and the Spirit agree.

    Essentially, Mikel, it is like this:

    Both sides have a “magisterium” which they rely on. (And despite what Bryan Cross may say, there is absolutely no difference between a person and a text, here. All of the possible “infallible” personal interpreters are possibly “fallible,” even the pope. Even a pope who, at the time, thinks he is speaking “ex cathedra.” Since every single one is possibly fallible, you have no incontestable infallibility.)

    So, both sides have a constitution/confession/catechism/magisterium to rely upon.

    A. One side says you must believe every letter of this “constitution” without question.

    B. The other side says this is the best we have come up with so far. It is undoubtedly very correct. Check and recheck it against Scripture (much as the Bereans did). If you come up with any new insight, the whole community will take it under consideration. Your conclusions will be “peer reviewed,” as it were. There is nothing new under the sun. You can only discover old truths which have been obscured for whatever reason. Nothing completely new can ever be considered correct. (This is something Old Princeton hammered on [Old Princeton is the ivy-league seminary before it turned liberal]. Charles Hodge, a longstanding systematics prof there, was justifiably proud of never having taught anything the slightest bit innovative.)

    At this point, the less-than-scholarly Catholics may pipe up about Alister McGrath’s claim that Luther’s notion of sola fide was an historical “novum”…proving that either they never read the book [Iustitia Dei] or never understood it.

    God has given you a good mind, Mikel. Use it! Don’t be taken in by those who retain their influence by forbidding anyone to question them.

  270. Jason–

    You said:

    “I agree with that guy. But your claim is that Protestantism in its confessional variety is remarkably unified. I then and I now would say that, despite whose fault it is, the claim is false on its face (and I used to say this all the time back then). Even though the PCA is not culpable, if Baptists don’t recognize your baptism, if the LCMS won’t commune you, and if a URC consistory would reject your membership transfer, then the claim that confessional Protestantism is united is either specious, or true only in a Gnostic and non-sacramental sense (which would be equally specious for a Catholic).

    I am now a member of a Reformed Baptist Church, which did indeed accept my paedo-baptism. (John Piper himself tried to make this the policy in his church.) I have communed in LCMS and Wisconsin-Synod Lutheran churches (not all of them practice “close” communion, as they call it). I cannot imagine having any trouble getting a URC consistory to accept my membership transfer. By and large, almost every Evangelical church accepts to the Table any member of a Bible-believing church. Few if any will require that you sign off on every jot and tittle of their confession before becoming a member. They want to know that you are a genuine believer. They want their leadership to sign off on particulars. They want their teachers to toe the line, not the rank and file. I believe, as time goes on, you will see even more of this type of implicit unity.

  271. I’m not claiming that they (or many of them) didn’t later enter the Church and receive Regeneration. Neither do I deny that some scripts may be referring to Jews who had already entered the Church.

    Wosbald, I asked you these questions below earlier. Do you have an answer?

    So I will ask you again: you can claim all you want (or not claim), where is your evidence? I presented mine. Where is your evidence that they did not believe and this unto salvation? As I said, the burden of proof is on you to back your claim up. Acts 17 says they believed. Elsewhere Paul says believe on the Lord and you shall be saved. What will you present to convince us that the Bereans did not believe unto salvation?

  272. SS:

    You wrote:

    Your attempt to disassociate the preaching of the apostles from the Scriptures is disingenuous and laughable. What do you think made up the content of their message? Homilies from Augustine? These were Jews, through and through. They worshiped in the temple, not the cathedral.

    Once again, you’re distorting my position–so unconsciously that you mock it and stop one step short of accusing me of lying. I do not claim that apostolic preaching, and the positive response thereto by some Jews, was “dissociate[d]” from the Scriptures. I claim that it was apostolic preaching with divine authority that spurred some Jews–including but not limited to the Bereans–to interpret the Scriptures correctly. That’s part of what Jesus had enabled the Apostles themselves to do when they accepted his divine authority. Thus for the Jews described in the NT, understanding the Scriptures properly required the proper IP, supplied by the divine and thus infallible authority Jesus had given the Apostles.

    That’s exactly the same boat we’re in today. Until God came in the flesh, the needed IP was unavailable to the Jews. Without the visible extension of his authority in that of the Church, it is also unavailable to us.

    You need to learn to stop mocking and accusing when you do not understand. But then, your ecclesiology is essentially Donatist. No wonder you sound like them.

    Best,
    Mike

  273. I claim that it was apostolic preaching with divine authority that spurred some Jews–including but not limited to the Bereans–to interpret the Scriptures correctly.

    “11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

    The text merely says that the Bereans examined Paul’s preaching by the light of the Scriptures to see if what he preached was true. And they confirmed his preaching by examining the Scriptures.

    Thus for the Jews described in the NT, understanding the Scriptures properly required the proper IP, supplied by the divine and thus infallible authority Jesus had given the Apostles.

    And what ‘proper IP’, supplied by infallible authority was given to Elizabeth and Zechariah?

    Luke 1:6

    “In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly

  274. The first paragraph above should read:

    “11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica , for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. ”

    The text merely says that the Bereans examined Paul’s preaching by the light of the Scriptures to see if what he preached was true. And they confirmed his preaching by examining the Scriptures. Why would they be of more noble character than the Thessalonians, if it was the correct IP of the apostles that caused them to interpret the Scriptures properly?

  275. SS:

    The Bereans confirmed Paul’s teaching by concluding that it was consistent with the Scriptures. But if they had reached that conclusion simply by making logical inferences from the Scriptures without Paul’s input, and then noting that Paul’s words were logically equivalent to those inferences, then any Jews who failed to make the same inferences were either unlettered or willfully blind–or, to put it more crudely, were either fools or knaves. But there was and is no independent evidence that the literate Jews who rejected Christianity–i.e., the majority–were all either fools or knaves. Simply as a matter of statistics, some no doubt were; but all of them?

    Since that hypothesis is implausible, the more likely explanation of the Bereans’ conclusion was that the divine authority they experienced in the Spirit through Paul’s visible authority enlightened them to adopt the proper interpretation of the Scriptures, and confirm Paul’s teaching by that means. As I said, that’s pretty much the same process we need today for reliably interpreting the Bible, where the relevant divine authority is encountered in its embodiment in that of the Church. Without that, all we’ve got is opinions which, along with several bucks, will get us lattés.

