St. Francis De Sales, Apostle to the Calvinists

Jan 22nd, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Few figures loom as large in the history of Calvinism, and yet are at the same time so unknown by Calvinists, as St. Francis De Sales.

St. Francis, born in 1567 to a wealthy family, led an interesting life, the details of which are too great to expound here, but I recommend the Catholic Encyclopedia article on his life for a good recounting of the details.

Statue of St. Francis De Sales at St. Peter's Basilica

For our purposes, the most important aspect of Francis’ life and ministry was his mission to convert the Calvinists of Geneva. In 1594, a young priest at the age of 27, he volunteered to evangelize the Calvinists there.

Francis’ ministry was not well received by the Calvinists at first. In fact, most of them wouldn’t even talk to him. As such, Francis turned to the tactic of writing pamphlets that he would slip under the door of the people of the town. These tracts were later collected into a book called The Catholic Controversy that can be read in its entirety at the preceding link. Of course, what passed for a tract in those days is much more like what we would call a scholarly essay, so the book is a very meaty examination of the problems that separate Calvinists and Catholics.

Little by little, Francis gained himself a hearing among the Calvinists and eventually converted them by the thousands. His success was so great that he was later elevated to the post of Bishop of Geneva.

I have found it interesting how many converts to Catholicism from the Reformed faith have found De Sales work so compelling, even to this day. Speaking for myself, his chapter on the concept of the mission of ministers of God was one of the turning points in my own conversion.

I hope our Reformed brothers will give a hearing to this very holy man of God whose work resonates down through the centuries.

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  1. Matt,

    What was most striking to me in learning about St. Francis was his interaction with Theodore Beza. From the little bit I have read, it seems as though they got together and discussed the division. I wonder if anyone has ever done any research on this. I do think many would do themselves good to read the Catholic Controversy, it is a worthwhile read.

  2. Tom.

    There are stories about Theodore Beza on his deathbed asking for a priest for reconciliation but being refused by his friends but not sure if any truth to that.

  3. A correction: you state in your post that the entire collection of the saint’s tracts can be read online, but this is incorrect. Only the first part (Mission) is available.

  4. Hello Matt,
    I’ve started reading ‘The Catholic Controversy’ and already I don’t find it compelling because De Sales’ first premise is that the Reformers had no mission or authority to teach the people. I’m not ‘reformed’ but I am Baptist and I believe that the Holy Spirit Himself calls and sends those He wishes to preach the gospel. He can do this through the established church or through someone reading or hearing the gospel in any way. He calls and equips people by His own authority and power.
    Maybe if I keep reading I will find something more compelling.

  5. St. Francis De Sales says:
    it would have required a very long speaking-tube (sarbacane) in the mouth of the first founders of the Church to call Luther and the rest without being overheard by any of those who were between

    I disagree. The Holy Spirit is everywhere and in all times to work in men and give gifts to them and His gospel was and is available through which He calls men to Himself.

  6. Luther, Bucer, Œcolampadius, and Calvin were not bishops: how then could they communicate any mission to their successors on the part of the Roman Chnrch, which protests always and everywhere that it is only the bishops who can send, and that this belongs in no way to simple priests? In which even S. Jerome has placed the difference between the simple priest and the bishop

    Stephen, the first martyr of the church I believe, was only a deacon yet he preached and confounded all the Jewish rulers. If any had listened and heeded the Spirit, that one could have been called to be a bishop, even though Stephen was not, don’t you think?

  7. Jennie, You said:

    The Holy Spirit is everywhere and in all times to work in men and give gifts to them and His gospel was and is available through which He calls men to Himself.

    Where was the Holy Spirit for the first 1500 years of Christianity and why didn’t He lead any Christians into what the Reformers started abruptly teaching as the very gospel itself? Why did He lead the entire Church, without exception, to believe that the Eucharist actually became the Body and Blood of Christ and that baptism was regenerative? (Two particularly strong example but there are many more.) In short, your point is exactly why De Sales was right and the Reformers were wrong.

    On Stephen, the answer is no. Stephen did not have the authority to make one a bishop. The Church unanimously reserved this right to other bishops. From apostolic times, no less than three bishops were required to ordain another bishop. In fact, no one could ordain a deacon or presbyter either except for a bishop. If you wish to dispute this, then please give an example of a bishop ordained by a deacon or someone else who wasn’t a bishop.

