Stanley Hauerwas on Reformation Sunday

Oct 25th, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

29 October 1995

by Stanley Hauerwas

Joel 2:23-32 – 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 – Luke 18:9-14

WittenbergDoor
Wittenberg Door

I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do not understand why it is part of the church year. Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.

Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.

For example, note what the Reformation has done for our reading texts like that which we hear from Luke this morning. We Protestants automatically assume that the Pharisees are the Catholics. They are the self-righteous people who have made Christianity a form of legalistic religion, thereby destroying the free grace of the Gospel. We Protestants are the tax collectors, knowing that we are sinners and that our lives depend upon God’s free grace. And therefore we are better than the Catholics because we know they are sinners. What an odd irony that the Reformation made such readings possible. As Protestants we now take pride in the acknowledgment of our sinfulness in order to distinguish ourselves from Catholics who allegedly believe in works-righteousness.

Unfortunately, the Catholics are right. Christian salvation consists in works. To be saved is to be made holy. To be saved requires our being made part of a people separated from the world so that we can be united in spite of — or perhaps better, because of — the world’s fragmentation and divisions. Unity, after all, is what God has given us through Christ’s death and resurrection. For in that death and resurrection we have been made part of God’s salvation for the world so that the world may know it has been freed from the powers that would compel us to kill one another in the name of false loyalties. All that is about the works necessary to save us.

For example, I often point out that at least Catholics have the magisterial office of the Bishop of Rome to remind them that disunity is a sin. You should not overlook the significance that in several important documents of late, John Paul II has confessed the Catholic sin for the Reformation. Where are the Protestants capable of doing likewise? We Protestants feel no sin for the disunity of the Reformation. We would not know how to confess our sin for the continuing disunity of the Reformation. We would not know how to do that because we have no experience of unity.

The magisterial office — we Protestants often forget — is not a matter of constraining or limiting diversity in the name of unity. The office of the Bishop of Rome is to ensure that when Christians move from Durham, North Carolina to Syracuse, New York, they have some confidence when they go to church that they will be worshiping the same God. Because Catholics have an office of unity, they do not need to restrain the gifts of the Spirit. As I oftentimes point out, it is extraordinary that Catholicism is able to keep the Irish and the Italians in the same church. What an achievement! Perhaps equally amazing is their ability to keep within the same church Jesuits, Dominicans, and Franciscans.

I think Catholics are able to do that because they know that their unity does not depend upon everyone agreeing. Indeed, they can celebrate their disagreements because they understand that our unity is founded upon the cross and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth that makes the Eucharist possible. They do not presume, therefore, that unity requires that we all read Scripture the same way.

This creates a quite different attitude among Catholics about their relation to Christian tradition and the wider world. Protestants look over to Christian tradition and say, ‘How much of this do we have to believe in order to remain identifiably Christian?’ That’s the reason why Protestants are always tempted to rationalism: we think that Christianity is to be identified with sets of beliefs more than with the unity of the Spirit occasioned through sacrament.

Moreover, once Christianity becomes reduced to a matter of belief, as it clearly has for Protestants, we cannot resist questions of whether those beliefs are as true or useful as other beliefs we also entertain. Once such questions are raised, it does not matter what the answer turns out in a given case. As James Edwards observes, “Once religious beliefs start to compete with other beliefs, then religious believers are — and will know themselves to be — mongerers of values. They too are denizens of the mall, selling and shopping and buying along with the rest of us.”

In contrast, Catholics do not begin with the question of “How much do we need to believe?” but with the attitude “Look at all the wonderful stuff we get to believe!” Isn’t it wonderful to know that Mary was immaculately conceived in order to be the faithful servant of God’s new creation in Jesus Christ! She therefore becomes the firstborn of God’s new creation, our mother, the first member of God’s new community we call church. Isn’t it wonderful that God continued to act in the world through the appearances of Mary at Guadalupe! Mary must know something because she seems to always appear to peasants and, in particular, to peasant women who have the ability to see her. Most of us would not have the ability to see Mary because we’d be far too embarrassed by our vision.

Therefore Catholics understand the church’s unity as grounded in reality more determinative than our good feelings for one another. The office of Rome matters. For at least that office is a judgment on the church for our disunity. Surely it is the clear indication of the sin of the Reformation that we Protestants have not been able to resist nationalistic identifications. So we become German Lutherans, American Lutherans, Norwegian Lutherans. You are Dutch Calvinist, American Presbyterians, Church of Scotland. I am an American Methodist, which has precious little to do with my sisters and brothers in English Methodism. And so we Protestant Christians go to war killing one another in the name of being American, German, Japanese, and so on.

At least it becomes the sin of Rome when Italian Catholics think they can kill Irish Catholics in the name of being Italian. Such divisions distort the unity of the Gospel found in the Eucharist and, thus, become judgments against the church of Rome. Of course, the Papacy has often been unfaithful and corrupt, but at least Catholics preserved an office God can use to remind us that we have been and may yet prove unfaithful. In contrast, Protestants don’t even know we’re being judged for our disunity.

I realize that this perspective on Reformation Sunday is not the usual perspective. The usual perspective is to tell us what a wonderful thing happened at the Reformation. The Reformation struck a blow for freedom. No longer would we be held in medieval captivity to law and arbitrary authority. The Reformation was the beginning of enlightenment, of progressive civilizations, of democracy, that have come to fruition in this wonderful country called America. What a destructive story.

You can tell the destructive character of that narrative by what it has done to the Jews. The way we Protestants read history, and in particular our Bible, has been nothing but disastrous for the Jews. For we turned the Jews into Catholics by suggesting that the Jews had sunk into legalistic and sacramental religion after the prophets and had therefore become moribund and dead. In order to make Jesus explicable (in order to make Jesus look like Luther — at least the Luther of our democratic projections), we had to make Judaism look like our characterization of Catholicism. Yet Jesus did not free us from Israel; rather, he engrafted us into the promise of Israel so that we might be a people called to the same holiness of the law.

I realize that the suggestion that salvation is to be part of a holy people constituted by the law seems to deny the Reformation principle of justification by faith through grace. I do not believe that to be the case, particularly as Calvin understood that Reformation theme. After all, Calvin (and Luther) assumed that justification by faith through grace is a claim about God’s presence in Jesus of Nazareth. So justification by faith through grace is not some general truth about our need for acceptance; but rather justification by faith through grace is a claim about the salvation wrought by God through Jesus to make us a holy people capable of remembering that God’s salvation comes through the Jews. When the church loses that memory, we lose the source of our unity. For unity is finally a matter of memory, of how we tell the story of the Reformation. How can we tell this story of the church truthfully as Protestants and Catholics so that we might look forward to being in union with one another and thus share a common story of our mutual failure?

We know, after all, that the prophecy of Joel has been fulfilled. The portents of heaven, the blood and fire, the darkness of the sun, the bloody moon have come to pass in the cross of our Savior Jesus Christ. Now all who call on that name will be saved. We believe that we who stand in the Reformation churches are survivors. But to survive we need to recover the unity that God has given us as survivors. So on this Reformation Sunday long for, pray for, our ability to remember the Reformation – not as a celebratory moment, not as a blow for freedom, but as the sin of the church. Pray for God to heal our disunity, not the disunity simply between Protestant and Catholic, but the disunity in our midst between classes, between races, between nations. Pray that on Reformation Sunday we may as tax collectors confess our sin and ask God to make us a new people joined together in one might prayer that the world may be saved from its divisions.

(Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School.)

Share
Tags:

135 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. [...] Hauerwas on Reformation Sunday in 1995. I noticed that Bryan Cross had posted this sermon at Called to Communion earlier today, and since this morning I have seen it reposted on several other Catholic sites. So [...]

  2. I love how the Wittenberg Door has a depiction of Christ crucified over it. Very Catholic.

  3. I love the hook Jesus puts into the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. We all read it and immediately begin to think of someone who is like the pharisee. In that moment we become the pharisee. It is so hard to ignore the sins of our fellow Christians and focus on our own sins. But that is needed for unity.

    Reformation Sunday is just honest. Protestants need to understand how much changed with the reformation. How big a deal it was to break with the Sacred Tradition. Growing up protestant we didn’t get that. That Sola Scriptura is a super doctrine. That is tells us how to answer doctrinal questions so it has the power to destroy any other doctrine. That this principle was not one that Christians lived by before the reformation. That right or wrong a central tenet of the Christianity we knew was introduced at the reformation.

  4. Sola Scriptura would be an excellent doctrine . . . if I could just find it somewhere in Holy Scripture.

  5. I was sent here to complete the reading, which I started on Patrick Madrid’s blog (a Catholic apologist of some note). Praise God for Patrick. And praise God for Mr. Hauerwas. Though separate, we are never closer together than when we can clearly see our differences. “Look at all the stuff we get to believe” indeed! Pray for me, brother, and I will pray for you. – Ken

  6. As a Catholic it is wonderful to hear a protestant speak so frankly on the reformation’s (or revolution as we call it) effect on the average Christian in the pews.

  7. There is not a mention anywhere in Scripture of a “super doctrine”. If there was such a thing and it was given the name “Sola Scriptura” then it would have been a central teaching of Jesus and His Apostles from the very beginning of the Church.
    To think that such a central tenet of Christianity would not only be overlooked and not taught by Our Lord Himself as well as His Apostles and every early father of the Church can only make for all of Christianity itself being based on the Son of God being wrong.
    I would doubt very much that God the Father would let His Son endure the Passion, His death by being nailed to a cross and Resurrection all for a false start of the Church He came to establish just so a normal human being could come along 1500 years later and correct it by nailing a list to a church door.

  8. This is a terrible essay with very sloppy thinking. The arguments made here just don’t fly in many cases. I’m not certain why the author remains a Methodist if Protestantism is so bad and Catholicism is so good. And some of it is just plain wrong.

    Take for example statement that Catholics don’t have to read scripture/tradition the same way. That’s absurd. They don’t have to believe in transubstantiation? They don’t have to believe in the Immaculate Conception? That Jesus named Peter the Pope? If Catholics could believe as they wished, I could be a Catholic tomorrow :) He makes Catholic sound like Protestants which is absurd. It’s Protestants who say we all don’t have to believe the same way, not Catholics. I’m ok with Reformed churches baptizing infants as well as with Baptists baptizing professed believers only. I’m ok with a churches with more centralize authority (bishops) as well as those more congregationally based. But that’s not really a choice with Catholics. He’s got it totally backwards.

    Then there’s his claim that Protestants have gone to war killing each other for no more than their nationality. That’s absurd. The US didn’t go to war against Nazi Germany because they were Germans – in fact many Americans were of German heritage themselves. We want to war to put an end to an evil dictatorship we declared war on us. If we were killing Germans because they were Germans, we wouldn’t have stopped once the war was over, we would have finished the job. And it’s not as if Catholics haven’t slaughtered other Catholics through the centuries. Heck, even the Catholic French supported the Protestants in the 30 Years War to thwart Catholic Hapsburg ambitions. And I don’t remember reading the Pope trying to stop either side.

    And what is this about Catholic’s not constraining the work of the Holy Spirit? He really needs to go back and read his Reformation history. There were any number of Catholic reform movements crushed by the Counter Reformation because they had Protestant sympathies or leanings, yet wished to remain under Rome. It was Trent that finally drew the line in many areas where it had been ok to have had different beliefs previously. After Trent there was never the same freedom to believe various doctrines as had existed previously. Lines were drawn.

    This essay is just sloppy IMO.

  9. This essay is absurd. Anyone who say’s “Catholics do this” while “protestants do this” is living in la, la land. Those generalities only exist in theory and not in actuality. I know Catholics who believe next to nothing. I know Catholics who are full of legalism. I know Catholics who love Jesus and their lives reflect that fact. I know protestants who are closer to atheists. I know protestants who are incredible servants of God. These generalities have got to go, because they are the product of childish thinking.

  10. Dear Jim,

    It strikes me that it is very difficult to conduct a discussion about Catholic and Reformed Christians without speaking in generalities. Do you have an alternate proposal? How is it childish, a venture into “la, la land,” to speak in such generalities? I would dare to guess that every one of us has employed this rhetorical device (i.e., generalizing).

    It might be more helpful to identify a conclusion which you believe to be false, and then articulate why you believe it to be false.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  11. I, too, happened upon this wonderful sermon via Patrick Madrid’s posting on his blog–and I’m glad I did! As a Catholic, I pray for the day when we can all worship together again under one roof. I would say the above comments calling your sermon “messy” and “absurd” are naive and ungrounded. God’s speed to you, Brother Hauerwas.

  12. Generalities, i.e. the ability to categorize, is a key mark of intelligence. Horses have a poor ability to generalize. Frogs even less so. Horses and frogs only take things for what they are. They cannot evaluate them in terms of the broader categories to which they belong. Smart men can generalize well; men of lesser wit have trouble getting things into the right categories. Trees cannot generalize at all.

    Speaking in general terms helps us to make decisions when we don’t have enough information. It isn’t ‘childish thinking.’

  13. Even if you do not agree with each and every point of the sermon, or even if you do not agree with most of the sermon, it is remarkable for its Christian Charity.

    Professor Hauerwas applies his critical analysis to his own tradition with a minimum of “buts.” He no doubt has reservations about the Roman Catholic Church, but those were not the purpose of the sermon. I am reminded of some of the Papal apologies of the last several decades where the Popes have issued those apologies without addressing mitigating circumstance. This sermon, and those apologies, are excellent beginning points for beginning a dialogue that can include reservations and mitigating circumstances in a charitable manner.

    If we look at the comments, we see Steve using the term sloppy twice. But amidst some of his valid criticism he misses entirely the Hauerwas’ point on the diversity allowed under the umbrella of Roman Catholic unity. Steve brings up the differences between Protestants, but that only illustrates the divisions and not the unity of Protestants. He allows that he is okay with these divisions, but doesn’t really spell out what that okay means and how it is different from the Catholic viewpoint.

    Meanwhile, a number of Catholics have comments that use the sermon as a kind of surrogate form of patting their own backs. If they wanted to reply in the spirit if the sermon, they would address issues where they think they could learn something from their Protestant brothers and sisters.

    The dialogue found in “Common Ground: What Catholics and Protestants can learn from one another’” featuring Father John Riccardo and Pastor Steve Andrews is what we need more of.

    “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:21 KJV

  14. Michael, right on. I think what is missing is the comments about it being “absurd” is that Hauerwas is not making a syllogistic argument that says Catholicism is right nor that Protestantism was wrong which seems to be how it’s being taken by some. The spirit of the article is one that assesses the state of Christianity and dares to hope in the possibility of reconciliation. Right or wrong, the Reformation is nothing to celebrate. The re-union of all Christians into the apostolic faith will be right, and it will be something to celebrate.

  15. Coming from a Southern Baptist background, we never had “Reformation Sunday” services. I had neveer even heard of them until I went to College, and got a job working for a Dutch Remormed family. As a Baptist, historically, we aere persecuted from BOTH sides of the Reformation. Jesus knew what he was doing when he prayed that all may BE one, not all THINK the same.

    Yes, now as a Catholic, I believe in the Transubstanciation in the Eurcharist. At the point of consecration, the host and wine ACTUALLY becomes the Body and the Blood of Jesus, our Lord.

    Yes, I believe in the all the Church teaches, and I confess that belief eveery Sunday when we recite as community the Nicene Creed.

    As Jim noted, there are many in various churches who believe or don’t believe, Jesus calls us to His table, Jesus calls us to conversion, for those who don’t believe it is a job to pray the Holy Spirit convict and convert them to believe. For those of us who do believe, it is a job to continue to work and do the will of God in our lives, to live as community in the love and peace of Jesus.

  16. “If we look at the comments, we see Steve using the term sloppy twice. But amidst some of his valid criticism he misses entirely the Hauerwas’ point on the diversity allowed under the umbrella of Roman Catholic unity. Steve brings up the differences between Protestants, but that only illustrates the divisions and not the unity of Protestants. He allows that he is okay with these divisions, but doesn’t really spell out what that okay means and how it is different from the Catholic viewpoint.”

    Yes, I missed his point about Catholic diversity entirely because I don’t see that it exists. The alleged “diversity” of Catholicsm doesn’t seem to be very real to me in comparison with Protestantism. What you call “disunity” among Protestants I call “diversity”. Speaking in generalities :), most Protestants hold to the same core Christian beliefs, and the “Five Solas”. But beyond that we don’t feel a need to agree, nor do we demand that other Protestants hold to what our particular church/denomination believes. That’s what I mean when I am “okay” with Protestant practices that differ from my own denomination. I am “okay” with them because I don’t see them as essential to Christian belief, and I still recognize them as Christian brothers despite those differences.

    As for how that differs from Catholicism that should be clear, I would think.

  17. “I think what is missing is the comments about it being “absurd” is that Hauerwas is not making a syllogistic argument that says Catholicism is right nor that Protestantism was wrong which seems to be how it’s being taken by some. The spirit of the article is one that assesses the state of Christianity and dares to hope in the possibility of reconciliation.”

