Beckwith and George: Can You Be Catholic and Evangelical?

Sep 11th, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

On September 3, Wheaton College hosted a friendly discussion between professors Timothy George and Francis Beckwith focused primarily on the following question: Can you be Catholic and Evangelical?

BeckwithGeorge

Timothy George is a Southern Baptist and dean of Beeson Divinity School, and a co-signer of The Gift of Salvation. Francis Beckwith was the president of the Evangelical Theological Society when he reverted to the Catholic Church in 2006; he is now Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies at Baylor University. The video of the discussion and the following Q&A can be found here.

Such a discussion, and the way it was conducted, are very encouraging signs with respect to the goal of seeking the reunion of all Christians, especially Protestants and Catholics. In my opinion this event is exactly the sort of conversation Protestants and Catholics should be having. The discussion often just touched on various points of disagreement, without going into significant depth. But the purpose of the discussion was not to go into depth on these issues, only to sketch out the overall picture and develop a better mutual understanding of the common ground and the differences between Evangelicals and Catholics in relation to the question that titled the event.

My comments below focus only on Professor George’s statements. My purpose is to advance the discussion of our disagreements, by pointing to the deeper reasons underlying our disagreements.

Toward the beginning of the discussion Professor George said:

Evangelicals are gospel-people, and Bible-people … Evangelicals understand those terms and live out those commitments in continuity with the Protestant Reformation, and in particular with the doctrines of justification by faith alone, and the authority of holy Scripture.

Those are undoubtedly the two most important areas of disagreement, and those are precisely where we need to be digging deeper. We are doing just that here at Called to Communion. See the recent post titled “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide,” and especially the discussion in the comments following it. Our most recent article is titled “Hermeneutics and The Authority of Scripture,” and our next article will examine the relationship between the authority of Scripture and the magisterial authority of the Church.1

Professor George continued:

The Reformation itself was a renewal movement within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church; this is how I think the Reformers understood what they were doing. … They wanted to go back through the tradition of the Church, the history of the Church, to recover what they understood to be the purer, not totally incorrupt, but purer and pristine foundations of Christian faith which they found, in the early Church Fathers to some extent, but preeminently in the apostolic witness of the holy Scriptures.

There are two doctrinal issues that lie behind what he says here. The first has to do with the nature of the visibility of the Church. We maintain that hierarchical unity is necessary for visible unity; Protestant deny that. We agree that the Reformers intended to reform the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, not leave it. But their intentions and self-description of what they were doing are not sufficient to demonstrate that they did not leave the Church or form a schism from the Church. From the Catholic point of view, the Reformers re-defined the nature of the Church in such a way that someone such as Luther, who was excommunicated by the Church, could conceive of himself as remaining in it and in fact being, in some sense, its continuation. The Reformers did this by redefining the marks of the Church, according to their own interpretation of Scripture. So this pushes us back to “What are the marks of the Church, and who gets to determine what are the marks of the Church?”

Catholics believe that the Magisterium authoritatively determines the marks of the Church. Protestants believe that the individual has the highest interpretive authority to determine the marks for himself, based on his own interpretation of Scripture. So we see here a fundamental difference in what is included within our epistemic ‘starting material,’ so to speak. And that difference is related to the affirmation or denial of apostolic succession, respectively.2

The second assumption behind what George says here is an implicit ecclesial deism. A Catholic can fully embrace the sort of return to the sources that does not presuppose ecclesial deism. A faithful way of recollecting and reflecting upon the Church’s history and sources does not presume that the Spirit allowed the Church to fall universally into error in matters of doctrine or morals. The early Protestants, however, returned to the sources in such a way that implicitly conceded to ecclesial deism, calling into question the Church’s tradition and first fifteen hundred years of theological development. Everything was subjected to the following test: Does it conform to [our interpretation] of Scripture? If it did not, it was rejected.

Professor George refers in passing to one ecclesial disagreement between Catholics and Evangelicals:

“But to understand the incarnation in a way that, not only the Roman Catholic Church, but to some extent the Orthodox Church, also sees [as the Church being the Body of Christ continuing on earth], is one that presents a great difficulty that seems to challenge to us the historical particularity of the incarnation.”

This is an interesting statement, because Professor George seems to think that a conception of the Church as the Body of Christ is somehow in tension with the incarnation of Christ, as though we must choose between the Church being the Body of Christ and the doctrine of the incarnation. But this seems to be a misunderstanding of the ontology of the Mystical Body of Christ, as though it were believed by us to be the physical body of Christ. The Mystical Body differs from Christ’s physical body, because the latter is individual and the former is communal, i.e. a social body. The Mystical Body of Christ does not compete with Christ’s physical body. Rather, His physical body makes possible His Mystical Body, and His Mystical Body is a familial and social extension of His physical body. This is something I think we can clear up without too much difficulty.

Professor George then is asked about the novelty of the Protestant conception of imputation, and he says:

“If it were true that the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness, as Luther taught it, was only brought to light in the sixteenth century, and had never been heard of, from the time of Paul to Luther, that wouldn’t particularly bother me. … I’m a Southern Baptist, and we know that baptism by believers was not the majority view in the Church by any means during that period of time, at least from the third or fourth century up to the sixteenth, and even now today continuing in both Catholic and Protestant. So, this was something that people came to see as they read the Bible, and new light dawned upon them, and wow, this is how they baptized in the early Church it seems like in the book of Acts. And so the fact that a doctrine may, you might say, sort of exist like a geyser under the ground and then it suddenly explodes, like Old Faith in Yellowstone, you can’t see it but its always there under the ground bubbling along, that’s the way I sort of think the history of doctrine is sometimes best read. So it wouldn’t particularly bother me if it were the case that nobody ever found out about imputation until Martin Luther in the sixteenth century.

Professor George states that it wouldn’t particularly bother him if nobody knew about sola fide from the time of St. Paul to until Luther. That’s quite a startling claim. For many Protestants sola fide is the heart of the gospel; it is that over which, if nothing else, separation from the Catholic Church was (and remains) warranted. For the very heart of the Church’s gospel to lie quite entirely hidden from the Church for 1,500 years, should function as a modus tollens to whatever position entails it, because it is again an implicit concession to ecclesial deism.3 But Professor George appeals to the Southern Baptist view of baptism to show that having a position not held by the early Church Fathers is not a theological defeater. From a Catholic point of view, however, appealing to the Southern Baptist theology of believer’s baptism, as support for the acceptability of fifteen hundred years of official Church ignorance concerning the essence of the gospel, begs the question.

Concerning his doctrine of imputation Professor George then says:

As a matter of fact I don’t think that is the most accurate way to read the history of that particular doctrine. … If you look at Augustine in particular, and his commentary on Psalm 51, you see these statements about the imputation of Christ, often in very, you might say, different ways of putting it, not exactly in the lingo of the sixteenth century. But the substance of the teaching was there. Not admittedly universally, not admittedly ever pronounced on by a council; in fact that doctrine was never pronounced on by a council, justification, until the Council of Trent. And yet it seems to me that the Protestants Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, all of them understood that they were recovering a true New Testament teaching that was also found at surprising moments in the tradition of the Church.”