  8. Jennie: If you’re still reading “Catholic Controversy” you’ll notice that St. Francis distinguishes between two kinds of “call” or “mission,” namely mediate and immediate. In your posts above you’ve indicated that you don’t find St. Francis’ arguments against the first Protestants’ mediate calling, but you didn’t say anything about the other half of the argument. Have you gotten that far yet? If so, do you find those arguments compelling? How would you say that a person knows that he has been called “immediately” by the Holy Spirit to lead God’s people? A corollary to this would be: how are those of us who aren’t called immediately by the Holy Spirit supposed to know who has genuinely been called and who hasn’t? The New Testament tells us that we are supposed to obey those who are in authority over us, so I’m wondering what you think the requisite calling and its proofs would be that would indicate to me that I need to follow any given teacher/leader. Remember, for example, how strident Paul was in his assertion to many of his readers that he had received a legitimate calling from Christ and evidenced it with various proofs.

  9. Sorry, the second sentence should read, “You’ve indicated you don’t find his arguments against the first Protestants’ immediate calling COMPELLING…”

  10. Where was the Holy Spirit for the first 1500 years of Christianity and why didn’t He lead any Christians into what the Reformers started abruptly teaching as the very gospel itself? Why did He lead the entire Church, without exception, to believe that the Eucharist actually became the Body and Blood of Christ and that baptism was regenerative? (Two particularly strong example but there are many more.) In short, your point is exactly why De Sales was right and the Reformers were wrong.

    What have I gotten myself into? :)
    You’ve posed me a very hard question, but I’ll do my best to explain my perspective on the historical question.
    First of all I don’t believe the reformers abruptly started teaching out of thin air. Their general beliefs were very similar to many of the early fathers, I believe, and the early fathers seem to have had a wide variety of beliefs on things like the eucharist, including some like what the reformers held.
    Secondly, I believe that as the Roman Catholic type beliefs developed, there were always dissenters that did not agree and expressed this disagreement, and they weren’t all heretics. I don’t agree that the beliefs about the Eucharist or baptism were held ‘without exception’ and I don’t believe the Holy Spirit led the church into those beliefs. There is documented history of these things.
    Third, I don’t believe the church as a whole is immune to error, in the same way that the Israelites were not immune to error and often fell into sin and idolatry. The churches were warned many times in the New Testament, and in person by the Apostles and other teachers, to beware of false teachings and to hold to the teachings that were originally given. I believe the scriptures were given as a ‘rule’ to measure ourselves against to help prevent falling away from the truth. Also, you may remember that the Israelites many times slipped into idolatry while also trying to worship God at the same time and the LORD allowed this for a long time, eventually judging them for it to bring them to repentance. I don’t think the awfulness of a majority falling into error is evidence against the possibility of it happening, since it already has happened in Israel as I showed.
    See Romans chapter 11:
    28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
    33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
    34 “ For who has known the mind of the LORD?
    Or who has become His counselor?”
    35 “ Or who has first given to Him
    And it shall be repaid to him?”

    36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
    I believe that this has happened more than once in history, that God has allowed some to be disobedient for a time that others may also be shown mercy. I believe God shows mercy on us if we have faith even if we have errors, as we all do.
    I don’t know if I’ve explained this very well.

  11. On Stephen, the answer is no. Stephen did not have the authority to make one a bishop. The Church unanimously reserved this right to other bishops. From apostolic times, no less than three bishops were required to ordain another bishop. In fact, no one could ordain a deacon or presbyter either except for a bishop. If you wish to dispute this, then please give an example of a bishop ordained by a deacon or someone else who wasn’t a bishop.

    Tim,
    You are misunderstanding me, so I guess I wasn’t clear enough. I meant that the Holy Spirit had the authority to call the bishop, but used Stephen as a messenger of the gospel. The Spirit is the one who calls and equips each of us for our tasks, and the laying on of hands is the recognition of what the spirit has already ordained.
    I don’t know alot about how bishops were ordained in every period in history or in every place in the world. I suspect there were differing practices in different times and places. The Apostles were ordained directly by the Lord. I think in the absence of a bishop, who is an elder gifted to lead and teach, that the Spirit is fully capable of ordaining someone, and has done many times. The succession is by Spirit and truth, not by physical laying on of hands.