    The problem I see is that the sermon was less than evenhanded. Perhaps as a Protestant he felt more of a need to confess the sins and failings of Protestantism which I can understand. But seeing it posted on a Catholic blog gave it a different twist, especially without a Catholic commentary from a similar confessing and repentant perspective.

    I’m just saying . . .

    PS, Tim, I live in Charlotte, NC also.

  18. Steve,
    I can see where you’re coming from in your need for Diversity within Chrisitianity. You hold that most Protestants hold the “Five Solas”. What Catholicism maintains is a unity of teaching. If you have one Protestant saying that you do not need Baptism and then another saying that you can’t get into Heaven without it, which one is true? This is a literal matter of life and death! That’s the unity that has to be upheld, the unity of truth.
    Even within the Catholic Church there are several different types of Catholics! Eastern Rite, Latin Rite, and so forth and so on. Each culture adds to the liturgy and makes it thier own. An African American Mass is very different from a Mexican Mass. But the core teachings are the same throughout the world.
    The Catholics do embrace diversity, but they also have a duty given to them by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit to ensure that Truth is proclaimed throughout the world and not fall into relativism. Because Christ promised perpituity and guidence of the Holy Spirit so that Satan could not cause division within His Church Teachings. MAn then has the responisiblity to trust that promise and listen to His Church’s words spoken by the Holy Spirit.

  19. Wow! I couldn’t agree more…no one (Catholic or Protestant) should celebrate a separation or division in the church. I would argue that in Jesus’ mind there is only one church and I think we’d all be surprised to find out that his church is neither wholely Catholic or any one denomination of Protestantism. I’m glad to see people are convicted in their beliefs, but I am more impressed that Hauerwas is rising above this ancient battle and doing some self-examination of his faith. We should all do that. In the end, we’re all Christians, separated by doctrinal differences. I’ve always said that people have too much religion and not enough relationship with Christ! As humans, we’re all flawed. This includes the individuals who make up the church and even the leaders, Catholic or Protestant alike. There will always be Catholics and Protestants who miss the point and don’t know God even though they’re continually in his presence. There will always be Catholics and Protestants who KNOW God. In short, there are holy, God- loving people that come in both the Catholic and Protestant flavor. So, just love God and does his will no matter what you call yourself and I think you’ll be okay. Approach life with love, no matter the issue, and you’ll always come out on top.

    BTW, I’m a Protestant who converted to Catholicism and I must say, I’ve not yet found anything that’s not biblically based and I haven’t had to give up ANY of my Christian beliefs. This is a journey of faith and woe to the one who thinks they know it all. Go with God and love one another!!

  20. Steve, there is actually a great deal of diversity within the Catholic Church. I didn’t see it until after I became Catholic myself. Certain things, like the Immaculate Conception of Mary, are non-negotiable, but there are lots of other things that people are free to have other opinions on. Marian apparitions, personal devotion to the saints, church music style (sound familiar? I think this one crosses all lines), roles of women, some liturgical styles, charismatic stuff, prayer style. Lots of things, but until one is familiar with the different levels of teaching, it’s hard to shake it all out.

  21. No historical event, even the proliferation of new teachings that purport to rediscover the lost, true primitive church, can ever be a valid reason for manually dismembering the Body of Christ. “By their fruits you shall know them”. My reading of the late letters of Luther and Calvin suggests that they rued the day they’d created such rupture in the Church, because the bases for continued church dismemberment became visibly unbounded. The thing spun out of control, and continues to do so to this day, with tens of thousands of distinct versions of Protestant Christianity. The thing that’s gotten lost is the concept of Truth, which has become thoroughly relativized by the ongoing process of division in the Body of Christ. I think B16 has gotten that right, and I admire the radical steps toward the recovery of true ecumenical Church unity he has begun taking. As a former Baptist, I appreciate Prof. Hauerwas’ Reformation Sunday thoughts.

    Joe

  22. “If Catholics could believe as they wished, I could be a Catholic tomorrow :)”

    If Catholics could believe as they wished, why bother to be Catholic?

  23. Amen, Brother Hauerwas and to each who has responded so far. The love of Christ comes through in each statement, charitable correction and defense. Michael says it all in quoting our Lord and the importance of unity during His last supper discourses. How powerful is Jesus’ parting prayer (please reread all of John 17) for his apostles, as well as each and every one of us…

    If we don’t unite to THE truth we will continue to undermine each others efforts. We will continue to undermine the gospel and the very credibility that Christ was indeed sent by the Father. We are called to be Christ’s arms. legs. and voice in the world today. If we don’t pull together and move in the same direction, and speak with one voice, then we don’t witness Christ to this world that desperately needs Him. Instead we create an ineffective and unappealing din of noise. The noise of false freedom, individualism, and relativism that has splintered Christianity into our current shattered state. Our divisions are why the world is in such a mess.

    If not us, who? If not now, when?

    Dear Lord, thank you for not leaving us orphans. For remaining among us through both your Word and your Church which you established to guide us through today’s moral issues that “we could not bear to hear” at the Last Supper. Empty us of pride and prejudices to make room for You as you consecrate us in your Truth so that we may fulfill your great commissioning: to TEACH the world all that YOU have COMMANDED. (Mt 28:20).

  24. [...] favorite Protestant theologians is Stanley Hauerwas (whom I was only recently introduced to). Read this sermon for an example [...]

  25. Steve,

    While Hauerwas does generalize several points, your main criticism misses the point. It’s not the fact of diverse beliefs (big or small) that distinguishes between a unified Church and fragmented gatherings of professed Christians. It’s the principle of unity which consists of (as Hauerwas points out) “the unity of the Spirit occasioned through sacrament.” Now, it happens that in order to partake of the sacraments of the Church, the life of the Church, obedience and receptivity to apostolic teaching is required, and that apostolic teaching is authoritatively seated in the Church – in the Pope and the bishops through apostolic succession, and in the faithful through the light of the Spirit. But the principle of Reformation, or at least the principle of fragmentation, that Hauerwas denounces here is the understanding of Christian unity which says that intellectual assent to certain formulas (which none of the fragmented Christians can agree on, anyway) is the life of the Church. Instead, though a Reformed Christian, Hauerwas can see that the life of the Church is in fact the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, which is imparted to his Church through his own Body, his own words, his own sacraments. And he recognizes that the Catholic Church as retained a *principle of unity* without which there *can* be no true diversity, only fragmentation and isolation. Catholics listen to the words of the Pope and the Tradition, and gather at the one table, and that is why there can be real diversity within the one Church. It’s not as if it’s impossible for a Catholic to break away from this unity, and so you rightly point out that the Church censures those they understand to have actually thrown off the unifying principle of faith and obedience. But his point is that Protestantism actually collapses this distinction, so that there is *no discernible difference* between a faithful or a faithless member of the Body. In fact – there is no discernible Body.

  26. Thanks for a lovely piece–saw it on Patrick Madrid. Have you ever read Soloviev (there are various other spellings) on the AntiChrist and Christian reunification? There is a scene in there that in some ways reminds me of your essay. God bless.

  27. I’m a Catholic convert of 2+ years now after spending 20+ years in various forms of Evangelical Fundamentalism tracing mostly to Darby and the early 19th century. My final two years as a non-Catholic were spent in a wonderful PCA Presbyterian Church and in my own study of Calvinism. That deeper “connection” (much earlier than revivalism /dispensationalism) to the so called Reformation-era in church history is actually what helped me become Catholic.

    I applaud Dr. Hauerwas for this work.

  28. As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I can only “read it and weep”. Not because there is no mention of Holy Orthodoxy or Eastern Christianity in all this discussion of unity – clearly the good pastor’s focus is on the Western Church, which has engendered the vast majority of the 30,000+ differing Christian churches and doctrinal systems. And few seem to know – or care – much about Eastern Christianity’s very different spirituality and practice, in which I can – and do – feel totally at home and comfortable worshiping with Arabic speakers in Jerusalem or Nazareth, or in Russia or the Republic of Georgia, or with Orthodox Christians in Corinth or Thessaloniki, Tanzania, France or Chicago. Rather, I weep for all the centuries of bickering and warfare, all the hideously disfiguring divisions in the Body of Christ, divisions which continue to multiply and metastasize as I write these words.

    The Reformation happened only yesterday – a local feud between Christian brothers which has spread scandal and controversy throughout the entire world. We in the Eastern Church still grieve over doctrinal disagreements with the Non-Chalcedonians in 451 AD, which separate me today – if only slightly – from my Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox brothers and sisters. And then came the horrific disaster of the Great Schism with the Roman Church in 1054, since which time we continue to grow farther apart, to our immense pain and distress. I appreciate Dr. Hauerwas’ candor and obvious good intentions. May God bless him as he works to bring unity, and clarity of thought in considering what is indeed a great disaster.

    St. Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 25 and 26: “…that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

    Forgive me, brothers and sisters, as I am a great sinner and do not presume to teach. But it seems to me that until all Christians rejoice for each other, grieve for each other, sincerely try to understand and respect each other – in short, until we truly, intentionally love and seek to serve each other, as precious living images of our Lord and Savior, and as beloved common children of God – until we achieve this, we are poor Christians indeed, and false witnesses of our Lord to the world that knows Him not.

    Please pray for us all that we may be granted the strength for repentance, fasting, unceasing prayer and sincere humility of spirit. Perhaps we could all use less reading and arguing ABOUT Christianity and doctrinal differences, and more frequent prayer? And most of all, let us pray that we all may be granted the grace of a genuine, deep personal relationship with our heavenly Father the Creator of the universe. When we are truly in Christ, we can not help but be One Body, as we are called to be.

  29. Amen John. Well said.

  30. Very good article. As a Catholic I believe in being a reformer. There are many hearts that need conversion (mine included). I choose to be a reformer within the Church.

  31. [...] Stanley Hauerwas is right, Reformation day “names failure” for the church. It is right that we should remember it. But it should not be with songs of thanksgiving and praise but that much under-used (never-used) component of Christian worship: lament. [...]

  32. Thanks for a great post. I must say that as an Anglican, the unity the Roman Church has is very attractive. I do get so tired of seeing our communion splintered.

    Pax.

    Bryan

  33. As an Anglican your tradition would have alot to contribute, especially liturgically. I’m sure there would be Catholics who coveted the contributions of authentic Anglican worship. Welcome home.

  34. [...] of denominations and virtual theological anarchism. Stanley Hauerwas explains it well enough here, from a Protestant point of view. I had never thought of the diversity of theologies espoused by [...]

  35. “We GET to believe”? Why would you want to believe something this stupid?
    And look at the moral effects of this. Does anyone seriously think that all these apparitions have helped the places where they’ve happened? They become excuses for kitsch.
    Every time I visit a religious blog, I’m more relieved to be an atheist.

  36. Brad, if you’re an atheist, why are you even looking at religious blogs? What do you expect to find? A reason to believe, perhaps? No, of course not.
    Ken

  37. “Why do you visit zoos?”
    There are no reasons to believe. Morally you run twice as fast and end up, at best, in the same place. There are fewer atheists in prisons than in the general population.

  38. Brad, if you are interested in historical evidence for some belief, say, about Mary appearing in the 1500s in Mexico (Our Lady of Guadalupe), there are excellent books on the subject (see for instance, Warren Carroll’s book). The historical and scientific evidence alone, apart from any faith component, is striking, from the tens of millions of Aztecs who converted to the Catholic Faith after the appearance to the tilma (cloak) that still bears Mary’s image after all these centuries and which has been subjected to numerous scientific analyses, none of which has been able to explain how the tilma was made.

    God bless,
    Devin

  39. A truly wonderful blog and many great attempts at healing our divisions that have set the stage for folks like Brad to shake his head in wonder.

    Brad, have you ever wondered how long it would take all the scientists, using every bit of knowledge, every source of energy (atomic fusion, fission and whatever), with access to every know element in the universe to create a single acorn or pecan -from scratch- that could just be thrown out in the dirt and transform itself into a tree that can produce thousands more just like it? I could never believe that all the right ingredients just happened to be lying around and a lightning bolt, meteorite, or whatever just happened to come along and create this unexplainable entity that is suddenly alive and perpetuating itself. That’s just a simple acorn…

    But belief isn’t about knowledge, its about a relationship. I hope you enter into to it one day, ’cause it has made my life more meaningful and richer than I could ever imagine. My joy is complete! May yours be one day as well my friend.

  40. And, really, I’m OK with the concept of The Big Bang. The only remaining question then, is Who was (or is) The Big Banger?

  41. There are a couple of things that bother me about both Haurwas’ sermon and many of the posted comments. For one it seems as though Catholics view the Refromation as a mistake and a revolt against the Church and I suppose it could be viewed that way. However, wasn’t there anything wrong with the Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation? As I recall there were several things going on that were brought to light by Luther and others that the Church had to repent of like indulgences. The Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation had diverged from many of the teachings of Scripture and needed to be shaken. Yes, it probably would have been better if those at the time were able to discuss the issues and resolve things biblically but all are sinners and they obviously were not able to accomplish that.

    Sola Scritura is only a doctrine that counters the doctrine that the Pope is an equal authority with Scripture. It seems to me that no man is an equal authority with God’s Word and that is how it should be. Else how can any issue be settled? Can you find anything in Scripture to support Sola Scriptural? I don’t know as I haven’t tried before but the verse; “the heart is deceitful above all things” comes to mind. When Jesus was being tempted in the desert He answered using Scripture only. Paul told timothy that “all scripture is God-breathed and useful for…” I don’t recall any New Testament verse that says; “Listen to Peter and the Popes! They are an equal authority!” Instead I only recall an issue of Apostolic authority where Paul had to claim it and Mathias(?) had to be chosen by lot. There was some very specific criteria regarding being an Apostle namely they had to be an eyewitness of Jesus. I don’t recall any criteria being given in the New Testament for the choosing of a new Pope.

    Yes, I think Reformation Day is over doing it a bit. Realize that Reformation Day is a counter to Halloween for many churches not a celebration of some “victory” over the Catholic Church.

  42. Tony,

    You wrote:

    There are a couple of things that bother me about both Haurwas’ sermon and many of the posted comments. For one it seems as though Catholics view the Reformation as a mistake and a revolt against the Church and I suppose it could be viewed that way. However, wasn’t there anything wrong with the Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation?

    There were many things ‘wrong’ with the Catholic Church at between the mid 1400s and the early 1500s. Many Catholics view the ‘reformation’ as a ‘revolt’ for several reasons. One such reason is that, the Catholic Church has always claimed to be the church Christ founded. If that is true, then one is never justified in separating from that Church, as Luther, Calvin, et al. did. If one believes the church is in error on some [reformable] point of morals, discipline, or doctrine, the one must work for reform within the Church. One isn’t justified in creating a split from that church precisely because the Catholic Church, as we’ve assumed above, is the church Christ founded.

    As I recall there were several things going on that were brought to light by Luther and others that the Church had to repent of like indulgences.

    Initially, Luther attacked the sale of indulgences, not the practice of issuing indulgences itself. And the Catholic Church later agreed that the sale of indulgences was wrong.

    The Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation had diverged from many of the teachings of Scripture and needed to be shaken.

    What were these teachings, specifically, that you believe ‘diverged’ from ‘the teachings of Scripture’?

    Sola Scritura is only a doctrine that counters the doctrine that the Pope is an equal authority with Scripture.

    This sentence mistakes both the Catholic view of the relationship between the Pope and Sacred Scriptures and the sentence mistakes the meaning/role of sola scriptura in the Reformation and on to today. For Catholics, the pope is not “an equal authority with Scripture.” Instead, the pope is the servant of the church under the authority and direction of scripture. The pope, under certain circumstances, is the infallible interpreter of what scripture means. For the meaning and role of sola scriptura, please see this excellent article.

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

    It seems to me that no man is an equal authority with God’s Word and that is how it should be.

    All well-formed Catholics agree with you on this, for the reasons I noted above.

    Can you find anything in Scripture to support Sola Scriptural? I don’t know as I haven’t tried before….

    The answer to your question is, “no.” If you’re going to deny the pope’s authority and replace it with ‘sola scriptura’ (whatever you take that to mean), you should have good reasons for that. If you don’t know what ‘sola scriptura’ means, or whether it is a biblical doctrine, how can you use it against Catholics?

    You won’t find a single place in scripture that says any of the following:

    1. There are only 66 books in the bible.
    2. There are at least 66 books in the bible.
    3. The books of the bible are these: (with a list of them all).
    4. One’s only authority in matters of faith and morals should be the Bible.

    If you think you can find such a verse for any of those four, I’m happy to take a look. It sure would make the Catholic/Protestant dialogue a lot simpler.

  43. Tony,

    Since Ryan has already posted a thorough reply to your questions/comments, I just wanted to focus on this one part. You asked:

    I don’t recall any New Testament verse that says; “Listen to Peter and the Popes! They are an equal authority!”