He seems here to be suggesting a Protestant version of the [delayed] development of Christian doctrine. But the type of development Professor George’s position implies is not organic; it hardly seems distinguishable from the form of ecclesial deism which allows universal and long-term theological error to be corrected only a millennium and a half later by some “new light dawning, not on the Church as a whole, but on one man (Martin Luther), and on those whom he subsequently persuaded. What is needed here are objective criteria distinguishing genuine development from deviating novelty. Otherwise anything that is even seemingly hinted at in Scripture or in the Tradition could be used to justify the introduction of a novelty.

Prof. George continues:

“Imputation is really based on the text, several texts of the New Testament, and one in particular, where Paul is referring to Abraham, this is in Romans chapter 4, and he talks about his faith being counted to him as righteousness, or being imputed to him as righteousness. And it has to do with the fact that this imputation is not based on what Abraham did, his good works, but rather on God’s gracious favor to him, and the counting to him of the grace of God. Now he’s talking about an Old Testament figure there, Abraham, but it becomes a kind of paradigm for the Christian understanding of conversion and the way of faith. Infusion is a term that really comes from the Middle Ages, and going back to Augustine, gratia infusa, infused grace, was understood to be something that was imparted to the individual sinner through primarily the sacraments of the Church. It was the grace of God which enabled that individual to become a Christ-like individual over a long-period of time, extending beyond this life even perhaps, into purgatory in the next life. And so infusion vs. imputation is, as Frank has said, rightly one of the key paradigm differences between Catholic and Evangelical ways of thinking about it.”

One fundamental difference here concerns our respective conceptions of grace. For Aquinas, for example, grace is not merely divine favor; grace was something within Adam and Eve prior to their act of disobedience. Aquinas would have treated the notion that grace is either something ontological or merely divine favor, as a false dilemma. He teaches in Summa Theologica I-II Q.110 a.1 that grace has three senses. In one sense it refers to divine favor. In another sense it refers to the divine gift of participation in the divine nature, a gift given as an expression of divine favor. And in the third sense it refers to the gratitude one has for the reception of a gratuitous gift. So we do not have to choose between grace as divine favor, and grace as divine gift. The Catholic can agree with the Protestant that grace is divine favor. But from the Catholic point of view, insofar as Protestantism restricts grace only to divine favor, Protestantism omits the supernatural gift of participation in the divine nature.

And that sets up a second point of difference here, which is the nominalistic vs. realist conception of imputation; I discussed that recently here and here. Because of that difference, we understand Abraham to have had grace not just as something outside of him, but as a participation in his soul in the divine nature. Through that participation in his very being in the internal life of the Trinity, Abraham’s being counted righteous was not a legal fiction; Abraham had truly been made righteous in his soul and particularly in his will, wherein were located the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. the faith by which Abraham was credited was not a natural faith; it was a supernatural faith, a supernatural gift. And this supernatural gift was the result of grace already at work within him. Not only that, but the faith by which Abraham was justified was a faith informed by charity, by love for God. His trust in God included within it love for God; it was not a loveless trust in the One who promised these blessings to him.

In speaking of the Joint Declaration on Justification, Professor George then says:

[T]here was still added to this statement [the Joint Declaration] what’s called an annex, a little appendix, about the question of simul justus et peccator, the same time just and sinful. This was a famous slogan of Luther and the Reformers. And Catholics have a very difficult time affirming that, in fact can’t, according to this statement, and they expressed a reservation. For Protestants it expresses a very important thing about this question of imputation and infusion. … We are justified by faith alone, but the faith that justifies is never alone. It is accompanied by works; works flow out of it. And so we differ, to put it in Protestant language, on the way we distinguish justification and sanctification.”

There are at least two underlying differences here, between Catholics and Protestants. One is the role of agape in justification, as I discussed here. The second, which is based on the first, is the role agape plays in differentiating mortal from venial sin, as I explained here. From a Protestant point of view, even the slightest sin demands eternal damnation. Hence, from the Protestant point of view, since obviously we sin daily, either all of us are damned, or some form of simul iustus et peccator must be true. But the Catholic understanding of the distinction between mortal and venial sin allows for there to be a true sense in which we are simul iustus et peccator, i.e. if the sort of sin in question is venial sin, while at the same time denying simul iustus et peccator if the sin in question is mortal sin. So the ecumenical effort needs to investigate the basis for our different conceptions of grace, agape, and sin, so as to understand the underlying reason why and how we have arrived at these different conceptions.

Professor George continues:

You have orthodoxy with a surcharge. You’re adding too much to it. And so why do I remain an Evangelical Protestant? Because in conviction it seems to me this is the best way to be a Catholic. This is the best way to be faithful to the Catholic Church, understood not as the Roman Catholic Church, but as the Church of the Apostles, the Church of the New Testament, and because, as much as I revere, I will not use a lesser word, the holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, having written glowing words about him and his predecessor John Paul II, I think the two greatest popes since the Reformation, as much as I revere them and thank God for their witness, so clear on so many issues, I do not believe that the pope is the vicar of Christ on earth. I do not believe that he is the successor of St. Peter in the chair that gives him the kind of magisterial authority over the Church. And so there is a fundamental ecclesiological difference, a bridge I have not been able so far in my thinking to advance.

What we need here is a principled way of distinguishing between leaving the Church (i.e. schism from), and remaining in the Church. Every heretical sect in history could (and did) claim to be a continuation of the Church, or at least a branch within the Church. Without going deeper, and examining the principled basis for being in or out of the Church, and why we disagree on that point, we cannot mutually evaluate a claim to be a continuation of the Catholic Church. And this again takes us back to the question of the marks of the Church, and who has the authority to define the marks of the Church. Professor George should find it troubling that the signs outside Southern Baptist meeting places do not say “Catholic Church.” That is because St. Cyril wrote:

But since the word Ecclesia is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly (Acts 19:14), and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to you now the Article, And in one Holy Catholic Church; that you may avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which you were regenerated. And if ever you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25), and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all (Galatians 4:26); which before was barren, but now has many children.4

And St. Augustine wrote:

“In the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15-19), down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the very name of “Catholic”, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.”5

In addition, it is not clear whether Professor George denies that Pope Benedict XVI is the successor of St. Peter, or whether Professor George denies that the successor of St. Peter has magisterial authority. If it is the former, then this pushes us back to the question of apostolic succession, and why Professor George denies it when for 1,500 years the Church universally affirmed it. Or, if Professor George believes that apostolic succession is a second century corruption that spread throughout the whole Church, without an uproar of protest, then he needs to explain how such a thesis avoids ecclesial deism.

So in order to determine whether Evangelical Protestantism is a continuation of the Catholic Church, or whether the Catholic Church presently headed by Pope Benedict XVI is the continuation of the Catholic Church, we need a principled way of distinguishing between separating from (i.e. schism from) the Church while claiming to be continuing in the Church, on the one hand, and truly remaining in the Church on the other. Again, we find that a fundamental point upon which ecumenical dialogue must focus is this: Who has the authority to define the marks of the Church?

