How John Calvin Made me a Catholic

Jun 1st, 2010 | By | Category: Featured Articles

I once heard a Protestant pastor preach a “Church History” sermon. He began with Christ and the apostles, dashed through the book of Acts, skipped over the Catholic Middle Ages and leaped directly to Wittenberg, 1517. From Luther he hopped to the English revivalist John Wesley, crossed the Atlantic to the American revivals and slid home to his own Church, Birmingham, Alabama, early 1990s. Cheers and singing followed him to the plate. The congregation loved it.

John Calvin
Portrait of Young John Calvin
Unknown Flemish artist
Espace Ami Lullin of the Bibliothèque de Genève

I loved it, too. I grew up in an Evangelical Church in the 1970s immersed in the myth of the Reformation. I was sure that my Church preached the gospel, which we received, unsullied, from the Reformers. After college, I earned a doctorate in Church history so I could flesh out the story and prove to all the poor Catholics that they were in the wrong Church. I never imagined my own founder, the Protestant Reformer John Calvin, would point me to the Catholic faith.

I was raised a Presbyterian, the Church that prides itself on Calvinist origins, but I didn’t care much about denominations. My Church practiced a pared-down, Bible-focused, born-again spirituality shared by most Evangelicals. I went to a Christian college and then a seminary where I found the same attitude. Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Charismatics worshiped and studied side-by-side, all committed to the Bible but at odds on how to interpret it. But our differences didn’t bother us. Disagreements over sacraments, Church structures, and authority were less important to us than a personal relationship with Christ and fighting the Catholic Church. This is how we understood our common debt to the Reformation.

When I finished seminary, I moved on to Ph.D. studies in Reformation history. My focus was on John Calvin (1509-1564), the French Reformer who made Geneva, Switzerland into a model Protestant city. I chose Calvin not just because of my Presbyterian background, but because most American Protestants have some relationship to him. The English Puritans, the Pilgrim Fathers, Jonathan Edwards and the “Great Awakening” – all drew on Calvin and then strongly influenced American religion. My college and seminary professors portrayed Calvin as a master theologian, our theologian. I thought that if I could master Calvin, I would really know the faith.

Strangely, mastering Calvin didn’t lead me anywhere I expected. To begin with, I decided that I really didn’t like Calvin. I found him proud, judgmental and unyielding. But more importantly, I discovered that Calvin upset my Evangelical view of history. I had always assumed a perfect continuity between the Early Church, the Reformation and my Church. The more I studied Calvin, however, the more foreign he seemed, the less like Protestants today. This, in turn, caused me to question the whole Evangelical storyline: Early Church – Reformation – Evangelical Christianity, with one seamless thread running straight from one to the other. But what if Evangelicals really weren’t faithful to Calvin and the Reformation? The seamless thread breaks. And if it could break once, between the Reformation and today, why not sooner, between the Early Church and the Reformation? Was I really sure the thread had held even that far?

Calvin shocked me by rejecting key elements of my Evangelical tradition. Born-again spirituality, private interpretation of Scripture, a broad-minded approach to denominations – Calvin opposed them all. I discovered that his concerns were vastly different, more institutional, even more Catholic. Although he rejected the authority of Rome, there were things about the Catholic faith he never thought about leaving. He took for granted that the Church should have an interpretive authority, a sacramental liturgy and a single, unified faith.

These discoveries faced me with important questions. Why should Calvin treat these “Catholic things” with such seriousness? Was he right in thinking them so important? And if so, was he justified in leaving the Catholic Church? What did these discoveries teach me about Protestantism? How could my Church claim Calvin as a founder, and yet stray so far from his views? Was the whole Protestant way of doing theology doomed to confusion and inconsistency?

Understanding the Calvinist Reformation

Calvin was a second-generation Reformer, twenty-six years younger than Martin Luther (1483-1546). This meant that by the time he encountered the Reformation, it had already split into factions. In Calvin’s native France, there was no royal support for Protestantism and no unified leadership. Lawyers, humanists, intellectuals, artisans and craftsman read Luther’s writings, as well as the Scriptures, and adapted whatever they liked.

This variety struck Calvin as a recipe for disaster. He was a lawyer by training, and always hated any kind of social disorder. In 1549, he wrote a short work (Advertissement contre l’astrologie) in which he complained about this Protestant diversity:

Every state [of life] has its own Gospel, which they forge for themselves according to their appetites, so that there is as great a diversity between the Gospel of the court, and the Gospel of the justices and lawyers, and the Gospel of merchants, as there is between coins of different denominations.

I began to grasp the difference between Calvin and his descendants when I discovered his hatred of this theological diversity. Calvin was drawn to Luther’s theology, but he complained about the “crass multitude” and the “vulgar plebs” who turned Luther’s doctrine into an excuse for disorder. He wrote his first major work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536), in part to address this problem.

Calvin got an opportunity to put his plans into action when he moved to Geneva, Switzerland. He first joined the Reformation in Geneva in 1537, when the city had only recently embraced Protestantism. Calvin, who had already begun to write and publish on theology, was unsatisfied with their work. Geneva had abolished the Mass, kicked out the Catholic clergy, and professed loyalty to the Bible, but Calvin wanted to go further. His first request to the city council was to impose a common confession of faith (written by Calvin) and to force all citizens to affirm it.

Calvin’s most important contribution to Geneva was the establishment of the Consistory – a sort of ecclesiastical court- to judge the moral and theological purity of his parishioners. He also persuaded the council to enforce a set of “Ecclesiastical Ordinances” that defined the authority of the Church, stated the religious obligations of the laity, and imposed an official liturgy. Church attendance was mandatory. Contradicting the ministers was outlawed as blasphemy. Calvin’s Institutes would eventually be declared official doctrine.

Calvin’s lifelong goal was to gain the right to excommunicate “unworthy” Church members. The city council finally granted this power in 1555 when French immigration and local scandal tipped the electorate in his favor. Calvin wielded it frequently. According to historian William Monter, one in fifteen citizens was summoned before the Consistory between 1559 and 1569, and up to one in twenty five was actually excommunicated.1 Calvin used this power to enforce his single vision of Christianity and to punish dissent.

A Calvinist Discovers John Calvin

I studied Calvin for years before the real significance of what I was learning began to sink in. But I finally realized that Calvin, with his passion for order and authority, was fundamentally at odds with the individualist spirit of my Evangelical tradition. Nothing brought this home to me with more clarity than his fight with the former Carmelite monk, Jerome Bolsec.

In 1551, Bolsec, a physician and convert to Protestantism, entered Geneva and attended a lecture on theology. The topic was Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, the teaching that God predetermines the eternal fate of every soul. Bolsec, who believed firmly in “Scripture alone” and “faith alone,” did not like what he heard. He thought it made God into a tyrant. When he stood up to challenge Calvin’s views, he was arrested and imprisoned.

What makes Bolsec’s case interesting is that it quickly evolved into a referendum on Church authority and the interpretation of Scripture. Bolsec, just like most Evangelicals today, argued that he was a Christian, that he had the Holy Spirit and that, therefore, he had as much right as Calvin to interpret the Bible. He promised to recant if Calvin would only prove his doctrine from the Scriptures. But Calvin would have none of it. He ridiculed Bolsec as a trouble maker (Bolsec generated a fair amount of public sympathy), rejected his appeal to Scripture, and called on the council to be harsh. He wrote privately to a friend that he wished Bolsec were “rotting in a ditch.”2

What most Evangelicals today don’t realize is that Calvin never endorsed private or lay interpretation of the Bible. While he rejected Rome’s claim to authority, he made striking claims for his own authority. He taught that the “Reformed” pastors were successors to the prophets and apostles, entrusted with the task of authoritative interpretation of the Scriptures. He insisted that laypeople should suspend judgment on difficult matters and “hold unity with the Church.”3

Calvin took very seriously the obligation of the laity to submit and obey. “Contradicting the ministers” was one of the most common reasons to be called before the Consistory and penalties could be severe. One image in particular sticks in my mind. April, 1546. Pierre Ameaux, a citizen of Geneva, was forced to crawl to the door of the Bishop’s residence, with his head uncovered and a torch in his hand. He begged the forgiveness of God, of the ministers and of the city council. His crime? He contradicted the preaching of Calvin. The council, at Calvin’s urging, had decreed Ameaux’s public humiliation as punishment.

Ameaux was not alone. Throughout the 1540s and 1550s, Geneva’s city council repeatedly outlawed speaking against the ministers or their theology. Furthermore, when Calvin gained the right to excommunicate, he did not hesitate to use it against this “blasphemy.” Evangelicals today, unaccustomed to the use of excommunication, may underestimate the severity of the penalty, but Calvin understood it in the most severe terms. He repeatedly taught that the excommunicated were “estranged from the Church, and thus, from Christ.”4

If Calvin’s ideas on Church authority were a surprise to me, his thoughts on the sacraments were shocking. Unlike Evangelicals, who treat the theology of the sacraments as one of the “non-essentials,” Calvin thought they were of the utmost importance. In fact, he taught that a proper understanding of the Eucharist was necessary for salvation. This was the thesis of his very first theological treatise in French (Petit traicté de la Sainte Cène, 1541). Frustrated by Protestant disagreement over the Eucharist, Calvin wrote the text in an attempt to unify the movement around one single doctrine.

Evangelicals are used to finding assurance in their “personal relationship with Christ,” and not through membership in any Church or participation in any ritual. Calvin, however, taught that the Eucharist provides “undoubted assurance of eternal life.”5 And while Calvin stopped short of the Catholic, or even the Lutheran, understanding of the Eucharist, he still retained a doctrine of the Real Presence. He taught that the Eucharist provides a “true and substantial partaking of the body and blood of the Lord” and he rejected the notion that communicants receive “the Spirit only, omitting flesh and blood.”6.

Calvin understood baptism in much the same way. He never taught the Evangelical doctrine that one is “born again” through personal conversion. Instead, he associated regeneration with baptism and taught that to neglect baptism was to refuse salvation. He also allowed no diversity over the manner of its reception. Anabaptists in Geneva (those who practiced adult baptism) were jailed and forced to repent. Calvin taught that Anabaptists, by refusing the sacrament to their children, had placed themselves outside the faith.

Calvin once persuaded an Anabaptist named Herman to enter the Reformed Church. His description of the event leaves no doubt about the difference between Calvin and the modern Evangelical. Calvin wrote:

Herman has, if I am not mistaken, in good faith returned to the fellowship of the Church. He has confessed that outside the Church there is no salvation, and that the true Church is with us. Therefore, it was defection when he belonged to a sect separated from it.7

Evangelicals don’t understand this type of language. They are accustomed to treating “the Church” as a purely spiritual reality, represented across denominations or wherever “true believers” are gathered. This was not Calvin’s view. His was “the true Church,” marked off by infant baptism, outside of which there was no salvation.

Making Sense of Evangelicalism

Studying Calvin raised important questions about my Evangelical identity. How could I reject as unimportant issues that my own founder considered essential? I had blithely and confidently dismissed baptism, Eucharist, and the Church itself as “merely symbolic,” “purely spiritual” or, ultimately, unnecessary. In seminary, too, I found an environment where professors disagreed entirely over these issues and no one cared! With no final court of appeal, we had devolved into a “lowest common denominator” theology.

Church history taught me that this attitude was a recent development. John Calvin had high expectations for the unity and catholicity of the faith, and for the centrality of Church and sacrament. But Calvinism couldn’t deliver it. Outside of Geneva, without the force of the state to impose one version, Calvinism itself splintered into factions. In her book Orthodoxies in Massachusetts: Rereading American Puritanism, historian Janice Knight details how the process unfolded very early in American Calvinism. 8

It is not surprising that by the eighteenth century, leading Calvinist Churchmen on both sides of the Atlantic had given up on the quest for complete unity. One new approach was to stress the subjective experience of “new birth” (itself a novel doctrine of Puritan origins) as the only necessary concern. The famous revivalist George Whitefield typified this view, going so far as to insist that Christ did not want agreement in other matters. He said:

It was best to preach the new birth, and the power of godliness, and not to insist so much on the form: for people would never be brought to one mind as to that; nor did Jesus Christ ever intend it.9

Since the eighteenth century, Calvinism has devolved more and more into a narrow set of questions about the nature of salvation. Indeed, in most people’s minds the word Calvinism implies only the doctrine of predestination. Calvin himself has become mainly a shadowy symbol, a myth that Evangelicals call upon only to support a spurious claim to historical continuity.

The greatest irony in my historical research was realizing that Evangelicalism, far from being the direct descendant of Calvin, actually represents the failure of Calvinism. Whereas Calvin spent his life in the quest for doctrinal unity, modern Evangelicalism is rooted in the rejection of that quest. Historian Alister McGrath notes that the term “Evangelical,” which has circulated in Christianity for centuries, took on its peculiar modern sense only in the twentieth century, with the founding of the National Association of Evangelicals (1942). This society was formed to allow coordinated public action on the part of disparate groups that agreed on “the new birth,” but disagreed on just about everything else.10

A Calvinist Discovers Catholicism

I grew up believing that Evangelicalism was “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” I learned from Protestant Church history that it was hardly older than Whitefield, and certainly not the faith of the Protestant Reformers. What to do? Should I go back to the sixteenth century and become an authentic Calvinist? I already knew that Calvin himself, for all his insistence on unity and authority, had been unable to deliver the goods. His own followers descended into anarchy and individualism.

I realized instead that Calvin was part of the problem. He had insisted on the importance of unity and authority, but had rejected any rational or consistent basis for that authority. He knew that Scripture totally alone, Scripture interpreted by each individual conscience, was a recipe for disaster. But his own claim to authority was perfectly arbitrary. Whenever he was challenged, he simply appealed to his own conscience, or to his subjective experience, but he denied that right to Bolsec and others. As a result, Calvin became proud and censorious, brutal with his enemies, and intolerant of dissent. In all my reading of Calvin, I don’t recall him ever apologizing for a mistake or admitting an error.

It eventually occurred to me that Calvin’s attitude contrasted sharply with what I had found in the greatest Catholic theologians. Many of them were saints, recognized for their heroic charity and humility. Furthermore, I knew from reading them, especially St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis de Sales, that they denied any personal authority to define doctrine. They deferred willingly, even joyfully, to the authority of Pope and council. They could maintain the biblical ideal of doctrinal unity (1 Corinthians 1:10), without claiming to be the source of that unity.

These saints also challenged the stereotypes about Catholics that I had grown up with. Evangelicals frequently assert that they are the only ones to have “a personal relationship with Christ.” Catholics, with their rituals and institutions, are supposed to be alienated from Christ and Scripture. I found instead men and women who were single-minded in their devotion to Christ and inebriated with His grace.

The Catholic theologian who had the greatest impact on me was undoubtedly St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430). All of my life, I heard the claim that “the Early Church” had been Protestant and Evangelical. My seminary professors and even Calvin and Luther always pointed to St. Augustine as their great Early Church hero. When I finally dug into Augustine, however, I discovered a thorough-going Catholicism. Augustine loved Scripture and spoke profoundly about God’s grace, but he understood these in the fully Catholic sense. Augustine destroyed the final piece of my Evangelical view of history.

In the end, I began to see that everything good about Evangelicalism was already present in the Catholic Church – the warmth and devotion of Evangelical spirituality, the love of Scripture and even, to some extent, the Evangelical tolerance for diversity. Catholicism has always tolerated schools of thought, various theologies and different liturgies. But unlike Evangelicalism, the Catholic Church has a logical and consistent way to distinguish the essential from the non-essential. The Church’s Magisterium, established by Christ (Matthew 16:18; Matthew 28:18-20), has provided that source of unity that Calvin sought to replace.

One of the most satisfying things about my discovery of the Catholic Church is that it fully satisfied my desire for historical rootedness. I began to study history believing in that continuity of faith and trying desperately to find it. Even when I thought I had found it in the Reformation, I still had to contend with the enormous gulf of the Catholic Middle Ages. Now, thanks to what Calvin taught me, there are no more missing links. On November 16, 2003 I finally embraced the faith “once for all delivered to the Saints.” I entered the Catholic Church.

  1. “The Consistory of Geneva, 1559-1569,” Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance 38 (1976): 467-484. []
  2. Letter to Madame de Cany, 1552. []
  3. Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. J. T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960: 3.2.3, 4.3.4. []
  4. Institutes 4.12.9. []
  5. Institutes 4.17.32. []
  6. Institutes 4.17.17; 4.17.19. []
  7. Letters of John Calvin, trans. M. Gilchrist, ed. J.Bonnet, New York: Burt Franklin, 1972, I: 110-111. []
  8. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994. []
  9. Cited in Mark A. Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys. Downers Grove: IVP, 2003, 14. []
  10. Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995, 17-23. []
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  1. Thank you, Dr. Anders, for this excellent article. Having converted to the Catholic faith from Calvinism only fairly recently, I am still learning what I left behind, more and more, as my “new” vantage point allows me to more clearly see what Calvinism really entails, then and now. This article helped me in that regard. I look forward to your appearance on EWTN Live on 6/23.

    Blessings and Peace. KB

  2. Pretty typical narrative…Protestantism is “doomed to confusion and inconsistency.” Enter Rome. It should be noted, however, that there’s a significant movement within the Reformed/Presbyterian world that is fully aware of the differences between Reformational Protestantism and post-Awakening American Evangelicalism. The folks at Westminster West are some of the leaders of this renewed confessional catholicism, which has adherents going back to the “Old Lights” of the 18th century who protested the Awakening and the Mercersburg school of the 19th century (Philip Schaff, J. W. Nevin) who heavily criticized the overly-pietist strain within American Protestant religion. As it happens, I stand more with the Free Church tradition, but I think it’s interesting to note how someone like Dr. Anders has followed a path almost identical to R. Scott Clark or Mike Horton, yet the latter ended-up with a renewed emphasis on the catholicity of their Reformed churches, yet Anders ended-up embracing Rome — both paths were in reaction to the instability of an excessive individualism within (certain segments of) contemporary Protestantism.

    On an entirely different note, I found it a bit difficult to take Anders seriously when he said:

    I found him [Calvin] proud, judgmental and unyielding.

    Seriously? I can’t remember the number of times, while reading the Institutes, that I’ve been amazed by the spiritual depth and humility of Calvin, not to mention the riches found in his commentaries on Scripture. Calvin could certainly, at times, be unyielding in his position as a Genevan reformer (not surprising, considering the precarious situation of the Reformation and the threats from without and within), but his dogmatic and exegetical work are models of Christian discipleship.

  3. Seriously? I can’t remember the number of times, while reading the Institutes, that I’ve been amazed by the spiritual depth and humility of Calvin, not to mention the riches found in his commentaries on Scripture.

    It’s obvious from the article that Dr. Anders’ familiarity with Calvin’s personality goes a lot deeper than just reading the Institutes and Commentaries. Why would we expect to get to know a person from reading systematic theological treatises, anyway? Have you read the letters or anything else? I just ask because your response is the same as what I always hear when it is suggested that Calvin was not the paragon of Christian charity. Historical actions are parried with references to treatises. Well, I know plenty of people who can make themselves look and sound really pious when they need to, both evangelicals who can sway in the dark to soft rock “worship” music with their eyes closed and hands in the air, then spew vile gossip an hour later, and Reformed folk who can talk pious theology like Calvin but will tear you to pieces if you disagree with them.

    Personally I’d like to thank Dr. Anders for opening up the discussion with primary sources and secondary scholarship that I didn’t even know existed.

  4. Having re-read that post, I noticed that I made too much of a dichotomy between what a treatise can say and what other sources can say. Obviously it’s not the case that everyone is just fake when they write some kind of official document. My point was that those sources shouldn’t be given some kind of “primary” status through which other sources are relegated to insignificance. They should be read together, especially since it’s a lot easier to speak piously than to act piously.

  5. David,

    If Anders is going to impugn Calvin as “proud, judgmental, and unyielding,” then he needs to explain the ways in which this pride is expressed in his life as a reformer and a scholar and, fundamentally, as a disciple of Christ. Otherwise, it’s just a cheap shot and a caricature. I have no problem recognizing Calvin’s character flaws — I have plenty myself — but amidst these faults the grace of God prevailed in some marvelous ways. I’m not interested in portraying Calvin, or any man, as “a paragon of Christian charity,” but rather as a vessel of God’s mercy.

    I’ve recently read Bruce Gordon’s biography of Calvin and the typical Reformation scholarship of, e.g., Heiko Oberman and Steven Ozment. I read some of Calvin’s correspondence for my class on the Reformation as an undergraduate (at a large, secular university). I’m no expert, to be sure, but I’m hardly ignorant either.

  6. Kevin D (#2):

    Calvin could certainly, at times, be unyielding in his position as a Genevan reformer (not surprising, considering the precarious situation of the Reformation and the threats from without and within), but his dogmatic and exegetical work are models of Christian discipleship.

    I notice that Dr Anders described some of the measures Calvin actually took in Geneva to punish and suppress dissent. Are you prepared to justify them? I also notice that many Protestants condemn similar measures that Catholic authorities once took to punish and suppress dissent. Do you agree with those Protestants? If so, I’d love to see you try to explain how Calvin was justified in doing what Catholic prelates were unjustified in doing.

    …I think it’s interesting to note how someone like Dr. Anders has followed a path almost identical to R. Scott Clark or Mike Horton, yet the latter ended-up with a renewed emphasis on the catholicity of their Reformed churches, yet Anders ended-up embracing Rome…

    This is just further support for an argument I’ve been making for years. It is evident that intelligent, well-informed people can study the same dataset, and even be disturbed by the same problems, and yet come to mutually incompatible theological conclusions about how to interpret the data so as to solve the problems. The question then arises: how is one to tell the difference between conclusions that are only personal opinions, and conclusions that actually express the assent of faith as distinct from opinion? My argument is that, if the Protestant hermeneutical paradigm were correct, then one could not tell the difference, whereas if the Catholic HP is correct, one can. And I take it as self-evident that such is a reason to prefer the Catholic HP.

    Best,
    Mike

  7. Pretty typical narrative…Protestantism is “doomed to confusion and inconsistency.” Enter Rome.

    Actually, I thought it was anything but typical. Most converts (and Calvinists) I know seem to have glossed over Calvin, but it’s obvious that Dr. Anders knows his subject, both on a professional and a personal level. Anyway, his admission that he found he didn’t like Calvin seems almost secondary, doesn’t it?

    And while I do think that Protestantism is doomed to confusion, I think the point of this article is that Protestantism is not doomed so much to inconsistency as it is to an extreme reductionism that squeezes out anything other than “We both love Jesus” from gospel unity. What we have in Calvin is an early indicator of where Protestantism was headed. I think he demonstrates that well, generally-speaking.

  8. Thanks for your response, Kevin. Just so you know, I didn’t mean to imply that you hadn’t read anything else by/about Calvin. It was an honest question and I can tell from your answer that you’re probably more well-read than I am on the specifics of Calvin’s life. On the other hand, since Dr. Anders focused on Calvin in his PhD in Reformation History, I’m going to assume he’s read (and written) more than both of us on the subject. In this relatively short and basic article he made mention of particular historical incidents and quoted from particular texts in support of his claim that Calvin was often proud and unyielding, yet you didn’t attempt to refute any of them in your original response; you merely quoted and condemned the conclusion without evaluating the premises. Which of the historical examples mentioned in the article do you disagree with?

  9. Dr and Mrs Anders, welcome home.

    While I was not a Calvinist of any stripe, I remember reading the Institutes and then comparing them with the biography of Calvin and the history of Geneva during his reign. I did that in part because I understood that one is supposed to “watch what I do, not what I say,” although one can hope that the words and deeds match.

    I had the impression then and have found nothing to contradict the impression that Geneva was a police state with a fairly high level of control invested in those who ran that jail. Conformity – with great peer pressure backed by punishment – was the watchword. Obedience to Calvin and then the ministers/theology. (In reading the article and again noting the punishments, I was reminded of Article 58:10, anti-Soviet agitation, as the basis for punishment in a later police state.)

    I was not impressed by Calvin’s theology, and I was even less impressed by his efforts. He appeared to be the enemy of the good, rather a herald thereof.

    That kind of recognition by an American of Calvinist leanings with an evangelical background would be a problem. You want to love God freely and, thinking he is Calvin your ally, determine he is in fact Calvin your enemy, who intends you to be Pinnochio while he pulls the strings. Calvin was proud, judgmental and unyielding. A perfect temperment for a dictator.

    Fortunately Rome did enter the argument as a proper disputant, with birthdays all the way back to the beginning as the Church instituted by Christ Jesus and given the authority to do what it must to bring redemption to the human race. The saints noted above evidenced obedience by desire out of love, no strings attached, and the comparison with the reformers was (and continues to be) staggering.

  10. Isn’t Bolsec the one who was in trouble everywhere- not just Geneva? Isn’t he the one who wrote a biography on Calvin making him out to be vile, promiscuous with both men and women? Hasn’t this person been sufficiently been discredited? How did Bolsec gain sympathy from Dr. Anders?

  11. Ron,

    It doesn’t appear to me that Dr. Anders is showing sympathy toward Bolsec, rather painting Bolsec and Calvin in the same light (two people who claimed to have hold of the Holy Spirit and held their individual interpretation of Scripture as valid, though they were mutually exclusive). It appears to me that Dr. Anders is using Bolsec’s case to show Calvin’s “dark side”, not from Bolsec’s biography, but from objective history and Calvin’s mouth himself. If Dr. Anders has converted to Catholicism, it should be an indicator that he is no apologist for Bolsec either.

  12. Dr. Anders,

    I enjoyed the article. Your points about the Reformation theology of the 16th century not being the same as modern day evangelical spirituality were good and valid, but how do you get from realizing that to making the move to Rome? The realization of that has caused some Presbyterians to move to a more catholic view of the Church. And not a few Lutheran and Anglican churches are still orthodox and still holding to the Reformation theology as articulated by the Reformers. How would you view them?

    On the other hand, in support of your point (which is that Protestantism must either have arbitrary authoritative interpretation, or no authoritative interpretation at all), consider this quotation:

    A few years past have brought forth more and more dangerous opinions in that one kingdom, than many preceding generations in all the churches of Christ, so evil and bitter a thing it is to leave every man to his own fancy, and the vineyard of the Lord without a hedge. The late general assemblies of [the Church] and their commissioners, have born testimony against independency, erastianism, anabaptism, antinomianism, arminianism, socinianism, familism, scepticism, &c. And the ministers of the province of London, and many others have more particularly reckoned and condemned the errors which men of corrupt minds there have run into.

    Upon first seeing this, the reader might suspect it to be from a Roman Catholic document from the time of the Reformation. In fact, this is a quote from the “Decree Against Toleration,” published by the Reformed Church of Scotland in 1649. The irony is palpable, especially in this quote, but also throughout the entire document (which can be found here: http://www.reformed.org/ecclesiology/index.html). The theology of the Church of Scotland was, admittedly, founded in a great part on the theology of a man who did exactly what they condemned–John Calvin went against the Church’s opinion and interpreted Scripture as he wished. It just goes to show that nearly everyone (aside from men like Chillingworth) before the rise of evangelicalism did realize that there has to be an interpretive authority–but Protestantism didn’t want Rome to occupy that seat of authority.

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  13. Bolsec converted to Catholicism too. FWIW.

  14. Ron, in what way and by whom has Bolsec been discredited? Discredited how? Are you claiming that Dr. Anders is wrong and that Bolsec was not imprisoned for disagreeing with John Calvin’s interpretation of the Scriptures? If that’s the case, can you produce evidence of this?

  15. Spencer (#12):

    It just goes to show that nearly everyone (aside from men like Chillingworth) before the rise of evangelicalism did realize that there has to be an interpretive authority–but Protestantism didn’t want Rome to occupy that seat of authority.

    You are quite right. And I think that points up the fundamental problem with the Reformation at its very beginnings.

    The so-called “Colloquy of Marburg” held in 1527 among the major Reformers of the time broke up in acrimony. The ample scholarship on that event shows that the broad outlines of the split between Lutheran, Reformed, and free-church Protestantism were evident even then. Thus a few years later (1530), Casper Schwenckfeld could cynically note that “the Papists damn the Lutherans; the Lutherans damn the Zwinglians; the Zwinglians damn the Anabaptists and the Anabaptists damn all others.” By the end of the seventeenth century many others saw that it was not possible on the basis of Scripture alone to build up a detailed orthodoxy commanding general assent. (A.N.S. Lane, “Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey”, Vox Evangelica, Volume IX – 1975, pp. 44, 45). The Lutherans, the Zwinglians, even the Anabaptists each recognized the need for an ecclesial interpretive authority; but because they eschewed ecclesial infallibility, and each claimed authority on the basis of mutually incompatible interpretations of Scripture, they left themselves absolutely no way to adjudicate between competing claims to such authority. In other words, by rejecting the sacramental magisterial authority claimed by the Catholic Church in virtue of apostolic succession, as that concept was traditionally understood, they left themselves unable to bring off the very thing whose necessity they took for granted. All they could do was assert the primacy of their own consciences and hence the utter rightness of their own opinions, as if they had the sort of authority they all rejected. We see the results today, but they were already evident centuries ago.

    Best,
    Mike

  16. Tim,
    No disagreement with the fact of his imprisonment. He was considered a trouble-maker in many other cities as well. He wrote some pretty far-fetched things about Calvin and others. My only point is that imprisoning Bolsec, knowing more of the history, does not make him just like any other evangelical of today. Objectively, from history- he was a trouble-maker and I am sure Calvin was probably not the only one wishing him in a ditch.

  17. ZZZZzzzzzzZZZZZZZzzzzzz…

    This article is so far from the published primary source material on Calvin and the Genevan Consistory that I must say YOU GUYS CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS!

    Aside from the fact that this site itself is dishonest in attempting to appear as something other than what it is – a propaganda engine to convert folks to Romanism – the above post just represents more historical revisionism with a jaundiced Roman eye typical of the sort of half-informed historically inaccurate mish mash that makes up the main of Catholic apologetics on the Internet.

    So you have one more wishy-washy Evangelical academic who has found his way to Rome – so what? Is this not merely evidence that even the brightest of men in the worst of environments rationalize the idolatry they suppose in their hearts and find a way to that which they want regardless of the truth of the matter? If Dr. Anders account and story was really objective in his look at Calvin, would he really have the unmitigated gall to call Calvin proud and judgmental? Can you not see that this is hardly an account that looks at the history without undue bias?

  18. It is amusing to see the difference between those who convert from Romanism to Protestantism, and those who convert from Protestantism to Romanism.

    The first group – and I’ve seen quite a few of those – bases their conversion to Protestantism because they found some objective principles of interpretation. Very seldom you see a convert to Protestantism that bases their conversion on some kind of personal feelings or preferences – it is usually a doctrinally motivated conversion.

    This article – and I find it amusing – talks mainly about the personal preferences of the author. Here what he says at the conclusion of the article:

    “One of the most satisfying things about my discovery of the Catholic Church is that it fully satisfied my desire for historical rootedness.”

    Notice the words: “…it fully satisfied my desire…” It is about personal satisfaction, it is not about objective truths. The rest of the article is exactly that: An attempt – and very lame attempt, I must say – at rationalizing a decision that was made on entirely subjective, emotional, anti-intellectual basis. It is strange that a person would be proud of being so self-centered that to make his personal preferences a factor in choosing his religion (whatever happened to objective truth?) but it is even more strange that the Roman church would accept and promote such conversion. It only comes to prove that the Roman converts are moved by emotionalism, not very different from Charismatics, Manicheans, and other anti-intellectual groups. Those that value the truth of the Bible over any personal preferences have only choice: Reformed Christianity.

  19. Make that banishment.

  20. Ron – that’s cool I’m not disagreeing with you. I’ve been quite a trouble-maker in my day as well. I don’t know what it means in his case because I don’t know the history. I mean if he was breaking the law – he should have been thrown in prison I agree. But was that what he was thrown in there for or was it something else? Dr. Anders makes it sound like Bolsec was put into prison for disagreeing with Calvin. Troublemaker or not, I think it makes Dr. Anders’ point (if that’s true). But maybe it’s not – is that not what he was thrown in prison for?

  21. Bojidar Marinov,

    The rest of the article is exactly that: An attempt – and very lame attempt, I must say – at rationalizing a decision that was made on entirely subjective, emotional, anti-intellectual basis. It is strange that a person would be proud of being so self-centered that to make his personal preferences a factor in choosing his religion (whatever happened to objective truth?) but it is even more strange that the Roman church would accept and promote such conversion.

    With all respect, brother, this sounds uncharitable towards Dr. Anders. To say that his move to Rome was wrong is one thing, and to say that there is a little bit of triumphalism in this article which might have been left out is one thing, but to impute an entirely emotionally based conversion to Dr. Anders is unfounded.
    I am currently at a period of being undecided about ecclesiology and am working through the process of discernment. While I agree with you that sometimes nowadays too much stress is put on the emotional aspects of conversion stories to Rome, I don’t think you find that in this article–which focuses mostly on objective historical and theological argumentation–and certainly not on C2C as a whole.

    I am grateful to the writers of C2C for their desire to seek the unity of all Christians. May we all be brought into one fold, under one Shepherd.

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  22. Spencer,

    Thank you for that. I was afraid that this combox was headed for disaster. Hopefully, the tone will come down a notch or two.

  23. Spencer,

    “C2C” is not about the unity of all Christians – that is merely codespeak for saying that what C2C and its authors desire is for everyone to “convert” to Rome. This is why real ecumenism with Rome is impossible. It is either the Roman way or the highway – and this exclusivist position is hardly in line either with the reality of Christ and His Church spread across all sorts of communions and lands and the actuality that there are Christians outside of Rome’s walls.

    But, as I said earlier, I just wish you fellows would be blatantly honest with those you speak to about these things instead of inferring that what you are really about is unity among all brothers. The truth is you are not interested in any unity except that which would be present from everyone capitulating their position and practice in favor of yours. At root, this project is dishonest in the extreme and it is only the uninformed that will buy what you are selling. But, that is what wolves do – parade as sheep for the sake of deception.

  24. Spencer, my words may sound “uncharitable,” but can that be a reason for not saying what is obvious from the very words of the article? The author ends the article with what he believes is “one of the most satisfying things,” and it is that some “desire” of his has been satisfied. Since when, I ask, is satisfaction of personal desires the standard for discerning God’s truth? Is it possible that sometimes God’s truth is emotionally or intellectually “unsatisfactory” because of our fallen nature? (Not that the truth of God itself is imperfect or unsatisfactory.)

    What the author has done is he has taken his own desires and lusts for his standard for judging the truth – by his own admission, note that, not by my judgment. Don’t kill the messenger, I am only pointing to a fact in the very article itself. I am not being “uncharitable,” I am only pointing to what the author himself says about himself. And I am commenting on it.

    And I don’t understand why Joe June had to make the comment above: “I was afraid that this combox was headed for disaster. Hopefully, the tone will come down a notch or two.” I find this very offensive and un-Christian. Just because I disagree with the author of the article doesn’t make my comment “disastrous” or “high notch.” But since I meet such an attitude, I’ll leave y’all and not disturb your comfortable discussion anymore.

  25. Tim,
    On multiple occasions Bolsec disrupted speakers and publicly derided the ministers of Geneva. His arrest was due to disorderly conduct and his inappropriate speech against the ministers. This was not Calvin’s doing- Calvin did him banished from Geneva though. Although there was much debate about double predestination (which Bolsec took issue with), he was accused of Pelagianism and if I recall the RCC and every other orthodox Christian body thinks is wrong. Many in Geneva, as well as other Reformers (like Philipp Melachthon) thought Calvin was too harsh.

  26. Bojidar,

    The first group – and I’ve seen quite a few of those – bases their conversion to Protestantism because they found some objective principles of interpretation. Very seldom you see a convert to Protestantism that bases their conversion on some kind of personal feelings or preferences – it is usually a doctrinally motivated conversion.

    Since we’re sharing anecdotes, almost every person I know or have heard of who leave the Catholic Church for Protestantism–and there are a lot of them–were poorly catechized in their faith and left the Church quite ignorant of what she actually teaches. An earnest Protestant sets them up with some questions their nominal Catholic understanding has no (or bad) answers for, then shows them with some Bible verses how their answer is wrong and why they need to be saved by Christ [through Protestant Christianity]. That’s 99% of conversions right there; doubt it? just look at South America.

    The Protestants who convert to Catholicism, on the other hand, are strong in their faith and know Protestantism well. Usually they have tremendous prejudices against the Catholic Church which they must overcome, along with the dread of their Protestant friends, family, and community being hurt by their decision, not understanding it, and possibly ostracizing them. They convert only because they become convinced that the Catholic Church teaches the fullness of the truth.

    To Dr. Anders: excellent and insightful article. I’ve sent it to my Presbyterian friend.

  27. Kevin, (re: #23)

    Welcome to Called to Communion. If you look at the Posting Guidelines, you will see that ad hominems are not allowed here. I let both your comments through because if this is your first time posting here, you might not know about the rules for commenting here. The purpose of these rules is so that we can have free, open and fruitful discussion without fear of insults and personal attacks. That means that accusing others of dishonesty is not allowed here. Neither is calling other people “wolves.” If you think something in David’s post is false, feel free to explain which of his claims is false, and why they are false. So far, you have not refuted anything in David’s article.

    As for Called to Communion’s mission, we do pray earnestly for the union of all Christians. And we believe that this unity can only be had by union with the successor of St. Peter. We have been open and clear about that from the beginning. We explained our mission in our first post here back on Ash Wednesday in 2009, in which we wrote:

    We believe that Christ is calling His Church to be one, as He and the Father are one. This is the prayer and the desire of our Savior’s heart and therefore it is also our desire. Our aim is to effect reconciliation and reunion between Catholics and Protestants, particularly those of the Reformed tradition. We hope to accomplish this by removing obstacles founded upon misunderstandings as well as by engaging in charitable discussion of genuine disagreements, in a context of continual prayer for each other and for the unity of all God’s people. We believe that genuine unity comes through truth and never by forsaking or compromising the truth.

    A very short time later we explained the difference between two conceptions of ecumenicism, one built on compromise, and the other built on mutual pursuit of truth. Your notion of ecumenicism seems to be that everyone must compromise. But are you willing to compromise about your conception of ecumenicsm? If so, then we can dialogue about that, on the “Two Ecumenicisms” thread. If you want all Christians in the world to believe just like you, then your position is no more subject to compromise than that of the Catholic Church. But if you are fine with Christians not believing just like you, then you shouldn’t mind Christians believing that true unity only comes through full communion with the successor of St. Peter. Just because people believe true unity requires full communion with the successor of St. Peter does not mean that they are dishonest or “wolves.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  28. Kevin (#23):

    I have a question for you. I shall ask it because I really don’t know the answer, and knowing the answer is important if dialogue is to be possible.

    You wrote:

    …real ecumenism with Rome is impossible. It is either the Roman way or the highway – and this exclusivist position is hardly in line either with the reality of Christ and His Church spread across all sorts of communions and lands and the actuality that there are Christians outside of Rome’s walls.

    My question is this: how do you reconcile that statement with the following statement from Vatican II’s Unitatis Redintegratio (footnotes omitted; emphasis added):

    3. Even in the beginnings of this one and only Church of God there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly condemned. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church–for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame. The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church–whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church–do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.

    Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.

    Best,
    Mike

  29. Kevin,

    “So you have one more wishy-washy Evangelical academic who has found his way to Rome – so what?”

    I would say back to you: You are better than that. If we are going to have real discussion about such crucial and vital matters, we can do without comments like “wishy-washy” which serve no purpose. You have something to offer as way of a critique and we are all ears and in fact pray for genuine engagement in mutual pursuit of the truth.

  30. Kevin,

    I apologize for appearing to “pile-on”. As I was typing and away from my computer I see that Bryan already responded. I echo his words.

  31. Devin’s experience matches up with mine, too. Most of the converts from either side to the other are converts from Protestant to Catholicism, not Catholicism to Protestantism. Of the people I know on both sides, those on the former are generally more educated and have had the most to lose, socially speaking, from making the change. Rather than being moved by “emotion” (whatever Bojidar means by that), they saw the futility of a world in which they bore the weight of wading through thousands of competing voices demanding allegiance to their personal opinions about the meaning of scripture. They were convinced by object evidence from scripture and history that the Reformation distinctives were novelties, and that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ and given the Spirit in such a way as to be able to teach the faith authoritatively in all generations.

    Most of the converts from Catholicism to Protestantism are also very similar to the ones Devin described. They were poorly catechized and eventually led astray by fluffy, “emotional” promises about a deeper “personal relationship with Christ” and freedom from the “bondage” of “religion” and “formalism.” In this sense most of these converts have the same grievances with traditional Reformed Christianity that they have with Catholicism. They don’t know anything about doctrine. They despise doctrine. This, again, is an objection that they hold against both Catholicism and traditional Reformed Christianity.

    But really, what does all this matter? What does our personal experience have to do with anything under discussion? I find it highly ironic that Mr. Marinov begins his criticism of what he perceives to be an article poisoned with emotionalism and “personal desire” with a description of his own personal experience among converts, as if his triumphal report of his experience is supposed to mean something to us. Then, when called out for the rank lack of charity in his comment (He mentions more than once how “amusing” he finds the article; then labels the article lame, emotional, subjective, and anti-intellectual without even responding to any its particular historical and theological observations; then he compares converts to Catholicism to Manichaeans and Charismatics) he says that the person who pointed it out is being un-Christian. Come on. All of us on this site, as Devin pointed out, love Christ and the scriptures, and we spent a lot of time studying and praying before making the decision to convert. Most of us have or are pursuing advanced degrees in theology, philosophy and/or history. Many of us are suffering considerable fallout because of our decision to convert to Catholicism. To compare us to Pentecostals who roll around on the ground and have laughing fits is uncharitable. It’s not your “disagreement with the author” that makes your post high notch, but your condescending rhetoric.

  32. I will leave the business of “sharing anecdotes” to the others, and I will point to a very firmly established fact: The very words of the very author of the article:

    “One of the most satisfying things about my discovery of the Catholic Church is that IT FULLY SATISFIED MY DESIRE for historical rootedness.”

    You can talk about “anecdotes” all day long, I will stick to the article itself, and what the author reveals about himself in his own words.

    I can also use David Pell’s words, while he is using anecdotes:

    “Rather than being moved by “emotion” (whatever Bojidar means by that), they saw the futility of a world in which THEY BORE THE WEIGHT of wading through thousands of competing voices demanding allegiance to their personal opinions about the meaning of scripture.”

    Another proof of emotionalism as a factor of converting to Romanism. These people just got tired of doing what they were supposed to do: Study the Scriptures.

    I also like the fact that from the words of both Devin and David – no anecdotal evidence, their own words, please note – those that come from Romanism to Protestantism are poorly catechized, have no knowledge, and are in need of better instruction in the faith. To the contrary, those that come from Protestantism, are well-educated, catechized, have strong faith, and are real Christians.

    I think that shows very well the fruit of the two faiths: Even the worst level of faith in the Protestantism is much better educated in the faith than most Romanists. And I must admit: I have very seldom seen any faith or understanding in those that come from Romanism. We need to educate them and catechize them. Whereas there is not much need to educate and catechize those that convert from Protestantism to Romanism – they come educated and understanding.

  33. Ron – That sounds fair. Dunno my history there so I’ll take your word until I know better but it sure sounds like the sort of thing that could get misrepresented.

  34. Ron – let me clarify – I meant that it [the Bolsec scenario] could easily get misrepresented. I’m not claiming that you are likely misrepresenting it.

  35. Bojidar,

    Let’s leave to the side your concerns about one making a decision based off what you claim was emotional. To be fair, as St. Augustine said long ago, we have made for God and our hearts our restless until they find Him. Thus, if one finds the truth about God and His Church then it should not be surprising that our desires are met. I do not concede that Dr. Anders left the Reformed faith for such reasons as you claim but I think it best to address his topic: How John Calvin Made Me a Catholic.

    When Calvin writes, in reference to the Church, that leaving her is always fatal, as the following quote makes clear, on what basis did he (Calvin) leave the Church? That is a fair question and not based off emotionalism. I would be happy to get your thoughts about that, if you don’t mind.

    “But as it is now our purpose to discourse of the visible Church, let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels, (Matth. 22: 30.) For our weakness does not permit us to leave the school until we have spent our whole lives as scholars. Moreover, beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for, as Isaiah and Joel testify, (Isa. 37: 32; Joel 2: 32.) To their testimony Ezekiel subscribes, when he declares, “They shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel,” (Ezek. 13: 9;) as, on the other hand, those who turn to the cultivation of true piety are said to inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem. For which reason it is said in the psalm, “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance,” (Ps. 106: 4, 6.) By these words the paternal favour of God and the special evidence of spiritual life are confined to his peculiar people, and hence the abandonment of the Church is always fatal.” (IV:4).

  36. Tim, it is easy. Calvin never left the Church. It may be your personal opinion that he left the Church, or it may satisfy some personal desire for you to say that he left the Church, but the reality is that Calvin never left the Church.

  37. Bojidar — The fact that Dr. Anders’ desire for historical rootedness was fulfilled in his reception into the Church neither condemns conversion to Catholicism nor impugns Dr. Anders’ reasons for doing so.

    If an atheist joined your reformed congregation and expressed how relieved he was to finally have his desire for communion with the transcendent fulfilled would you chastise him for not talking about objective truth enough? Or would you be happy that his conversion to the objective truth of the death and resurrection of Christ for that man came along with spiritual, psychological and epistemological consolation?

    Dr. Anders’ didn’t say that consolation of historical rootedness (which one ought to expect when coming to the knowledge of the God of history) was his only reason for converting. I might be better to say it was a delightful side-benefit of discovering the objective truth that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus founded.

    At any rate it’s clear that Dr. Anders did a great deal of historical and theological study on his way to Catholicism. He’s at least got one more doctorate than you or I do in studying Calvin. You’re really making a mountain out of a molehill of a passing remark.

  38. Bojidar said: “Those that value the truth of the Bible over any personal preferences have only choice: Reformed Christianity.”

    Of course no personal preferences, just the clear truth of the bible leads to (as you said it) the only choice………

    Canadian and American Reformed Churches
    Christian Reformed Church in North America
    Christian Reformed Churches of Australia
    Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches
    Congregational Federation of Australia
    Dutch Reformed Church
    Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches
    Free Reformed Churches of North America
    Heritage Reformed Congregations
    Netherlands Reformed Congregations
    Orthodox Christian Reformed Church
    Protestant Reformed Churches in America
    Reformed Church in America
    Reformed Church in Hungary
    Reformed Church in the United States
    Remonstrant Brotherhood
    United Reformed Church
    United Reformed Churches in North America
    Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
    Bible Presbyterian Church
    Christ Community Church
    Church of Scotland
    Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches
    Cumberland Presbyterian Church
    Evangelical Presbyterian Church
    Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales
    Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ukraine
    Evangelical Presbyterian Church (Australia)
    Free Church of Scotland
    Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)
    Free Presbyterian Church (Australia)
    Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
    Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster
    Greek Evangelical Church
    Orthodox Presbyterian Church
    Presbyterian Church in America
    Presbyterian Church in Canada
    Presbyterian Church of India
    Presbyterian Church in Ireland
    Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
    Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
    Presbyterian Church of Australia
    Presbyterian Church of Brazil
    Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia
    Presbyterian Church of Korea
    Presbyterian Church of Pakistan
    Presbyterian Church of Wales (also a Methodist church)
    Presbyterian Church (USA)
    Presbyterian Reformed Church (Australia)
    Presbyterian Reformed Church (Canada)
    Reformed Church of France
    Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly
    Reformed Presbyterian Church of Australia
    Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
    Southern Presbyterian Church (Australia)
    United Free Church of Scotland
    Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa
    United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan
    Upper Cumberland Presbyterian Church
    Westminster Presbyterian Church of Australia

    There’s many more, but you get the idea.

  39. Canadian, of your post I conclude that the biggest “choice” for you that comes from your faith is what organization you need to join. Your earthly membership in an organization seems to be of much importance to you. May be it satisfies some personal desire to be under a bureaucratic umbrella, I suppose. It seems to be much more important than your faith in Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior, irrespective of earthly bureaucratic organizations. That must be why Jesus died: To make you a member of a religious club.

    By the way, all the above are part of the community of faith. The existence of these separate bodies is not a choice you make from your faith, it is a choice you make from your understanding of your faith, or to put it in different words, it is your confession of faith. Let me remind you that the Roman church today is much different from what it was 10 centuries ago. Just look at your last catechism – 800 pages, isn’t it? Do you know it all? I doubt it. So you have accepted the “choice” of one organization that you don’t even know what it believes.

  40. Greetings, C2C.
    I wish to thank all of you for your feedback, and for the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences.
    At this point, I would like to respond to a few of the initial comments on my article.

    To begin with, let me say that I wrote this article to point out some very specific nuances in the history of Calvinism and Evangelicalism, and to explain how this helped me on my path to Rome. The title “How John Calvin Made me a Catholic” is obviously a bit of hyperbole, and does not begin to explain all the reasons I became Catholic.

    My “desire for historical rootedness” and my frustrations with the”confusion and inconsistency” of Protestantism were very real, but hardly sufficient reasons to join the Catholic Church. To Bojidar, Kevin, and Spencer, I say that my conversion to Catholicism was the fruit of ten years of theological study, and the honest conclusions arrived at in the pursuit of truth. Becoming Catholic was literally the last thing I ever wanted or expected, but I joined the Church fully convinced of its truth. My conversion was not simply an emotional response to Protestant anarchy.

    Many Evangelicals come to Rome in search of an interpretive authority. While this is the logical thing to do – answering the epistemological question first – accepting the Church’s magisterium was actually the last step in my conversion. My journey began with soteriology – comparing biblical and patristic doctrines to the Reformers. I concluded – on the basis of hard, cold, unemotional exegesis – that Luther profoundly misread Paul. From this, I reexamined ecclesiology, and ultimately authority, and concluded that the Catholics had the better arguments.

    I have given a broader account of my conversion here:
    http://www.chnetwork.org/newsletters/may10.pdf

    I have also given an interview that goes into more of the doctrinal basis for my conversion.
    It is available online :
    http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/seriessearchprog.asp?seriesID=-6892289

    Also, in response to my historical claims about Calvin and Bolsec.
    I deliberately left out most of the footnoting I would have included in an academic article.
    If you would like more documentation, please examine my dissertation.
    It is avaible at:http://disexpress.umi.com/dxweb#search

    Prophets from the ranks of shepherds: John Calvin and the challenge of popular religion (1532–1555)
    by Anders, Albert David Ph.D., The University of Iowa, 2002, 712 pages.

    For those who are interested, I also recommend Philip Holtrop’s 2-volume study on the Bolsec controversy.

  41. Michael Liccione,

    No, I am not willing to defend Calvin’s handling of Geneva at all points, and I’m certainly not going to defend his role in Servetus’ execution. However, a contextual reading certainly relativizes the actions and perhaps lessening the culpability — I don’t know, I’m not Calvin’s judge…God is.

  42. Dr. Anders,

    Thank you for your contribution to CtC.

  43. Bojidar,

    If Calvin did not leave the Church, then what is it that he did?

    “Your earthly membership in an organization seems to be of much importance to you. May be it satisfies some personal desire to be under a bureaucratic umbrella, I suppose. It seems to be much more important than your faith in Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior, irrespective of earthly bureaucratic organizations. That must be why Jesus died: To make you a member of a religious club.”

    Your comments about a Church would be correct if the Church were a man-made institution. To require membership in a man-made institution for salvation would be the height of arrogance and is not credible. However, the Church is not of man’s authority or creation but of God and has Christ for Her Founder and as such she is His Bride endowed with His authority, which can be traced back to the Apostles, empowered by the Holy Spirit working through history in this one Body of Christ.

  44. Tom, it is simple: Calvin stayed in the Church and helped reform the Church.

    “Your comments about a Church would be correct if the Church were a man-made institution.”

    Tom, notice: my comments were not about “a Church.” They were about a bureaucratic organization. The Roman church is not a “church” in the Scriptural sense, therefore it is a man-made organization. Therefore my comments are correct.

  45. BM (#44):

    The Roman church is not a “church” in the Scriptural sense, therefore it is a man-made organization.

    Since Dr Anders has clearly reached the opposite conclusion after a long study of the issues, I wonder what authority you’re willing to acknowledge for adjudicating between his interpretation of Scripture and yours on the question what counts as ‘church’. Is it scholarship? Is it what you take to be the inner testimony of the Spirit? Or some combination of the two? And whatever your answer, how would we know it’s anything more than one opinion among many, i.e. a doctrine propounded with divine authority?

  46. Bojidar,

    Though this thread was supposed to be about the Dr.’s conversion and what he discovered about Calvin, you have made it about the foundational difference between Protestantism and Catholicism.

    I have to ask you: how do you know the Bible is the inspired word of God? After all, there were more than 150 manuscripts floating around for the first few centuries before the canon of Scripture was decided upon. Martin Luther went through the Scriptures and decided which ones he believed were inspired, and chucked several books that had been accepted as inspired by all of Christianity up until that point. I have to wonder why every person with a personal relationship with Christ does not have the right to read over the 150+ manuscripts himself, and decide for himself which ones are inspired by the Holy Spirit and which ones are not. Why does Martin Luther get to decide, but I don’t? This is why Protestantism is founded on a house of sand, because the only way you can know the Scriptures are inspired is by submitting to the Catholic Church’s authority. There is no other way to know that a specific writing is inspired except through authoritative revelation and that revelation came through the Catholic Church more than a thousand years before Protestantism cropped up. The very Bible you use to bash the Catholic Church was given to you by the Catholic Church. As Scott Hahn so aptly put it, you must sit in Rome’s lap to slap her in the face.

    I believe Dr. Ander’s point is that the foundational principle of modern Protestantism–the absolute right to privately interpret Scripture–was not, in fact, a principle of the Reformation. The leaders of the Reformation were absolutely ruthless in their quests to serve as the authoritative interpreters of Scripture and doctrinal gatekeepers. What he and others have touched on here are the real, practical problems with sola scriptura, and why it can never be the foundation for Christianity that Jesus intended. In reality, the only person who is allowed to practice sola scriptura is the pastor of the Protestant church. Anyone who disagrees with him will be asked to leave. I simply cannot believe Our Lord would have prayed for a unity that he did not believe was possible. And unity IS impossible in Protestantism, with “every man his own Pope,” to quote Mr. Luther.

  47. Michael, I already wrote a post about it but the admins decided to not publish it.

    David Anders self-proclaimed authority is his “ten years of theological studies” and “honest conclusions.” It is all his, I concede that, and his it must remain. I will say that I have TWENTY years of theological studies, with ten years of non-Christian philosophical studies before that, before I became a Christian. And my conclusions are every bit as “honest” as his.

  48. Bojidar,

    You said,

    The Roman church is not a “church” in the Scriptural sense, therefore it is a man-made organization. Therefore my comments are correct.

    You have yet to show this in your comments. Therefore, your comments are “correct” as far as they only line-up with your own personal judgment and reaffirm it – which you have yet to prove both in the “Scriptural sense” and the historical sense to Tom or any of us. You should try to avoid statements like these unless you can include some support for them.

    In the peace of Christ,
    Sh’muel

  49. My apologies for comment stacking, Dr. Liccione got to ya first :)

  50. David Anders self-proclaimed authority is his “ten years of theological studies” and “honest conclusions.” It is all his, I concede that, and his it must remain. I will say that I have TWENTY years of theological studies, with ten years of non-Christian philosophical studies before that, before I became a Christian. And my conclusions are every bit as “honest” as his.