    As for Zechariah and Elizabeth–and indeed, for all the “righteous” of the old dispensation, whom Christ liberated when he descended into the underworld after his death–they became that by corresponding to such grace as they had been given. That grace was won and mediated proleptically by the Son, the one mediator between God and man. I have no doubt that, even today, many people who have little or no conscious knowledge of the Gospel are in a similar position.

    Best,
    Mike

  276. The Bereans confirmed Paul’s teaching by concluding that it was consistent with the Scriptures. But if they had reached that conclusion simply by making logical inferences from the Scriptures without Paul’s input, and then noting that Paul’s words were logically equivalent to those inferences, then any Jews who failed to make the same inferences were either unlettered or willfully blind–or, to put it more crudely, were either fools or knaves. But there was and is no independent evidence that the literate Jews who rejected Christianity–i.e., the majority–were all either fools or knaves. Simply as a matter of statistics, some no doubt were; but all of them?

    False dilemma in the above bolded. The 3rd option could also be that the Jews who rejected the testimony of the Scriptures confirming Paul’s preaching were hard of heart, hence Luke’s note that the Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians. And this is nothing surprising, because the same hardness of heart was encountered by Christ Himself. If you persist in saying that God caused the Bereans to interpret the Scriptures properly and not the Thessalonians, your position is indistinguishable from that of a calvinist. It’s really no surprise to me that CTC has had success with ex calvinists. There’s something in your reasoning and presuppositions that’s inherently calvinistic and hence extremely attractive to them. In my view, it’s the deterministic element to predestination which is reshaped and reformed as the draw of the infallible IP.

    Since that hypothesis is implausible, the more likely explanation of the Bereans’ conclusion was that the divine authority they experienced in the Spirit through Paul’s visible authority enlightened them to adopt the proper interpretation of the Scriptures, and confirm Paul’s teaching by that means. As I said, that’s pretty much the same process we need today for reliably interpreting the Bible, where the relevant divine authority is encountered in its embodiment in that of the Church. Without that, all we’ve got is opinions which, along with several bucks, will get us lattés.

    See above.

    As for Zechariah and Elizabeth–and indeed, for all the “righteous” of the old dispensation, whom Christ liberated when he descended into the underworld after his death–they became that by corresponding to such grace as they had been given. That grace was won and mediated proleptically by the Son, the one mediator between God and man. I have no doubt that, even today, many people who have little or no conscious knowledge of the Gospel are in a similar position.

    The question was: what ‘proper IP’, supplied by infallible authority was given to Elizabeth and Zechariah?

  277. SS:

    You wrote:

    The 3rd option could also be that the Jews who rejected the testimony of the Scriptures confirming Paul’s preaching were hard of heart, hence Luke’s note that the Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians. And this is nothing surprising, because the same hardness of heart was encountered by Christ Himself. If you persist in saying that God caused the Bereans to interpret the Scriptures properly and not the Thessalonians, your position is indistinguishable from that of a calvinist.

    You continue to distort my position. I did not say that “God caused the Bereans to interpret the Scriptures properly and not the Thessalonians…” It is perfectly consistent with what I said, and indeed I would hold, that when people adopt the proper IP in light of divine authority, it is because they freely choose to do so, with the aid but not under the compulsion of grace. I’ve explained all that before, when we were discussing the nature of the assent of faith. Some, on the other hand, decline to make that choice. Since the Thessalonians were of “less noble character” than the Bereans, they were probably less likely to make that choice; that, at least, is what the passage from Acts suggests to me. But nothing in my position logically implies that they were predestined to adopt their negative attitude. “Hardness of heart”, when it obtains, can be and usually is voluntary; for even when unconscious, it’s often the result of bad choices. That’s what makes it culpable.

    Your question about Zechariah and Elizabeth is simply irrelevant. I have no idea whether they adopted an IP that was logically equivalent to the apostolic hermeneutic, or not. Nor do I need to figure it out, as if I could. All I hold is that they chose to respond positively to whatever grace had been given them, by whatever lights had been given them. That’s why they were “righteous.” The same holds, I suspect, for some non-Christians today.

    If I were as inclined to distort and judge as you seem to be, I’d say your heart has been hardened against Catholicism. But I have no right to assert that it’s been. I merely entertain it as a possibility, and suggest you do the same.

    Best,
    Mike

  278. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    So I will ask you again: you can claim all you want (or not claim), where is your evidence? I presented mine. Where is your evidence that they did not believe and this unto salvation?

    If you just want to table pound, then I respond that, yes, they believed unto salvation. This proves that they made the act of Natural Faith, asked the Church for entrance and were received and regenerated in Sacramental Baptism.

    Fun conversation.

    Seriously though, if you ever want to have a real discussion, let me know. Counting my blessings, OTOH, this exchange was profitable simply because you finally unpacked your position significantly. Thanks for that. Honestly.

  279. You continue to distort my position. I did not say that “God caused the Bereans to interpret the Scriptures properly and not the Thessalonians…” It is perfectly consistent with what I said, and indeed I would hold, that when people adopt the proper IP in light of divine authority, it is because they freely choose to do so, with the aid but not under the compulsion of grace

    This is eisegesis. The text simply says:

    “10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed”

    As a result of Paul’s preaching and the Bereans verifying his preaching against the Scriptures, they believed. The text does not say that they adopted Paul’s IP. Matter of fact it says that they put Paul’s IP to the test. I know that you will continue to claim otherwise. But I’ll the reader decide whose position is more convincing here.

    Your question about Zechariah and Elizabeth is simply irrelevant. I have no idea whether they adopted an IP that was logically equivalent to the apostolic hermeneutic, or not. Nor do I need to figure it out, as if I could. All I hold is that they chose to respond positively to whatever grace had been given them, by whatever lights had been given them. That’s why they were “righteous.” The same holds, I suspect, for some non-Christians today.

    It is far from irrelevant. Matter of fact, it’s extremely relevant and important to this topic of infallibility and the economy of salvation. Facts are stubborn things, and and the fact is that Z&E were saved in an era where there was no ‘proper IP’ given. As you admitted, it was the grace of Christ that saved them, as they anticipated the Messiah’s atonement for their sins when they sacrificed. And if the grace of Christ can save outside of the establishment of an ‘infallible and proper IP’, the gist of your apologetic is damaged beyond salvaging. Because as Anthony had spoken earlier, God still accomplished His purposes in an age where there was no infallibility. Likewise today, He accomplishes His purposes despite the fact that there is no infallibility, only a claimed one.