Later in the discussion, when discussing the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, Professor George says:

This raises that question I debated with Fr. Neuhaus, orthodoxy on the cheap, or orthodoxy with a surcharge, because the way in which the development of doctrine is understood [by the Catholic Church], is again its part of the magisterial teaching, its part of the ecclesiological differences between us, and Mary and Marian dogma is central to that. For example, the dogma we were talking about a moment ago, of the Immaculate Conception, which was declared to be dogma in 1854, and therefore must be believed de fide by Catholics; its a part of that infallible, irreversible dogmatic tradition of the Church. Now, this was not at all the doctrine of the Church, the doctrine of Mary, that was held by many many other theologians in the Catholic Church, including St. Thomas Aquinas. And so I, as a Protestant, would like to say to my Catholic brothers and sisters, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back and reinvestigate Thomas’s view of the Immaculate Conception. Maybe there is something there we could learn from, that would lead us in a different path than the one that ended in 1854.”

Underlying the disagreement here is a disagreement about whether or not the Church can definitively and infallibly settle a matter of doctrine or morals. Catholics believe that the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is settled infallibly and irrevocably by the operation of the Holy Spirit guiding the Magisterium in the exercise of its divinely-given teaching authority. So the Protestant-Catholic disagreement about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception rests on a more fundamental disagreement concerning the existence of the Magisterium, its teaching authority derived by apostolic succession, and whether or not the Magisterium is protected from error when proclaiming definitively something to be believed by all the faithful in the area of faith or morals. These are the things we need to investigate together in order to resolve the Protestant-Catholic schism. The discussion between Professors George and Beckwith is one step toward resolving a schism that has separated Protestants and Catholics for almost five hundred years. May God bring us to reunion in full communion.

  1. Recently I wrote here and here about the theological presuppositions implicit in the lexical methodology used to support the Protestant understanding of justification by faith alone. []
  2. We will discuss this in our forthcoming article on Sola Scriptura. []
  3. It is also worth pointing out that Professor George’s claim detracts from Protestant arguments against the last two Marian dogmas on account of their having been defined as dogmas only in the last two hundred years. []
  4. Catechetical Lecture 18.26 []
  5. Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, 4 []

37 comments
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  1. While this is all good to discuss our differences and to come to some sort of consensus there are some points to take under consideration:

    1. Catholics would be much better to start discussion and consensus building with those Churches who are direct descendants of the Magisterial Reformers: Lutherans, Anglicans, and Presbyterians/Reformed.
    Baptists and Baptist type Churches and non-Denoms are descendants of the “Radical Reforamation” who are anti-Sacramental and in many ways “Neo-Gnostics”, and manifest the perversion of “SOLO Scriptura” (me and my Bible is all I need)

    2. Catholics MUST be willing to concede things to the Protestant side if the Protestant side is right. Catholics must be willing to swallow their pride and admit they are wrong. And yes this might include taking a fresh look at some things that are regarded as Dogma if the weight of Biblical and Historical evidence is in the favour of the Protestant position.

  2. John,

    Our next article will show that there is no principled difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura. For both solo and sola, the individual stands in judgment of the Church, based on his own interpretation of Scripture, having made himself the final interpretive authority, and seeking to make the Church conform to his own interpretation of Scripture (even starting a new ‘Church’ if necessary). The Catholic approach, by contrast, recognizes the Magisterium of the Church as having the final interpretive authority. For the Catholic, believing the Church Christ founded is part of the faith itself, even part of the gospel. This is why we say what we say about the Church in the Creed.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  3. Bryan:

    Have you read Keith Mathison’s book “The Shape of Sola Scriptura”? I don’t want to “jump the Gun “if you are going to do “Sola VS Solo Scriptura”, but FYI I happen to agree with him on most of what he writes.

  4. John,

    Yes, I have read Keith’s book. You can get a rough idea of the problem with the sola scriptura position in this comment on Sean’s thread titled “Which Lens is the Proper Lens?”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  5. Dear John W.,

    Not to derail the current post on Beckwith and George, but since you shared that you agreed with nearly all of Mathison’s book, I wanted to share some analysis I did on it. I wrote these before I became convinced that I should enter into candidacy for the Catholic Church. I didn’t go as far into the book as I had planned, because in analyzing just a few small sections, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to hang my authority/canon hat on this book.

    My Intro: http://ecumenicity.blogspot.com/2007/09/mathison-on-church-fathers.html.
    On the Irenaeus evidence: http://ecumenicity.blogspot.com/2007/09/mathison-cont-irenaeus.html.
    On the Clement of Alexandria evidence: http://ecumenicity.blogspot.com/2007/09/mathison-cont-clement-of-alexandria.html.
    On the Tertullian evidence: http://ecumenicity.blogspot.com/2007/12/mathison-cont-tertullian.html.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  6. Dear Bryan,

    You say about ecclesial deism:

    The early Protestants, however, returned to the sources in such a way that implicitly conceded to ecclesial deism, calling into question the Church’s tradition and first fifteen hundred years of theological development. Everything was subjected to the following test: Does it conform to [our interpretation] of Scripture? If it did not, it was rejected.

    This is not a faithful presentation of the reformers. What you say is the position of the radical reformation, but even still is not totally true of them. The radicals (generally) believed the church fell with Constantine in the 4th century, but there were the ultra-radicals who believed it fell immediately after the apostles.

    The reformers nowhere argue that the Spirit left earth for a period of time such that there was no church. Both Luther and Calvin believed that the new Hilderbrandine developments of the 11th century papacy with its claim to have political authority over the emperor and the rise of the doctrine of works of satisfaction meant the institutional Roman church officially moved into apostasy. But this did not mean that the church ceased on earth (with a Protestant definition of the church). Indeed, even a casual reading of Calvin’s Institutes and Luther’s works on ecclesiology will reveal that they both believed there were vestiges of the church in the high and late medieval Roman Catholic institutional church, such that there were many who were saved during this time despite the teaching of the (Roman) church. Indeed, both Luther and Calvin believed that baptism was preserved in the Roman institution. Luther speaks very highly of people like Peter Lombard. Peter Martyr Vermigli plundered high scholastic authors for truth such as Gregory of Rimini. Wolfgang Musculus deployed the high and late medieval scholastics when they spoke truth.

    However, (for the reformers) the great turning point was the council of Trent, which officially rejected the new light that had broken from God’s word (especially as a result of the humanist recovery of original languages and philological studies).

    Every blessing,

    Marty.

  7. Marty,

    The reformers nowhere argue that the Spirit left earth for a period of time such that there was no church.