    Herein lies the beauty of the Catholic Church. I don’t have to wrestle with the claims of competing scholars or have 30 years of theological study to worship God in good conscience. “Professional theologian” is not my vocation. God’s wisdom is not man’s wisdom, which is why the principle of unity in the Church was always apostolic succession, not years of theological study. Thank God that we have a principle that can be understood and followed by those without even a year of formal theological study, or those who lived before the canonization of the bible or the invention of the printing press. It’s not a “desire for ease,” as our interlocutor here would insult us. It’s “they listened to the teaching of the apostles, broke the bread and prayed.” It’s “obey your elders, for they have been put over you by God as stewards of your souls.” It’s “not all of you should desire to be teachers.” It’s a recognition with the Ethiopian eunuch that I need someone to explain the faith to me. The big-C Catholic principle is truly a little-c catholic principle. This Church is for everyone.

  51. Bojidar (#47):

    I very much doubt that Dr Anders believes his scholarly credentials prove Catholicism to be true, or that he is more “honest” than you. He has written what is largely a brief intellectual autobiography, and that’s why I understand why the “admins” wouldn’t let you publish your arguments, if that’s the choice they made. In that case, my request that you produce such arguments was probably inappropriate. Sorry.

    Best,
    Mike

  52. Kevin D (#41):

    I’m glad to hear that. I’m sure you’ll be equally glad to hear that I see the Catholic persecutors in the same way.

    Best,
    Mike

  53. The “admins” for this thread are not allowing comments that contain personal attacks or insults directed at other participants in the conversation. Discuss the evidence, arguments, history, all you want. But comments containing personal attacks will not be approved.

    Let your speech always be with grace” (Col 4:6)

  54. Dawn, every single one of the questions you are asking are answered by Protestant theologians in the last 400 years. As are all the arguments that Anders mentions in his article. Which brings me to the question how much of “serious studies” he has really done if he repeats arguments that have been answered, without providing explanation for his personal choice to ignore the answers. My bet is he hasn’t done much of a study if he doesn’t know that those arguments are proven false by the opponents.

    Again, my argument stands, that Anders’ conversion to Romanism is entirely based on his personal emotional preferences. “Ten years of study” and “honest conclusions” are not very convincing claims if all he does is repeat warmed over arguments that have been answered. Anders lacks any convincing claim to objective reasons for his conversion. It is entirely personal, and while it is interesting to read, it can’t be taken for authoritative – unless, of course, we want make the Roman church be as subjectivist in its apologetics as are the Charismatics.

    David Pell, you “beauty of the catholic church” proves exactly what I set out to prove: namely, that those who choose the Roman church do it for one main reason: personal preference to not study the Scriptures themselves. This is no objective argument, this is a subjective argument. It is your own, and your won it will remain. There is no excuse for not studying the Scripture.

    Michael:

    “I very much doubt that Dr Anders believes his scholarly credentials prove Catholicism to be true, or that he is more “honest” than you. He has written what is largely a brief intellectual autobiography…”

    Well, then my case is closed. Your words, if taken face value, proved what I set out to prove: Anders’ conversion is based on personal emotional preferences – no matter what he claims. He has no objective grounds for his conversion, only the satisfaction of some personal needs and desires.

  55. Hey, @Canadian #38, you left out the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, which is the one that led me (through teaching me the principles of religious authority and love for truth) to the Catholic Church in 1995 – thanks be to God!

    Wonderful news, Dr Anders.

    jj

  56. Bojidar,

    As a once firmly convinced Reformed Baptist who (wrongly) considered Catholics to have embraced a “false gospel of works” and who genuinely longed to persuade them of their “errors,” I can assure you that emotion does not win the day for me here. I am concerned about truth– what the Bible actually teaches.

    If I still believed that the Biblical Gospel consisted of justification (a legal declaration of the sinner’s imputed righteousness before God) by grace through faith *alone*, I would still be a Protestant. If one really wishes to look at the clear teaching of the Bible on this issue, the second chapter of James states explicitly that man is *not* justified by faith alone. I know that Protestants will say that this verse must be interpreted in light of the other, “clear” verses on justification in the Bible which supposedly “prove” that justification actually *is* by faith alone. (Of course, I know that Protestants will say this– it is what I said as a Protestant myself!) However, what could be more clear than James’ own statement? Why are the other verses on justification somehow more “clear” than this absolutely unequivocal one?

    A large part of the reason that I am leaving Protestantism is that, in light of all of the Protestant exegetical (or *eisegetical*) gymnastics to support their various positions, the Catholic Church’s teaching simply makes much more obvious *sense* of the *Bible’s* teachings. Again, truth, not emotion.

  57. Bojidar,

    In the past I’ve seen accounts given of those who came into the Catholic Church that were much more ‘objectively’ styled and left out the ‘emotional.’ I’ve seen those authors get criticized from Protestants for not being emotional enough.

  58. Bojidar,

    In response to David’s statement in the article that “One of the most satisfying things about my discovery of the Catholic Church is that it fully satisfied my desire for historical rootedness,” in #18 you wrote:

    It is about personal satisfaction, it is not about objective truths.

    What you offer is a false dilemma, one that is not charitable. Your dilemma ignores the possibility that historical rootedness is desirable presicisely insofar as it is truth-confirming. The truth of a system of theology that showed up yesterday, and claimed to be that taught by Jesus Christ of Nazareth, would be highly dubious, precisely because it lacks historical rootedness. Hence desiring historical rootedness can be an expression of our desire for objective truth. And because of that, and because charity requires that we assume the best of a person, until shown otherwise, we should assume that David desired historical rootedness precisely for this reason, i.e. in virtue of his desire for objective truth.

    Then in #54 you wrote:

    Again, my argument stands, that Anders’ conversion to Romanism is entirely based on his personal emotional preferences. … Anders’ conversion is based on personal emotional preferences – no matter what he claims. He has no objective grounds for his conversion, only the satisfaction of some personal needs and desires.

    Your ‘argument’ is based on a false dilemma, as I showed above. And therefore, your conclusion does not follow that David’s conversion is “entirely based on his personal emotional preferences” or that “he has no objective grounds for his conversion.” Those are mere assumptions on your part (uncharitable as well), which do not follow from the false dilemma you offered in #18.

    Lastly, in #54, you wrote:

    [E]very single one of the questions you are asking are answered by Protestant theologians in the last 400 years. As are all the arguments that Anders mentions in his article. Which brings me to the question how much of “serious studies” he has really done if he repeats arguments that have been answered, without providing explanation for his personal choice to ignore the answers. My bet is he hasn’t done much of a study if he doesn’t know that those arguments are proven false by the opponents.

    If you think one (or more) of the statements David has made in his article is false, then instead of attacking David himself (i.e. by claiming that he hasn’t done serious study), the more charitable and appropriate response is to show which of his claims is false, and why it is false. So far, you have not done that. You have not shown that any of David’s statements are false. So at this point, David’s article stands entirely unrefuted.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  59. Christopher and Sean, I am sure you have more anecdotal evidence, and I am sure it is your choice to interpret it as a “quest for truth” rather than emotional decision. Your personal interpretation of that anecdotal evidence is not an argument. What is an argument in this case, are the words of the author of the article, where he says that “one of the most satisfying things” is the fact that the Roman church satisfied a desire of his. I am sure that if you two needed to write an honest account of your conversion to Romanism, you’d have to make the same confession as the author does.

    And Christopher, you have to make a gigantic logical leap from the statement “we are not justified by faith alone” to the statement “the Roman church has the authoritative interpretation of the Scripture.” While the former is a Biblical truth that requires interpretation in the light of the whole Scripture, the latter is a subjective statement of choice, and it has no direct grounds in the Scripture. There is no necessary logical connection between the two.

    Bryan, my dilemma doesn’t ignore the possibility for the validity of historical rootedness as truth-confirming. In fact, if you knew anything about the arguments of the Reformers, you would know that their criticism against the Papacy are exactly that it has abandoned the historical rootedness and has created a new religion based on a bureaucratic organization, not on the truth of the Scripture and handed down by the Church Fathers. My dilemma only questions the motives of the author himself – as evidenced by his own honest statement of what is “most satisfying.”

    In previous post – not published by the admins – I pointed to some false historical interpretations made by the author, and how they flow from his personal bias, not from any objective facts. I pointed to the following passage in the article:

    “Calvin’s most important contribution to Geneva was the establishment of the Consistory – a sort of ecclesiastical court- to judge the moral and theological purity of his parishioners.”

    “Most important contribution”??? Says who? Anders? Has Calvin ever declared this to be his “most important contribution”? I don’t recall so.

    Calvin’s most important contribution is his Institutes of the Christian Religion. This is what he spent the bulk of his life on, and this is what we the Calvinists consider his REALLY most important contribution, to Geneva and to the rest of the world. If Anders has done any deep historical studies, he would have known that. But he chose to arbitrarily declare one little thing “the most important contribution” of Calvin because he has personal preferences.

    An example of a historical event in the article presented falsely and interpreted subjectively by the author is this:

    “One image in particular sticks in my mind. April, 1546. Pierre Ameaux, a citizen of Geneva, was forced to crawl to the door of the Bishop’s residence, with his head uncovered and a torch in his hand. He begged the forgiveness of God, of the ministers and of the city council. His crime? He contradicted the preaching of Calvin. The council, at Calvin’s urging, had decreed Ameaux’s public humiliation as punishment.”

    And now the historical truth from someone who had TWENTY years of study:

    Two and a half years earlier, Pierre Ameaux and his wife Benoite wanted a divorce with a permission to remarry to different partners in the future – a completely unbiblical divorce, you would admit. Pierre Ameaux was probably a libertine. To get a legal divorce, he had to appear before the Consistory and ask for permission to divorce his wife. He falsely accused his wife first of blasphemy, and then, at the second trial before the consistory, of adultery. The decisions of the Consistory did not please him, so he went around calling Calvin a “Picard” and that his teachings were false. (“Picard” is the Swiss derogatory word for the French, comparable to the N-word or to “gook” in America today.) For this he was sentenced – not by Calvin or the Consistory, note that – by the City Council to ask God for forgiveness. God, not Calvin.

    The rest of the article is full with similar incorrect interpretations of history, Calvin, and Evangelical theology like that.

  60. Bojidar (re: #59)

    You wrote:

    Bryan, my dilemma doesn’t ignore the possibility for the validity of historical rootedness as truth-confirming. In fact, if you knew anything about the arguments of the Reformers, you would know that their criticism against the Papacy are exactly that it has abandoned the historical rootedness and has created a new religion based on a bureaucratic organization, not on the truth of the Scripture and handed down by the Church Fathers. My dilemma only questions the motives of the author himself – as evidenced by his own honest statement of what is “most satisfying.”

    Your dilemma only “questions the motives of the author” if it is a true dilemma. But if you acknowledge the possibility that the desire for historical rootedness can be on account of it being truth-confirming, then your dilemma is a false dilemma, in which case you have not shown that the motives of the author are anything less than truth-loving.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  61. It is a bit too late for this, Bryan. I already showed that the author gives false account and interpretations of historical events. Even if by a logical twist you can show the probability that he is truth-loving – only a probability, mind you – his incorrect presentation of history speaks mightily against it.

  62. Bojidar,

    You say Dr. Anders is biased. Are you unbiased? I would say everyone who studies one historical fgiure as much as Dr. Anders has studied Calvin will have some emotion attached to his view of that person. He is not writing a scholarly piece. Emotions are allowed in this forum.

    I do think you seem to view the choosing of Calvinism or Catholicism as merely a scholarly exercise. Who is right on the bible and on the history. It is more than that. Catholicism demands you ascent to the church as the body of Christ. Just like the incarnation of Jesus demanded more than a scholarly investigation of the truth of His claims. It demanded a response of faith. The church’s claim is similar. It claims to extends the incarnation into our present day. If Dr. Anders response was unemotional scholarship I would wonder if he got it.

  63. Bojidar (re: #61)

    At least we have established that all those things you claimed earlier (with such confidence and certainty) that supposedly followed from David’s statement about satisfying his “desire for historical rootedness” do not actually follow from that statement. Do you therefore wish (out of courtesy) to retract them, and build your case against David’s article entirely on the two items you describe in #59 (i.e. Calvin’s “most important contribution” and what David says about the case of Pierre Ameaux)?

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  64. This is an interesting post and discussion thread. I am an Anglican currently reading through the Catechism Of The Catholic Church. In the interest of ecumenism, is there anything Luther or Calvin did or wrote that Catholics find beneficial to the life of the Church? What are your thoughts on Luther’s attack on indulgences and a desire to return to the teachings of the early church fathers?

    I am not a Calvinist. I think righteousness is infused. I reject Sola Scriptura. I have a mixed view of the Atonement (Christus Victor & Substitutionary)

    Also, in light of Lumen Gentium #15, what incentive is there to abandon Anglicanism and enter the Roman Catholic communion? The spirit of the following statement seems to affirm ecumenical ties with us:

    15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. (14*) For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. (15*) They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God.(16*) They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ’s disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. (17*) Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.

  65. “What is an argument in this case, are the words of the author of the article, where he says that one of the most satisfying things’ is the fact that the Roman church satisfied a desire of his.”

    Bojidar,

    Your entire argument seems to hinge off of this one sentence in the article. Dr. Anders stated that the satisfaction of his desire… was ONE of the most satisfying things. One of MANY, not the ONLY one. Your assertion depends on his “desire for historical rootedness” being the ONLY satisfying thing about his conversion, which isn’t what he said at all. And to criticize the use of the the word “satisfy” in his article is plain silly. For example, one can receive satisfaction from intellectual endeavors just as much as they can sensually. Are you satisfied when you read the Scriptures? So, why can’t one be satisified with coming to realize Truth exists in its fullness within the fold of the Catholic Church? “Satisfaction” doesn’t necessarily imply thoughtless emotion. “Desire” is a synonym for “wish” or “request”. It doesn’t have to imply thoughtless emotion either. Basically, your argumentation is wrong on several fronts, even down to basic English. Nor have you proved any of your assertions to be accurate.

  66. Randy, thank you for your admission. Yes, I say Anders is biased and this article must be taken for what it is: A purely subjective personal account. It is his, and his it shall remain. One only wonders why would Roman Catholicism rely on subjective accounts and bias, if the very Roman religion claims objectivity. I see contradiction here. Don’t you?

    And no, Catholicism doesn’t demand the ascent to the Church as the body of Christ. Catholicism demands the subjection under a bureaucratic organization centered in Rome that claims to be the Church. There is nothing in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ that points to such subjection to a bureaucratic organization as a supposed “ascent to the church.” It is a later interpretation by Roman theologians who had vested interests in the bureaucratic organization of Rome – and just like Bryan said earlier, “The truth of a system of theology that showed up yesterday, and claimed to be that taught by Jesus Christ of Nazareth, would be highly dubious, precisely because it lacks historical rootedness.”

    Therefore Romanism is every bit as historically unrooted as Anders accuses Protestantism to be.

    Bryan, I don’t know how you have “established” such a thing. How did you establish something contrary to what the author said in the article, namely, that “one of the most satisfactory things” is that his desire was satisfied? By a logical twist? If we were talking abstract logic here, with no context, in a purely formal Aristotelian fashion, I would have said you have established that it is possible. But we have a specific case of an article and an author, who is proved to be less than objective or honest in his presentation of history, and we have his own admission that he is after his desires being satisfied. So even if I admit that in the abstract sense there is a probability that such a statement still allows for some slight probability for honest truth-seeking, how is this admission going to solve your problem in this specific case, where there are more factors involved?

    The following statement is offensive and uncharitable:

    “…and build your case against David’s article ENTIRELY ON THE TWO ITEMS you describe in #59 (i.e. Calvin’s “most important contribution” and what David says about the case of Pierre Ameaux)?”

    It deliberately misses the very point of my post, that the whole article is written in the same spirit. I specifically mention that these are only examples of the authors incorrect and subjective interpretations. You can notice the last statement I made in that post, and you could have figured out I didn’t give more examples only because I didn’t want to make a longer post. If you want me to write a whole article debunking what Anders has said point by point, would you publish it on your site? I doubt so. Therefore I found it sufficient to only give two examples. They are enough to cast doubt on the honesty of something that is supposed to be a personal testimony.

  67. Joe, your assessment of my argument is incorrect. If you want me to point to other places in the article where the subjectivism of the author is apparent, I will do it.

    To start with:

    “Strangely, mastering Calvin didn’t lead me anywhere I expected. To begin with, I DECIDED THAT I REALLY DIDN’T LIKE Calvin. I FOUND him proud, judgmental and unyielding.”

    Strangely, if I wrote the same thing about the author of the article in this discussion, the admins won’t publish it. But notice the words: TO BEGIN WITH.

    “Calvin’s most important contribution to Geneva was the establishment of the Consistory…”

    Again, personal preference in deciding what is “Calvin’s most important contribution.”

    “But I FINALLY REALIZED that Calvin, with his passion for order and authority, was fundamentally at odds with the individualist spirit of my Evangelical tradition.”

    Again, a subjective realization. Amazingly, the most individualistic of all nations on this planet are the USA and Switzerland, both established by Calvinist populations in history. Obviously the author has his own subjective ways of interpreting Calvin and the Evangelical tradition.

    There is more. In fact, the whole article is like that, based on subjective bias, not objective scholarship.

  68. If I understand the idea of becoming a Catholic involved an emotional response, I’d have to say yes to that. My emotions weighed against becoming Catholic. Everyone and everything that was familiar, comfortable, and rote in my existence and practice was being shuttled out the door, so to speak. I had to justify what I was seeing with others who could or would not see the same things I was seeing, or were incapable of putting the same weight on them that I was being required to use. (Perhaps the cost to those individuals was even greater than mine. I do not know.)

    Work out your salvation in fear and trembling were Paul’s words and look what he gave up to become a servant of Jesus. I cannot work my way to heaven, but I can merit the grace I am given by responding to it correctly to the best of my ability given my station in life. So I imitated Peter without the depth and breadth of his call when Jesus told him: “You follow Me.” I could have stayed where I was but I am convinced that had I done that, I would be damned in the real sense of that word, as in only fit for Hell. I would have denied the Truth and one cannot deny the Truth without peril to one’s own soul.

    I found much more than I left behind. God is true and has been true to me. The item about a hundred fold for those who leave behind everything has been met in my experience. I was given a wife whose Presbyterian lay missionary parents generally loathed me for being Catholic and barely tolerated me for being married to their daughter. (They actually thought I was ripe for conversion. Weren’t they surprised!)

    My wife found out what Catholicity really is and poped, and I became even less popular with my in-laws. The other side of that coin would note that I was able to share something in common with our Lord, and it was not the glad hand of welcome.

    Later, my in-laws were in grave trouble. He had early dementia and she had alzheimers. We opened our home to them, setting up an in-law apartment for their privacy and otherwise ensuring that they were fed, bathed, provided with clean clothing and sheets, rides to the doctor, and regular doses of attention. It permitted my wife to honor her parents (and surprisingly reconnect with her siblings) and I was permitted to display that “turn the other cheek” response that Jesus commanded.

    I definitely did not pope in the fit of an emotional ephiphany. It involved none of the high drama of my original conversion, nor did it resemble the emotional acme of a real pentecostal revival. I poped because the Church, the Body of which Christ is the Head, was right where I was right, and it was right where I was wrong – which I deemed at least as important as the right/right stuff.

    When Newman arrived at the Catholic Church, he noted that Jesus had equipped It to do what must be done in the face of His enemy. The first thing I did, having already been validly baptised, was to make a good confession. What a relief! What a lifter of burdens! I also managed to find a rosary and learn to use that wonderful sacramental.

    Surprisingly my wife, when she was received into the Church, started with a good confession and wept for joy coming out of the confessional. She had not been scolded by the confessor, she had been relieved of the burdens she carried and she recognized it as exactly that. God had forgiven her, and don’t we all need that.

    Up above, Canadian does us the favor of listing the various Reformed communions and churches. When I first scanned it, it looked like the Yellow Pages under Church, and the Yellow Pages list the conflicts involved without providing the histories of those conflicts.

    I have a good Catholic bible, a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, more good literature than I could ever have hoped for, the opportunity to serve, as in CCD, and a host of people who have my back, as with the mainstays of this website. Jesus noting a “hundred fold” might be a bit short in my case. I seem to have been favored more greatly than that and I am most appreciative.

  69. Bojidar,

    So, you are willing to abandon your argument over Dr. Ander’s supposedly purely emotional decision to become Catholic based on my solid refutation of that particular argument? Good. So, let’s move on to the other “new” elements you’ve discovered.

    “Strangely, mastering Calvin didn’t lead me anywhere I expected. To begin with, I DECIDED THAT I REALLY DIDN’T LIKE Calvin. I FOUND him proud, judgmental and unyielding.”

    Yes. That is his personal observation. But that observation, as I’m sure the Dr. would agree, is not the reason he became Catholic. There have been quite a number of “proud, judgmental, and unyielding” Catholics throughout the Church’s 2000 year old history as well. It doesn’t mean that the Church’s teachings are wrong. Nor does Calvin’s personality flaws, real or perceived, prove that he’s wrong. So it’s highly doubtful that this was the main criteria for Dr. Ander’s decision to become Catholic… which neuters your argument.

    “Calvin’s most important contribution to Geneva was the establishment of the Consistory…”
    Again, personal preference in deciding what is “Calvin’s most important contribution.”

    I’m not sure what his most important contribution to Geneva was. If it wasn’t the establishment of the Consistory, please let me know what it was.

    “But I FINALLY REALIZED that Calvin, with his passion for order and authority, was fundamentally at odds with the individualist spirit of my Evangelical tradition.”

    First, you’d have to disprove that Calvin had a passion for order and authority to show that this is subjective reasoning. Second, the Doctor concludes that this passion for order and authority conflicted with the individualist spirit of his particular Evangelical tradition (and there are many). This is not a contradiction. This makes complete sense and can be proven objectively. His attraction was the individualist spirit of Evangelicalism and it conflicted with the authoritarian view. I see nothing wrong with this statement.

    Ok, what else?

  70. Donald, thank you for your honest post. You did prove my point: That conversion to Romanism is mainly a result of seeking satisfaction for emotional issues. I agree.

    I only disagree with your justification of it. I find such an attitude self-centered. I don’t think a person can be proud of such an attitude. It also contradicts the Roman claims for “objectivity.” Apparently, a person becomes a Romanist just the way they become a Charismatic – based on emotions.

  71. Randy, thank you for your admission. Yes, I say Anders is biased and this article must be taken for what it is: A purely subjective personal account. It is his, and his it shall remain. One only wonders why would Roman Catholicism rely on subjective accounts and bias, if the very Roman religion claims objectivity. I see contradiction here. Don’t you?

    You still don’t seem to get it. Every conversion story is subjective and personal. But most involve a good bit of reason as well. It can impact us on many levels. You seem to put emotion against reason. That any emotion means you can ignore all the logic given.

    You don’t seem to understand Catholicism very well. You seem to focus on a “bureaucratic organization”. I have not found Catholicism to be more or less bureaucratic than my protestant church was. It is entirely beside the point. Bringing it up means you are miles from asking the right question.

    Are you claiming Jesus never talked about a church? Mt 18:17 says, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Are you claiming Jesus never said that? If not, then why do you say, “There is nothing in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ that points to such subjection to a bureaucratic organization as a supposed “ascent to the church.”?

    You do a lot to question the motives of those who disagree with you. First Dr Anders and then “Roman theologians who had vested interests.” Questioning motives is easy. Interacting with arguments is harder.

  72. Joe,

    “So, you are willing to abandon your argument over Dr. Ander’s supposedly purely emotional decision to become Catholic based on my solid refutation of that particular argument? Good.”

    Well, since you didn’t have any “solid refutation” of that argument in this particular context, logically I am forced to keep the argument. When you show a “solid refutation,” I will abandon it, I promise. I find you very far from the mark, yet.

    “Yes. That is his personal observation. But that observation, as I’m sure the Dr. would agree, is not the reason he became Catholic.”

    That’s your interpretation. Anders’ words are: TO BEGIN WITH. A different, way more logical interpretation, based on Anders’ own STARTING POINT, is that his conversion flowed from his initial “dislike” of Calvin. He didn’t know much about Calvin, then he found out he disliked Calvin. And then he makes a judgment of Calvin’s character – a judgment, I’d say, that is entirely inappropriate for a discussion like ours. If I said that I found Anders proud, judgmental and unyielding, that would mean my banishment from this discussion. But for some reason the admins won’t use the same standards fro Anders, would they?

    “I’m not sure what his most important contribution to Geneva was. If it wasn’t the establishment of the Consistory, please let me know what it was.:

    You could be sure if you just read what I wrote above: “Calvin’s most important contribution is his Institutes of the Christian Religion. This is what he spent the bulk of his life on, and this is what we the Calvinists consider his REALLY most important contribution, to Geneva and to the rest of the world.” Did you read it?

    “First, you’d have to disprove that Calvin had a passion for order and authority to show that this is subjective reasoning. Second, the Doctor concludes that this passion for order and authority conflicted with the individualist spirit of his particular Evangelical tradition (and there are many). This is not a contradiction. This makes complete sense and can be proven objectively. His attraction was the individualist spirit of Evangelicalism and it conflicted with the authoritarian view. I see nothing wrong with this statement.”

    Anders claims that he “realized” something that others reject. His realization is in conflict with the “realization” of so many others. There is no conflict between Calvin’s passion for order and authority and the individualist spirit of the Evangelical tradition. To say that, you must have made a priori assumption that “individualist spirit” necessarily contradicts “order and authority.” And then another assumption that “collectivism” necessarily means “order and authority.” Such assumptions are yet to be proven valid. Anders made a personal subjective decision to accept them for valid but he doesn’t show how he proved their validity. He must have accepted it for granted – hardly an objective, scholarly thing to do.

    Randy, I have never read where Jesus equated the Church with a bureaucratic organization based in Rome. Please direct me to the specific words of Jesus Christ where He says so.

  73. In response to the claim that I got my facts wrong in the Ameaux case:
    From the Registres de la compagnie des Pasteurs II: 155-156:
    Calvin’s complaint to the company of pastors (not the council):

    “A proposer Monsieur Calvin touchant Pierre Ameaux, que la fame est commune par la ville que led. Ameaux a heu ditz que led. Sr. Calvin a prescher fause doctrine par si devant, comme la chose est notoire que led. Ameaux a ditz telles choses, se playgnant fort, et qu’il demande l’advis et vouldroyt estre à cent lieux d’ici, se offrant s’il neamoing [sic] à la ville. Que Messieurs l’ont ouy et que le nom de Dieu en est blasmé.”

    The Council’s Decision:

    Having seen the content of the trial and P. Ameaux’s responses in which he admitted to speaking against the Christian Reformation and having greatly insulted J. Calvin, minister, saying that he was a seducer and had preached a false doctrine for seven years, which is amply contained in his confessions, it is ordered, seeing that he asked for forgiveness, that forgiveness be offered when he comes to beg mercy from God and the justice of the Large Council, confessing to have spoken badly and paying 60 escus soleil for the fortification of the city. And if one [Calvin] does not wish to forgive him, that he come before the bishop’s residence bareheaded with a lit torch in his hand and his case be read between the two doors and he must beg mercy on his knees of God and the authorities and confess that he spoke badly in the presence of Seigneur Calvin. (Roget, Amédée. Histoire du Peuple de Genève depuis la réforme jusqu’à l’escalade. 5 vols. Geneva: Librairie Alexandre Jullien, 1870-1883. Reprint; Nieuwkoop: B. de Graf, 1976. (cited in Roget 2:212-213)

    To retort that Ameaux was a libertine, and that this somehow justifies Calvin’s charge of blasphemy, and the council’s punishment is to engage in an anachronistic and polemical reading of the facts. Ameaux was not punished for his divorce or his wife’s immorality. He was punished for speaking against Calvin and his theology.

    I also recommend reading the treatment given to Ameaux by William Naphy. Calvin and the Consolidation of the Genevan Reformation. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994.

  74. Bojidar,

    Your view that the Catholic Church’s position on justification “has no direct grounds in the Scripture” is your personal interpretation. At least as you set it out here, it is not even an argument– just a simple assertion. Moreover, your statement that it is a “gigantic logical leap” from the belief that “one is not justified by faith alone” to “the Catholic position is correct” is also a simple assertion. I may not have made a detailed argument for my acceptance of the Catholic position, but I at least attempted to go further than making assertions.

    How you know that you are correct about the Church’s position on justification, as related to the Scriptures’ teaching? Have you actually studied the Church’s position on justification directly from Church documents (rather than as quoted, perhaps out of context, by Protestants in their writings)? It is my experience that many who hold anti-Catholic beliefs do not truly know what the Church teaches, because they have not studied directly from the Source. Of course, I’m not saying that this is the case with you. I’m asking, precisely because I do not know.

    On the issue of emotion in Dr. Anders’ article, as Randy has noted, anyone who has studied Calvin is bound to have some emotions about the man. It is unreasonable to expect that emotion would *not* be involved in the course of one’s discovery of , and response to, objectively disturbing truth about one’s theological “hero” (in this case, Calvin).

    If you read back through your comments on this thread, it is clear that they have been marked by intense emotion– perhaps even emotion at the *expense* of argumentation, which, ironically, is what you claim to see, and find very objectionable, in Dr. Anders’ article. A further irony lies in the fact that, at least from what I have seen on this thread, people have been responding to you with quite calm, measured, thoughtful replies, and your answers to them have continued to largely consist of simple assertions characterized by strong anti-Catholic emotion. Why are you seemingly not willing to hold yourself to the same strict standards which you demand of Dr. Anders (and which you believe that he has violated in this article)?

  75. Donald, thank you for your honest post. You did prove my point: That conversion to Romanism is mainly a result of seeking satisfaction for emotional issues. I agree.

    Bodijar, having been on the forefront when people are disputing scripture, I understand that two people can see the same identical thing and draw different conclusions from it. Having re-read what I wrote above, and noting that the arrival at Rome involved quashing my emotions which ran against making that particular trip, the idea of emotional satisfaction would seem to be contraindicated. I looked for a way out, not a way in. In doing this search I ran into the following:
    “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you say that Jerusalem is the place where one must worship.” Jn 4:20 The Samaritan woman at the well was asking the right question, which is “where?”
    It indicates that there is a right place to be. Would most Samaritans know that? I wasn’t there and cannot presume to answer for them. I am here and I have no excuses for not attempting to determine where I am supposed to be.

    The second item I ran into, which I deemed applied to me was also from John, 21:22. Jesus said to him (Peter), “If I wish him (John) to remain until I come, what is it to you? You follow Me.”

    What the people around me were doing was not the primary concern. The primary concern is what Jesus would have me do. Since I wasn’t especially keen for a “get thee behind me Satan” moment, I followed Him.

    Why you would be surprised that men have emotions is beyond me. Why you would ascribe my move an emotional response in favor of the move would indicate that you might need to re-read what I wrote.

    To be sure, at this time and in this place, there is no question that what I did inspite of my emotions was the right thing to do. I was not required to give up my emotions when I became Catholic, however they were (and are) required to conform to grace, as there are emotions proper to each time, place and situation.

  76. Bojidar:

    Your suggestion that people are drawn to Catholicism primarily on emotional grounds is an absurd overgeneralization. It is evident from experience alone that a person’s converting to some form of religion is usually going to involve some emotional factors. Those factors influence thought. If they didn’t, then love or beauty could not attract people to the truth; and if they shouldn’t, then love or beauty ought not to attract people to the truth. I’m sure you would not want to say otherwise. But it is evident from reason alone that those factors by themselves do not suffice either to justify or to discredit their decision. Emotions can, in some cases, form part of the evidence for or against their decision, but by themselves they can never be decisive. They’re just one part of the picture.

    The things I’ve just said are pretty much common sense known to everybody. You are only undermining your case by proceeding as if it weren’t, or didn’t matter. But in case you don’t get the point, I’ll adduce my own example.

    I’m a “cradle Catholic” who suffered a years-long crisis of faith in adolescence after being sexually molested by a Jesuit teacher of mine when I was 14. That is not a new revelation of mine; I made it publicly here, in the context of discussing the sex-abuse-and-coverup scandal. Yet I “reverted” to Catholicism as a Columbia undergraduate after an intense period of intellectual inquiry in which everything, including theism itself, was an open question for me. I double-majored in philosophy and religion for that very reason, and eventually reached a conclusion I did not welcome: that Catholicism is the truth. But even as a revert, I know all too well the knack the Catholic Church has for misusing people; believe me, she is no more a meritocracy than a democracy. Take my own case (please). I’ve always wanted to be a man of God, am fully qualified for that in an academic sense, and even have three years’ experience as director of adult education for a large urban parish. Yet, for different reasons at different stages of my life, the Catholic authorities have never seen fit to admit me to a seminary as a student, even thought I’ve taught as an adjunct in three different Catholic seminaries. There’s a lot more I could say about the experience of old Catholic friends of mine who actually did become priests. They adhere to their vocations not for the emotional or financial rewards, which in their cases are at best minimal. They adhere by grace alone.

    I don’t remain a Catholic because I like being Catholic. Given my experiences in the Church, I’m emotionally ambivalent about the whole thing, to say the least. I remain Catholic simply because I am utterly convinced that Catholicism is true. It isn’t even in my worldly interest to remain Catholic.

    In Houston 15 years ago, an evangelical pastor with whom I was conducting a joint bible study invited me to become an assistant pastor at his megachurch. It would have been a nice salary boost. But I couldn’t do it, for reasons that should be self-explanatory by now. Several months ago, an Orthodox bishop with whom I have several mutual friends offered to make me a priest in his rather small but canonical jurisdiction. I was strongly tempted. It wasn’t because of money–there was none involved, not even a stipend–but because I’m deeply committed to Catholic-Orthodox ecumenism and this bishop’s ecclesiology is very close to my own. But I couldn’t bring myself to break communion with Rome. So where does that leave me? I could be a clergyman, it seems, in virtually any church save my own; if I did, I’d have the status and security I’ve never managed as an adult Catholic. But I choose instead to pay the ongoing, very personal cost of being Catholic in these troubled times.

    So spare me your nonsense about people becoming or remaining Catholic because they find it emotionally satisfying. Some people do become or remain Catholic partly because of how they feel about it; but some people become or remain Catholic partly in spite of how they feel about it. The question how feelings might constitute evidence for or against such a decision is not one that can be answered by easy, polemical generalizations. As I’ve already suggested, your attempt to discredit Dr Anders’ decision with such generalizations does not speak well for how your intellectual credentials have formed you.

  77. Randy, I have never read where Jesus equated the Church with a bureaucratic organization based in Rome. Please direct me to the specific words of Jesus Christ where He says so.

    This reminds me of those who point out that Jesus, Himself, never explicitly condemned sodomny. If Sola Scriptura does not work out then the next line of defense is to demand to find it in the words of Jesus. Then make you demand more specific yet. Jesus must use certain words or I won’t obey.

    It is a game. God won’t play. If you don’t want to do His will then don’t. He won’t force you. He won’t force you physically and He won’t force you logically either. The for the church is much like the evidence for the resurrection. It is there. It is strong. But it is possible to deny it if you really want to. That is precisely the way God wants it.

    If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

    So what church was Jesus referring to in Matthew 18?

  78. I find it very odd that this discussion has not really touched on the thesis of the article.

    I made the claim that Evangelicalism differs from Calvin in three crucial respects:
    1) “Born-again,” conversionistic spirituality,
    2) A broadminded approach to denominations,
    3) A deemphasis on liturgy, sacraments, and intepretive authority.

    By contrast, Calvin:
    1) Encouraged a sacramental/liturgical spirituality,
    2) Insisted on doctrinal unity – even on issues that Evangelicals consider unimportant,
    3) Believed in a magisterial authority that exceeds what evangelicals would accept today

    As one observer noted, these claims are really not controversial. Nevin and Schaaf noted them long ago. More Modern Scholars like Imbart de la Tour, Joseph Tylenda, Benno Gassmann, Kilian McDonnell, and Alexandre Ganoczy have also pointed out these “Catholic” elements in Calvin’s thought.

    As I mentioned above, finding these elements in Calvin’s thought prompted me to ask,
    1) If Calvin was correct in holding them,
    2) Why Evangelicalism no longer holds them,
    3) Which ecclesial community holds them most authentically (biblically, historically).

    It seems to me the debate between Catholics and Protestants ought to be about these last three questions. Was Calvin correct in insisting on doctrinal unity and, if so, what is the proper basis for that unity? Is “born-again” spirituality authentic Christian spirituality? Was Calvin correct in his insistence on the sacramental, liturgical dimension to Christian piety? If you think Calvin was correct, then why do you think evangelicalism departed from Calvin? If Calvin was not correct, does this impugn his doctrine of Scripture? Did he misinterpret the Bible?

    These are really the issues I raised. This whole thread about emotion seems utterly beside the point.
    Wholly for the sake of argument, what if I am a neurotic, emotional basket case? I don’t see how this has any impact on the issues listed above.

  79. Dr. Anders,

    On behalf of CTC thanks for the excellent article and interaction. For what it’s worth, our discussion here does tend to be a little more substantial (and charitable) than some of the interaction with this post. It’s a little embarrassing actually.

    I see that you have refuted Bojidar on the Ameaux case. Can you comment on Ron’s objection that Bolsec was arrested, not for merely differing with Calvin, but for being a trouble-maker of other sorts? I’m afraid I can’t afford to purchase the dissertation at the moment.

  80. Hello “Canadian”,

    Appreciated your detailed and informative listing of the ‘split-P’s’ and their Reformed ‘brothers’ in your response to Bojidar…

    Have you read William B. Evans’, “DÈJÁ VU ALL OVER AGAIN? THE CONTEMPORARY REFORMED SOTERIOLOGICAL CONTROVERSY IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE”, recently published essay? (The Westminster Theological Journal, Spring 2010 -Vol. 72.1) It is certainly germane to the topic at hand. I have provided numerous selections from the essay (with a few of my own reflections) HERE.

    Grace and peace,

    David

  81. The Facts of the Bolsec Case:

    Records of the City Council explain “that a physician on Friday was arrested for having spoken certain words against the Gospel in the congregation … and was brought before the magistrates by Jean de la Maisonneuve.” Calvin and the ministers, however, requested that he be prosecuted for blasphemy.

    See Roget 3: 163: “qu’un médecin fust détunu pour avoir esté vendredy en la congregation, là où il pourroit avoir dict certaines paroles et aultres doctrines contre l’Évangile, que le Sr. lieutenant l’a fait répondre et l’a remis devant Messieurs par la personne de Jean de la Maisonneuve … que Calvin, au nom des autres ministres, ainsi que maistre Guillaume Farel, a requis le Conseil de faire justice dudit d’aultant qu’a blaspheme Dieu et propose faulce doctrine.”

    The official interrogation (which took place in jail) was theological in nature (confirming that Bolsec was arrested for doctrinal matters).

    Again – see Roget 3: 172-173.

    The official deposition was filled with theological debate, in particular about the interpretation of scripture.
    Bolsec:”Does he [Calvin] not confess that all articles of faith and the doctrines taught in Our Lord’s church must be proved from several manifest and evident statements [of Scripture] which cannot be construed in diverse ways and from the authority of the Holy Scripture in its entirety?” (Registres 1:104)

    It goes without saying that Bolsec was also considered a trouble maker. He was a trouble maker precisely because he contradicted Calvin’s doctrine.

    Again – the council documents:
    Roget 3:162: “Attendu le trouble et scandale qu’a tasché de faire aujourd’hui un quidam nommé Hiérosme, comme desjà ce-devant il s’y estoit efforcé, les ministres de la parole de Dieu supplient humblement Messieurs, qu’il leur plaise le faire interroguer sur les articles suyvantz et ce, à cause que c’est matière de doctrine et de foi; néamoins, les dits ministres proposent ces articles seulement par forme d’advertissement, non pas qu’ils craignissent de se faire partie (se porter accusateurs), quand besoing serait, mais pource qu’ils se tiennent bien assures que Messieurs, avec toute leur justice, auront la cause assez recommandée. Ce leur est assez d’avertir quelles sont ces erreurs dudit maistre Hiérosme par lesquelles il a tasché de séduire et mutineer le peuple.”

  82. Dr. Anders – thanks. Ron or anyone else – have any other objections?

  83. Bojidar:

    Donald, thank you for your honest post. You did prove my point: That conversion to Romanism is mainly a result of seeking satisfaction for emotional issues

    Logical fallacy. That emotion accompanies an action does not prove that it is the basis for that action.

    My own conversion to the Catholic Church from having been a Calvinist Christian was emotional, but certainly not a result of seeking satisfaction for emotional issues. For the most part my emotion was fear that the Catholic Church might not be what reason seemed to indicate it was: the fulness of the faith of Christ.

    To be sure, once I was convinced, on reasonable grounds, that the Church was, indeed, God’s unique provision for salvation, my emotions began gradually to change.

    But my emotions were a response to what my mind told me, at the beginning, and to what my mind and heart, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, told me at the end. They were not, and could never be, a basis for a change which, on human grounds, was filled with as much negative as positive.

    Indeed, strictly judging from my experience as a Catholic, there were many things in my Reformed church that were done far better, and that were more emotionally satisfying.

    The only thing the Reformed claims lacked – insofar as they were not in harmony with the Catholic – was truth.

    jj

  84. Bojidar,

    As Dr. Anders has recently commented, reminding us, that his post touched on the following points. If we are going to have frutiful conversation, it behooves us, to engage the content of the post, the ideas touched on. Trying to engage in psychological and emotional analysis from behind the computer screen is not productive and has caused this wonderful post to get bogged down in issues not even addressed by the author. You are welcome to disagree with us, but we ask that it be done charitably and done addressing the content of the post. I recommend re-reading what Dr. Anders recently posted to help get back on track. It is legitimate to ask if Calvin was right in saying that it is always fatal to leave the Church.

    “I made the claim that Evangelicalism differs from Calvin in three crucial respects:
    1) “Born-again,” conversionistic spirituality,
    2) A broadminded approach to denominations,
    3) A deemphasis on liturgy, sacraments, and intepretive authority.

    By contrast, Calvin:
    1) Encouraged a sacramental/liturgical spirituality,
    2) Insisted on doctrinal unity – even on issues that Evangelicals consider unimportant,
    3) Believed in a magisterial authority that exceeds what evangelicals would accept today

    As one observer noted, these claims are really not controversial. Nevin and Schaaf noted them long ago. More Modern Scholars like Imbart de la Tour, Joseph Tylenda, Benno Gassmann, Kilian McDonnell, and Alexandre Ganoczy have also pointed out these “Catholic” elements in Calvin’s thought.

    As I mentioned above, finding these elements in Calvin’s thought prompted me to ask,
    1) If Calvin was correct in holding them,
    2) Why Evangelicalism no longer holds them,
    3) Which ecclesial community holds them most authentically (biblically, historically).”

  85. I wanted to jump out of my office chair and react like this as I read Dr. Liccione’s response #76.

    But maybe that’s just me.

  86. Thanks, Jonathan. But I think you meant my #76.

    Best,
    Mike

  87. I understand that this thread should head in another direction, a direction more in line with Dr. Anders’ wonderful, refreshing article. But, if my comment is worthwhile enough to take up the space, I just wanted to say that the first time my friend (and the individual who would later become my Catholic Sponsor) took me to Eucharistic Adoration, I so emotionally REJECTED the notion of the Real Presence of Christ in the monstrance before me that I felt I might vomit. Every fiber of my being was OPPOSED to Catholicism’s claims- especially those concerning the Blessed Sacrament. So, yes, Bojidar, mine was a very emotional conversion experience. These emotions, however, rather than detracting from the genuine ness of my conversion experience, in my mind, simply make it all the more real, all the more human. peace.

  88. For my part, I’ll second some of the emotional ambivalence of Mike L’s and Herbert’s posts. I was raised in a conservative Baptist home, attended Calvin College (where I was steeped in Reformed theology and during which I joined the Christian Reformed Church, in which I remained for several years), and later received a master’s in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary (an evangelical school). I’ve certainly had plenty of training in Protestant theology, and was quite attached, both theologically and aesthetically, to the “medium-high” worship of my home Reformed congregation (the great Protestant hymns, almost BCP-ish liturgy, and so on). My family, except for the brothers of mine who have utterly rejected their Christian upbringing, remains steadfastly Protestant. My wife’s family, except for one brother-in-law, remains steadfastly Reformed (my grandfather-in-law was a prominent Presbyterian theologian, and my father-in-law is a staunch Calvinist). I came to Catholicism kicking and screaming, intent to prove all of its claims wrong, adamantly insisting that everything about Catholicism and Orthodoxy was fatally flawed. Now, after years of prayer, study and struggle with the Church Fathers and Church history, I am utterly convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church’s claims. I am not, however, thrilled with the parishes in which I find myself (lots of horrible music, some questionable liturgical practices, so-so preaching). I dearly miss the hymns I so love, the transcendent music and poetry, the powerful oratory from the pulpit. I get no satisfaction from being Catholic while my wife and the rest of my family remains not just Protestant, but most of them quite antagonistic toward Catholicism. BUT, I learned long ago not to trust my emotions alone in matters of faith, but to seek the Truth with as much humility as I can possibly muster. I pray constantly that God will guide me along His true path, in accordance with His perfect will, and I trust that as I have tried to follow Him like a child, He will lead me in the paths of Righteousness for His name’s sake.

    So yes: let’s have an end to the “emotional issues” argument.

  89. Dr. Anders,

    I hope I’m not straying too far from your article, but I wonder if you could touch on Calvin’s view of the Virgin Mary. From what I’ve read, this is another area in which the modern Calvinist might be beyond the realm of comfort when faced with Calvin’s actual teaching.

    Jessica

  90. @Scott B:

    For my part, I’ll second some of the emotional ambivalence of Mike L’s and Herbert’s posts

    I have to laugh sometimes. When, on my 51st birthday in 1993, I finished reading Newman’s ‘Apologia’ and his ‘Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine’ and realised for the first time that the Catholic faith might just be simply nothing more nor less than true, I thought, “I am really in trouble now.” The first time I walked into any Catholic place – the Newman Centre at Auckland University – I was terrified. I wondered if, possibly, I was entering a synagogue of Satan. At the nadir of my experience, in June, 1994, I experienced major psychological dissociation – forgot for a while who I was – for fear.

    We converts experience emotion, Bojidar, but it doesn’t drive us into the Church. It accompanies what is, after all, for an English-speaking Protestant, real conflict because of the major distortion our post-Reformation society imposes on us. The emotion must be gone through; it can justify nothing.

    If any one is interested, I have written something about my own conversion here.

    jj

  91. Forgive me if I’m perpetuating an off-topic turn here, but my experience is in the same vein as others’: my father was anti-Catholic; my mother wept when I told her I was becoming Catholic; my brother and my best friend both yelled at me. Oh yes, there is plenty of emotional “satisfaction” in all that…if one is a complete sociopath who enjoys upsetting the people he loves best, anyway.

  92. Dr. Anders,

    I have a question about a remark you made and want to give you an opportunity to possibly correct my reading of Calvin. You wrote,

    “And while Calvin stopped short of the Catholic, or even the Lutheran, understanding of the Eucharist, he still retained a doctrine of the Real Presence. He taught that the Eucharist provides a “true and substantial partaking of the body and blood of the Lord” and he rejected the notion that communicants receive “the Spirit only, omitting flesh and blood.”

    This seems incorrect or ambiguous. From my reading, Calvin does not affirm the real presence of Christ’s humanity in the elements. What Calvin affirms is that the virtue or divine power from Christ is exemplified in the sacrament when received with faith. He seems to limit the presence of Christ’s humanity to a natural mode of presence in heaven. One can speak as if the substance of Christ’s humanity is present in the elements since his divine power is and there is virtually no difference. But there is no intrinsic union between the human flesh of Christ and the elements for him.

  93. David,
    re: #80

    I am not Catholic, but my interest and investigation in the ancient church came from reading Mathison’s “Shape of Sola Scriptura”. That book helped make plain to me that something was wrong with sola scriptura itself.
    I skimmed the article on your blog and found this all to be true when I was peeking in on the FV/Truly Reformed debates a few years back. Many of the Reformed bodies tried to act as if they had ecumenical conciliar authority to spank those FV bad boys into submission or anathema. Rather amusing to see weakness display itself as if it were strength.
    In providing a very incomplete list of denominations (just Reformed and Presbyterian, let alone the other hordes) I was highlighting for Bojidar that what he calls “the only choice–Reformed Christianity” really amounts to his personal choice of one from the smorgasbord of many. And those bodies are not just separated by semantics as he seemed to imply. Some of them are schisms of schisms of schisms not in communion with one another which leads not a choice of governance but a choice of faith.

  94. Response to Perry:

    Let me define my terms.
    Real Presence: doctrine that Christ true body and blood are communicated in the supper.
    Transubstantiation: Catholic doctrine on HOW the body and blood are communicated.
    Consubstantiation: Lutheran doctrine on HOW
    Mystical Presence: Calvin’s doctrine on HOW.

    Calvin was very clear both in his rejection of a local presence (both Catholic and Luther’s view), and in his affirmation of a real presence.
    He strongly opposed the merely symbolic view of the supper.

    This is why I said he affirmed the real presence, but not the Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist.

  95. To Canadian on Matthison’s “Shape”

    I read Shape of Sola Scriptura several years ago when I was thinking of entering the Church. I found it very unsatisfying.

    Matthison’s position is not original. He borrowed his thesis from an essay by Heiko Oberman, published in Dawn of the Reformation. The essay is called “Quo vadis, Petre? Tradition from Irenaeus to Humani Generis.”

    Oberman’s essay is very good, and does a good job of distinguishing various nuances in the Scripture/Tradition debate.

    Oberman argues that there are really three concepts of tradition:
    1) Tradition as the custodial function of the church – preserving the canon, the “shape” of the creed and rule of faith, etc.
    2) Tradition as unwritten content, in addition to Scripture, that is nevertheless part of the deposit of faith
    3) Tradition in the Pius IX sense: “I am tradition.” The Church’s dogmatic declarations.

    Oberman (and Matthison) identify the Reformers with Tradition I.

    Matthison’s use of the concept to defend the Reformers, however, is full of difficulties.

    To begin with, even if you jettison tradition II and III, and concede only tradition I, it is obvious that the Reformers, in spite of their claims of fidelity to antiquity, were unfaithful to tradition I.
    The fathers most associated with “tradition I,” like Tertullian and Ireneaus, taught that Scripture must be interpreted according to the consensus of the apostolic churches. Now, nothing could be more plain than that the Reformer’s departed from that consensus. Compare Luther to the 2nd century fathers, for example, on the doctrine of justification.
    2nd – the integrity of tradition I is guaranteed by apostolic succession – which the Reformers lack. Why does Matthison think Calvin is a valid bearer of that tradition?

    But there are also very good historical reasons for holding tradition II and III.
    Even if the 2nd century fathers did not articulate a doctrine of tradition II, it is obvious that they held doctrines on the basis of tradition II. For example, Tertullian and Ireneaus appeal to the authority of the apostolic sees as a matter of doctrine. But the identity of those sees is not contained in Scripture. They could only know these things from unwritten tradition. Also – Sunday worship, infant baptism, the sign of the cross, etc. etc.

    I won’t defend tradition III here, since that is another esssay, but suffice it to say that I am convinced that Christ intended it when he founded the church and gave her the gift of infallibility.

    So – I agree that the Reformers appealed to tradition I. But they do so illegitimately. Tradition I is not on their side.

  96. Just a side note to David Anders #94: Keith Mathison wrote an excellent book titled Given for You that describes Calvin’s view. It seems it is often not understood well amongst the Reformed.

    -David Meyer

  97. Side Note to David Meyer:

    John Williamson Nevin wrote The Mystical Presence in 1846, also to defend Calvin’s doctrine of the Supper. Every Reformed Christian should read Nevin’s book. One of the classics of Reformed theology, in my opinion.

  98. Dr. Anders,
    re: #95

    Thanks for your comment. I may not have been clear in my comment you are referencing but I was saying that it was actually Mathison’s book that catapulted me toward the ancient church and Catholicism/Orthodoxy. I found that in his attempts to defend a more historical view of scripture and the church his efforts to stop at the Reformation was like trying to get off a train at full speed by jumping off at one’s desired spot knowing that you couldn’t continue to the logical destination. It is always funny how that train for Protestants seems to jump track and go on hidden and invisible, then suddenly show up in the first century. Now your remarks about Trad 2 and 3 are interesting and need to be fleshed out more in this discernment process. Thanks for your fine original post, by the way.

  99. David,

    I appreciate the sense in which Calvin’s doctrine falls under the rubric of “real presence.” For example: A man is “really present” in a phone conversation, even though no one would confuse the phone lines and receiver with the man himself. However, because the phrase is so elastic, and so popular among so many folks, having significantly different understandings of what is denoted by “real presence,” I think it best to be more specific, in order to avoid equivocation. Thus, taking my cue from the terms themselves, my definition of “real presence” would have to express both “where (in what sense “present”)?” and “in what mode (in what sense “real”)?”

    Defining the “real presence” without reference to these questions, focusing instead on the *communication* of the Body and Blood, is, potentially, to define something other than the consecrated species, which would subtly shift the subject of the definition, resulting in equivocation. If, by “real presence” we are referring to the consecrated elements themselves, we are primarily concerned to indicate *what* these elements are. This *what* question is distinct from the *how* question. I don’t think that “transubstantiation” is so much an answer to the latter as to the former; thus, I understand transubstantiation as a statement of the Real Presence, in terms of what the consecrated species really are.

    There is an important distinction between the eucharistic elements as a *means of receiving* Christ’s body and blood and the eucharist as simply *being* Christ’s body and blood (which is how I define “real presence”). The reason that Calvin cannot bear the doctrine of transubstatiation is that ( it seems to me) he cannot affirm that the consecrated species are, in themselves, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. I would be happy to be corrected on this point.

    Calvin’s eucharistic doctrine might be taken to indicate an “objective” presence in the consecrated species (par. 11–17), and his statements to the contrary (par. 42) could be taken as a mere rejection of “local” presence, which is distinct from “substantial” presence (the Catholic view). Calvin sort of acknowledges this distinction (par. 41), but I cannot escape the impression that he sharply distinguishes the substance of Christ from the consecrated species themselves. Perhaps Calvin was responding to a deformed construal of transubstantiation/real presence. Thomas Aquinas, for example, denied a local presence of Christ in the eucharist (in the sense that a local presence entails extension in space). I have heard it remarked that the actual Catholic view, “substantial presence” (i.e., transubstantiation), is closer to Calvin (and vice versa) than is sometimes supposed.

  100. Dr Anders (#95):

    I didn’t know that Mathison was following Oberman, since I haven’t read Mathison’s stuff. But I have read Oberman’s essay, and I did so because Protestant scholars I was debating a few years ago kept hammering me over the head with it.

    I agree it’s much better than the usual polemics, but it suffers from two serious difficulties. First, it doesn’t take account of Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on divine revelation, Dei Verbum, for the very good reason that Oberman wrote his essay at virtually the same time that successive drafts of DV were being debated at the Council. Hence, some of his criticisms of Catholic doctrine on the Scripture/Tradition relationship were outdated almost as soon as he published them. Second, and accordingly, I would not accept his Tradition I-II-III schema as an entirely accurate representation of Catholic teaching. Although Vatican II’s word on all this is probably not the last, I am especially taken with DV §10 (footnotes omitted, emphasis added):

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

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

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

    That doesn’t quite fit into Oberman’s schema. Although DV doesn’t say so explicitly, it’s pretty obvious that Scripture has come to be seen as the written side of what’s “handed on,” i.e. of Tradition. That makes sense inasmuch as the NT itself was written in light of paradosis through kerygma. And what about magisterial statements by the successors of the Apostles–at least those made with the Church’s full authority?