  280. +JMJ+

    Michael Liccione wrote:

    Your question about Zechariah and Elizabeth is simply irrelevant. I have no idea whether they adopted an IP that was logically equivalent to the apostolic hermeneutic, or not. Nor do I need to figure it out, as if I could. All I hold is that they chose to respond positively to whatever grace had been given them, by whatever lights had been given them. That’s why they were “righteous.” The same holds, I suspect, for some non-Christians today.

    That’s a thing of beauty, right there. Many sheep Christ has that are not of this fold. Jesus is Lord of sheep that don’t even know him.

  281. Wosbald,

    Earlier you said:

    I don’t believe there is any reference to Jews believing as Jews. I think that’s a word and an inference which you are adding. Neither does it say that they became righteous (Regenerate /ontologically incorporated into the Church) immediately upon appropriating the Name of Christ (i.e. affirming that they ‘believed’ in Jesus).

    Now you change your tune and say:

    then I respond that, yes, they believed unto salvation.

    Ok, so you were against them before you were for them.

    My question is this: why did you deny earlier that they were saved?

  282. There are philosophical issues that divide us before we can even begin to appeal to evidence in order to “figure out of we have gotten it right.” For example, I reject the idea that Christ founded a church that is only more or less visible depending on how well it exhibits certain marks, marks which are themselves only discernible through invisible things like private interpretation of the Bible independent of the church. Rather, I believe that when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and gave them the power to bind and loose, and to forgive or retain sins, the Magisterium existed.

    Jason,

    I don’t understand how the example you give illustrates the fact that there are philosophical differences between us (which there are of course). I agree of course that the Apostles were given the power to forgive/remit sins and that this responsibility is given to the Church. I would add though that the Church binds/looses and remits sins within the context of the rest of Scripture. It’s not a responsibility that grants free reign for the Church to remit any sin she might feel like, right?

    Now if we delve into what is meant by the Church remitting sins we will be giving each other our respective interpretations of this matter. You coming from your tradition would give your interpretation and I likewise coming from the standpoint of my tradition would give you my interpretation. You jump right from the observation that the Church binds/looses and remits sins to the conclusion that there is a Magisterium, and by this I take it you mean the Magisterium as the Medieval RCC came to understand the term when she began to use it many centuries later. But of course I disagree. And why do I disagree? Well it’s because I take issue with the interpretation that you have placed on the tradition of the Church with respect to its teaching authority. We both believe that Christ and the Apostles formed a Church with a given teaching authority, but we don’t agree as to what the nature and extent of that teaching authority is. That’s because your interpretation of tradition is different than mine.

    In the end analysis we both have to reason from Scripture (primarily) and tradition (secondarily) to determine what things such as remitting sins mean and thus what the Church ought to do in her teaching role.

    But the idea that I can, completely independently of the church, sift through the evidence and locate the content and meaning of divine revelation in such a way as to demand the assent of faith, is not a philosophical position that I share with you.

    But Jason, I don’t believe I can sift through evidence independently of the Church either. And I don’t do this. As one wise man said many years ago, we are all men under authority. Anyone who thinks they are a free moral agent who can judge theological matters outside of the context of the Church that Christ and the Apostles established is deluding himself.

    I also do not see the need to pit the Word against the Church, as you seem to do.

    But I’m not doing this. I’m only trying to assess what the basis of the appeals that the preachers we find in Scripture make. And then later what the basis for the appeals that preachers like Athanasius makes. Athanasius adduces the clear teaching of the Word of God, not the infallible pronouncements of the Church to evidence what he says is true. Of course Athanasius is not pitting the Church against the Scriptures. He believes that it is only through the Church that the Word can be ministered. But there is no evidence that he believes in any type of infallible magisterial authority for the Church. My observation is that you accept something here that is promulgated later in history and try to read it into the early history of the Church.

    your claim is that Protestantism in its confessional variety is remarkably unified. I then and I now would say that, despite whose fault it is, the claim is false on its face (and I used to say this all the time back then). Even though the PCA is not culpable, if Baptists don’t recognize your baptism, if the LCMS won’t commune you, and if a URC consistory would reject your membership transfer, then the claim that confessional Protestantism is united is either specious, or true only in a Gnostic and non-sacramental sense (which would be equally specious for a Catholic).

    I did say in a previous statement that there are differences within confessional Protestantism, the two major examples being Church polity and aspects of the sacraments. But these are a relatively small portion of the various Reformed confessions. So I would hold to my theses that the differences between the various denominations within the family of Reformed churches is small. The example you bring above is from one of those confessional churches that makes a big deal out of one of these issues. OK, but it is just one of those issues. And for the vast majority of the Reformed churches this problem does not exist.

    Our job is to trust our ecclesiastical authorities (Heb. 13). If a bishop is openly teaching things that the CC deems heretical (which is possible but not as common as many would have us believe), he will be dealt with.

    I feel like you are not dealing with reality here. These folks rarely get dealt with. I see no evidence that the Catholic Church has any less of a problem with acceptance of heretical beliefs than the Protestant churches if we use what the clergy and laity say they believe as a barometer for assessing such beliefs.

    Enough for tonight….

  283. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Wosbald,
    Earlier you said:

    I don’t believe there is any reference to Jews believing as Jews. I think that’s a word and an inference which you are adding. Neither does it say that they became righteous (Regenerate /ontologically incorporated into the Church) immediately upon appropriating the Name of Christ (i.e. affirming that they ‘believed’ in Jesus).

    Now you change your tune and say:

    then I respond that, yes, they believed unto salvation.

    Ok, so you were against them before you were for them.
    My question is this: why did you deny earlier that they were saved?

    For your answer, ponder this… The second half of that sentence (the part that you didn’t bold) is just as important as, if not more important than, the part that you did bold.

  284. Look, the bottom line is that the Bereans freely chose to examine the Scriptures, after Paul had preached the Gospel, to see if his preaching his true. They did this every day he preached in the synagogue. It was Paul’s interpretation that was cross referenced with the Scriptures. And only when they had examined that interpretration did they believe. That’s why they were noble and the Thessalonians not. It is a noble thing to examine one’s life, goes the greek saying. So does the Jewish saying that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of Kings to search it out.