    The ‘radical’ reformers likewise denied that the Spirit left the earth. They too held to a continual hidden remnant. So, merely affirming that the Spirit did not leave the earth, is not sufficient to show a principled difference between the Lutherans and Calvinists on the one hand, and the ‘radical’ reformers on the other with respect to ecclesial deism. You point out that Luther and Calvin believed that the “institutional” Church fell into apostasy in the 11th century, while the ‘radical’ reformers believed that it fell into apostasy in the fourth or first century. But with respect to the error of ecclesial deism, there is no principled difference between claiming that the “institutional” Church fell into apostasy in the 11th century, and claiming that it fell into apostasy in the fourth or first centuries. Whether it was the first, fourth, or 11th centuries, it is no less ecclesial deism. Ecclesial deism rejects the visible Church with an accusation of apostasy, redirects the promise of indefectibility to an *invisible* Church, and posits a hidden remnant of believers until the later ‘restoration’. This is the same pattern whether it be with Calvin and Luther, or Menno Simons, George Fox or the Campbellites or Joseph Smith. It is still restorationism that presupposes ecclesial deism, as I explained in the ecclesial deism article. If you haven’t read that article yet, I would recommend reading it to understand exactly what I mean by ecclesial deism, and why Protestantism (in each of its various forms) does not avoid it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  8. To All:

    Getting back to the OP/Blog Article Bryan posted I want to key into the title “Can You Be Catholic And Evangelical?” Well it all depends on how you define “Evangelical”. In my case I consider myself “Evangelical” because as an Anglican I was an “Evangelical Anglican”. I was a member of the Reformed Episcopal Church. So in those terms I was a Conservative orthodox Anglican who held to the 39 Articles of Religion and the Anglican Book of Homilies with Evangelicalism added to it. BTW the Reformed Episcopal Church is now a part of the Anglican Church in North America.

    The truth be told I still hold most of the same views as a Catholic that I had as an Anglican, essentially I am a conservative orthodox Anglican who is also a Roman Catholic. Contradictory? Perhaps. But the way for folks like you in this forum to see it, and perhaps the way I should look at it now, is that in Catholic terms I am now a “Liberal Catholic” with a strong conservative streak on things like Abortion, Euthanasia, and no Women’s Ordination to the Priesthood.

    I know that I can never accept Rome’s Dogma’s on Justification, Papal Infallibility, Purgatory, Indulgences, and Marian Dogmas. Its not that I am ignorant and uninformed about what these are, I know and understand them, I just cannot accept them for both Biblical reasons and Historical reasons. I am not the only Catholic who says this, I know and have known many who are in this same situation. I have read quite a few Catholic Scholars who are in “good standing” with the Church who also see it the same way.

    So to sum it all up by asking this question; Is there room at the Lord’s Table in the Catholic Church and mutual fellowship in the Catholic Church for me and Catholics like me?

  9. John,

    In the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, just after you recite the Nicene Creed with the whole congregation on the Easter vigil, you say the following words before the priest (or bishop) and all the people, prior to being received into full communion with the Catholic Church:

    I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.

    I’m trying to understand how you could affirm that, while at the same time it appears that you purposefully refuse to accept certain Catholic dogmas. If your stance is “faith seeking understanding” toward these dogmas, [I believe, Lord, help mine unbelief], I wouldn’t see any contradiction. But if your stance is “I know the Church teaches these dogmas as dogmas of the faith, but I refuse to accept them,” then how could you truthfully affirm that statement [quoted above] before the priest (or bishop) and before all the people? Why, exactly, do you think that you are Catholic, if you purposefully reject some part of the faith declared to be dogma by the Catholic Church? I hope you do not think of Catholic dogmas as a smorgasbord from which Catholics can pick and choose at will.

    What exactly do you think heresy is, if not “the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith” (CCC 2089)? Are you not sure whether these dogmas that you deny are part of that which must be believed with divine and catholic faith? If you discovered that they are part of what must be believed with divine and catholic faith, would you assent to them on the basis of the authority of the Church, even if you didn’t understand by your own interpretation of Scripture how they could be true? If so, then I would say, “yes” to your last question (“Is there room at the Lord’s Table …”). These are all very personal questions (not relativistic or subjective, you understand, but personal), directly concerning the state of your own soul. So it seems to me that these are thing about which you should speak with a good priest, not best addressed here in a public forum.

    Here is an excerpt from Satis Cognitum that may be of help to you:

    For such is the nature of faith that nothing can be more absurd than to accept some things and reject others. Faith, as the Church teaches, is “that supernatural virtue by which, through the help of God and through the assistance of His grace, we believe what he has revealed to be true, not on account of the intrinsic truth perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, the Revealer, who can neither deceive nor be deceived” (Conc. Vat., Sess. iii., cap. 3). If then it be certain that anything is revealed by God, and this is not believed, then nothing whatever is believed by divine Faith: for what the Apostle St. James judges to be the effect of a moral deliquency, the same is to be said of an erroneous opinion in the matter of faith. “Whosoever shall offend in one point, is become guilty of all” (Ep. James ii., 10). Nay, it applies with greater force to an erroneous opinion. For it can be said with less truth that every law is violated by one who commits a single sin, since it may be that he only virtually despises the majesty of God the Legislator. But he who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honour God as the supreme truth and the formal motive of faith. “In many things they are with me, in a few things not with me; but in those few things in which they are not with me the many things in which they are will not profit them” (S. Augustinus in Psal. liv., n. 19). And this indeed most deservedly; for they, who take from Christian doctrine what they please, lean on their own judgments, not on faith; and not “bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. x., 5), they more truly obey themselves than God. “You, who believe what you like, believe yourselves rather than the gospel” (S. Augustinus, lib. xvii., Contra Faustum Manichaeum, cap. 3).

    And last July I wrote the following:

    But if a person becomes a Catholic only because he sees that the Catholic Church shares his own interpretation of Scripture, he is not truly a Catholic at heart; he’s still a Protestant at heart. One does not rightly become a Catholic on the grounds that one happens to believe (at present) all that the Church teaches; one rightly becomes a Catholic by believing (as an act of faith) all that the Church teaches (even if not fully understanding), on the ground of the sacramental authority of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. When we are received into the Catholic Church, we say before the bishop, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” We aren’t saying that we just happen to believe Catholic doctrines, i.e. we are not merely reporting our present mental state viz-a-viz Catholic doctrine. We are making a confession of faith, an act of the will whereby we are submitting to the sacramental authority of the Church regarding what it is that she “believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God” on the ground of her sacramental magisterial authority in succession from the Apostles whom Christ Himself appointed and sent.

    That is why those persons who decide to wait until they agree with all Catholic doctrines before becoming Catholic are thinking like a Protestant. They’re not understanding the act of faith that one makes in becoming Catholic. They are still in the mindset of ’submitting’ to church authority on matters of doctrine only when they agree (or mostly agree), or picking a “church” based on whether it teaches what they already believe. They are not recognizing the sacramental authority of the Catholic Church and the difference that sort of authority makes. They are treating the Catholic Church as if it were another denomination, a Protestant “ecclesial community”, without Holy Orders from the Apostles. That approach is a form of rationalism, not fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding). “Faith seeking understanding” is possible only where submission is required, but strictly speaking, submission is not required wherever the identity and nature of the Church is determined and defined by one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    May Christ our Lord guide you into the truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. Bryan:

    I came back to the Church after some time away, I was Baptised and Confirmed as a Catholic when I was growing up IE my parents were Catholic and raised me Catholic so when I came back I didn’t need to go through RCIA, I just had to go to Confession. When I came back I did what you wrote here:

    “one rightly becomes a Catholic by believing (as an act of faith) all that the Church teaches (even if not fully understanding), on the ground of the sacramental authority of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.”