    They are indeed one kind of thing that’s “handed on,” and thus count as “tradition” in a sense distinct from ‘the word of God’–a phrase itself used by DV to refer to the same thing referred to by ‘the deposit of faith’. To that extent, Oberman is right. But DV as a whole doesn’t seem to allow for taking post-apostolic magisterial statements as anything more than “authentic interpretations” of Tradition in the primary sense of the term. That’s why the Church teaches that Scripture is “God-breathed” but does not say that even about doctrines taught infallibly by the Church.

    I could go on, but this isn’t a faculty colloquium–or if it is, I should let some others have the floor!

    Best,
    Mike

  101. Dr. Anders,

    Thank you for the reply. I appreciate you taking the time to do so.

    While it is true that Calvin and say Aquinas (ST tertia pars, 75, 1 ad. 3) reject a local mode of presence this leaves untouched the idea that the humanity of Christ is in the elements. (In Thomas’ commentary on the Sentences he says Christ’s humanityis only locally in heaven as well. Sent 4, dist x, qu. 1, art. 1, sol. ad. 5) So for example, often, though not always high Church Anglican authors will distinguish their view from Continental Protestant bodies by speaking of real presence in the elements while denying a local mode or circumscribing presence.

    More over, Receptionism takes the body and blood to be genuinely communicated to the believer, just not in the elements. But Calvin’s view seems to me to fall short of Receptionism since Calvin doesn’t think that the genuine humanity of Christ is in fact communicated to the believer, but rather some manifestation of divine power or virtue.

    The doctrine of the Real Presence seems to me to be the idea that Christ is in the elements, albeit in a non-cirsubscribing and non-natural mode of presence.

    As an aside, ISTM that Lutherans fairly often deny the claim that they endorse Consubstantiation.
    In any case, ISTM that what Calvin means by “real presence” is a real benefit or a real communication of divine virtue to the believer, but not that the humanity of Christ is in fact communicated in the elements. That is, I take Calvinist’s to equivocate on the term “real presence.”

  102. Andrew Preslar,

    I think we agree in our reading of Calvin. The mode of reception is a different question as to what the thing is. “Means” can be said in many ways. And many employ the language of real presence having read material from Calvin or say Wallace’ work on the former’s view of the eucharist thinking that their position finds a place in patristic theology, when in fact it doesn’t. I for one can’t see any significant difference between say Cranmer’s virtualism and Calvin’s view. They both employ the language of “real presence” but deny that the humanity of Christ is conveyed through the means or is in the believer. Hence their view is weaker or less robust metaphysically speaking (it commits one to affirming less) than even Receptionism.

    ISTM that the underlying reason why Calvin can’t admit that Christ’s humanity is present in the elements is the idea that for it to be so would annihilate the individual existence as such of the elements qua elements. That is, the humanity of Christ would replace the form of the thing (elements) and so it would cease to be that thing (since substance as individual existence entails that specific form), since its formal existence ceases. Rome it seems will grant a change in form, but deny that the elemental annihilation as it were takes place. For Calvin then, the humanityof Christ can only be capable of a natural mode of presence, while it could be moved around by acts of divine will and power. Hence it could only be extrinsically immortal.

  103. Perry,

    I’m inclined to agree with your take on these things, at least as you’ve expressed it thus far. I have my own take, which affirms transubstantiation but denies that the visible elements after consecration are non-inhering accidents. But this isn’t the place to discuss that. Perhaps we could discuss it in another setting if you’re interested.

    Best,
    Mike

  104. Further clarification on Calvin and presence – real, substantial, or virtual.

    Inst. 4.17.5: “we are quickened by a real participation of him.”
    Inst. 4.17.11: “For the promises present him to us, not that we may rest in contemplation merely and naked notion, but that we may enjoy him in the way of real participation . . . I say, then, that in the mystery of the Supper . . . Christ is truly presented to us.”
    Inst. 4.17.17: “true and substantial partaking of the body and blood of the Lord”
    Inst. 4:17.10:”It may seem incredible indeed that the flesh of Christ should reach us from such immense local distance . . .”
    De vera participatione carnis et sanguinis Christi in sacra coena:
    “The controversy is simply on the mode of eating, since we openly and ingenuously affirm,that Christ becomes ours . . . that his body also was not only once offered for our salvation . . . but is daily extended to us for our nourishment.”

    – cited in J.W. Nevin, Mystical Presence, ed. Augustine Thompson, O.P., Eugene, OR, 2000.

    Note also J.W. Nevin’s own assessment of Calvin’s view: “In whatever way it might be supposed to occur, he held and taught the fact of a real presence of the Savior’s human life . . . in the sacramental transaction.” (p.69)

    If we defer to Calvin’s own language, he taught a “real and substantial” presence of Christ in the Supper, but not a local presence.

    However, I completely agree that these very same terms – real, substantial, local – are given a different signification in Catholic theology. Knowing that, Calvin can be accused of some dissimulation for using terms that had already acquired a technical precision in the academic theology of his day.
    Also, Andrew and Perry are correct about Calvin rejecting any presence in the physical host. Calvin had a horror of Eucharistic adoration, or that the “real” presence might be distributed physically to the impious or the unbeliever.

  105. “Calvin had a horror of Eucharistic adoration, or that the “real” presence might be distributed physically to the impious or the unbeliever.”

    Dr. Anders,
    Can you bring some clarity here for me? It seems that the Reformed say that the Supper is beneficial by faith for the believer but I don’t how they approach Paul’s warning of judgement on those who partake unworthily (or in unbelief). Calvin somewhere taught that the believer soars into heaven and partakes of Christ there by the Spirit. Yet the unworthy certainly don’t soar into heaven to receive judgement. Clearly, to me, the scripture implies that not only is there benefit in the supper but condemnation because whether you are taking worthily or not, you come in contact with the body and blood. The judgement comes in the actual eating and drinking, so something must have changed in the elements themselves. There seems to me a clear objectivity in the supper because of Christ’s presence that effects different results in those who partake. Calvin’s view also doesn’t seem to hold up under Chalcedonian Christology but what is the Catholic view of those who are judged at the table.

  106. Candian:
    You are absolutely correct. Also very astute of you to point to Chalcedon. Calvinism has always been subject to the charge of Nestorianism. (A charge which Calvinists are obviously quick to deny.)

    When I was studying Calvin, I was interested to learn how seriously Calvin took the Supper, but I was also persuaded that his doctrine was utterly untenable. Calvin concocted a very complicated theory of signs and things and mystical union in an attempt (it seems to me) to reconcile Lutheran and Zwinglian theories, but I can’t see that he has Scripture, tradition, or logic on his side.

    On a related note – when you study the interaction between Calvin and those called before the consistory, it appears that his parishioners had a very difficult time following his fine nuances.
    Everyday Genevans were likely to affirm either that “the bread is God,” or that it was nothing at all.

  107. Dr. Anders,

    I am not surprised to learn that the Genevans were torn between affirming that the bread is God or that it was nothing at all.

    Calvin was and is hard to pin down not only on the Eucharist but on Baptism (as evidenced by the great debate raging currently in the PCA over baptismal efficacy). This is why I have asked my former conferes in the PCA (friends of mine who are TE’s) “what happens when you perform a Sacrament?” They really cannot say. In fairness to them, it seems as if the Reformed history was never able to say. DeLubac once stated in a Communio article that this has to do with the fact that Election trumps everything in Reformed soteriology, thus, there is a real reticence to ascribe any real efficacy to the Sacraments for that might do damage to the doctrine of election. I think DeLubac was right.

    There were times I would read Calvin and think that through the actual bread and wine I receive Christ’s body and blood (it seems he placed heavy emphasis on the sursum corda for this view) and other times I would ask myself in reading him, “so the point of the bread and wine is….?”

    I love how Father Al Kimmel put it in his eleventh law, “It doesn’t matter how vigorously you protest your belief in the eucharistic real presence: if you are not willing and eager to prostrate yourself before the Holy Gifts and adore, worship, and pray to the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, present under the forms of bread and wine, you really do not believe in it.”

  108. Dr. Anders,

    I am aware of the passages in the Institutes as well as other places. They initially persuaded me that Calvin held to more or less a receptionist view. But further study convinced me otherwise that he in fact advocated a kind of virtualism.

    Consequently, the language of participation, substantial and such mean what they do for someone like Cranmer. They do not imply a real presence in the elements anymore than when other virtualists use those same terms. Thomas Aquinas also denies, as I pointed out above, a local presence and affirms a “substantial” presence. But I don’t think we are to draw from that the conclusion that Calvin taught transubstantiation or anything like what Aquinas had in mind. What matters is how Calvin used the terms and it seems that he used them in a virtualistic way. Those terms do not preclude a virtualist position.

    I grant that Calvin says that the controversy is over the mode of eating, but that assumes that Calvin’s self assessment of the situation is correct. Reading the material from the Colloquy of Montbeliard for example where the participants took the matter to be the same convinced me that their self assessment was incorrect. The issues were Christological. The same I think is true of Calvin.
    As for Nevin seems to be influenced by a species of Idealism, which was quite popular at the time, as evidenced in his organicism and such. I think his metaphysical idealism influenced unduly his reading of such language in Calvin.

  109. Perry,
    I completely agree with you. This is why I said:

    “these very same terms – real, substantial, local – are given a different signification in Catholic theology. Knowing that, Calvin can be accused of some dissimulation for using terms that had already acquired a technical precision in the academic theology of his day.”

    Granted that Calvin uses terms like real and substantial in a non-Catholic way, and without precision, I still find his language interesting. I never said Calvin held to transubstantiation. Of course not. My main point in raising the issue was simply to point to the gulf between Calvin’s language and modern Evangelical spirituality.

    Can you imagine Bill Bright or Billy Graham speaking about the sacraments or spirituality this way?

  110. Dr. Anders,

    I figured we agreed, but I wanted to nail it down. It is quite true that the average evangelical view of the eucharist fails to rise to the level of probably even Zwingli.

    But something else to note about Calvin. If a virtualist gloss of his view is correct and the substantial and the virtual are not really distinguishable, it seems that this implies a kind of docetism about the humanity of Christ. By “really” I mean in the scholastic sense of separable. I realize that I am not the first to worry about this kind of docetism in Calvin, but better right than original I suppose.

  111. Dr. Anders,

    Is there any cheaper way of getting a copy of your dissertation besides ordering it from the University of Iowa?

  112. As one who remains in the evangelical Reformed fold, I must say that I relate to much of what Dr. Anders is saying, especially after having read Bruce Gordon’s new biography of Calvin. I was reading it this winter, at the same time a nasty, bitter debate was being publicly waged by John Frame and Michael Horton, two of today’s leading Reformed theologians.

    I couldn’t help but thinking that nothing has changed in nearly 500 years. Gordon (who I assume is Reformed) demonstrates throughout his fine biography that the leaders of the Reformed churches in Switzerland, Germany, and France all waged war with each other from the very beginning.

    I had expected to come away with more confidence in Calvin and the early Reformers, but I realize now that it was all built on a very shaky foundation.

  113. As a cradle Catholic I have often wondered what it is that so sharply divides Catholics and Protestants. I have heard that “preacher’s preach against my kind.” This is so disturbing to me. I love my Catholic faith and have ALWAYS had a VERY deep and personal relationship with my Lord, Jesus Christ. I love Him more and more each and every day. He has led me where no man can. I love this article as it now makes me see more clearly why Protestants cannot understand what I do understand about the Catholic faith. I would just love to see more people truly experience the fullness in the joy that Catholicism gives me. I am just sorry that they cannot have this REAL divine experience. So MANY Catholics do have this same wonderful personal relationship with Him. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Thank you Dr. Anders for so eloquently sharing your experience with us all.

  114. Julie, I’m like you here. I’ve been reading blogs like this one and InternetMonk among others along with books like “Catholicism and Fundamentalism” and the “Surprised by Truth” series to understand why there is such a divide. Growing up securely Catholic for a long time I wasn’t aware of how deep runs the rift between Catholic and Protestant . In my small town Catholics and Protestants mostly got along, but when I got to college and encountered aggressive evangelism from certain Evangelical / Fundamentalist groups I began to see.

    I would just love to see more people truly experience the fullness in the joy that Catholicism gives me. I am just sorry that they cannot have this REAL divine experience.

    I agree but I think we should be more positive in approaching those currently not in full communion with the Catholic Church. The reason being that because of the difference in paradigm you see in this post and comments, it is absolutely impossible for them to see the truth of your statement. They can’t interpret it in any reasonable way of understanding from within their paradigm.

    It is very much like two different computer languages that are largely similar, use mostly the same rules and perform all the same basic functions but differ in structure and syntax in a handful of fundamental and countless minuscule ways.

    What that means in practice is that if us Catholic want to effectively talk about the faith and explain Catholicism to Protestants we have to learn how they think and how to translate into their code / paradigm. It is wonderful, but rare that I encounter a Protestant that has enough actual understanding of the Church to be able to directly dialogue about the faith without me having to figure out how to put things in terms that won’t be misinterpreted, or trigger exploding heresy assumptions.

  115. Julie,

    After years as a Reformed Protestant, I am in the process of returning to the Catholic Church (which I did not know or understand well as a Catholic). I have been a member of some of the most Biblically thoughtful churches that I believe are to be found in the Reformed Protestant tradition. However, I *cannot* say, from what I saw, that these churches are very strong in emphasizing the role of the early Church Fathers in one’s interpretation of Scripture. This is *very important*, in regard to your question of what sharply divides Catholics and Protestants.

    At this point, in my view, much experience with the early Church Fathers will logically take a Protestant to either the Catholic Church, to Eastern Orthodoxy, or to the view that while the Church Fathers may have held to certain interpretations of the Bible, it is ultimately *my personal interpretation* of the Bible that trumps everything else. I don’t write this to be uncharitable to my Protestant brothers and sisters– not at all. Until recently, I was one of them. I still love them very much.

    However, when I was a Protestant, it was ultimately my personal interpretation of the Bible that I used to evaluate and “judge” the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Church Fathers, and the Catholic Church as a whole. If my interpretation judged them to be Biblically right on an issue, then they were “Biblical” on that issue. If my interpretation judged them to be Biblically wrong on an issue, then they were simply “unBiblical” on that issue.

    This gets to the heart of what divides Catholics and Protestants. Catholics submit (or are logically, consistently supposed to submit, as Catholics) to the magisterial, sacramental, teaching, and interpretive authority of the Church, because Christ founded that authority. Catholics don’t try to personally interpret the Bible, from their own understanding, because the Church is the divinely appointed interpretive authority. For Protestants though, despite what they say about “I submit only to what the Bible teaches” and “The Bible is my final authority for faith and practice,” it is ultimately *their personal interpretation(s)* of the Bible to which they are submitting. Not “the Bible alone,” but their understanding of what the Bible teaches.

    As anyone can see about Protestantism, their are hundreds, if not thousands, of different interpretations of what the Bible teaches, which explains the many different Protestant denominations. Now, a Protestant might say, “Well, ok, but all Protestants do agree on justification by faith alone, and that unites us all against the Catholic Church”– but now, even among Protestants, they are beginning to quarrel over this very doctrine and how to best think of it and talk about it. Protestants don’t just “fight with” Catholics. Sadly, very often, they fight among themselves. I speak from personal knowledge and experience.

    As for why so many Protestants don’t see Catholics as having a personal relationship with Christ, much of the time, I think it is due to different ways of speaking about things among Catholics and Protestants. My ex-Catholic, very Protestant roommate strongly asserted to me, a few nights ago, that “Catholics worship saints.” He said this because Catholics pray to saints, or more properly, Catholics ask saints to pray *for* us to God. In my roommate’s view, this is worship of saints. He is mistaken, but it is what he believes, as an ex-Catholic Protestant.

    Some of the division between Catholics and Protestants can also be explained, partially, by individual Catholics who may take certain Catholic practices too far, beyond what the Church teaches. My roommate claims that in his years as a Catholic, he almost never heard Catholics speak of praying to God personally. In his memories of his experiences with fellow Catholics (and memories can be deceiving…), he claims that he heard them speak of praying to Mary, and praying to this or that Saint, to help them with this or that problem– but he says that he rarely heard Catholics mention praying to God directly. I replied to him that if that is true, it is very unfortunate, and that it *does not* reflect what the Church officially teaches. Of course, the Church teaching is not “either/or” (either pray to God, or ask saints to pray to God for us), but it is “both/and.” My roommate’s response is that he never heard that understanding from the Catholics whom he knew.

    If this recounting from my roommate, of his time as a Catholic, is accurate, it is very sad. It highlights the need for Catholics to *know* their faith, to read and study the Bible and the Catechism together, to not take what they might hear from Catholics around them, to always be the truth about Church teaching. The more that Catholics know their faith and can explain it to Protestants, the healing of divisions there can be between Protestants and Catholics. This site is a good example of Catholics really knowing their faith, and it has helped greatly in bringing *this* ex-Catholic and fervent Protestant back home to the Church! Blessings to you, my sister in Christ!

  116. This is an excellent article — so elucidating. Thank you! I look forward to EWTN Live this week!

  117. The early church that Jesus found was Catholic…..

  118. Christopher — I’ve been on the fence for many years now, having studied RCism and Orthodoxy until I’m nearly crazy! I remain a very disenchanted evangelical Protestant, but unable to make the leap to RCsim, in part because of many of the same observations that your roommate has.

    Catholic apologists, and especially recent converts, tend to be very defensive when it comes to the issue of the proper teaching of the communion of the saints. “Sure,” you say, “many Catholics have it all wrong…they shouldn’t be PRAYING TO Mary and all the saints. I’ve been hearing the argument for years that it’s all because of poor catechism, but I just don’t buy it.

    But Christopher, I challenge you to be honest in admitting that millions of Catholics do just that. Then one has to ask himself, where is the fruit?

    If indeed the Catholic Church is the one true Church, why is it that after 2000 years, there are so many clueless Catholics who PRAY TO Mary and hundreds of other saints every day?

    Jesus said that we would know them by their fruit. I just don’t see it.

  119. Jim,

    Honestly, I can’t comment as to how many Catholics literally “pray to Mary,” because as a convert to Catholicism from agnosticism, many, many years ago, I didn’t actually stay in the Church long enough to ascertain much about the prayer lives of Catholics around me. Now, I’m coming back to the Church after being a Protestant for several years, but I’m still trying to arrange a time with the priest for Confession and haven’t been back to Mass yet. (There is the ongoing issue of transportation for me, as I have a physical disability and am unable to drive.)

    About the respective fruit of Catholics and Protestants, I’m not sure that that is the issue to use to determine whether or not the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded, with the continuing principle of apostolic succession, to this day. Actually, I’m fairly sure that the fruit of Catholics is *not* the right issue to use to make that determination, because the practice of some people who claim to be Catholic simply does not determine whether or not the Church is what she claims to be.

    What *is* determinative, here, is the answer to the question (as I implied above), did Christ found one *visible* Church, with *continuing apostolic succession*, to teach and lead His people to this very day? Bryan Cross has written about this question here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/

    One other thought– from my time as a Protestant, I know that it can be easy to criticize the supposed “lack of fruit” among Catholics, but is that not largely because the Catholic Church *is* one visible Church? What about the prosperity Gospel among some Protestants, or the “I’m a Christian, because I prayed a prayer, but now I’m living however I want, because I’m saved” phenomenon among Protestants? The latter tendency is HUGE in certain camps of Protestantism.

    Of course, it’s not always as easy to criticize the “fruit” of Protestants as it is the fruit of Catholics, because Protestants can always point to “sound, Biblical” Protestant churches, and simply disavow themselves of the wackier churches, while the Catholic Church is One Visible Church, with parishes of varying degrees of faithfulness to official Catholic teaching (which has implications for individual Catholics).

    There is “official Catholic teaching” in the Catholic Church though, by which the faithfulness of Catholics can be assessed. Where is the “official Protestant teaching” that can bind the consciences of Protestants, and by which their faithfulness can be assessed? It seems to me that such “official Protestant teaching” is a moving target, moving with the winds of cultural change. Until 1930, all Protestant denominations condemned artificial contraception as rebellion against God’s design of our sexuality. Now, in Protestantism, the acceptability of artificial contraception is hardly even questioned.

  120. Very interesting read and I am a recent convert to Roman Catholicism in 2008. My first church was a non-denominational Christian church similar to Charismatic churches in my view. What is the evidence for Calvinist followers descending into anarchy?

  121. Jim and Christopher

    (Welcome Back BTW Christopher – I’m praying for you and I hope you can arrange transportation very soon, if there is anything I can do….)

    As for the practice of the ‘average’ Catholic regarding prayer to Saints, speaking as a cradle Catholic, I don’t really see it being a common problem that Catholics misunderstand this particular doctrine / practice. In the younger generation, other than the Hail Mary, a good many ‘average’ Catholics never make a petition to any Saint at all! The ones that do, in my observation, generally understand exactly what an intercession is and what a Saint is and there isn’t a hint of idolatry. Whether they use sufficiently nuanced language to properly reflect that understanding to a typical inquiring protestant with a background in formal theology is of course another matter entirely.

  122. GNW_Paul,

    Thank you for your prayers and the welcome back Home. About the arranging of transportation to and from Confession (and to and from church generally), if I don’t hear from the priest by Thursday, I will call the parish office to see if I can speak to him. He is 80 years old; he may have forgotten to call me, or he may not be feeling well. He’s a wonderful man, but age does have its effects of all of us, so I’m trying to give him time. I live in New Mexico, and I think that you are in another region of the U.S., so I’m not sure if there is anything you can do for me, personally, other than pray (which is important, and I thank you again!).

  123. Eric,

    The disunity among Calvinists (also known as “Reformed Christians,” though some Reformed will even quarrel about how broadly that term should be applied!) is great and wide. Even simply among one “camp” of the Reformed– Presbyterians–, there are so many different denominations that some Presbyterians jokingly use the term, the “split P’s!”

    Among “five-point Calvinists” more generally (not just Presbyterians), some believe that the charismatic gifts are still in use today, such as John Piper, Sam Storms, and D.A. Carson. However, other Calvinists, such as those in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, believe that the entire charismatic movement is Biblically mistaken and even dangerous. Years ago, one OPC minister was actually disciplined for praying in tongues (using a “private prayer language”) in his own house! (The Catholic Church broadly accepts the charismatic movement in the Church, though discernment is always needed.)

    From what I have read, John Calvin had quite a high view of his own authority, as a church leader, and he believed that church authority was to be submitted to and obeyed by Christians. In that light, I have to wonder what he would think about the disunity and disagreements among Christians who claim to be “Calvinists” (as I did myself until earlier this year).

  124. A reminder for those following this thread: Dr. Anders will be on EWTN Live tonight at 7 PM CST (8 EST) talking about “Protestant Theology before and after the Reformation.”

  125. 1. God is an awesome God and it will be fruitful to know who God is

    2. We are a wonderful new Creation in Christ. It is fruitful to know who we are, and WILL always be very uplifting and inspiration to come to know more, understand more, and believe who we are in Christ

    3. Experience the overwhelming peace and contentment and a joy unspeakable that comes from knowing the Love of God.

    Why focus on “theology”? How about preaching the good news of the Gospel, that Jesus died, rose again, giving us forgiveness of sin, and making us a new creation. His blood on the cross, and resurrection has made us righteous, a gift of salvation thru no effort of our own. That is the good news about the Love of God, and we are to Live by Faith.

    Why not focus on helping people come to know, understand, and believe who they are in Christ and our awesome new nature, wonderfully created with so many attributes and promises.

    That is why I challenge you with tough questions about what you believe. For example, so many believe God commands us to be obedient. My question is HOW do you “try” to be obedient. If not by belief, then I ask, which of the 613 Old Testament Laws do you follow, which ones do you feel it’s ok to be disobedient? If you cannot answer that question, then I suggest you don’t know who you are.

    Here’s the answer, plain and simple… Live by Faith, not by sight (senses, or thoughts):

    (Gal 2:20) –
    YOU have been crucified with Christ;
    it is no longer YOU who live,
    but Christ lives in YOU;
    and the life which YOU now live in the flesh
    YOU live by faith in the Son of God,
    who loved YOU
    and gave Himself for YOU.

    http://www.mychristianidentity.com/page5.html

    When you desire to know who God is, who we are in Christ, and His Love for us; then EVERY other issue is resolved so as to experience the Peace, Joy, and Love of His Kingdom, now.

    Living by Faith means that as Christians, we are no longer in “bondage to the law” and instead in bondage to Christ to “perfectly” follow every law; that’s a spiritual truth.

    Yet we live in a world with laws that exist in the physical realm. As long as we live in America, with our Constitution as written, it’s our responsibility as a citizen to participate in society, with all of it’s laws. However, it must be understood, there is a difference following the laws of the land, compared what it means to live by Faith. Following and/or violating America’s laws have benefits and consequences, just as you experience the benefits of following or consequences of violating SPIRITUAL LAWS AND PRINCIPLES.

    Think about this: What benefit do you get from following any law of government compared to benefits from following spiritual laws.

    For example: There is no U.S. law that states you MUST give to a Charity; There is no 11th Commandment, or even one of the 613 Old Testament Law that says you must give to any one particular Charity; however there is tax benefit and a spiritual principle (and benefit) in giving to a Charity? That is an example of the difference between a physical law, and spiritual Law, and a spiritual principle.

    There are spiritual consequences to actions in the physical realm, and just like there are spiritual laws and principles. If it seems my “focus” has gone a little overboard on politics, I apologize. The intent is to use politics to make people aware of the foundation of our country. That foundation includes founders, with documents and a Constitution that embraces God as the source of our existence, with all rights, values, and laws originating from God, not government. I realize I get off track from that message a lot.

    If you can’t answer a simple question, what does it mean to “live by Faith”, or the difference between “being in Christ” compared to “living in Christ”… who cares what you believe about Calvin, the Pope, or the Church you go to?

  126. I am Catholic but I still respect the Presbyterians and most other Christian denominations. Why do we exaggerate in our arguments? Doesn’t this have a tendency to polarize and who do we persuade when we do this?

  127. Eric,

    How has anyone exaggerated here? Speaking for myself, I have written many times, in my comments here at Called to Communion, that I love my Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ. Until recently, I was a Protestant myself. You asked a question about the evidence for Calvinists “falling into anarchy.” Actually, you used more extreme language than I would have. There is great division and disagreement among the various camps of Calvinists, but I wouldn’t describe the situation as “anarchy.”

    Anarchy means that there is no ultimate governing body and/or no governing rules. All Protestants have at least one governing rule: the ultimate right of the Christian to reach conclusions about Biblical teaching by the “illumination of the Holy Spirit,” without an authoritative Magisterium. One can look at the history of Protestantism and easily see the results of this one governing rule. Exaggerations are one thing. The objective evidence of history is another.

  128. W A Gluck,

    You ask, “Why focus on ‘theology’”? However, your comment is filled with theological statements about what you believe the Bible teaches.

    There is simply no way to be a “non-theological Christian.” Every Christian has a theology. Whether it is a *consciously held* theology is another matter. One question to begin with here is, how do you know that your theology of justification and righteousness through faith alone is truly what the Bible teaches?

  129. Hello Christopher,

    Sorry for my lack of specificity. I was referring to Dr. Ander’s paragraph and last sentence below:

    A Calvinist Discovers Catholicism

    I grew up believing that Evangelicalism was “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” I learned from Protestant Church history that it was hardly older than Whitefield, and certainly not the faith of the Protestant Reformers. What to do? Should I go back to the sixteenth century and become an authentic Calvinist? I already knew that Calvin himself, for all his insistence on unity and authority, had been unable to deliver the goods. His own followers descended into anarchy and individualism.

    I agree with your definition of anarchy, which is why I asked my question. Do you agree that this last sentence from the above paragraph is an exaggeration because it uses the word anarchy?

  130. Yes, Calvin opposed “theological diversity.” He believed there was only ONE TRUE GOD.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  131. Dr. Anders, terrific job tonight on EWTN Live!

  132. Eric,

    On the face of it, yes, the word “anarchy” seems to be an exaggeration there. Perhaps Dr. Anders used that word in a rhetorical, somewhat hyperbolic way to make a point, but I won’t attempt to answer for him.

  133. John Lofton,

    Yes, Calvin believed that there was only one true God. Catholics believe the same.

  134. Dr. Anders,

    As Bryan said, great job tonight on EWTN! This show was worthy of ordering on DVD! Perhaps some of my Protestant friends will be willing to watch it, and it may open doors for dialogue!

  135. Perhaps John Lofton, Recovering Republican is pointing out that Calvin was justified for quelling theological diversity because Calvin believed there is one God and therefore one theology (he was being consistent). If that’s what he’s getting at, I agree wholeheartedly. There is one faith, one Lord, one baptism. Dr. Anders article was not meant to blame Calvin for being opposed to theological diversity, but to point out that the Protestant world has strayed so far from the vision of its founders and to ask, given that Calvin believed he had the one theology, whether Calvin was right, and how we might know.

  136. I’d like to ask a Calvin critic to do something for me, please. Give me one direct Calvin quote (and its specific source) and then show me from Scripture, specific passages, where Calvin was wrong. Thank you.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  137. Dear John,

    We’re all amongst friends here, so I hope you will soon feel comfortable dropping the hefty signature block.

    Regarding your challenge, it seems overly broad, so not really relevant to this article. Also, judging from your word choice, it also seems like a bit of a set-up. I suspect that I could show you a specific and cited Calvin quote, and a specifc and cited Scriptural quote, and then write out some analysis of why the two are inconsistent. (I imagine that going single-citation by single-citation, your terms of engagement, we could scandalize any theologian.) But what would that prove? You will reply with other passages that you will claim counteract the Scripture I mentioned, and support Calvin’s view. Doesn’t this seem like a prelude to futility?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  138. Dear Tom: Instead of trying to predict the future, why don’t you do what I ask and let’s see what happens? — if you are a Calvin critic. And my request was very specific, not “overly broad” at all. Thank you.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  139. John,

    See this thread.

    If that does no suffice than you can always go to a sola scriptura affirming website of the Arminian persuasion like this one for example which argue that Calvin’s theology is unbiblical in many other ways.

  140. I’d like to ask a Calvin critic to do something for me, please. Give me one direct Calvin quote (and its specific source) and then show me from Scripture, specific passages, where Calvin was wrong. Thank you.

    John – it seems to me that your request pre-supposes two things that are at question in the Calvinism-vs-Catholicism debate:

    Scripture alone
    private interpretation

    Your question seems to me to presuppose the answers.

    jj

  141. [...] See the full article, “How John Calvin Made me a Catholic” here. [...]

  142. Calvin vs. Scripture:

    “All the works which proceed from us, so as properly to be called our own, are vicious, and therefore they can do nothing but displease God, and be rejected by him.” – Catechism of the Church of Geneva

    “God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. ” – Romans 2:6-7

  143. I was sitting in my jammys on my couch last night watching an intelligent, theological conversation about specific topics on a broadcast television station devoted to proclaiming the truth of Catholicism. It struck me how imposible this would be for any theological heirs of the Reformation to do. (Ever seen TBN?) Having descended into what I have experienced as theological anarchy, they could never find enough supporters from their persuasion to keep them on the air. (imagine “TULIP Television Network: Proclaiming the joys of the Doctrines of Grace 24/7!”)

    The reasons why this imaginary station could never happen are the reasons why “anarchy” is the perfect word to describe the situation.

    Excellent job on EWTN Live Dr. Anders! Bringing the conversation from Calvin to the gospel of Evangelicalism made clear how far Evangelicalism has strayed from itself, let alone from the historic faith. I hope they have you back.

    David M.

  144. And I have not yet said ANYTHING about “Scripture alone,” Mr. Jensen. What I have asked for from the Calvin critics is: Give me one direct Calvin quote (and its specific source) and then show me from Scripture, specific passages, where Calvin was wrong — a request which presupposes that, among other things, Roman Catholics (most of the ones I’ve talked with) say, yes, they believe the Bible is the Word of God.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  145. Dear Dr. Anders,

    Will you please comment on your use of the word anarchy in the last sentence of your paragraph below? In your opinion does salvation exist for those Christians outside of Roman Catholicism and why? Does this include Pentecostals and Mormons that do not baptize according Roman Catholic standards. In fact, Mormons reject the doctrine of the Trinity, which I have to strongly disagree with but they still profess Jesus Christ.

    A Calvinist Discovers Catholicism

    I grew up believing that Evangelicalism was “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” I learned from Protestant Church history that it was hardly older than Whitefield, and certainly not the faith of the Protestant Reformers. What to do? Should I go back to the sixteenth century and become an authentic Calvinist? I already knew that Calvin himself, for all his insistence on unity and authority, had been unable to deliver the goods. His own followers descended into anarchy and individualism.

  146. Any anarchist or individualist is NOT a follower of Calvin. No way.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  147. John Lofton,

    Is it your position that Calvin cannot possibly be wrong about anything in the scriptures?

  148. Better to ask a person their position rather than first imputing it to them and THEN asking. Answer: No, that is not my position. My request is what it is.

    ohn Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  149. John,

    I provided links which discuss several areas where Calvin was fundamentally wrong from scripture. Here is another specific example (it cites his writing about papal primacy and then argues contrarily from scripture).

    We could argue from scripture about how we think Calvin is wrong all day but that does not address the fundamental question of authority which is the topic of this thread.

    If you have a point to make about the topic please make it.

  150. Didn’t ask, Sean, for links. Asked simply for one direct Calvin quote (and its specific source) and then show me from Scripture, specific passages, where Calvin was wrong.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  151. John,

    I gave you links because this is covered ground.

    But here is one example…that has already been covered here.

    From Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion Book II, Chapter 16, 10 in full.

    But, apart from the Creed, we must seek for a surer exposition of Christ’s descent to hell: and the word of God furnishes us with one not only pious and holy, but replete with excellent consolation. Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God’s anger, and satisfy his righteous judgement, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death

    We lately quoted from the Prophet, that the “chastisement of our peace was laid upon him” that he “was bruised for our iniquities” that he “bore our infirmities;” expressions which intimate, that, like a sponsor and surety for the guilty, and, as it were, subjected to condemnation, he undertook and paid all the penalties which must have been exacted from them, the only exception being, that the pains of death could not hold him. Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. It is frivolous and ridiculous to object that in this way the order is perverted, it being absurd that an event which preceded burial should be placed after it. But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgement which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price – that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man.

    Scripture, contra Calvin, teaches that the descent into hell was not punitive in anyway, but rather triumphant.

    Christ “proclaimed the Gospel even to the dead” (εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη, 1 Pet 4:6). Jesus wasn’t burning in the flames like Calvin taught. He was dashing the gates of Hell, proclaiming His victory, and delivering the righteous of the Old Testament.

  152. Don’t see the Scripture, Sean, that contradicts what Calvin says — an entire Scripture.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  153. Can’t say I was holding my breath there…

  154. John,

    David Anders – comment #42 has yielded to your demands to appropriate this com-box and debate on your terms in CalledToCommunion’s forum.

    I can see you may have missed it because he didn’t direct it to John, simply “scripture vs. Calvin” and apparently you aren’t actually attempting to follow the broader discussion.

    God Bless

  155. John Lofton,

    If the exercise is going to be one where we give examples and you merely assert, “nope, don’t see it” than we aren’t going to waste anymore time on the exercise.

  156. John Lofton,

    In addition to the many contradictions in those links that you didn’t ask for, Dr. Anders showed a clear contradiction above in 142. You haven’t yet responded (not that we don’t already know what you’re going to say).

  157. Tim and GNW.

    He did respond but the response contained an AD HOM which is contrary to the posting guidelines thus his comment was not published.

    But, yes, it was pretty much what you would have expected and in the ‘nope, you are wrong’ variety.

  158. What I don’t see, Sean, is what I requested — a Scripture or Scriptures, not a partial Scripture, out of context.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  159. John Lofton,
    Some of us are here to learn. Some of us are here to learn because we got our “arse” handed to us when we used to approach others in a condescending arrogant manner much like yours, and we discovered we didn’t know everything. You are a guest here and your demanding tone is not in keeping with what I believe is the intent of this site—cordial, gracious, others-better-than-yourself-kind-of interaction.

  160. John Lofton,

    You might have missed Dr. Anders’ comment, #142, in which he quoted from the Catechism of the Church of Geneva (which, if Calvin did not have a hand in composing himself, surely he approved of the document) and refuted it with Romans 2:6-7.

    However, as others have mentioned here, could you not simply reply by presupposing “Scripture alone,” quoting other verses, and then saying that we are misunderstanding Romans 2:6-7?

    The ultimate question here is, is individual interpretation of the Bible (even individual interpretation as informed by historic confessions, creeds, the thoughts of your church elders, etc.) truly the *model* that Jesus *intended* for His people?

    It might be helpful for you to read Bryan Cross’ article here, entitled, “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.” In my view, this article gets to the heart of the “Protestant problem,” when it comes to their individual, and collective, interpretation(s) of Scripture. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

  161. Something tells me that every response we give is going to be proclaimed ‘out of context….’ or ‘partial.’

  162. John,

    Why don’t you re-respond to 142 again without an ad-hominem this time. And saying “its out of context” or “I don’t see it” doesn’t suffice as a response. If you think it’s out of context, then you need to show why.

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with a PCA pastor shortly after starting my conversion process. He said “why would you go to Rome when the Bible is clear that we are justified by faith alone?” I responded that I didn’t think it was so clear especially when the bible explicitly says we are NOT justified by faith alone. He said “it doesn’t say that” and I tried without success to convince him that it did (couldn’t remember the verse at the time). So I later sent him an email with the verse and he decided to change his position in accordance with what the Bible said. No, actually I’m kidding he didn’t do that. He just said it was taken out of context. First he said its not there, but when confronted with hard evidence, instead of modifying his position, he subordinated the clear reading of the text to his theology.

    When we read the Scripture through Calvin colored glasses, of course there aren’t any verses that contradict Calvin. In the mind of a Calvinist, no conceivable verse could be brought up that would contradict Calvin (this ought to raise red flags since according to your own doctrine, Calvin got some things wrong.)

  163. If you are saying, Tim, that Calvin said things that contradict Scripture then, please, give me one direct Calvin quote (and its specific source) and then show me from Scripture, specific passages, where Calvin was wrong. Thank you.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  164. So, is Calvin infallible, or the Scriptures, or just Calvin’s interpretations of the Scriptures, or the interpretation of Calvin’s interpretation of the Scriptures?

    Just wondering, because, at times, where a Catholic states, the authority of the Church (identified by the Four Marks and physically evident in sacramental Apostolic Succession) has made this infallible declaration in terms of doctrine and dogma, a Calvinist will imply that Calvin’s interpretations of the Scriptures, defining Calvinist doctrine, is infallible.

    So, where a Catholic sees authentic authority as sacramental, traced from the Apostles to the college of bishops of the Catholic Church throughout Christian history, Calvinists see authentic and binding authority traced from one man 1500 years after Christ ascended into Heaven, who most certainly wasn’t alive to be commissioned by Christ in the same way that the Apostles were and there is no historical reference to him ever being ordained a bishop of the Church by any bishops of the Church with sacramental apostolic authority. So, the question here is which authority is authentic and has the power to “bind and loose” doctrine or even interpret the Scriptures in a dogmatic fashion? Calvin or the Catholic Magisterium?

    If Calvin was infallible in his interpretations of Scripture, then which Calvinist community is the true one, because there are too many to count on all of my digits? Which are misinterpreting Calvin’s infallible teachings? There can only be one truly Calvinist community… does it even exist any more? And who makes the claim that they are authentically Calvinist? Can they prove it objectively? And how do they determine that Calvin’s interpretations of Scripture is infallible enough to believe that he holds the key to understanding the Scriptures in the first place? And why can’t all Calvinist’s agree on those interpretations? So, don’t we have a problem with interpretations of interpretations of interpretations, etc?

    As you can see, to the dogmatic Calvinist, it really doesn’t matter if you can show that Calvin was incorrect in his interpretation of even one verse in Scripture. Because it isn’t about Scripture, it’s about authority.

    Take for example James 2: “that’s not what James meant… what he meant was…”; John 6, the Last Supper narratives, 1 Corinthians 10, etc. “this is my Body”, “except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you”, “And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?”, “Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you…” – “that’s not what Jesus or St. Paul meant… what they meant was…”; The Lord’s Prayer “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trepass against us”, “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” – “that’s not what Jesus meant… what he meant was…”

    So, I don’t think that a Scripture debate is really helpful. When everything can be explained away as “that’s not what so and so really meant… what they really meant is what I want or need them to mean in order for my system to stay intact”, then how can there be anything constructive out of that? Why not go to the heart of the matter? Presbyterians (Calvinists) recite the Nicene Creed don’t they? Why not try and figure out what is meant by “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” as defined by the Magisterium, led by the Holy Spirit, that wrote the Creed. An intellectually honest Protestant community would never recite that Creed as to do so is to admit that there is One visible and catholic Church that can be identified by authentic sacramental apostolic succession and authority, and that to recite that sentence is to affirm that one believes everything that authority teaches. Is Calvin that authority?

  165. John Lofton,

    Please re-read what I said in 162 and respond accordingly instead of repeating your original demand. That doesn’t advance the conversation.

  166. Eric,

    I’m not intending to answer for Dr. Anders here, but the consciences of all Catholics are bound by the official teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism clearly states that non-Catholic Christians are, indeed, Christians, which means that they can be saved, if they persevere in faith working through love.

    As for Mormons, it is not my place to speculate on the salvation of *individual Mormons*, but given that their belief system rejects the Trinity, they are outside of historic, orthodox Christianity, as set out in the Nicene Creed, which is accepted by both Catholics and Protestants. If one rejects the Nicene Creed, historically and theologically speaking, one is not a Christian, but rather, a member of a non-Christian cult. I do not mean to speak “unlovingly” here, but the fact is, the most loving thing that one can do is to call a heresy what it is (heresy), and plead with those who subscribe to it to embrace orthodox, historic Christianity.

  167. What doesn’t advance things, Tim, is repeatedly ignoring a person’s requests.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  168. John,

    I think this conversation has run its (circular) course. I’ll take my bow and exit stage left – or whatever they say :-) Peace in Christ.

  169. John,

    I’m a spectator here, and not enough of a scholar to really roll up by sleeves and play, but I can play the game your way.

    Just answer me simple question – yes or no.

    Was John Calvin’s interpretation of scripture perfect and flawless?

  170. John,

    Dr. Anders gave his quotes in 142, Sean gave links to relevant discussion (it is relevant even though it is a link, so your dismissal of them is strange to me). You have not shown these responses to be inadequate. You have simply dismissed them. When asked for an explanation, you gave none.

    If anyone is ignoring a person’s request, it is you ignoring multiple requests to explain why the responses given by Dr. Anders and Sean are inadequate. Even if they’re responses are inadequate, they have ATTEMPTED to respond to your request. You have failed to even do them that courtesy.

    Since they have at least attempted to respond to your request, you should now to respond to theirs.

  171. Gentlemen,

    I found Dr. Anders’ EWTN video from last night. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qibg-m2vUno.

    I hope it works.

  172. Gentlemen,

    I’m stepping in and ending this particular sub-thread, for one reason. The purpose of CTC is not for trading one-liners and ‘gotcha’s and other such tactics or back-and-forth sophistry intended to ‘score points.’ The purpose of CTC is to provide a forum for careful, considerate, intellectual dialogue about what continues to separate Protestants and Catholics, with a view to finding unity in the truth, and effecting eventual reconciliation. That goal requires a charitable and unity-pursuing stance in dialogue, one in which those who participate are all sincerely and humbly seeking to understand each other, to determine where and why we disagree, and to uncover and overcome the misunderstandings and errors that still perpetuate the Protestant-Catholic schism. And the purpose of this combox in particular is to discuss Dr. Anders’ article, whether one agrees or disagrees with various claims in the article. Raising objections to claims in the article is fine. Asking questions about the article is fine. But, this is not a place to sound-off, or vent, or even debate about anything related to John Calvin. CTC is not here to host debates, but to serve as a forum in which we may reason together in the mutual pursuit of truth in love, for the sake of achieving agreement in the truth. Feel free to discuss the article, but any further comments in the #136 subthread will not be posted.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  173. Thanks Jared. Here it is!

  174. Dr. Anders,

    Your observations about the vast differences between modern evangelicals and what those of us who were formerly Reformed Protestants would call the “magisterial reformers” (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.) are interesting and make a lot of sense when we look at the majority of the Reformed world today. Yet, as you must know from your studies, the Lutheran, Calvinist and Zwinglian branches of the Reformation were not the only new religious movements to arise in the turmoil of the 16th century. How would you apply your observations to modern evangelicals who couldn’t give a lick about Reformed theology and practice anymore than they give a lick about Catholicism? I’m referring to the strain of Christianity that traces its roots back to the so-called Radical Reformation, either formally (Anabaptist, Amish, Mennenite) or indirectly (your average evangelical “bible church” or non-denominational church that probably has more in common with the Anabaptists then they realize, historically and theologically speaking). It seems like these people could say, “We don’t look like Calvinist Protestantism and we don’t want to, nor have we ever wanted nor intended to. We haven’t lost anything of the substance of the Reformation because Calvin doesn’t represent the substance of the Reformation. Calvin and Luther came out of Rome but Rome didn’t come out of them.” I know that this website is dedicated to dialogue specifically with Reformed Christians, but I just thought I would ask because of the TV spot and because I’d like to show it to some friends of mine, but I know a lot of people who probably thought I was just as batty when I started caring what Calvin said as I am now that I care what the Catholic Church says.

  175. David Pell,

    Interestingly, my experience has been similar to yours. When I first moved from Arminian to Reformed in my theology, my evangelical “free-church” friends didn’t seem to understand why I was embracing this strange theology of “election and predestination.” Now that I am returning to the Catholic Church, both my Arminian and Reformed friends are likely to be baffled. If only more of them would read the early Church Fathers (and *not* simply as selectively quoted within Protestant writings or social circles)….

    Sadly, I just spoke with a Reformed-become-Catholic friend on the phone, and it seems that the people in his former church are more practically consistent with historic Reformed theology and practice than are most evangelicals. He has been roundly rebuked, and then utterly cut off, by most of these Reformed brothers and sisters. He is “persona non grata” to them, other than as a target for evangelism, if they ever even speak to him again. I have to remind myself that they are (hopefully) doing what they are doing out of genuine concern for his soul, however misinformed and misguided…. Mary, pray for me, a sinner.

  176. Mr. Pell,

    I agree with you completely. I’ve been in many evangelical churches where not only was Calvin not an authority, he was even treated with contempt. Even in Geneva itself, Calvin’s authority was strongly resisted for a good twenty years, until French immigration pushed the electorate in his favor. Still, I was always very interested in how much Calvin (and other magisterial reformers) fought to gain authority over these dissenters. The point I wished to make was that even Calvin and Luther understood that Scripture totally alone would lead to theological confusion.

    Nevertheless, as I mentioned above, I didn’t embrace Catholicism because I agreed or disagreed with Calvin, nor because I was unsatisfied with Protestantism. In the end, I became a Catholic because I was persuaded that it is true. I find the history of Protestantism interesting, and a sound test-case for the practicality of sola scriptura, but this is not what made me a Catholic. Study of Scripture, the Church fathers, and the doctors of the Church made me a Catholic.

  177. Only on the point that Dr. Anders made and a couple of others have commented on, I have a few evangelical friends who reject Calvin as well for various reasons. One of my friends describes Calvinism as a system that requires too many “vampire rules” to keep it from falling apart and the more he dug into those “rules” he came to the conclusion that they were so tight that they strangled the Gospel message, making it cold and clinical. That was his opinion, though. I’m sure he probably feels the same way about Catholicism, he just hasn’t said so to me.

    On the other hand, I have an uncle and aunt who are Evangelicals that adhere to many of Calvin’s teachings, but not all of them. That’s why I consider Evangelicalism one gigantic umbrella under which a myriad of “choose your own adventure” or “have it your way” versions of Christianity operate.

    He came up with the term “vampire rules” because of what he perceives as all of the ridiculous and restrictive rules placed on “vampires” by Hollywood and books.

  178. Thanks Christopher for your wise advice.

    Does one need to undergo water baptism in order to be saved? What if the water baptism does not follow the Catholic prescription for it?

  179. Eric,

    You can get an authoritative synopsis of the Catholic position on the necessity of baptism by referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, especially 1257–1261. Concerning the second question, see CCC 1240 and 1256, also note the intriguing discussion in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Baptism, under the sub-heading “Matter and Form of the Sacrament.”

  180. Thanks Andrew. These special baptismal cases, e.g. baptism by martyrdom and desire, demonstrate how the “good thief” could be saved without the rite being performed on him. Is that correct?

    My first church that was non-denominational taught that baptism was NOT needed for salvation.

  181. Eric,

    That is correct. Also, I forgot to add the link to the CE article on baptism. Scroll down to the discussion of “Form” under “Matter and Form of the Sacrament” for information on the necessity of following the Catholic prescription for Baptism, including some discussion of which discrepancies in the form of the sacrament nullify its validity, or render its validity doubtful, etc.

  182. Interesting. However, the view of Sola Scriptura presented here is closer to the Anabaptist SOLO Scriptura as opposed to the Lutheran/Refomed SOLA Scriptura. I fully sympathize with the author in WHAT he is reacting to as someone who has rejected American evangelicalism for Confessional Lutheranism, but I cannot sympathize with his reaction.

  183. Jason,

    How exactly is SOLO Scriptura different from SOLA Scriptura? Have you read Bryan’s article on Sola Scriptura/Solo Scriptura? Doesn’t each system ultimately make the individual interpreter of Scripture the final authority?

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  184. @Jeremy Tate, Absolutely not. Think of SOLO scriptura as me and my Bible alone out in the woods sitting under a tree. SOLA scriptura teaches that there are other authorities such as the church, pastors, creeds, confessions, tradition, and what have you, but the scriptures (which are authoritative because Jesus rose from the dead proving He is God in human flesh and He said they are authoritative, Matthew 5:18, Matthew 24:35, Matthew 26:56, Mark 12:24, Mark 14:49,Luke 24:27,Luke 24:45,John 5:39) interpreted via the historical/gramatical method (2 Peter 1:20) have the FINAL say. All authorities are subservient to ScriptureMatthew 15:3, Matthew 15:6. Thus where there is a conflict between the Bible and other authorities the Bible is always right and that which contradicts it is rejected. The only time we know for sure we are hearing God is in the scriptures(2 Timothy 3:16).

    Here are some links to some discussions on Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide from a Lutheran perspective. In discussion with ex-evangelical Roman Catholics I often find that they were given deficient teaching in their evangelical churches and niether understood it then nor do they really understand it now as evidenced by numerous false assumptions evident in their arguments. I am sure it goes the other way around too as I see this on both sides of debates between Lutherans and our Calvinist brothers. Having been in both it really sticks out.

    http://www.tabletalkradio.org/content/node/115
    http://www.tabletalkradio.org/content/node/118

  185. Jason,

    Welcome to Called to Communion. The article that Jeremy referred to can be found here. The article argues that solo and sola scriptura have no principled distinction. It has 878 comments so far and no Protestant has argued either that the premises were false or that the conclusions didn’t follow from the premises.

  186. Hi Jason,

    Most who frequent this blog are well aware of the alleged differences between sola scriptura and solo scriptura, especially as articulated in Keith Mathison’s book. You can catch up with our (insanely long) discussion about it here. There have been a couple of follow-up posts, the most recent of which relates to the tu quoque objection, which, as far as I could tell, was the only substantive objection raised in the hundreds of comments on the original article.

    peace in Christ,

    TC

  187. Do you believe in biblical inerrancy when it comes to science and history?

  188. Eric, (re: #187)

    I’m not exactly sure to whom your question is addressed, but the Church’s official, authoritative and irrevocable doctrine on this subject can be found in sections 20-21 of Providentissimus Deus (1893), and sections 16, 17, and especially 19-22 of Spiritus Paraclitus (1920).

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  189. Eric,

    See also section 11 of Dei Verbum.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  190. Thanks Bryan,

    I have excerpted a portion of Dei Verbum section 11:

    Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation.

    That last part of the above paragraph seems important to me but maybe I do not understand it correctly. Thus, does biblical inerrancy apply to matters of science?

    Among practicing Roman Catholic clergy and biblical scholars, will there be a range of opinion on this question?

  191. Eric, (re: #190)

    In Providentissimus Deus we read:

    But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage, we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason and purpose which He had in mind in saying it-this system cannot be tolerated. For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican. These are the words of the last: “The Books of the Old and New Testament, whole and entire, with all their parts, as enumerated in the decree of the same Council (Trent) and in the ancient Latin Vulgate, are to be received as sacred and canonical. And the Church holds them as sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority; nor only because they contain revelation without error; but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.” Hence, because the Holy Ghost employed men as His instruments, we cannot therefore say that it was these inspired instruments who, perchance, have fallen into error, and not the primary author. For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write-He was so present to them-that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers. “Therefore,” says St. Augustine, “since they wrote the things which He showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for His members executed what their Head dictated.” And St. Gregory the Great thus pronounces: “Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things-we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing; He wrote it Who inspired its execution.”

    It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings, either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration, or make God the author of such error. And so emphatically were all the Fathers and Doctors agreed that the divine writings, as left by the hagiographers, are free from all error, that they laboured earnestly, with no less skill than reverence, to reconcile with each other those numerous passages which seem at variance – the very passages which in great measure have been taken up by the “higher criticism;” for they were unanimous in laying it down, that those writings, in their entirety and in all their parts were equally from the afflatus of Almighty God, and that God, speaking by the sacred writers, could not set down anything but what was true. The words of St. Augustine to St. Jerome may sum up what they taught: “On my part I confess to your charity that it is only to those Books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honour and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these Books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty, or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand.” (Providentissimus Deus, 20-21)

    In Spiritus Paraclitus we read:

    St. Jerome’s teaching on this point serves to confirm and illustrate what our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, declared to be the ancient and traditional belief of the Church touching the absolute immunity of Scripture from error: So far is it from being the case that error can be compatible with inspiration, that, on the contrary, it not only of its very nature precludes the presence of error, but as necessarily excludes it and forbids it as God, the Supreme Truth, necessarily cannot be the Author of error.

    Then, after giving the definitions of the Councils of Florence and Trent, confirmed by the Council of the Vatican, Pope Leo continues: Consequently it is not to the point to suggest that the Holy Spirit used men as His instruments for writing, and that therefore, while no error is referable to the primary Author, it may well be due to the inspired authors themselves. For by supernatural power the Holy Spirit so stirred them and moved them to write, so assisted them as they wrote, that their minds could rightly conceive only those and all those things which He himself bade them conceive; only such things could they faithfully commit to writing and aptly express with unerring truth; else God would not be the Author of the entirety of Sacred Scripture. …

    Yet no one can pretend that certain recent writers really adhere to these limitations. For while conceding that inspiration extends to every phrase – and, indeed, to every single word of Scripture – yet, by endeavoring to distinguish between what they style the primary or religious and the secondary or profane element in the Bible, they claim that the effect of inspiration – namely, absolute truth and immunity from error – are to be restricted to that primary or religious element. Their notion is that only what concerns religion is intended and taught by God in Scripture, and that all the rest – things concerning “profane knowledge,” the garments in which Divine truth is presented – God merely permits, and even leaves to the individual author’s greater or less knowledge. Small wonder, then, that in their view a considerable number of things occur in the Bible touching physical science, history and the like, which cannot be reconciled with modern progress in science!