  12. St. Francis DeSales wrote:
    And to say that the whole of Christendom has failed, that the whole Church has erred, and all truth disappeared—-what is this but to say that Our Lord has abandoned His Church, has broken the sacred tie of marriage He had contracted with her? And to put forward a new Church,—-is it not to attempt to thrust upon this sacred and holy Husband a second wife? This is what the ministers of the pretended church have undertaken; this is what they boast of having done; this has been the aim of their discourses, their designs, their writings. But what an injustice have you not committed in believing them? How did you come to take their word so simply? How did you so lightly give them credit?

    This is not compelling to me because first of all the ‘organized church’ or ‘visible church’ (if that’s the right term) is not the same as the true or ‘invisible church’. The church is made up only of those who truly have faith and are regenerate, which includes people from many denominations or churches, while the visible church is an organization with much man-made hierarchy and tradition and with many people in it who are not regenerate. Actually I should say that the visible church is many organizations, such as Catholics and Southern Baptists, etc. So the Bride of Christ is not the Roman Catholic Church, but is all true believers in whatever church they belong. So Christ has not changed wives, but part of the church may have changed husbands, like Israel long ago, who was compared to a harlot. She is the one who does the leaving. My perspective is that there are probably not very many true Christians in any denomination or church group, but the remnant in each is the true Bride of Christ.

  13. Hi David,
    Yes, I’ve read chapter 3, and have been thinking and praying about it. I hope to comment about it, in part, today or tomorrow.

  14. So Christ has not changed wives, but part of the church may have changed husbands, like Israel long ago, who was compared to a harlot. She is the one who does the leaving. My perspective is that there are probably not very many true Christians in any denomination or church group, but the remnant in each is the true Bride of Christ.

    So does theology become unimportant in this concept of church? If all these churches have pretty much the same low percentage of true Christians then their different teachings don’t matter much? What about community? What about authority? Those are just not available if we assume all the true Christians are scattered. It seems like the gates of hell have prevailed.

    It is quite a politically correct idea. If you presume true Christians are everywhere then nobody will get offended. But is there any logical reason to believe it is true? I can see the Catholic church and the Anglican church have taken very different directions in recent years. What is the basis for believing that would not make any difference to the number of true Christians in those churches. I can understand arguing either side is right but to say none of it matters is to pretty much make the whole concept of church irrelevant.

  15. Jennie S. said:

    I don’t agree that the beliefs about the Eucharist or baptism were held ‘without exception’

    Can you give just one example of a Church Father who denied the Real Presence in Eucharist

  16. Jennie,

    You said:

    Tim, You are misunderstanding me, so I guess I wasn’t clear enough.

    I’m still not understanding you I guess. No one, that I know of, denies the Holy Spirit’s right and authority to do anything whatsoever. So I don’t understand what your point is here. Can you clarify?

    On the Church, you gave, as a reason for the Catholic position not being compelling, a description of Protestant ecclesiology. That is, you are assuming the very thing in question. You stated that the Church is invisible, but Tom Brown and Bryan Cross demonstrated that this opinion is false here.

    I know it’s lengthy, but it is a solid article. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

  17. Ok, Tim. I’ll try to clarify my point in which I used Stephen as an example.

    I was, as you know, responding to DeSales’ statement:
    Luther, Bucer, Œcolampadius, and Calvin were not bishops: how then could they communicate any mission to their successors on the part of the Roman Chnrch, which protests always and everywhere that it is only the bishops who can send, and that this belongs in no way to simple priests? In which even S. Jerome has placed the difference between the simple priest and the bishop.