    Earlier it was said:

    But most Jews didn’t experience it in either way, and thus saw no reason to credit the apostolic hermeneutic of their scriptures, which was not logically inferable from the texts.

    The Bereans independent searching out of the matters of salvation had nothing to do with apostolic authority. Their hearing of the message had everything to do with the apostle, but not their searching. The latter had everything to do with their own nobility in not simply taking what was spoken to them at face value. That’s what set them apart from the Thessalonians, their willingness to make logical inferences from the texts, verifying the references which Paul had given them.

  285. +JMJ+

    SS, have you decided if you would like to make an argument (beyond script slinging) for your position that…

    1. Jews became righteous (Regenerate/ontologically incorporated into the Church) immediately upon affirming a ‘belief in Jesus’. (You might want to clarify as to whether or not this goes for everyone or just for Jews, because earlier you seemed to affirm Baptismal Regeneration.)
    2. The Jews were exempt from petitioning the Church for entrance.

    You don’t have to do so, of course. I’m just wondering. But there’s no chance for real dialogue unless you want to take the next step. (And as I said before, feel free to retract, clarify or augment your position points, if necessary.)

  286. Hi Jason,
    Thanks for the reply. Michael L comments don’t really address the particular point I was trying to explore. It’s not about comparing Christianity with Judaism, but comparing Gods work in the OT (not Judaism per se) with the Catholic viewpoint. The Catholic apologetic claim (at least what I understand you saying) is that there must be an infallible interpreter for us to escape the impasse of conflicting opinions (and avoid the TQ dilemma). Otherwise we are left with non-authoritative opinions. And to paraphrase you again there would be “no ecclesiastical body on earth who could speak with infallible authority on matters of doctrine, and so one man’s orthodoxy was as good as another man’s heresy”.
    Yet in the OT this appears to be the exact position God willed to leave the OT believers in. In the OT (and during the intertestamental period before Christ) there were competing groups with differing views (and presumably they would get stuck in TQ responses). And the Catholic response to the TQ objection by Bryan Cross (again if I understand it properly) which involves discovering the one true church with apostolic succession set up by Christ (to which one yields and is thus guaranteed to be able to know the correct interpretation), doesn’t help because in the OT we could do exactly the equivalent to what Bryan says we should do (we know exactly who God appointed as the successors of Moses and Aaron) and yet these interpreters of the law were often wrong and even lead in apostasy. God would still hold us accountable to obey the covenant Word – even against the OT equivalent to the Magisterium – and to use the Word against such a magisterium when needed.
    Thus every Catholic argument for infallibility is also an argument against what God did in the OT and calls into question God for his ‘failure’ to provide an infallible magisterium for them and to leave them in a ‘protestant’ like situation with no escape from the ‘anarchy’ of conflicting opinion. (This is all pre-the ‘Christ event’).
    Hopefully that clarifies my particular point. I leave it to you whether you get time to answer or have more pressing needs. God Bless

  287. Robert @ April 18, at 10:50 am

    I thought you disliked the ‘begging the question’ line. I am not even close to a philosopher so asking me to provide answers to objections that according to you Bryan and the strength of C2C has been unable to answer to your satisfaction actually makes me laugh. Anyway thanks for the compliment. You have made my day.

    But then I will tell you my reason for believing the Church outside the Church. It is quite simple really. Here goes:

    I know from history that Christianity is about 2,000 years old. Protestantism is about 500 years old. That means Protestantism is 1,500 years removed from the event. That leaves the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. The problem with these is that they are virtually nonexistent in this part of the world. And I know there is a verse from the Bible about taking the Gospel to the end of the world. There are three large Catholic Churches within 15minutes of me and uncountable numbers of Protestant Churches. And besides they appear to have certain national/regional character. That leaves only the Catholic Church as a body that has been there from the beginning, is ubiquitous and is free from national/regional character.

    So that is it in a nutshell. Simple like abc. Over here it is like that with most things. Most people here neither have the understanding nor the resources to ask endless questions. Things are much simpler. Either white or black. Little or no fifty shades of grey between.

    Of course you are going to dismiss all this. But you have also dismissed the heavy stuff at C2C. So that is alright.

    This is where C2C and other high powered Catholic resources come in. By their precise and rigorous definition of terms, formal application of logic and elimination of fallacious reasoning, they provide the firm and solid foundation that is lacking in simple deductions like mine. I have seen comments that the effort of C2C is negligible because most people wouldn’t be bothered with such lofty apologetics. I disagree. They are a confirmation site. It shows those of us who don’t posses the brain power to think so clearly and rigorously, with the confirmation that we have been right all along with what we have observed in the world. Therefore their effect is so much greater than is being recognized.

    Robert:
    why should I accept that church as my authority? How do I know. At the point at which I make that decision, I am fallible.

    Me:
    Let me understand. At the point of making this choice I am fallible. Does this also applies to the Protestant? Because if it does then we are all in one giant fallible jolly ride. But then you should not have any issues with a Catholic or with anybody for that matter who has to make similar fallible human judgment before joining any religious group in the world. I mean according to you, your judgment is fallible. So why should you want me to leave the comfort of my fallible judgment and join the unfamiliar territory of your own fallible judgment?

    The Catholic stand is that I use my fallible God given senses to determine which institution has the truth. I then submit to the authority of that institution, i.e. I stop with the limitations of my fallibility and latch on to the infallibility of the authourity. Is that what Protestants do?

    Robert:
    As far as U.S. Roman Catholics—I’m sure that in Nigeria the church is far different, probably because Americans have a natural tendency to question all authorities (that’s not a good thing, BTW).

    Me:
    Again you are providing answers to your objections. The problem is not with the Catholic Church. It is with the propensity of American (and dare I say western Europeans) for questioning authorities (and all its attendant baggage) that is the problem. The laity is picking and choosing, the priests are seducing and molesting while the Bishops are shielding and protecting. Okay. But let’s say it is as bad as advertised (and I have reports that suggest otherwise) it still doesn’t affect the truth or not of Catholicism. It just simple says the laity is dancing with heresy, the priests are pedophiles and the bishops are hypocrites. Heresy, molesting children and protecting criminal are all condemned by the Catholic Church.