    Some even maintain that these views do not conflict with what our predecessor laid down since – so they claim – he said that the sacred writers spoke in accordance with the external – and thus deceptive – appearance of things in nature. But the Pontiff’s own words show that this is a rash and false deduction. For sound philosophy teaches that the senses can never be deceived as regards their own proper and immediate object. Therefore, from the merely external appearance of things – of which, of course, we have always to take account as Leo XIII, following in the footsteps of St. Augustine and St. Thomas, most wisely remarks – we can never conclude that there is any error in Sacred Scripture.

    Moreover, our predecessor, sweeping aside all such distinctions between what these critics are pleased to call primary and secondary elements, says in no ambiguous fashion that “those who fancy that when it is a question of the truth of certain expressions we have not got to consider so much what God said as why He said it,” are very far indeed from the truth. He also teaches that Divine inspiration extends to every part of the Bible without the slightest exception, and that no error can occur in the inspired text: “It would be wholly impious to limit inspiration to certain portions only of Scripture or to concede that the sacred authors themselves could have erred.”

    Those, too, who hold that the historical portions of Scripture do not rest on the absolute truth of the facts but merely upon what they are pleased to term their relative truth, namely, what people then commonly thought, are – no less than are the aforementioned critics – out of harmony with the Church’s teaching, which is endorsed by the testimony of Jerome and other Fathers. Yet they are not afraid to deduce such views from the words of Leo XIII on the ground that he allowed that the principles he had laid down touching the things of nature could be applied to historical things as well. Hence they maintain that precisely as the sacred writers spoke of physical things according to appearance, so, too, while ignorant of the facts, they narrated them in accordance with general opinion or even on baseless evidence; neither do they tell us the sources whence they derived their knowledge, nor do they make other peoples’ narrative their own. Such views are clearly false, and constitute a calumny on our predecessor. After all, what analogy is there between physics and history? For whereas physics is concerned with “sensible appearances” and must consequently square with phenomena, history on the contrary, must square with the facts, since history is the written account of events as they actually occurred. If we were to accept such views, how could we maintain the truth insisted on throughout Leo XIII’s Encyclical – viz. that the sacred narrative is absolutely free from error? (Spiritus Paraclitus, 16-17, 19-22)

    So when we read in Dei Verbum:

    Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. (Dei Verbum, 11)

    we know that the preposition “for the sake of salvation” does not limit inspiration (and inerrancy) to a part of Scripture, but clarifies the purpose of all the truth God included in Scripture. The hermemeutic of continuity requires that later teaching be interpreted and understood in light of what is already given. And that is why Dei Verbum must be interpreted and understand not as contradicting Providentissimus Deus and Spiritus Paraclitus, but as in continuity with them.

    You asked:

    Among practicing Roman Catholic clergy and biblical scholars, will there be a range of opinion on this question?

    Among clergy and scholars one will find a range of “opinion” on this and just about every question. But whenever someone deviates from the Church’s teaching, it is just that, opinion. This deviation is partly due to ignorance of the Church’s teaching, and partly to dissent and the influence of modernism. But the complete inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture is what the Church has always believed and taught, and the Church can never revoke or reject this doctrine; she does not have the authority to do so.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  192. Bryan,

    I don’t see how your #191 answers this question from Eric M’s Question in #190

    “Thus, does biblical inerrancy apply to matters of science?”

    I understand (and agree with your response) in that all of sacred scripture is inerrant, but is it inerrant on every subject we apply it to, or is inerrancy limited in anyway to the scope of the matters scripture addresses?

    In short, does the proper understanding of inerrancy for a Catholic require literal scientific understanding of the first Chapter of Genesis?

  193. Paul, (re: #192)

    I don’t know what the question “Does biblical inerrancy apply to matters of science” means, because I don’t know what it means to “apply” biblical inerrancy to a matter of science. Since every part of Scripture is divinely inspired, every part of Scripture is inerrant. No part of Scripture is in error. I’m not sure how to make it any clearer. If the question is “What about those verses that have to do with science?” I don’t understand why “no part of Scripture is in error” hasn’t already answered the question. It is not as though the Church statements I’ve already quoted made some kind of unspoken reservation about verses related to science. In fact, they explicitly disallowed this. Divine inspiration cannot be restricted only to some part of Sacred Scripture, and therefore inerrancy cannot be restricted only to some part of Sacred Scripture, such as the “non-science parts.”

    Now, if you’re asking “Does the proper understanding of inerrancy for a Catholic require ‘literal’ scientific understanding of the first Chapter of Genesis?” that’s an entirely different question. Inerrancy is about error. This question you are asking here is about interpretation of Scripture, i.e. how those inerrant passages are to be rightly interpreted. We must not confuse the two questions: inerrancy, and interpretation. I suppose you are asking whether the Catholic Church requires that the ‘days’ of Gen 1 must be interpreted as twenty-four periods. And the answer is ‘no.’ They don’t have to be interpreted that way. (See, for example, St. Augustine’s “On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis.”) But that’s an interpretive question, not a question about their veracity. See paragraphs 35-43 of Humani Generis.

    I should point out that questions about Scriptural inerrancy and interpretation are straying from the topic of this post, which is Dr. Anders’ post. Let’s try to keep the comments on topic.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  194. Thinking of this article, and another, similar one, elsewhere, by Dr. Anders, I’m struck, in a very helpful way, by how one can relate one’s “conversion story” differently (not in a contradictory way but with different nuances), at different times, perhaps for different audiences.

    What has brought up this realization for me is that I’ve been reading through another “version” of Dr. Anders’ account of his journey, away from Reformed Protestantism and to the Catholic Church, as published in the newsletter of the Coming Home Network. Dr. Anders mentioned it earlier, but for anyone who missed it, here is the link again: http://www.chnetwork.org/newsletters/may10.pdf

    Personally, as a “revert” to the Church, I am comforted, in a way, by how Dr. Anders relates some of the *honest pain* of his journey in the above account. Moving from Reformed Christianity to the Catholic Church is *not* easy. It is very much worth the struggle, pain, and loss, but all potential converts and reverts to the Church should be clear-eyed about these realities.

    I attended my first Mass in more than a decade today, and I cannot begin to explain what it meant, and what it was like, to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. I will only say that it was an incredibly intimate moment in my life and walk with God. The facts of being reconciled to His Church, and of receiving Him in the Eucharist, make up for the past several months of (sometimes) turmoil and loss.

    The loss is real though. After Mass, I spent today and tonight, July 4th, at home alone (I’m not married or in a relationship), no friends called me to do anything, and I doubt that would have been the case if I were still a Protestant. Other than the person who drove me to and from Mass (for whom I am *very, very* grateful), and the priest, with whom I briefly interacted after Mass, almost no one attempted to talk to me. Perhaps it was just more noticeable on a day when I was fairly sure that I was going to be alone, while most of my old friends likely would not be– it’s hard to say. However, I can say that the fellowship, such as it was, after the Mass, was very, very different than the incredible welcome that I got in the fellowship time after the first service I attended at my old Reformed Baptist church. Reformed Protestant converts to the Catholic Church, and reverts to the Church, after having been away for a long time, may (I won’t say “will,” obviously, because this is my personal experience) have to adjust to some painful differences in their initial Catholic life from the church culture to which they had become accustomed. I write these things, however, not at all to *discourage* or *dissuade* Protestants from reconciling themselves to the Church.

    As I wrote above, the gains are *more than worth* the losses. Greatest of all those gains, I am back in, and reconciled to, Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which He Himself founded, and which had endured for 2,000 years. As a Catholic Christian, I received the Lord Himself today, really, truly, substantially,– His body, blood, soul, and divinity,– in a way that I simply could not have received Him in any Protestant community. I was stirred by a quiet and a reverence in worship that I had not experienced in years, and more so, by the fact that I was participating in a liturgy which predates the Reformation by over a thousand years. I was blessed and encouraged to hear a pointed and fiery homily from an 80-year-old priest who did not hesitate to speak of *all* abortions as homicides (no exceptions whatsoever) and who presented Jesus Christ as the answer to sinful abominations.

    I am truly blessed to be Home, in the Catholic Church, and in a faithful parish, which teaches the truths of the Catholic faith. While I was alone for much of the day and evening, on a day when most Americans are together, and while I recognize that this is one of the prices that I paid, today, for returning to the Catholic Church, truthfully, if I could go back, I would not change my mind– other than to return to the Church *much sooner* than I did! :-) Blessings to everyone here!

  195. Important correction, and an important point to make, along with it (God’s providence be quite wonderful, even in our typing mistakes!)– I meant to write, above, “Christ’s One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which *has* (not “had) endured for 2,000 years!” One letter can make all the difference in the world, my friends! The gates of Hell have not prevailed, and shall never prevail, against the Church that Christ Himself founded. (!)

  196. Christopher Lake – I just want to echo your sentiments. I was not brought up a Christian at all – became an evangelical Christian at age 27, a Calvinist (not Reformed Baptist – in the magisterial Reformed tradition) a few years later – and began a terrifying two-year journey towards Rome on my 51st birthday. My reception – with my wife’s and our children, although each of those was more or less independent – will have been fifteen years ago this coming Christmas Eve.

    It was, indeed, a terrifying journey, and I should add, as well, that the first three or four years of our being Catholics was often very stormy – well, really, five years – as our own lives began more and more to conform to what God intended.

    But – my word, I can hardly express the difference. I have come out of a dark and narrow place into the most glorious light and space. Thank God for His mercies!

    jj

    My Journey href=”http://susanj.atnz.net/Jensen_Family/jj_cath/jj_cath_index.html”

  197. John,

    Thank you so much for the comment, and for the link to your story, my brother in Christ. If I ever get a chance to travel to your corner of the world, we’ll have to meet up for coffee (or whatever your favorite beverage of choice happens to be)! :-)

    Like you, I was not raised with a truly Christian background. My spiritual trajectory is, briefly, as follows:

    1. Nominal, largely cultural, “Christian” childhood (Christian in name only though).

    2. Over a decade of skepticism/agnosticism.

    3. Brief journey to/embracing of the Catholic Church in college (and alas, heretical RCIA experience).

    4. Many more years of outright atheism/skepticism.

    5. Several years as a convinced, studied Reformed Protestant.

    6. Now, this year, returning to the Catholic Church, from serious, careful studying of her own documents (Bible, Church Fathers, and other historical/Church documents).

    7. Death (hopefully a good while away though!). :-)

  198. As a Catholic, I should have added three more to the above seven (*not* to be presumptuous about my future):

    8. Purgatory, I pray, through my perseverance in Christ, through faith and works, in this life.

    9. Again, I pray, in hope, and the confidence of faith and perseverance, becoming a part of that great cloud of witnesses in Heaven!

    10. Receiving my glorified body at Christ’s return, and knowing what it is like to not have to use a wheelchair or painful crutches! :-) Okay, I think that’s it!

  199. @Christopher Lake #194 – Truely confessional Reformed churches do teach that they recieve the true body and blood of the Lord in the sacrement. The memorial view of the Lord’s Supper is a Baptist thing and not the teaching of Reformed and Presbyterian confessions. They differ in that they believe that the body and blood are recieved spiritually by faith. They differ from Lutherans in that we believe in Real Presence, that is the Body and Blood of the Lord are physically present but the bread and wine do not change. I will also add that the protestant objection to the Eucharist is not Transubstantiation. pre-Reformation reformer John Hus taught transubstantiation, but we reject the idea that it is a resacrificing of Christ per Hebrews 10:10-23.

  200. Jason,

    I was a Reformed Baptist, but that identity did not comprise my entire world of study as a soteriologically Reformed Christian. I know what the confessional Reformed churches teach on the subject of the Lord’s Supper. The question is, would any of the Reformed actually fall down in worship before their sacrament of bread and wine, because they believe that it has actually *become Jesus* through consecration?

    If they would do so, then they have ceased to be historically Reformed. If they would not do so, then by their refusal, they prove that they do not truly believe they are receiving *Jesus Himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity*, in their Lord’s Supper, as Catholic Christians believe that we are in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist– and as Christians of the same Catholic, worldwide Church believed in 106 A.D., according to Ignatius of Antioch.

  201. Jason,

    The Catholic Church does not teach that the Eucharist a “re-sacrificing” of of Jesus Christ on the cross for sinners. The sacrifice on the cross happened once and only once, and it was for sinners, for all time. The Eucharist is a “re-presentation” of that one same sacrifice, not a “re-sacrificing” of Christ.

  202. Sorry for the typos in that last comment, Jason… it’s very early here. :-)

  203. @Christopher Lake- I don’t think less of people for typos. I can’t spell and frequenlty refer to a dictionary so Why should I be critical of typos on a blog. In response to #201 Please explain the following in light of Hebrews chapter ten which says all sacrifices are done away with and the fact that our Lord Jesus said himself on the cross “It is finished”:

    1055 By virtue of the “communion of saints,” the Church commends the dead to God’s mercy and offers her prayers, especially the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, on their behalf.

    1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: “This is my body which is given for you” and “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.” In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

    1068 It is this mystery of Christ that the Church proclaims and celebrates in her liturgy so that the faithful may live from it and bear witness to it in the world:

    For it is in the liturgy, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, that “the work of our redemption is accomplished,” and it is through the liturgy especially that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.

    1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:

    [Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.

    1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”

    “If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it profits him only who receives; and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities; let him be anathema.” (Trent: On the Sacrifice of the Mass: Canon 3);

    “As sacrifice, the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the dead,” (CCC, 1414).

    “The Church intends the Mass to be regarded as a ‘true and proper sacrifice’”, (The Catholic Encyclopedia, topic: “Sacrifice of the Mass”).

  204. One more question, Bryan: Do you believe that “the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis”?

  205. Eric, (re: #204)

    The question of evolution would take us completely off-topic for this post. So, this is all I’ll say about it here. On evolution as a scientific theory regarding the divergence of species from common ancestors (not to be confused with [naturalistic] evolution as a philosophical theory), the Church has taken no formal position. (Of course naturalistic evolution is incompatible with the Catholic faith.) But, there are non-negotiables even in relation to the scientific theory of evolution. It is not permitted for a Catholic to deny the existence of the first human couple, Adam and Eve, from whom all humans come, as I already pointed out in the Humani Generis reference. Nor can a Catholic believe that human beings do not have immaterial souls that are immediately created by God. On the question whether God made Adam from pre-existing hominids, we must believe that God immediately (i.e. not by mediation of other creatures) ‘blew’ into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and gave him an immaterial subsistent soul. The other animals have souls, but not subsistent souls, i.e. souls that continue to exist after death. So the creation of man (and every human being) had to involve an immediate and miraculous act, the ex nihilo creation of a human soul. The human soul cannot be the product of evolution, because a subsistent soul cannot come from what it not subsistent. This remains the teaching of the Catholic Church relevant to this subject.

    In his first homily as pope, Pope Benedict said the following:

    The Fathers made a very significant commentary on this singular task [i.e. being fishers of men]. This is what they say: for a fish, created for water, it is fatal to be taken out of the sea, to be removed from its vital element to serve as human food. But in the mission of a fisher of men, the reverse is true. We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and death; in a sea of darkness without light. The net of the Gospel pulls us out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendour of God’s light, into true life. It is really true: as we follow Christ in this mission to be fishers of men, we must bring men and women out of the sea that is salted with so many forms of alienation and onto the land of life, into the light of God. It is really so: the purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world.

    If you are looking to study this subject more deeply, then in addition to the paragraphs I referred to in Humani Generis, see also Creation and Evolution: A Conference with Pope Benedict in Castel Gandolfo, and Cardinal Schoeborn’s Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith, and Pope Benedict’s In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall (written before he was pope).

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  206. Jason,

    Thanks for being understanding about my typos. :-) To answer your question about Hebrews, chapter 10, and its relationship to the Eucharist, that chapter is contrasting the repeated animal sacrifices of Jewish priests (who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah) with the once-for-all-time (as I wrote above in #201) sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. As is shown by the excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which you provided, the Church teaches that the sacrifice of the cross and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice, not a “re-sacrificing” of Christ:

    1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”

    One way that the Catechism also states the above is to explain that the sacrifice of the Eucharist *is* the sacrifice on the cross, “re-presented” in time. Jesus is not sacrificed again, in the sense that He is not re-crucified on the cross, but His one sacrifice is “presented” to us again, through the Mass. Given that it *is* the same sacrifice that was offered upon the cross, it must be truly propitiatory, because the cross’s sacrifice was/is truly propitiatory.

    When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he was referring to that one sacrifice, His work for us, which would never have to be done again. He would not have to be “re-sacrificed,” as His sacrifice was/is sufficient for the sins of the world. This is still the case today– which is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches. Again, the Mass is not a re-sacrificing but a re-presenting of the one, sufficient sacrifice of Jesus.

    As for Christ’s one sacrifice being “re-presented” at Mass for the sins of the dead, this goes to the teaching of purgatory, which is found in 2 Maccabees. This book is one among others which were included in *all* Christian Bibles, until Martin Luther, the “founder” of the 16th-century Reformation, decided not to accept these books in his version of the Bible, which was later accepted by all Protestants. The following Lutheran website openly admits these historical facts: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/The-Apocrypha.aspx

  207. Jason, (re: #203)

    You wrote:

    Please explain the following in light of Hebrews chapter ten which says all sacrifices are done away with and the fact that our Lord Jesus said himself on the cross “It is finished”:

    Christ’s sacrifice is finished with respect to suffering and death, but it is not finished with respect to our participation in His sacrifice. He has suffered and died once and for all on the cross two-thousand years ago: “Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.” (Rom 6:9) But Christ’s sacrifice is perfect precisely because in another sense it is never done away, but is eternal because it is the sacrifice of the One who is Timeless Eternity (“I Am”). By the ministerial priesthood which He bestowed upon His Apostles and their successors, we are granted participation even now in that one, perfect sacrifice. Christ is not re-sacrificed in the mass; in the mass we are miraculously granted a present participation in that once-and-for-all-time sacrifice of the cross, presented to us in an unbloody manner. In this way we presently participate in His sacrifice on the cross, and we partake of His body, blood, soul and divinity. Because the mass is our participation in the very same sacrifice of Christ on the Christ, it is not an additional sacrifice or a re-sacrificing of Christ.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  208. Let’s see, I follow Calvin, I follow the Pope, I follow Luther… is this a joke or what… I follow Christ.

    1st John 3:4-9, if you say you sin you don’t know Christ and never have, if you are in Christ, you cannot sin… Same word for sin as 1 John 1:9.

    Gal 2:20…. There is a difference between who you are and what you do. You can choose to live by Faith in Christ, or faith in some Christian leader like Luther/Calvin/or the Pope. I choose to by faith in Christ.

    I will never understand why Christ being tortured and dying on the cross wasn’t enough. If not saved and perfected 2000 years ago, I guess the work of Satan is what is needed to help finish what Christ couldn’t accomplish.

    Hundreds of verses making it clear, I am one with Christ right now, and I am glad to be one with Christ, instead of being one with some priest, or one with the pope. Seems no one here understands the difference between “living in Christ” compared to “being in Christ”. I guess you all go in and out of “being in Christ”, right? Or, could it possibly be one with Christ means what is says, your new nature is one with Christ, and it’s who you are, now and eternally… you can choose to live out who you are, one with Chist, or live after the flesh on your own, thinking you can follow the pope, instead of living by faith in the truth, you are one with Christ, not one with pope…

  209. Alan (#208),

    As a former Reformed Baptist who recently returned to the Catholic Church, I am not “one with the Pope” or “following the Pope,” rather than following Christ. Christ founded one Church. As the Scriptures say, there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Protestants disagree among themselves about the faith and about baptism, to the point of splitting into thousands of churches. This does not represent not the oneness in Christ that God wants His followers to have.

    In coming home to the Catholic Church, I am submitting to and following Christ, who founded one Church for His people. Have you read, and interacted with, the articles here? You might start with this one: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/

  210. In #209, I meant to type, obviously, “This does not represent the oneness in Christ that God wants His followers to have.”

  211. Alan

    I can’t imagine how I could be anymore One with Christ that receiving His Body and Blood fully and really present in Holy Communion while surrendering all that I am to union with him and monifesting that by being visibly united with His Body on Earth the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    Peace Brother

  212. @Christopher Lake in response to 206. I would like to point out protestant Bibles contained the Apocrypha up through the 17th century. Also, I would ask, when were the apocryphal books canonized?

  213. @Christopher Lake also concerning 206- The ELCA aren’t really Lutherans. They just use the name.

  214. @Christopher Lake- concerning #209, are you aware that in the early church there were significant disagreements about various things such as the proper use of images, priestly celibacy (largely unpopular and causing a riot in Mainz ,forgive me if I have the wrong city but I am nearly certain it was Mainz, when it came on the scene, I would also add that Paul calls prohibition of marriage a docrtine of demons) whether or not Mary had any children after Jesus, etc.

    As far as division among protestants, not all non-Catholic churches are functionally protestant according to surveys done in the last 20 years.

  215. Jason,

    If I may just interject for a bit, Paul was speaking of the Gnostics and their variances of why be celibate. He himself as a celibate would be contradictory if he solely was against the celibate lifestyle.

  216. Jason,

    The Apostle Paul’s reference that you allude to is, as Drew pointed out, about the gnostic sects which did teach against marriage and having children etc…

    That being said, the Catholic Church teaches that Marriage is a Sacrament, and as a Sacrament, it is a communication of the life of Christ. There are only a couple of Churches that I know of, the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Church, that teach the sacred dignity of Marriage.

  217. Jason,

    As to your ELCA comment, on what basis do you make the judgement that the ELCA is not really Lutheran? I am not defending them, just wanting to know the criteria that you use to make this judgement.

  218. @Drew H. I never said Paul was against celibacy but in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul clearly asserts his right to take a believing wife if he so desired. Celibacy is a gift that is not given to all. Also, Bishop and clergy were married in the early churh as per 1st Tim 3 and Titus 1 and the following:
    Ancient Epitome of Canon XXXV.
    “Bishops and clergy shall not set their children free until their morals are established.” -Synod of Hippo a.d. 393

  219. @Tom at 217- They don’t believe the Bible and they don’t hold to the Lutheran Confessions. That simple. Sure they give it lip service, but in reality they just believe whatever they want. There may be a few faithfull among them but if I were them I would go to almost any other Lutheran Church body.

  220. Jason,

    The article on “The Canon Question” addresses your questions about the canonization of the deuterocanonical books.

  221. Jason (re: #218),

    See comment #880 in the Solo Scriptura thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  222. Jason,

    In the hours since I last replied to you, it looks as though other contributors here have answered most (not all) of your questions to me, or pointed you to resources that could answer them. (Thank you for the help, all!) I will now do what I can to help answer your other questions/issues.

    On your #213 comment, I am aware that the ECLA is one of the more “liberal” Lutheran denominations– but how does that bear at all on their statements regarding the historical Christian status of the apocrypha? Historical facts are historical facts, and as their site states, it is the case that until the 16-century Protestant Reformation, all Christian Bibles included the so-called “apocrypha.” While it is true that for a certain span of time, Protestant Bibles included these books, they were never treated by Protestant churches as inspired and infallible. However, the books *were* treated as such by the Catholic Church, before the Reformation, and still are treated so today. In 382 A.D. the books were declared by Pope Damasus to be part of the canon of inspired books which were to read in parishes as part of the liturgy– which was declaring them canonical. The same decision was publicly reaffirmed at the Council of Trent, in response to Martin Luther’s challenging of the books’ status.

    On your #214 comment, Jason, could you please provide some sort of historical documentation for your statements about the debates over images and the perpetual virginity of Mary in the early Church? That would help me in this discussion. Thank you in advance.

  223. Jason,

    Also, could you please clarify what this statement means, in #214:

    “As far as division among protestants, not all non-Catholic churches are functionally protestant according to surveys done in the last 20 years.”

    I’m not understanding you here. I want to understand, but I’m not seeing your meaning. Are you referring to the Eastern Orthodox churches? As far as I know, all non-Catholic and non-Orthodox communities hold to some form(s) of Protestant theology and ecclesiology.

  224. In response to 222 Chris, “More Liberal”? How about apostate.”
    1. Jesus quoted only from the accepted Jewish Canon. 2. Not a few early church fathers rejected the Apocrypha as scripture including Athanasius, Jerome, and Cyril of Jerusalem. The apocrypha were only affirmed at local councils not universal ones until Trent so is does not follow that they were universally accepted. Also, we know from the Council of Chalcedon that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome was not universally recognized though the Bishop you mention tried to claim such. ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XXVIII.”The bishop of New Rome (Constantinople) shall enjoy the same honour as the bishop of Old Rome, on account of the removal of the Empire. For this reason the [metropolitans] of Pontus, of Asia, and of Thrace, as well as the Barbarian bishops shall be ordained by the bishop of Constantinople.”

    Tobit 12:9 “For alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting.” vs. Hebrews 1:3 (KJV) “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:”

    Do alms (or purgatory) purge sins or does the blood of Christ purge sins?

    As to what I said in 214: Just because a church (or person) describes itself as “evangelical” does not mean that they are functionally. Surveys taken at evangelical on students views of doctrine show that most are not doctrinally “evangelical” but any other number of things including Mormon. I have heard Rick Warren called “that Baptist Catholic”. Pelagianism and enthusiasm is rampant in many so called “protestant” or “evangelical” churches and thus they aren’t really evangelical or protestant in the true sense. They do not really believe and teach salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ’s work alone and on His merits for His sake alone. They basically tell you you gotta meet God half way and work the rest out on your own is the current Zeitgeist. Mysticism is also a blight of “evangelicalism” at large. Basically, greater evangelicalism has gone away from the Reformation toward the medieval. Lets not forget the apostate emergent movement in which many deny the doctrine of Hell.

  225. Jason,

    Some of these topics have been addressed in other posts. There is a post that goes into the canon question. You would do well to read it and respond to the arguments made there. Be that as it may, you statement:

    Jesus quoted only from the accepted Jewish Canon.

    That is just false. For example Mark 7:6-8 quotes a version of Isaiah only found in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.

  226. Jason,

    Without checking out your reference to the Bishop who declared the priests not married; it is important to note that Paul took vows more serious than that. In 1 Timothy 5:11-12 when he says that the widows will condemn themselves. I am not a competent exegete, but I do believe that the same word that I translate “condemn” is the same used in 1 Corinthians with someone who desecrates the Lord’s Supper.

  227. Jason,

    As Randy mentioned, there is an article dealing with the very issue of the canon which you have discussed.

    The Canon Question

  228. Jason (re:#224),

    I hope that you are not only reading my replies but the replies of other people to you here, because, as I wrote earlier, they are either answering many of the questions that you have asked me, or pointing you to helpful resources which can answer them.

    As Randy mentioned in #225, your statement about Jesus and the “apocrypha” is incorrect.

    Some of the Church Fathers (not many, of which I am aware) were slow to accept the “apocrypha”; Jerome was one of them. However, as far as I know, those Fathers did finally accept the books. Jerome was persuaded by Augustine, to an extent, and ultimately, Jerome fully accepted the Pope’s declaration of the books’ canonical status. The same is, I believe, true of the other Fathers. For any Father to have rebelled against the Pope’s authoritative declaration on the canon would have been seen as a very grave act of sin.

    About the ECLA, I should have been more clear. I am a former Reformed Baptist, so when I say “liberal,” I basically mean “heretical.” However, that still has no bearing on the historical truth, found on the ECLA website, that until the Reformation, all Christian Bible included the “apocrypha”– and *not* in the merely supplementary way that Protestant Bibles included them for many years after the Reformation.

    About purgatory, it is not “in competition with Christ,” so to speak, for the purging of sin. Similarly to faith and works, related to justification, Protestants see the equation as one of “either/or,” when the truly Biblical equation is “both/and.” Christ’s death on the cross *does* purge sin, but to say that it purges all past, present, and *future* sins, and moreover, in the sense of giving a perpetual “imputed righteousness” to the one who trusts in Christ, is to engage in eisegesis.

    Saddleback Church is not “Catholic” in its theology or ecclesiology. To imply that Rick Warren is not truly a Protestant is quite strange. Notwithstanding the general Reformed dislike of his writing, his subtle soteriology in “The Purpose-Driven Life” is actually closer to Calvinism than Arminianism. I’m not saying that he *is* a Calvinist, but he is certainly no Pelagian. It seems that you are basically saying that if a Protestant is not strongly Reformed in his/her theology, that person is not truly a Protestant, but rather, a would-be Catholic (but then, the Catholic Church condemned Pelagianism as a heresy and is also not semi-Pelagian)!

  229. Jason,
    With special regard to #224, I find it peculiar that you are so confident in your pronouncements of who is or is not truly “Evangelical” and/or “Protestant.” Perhaps you can enlighten us (and the Evangelical Protestant world communities) as to how you have made such a determination. When I attended one of the largest Evangelical seminaries in the US, the definition of Evangelical was a subject of considerable confusion and debate not just among students, but in the published writings of faculty members.
    You might say that true Evangelicals cannot hold heretical beliefs, but then you must deal with the problem that many others (well-educated, Biblically literate, very serious others) who consider themselves Evangelical would consider some of your beliefs and Biblical interpretations heretical. How do you know that yours are right and theirs are wrong? You could say that true Protestants must hold to the teachings of Luther or Calvin (which one, though?), but if I am right to assume that you do not hold to the Perpetual Virginity of Mary as both of them did, then neither are you truly Protestant. If it is to subsequent Lutheran or Reformed confessions that you look, then again: which ones? Those communities and their writings certainly did not all agree.
    Unless you hold faith in every teaching of Luther, then your claim that the ELCA is not truly Lutheran is without teeth. “Evangelical” is an umbrella term so wide as to be functionally useless (there are self-described Evanglical Orthodox and Evangelical Catholics–by what authority do you determine that they are not?). Can you prove that your opinions in these matters are anything more than just that – opinion?

  230. Scott B:

    How do you know that yours are right and theirs are wrong?

    That about sums up the problem with any form of Protestantism. They’re left pretty much with an academic magisterium on the one hand and bosom-burning on the other. Put more simply: rationalism and enthusiasm. It’s sad to watch the oscillations and contradictions.

    Best,
    Mike

  231. 229- “How do you know that yours are right and theirs are wrong? You could say that true Protestants must hold to the teachings of Luther or Calvin (which one, though?), but if I am right to assume that you do not hold to the Perpetual Virginity of Mary as both of them did, then neither are you truly Protestant. If it is to subsequent Lutheran or Reformed confessions that you look, then again: which ones? Those communities and their writings certainly did not all agree.”

    The Bible is always right. If you want to understand the Bible follow these three simple Rules. Context, context, and context. I have no problem with people who believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity but the text indicates otherwise but it is not essential for salvation. Many of my fellow Lutherans believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity however the earliest texts that support this view are from the second century and not the first. Some of them are Gnostic “Gospels” (which are not gospels because none of them contain the Gospel). Also, some church fathers such as Tertullian did not accept the doctrine.

    You are right to say that Reformed and Lutherans do not agree on some points but there is also a lot of overlap but we all agree on what the Gospel is and we all believe it. Though I may find my Calvinist brothers in error I still count them brothers. After all, I was once a Calvinist too. I would also point out that in the early church there were disagreements and they went to the SCRIPTURES to hammer out the problem.

    “Unless you hold faith in every teaching of Luther, then your claim that the ELCA is not truly Lutheran is without teeth. “Evangelical” is an umbrella term so wide as to be functionally useless (there are self-described Evanglical Orthodox and Evangelical Catholics–by what authority do you determine that they are not?). Can you prove that your opinions in these matters are anything more than just that – opinion?”

    The last thing we want to do is assert our own opinions. What we must do is compare what they say in the name of God to the Word of God. If the ELCA says that homosexuality is not a sin and the Bible says the opposite then the Bible is right and the ELCA is wrong. If the ELCA preaches in Marxist categories of have and have not and the Bible speaks in terms of saved and not saved then the Bible is right and the ELCA is wrong. Furthermore if the ELCA denies the interpretation of the Bible laid out in the Formula of Concord they are not Lutherans. For instance, the ELCA’s stance on scripture, ordination of women, etc is not Lutheran. Any Pastor in any church should subscribe unconditionally to their confession and if they don’t they need to go some place where they can subsribe unconditionally.

    http://cyberbrethren.com/2010/07/07/the-lutheran-confessions-are-not-just-lutheran/

    If you want to know what Lutherans believe read this http://www.bookofconcord.org/

    Now, I would like to turn the question around on you. How do you know that you are interpretting the teachings of the church of Rome correctly? Or that that people interpretting it for you are doing it correctly? Please tell me what “and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”” in the following passage means. If you guys are so error free then why does it say that Muslims “adore” the same God as Christians when in reality they hate Him and are in outright rebellion against His Gospel?

    CCC 841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

  232. @226- not relevant to the issue at hand.

    @228- Can you tell me why Roman Catholic Soteriology is not Semi-Pelagian?

    @230 “That about sums up the problem with any form of Protestantism. They’re left pretty much with an academic magisterium on the one hand and bosom-burning on the other. Put more simply: rationalism and enthusiasm. It’s sad to watch the oscillations and contradictions.”

    That is exactly what I think about Roman Catholocism (add sophistry) and Arminianism.

    @225 “That is just false. For example Mark 7:6-8 quotes a version of Isaiah only found in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.”

    Randy, think for a minute. If the Septuagint is a greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures done by Jews then how did it such a passage get there if it did not exist in any Hebrew text? Just because we don’t have those autographs today does not mean they did not exist back then.

    One general assumption that I keep seeing repeated is that Luther was the first to teach Justification by faith alone. This is patently false. I will here provide a list of others who came before him. Some of them were burned to death by the Papacy. 1. All of God’s prophets from creation on including 2. Jesus and his Apostles, 3. The early church fathers 4. Claudius Bishop of Turin (810 – 827) 5. John Wycliffe 6. John Hus 7. the Waldensians (although I would take issue with them on many many points of doctrine)

    Guys, y’all are wearing me out. I will be gone for two weeks. I hope you all will start reading the scriptures in context, read some of the earliest church fathers whose letters are mostly scripture quotations. Christ died for all of your sins so don’t worry about that man made medieval doctrine called Purgatory. Jesus is the only one you can or should trust.

  233. Jason:
    I asked in 229:
    How do you know that yours (Biblical interpretations and beliefs) are right and theirs are wrong?

    You answered in 231:
    The Bible is always right. If you want to understand the Bible follow these three simple Rules. Context, context, and context… The last thing we want to do is assert our own opinions. What we must do is compare what they say in the name of God to the Word of God.

    You’re begging the question. All you’ve done is assert that your interpretation based on your assessment of the contextual considerations of different texts is the correct one, and that interpretations that disagree with your opinions of what context demands are in error. The whole question at hand is how one can know that they are not deceiving themselves (or being deceived from outside) about which interpretation is the truth. We all here agree that the Bible is always right. We disagree on its interpretation.

    Which is why your arguments against the ELCA are still toothless. I have known a good many ELCA Lutherans who hold the Bible every bit as highly in esteem as you do, and who argue from and for it in favor of the things you object to (women’s ordination, homosexual commitments, and so on). While you and I might happen to agree that we do not believe these things are supported by the text itself, what it really boils down for you seems to be here:

    Furthermore if the ELCA denies the interpretation of the Bible laid out in the Formula of Concord they are not Lutherans. For instance, the ELCA’s stance on scripture, ordination of women, etc is not Lutheran. Any Pastor in any church should subscribe unconditionally to their confession and if they don’t they need to go some place where they can subsribe unconditionally.

    So it’s not actually the Bible alone that is your final authority. It appears that you are saying that the final authority for Lutherans is the extra-Biblical interpretative rules set down in the 16th century by a group of German Protestants. And if they don’t agree, they are to go somewhere they can “subscribe unconditionally,” which actually means that the individual convictions of the individual believer are actually their final authority. How can it not if nobody else has the authority to define anything as true and binding on a person that such person does not understand or agree with (say, the dual nature of Christ way back when)? If the right response of that person is to leave and find a group who agrees with him (for now)? Spin it however you want, that makes the individual’s convictions primary and anything else of secondary importance–Scripture, the Creed, Ecumenical Councils… all of it. The quotation in the opening paragraph of the blog you linked to regarding the Lutheran Confessions says it all: “I judge that all these agree with Holy Scripture and with the belief of the true and genuine catholic Church.” And if he hadn’t? He should head out and find (or found) a confession he did judge to be correct. It’s all about his opinion.

    Now, to be honest, I really don’t care too much what any of the various Lutheran bodies teach, or what any of the various Reformed bodies teach. All of them are ultimately rooted in the idea that there can be no singular authoritative interpreter of Scripture, so each of them ultimately falls to the principle above, out of enthusiasm and/or academicism, “every one to his own way.” Go ahead and deny it: the reality that the Protestant world now, 500 years along, is split into tens of thousands of groups which disagree on the interpretation of Scripture, split at each point because somebody decided to go somewhere where they could “subscribe unconditionally,” even if that meant making their own new church in the grand tradition of the Protestant forefathers. So when you say “The Bible is always right,” you cannot avoid the fact that you are actually saying “the interpretation of the Bible which I judge to be correct is always right.” Nice little papacy you’ve got going, there.

    Finally, with regard to your final two paragraphs: I can know whether I am understanding the teachings of the Catholic Church correctly by asking. Unlike Lutherans/Reformed/Baptists/Methodists/Etc., the Catholic Church has a continuing and identifiable living teaching presence who can respond to questions and challenges. For the Protestant, the same questions exist, but there is nobody who can authoritatively answer them, so they remain always open-ended matters of individual interpretations of Scripture. For the Catholic, one can ask and continue asking for clarification. You cannot say to your Bible, “Am I understanding correctly if I say X?” I can say to my priest or bishop, “Am I understanding correctly if I say X?” and he can respond actively. We can have a conversation wherein we can identify things I might be missing, and clarify things that are confusing. And sometimes my priest might be wrong, but I can compare what he says with what the bishops and popes have said, and continue asking questions where there appear to be differences. The Church continues to teach, lead, and shepherd, and is protected from error by the Holy Spirit.

    Your problem with the Catechism’s teaching about Muslims is sad. You say that “in reality” Muslims “hate Him and are in outright rebellion against His Gospel,” but how can you possibly know the inner motivations of millions of people? They are in theological error, yes, we are agreed on that, but even if Muslims have misunderstood the Triune God and the work and significance of Jesus Christ, they are seeking to follow God no less that you or I am. Okay, they have a lot of things wrong, but so do the ELCA and Reformed according to you. Do they also, perhaps along with the Jews, earn your ire? Muslims, Jews, and Christians all explicitly seek to follow and worship the God of Abraham. Many people will get it wrong, and that is a serious thing that deserves our prayerful and compassionate response, but you are looking on the outward appearance (incorrect doctrines), while God is looking on the heart (a desire for Him).

  234. @233- From your viewpoint we can’t know what any text means then. From your position if the RCC says that the Bible says there are aliens and you have to believe that to be saved then you have to believe that in spite of anything the text says.

    “Which is why your arguments against the ELCA are still toothless. I have known a good many ELCA Lutherans who hold the Bible every bit as highly in esteem as you do, and who argue from and for it in favor of the things you object to (women’s ordination, homosexual commitments, and so on). While you and I might happen to agree that we do not believe these things are supported by the text itself, what it really boils down for you seems to be here:”

    That’s just silly, anyone who could read on a 8th grade level could read through the Bible and conclude that the ELCA is in outright rebellion against God. Sure there is the “Lutheran Core” but even they are in favor of things that scripture clearly forbids such as ordination of women. The ELCA only gives lip service to Bible.

    “So it’s not actually the Bible alone that is your final authority.”

    No, the Bible is THE FINAL AUTHORITY, the confessions, councils and creeds are only authoritative in that they agree with scripture. If you read early church fathers you will find they constantly appeal to Scripture.

    “Now, to be honest, I really don’t care too much what…” Which is why you don’t get it and keep throwing straw men and red herrings at me.

    “which actually means that the individual convictions of the individual believer are actually their final authority.” -Actually, it means they’ve been defrocked.

    “Your problem with the Catechism’s teaching about Muslims is sad. You say that “in reality” Muslims “hate Him and are in outright rebellion against His Gospel,” but how can you possibly know the inner motivations of millions of people? ”

    Uhhhh? God’s word! Duh!

    “they are seeking to follow God no less that you or I am.”
    No they are not and you have proven that you are a semi-pelagian heretic and you need to repent.

    “Muslims, Jews, and Christians all explicitly seek to follow and worship the God of Abraham.”

    If you do not trust in Jesus Christ alone for you salvation then you do not worship the God of Abraham. Jesus Christ is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus Christ is the God who destroyed Sodom and Gemmorah. Jesus Christ is the God who chooses and saves His people.

    “but you are looking on the outward appearance (incorrect doctrines), ”

    No I am looking at the WORD OF CHRIST.

    “while God is looking on the heart (a desire for Him).”

    Further proof that you are a Pelagian heretic. Man does not have the power to seek God there is none that seeks Him. He seeks us! He comes to us in our baptism, in HIS word, in the sacrement of the alter. We do not seek God because we are born dead in tresspasses and sins and the Word of God (preached, read, and administered in the sacrements (there are only two by the way, your extras are man-made). God judging the heart is not good news, Christ dying for our sins is good news. You are trying to be saved by the Law which according to Paul in Gelatians there is no law that can save.
    Gelatians 3:21-22 (ESV) “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For(AN) if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22But the Scripture(AO) imprisoned everything under sin, so that(AP) the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given(AQ) to those who believe.”
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+3&version=ESV

    Anything that you do is Law, not Gospel. The Gospel is what Christ has done for you. Repent and believe the Gospel.

  235. But Jason – the point is that if you say the Bible says A and I say it says B, and we find we cannot agree – and we both think the issue in question is an essential one – who decides between us? It seems to me – as an ex-Calvinist, now-Catholic – that we have no choice but either to sacrifice unity or integrity.

    jj

  236. Jason,

    How are you certain that you know what the passages in Galatians mean when they refer to “works of the law”? The fact is, brother, you are not simply reading the “clear teaching of the Bible.” You are interpreting the Bible *through the Lutheran theological and philosophical paradigm*, which brings you to certain conclusions about what passages mean. We all interpret the Bible through a paradigm, and we all have to be honest about that fact.

    You keep telling us to look at context when it comes to Scripture. It is precisely because Luther *did not* carefully look at the context of Galatians that he misunderstood the passages about “the law.” He took “the law” to mean *any works* at all– meaning that, none of them can contribute to our justification before God. However, Luther was not looking at the *context* of these passages, which is that Jewish Christians were attempting to require Gentile Christians to be *circumcised*. This is primarily what is meant in Galatians by the statements that works of the law do not bring justification.

    If one looks at the surrounding context, the references are to circumcision and other rituals of the Mosaic law, not to any and all works, peri0d. This does *not* mean that works, in and of themselves, justify though. They must be coupled with, and inspired by, the faith that trusts in God alone. Faith without works is dead, and by implication, works also need faith. Protestants misinterpret the situation being one of “Christians are justified by faith alone, while Catholics are trying to justify themselves before God by their works.”

    In actuality, the Catholic teaching is the Biblical teaching. It’s not either faith or works, related to justification. It’s both/and. Faith alone does *not* justify man before God. Without works, it is *dead*. As a former Protestant, I know the explanati0n, “Well, James is talking about a different kind of justification than Paul.” The explanation does not hold water. It is a case of eisegesis in the service of holding together a Protestant paradigm.

  237. That’s just silly, anyone who could read on a 8th grade level could read through the Bible and conclude that the ELCA is in outright rebellion against God. Sure there is the “Lutheran Core” but even they are in favor of things that scripture clearly forbids such as ordination of women. The ELCA only gives lip service to Bible.

    This is just insulting. I know many people who support female ordination. They are not incapable of reading. They are not in rebellion against God. A few of them are pastors in my family. It is possible they are mistaken. It is also possible you are. But for you to declare them to be evil just because they disagree with you is arrogant and uncharitable. I understand that the only alternative is to admit your system does not work. But what you are doing is not working very well either. It is the thinking that has led to many wars but it has not led to unity and not led to truth.

  238. Jason (234):
    I appear to have struck a nerve here, which was not my intent. I apologize for any unintentional offense. Nevertheless, you have not dealt with any of my arguments and you continue to miss the point. The only thing you have to vouch for your interpretation of Scripture is that it makes sense to you (hence the 8th-grade reading level comment, even though smarter men than you and me disagree with us both. Are they all right? All wrong?).

    John and Christopher above have answered this assumption well enough, there’s no need for me to add to what they’ve said. I’m more interested in reading your honest response to what I actually wrote. If they are red herrings and straw men, show me what and why. I grew up Baptist and spent years as a Reformed Christian before coming to the Catholic Church as a student in an Evangelical seminary. I know the arguments, because I’ve made them. They all fall to the same weakness, because they all lack any authority to back themselves up. Again, you say it is the Bible alone, but are ignoring the inconvenient fact that the Bible must be interpreted, and that you are the one who is deciding which interpretation out of many is correct. You are pretending as if there is only one meaning possible in Scripture and that it is obvious, but the facts on the ground utterly contradict that idea.

    I’m willing to be shown that I’m wrong, but you’ve given me nothing but dismissiveness and unexamined assumptions so far.

  239. In actuality, the Catholic teaching is the Biblical teaching. It’s not either faith or works, related to justification. It’s both/and. Faith alone does *not* justify man before God. Without works, it is *dead*. As a former Protestant, I know the explanati0n, “Well, James is talking about a different kind of justification than Paul.” The explanation does not hold water. It is a case of eisegesis in the service of holding together a Protestant paradigm.

    Actually, the Protestant explanation I understood, when I was a Calvinist, was that James is saying – what could be perfectly plausible, I think – that living faith will produce works, and that those works are the proof that his faith is living. Of course what James actually says is that a man is not justified by faith alone. And Paul does not say – Luther to the contrary – that a man is saved by faith alone, only that he is saved by faith. I personally consider the ‘faith alone’ vs ‘faith plus works’ to be a dispute about words. Both sides agree that to say “I have faith” but not have works means one is not justified.

    But there are basic disagreements between Protestants and Catholics – never mind that, there are basic disagreements amongst Protestants. My question to Jason seems to me to stand still – who decides what the Bible teaches?

    jj

  240. Jason,

    Please read our posting guidelines. Your last comment contained several violations including an ad hominem attack.

    All: Thanks for helping us keep the discussion as charitable as possible!

  241. To assert the necessity of the Catholic magisterium in establishing authoritative interpretations of divine revelation is not to say that no text can be understood.

    Materially speaking, different kinds of texts are more or less suited to application in a wide range of contexts. If I want to know how to use my iPod, I can look at this little booklet called a “manual” that is very clearly intended to tell me everything I need to know about using my iPod. If I want to know everything I need to know about what it means to be a Christian (what I should believe and what I should do), it is not self-evident that I should look to a collection of narratives and letters written to particular communities to address particular problems. Speaking of what 8th graders can or can’t accomplish, any 8th grader should be able to look at the bible and realize that it’s not an instruction manual. This is an obvious category confusion that could only happen to someone who is simply making the assumption, for whatever theological or polemical reason, that it must be so. We don’t find, and shouldn’t expect to find, explicit treatments of baptism in a letter that Paul writes to a congregation to tell some dude to stop sleeping with his stepmom in which he only mentions baptism in passing. The demand that Protestants make of scripture is unnatural and explains why so many of them come to such different conclusions. The data is not clearly laid out like they need it to be, and so they can’t help but come to mutually exclusive, but in many cases equally rational, positions. Jason acts as though his hermeneutic and the conclusions which he draws are self-evident, yet even Peter says that many of Paul’s writings are confusing and difficult to understand. It’s particularly difficult to understand the biblical texts when they are wrenched out of their ecclesial context, and that is what has happened in Protestantism. Because the bible has no ecclesial context for the Protestant, the only context left is the words on the page. Yet we must remember that the ecclesial community is prior to the text, and so the people who wrote the New Testament were not writing it in order to tell everyone how to establish their communities. The communities had already been established on the basis of apostolic (oral) teaching and sacramental leadership, and there are therefore many things that the authors and readers of the New Testament would have simply taken for granted. It is this ecclesial context for which the Protestant hermeneutic is starved. For a Protestant, Jesus’ giving of John to Mary and Mary to John can be little more than an interesting fact of history that John decided (for whatever reason) to make us privy to. At best, we get to see what a nice son Jesus is. But it makes perfect sense to the Fathers and to Catholics and Orthodox for the subsequent centuries that the New Testament has a Mariology. It was perfectly natural for Origen to say, “we must lay our head on Jesus’ breast and take Mary as our mother” because the Church new this to be the case even outside of written revelation.

  242. John (#239),

    You’re right about the Calvinist explanation being that works “prove” that faith is living– at least, this is what I *think* that *most* Calvinists believe. However, therein lies another problem. Calvinists can’t seem to agree among *themselves*, as to the best way to think about this issue and to speak about it– whether to each other, or to themselves, particularly when it comes to the subject of assurance of salvation.

    From what I have read, most of the Puritans placed a very, very strong emphasis on the visible, clearly identifiable role of works in one’s Christian life. Reading at least some of their books, sermons, etc., one could easily come away with the message, “If you are not bearing *obvious, visible* signs of *progress* in holiness at *all* times in your Christian life, then you either might not be a Christian, or you are likely not one.”

    However, other Calvinist authors will say, basically, “Yes, works are important. They are one sign of a living faith. However, don’t look so much at your works, because their half-heartedness may drive you to despair. Look to Christ for assurance of your salvation– for the assurance that you are, in fact, justified before God by virtue of your faith in Christ.”

    To a Calvinist, I know that the difference between the above two “Calvinist positions” on works will likely seem very small, compared to the difference(s) between the basic Protestant and Catholic positions on works. However, in daily, lived-out practice, these two Calvinist views can make a radical difference in one’s Christian life. I “lived” each one of them, at various times, as a Calvinist, and in my experience, the first can easily lead to despair, and the second can easily lead to antinomianism.

    Ironically, while many Protestants see Catholic teaching on faith and works as being “law-based, legalistic,” I have found it to be much more Biblically accurate, balanced, and healthy, then either of the two aforementioned Calvinist positions. There is also the Lutheran position, which, from my understanding, is much closer to the second Calvinist position than the first. Again, Protestants disagree among themselves as to how to best think about the role of works in the Christian life. They will all *say* that works do not contribute to justification, which is by faith alone– but how justification is “lived out,” through faith and works, can look radically different from one section of Protestantism to another.

    As to your view that the “faith alone” and “faith plus works” dispute is one of words, I would mostly agree. Of course, Protestants don’t see it that way, possibly due, largely, to the Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sins, with the former actually killing God’s grace in the life of the soul, and the latter being harmful but not deadly to grace in the soul. This distinction is unacceptable to Protestants, and it may be a great part of their dispute with Catholics over “faith alone” vs. “faith plus works.”

  243. 235- Doctrine divides darkness form light.

    @236- That is just you interpreting the text according to the way you’ve been told. Instead of looking at the plain meaning of the text you have to do a heresy two step so it come out the way you want it. Ephesians 2 will help you clear up the Roman twisting of James.

    Ephesians 2:8-11 (King James Version)
    8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
    10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
    11Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

    Notice verse 10 how we are “created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works” and that is what James means when he says we are justified by faith and works. If you look at the context in James he says that works without faith are dead and faith without works is dead. Good works are a FRUIT of faith. Works themselves do nothing to add to our salvation nor do they justify us before God. This has been taught by the Church since the first century but it got burried in the middle ages and they started burning people for teaching it. The only reason you guys think Luther made it up is because he was the first one from Claudius on to survive.

    I am starting to see that Post-modernism is very compatible with the RCC.

    237- I am not the one who is arrogant. The female “pastors” are the ones who are arrogant.
    1 Timothy 2:12 (King James Version)
    “12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

    “It is the thinking that has led to many wars but it has not led to unity and not led to truth.”

    No, politics leads to wars and there cannot be any unity at the expense of the Gospel. As I said before, doctrine divides darkness from light and I would gladly go the stake like William Tyndale or John Hus for the sake of the Gospel so get the kindling ready.

    238- What about your interpetation of the RCC churches teaching? RCC claims not to be pelagian but that is what your argument demonstrated. I used to be a Pelagian and it does strike a nerve.

    “You are pretending as if there is only one meaning possible in Scripture and that it is obvious, but the facts on the ground utterly contradict that idea.”

    Oh, I see, I got it all wrong and really you’ve been agreeing with me the whole time it’s just that I missed three of the four levels of meaning of the text you have typed here. Come on guys, lets stick to the issues and admit that you either have no understanding of Lutheran or Reformed doctrine or are deliberately dodging the issues. You totally ignored the fact that by your interpretation Pelagianism is taught in the CCC.
    @239
    “And Paul does not say – Luther to the contrary – that a man is saved by faith alone, only that he is saved by faith.”

    Epehsians 2:9″Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

    “My question to Jason seems to me to stand still – who decides what the Bible teaches?”

    Who is to decide what the newspaper says? Who is to decide what the text you provided here means?

    @240- “The demand that Protestants make of scripture is unnatural and explains why so many of them come to such different conclusions.”

    Then you must know everything.

    “Jason acts as though his hermeneutic and the conclusions which he draws are self-evident, yet even Peter says that many of Paul’s writings are confusing and difficult to understand.”

    “which they twist to their destruction” Obviously Peter was addressing antinomianism because Paul was teaching about Justification by Faith alone and some people don’t understand how that relates to works. Antinomianism on one side legalism on the other.

    I can see everything I have said has fallen on deaf ears. I give up. I am out for two weeks on a mission. I will remember you guys in my prayers.

  244. Jason,

    The idea that good works do not contribute to justification is *not* clear from the Biblical texts. Now, as one of the formerly Reformed, I once thought that it was clear from the texts. That was because I had badly catechized, as a Catholic, and was thus ripe for accepting a Protestant interpretation of Scripture. I knew no better, so I bought into the Protestant paradigm and became very anti–Catholic. Whether you believe it or not, I actually sounded a good bit like you, when I spoke about Catholics and their denial of the “true Gospel,” which I took to be the “clear reading of Scripture”!

    Jason, all of the authors of the articles here (and a good number of the authors of the comments, like myself) came from, and have been schooled in, Reformed Christianity. We know your arguments, because we used to use them ourselves– for some of us, lamentably, perhaps even on Catholics!

    The idea of justification by faith alone is only “the clear meaning if Scripture” if one reads, and/or is taught, the texts from a *Protestant paradigm*. This is not clarity in meaning. It is a form of Protestant eisegesis.

    Justification by faith alone was not the thinking of the early Church. I do know that there were men before Luther who held to his sort of thinking. They were considered heretics, precisely because justification by faith alone was *not* the understanding of the early Church. I am curious– have you read any of the writings of the Fathers themselves, or have you only read those writings, as quoted by Protestants?

    I know, from my own time as a Protestant, that Protestant authors, such as James White, can make a case against Catholic teaching that is persuasive, to some degree– but only because these authors quote the Fathers out of context, misunderstand (and/or misrepresent) statements from Church councils and documents, and hone in on certain Scripture passages, reading them with “Protestant lenses,” either to the exclusion of other verses which don’t fit into their system, or wrenching those verses to fit their system. I did these things too as a Protestant. Again, I didn’t know any better.