    After I came back I studied the Faith, History, Apologetics and I read a quite a few Catholic historians, Biblical scholars, apologists, etc. and found out that not all of them had absolute agreement with the Church on her Dogmas like Papal Infallibility, Papal Primacy, Justification, and Purgatory to name the biggies.
    I knew what the Church taught and I compared what these people wrote and dug more and researched to find the facts and the truth. It came to the point where I disagree with what the Church’s Dogma says on these matters. The Catholic scholars I read who disagree are Catholics in good standing and have not been censured by the Church. I know quite a few Catholics in my Parish who are the same way.

    I did talk to two Priests about this and they both told me that if every Catholic in the Parish and Parishes they’ve been in who disagreed with the Church were told to leave then 70%-80% of the Parish would leave and the Church would be almost empty at all the Sunday Masses.

    Perhaps I should have not come back, but now that I am I really find myself in a difficult position, I can say for certain that I cannot in good conscience accept those Catholic Dogmas I mentioned, if I must believe what the Catholic Church teaches on these Dogmas in spite of the fact that I cannot in good conscience accept them then I would be in a greater sin because the Church teaches that it is wrong to go against one’s Conscience. Yes I know what a fully formed Conscience is, it is formed and informed with the facts of history and the Biblical witness, that is why I cannot in good conscience accept what the Church teaches on those Dogmas.

  11. Hey John,

    I know that I can never accept Rome’s…Marian Dogmas. Its not that I am ignorant and uninformed about what these are, I know and understand them, I just cannot accept them for both Biblical reasons and Historical reasons.

    One thing to consider is that Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli all affirmed and taught many (even most) of the Marian dogmas. Google the words perpetual virginity of mary luther and read direct quotes from them on the first two sites that come up.

    Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli believed there was good Biblical and historical support for these teachings; the Catholic Church proclaims them to be true, so why not accept the magisterial Reformers beliefs and the Catholic Church’s on them?

    If you feel you’ve done your own deeper research than Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and the Catholic Church that shows you they are false, consider whether the odds are that you are right or that all of these others are [on the Marian dogmas]. I’m not trying to be presumptuous but just want to give you another angle of thinking about it if you haven’t before.

  12. Dear John W,

    What is your historical objection to Papal infallibility?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  13. Devin:

    Mary as “Theotokos” “God-Bearer” yes, Mary as Perpetual Virgin yes, but no more. No “Mediatrix of All Graces”, “Assumption”, Immaculate Conception, at least not as Dogma, “Adiaphora” ok and Pious Belief. For example have you read Alphonse Liguoris “Glories of Mary”? I see that as heresy verging on blasphemy.

  14. K. Doran

    My problem with Papal Infallibility is the fact that it is not true, the facts of History contradict it, I know all the standard Catholic Apologists answers to that, and they simply do not hold water and all unbiased Historians, Catholic, non-Catholic and just academic non-religious see that the pliann facts of history do not support Papal Infallibility, Popes have contradicted one another, and some Popes taught heresy, plain facts. Catholic Apologists use the if’s and’s but’s to quantify and qualify to the point that Papal Infallibility, in order to stand, dies the death of a thousand qualifications. Its just plain honest to just admit that Papal Infallibility is not true.

    I refer to those interested to the following;

    “Origins of Papal Infallibility 1150-1350: A Study on the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty, and Tradition in the Middle Ages” by Brian Tierny

    “How the Pope Became Infallible: Pius IX and the Politics of Persuasion” by August Bernhard Hasler

    “Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy” by Peter da Rosa

  15. John,

    Knowing your story helps me understand better where you are and how you got there. Thanks for explaining it. I agree with you (and so does the Church) that you should not go against your conscience. But you seem not to recognize the nature of the teaching authority of the Magisterium in virtue of apostolic succession. I assume you understand and believe that, in virtue of apostolic succession, bishops and priests have the authority to forgive sins on behalf of Christ, as St. Paul says, when he writes in 2 Corinthians, “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence [person] of Christ” [i.e. as Christ’s representative]. And Jesus promised His Apostles, “whosesoever sins you forgive they are forgiven unto them, and whosesoever sins you retain, they are retained,” (John 20:23) I assume you recognize the authority of the Magisterium to excommunicate. So, I don’t understand why you are calling into question the teaching and interpretive authority of the successors of the Apostles. Perhaps you could explain.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. JohnW,
    Given your understandable objections, why not become Orthodox?

  17. Bryan:

    I have no problem with a Magisterium or Apostolic Succession (after all as an Anglican I accepted Apostolic Succession vested in the offices of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon). What I object to is when that Magisterium tries to go beyond what is revealed in the Infallible written Word of God by making things not found therein nor may be proved thereby as binding Dogma. The Church does teach that it is not above the Scriptures but is their servant and teacher. I remember reading in one of the Early Church Fathers (don’t remember which one, but St. Augustine could be the one) that if a Bishop or the Bishops teach anything contrary to the Scriptures then the Faithful are under no obligation to accept or believe it. Also Tertullian stated that valid and legitimate Succession is not only linear and historical IE a continous line going back to the Apostles but also one of Doctrinal Truth, IE One could have Historical linear succession that is historically valid but invalid and wrong if what they teach is wrong or heretical.

  18. Hobeirne:

    Because to the Orthodox do not accept St. Augustine and to me are Semi-Pelagians. I admire their spirituality and the Hesychast Tradition and their Iconography ( I guess the Presbyterians are not an option fer me, lol)

  19. John,

    What I object to is when that Magisterium tries to go beyond what is revealed in the Infallible written Word of God by making things not found therein nor may be proved thereby as binding Dogma.

    Your objection presumes that the deposit of faith is found entirely, or at least found entirely-explicitly, in Scripture. But the Scripture itself does not teach that the deposit of faith is, both explicitly and entirely, written in Scripture. Moreover, the Church has always made use of Sacred Tradition in its liturgy and teaching and exposition of Scripture. So, there is no good reason to presume that only what is explicitly stated in Scripture can be dogmatic. (Otherwise there would not have been any dogmas unique to Christianity, until the first book of the NT was written.)

    that if a Bishop or the Bishops teach anything contrary to the Scriptures then the Faithful are under no obligation to accept or believe it

    Of course, but the Church teaches nothing contrary to Scripture.

    Also Tertullian stated that valid and legitimate Succession is not only linear and historical IE a continous line going back to the Apostles but also one of Doctrinal Truth, IE One could have Historical linear succession that is historically valid but invalid and wrong if what they teach is wrong or heretical.

    That would be true if the Holy Spirit had not promised to guide the Church into all truth, and Christ had not promised that the gates of hades shall not prevail against the Church, and if He had not made it the pillar and bulwark of truth. Our choices are ecclesial deism on the one hand, or faith in Christ through believing His Church, on the other hand. There is no third option.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  20. Bryan:

    Perhaps I was a little unclear, so I will clarify.

    Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

    Ok this is from the Anglican 39 Articles, this pretty much reflects the Patristic view of determining what is or is not Dogmatically valid. It does not say that everything necessary is explicit or perspicuous. IE some things are explicit and plain some are not, but those things that are not “explicit” cannot contradict that which is. “Nor be proved thereby” in other words if a Dogma is contradictory or cannot be proven by what is explicit then we are not obligated to believe it.