    Robert:
    All churches have problems with discipline, but if you have a “principled” way to root out heretics and don’t do it, your hierarchy is but a paper tiger.

    Me:
    The same Catholic Church that is accused of being heavy handed in the past is now being accused of being a paper tiger. I believe there must be a middle ground somewhere in all this.
    Anyway I have seen instance where a bunch of Catholics started espousing a different interpretation from that of the Church and were told in no uncertain terms to either be with the Church or take a walk. So not all the tiger is paper yet.

  288. Eric @ April 18, at 7:01 pm

    Thank you so much for your post, especially on your explanation of the branches of Protestantism. It is really enlightening. Also I appreciate your tone. You don’t believe in Catholicism but you have presented your objections with charity and fairness. Thank you for that. I wish we could all engage like this. I will respond to you in time.

  289. MIKEL,

    Just a book recommendation here. Have you looked up Robert Hugh Benson’s The Religion of the Plain Man? It is a really simple and good book. Benson was a convert to the Catholic Church in the Oxford Movement in England and was the son of the ArchBishop of Canteberry. The book is a written version of a conference He held back in the day. Here’s a link for it on Google books, but it can be found free in many places.
    http://books.google.com/books?id=pi83AAAAMAAJ

    May your journey for peace and understanding and joy in Christ be filled with wonder at the ever present care of God the Father of all,

    Michael from that little state of Texas

  290. SS:

    About my interpretation of the Berean passage, you wrote:

    This is eisegesis. The text simply says:

    “10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed.”

    As a result of Paul’s preaching and the Bereans verifying his preaching against the Scriptures, they believed. The text does not say that they adopted Paul’s IP. Matter of fact it says that they put Paul’s IP to the test. I know that you will continue to claim otherwise. But I’ll the reader decide whose position is more convincing here.

    It’s way too convenient to dismiss interpretations one dislikes as “eisegesis.” Indeed, that word pretty well describes what most Jews thought, and most still think, of Christian interpretation of their scriptures. That’s what I learned from, among others, the scholarly rabbi from whom I took my Old Testament course at a secular university. He even said the same about the Orthodox Jewish attitude toward the Dead Sea Scrolls, of which he was the translator into English. But as he also pointed out, interpretation is unavoidable. So the question is not what the text says; on that, we are agreed. The question is its significance for the question facing us, which is that of how exegesis and ecclesial authority are related to each other.

    Thus to Wosbold, you write something true which occasions that question:

    Look, the bottom line is that the Bereans freely chose to examine the Scriptures, after Paul had preached the Gospel, to see if his preaching his true. They did this every day he preached in the synagogue. It was Paul’s interpretation that was cross referenced with the Scriptures. And only when they had examined that interpretration did they believe.

    So the Bereans were confronted with a particular interpretation of the Scriptures, which led them to study the Scriptures to “verify” it. But what, exactly, was involved in “verifying” a particular interpretation of the Scriptures? That’s the interpretive question facing us.

    One answer would be that the Bereans already knew the more-or-less correct interpretation of the Scriptures, so that all they had to do was re-check the Scriptures to see if Paul’s interpretation was logically equivalent to the one they knew. But if that had been the case, then Paul’s interpretation would not have been new to them; they would have seen it as pretty much the same old thing, just in different words. But Paul’s interpretation was new to them, for obvious reasons we needn’t linger over. That means that Paul’s interpretation was not equivalent to whatever they had already derived logically just from reading the Scriptures. So a more reasonable view of what their “verifying” his interpretation consisted in would be to say that, having heard his interpretation, they went back to the Scriptures and concluded that Paul’s interpretation was both consistent with them and, in additional respects, a more reasonable interpretation than any that would be incompatible with it–such as that held by many other Jews including, we are told, the Thessalonians. And that was fine. But that involved first bringing an IP to the texts; in this case, the IP was Paul’s. Bringing an IP to the texts is unavoidable; the only questions are which IP, and why. For Paul’s IP was not logically inferable from what the Bereans already knew, or thought they knew. They had to be convinced it was the more reasonable one all the same. That’s what they did by applying his IP and seeing how it made sense of the texts.

    The truth is that the Bereans freely made the decision to accept Paul’s IP as divinely authoritative, and did so with the aid of the Holy Spirit whose authority Paul embodied for them. They could not have derived it logically just from their own prior understanding of the texts; rather, their review of the texts helped them, along with grace, to adopt a new IP for the texts. So then the question now becomes: Why suppose, in the absence of its logical necessity, that said IP was to be adopted as the one for apprehending divine revelation, as opposed to adopting it as just one opinion among others circulating? I don’t know how the Bereans answered that question, or even whether they explicitly raised such a question. But it is an important question we need to consider. The Catholic IP answers it in a principled way, even though no IP can, even in principle, be rationally necessitated by the overall biblical canon, any more than Paul’s IP was rationally necessitated by the LXX canon that the Greek-speaking Bereans presumably used.

    Even so, you write to Wobold:

    The Bereans independent searching out of the matters of salvation had nothing to do with apostolic authority. Their hearing of the message had everything to do with the apostle, but not their searching. The latter had everything to do with their own nobility in not simply taking what was spoken to them at face value. That’s what set them apart from the Thessalonians, their willingness to make logical inferences from the texts, verifying the references which Paul had given them.

    For reasons I’ve already explained, their conclusion could not have been simply a matter of “making logical inferences from the texts,” as if their “verifying” Paul’s IP were simply a matter of demonstrating that it followed logically from the texts. It was instead as I have said. That involved some use of logic, to be sure; but logic, though necessary, is not sufficient for settling a matter such as this. As even you acknowledge, it was also a free response to grace. And that grace came to them through Paul’s authoritative teaching. Their exegesis helped them to see that teaching as such, but it was not sufficient for doing so. They needed to have already been confronted with it and moved by it.

    The issue between Catholicism and Protestantism today is quite similar to the one I’ve described as being between the Jewish Christians and the other Jews of the time. On the Catholic IP, the triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium is the formal, proximate object of faith, where the elements are understood to be mutually attesting and necessarily interdependent. On the CIP, one way to cultivate faith is to use Scripture to attest to and thus support the other two elements; that’s what the Bereans did for Paul and his teaching, though of course they could not have put the matter that way at the time. It would not do to object here that the CIP is not logically necessitated by the biblical canon that even the Catholic Church says is the biblical canon; for neither was the Christian kerygma preached by Paul and the other apostles logically necessitated by the LXX. My argument is simply that, without something like the CIP, there is no way to present exegetical conclusions as anything more than one set of opinions among others. Hence the CIP is at least a reasonable way to interpret Scripture, even though it’s not dictated by whatever one counts as Scripture.