    From what I have seen, Reformed Christians who become Catholics do not do so because they were not well-schooled (steeped, even!) in Reformed exegesis and theology. It is largely the *better-schooled* Protestants who become Catholics. By contrast, most Catholics, of whom I’m aware, who become Protestants were poorly catechized Catholics– such as myself. When I began actually looking more deeply into Catholic Biblical exegesis, and reading the early Church Fathers, I began to realize that as a Protestant, I had bought into the wrong paradigm– exegetically, historically, theologically, and philosophically.

  245. “No, the Bible is THE FINAL AUTHORITY, the confessions, councils and creeds are only authoritative in that they agree with scripture.”

    But this principle–”the Bible is THE FINAL AUTHORITY, the confessions, councils and creeds are only authoritative in that they agree with scripture”–is itself a confession. So, if confessions are not authoritative, then we can, without contradiction, reject your confession as well. On the other hand, if your confession ought to be believed, it must believed on the grounds that it agrees with Scripture. But it does not agree with Scripture, since the Scripture never claims it is the final authority. And besides, it could not be, since the collection of books we call Scripture had to be compiled and thus the grounds for the compilation–what books belong and don’t belong in Scripture–is logically prior to the Scripture itself. Thus, there is an authority–the grounds of the compilation–that determines what belongs in Scripture. So, Scripture is not “the final authority.”

    Now, if you want to claim that Scripture as final authority is your fundamental presupposition, that’s your right. But then one can say in response: It isn’t to me. And you will say: It is. And again: It isn’t. Now we are at an impasse that cannot be resolve by appealing to Scripture, since the debate is over whether Scripture is the final authority.

  246. @Jason:

    “My question to Jason seems to me to stand still – who decides what the Bible teaches?”

    Who is to decide what the newspaper says? Who is to decide what the text you provided here means?

    Does your response to my question mean that you have no answer? Or does it mean that the teachings of the Bible are so obvious that anyone who disagrees with you must be in bad faith – must not really believe what they are saying?

    I believe Matthew 16:13-19 is a prophecy of the Papacy and is one of the many Scriptural proofs that God intends the Papacy; you, one presumes, do not. You – again, one presumes – state that it is obvious that that passage does not mean what I think it means. If I am wrong, I must either be in bad faith, or, perhaps, deluded by Satan.

    But your (rhetorical, I presume) response doesn’t help. Since I do actually think that passage refers to the Papacy, is there no one in authority who can judge between our two interpretations?

    I would appreciate it if you would just give me a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to this question:

    When we disagree about a major Biblical passage, must we either accept loss of unity or loss of integrity?

    jj

  247. I also have to ask, from a Protestant’s viewpoint, which confession “agrees with Scripture” on the issue of baptism– the Westminster Confession or the 1689 London Baptist Confession…. which highlights the whole problem of the Protestant concept of the “plain meaning of Scripture,” when it comes to many different issues (including baptism but far from limited to it).

  248. I also have to ask, from a Protestant’s viewpoint, which confession “agrees with Scripture” on the issue of baptism– the Westminster Confession or the 1689 London Baptist Confession…. which highlights the whole problem of the Protestant concept of the “plain meaning of Scripture,” when it comes to many different issues (including baptism but far from limited to it).

    Christopher,

    I’m a Presbyterian and so the London Confession is not mine, but the consensus between the London Confession and the other confessions of the Reformation era is quite remarkable. There are however a few issues where there is not consensus and you have hit on one of them. The meaning, efficacy, and mode of baptism is a matter where the Reformed family of churches don’t have clear consensus. The “plain meaning of Scripture” does not apply to every single issue in Christian theology and this is one of them. There are complex and difficult issues in theology as Peter speaks about, and we are not trying to pretend that Scripture speaks with equal clarity on all matters. The situation is analogous to what happens Catholic theology – there are matters of dogma but also matters where there are multiple allowable opinions.

    On a practical note, we have baptists in my church. They just don’t get the whole infant baptist thing. But that’s OK, it’s really not a big issue for us. That does not mean that baptism is not important, only that we are not dogmatic where the Scriptures are not explicit.

  249. Andrew,

    I appreciate your reply. In a way though, your response actually makes one of the major points of the above article, which is that in some significant ways, the theology and practice of contemporary Reformed churches are quite different than historic Reformed theology and practice. Calvin apparently considered infant baptism to be so clear from the Scriptures, and actually *essential for salvation*, that he strongly asserted that anyone who disagreed with him on the practice was not a Christian. “The plain meaning of Scripture,” to Calvin on this subject, is not clear at all to modern-day Calvinists– or, one might say that if it *is* clear to them, it is “clear” in exactly the opposite way, meaning that mode of baptism is considered a “non-essential,” not a matter of salvation.

    Therefore, for Reformed Protestants, who makes the ultimate determination of what is, and is not, the “clear meaning of Scripture” on an issue such as baptism, or even justification– thinking here of the Federal Vision controversy among PCA’ers? If the “essentials” are clear, why was there even an FV controversy in the first place? Who ultimately gets to decide what are the “essentials” and “non-essentials”? How is such an authoritative determination made within Reformed Protestant theology and ecclesiology?

  250. Andrew-

    I, too, appreciate your participation in this thread. Thank you.

    They just don’t get the whole infant baptist thing. But that’s OK, it’s really not a big issue for us.

    That is, despite the fact that Christ spoke of baptism in these terms:

    “I tell you the truth. No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of Spirit.”

    Rather than acknowledging that Calvin left his “family of churches” with no means by which this most fundamental of issues could be settled, you’ve relegated it entirely.

    This is exactly what John Thayer Jensen said must happen (comment #246). Doctrinal integrity (relegation of baptism) is sacrificed for the sake of unity (“…we have baptists in my church”).

    thanks- herbert vander lugt

  251. Christopher,

    I’m sure there are Catholics theologians that you greatly appreciate, but that on some or maybe a number of issues you would disagree with. So it is a similar matter with Calvin. We do not hold Calvin to be some super-spiritual giant, and neither did Calvin himself. He was a child of his environment like we all are.

    On Federal Vision, this is just one of many theological controversies to hit the Reformed Churches, and for the vast majority of these communions they have dealt with the matter well. I would say that like in the Reformed family of churches, as in the Reformation, we are still unified on the matter of justification. At the Reformation there was quite a wide variety of theologies of justification, all allowable within the pronouncements of the Council of Carthage (the last council to deal with the matter that was available to the Medieval Church). The unity on justification was considerably greater in the Reformed camp than it was in the Catholic one. My observation is that even after Trent that this was still the case.

    Herbert – I feel quite confident that those following the London Confession and those following other Reformed confessions would agree on the implications of your quote from John above.

  252. Andrew,

    Individual theologians claiming to be Catholic may have any number of different opinions, but the Pope and the Magisterium, teaching in communion with him, speak with a clear voice on the things that are essential for Catholics to believe. This is why we Catholics have one Catechism, to which we can all point and tell you, “This is the compendium of our ecclesiology and beliefs as Catholics. This Catechism, and the Pope and Magisterium responsible for it, can settle disputes between us as Catholics.”

    Therefore, when you compare Calvin’s statements, as to one’s beliefs on the nature of baptism or the Lord’s Supper as being *essential for salvation*, to differing statements of claimed “Catholic” theologians today, the comparison is not at all the same. We have one Catechism to help in settling disputes. It is authoritative for all Catholics. Do historic Reformed churches have anything comparable that is truly authoritative for them and can unite them on questions about which various Reformed theologians differ?

    A perfectly valid question here is, who has declared *authoritatively*, for all Reformed Christians today, that Calvin’s statements on what is essential for salvation are *wrong*? Who even has the authority to make such definitive declarations within the Reformed world?

    If the PCA, OPC, and all other historic Reformed churches attempted to join together for a meeting to make such a definitive declaration, couldn’t a splinter group simply form from that meeting and say, “WE are the truly historic Reformed church, because we hold that Calvin is *right* on infant baptism and a non-symbolic view of the Lord’s Supper being essential for salvation. Therefore, any Reformed church which holds to views other than those of Calvin is *not* a truly ‘historic Reformed church!’”? What exactly would be inconsistent about such a charge, Andrew? How would other Reformed churches defend themselves against it?

    I would be interested in documentation, pertaining to your statements that “the unity on justification was considerably greater in the Reformed camp than it was in the Catholic one. My observation is that even after Trent that this was still the case.”

    Andrew, how are such statements justifiable, given that the one, worldwide, Catholic Church was able to call one council (Trent) to speak authoritatively on the subject, while various Reformed churches (at least from what I know) could do nothing of the sort?

  253. I am way behind on all this and haven’t read anything but the last post but in response to 52. The Lutheran’s have the book of Concord and the Reformed have Dort, the Heidleberg Chatecism, and the Belgic confession, the Presbyterians have the Westminster Confession and Catechism. These are the respective churches interpretations of scripture laid out and are based on Scripture alone and their disagreements are relatively minor and conform to scripture quite nicely. The CCC however can be shown to be opposed to scripture in many things but Roman Catholics are expected to believe what ever the pope says. It has been asserted here that I read scripture through the lense of Lutheranism. This is not the case. Luther points me to Christ who points me to Himself and He says the scriptures are authoritative and if the Scriptures are in agreement with the Formula of Concord I must necessarily accept those confessions as a correct interpretation of scripture. The Pope appeals to scripture for his authority (by ignoring the finer details of the text) and then claims that he has the authority to put forth an interpretation of scripture binding on all Christians regardless of what the text says. The Pope argues in a circle for his authority.

  254. Jason,

    Your reply was basically a series of assertions and not even an attempt at making any arguments to prove those assertions. You assert that that the Catechism of the Catholic Church “can be shown to be opposed to Scripture in many things.” That the Catechism is, in certain areas, on certain subjects, opposed to *your interpretation of Scripture*, I would agree.

    However, how do you know that your interpretation of Scripture is the *correct* one? How do you know that Luther’s interpretation of justification is the correct one? I’m not playing postmodern mind games, or language games, here. The questions that I’m asking are perfectly valid.

    You write that:

    “Luther points me to Christ who points me to Himself and He says the scriptures are authoritative and if the Scriptures are in agreement with the Formula of Concord I must necessarily accept those confessions as a correct interpretation of scripture.” Why do you trust Luther as the correct guide to point you to Christ?

    Explain to me how I am wrong on the following: It appears that you have *determined* Luther’s interpretation of the Scriptures to be the correct one, and hence, you have *decided*, on the basis of your agreement with Luther’s interpretation of Scripture, that Luther points you to Christ, and that, for this reason, you will “submit” to Lutheran church authority.

    How is the above process not one of selecting the church authority, to which you will “submit,” on the basis of *your personal agreement* with that authority’s understanding of Scripture– which would ultimately mean, submission to yourself?

    You write that the Pope “appeals to Scripture for his authority (by ignoring the finer details of the text.” Jason, Pope Benedict XVI is a Biblical scholar who have been studying the Scriptures for several decades? How is that you are so certain that he is “ignoring the finer details of the text,” while you, yourself, are seeing them clearly and understanding them correctly? It seems that you are placing an incredible degree of confidence in your interpretation of the Biblical text to make a such a charge against a man who has been a Biblical scholar longer than most of us have been alive!

    It won’t do to simply say, “I am reading Scripture for what it says,” because Pentecostals interpret Scripture differently than Lutherans, while claiming to read Scripture for what it says, and Lutherans interpret differently than Baptists, while claiming to read Scripture for what it says, and N.T. Wright, a conservative *Protestant* Biblical scholar, has an understanding of justification that many Protestants would say is heretical! Who decides what the “clear reading of Scripture” is, Jason? Protestants certainly can’t seem to agree among themselves on that clear reading.

  255. Sorry for the typos, Jason– if anything in my comment wasn’t intelligible, let me know, and I will clarify.

  256. Christopher,

    Jason has already shown us his modus operandi. He assumes that scripture is perspicuous with regard to all the doctrines he claims to find there. A few posts ago I gave philological reasons for questioning this assumption and pointed out that the scriptures themselves teach that much of what’s written is hard to understand; Jason merely ignored the entire thrust of my point and leveled another assertion about what Peter meant when he said that Paul is hard to understand. Jason has assumed that he is not one of those people who,in his ignorance, twists Paul to his own destruction. He has assumed that the bible is meant to be read like an iPod instruction manual. These assumptions allow him to come to the conclusion that I see many other Protestants assert: that if you don’t agree with them, you are either stupid or unregenerate. He has already stated this. It doesn’t matter to him that Pentecostals also claim to be reading Scripture correctly; he can simply write them off as being stupid or unregenerate because of his assumptions about the nature of the text and his own interpretive capabilities. Finally, I have to say I found the end of his last post simply amusing. So far his posts have consisted of nothing but unargued assertions, sound-bytes, and insults, and then he complains that his words are “falling on deaf ears.” He “gives up.” I’ll have to be excused for not buying the tone of exasperation, as if he were actually trying to have a fruitful dialogue.

  257. David:

    The notion that everybody who rejects one’s theology is either stupid or ill-willed is inevitable for those who believe in the formal sufficiency of Scripture. Some are just more polite than others about it.

    Best,
    Mike

  258. Jason,

    To where are you going to do missionary work? Just curious.

  259. Michael Liccione: The notion that everybody who rejects one’s theology is either stupid or ill-willed is inevitable for those who believe in the formal sufficiency of Scripture. Some are just more polite than others about it.

    I believe that we would both agree that Protestantism, as a whole, is comprised of thousands upon thousands of divided and bickering sects, and that, as a whole, Protestantism has neither a unity of theology nor confesses a unity of doctrine. My question is this, do most “bible alone” Protestants really think that a person who is not a member of their particular sect is either “stupid or ill-willed”? How could a person believe that is true on the one hand, and on the other hand, also believe that they have the God-given right to go church shopping among thousands of Protestant sects that they don’t belong to at a particular moment in time?

    It seems to me that the psychology of denial is at play here. Denial allows the ordinary modern day Protestant to belong to a particular sect and to also cling to the “right” to go church shopping whenever that suits his or her needs. The psychology of denial allows one to maintain that various sects that one personally finds acceptable are only divided over “non-essentials” and that they are not divided over fundamental matters of doctrine. What constitutes the “essentials” of Christian doctrine are, of course, wholly subjective for the “bible alone” Protestant. Ultimately, the essentials of Christian doctrine are what the trinity of me, myself and I determines them to be.

    Jason: The Lutheran’s have the book of Concord and the Reformed have Dort, the Heidleberg Chatecism, and the Belgic confession, the Presbyterians have the Westminster Confession and Catechism. These are the respective churches interpretations of scripture laid out and are based on Scripture alone and their disagreements are relatively minor and conform to scripture quite nicely.

    You assert that the Lutheran sects and the Reformed sects that accept these specific documents have differences that are only “relatively minor”. If the Protestant sects that accept these documents are not, in reality, seriously divided over matters of doctrine, then why don’t they all get together and form one unified church?

  260. mateo:

    My question is this, do most “bible alone” Protestants really think that a person who is not a member of their particular sect is either “stupid or ill-willed”? How could a person believe that is true on the one hand, and on the other hand, also believe that they have the God-given right to go church shopping among thousands of Protestant sects that they don’t belong to at a particular moment in time?

    By no means do all “bible alone” Protestants believe in the “formal sufficiency” of Scripture. Many of the former say they believe in the latter, but really don’t. My remarks were directed solely against those who really do, such as Jason.

    That said, I’m sure your remarks about the “psychology of denial” are true of many Protestants. Just not all.

    Best,
    Mike

  261. @58- Who said anything about “missionary work”? Do you have a need to know?
    @ 54- “How do you know that Luther’s interpretation of justification is the correct one?”

    What about Bernard of Clairveux, Claudius of Turin, or Hilary of Poitiers. Are they wrong on justification too?

    I don’t think you guys are stupid. In fact I think RC theologians are quite brilliant IQ-wise but they are theologians of glory and not theologians of the cross, and are decieved. They confuse the law and the gospel and end up preaching gLAWspel which is no Gospel at all. The fact is, the way Rome uses the Bible is they have these systems and doctrines that they have set up (which have evolved down through the centuries) and rather than admit that they are fallible and in error they takes verses out of context from the Bible to fit their doctrine. Lutherans however take their doctrine from scripture and then lay out what the scriptures teach in the Lutheran cnofessions. If there were any error in it we would have found it by now and corrected it. What it really comes down to is the bondage of the will. Rome wants to climb up to God by her own efforts but that is not how God would have it. He comes to us in His word and sacrements and saves us by His works on His merits and will not share the glory with anyone. Rome confuses the role of works and does not understand that good works are fruits of faith, not roots. The Gospel is the root, works for our neighbor are the fruit. Several post earlier someone said that in Gelations when Paul speaks of works he is talking only of things like sacrifices and circumcision (spelling?). If that is the case why does Paul bring up both circumcision and Sinai? Both the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic? Sinai includes the Ten Commandments right? How then is Paul not talking about the whole Law especially since he says if one wishes to be justified by the law he must keep the whole law perfectly.

    One question I want to ask you all. In your own words what is the Gospel?

  262. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ii.ii.xxxii.html

    What do you all say to this?

  263. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bernard/letters.xliii.html?highlight=justified#highlight

    And this?

  264. Jason, (re: #262)

    St. Clement’s statement, which you are asking about, is this:

    And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (32)

    The saving faith of which St. Clement speaks is faith informed by agape, not faith uninformed by agape. We can see this in various places in his epistle. St. Clement writes:

    On account of her faith and hospitality, Rahab the harlot was saved. (12)

    Notice that it was not her faith alone that saved her. He continues:

    Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love bears all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. (49)

    For St. Clement the person without love is not united to God, and is therefore not justified. The person without love remains unforgiven. The person without love is not “well-pleasing to God”. So the person with faith alone, but lacking love, is not justified.

    St. Clement continues:

    Blessed are we, beloved, if we keep the commandments of God in the harmony of love; that so through love our sins may be forgiven us. (50)

    Notice again, love isn’t merely an expression of gratitude that our sins are forgiven. Only by the presence of agape in us are our sins forgiven. Hence faith alone (so long as it is not informed by love) does not justify.

    St. Clement continues:

    Abraham, styled “the friend,” was found faithful, inasmuch as he rendered obedience to the words of God.(10)

    The faith of Abraham was a faith working through love. Not just mere faith alone.

    St. Clement continues:

    For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith? (31)

    For St. Clement the faith by which Abraham was blessed was a faith informed by love, and which thereby wrought righteousness.

    So these other places in St. Clement’s epistle explain how the passage in 32 should be interpreted as referring to a faith informed by love, not faith alone. This is also how St. Augustine understood justification by faith, as I recently showed here. (See also here.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  265. Jason,

    There are so many clear statements of the Catholic position on justification in the second (longer) passage you linked us to – the position that Clement taught when your cherry-picked passage is read in context as Bryan has shown above, and the position that Augustine and the conciliar Church has always taught – that I almost wonder whether you linked us to it on accident and meant to choose another passage.

    Do you see how faith precedes, in order that justification may follow? Perchance, then, we are called through fear, and justified by love. Finally, the just shall live by faith (Rom. i. 17), that faith, doubtless, which works by love (Gal. v. 6).

    This is exactly what the Church has always said and continues to say. Notice how he said that we are justified by love and that we live by faith, a faith that works by love.

    Indeed, if the fear of the Lord, in which our calling is said to consist, is the beginning of wisdom, surely the love of God—that love, I mean, which springs from faith, and is the source of our justification—is progress in wisdom. And so what but the consummation of wisdom is that glorification which we hope for at the last from the vision of God that will make us like Him?

    Again, love springing from faith is the source of our justification.

    9. Since, then, the token of our salvation is twofold, namely, a twofold outpouring, of the Blood and of the Spirit, neither can profit without the other. For the Spirit is not given except to such as believe in the Crucified; and faith avails not unless it works by love. But love is the gift of the Spirit. If the second Adam (I speak of Christ) not only became a living soul, but also a quickening spirit, dying as being the one, and raising the dead as being the other, how can that which dies in Him profit me, apart from that which quickens? Indeed, He Himself says: It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth 157nothing (S. John vi. 63). Now, what does “quickeneth” mean except “justifieth”? For as sin is the death of the soul (The soul that sinneth it shall die, Ezek. xviii. 4), without doubt righteousness is its life; for The just shall live by faith (Rom. i. 17). Who, then, is righteous, except he who returns to God, who loves him, His meed of love? And this never happens unless the Spirit by faith reveal to the man the eternal purpose of God concerning his future salvation. Such a revelation is simply the infusion of spiritual grace, by which, with the mortification of the deeds of the flesh, man is made ready for the kingdom which flesh and blood cannot inherit.

    Bold added because this quotation is longer than the two above. Infusion of grace, mortification of the deeds of the flesh, faith working by love again.

    Am I missing something here?

  266. Jason,

    Sometimes as Catholics we just cannot win. We are accused of having a theology of glory by some, like yourself and others accuse us of keeping Christ on the cross and emphasizing suffering too much. It sort of reminds me of what Chesterton wrote about the Catholic Church being attacked on all sides. Just maybe, maybe She can be attacked on all sides because in her very heart She has been entrusted with the truth of Christ.

  267. (“No, no, jj, you shouldn’t do it! Well, maybe the monitors will reject it…”)

    Gelations – is that a reference to the Frozen Chosen? :-)

    jj

  268. @64 if Rahab had not had faith she might not have acted. If she did the same without faith then it would not have been a good work for without faith it is impossible to please God. See Romans and Hebrews. If Clement did not believe in justification by faith alone then why does he add this warning?
    “What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us!”
    Love is a fruit of faith.
    Galatians 5:22 (New International Version)
    22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness

    @65 What about the part about being justified by the blood of Christ. Yes love is a fruit of justifying living faith but the works are not what justify us before God. See Romans.
    Romans 4:6
    Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

    Romans 4:8
    Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

    Romans 4:11
    And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

    Romans 4:22
    And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
    Romans 4:23
    Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

    Romans 4:24
    But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

    Romans 5:13
    (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

    James 2:23
    And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

    Justifying living faith ALONE brings the fruit of good works. All other works are filthy stinking wrags.

  269. Jason wrote:
    “One question I want to ask you all. In your own words what is the Gospel?”

    Answer: Colossians 1:27
    “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

    Or again, Romans 6:4:
    “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. “

  270. Or perhaps even better, 1 Cor 15:1-7…

    Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

    That is the Gospel. Notice that it doesn’t say anything about justification, imputed righteousness, or monergism.

  271. Jason (re# 268),

    One thing that I never seriously considered, when I was a Protestant, is that perhaps I was wrong in my interpretation of the Biblical passages on justification. I was convinced that these passages set up an “either/or” dichotomy– either we are justified before God on the basis of our faith, alone, in Christ, and are saved, or we are *trying* to be justified before God by our works, and we are damned. Given that I was convinced that the Bible taught this “either/or” dichotomy, I wanted to be sure that I was on the right side of it, which, of course, for Protestants, is the “faith alone” side. Again, I never seriously considered that my interpretation itself might be wrong.

    Catholics *do not believe* that we are justified before God because of our works. We simply do not believe that. We agree with the Bible in all that it says, including when it calls righteous deeds “filthy rags.” However, such Biblical statements have a context, and it is crucial to understand this context. Our good works are “filthy rags,” when we try to offer them up to God, apart from the redeeming blood of Christ. Works alone do not justify anyone before God.

    However, the Bible also states that faith alone does not justify anyone before God. James is very clear that faith without works is dead. Faith alone, without works, simply *does not justify*– that is the clearest, most direct reading of James’ statements. If faith without works is dead, how can it justify?

    When Protestants say– as I did myself, as a Protestant– that James is referring to a different sort of justification than Paul (justification of one’s faith before man, evidence of one’s faith), they are not engaging with the clearest, most direct reading of the text. Again, I did this myself, as a Protestant. I had to do it, in order to maintain my “faith alone justifies” reading of Paul. This reading was simply mistaken. I was wrong.

    When Paul writes about being justified by faith apart from works of the law, the surrounding context of those verses is works of the Jewish law, such as circumcision, which some Jews thought made them “right” before God, and which some Jewish Christians thought that Gentiles *must* partake in in order to be faithful Christians. Paul is saying, “Circumcision and other such works of the Jewish law are not sufficient to justify anyone before God. ” Paul is not teaching Martin Luther’s idea of “faith alone,” in which good works play absolutely no role in justification.

    Works alone do not justify. Faith alone does not justify. The Biblical teaching does not set up an “either/or” dichotomy in relation to justification and faith and works. Now, to be clear, when a person first comes to trust in Christ, that person has nothing but works, and works without faith do not justify. In that sense, then, a person’s first trusting in Christ does bring initial justification. However, in order for that justification to continue (because as the author of Hebrews warns us, one truly can fall away from the living God), faith and works are commanded by the Bible. Faith without works is dead. The Biblical teaching is “both/and,” not “either/or.”

  272. @69- That is a crossless answere and therefor another Gospel.

    @70- Right on but your conclusion ignors Paul’s epistle to the Romans which is a systematic theology in itself. Also, the church has always taught monogerism and condemned syngerism as heresy.

    @71 – The idea that Paul and James are talking about a different kind of justification is just silly and not doctrinally and exegetically competent protestant teaches that. You have to look at James whole argument and consider the meaning. Ask yourself this. Is dead faith really faith? No, it’s kicked the bucket, it’s a non person. Are good works that are dead without faith good works? No, same thing, kicked the bucket. Therfore faithalone does justify and bringsforth good fruit (good works) in keeping with repentance. Why are these works good and a Muslim’s or Budhist’s good works not? Because they are not sactified by the blood of the Lamb of God.

    See Ephesians 2:8-10 with carefull consideration of verse 10.

    I LOVE you guys!

  273. Jason,
    @272
    “Is dead faith really faith? No, it’s kicked the bucket”

    James 2:26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

    Is a dead body apart from the spirit still a body? Of course it is. Is dead faith still faith? It is if this verse is to make any sense. A body does not cease to be a body at death. It becomes a lifeless body. Faith does not cease to be faith when it dies. It becomes lifeless (supernaturally). Dead faith is still faith.

  274. Jason,

    When did the Church condemn synergism? The Church has always believed in a monergistic initial justification and a synergistic progression in our life with God in which we cooperate with God’s subsequent grace (gratia cooperativa as Augustine calls it).

    Your interpretation of James 2 is just that, an interpretation. It’s not what the text says. James says clearly that we are not justified by faith alone. He says clearly that Abraham and Rahab were justified by works. Their faith was “brought to completion (τελειόω)” by their works (James 2:22). A thing that is non-existent,i.e. the faith that is not really faith as you say, cannot brought to “completion.” A thing that exists but is only in a state of potentiality towards its end can be brought to completion; a thing that does not actually exist is not brought to completion but brought into existence. So you are making mince-meat out of James’ words because you have to cram him into your system. No where does he indicate that faith without works is not actually faith. That is your interpretation. This is why all those incompetent Protestants say that James and Paul are talking about different kinds of justification; they realize that James is clearly saying we are justified in some way by our works. You and the “incompetent” Protestants are doing two different kinds of exegetical backflips to make the text say something other than what it clearly says because you have a systematic theology that requires it and your systematization is based on a misreading of Paul. Since we know that Paul never says we are justified by faith alone, we can see that James and Paul are in agreement from the very passage I quoted above from 1 Cor 15 when Paul says we must “hold fast” to what we received. If we do not “hold fast” to what we receive, we believed in vain. Notice Paul does not say “you never really believed,” but “you believed in vain,” i.e. our believing was not brought to fulfillment (to use James’ terminology) by perseverance in love, which is the fulfillment of the law.

    These teachings of Paul and James square perfectly with Jesus’ own teaching, as in the parable of the talents. God freely gives us a talent (monergism) but we must do something with that talent (synergism); we must bring about the appreciation of our talent. If we do not do anything with that talent, it is not the case that we never received a talent, rather we are cast into darkness for having faith alone (the unappreciated talent, the faith in which we did not hold fast, the faith that was not made complete by works). This is what the Church always taught, and it’s the received faith from which the Reformers represent a decisive break.

    Thank you for your love. We love you too and are glad to have you here taking part in these discussions.

  275. Jason @272
    “Also, the church has always taught monogerism and condemned syngerism as heresy.”

    Huh? Which church? The church has always championed Grace Alone but not monergism.
    Question for you…..Was Christ’s human nature, his human will, and his human operation monergistically operated by His divine nature?

  276. Jason wrote:

    “@70- Right on but your conclusion ignors Paul’s epistle to the Romans which is a systematic theology in itself. ”

    I submit that this is one of the grave errors of Protestant (and some Catholic) hermeneutics.
    Paul did not write a systematic theology in Romans (in the sense in which the term is generally used),
    but rather an answer to the question “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision?” (Romans 3:1)

    I appreciate Krister Stendhal’s observation that Paul was not cited and commented on in the 1st three centuries of the Church like he was in subsequent centuries (as a systematic theologian) because the fathers understood that he was addressing precisely those issues he claimed to be addressing – namely, Jew/Gentile relations and the role of the mosaic law. Only post-augustine does the topic of justification come to be understood as a catch-all for every aspect of soteriology.

  277. “Also, the church has always taught monogerism and condemned syngerism as heresy.”

    Hmmm, this is a pretty bold claim, and I wonder how one would go about substantiating it. Who speaks for the Church here?

    Clearly the Eastern Orthodox Church has long taught a form of synergism, and they have plenty of Church Fathers to appeal to on behalf of their position, ranging from St John Chrysostom to St Maximus the Confessor. One cannot reasonably claim on behalf of monergism the consensual teaching of the patristic Church–quite the contrary!

    In the Western Church the canons of the second synod of Orange has enjoyed dogmatic authority, but the Eastern Church has never received these canons. The Catholic Church, of course, acknowledges these canons as authoritative, but this acknowledgement depends on their approval by the Bishop of Rome and the Council of Trent. I do not know how a Protestant can appeal to II Orange to support the claim that “the” Church has “always” taught monergism and condemned synergism.

    And then there is the question of the proper interpretation of the canons of Orange. One thing is clear: the synod affirms, as did St Augustine, a grace-enabled synergism subsequent to Holy Baptism (see Rebecca Harden Weaver, *Divine Grace and Human Agency: A Study of the Semi-Pelagian Controversy*). Whatever the Latin Church’s rejection of “semi-Pelagianism” means, it does not mean that the baptized do not, by grace, possess the freedom to truly and authentically cooperate with God.

    I would love to see a Catholic/Orthodox discussion of Orange and Trent on synergism.

  278. Jason at #262 quotes Clement 32, which if taken isolated indeed appears to support sola fide:

    “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

    And then in #268 quotes Clement 33 interpreting his exhortation to practice love and “perform every good work” as just an advice, not a truly necessary requisite for salvation:

    “What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! But rather let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work. … Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength.”

    However, in 34 Clement makes it clear that it is a requisite:

    “The good servant receives the bread of his labour with confidence; the lazy and slothful cannot look his employer in the face. It is requisite, therefore, that we be prompt in the practice of well-doing;”

    And in 35 Clement makes it crystal clear that we must “do the things which are in harmony with God’s will” “in order that we may share in His promised gifts”. So much for sola fide.

    “Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vain glory and ambition. For they that do such things are hateful to God; and not only they that do them, but also those that take pleasure in them that do them.”

  279. Jason at #243:

    ” If you look at the context in James he says that works without faith are dead and faith without works is dead.”

    Correct, though the first statement is usually assigned to Paul.

    “Good works are a FRUIT of faith.”

    Correct, but I add that they are a necessary fruit.

    “Works themselves do nothing to add to our salvation.”

    Here is the problem. In this post I will show that works are necessary to remain in salvation. This is stated clearly by John, both in positive statements (Jn ch 14 and 15):

    “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” (Jn 14:21)

    “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (Jn 14:23)

    “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (Jn 15:9-10)

    “You are my friends if you do what I command you. … This I command you: love one another.” (Jn 15:14,17)

    and in negative statements (I Jn ch 3):

    Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. (I Jn 3:15)

    If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? (I Jn 3:17)

    And of course there is this precious gem from Paul:

    And whoever does not provide for relatives and especially family members has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (I Tim 5:8)

  280. 77- The East exhonerated Pelagius.

    78 and 79-

    “Good works are a FRUIT of faith.”

    Correct, but I add that they are a necessary fruit

    Right, because one who has faith can’t help but do good works for their neighbor. No matter how much civil righteousness a Muslim performs, on judgment day all his works will be judged evil because a Muslim does not have faith.

    Paul clearly teaches that we are justified apart from works. James is not in opposition to this but attacking those who would separate the root (faith in Jesus) from the fruit (good works for your neighbor).

    http://www.carm.org/semi-pelagianism
    http://www.carm.org/pelagianism

  281. David Pell #274:

    “When did the Church condemn synergism? The Church has always believed in a monergistic initial justification and a synergistic progression in our life with God in which we cooperate with God’s subsequent grace (gratia cooperativa as Augustine calls it).”

    In my view, the Church does not even believe that initial justification is monergistic. Quoting Trent session 6 chapter 5:

    The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.

  282. Johannes,

    It seems to me that there is some room for monergism in regards strictly to operating grace. But at the moment we are able to cooperate with the grace, it is thought of as co-operating grace and therefore synergistic. St. Thomas quotes St. Augustine:

    “God by cooperating with us, perfects what He began by operating in us, since He who perfects by cooperation with such as are willing, beings by operating that they may will.” (Summa 2a.111.2 – emphasis added)

    Subsequently St. Thomas says,

    I answer that, As stated above (Question 110, Article 2) grace may be taken in two ways; first, as a Divine help, whereby God moves us to will and to act; secondly, as a habitual gift divinely bestowed on us.

    Now in both these ways grace is fittingly divided into operating and cooperating. For the operation of an effect is not attributed to the thing moved but to the mover. Hence in that effect in which our mind is moved and does not move, but in which God is the sole mover, the operation is attributed to God, and it is with reference to this that we speak of “operating grace.” But in that effect in which our mind both moves and is moved, the operation is not only attributed to God, but also to the soul; and it is with reference to this that we speak of “cooperating grace.” (Ibid. emphasis added)

    So it might be an oversimplification to say that the Church teaches monergism in regard to initial justification if we take the first of the above ways to be initial justification. Both of the ways (where God moves us and where God bestows a habitual gift) may be fittingly divided into operating and cooperating grace. But St. Thomas apparently does allow for monergism in regard to operating grace.

  283. Jason at #243:

    “Works themselves do nothing to add to our salvation.”

    Let’s listen first to the Teacher Himself:

    “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple–amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Mt 10:42)

    This is expanded in the Last Judgment passage, which I will not quote for obvious reasons (Mt 25:31-46). And if it was argued that the works of charity are necessary to remain in salvation but do not add to salvation, the previous parable where the talent of the lazy servant was given to the servant who already had ten talents should clear the matter.

    “Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.” (Lk 12:33)

    “There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Lk 18:22)

    Let’s now go to Paul:

    But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Cor 3:10-15)

    Sometimes the Apostle uses the metaphor of a temple, which God builds with our cooperation, and other times he uses the metaphor of a body, which God makes grow with our cooperation. Sometimes both are used simultaneously, as in Ef 4:11-16, from which I quote:

    Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love. (Ef 4:15-16)

    Then there is this:

    we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, (Col 1:9-10)

    which is related to:

    make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Pe 1:5-8)

    As the last two quotes mention “knowledge”, let’s learn from Jesus what that is:

    “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (Jn 17:3)

    If this knowledge is eternal life, it cannot be purely intellectual. This is made crystal clear by John:

    Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I Jn 2:4)

    Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. (I Jn 4:7-8)

    So, if salvation is having eternal life, and if eternal life is vital knowledge of God, and if
    by “living in a manner worthy of the Lord”, i.e. “living the truth in love”, we can “in every good work bear fruit and grow in the knowledge of God”, then by good works we not only remain in salvation but also can grow in salvation = eternal life = God’s love. As John says:

    if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. (I Jn 4:12)

  284. Jason: Right, because one who has faith can’t help but do good works for their neighbor.

    “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Matt 25:35-36

    No one does the works of mercy without exercising their freewill to roll up their sleeves and get to work. And doing the works of mercy – the saving works that, in the end, separates the sheep from the goats – always involves an effort and a struggle against our inclinations to not do them.

    The idea that the True Christian “can’t help but do good works for their neighbor” is folly that contradicts everyone’s experience in the real world. This peculiar teaching of Calvinism – that irresistible grace inevitably forces the True Christian to perform the works of mercy – can lead to what an ex-Presbyterian friend of mine described as salvation anxiety. She told me that she was taught as a Preysbetrian that if one is really one of the elect, then the works of mercy should automatically manifest in her life. But she knew that unless she made the effort to do the works of mercy, that the works of mercy never manifested; and since doing the works of mercy required an effort and a struggle against her inclinations to not do them, she was never sure if she was really a True Christian. It was a relief for her to become a Catholic, because the Catholic Church gets real; the Catholic Church has never taught that doing the works of mercy comes without a struggle on the part of the believer. One must choose to shut off the television and go visit a sick person. One must choose to get involved in a prison ministry. One struggles to make those choices, but by faith, one believes that God will grant the grace necessary to do the works of mercy even when doing the works of mercy are difficult to do.

  285. Tim,

    In #281 what I mean by “initial justification” is the process that culminates at baptism, usually called simply “justification”. That process is clearly synergistic.

    On the other hand, if we focus only on “the initial step of initial justification”, that of course is monergistic, as the initiative definitely belongs to God in the order of grace. As the Council says:
    “the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God”.

  286. “The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.” (VI.5)

    This passage from Trent quoted by Joahannes does raise an interesting question or two. Does Trent leave open the question whether God gives prevenient grace in such a way that it cannot be ultimately and effectually resisted? Augustinians and Thomists will no doubt read the passage in a way that supports the irresistibility of grace with regard to initial justification, yet there remains the qualification “forasmuch as he is also able to reject it.”

    This is not unimportant for Catholic/Orthodox discussion.

  287. Jason (re:#280),

    All of of us here, who were Reformed Protestants, once believed as you do now on justification. We have heard the Reformed arguments, and most of us, if not all, made those arguments, ourselves, to other people. As Catholics, we see the faultiness of the arguments that we once made. It is just not so simple as to say that (in your words) “Paul clearly teaches that we are justified apart from works.” James does *not* say that good works are a “fruit of faith.” He states that man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

    Taken together with Jesus’ statements on good works in the Christian’s life, and Paul’s statements on faith, the clear Biblical teaching (if one is not trying to read “faith alone” into the texts) is that we are justified by both faith and works. Again, the Bible just does not teach that good works are simply a “fruit of faith” or the “evidence of faith.”

    One other thought– if it is silly, as you opine that it is, for a Biblical exegete to posit that James is referring to a different kind of justification, or a different way of understanding justification, than is Paul (and I agree that it *is* silly, actually), then every “mainstream” (non-Auburn Avenue Presbyterian) Reformed exegete whom I have ever read or heard has a silly interpretation of the second chapter of James….

  288. Cristopher (re #283)

    We need to be accurate about what we mean when we state (or deny) that “good works are a fruit of faith”. And within that expression, we need to be accurate about what we mean by “faith”.

    Regarding faith:

    Is it “living faith”, “faith working through charity” or “expressing itself through charity” (Gal 5:6), faith that is “active along with works”, and “completed by works” (James 2:22)?

    Or is it purely intellectual faith, “faith alone” (James 2:24), which “without works” is “useless”, “dead faith” (James 2:17,26)?

    Regarding “good works are a fruit of faith” (and leaving aside for the moment “which” faith):

    A. Do we mean that if there is faith, there will necessary be good works (i.e. faith is necessary and sufficient for the existence of good works)?

    B. Or do we mean that for there to be good works, there must be faith, but the existence of faith does not guarantee that there will be good works (i.e. faith is necessary for the existence of good works, but not sufficient)?

    Combining A and B with “living faith” and “faith alone”, the answers are:

    A + “living faith”: true (that’s the definition of “living faith” = “faith alone” + charity)
    A + “faith alone”: false
    B + “living faith”: false
    B + “faith alone”: true

    Clearly by “good works” we mean “works of charity whereby the faithful grows in God’s love”. Surely a non-Christian can perform objectively good works.

  289. My previous comment actually referred to Christopher’s comment #285. Sorry.

  290. Jason.

    It should be noted that it was the Catholic Church that defined both semi-pelagianism and pelagianism as heresy.

  291. Sean,

    That’s what I have to remind my uncle every time I visit him and he starts asserting that the Catholic Church teaches that “works” are what gets us in to heaven (with the implication that they are graceless acts without faith). The conversation usually goes like this:

    Uncle: You Catholics believe that it is by your works that you are saved because that’s what your non-biblical Church teaches.

    Me: Actually, the Church teaches that we are saved by Grace. You imply Pelagianism in your statement, and that was declared a heresy by the Catholic Church centuries before the Reformation. So, logically, because the Church condemned that system of belief as heresy, it cannot be Church doctrine.

    Uncle: Yeah, but your Church teaches that it is by your works that you are saved.

    Me: If the Church declared that line of thinking a heresy, how can one believe that is what is officially taught by the Church? By saying that, you could also say that the Church teaches Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide, but you know that the Church doesn’t teach those things. So, why assert that the Church would teach something else that has been declared a heresy?

    Uncle: Yeah, but that’s what your Church teaches.

    Me: No, it doesn’t

    Uncle: Yes, it does.

    Me: I know you are but what am I? (just kidding, but you get the idea)

  292. @283- In my youth I grew up in a Church where there wasn’t a whole lot of sound doctrine being taught and I had a functionally Roman Catholic view though I didn’t know it. When I read Paul’s epistle to the Romans the first time I thought “It can’t be!”, but it is. I thought it was too good to be true, and it is by human understanding, yet it is absolutely true.

    “Taken together with Jesus’ statements on good works in the Christian’s life, and Paul’s statements on faith, the clear Biblical teaching (if one is not trying to read “faith alone” into the texts) is that we are justified by both faith and works. Again, the Bible just does not teach that good works are simply a “fruit of faith” or the “evidence of faith.””

    Ephesians 2:8-10 (English Standard Version)
    8For(A) by grace you HAVE BEEN saved(B) through FAITH. And this is(C) NOT your own doing;(D) it is the GIFT of God, 9(E) NOT a result of WORKS,(F) so that NO ONE MAY BOAST. 10For(G) we are HIS workmanship,(H) CREATED IN Christ Jesus(I) FOR GOOD WORKS,(J) which GOD PREPARED beforehand,(K) that we should walk in them.

    Romans 3:26-28 (English Standard Version)
    26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the JUSTIFIER of the one who has faith in Jesus.
    27(A) Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that one is justified by faith(B) APART FROM WORKS of the law.

    Colossians 3
    1(A) If then you HAVE been raised with Christ, seek(B) the things that are above, where Christ is,(C) seated at the right hand of God.

    Hebrews 1:3 (English Standard Version)
    3He is the radiance of the glory of God and(A) the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.(B) After making purification for sins,(C) he sat down(D) at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

    1 John 2:2 (English Standard Version)
    2(A) He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but(B) also for the sins of the whole world.

    Romans 4
    1What then shall we say was gained by[a] Abraham,(A) our forefather according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but(B) not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say?(C) “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

    Matthew 3:7-9 (English Standard Version)

    7But when he saw many of(A) the Pharisees and(B) Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them,(C) “You brood of(D) vipers! Who warned you to flee from(E) the wrath to come? 8Bear FRUIT(F) in keeping with repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves,(G) ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from(H) these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

    Acts 26:20 (English Standard Version)
    20but declared first(A) to those in Damascus,(B) then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also(C) to the Gentiles, that they should(D) repent and(E) turn to God, performing deeds(F) in keeping with their repentance.

    Works flow from faith.

    “One other thought– if it is silly, as you opine that it is, for a Biblical exegete to posit that James is referring to a different kind of justification, or a different way of understanding justification, than is Paul (and I agree that it *is* silly, actually), then every “mainstream” (non-Auburn Avenue Presbyterian) Reformed exegete whom I have ever read or heard has a silly interpretation of the second chapter of James….”

    “Every mainstream Reformed exegete” What does this mean? Have you considered that you have not read every “mainstream Reformed exegete” let alone every Reformed exegete? Also, this excludes every Lutheran exegete.

    @284- Somewhere earlier in this discussion someone said that Rick Warren is a Calvinist. That is silly as he is completely Semi-Pelagian using the golf analogy of the “Mulligan”. If Rick Warren, a supposed Calvinist, can fall into Pelagianism along with the vast majority of American Evangelicals, can not Rome also fall into Semi-Pelagianism? At the root is an obscured distinction between the Law and the Gospel. There are only two religions, the religion of “do” and the religion of “done for you”. If our works had anything to do with our justification before God how would such great sinners as David, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Samson ever hope to stand before God on judgment day unless they were justified before God by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. You don’t see any of these men in the scripture whipping themselves or starving themselves to make up for their sins as the monks do. They simply repented and belived the good news that one day God would somehow save them and atone for their sins just as He had promised in the beginning (Gen 3:15).

  293. I realize now that the statement I made in the following exchange:

    Jason #243: “Good works are a FRUIT of faith.”

    Johannes #279: “Correct, but I add that they are a necessary fruit.”

    Jason #280: “Right, because one who has faith can’t help but do good works for their neighbor.”

    lent itself to be interpreted in two diametrically opposed ways, and Jason, without any fault on his part, understood it in the way I did not mean. This is because “necessary” can mean either “needed, required” or “unavoidably present”. I meant the former and Jason meant the latter.

    So what I mean is that, for us to remain in salvation, we NEED to perform good works. Which will be a fruit of faith (or more accurately, of the grace of the Holy Spirit that we received through faith), but not a fruit that will come about automatically. We have to willfully collaborate with God who works. So I agree with Mateo #284.

  294. To Jason #292

    Ephesians 2:8-10 (English Standard Version)

    8For(A) by grace you HAVE BEEN saved

    “we HAVE BEEN saved” means what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says when it describes the effects of Baptism: Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and coheir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.

    It does NOT mean guaranteed final perseverance. You retain your free will and must use it to cooperate with God, and can also misuse it to reject God’s love.

    (B) through FAITH. And this is(C) NOT your own doing;(D) it is the GIFT of God, 9(E) NOT a result of WORKS,(F) so that NO ONE MAY BOAST.

    This is most obvious.

    10For(G) we are HIS workmanship,(H) CREATED IN Christ Jesus

    This is exactly what I quoted above from the Catechism.

    (I) FOR GOOD WORKS,(J) which GOD PREPARED beforehand,(K) that we should walk in them.

    This means that God

    a. lays out the opportunities to perform the good works, and

    b. provides us with his assistance to perform them.

    But the good works will NOT come about automatically! God’s assistance does NOT make us puppets! We HAVE to willfully collaborate with God who works!

  295. Jason,

    All of the passages you quoted above, with all of the particular words and phrased highlighted by caps lock, can be and are affirmed by Catholic teaching. The conclusion that you draw, namely the good works are a fruit of faith, is also affirmed by Catholic teaching. We do not believe that we are capable of good works without faith in God and the grace He gives us.

  296. Jason:

    There are only two religions, the religion of “do” and the religion of “done for you”.

    That false dichotomy is the basic problem with your theology. The truth is “both-and,” not “either-or.”
    Yes, God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. But what he does for us is, precisely, to enable us to do what needs to be done.

  297. Father Kimel: Re your post #286

    “Does Trent leave open the question whether God gives prevenient grace in such a way that it cannot be ultimately and effectually resisted? Augustinians and Thomists will no doubt read the passage in a way that supports the irresistibility of grace with regard to initial justification, yet there remains the qualification “forasmuch as he is also able to reject it.”

    Here is my thought on this, for what its worth.

    Consider the case of infant Baptism. Is it possible for the infant to resist the grace received by the Sacrament of Baptism? No, but then again, the infant cannot exercise his free will to resist the grace being given. Only after the infant reaches the age of reason does the possibility exist for rejecting the grace received in the Sacrament of Baptism. In the case of infant baptism, the sacramental grace of Baptism is irresistible, and any prevenient grace that was received by the infant before the Sacrament of Baptism was administered would also be irresistible.

    Now consider the case of a non-baptized adult. The Catholic Church, because she rejects Semi-Pelagianism, teaches that the non-baptized adult could not even desire to become a Christian without first receiving what you have called “prevenient grace”. In the case of the non-baptized adult, you raise an interesting question.

    What you have called prevenient grace is also sometimes called healing grace. In order for a man that is born in original sin to make the choice to become a Christian, he needs to receive healing grace before he can make an unimpeded choice to become a Christian. In my opinion, the healing graces received by the pre-catechumen would be actual graces that liberates the will from some of the effects of the Fall. After receiving healing grace, the choice that one ultimately makes about whether to accept or reject Christianity is a choice made without coercion of the will. IOW, healing graces are given as unmerited gifts by God, but because they are gifts freely given, the possibility of rejection of the gifts is a real possibility.

    Calvinism’s “irresistible grace”, it seems to me, teaches that the non-baptized adult is coerced by irresistible grace to become a Christian. Irresistible grace doesn’t liberate man’s will from the detrimental effects of the Fall, instead, “irresistible grace” destroys man’s will and makes him become a Christian without any freely made choice on his part.

    One more point about healing grace. Consider that in both the Rite of Baptism of Infants and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults that there are prayers of exorcism within these Rites (prayers of exorcism that are always said before the Sacrament of Baptism is given to either infants or adults). In my opinion, the prayers of exorcism that are in these Rites exist to give healing graces to the person that is suffering from wounds brought about by the Fall.

  298. mateo:

    I agree with almost everything you say. But it needs a qualification: given the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the concept of prevenient healing grace is not applicable to the Mother of God. I’m inclined to say that, although she always had the liberty of the blessed, and needed to undergo spiritual growth, there came a point at which her being kecharitomene rendered her unable to sin. After all, the tradition of both East and the West have held that she was sinless, and it would be a rather remarkable coincidence if she just happened never to sin.

    Best,
    Mike

  299. Johannes (re:#288 and 289),

    I didn’t write comment #283 or #285. You must be referring to #287.

    I don’t deny that good works are a “fruit of faith.” I deny that they are *only* a fruit of faith, as Jason asserts. I deny that works play no role in our justification, because Jesus, Paul, and James deny it, in their many statements on the absolute necessity of good works, in one’s Christian life, in order for one to stand justified before God. Good works are a fruit of faith. They help to distinguish a living faith from a dead one. However, they are not *only* a fruit of faith, in that they play no part in our final justification, as Jason wants to say.

    I’ll have to think more on your statement that “Surely a non-Christian can perform objectively good works.” It would depend on in what sense you meant “non-Christian” and “objectively good works.” It would seem, from the Biblical witness, that for the non-Christian who hears the truth about Christ, presented clearly, and who correctly understands, and yet defiantly rejects that truth– for such a person, none of his/her works are regarded as “objectively good works” by God.

    Now, there may well be many non-Christians who don’t fit the above description. We must share the truth about Christ with them, if they have not already heard it and/or rightly understood it. If we are utterly unable to share the truth about Christ with them (either directly or by funding missionaries), then we must simply pray and entrust them to the mercy of God. However, I think it is best not to simply state that non-Christians can do “objectively good works” and leave it at that. Important qualifications are needed. Which non-Christians? All? Some? In which contexts?

  300. Jason,

    I don’t want to ignore anything that you wrote to me in your reply. Other people, though, have addressed your reply, before I could, and have done so well. I will look forward to seeing your replies to Sean, Johannes, David, and Michael. On your assertion that the Catholic Church is “semi-Pelagian,” please see the following article, which directly addresses that very subject: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/08/is-the-catholic-church-semi-pelagian/

    As David Pell stated in #295, all of the verses which you quoted above (in #292)are completely compatible with Catholic teaching. In fact, as part of the Bible, the verses which you quoted help to *form* Catholic teaching, because God, working through witness of the apostles, used the Catholic Church to write and to canonize the Bible.

    Humanly speaking, Catholics wrote the New Testament– which is why it cannot be rightly understood, as a whole, outside of Sacred Tradition. Protestants have numerous, widely varying interpretations of New Testament texts (including the ones you quoted), because they are trying to read and understand the NT, outside of the Sacred Tradition in which it was composed.

    I’ll provide a few examples. Strong, Puritanesque, Calvinist churches exhort their members to carefully examine their lives, for good works and other signs of salvation, and to do so periodically. Lutherans, and less “Puritanesque” Calvinists, such as Michael Horton, are more apt to tell Christians not to look so much at their works, but to look at the Cross and to Christ’s work there, for confidence in their salvation.

    Jason, I have been a member of Protestant churches which, respectively, teach those two different views of works in the Christian life, and how to look at (or *not* look so much at) one’s works, in order to ascertain one’s calling and election. The difference is fairly great, in regard to how one thinks about and lives the Christian life. How is one to know which view of works is “Biblical”– the more Puritan-like one, more given to introspection (which accords with what I was taught in my Reformed Baptist church) or the Lutheran, or less Puritan-like Calvinist, view? Which view is the “Biblical” one, and how does one know? The reason that I ask is, both Lutherans and Puritans claim(ed) that sound Biblical exegesis brought them to their greatly differing views of works.

    Again, I’m not meaning to ignore anything that you wrote to me in #292. Other people have answered most of your statements and questions therein. I hope that you will engage with those people. As for the teaching of mainstream Reformed exegetes on the second chapter of James, in regard to justification, I specifically never claimed to have read every Reformed exegete on the subject? Who has read every one? Who has such time to do so? I said that every mainstream Reformed exegete *that I have ever read or heard* takes the reading of James on justification that you claim to be “silly,” and which no right-thinking exegete should supposedly take. I haven’t read every exegete on the subject. However, the question stands. How do you know that the Lutherans are right? The Puritans disagreed with them fairly strongly on works and other issues.

  301. Christopher, yes, I was referring to your #287. Funny thing is I mistakenly referred to two comments written by me. Either some comment renumbering goes on while comments are still “waiting for moderation” or (more likely) I have to be more careful typing numbers.

    Re my statement:

    Clearly by “good works” we mean “works of charity whereby the faithful grows in God’s love”. Surely a non-Christian can perform objectively good works.

    The second sentence turned out as ambiguous as it could get, but I did NOT intend “objectively good works” to mean the same as “good works” in the first sentence. By “objectively” I meant regarding the act itself as seen from another human, independently from whether those works will be rewarded by God or not. Which is such a no brainer I shouldn’t have even mentioned it. Obviously a Buddhist can do works of mercy (visit a sick, etc.)

    So I did not say anything about whether by performing those works this Buddhist grows in God’s love and consequently augments the eternal reward waiting for him. Obviously in the first case you mention (truth heard, understood and rejected) he definitely does not, exactly as you say. The second case (your last paragraph) is the topic of “invincible ignorance”, “implicit desire”, etc. whose treatment in my view would be off-topic in this thread.

  302. Michael Liccone: I agree with almost everything you say. But it needs a qualification: given the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the concept of prevenient healing grace is not applicable to the Mother of God.

    I agree. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary, at her birth, was preserved from the stain of Original Sin by special grace from God. I can’t imagine why she would need the healing graces that men born in a state of original sin need to receive before they can give their “yes” to God.

    Adam and Eve also didn’t need healing graces before the Fall. Although Adam and Eve weren’t conceived without the stain of original sin, they were created without the stain of original sin. Adam and Eve, before the Fall, also possessed the preternatural gift of lack concupiscence. In Adam’s sanctified state in Original Justice, Adam could exercise his free will to be either obedient or disobedient to God. Adam freely chose disobedience and brought death into God’s creation. Adam’s disobedience brought about a certain bondage in the Kingdom of Darkness for himself and his progeny (Mary and Jesus excepted). Jesus came to free men from that bondage, and that is why some people needed exorcism by Jesus before they could receive the Gospel.