    I was trying to show that even though Stephen was a deacon, he was used mightily as a preacher and as an example of martyrdom. If one of the men who heard him had come to Christ and then was called by God to be a bishop, Stephen would be his spiritual father, but the man would have been gifted and called by the Holy Spirit. I guess this is not a good example because Stephen is not ordaining the man as a bishop. I was thinking that the Spirit gifts the man, but of course, the other elders, pastors or bishops would ‘officially’ ordain him so that all would know that the man is recognized as being qualified as a bishop. I would consider the ordaining by men to be of less importance than the gifting by God.
    In the case of Luther and the other reformers, were not most of the leaders priests, who became pastors of the new reformed churches? In the beginning there was no distinction between pastors and bishops, or elders. They were considered the same thing, on the same level. The levels developed later. If God has called a man to be a pastor then he is a bishop and has the teaching authority from the Holy Spirit. This would normally have to be recognized by the other elders, who are more experienced than the new bishop, but they are only approving what the Spirit has already approved. In the case of the reformers, they were convicted by the Spirit through the word that many things were wrong in the church and began to preach the gospel directly from scripture and to oppose the wrongs they saw. They were compelled to this by the Spirit, the word, and their own consciences. They were obviously gifted as teachers and preachers, and have given us many great writings. Many were led to Christ and became new creations, being set free from sin. Many gave up their lives rather than renounce the gospel.
    I know you’ve probably heard all this before, especially as many of your writers have come from protestantism, but I just wanted to share why I didn’t find DeSales convincing on that matter.

  18. Tim,
    Looking at Bryan’s article about the visible church. You weren’t kidding about it being lengthy!

  19. Jennie — Thanks for all the comments. I would submit that De Sales’ case is a bit tighter than you give it credit for. Of particular importance is that, in all of the history of Israel and the Church, authority was always, without exception, either passed on through the existing hierarchy (the Levitical priesthood in the Old Testament, the succession from the Apostles in the New) or, if there was a break and God called someone directly outside of the hierarchy, that person always, without exception, came bearing miracles to verify that their extraordinary ministry was truly from God.

    As De Sales argues, Jesus himself, not being a Levite, held himself to the same standard and gave miracles as proof of his calling from God.

    The reformers were by and large had not received the authority of the Apostles from the laying on of hands and so had no mission from God in the ordinary sense. Not a single one of them bore miracles to verify that God had called them outside the normal means.

    So they had no normal calling and the only proof of their extraordinary calling was their own word. If the people of God must be subject to every man who says he has a calling from God, we’re in quite a state here! How are we to tell the minister who really has a calling from God and the shyster who just claims to have a calling?

    That’s why God gave us Apostolic Succession via the laying on of hands. It is objective and verifiable. We can know without doubt who has authority to rule in Christ’s Church by following the trail of the laying on of hands.

    Perhaps most important, though, is the fact that Scripture itself nowhere speaks of any other method for acquiring authority in the New Testament Church than the laying on of hands by one who already has it. There is absolutely no mention of someone having a calling outside of this structure. The notion that there could be a calling outside the laying on of hands is absolutely absent from Sacred Scripture. The burden of proof lies on the protestant to prove that any minister outside of the unbroken succession of bishops has any authority from God—and they must prove it against the silence of Sacred Scripture on the subject.

  20. David asked me what I thought about DeSales argument that the reformers had no immediate mission from God because they showed no miracles as a sign of their mission, like Moses did, etc. I hope I am understanding that argument properly.
    First of all, I’m not sure that the reformers did not have a mediate mission, since many or all of them were ordained as priests, and at the beginning of the church, as I mentioned in another comment, all elders, pastors, bishops, presbyters, or whatever you want to call them, were on the same level.
    Secondly, I am not sure that they need prove an immediate mission by miracles because it is not necessarily the case that there must be an unbroken succession of laying on of hands, but just that they are called and gifted by the Holy Spirit and live up to the standards given in scripture for bishops or elders by Paul, and that they teach the doctrines that the Apostles taught which are preserved in scripture (The Apostles were the foundation,and so performed miracles to establish the church). If they have the Spirit and the Truth and the gifts of a pastor, and have already been ordained then there is no question that they have the authority.
    Even if one does not accept their mediate mission, what is to be done if the successors of the Apostles have not faithfully kept all of the teachings of the Apostles, but have somehow added to them or taken from them? If one comes to the conclusion by the scriptures and the conviction of the Spirit that the church leaders have erred then where is one to go? The Holy Spirit is, as we agree, capable of calling and equipping people to lead and teach, etc. if others have failed. He’s done it before. It is arguable that it is not necessary for the reformers to perform miracles if they are standing upon the word of the Apostles as their true successors by faith and by speaking the truth. If they have the scriptures and the Spirit, they can be seen to be speaking the truth, as is testified to by the Spirit changing the lives of the people who received their teachings; the Reformation was a time of great revival and quick spread of the truth all over Europe and the world.
    Here is a quote from a post by TurretinFan about Aquinas:
    But what about the successors of the apostles and the prophets? Aquinas taught that we believe them insofar as they teach the same things that the apostles and prophets taught:

    All the intermediaries through which faith comes to us are above suspicion. We believe the prophets and apostles because the Lord has been their witness by performing miracles, as Mark (16:20) says: “…and confirming the word with signs that followed.” And we believe the successors of the apostles and prophets only in so far as they tell us those things which the apostles and prophets have left in their writings.