    Replying to my argument that the Zechariah/Elizabeth case is irrelevant to the question before us, you write:

    It is far from irrelevant. Matter of fact, it’s extremely relevant and important to this topic of infallibility and the economy of salvation. Facts are stubborn things, and and the fact is that Z&E were saved in an era where there was no ‘proper IP’ given. As you admitted, it was the grace of Christ that saved them, as they anticipated the Messiah’s atonement for their sins when they sacrificed. And if the grace of Christ can save outside of the establishment of an ‘infallible and proper IP’, the gist of your apologetic is damaged beyond salvaging. Because as Anthony had spoken earlier, God still accomplished His purposes in an age where there was no infallibility. Likewise today, He accomplishes His purposes despite the fact that there is no infallibility, only a claimed one.

    But that is merely confused. It is fully compatible with the CIP to point out that some people are saved without explicit exposure and adherence to it. Indeed, Vatican II acknowledged as much. What the CIP does is provide–for those of us in a position to raise such an issue–a principled means of distinguishing between authentic expressions of divine revelation and merely human opinions about how to identify and interpret the sources by which divine revelation is transmitted to us. Such a means applies to the question what counts as the biblical canon in the first place, and to the question whether, whatever counts as the canon, it is an inspired, inerrant record of divine revelation. Accordingly, it is mere table-pounding for you to describe as “facts” the things you so describe. Facts are indeed “stubborn things,” but if you deny infallibility, then you allow that what you count as the canon, and how you interpret it, might be errors. If they might be errors, then you need some principled means for demonstrating them to be “facts”. For what might be erroneous can’t be an authentic expression of divine revelation, and thus an article of faith; in order to distinguish it from opinion and thus establish it as fact, you have to show that it would be unreasonable, given normal canons of human rationality, to deny it. Good luck.

    Best,
    Mike

  291. +JMJ+

    John Bugay wrote:

    @SS – in your discussion with Michael Liccione, what you call “eisegesis” is simply “business as usual” for “Roman Catholic interpretation”…

    We are (or at least, I am) trying to parse out SS’s belief as to why Jews are Regenerate upon “belief in Jesus”, particularly when, earlier in this thread, he seemed to affirm Baptismal Regeneration (“… when a seeker opens his Bible, before God regenerates His heart through baptism…”)

    So as far as possible options, we seem to have…

    1. SS holds that all men are immediately Regenerate upon “belief in Jesus”/invisible Spiritual Quickening, and as such the whole controversy would be a nonstarter, since his soteriology would be not categorically distinct from the classical Protestant modes.

    2. SS holds to Baptismal Regeneration and that he’s nuancing “belief in Jesus” to include the movement from (a) Natural Faith in Jesus/The Church to (b) petitioning The Church for entrance to (c) receiving Regeneration and Supernatural Faith in Sacramental Baptism. Again, this would be a nonstarter as it would not be categorically different from the Catholic paradigm. (However, I think it is unlikely that SS holds to this option.)

    3. SS doesn’t actually believe in classical, operatively effective (ex opere operato) Baptismal Regeneration, and simply misspoke or was misinterpreted earlier.

    But, if none of the above three options are true, then it seems that we are talking about something new, something which is neither Protestant nor Catholic, and which is certainly unique. Something in which, while Gentiles are required to receive Baptismal Regeneration, Jews are automatically ‘on the inside’ (incorporated into Jesus Christ) by virtue of their Jewish birth and only need to affirm a belief in him.

    Regardless of where one stands on the Prot/Cath divide, this would seem to be of interest to everyone, even if only on a purely academic level. I would think that you would be interested, as well, rather than just being interested in fanning flames and scoring points.

  292. Wosbald, I am following these discussions at a peripheral level – I see the comments as they come in via email – my own comment to SS regarding his discussion with Michael Liccione was simply to add some information that he may not have had.

    You said:

    Regardless of where one stands on the Prot/Cath divide, this would seem to be of interest to everyone, even if only on a purely academic level. I would think that you would be interested, as well, rather than just being interested in fanning flames and scoring points.

    I have no interest in getting involved with a discussion on baptism. I have friends who are both Lutheran and Baptist (as well as Reformed) who disagree mightily, and I can point you in the direction of those discussions if it is your passion to arrive at a true understanding of this matter. I am also on record as having said that this type of issue must be adiaphora (????????) in God’s eyes, in that the Scriptural record leaves some openings for multiple interpretations about it.

    I am thoroughly convinced that Rome is wrong about its own professions of authority. That is my interest in showing up here. The Reformation is a 500 year old dispute – someone was right and someone was wrong at that time, and a “why can’t we all just get along” attitude will not help anyone to get to the bottom of that issue. So for now, yes, I am interested in fanning flames.

    And in fact, Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” And so, I am much less interested in singing “Kumbaya” than I am at getting to a true understanding of the heart of the matter.

  293. JOHN BUGAY,

    “And so, I am much less interested in singing “Kumbaya” than I am at getting to a true understanding of the heart of the matter.”

    I respect what you say here. and agree to a great extent to it. I hope you understand that I as a recent struggle with the Church came to a different conclusion that what you have and will hold to it to the death, not because I believe I am right but because I believe God to be loving and just and will not allow my prayers to love and serve Him faithful have or will go unanswered. So, I heartily agree we must continually seek to understand where each other are coming from while as clearly as possible presenting our understanding with gentleness and respect.

    I’m somewhat peripheral in this one too. Though I a’m following it all.

    Blessings and peace through Christ our common King to the Glory of the one God the Father of all,
    Mike

  294. +JMJ+

    John Bugay wrote:

    So for now, yes, I am interested in fanning flames.
    And in fact, Jesus said…

    Yeah, Jesus said a lot of stuff.

  295. It’s way too convenient to dismiss interpretations one dislikes as “eisegesis.” Indeed, that word pretty well describes what most Jews thought, and most still think, of Christian interpretation of their scriptures….