    Michael Liccone: I’m inclined to say that, although she [Mary] always had the liberty of the blessed, and needed to undergo spiritual growth, there came a point at which her being kecharitomene rendered her unable to sin. After all, the tradition of both East and the West have held that she was sinless, and it would be a rather remarkable coincidence if she just happened never to sin.

    Interesting thought. Mary, like Adam and Eve, was also given the preternatural gift of lack of concupiscence. So unlike us, Mary never had to struggle with concupiscence. Which is not to say that Mary didn’t have to live a life of faith and cooperate with extraordinary graces given to her so that she could manifest the obedience of faith. Nor does Mary’s lack of concupiscence mean that Mary never had to suffer from the temptations of the devil, since Jesus also was born with the lack of concupiscence, and Jesus suffered the temptations of the Devil.

    I think that Mary continually cooperated with the extraordinary graces that she received throughout her life, and her ever increasing sanctity brought her into an ever increasing union of love with God that made it more and more difficult to for her to say “no” to God. I suppose that I am inclined to think that Mary could have made a choice against God at anytime in her life. During her life on earth, IMO, it was Mary’s continuous and perfect “yes” to the will of God that makes her the model of Christian perfection.

  303. Johannes / Christopher – Yes comments can get re-numbered if a comment gets approved out of chronological order. Sorry for the confusion.

  304. Johannes (re:#301)

    I understand and affirm what you wrote, on all counts.

  305. @296- What remains to be done?

    @all- If Mary was immaculately concieved and sinless why then does she call Jesus her saviour? Why does Revelation 12 say she experienced pain in giving birth to Jesus? If she was without sin then she should not have experienced pain in giving birth to Jesus? If Mary can be immaculately concieved then why is not everyone immaculately conceived? It is not necessary for Mary to be immaculately conceived for Jesus to be immaculately conceived because sin is passed through the father and not the mother. Jesus was concieved by the Holy Spirit so He had no sin.

  306. Jason,

    Mary’s immaculate conception does not mean that she was without need of Christ. The Catechism said that she was preserved from the stain of original sin through a special act of grace at the moment of conception. This is why she can still call Jesus her savior.

    Your point about having pain just doesn’t make any sense. Jesus was without sin in an even more fundamental way than Mary was, yet He experienced pain in this world, much more pain (I would assume) than when Mary gave birth to Him.

    It doesn’t seem to me like you have taken the time to really learn and understand our positions. You’ve shown this already with justification and now with Mariology. You have been throwing out a bunch of one-liners as if they’re going to catch us off guard, or show us how our positions can’t account for them, when anyone who has actually looked at our positions can see that your one-liners sound like the oversimplifications of a fundamentalist who is just trying to write as off without having to deal with reality more than someone who is really looking to understand what we believe before trying to refute it. That’s just my two cents. I’ll let someone else answer the “question” about the “necessity” of the Immaculate Conception.

  307. Jason,

    Where in Scripture does it say that “sin is passed through the father and not the mother”?

  308. Jason, when I began exploring many of these Catholic teachings, I went directly to the sources. Concerning St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception, for example, I read Pope Pius the IX’s “Ineffabilis Deus” in which you’ll find these words:

    “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

    With the Internet, our ability to research and verify info is limitless! peace. herbert

  309. 1) If Mary was immaculately conceived and sinless why then does she call Jesus her saviour?

    From Pius IX’s Bull Ineffabilis, 1854: “the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin”.

    From John Paul II’s audience on June 12, 1996 at http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2bvm23.htm

    [Start of quote]

    The Virgin Mother received the singular grace of being immaculately conceived “in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race”, that is, of his universal redeeming action.

    The text of the dogmatic definition does not expressly declare that Mary was redeemed, but the same Bull Ineffabilis states elsewhere that “she was redeemed in the most sublime way”. This is the extraordinary truth: Christ was the redeemer of his Mother and carried out his redemptive action in her “in the most perfect way” (Pius XII’s Fulgens corona, 1953), from the first moment of her existence. The Second Vatican Council proclaimed that the Church “admires and exalts in Mary the most excellent fruit of the Redemption” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 103).

    [End of quote]

    2. Why does Revelation 12 say she experienced pain in giving birth to Jesus?

    First, the woman in Rev 12 is not only Mary, but also, and perhaps primarily, the community of the faithful. There is no contradiction in this, because Mary is “type” of the Church, not in the sense of the figures or types of the Old Testament, but in the sense that in her the spiritual reality proclaimed and represented is completely fulfilled. (http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2BVM58.HTM)

    Secondly, the “giving birth” refers not the physical birth of Jesus, but to the birth of the “total Christ” (Jesus + the Church). That happened throuth the Cross, at the foot of which Mary experienced undescribable pain.

    3. If she was without sin then she should not have experienced pain in giving birth to Jesus?

    First, the “every stain of original sin” from which she was preserved free means original sin plus its spiritual consequences, the gravest of which is separation from God. It does not include the temporal consequences of sin: suffering, illness, death.

    [start of digression]
    BTW, it does not even include concupiscence. John Paul II said as much in the June 12, 1996 audience linked above:

    “Pius IX’s definition refers only to the freedom from original sin and does not explicitly include the freedom from concupiscence. Nevertheless, Mary’s complete preservation from every stain of sin also has as a consequence her freedom from concupiscence, a disordered tendency which, according to the Council of Trent, comes from sin and inclines to sin (DS 1515).”

    So, the belief that Mary was preserved free from concupiscence is not “de fide” (though it is a generally accepted doctrine). What is “de fide” is, in addition to the Immaculate Conception, that by the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.
    [end of digression]

    Back to the temporal consequences of sin, Mary’s (hypothetical) preservation from them is not even generally accepted doctrine. John Paul II said as much in the audience of June 25, 1997 at http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2BVM53.HTM

    “It is true that in Revelation death is presented as a punishment for sin. However, the fact that the Church proclaims Mary free from original sin by a unique divine privilege does not lead to the conclusion that she also received physical immortality.”

    Therefore, if Mary was not preserved from death she was not preserved from suffering and illness either. The fact that she did not experience pain in giving birth to Jesus was because Jesus’ birth was miraculous and virginal just as his conception was.

    4. If Mary can be immaculately conceived then why is not everyone immaculately conceived?

    Because:

    a. Only Mary has the mission of being the Mother of God’s Son.

    b. Mary is the woman spoken of in Gen 3:15, so that only in her those words had to be fully realized:
    “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.”
    If at a given moment the Blessed Virgin Mary had been left without divine grace, because she was defiled at her conception by the hereditary stain of sin, between her and the serpent there would no longer have been—at least during this period of time, however brief—that eternal enmity spoken of in the earliest tradition up to the definition of the Immaculate Conception, but rather a certain enslavement. The absolute hostility put between the woman and the devil thus demands in Mary the Immaculate Conception, that is, a total absence of sin, from the very beginning of her life.

    5. “It is not necessary for Mary to be immaculately conceived for Jesus to be immaculately conceived because sin is passed through the father and not the mother.”

    Several points here:

    a. Mary was conceived normally. She was “preemptively redeemed” at the time of her conception, and that is what her “Immaculate Conception” is about.

    b. Jesus was conceived virginally. He was completely holy and without sin, and would have still been so if:
    - He had been conceived normally, and/or
    - Mary had not been preemptively redeemed.

    c. Sin is neither passed only through the father nor only through the mother. After Adam’s and Eve’s fault, we are all born in sin.

    6. “Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit so He had no sin.”

    As I said above, Jesus would have had no sin even if He had been conceived in the usual way.

  310. A quick question for clarification. Is it not possible that Mary was indeed immaculately conceived, but either A) didn’t know it or B) knew that God was her savior somehow anyway. In either case, Mary would have called God her savior, even if she didn’t understand the exact way in which she was saved. Imagine how proud it would have been for her to think, “Golly, I can’t remember ever sinning in my life, so I guess I don’t need to call God my savior!” Also, consider the society in which she grew up. She was raised on the Old Testament, which is filled with cries to God for salvation from all sorts of things (Israel’s enemies, sin, etc.).

    I think the really good question that Jason brings up is… if Mary could be immaculately conceived, why not allow all of humanity to be free of original sin at birth? I would point out, however, that this is a question all Christians must deal with. Why must we all be born with original sin? It seems unfair sometimes.

    I’m not sure I know the answer, but I suspect that, if Catholicism is true, than God worked things out so that the maximum number of persons would come to Him in the end. In other words, God did not withhold an advantage that would’ve resulted in more eternal good. It may be difficult to understand in what way this works out, but there are too many variables for us to claim we KNOW how God should have done it.

  311. Jason,

    One thing that I find interesting about your comments is that when your questions are answered at great length, you will either reply with one or two sentences and a blitz of quoted Scripture, or you will go on to a completely different subject, as you have here with the Immaculate Conception. Why is that? If people are going to take the time to interact with you at length, would it not be helpful for the conversation if you tried to respond in kind?

    Answering with one or two sentences of your own, and a torrent of Scripture, isn’t always helpful, not because we don’t value Scripture here, but because you are acting as though your interpretation of Scripture is self-evident (it is not). As for going to a different subject, *instead of* really interacting with our arguments, that is obviously problematic for the discussion (unless you simply don’t have an argument with which to respond).

    On the Immaculate Conception, contrary to what many Protestants think, this doctrine was not added to the deposit of faith as a medieval corruption. The early Church held to it. For that matter, two of Reformed Protestantism’s greatest heroes, St. Augustine and Martin Luther, both held that Mary was preserved from any stain of sin, not virtue of being divine, but as a special gift of God. Luther held to this teaching even after leaving the Catholic Church. There is documentation here: http://theblackcordelias.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/martin-luther-on-the-immaculate-conception-of-mary/ I have to wonder, why is it that not one of the various denominations named after Luther holds to what the man himself believed about Mary?

  312. I meant to write, in regard to Mary, “not *by* virtue of being divine…”

  313. TDC (re:#310),

    Mary was still a human being, not divine, as was Jesus, so for that very reason, Mary’s preservation by God from any stain of original sin *entails* that He was her Savior. If she had been divine, as was her Son, she obviously would not have needed a Savior. God preserved her from original sin and enabled her to live a sinless life as a non-divine human being. It is in that sense that He was her Savior.

  314. TDC,

    Sorry, I should have answered your (and Jason’s) other question in the last comment. I got distracted; mea culpa. :-)

    The Catholic Church’s overall teaching on Mary (not solely the Immaculate Conception, by any means, but including it) came as a result of the Church’s reflection on the implications of a human woman bearing the very God-man in her womb. I’m not sure of all of the intricacies of reasoning involved here, but the Church teaches that Mary was simply granted a grace, a gift, from God that no other non-divine human being ever has been, or ever will be, granted. As to why God granted that grace to her and not to the rest of the human race, I’m sure that some of the more formally trained theological minds here can answer that question for you better than I can, but I would think that Mary’s Immaculate Conception had something to do with her being the woman who bear the Incarnation in her womb.

  315. the woman who *would* bear the Incarnation in her womb, that is…

  316. Gentlemen:

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to plead guilty to introducing, with my reply to mateo (#298), the topic of the Immaculate Conception into this thread. In my experience, once that doctrine is mentioned in a theological discussion, it becomes almost impossible to discuss much else. And so this thread has gone somewhat off track.

    But not entirely so. The question has been raised why God didn’t do for all of us what he did for Mary with the IC. The correct answer, though necessarily unable to dispel the mystery of God’s election, reveals a truth pertinent to discussing the concept of election.

    Part of the answer is given in the tradition cited by Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus. It was clearly “fitting” for God to become one of us by assuming human nature from a “pure vessel” who had obeyed him freely, to be sure, but almost as second nature. The first Eve, gifted with grace, heeded the devil and disobeyed God without really understanding the consequences, thus introducing sin into the world. The sin was all the more heinous because it was done against grace and without impulsion from concupiscence. The second Eve, gifted with grace, obeyed God speaking to her through the angel Gabriel without really understanding the mechanism or reality of the Incarnation, thus introducing the Savior into the world. Like all grace, the grace making that possible was consequent on the merits of a Passion that had not yet occurred in the flesh. Yet it was a uniquely special grace, befitting its uniquely special purpose, which was to save not just Mary but to bring the Savior himself into his world so that he could take it back from the Evil One.

    One cannot say, however, that it would have been equally fitting for God to have done the same for every human person. People sometimes ask, in a spirit of skepticism, why the God of miracles doesn’t do for everybody the sort of miracles that everybody can recognize as such. Some go even further, asking why God doesn’t miraculously intervene to prevent the suffering of the innocent, who die along with the guilty and often suffer more than the guilty. The answer in both cases is roughly the same. God cannot regularly do the sort of miracles people usually want without destroying the natural order he has created. Those sorts of miracles are necessarily extraordinary. In the order of grace and sin, God could not regularly exempt people from “original” sin, i.e. our loss of grace consequent on the first sin, without destroying the supernatural order. Indeed, in the actual economy, the inheritance of original sin seems to admit only one exception, unlike the natural order, which seems somewhat more plastic. That, I believe, is the main reason why it would not have been fitting for God to ensure that none of us inherit original sin or its effects.

    Now if it be asked why the necessary workings of the supernatural order are like that, I have no answer and neither does anybody else. But that is not a special difficulty raised by the doctrine of the IC. The revealed truths of faith are mysterious precisely inasmuch as what makes them intelligible can never explain why they had to be as they are rather than some other logically possible way. If it be objected that such a response is a craven flight into mystery, I point to the situation of contemporary physics. Most people are incapable of understanding much of physics as that discipline stands today; it leaves us with a number of paradoxes and mysteries, and there’s no guarantee that all of them will be resolved in a way that we would find intellectually tidy and satisfying. If that’s true of science, then a fortiori it’s true of revealed theology.

    I’ve said that the answer to the original question would shed light on the mystery of election. The light it sheds, I believe, is this: by exemplifying in her person, to a pre-eminent degree, what each and every Christian is called to be, Mary helps us to become what we are. Because of her IC, she was at her conception what each of us is at the moment after our baptisms. Her being Theotokos, “God-bearer,” both physically and in how she helped raise Jesus, is to a pre-eminent degree what each Christian disciple is called to be for the world. Her Assumption into heaven signifies that she already enjoys that fullness of redemption each of the saved will have on “the Last Day.” In virtue of being a “real symbol” of the realities of grace meant for many, she helps by divine grace to bring them about for many. Being of “the elect,” then, means having Mary as our mother.

    It also means, I believe, that many receive the grace of final perseverance well before death. The extension of the phrase ‘the elect’ is just that. And for the reasons already stated, Mary is the chief instance of that.

    Best,
    Mike

  317. @Christopher Lake:

    One thing that I find interesting about your comments is that when your questions are answered at great length, you will either reply with one or two sentences and a blitz of quoted Scripture, or you will go on to a completely different subject, as you have here with the Immaculate Conception. Why is that? If people are going to take the time to interact with you at length, would it not be helpful for the conversation if you tried to respond in kind?

    Tangentially, I want to express my gratitude towards those who, like Johannes, make clear and extensive replies to Jason’s and others’ questions. I am a Catholic convert, of about 15 years ago, but spent the first 27 years of my life in total innocence of any knowledge of Christianity; and the next 25 as a Protestant, most of that as a Calvinist. I have been learning a tremendous amount by reading the responses of persons like Johannes.

    So your responses to your interlocutor may be helping others, without your knowing it; keep it up and thanks! :-)

    jj

  318. Jason,

    In that case, I sincerely apologize for saying that you were changing the subject to the Immaculate Conception. I missed Michael’s introduction of the subject into the discussion. Mea culpa.

  319. John,

    I echo your gratitude for others’ comments , with a trajectory through life that has been quite, quite similar to yours! :-)

  320. @306- “Even before the terms “original sin” and “immaculate conception” had been defined, early passages imply the doctrines. Many works mention that Mary gave birth to Jesus without pain. But pain in childbearing is part of the penalty of original sin (Gen. 3:16). Thus, Mary could not have been under that penalty. By God’s grace, she was immaculate in anticipation of her Son’s redemptive death on the cross. The Church therefore describes Mary as “the most excellent fruit of redemption” (CCC 508).”http://www.catholic.com/library/Mary_Full_of_Grace.asp

    @307- That is the right question to ask. The Bible never talks of the world falling under the sin of Eve, only the sin of Adam. We never see in scripture where Eve’s sin is imputed. Also, the fall did not happen when Eve sinned, but Adam. See the first 5 chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Romans.
    Romans 5:12 (NASB)
    12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—

    Also, we know that we get our soul from our parents.
    Hebrews 7:9–10 (NASB)
    9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes,
    10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

    @308- I don’t see how that proves anything.

    @309 and 306- I realize it is also allegory for the church the the persecution we have endured throughout the ages but it clearly is using Mary as an illustration for this. I see your point that if Mary were sinless it would not mean that she would not experience pain in childbirth but there is a Catholic Tradition that she did not experience pain in giving birth and if Catholic tradition is equal with scripture then it should square up perfectly but it just simply does not.

    @310
    “I think the really good question that Jason brings up is… if Mary could be immaculately conceived, why not allow all of humanity to be free of original sin at birth? I would point out, however, that this is a question all Christians must deal with. Why must we all be born with original sin? It seems unfair sometimes.”

    Look up Traducianism and it will all make sense. Would you rather have a God who is both Just and Mercifull or one that is fair and just? Consider this, if God were both fair and just then we would all have to go to hell. Praise be to God that He is so mercifull that He send His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the whole world so that all who trust in Him will not perish but have life everlasting!

    @311- It’s because I have limited time that I give short answers. I don’t understand why you guys can’t give shorter answers. And yes I know the reformers held to the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary. I don’t see how they could have overlooked that fact that it does not square with scripture.

    @all If Mary was sinless she needs no saviour. The scriptures and reason demand this. I would also point out against the argument that she needed to be sinless to be a good mother to Jesus that she lost track of Him once and was rather worried about it. Concerning comment 318, consider any offense any of you could possibly cause me then, now, or later forgiven. I hope you all would do the same for me as I am rather blunt and we live in a place and time when people are ultra sensative.

    Just out of curiosity, have the challenges I have raised helped anyone? Has it caused anyone to crack open their Bibles?

  321. Just one more thing, you guys are all really swell. If this were an emergent blog I would have been kicked off by now! Cheers mates!

  322. Michael Liccone: I’m afraid I’m going to have to plead guilty to introducing, with my reply to mateo (#298), the topic of the Immaculate Conception into this thread. In my experience, once that doctrine is mentioned in a theological discussion, it becomes almost impossible to discuss much else. And so this thread has gone somewhat off track. …. The first Eve, gifted with grace, heeded the devil and disobeyed God without really understanding the consequences, thus introducing sin into the world. The sin was all the more heinous because it was done against grace and without impulsion from concupiscence. The second Eve, gifted with grace, obeyed God speaking to her through the angel Gabriel without really understanding the mechanism or reality of the Incarnation, thus introducing the Savior into the world. Like all grace, the grace making that possible was consequent on the merits of a Passion that had not yet occurred in the flesh.

    Mea culpa for my own role in taking this thread off topic. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is certainly worthy of its own thread, and I hope that CTC will open up that topic for discussion someday. Your point above about Eve falling from a state of grace is related to the CTC thread “Pelagian Westminister?”

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/pelagian-westminister/

    There are several things I would like to respond to in your last post, but I think it would be best to do that in a different thread. Your statement, “Like all grace, the grace making that possible was consequent on the merits of a Passion that had not yet occurred in the flesh”, brings up several questions for me. One, Adam and Eve were given supernatural grace before the Fall – was that grace “consequent on the merits of a Passion that had not yet occurred in the flesh”? If the Fall had not occurred, would the grace necessary for Adam and Eve to become “fully divinized” have come through the Incarnation of the Word in the terrestrial paradise? Had the Fall not occurred, would Mary still have been the vessel of the Incarnation in the terrestrial paradise? I have more questions I would like to ask you, but let us leave them unanswered for now. Perhaps you could write a “guest contribution” essay for CTC where you elucidate the problems with Calvin’s pre-Fall Pelagianism, Eve’s fall from grace, whether Mary was always intended by God to have a unique role as the Mother of God with or without the Fall, etc.

    That said, I want to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts in the comment boxes at CTC. I have been reading your postings on the web for a long time now, and have always been impressed by both your orthodoxy and your writing skills.

    For myself, I value the opportunity CTC provides for me to make my own combox posts to CTC, as doing this makes me articulate my own thoughts more fully. For example, in this thread, Father Kimel brought up a question about irresistible grace; i.e. “Does Trent leave open the question whether God gives prevenient grace in such a way that it cannot be ultimately and effectually resisted?”

    Fr. Kimel is asking a subtle question here, and I am not sure that I really answered it very well. Now that I think about his question again, I believe that the “prevenient grace” or “healing grace” that is given to the pre-catechumen must be irresistible in some sense. The fallen man is in absolute need of healing grace in order to make a “yes” to God’s offer of sanctifying grace received through the Sacrament of Baptism. If I don’t affirm that prevenient grace is irresistible, I don’t see how I can avoid the charge of being semi-Pelagian.

    I see more clearly now that my problem with Calvinism’s “irresistible grace” isn’t about irresistibility per se, it is about how God’s grace operates on the human will. It seems to me that implicit in Calvinism’s concept of irresistible grace is the idea that irresistible grace would coerce the fallen man to become a Christian without any real choice by the man. I am saying that prevenient grace brings about a certain healing to the fallen man which allows him to make a real choice to accept or reject the sacramental grace of baptism.

  323. Jason,

    @308- I don’t see how that proves anything.

    What I shared simply provides an answer to the your question:

    @all- If Mary was immaculately concieved and sinless why then does she call Jesus her saviour?

    thanks. herbert

  324. jason: Just out of curiosity, have the challenges I have raised helped anyone? Has it caused anyone to crack open their Bibles?

    I enjoy responding to these types of challenges. Your comment about cracking open the Bible is revelatory of where you are coming from. My immediate response to that comment is that I don’t have any problems with what is written in the Bible. What I have a problem with are your interpretations of what is written in the Bible.

    Would you please answer these questions?

    1). Do you believe that your interpretations of the Bible are infallible?

    2). If you aren’t making a claim of personal infallibility, then do you accept that, however remote it may seem to you at present, that some of your interpretations could be wrong?

    3). Where does the Bible explicitly teach Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura?

    4). If you can’t show me where the doctrine of sola scriptura is explicitly taught in the Bible, why should I accept Luther’s sola scriptura doctrine?

    Direct answers to these questions would be most appreciated!

  325. Jason #320: “If Mary was sinless she needs no saviour. The scriptures and reason demand this.”

    Let’s try once again to explain the definition:

    “Mary, from the first moment of her conception, … in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin”.

    An ordinary person is created, at the moment of conception, in a state of original sin, deprived of original holiness and justice. When that person is baptized, the merits of Jesus Christ are applied to him/her and he/she is not only purified from all sins (original and personal if there were), but also made a “partaker of the divine nature”: an adopted son/daughter of God, member of Jesus Christ and coheir with Him, and temple of the Holy Spirit.

    In the case of St Mary, the (foreseen) merits of Jesus Christ were applied to her at the very moment of her conception. Or even more precisely, her soul was created with the (foreseen) merits of Jesus Christ already applied to it, as if she had already been baptized.

    Is it clear that it was thanks to the merits of Jesus that St Mary was created “in righteousness and holiness” right in her conception? Is it clear that Jesus WAS her saviour?

  326. Jason #320: “there is a Catholic Tradition that she did not experience pain in giving birth and if Catholic tradition is equal with scripture then it should square up perfectly but it just simply does not.”

    Though the belief that Jesus birth was miraculous and virginal (and therefore painless) is from Tradition, it squares up perfectly with Scripture. In fact, in my view it provides the most plausible way to make sense of two otherwise puzzling points in Luke’s account of the Nativity:

    1. “she gave birth to her firstborn son. 3 She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,” (Lk 2: 7)

    Why “she” alone wrapped and laid the baby? Why didn’t Joseph help, if his wife had just gone through a normal laborious and painful birth work?

    2. “So they (the shepherds) went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.” (Lk 2: 16-18)

    Who were those “all who heard it”? The expression does not fit if they were just Mary and Joseph. And they could not have been the Magi because “they saw the child with Mary his mother” “on entering the house” (Mt 2:11), not in a cave with a manger. So, who else was in the cave with Mary and Joseph when the shepherds arrived?

    Putting reason at the service of faith, this is in my view what happened:

    “While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her child” (Lk 2:6). Since Joseph could not reasonably have expected, or even imagined, that Jesus’ birth was going to be miraculous and virginal just as his conception, he did what was reasonable for him to do: went to town (Bethlehem) and looked for midwives to assist Mary with her birth work. Probably he did that within his own family, i.e. people whom he could trust.

    Meanwhile, Jesus’ miraculous and virginal birth took place in the cave, so that Mary had no problem handling it without any help. So when Joseph came back with the midwives, Mary was fresh and nursing Jesus as if she had not been through the slightest birth work, which in fact was the case.

    And shortly afterwards, the shepherds arrived, and told the message they had been given by the angel to Mary, Joseph, and the midwives whom Joseph had fetched to assist Mary with her birth work, who probably were his relatives, and who now knew from the shepherds that the child was “a savior who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk 2:11).

  327. Jason:

    Since I read the Bible every day, I didn’t need your encouragement to “crack open” my Bible. What I’ve learned from your “challenges” is that you are unable to distinguish divine revelation from your own interpretation of that collection of writings.

    Best,
    Mike

  328. @Jason:

    Just out of curiosity, have the challenges I have raised helped anyone? Has it caused anyone to crack open their Bibles?

    Jason, I kind of thought this was a bit odd. Do you imagine that we don’t read the Bible? Or that we had never considered those passages you refer to? For goodness’ sake, many of us were exactly where you seem to be for many years. Shouldn’t it occur to you that we think we have better understanding of those passages than you have? I mean, we thought as you thought, then … as we believe … learned more.

    For what it’s worth, I have read the Bible maybe 40 times through – the New Testament almost always in Greek, since I read Greek, the Old Testament a couple of times through in Hebrew (and Aramaic and Greek where relevant – Greek for those bits you don’t think are Scripture), but more in English. I don’t think you are going to get anywhere with those on this blog by suggesting that we just need to read and think about those passages, as though it was for the first time or something!

    Sheesh! Think, man, about the sort of people you are dealing with!!

    jj

  329. Jason (320):

    And yes I know the reformers held to the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary. I don’t see how they could have overlooked that fact that it does not square with scripture.

    To give a short answer, what Mike said. In other words, you’re leaving out the key component of your belief here, which should read: “I don’t see how they could have overlooked the fact that it does not square with my interpretation of scripture.”As for Mary, you seem not to have actually read anything said above. Mary was sinless because she has a savior. It says as much in the quotation you offer in response to #306 above:

    By God’s grace, she was immaculate in anticipation of her Son’s redemptive death on the cross. The Church therefore describes Mary as “the most excellent fruit of redemption.”

    You don’t have to agree with it, but at least treat it honestly: the Catholic teaching is that Mary was immaculately conceived by a miraculous application of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. It is because of the cross that she was sinless, Jesus was every bit her savior as He is ours.

  330. Jason (reply 320),

    Look up Traducianism and it will all make sense. Would you rather have a God who is both Just and Mercifull or one that is fair and just? Consider this, if God were both fair and just then we would all have to go to hell. Praise be to God that He is so mercifull that He send His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the whole world so that all who trust in Him will not perish but have life everlasting!

    Traducianism does not solve the problem. It describes the process through which God allows souls to be created (and many Christians disagree on how this works). It does not answer the question of WHY God would use that process rather than another that avoids the transmission of original sin.

    My statement that it seems unfair was a little unclear. Let me clarify. It is often seen as unJUST. People sometimes argue that the fact we are all tainted through Adam’s sin is unjust. I’m not saying it is actually unjust, but that this objection of “why didn’t God save us all from original sin” applies to all Christians. Traducianism doesn’t answer the question, unless you have a good reason why God has to create in this way rather than another way.

    @all If Mary was sinless she needs no saviour. The scriptures and reason demand this. I would also point out against the argument that she needed to be sinless to be a good mother to Jesus that she lost track of Him once and was rather worried about it.

    Catholics say that Mary was saved falling into sin in the first place. That is a form of saving. You can save a person by healing them, or preventing them from being harmed in the first place. Mary did not sin, but was saved by being prevented from falling to original sin. You may not agree with this, but it does not go against reason.

  331. mateo (#322):

    Addressing me, you wrote:

    Your statement, “Like all grace, the grace making that possible was consequent on the merits of a Passion that had not yet occurred in the flesh”, brings up several questions for me. One, Adam and Eve were given supernatural grace before the Fall – was that grace “consequent on the merits of a Passion that had not yet occurred in the flesh”? If the Fall had not occurred, would the grace necessary for Adam and Eve to become “fully divinized” have come through the Incarnation of the Word in the terrestrial paradise? Had the Fall not occurred, would Mary still have been the vessel of the Incarnation in the terrestrial paradise?

    I don’t know the answers to any of your questions. I haven’t even thought much about them. That’s because any answer would be purely speculative and a matter of opinion. In general, I am far less interested in theological opinions, even my own, than in understanding and defending what the Church teaches definitively. That’s more than enough work for me.

    You also wrote:

    I believe that the “prevenient grace” or “healing grace” that is given to the pre-catechumen must be irresistible in some sense. The fallen man is in absolute need of healing grace in order to make a “yes” to God’s offer of sanctifying grace received through the Sacrament of Baptism. If I don’t affirm that prevenient grace is irresistible, I don’t see how I can avoid the charge of being semi-Pelagian.

    I see more clearly now that my problem with Calvinism’s “irresistible grace” isn’t about irresistibility per se, it is about how God’s grace operates on the human will. It seems to me that implicit in Calvinism’s concept of irresistible grace is the idea that irresistible grace would coerce the fallen man to become a Christian without any real choice by the man. I am saying that prevenient grace brings about a certain healing to the fallen man which allows him to make a real choice to accept or reject the sacramental grace of baptism.

    I agree with all that. I would add only that one bit of evidence for your conclusion is the traditional belief that baptized infants who die before reaching the age of reason, and thus before becoming capable of freely choosing to sin, go straight to heaven.

    Best,
    Mike

  332. Jason #320: “there is a Catholic Tradition that she did not experience pain in giving birth and if Catholic tradition is equal with scripture then it should square up perfectly but it just simply does not.”

    When I replied to this in #326, I forgot to mention that there is a MUCH more direct, less speculative way in which the Catholic belief that Jesus’ birth was miraculous and virginal squares up perfectly with Scripture. It’s in Psalm 22, the one Jesus was reciting when on the cross. First half of verse 9 (10 in NAB), according to 4 translations to clear any doubt:
    NAB: Yet You drew me forth from the womb,
    NAS: Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb;
    NIV: Yet You brought me out of the womb;
    ESV: Yet You are He who took me from the womb;

    Does this square up with an ordinary birth? Would a person that was born in an ordinary, natural way say to God “Yet You are He who took me from the womb”? Doesn’t it give a clue, and a really strong one, that Jesus’ birth involved a special intervention of God?

  333. Fr. Kimel is asking a subtle question here, and I am not sure that I really answered it very well. Now that I think about his question again, I believe that the “prevenient grace” or “healing grace” that is given to the pre-catechumen must be irresistible in some sense. The fallen man is in absolute need of healing grace in order to make a “yes” to God’s offer of sanctifying grace received through the Sacrament of Baptism. If I don’t affirm that prevenient grace is irresistible, I don’t see how I can avoid the charge of being semi-Pelagian.

    I don’t know how subtle my question was, but it is certainly one with which I continue to wrestle. The heresy of “semi-Pelagianism” is often invoked in Catholic/Protestant discussions, but unlike the parent heresy of Pelagianism, I find it difficult to precisely state the alleged heresy, particularly in light of the Eastern teaching on synergism. The East never received the Second Synod of Orange and continues to assert an understanding of grace and human freedom that many Augustinians, whether Catholic, Reformed, or Lutheran, would judge as “semi-Pelagian”; yet the Catholic Church has never, at least to my knowledge, accused the Orthodox Church as being guilty of “semi-Pelagianism.” So what is the real heresy? How and where does it manifest itself in preaching and prayer?

    My suspicion is that semi-Pelagianism is tied up with various Augustinian construals of absolute or limited predestination–hence the strong Reformed condemnation of it. But as one respected Catholic theolgian, Henri Rondet, has noted, the past 1500 years must be seen as a purification of the Augustinian contribution to the Latin tradition. Today the preachers and theologians of the Catholic Church insist that God truly desires the eternal salvation of human being and provides ample and sufficient grace to every human being to turn to him in faith and repentance. If this is so, it is hard, at least for me, to defend the irresistibility of prevenient grace, particularly in light of the passage from Trent, cited above, which seems to state that man retains the freedom to reject prevenient grace. An irresistible grace that can be resisted can hardly be described as irresistible. Some other language is needed.

    I know that this website is principally concerned with Reformed/Catholic discussion, but it would be wonderful, and helpful, to have a Catholic/Orthodox discussion on synergism and semi-Pelagianism. Is the East “semi-Pelagian”? And if it is, is that a bad thing and why?

  334. Johannes: In the case of St Mary, the (foreseen) merits of Jesus Christ were applied to her at the very moment of her conception. Or even more precisely, her soul was created with the (foreseen) merits of Jesus Christ already applied to it, as if she had already been baptized.

    I am not sure that one can assert that Dogma of the Immaculate Conception teaches definitively that Mary was born “as if she had already been baptized.”

    The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is this: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”

    It seems to me that if Mary was born “as if she had already been baptized”, then she was born a Catholic, and she was never a Jew.

    The dogma of the Immaculate Conception definitively teaches that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that Mary was born “as if she had already been baptized”; the dogma may only mean that she was born without the stain of original sin, just as Adam and Eve, before the Fall, were without the stain of original sin.

    Is the state of grace possessed by Adam and Eve before the Fall greater than, less than, or equal to the state of grace possessed by the person who has just received the graces of the Sacrament of Baptism? From what I have been taught, the state of grace of the person that has just been baptized is a higher order of grace than that possessed by Adam and Eve before the Fall. Which makes sense to me, because the baptized person is born into a created reality where the Word has become flesh, whereas Adam and Eve were dwelling in a created reality where the Word had not become flesh. The Incarnation is union of uncreated divinity with created reality, and it is through union of the Word and the flesh that the created reality is elevated to a higher state of being.

  335. Jason re: you’re #320 particularly your response to Christopher Lake

    @311- It’s because I have limited time that I give short answers. I don’t understand why you guys can’t give shorter answers.

    along with other thoughts applicable to that thread of the conversation.

    You’ve been the only vocal Protestant in the room for much of the last week. Good job hanging in there! And everyone here recognizes you can respond adequately to 8 separate replies to each comment you post.

    In my opinion you would fair better if you didn’t try to respond to everything. It is acceptable to say “I’ll get back to you on that” or even “I just don’t have time to address that right now.” Then focus on one or two particular points and make your best response. By responding to everything you keep the comments snowballing and don’t make any progress in the conversation. And the result is that you get another round of “piling on” from commentators on every post you write.

    As for the length of the Catholic Responses you’ll have to get used to that if you really want to dialogue with Catholics. One aspect of this phenomena is that within historical Christianity itself that although the straight facts are simple, the explanations and implications are quite deep. Another aspect is in the relationship to Protestantism (in general) and the gulf that divides us; in order to have a chance of avoiding miscommunication and actually making a Catholic understanding make sense in a Protestant perspective a lot of foundation needs to be laid.

    In my observation the style of debate the typifies Protestant interactions with Catholicism is actually designed to use this exact phenomena to the Protestant advantage. What key thinkers here at C2C have done is establish a forum that directly confronts and disables that tactic. This is WHY the tactic of argumentation you have probably had some success with other places is failing you here.

    The typical Protestant style relies on 3 basic elements. 1st scripture with the forced assumption of perpescuity – that the meaning is obvious a 2nd Ignoring nuance or complexity in the Catholic Position (basically creating strawmen) and/or leveling “heavy duty” accusations (much easier to charge “Pallagianism” than to defend against the charge) 3rd the shot-gun approach (or the juggling approach) which is bringing up or tossing into the discussion additional issues diffusing the focus of the debate. A Protestant reasonably adept at these tactics can with relatively little effort on their part make the Catholic do a lot of work on defense. To these techniques the better educated and more skilled will add references to Protestant Theologians that they can be assure the Catholic has never read and use of unnecessarily arcane or overly technical language.

    Fundamentally this approach relies heavily on two basic facts about the opposition. 1) the explanations of Catholic positions are going to be fairly long (especially when arising from an accusation of being “unbibilical” or heretical) and 2) Catholics aren’t going to to know Chapter and verse for 20 prooftexts of the Catholic position off the top of their head. The Protestant can then “shoot fish in a barrel” by raising objections to this or that part of the Catholic explanation or leveling new charges at intermediate points.

    I will readily admit that this style is often very effective in some ways. It may win a number of converts from those easily buffaloed and poorly informed. Frequently it forces Catholics out of the conversation and lets the Protestant feel he has ‘won’ and reassures bystanding Protestants of the superiority of their theology. Occasionally a Catholic may seriously attempt to engage in debate but will find himself continually working his tail off to reply to an onslaught of accusations and questions while the Protestant does very little work actually defending his assumptions.

    So Jason, what you are running into here at C2C is the effective Catholic response to the typical Protestant driven dialogue which is to not submit to the 1st tactic of Protestant debate – the assumed Perspecuity of Scripture combined with a body of Catholics who DO know scripture very well, and who can and will spot and point out a strawman and will brush aside or ignore extraneous accusations like you

    You don’t see any of these men in the scripture whipping themselves or starving themselves to make up for their sins as the monks do.

    from your #292

    Basically, this is a different arena from where the typical Protestant Style works.

  336. Jason, Re: A question or two you asked in #292

    Somewhere earlier in this discussion someone said that Rick Warren is a Calvinist. That is silly as he is completely Semi-Pelagian using the golf analogy of the “Mulligan”. If Rick Warren, a supposed Calvinist, can fall into Pelagianism along with the vast majority of American Evangelicals, can not Rome also fall into Semi-Pelagianism? At the root is an obscured distinction between the Law and the Gospel. There are only two religions, the religion of “do” and the religion of “done for you”

    We have to step out of the Protestant world view in a couple of ways. First is is certainly possible for individuals and Pastors and Priests and even Bishops to fall into error and it unfortunately happens all the time. It is even possible for groups of people to fall into error together or follow a Bishop or a Theologian into error (you might argue the Jesuits or the Charismatics, or the SSPX etc. etc.). So Fr. Bob (on his own apart from the whole Church) is no more infallible than Rick Warren, BUT anyone can compare what Fr. Bob, or the Jesuits or the Charismatics or the SSPX teaches to what the Church Teaches and can determine if it is consistent and in accord with the Catholic Faith. What standard do you have for determining that Rick Warren is or is not a Calvinist or that he is or is not a heretic?

    In the Protestant world of Church splits and 11 different Presbyterian groups in the USA alone you can be forgiven for thinking it easy for a “whole Church” to go off the rails. But in the Catholic framework none of those bodies actually even meets the definition of a “Church” since they have no apostolic succession, no Bishops, no valid orders etc… I’m not saying that you (as a Protestant) should find it inconceivable that the Catholic Church could fall into an error that she herself defined as an error over 1500 years ago….. But at the very least you should try to have some perspective of what that has to actually MEAN and what would have to happen for that to occur. The Catholic Church simply doesn’t hold a 1 week convention every every 5 years and rewrite it’s “confession.”

    Very bluntly what I am driving at is your implication that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is as fickle and capricious as Mega-Church Pastors.

    Of course the Catholic answer is that the Church is protected from teaching error by the Holy Spirit and you of course deny that which is why we are having this conversation. But if you want to accuse the Catholic Church of Pelagianism, make your case based on the actual teaching of the Church don’t just accuse, or allude to it, or Demand (as you did in your #232) that someone answer you unsubstantiated charge that the Catholic Church is sem-Pelegian.

    As for

    There are only two religions, the religion of “do” and the religion of “done for you”

    As you have stated it here, that is a false dichotomy. Do you read the Bible? Go to Church? Pray? Evangelize? Contribute to Charity? Vote against Abortion? Teach your Children the Faith? Sorry – but that is doing your religion.

  337. @324

    1). Do you believe that your interpretations of the Bible are infallible?
    No.
    2). If you aren’t making a claim of personal infallibility, then do you accept that, however remote it may seem to you at present, that some of your interpretations could be wrong?
    If I can be shown from scripture and plain reason that I am wrong then I change my position which is why I became a Confessional Lutheran.
    3). Where does the Bible explicitly teach Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura?
    Lets first define Sola Scriptura.
    Sola Scriptura – The Bible is the inerrant word of God and the only inerrant source of truth and doctrine regarding the one true God.

    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2010/03/webinar-refuting-brian-mclarens-claims-about-biblical-authority.html

    Download the webinar slides from above link.

    Jesus proved He is God by raising from the dead. Jesus quoted scripture as authoritative and therefore anything that contradicts it must be rejected.
    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/files/F4F081208.mp3

    John 17:17 (King James Version)
    17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

    4). If you can’t show me where the doctrine of sola scriptura is explicitly taught in the Bible, why should I accept Luther’s sola scriptura doctrine?

    See webinar slides above and listen to the following program for a full understanding of Sola Scriptura. http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/files/F4F081208.mp3

    Ask yourself what Jesus said about the scriptures.
    (Matthew 19:3–6),(Matthew 23:34–35),(Matthew 24:36–39),(Matthew 22:23–33),(Mark
    12:27),(Matthew 15:3–9; Mark 7:10–13),(John 14:22–26),(John 17:17–20),(Matthew 28:18–20),(Luke 16:27–29),(John 5:39–40),(John 20:30–31),

    “Not everything that the Lord did was written, but that which the writers
    believed was sufficient for life as well as for doctrine, so we might glow with
    the upright faith and works and virtue and in Christ Jesus, reach the kingdom
    of heaven” – Augustine

  338. @Mateo #334

    “It seems to me that if Mary was born “as if she had already been baptized”, then she was born a Catholic, and she was never a Jew.”

    Neither the Apostles nor the Jews that had been baptized by them thought that they were no longer Jews:

    “When we reached Jerusalem the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day, Paul accompanied us on a visit to James, and all the presbyters were present. He greeted them, then proceeded to tell them in detail what God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry. They praised God when they heard it but said to him, “Brother, you see how many thousands of believers there are from among the Jews, and they are all zealous observers of the law.”” (Acts 21: 17:20)

    “the dogma may only mean that she was born without the stain of original sin, just as Adam and Eve, before the Fall, were without the stain of original sin.”

    #7 of “Fulgens Corona” (Pius XII 1953), if taken isolated, might support that view:

    “Now, if at any time the Blessed Mary were destitute of Divine grace even for the briefest moment, because of contamination in her conception by the hereditary stain of sin, there would not have come between her and the serpent that perpetual enmity spoken of from earliest tradition down to the time of the solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception, but rather a certain subjection.”

    However, #8 does not:

    “Moreover, since the same holy Virgin is saluted “full of grace” and “blessed among women” (Luke I. 28, 24), by these words, as Catholic tradition has always interpreted, it is plainly indicated that “by this singular and solemn salutation, otherwise never heard of, it is shown that the Mother of God was the abode of all Divine graces, adorned with all the charisms of the Holy Spirit, yea, the treasury well nigh infinite and abyss inexhaustible of these charisms, so that she was never subjected to the one accursed” (Bull Ineffabilis Deus).”

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_08091953_fulgens-corona_en.html

  339. BTW, Mateo, in my humble view we are incurring in an unnecessary level of subtlety here, that may cause the discussion to lose its focus.

    The important point in my comment #325 was NOT whether the state of grace in which St Mary was conceived was lower than, equal to, or higher than the state of grace in which a newly baptized infant is. The point was that she was conceived free from all stain of original sin and in a state of grace BECAUSE the (foreseen) merits of Jesus Christ were applied to her at the very moment of her conception, not a nanosecond later. Or even more precisely, BECAUSE her soul was created with the (foreseen) merits of Jesus Christ already applied to it. Thus, the point was that Jesus WAS her saviour.

  340. @325- If your argument is that she had faith in the womb just as John the Baptist did then that makes perfect sense. One problem though, it implys that she was cleansed of sin which would mean that she was not sinless. It is absolutely consistant with a Calvinist view of baptism though.

    @334- The Church is all who were saved from Adam to the last day by grace through faith. The Jews who trusted the promise of Gen 3:15 and looked forward in faith to the coming Christ (just as we look back to the cross and look forward to His return)were the OT church. That is why Paul calls the church in Romans true Israel.

    @335- I am afraid that if I said I would get back to it I would forget all about it.

    @337- “What standard do you have for determining that Rick Warren is or is not a Calvinist or that he is or is not a heretic?” Even you gotta admit that Rick Warren is a rageing pelagian and heretic. All you have to do is listen to him for 15 minutes.

    “In the Protestant world of Church splits and 11 different Presbyterian groups in the USA alone you can be forgiven for thinking it easy for a “whole Church” to go off the rails. But in the Catholic framework none of those bodies actually even meets the definition of a “Church” since they have no apostolic succession, no Bishops, no valid orders etc… ”

    The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t hold up to the protestant definition of a church body either because the don’t teach salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in, for, and by Christ alone.

  341. Re the discussion on whether prevenient grace is irresistible, to the best of my reading and understanding capabilities this passage of Trent makes it crystal clear that it is NOT.

    “in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, … that is to say, from His vocation, whereby … they are called; that so they … may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it;” (VI.5)

  342. Have not read latest post yet. Just wanted to clarify my last post. 1. As far as I know all of the reformers affirmed that there is a church within the Roman Catholic Church so I am not saying that being in the Roman Catholic Church necessarily excludes one from the body of Christ. 2. There are some protestant churches (especially many Lutheran and Anglican bodies) that affirm apostolic succession and since the reformers were catholic priests they most certainly have it.

  343. One more point, if Mary were sinless then why was she afraid when the angel appeared to announce that she would give birth to Jesus? If she were sinless then she had absolutely nothing to fear.

  344. To clarify 337 question and answere “1). Do you believe that your interpretations of the Bible are infallible?
    No.”

    I would add that I do not believe the Pope’s interpretation is infallible either, nor was Luther, only the Jesus, the Apostles, and the prophets of God are infallible in such matters. However, that does not mean that we cannot understand them clearly. I would like to point out that the church fathers disagreed on many things but to hammer out the issues they went to the scriptures.

  345. Jason, Good to see you back. May God Bless us all abundantly in this conversation and may the Holy Spirit bring forth the fruits of Brotherly love among us – if not unity.

    @335- I am afraid that if I said I would get back to it I would forget all about it.

    And my suggestion is that it might be more efficient to let some things go rather than respond with less than thorough arguments. In this forum in particular there are many participants that are more than passingly familiar with the usual Protestant arguments and proof texts.

    I think you’d make more impact by picking a narrow focus and making thorough responses. Right now it looks like you are starting to run in circles.

    @337- “What standard do you have for determining that Rick Warren is or is not a Calvinist or that he is or is not a heretic?” Even you gotta admit that Rick Warren is a rageing pelagian and heretic. All you have to do is listen to him for 15 minutes.

    Here’s an example. You could easily let this go, no one here is all that concerned about whether or not Rick Warren is a Calvanist or Not or whether he is a “raging pelagian.” But if you are going to respond to it – “its obvious” just isn’t worth bothering. It is obvious – TO YOU, just as the Lutheran interpretation of scripture (at least the one that you subscribe to – How many Lutheran groups are there in the USA?) is obvious – TO YOU.

    Rick Warren contradicts your interpretation of scripture, that may be obvious but there are thousands and thousands of other “Bible believing Protestants” that interpret scripture the way he does and some of them even claim to be Calvanists.

    By what standard do you determine than Rick Warren is a pelagian heretic?

    The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t hold up to the protestant definition of a church body either because the don’t teach salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in, for, and by Christ alone.

    Again, in responding quickly you waste time by opening new avenues for dispute without accomplishing anything because you raise doctrinal questions and don’t address ecclesiology at all.

    All of this brings up another aspect of Protestant debate that I observe in general among Protestants not just in discussions with Catholics and that is the “ping-pong” method of debate. The discussion proceeds rapid fire with volley and response trading Bible vs. with Bible vs. and occasionally a quote from a Reformer or a prominent Pastor/Author. Perhaps because of the false notion of perspecuity to even attempt to make a longer argument is to admit your position is not obvious and therefor might be wrong on that grounds alone.

    Peace

  346. Jason (340):

    The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t hold up to the protestant definition of a church body either because the don’t teach salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in, for, and by Christ alone.

    Whose “protestant definition?” Yours? Presumably based on your admittedly fallible interpretation of Scripture? By what authority do you proclaim this?

  347. mateo: Do you believe that your interpretations of the Bible are infallible?
    Jason: No.

    This is a good starting point. We are not disagreeing that the Bible speaks with authority, we are disagreeing about particular interpretations of the Bible.

    mateo: If you aren’t making a claim of personal infallibility, then do you accept that, however remote it may seem to you at present, that some of your interpretations could be wrong?

    Jason: If I can be shown from scripture and plain reason that I am wrong then I change my position which is why I became a Confessional Lutheran.

    You were wrong once before, but now you are pretty sure, but not absolutely sure, that you are correct. You would be willing to change your mind again if reason could convince you. Do I have that right? You changed your position not because the Bible changed, nor did you change your position because the Bible lost its authority for you. You changed your thinking because you found other men’s interpretations of the Bible to be more reasonable to you personally. But these other men that you now follow are not making a claim of personal infallibility in their particular interpretations of the Bible. Since the Lutherans you follow make no claim that they are infallibly interpreting scripture, how do you know men you follow are the only ones correctly interpreting the Bible? There are thousands of other Protestant denominations that have serious doctrinal disagreements with confessional Lutheranism, and all these Protestants believe that they too are being scriptural and reasonable in their personal interpretations of the Bible.

    How do you account for the fact that it isn’t just the Catholics and the Orthodox that disagree with certain doctrines of confessional Lutheranism, that there are also thousands upon thousands of Protestant denominations that disagree with certain doctrines of confessional Lutheranism? Did Christ really establish a Church on earth and then leave us with no way of knowing with certainty what His church is supposed to teach?

    mateo: Where does the Bible explicitly teach Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura?

    Jason: Lets first define Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura – The Bible is the inerrant word of God and the only inerrant source of truth and doctrine regarding the one true God.

    I will accept this definition of sola scriptura.

    Luther’s novel doctrine of sola scriptura is making two claims here:

    1). The Bible is the inerrant word of God.

    There is no controversy between us here. All Catholics believe this.

    2). The Bible is the ONLY “inerrant source of truth and doctrine regarding the one true God.”

    It is the “ONLY” in the above statement that is controversial. Where are the scriptures that teach that the scriptures are the ONLY “source of truth and doctrine regarding the one true God”? If there are no scriptures that explicitly teach this “only” assertion of Luther’s doctrine, then the doctrine of sola scriptura is itself unscriptural in the sense that Luther’s “only” assertion is nowhere to be found in scriptures.

    mateo: If you can’t show me where the doctrine of sola scriptura is explicitly taught in the Bible, why should I accept Luther’s sola scriptura doctrine?

    Jason: Ask yourself what Jesus said about the scriptures. … (Matthew 19:3–6),(Matthew 23:34–35),(Matthew 24:36–39),(Matthew 22:23–33),(Mark
    12:27),(Matthew 15:3–9; Mark 7:10–13),(John 14:22–26),(John 17:17–20),(Matthew 28:18–20),(Luke 16:27–29),(John 5:39–40),(John 20:30–31)

    This is not a direct answer to my question. I asked you for the scriptures that explicitly teach that the scriptures are the “only inerrant source of truth and doctrine regarding the one true God”. Not one of the scriptures you have referenced back up Luther’s “only” claim.

    I will ask you again, if you can’t show me where the Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura is explicitly taught in the Bible, why should I accept Luther’s sola scriptura doctrine? As a Protestant, could you please explain to me why should I accept a doctrine that is nowhere taught in the Bible?

  348. Johannes: BTW, Mateo, in my humble view we are incurring in an unnecessary level of subtlety here, that may cause the discussion to lose its focus.

    To me, my point about whether or not Mary was born a Catholic goes straight to the heart of the Gospel. But it would take me quite a while to explain why I think that is so. I agree with you that having that discussion would needlessly sidetrack this thread. I have hope that CTC will someday start a thread on the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. I would enjoy picking up this conversation with you again in the future.

    A couple of points. I fully affirm the quotes you gave from Fulgens Corona and the Bull Ineffabilis Deus.

    Johannes: The important point in my comment #325 was NOT whether the state of grace in which St Mary was conceived was lower than, equal to, or higher than the state of grace in which a newly baptized infant is. The point was that she was conceived free from all stain of original sin and in a state of grace BECAUSE the (foreseen) merits of Jesus Christ were applied to her at the very moment of her conception, not a nanosecond later. Or even more precisely, BECAUSE her soul was created with the (foreseen) merits of Jesus Christ already applied to it. Thus, the point was that Jesus WAS her saviour.

    The point that Jesus is the savior of Mary is indeed important. I am saying that this idea can be defended without assuming that Mary was born “as if she had already been baptized”. IMO, assuming that Mary was born “as if she had already been baptized” is reading more into the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception than is justified by the words that proclaimed the dogma. Which is not say that as a faithful Catholic that one cannot believe that Mary was born as if she had already been baptized. My point is that the Church really has not definitively declared this to be the case, thus, one can be a faithful Catholic and either believe it or not believe it.

  349. mateo,

    According to the handy-dandy note linked at the top of every page, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is a ways off, though they’ll get there. It just isn’t foundational, which is how they’re building the argument. And that isn’t to say someone won’t post a blog about it in the meantime. :)

  350. Mateo,

    I did not use the concept that Mary was born “as if she had already been baptized” to defend the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, much less to expound a personal, presumably more precise (!) version of the doctrine, but just to help people (particularly Jason) understand it. The same goes for using the expression “preemptively redeemed”.

    I am not assuming that the spiritual state in which the Virgin was conceived was the EXACT same as the spiritual state a newly baptized infant is. I see those states, though, as ESSENTIALLY the same: free from original sin and made a “new man” sharing in divine life, an adopted son of God, member of Christ and temple of the Holy Spirit. In the case of Mary “new man” (“new self” in inclusive language) refers only to quality and not to time succession, as she never was in the state of “old man” deprived of original holiness and justice.

    If you press me to venture a personal opinion, purely speculative and not to be nailed onto the door of any church, I would say from Fulgens Corona #8 that the state of grace in which Mary was created was higher than that of a newly baptized infant. This opinion would also be in line with the generally accepted doctrine of Mary being also granted freedom from concupiscence, which was not granted to anyone else (except Jesus of course).

    Re your point about “whether or not Mary was born a Catholic”, which could more accurately be stated as “whether or not Mary was born as a member of the Church”, the Dogmatic Constitution “Lumen Gentium” states that Mary is “a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church”. Now, that statement has meaning to the extent that the Church exists, and we know that the Church was born publicly in Pentecost and mystically from the open side of Jesus on the Cross. Before then, the statement in principle does not apply, and therefore neither does your point.