    Latin text:

    Ad undecimum dicendum, quod omnia media per quae ad nos fides venit, suspicione carent. Prophetis enim et apostolis credimus ex hoc quod Deus eis testimonium perhibuit miracula faciendo, ut dicitur Marc., cap. XVI, 20: sermonem confirmante sequentibus signis. Successoribus autem apostolorum et prophetarum non credimus nisi in quantum nobis ea annuntiant quae illi in scriptis reliquerunt.

    Citation: St. Thomas Aquinas, Truth, Vol. 2, Questions X-XX, trans., James V. McGlynn, S.J., Question 14, Article 10, Reply, Answer 11 (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953), p. 258.

    Notice then that for Aquinas the Scriptures serve as the sort of outer markers for what those holding apostolic succession can teach and expect us to believe. Notice especially that it is not simply “which the apostles and prophets have left” but he adds “in their writings.”

    In the bold lettering I have emphasized the part that is most important for this argument, which implies that if the successors fail to tell us the things the Apostles and prophets have left in their writings, then they are not to be believed and are not the true successors of the Apostles. Those who will tell the truth are their successors by the Spirit, faith, and truth.

    Another example from personal experience: My pastor was unsaved a few years ago and had no interest in the things of God. He was convicted by the gospel and believed and repented of his sins. He was called by the Spirit to be a pastor and went to seminary, was ordained, and is now our pastor, in our fairly new church which he himself started under the Southern Baptist umbrella. We do not adhere to all the new ‘church growth’ ideas and so my pastor is not looked upon with favor. Because he preaches the word of God as led by the Spirit, he is told his church will fail, since people can’t sit through long convicting sermons. He does it anyway. Do you really believe he is not a valid successor of theApostles, since he preaches by the same word and the same Spirit? He is an overseer or bishop or pastor, just as Timothy and Titus, etc.

  21. I have some earlier posts on my blog in which I was responding to posts on Visits to Candyland, a Catholic blog. One of the bloggers, a lady named Kelly, had written about St. Francis DeSales and also about Peter as the Rock and we had some discussions about Apostolic succession. Here are the links if anyone is interested:
    http://pilgrimsdaughter.blogspot.com/search/label/St.%20Francis%20de%20Sales

    http://pilgrimsdaughter.blogspot.com/2009/10/who-is-rock.html

  22. Hi Jennie,

    The quote from Aquinas is violently out of context. St. Thomas Aquinas quite obviously believed in Apostolic Succession in the way that Catholics do and not the way that Protestants do. Anyone familiar with his work will immediately recognize that. Aquinas believes that only a bishop can confer Holy Orders. See here. As for your pastor, I have no doubt of his sincerity and do not presume to say he has no valid ministry whatsoever nor that the Holy Spirit is not using him. But he does not have apostolic succession and he is not a bishop/overseer. (See the link above)

    Also, for your comments, please try to reduce the size and frequency of them and refrain from posting long quotations of things like this except when absolutely necessary. We need to moderate the comments to keep the discussion on track. If you just want to debate these basic issues and toss quotes back and forth, I suggest the forums at Catholic Answers.

  23. Randy said:
    So does theology become unimportant in this concept of church? If all these churches have pretty much the same low percentage of true Christians then their different teachings don’t matter much? What about community? What about authority? Those are just not available if we assume all the true Christians are scattered. It seems like the gates of hell have prevailed.

    It is quite a politically correct idea. If you presume true Christians are everywhere then nobody will get offended. But is there any logical reason to believe it is true? I can see the Catholic church and the Anglican church have taken very different directions in recent years. What is the basis for believing that would not make any difference to the number of true Christians in those churches. I can understand arguing either side is right but to say none of it matters is to pretty much make the whole concept of church irrelevant.