    Matthew (16:19) tells us that Jesus said the following to Peter:

    I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

    What do you think Jesus means here? At some point, when I was still a Protestant, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what Jesus meant by this. The only “binding” and “loosing” I had ever heard was from my charismatic friends who talked about binding and loosing demons. It was pretty clear to me that that’s not what Jesus is talking about here (whatever they actually meant by binding and loosing demons), but it was also pretty clear to me that there was not even a category in my understanding of Christianity for this kind of statement.

    Again, John tells us (21:15-17) that the following conversation took place between Jesus and Peter:

    When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

    Why do you think that John takes the trouble to record this conversation between Peter and Jesus? Do you think that John simply finds it to be an interesting bit of historical information?

    I am asking you these questions because it is important the we ourselves not get tunnel vision with respect to the way we read the bible. Perhaps the command “Follow Peter and the popes” doesn’t appear in the New Testament. But neither does the phrase “God is a Trinity; he exists as one nature in three persons.” We must be careful not to miss what the bible is saying because we’re expecting it to answer questions in the specific way that we would want them to be answered. This is particularly true with a narrative. Rather we need to ask ourselves questions like, “Why do Matthew and John record these conversations between Peter and Jesus? What are the gospel-writers trying to tell us? Are these things merely interesting historical occurrences? What are the ‘keys to the kingdom of heaven’ and why we see them given specifically to Peter? What is the relationship between these keys and the keys that Jesus himself is shown holding in Revelation 1:18? Given that Jesus himself is the shepherd, as He says in John 10:11, how are we to understand this conversation, recorded by John, in which Jesus three times tells Peter specifically to fulfill the duties of shepherd for the sheep?’”

  44. Ryan,

    At least on the last set of points we can agree to 3 of them that the Bible never defines itself. These have been handed down by tradition. I did notice however of the things I said that you chose to counter argue you did not point out any reference to Peter’s succession in the New Testament (NT). Is there no verse or chapter in the NT that speaks of Peter’s succession?

    Whether I have a good or not so good understanding of Sola Scriptura I never use it against Catholics and I am somewhat annoyed that you imply that I have. “If you don’t know what ‘sola scriptura’ means, or whether it is a biblical doctrine, how can you use it against Catholics?” Frankly I do not argue with Catholics over doctrine. I only pointed out that the Protestant view is contrary to the Catholic view of the Papal authority. You note that it he is only infalible in interpretation of Scripture however, I have had other Catholics tell me otherwise. I cannot see any support from Scripture that any man should be an infallible interpreter of Scripture. Sola Scriptura does mean in practice that God’s Word must be the final deciding factor. And we have, Catholics and Protestants agreed on the same 66 books.

    As for your comments about how things worked out when Luther did nail his 95 theses to the door I agree with you and I think Luther agreed with you too. His intent you must know was not to start a reformation that would lead to a split but one that would lead to getting back to the business that the Church was about. The nailing of the theses was an invitation to debate not split. I do not think he ever intended to start and new denomination with his name attached! However, the Pope of the time made that impossible by driving Luther into hidding and wanting his life! As for other things that were wrong, there was plenty and it is not necessary to go into that all here. And Luther was far from any kind of saint.

    The bottom line question is had Rome drifted in its teaching over the 1000 years or so that it was in existance? It does seem so. And there was a correction to the teachings of Rome after the Reformation so there was agreement that things had indeed drifted. In 500+ years the rift has not been mended and our musing here on this web site are not likely to solve anything.

    Thanks for listening!

  45. David,

    Yes, I know the passage of the keys for Peter and also the passage in John. Certainly the keys are regarding the authority the Peter has and amazing how right after that awesome declaration of his; “You are the Christ the Son fo the Living God,” he gets a rebuke as “Get behind me Satan…” I don’t know completely what to do with that. I do know it is used to support Papal authority but half of Christianity disagrees with that understanding. I do not see necessary succession in that passage. Maybe Peter was granted authority but was authority to end with Peter’s life or be passed on to another that’s not clear to me.

    As for the passage in John it does make sense as Peter is being reinstated after his denial even to the point of cursing! That needed to happen or Peter had no business as a disciple. The amazing thing is that here is a group of men who didn’t get it! They simply did not understand what Jesus was doing until after the resurrection. And even then Peter had some issues as recorded by Acts first in his limited understanding of who the Gospel was for and then his disagreement with Paul as recorded in Galatians. Peter had a lot to teach us all and so Jesus has to reinstate him and recommission him to “feed the sheep”. Yes, Peter is indeed a shepard of the flock but is he a special shepard in some way different from John or Paul? And more importantly was he to be replaced after he died? I don’t think so. It looks to me that they were all apostles specially chosen by Christ to get the church going and when the last one of them died the apostolic age came to an end.

    Thanks for listening!

  46. Tony,

    Thanks for your response.

    Ryan:You won’t find a single place in scripture that says any of the following:

    1. There are only 66 books in the bible.
    2. There are at least 66 books in the bible.
    3. The books of the bible are these: (with a list of them all).
    4. One’s only authority in matters of faith and morals should be the Bible.

    If you think you can find such a verse for any of those four, I’m happy to take a look. It sure would make the Catholic/Protestant dialogue a lot simpler.

    Tony: At least on the last set of points we can agree to 3 of them that the Bible never defines itself. These have been handed down by tradition.

    Tony: I did notice however of the things I said that you chose to counter argue you did not point out any reference to Peter’s succession in the New Testament (NT). Is there no verse or chapter in the NT that speaks of Peter’s succession?”

    You said we can agree that three of the four points noted above aren’t found in scripture. Are you saying one of the four is found in scripture? If so, which one and were?

    If you are willing to accept at least accept the NT canon as having ‘been handed down by tradition’, why do you reject other traditions that were handed down? For example, why do you reject the authority of bishops in succession with the apostles, as [partially] explained in this article?

    Finally, why do I need to show you a verse that speaks about Peter’s succession?

    You note that it he is only infalible in interpretation of Scripture however, I have had other Catholics tell me otherwise.

    I never used the word ‘only’. But, for our purposes, we can say that the Pope is infallible ‘only in certain circumstances’. I didn’t say he was only infallible when interpreting scripture. I said he is not an authority on a par with scripture; but is ruled by scripture and is the only infallible interpreter of it.

    As for what other Catholics have told you, there are a lot of poorly taught Catholics. As a lifelong (and still) Protestant, I can say that after having intensely studied Catholicism for about two years now, I’m embarrassed about how wrong I was regarding what I thought Catholics believed. And my errors arose largely by relying on the average Catholic person I knew telling me what Catholics believed.

    I cannot see any support from Scripture that any man should be an infallible interpreter of Scripture.

    Why do you think you need to see “support from Scripture” for that? If you accept tradition regarding (at least some) of the contents of Scripture, why do you reject it regarding apostolic succession and papal infallibility?

    Sola Scriptura does mean in practice that God’s Word must be the final deciding factor.

    I encourage you to read the article I linked to in my earlier post to explain what is meant by sola scriptura. You’ll see there [among other things] that every appeal to scripture is an appeal to an interpretation of scripture. You can’t plop the Bible down on the table and ask it to answer your questions. It doesn’t speak to us. We have to read it and interpret it. So what makes person1’s interpretation better that person2’s interpretation?

    His intent you must know was not to start a reformation that would lead to a split but one that would lead to getting back to the business that the Church was about. The nailing of the theses was an invitation to debate not split

    Initially, Luther didn’t intend to split. But soon after 1517, his intentions to create a schism from the church became clear. For example, consider these quotes from two of Luther’s letters written just three years after he posted his 95 Theses. And, as you read it, ask yourself whether these are the words of someone who loves the church and wants to reform it:

    Now farewell, you unhappy, lost, and blasphemous Rome; the wrath of God has come upon you at last, as you have merited, for in spite of all the prayers that have been said for you, you have become worse each day. We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed. Let us forsake her then to become a dwelling place of dragons, evil spirits, goblins, and witches, and her name an eternal confusion, filled to the brim as she is with the idols of greed, with traitors, apostates, beasts, lechers, thieves, and simoners and an infinity of other monsters, something new in the way of a pantheon of iniquity! “On the Papacy at Rome,” June 25, 1520

    If we punish thieves with the gallows, robbers with the sword, and heretics with fire, why should we not, all the more, assail with arms these masters of perdition, these cardinals, these Popes, the whole dregs of the Roman Sodom, who have been corrupting the Church of God without intermission, and wash our hands in their blood? “To the Christian Nobility of a German Nation.” (also) June 25, 1520 [Emphasis added.]

    Tony:The Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation had diverged from many of the teachings of Scripture and needed to be shaken.

    Ryan:What were these teachings, specifically, that you believe ‘diverged’ from ‘the teachings of Scripture’?

    Tony:As for other things that were wrong, there was plenty and it is not necessary to go into that all here.

    This is a phantom argument. I understand not wanting to wade into every single disagreement between Catholics and Protestants. Of course, we don’t have the space to wade into them all. But the purpose of a site like this is [among other things] to isolate specific differences and address them carefully and calmly. Saying that there are many ways in which the Catholic Church has “diverged from” Scripture is a serious charge if, by that, you mean ‘contradicted’ scripture.

    The bottom line question is had Rome drifted in its teaching over the 1000 years or so that it was in existance? It does seem so. And there was a correction to the teachings of Rome after the Reformation so there was agreement that things had indeed drifted.

    No doubt Trent effected many changes in the Catholic Church. But the Catholic Church has never claimed it doesn’t change on anything at all. Instead, the Church doesn’t change any anything that has been irreformably (or infallibly) defined. None of the ‘changes’ at Trent negated or contradicted any dogma of the Church that had been infallibly defined of any portion of scripture. If you think otherwise, please indicated with doctrines or scriptures were so contradicted.

    In 500+ years the rift has not been mended and our musing here on this web site are not likely to solve anything.

    I disagree. They may ‘solve’ things for individual believers. They have for me. Interacting with my brothers on this website over the last two years (and reading the actual Church documents and other materials) has led me to begin the process of entering the Catholic Church.

    I pray that you will continue to interact here and that you will try to understand both (1) what the Catholic positions really are regarding these key issues and (2) the presuppositions of many key Protestant positions on the same.

  47. Tony,

    We need to deal with the question of Peter’s status among the apostles and the question of succession separately. If you are willing to concede that Peter was given a special authority among the 12 apostles, then we can talk about succession. But there’s no point in going on to succession if you disagree with there being anything special about Peter to begin with. With that said, I don’t really see what your point is in your last response. Instead of actually dealing with the head-scratching issues of, on the one hand, this weird statement Jesus makes to Peter about giving him the keys to the kingdom of heaven and, on the other, Jesus clearly indicating that Peter had a special role as a shepherd, you simply point out that Peter made a few mistakes. Well, so what? Nothing that we’re saying here is meant to indicate that we think Peter and his successors were/are free from making mistakes. I would still like to know what you think Jesus’ unique interactions with Peter.

  48. Praise be to God! A wonderful article, but it does make me wonder why you are not yet Catholic yourself.

    I apologize if my comments are repetitive. I have not read all of the ones posted so far.

  49. Re: My previous comment

    I just saw the date of this post. October 1995. Maybe you are Catholic by now. It is November 2010.

  50. Earlier, at First Things, there a much different article on Luther and Reformation Sunday by a Reformed clergyman. If you want to see that, go to First Things and type Luther in the search function. When it brings up articles about Luther or Lutheranism, the article is near the bottom and is entitled something like the Priesthood of Believers.

    Based on that, the article above is the vision of charity and much clear thought.

    I have been reading the answers to this string and thought to place something here about Peter, albeit without contrasting him with Luther or Reformation Sunday. The answer about Peter really begins with Israel as a nation, where his function is described in Isaiah 22:20-23. The reference to Eliakim describes the king’s chamberlain or major domo – if you will, the dude with the keys. The keys denote access or the denial of access to the king.

    On the same day I call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah, I invest him with your robe, gird him with your sash, entrust him with your authority; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah. I place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; should he open, no one shall close, should he close, no one shall open. I drive him like peg into a firm place; he will become a throne of glory for his father’s house.

    Note the use “father” as a description to the person holding the function. Compare it with “holy father.” Note “drive him like a peg in a firm place.” The papacy goes on and on.

    A King with a Kingdom and a chamberlain with the keys. It is worthy of some attention if we are to understand Who Jesus is and what Jesus wants. That fact makes what Jesus says to Peter brilliantly important. It is necessary at this point to note that the official reason for Jesus’ crucifixion was that He was “King of the Jews” which meant He was an affront to Caesar and Caesar’s reign.

    Matthew 16:17-19 Jesus said, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but My Father in heaven. So now I say to you: You are Rock, and upon this rock I will build My Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in Heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in Heaven.”

    As an aside: Jesus spoke Aramaic and the name Cephas (rock) was used. It was used by Paul when he wrote about Peter. In virtually all of the New Testament, Simon is either Peter or Cephas (rock).

    Even as the kings of David’s line had chamberlains, so the final King of David’s line has His chamberlains because the Church is a Kingdom without end Whose King reigns now and forever.

    A King with a Kingdom and a chamberlain with the keys. It is worthy of some attention if we are to understand Who Jesus is and what Jesus wants because this function must be applied to the Church and because Scripture notes all of this, it holds an imperative for us.

  51. Donald,

    Yes, I remember now hearing Scott Hahn talk about the Isaiah passage once on EWTN. I do not see that passage as establishing an office that would go on and on especially because a couple verses later Isaiah says the peg will be removed. And that does seem to have occurred as the invasion proceeded. So, it makes more sense to me that this was a prophecy regarding a particular man, Eliakim, promoted to a particular office at a particular time and not the establishment of a long term office.

    As for the passage in Matthew regarding Peter, I agree Peter and the other apostles were given the the right to bind and loose and they did as some of them wrote the letters and Gospels we now call the New Testament. But again I do not see this as the establishment of a long term office that Peter of all the apostles is the first to hold. In the NT writings there are two offices established for the long term; elders and deacons. Rules for filling these offices were given to Timothy and Titus. I still am unable to find any rules in the NT for Peter’s successor. If Peter were indeed given a special place among the disciples then it does not appear in the NT that he knew it. When the question comes up regarding the Greek converts it is a committee in Jerusalem headed by James that deals with the issue. When Peter disagrees with Paul as recorded in Ephesians, Paul certainly does not yield any ground to Peter. Was Paul wrong? True, Peter does stand up on the day of Pentecost and deliver a fine sermon. He also gets a vision that tells him against his wishes that he needs to go see Cornelius and bring him the Gospel. Peter was certainly quite a guy and clearly a leader among the disciples but the first Pope of a continued line of Popes? I do not think so.

    As for being called the Rock, and Peter is English for Petros, that still seems to refer to his being given a confession as revealed by God. And there is a switching between Petros and petra in the Matthew passage. So, I do not think Jesus is saying that Peter himself is what Christ will build his church on but that simple confession which was voiced by Peter. When Peter writes to the church in 1 Peter he says that Christ is the cornerstone (lithon) and we who believe in him are all living stones (lithon) that are built onto the chief cornerstone. It seems that by this time Peter the Rock understood that he was just another stone in the wonderful building Christ was making.

    I am learning from you guys though I am not convinced. You guys are the first Catholics that I have met that seem to actually know why you say the Pope is who he is and can back it up with Scripture although I do not agree with your understanding of what that Scripture means.

    Thanks,

  52. Tony,

    I think you make some good points. Your arguments from scripture are good and it seems as though it is quite possible that you are correct. However, your arguments don’t really refute the Catholic interpretation. Rather, they just present an alternative interpretation of the same passages. Thus, some might find the Catholic interpretation persuasive, and others might find yours persuasive. One thing is certain: Both interpretations cannot be the correct interpretation.

    How do you propose we resolve this problem and determine which interpretation is correct, or if either of them at all are correct?

  53. Tony (re. # 51),

    As for the passage in Matthew regarding Peter, I agree Peter and the other apostles were given the the right to bind and loose and they did as some of them wrote the letters and Gospels we now call the New Testament. But again I do not see this as the establishment of a long term office that Peter of all the apostles is the first to hold….I still am unable to find any rules in the NT for Peter’s successor.

    In some of our earlier exchanges, I asked how you could use sola scriptura ‘against’ Catholics if you didn’t know what it meant. You took offense to that because, you said, “Whether I have a good or not so good understanding of Sola Scriptura I never use it against Catholics…Frankly I do not argue with Catholics over doctrine.” Your above quote exemplifies what I meant by saying that you used sola scriptura ‘against’ Protestants. Let me explain.