    But anyway, here is my personal speculation on it (again, not to be nailed onto any door). If the Church is the assembly of those who have been redeemed by Jesus and are “in Him” (Jn 14: 20), then it could be said the the Church existed “in anticipated form” in Mary from the time of her conception, as she was redeemed by Jesus and was “in Him” since that time. Of course, before the Encarnation the Logos did not exist as the man Jesus, but Mary was still “in Him” as the Eternal and Consubstantial Son of God. Thus, while the body of the Logos made man lived in the Virgin since the moment of his conception for nine months, the soul of the Virgin lived in the Logos since the moment of her conception for her whole life.

  351. Fr. Kimel: The heresy of “semi-Pelagianism” is often invoked in Catholic/Protestant discussions, but unlike the parent heresy of Pelagianism, I find it difficult to precisely state the alleged heresy, particularly in light of the Eastern teaching on synergism.

    Here one definition of the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism:

    Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Dr. Ludwig Ott,
    Fourth Edition, May 1960, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc. Rockford, Illinois

    The Principle Errors concerning Grace

    2. Semi-Pelagianism

    This developed by way of reaction against the Augustinian doctrine of grace. … Semi-Pelagianism recognizes the supernatural elevation of man, original sin, and the necessity of inner supernatural grace for preparation for justification and for the achievement of salvation, but limits the necessity and gratuitous nature of grace. Striving to preserve the freedom of the will and the personal co-operation of man in the process of sanctification, the originators of the error came to the following conclusions:

    a) The primary desire for salvation proceeds from the natural powers of man (initium fidei, pins credulitatis affectus, pia studia).

    b) Man does not require supernatural help to persevere in virtue to the end.

    c) Man can merit de congruo the first grace by his own natural endeavours.

    Does this definition of Semi-Pelagianism and the errors it contains contradict the Eastern teaching on synergism?

  352. Needless to say, the occurrences of “Mary was born” in my last post (#350) are just colloquial for “Mary was conceived”. I’m sure that goes for the occurrences of the string in Mateo’s posts as well.

  353. Fr. Kimel: Today the preachers and theologians of the Catholic Church insist that God truly desires the eternal salvation of human being and provides ample and sufficient grace to every human being to turn to him in faith and repentance. If this is so, it is hard, at least for me, to defend the irresistibility of prevenient grace, particularly in light of the passage from Trent, cited above, which seems to state that man retains the freedom to reject prevenient grace. An irresistible grace that can be resisted can hardly be described as irresistible. Some other language is needed.

    Let me take another stab at this. Semi-Pelagianism is an assertion that the “primary desire for salvation proceeds from the natural powers of man”. That is, Semi-Pelagianism is denial that man is in a real need of actual grace before he can desire the habitual sacramental graces conferred by the Sacrament of Baptism.

    The actual grace needed by the unbaptized adult for him to desire the saving graces conferred by the Sacrament of Baptism is divisible into two categories, Antecedent Grace and Consequent Grace.

    For those following this conversation, a definition of actual grace and definitions of Antecedent Grace and Consequent Grace follows:

    Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Dr. Ludwig Ott,
    Fourth Edition, May 1960, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc. Rockford, Illinois

    1. Concept of Actual Grace

    Actual grace is a temporary supernatural act of God directed towards the spiritual power of man for the purpose of moving him to a salutary act. By reason of its temporary character actual grace is distinguished from habitual grace, and from the infused virtues, which inhere as permanent qualities in the soul. …

    2. The Nature of Actual Grace

    Actual Grace internally and directly enlightens the understanding and strengthens the will. (Sent, certa.)

    The Second Council of Orange (529) declared the following proposition to be heretical: Man, by the power of nature alone and without the enlightenment and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, can think and act as he ought to, and be saved, that is assent to the preaching of the Gospel ” Si quis per naturae vigorem bonum aliquid quod ad ealutem pertinet vitae aeternae, cogitare ut expedit, aut eligere sive salvari id est evangelicae praedicationi consentire posse confirmat absque ffluminatione et inspiratione Spiritus Sancti” (D 180). Cf. D 1791 104, 797.

    The teaching of the Church therefore is that man needs a power exceeding his natural capacity (i.e., a supernatural power), for the per-formance of salutary acts. The supernatural help of God in salutary activities extends to the two faculties of the soul, the reason and the will. Actual grace consists in a direct internal enlightenment of the understanding and a direct internal strengthening of the will. …

    § 6. Antecedent and Consequent Grace

    1. Antecedent Grace

    There is a supernatural intervention of God in the faculties of the soul, which precedes the free act of the will. (De fide.)

    In this case God works alone “in us, without us” … and produces spontaneous indeliberate acts of knowledge and will (actus indeliberati). This grace is called gratia praeveniens (also antecedens, excitans, vocans, operans).

    The Church’s teaching of the existence of antecedent grace and its necessity for the achieving of justification was defined at the Council of Trent. D 797: ” In adults the beginning of justification must proceed from the antecedent grace of God acquired by Jesus Christ (a Dei per Christum Jesum praeveniente gratia).” Cf. D. 813.

    Holy Scripture indicates the working of antecedent grace in the metaphors of standing and knocking at the door (Apoc. 3, 20), of the drawing by the Father (John 6, 44), of the invocation of God (Jcr. 17, 23 ; Ps. 94, 8).

    2. Consequent Grace

    There is a supernatural influence of God in the faculties of the soul which coincides in time with man’s free act of will. (De fide.)

    In salutary acts God and man work together. God works “in us, with us” (in nobis nobiscum ; cf. D 182), so that they are a conjoint work of God’s grace and of man’s activity under the control of his will. The grace which supports and accompanies the solutary act (having regard to the operation of grace which preceded the act of the will), is called adiuvans, concomitans, cooperans.

    The Church’s teaching regarding the reality and necessity of consequent grace is expressed in the Decree of the Council of Trent. D 797. The sinner returns to justification : ” by freely assenting to and co-operating with grace (gratiae libere assentiendo et cooperando).” D 810: ” God’s Goodness towards all men is so great that He wishes them to merit what are His gifts. . . . Who renders to everyone according to his works.” Cf. D 141.

    St. Paul emphasizes the all-importance of grace in salutary human acts : 1 Cor. 15, 10 : ” But by the grace of God I am what I am. And his grace in me hath not been void: but I have laboured more abundantly than all they. Yet not I, but the grace of God with me (gratia Dei mecum).”

    St. Augustine thus describes the operation of antecedent and subsequent grace : ” God works in man many good things to which man does not contribute ; but man does not work any good things apart from God since it is from God man receives the power to do the good things which he does ” (Contra, duas Ep. Pel. II 9, 2i = D 193). ” The Lord prepares the will, and perfects by His co-operation that which He begins by His working. For the same God works in the beginning so that we may will to do good … He willingly co-operates with the willing one and perfects him. … In order that we may will (to do good), He works without (before) us ; but if we will (to do good), and so will that in fact we do it, He works with us. But without Him Who so works that we may will (to do good) and co-operates with us when we will, we can do nothing in regard to the good works of piety ” (De gratia et lib. arb. 17, 33). Cf. St. Gregory the Great. Moral, XVI 25, 30, and the Prayer Actiones nostras.

    Here is my understanding of the above. In denying Semi-Pelagianism, the Catholic Church teaches that God must give actual grace to the unbaptized man before he can exercise his free will to desire the saving graces bestowed by the Sacrament of Baptism. The actual grace given by God is received first as Antecedent Grace followed by Consequent Grace.

    God first gives Antecedent Grace to the unbaptized man (grace also known as gratia praeveniens) which is the movement of God where God works “in us, without us”. Antecedent Grace “produces spontaneous indeliberate acts of knowledge and will.” Since Antecedent Grace produces indeliberate acts of knowledge and will, it can be said that Antecedent Grace must be irresistible.

    God follows up Antecedent Grace with Consequent Grace. This is an actual grace where God works “in us, with us.” Antecedent Grace “coincides in time with man’s free act of will.”

    Consequent grace is efficacious only if the sinner is exercising his free will “by freely assenting to and co-operating with [Consequent] grace.” Since the sinner must choose to freely assent and co-operate with Consequent Grace, Consequent Grace must therefore be resistible.

    It is interesting to me that Dr. Ludwig Ott is quoting the Council of Trent to define both Antecedent Grace and Consequent Grace, and that he quotes Augustine as a source for Church’s teaching on Antecedent Grace and Consequent Grace.

  354. Fr. Kimel and mateo:

    I hold that prevenient grace is irresistible because I believe that’s a corollary of the Catholic teaching that God offers every human person grace sufficient for salvation. We are agreed that prevenient grace is needed if we are to respond freely to grace. That’s what we must affirm to avoid semi-Pelagianism. But prevenient grace could not heal the human will enough to enable a free response to consequent grace, if such prevenient grace could be resisted to begin with.

    Some synergists reject that argument as incompatible with human freedom. I don’t think it is. The problem disappears when we realize that the mere presence of the Paschal Mystery in the world influences everybody, even those who neither know nor care about it, enough to enable a free embrace of such love and truth as they know.

  355. Jason thank you for responding to my question about why you believe that you have Scriptural support for your belief that original sin is transmitted through the father.

    You write:

    @307- That is the right question to ask. The Bible never talks of the world falling under the sin of Eve, only the sin of Adam. We never see in scripture where Eve’s sin is imputed. Also, the fall did not happen when Eve sinned, but Adam. See the first 5 chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

    Romans 5:12 (NASB)

    12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—

    However, other scriptures actually do point to the “sin of Eve.” In his Commentary to Romans (Chapter 413), Aquinas writes: “However, note that in Sirach It seems, however, that original sin entered this world not through one man, namely, Adam, but through one woman, namely, Eve, who was the first to sin “From a woman sin had its beginning and because of her we all die” (Si 25:24).”

    You may not accept Sirach, but St. Paul would have. In Romans, Paul is focusing on Adam because his point is showing that Adam prefigured Christ, but that focus doesn’t mean that he would have necessarily discounted the “sin of Eve.”

    Also, we know that we get our soul from our parents.

    Hebrews 7:9–10 (NASB)

    9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes,
    10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

    This kind of usage is described as synecdoche. See Reply to Objection 1.

    Regarding your view that sin is transmitted by the father, this obviously leads to the question of whether cloned humans generated without original sin?

    Worse still, some fraction of human births are parthogenetic – true virgin births. Are we to believe that these women so born do not share original sin?

    Further, when you write that “we know that we get our soul from our parents”, that is not entirely clear. A problem with “traducianism” is that since souls are immortal and incorruptible, it is seems unlikely that they have a mortal and corruptible immediate source.

    Certainly, you can cite some more passages about “souls” in the “loins” of ancestors, but why should we take those statements as more than literary conventions?

    But thank you for explaining to me why you would say these things that do not seem at all obvious to me.

  356. Jason (re:#320),

    The main reason that I mentioned the brevity of (many of) your responses (to lengthy comments by others) is that the issues we’re discussing here are of some complexity. They are matters of serious Biblical exegesis and theology, and also of history and philosophy. Such matters cannot *often* be easily addressed without going into some length. Of course, not *all* comments have to be several paragraphs long, but at least in my opinion, it is not very helpful when someone writes a reply to you of some length and substance, and you reply with one or two sentences and a torrent of Scriptures (with little or no exegesis of those Scriptures) to purportedly support the claims of those sentences.

    Perhaps the reason that you’re not engaging in much Biblical exegesis and argumentation, and historical and philosophical argumentation, is because you believe that the Scriptures are “self-interpreting. ” The sheer multiplicity of different interpretations, among Protestants, regarding baptism, Communion (the Lord’s Supper), eternal security (or the lack thereof), female ordination, and now, even the sinfulness of active, practiced homosexuality, should, reasonably, put to rest claims of Scripture being “self-interpreting.”

    It may also be that your replies are so short, because you are simply trying to reply to too many people at one time, and it is not really possible to have substantive discussions with four to eight people in one comment.

  357. Jason,

    In terms of short replies though, I do thank you for your quick forgiveness, regarding my wrong assumption about your changing the subject. :-) Seriously, thank you. Graciousness is not always easy to find on the internet. I am thankful for the abundant amount of it at C2C, from both Catholics and Protestants!

  358. Michael, please exegete for us the passage from Trent that has been previously cited:

    “The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.”

    To what does “forasmuch as he is also able to reject it” refer?

  359. “while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it”

    Pardon the interuption, but this seems to me to be a prevenient grace that is recieved and rejected (irresistably recieved, then resisted) (man is soaked with rain, then dries off) rather than simply rejected outright (not recieved at all, and rejected) (man puts raincoat on, then gets rained on).

    This is a fascinating discussion by the way. As someone who still thinks in terms of the “doctrines of grace” (5 points of Calvinism) but is wanting to be faithful to the magisterium, I find it immensely helpful to hear some higher level discussion on this topic. Keep it up!

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  360. Here are my 2 cents.

    Isn’t prevenient grace the concept that God comes to us first and God seeks us before we even try to seek him. That prevenient grace is that force that allows us to move towards salvation, and gives us the power to respond to God. As someone once said prevenient grace is “free for all and free in all”.

    Even though that it is present in all of us, we can reject it or squash it by our actions over a period of time or in other words we can reject it by our failure to respond.

    Norm

  361. @345- “How many Lutheran groups are there in the USA?” However many believe what is contained in the following: http://www.bookofconcord.org/

    As for Rick Warren, the standard is the Bible as to what is and is not heresy, Romans 9 rules out decision theology (it’s pelagianism) and it’s been condemned at numerous councils (which are only authoratative in so far as they agree with the Word of God). Rick Warren is no Calvinist, a Calvinist would never say Jesus died to give us a “mulligan”. If you don’t believe me read Calvin and then compare that to one of Rick Warren’s books.

    @346- Article VII of the Augsburg Confession answeres your question.
    Article VII: Of the Church.

    1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.

    2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3] the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. 4] As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.

    @347- “You were wrong once before, but now you are pretty sure, but not absolutely sure, that you are correct.”-

    Not exactly. I am absolutely sure

    “You would be willing to change your mind again if reason could convince you.”

    Again, not quite. I would be willing to change my mind if convinced from scripture primarily, and reason used as a tool to interpret the scriptures but not with reason ruling over scripture.

    “You changed your thinking because you found other men’s interpretations of the Bible to be more reasonable to you personally.”

    Not quite, I initially found Calvinism more reasonable. The scriptures forced me into Lutheranism over against my reason, which dictated that Calvinism be correct.

    “….all these Protestants believe that they too are being scriptural and reasonable in their personal interpretations of the Bible.”

    The scriptures are an objective thing and a great body of many types of literature which are to be interpretted according to a plain understanding of the text (i.e. don’t literalize alagory, don’t alogorize something that is to be take literal, don’t build theology on isolated verses, etc.), I have to set aside my personal “interpretations” and let the text correct me. True there are many protestant churches who have plenty of error and I am not slow to engage them and show it to them but if the preach the Biblical Gospel that is the number one most important thing. I won’t take communion with them but I still think they are Christians.

    “I will ask you again, if you can’t show me where the Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura is explicitly taught in the Bible, why should I accept Luther’s sola scriptura doctrine? As a Protestant, could you please explain to me why should I accept a doctrine that is nowhere taught in the Bible?”

    If you looked up those passages you would see that Jesus treated the scriptures as an inerrant authority, does He ever point to another? Do the apostles? No, they say hold fast to the “traditions” they had all ready recieved and that they are of no private interpretation (which means no one gets to make them say something other than what they actually say, it does not mean the pope gets to dictate his private interpretation) and if anyone preach another Gospel they are anathema.

    So lets just assume the Bible does not teach that it is the only infallible authority but that it is AN infalible authority. Does it not stand to reason that anything that contradicts it is in error?

    @355- “You may not accept Sirach, but St. Paul would have.”

    Based on what evidence? Note that Sirach is not in the Jewish Cannon.

    Is there any scripture placing the responsibility for the fall on anyone other than Adam, I know there are some aspects of the curse incurred by the fall that are attributed to Eve’s sin but if she is responsible why didn’t the fall occur when she sinned?

    “Regarding your view that sin is transmitted by the father, this obviously leads to the question of whether cloned humans generated without original sin?”

    How do we know they would even have a soul? We don’t know what would come out of such a thing. We do know they would not live very long and die probably within 10 years of cancer as they would be concieved artificially genetically old. (According to Dr. Kurt Weiss)

    “Worse still, some fraction of human births are parthogenetic – true virgin births. Are we to believe that these women so born do not share original sin?”

    I never heard of such a thing happening with humans. I will have to ask my fiancée about that since she works in that field.

    .” A problem with “traducianism” is that since souls are immortal and incorruptible, it is seems unlikely that they have a mortal and corruptible immediate source”

    Souls are not incorruptable, and if Adam’s soul is immortal (yet spiritually dead in trespasses and sins) and we inherit our corrupt soul from him what is the problem?

    “Certainly, you can cite some more passages about “souls” in the “loins” of ancestors, but why should we take those statements as more than literary conventions?”

    1. I will accept that it might not be clear to you but the text seems to teach it. 2.It makes original sin make sense. 3. It fits perfectly with apostolic teaching. Furthermore, creationism would make God the creator of dead, corrupt souls which He is not.

    “The sheer multiplicity of different interpretations, among Protestants, regarding baptism, Communion (the Lord’s Supper), eternal security (or the lack thereof), female ordination, and now, even the sinfulness of active, practiced homosexuality, should, reasonably, put to rest claims of Scripture being “self-interpreting.” ”

    Actually no, it merely attests to the depravity of man as taught in the Scriptures. It only shows that people deviate from the word of God. I would also like to point out that the unity among Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are only appearant and there actually exists greater diversity than is let on. A few months ago I read where a Vatican excorcist complained of Bishops who do not believe in Jesus. There is also historical evidence that some popes did not believe in Jesus.

    357- Chris, we all need to remember to be especially gracious with the internet because we cannot see each others faces and something that seems mean or cruel in print might not be percieved that way in person where body language is present. Not to mention, most importantly, that we should forgive anyway because we have been forgiven.

    Thanks All!

  362. Fr Al:

    I interpret that passage as implying that one can reject prevenient grace after it has done some of its work. Why? Because the ability to accept grace freely is itself the work of grace; to claim that one can freely accept prevenient grace without its aid would be semi-Pelagianism. Therefore, one can be held accountable for rejecting grace only after it has been offered and received to a degree sufficient to enable one to accept it.

    Best,
    Mike

  363. The passage from the Council of Trent that is being discussed (The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V) can be read in its context here:

    http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/trentall.html

    The Council of Trent

    Ed. and trans. J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848)

    The canons and decrees of the sacred
    and oecumenical Council of Trent,

    SESSION THE SIXTH, Celebrated on the thirteenth day of the month of January, 1547.

    DECREE ON JUSTIFICATION

    CHAPTER I.

    On the Inability of Nature and of the Law to justify man.

    CHAPTER II.

    On the dispensation and mystery of Christ’s advent.

    CHAPTER III.

    Who are justified through Christ.

    CHAPTER IV.

    A description is introduced of the Justification of the impious, and of the Manner thereof under the law of grace.

    CHAPTER V.

    On the necessity, in adults, of preparation for Justification, and whence it proceeds.

    The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.

    The passage being discussed is about the nature of the actual grace that adults receive that prepares them to receive the habitual grace conferred by the Sacrament of Baptism.

    The Catholic theology of grace distinguishes between actual grace and sanctifying grace (habitual grace). Dr. Ludwig Ott, in his book Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma notes that the term actual grace “gained general currency only after the Council of Trent, which did not use the term.”

    In Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, in the section Actual Grace, Dr. Ott defines actual grace and categorizes different types of actual grace:

    Actual Grace:

    Actual Grace internally and directly enlightens the understanding and strengthens the will. (Sent, certa.)”

    The teaching of the Church … is that man needs a power exceeding his natural capacity (i.e., a supernatural power), for the performance of salutary acts. The supernatural help of God in salutary activities extends to the two faculties of the soul, the reason and the will. Actual grace consists in a direct internal enlightenment of the understanding and a direct internal strengthening of the will. …

    Antecedent Grace:

    “There is a supernatural intervention of God in the faculties of the soul, which precedes the free act of the will. (De fide.)”

    In [Antecedent Grace] God works alone “in us, without us” … and produces spontaneous indeliberate acts of knowledge and will. … This grace is called gratia praeveniens (also antecedens, excitans, vocans, operans).

    Consequent Grace:

    “There is a supernatural influence of God in the faculties of the soul which coincides in time with man’s free act of will. (De fide.)

    In salutary acts God and man work together. God works “in us, with us”, so that they are a conjoint work of God’s grace and of man’s activity under the control of his will.

    One of the sources of Catholic dogma that Dr. Ott quotes when writing about antecedent grace and consequent grace is Denzinger 797 (i.e. D 797) which just happens to be The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V – the very passage from Trent under discussion.

    Dr. Ott writes that in antecedent grace (gratia praeveniens – prevenient grace) God works alone “in us, without us”. In consequent grace God works “in us, with us”. Since Dr. Ott sees the The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V as a foundational source for the teaching about antecedent grace and consequent grace, I think that that ought to be examined carefully. But before I do that, I would note that the CCC also discusses the actual grace that prepares a man to receive habitual grace. The CCC quotes St. Augustine in describing the actual grace that precedes habitual grace. It is interesting to me that St. Augustine speaks of the actual grace that prepares man for habitual grace in terms of healing:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    ARTICLE 2
    GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION

    2000 Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.

    2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. …God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:”[50]

    Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing. [51]

    [50] St. Augustine, De gratia et libero arbitrio, 17:PL 44,901.

    [51] St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, 31:PL 44,264.

  364. Johannes quotes The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V:

    “The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.”

    Fr. Kimel asks: To what does “forasmuch as he is also able to reject it” refer?

    I believe that the “it” that can be rejected refers to the illumination of the Holy Ghost that is received by adults at the beginning of Justification. The illumination of the Holy Ghost is conveyed by actual grace that “consists in a direct internal enlightenment of the understanding and a direct internal strengthening of the will.” (See Dr. Ott’s definition of Actual Grace above). The actual grace that prepares the adult to receive habitual grace is received in the adult through antecedent grace and consequent grace.

    First, let us look at the why Dr. Ott teaches that the de fide dogmas about antecedent grace and consequent grace are taught in Denzinger 797 (i.e. D 797) – which is the passage under discussion – The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V.

    Dr. Ott writes:

    The Church’s teaching of the existence of antecedent grace and its necessity for the achieving of justification was defined at the Council of Trent. D 797: “In adults the beginning of justification must proceed from the antecedent grace of God acquired by Jesus Christ (a Dei per Christum Jesum praeveniente gratia).”

    And

    The Church’s teaching regarding the reality and necessity of consequent grace is expressed in the Decree of the Council of Trent. D 797. The sinner returns to justification: “by freely assenting to and co-operating with grace (gratiae libere assentiendo et cooperando).”

    Note that Dr. Ott is using a translation from the Latin to English of D 797 that is somewhat different than the English translation by Canon J. Waterworth that is quoted by Johannes.

    Waterworth’s translation D 797 that speaks of prevenient grace. This prevenient grace is referred to by Dr. Ott as praeveniente gratia, which Dr. Ott writes is also a reference in the Catholic theology of grace to antecedens, excitans, vocans, operans.

    Let us compare the different translations of D 797. This is translation of Waterworth:

    … in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called;

    Dr. Ott’s translation:

    In adults the beginning of justification must proceed from the antecedent grace of God acquired by Jesus Christ (a Dei per Christum Jesum praeveniente gratia).

    Thus, the prevenient grace of Waterworth’s translation of D 797 is the antecedent grace of Dr. Ott’s translation of D 797.

    Dr. Ott’s definition of antecedent grace:

    Antecedent Grace: “There is a supernatural intervention of God in the faculties of the soul, which precedes the free act of the will. (De fide.)” In [Antecedent Grace] God works alone “in us, without us” … and produces spontaneous indeliberate acts of knowledge and will.

    After first speaking about prevenient grace, Waterworth’s translation of D 797 next mentions quickening and assisting grace :

    … they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace

    The quickening and assisting grace in Waterworth’s translation of D797 is the consequent grace spoken of by Dr. Ott:

    The Church’s teaching regarding the reality and necessity of consequent grace is expressed in the Decree of the Council of Trent. D 797. The sinner returns to justification: “by freely assenting to and co-operating with grace (gratiae libere assentiendo et cooperando).”

    Dr. Ott’s definition of consequent grace:

    Consequent Grace: “There is a supernatural influence of God in the faculties of the soul which coincides in time with man’s free act of will. (De fide.)” In salutary acts God and man work together. God works “in us, with us”, so that they are a conjoint work of God’s grace and of man’s activity under the control of his will.

    Now let me paraphrase D 797 using both Waterworth’s and Dr. Ott’s quotes of D 797, and then comment on my paraphrase:

    My paraphrase: The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of Justification is to be derived from the antecedent grace (prevenient grace) of God acquired by Jesus Christ, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called to Justification.

    After they receive antecedent grace (prevenient grace), they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His consequent grace (quickening and assisting grace), to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace.

    My commentary on the above:

    A man’s will, at the beginning of his Justification, is healed of some of the effects of the Fall by antecedent grace. This healing of the will is a sovereign act of God that is given to the man without any merits existing on his part. The man makes no choice on his part either for against this sovereign act of God. In antecedent grace God works alone “in us, without us”.

    After receiving a healing of the will through antecedent grace, the man then receives consequent grace. He may be disposed to convert himself to his own justification by freely assenting to and co-operating with consequent grace. But then again, because his free will has been healed by antecedent grace prior to his receiving consequent grace, he can also make a free choice to not cooperate with consequent grace. Consequent grace allows the man to make a real choice to cooperate or not cooperate with God. When we cooperate with consequent grace, God works “in us, with us”.

    It is not the prevenient grace (antecedent grace) that can be resisted by the man receiving actual grace – it is the quickening and assisting grace (consequent grace) that can be resisted by the man receiving actual grace. We also receive actual graces to perform salutory acts after we have been justified by habitual grace. Since our will is freed by healing grace, we can always make the choice to resist consequent grace. IMO, many sins of omission are committed by resisting consequent grace.

    The choice to commit mortal sins entails the loss of habitual grace, which means that we lose our justification by falling from grace.

    You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
    Gal. 5:4

  365. mateo: I will ask you again, if you can’t show me where the Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura is explicitly taught in the Bible, why should I accept Luther’s sola scriptura doctrine? As a Protestant, could you please explain to me why should I accept a doctrine that is nowhere taught in the Bible?”

    jason: If you looked up those passages you would see that Jesus treated the scriptures as an inerrant authority, does He ever point to another? Do the apostles? No …

    My question is NOT about whether Jesus or the Apostles thought scriptures (which would be the Septuagint for Jesus and the Apostles) were authoritative. Of course Jesus and the Apostles accepted these OT scriptures as being authoritative. You didn’t answer my question, but instead you make a claim that the scriptures show that Jesus and the Apostles accepted no other authority than the scriptures. But your claim has no basis in scriptures, as can be proven just by reading the scriptures.

    Scriptures show that Jesus himself is an authority, and he had no qualms about using his authority to interpret scriptures. Scriptures show that Jesus gives his authority to the Apostles to forgive sins and to act in his name, and to bind and loose. Jesus teaches that the church that he founded has authority that the Christian must listen to: “ … if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” Matt 17:18. Scriptures do teach that scriptures are an authority, but they also teach that the church is an authority. More examples – the Apostles meet in Jerusalem and use their authority to settle a question vexing the early Christian community. There is no doubt that the scriptures show the existence of apostolic authority. The scriptures teach that that the Christians are to hold fast to the doctrines taught by the Apostles, but nowhere do the scriptures make a list of what those doctrines are.

    The scriptures teach us there are many forms of authority that the Christian must accept – but nowhere do scriptures explicitly teach Luther’s novel “alone” doctrine. Again I ask you, since Luther’s novel “alone” doctrine is nowhere taught in scriptures, as a Protestant, what reason can you give me for believing Luther’s novel “alone” doctrine is true?

    jason: So lets just assume the Bible does not teach that it is the only infallible authority but that it is AN infalible authority. Does it not stand to reason that anything that contradicts it is in error?

    We don’t have to assume that. Scriptures do teach that they are an inerrant authority. That is not a controversy between us. Since scriptures are inerrant, then it stands to reason that anything that contradicts them are in error.

    What scriptures don’t teach anywhere is that the scriptures are the ONLY inerrant authority for the Christian. Since Luther’s novel “alone” doctrine is nowhere taught in the scriptures, then it is NOT reasonable to make Luther’s sola scriptura doctrine a foundational doctrine of my faith – and then after doing that, to turn around and make a claim I am being scriptural!

    Nor is it scriptural to found my own personal “Bible Church” and call that being scriptural, since there is nothing in scriptures that speak about men running around founding churches where the Bible is their only authority. What I find to be unscriptural are men founding Protestant Bible Churches, and the Protestant practice of church shopping among thousands upon thousands of Bible Churches that teach conflicting doctrine! Where did Jesus ever say “upon this Protestant Bible I will build my church?”

    mateo: You were wrong once before, but now you are pretty sure, but not absolutely sure, that you are correct.

    jason: Not exactly. I am absolutely sure.

    mateo: You changed your thinking because you found other men’s interpretations of the Bible to be more reasonable to you personally.

    jason: Not quite, I initially found Calvinism more reasonable. The scriptures forced me into Lutheranism over against my reason …

    Can you please explain to me how scriptures forced you to act against your reason to accept Lutheranism over Calvinism? If your reasoning didn’t let you know that Lutheranism was more reasonable in its interpretations of the Bible than Calvinism’s interpretations of the Bible, then how is it that you come to accept Lutheranism?

    How is it that you are absolutely sure that the particular sect of Lutheranism that you belong to is the only sect on the face of the earth that infallibly interprets the scriptures, when Luther himself taught that no man can teach infallibly?

  366. Jason (re:#361)

    You write that the differing Protestant interpretations, on the subjects that I listed, are due to that the fact that people “deviate from the word of God.” So Baptists disagree with Presbyterians on baptism, because Baptists are deviating from the word of God? Baptists would say that it is the Presbyterians who are deviating from the “clear teaching of Scripture” on baptism.

    What about the issue of whether or not a Christian can lose his/her salvation? Lutherans teach that it is possible, while Presbyterians would answer in the negative. Who is “deviating from the word of God,” and how do we know?

    The ultimate question, which is foundationally “beneath” all of the above, is, who has the *authority* to determine and declare the right interpretation of the word of God, so that we can even *say* who is deviating from it or interpreting it rightly? Can you truly say anything other than that, in the end, other Protestant denominations are simply deviating from the *interpretation* of the word of God that you have chosen to accept, because you agree with it?

  367. Mateo quotes this exchange:

    mateo: You were wrong once before, but now you are pretty sure, but not absolutely sure, that you are correct.
    jason: Not exactly. I am absolutely sure.
    mateo: You changed your thinking because you found other men’s interpretations of the Bible to be more reasonable to you personally.
    jason: Not quite, I initially found Calvinism more reasonable. The scriptures forced me into Lutheranism over against my reason…

    To which Mateo responds:

    Can you please explain to me how scriptures forced you to act against your reason to accept Lutheranism over Calvinism? If your reasoning didn’t let you know that Lutheranism was more reasonable in its interpretations of the Bible than Calvinism’s interpretations of the Bible, then how is it that you come to accept Lutheranism?

    I’d like to push this line of questioning even further. Jason is claiming that his reason told him Calvinism was correct (as a Bible reader at the time). Then he says that Scripture forced him, “over against against [his] reason,” into Lutheranism. Jason, are you stating that Lutheranism is unreasonable, or only that you found it to be so when you were a Calvinist? If you no longer think it is unreasonable, isn’t it then correct to say that, having formerly been convinced of the reasonableness of Calvinism, you found based on deeper study of Scripture that the Lutheran interpretations of Scripture were more reasonable? Surely if you thought Lutheranism unreasonable in its claims about Scripture, you would not have left what you say was a rationally satisfying Calvinism, right? You became convinced, after studying Scripture, that Lutheranism better accounted for and more perfectly agreed with Scripture.

    You became convinced is the important bit here. You’ve stated previously that you were once a Pelagian, but then you studied Scripture and you became convinced of Calvinism. Then after some time you studied Scripture and you became convinced of Lutheranism. How is it that you do not see that, at each stage, it is your personal interpretation of Scripture (i.e., the interpretation that you become convinced is the correct one) that has lead you to reject your former beliefs in favor of your newer ones?

    If you truly believed that Calvinism was correct, and that as a consequence Reformed leaders had actual binding authority over you rooted in Scripture, then when you began to become convinced that Lutheranism might instead be correct, shouldn’t you rather have submitted to the Scripturally mandated authority of your Reformed church? If not, then it never actually had any authority over you at all, because its authority was always contingent on your agreement with its interpretation of Scripture… which means that in practice you had placed yourself in a position of authority over your church (“when I submit only when I agree, the person to whom I submit is me”). Now you say you are “absolutely sure” of Lutheranism (and I believe you say so with completely sincerity). You are “absolutely sure” of it because you are convinced that Augsburg and the Book of Concord correctly interpret Scripture. So nothing has changed, functionally: you are convinced that the Lutheran interpretation of Scripture is correct because when you read Scripture, that is the interpretation that seems obvious to you–to your eyes it is the most reasonable interpretation. If one day in the future you were studying Scripture and began to question the faithfulness of Lutheranism to the real intent of Scripture, and thought that perhaps those Wesleyans may in fact have had it right all along, you would have two choices: submit to the authority of whatever Lutheran body you happen to be in “over against [your] reason” (your reading of Scripture), or go against the authority of the Lutheran body and embrace Wesleyanism (which I have no doubt seems abhorrent to you right now–just as leaving Calvinism for Lutheranism would have been to you years ago).

    I’m really not interested in a trite “that would never happen because Lutheranism is correct” dismissal of this post. That’s not an answer, that’s dodging, disrespectful and, offered as a defense of your faith, it is dishonest. So with a respectful request for your honest engagement, I repeat my question: how do you not see that, at each juncture, it is your personal interpretation of Scripture (the interpretation that you are convinced is correct and obvious) that has lead you to reject your former beliefs in favor of your later ones? And, as a corollary, how do you not see that this unavoidably means that, functionally speaking, it is your judgment of what is the most reasonable (that is, the correct) interpretation of Scripture that is your real authority? Or (and here’s your easy way out on this), do you instead believe that the correct interpretation of Scripture is in fact unreasonable?

  368. I only have time for one quick response.
    367-

    “Jason, are you stating that Lutheranism is unreasonable, or only that you found it to be so when you were a Calvinist?”

    Calvinism is logically tight but there are some passages that do not fit double predestination or limited atonement and they have to engage in some intellectual acrobatics (though not so much as the RCC or the Arminians) to get it to say what they say it says. They let the unclear passages dictate the meaning of the clear passages instead of the other way around in an effort to make everything fit according to human reasoning. Lutheranism is not unreasonable but it does not chain itself to reason as Calvinism does. If you read Calvin you will see that He presupposes that God must act and work in accordance with reason but human reason is corrupted by sin. We must use reason as a tool when interpreting the scriptures but we must let the text speak for itself and not make the text fit our reason.

    “How is it that you do not see that, at each stage, it is your personal interpretation of Scripture (i.e., the interpretation that you become convinced is the correct one) that has lead you to reject your former beliefs in favor of your newer ones?”

    How do you not see that it is the text itself that led me to adjust my interpretation. You guys would do well to not subjectivize everything because the same standard can be applied to your interpretation of the teaching of the RCC as there is some diversity in it that you do not admit.
    365-
    “Where did Jesus ever say “upon this Protestant Bible I will build my church?””

    I would like to point out that the greek grammar does not allow for the RC interpretation of that verse. The Rock is Christ.

    “Scriptures do teach that scriptures are an authority, but they also teach that the church is an authority. ”

    I agree with everything you said except the Church is not above or equal to scripture. The Church is under the Scriptures which are authoritative because Jesus said they are and ultimately all of these authorities are under the Authority of Jesus. Niether Jesus nor the Apostles placed any authority on equal par with the scriptures. They always appeal to the scriptures as the authoritive source for doctrine and practice. I appreciate your objection to people going off to form their own churches but if it is a case of having to separate from an apostate body then it is necessary.

    “How is it that you are absolutely sure that the particular sect of Lutheranism that you belong to is the only sect on the face of the earth that infallibly interprets the scriptures, when Luther himself taught that no man can teach infallibly?”

    Strawman. Never said that. I might have something to the effect that there are no errors in our confessions, but if they are ever found they will be removed.
    I would also note that we are not the sect (well, maybe the ELCA is), the RCC became a sect when it anathematized the Gospel at Trent (I mean only to speak the truth in love, I am not trying to offend anyone though I know it probably will).

    “The scriptures teach that that the Christians are to hold fast to the doctrines taught by the Apostles, but nowhere do the scriptures make a list of what those doctrines are.”

    Are you kidding me? Haven’t you read 1st Corinthians 15? Or

    2 Timothy 3:14-16 (New International Version)
    14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

    @all- if any of you have read the Augsburg confession via the link I provided do make sure and read the RC response and the Apology.

    I have got to go. I will try to cath up later if I can.

  369. mateo: Scriptures do teach that scriptures are an authority, but they also teach that the church is an authority.

    jason: I agree with everything you said except the Church is not above or equal to scripture.

    Catholics, of course, believe that there is a teaching office (the living magisterium) within the Church founded by Christ. The Catholic Church does NOT claim that this teaching office is above scriptures.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church 86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”

    The scriptures are an authority for the Christian and the Church founded by Christ is an authority for the Christian. That is what taught in the scriptures. Nowhere is it taught in scriptures that the ONLY inerrant authority for the Christian is what is written in the scriptures. That “alone” doctrine is a novelty of Martin Luther.

    You still have not addressed my question. As a Protestant, what reason can you give me for making a foundational belief of my faith a novel doctrine that is never explicitly taught in scriptures?

  370. Scott B… which means that in practice you had placed yourself in a position of authority over your church (“when I submit only when I agree, the person to whom I submit is me”).

    Jason said that he believes that “the Church is not above or equal to scripture.”

    Jason, l believe that we agree that any teaching authority in the Church founded by Christ “is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant.”

    Two more questions for you Jason, if I may.

    1). Does anyone in the Church founded by Christ have the authority to interpret scriptures in a way that binds the members of Christ’s Church to that interpretation?

    2). Do the scriptures teach that Christians have the right to “church shop” until they find a church that agrees with their own personal interpretation of the Bible?

  371. Jason said, alluding to Matt. 16:18 -

    I would like to point out that the greek grammar does not allow for the RC interpretation of that verse. The Rock is Christ.

    While that’s as may be (is it? I’ll take your word for it for the nonce), it’s also worth pointing out that the RC contention that Jesus was thereby giving special authority to St. Peter (which is borne out elsewhere, such as in the exchange at the end of John’s gospel) does not stand or fall solely on the referent of “this rock”. I.e., he also in the same breath dubbed Kepha “Peter” for no apparent other reason, and explicitly tied it to the endurance of his Church. Also, even if that fails, I think the legitimacy of the papacy does not necessarily stand or fall on any particular reading of Matt. 16:18. On the other hand, if it is legitimate, it would be very implausible to suggest that Matt. 16:18 has nothing to do with it.

    On that note, what’s the Protestant gloss for Matt. 16:19? The only thing that comes to mind is “Oh, but he meant just ‘you guys standing here now. After you’re gone, all bets are off.’” Evidently so.

    How does Christ get to be the foundation and head of the Church if there’s no Church? (cf. “Ecclesial Deism”)

  372. Hey Jason,

    You said:

    I would like to point out that the greek grammar does not allow for the RC interpretation of that verse. The Rock is Christ.

    I’d like to challenge you on this claim. So would you please substantiate your assertion? Please feel free to copy and paste the Greek text if you need it.

  373. Here’s the Paradoseis Journal on Peter as the Rock.

  374. Tim, thanks for your link to the article in Paradoseis Journal on Peter as the Rock. I am not a language scholar, so I didn’t think I could address Jason’s comment adequately. But I knew that there would be someone reading this thread that could. My thanks to David Pell too!

    For those following the conversation in this thread about Semi-Pelagianism and how that is related to the The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V, one can find more discussion about Semi-Pelagianism in Tim’s thread:

    “Is the Catholic Church Semi-Pelagian”
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/08/is-the-catholic-church-semi-pelagian/

    Bryan Cross makes these points in his post #12 in Tim’s Is the Catholic Church Semi-Pelagian thread:

    Claiming that grace is resistible is not semi-Pelagian. We cannot do something good at the supernatural level, without grace. Denying that is the fundamental error of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. But the claim that we do not need grace to do something evil (i.e. resist grace) is neither Pelagian nor semi-Pelagian. It is an entirely different question, i.e. whether efficacious grace is so because of something in itself, or because of a grace-enabled response in us, (or both)? The Church has not given a definitive answer to that question, and thus leaves *that* question open.

    Bryan makes a good point about doing evil, and I should revise what I said my post # 364, where I said:

    Consequent grace allows the man to make a real choice to cooperate or not cooperate with God.

    When we cooperate with consequent grace, God works “in us, with us”. If we make the choice to not cooperate with consequent grace, then we are rejecting grace. I don’t think that when we reject any grace that we can say that God is working “in us, with us” !

    Michael Liccone, in his post # 362 in this thread, makes an excellent point about accountability for rejecting grace:

    “…one can be held accountable for rejecting grace only after it has been offered and received to a degree sufficient to enable one to accept it.

    Regarding the actual grace that prepares the adult for justification, I found more about that in Dr. Ott’s book Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, where again, Dr. Ott quotes The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V (D 797):

    The Preparation for Justification
    1. Possibility and Necessity of Preparation

    The sinner can and must prepare himself by the help of actual grace for the reception of the grace by which he is justified. (De fide.)

    The Reformers denied the possibility and necessity of a preparation for jus-tification, and based their denial on the assumption that man’s will, in con-sequence of the complete corruption of human nature by Adam’s sin, had become incapable of goodness of any kind. As against this teaching, the Council of Trent declares : Si quis dixerit, . . . nulla ex parte necesse esse cum (sc. impium) suae voluntatis motu praeparari atque disponi, A.S. D 819. Cf. D 797 et seq., 814, 817.

    As scriptural proof, the Council adduces Zach. I, 3. (D 797):

    ” Turn ye to me and I will turn to you,”

    and

    Lament. 5, 21: ” Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted.”

    The first passage stresses the freedom of movement of our will towards God; the second emphasizes the necessity of the prevenient grace of God. Cf. the numerous injunctions in Holy Writ of the Old and New Testaments to repentance and conversion.

    The ancient Church catechumenate and penitential practice implied the need of a very intensive preparation for the reception of the grace of justification. St. Augustine teaches: He who has created thee without thyself, does not justify thee without thyself. Thus He created thee without thy knowledge, but only with thy agreement and thy will does He justify thee. (Sermo 169, II, 13. Cf. S. th. 1 II 113, 3.

  375. Jason #368: “I would like to point out that the greek grammar does not allow for the RC interpretation of that verse. The Rock is Christ.”

    There is a possible obstacle to the RC interpretation, but it does NOT come from the Greek grammar. Literally translated into English, the 1st half of Mt 16: 18 would be:

    “And so I say to you, you are Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church”. (Mt 16: 18)

    Where both instances of “rock” were “kepha” in the original Aramaic, in which the same word kepha is used for a rock or a man’s name. When the text was translated to Greek (by Matthew or the final author), as the word “petra” for a rock is feminine, the 1st Kepha was changed to “Petros” (masculine ending) to make it suitable for a man’s name.

    The possible obstacle to the RC interpretation comes from Jesus’ IMPLICIT BODY LANGUAGE. I will make it explicit between () to render the two versions of Mt 16:18:

    “And so I say to you (pointing to Simon), you are Rock, and (still pointing to Simon) upon this rock I will build my church”. (RC version)

    “And so I say to you (pointing to Simon), you are Rock, and (now pointing to Himself) upon this rock I will build my church”. (Protestant version)

    To note, the Protestant version is conceptually in line with 1 Peter 2: 4-5, which uses “lithos” = “stone” instead of “petra” = “rock”:

    “Come to Him (Jesus), a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones (the faithful), let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2: 4-5)

    Thus, in the Protestant version Jesus is the rock / cornerstone upon which the Church is built, and Simon is just another living rock / stone in the Church’s building, just like any other faithful is.

    Actually, the Protestant version IS correct in a certain sense: at the personal, spiritual level Jesus IS the rock upon which we the faithful are built like living stones (the rock that is referred to many times in the Psalms), and this truth applies to any faithful, obviously including Simon and his successors the bishops of Rome. The problem is that it is not logical to interpret Jesus’ words in Mt 16: 18 in that sense, for several reasons:

    1. Why would Jesus rename Simon as Rock only to say immediately that He Himself was the rock?

    2. More importantly, why would Jesus rename Simon as Rock if He was meaning that Simon was just another living rock in the Church’s building?

    3. Even more importantly, the only way to interpret adequately Mt 16: 18 is by reading it within the whole statement by Jesus. Let’s see what the Protestant version looks like:

    17: Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. (In this verse Simon is definitely special.)

    18: And so I say to you, you are Rock, and upon this rock (Myself) I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (In this verse Simon is just like any other faithful, even though he is renamed for some strange reason.)

    19: I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (In this verse Simon is again special. Or was there yet another change in Jesus’ body language and He is now pointing to the circle around Him so that “you” refers now to the 12 Apostles?)

    We must use reason to interpret the Scripture. An interpretation of Mt 16: 18 where “upon this rock” does not refer to Simon defies any logic.

  376. In my previous post, when commenting verse 16:19, I forgot that in Greek personal pronouns have differerent forms for singular and plural. So there was no possible argument of a further change in Jesus’ body language.

  377. RE: the discussion of monergism, synergism, operating grace, cooperating grace and Semi-Pelagianism in this thread –

    post # 272 Jason: …the church has always taught monogerism and condemned syngerism as heresy

    post # 274 David Pell: When did the Church condemn synergism? The Church has always believed in a monergistic initial justification and a synergistic progression in our life with God in which we cooperate with God’s subsequent grace (gratia cooperativa as Augustine calls it). …

    In this exchange, David Pell speaks of “subsequent grace” grace as gratia cooperativa. This subsequent grace, or “cooperating grace” is what Canon Waterworth calls quickening and assisting grace in Waterworth’s translation of “The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V.”

    Dr. Ludwig Ott speaks of quickening and assisting grace as “consequent grace”. Cooperating grace is synergistic and it is efficacious only if man truly cooperates with God (God works “in us, with us”.)

    In post # 282, Tim Troutman quotes Aquinas: “… grace is fittingly divided into operating and cooperating.” In addition to the cooperating grace mentioned by David Pell, there is also operating grace. Operating grace is what Canon Waterworth calls prevenient grace in his translation of “The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V.”

    Dr. Ott calls prevenient grace “antecedent grace”, and in antecedent grace (operating grace) God works alone “in us, without us”. Operating grace is monergistic because it is efficacious without needing man’s cooperation.

    Summing up the above: The actual grace that prepares man for receiving the grace of justification is actual grace that “internally and directly enlightens the understanding and strengthens the will.” (Dr. Ott). This “illumination of the Holy Ghost” (D 797) is received as a monergistic movement by God as antecedent grace. The consequent grace that follows the reception of antecedent grace allows a synergistic movement towards the grace of justification. The actual grace that prepares man for justification is both/and – both monergistic and synergistic.

    Question for David Pell (or anyone else). Dr. Ott writes: “this grace [antecedent grace] is called gratia praeveniens (also antecedens, excitans, vocans, operans).”

    gratia praeveniens – prevenient grace
    anteceden – antecedent grace
    operans- operating grace

    I am assuming I have the above correct.

    My question: What is the English translation of excitans and vocans?

    post # 333 Fr. Alvin Kimel: I know that this website is principally concerned with Reformed/Catholic discussion, but it would be wonderful, and helpful, to have a Catholic/Orthodox discussion on synergism and semi-Pelagianism. Is the East “semi-Pelagian”? And if it is, is that a bad thing and why?

    Tim Troutman in his article “Is the Catholic Church Semi-Pelagian” writes:

    “One recent commenter at CTC remarked that the Catholic Church was “syngergistic” and “semi-Pelagian” as if the two were causally connected. We will, as promised, deal with synergism at length, but we are not yet ready for that discussion.”

    Tim, any guess as to how close is CTC to releasing an in depth article dedicated to synergism?

  378. Mateo,

    I’m not a theologian and am glad that there are people here who know the ins and outs of the systematic theology better than I do. In fact, I regret even getting into that discussion because I don’t know whether I helped or just made things more confusing by adding what I thought was correct when, for all I know, I wasn’t using the right terminology. All I know is that the Catholic Church teaches that I can’t come to God on my own. That’s enough for my own conscience and enough for me to correct Protestants who think I believe in “works righteousness.”

    As for the Latin adjectives, excitans means something like “arousing” or the cognate “exciting.” It is the present participle of the verb cito, “to urge on/summon/set in motion/excite” with the intensifying prefix ex-, literally “out.” Vocans means “calling.” It’s the present participle of the verb vocare, “to call.” From it we derive the English words “vocation” and “vocal.”

    This is just me speaking as a student trained in classical philology. I don’t know if this is helpful in establishing technical theological terminology, and I apologize if this wasn’t the kind of answer you were looking for.

  379. Mateo – I hope it will be soon, but I wouldn’t expect it for at least a few months. Maybe we can squeeze in a blog post to hold us over until then. It’s an important (and difficult) subject that we want to handle with care.

  380. In my previous post, when commenting verse 16:19, I forgot that in Greek personal pronouns have differerent forms for singular and plural. So there was no possible argument of a further change in Jesus’ body language.

    I am a linguist by training and read Greek, so the Protestant objection never occurred to me when I was on the way to becoming a Catholic. In particular, I think it a great loss that we no longer use the ye/thou distinction in our English Bible translations. In several places the distinction in the original is decisive – but is lost because English – very unusually amongst world languages – has lost this distinction in the second person.

    In Matthew 16:13-19 Jesus asks them, “who do you-plural say that I am” – then He says, “I say unto thee (you-singular) that thou art rock …” etc In Luke 22:31 He tells them, “Satan has asked to sift you-plural” – and then “but I have prayed for thee (you-singular), Simon, that thy faith fail not”

    The distinction is so essential that most dialects of English have evolved ways around it:

    “youse” (New Zealand and others)

    “you-all” (American South)

    “you-uns” (America southeast black)

    “you guys” (California)

    and so forth.

    jj

  381. David Pell: I’m not a theologian and am glad that there are people here who know the ins and outs of the systematic theology better than I do. In fact, I regret even getting into that discussion because I don’t know whether I helped or just made things more confusing by adding what I thought was correct when, for all I know, I wasn’t using the right terminology. All I know is that the Catholic Church teaches that I can’t come to God on my own. That’s enough for my own conscience and enough for me to correct Protestants who think I believe in “works righteousness.”

    I don’t think that you should have any regrets for entering the discussion. For me, what you say is insightful and I enjoy reading your comments. As you say, the Catholic Church does indeed teach that we can’t come to God on our own – which is why she has condemned Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism as heresy. Why a Calvinist would accuse a Catholic of being Semi-Pelagian was a mystery to me. Tim Troutman gives on answer to that question in his article Is the Catholic Church Semi-Pelagian:

    Generally on the lips of the accuser, what [semi-Pelagianism] means is reducible to “anything which imparts to man a role in salvation greater than what John Calvin does.”

    Dr. Ott explains why the Calvinist accusation of Semi-Pelagianism is inevitable:

    The Reformers denied the possibility and necessity of a preparation for justification, and based their denial on the assumption that man’s will, in consequence of the complete corruption of human nature by Adam’s sin, had become incapable of goodness of any kind.

    For Calvin, the totally depraved fallen man must be translated by irresistible grace from the state of being of total depravity to the state of being of justification. This leads to a further problem – what does it mean for a justified man living on earth to be in a state of grace? Is being in a state of grace the mere possession of a legal contract that declares the sinner to be “not guilty because of Christ’s sacrifice”? If justification can be severed from sanctification, how do we become sanctified? Monergism and synergism enter the discussion both before and after justification.

    David Pell: As for the Latin adjectives, excitans means something like “arousing” or the cognate “exciting.” It is the present participle of the verb cito, “to urge on/summon/set in motion/excite” with the intensifying prefix ex-, literally “out.”

    In regard to the actual grace that prepares a man to receive justifying grace; it makes sense to me that “operating grace” or “prevenient grace” could be called gratia excitans, since prevenient grace “arouses” or “ excites” within us the illumination of the Holy Spirit that enlightens the reason and strengthens the will.

    David Pell: Vocans means “calling.” It’s the present participle of the verb vocare, “to call.” From it we derive the English words “vocation” and “vocal.”

    Vocans means “calling” – that makes sense to me. Prevenient grace calls us to prepare for the grace of justification.

    Vocans being the root of vocation is interesting too. Waterworth’s translation of D 797 speaks of speaks of Christ’s vocation and its relationship to the prevenient grace of God:

    The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation …

    I did a google search on gratia vocans and turned up this reference:

    Prevenient and Coöperating Grace.

    The vital acts of the soul are either spontaneous impulses or free acts of the will. Grace may precede free-will or coöperate with it. If it precedes the free determination of the will it is called prevenient; if it accompanies (or coincides with) that determination and merely coöperates with the will, it is called coöperating grace.

    Prevenient grace, regarded as a divine call to penance, is often styled gratia vocans sive excitans, and if it is received with a willing heart, gratia adiuvans.

    … An equivalent division is that into gratia operans and coöperans, respectively.

    A third division of the same grace is that into praeveniens and subsequens. It is likewise distinctly Scriptural, and its two members coincide materially with gratia vocans and adiuvans, as can be seen by comparing the usage of St. Augustine with that of the Tridentine Council. “God’s mercy,” says the holy Doctor, “prevents [i.e. precedes] the unwilling to make him willing; it follows the willing lest he will in vain.” And the Council of Trent declares that “in adults the beginning of justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their part, they are called.” [this is a quote of D 797]

    Grace, Actual and Habitual, A Dogmatic Treatise
    By The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph Pohle, Ph.D., D.D.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29540/29540-h/29540-h.html

    David Pell: This is just me speaking as a student trained in classical philology. I don’t know if this is helpful in establishing technical theological terminology, and I apologize if this wasn’t the kind of answer you were looking for.

    David, your response was exactly what I was looking for, and it was very helpful. I can get exasperated when an author throws out a phrase in Latin without translating the phrase. Dr. Ott does that a lot his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, and it makes it difficult for me to read his book. But then, the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma was not written for the layman, but for priests who would have had training in Latin, so I have no excuse for whining. I am thankful for having a forum at CTC where I am able to ask language experts what the Latin phrases mean. If I may ask another favor of you, would you translate for me the phrases “gratia vocans sive excitans” and “gratia adiuvans” as they were used in this sentence: “Prevenient grace, regarded as a divine call to penance, is often styled gratia vocans sive excitans, and if it is received with a willing heart, gratia adiuvans.” Another frustrating example of a Catholic author using Latin phrases without giving their translation. Thanks!

    Tim Troutman: I hope it will be soon, but I wouldn’t expect it for at least a few months. Maybe we can squeeze in a blog post to hold us over until then. It’s an important (and difficult) subject that we want to handle with care.

    I am looking forward to the article, and I appreciate those concerns. I hope that you include a glossary of all the technical terms that will be used in the article.