    Of course to do Biblical Theology one must use careful Exigesis and sound hermeneutical principles including the Historical critical method, and sound lexical and linguistic study of the original languages, etc.

    As an Anglican I and we did not hold to a pure “Formal Sufficiency” view of Scripture, the Article from the 39 Articles I quote would be closer to the Catholic view of the “Material Sufficiency” of the Scriptures. Thats why I mentioned Mathison’s book, it would be a good summation of the Anglican Way. By all rights Mathison should be a conservative orthodox Anglican.

    Bryan you said:

    “That would be true if the Holy Spirit had not promised to guide the Church into all truth, and Christ had not promised that the gates of hades shall not prevail against the Church, and if He had not made it the pillar and bulwark of truth. Our choices are ecclesial deism on the one hand, or faith in Christ through believing His Church, on the other hand. There is no third option.”

    And I say there is a “third option”. St John and St. Paul both warned Christians that after them false teachers would arise from within their midst to lead them astray. That they were to hold fast to and pass on what they were taught. What the Apostles taught orally was written down by them as Scripture and inscripturated. When a teacher came along and taught, the teacher was to be tested by that which was written. Its up to the People of God, both laity and Clergy to test the spirits by that which is written. Thats why God gave us the “Canon” of Scripture, Canon means “measure” to test and hold teaching to a standard.

    If you and I were to go back to the time of Athanasius we would have seen a Church ruled and dominated by Arian heretics, we the Trinitarians would have been the “Heretics” teaching something contrary to the “Magisterium” of the time. If 90% of the Catholic Bishops(including the pope) and 95% of Protestants suddenly embraced Arianism, then the 10% of Catholic Bishops and laity under them and 5% of Protestant Pastors and people under them will be the remnant and the gates of hell will not have prevailed.

    Jesus promised that there would be a Church protected, whether it was large with 2 billion souls or small with 5000 souls, but either way the Gates of Hell would not prevail and overwhelm regardless of what those false teachers taught within, that within the visible Church a faithful remnant would carry on protected and guided by the Holy Spirit.

    So this would not be “Ecclessial Deism” . This is why I choose to remain in the Catholic Church and work for reform and Biblical change from within the Holy Catholic Church and as a member of the People of God therein. If I were to leave and go to the Baptists or any of the other “Ecclessial Communities” whose heritage is the Radical Reformation then I would be giving in to “Ecclessial Deism” and in fact become an “Ecclessial Deist”

  21. Thanks for those links Tom Brown, Do you know if the error by Keith Mathison, as regard his misinterpretation of Clement (on the perpetual virginity), was corrected in subsequent editions of his book.?

    As an aside i thought another quote from Clement was particularly relevant here, given what we’ve been hearing from John W.

    “Now, since there are three states of the soul—ignorance, opinion, knowledge—those who are in ignorance are the Gentiles, those in knowledge, the true Church, and those in opinion, the Heretics. Nothing, then, can be more clearly seen than those, who know, making affirmations about what they know, and the others respecting what they hold on the strength of opinion, as far as respects affirmation without proof. ”

    “For those are slothful who, having it in their power to provide themselves with proper proofs for the divine Scriptures from the Scriptures themselves, select only what contributes to their own pleasures. And those have a craving for glory who voluntarily evade, by arguments of a diverse sort, the things delivered by the blessed apostles and teachers, which are wedded to inspired words; opposing the divine tradition by human teachings, in order to establish the heresy.”

    (Not sure what the full context of these are i just copied them verbatim from Tom Browns site, but the gist of the quote is pretty clear. http://ecumenicity.blogspot.com/2007/09/mathison-cont-clement-of-alexandria.html)

  22. John,

    While there are many truths within the 39 articles, they have no ecclesial authority, having been formulated by those in schism from the Church. So they do not show anything doctrinal, let alone that the deposit of faith is found entirely, or at least found entirely-explicitly, in Scripture.

    this pretty much reflects the Patristic view of determining what is or is not Dogmatically valid.

    You’re conflating material sufficiency and formal sufficiency; at most we find only material sufficiency in the Fathers.

    As an Anglican I and we did not hold to a pure “Formal Sufficiency” view of Scripture

    You have just undermined your objection in #17, unless you can demonstrate that at least one Catholic dogma is incompatible with material sufficiency.

    Your ‘third option’ [between ecclesial deism and Catholicism] is itself a form of ecclesial deism, because it rejects the visible Church for an invisible Church so as to maintain the claim that the Church is indefectible. Before continuing, you need to read both of our articles on this subject: first the one on the visibility of the Church, and second the ecclesial deism article.

    I would be grateful if you would try to limit your comments to the subject of the post, so that the discussion stays on-topic. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  23. Dear Bryan,

    Thanks for the tip re your post on ecclesial deism. I read through it with interest ecclesial but again, it’s still not going to convince Protestants because it judges Protestantism from a Catholic view point. I know that I won’t convince RCs of Protestantism while I simply keep saying that their views don’t comport with Scripture. There are deeper presuppositions at work.

    Ecclesial deism rejects the visible Church with an accusation of apostasy, redirects the promise of indefectibility to an *invisible* Church, and posits a hidden remnant of believers until the later ‘restoration’.

    Here you’re working with categories of invisible and visible church from a Catholic perspective not a Protestant perspective. You’re seeing the church as one large institution and fail to faithfully represent the notion of the invisible church. The latter is very visible in that it is wherever Christians are. It’s lack of visibility is (i) that it can’t be seen as a whole, and (ii) that we can’t see into people’s hearts and know that they’re truly saved (just like the parable of the sower), but provide a charitable assumption they are if their words and words match the gospel. To accuse this of ecclesial Nestorianism is not really going to further conversation. It fails to take seriously the Protestant perspective.

    The story of Church History is how the believers have come to grasp Scripture over time through controversy and attack. With the loss of the Jewish believers by the end of the 1st century (and hence the Jewish worldview and hermeneutic), the church was fundamentally Gentiles coming to Scripture with a Graeco-Roman mindset. Little by little that mind-set was shed: in the controversy with Gnosticism, Arianism, etc. The early councils are far from a capitulation to Greek thinking, but the very oppositie: biblical categories shattering the pagan worldview.

    My problem with a (and there are many!) classic RC account of Church History (which you seen to aspouse) is that when I look at the Church of the first 5 centuries and then the church of the high medieval era (of which I have spent many years reading the theologians of this later era in the original languages), they look very very different to me. One has Popes sending people on crusades to kill unbelievers, Eastern believers, and Albingensian heretics due a new doctrine of the papacy. The other has no such figure promoting no such cause. One has 7 cearly defined sacraments, the other does not and the early church fathers enumerate different numbers that conflict. One has prayers to saints, the other does not. Each time you accuse Protestants of ecclesial deism, they will retort with the accusation of the reality of history: the medieval church is very different. The RC understanding of doctrinal development to explain this difference smacks more of ideology rather than reality.

    In short: if you really want to foster dialogue in this blog, then be fair to Protestantism, and don’t critique it from Catholic presuppositions / axioms.

    Blessings brother,

    Marty.