    No, theology isn’t unimportant, or rather I would use the word doctrine and say that doctrine, which comes from scripture, is always important; and all churches that use the Bible have the truth, but to the extent that they add to it by other doctrines, traditions, or even other books outside of scripture, to that extent they have made the word of God of no effect. The protestant churches, from which I exclude cults that are obviously adding to scripture or distorting it like the Mormons or Jehovah’s witnesses, have for centuries upheld the truth of scripture; only recently has there been a general falling away due to leaving the foundation of scripture. This falling away is prophesied, but I believe it is only an extension of the earlier falling away of the catholic church into image veneration (worship), worship of the host, and the distortion of the gospel. This is what I have seen as I’ve been studying this past year or so, and have recorded most of these thoughts and links in my blog.

    I talk about what I believe ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail’ means in the post I linked to in my last comment, which hasn’t been moderated yet. It’s called ‘Who is the Rock?’ and is on my blog under the labels ‘Peter’ and ‘Apostolic Succession’ .

  24. Randy, when I said the protestant churches have for centuries upheld the truth of scripture, that is not to say that they are perfect and don’t have traditions of their own, which have grown over the years and have in many cases blocked out much of the truth as well. The ‘gates of hell’ will not prevail against the Rock, and as long as the church stands upon the Rock of Christ as revealed in His word, they shall join Him in storming the gates of hell (death or hades) and leading many to life.

  25. Tim,
    The quote from Aquinas is violently out of context. St. Thomas Aquinas quite obviously believed in Apostolic Succession in the way that Catholics do and not the way that Protestants do. Anyone familiar with his work will immediately recognize that. Aquinas believes that only a bishop can confer Holy Orders. See here. As for your pastor, I have no doubt of his sincerity and do not presume to say he has no valid ministry whatsoever nor that the Holy Spirit is not using him. But he does not have apostolic succession and he is not a bishop/overseer. (See the link above)

    Also, for your comments, please try to reduce the size and frequency of them and refrain from posting long quotations of things like this except when absolutely necessary. We need to moderate the comments to keep the discussion on track. If you just want to debate these basic issues and toss quotes back and forth, I suggest the forums at Catholic Answers.

    I’m sorry, I didn’t see your post until just now. I’ll try to keep the comments down. I felt the quotes I used were necessary to my point, but I will try to do as you request. I was trying to respond to what people had asked me.

    About the Aquinas quote, I wasn’t saying he did not believe in Apostolic succession, but that maybe there is something that overrides this if the successors do not hold to the whole truth or add to the truth, and so greatly reducing its effectiveness. He directly said that the successors are not to be believed if they do not teach what is written down by the Apostles and prophets.

  26. Jennie,

    I understand, and Aquinas is correct that we should not believe anything which is contrary to what the apostles taught. I’m not sure the context of the quote, and taken at face value it is patently false, but he can’t have possibly meant that we can only believe what the apostles themselves wrote for we couldn’t believe the very sentence he is writing if we took it at face value since it was not written by an apostle.

    We know what the Scriptures are, and what Tradition is, by the authority of those in succession from the apostles. That is, we know the apostolic faith via the apostolic Church. I think you will enjoy our upcoming articles on Holy Orders and Apostolic Succession. We will clarify these issues.

  27. I understand, and Aquinas is correct that we should not believe anything which is contrary to what the apostles taught. I’m not sure the context of the quote, and taken at face value it is patently false, but he can’t have possibly meant that we can only believe what the apostles themselves wrote for we couldn’t believe the very sentence he is writing if we took it at face value since it was not written by an apostle.

    Tim,
    It is not that we can’t believe anything if it wasn’t written by an Apostle, but that we can’t believe a person who teaches things that are not taught by the Apostles. If what the person says is in accord with scripture, it is true. If what they teach is in opposition to it in some way, then it is not to be believed.

  28. Jennie,

    I agree. In fact you just restated what I said in different words.

  29. Jennie:

    “If what the person says is in accord with scripture, it is true. If what they teach is in opposition to it in some way, then it is not to be believed.”