    If a Catholic (or Orthodox) argues in favor of some proposition by citing apostolic succession or tradition, you respond (as you have in the above paragraph) with ‘Where is that in scripture?’ But this kind of response presupposes that, for any piece of evidence to acceptable in this context, it must ‘be found in scriptures’. But why should we think that? That view is a presupposition that one brings to these discussions. And that principle itself must be examined and defended. What reason is there to accept it? This is what I mean when I said that you ‘used it against Catholics.’ I’m sure you don’t intend to ‘use it against them’; but by asking these kinds of questions, you are using sola scriptura as a filter to determine what kinds of evidence and argument are acceptable to support a giving proposition. Does that make sense?

    In the NT writings there are two offices established for the long term; elders and deacons.

    This site has an extensive article about the early church offices here, which addresses this claim:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/holy-orders-and-the-priesthood/

    As for being called the Rock, and Peter is English for Petros, that still seems to refer to his being given a confession as revealed by God. And there is a switching between Petros and petra in the Matthew passage. So, I do not think Jesus is saying that Peter himself is what Christ will build his church on but that simple confession which was voiced by Peter.

    This site also has an article dealing with Peter/Petros/Rock exegesis and the referent of ‘rock’ in “on this rock I will build my church.” See these two articles:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/08/the-two-rocks-of-matthew-1618-in-the-syriac-peshitta/

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/04/the-primacy-of-peter-according-to-the-new-testament-and-the-principle-of-historical-fulfillment/

    As I understand it, the next lead article on tap for this site intends to the evidence and argument for apostolic succession.

  54. zeeehjee (re: 52)

    You are correct, I am not trying to refute the Catholic understanding of those passages just show that there is indeed an alternate understanding. As sinful human beings we will always be able to approach the same Scripture passage and arrive at different understandings. Sometimes our individual understanding is truly wrong and will be corrected in time with careful study as we grow as Christians of any denomination. I am not willing to say that your understanding of the Isaiah passage and the Matthew passage is wrong. We simply do not agree. However, simple logic says that we cannot both be right in our understanding of these passages but we could both be wrong. How do we resolve it? Well, my suggestion is to continue to study and learn especially the others viewpoint. I have not had a discussion regarding this particular topic before and I have enjoyed it thus far.

  55. Ryan (re: 53)

    I see. I think I took your comment that night or whenever I read it to mean that I was arguing with Catholics. I guess from what you wrote here that I took it the wrong way. I have known too many protestants who really are waging war against Catholicism and that I do not approve of and try not to partake in. My apologies for misunderstanding you at the time.

    You are correct I have a set of presuppositions that I do bring to the table of any discussion as do you and the others here. And one of those presuppositions is that things (doctrines, rituals, etc.) should be found in Scripture foremost and then in other places. What is to be done when some concept or doctrine is not found in Scripture? You, I think, brought up the point earlier that Scripture does not define itself. However, I think there is no debate among the Christian denominations as to what makes up the Bible and there never has been since it was first agreed upon. The Gnostic writings were always out as not being equal to the Apostle’s writings. I am certain we do not have all the Apostle’s writings now as I have heard the claim that there was at least one other letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians. I wonder what the church would do if some archeologist were to find a new letter that was genuinely written by Paul or Peter. But then the Papal succession is a different story since it isn’t agreed upon by the majority of Christianity. Now what? (Unfortunately, I have to leave at this very moment to attend an ACS meeting. Sorry I cannot complete my thought. I will try to get back to this later.)

  56. I hope we are at the point of confluence among the christian churches which accept water baptism, the Holy Trinity, Holy Communion with our crucified/Risen Lord Jesus Christ and the traditional sacred scriptures. Reformation Sunday or weekend is a time for us Catholics and all others of the fold of the praying and professing church (catholics of various communions) to aggressively move forward and promote true prayerful-dialogue, meaningful public gestures of reconciliati0n, and acknowledge the grace of each other’s faith-history and present faith-story. Some protestant churches do seem to view the Catholic Church as whore and beast and their video broadcasts and radio sermons express a spirit that conveys and promotes division rather than communion. Let’s all learn to pray together more often…perhaps daily if not weekly on Sundays!

  57. I don’t buy the notion that “diversity” is so important or even good.

    Truth is a wholeness, truth is unity…truth is Jesus. He said so himself. Jesus either founded a church or he didn’t. The Eucharist is either Jesus truly & substantially present or it isn’t. Jesus either gave Peter the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven or he didn’t. Jesus either directed the Apostles to baptize people or he didn’t. Jesus either gave the Apostles the power to forgive or retain sins or he didn’t.

    The Truth is there in Scripture. The essential teaching hasn’t changed but particular disciplines and doctrines have been refined & defined because they had to be because people debated & asked important questions throughout history to better understand the incredible mystery of Christ.

    Seems pretty straightforward to me. Humans aren’t perfect but Christ gave us a beautiful, rich faith to help us overcome ourselves and ultimately achieve unity with the Trinity.

  58. Taylor, have you noticed that the gospel by which one is saved includes the DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION? 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Leaving my Lord dead on the cross is a denial of the resurrection. But, of course, apostate Christianity presents my Lord as either a corpse handing on the cross or as a baby in a crib. He is the exalted Lord of the universe!
    And Paul writes that “…..we no longer know Him after the flesh….” 2 Corinthians 5:16.
    Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Acts 16:31.
    Grace and Peace,
    Don J.

  59. As a former Protestant convert to Catholicism, I resonate gladly with many of Br. Haurwas’ points.
    What I appreciate most is that the author has taken the time to attempt to understand Catholicism emically rather than just etically – i.e. Catholicism as it looks to Catholics rather than just in relationship to an external rubric. It is very rare for Protestants to do this. (In fact, I can’t think of it being done by any other Protestant theologians I’ve encountered.

    This quote is especially trenchant:

    I think Catholics are able to do that because they know that their unity does not depend upon everyone agreeing. Indeed, they can celebrate their disagreements because they understand that our unity is founded upon the cross and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth that makes the Eucharist possible. They do not presume, therefore, that unity requires that we all read Scripture the same way

    Of course, this does not mean that “anything goes.” There are doctrinal or dogmatic touchstones – some mentioned in the comments, such as the Virgin Birth, the Trinity- that the Magisterium considers necessary to believe in order for a Christian to call themselves Catholic. Nonetheless, our unity is essentially sacramental, which allows thinkers of great variety to call Catholicism their home tradition. (I think of a spectrum from Merton and de Chardin to von Balthasar and Benedict XVI).

    I hope to see more utterances such as this.

    in Christ,
    Tony J.

  60. Great article, I am blown away!
    When you probe deeper into the meaning of Reformation Sunday, or justified by grace, unity of the Church, etc., you invariably come upon the philosphical limitations of Protestantism. Ultimately that is a dangerous place to be, because in your pursuit of truth, the truth reveals itself in ways not expected. For me personally such philosophical explorations over time led to my eventual conversion to the Catholic Church.

  61. A fair look into the “dissensions, factions” mentioned in Galations 5:20.

    I like the article because it appears in the author’s heart, these words are effervescing. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of unity and the Spirit moves men to fulfill Jesus’ pray in John 17:21, because Jesus knows that unity among christians is a way the evangelize Him.

    Amen

  62. Don Jackson RE #58,

    I would encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 2:2: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

    Is Paul an “apostate” christian who has left his Lord as “a corpse hanging on a cross?”

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  63. Individual popes have been unfaithful and corrupt, the papacy has never been.

  64. Mr. Jackson,
    The Apostle Paul also taught that “we preach Christ crucified, unto the the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: but unto them which are called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God, the wisdom of God.”(1 Cor. 1:22-24).
    “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” ( Galatians 6:14) But why did St Paul make precisely this, the word of the Cross, the fundamental core of his teaching? The answer is not difficult: the Cross reveals “the power of God” (cf. 1 Cor 1: 24), which is different from human power; indeed, it reveals his love: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (ibid., v. 25). Centuries after Paul we see that in history it was the Cross that triumphed and not the wisdom that opposed it. The Crucified One is wisdom, for he truly shows who God is, that is, a force of love which went even as far as the Cross to save men and women. God uses ways and means that seem to us at first sight to be merely weakness. Christ crucified reveals on the one hand man’s frailty and on the other, the true power of God, that is the free gift of love: this totally gratuitous love is true wisdom.—Pope Benedict XVI, October 2008, Rome.

  65. As a traditionalist Catholic, the kind that you should expect to be the most against Protestantism as a whole, I really appreciated this article. :) Your love of Truth shines through in this post.
    May God have mercy on us all for the schism in His Church.

  66. Wow, what garbage! Acts 17:11 comes to mind. “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

    These saints were commended for searching “the Scriptures” to see if what Paul and Silas were saying was true.

    The following is a doctrine pronounced by a man, through the false doctrine of papal infallibility in 1854. It has resulted in many praying to Mary instead of praying in Jesus name as the scripture show us we should.

    The article you provided reads “In contrast, Catholics do not begin with the question of “How much do we need to believe?” but with the attitude “Look at all the wonderful stuff we get to believe!” Isn’t it wonderful to know that Mary was immaculately conceived in order to be the faithful servant of God’s new creation in Jesus Christ! She therefore becomes the firstborn of God’s new creation, our mother, the first member of God’s new community we call church. Isn’t it wonderful that God continued to act in the world through the appearances of Mary at Guadalupe! Mary must know something because she seems to always appear to peasants and, in particular, to peasant women who have the ability to see her. Most of us would not have the ability to see Mary because we’d be far too embarrassed by our vision.”

    A life that honors God should be guide by the words penned by God Himself because they can be “trusted” and are truly infallible. 2 Peter 1:20-21 “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

    It is the Holy Scriptures that are to be our guide. It is the trusting of man that most often leads to false doctrines, such as this one I mentioned and others within this article.

    2 Timothy 3:10-17
    10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
    11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra — what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.
    12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
    13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
    14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
    15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
    16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
    17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    One can listen to others sermons, one can read what other men have written and gain insight. BUT, when it comes to living a godly life, what man needs, is a good daily regiment of God’s word.

    Psalm 119:9-16 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.
    10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
    11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
    12 Blessed are You, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes.
    13 With my lips I have told of All the ordinances of Your mouth.
    14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.
    15 I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways.
    16 I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word. –

    Hid God’s word in your heart, I beg you!!

    Oh and one more thing. Stanley Hauerwas quotes scripture not one time. Stanley, is deceived and a deceiver. I say that, because that is what the scriptures say he is.

  67. I think we all need to reread how Christ prayed for unity at the last supper for his apostles and for his church that he was to leave them – John 17. Don’t you think Christ is in tears over how his people have messed up one of the greatest gifts he left us in His Church which we have torn apart. Christ taught unity in one body united together not separate parts all operating independently. At the second coming of our Lord, mankind will have to account for this failure. Lord forgive us for we have sinned against you.

  68. <>

    Aaron, who is the final arbiter on whether or not a given scripture passage is being correctly interpreted or not?

    If all the Berean Jews came to believe in Christ because of Paul’s preaching, I would suggest that it was precisely that – Paul’s word – that was the deciding factor, not scripture. (Insert asterisk here for subsequent elaboration.) Why not scripture? Look at what happened in Thessalonica. The Jews and Paul were all reading from the same Bible there. And some came to believe in Christ, some did not. Avoiding circular reasoning, all other things being equal, how are we to know which of the two got it right? Paul and his crew because they used the Scriptures, or the non-believing Jews because THEY used the scriptures in their own defense?

    Both groups have the same scriptures in their corner. The one thing the believing group has that keeps their version of the scriptures from being a mere dead letter that the non-believing group does not have is the authority of the apostolic office. (Matt 18:18)

    The asterisk: “But Paul’s word IS scripture! It’s called the book of Acts!” It is NOW, yes. The Church was not “conscious” of its status as such at the time that these events were taking place, though. Go back to the year, say, 50 A.D., well before the New Testament was put together. NOW decide which group had it right.

    A second point on the matter – If God could preserve Paul’s teaching in the New Testament from all error and if it would only be later on down the road that the Church would become more fully conscious of the fullness of the truth (cf. John 16:13), what does that suggest about the nature and authority of the apostolic office for the 20 centuries following its origin? (Hint: Acts 1:20)

    Catholics and Protestants “search the scriptures” steadily to determine whether a given doctrine is authentic or not, and we never come up with the same answer. Perhaps this is because, much like the fact that where Jesus is, the Holy Spirit (by definition) must be also, so where the Scriptures are being expounded, there must be an authoritative expounder arbiting them lest they remain up for grabs by every armchair theologian with a $3.00 KJV. Eh? ;-)

    It takes faith to believe that God could preserve that arbiter from heterodoxy proclamations for over two thousand years, doesn’t it? But, then again…Isn’t that what we’re called to? Faith?

    <>

    The original meaning of the word “pray” was “to ask”…of ANYone. For example, “I pray thee, come and join me for supper.” Do Catholics now “pray” to Mary and other Saints in ADDITION to praying to Jesus, much the same way that all Protestants “pray” their pastors and fellow believers intercede for them? Yes. Absolutely. And for good reason, as I hope you can now see.

    <>

    Alas, Aaron, if you only realized how true the words are that you speak right now… :-) This said, I can’t help but point out passages like Matt 4:5-6 where the devil uses Scripture – of all things – to tempt Christ, and John 5:39-40 where, obviously, merely “searching the scriptures” is not sufficient. If one wants to come to Christ and put his faith in him, he must go further and do likewise with the ones in whom Christ has vested his own authority (Luke 10:16) and to whom he has handed over the very keys of his kingdom. (Matt 16:18)

    <>

    So, does that mean that I should trust you (your interpretation of scripture), a mere man, over my own? Or does that mean I should NOT trust you and should trust my own interpretation instead because my own interpretation, “of course”, would be the one inspired by the Holy Spirit…?

    Or is there a third option? That there has to be a man involved SOMEwhere (not absolutely speaking, but conditionally simply because God has designed things this way). Why not trust the man ordained by Christ and given the keys of his kingdom?

    <>

    Sorry, I completely missed the chapter and verse where it says in the Bible that Stanley Hauerwas is deceived and a deceiver. In the meantime, I’ve used several chapters and verses. What say you? ;-)

    God bless you.

    Stanley, thank you for the thoughtful article.

  69. Aaron (et al.)

    Sorry, I quoted you at some length in my post (inside the brackets), but as of yet those quotes are not being displayed. I hope that will change as soon as my post is approved. If not…I tried… Hopefully you can guess which part of your post I am responding to based on the way I respond.

  70. Ed: Quite true! And thank the Lord for the cross! Paul preached the cross as “good news” [contrast Peter's preaching of the cross as "bad news" in Acts]. Paul also did not leave our Lord Jesus Christ dead on the cross. He raised Him up in resurrection to be Head of the church [Eph. 1:22,23]. Paul placed emphasis on the resurrection [1 Cor. 15:1-4; 12-14]. If the Lord Jesus Christ is not risen then our preaching of the cross and our faith is in vain. The crucifix leaves my Lord dead on the cross. NO! He is risen for my salvation and justification [Romans 4:25].
    Grace and Peace,
    Don J.

  71. Don,

    If you’re bent on insisting that Catholics’ use of the crucifix is tantamount to denying Our Lord’s glorious Resurrection and leaving Him dead on the cross, then I don’t know what any of us can do about it. We believe in the Resurrection.

    in Christ,
    TC

  72. Don Jackson-

    The crucifix is a symbol of God’s solidarity with our suffering. A resurrection without a cross is not good news. This makes a huge pastoral difference. When I visit the hospital, celebrate funerals, counsel of man or woman betrayed by their spouse, or anyone in the world who is suffering, I am able to preach Christ Crucified as St. Paul suggests. Christ attaches himself to all of us in our suffering. His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. the Crucifix is a reminder of that. Without it, I really have no good news to share with people who are suffering at any given moment other than, “Its ok. I know your life is hard now, but if you have faith in Jesus you’ll eventually get into heaven so don’t be too upset that your young child died.” And yes, I’ve been to protestant funerals where the pastor has taken this approach and I find it to be an extreme failure on their part.

    Arguing that a Catholic’s use of a crucifix is a denial of the resurrection is just as foolish as saying that a protestant Church who does not have a crucifix denies the crucifixion. I would never do that to you, so please do not make the same mistake with us.

    Have you ever attended Mass? We affirm the resurrection all throughout the Mass. Not only do we hear it read straight out of God’s word, but our liturgy calls it to mind constantly. We profess our faith in the resurrection at the creed. We profess our faith in the Resurrection when we recite the mystery of faith, that Dying he destroyed our death and that by rising he restored our life. The Eucharistic prayer mentions it frequently. In fact, we celebrate Easter for 50 entire days, NOT just on Easter Sunday.

    Sorry to keep the thread off-topic. I know that we should be talking about this wonderful sermon from a great theologian, but I just can’t resist pointing out how poor this objection to Catholicism is. And yes, this is a very, very poor objection.