    That’s an appeal to emotion and also a case of special pleading. There are 100,000 Messianic Jews in Israel today, the majority of which are not catholic. So you can keep repeating the ‘most jews don’t believe’ mantra, or you can look at the facts and engage them: many thousands of Jews believe in Christ today, (as they believed in His day, cf. Acts 2, 21) not on the self ascribed authority of the CC, but by turning to what their own Scriptures say about Him.

    Earlier you said:

    “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.

    #1 As stated above, the first bolded sentence above is special pleading. That most Jews reject Christ does not obviate the fact that many do embrace Him, leaving the question of interpretation wide open and still entirely relevant.

    #2 “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”. This quote of your bears repeating. Again, more special pleading. I presented the counter evidence of the Bereans who having heard Paul preach, examined the OT canon for themselves and concluded that it clearly pointed to the Messiah. More on that below.

    #3 Judaism is not a ‘stage of revelation’. This 3rd bolded sentence of yours above presupposes supersessionism which is entirely question begging. By contrast, Christ was and is the King of the Jews. As such, we read in Acts 21 of many thousands of Jews, zealous for the law who believed in Christ. They are a cause for rejoicing for James and there is no reason to not consider them ‘saved’ or righteous in the sight of God.

    The truth is that the Bereans freely made the decision to accept Paul’s IP as divinely authoritative, and did so with the aid of the Holy Spirit whose authority Paul embodied for them. They could not have derived it logically just from their own prior understanding of the texts; rather, their review of the texts helped them, along with grace, to adopt a new IP for the texts. So then the question now becomes: Why suppose, in the absence of its logical necessity, that said IP was to be adopted as the one for apprehending divine revelation, as opposed to adopting it as just one opinion among others circulating? I don’t know how the Bereans answered that question, or even whether they explicitly raised such a question

    There is such a thing as eisegesis, and when it’s particularly egregious it bears pointing out. Your first sentence (bolded above) is a beauty in that sense: whereas the text says:

    “11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed,..”

    you reword ‘examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true’ to ‘freely made the decision to accept Paul’s IP as divinely authoritative’. Notice the subtle sleight of hand: we go from examining to see if true to accept Paul’s IP 🙂 From a proactive stance to a passive acceptance. Again, I will let the reader decide if this is reasonable or not. To me, this strikes me as a tortured interpretation that is borne out of a need to preserve one’s theological grid at all costs.

    Whether aided by grace or not, the Bereans examined the Scriptures to test Paul’s intepretation. And that they did so, unto belief and salvation, shows that the Christ Event was clear in the OT canon. The fact that you don’t know if the Bereans raised the IP question simply shows that you are imposing a philosophical constraint on the text that does not belong. The burden of proof is on you to show that they engaged with your understanding of the importance of an IP. But you have no evidence to show that they did.

    For reasons I’ve already explained, their conclusion could not have been simply a matter of “making logical inferences from the texts,” as if their “verifying” Paul’s IP were simply a matter of demonstrating that it followed logically from the texts. It was instead as I have said.

    You’re making a mountain out of a molehill. I used ‘verifying’ in the sense of ‘examining’. You can call it interpretation, I have no issues with that.

    It would not do to object here that the CIP is not logically necessitated by the biblical canon that even the Catholic Church says is the biblical canon; for neither was the Christian kerygma preached by Paul and the other apostles logically necessitated by the LXX. My argument is simply that, without something like the CIP, there is no way to present exegetical conclusions as anything more than one set of opinions among others. Hence the CIP is at least a reasonable way to interpret Scripture, even though it’s not dictated by whatever one counts as Scripture.

    The case of the Bereans shows that the Jewish Bible was sufficient to ensure that they believed. To this day, Jews are coming to Messiah through the witness of the Prophets Moses, Isaiah, Zechariah, Amos and so on. Also, Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1:6 had no ‘CIP’ to consult when they went to the temple, and were fully accepted/righteous in the sight of God. The CIP was completely unnecessary.

    But that is merely confused. It is fully compatible with the CIP to point out that some people are saved without explicit exposure and adherence to it. Indeed, Vatican II acknowledged as much. What the CIP does is provide–for those of us in a position to raise such an issue–a principled means of distinguishing between authentic expressions of divine revelation and merely human opinions about how to identify and interpret the sources by which divine revelation is transmitted to us. Such a means applies to the question what counts as the biblical canon in the first place, and to the question whether, whatever counts as the canon, it is an inspired, inerrant record of divine revelation. Accordingly, it is mere table-pounding for you to describe as “facts” the things you so describe. Facts are indeed “stubborn things,” but if you deny infallibility, then you allow that what you count as the canon, and how you interpret it, might be errors. If they might be errors, then you need some principled means for demonstrating them to be “facts”. For what might be erroneous can’t be an authentic expression of divine revelation, and thus an article of faith; in order to distinguish it from opinion and thus establish it as fact, you have to show that it would be unreasonable, given normal canons of human rationality, to deny it. Good luck

    No, you’re the one who is confused and confusing. That it is compatible with the CIP that ‘some people’ are saved regardless of the CIP is irrelevant to my point. Because the Bereans or people like Zechariah and Elizabeth are not ‘some people’. They were the chosen people of God.

    Gen 17:6-8: “I will establish my covenant between me and your descendants after you…to be God to you and your descendants”

    And as such, being the recipients of His promises throughout centuries unto them, they searched the Scriptures which pointed to Messiah and believed that He atoned for their sin. All without the need of the CIP!

    The catholic has to try and force CIP, a round shape into the square peg of reality. This insistence on a philosophical constraint is entirely foreign to the semitic background of the faith. The faith is revealed by God and by His Mighty Arm and that demonstration is sufficient for the Jew who does not harden his heart to respond in faith. He does not need the ‘CIP’ to believe by faith and respond to the Lord’s righteousness by way of faithfulness to His commands. This was the case in Christ’s day and it is the case even today. Faith over infallibillity.

    The Jewish believer in Christ is an ontological wrench in the supersessionistic assumptions of the CC. Good luck trying to show otherwise.

  296. 1. SS holds that all men are immediately Regenerate upon “belief in Jesus”/invisible Spiritual Quickening, and as such the whole controversy would be a nonstarter, since his soteriology would be not categorically distinct from the classical Protestant modes.