  24. Dear John W,

    You said: “If you and I were to go back to the time of Athanasius we would have seen a Church ruled and dominated by Arian heretics, we the Trinitarians would have been the “Heretics” teaching something contrary to the “Magisterium” of the time. If 90% of the Catholic Bishops(including the pope) and 95% of Protestants suddenly embraced Arianism, . . . ”

    Are you suggesting that the Pope embraced arianism at the time of Athanasius? Pope Liberius certainly did not embrace arianism. The magisterium includes only those Bishops in communion with each other and with the Pope. When did the magisterium teach arianism?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  25. Marty,

    I know that I won’t convince RCs of Protestantism while I simply keep saying that their views don’t comport with Scripture.

    Which Catholic doctrine(s) do you think does not comport with Scripture?

    Here you’re working with categories of invisible and visible church from a Catholic perspective not a Protestant perspective. You’re seeing the church as one large institution and fail to faithfully represent the notion of the invisible church. The latter is very visible in that it is wherever Christians are.

    The ecclesial deism article builds on article prior to it, “Christ Founded a Visible Church“. The problem with the Protestant claim that they belong to the visible Church is that it fails the Does-the-Emperor-have-any-clothes test. If there were no visible Church, but only visible Christians (and congregations and denominations) nothing would be any different. So, in Protestant ecclesiology ‘visible Church’ is just a name, having no actual referent. (Again, this is related to Protestantism’s nominalism.)

    The RC understanding of doctrinal development to explain this difference smacks more of ideology rather than reality.

    “Smacks of” is not a careful or reasonable way of evaluating Catholic doctrine. If you think something in Church history is incompatible with the Catholic idea of development, then you would need to specify it, and show exactly why it is incompatible with development.

    In short: if you really want to foster dialogue in this blog, then be fair to Protestantism, and don’t critique it from Catholic presuppositions / axioms.

    That statement itself carries with it a presupposition that begs the question; it assumes that there is some presuppositionless, neutral point of view viz-a-viz the Church. But, we believe that just as a person is either for Christ or against Him, so a person is either for His Body, or against His Body. (See here.) My approach is therefore not to try to stand nowhere, but to stand in both paradigms and describe the perspective from each, and then compare the perspective from both paradigms.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  26. K Doran

    I never said the Pope taught Arianism. I brought Athanasius up to illustrate that in his time most of the Bishops were Arian and only a few including Athanasius held to the orthodox view. If Athanasius had “submitted” his mind to the Church at that time he would have submitted to heresy. I then said that if today the same thing were to happen that if the “Magisterium” (including the Pope) were to start teaching Arianism or some other heresy then a faithful remnant would be kept from error by the Holy Spirit within the institutional visible Church and the Gates of Hell shall not have prevailed and will not prevail because God will see that they remain steadfast.

  27. Dear John W,

    You said: “If Athanasius had “submitted” his mind to the Church at that time he would have submitted to heresy.”

    This is incorrect. Athanasius did submit his mind to the Church at his time. He submitted his mind to the teaching that had been passed down to him, proclaimed infallibly at the council of Nicea, and preserved irreformably by not only the Pope but also other important Bishops who agreed with and held fast to the Pope’s teaching. In times of great heresy within and outside the Church, Athanasius’ approach is what we all must do.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  28. Bryan:

    I would like to stay on topic and I thought I was. I was commenting on the title of your thread starter “Can You Be Catholic and Evangelical” , this is sort of open-ended and seems to say that one must travel along many aspects of doctrine to see if one can be both Catholic and Evangelical.

    But please by all means redirect me to what the essence of what you are trying to say is and I will gladly stay focused on that.

    But in the meantime I will respond to your post in #22.

    You said

    “While there are many truths within the 39 articles, they have no ecclesial authority, having been formulated by those in schism from the Church. So they do not show anything doctrinal, let alone that the deposit of faith is found entirely, or at least found entirely-explicitly, in Scripture.

    This comment shows that many times Catholic Apologists come across with the attitude that says “no matter what Protestants say, they are wrong. Period. I agree for a Catholic the 39 Articles have no Ecclessial authority simply because Catholics are not Anglicans, BUT, that does not mean that they do not contain vital truth. The particular Article which is Article 6 of the 39 Articles does reflect the consensus of the Early Church Fathers. The Anglican divines were not Anabaptist Radical Reformers, they were careful to maintain Catholic Truth as they saw it in the Early Church Fathers. Of all the Churches that came out of the Reformation the Anglicans were the most Patristic, to the point where Anglicans do not even consider themselves “Protestant” but akin to the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Again I do maintain that the Article, Article 6 is the Patristic view on Scripture and the way of determining Dogma. Also I did say that the Anglican view is essentially the same as the Catholic, IE Material Sufficiency. If Anglicans held to “Formal Sufficiency” then they would be like the Presbyterians.

    You said:

    “You have just undermined your objection in #17, unless you can demonstrate that at least one Catholic dogma is incompatible with material sufficiency.”

    I will quote from Yves Congar on Material Sufficiency so that we are both on the same page:

    Yves Congar states, “[W]e can admit sola scriptura in the sense of a material sufficiency of canonical Scripture. This means that Scripture contains, in one way or another, all truths necessary for salvation.

    Like I said above, this is pretty much what the Anglican position is and what the 6th Article says.

    Can I name one Dogma incompatible with Material Sufficiency?

    Is this a trick question? I can name several. Please I don’t want to turn this thread into Rabbit Trails of a multitude of subjects, but I will list them. Perhaps in the future they can be addressed in the future as topics for discussion.

    1. Purgatory, a place where people are tortured and punished to Satisfy God’s Justice to Expiate their sins. As a child various “revelations” to Saints were read to us in CCD about how people were tortured and punished in Purgatory in gruesome and excrutiating ways and made to suffer to expiate their sins. To make things worse we were told that this was the way God showed His love for us. Unless one was raised Catholic and went through the “system” of childhood CCD( at least those in my generation) a modern Catholic Convert of today cannot understand this and see that this was why so many Catholics in my generation left the Catholic Church for Evangelical Churches where they found a God who loves us and sent His Only-Begotten Son who loves us to die for us and Atone for our sins to Satisfy God’s Justice. To us who left we left the Catholic God who demands “Skin for Skin” and punishes us in Excrutiating ways in a Divine Concentration Camp called Purgatory to Expiate and Make Satisfaction for our sins. I could say more on this subject but I won’t at this time. So find this “Purgatory” in Scripture.

    2. tying into Purgatory find “Indulgences” in Scripture

    3. Papal Infallibility as defined by Vatican 1

    These should do for a start, but there are others.

  29. John W,

    It is not my place to tell you what to do but it is my place to suggest to you what you should do. It would do you well to take your issues with the Church to your Pastor or some other Catholic that you respect and trust. This site is really not the proper forum for that, not least of which because we are not equipped to Pastor, nor to provide spiritual direction. Those are reserved for a priest that you trust or a Catholic of strong faith and understanding living in fidelity to the Church.

    This in no way means that you are not welcome here, nor does it mean that you cannot comment here. It just means that your comments of dissent concerning Church teaching probably need to be handled by those who God has given to us as Pastors of souls. I am not sure what diocese you are in but the Catholic world can be small and there may be a priest that one of us knows that we could refer you to.