    Fr. Bryan Ochs

  73. Don Jackson,

    As Father Bryan wrote above, the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is reaffirmed at every single Mass, in words spoken by both the priest and the laity (the congregation). Catholics believe in the Resurrection every bit as much as Protestants. The Resurrection is strongly affirmed by the Catholic Church. We worship a risen and living Lord, not a dead man. The Crucifix is not in opposition to the Resurrection, any more than Sacred Scripture is in opposition to Sacred Tradition. 2 Thessalonians 2:15

  74. Don,

    In the year 51 AD Paul went to Athens and preached Jesus and the resurrection. He made very few converts and was unable to establish a church. In the year 57 AD Paul writes, “we preach Christ crucified” in his letter known as 1st Corinthians. There is no indication on whether Paul’s understanding came from reason or revelation, but the change in how he introduces our Lord is plain.

    In the oldest Churches, where art and iconography are permitted, the RCC places a corpus on the cross and the EO paint a corpus on the icon of the cross. The oldest Churches recognized Paul’s insight, and even in their art they “preach Christ crucified.”

    Coming from an evangelical background I recognized the statement that Catholics left Him dead on the cross, and I recognized that statement as a canard. A canard is a false or unfounded report, a groundless rumor or belief. Since everyone who claims to be Christian associates themselves with Jesus Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we are obligated to search for and find the truth to the best of our ability. Lies will never do. Dishonesty does not find a home in Jesus, and it should not find a home in anyone who claims to be His. Don’t settle for malicious and invalid ideas or canards.

    You may or may not be attracted to the Church He founded, but you must never pass on falsehoods about it or anything else because of Him Whom you are associated with. We must never have anyone think of Him as dishonest, because our representation of Him will display how we see Him.

    dt

  75. Don,

    We would not have been saved had Jesus died by tripping on a rock or had been run over by a pressing crowd. Yet without the Resurrection, the Cross was a tragic accident. However, without the Cross, the Resurrection was a non-event: a superfluous display of power irrelevant to our eternal destiny. Catholics do not leave Jesus dead on the Cross–for that is obviously not possible. No one can do that. We memorialize (remember) his death, because it is through the blood of Christ that we obtain eternal life. The Resurrection confirms that who we thought was hanging on the Cross was in fact who He said he was. In fact, heaven memorializes Christ slain as well (Revelation 5:12 & 13:8), was the way St. John the Baptist recognized him (John 1:29), and was how St. John saw him during his revelation on the isle of Patmos. As Scripture records in Revelation 5:6:

    “And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.”

    Praise be Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried and gloriously resurrection for our salvation! Amen

  76. To all Catholics,

    Is there an official Magistereum teaching on the symbolism of the Crucifix? In a conversation with Andrew P. on another thread I went into great detail regarding my opinion regarding the centrality of The Cross…..This is one protestant who has no problem with a crucifix. I want like to know, however, what the Magistereum has said, if anything….

    To Don Jackson,

    When it comes to the typical protestant opinions of what catholics believe, I highly recommend you ask them and then listen. I have been constantly amazed at how the typical ignorant nominal catholic distorts what the actual catholic teaching on just about any given subject really is. This site is devoted to destroying the caricatures we have had of both the RCC and the EO…you are completely misusing it if you just came to argue with them about how wrong you perceive them to be.

    To All,

    Be Blessed in Jesus Name!

  77. Dear Jeremiah,

    Probably not in the way that you are looking for. The meaning of a crucifix hasn’t really been disputed (at least to my limited knowledge) to warrant an ecclesiastical clarification. There is, however, a nice apostolic letter written by John Paul II on the meaning of suffering called Salvifici Doloris. It is worth a read, and it might indirectly answer some of your questions.

  78. I pray for Christians to recognise this dis-unity, and work hard to overcome it. May God help us all – Amen

  79. Jeremiah,

    I just wanted to second Fr. Bryan’s recommendation of Salvifici Doloris. It is a truly beautiful and penetrating papal letter.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  80. The day Protestantism (every Protestant church) secedes to Rome that would be the day that freedom in Christ ends and persecution as before begins. Sola Scriptura is indeed a biblical teaching (Isa. 8:20; 2tim. 3:16, 17; Rev. 22: 18, 19 are just a few texts), and to suppose that the Bible can be added to or subtracted from is the typical Catholic Stance. But Salvation is by faith in Christ alone; yes there has to be ‘works,’ as James points out; but these are because of the salvation and grace already received from Christ. When the religions revert back to Catholicism, as we know they will the end will be next. And both the beast power and her daughters because they have veered away from the a plain ‘Thus Saith the Lord” to mandating worship of Rome’s institutions will be cast into the lake of fire as we read in Revelation 20. My call is for us Protestants to stand tall as the needle is to the pole and never give in even if it is death, as the persecutor is so well able, and has abundantly done, takes us away in Christ!

  81. Ron,
    (reply to #80)
    I would not think that the typical Catholic stance is to add or subtract from the Bible in that it is a dogma of the Catholic Church that the Scriptures are inerrant and that divine revelation ended after the last of the Apostles had passed away. We often call this the Deposit of Faith, or the faith delivered once and for all the saints as St. Jude writes, and this contains all of the teachings given by Christ through the Apostles or the Prophets. This does not mean however that the Church cannot clarify what was then understood from the time of the Apostles and say with greater clarity after much prayer and consulting with the faith passed on to us from other holy Christians a formula of the faith that meets with and denies the heresies of the day. This is much how we get things like the Nicene Creed, the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon on the correct understanding of how Christ is both man and God, etc.

    Might I add also that your claim that salvation is by faith alone but that there has to be works, which are on account of the grace given by Christ to a sinner, then I might say that you have some things in common with the Catholic Church’s teachings. Though no where in the Bible does it say that salvation is “by faith alone”, St. Paul may say many times that salvation is by faith and not by works, and Catholic can agree with that if one means (in harmony with St. James) that in order to be saved one must have faith in Christ and be given the grace from God to live a new life and to produce fruit from those works. Catholics would say however that it isn’t enough to have just faith (saying I believe in Christ as my Savior absent of any love inspired by grace) and have no life of works (that is to follow the will of God and be obedient to His will to keep His commandments), but rather we would say that the two have to go together and most importantly be done with love of God without which faith and works is useless (1 Cor 13). Simply and plainly you can look to Matthew 24 where Christ Himself as the Judge throws those into Hell who were not obedient (looking at Matthew 7, even those who proclaim Christ as Lord) but rather those who were obedient to Christ.

    I think you have a strong mis-characterization of the Catholic Church and her foundation on the teachings of the Apostles.

  82. Ron,

    re#80 — in light of the Revelation text you reference, what do you say to Martin Luther’s addition of the word “alone” to Rom 3:28?

    Pax Christi,

    Frank

  83. Ron: I stand firmly with you! The “checkered” history of the RCC should give every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ pause.
    Grace and Peace,
    Don J.

  84. wowzers.

  85. To disambiguate:

    @ 80. wowzers.

  86. Rev 22:18, 19 says:

    18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

    Is 8:19,20 says:

    19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

    Can you explain how these verses teach Sola Scriptura?

  87. Ron,

    Let me bring you consolation:

    (1) “the day Protestantism (every Protestant church) secedes to Rome” will never happen, therefore

    (2) freedom in Christ will persist (according to #80)

    (3) We both agree about adding and subtracting

    (5) I’m against institutionalism as such (“Many people perceive Christianity as something institutional — rather than as an encounter with Christ — which explains why they don’t see it as a source of joy.”
    -Pope Benedict XVI, May 2004)

    (6) Persecution is coming, but we can be of good cheer because He has overcome the world!

  88. Inre #80
    Ron: I would clarify the “works” part. James writes to Israel [12 tribes scattered abroad], still under the law. You will note the James, Peter and John agreed to confine their ministry to Israel – Gal. 2:8-10. In this dispensation of the grace of God [Ephesians 3:2] works come into play after salvation. We are saved to do good works – Ephesians 2:10.

    Grace and Peace,

    Don J.

  89. To all catholics,

    Please pay attention to what Don J and Ron are saying. Their arguments are emotional, pain ridden, and beyond the realm of reason. I do not say this in a derogotory way. Unfortunately, the pain which Mother Church has inflicted upon her children has become deeply embedded in their psyche. It is a pain which has been rehearsed down through the centuries. Unfortunately, it has not only been rehearsed, but at times it has been reinforced.

    I am not saying any of this to condemn either side. My perspective is that the RCC needs to continue to repent and seek reconcilliation (as indeed she has been doing) while at the same time the scattered children need to take seriously Jesus desire to return for a Bride without spot or blemish. They need to consider seriously what that fact might mean.

    What does a Bride without spot or blemish look like? Certainly not like some of the fragmented and scattered, divisive and bitter assemblies which we see today. Certainly not like some of the dry and lifeless, decaying and crystalized congregations either.

    Frankly, Jesus is going to return for a Woman who knows how to love a man. Not to be graphic, but when the Bride looks like what every Groom expects, the Eastern Sky will light. Do our hearts burn with St. Paul’s desire to present a “pure virgin bride”? (Bryan I know you shy away from burning bosoms, but this scripture SHOULD make our hearts burn)

    If a prepared Bride and a wedding feast are our guideposts, how should our interactions with each other be? Unfortunately, the pain of the past often clouds our present and future. I greatly appreciate what this site is doing to try to address the intellectual hurdles and clear the air in regards to what is truly taught….How can you address the emotional pain arising from the harm inflicted in the past by the Church?

    The following is an email I received last year from a lady who had left the RCC. Unfortunately this kind of thing still happens and it creates no end of havoc. The following is what she wrote to me:

    “Having been brought up in the Catholic Church, and a very devout Catholic (went to Mass almost every day until I got married), I know the doctorine very well. I can say, I praise God for breaking me free of the bondage of Religion and doctorine that is not sound. When I gave my life to the Lord, I was reading the Catholic Bible, which I might mention, was forbidden by the priest because “We couldn’t understand it…only the priest, bishops, etc.”. It was in that Bible I discovered why we weren’t permitted to read it…because it revealed the truth. When I tried to talk to a priest about it, he became very angry and about through me out of the church building…..”

    I recognize that one anecdote does not an accurate picture make, but it does happen to be a common story and it is stories like this that are at the heart of the pain expressed in Ron’s and Don’s comments. I do not present this as condemnation or as justification for leaving, but I want to try to accurately assess the extent and nature of the problem.

    While the thoroughly researched posts are helpful, they do not address the emotional pain which is still so real and vivid in so many protestants. Is there a way to address this?

  90. Steve, (reply to 81),
    I am sorry, but I cannot share your explanation of salvation and works as related to the RC Church. We protestants believe that salvation is by faith in Christ alone; we also believe that works are the fruit of our walk with Christ. Faith is not our saviour, neither are our works. It is Christ only. However, we are saved to a life in Christ which involves obedient response to God and his word. There is no merit in our works, as far as being deserved to be saved due to them. Our only merit is Christ. We do not discount works, but they are a joyful outcropping of our relationship with Jesus. This is not the RC position, ask Luther and others! Take care.

  91. Frank, (Reply to 82),
    Let’s stick to the Scriptures. We are saved by faith in Christ and not by the deeds of the law. I see no difficulty in understanding that. Luther may well have meant simply that! In other words, do not bring works in as a means of salvation; the just shall live by faith, he learnt, did he not? I guess that is where the ‘alone’ came in, not by works! Take care.

  92. Randy, (reply to 86),
    Quite easily. To add to or subtract anything from God’s word (tradition, etc.) is wrong; so it’s the word and the word alone; secondly, the only way to know salvation is through the word alone, the law and the testimony. These are a summary as it were of the whole Word that we should turn to. Take care.

  93. Brent, (reply to 87),
    Thanks, Brent. Agree. However as regards Protestants joining Rome, that is prophetic and will happen. The ones not joining will form a counter service to Rome. There will be two classes, those for Rome and those against her. The deciding factors will be the commandments of God. So the vast majority of Protestantism will join hands with Rome. Take care.

  94. Don, (reply to 88)
    Remember that salvation has always been by grace, God’s grace both for the Jews and for the non-Jew. This was Paul’s whole point in Galatians. That is why like James he appealed to Abraham. If Abraham was saved by grace then so will the gentiles. The issue of course was that some Jewish Christians sought to make law keeping part of the salvation process, eclipsing the work of Christ the Messiah whom everyone from Adam was saved by. Thanks and take care.

  95. Jeremiah, a very valid and accurate plea on the whole, I think. Is there a way to address the pain? There is more than one way. The most important, in my humble opinion, is for the Catholic Church to do its best to be the reflection of Christ that it’s always called to be. The tricky part about this way, however, is that it is not realistic, sadly, to think that it’s going to happen “en masse” until some dramatic changes take place in this world, all but forcing it to happen. Until then, too few people really seem to care enough to do what it takes to truly mirror Christ to others. This is the way it always has been and always will be to one degree or another. We look at the problems in the Church today and shake our heads, but for crying out loud, look at Paul’s admonishments to certain portions of the Church in the NT times! Even worse!

    Beyond this, all we can do, it seems, is to dialogue charitably and patiently until the hurt is acknowledged and those who have been hurt are willing to let it go away…

  96. Steve,

    Not to butt in on the conversation, but…

    You said: I am sorry, but I cannot share your explanation of salvation and works as related to the RC Church. We protestants believe that salvation is by faith in Christ alone;

    My reply: As do Catholics. On this, we agree.

    You said: Faith is not our saviour, neither are our works. It is Christ only.

    My reply: In one sense, I can agree. In another, I would have to object that obviously there must be more than Christ active in the life of a believer (namely, faith in action) or everyone in the world would be saved. Right? If our salvation TRULY has nothing to do with anything but christ alone, then according to 1 Tim 2:3-4, everyone will be saved (which, we know, is not going to happen).

    Obviously active faith does play a crucial role in the process of our salvation. Those who exercise it will be saved. Those who decline cannot be.

    You said: However, we are saved to a life in Christ which involves obedient response to God and his word.

    My reply: What do you mean by “involves”? Is this obedient response free or involuntary?

    You said: There is no merit in our works, as far as being deserved to be saved due to them. Our only merit is Christ. We do not discount works, but they are a joyful outcropping of our relationship with Jesus. This is not the RC position, ask Luther and others! Take care.

    My reply: Here is where we always hit the biggest snag – in failing to define salvation. To be “saved” is to be brought back into right relationship with God. Right? And what is that right relationship? What does it consist of? According to 1 John 4:16, it’s love. Not “M&M’s are my favorite”, or “Isn’t Sparky a wonderful hamster” love. I’m talking about a laying down one’s life for one’s friends love. LOVE, not “affection.”

    It is only by God’s grace that we are able to love, scripture tells us, but then once we have received that grace in our lives, we MUST act on it. To be given this treasure and to sit on it is to be disobedient. To be faithful in “causing it to expand”, so to speak, is to receive a reward that comes from and is made possible not by one’s own power but strictly by the “funds” provided the investor by God. (Matt 25:14-30) If the investor “invests” wisely and acquires a return on his investment, he “deserves” a reward for freely exercising his will in a noble cause. He who fails to invest wisely deserves punishment precisely because he was free to do better and chose not to. (Matt 25:44-46)

    What God is punishing when he avenges sin is our refusal to honor Him, our refusal to love. What He is rewarding when he lauds the upright is not that they were able to whole bunch of good on their own, but merely that they chose to make wise use of all the resources (life, free will, skils and abilities, an intellect) they were given for this very purpose. He is, in effect, rewarding His own goodness.

    So, when it comes to the idea of “deserving to be saved” by way of our good actions, in one sense, it’s not a matter of “deserving”, but rather of getting or ALLOWING ourselves to be saved. In another sense, all that we are saying is what the Lord has promised (to grant eternal life to those who will obey Him – Matt 19:16-17), He will also do.

    Peace be with you.

  97. An afterthought:

    Does the Catholic Church believe that “salvation” is by faith and “works”? It all depends on the sense in which you’re using the word “salvation” and on the types of “works” to which you are referring.

    The initial grace of being able to come back into right relationship with God, by definition, cannot be “merited.” It is a free gift. All it can be is received/accepted. But once that grace IS received, once it IS accepted, we are not saved for the status quo, as the parable of the talents so aptly illustrates. We are saved by love to go out and BE love, to grow in love for God and our fellow man. It’s in this sense that “salvation” is not just a one-time deal but also an on-going process that requires God’s grace first and foremost, but our cooperation with that same grace thereafter.

    1 John 1:6-9

    If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.

    One cannot simply say “the good works will come”, as if we have no free will. After we are “saved”, we will either voluntarily continue the process of salvation (Phil 2:12) or we will fail to. If we fail and confess, we can still be returned to right relationship with God and saved. If we fail and do not confess…What is left for us but to be sent to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels? Not because the grace of Christ was “not good enough” in and of itself, but simply because we threw it away…

  98. Dear Jeremiah,

    Unfortunately, the pain which Mother Church has inflicted upon her children has become deeply embedded in their psyche. It is a pain which has been rehearsed down through the centuries.