    2. SS holds to Baptismal Regeneration and that he’s nuancing “belief in Jesus” to include the movement from (a) Natural Faith in Jesus/The Church to (b) petitioning The Church for entrance to (c) receiving Regeneration and Supernatural Faith in Sacramental Baptism. Again, this would be a nonstarter as it would not be categorically different from the Catholic paradigm. (However, I think it is unlikely that SS holds to this option.)

    3. SS doesn’t actually believe in classical, operatively effective (ex opere operato) Baptismal Regeneration, and simply misspoke or was misinterpreted earlier.

    But, if none of the above three options are true, then it seems that we are talking about something new, something which is neither Protestant nor Catholic, and which is certainly unique. Something in which, while Gentiles are required to receive Baptismal Regeneration, Jews are automatically ‘on the inside’ (incorporated into Jesus Christ) by virtue of their Jewish birth and only need to affirm a belief in him.

    Regardless of where one stands on the Prot/Cath divide, this would seem to be of interest to everyone, even if only on a purely academic level. I would think that you would be interested, as well, rather than just being interested in fanning flames and scoring points.

    Baldy,

    Unlike you, I don’t put God in a box and require that He operates under my paradigm always and everywhere. 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.

    You on the other hand, see every issue as a nail in need of hammering by way of your ‘incarno sacramentalism’ or whatever nonsense you’ve conjured up. Good luck trying to convince anyone of anything with that, even your own.

  297. @WOSBALD April 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    So I was traveling yesterday and on the way back sitting next to a very liberal chaplain from the United Methodists. She noticed the book I was reading (I read religious stuff on planes I can’t handle computer books in low oxygen) and we started talking about the book. Her religious positions on the bible were more or less in line with mine, which was nice, and as we were discussing Colossians and Ephesians your comment about “further than the Protestants”occurred to me. So I decided to test your opinion and steered the discussion towards my opinion that Romans / Paul believes in a crucifixion which is fundamentally outside of history. Christ is eternally dying and is in our baptism that the crucifixion event takes on material reality.

    She agreed. She agreed strongly. For her what is important about Christ is what is timeless not what is historical, or more accurately historical distortion. For her we can only understand Christ in history, but that’s not Christianity that’s literary analysis. It is only when we move Christ from the historical context of the presentation in the biblical narrative to our our historical context that the story has meaning. It is our healing the sick in his name that is what gives meaning to his healing the sick in the bible. So evidently I’m not going further than the Protestants, though I agree she definitely represents the leftmost 20% of chaplains and ministers. So let’s get back to your apologetic now that I’ve confirmed directly that’s it is not outside the Protestant range.

    Obviously the historicity of the apostles is important if you need to limit the apostles to 12 and limit their activities and beliefs. Exactly what a church looking for authority would want to do, if it were coming out of a world of diverse apostles teaching a huge range of philosophies and theologies about Jesus Christ. So you didn’t answer the question. How is your argument about history and incarnation an argument for a Conservative Catholic Orthodoxy and not an argument for some sort of Bultmann style demythologizing to reestablish the existential reality of the Christian faith free of the historical political concerns which forced the church into various postures as part of history as realized?

    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.

  298. How is your argument about history and incarnation an argument for a Conservative Catholic Orthodoxy and not an argument for some sort of Bultmann style demythologizing to reestablish the existential reality of the Christian faith free of the historical political concerns which forced the church into various postures as part of history as realized?

    CD-Host, that’s a great insight. I hadn’t seen the link but you’re right, it does strike me as regurgitated Bultmann serving the purpose of abstracting theology from history and its implications for said theology.

  299. There are 100,000 Messianic Jews in Israel today, the majority of which are not catholic

    SS where are you getting that data from. I’d be shocked if there were 100k Israelis that even know what the Assembly of God was, much less belonged to their Jewish outreach. Messianic Judaism is a good religious choice for the children of the Jewish / Christian intermarried. Few Americans make aliyah. The sorts of Jews who get intermarried tend even less frequently to make aliyah. Most Israelis come from backgrounds where they have never been exposed meaningfully to American style evangelical Christianity, why would Messianic Judaism get those kinds of numbers?

    Honestly, I’m not sure there are even 100k messianic Jews in America who are within 2 generations of being Jewish. Jews who want greater religious meaning outside their faith go in for Buddhism far more than Evangelical Charismatic Christianity. The people who really like Evangelical Charismatic Christianity with a bit of Jewish spicing are the people with ties to Evangelical Charismatic Christianity. Certainly I’ll agree that it is a good shtick for AoG, and lots of Christians who are looking for a more authentic experience seem to like it. But let’s deal with reality here. Messianic congregations even in the United States tend to be small and there aren’t that many of them.

    Israelis adore the support that evangelical Christianity gives them, there is a real evangelical Christianity / Israeli friendship. But those Israelis are mostly atheists and those that aren’t are Messianic Zionists (i.e. messianic in the Jewish sense). Israel doesn’t have nearly the intermarriage frequency American does, that’s kinda one of the points of creating a Jewish society. There are some reports with numbers in the 10-15k range for Israeli Messianic Jews but they seem to be counting 100% Christians who belong to messianic congregations and live in Israel.

    ______

    In terms of Catholic & Jews, I’m sorry but you are really barking up the wrong tree. The Catholic Church has to deal with this problem en masse. Catholics are far and away the favorite paring for Jewish intermarried, 39% which is more than their percentage in the US population. That means more than 10% of all married Jews are married to a Catholic. The Catholic church works with Jewish intermarriage groups effectively particularly in counseling to avoid divorce. It is a generally cooperative relationship, but often especially so when the situation is Jewish father / Catholic mother where often both types of groups can encourage the parents to raise the children Catholic.

    Obviously the Catholic Church has an appalling history when it comes to Jews. I’d say Vatican City is one of the most anti-Jewish non-Islamic countries on earth because of their hostility towards Israel. But… if we want to talk treatment the place where the Catholic Church is dealing with Jews on a regular basis is America and there the relationship is reasonable friendly. And if it weren’t for the international issues creating additional tension, it would likely be more friendly.

  300. CD-Host, that’s a great insight. I hadn’t seen the link but you’re right, it does strike me as regurgitated Bultmann serving the purpose of abstracting theology from history and its implications for said theology. </b

    Glad you liked it SS!

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