    Nobody disagrees with this. The issue St. Francis is bringing up is that no one appointed the Reformers to interpret the scriptures and establish new teachings, or perhaps it would be better to say that no one asked them what the apostles said. So I would go back to my earlier question about how you think I, who became a Christian at 17, should have known which of the thousands of self-styled teachers (who claim to have been called by the Spirit) with their thousands of different teachings I should have trusted. The only options I have are to come up with some criterion by which to judge the voices, or I must do it myself, effectively making myself my own pope. Apostolic succession is the coherent criterion that was used since the ancient church to answer this question. The Spirit’s gift in this succession protects the Church from error (being in opposition to God’s Word) when it speaks dogmatically.

  30. Tim,
    yes, I saw that after I posted it; I just wanted you to know that I wasn’t saying ‘we can’t believe anything that is said outside of scripture’, but that what is said must agree with scripture.

  31. Philologus,
    “If what the person says is in accord with scripture, it is true. If what they teach is in opposition to it in some way, then it is not to be believed.”

    Nobody disagrees with this. The issue St. Francis is bringing up is that no one appointed the Reformers to interpret the scriptures and establish new teachings, or perhaps it would be better to say that no one asked them what the apostles said. So I would go back to my earlier question about how you think I, who became a Christian at 17, should have known which of the thousands of self-styled teachers (who claim to have been called by the Spirit) with their thousands of different teachings I should have trusted. The only options I have are to come up with some criterion by which to judge the voices, or I must do it myself, effectively making myself my own pope. Apostolic succession is the coherent criterion that was used since the ancient church to answer this question. The Spirit’s gift in this succession protects the Church from error (being in opposition to God’s Word) when it speaks dogmatically.

    Did you ask me a question earlier? It’s possible all the questions haven’t been moderated yet, so I haven’t been able to see it yet.
    You don’t have to make yourself your own pope to find a church to go to. And I don’t believe there has to be a pope, as in one central person that has to rule over the church. The bishop of Rome should be the bishop of Rome, and not of every other city in the world. If you research the denominations a bit and then visit some local churches you can find a church that is teaching the truth. The main protestant denominations are not outside the truth in their historic doctrines. This presupposes that you are also seeking the Lord in prayer and in scripture daily to abide in Him. He would lead you to where He wants you to be in time. In the meantime you could just attend a local church in order to be in fellowship with other believers, and you might find out this is where you should be. The church is meant to function as a body with each person contributing his or her gifts to help each other and to reach out to others. If something is not perfect, then maybe it’s your job to make it right or at least pray about it and talk to your leadership about it. Churches aren’t perfect, but they should be growing into that. I say this also knowing that there seems to be a general falling away in all the churches; but there are still many who have not fallen away. Mine is one of them, I’m glad to say.

  32. Hi guys,
    I see Tap’s question above, but my answer to his question has disappeared. Is that a mistake or was it moderated out? I think it was a good answer and also asked for clarification on what the ‘real presence’ means.

  33. Jennie,

    Your comment must have been lost. I don’t remember it specifically. We’re probably getting too far off topic with that question anyway. If you want to know what we mean by “Real Presence,” we mean what the fathers did, namely that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ during the consecration. You can read some of the prominent quotes here.

  34. Tim,
    respectfully, if you are allowing Tap’s question to remain, is it right that my answer shouldn’t be shown, as if I had not attempted to answer it?

  35. Jennie,

    I don’t remember your comment. It must have been deleted by mistake. Please feel free to re-post. The correct answer to his question is “no.”

  36. Tap,
    By the ‘real presence’ do you mean a physical presence, or can it be a spiritual presence? I believe some Early Fathers believed in one or the other, but none goes so far as the transubstantiation of today.

    I am quoting Jason Engwer:
    Augustine believed in a eucharistic presence, but he defined that presence in a way that contradicts transubstantiation. For example:

    “You know that in ordinary parlance we often say, when Easter is approaching, ‘Tomorrow or the day after is the Lord’s Passion,’ although He suffered so many years ago, and His passion was endured once for all time. In like manner, on Easter Sunday, we say, ‘This day the Lord rose from the dead,’ although so many years have passed since His resurrection. But no one is so foolish as to accuse us of falsehood when we use these phrases, for this reason, that we give such names to these days on the ground of a likeness between them and the days on which the events referred to actually transpired, the day being called the day of that event, although it is not the very day on which the event took place, but one corresponding to it by the revolution of the same time of the year, and the event itself being said to take place on that day, because, although it really took place long before, it is on that day sacramentally celebrated. Was not Christ once for all offered up in His own person as a sacrifice? and yet, is He not likewise offered up in the sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations; so that the man who, being questioned, answers that He is offered as a sacrifice in that ordinance, declares what is strictly true? For if sacraments had notsome points of real resemblance to the things of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all. In most cases, moreover, they do in virtue of this likeness bear the names of the realities which they resemble. As, therefore, in a certain manner the sacrament of Christ’s body is Christ’s body, and the sacrament of Christ’s blood is Christ’s blood,’ in the same manner the sacrament of faith is faith.” (Letter 98:9)