    What I see is in this combox is popular Reformation memes or sola scriptura on steroids.

    Certainly not like some of the dry and lifeless, decaying and crystalized congregations either.

    This theme has come up elsewhere. Don’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve worshiped in the Cathedral in St. Louis, and though I may have appeared lifeless on the outside, I was burning with love for God on the inside. Again, the Evangelical–Pentecostal–Mega-Church hoop and holler has a way of tinting one’s perspective on what it means for something to be “on fire”. I know because I am a 6th generation one of them. It makes Soldier Field, not Golgotha, the standard of spiritual mastery.

    I recognize that one anecdote does not an accurate picture make, but it does happen to be a common story and it is stories like this that are at the heart of the pain expressed in Ron’s and Don’s comments.

    I’m not sure about that. It could be, but the attitudes on demonstration are more common amongst small denominations that are either Pentecostal or primitive Baptist. Of course, I’m just guessing like you are, but typically when someone is a former Catholic, they throw it around.

    While the thoroughly researched posts are helpful, they do not address the emotional pain which is still so real and vivid in so many protestants. Is there a way to address this?

    They can pray. They can forgive. However, if Judas got me all upset with the Jesus crew and caused me to join some sect in the 1st century because I was upset that Jesus picked such a lousy follower, I clearly got my eye off of the prize. So as to not recapitulate, I just wrote about this topic at virtuouspla.net last night: Don’t Be Catholic…”.

    What is more dangerous, telling people to read their Bible and that they can get all truth by themselves or what that priest said (“don’t read the Bible)? I think both are dangerous. One is like giving someone a gun and telling them to not use it and the devil is at the door, the other is giving it to them and telling them to have fun. Both will get you killed. In one case the thief will kill you unaware (because you don’t have it), in the other scenario he will take your weapon and kill you with it (because you misuse it). I don’t defend those priest’s words, but at least we all know that priest was off base. However, the people playing with guns think they are doing it right…that’s a problem.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  99. Ron RE#80
    I appreciate your commitment to Sola Scripura, however, I would like one clarification: On what authority do you believe that Isa. 8:20; 2tim. 3:16, 17; Rev. 22: 18, 19 are divinely inspired and therefore free from error?

    As I see it there are two possible options:
    a) your own authority (which I think you and I would agree is fallible)
    -or-
    b) by the tradition of the church (which as a Protestant you would say is fallible as well)

    So would you agree that no matter which option above that you subscribe to it is at least possible in principle that any (or all) of those passages contains errors?

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  100. Jesus explained all this quite simply with the Great Commandment:”Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbour as thyself.”(Luke 10:27)Love God(faith) and love thy neighbor(agape, works). If we fulfill these these two commands, God will be pleased, whether you are Catholic or Protestant. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”(Galatians 5:6)”For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14) Amen!!

  101. Yes, Ed. And loving God and loving our neighbor should be made visible by -among other things- our pursuit of visible communion with both. Catholics and protestants do not currently have visible communion with each other (though I would argue that Catholics, at least, have visible communion with God by receiving his body and blood). So yes, God can be pleased with a Catholic and a Protestant but this fact alone does not negate our need to pursue visible communion.

    Blessings.

  102. Jeremiah,

    I would like to offer a few thoughts in response to your request for content concerning how to respond to persons who have been in some way abused, or offended or hurt by a person or persons in the Catholic Church. I first want to agree that continual reform and repentance among Catholics is, without a doubt, a fundamental necessity. For someone who harbors a deep emotional dislike for the Catholic Church, it is very difficult to give sober, dispassionate attention to sincere theological dialogue, or to fairly countenance Catholic calls for reunion. There are many Catholic converts (or almost converts) commenting on this site, whose first theological engagement with Catholics (on this site or elsewhere) was much like some of the recent comments above. I have no doubt that personal patience and kindness on the part of Catholics, especially in the beginning, played a very large role in softening such attitudes to the point where the beauty of the Catholic Church might be considered in an even-handed way. Arguments, no matter how true and attractive, cannot replace virtue and sanctity in personal dialogue, or in any other area of human relationship.

    That said, I would like to humbly offer that the historical picture of the Church which you described seems a bit unbalanced (I am sure you did not intend it to be). For instance, there have been several “bad” popes depending on how one wants to define “bad”. But of the couple hundred plus popes who have governed Christ’s Church; the majority have been decent men, close to a third are recognized as saints, and I believe something like the first 30 or so were martyred for the faith. Does, this fact excuse the gross sin of some medieval popes? Of course not. But does referencing those few popes as only and ever descriptive of the papacy (as some folks tend to do) present a truthful picture of the overall historical situation? I think not. The same sort of proportionality can be stated with regard to the entire company of bishops and priests who have served to care for Christ’s flock throughout history. Moreover, there is no point denying the sinfulness of those within the Church in regards to events such as the Crusades or Inquisition, etc. But the constant, and almost exclusive, regurgitation of a handful of events from Catholic history as basically representative of the whole history of the Catholic Church amounts to bearing false witness through misrepresentation. The Catholic Church has been, and remains, the greatest moral force on planet earth. The vast majority of hospitals, orphanages, and care for the poor, across the last 20 centuries (and still today) is the standing fruit of the corporal works of mercy generated by the Catholic Church. She has evangelized the whole globe. She has stood against innumerable heresies ancient and modern. She has withstood the upheavals of an entire civilization through two thousand years of human history – yet she remains. What of the unparalleled sanctity of the saints of the Catholic Church? Speak to any number of spiritually mature Protestants (or grab your most recent CBD catalogue) who are seeking to deepen their spiritual life, and you will almost inevitably find them reading the work of some Catholic saint (even as they gloss over the overt Catholic notes in such works).

    When one zooms-out and surveys the broader landscape, the Catholic Church, in her very endurance and output of good in the world, appears all the more a miracle. I would humbly suggest that when one considers the Christian communities flowing from the Reformation, one beholds all the sin of Catholic behavior developing at about the same pace as is found in the two-thousand year old community of the Catholic Church – only without the visible, sacramental and doctrinal unity. If a given Protestant group has not yet accumulated quite as many noteworthy warts within its history as has the Catholic Church; that is because it is smaller, has existed for only a few centuries (or decades, or years, or days), and has never, even remotely, been tested on any scale comparable to the Catholic religion. How many Protestant groups have come into existence and disappeared altogether? The number is probably quite large. This business of sin among Christians is simply universal. The reason is that men are sinful and we take ourselves wherever we go. Leaving home, by itself, does not exorcise one’s demons.

    Now there are two (largely non-doctrinal) classes of criticism of the Catholic Church of which I am aware. The first typically derives from Protestants who have never been Catholic. The narrative is that the history of the Catholic Church is basically a history of bad popes, bad bishops, bad priests. The Catholic Church is responsible for all kinds of heinous crimes in human history; and most especially is responsible for distorting the true gospel and trying to keep people away from reading the bible (even though the bible was compiled and its canon determined by the Church!). Catholics worship Mary and are bogged down in ritual which deadens their spiritual life and makes them inattentive to Christ, etc. This is a common narrative, told over and over and over within non-Catholic communities who never take the time to actually explore the Church’s foundation in scripture or the Fathers, or explore Church history, or study any of the actual teachings of the Catholic Church (even though one can read the entire catechism online). An unconscionable distortion is perpetuated from generation to generation of non-Catholics; and that distortion is simply uncharitable. It’s hard to see how that kind of thing is the fault of Catholics, other than to suggest that “bad” Catholics were responsible for offending the first few generation of Protestants who started putting this unbalanced narrative together for their posterity. For a very long time (centuries), the narrative has taken on a life of its own within various streams of Protestantism. I am not sure what one can do in discussion with persons influenced by this story, other than gently and humbly ask them to please investigate their own claims before spreading them further; knowing full well that if they sincerely attempt to do so, their caricature of the Catholic Church will immediately be undone.

    The second criticism I hear is from x-Catholics who leave the Church for a new Christian community where people are said to “really love God” and be “on fire for the Lord”. It is common for such folk to look in the rear view mirror and comment on how the Catholic Church did not feed them, or how the Catholics they knew were nominal and did not take their faith seriously, or how all the priests they ever listened to, preached “whipped cream and jello”, etc. Note: [by contrast one almost never hears a Catholic convert from Protestantism bashing his past – usually one finds the Catholic convert profoundly grateful for his upbringing. He sees his conversion as a completion of his Protestantism heritage. I suppose that’s the difference between a stance of “protest” and “reconciliation” ].

    Now I will say right up front, that such criticisms by x-Catholics often have teeth, and the sooner Catholics recognize that spiritual indifference is the root cause of exodus from the Church into either Protestantism or secularism, the better! Chesterton used to say something to the effect that the most persuasive reason for not embracing the Catholic faith is Catholics! That has always been true. So I want to affirm the deep need for repentance among Catholics, beginning with myself. But, with that said, if one thinks about it, the problem of spiritual apathy is a human problem that one finds wherever humans are found (including religious circles). Look at the groups flowing out of the Reformation. Initially, there was a sense of “breaking away” from the spiritual deadwood of the Catholic Church. Calvinism, Lutheranism, etc. were to be rich, “on fire” churches where people could encounter God after all those centuries of Catholic corrosion which had covered up the bright light of the gospel and intentionally kept people away from a vital relationship with God. Yet, look at many of the so-called “main line” denominations today. How very like the Catholic Church they are in terms of large populations of apparently (for we can never judge the heart) spiritually arid persons. Of course, within them are some extraordinarily holy people who take their faith most seriously (as in the Catholic Church as well). But whole cross-sections of Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Methodism; are likely as proportionally plagued with spiritual aridity as any local Catholic parish.

    What to do about the crusty-dusty old main-line denominations? Non-denominational evangelicalism in both its charismatic and non-charismatic forms; sought to “break away” from the perceived spiritual aridity of the mainline denominations whose day, it was said, had come and gone. Often, new congregations described themselves as following some “new move of God”. No more identification with denominations; just champion a “personal relationship with Jesus”. But in no time (historically speaking), things like the “health and wealth” gospel and other non-denominational novelties arose, where “a personal relationship with Jesus” often turned out to mean anything one wanted it to mean. That has been the price of rejecting “all that dry, doctrinal stuff which folks used to incessantly argue about”: a rejection that is quickly reducing much of American Christianity to a consumerist model. Yet, even evangelical circles, after some time, have begun to generate spiritually arid folks. It seems like the only way to keep oneself feeling immune from infection by the “not-so-committed” masses encountered on Sunday morning is to start yet another break-away group designed to attract the “on fire” folks from the nearby “deadened” congregations: thereby, giving the new group a look of exceptional vibrancy and vigor during its infant stages. But given time, the old problems arise again, just like the daughter who lashes out at the bad habits of her mother: “I’ll never be like her”!

    What we Catholics are saying, is that, given human nature, the solution is not to keep starting new churches where one leaves all the spiritual chaff behind in order to enjoy the unobstructed bliss of the Spirit. Rather, we should be humble and patient with our brothers and sisters, the young, the old, the nominal and the faithful. This is family. As ugly as it sometimes is, this is God’s family. This is new Israel in its earthly existence, and it looks a whole lot like old Israel because its working with the same raw materials – even if the tools are much better! Being a part of the family means “owning” your family, not only when your brother wins a Nobel Prize; but also when you have to pick up your drunken uncle at 3:00am in the morning. Both need the table of family fellowship; indeed, the later needs it more. This is the reason I have trouble with the notion that Christian reunion must wait until Catholics are by and large evidently living out their faith (not that I think you are implying that position). Jesus told us that the wheat and tares would grow together until the very end. He did not tell us to fence in new fields – which always look weed-free the first days after planting. So, while I understand how personal injury or offense can make it emotionally difficult for a person to re-consider fellowship with those who caused the hurt; another part of the solution involves gently asking such persons to consider that running away from home to go live in an apartment with other runaways where the ancestral family is lambasted, is not – in the end – a good solution.

    Finally, I must say that the example you provided of a person hurt by the Catholic Church surprises me, because honestly, the person you quoted seems to display just the sort of hubris or arrogance bound up with prideful theological self-determination that this site is always trying to address in a charitable way. It really is hard to imagine a priest literally saying “Don’t read the bible! You can’t understand it . . . only the priest, bishop, etc. can.” I wonder if the priest’s exact words were really anything like that; or is that, rather, a retroactive gloss, cast back upon past experience? I don’t know. I have never met a priest, even a liberal one, who would say any such thing. However, assuming that such a brazen statement was made by a priest, it is clearly contrary to the teaching of the Church, as 10 seconds in the Catechism of the Catholic Church would make clear. Besides, if this person went to Mass every day for years, as is stated; then he or she practically heard the entire bible read out loud, once every three years. What bothers me is the apparent tone of theological self-assertion given throughout the quote. Is it possible that the attitude with which theological questions were put to the priest was not one of open dialogue, but rather one of declaration and controversy? Again, I don’t know; but I highly suspect there is another side to this story. Are we to believe that the priest was just confronted with all the obvious and apparent ways in which the Catholic faith clearly contradicted scripture; then, finding himself embarrassed and not knowing what to do, he rose up in anger casting the prophet out the door, so that he or she must shake the dust off their feet? Again, maybe; but me-thinks there might be more to this tale. Look how the story reads with some Catholic minded commentary:

    “Having been brought up in the Catholic Church, and a very devout Catholic (went to Mass almost every day until I got married), I know the doctorine very well [yet this person seems to think that Catholics are forbidden to read the Catholic bible? In light of readings here at C2C, does anything in the entire quote sound like something written by someone who really has a significant grasp of the doctrines of the Catholic Church – let alone knows them very well?]. I can say, I praise God for breaking me free of the bondage of Religion and doctorine that is not sound [Not sound - that is - according to the doctrine which I have discovered by myself in opposition to all the Fathers and Doctors of the Church]. When I gave my life to the Lord [according to my interpretation of what that means and how that is done], I was reading the Catholic Bible, which I might mention, was forbidden by the priest because “We couldn’t understand it…only the priest, bishops, etc.”.[again, even assuming the priest spoke just like that, 10 seconds in the Catechism could have corrected this notion; how then the claim about knowing Catholic doctrine so well?] It was in that Bible I discovered [according to my own theological expertise] why we weren’t permitted to read it…because it revealed the truth [truth, according to my interpretation of the bible in contradistinction from the way the bible has been read in the bosom of the Church for 2000 years]. When I tried to talk to a priest about it, he became very angry and about through me out of the church building…..[again, depending upon the conversational disposition of this independent theologian, the priest’s reaction might have been a righteous one]”

    Now lots of folk have good reason for being emotionally distraught, due to truly egregious experiences in the Catholic Church; but I have to say that the above narrative seems to indicate a person whose central trouble is that they are suffering greatly from spiritual pride. Maybe there is much more to the story, and a whole series of real hurts and offenses given; but based only on the quote above, I have a difficult time mustering sympathy for the motives which underwrote this person’s exit from the Catholic Church.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  103. Steve, (reply to 96):
    Steve, I must protest! Catholics do not believe that a person is saved by faith in Christ alone. That is simply not true. Catholics believe that penance, and every mandated work are a necessary adjunct to one’s salvation. Catholics seem to miss the fine but important line between Christ’s gift of salvation and the works seen in a believer’s life.

    We protestants believe that works are good and important, but they cannot and will never work towards our salvation. Works are the flip-side of salvation by Christ through faith. In other words, because we have surrendered our lives to the Saviour, and because he through the Holy Spirit has entered our lives we do the works of the Spirit, meaning that through the Holy Spirit in us we are led to obedience, whatever it takes.

    This is very different from saying that our works save us. As James says, works demonstrate our acceptance of the salvation; and without these acts of obedience it demonstrates that we have not accepted the gift of salvation that Christ offers. This is what Paul meant when he said: ‘do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid. We establish the law.’ Rom.3:31.

    This obedience is free and not involuntary. Just as acceptance of the gift of salvation, so is the decision to allow the Holy Spirit to produce good works in us. And of course the HS does not force us; we are not robots, we willingly (sometimes very hard) condescend to do acts of goodness.

    The whole plan of salvation is the bringing back of humanity into a right relationship with God. And yes, love, agape love, demonstrates that we are in a right relationship with God. And the way we ‘act’ upon the reception of the gift of salvation is by first and foremost allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, enabling us to do good works.

    Again, Steve, what you fail to see or understand, is that we protestants believe that the doing of good works through the Holy Spirit is not what saves us! These are the fruit of our being saved. While the two are connected it is only because of the gift of salvation that we are filled with the Spirit willingly, and therefore we produce good works. This distinction must be maintained. Even Jesus said of those who said, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not done…’ I profess I have not known you.’ Mat. 7:22, 23. We do not decry or discount works, no. However, we put works into its rightful category, the fruit of the Spirit’s working in us! Christ saves, the Holy Spirit transforms! And we obey! All because of God’s marvelous gift in Christ. Take care.