    Yours in Christ,
    Tom

  30. Dear John,

    I second Tom’s advice to seek spiritual direction, as well as his offer to help you find one. This is not an insult. It is an offer to help.

    Regarding your historical claims: the type of material sufficiency that some of the Fathers seemed to have asserted for scripture (in their specific teachings on scripture’s authority) needs to be reconciled with: (a) the type of scriptural exegesis that they deemed acceptable; and (b) their assertions on the sufficiency of ecclesiastical teaching even when it seemed to be in contradiction of scripture. When one does so, it is very difficult to see how the scriptural witness of the Fathers could be used to reject Catholic teaching — at least to reject the Catholic teachings that you list above while retaining doctrines such as the trinity. The Anglican project requires pretending a greater uniformity of witness on the doctrines they like; pretending that the Fathers’ scriptural exegisis did not allow for the mystical readings that point to Catholic doctrines; explaining away the assertions and actions of the Fathers in favor of distinctively Catholic forms of authority (such as the Pope); and, thus, as a whole, a practice of intellectual dishonesty. If you read more Catholic history, maybe you would begin to see this.

    Finally, you have unresolved issues about your Catholic education. I’m sorry about this, but don’t blame the Catholics for being too lax about sin (sinning on Friday and confessing on Saturday), while simultaneously blaming them for being too hard on sin (claiming that debts need to be repaid). Isn’t this kind of “any stick is good enough to beat you guys with” behavior a sign that you need some spiritual help? I don’t mean to be mean. I do want to help you.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  31. John,

    In response to my pointing out that the 39 articles have no authority, you wrote:

    This comment shows that many times Catholic Apologists come across with the attitude that says “no matter what Protestants say, they are wrong. Period.

    That is an ad hominem. You are criticizing my “attitude”. If you read the posting guidelines, you will see that ad hominems are not allowed here. I explicitly stated “there are many truths within the 39 articles”. So for you to suggest that my position is that “no matter what Protestants say, they are wrong”, is highly uncharitable toward me, because it attributes to me a position which is the direct opposite of what I explicitly stated.

    And if you are not an apologist for the Catholic Church, then which Church are you defending? But if you are defending the Catholic Church, why then do you refer to me as a “Catholic Apologist,” as though this is something that distinguishes me from you?

    You claimed that the Catholic doctrine of purgatory is incompatible with the material sufficiency of Scripture. But that claim is demonstrably false, because this doctrine can be found materially in many places in Scripture. See, for example, here. You can find indulgences there materially in those same verses, because the Church by the keys holds the treasury of the merit of the saints (cf. Matt 6:19).

    Regarding papal infallibility, Peter is the rock upon which the Church is built. (Matt 16:18) If the rock breaks, then the whole house falls. So the rock cannot be broken. This is why St. Irenaeus says,

    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 [i.e. the Church at Rome], on account of its preeminent authority

    It would be false that it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with the Church at Rome, if the Church at Rome could fall into heresy or apostasy. The very idea that every other Church should necessarily agree with the Church at Rome, on the basis of its preeminent authority, depends upon it being true that the Church at Rome is infallible in matters of faith and morals. St. Augustine alludes to this when he says:

    For what else did the Lord procure for the Apostle Peter by His prayer for him, of which He said, “I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith fail not,” Luke 22:32 than that God would preserve his faith, that it should not fail by giving way to temptation?

    If the faith of St. Peter failed, Christ’s prayer would have been broken. But Christ’s prayer cannot be broken, because He is God. Therefore, the faith of Peter cannot fail. This faith did not cease at the death of St. Peter, but is preserved through his episcopal successors. The infallibility of the successors of St. Peter who sit in the chair of St. Peter and hold his office, is ensured by the prayer Christ prayed for St. Peter. In this way, we find papal infallibility materially in both of these passages.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  32. To Bryan, K Doran, and Tom Riello:

    I apologise if I made any Ad Hominem’s, that was not my intention. Too often Discussion forums degenerate into Ad Hominem attacks and “mud-slinging”. This ruins any type of intelligent discourse and discussion and just plainly creates anger and ill-will.

    I ask your prayers and I will pray and seek some guidance and direction, and we will see what happens by God’s Grace. But its entirely possible and highly probable that I cannot be a Catholic. I tried but there are just too many things that the Catholic Church teaches that does not square with the Biblical witness and the facts of history. God be with you all and thank you for your patience.

  33. Dear Bryan.

    re: #25

    Which Catholic doctrine(s) do you think does not comport with Scripture?

    Where does one begin? Justification (the RC meaning of the word is entirely absent from the NT), sola fide, perpetual virginity of Mary, faith, salvation, atonement, authority, sacramental universe, sacraments, saints, transubstantiation, church etc. etc.

    So, in Protestant ecclesiology ‘visible Church’ is just a name, having no actual referent. (Again, this is related to Protestantism’s nominalism.)

    Once more, you’re critiquing the Protestant perspective from Catholic presuppositions. I’m more interested in how the Bible speaks about “church” (which means gathering), and I can’t find it supporting the RC position.

    Moreover, the accusation about Protestantism as nominalist has been long refuted, there were plenty of reformers who weren’t nominalists! Gilson’s reading of the history of the middle ages has in recent years been shown to be flawed, as has Bouyer’s extreme version of the same. Even RC historians would agree (see people like Damasus Trapp).

    “Smacks of” is not a careful or reasonable way of evaluating Catholic doctrine. If you think something in Church history is incompatible with the Catholic idea of development, then you would need to specify it, and show exactly why it is incompatible with development.

    It was not my intention to give a careful or reasonable explanation but a thumbnail summary so you know where I’m coming from.

    That statement itself carries with it a presupposition that begs the question; it assumes that there is some presuppositionless, neutral point of view viz-a-viz the Church. But, we believe that just as a person is either for Christ or against Him, so a person is either for His Body, or against His Body. (See here.) My approach is therefore not to try to stand nowhere, but to stand in both paradigms and describe the perspective from each, and then compare the perspective from both paradigms.

    I nowhere claimed there could be a neutral territory by which one could evaluate RCism or Protestantism. My point was that you regularly critique Protestantism from a Catholic epistemic framework. This will not convince Protestants, and will consolidate Catholic prejudice.

    Blessings,

    Marty.

  34. Is the digalogue mentioned in this blog entry the same one that featured the former Roman Catholic now Evangelical pastor Chris Castaldo, the one who wrote the book Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a former Catholic? I wasn’t sure since he wasn’t mentioned at all in your blog post. If it is the same dialogue, then wasn’t it between Dr. Beckwith and Pastor Castaldo, with Dr. George acting as moderator? Why was this information left out?

  35. Dear Kepha,

    At the risk of speaking out of turn, I noticed when I followed the link provided by Bryan that this debate was “featuring Francis Beckwith and Timothy George / moderated by Chris Castaldo.”

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  36. hmm…I see. It was the other way around. Interesting. The e-mail I got reversed the program. Hmm. Well, my apologies.

  37. Marty, (re: #33)

    Regarding whether Protestantism has a visible catholic Church, see my most recent post titled “Why Protestantism has no visible catholic Church.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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