    Augustine compares the eucharist to a holiday in that it has some similarities to what it symbolizes, but it isn’t the same thing.

    He says elsewhere:

    “But He instructed them, and saith unto them, ‘It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.’ Understand spiritually what I have said; ye are not to eat this body which ye see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify Me shall pour forth.” (Expositions on the Psalms, 99:8)

    Elsewhere, Augustine denies that there is any bodily presence of Christ in the church today:

    “It may be also understood in this way: ‘The poor ye will have always with you, but me ye will not have always.’ The good may take it also as addressed to themselves, but not so as to be any source of anxiety; for He was speaking of His bodily presence. For in respect of His majesty, His providence, His ineffable and invisible grace, His own words are fulfilled, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.’ But in respect of the flesh He assumed as the Word, in respect of that which He was as the son of the Virgin, of that wherein He was seized by the Jews, nailed to the tree, let down from the cross, enveloped in a shroud, laid in the sepulchre, and manifested in His resurrection, ‘ye will not have Him always.’ And why? Because in respect of His bodily presence He associated for forty days with His disciples, and then, having brought them forth for the purpose of beholding and not of following Him, He ascended into heaven and is no longer here. He is there, indeed, sitting at the right hand of the Father; and He is here also, having never withdrawn the presence of His glory. In other words, in respect of His divine presence we always have Christ; in respect of His presence in the flesh it was rightly said to the disciples, ‘Me ye will not have always.’ In this respect the Church enjoyed His presence only for a few days: now it possesses Him by faith, without seeing Him with the eyes.” (Lectures on the Gospel of John, 50:13)

  37. Thanks Tim, for letting me repost. I think that if we look at the Church Fathers, we find there were as many variations in views of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist in early centuries as there are today.

  38. Jennie,

    You’re attacking Transubstantiation when you were asked to show an example of a Church Father denying the Real Presence. I see where you’re coming from, but I think it would be better to first admit that there wasn’t any father that denied Real Presence, as Tap said, and then go on to explain “but I feel that this isn’t significant because there wasn’t universally accepted precision regarding the nature of the sacrament.” This is the sort of give and take that is necessary to engage in fruitful dialogue.

    No one, that I know of, would claim that St. Augustine could articulate the dogma of Transubstantiation, although his mentor, St. Ambrose, would have certainly come very close. Fortunately, even the great doctor St. Augustine is not the regula fidei. He was capable of error. He did not deny Transubstantiation because it had not been formulated explicitly by the Church, and let’s be clear – Augustine was no Protestant on this matter. Engwer’s points are refuted here.

    Insofar as ‘physical’ denotes a subjection to the laws of physics, i.e. part of the material universe, we deny Christ’s physical presence. The alternative isn’t ‘spiritual’ presence as in the same mystical presence in the Church as Body or ‘where two or three are gathered’, but in a metaphysical presence. The Church was unanimous on this: that the bread, after consecration, is the Body of Christ. St. Augustine concurs in a multitude of places as shown by the link above.

  39. To clarify my last paragraph, the Eucharist is the risen Body of Christ, which is not physical but metaphysical, not natural but supernatural. The Body belongs to Heaven now, not to earth. But it is still a Body, and it is received in the Eucharist, really and sacramentally, as the fathers unanimously assert, and Holy Mother Church has dogmatically defined.

  40. Jennie and others who might be interested,

    If I may suggest, an excellent book on this is then Cardinal Ratzinger’s God Near Us where he discusses the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He explains such things as the difference between literal presence and substantial presence and what the Church means by these things. It is a very readable book, not lengthy by any means.

    You might find that some of things that you object to about Catholic teaching is not, at the end of the day, what the Church actually teaches.

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