  104. Aaron, (reply to 99)
    Very nice try and question, Aaron. By what authority do we protestants believe that the scriptures posted are divinely inspired and ‘free of error?’ Before answering your question let me say, Aaron, this is one of the major issues we have with the RCC. You see, we believe that the Word of God is our only rule of faith and belief. We believe that God gave us his ‘infallible’ word (the message of salvation) to lead us to his saving acts. He says in 2Pet. 1:22 that the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but by the Holy Spirit through whom they spoke. And again 2Tim. 3:16m, 17 tells us that all, note all, scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable for doctrine, etc. These texts and others tell us that our acceptance of the written Word is due to its being divinely inspired.

    I understand, Aaron, we protestants use the Bible to defend the Bible! But we have no alternative. We believe that the Word of God is given to us for our salvation; these are the words of life for all men. To add anything outside of this is prohibited. Anyone or any writing that is in harmony with what is written is fine; anything out of harmony with what is written is not. Like Luther, we can do not other and upon this Word we take our stand!

  105. Ron RE#104
    Thanks for your reply. I think everyone here knows that your reasoning is circular and it seems that you admit as much (“we protestants use the Bible to defend the Bible”).

    However, I guess I would be interested in hearing from you how it is that you have established that 2Pet. 1:22 and 2Tim. 3:16m, 17 are infallibly true when, say, the writings of Joseph Smith or the Gospel of Thomas are not.

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  106. Ron,

    Sheesh, what in the world did the Church do before 2 Peter and 2 Timothy were written? And what in the world did the Church do before either epistle was considered inspired by infallible authority in the canon 300 years later? Wander around lost and in heresy… up until Martin Luther?

  107. Ron: re # 104

    You said, “We Protestants use the Bible to defend the Bible!” Do you not realize that the Bible ( New Testament) was written by members of the Catholic Church to start with? It was basically the oral traditions of the Catholic Church set down in written form. This was one of the reasons the Catholic Church was able in later centuries to determine if they were truly Scriptural. It was the fact that the written Word conformed to the Oral Traditions of the Catholic Church that made them Inspired. Yes, truly God was the originator of the Scriptures and He is the primary author of them. But He also was the originator and primary author of the Oral Traditions within the Catholic Church as well. The two sources of Divine Truth do not contradict each other. The Church is the living body of Christ not some dead human institution. The Oral Traditions of the Catholic Church were the teachings of Christ as he led the Church to all the truth. The fact that some Catholic members of the Church wrote some letters putting that Tradition down in writing, that were later regarded as Scripture does not place the Oral Traditions in jeopardy.

    You have the New Testament as Scripture, which you consider Holy Scripture because the Catholic Church recognized those writings as reflecting its very own Oral Teachings. Had she not recognized them as a reflection of Her teachings there would not be a New Testament for you or anyone else to call Holy.

    Peace
    NHU

  108. Aaron G said:

    However, I guess I would be interested in hearing from you how it is that you have established that 2Pet. 1:22 and 2Tim. 3:16m, 17 are infallibly true when, say, the writings of Joseph Smith or the Gospel of Thomas are not.

    2 Peter and 2 Timothy were written by the Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, while Joseph Smith was not an apostle and the Gospel of Thomas was not written by an apostle.

  109. Aaron, Joseph, Nelson (reply to 105-107)
    Wow! Gentlemen, how can we hold on to the Bible and not Joseph Smith or the pseudo gospels? Come on friends, to the law and to the testimony if they speak not according to this word then there is no light in them! QED! Joseph, what in the world did the church do before 2Pet and Tim? I cannot believe that you would say or ask that! In Paul’s time the only scripture there was, was what we know (incorrectly) as the Old Testament.

    2Peter, Again, makes it abundantly clear that Paul’s writings were classed as scripture and the unlearned wrest to their own hurt! 2Pet. 3:16. We test everything by the Word of God! And I am shocked to hear that the epistles of Paul, John, Peter, the Gospels, et al, were written by the members of the Catholic church!! Is that what is taught in RC seminaries?? I guess no further explanation need be given to rubbish that statement, Nelson. Please do not say that too loudly! There is absolutely no way the Catholics can inveigle us to accept such a fallacy.

    And by the way, I have nothing against members of the RCC. They are nice people like everyone else. My discussion here must never be interpreted to imply that. I speak completely against the magesterium, the Catholic hierarchical system that had enslaved our world for too long. Thank God for the Reformers who gave their life to free the world from such tyranny! Never must we ever return to that roost. Of course the Bible predicts that that will happen again shortly before Jesus returns to earth. Are we not seeing the evidences of this reunion already in Europe and North America? Let’s be wise, friends, and stay clear of such a deceptive group. Take care.

  110. Ron said:

    Sheesh, what in the world did the Church do before 2 Peter and 2 Timothy were written? And what in the world did the Church do before either epistle was considered inspired by infallible authority in the canon 300 years later? Wander around lost and in heresy… up until Martin Luther?

    Ron, good question. What in the world did the Catholic Church do for 1500 years before Trent when it finally dogmatically established the canon? Wander around in heresy?

  111. Aaron G said:

    <blockquote.I appreciate your commitment to Sola Scripura, however, I would like one clarification: On what authority do you believe that Isa. 8:20; 2tim. 3:16, 17; Rev. 22: 18, 19 are divinely inspired and therefore free from error?

    As I see it there are two possible options:
    a) your own authority (which I think you and I would agree is fallible)
    -or-
    b) by the tradition of the church (which as a Protestant you would say is fallible as well)

    Aaron, I think you are misunderstanding something here. There’s a third option you’re missing. One can make a correct decision without being “infallible”. I would be the last person to claim infallibility for myself but on the other hand, I’m pretty confident that 2+2=4. And I suspect you would agree with me, right? :) So while I don’t believe the church is infallible, I do believe, based upon the historical evidence, that the church made the right decision on the NT canon.

    We can go into that evidence should you desire but any good Bible commentary will give the historical evidence and any number of books can tell you why certain books were accepted and others rejected. It’s not like the church didn’t seek out evidence or use reasoning determining the books of the canon. The church, while being fallible, was guided by God to make the right decision. Just as God guides me, fallible as I am, to hopefully make right decisions today about various choices facing me.

  112. Steve G,

    What you seem to not have in mind, or at least seem to imply as such, is that the Church is fallible a lot of the time while infallible only at certain times. She is not running around teaching infallibly every week or something. I imagine you’ve heard that distinction before, but your comment in #108 entails a hyper-view of infallibility, thus a misunderstanding. That said, an article of faith does not come to us by pure reason (sola ratio). Thus, we need something else besides that which is rationally unassailable to determine an article of faith. Since addition is not in the realm of revealed religion, we do not need a grace of infallibility (to not err) to know it as such (remember we are talking about the way we know different types of knowledge, not the general trustworthiness of the cognitive faculty which we intuitively trust–addition is in the realm of abstraction from sense experience). However, to know an article of faith as something more than just a reasonable deduction requires grace since we have no sense experience of revealed religion. Catholics say the Magisterium has this grace at special times (warranted by the evidence from Scripture, Tradition and history). Protestants say that (1) no one has it or (2) everyone has it (from Scripture). If (1) no one can know an article of faith as such. If (2), religion is nonsense.

  113. Steve, (reply to 110)
    It was not Ron that said:

    Sheesh, what in the world did the Church do before 2 Peter and 2 Timothy were written? And what in the world did the Church do before either epistle was considered inspired by infallible authority in the canon 300 years later? Wander around lost and in heresy… up until Martin Luther?

    I, Ron, answered the question. Nevertheless thanks Steve for adding to my answer to that question; and thanks for your answer to Aaron in your post (111). In my answer to Aaron I forgot to include an answer to his question. Your answer was good.

  114. Steve G said (#111)

    The church, while being fallible, was guided by God to make the right decision. Just as God guides me, fallible as I am, to hopefully make right decisions today about various choices facing me.

    What assurance do you have that the church was guided to make the right decision regarding the canon — that is, what is the source of your confidence that the canon of Scripture was infallibly established by a God-guided church?

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  115. Frank, re:114
    That is the whole crux with us and the RCC. We believe that the word of God is ‘life.’ John 6:63, 68. That is, we believe that the word of God as I said, given by the Holy Spirit is to be our arbiter doctrine and practice; and as such we believe that the Holy Spirit guided men in its production as noted. We therefore do not doubt for one second that it is the ‘inerrant’ source we can go to. That is how we think and operate. It is not the same with you Catholics. You believe that the word is supplemented by the magestrium or pope’s excathedra statements. We do not accept this. The Holy Spirit is the one that produced the Word and he will take care of it. We believe this intensely.

    On the other hand, Frank, if this were not the case then we open ourselves to a multitudes of abuses. If God’s word is not the test of faith and doctrine then what is? Will it not be the based on the strength of argument or wit or force? Is this not what happened in the RCC? You were able to bring in so many un-biblical teachings and practices simply because you believed that the Word of God is not final, as shown by the ex-cathedra statements, and the part they play in your church liturgy.

    We really do not (should not) as protestants have that problem since the Word of God settles all issues on faith and belief.

  116. Ron # 109

    If I was to tell you that the New Testament was written by members of the Universal Christian Church would that make a difference to you? You know that the early Christian Church was called the Catholic Church and that the Apostles were members of that Church of course. You may not agree with that, thinking that the Church changes by sticking the word Roman in front of it. It doesn`t change anything. It is still the same Church. The Catholic Church only became the Roman Catholic Church after the Reformation. Before that there was only the Catholic Church. Yes I know there was also the Eastern Catholic Church as well. Now known as Eastern Orthodox but that is a different question. I have nothing against any other church either, in fact most of my relatives are Protestants. So if you wish we will call the New Testament, writings by members of the Universal Christian Church.

    Peace
    NHU

  117. Jeremiah,
    Re: Ron’s and Don’s arguments being emotional. Jeremiah I cannot speak for Don. My arguments are not emotional as if lacking reason. Pain of the past (by the separation, persecution, etc.) has nothing to do with these posts of mine. Mine is only on elucidation. Yes, like Paul and others, we all speak with emotion. However, do I detect that you are calling for a union with the RCC to heal the rift or as you say, the pain? Please remember it is not that the RCC wants to join with us, it is that the Roman church wants us back at all costs. Remember, Rome never changes; if there is any change to be made it is the Protestants to do so. That is not unity, Jeremiah. For us Protestants unity can only be made based on a ‘thus saith the Lord.’ And this is not acceptable with the RCC. The pope must be seen as the ‘gift of authority’ given to us, and accepted as such. This is un-biblical, Jeremiah. Christ is to be our only head and master on earth. Peace, my friend.

  118. Nelson, re: 116:
    No, Nelson, it would not make a difference if you said that the NT was written by members of the Universal Christian Church. And you should know when the term ‘catholic’ became vogue in church history. It certainly was not the early church founded by Christ. The NT was written by the apostles including Luke and Mark as God directed through his Holy Spirit. The RCC tries to place itself as the natural out cropping of the early church, but history does not show this. The church of the empire did become the head church only because of the empire. And you well know what happened to the other churches that did not tow the line! There should be no such designation as ‘Catholic’ church or ‘universal Christian church’ centered in Rome. That is a usurpation of authority that belongs only to God. Christ is the head of the church; and we are called Christians as followers of Christ. And all our teachings and practices should be according to the Word and not the church! Take care.

  119. Dear Ron,

    With all due respect, those who contribute to this website are well ahead of you and have already worked through the objections you raise, quite thoroughly. While it is quite true that the website allows dialogue on any post they have written, diving in and spouting off objections and wild assertions without looking around at what has been written does make for a good first impression.

    I don’t know any of the contributors personally, but I’ve been around long enough to know a lot of their stories and they are very similar. The contributors here at CtC are all converts from Protestantism, specifically Calvin’s brand of Protestantism. They all used to believe things that you currently believe, and when they started to feel God moving them Rome-ward they were all pretty much terrified. Many feared strife among their family and friends over the possibility of conversion, and they looked for any excuse to not convert.

    Knowing that, do you really think that coming up with an objections they haven’t considered is easy? It probably isn’t.

    But since I can’t resist:

    You were able to bring in so many un-biblical teachings and practices simply because you believed that the Word of God is not final, as shown by the ex-cathedra statements, and the part they play in your church liturgy.

    Protestants have many un-biblical teachings. The typical protestant Canon of scripture is un-biblical. Sola Scriptura is un-biblical (I know according to your personal interpretation it is biblical, but that is just your interpretation and I am not going to take Pope Ron’s word for it). Sola fide is un-biblical. Penal Substitutionary atonement (as I understand most protestants understand the doctrine) is un-biblical. The list goes on.

    And finally, you set up the million dollar question:

    We really do not (should not) as protestants have that problem since the Word of God settles all issues on faith and belief.

    If it is true, as you allege, that protestants don’t have problems of unbiblical teachings because the Word of God settles all issues on faith and believe, then why are there so many different interpretations of the bible and so many divisions among protestants?

  120. Ron, (re: #117)

    You wrote:

    Christ is to be our only head and master on earth.

    Scripture teaches otherwise: “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.” (Heb. 13:17) Scripture does not teach the false dilemma your statement presumes, namely, that we have to choose between having Christ alone as our head, or having human leaders in the Church to whom we must submit. Rather, Scripture shows that we obey and submit to Christ, by obeying and submitting to those leaders He established in His Church, and who will give an account on the Last Day for the souls Christ entrusted to their care.

    If you want to obey Scripture, then you need to submit to the Church leaders Christ has established. Your claim that you submit to no one but Christ is incompatible with God’s word, according to which we are to submit to the leaders of the Church. Moreover, Scripture predicts that in the last days, men will turn aside from the truth, and accumulate for themselves teachers who will teach what they want to hear, rather than submit to the leaders of the Church Christ founded. (2 Tim. 4:3) So even if you do, contrary to your statement above, submit to some self-styled religious leader, if you chose him to be your leader because you agree with his interpretation of Scripture, then you are not submitting to anyone but yourself, and doing exactly what St. Paul warned that prideful men would do in the last days, namely, accumulate teachers who teach what they want to hear, according to their own interpretation of Scripture.

    Your very words indicate that you could not have been a member of the Church even while the Apostles were still alive, since you would have no other authority on earth but Christ, and thus could not submit to the Apostles. But Jesus Himself told the Apostles, “He who listens to you listens to Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me.” (Luke 10:16) If you reject the ecclesial authorities Christ Himself authorized and established, you are thereby rejecting Christ (even if you do not realize you are doing so), because He authorized them to speak for Him and govern His Church in His stead. You cannot have Christ and at the same time spurn those whom He appointed to govern His Church. If you wish to follow Christ, then you must humble yourself and become like a child, and obey and submit to those leaders whom Christ established in His Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  121. Bryan, re: 119:
    If this is a Catholic forum then you are free to keep it that way; I was not aware that it was a Catholic forum. As far as ‘already worked through objections’ I guess that is for yourselves! I can only ‘spout off’ objections as your writers give me recourse to. As far as unbiblical teachings and practices you of all persons should know the context to which I am referring. As far as the canon of scriptures goes I stick with what we have from the apostles and the Hebrew text. Discussion on this point is too lengthy here. But do not forget the ex-cathedra statements of your pope I referred to. Finally, protestants really do not have the issue of supplementing the Scriptures with infallible statements. Having different interpretation is of course beside the point. But so does the RCC. North America, especially the US seems to believe quite differently as we have been witnessing. But also in Europe we see differences in your establishment across the board. Concerning divisions among protestants that is not a real problem; you should know how these ‘divisions’ as you call them started and what they really are. What about Augustine? or Kemphis? or Assissi? And the many other? Any divisions there? Are you aware of the divisions that exist in the RCC today? Have we not been exposed to several of them recently in the news? D & P? Abortion? homosexuality? Etc? How does North American practice differ from European or South American or African in your church? However, my friends, I am sorry if I rumpled your feathers too much. I was only trying as a protestant to shine the light of God’s word, scripture only, as far as I can in a friendly discussion. Thanks for the time. Take care.

  122. Ron said in #115:

    We therefore do not doubt for one second that it is the ‘inerrant’ source we can go to

    Catholics also believe Scripture is inerrant, Ron. That is not what I asked Steve G to address. I asked HOW do you know the Canon of Scripture — the particular books — are exactly those which God willed us to have, and therefore the inerrant Word of God given to men by the Holy Spirit?

    For example, you and I would no doubt agree that the Gospel of Thomas does not belong in the Canon. Who had the authority to declare it non-canonical? How do we both know that authority can be believed? It is because Jesus gave to his Apostles the Deposit of Faith, which he charged them to protect from error — AND also gave them the guidance of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. And the Apostles handed on, free from error thanks to this protection of the Holy Spirit, the Deposit of Faith they received from Jesus to their disciples and successors, and they to theirs, and so on until the time the Canon of Scripture was infallibly settled in the late 4th century. Would Jesus have had it otherwise — would he have left it to chance or the holiness of individual men to guarantee the faithful transmission of his revelation? Accepting this paradigm is a profound act of faith in Jesus — one that Protestants seem unwilling to make.

    Who were these disciples and successors? Men such as St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus, St. Athanasius – all Bishops of the Catholic Church, who all believed in core Catholic doctrines of the Real Presence, the Primacy of the Chair of Peter, and the hierarchical Church as established through the Apostles. It is because the Early Church Fathers were given authority by Jesus himself through Apostolic Succession that we can have absolute assurance that the Deposit of Faith (which includes but is not limited to the Canon of Scripture) was handed on, divinely protected from error.

    Scripture cannot testify to its own inerrancy, only an external authority can do that. If you and I disagree about the length of a piece of lumber, do we use another piece of lumber to verify the length of the first one? No, we consult an external authority — a tape measure. And while the analogy is not an exact one, it makes the point that Scripture cannot possibly testify as to its own inerrancy unless you first know what is and what is not Scripture (the Canon).

    It appears from others of your comments that your source of knowledge about the Catholic Church is not an objective one. Otherwise you would know the Magisterium adds nothing to the Deposit of Faith — its mission is to guard it from error, both in content and interpretation. The Pope’s ex cathedra statements carry the binding force of orthodoxy not because the Pope says so, but because Jesus said so when he spoke to Peter:

    “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19)

    Finally, you said:

    If God’s word is not the test of faith and doctrine then what is?

    “But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.”

    Scripture itself tells us it is the Church which is the pillar and foundation of truth.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  123. Bryan, re: 120.
    I am surprised Bryan. You misconstrue my point. I was not speaking about leadership in the church or even out of the church. I was speaking of Christ as the head of the church, our only master as against those who make statements claiming to be infallible, namely your pope or magesterium. We submit to leaders, with reference to faith and beliefs, ( I myself am a leader, a pastor) only as they subscribe to the authoritative Word of God. Did not Paul tell his followers this in Galatians 1:8, 9? So let’s get the record right, Bryan. Take care.

  124. Frank, I wish I had time to answer your question more fully; lest I ‘spout off’ on this I must say that I am very busy working on a doctoral thesis come book beside looking after my churches. Now and again I may be able to ‘spout off’ in another venue: ronhende@xplornet.ca. Nice chatting with you folks. Take care.

  125. Ron –

    But do not forget the ex-cathedra statements of your pope I referred to.

    I must have missed this point. I haven’t actually seen you mention any ex-cathedra statements. I only recall you mention that there are in fact statements described as being ex-cathedra.

    Having different interpretation is of course beside the point.

    I’m sorry, but it really isn’t beside the point. It is front and center.

    What about Augustine? or Kemphis? or Assissi? And the many other? Any divisions there? Are you aware of the divisions that exist in the RCC today? Have we not been exposed to several of them recently in the news? D & P? Abortion? homosexuality? Etc? How does North American practice differ from European or South American or African in your church?

    I don’t know of any “divisions” among the three you mention. Feel free to educate me.

    I think you’re missing my point, though. I believe that heresy exists. I believe there are heretics. But the Catholic Church’s teaching on Abortion, Homosexuality and all of the et ceteras you might list is clear and is the same in North America, Europe, and South America and anywhere else that you find visible unity with Rome.

    My point is that a Catholic who does not submit to his leaders is in a completely different situation from a protestant who reaches false conclusions through his own interpretation of the Bible.

    However, my friends, I am sorry if I rumpled your feathers too much. I was only trying as a protestant to shine the light of God’s word, scripture only, as far as I can in a friendly discussion.

    I was just trying to do you a favor by drawing your attention to the fact that most of the objections you have raised have already been dealt with in other places.

    I hope you will respond to Bryan Cross’ post as well.

  126. Ron,

    Re #103

    You said: Steve, (reply to 96): Steve, I must protest!

    My reply: It’s Greg. Not Steve. I was responding to Steve in my post. ;-)

    You said: Catholics do not believe that a person is saved by faith in Christ alone. That is simply not true.

    My reply: It simply is true, Ron, the way you worded it. It is a dogma of the Catholic faith that Jesus is the only name by which we are saved. Not Buddha’s, not Ghandi’s, etc. Jesus alone. It is, of course, NOT a dogma of the Catholic faith that we are saved by FAITH ALONE in Christ. (Not the wording you used.) The idea that (most) men are saved by faith alone in Christ is explicitly contrary to Scripture (James 2:24, for example) which states that a man is justified before God by what he does and NOT by faith alone. Why? Because, as 1 John 3:7 explains, it is he who does what is righteous who IS righteous, and it’s only the righteous, Revelation tells us (Rev.21:27) , who are allowed to enter Heaven.

    You said: Catholics believe that penance, and every mandated work are a necessary adjunct to one’s salvation.

    My reply: Why do you think we believe that? And what happens when we disobey God?

    You said: Catholics seem to miss the fine but important line between Christ’s gift of salvation and the works seen in a believer’s life.

    My reply: Perhaps that’s because, in the on-going sense of the word salvation (not the past tense initial moment sense), there is no line. Scripture doesn’t recognize one. We are saved by love FOR love. If we then DO love after we are saved, then we stay saved and increase our salvation in the sense of maturing, or growing more deeply, in it. If we do not “do love” after being saved, what are we but worthy of being cut off and thrown into the fire? (Matt 3:10)

    You said: We protestants believe that works are good and important, but they cannot and will never work towards our salvation.

    My reply: Not the initial grace of salvation, no. But you have to distinguish between the initial grace of salvation and the on-going process (referenced by multiple scriptures in my last post [#96]), or our conversation will never get anywhere.

    You said: Works are the flip-side of salvation by Christ through faith. In other words, because we have surrendered our lives to the Saviour, and because he through the Holy Spirit has entered our lives we do the works of the Spirit, meaning that through the Holy Spirit in us we are led to obedience, whatever it takes. This is very different from saying that our works save us.

    My reply: So, if a man is saved and then he does the works of God after his salvation, what is the consequence? If a man is saved and then declines to do the works of God (or, in other words, allows himself to fall back into sin), what is the consequence?

    If the consequence of A is that that man is ultimately going to go to Heaven and the consequence of B is that the man is ultimately going to go to hell, then, like it or not, the obvious fact of the matter is that our actions DO play a role (however infinitely subordinate to the grace won for us by Christ) in “saving” us (IOW, ultimately getting us to Heaven). In addition to Scripture, logic demands it.

    You said: As James says, works demonstrate our acceptance of the salvation; and without these acts of obedience it demonstrates that we have not accepted the gift of salvation that Christ offers. This is what Paul meant when he said: ‘do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid. We establish the law.’ Rom.3:31.

    My reply: An interesting scriptural and conceptual reference to which I would heartily agree! And after agreeing, I am compelled to sort of just sit here and wait to see if you realize what you just said…?

    It’s not faith OR the law. It’s the Law demonstrated IN/BY FAITH. It’s not faith in Christ alone that saves by rather faith WORKING through love. As the book of James notes (paraphrased), “You believe. That’s nice. So do the demons…If you want to actually be saved, PUT THAT FAITH INTO PRACTICE.”

    You said: This obedience is free and not involuntary. Just as acceptance of the gift of salvation, so is the decision to allow the Holy Spirit to produce good works in us. And of course the HS does not force us; we are not robots, we willingly (sometimes very hard) condescend to do acts of goodness.

    My reply: I’m glad to hear you say we are free to obey God or not (subsequent to being saved) because, above, you say something that makes it sound like we are always going to obey God after being saved, no matter what. As if we have no choice in the matter.

    Thus far, you and I have been putting this in black and white terms for the sake of convenience. But at this point, it’s important to appreciate the fact that it never works like that. How many people do you know who have never sinned after being saved, who have obeyed God in every single command after they came to Christ? Probably somewhere around the same number of people I know who have done the same – ZERO.

    The real life of every Christian involves many, many peaks and valleys, triumphs and tragedies. It is he who perseveres to the end, scripture tells us who is saved, not the one who prayed a 3 second sinner’s prayer 30 years ago and let it all go after that. (See basically all of Matt 24.) Why? It’s very simple. Because, again, love is our salvation. When we are saved, we are able to love now, but love remains free. And if, at any point, we choose freely to reject love, to commit serious sin and foresake God, we can do that and we lose what Catholics call “sanctifying grace”, or “the ability to love” and we become “cold” again, without God’s Spirit. If we repent and confess, we can gain the Holy Spirit back again. This is why good works are so important. To confirm, as Peter says, our call and election. (2 Peter 1:10)

    They arent done to “score points” with God who is somehow impressed by them enough to say, “Hey, I kinda like you. I guess you’ve done enough to get yourself a free pass to Heaven.” They’re done as a secondary, conditional response to God who first loved us and poured our grace into our hearts. These works are entirely secondary to His grace, but also entirely required for entrance into Heaven simply because they confirm in us (or alter) our yes to His initial act of Love.

    You said: Again, Steve, what you fail to see or understand, is that we protestants believe that the doing of good works through the Holy Spirit is not what saves us! These are the fruit of our being saved.

    My reply: I dont fail to see that at all. I recognize that that’s what you believe. I also recognize that that is neither what scripture teaches nor what your conscience tells you. ;-)

    You said: While the two are connected it is only because of the gift of salvation that we are filled with the Spirit willingly, and therefore we produce good works. This distinction must be maintained.

    My reply: Right! I maintain it! (See above.) :-)

    You said: Even Jesus said of those who said, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not done…’ I profess I have not known you.’ Mat. 7:22, 23. We do not decry or discount works, no. However, we put works into its rightful category, the fruit of the Spirit’s working in us! Christ saves, the Holy Spirit transforms! And we obey! All because of God’s marvelous gift in Christ.

    My reply: Right! Exactly!…But what about when we don’t? You have admitted that that obedience is free. Surely, you don’t need any help realizing that no one executes it perfectly. If they did, there would be no ned for the multiple admonitions of scriptures against receiving the grace of God in vein.

    In closing, don’t forget the verse immediately above Matt 7:22-23, Matt 7:21…

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ (Greg’s note: In other words, not everyone who has faith alone) will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who DOES the will of my Father (Greg’s note: aka, good works) in heaven.”

    Peace.

  127. Ron @ #118,

    You can read about the “Catholic” Church here (Christian Classics Ethereal Library-put together by Protestants–you can also find anti-Catholic stuff on the site). St. Ignatius used the term, and he was a contemporary of the Apostles. In fact, he used the term on route to being martyred. The word “Christian” was invented by the pagans to describe followers of Christ. We wear that title proudly (as Scripture says: 1 Peter 4:16) because we suffer for it. The term “Catholic” was developed by the Christian Church to describe those who were a part of the Apostolic Church as apposed to those who were schismatic. You reference the churches the empire persecuted. What churches do you have in mind in the 4th century (Donatist, Arian)? Were you maybe thinking about the Persian persecution that Constantine hoped to subdue?

    All that aside, these historical caricatures do not help Catholic and Protestant dialog–and if you noticed by the title of this blog, that is the point; which is rather perspicuous.

  128. Ron, (re: #123)

    You wrote:

    I was speaking of Christ as the head of the church, our only master as against those who make statements claiming to be infallible, namely your pope or magesterium.

    The Scripture does not say “Obey your leaders and submit to them only if they do not teach that they are protected from error by the Holy Spirit when, in communion among themselves and with Peter or his successors, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held in matters of faith and morals.” So you are adding to Scripture if you think that Scripture teaches that we have a right or duty to rebel against the leaders Christ Himself established if they teach that Christ gave to the magisterium of His Church a charism of infallibility.

    We submit to leaders, with reference to faith and beliefs, ( I myself am a leader, a pastor) only as they subscribe to the authoritative Word of God. Did not Paul tell his followers this in Galatians 1:8, 9?

    Regarding Galatians 1:8-9, see the last two paragraphs of section XI, i.e. “XI. The Authority of the Magisterium in Relation to Scripture.”

    If you are a pastor, then from whom did the persons who ordained you receive the authority to ordain you? In other words, what makes your ordination valid, and not invalid? This is an important question, because you don’t want to be the people Jesus describes in John 10:1.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  129. Ron,

    re your statement: I was only trying as a protestant to shine the light of God’s word, scripture only, as far as I can in a friendly discussion.

    I left protestantism because of the failure of protestantism to recognize the light shed by God’s word, scripture. I left because Jesus’ words were ignored or denied, and we are talking about the plain words of Jesus. At the end of the bread of life discourse in John 6, a lot of disciples leave Jesus because they clearly understand what He is saying. The current protestant position, especially in but not limited to evangelicalism, is what caused those people to leave Jesus. He was in the act of fulfilling the Passover, will become the Passover meal (as the Lamb of God), and will be the Manna in the desert. He is (at this point) in the process becoming the only Food capable of a supernatural journey to a supernatural Location. He feeds us with Himself. He is Reality, not a mere symbol. He is not limited in the ways men are limited. If God could become a Man, could He not come to us as Food, replacing the bread-ness of bread with His Body, and the wine-ness of wine with His Blood? The Scripture behind which He is the ultimate Author says that is exactly what He does.

    “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them. Whose sins you retain, they are retained.” How many protestants go to confession for the forgiveness of sins? How many even recognize John 20:23? My impression of protestant confession is that people left themselves open to blackmail. I would hardly confess to most of my peers when I was protestant. I’d be afraid, and there was nothing they could do in regard to my being forgiven. They had no authority.

    Jesus established a Church against which the gates of Hell would not prevail. How many protestant churches establish their position by presuming that Hell prevailed and that Jesus was unable to maintain His Church in the face of His enemy? All of protestantism is contingent on the narrative that Jesus was not able to maintain His Church so it needed to be re-formed or re-instituted.

    In practical fact, how many protestant churches establish themselves by claiming that the preceding protestant church failed and that they needed to “reform” the failure of their predecessors? In my old parlance, “God, give us a revival!!” Yet why would He revive something that He did not start, and something that competes with His Church and His message? Or as scripture notes, “Did God really say…?” When I was leaving protestantism, looking back, that is what rang in my head. I could not find a justification for remaining where I was because God really did say something about the Church He established. I was outside of that Church, in denial of what He had done, and I could see it clearly in scripture. “Did God really say” was the formula for rebellion. I had no heart to be a rebel.

    I saw in Jesus’ establishment of His Church the fulfillment of both the Temple (sacrifice, priesthood and rites) and of Israel (the kingdom). Both were extended outward worldwide, bringing the only acceptable Sacrifice and a supranational Kingdom to everyone who responds to His call. The Sacrifice was not confined to a temple in Jerusalem, and the Church was above any nation while existing in any nation to which she was given entry.

    I left protestantism because it failed to shine God’s light, based on scripture, to the very people it claimed to help. It did so by plainly ignoring scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments, but again especially Jesus’ own words.

    I started out with a conversion, loving and wanting to serve our Lord. I was given a second conversion to the Church He established, with the sacraments provided to empower and strengthen me to live out the call to conversion seen in scripture. I was not always Catholic but, like Peter, I find that there is nowhere else to go.

    I am not a pastor. I am lay Catholic. I make no special claims about my status other than claiming to be Catholic. It is sufficient. It is the will of God for me and obedience makes its claim in my mind and on my heart. I have scriptural warrant for the Catholic positions and am capable of presenting them whenever I am required (or given the opportunity) to do so. Scripture is not my enemy or my bugaboo. It is the Book of the Church of which I am a son. I have no hesitation letting the words of that Book shine in the souls of men.

    Cordially,

    dt

  130. Here is a good article from First Things that quotes Hauerwas’ Sermon: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/11/how-should-we-celebrate-reformation-sunday

  131. Better an honest separation holding fast to separate but valid beliefs than surrendering and unifying with the false, onerous, phariscal and draconian cult that was and is the Roman Church. Bless the reformers.

  132. Billy Kangas: “My Catholic Repentance on Reformation Sunday

  133. […] Stanley Hauerwas in one of America’s truly great public intellectuals, and perhaps the most influential theologian alive today. The Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Studies at Duke Divinity School, Hauerwas is a Protestant.  On Reformation Sunday 1995, he delivered a sermon that began in the following way: […]

  134. […] (Catholic) Francis Beckwith’s post here and  (Protestant) Stanley Hauerwas’s sermon here on the […]

  135. […] Back on Reformation Day (October 31st), I saw a sermon circulating around Facebook which caught my eye.  It wasn’t a triumphalist proclamation about how great the Reformation was, and how bad Roman Catholicism was or is.  Rather, it was a sober reflection on the price that was paid for this Reformation.  It was written by Stanley Hauerwas, a Protestant, so it’s not like it’s a Catholic trying to “call us home.”  It’s an honest reflection on the weaknesses of the Protestant church resulting from the Reformation.  It can be found here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/10/stanley-hauerwas-on-reformation-sunday/ […]

Leave Comment

Subscribe without commenting