  382. One way to put mateo’s point in general terms: the Calvinist who accuses the Catholic of semi-Pelagianism is committing what might be called the “fallacy of incomplete analysis,” in which one makes a show of trying to understand a concept analogous to one’s own, but that is actually informed by a different conceptual scheme. Then, when one isolates it from that other conceptual scheme and compares it with one’s own, it is bound to be incommensurable with it and guaranteed to come out looking grotesque or otherwise absurd. Rather, the concept should be understood according to the overall conceptual scheme in which it resides. I actually just wrote a blog post about this general phenomenon, since it manifests itself repeatedly in attempts at Protestant/Catholic dialogue. (Another example: for the Protestant, Mary is a nativity-set figurine that only comes out of the closet during Christmastime; veneration of that is bound to come out looking absurd.)

  383. Mateo,

    Thanks for your encouragement. It is a blessing for me that my training can be of service to you.

    If I may ask another favor of you, would you translate for me the phrases “gratia vocans sive excitans” and “gratia adiuvans” as they were used in this sentence: “Prevenient grace, regarded as a divine call to penance, is often styled gratia vocans sive excitans, and if it is received with a willing heart, gratia adiuvans.”

    Gratia vocans sive excitans means “calling or [sive] arousing grace.” Both participles go with the noun gratia, which is not repeated. Gratia originally meant something like “popularity,” “esteem,” “influence” or “favor.” It is related to the adjective gratus. Hence the person who is not related to you in a state of gratia is a persona non grata. It is this sense of the word which gives it the meaning “thanks,” shortened from “I give you thanks.” “Thanks be to God” in Latin is Deo gratias. And so in Spanish the word for “thanks” is “gracias.” In English it also shows up in words like “grateful” and “gracious.”

    The word adiuvans in the phrase gratia adiuvans is, like vocans and excitans, an adjective derived from a present participle. The verb from which the participle is derived is iuvare, which means “to help/aid.” The verb appears in another form in the opening of the divine office, when we say “O God, come to my aid. O Lord, make haste to help me (Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina).”

  384. David Pell : Thanks for your encouragement. It is a blessing for me that my training can be of service to you …

    Gratia vocans sive excitans means “calling or [sive] arousing grace.”

    The word adiuvans in the phrase gratia adiuvans is, like vocans and excitans, an adjective derived from a present participle. The verb from which the participle is derived is iuvare, which means “to help/aid.”

    David – you have blessed me by helping me understand the Latin that Catholic theologians use. I would bet that there are others reading this thread that have benefited from your knowledge too. Regarding the twofold division of the actual grace that prepares the adult to receive the sanctifying grace of justification, from you I just learned:

    gratia vocans could be called “calling grace”
    gratia adiuvans could be called “helping grace” or “aiding grace”.

    In Waterworth’s English translation of the The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V, the twofold division of actual grace that prepares man to receive the grace of justification is labeled “prevenient grace” and “quickening and assisting grace”.

    Gratia adiuvans is the equivalent of Waterworth’s “quickening and assisting grace”; i.e. “Helping and aiding grace” equals “quickening and assisting grace” – that makes perfect sense.

    In Waterworth’s English translation of Trent, Waterworth’s “prevenient grace” is the equivalent of gratia vocans (calling grace). Again, that makes sense.

    In the Wikipedia article on Prevenient Grace, it says this about the 18th century usage of the English word “prevenient”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevenient_grace

    Prevenient grace (also referred to as prevenial) is a Christian theological concept rooted in Augustinian theology. … Wesley typically referred to it in 18th century language as prevenient grace. In modern English, the phrase preceding grace would have a similar meaning.

    Msgr. Joseph Pohle translates “prevent” (praevenit) as “precede” here:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29540/29540-h/29540-h.html#toc11

    Prevenient and Coöperating Grace

    A third division of the same grace is that into praeveniens and subsequens. It is likewise distinctly Scriptural,[81] [pg 034] and its two members coincide materially with gratia vocans and adiuvans, as can be seen by comparing the usage of St. Augustine with that of the Tridentine Council. “God’s mercy,” says the holy Doctor, “prevents [i.e. precedes] the unwilling to make him willing; it follows the willing lest he will in vain.”[82] And the Council of Trent declares that “in adults the beginning of justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their part, they are called.”[83]

    Footnotes:

    81. Cfr. Ps. LVIII, 11; XXII, 6.

    82. Enchiridion, c. 32: “Nolentem praevenit, ut velit; volentem subsequitur, ne frustra velit.”

    83. Conc. Trident., Sess. VI, cap. 5: “Declarat praeterea, ipsius justificationis exordium in adultis a Dei per Iesum Christum praeveniente gratia sumendum esse, h. e. ab eius vocatione, qua nullis eorum existentibus meritis vocantur.” (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 797.)

    From Msgr. Joseph Pohle, I learned of another pair of terms to describe the twofold division of the actual grace being discussed above: praeveniens and subsequens. I assume that subsequens translates as “subsequent”, and thus we get “preceding grace” and “subsequent grace” – which is the same as Dr. Ott’s “antecedent grace and “consequent grace”.

    What have I learned so far? It is a de fide teaching of the Church that there is a twofold division of the actual grace that enlightens the understanding and strengthens the will of the adult preparing to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. Canon Waterworth’s English translation of Trent describes that twofold division of actual grace with the terms “prevenient grace” and “quickening and assisting grace”. The words “prevenient” and “quickening and assisting” have their functional equivalents in Catholic literature with these terms:

    praeveniens and subsequens

    preceding and subsequent

    antecedens and concomitans

    antecedent and consequent

    operans and cooperans

    operating and cooperating

    vocans and adiuvans

    calling and aiding

    exitans and adiuvans

    arousing and helping.

    Substituting Waterworth’s terms “prevenient grace” and “quickening and assisting grace” with their equivalents of “preceding grace” and “subsequent grace” we would have this:

    The Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter V:

    “The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the preceding grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His subsequent grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.”

    In this thread we have also introduced the concepts of irresistible grace and resistible grace. In the Catholic theology of grace, prevenient/preceding/antecedent/operating grace is irresistible, because with this grace, God works “in us, without us”. “Quickening/assisting/aiding/subsequent/consequent/cooperating grace is resistible, because for this grace to be efficacious, we must cooperate with God who works “in us, with us”. Furthermore, the distinction between irresistible and resistible grace must be taken into account in any coherent discussion of monergism and synergism.

    If one can’t understand the meaning of the language being used, one can’t really understand what is being discussed. Understanding that St. Augustine taught the irresistibility of prevenient grace helps me see more clearly where the train of thought goes off the rails in the unending Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate.

    Gracias, David!

  385. Micah: One way to put mateo’s point in general terms: the Calvinist who accuses the Catholic of semi-Pelagianism is committing what might be called the “fallacy of incomplete analysis,” in which one makes a show of trying to understand a concept analogous to one’s own, but that is actually informed by a different conceptual scheme. Then, when one isolates it from that other conceptual scheme and compares it with one’s own, it is bound to be incommensurable with it and guaranteed to come out looking grotesque or otherwise absurd. Rather, the concept should be understood according to the overall conceptual scheme in which it resides. I actually just wrote a blog post about this general phenomenon, since it manifests itself repeatedly in attempts at Protestant/Catholic dialogue.

    Excellent points, Micah. It is difficult to have a fruitful dialog when people are using the same terms to mean entirely different things. Thinking about your post, and after reading the Wikipedia article on Prevenient Grace, I thought that CTC could use an article titled : A Catholic view of the Calvinism vs. Arminianism Debate: A case study in the fallacy of incomplete analysis.

    :-)

    Here are two snippets from the Wikipedia article:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevenient_grace

    Prevenient Grace

    Prevenient grace … is a Christian theological concept rooted in Augustinian theology.

    … Whereas Augustine held that prevenient grace cannot be resisted, Wesleyan Arminians believe that it enables, but does not ensure, personal acceptance of the gift of salvation.

    … Calvinists have their own doctrine of prevenient grace, arguably closer to the original Augustinian conception, which they identify with the act of regeneration and which is immediately and necessarily followed by faith. Because of the necessity of salvation following this dispensation of prevenient grace, it is called irresistible grace.

    If the Wesleyan Arminians believe that St. Augustine taught that prevenient grace is resistible, then they did not understand St. Augustine. Likewise, if Calvinists think that St. Augustine taught that prevenient grace necessitated the grace of justification, or that prevenient grace is identical with the act of regeneration, then neither do the Calvinists understand St. Augustine.

    Micah, could you give a link to your blog post that you mentioned above

  386. Sure thing, here it is: http://www.upsaid.com/catholicity/index.php?action=viewcom&id=464

  387. great website. good articles. very helpful. good back n forth on this thread. im on a road to rome. i havnt made it there. yet. glad i stumbled across this website. ill be around.

  388. [...] [...]

  389. @387 Nicholas, make sure you read the Book of Concorde before you make a decision to submit to the Pope. http://www.bookofconcord.org/
    And maybe talk to some people who left the priesthood of Rome for the reformation.
    http://www.bereanbeacon.org/

  390. [...] against N.T. Wright’s opinion about such-and-such teaching while living in Durham, England, won’t get you beaten down like going against Calvin in Geneva would have. Still, Wright’s influence is incredible. He represents in some ways everything for the [...]

  391. I benefited from your essay and have two thoughts.
    1. I have found a consistent theme in those who leave evangelicalism, or should I say a lack of a theme. That theme or lack there of is the doctrine of salvation and specifically Justification. Calvin and Luther may have been nasty men, and very sinful, but how is it that so many leave Evangelicalism and do not leave because Reformational Justification is not dealt with? Rome has erred seriously on this topic and itself is prideful in how it dealt with Luther and the rest, i.e. Huss.

    2. The fact that Evangelicalism failed you does not conclude that the reformation was wrong. Evangelicalism is wrong in so many ways, agreed!

    Thanks again for your site.

    Patrick Malone

  392. Patrick,

    Those who come into full communion with the Catholic Church come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances. No one Catholic convert begins the travel to full communion with the Church in the same way. Some come because the Liturgy, others because of the issue of the Canon, others because of the Eucharist, others because of history, still others because of Justification. Where the stories of conversion do often converge is on the issue of Authority. Who has the Divinely given authority to speak in the name of Christ and who or which Church has been intended and established by Christ to navigate the waters of the faith? So I would say that no one story is alike but all the stories at some point intersect: namely, people become convinced by the grace of God to recognize the Catholic Church as the Church we mean when we say “The Church”.

  393. [...] http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/how-john-calvin-made-me-a-catholic/ [...]

  394. [...] article when I visited From the Priory. He excerpts from an interesting article entitled “How John Calvin Made me a Catholic.”  As I am currently about half-way through a volume of Calvin’s selected writings, I [...]

  395. As one who has for the last 15 years read Calvin’s works, his fellow reformers, and late medieval theology in the original languages (currently completing a PhD in this area) I was intrigued by this article. As a Protestant, I have great respect for the Roman Catholic tradition. But David’s article didn’t resonate with me.

    Firstly, David is free to make his own assessment of Calvin as a person. I don’t agree with everything Calvin said, and especially the way he said it. However, there are two problems with what David says about Calvin. Firstly, Calvin’s rhetoric was a standard of his time. Roman Catholics like Cajetan, Eck, and Bellarmine were just as bad, if not worse. Each generation has it’s cultural blinkers, and we must be very careful to sit in judgement on other generations being blind to our own biases. Secondly, David may not like Calvin as a person (I don’t agree with his evaluation), but Calvin pales into insignificance compared to say, the Renaissance Popes or the ninth and tenth century Papacy. Calvin never claimed to be head of the church unlike the Papacy. The idea that immoral Popes are still by office the mouthpiece of God is something with which I greatly struggle (especially considering what the NT has to say about teachers who are immoral).

    Secondly, I don’t recognise the Protestantism of David. I’ve never been taught or ever thought that a pure evangelicalism was to be found in the early church, or that there’s been some pure stream of it until the reformation. Moreover, I also don’t find the Roman Catholic church in the early church either. The 7 sacraments were absent, prays to the saints, the papacy was very different etc. etc. And John Henry Newman’s explanation of doctrinal development is gratuitously a priori. Both Reformed and Roman Catholics who post on this forum have very idealised understandings of church history. It would do well for both sides to recognise this. For me, the strong point of evangelicalism is that it recognises that not all Christian teachings are of the same importance, indeed it is critical to recognise that there are teachings believers are free over which to disagree (1 Cor. 5; Rom. 14-15). This is how unity is found, in recognising what’s most important and what’s negotiable. It is this that both extremely Reformed folk and certain Roman Catholics fail to recognise, and hence it produces extreme claims and rhetoric from both sides, with an unwilling to listen to each side.

  396. Pro : David Anders

    [quote]Calvin understood baptism in much the same way. He never taught the Evangelical doctrine that one is “born again” through personal conversion. Instead, he associated regeneration with baptism and taught that to neglect baptism was to refuse salvation[/quote]

    Can you give me the reference for your statements above? Institutes book number ? Chapeter number ?

  397. Bobby, responding to your post #396: See this interview with Dr. David Anders and Fr. Mitch Pacwa:

    EWTN Live – Protestant Theology – Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. with David Anders

    There is a discussion between minutes 8:36 -14:45 that answers why Dr. Anders makes the statements that you quoted.

    See especially minute 11:26:

    Calvin on Baptism

    “…In baptism, God, regenerating us, engrafts us into a society of his church and makes us his own by adoption.”

    Institutes of the Christian Religion (4.17.1)

  398. Hey Marty,

    Thanks for joining in the discussion. Since no one has responded to your post yet I thought I’d offer some thoughts in response to a few select remarks.

    Firstly, David is free to make his own assessment of Calvin as a person. I don’t agree with everything Calvin said, and especially the way he said it. However, there are two problems with what David says about Calvin. Firstly, Calvin’s rhetoric was a standard of his time. Roman Catholics like Cajetan, Eck, and Bellarmine were just as bad, if not worse. Each generation has it’s cultural blinkers, and we must be very careful to sit in judgement on other generations being blind to our own biases.

    If I understand Dr. Anders correctly, his main point is not just that Calvin’s tone was wrose. His point was that his discovery of Calvin’s attitude toward ecclesiastical authority revealed how seriously Protestantism has changed in the last 500 years, and that reading Calvin made him investigate the issues from the very beginning to see whether Calvin’s claims to intepretive authority were any more valid than the Catholic Church’s. Yes, Calvin claimed authority and the Catholic Church claimed authority. The difference is that Calvin’s claim to authority was arbitrary and internally inconsistent. He exercised his own private judgment in condemning the official teachings of the Catholic Church and causing schism, then censured others for exercising their own private judgment by disagreeing with him and causing divisions within his new church.

    Secondly, I don’t recognise the Protestantism of David. I’ve never been taught or ever thought that a pure evangelicalism was to be found in the early church, or that there’s been some pure stream of it until the reformation.

    I think this is a good, if indirect, statement of one of the very problems that Called to Communion is trying to point out. Your Protestantism looks nothing like the Protestantism of Dr. Anders’ early life. Neither of them look like the Protestantism of my first few years as a Christian. Many people disagree with you about these points and at the end of the day, without Catholic ecclesiology, we’re left with your scholarly opinion against their scholarly (or, in most cases, completely ignorant) opinion.

    Moreover, I also don’t find the Roman Catholic church in the early church either. The 7 sacraments were absent, prays to the saints, the papacy was very different etc. etc. And John Henry Newman’s explanation of doctrinal development is gratuitously a priori. Both Reformed and Roman Catholics who post on this forum have very idealised understandings of church history. It would do well for both sides to recognise this.

    Statements like this at first seem irenic, but when we look at them more closely it sounds like you’re simply saying that everyone but you has gotten it wrong. I’m not saying that you mean to come across that way, but you really are positing that there’s this one group who has an idealized position and they’re wrong, then there’s this other group with an idealized position and they’re also wrong. Then there’s you who have managed to remain calm and reasonable about the whole matter, having protected yourself from going into extremes. Yet I would assume that I wouldn’t have to go far to find someone who would say that you yourself have an idealized view of the bible and church history.

    Anyway, I happen to think that the Catholic Church’s historical and theological positions are generally very moderate, realistic and carefully thought-out, especially in comparison with most evangelical models. But here we are again, back to your scholarly opinion against mine. What if I were to say, for example, that I’ll see your graduate work in Medieval Christianity and raise you my present graduate work on Patristics and Greek and Latin philology? Given that you are a scholar of the late Medieval Period, would you accept my scholarly opinion on the Patristic period or would you stick to your readings of the early Church, on which basis you have concluded that it was not “Roman” Catholic? As a Catholic, I wouldn’t actually expect you to join the Church based on just my scholarly opinions.

    For me, the strong point of evangelicalism is that it recognises that not all Christian teachings are of the same importance, indeed it is critical to recognise that there are teachings believers are free over which to disagree (1 Cor. 5; Rom. 14-15). This is how unity is found, in recognising what’s most important and what’s negotiable. It is this that both extremely Reformed folk and certain Roman Catholics fail to recognise, and hence it produces extreme claims and rhetoric from both sides, with an unwilling to listen to each side.

    I think this gets to the crux of the matter. First, the Catholic Church does, in fact, believe that not all Christian teachings are of the same importance. Where you and the Catholic Church disagree is simply on how we are to disagree which teachings are of primary importance, and consequently what those teachings are. Second, although you again characterize the “other” as being extreme and stubborn, supposedly offering your own positions as the proper middle way, this comes across as a smokescreen avoiding (not necessarily consciously, as I said above) the real issues of ecclesiology and authority.

  399. Bobby & Mateo,

    Yes, I remember that the Federal Vision folk were being anathematized in the Presbyterian synods a few years ago for supposedly being at odds with the Westminster Confession of Faith even though they were defending their positions from primary sources (i.e. Calvin and others) written 100 years before the WCF was composed.

  400. Dear David,

    Thanks for your response. Here’s mine.

    The difference is that Calvin’s claim to authority was arbitrary and internally inconsistent. He exercised his own private judgment in condemning the official teachings of the Catholic Church and causing schism, then censured others for exercising their own private judgment by disagreeing with him and causing divisions within his new church.

    David, neither Catholic nor Protestant can escape private judgement. Catholics and Protestants both have their authoritative documents. For Protestants it is Scripture, for Catholics it is their many “official” ecclesiastical documents. Hence, I have many Catholic friends who come to all sorts of different conclusions in the way they interpret official Catholic documents. Three converts from Reformed Protestantism to Rome illustrate the point well. Scott Hahn, Bob Sungenis, and Gerry Matatics all come to very different views about the role and status of Vatican II, not an insignificant issue. All of them attempt to prove their position quoting from official Catholic documents. And whichever position you follow, that of Hahn, Sungenis, Matatics or some other position, you’re engaging in private interpretation.

    I think this is a good, if indirect, statement of one of the very problems that Called to Communion is trying to point out. Your Protestantism looks nothing like the Protestantism of Dr. Anders’ early life. Neither of them look like the Protestantism of my first few years as a Christian. Many people disagree with you about these points and at the end of the day, without Catholic ecclesiology, we’re left with your scholarly opinion against their scholarly (or, in most cases, completely ignorant) opinion.

    Again, you’re assuming that you don’t privately interpret official Catholic documents. The difficulty for the Roman Catholic is the doctrine of infallibility. The 1870 Vatican I definition of what constitutes an “ex cathedra” teaching doesn’t supply the exact conditions. Hence there are a multitude of theories as to which ecclesiastical statement is infallible and which isn’t. These opinions are all private interpretations. And whilst they are, one doesn’t know which documents carry what authority. If you say that an ecumenical council is infallible how do you know? Which ecclesiastical document says it? And how do you know this is an infallible document? And how do you know that you (a fallible human) have interpreted it correctly? The priest and bishop is fallible. Is humanae vitae infallible? How do you infallibly know?

    Statements like this at first seem irenic, but when we look at them more closely it sounds like you’re simply saying that everyone but you has gotten it wrong. I’m not saying that you mean to come across that way, but you really are positing that there’s this one group who has an idealized position and they’re wrong, then there’s this other group with an idealized position and they’re also wrong. Then there’s you who have managed to remain calm and reasonable about the whole matter, having protected yourself from going into extremes. Yet I would assume that I wouldn’t have to go far to find someone who would say that you yourself have an idealized view of the bible and church history.

    And why can’t the same be said of you? You’re judging my opinion here. Who are you to do that? How do you know that your interpretations of the infallible Catholic documents (whichever ones they are) are correct?

    I think this gets to the crux of the matter. First, the Catholic Church does, in fact, believe that not all Christian teachings are of the same importance.

    Well that’s your private interpretation of what the Catholic Church believes. I’ll give the opinion of another Catholic. It’s Pope Pius XI’s opinion in his encyclical Mortalium Animos (1928):
    Besides this, in connection with things which must be believed, it is nowise licit to use that distinction which some have seen fit to introduce between those articles of faith which are fundamental and those which are not fundamental, as they say, as if the former are to be accepted by all, while the latter may be left to the free assent of the faithful: for the supernatural virtue of faith has a formal cause, namely the authority of God revealing, and this is patient of no such distinction.

    Now of course there’s no way we can determine whether this encyclical is infallible because no infallible Roman Catholic authority has told us so. Moreover, if you interpret it differently to me, how do you know that you’re interpretation is infallibility correct given that you’re fallible?

    Where you and the Catholic Church disagree is simply on how we are to disagree which teachings are of primary importance, and consequently what those teachings are.

    That’s your (fallible) interpretation of what the Catholic Church believes. I have Catholic friends who think otherwise. How do you who’s right? All we have is just your opinion against theirs.

    Second, although you again characterize the “other” as being extreme and stubborn, supposedly offering your own positions as the proper middle way, this comes across as a smokescreen avoiding (not necessarily consciously, as I said above) the real issues of ecclesiology and authority.

    How is that you can see all my unconscious problems and I can’t? Why do you presume to hold such insight? My point is that lots of people don’t recognise that they have their own cultural and worldview blinkers. We all do. Without grasping this, people often think they can tie down every truth. There’s a lack of epistemic humility. Fallible humans can’t pin down everything; hence there needs to be focus on what’s central with a humility to recognise that we are free to disagree on less important truths. This is taught clearly in Rom. 14-15.

    I find it ironic that this website is named, “Called to Communion” when the single biggest obstacle to church union (which I desire) has been the papacy especially since the 11th century. With the new the new papal claims that arose then, which deployed the forged document “The Donation of Constantine”, the church has been rent asunder ever since.

    Every blessing,

    Marty.

  401. Marty:

    This is not meant to pre-empt David’s reply, which I’m sure will be cogent in its own right. But I couldn’t help pointing out that most of your comment presents just one more version of what the authors of this blog call “the tu quoque objection.” You can find a response to that general argument at this C2C post. For now, a few more specific points are in order.

    First, you’re equivocating on the phrase ‘private judgment’. That phrase was introduced in the mid-19th century by John Henry Newman, recently beatified by the Pope. He meant it pejoratively. Thus, private judgment is the setting up of individuals or sub-groups within the Church as judges of the Church’s orthodoxy, which is opposed to submitting to the Church as the judge of the orthodoxy of individuals or sub-groups within her. Private judgment in that sense reduces the doctrinal authority of the Church to no authority at all. But you seem to be using the phrase to mean ‘individual judgment’, without presupposing that any human agency in particular has the authority to judge the orthodoxy of the Church. That usage raises a different question.

    Nobody can deny that individual interpretation of the Bible or of magisterial documents is inevitable, at least for those equipped to study them. And individuals, notoriously, disagree. So the question is not whether divergent interpretations arise, but what authority, if any, there is to adjudicate definitively among them. The difference between the Protestant and Catholic “hermeneutical paradigms” is that the latter upholds a living authority for adjudication, one that’s understood to speak with the authority of Christ himself. Conversely, people who deny there is such an authority have no way of adjudicating definitively among conflicting interpretations of texts, including and especially the Bible. Everything thus remains a matter of opinion.

    To that point, Protestants who come here often object that the posited authority only pushes the problem back. For when the authority in question seeks to adjudicate among conflicting interpretations–not only of the Bible, but also of its own texts–it can only do so by issuing another text, about which the same difficulty then arises, et cetera and ad infinitum. But that objection rests on a confusion.

    Nobody denies that some interpretations of expository texts, theological or otherwise, are clearer than others. To deny that would be tantamount to denying that some such texts are better than others for their main purpose, which is communicating information. And such a denial would be intellectual suicide. But once we’ve got a relatively clear interpretation of a given text, the question remains whether it is also correct. Sometimes, a relatively clear interpretation is incorrect, and a relatively unclear interpretation is correct, or at least would be shown correct upon due clarification of the author’s intent. The advantage of the Catholic HP is that it posits an authority for determining definitively which relatively clear interpretations–whether of Scripture and Tradition, or of its own texts, or both–are correct. Sometimes the resulting “clarifications” are not as clear as we’d like. But that doesn’t rule out increasing clarity over time–which is exactly what the Magisterium does. For that task can only be performed by a living authority with divine authority. Otherwise, no matter how clear a given individual or sub-group’s interpretation may be or fail to be, there would be no way to decide definitively, with divine authority, which is correct–and which is thus binding on the faithful as a true expression of divine revelation.

    Our argument is that, absent such an authority, we would be left unable to distinguish, in a principled way, between interpretations that are merely human opinions and interpretations that a true expressions of divine revelation that call for the assent of faith as distinct from opinion. That is the argument you need to address as a Protestant. The tu quoque argument you have offered does not do so.

    Best,
    Mike

  402. Dear Mike,

    The advantage of the Catholic HP is that it posits an authority for determining definitively which relatively clear interpretations–whether of Scripture and Tradition, or of its own texts, or both–are correct.

    How do you know that? Which infallible authority tells you this?

    Marty.

  403. Marty:

    The fundamental issue between Catholicism and Protestantism is whether there is any visible ecclesial authority which God has promised to preserve from doctrinal error under certain conditions. The former affirms that there is; the latter denies it. But if there is such an authority, than that is an article of faith, not of reason. So the question how I “know” there is such an authority is unhelpful as formulated. All it does is raise a further question: what counts as “knowing” when the object of “knowledge” is a tenet of faith as distinct from human reason? The same question arises for any article of faith, such as the content, inspiration, or inerrancy of the Scriptural canon.

    A more helpful question would be this: what reasons, if any, are there to prefer the Catholic HP to the Protestant, or vice-versa? I answer that question on my own blog. If you want to respond to that argument, I suggest you do so there. That way we won’t hijack this thread any further.

    Best,
    Mike

  404. Marty said:
    “If you say that an ecumenical council is infallible how do you know? Which ecclesiastical document says it?”
    Now you may disagree, but the Councils claim divine infallible authority for themselves. This is unquestionably evidential to the fact that the church did not embrace Sola Scriptura.

    Letter of 6th Ecumenical Council to Pope Agatho:

    “therefore Christ our true God, who is the creator and governing power of all things, gave a wise physician, namely your God-honoured sanctity, to drive away by force the contagion of heretical pestilence by the remedies of orthodoxy, and to give the strength of health to the members of the church. Therefore to you, as to the bishop of the first see of the Universal Church, we leave what must be done, since you willingly take for your standing ground the firm rock of the faith, as we know from having read your true confession in the letter sent by your fatherly beatitude to the most pious emperor: and we acknowledge that this letter was divinely written as by the Chief of the Apostles, and through it we have cast out the heretical sect”……
    “…not thus, O venerable and sacred head, have we been taught, we who hold Christ, the Lord of the universe, to be both benign and man-loving in the highest degree”……
    “Thus, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and instructed by your doctrine, we have cast forth the vile doctrines of impiety”……
    “Thereupon, therefore, the grace of the Holy Spirit shone upon us, displaying his power, through your assiduous prayers, for the uprooting of all weeds and every tree which brought not forth good fruit, and giving command that they should be consumed by fire. And we all agree both in heart and tongue, and hand, and have put forth, by the assistance of the life-giving Spirit, a definition, clean from all error, certain, and infallible”

  405. It is important, I think, for Catholics to be upfront about the fact that respected and esteemed Catholic theologians disagree on many theological questions. They disagree on the interpretation of magisterial decisions and documents. Pope John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a perfect case. What is its authority? Does it qualify as an irreformable definition? If yes, why? If not, why? The mere assertion of authoritative decision does not make it so.

    I personally believe that the strongest response the Catholic can make to this kind of objection, when all is aid, is that we trust Peter. In the end, we want to be in his Church.

    I believe that an Eastern Orthodox might say something similar: in the end we want to be with the Church of St Basic and St Maximos.

    It’s not about legalistic one-up-man-ship. It’s all about the communities to which you finally entrust your lifes. The Vicars of St Peter certainly have a claim upon us, as do the ancient sees of the East. f

    You pays your money and takes your chances.

  406. What do you do if the Pope is a heretic? I mean Irenaeus had to call a Pope out for heresy. Was that Pope infallible?

  407. Jason,

    Generally speaking, the doctrine of papal infallibility does not require us to imagine the impossibility of a Pope committing egregious sins or personally holding heretical views. As it was defined at Vatican 1, the teaching is that a pope is protected from error when he speaks 1) in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, 2) in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority and 3) he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church.

    As for the case with Irenaeus to which you refer, could you be more specific?

  408. The fundamental issue between Catholicism and Protestantism is whether there is any visible ecclesial authority which God has promised to preserve from doctrinal error under certain conditions. The former affirms that there is; the latter denies it.

    I agree with this.

    But if there is such an authority, than that is an article of faith, not of reason. So the question how I “know” there is such an authority is unhelpful as formulated. All it does is raise a further question: what counts as “knowing” when the object of “knowledge” is a tenet of faith as distinct from human reason? The same question arises for any article of faith, such as the content, inspiration, or inerrancy of the Scriptural canon.

    But I have to disagree with this. I believe there is a rational aspect to faith. I believe there is strong evidence for the reliability of the scriptures, for the existence of a man named Jesus, and for his death and resurrection as proof of his being the Son of God. It is “faith” but I believe my faith rests on good evidence, not just something grasped at blindly.

    A more helpful question would be this: what reasons, if any, are there to prefer the Catholic HP to the Protestant, or vice-versa?

    I think this totally misses the point. The issue isn’t what we “prefer”, the issue is truth. The Jews would have “preferred” a kingly messiah to rescue them from Roman rule, instead they got a suffering messiah to rescue them from sin. God often acts unexpectedly, in ways that we would not agree with if we were “running the show”. To say we choose on which we would “prefer” I think would be a grave mistake. Truth should be our guide, not what we “prefer”.

  409. It is important, I think, for Catholics to be upfront about the fact that respected and esteemed Catholic theologians disagree on many theological questions. They disagree on the interpretation of magisterial decisions and documents. Pope John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a perfect case. What is its authority? Does it qualify as an irreformable definition? If yes, why? If not, why? The mere assertion of authoritative decision does not make it so.

    See here is the rub. Authority/infallibility is the cudgel that Catholics beat Protestants over the head with again and again (but only lovingly, right? :) ). Yet what good is it if the church can’t/won’t answer the questions like that above? Infallibility sounds great from a theoretical point of view, but as seen above, it seems to have very little practical significance.

    If Catholics can’t produce a list of infallible doctrines, documents, papal pronouncements, etc., (and as noted above, they don’t seem able to do so, and disagree over which are and which aren’t) then what good is infallibility? You sound like a bunch of Protestants, only rather arguing over the interpretation of scripture, you argue about the which pronouncements, documents, etc are infallible and how to interpret them.

  410. If Catholics can’t produce a list of infallible doctrines, documents, papal pronouncements, etc., (and as noted above, they don’t seem able to do so, and disagree over which are and which aren’t) then what good is infallibility?

    If nothing else, just this: IF there is to be a visible, unified, catholic and apostolic church, is there any other remotely plausible claimant for this title besides the RCC? (The Orthodox have all of this except catholicity; other than them, NO church has any remotely plausible claim to ANY of these credentials.) If it’s suggested that that’s not enough, then I suspect that the Protestant notion that orthodoxy trumps orthopraxy is at play here, and moreover that orthodoxy is defined by an *individual*’s adherence to certain doctrines (and defining orthodoxy with the *individual* as final epistemic arbiter is the *real* problem). But if there’s no question about where the Church is to be found today, simply on the basis of the faithful transmission of the sacraments and holy orders (the orthopraxy of apostolicity), whence the worry in the first place that one is going to seriously fall afoul of orthodoxy?

  411. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has in fact issued at least a partial list, in a commentary on the profession of faith that is required of certain Church officials. An unofficial translation of the document can be found here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfadtu.htm.

    And, as a matter of fact, it declares the doctrine set forth in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to have been infallibly defined by the ordinary universal magisterium.

    I’m sure Dr. Liccione will be able to provide more details on this point, since it is one of his specialties.

  412. @ Steve G (#409):

    If Catholics can’t produce a list of infallible doctrines, documents, papal pronouncements, etc., (and as noted above, they don’t seem able to do so, and disagree over which are and which aren’t) then what good is infallibility?

    I’ve heard this argument before and even as a Protestant it puzzles me. Unless we’re the most severe kind of skeptics, the mere fact that Catholics disagree about which pronouncements are infallible doesn’t mean that there is no fact of the matter “out there” about the question, nor does it entail that Catholics and Protestants are in the same epistemic boat at all. Anyone can disagree about anything – the question is whether or not the dispute is tractable or intractable. The question of whether X is an infallible pronouncement is clearly tractable – if it’s got something like “If anyone believes that P, let him be anathema” in it, it’s de fide. Most of the disputes I’ve been able to turn up are questions of counting. For example, Trent’s de fide proclamations repeated some things that earlier councils had also decided. You then get scholarly disputes about whether to count that as one or two proclamations, but still, it’s not like there’s this massive epistemic uncertainty about whether either one of them was or wasn’t de fide.

    Returning to the issue of tractability, that’s at least one area where our Catholic brethren have us beat hands down. Let’s say that there is some massive disagreement about what X teaches (set your X to be a papal proclamation or the Bible, depending on whether we’re in Catholic Land or Protestant World…) If it’s a Papal proclamation, there’s a place to go to get a definitive answer, and if there is still uncertainty it can be clarified yet again, etc. If we’re over in Protestant land, and there is a huge disagreement about something important (say, the sacraments,) where should I turn to? The pastor of the church I chose to attend? Why him rather than another pastor down the street? Some theological experts (which are, quite frankly, all over the place?) It doesn’t intrinsically make the Catholic position right, but at least it puts their disputes within a tractable realm that Protestants can only dream of…

    I’ve taught logic, so I found myself puzzling over how one might construct an infallible list of infallible documents. :-) Maybe one writes up a document saying “Documents A, B, C…F are infallible.” Of course, that does no good if that document itself is not infallible. Let’s call this document G. So now we need another infallible document to tell us that G is infallible. Call that one H…but H might be fallible, so we need another de fide proclamation that H isn’t fallible. You can see where the paradox is going – for the burden you propose to be met, an infinitely long chain of infallible documents would need to be produced. Something somewhere along the line (perhaps including my own reasoning) is borked up if the burden we hold Catholics to is the creation of an infinitely long chain. Random musings of a tired mind… :-)

    Look forward to talking with you more, Steve. There’s a lot of nice folk around here, and we’d love to have your participation in these and future conversations. :-)

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin

  413. Marty: … neither Catholic nor Protestant can escape private judgement. Catholics and Protestants both have their authoritative documents. For Protestants it is Scripture, for Catholics it is their many “official” ecclesiastical documents. Hence, I have many Catholic friends who come to all sorts of different conclusions in the way they interpret official Catholic documents.

    You have Catholic friends that interpret official Church documents differently – there is nothing unusual about that. They probably interpret scriptures differently too. But are any of your Catholic friends claiming that they are the final and authoritative interpreters of the doctrines of the faith as taught through either the scriptures or the official documents of the Magisterium? Your friends that are practicing Catholics would say that my interpretation of the scriptures and the official documents of the Magisterium is my best understanding, but I defer to the Magisterium of the church as having the final say in any matter involving faith or morals. Practicing Catholics that know their faith understand that under no circumstance can they found their own personal churches that teaches doctrine contrary to the Magisterium of Christ’s church.

    On the other hand, if you have friends are not practicing Catholics, but are instead only nominal Catholics (Catholics in name only), they might indeed reject that the Magisterium has the final say in matters of faith and morals. The issue that you are raising is about the final interpretive authority within Christ’s church, and no practicing Catholic that knows his faith would ever claim that he is the final interpretive authority within the church on matters involving faith or morals.

    Luther and Calvin are protestors against the claim that final interpretive authority resides within the church founded by Christ. Luther and Calvin claimed that they personally had the final interpretive authority within the churches that they personally founded. But there is no scriptural basis for founding one’s own church, and there is no scriptural basis for belonging to a church founded by a mere man. Quite the contrary, the scriptures teach that Christians must listen to the church that Christ founded, and if they refuse to listen to his church, they are to be excommunicated from his church: … if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matt 18:17

    Fr. Alvin Kimel: It is important, I think, for Catholics to be upfront about the fact that respected and esteemed Catholic theologians disagree on many theological questions. They disagree on the interpretation of magisterial decisions and documents. Pope John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a perfect case. What is its authority? Does it qualify as an irreformable definition? If yes, why? If not, why? The mere assertion of authoritative decision does not make it so.

    There are, of course, topics that theologians legitimately debate within the Catholic Church, and that debate can be useful for clarifying matters of faith and morals. But esteemed theologians don’t necessarily have any authority to definitively define doctrines of the faith. The authority to definitively define doctrines resides with the living Magisterium, and only validly ordained bishops comprise the living Magisterium.

    The beauty of having a living Magisterium is that one can always ask a living human being that has teaching authority within Christ’s church for a clarification of a document such as the Apostolic Letter On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone Ordinatio Sacerdolatis.

    Such a clarification is called a responsum ad dubium. The lay Catholic is never in a position where he must become the ultimate and final interpreter of church doctrine. If the layman has questions about a matter of doctrine, he can always seek clarification from the teaching office of Christ’s church until he is satisfied that he understands the doctrine.

    Cardinal Ratzinger, as the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, gave such a response to John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: Responsum ad Dubium Concerning the Teaching Contained in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Furthermore, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter concerning that particular responsum ad dubium that answers the questions that you ask concerning the authority of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:

    Letter Concerning the CDF Reply Regarding Ordinatio Sacerdotalis

    The publication of the Reply of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to a dubium regarding the reason for which the teaching contained in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is to be considered definitive tenenda seems the appropriate moment to offer certain reflections. …

    In response to this precise act of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, explicitly addressed to the entire Catholic Church, all members of the faithful are required to give their assent to the teaching stated therein. To this end, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of the Holy Father, has given an official Reply on the nature of this assent; it is a matter of full definitive assent, that is to say, irrevocable, to a doctrine taught infallibly by the Church. In fact, as the Reply explains, the definitive nature of this assent derives from the truth of the doctrine itself, since, founded on the written Word of God, and constantly held and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary universal Magisterium (cf. Lumen Gentium,25). Thus, the Reply specifies that this doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church. It should be emphasized that the definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. In the Letter, as the Reply of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also explains, the Roman Pontiff, having taken account of present circumstances, has confirmed the same teaching by a formal declaration, giving expression once again to quod semper, quod ubique et quod ab omnibus tenendum est, utpote ad fidei depositum pertinens. In this case, an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church.

    The text of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis addresses the teaching of the church only men can receive the Sacrament of Ordination, and states that this teaching is not just a matter of church discipline; it is a matter of the faith; i.e. this teaching of the faith “has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary universal Magisterium.” Since this teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium is infallible, it is irrevocable (or irreformable to use your term).

    The letter quoted above states, “In this case [the promulgation of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis], an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church”

    In other words, the promulgation of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was not an extraordinary exercise of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff; i.e. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was not a Papal ex cathedra promulgation of a new dogma. The publication of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was an “act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium”, a teaching that was given to all the faithful of the church as a Papal affirmation of an existing infallible dogma, and “all members of the faithful are required to give their assent to the teaching stated therein.”

    The whole point of writing Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was to clear up the confusion that some Catholics had about why the Sacrament of Ordination was not given to women. Some Catholics thought that the church practice of reserving the Sacrament of Ordination to men only was a matter of church discipline, and not a matter of church doctrine. Since all matters of church discipline are, in principle, reformable, some Catholics were agitating for a change in church discipline.

    Ordinatio Sacerdotalis clears up the confusion in this matter – reserving the Sacrament of Ordination to men alone is a matter of Church doctrine, not Church discipline. The fact that there are still some Catholics agitating for women ordination shows only two things. That some Catholics are either ignorant of the fact that it is an infallible teaching of the faith that women can never receive the Sacrament of Ordination; or it shows that the dissenters do in fact understand the ordinary and universal Magisterium has taught that this is an infallible teaching – and they don’t care. They don’t care because they are de facto Protestants and they protest along with Luther and Calvin against the Scriptures and Tradition that proclaim that the Magisterium of Christ’s church has final say in matters of faith and morals.

  414. Steve G. : If Catholics can’t produce a list of infallible doctrines …

    It is an infallible doctrine of the Catholic Church that all the scriptures found within in a Protestant bible are inerrant because they are all “God breathed”.

    Could any Protestant provide me a list of every possible inerrant doctrine that can be derived from a Protestant bible? No Protestant could do that, nor is it reasonable for me to expect a Protestant to provide me with such a list, since the list would be nearly infinite. What is the limit of the depths to which scripture can be plumbed? There is no limit to be found by men residing on this earth. Since it is not reasonable for me to expect Protestants to provide a list of every conceivable doctrine of faith and morals, it is also not reasonable for Protestants to demand Catholics to provide such a list.

    It is, however, a quite reasonable thing for a person inquiring about Christianity to expect that a particular Protestant denomination provide to him a list of some the most important and fundamental doctrines that that the Protestant denomination professes. And there is the rub. If any particular Protestant denomination provides such a list, it is also possible to find a different Protestant denomination that will refutes any particular doctrines that might be found on that list.

    The doctrinal division that is rampant within Protestantism is a scandal that hinders the spreading of the Gospel to an unbelieving world. If Christians cannot agree what the doctrines of Christianity are, then why would anyone outside of Christianity give Christians any credibility at all?

  415. Gentlemen,

    If Catholics can’t produce a list of infallible doctrines, documents, papal pronouncements, etc.

    I have interacted with this sort of notion on several occasions. One central problem in this discussion is the implicit notion that divine revelation, or the “deposit of faith”, is essentially propositional. It is not at all evident that such is the case. No doubt, our communication with one another, whether verbal or written, must be expressed propositionally. In so far as each of us must individually extract the intended meaning from propositional expressions, there is no avoiding a certain degree of subjectivity – that is the nature of finite intellection. However, as Benjamin has said, it would be the worst kind of skepticism to suggest that meaning simply cannot be extracted from propositions OR that propositional expressions of communicated truths cannot achieve an increasing level of clarity over time. The fact that each of us successfully function in the world is predicated on the notion that we “understand” each other in day to day activity – with some level of aptitude. The advance of the empirical sciences is exhibit-A that increasing clarity can be gained through interactive dialogue over time – even over centuries of time.

    Ask yourself what it actually means to “know” an article of faith such as the doctrine of the Trinity. You have a proposition (God is three Persons subsisting in one nature) which points to an active, living, reality but does not fully “reveal” it. The proposition simply points the finite, subjective, intellect of the believer to a reality he had not considered before. But given our intellectual finitude, and the progressive “building-block” nature of human knowledge; there is absolutely no way that an expressible proposition can constitute some sort of holistic, comprehensive, grasp of the ontic reality of God in Himself (that would be the beatific vision form a Catholic POV). The truth is that out intellectual comprehension, even of mundane things, is necessarily revisable and subjective. For instance, we can express many propositions about a tree. Such propositions do tell us a lot about trees; enough to enable us to utilize and manipulate them in a wide variety of ways. Still, the knowledge we have of trees (biological, molecular, chemical, etc. etc.) was gained over long periods of time, increased in clarity over time, AND required that each successive generation embrace and stand upon the knowledge gains made in times prior. Most of our knowledge of trees is based on authority, not personal investigation; in fact, the vast majority of our knowledge is “improper” rather than “proper” knowledge. Nowhere is this more truly the case than with the articles of faith.

    For instance, additional, more precise, propositions which are implicitly entailed in the notion of God’s Trinitarian subsistence can be formulated to achieve further human clarity on this divine topic. BUT, given the progressive nature of human knowing, this clarification process must go on till the eschaton. Hence, from the side of the “believer”, one’s grasp or comprehension of revealed truths will ALWAYS admit of the possibility of deeper and clearer understandings. This is the epistemic basis for the fact (yes fact) of doctrinal development. What happens through Christian history within the Church, also happens within each of our personal histories. The living, existential, presence of God the Holy Spirit progressively clarifies and expands our comprehension of God’s revelation which just is Jesus Christ – the logos of creation, second Person of the Trinity. He (the HS) does this in a progressive, propositional, way because that is how we gain knowledge in this life. In the course of time, and according to God’s knowledge of the needs of His Church, the Holy Spirit supervenes upon her ambassadors such that a new proposition (or set of propositions) emerges with reference to some point of God’s revelation if Christ (“He will guide you into all truth”); in order that increased clarity and comprehension may accrue to his people. The Church too, given the very nature of acquired human knowledge, must gain understanding and comprehension in a “building-block” fashion. Such a process is intrinsic to the very idea of “salvation history”.

    The fact that the covenant people, now Christ’s body – the Church – constitute an ongoing, trans-historical family means that these propositional expressions – protected by the Holy Spirit – can have a cumulative, clarifying effect so that each new generation begins with a deeper understanding of the Christian mysteries than the one that proceeded it. Nonetheless, since it is the same Spirit clarifying the same revelation (Jesus Christ), there is an intrinsic continuity among all these progressive, historically embedded propositions such that the later, more precise, propositions were always implicit or contained within the earlier, less precise, definitions. Given this dynamic picture of divine revelation in relation to a finite acquisition of knowledge; the essential question is NOT how the believing subject “knows” divine revelation – he will always know “subjectively”. The essential question that must be answered is this: “where is the seat within human history – if any – which serves as the locus from which the Spirit guided propositional expressions of divine revelation emerge so as to dynamically interact with finite human subjects in each successive generation”?

    So I ask (what I think rarely gets asked): what exactly IS the “deposit of faith”? What, precisely, did God “deposit” into human history? This is the fundamental point at which the Protestant and Catholic macro notions of divine revelation part ways IMO. The notion of sola scriptura, entailing a strictly textual basis for revelation, naturally lends itself to an unreflective embrace of the idea of the “deposit of faith” as a large set of written propositions dumped by God into the lap of humanity. Such a notion will almost certainly be antagonistic to the type of dynamic, interactive scenario I described above, because it fears that such dynamism will threaten to corrupt an initial set of, clear, pristine propositions. This is why my Protestant brothers so often try to insist that precise definitions emerging from councils like Nicaea or Chalcedon are necessarily “clear or plain” from the scriptural texts themselves. I simply think this view is unsupportable given both the history and the hermeneutical assumptions which must be adopted to defend that thesis. In any case, the nature of finite human knowledge entails that expressible propositions will always require interpretation so that some form of dynamism in relation to divine revelation is simply unavoidable. The truth is that we, as finite human subjects, are unavoidably in a certain dynamic relationship to divine revelation. We are in process of increasing our apprehension of the same.

    The Catholic position fully recognizes this fact. The Catholic notion of the “deposit of faith” is rather a living, dynamic deposit. What God principally achieved in delivering the final revelation of Christ as “once for all delivered to the saints”, was the establishment of a LIVING body, the mystical body of Christ as a visible historical reality against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. The Church is a historical reality which continues the “real world” ministry of the Incarnation in her sacraments (healing, forgiving, etc) and authoritative teaching. This is what Catholics see Christ doing when he conveys His authority to his disciples to perform miracles, forgive sins, and authoritatively teach in his name. It is especially what Catholics see Christ doing when He promises to send the Holy Spirit after His ascension. On the day of Pentecost the Church is supernaturally animated as a new, living, historical reality. The Church IS the deposit of Jesus Christ in the world, animated by the sending of the Holy Spirit who continually communicates Christ to His people and to all mankind. Since she is a living deposit, given for our benefit; the Church naturally communicates God’s truth to us in a way that is humanly understandable – i.e. propositionally expressible. Hence, it is no surprise that one of the first gifts to emerge from the Church are the sacred writings of her founders. The scriptures are a written heirloom of the living family of God. They are the Churches’ family memoirs or letters. They have both a human and divine element because the Church from which they arose has been constituted as both human and divine. But, the texts, themselves, are NOT the essential deposit, though they become part of that deposit by derivation. They arise from the more fundamental deposit of the living Christ in the Church itself. The Church is living and trans-historical. Hence, guided by the Holy Spirit, she is able to offer an increasingly clarified, “building-block” understanding of Christ-revealed to each successive generation.

    The bishops as successors of the apostles represent the mechanism within the Church by which the Holy Spirit brings forth such clarifying propositions as need arises. The successor of Peter is the unifying principle among the bishops. Hence, for Catholics, the seat within human history which serves as the absolute locus and center from which the Spirit guided propositional expressions of divine revelation emerges is the seat of Peter. By the very nature of the case (as I described above) the propositions which emerge from this source will always remain in an interactive, dynamic, relationship with the finite intellects of believers in each generation. Hence, the “understanding” of such propositions on the part of the believer will always be developing from cradle to grave. However, for Catholics, that “understanding” always progresses in relation to the infallible source or locus of divine teaching authority – the successors to Peter and the apostles. Moreover, since the successors to Peter and the apostles, themselves, represent a dynamic, ongoing, trans-historical body; the propositions which they express under the guidance of the Holy Spirit are always open to further authoritative clarification by that same body in time to come. In this way BOTH the individual in his historical moment AND the entire Church in her history, grow together in an increasing understanding and comprehension of the final revelation of Jesus Christ.

    The problem of doctrinal relativism is not overcome by Christians somehow attaining a complete intellectual comprehension of all aspects of divine truth (a current impossibility); but rather by placing the believer into a certain dynamic theological relationship with Christ’s body, the Church; and in particular, with that essential aspect of her unity and authority grounded in the person of Peter and his successors. That is what it means to be “in communion with Rome”. The Catholic shares the human necessity of individual dynamic subjectivity with his Protestant brother. The difference is that the Catholic’s individual fallibility and subjectivity are oriented towards, or “subject to”, a living, dynamic, locus of divine authority which is always capable of clarifying or correcting the individual’s theological grasp of divine revelation. This orientation, as an ongoing relationship to the Church, not only prevents the individual’s faith from running off the rails into strange theological waters; it also provides the believer with an increasingly rich storehouse of expressions and concepts by which to better understand the living deposit of faith once for all delivered to the saints. I will stop with a snippet I wrote along these very lines in dialogue with an Eastern Orthodox brother:

    I have 5 children. In my view, the potential for the Catholic EM [Extraordinary Magisterium] to address ongoing crisis within the Church in an authoritative and infallible fashion is not irrelevant. The “assent of faith” creates the communal relationship which enables the Church (including my children, grandchildren and so on) to retain substantial doctrinal and ecclesial unity century after century. This is what being “in communion with Rome” means. It is the principle benefit engendered by the notion of the “Petrine ministry”. But if there is not even, in principle, a constituent part of the Church with the ongoing capacity to speak with divine authority, then the “assent of faith” can only be directed at interpretations of past textual sources. One’s faith is not held as “subject to” anyone in reality. Anyone and everyone can claim that his or her (or his or her bishop’s/patriarch’s) interpretation of counciliar data is the “orthodox” interpretation.

    I Hope that some of the above ads a dimension to the discussion. It seems to me that we at least need to get clear on how we understand “the deposit of faith” and our individual relation to it.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  416. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.i.html
    Introductory Note to Irenæus Against Heresies

    [a.d. 120–202.] This history introduces us to the Church in her Western outposts. We reach the banks of the Rhone, where for nearly a century Christian missions have flourished. Between Marseilles and Smyrna there seems to have been a brisk trade, and Polycarp had sent Pothinus into Celtic Gaul at an early date as its evangelist. He had fixed his see at Lyons, when Irenæus joined him as a presbyter, having been his fellow-pupil under Polycarp. There, under the “good Aurelius,” as he is miscalled (a.d. 177), arose the terrible persecution which made “the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne” so memorable. It was during this persecution that Irenæus was sent to Rome with letters of remonstrance against the rising pestilence of heresy; and he was probably the author of the account of the sufferings of the martyrs which is appended to their testimony.26492649 Eusebius, book v. to the twenty-seventh chapter, should be read as an introduction to this author. But he had the mortification of finding the Montanist heresy patronized by Eleutherus the Bishop of Rome; and there he met an old friend from the school of Polycarp, who had embraced the Valentinian heresy. We cannot doubt that to this visit we owe the lifelong struggle of Irenæus against the heresies that now came in, like locusts, to devour the harvests of the Gospel. But let it be noted here, that, so far from being “the mother and mistress” of even the Western Churches, Rome herself is a mission of the Greeks;26502650 Milman, Hist. Latin Christianity, b. i. pp. 27, 28, and the notes. Southern Gaul is evangelized from Asia Minor, and Lyons checks the heretical tendencies of the Bishop at Rome. Ante-Nicene Christianity, and indeed the Church herself, appears in Greek costume which lasts through the synodical period; and Latin Christianity, when it begins to appear, is African, and not Roman. It is strange that those who have recorded this great historical fact have so little perceived its bearings upon Roman pretensions in the Middle Ages and modern times.

    Returning to Lyons, our author found that the venerable Pothinus had closed his holy career by a martyr’s death; and naturally Irenæus became his successor. When the emissaries of heresy followed him, and began to disseminate their licentious practices and foolish doctrines by the aid of “silly women,” the great work of his life began. He condescended to study these diseases of the human mind like a wise physician; and, sickening as was the process of classifying and describing them, he made this also his laborious task, that he might enable others to withstand and to overcome them. The works he has left us are monuments of his fidelity to Christ, and to the charges of St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Jude, whose solemn warnings now proved to be prophecies. No marvel that the great apostle, “night and day with tears,” had forewarned the churches of “the grievous wolves” which were to make havoc of the fold.

    If it shocks the young student of the virgin years of Christianity to find such a state of things, let him reflect that it was all foretold by Christ himself, and demonstrates the malice and power of the adversary. “An enemy hath done this,” said the Master. The spirit that was then working 310 “in the children of disobedience,” now manifested itself. The awful visions of the Apocalypse began to be realized. It was now evident in what sense “the Prince of peace” had pronounced His mission, “not peace, but a sword.” In short, it became a conspicuous fact, that the Church here on earth is “militant;” while, at the same time, there was seen to be a profound philosophy in the apostolic comment,26512651 1 Cor. xi. 19. “There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest.” In the divine economy of Providence it was permitted that every form of heresy which was ever to infest the Church should now exhibit its essential principle, and attract the censures of the faithful. Thus testimony to primitive truth was secured and recorded: the language of catholic orthodoxy was developed and defined, and landmarks of faith were set up for perpetual memorial to all generations. It is a striking example of this divine economy, that the see of Rome was allowed to exhibit its fallibility very conspicuously at this time, and not only to receive the rebukes of Irenæus, but to accept them as wholesome and necessary; so that the heresy of Eleutherus, and the spirit of Diotrephes in Victor, have enabled reformers ever since, and even in the darkest days of pontifical despotism, to testify against the manifold errors patronized by Rome. Hilary and other Gallicans have been strengthened by the example of Irenæus, and by his faithful words of reproof and exhortation, to resist Rome, even down to our own times.

  417. Ray,

    What an interesting post. I am reminded of Ignatius of Antioch’s interaction with the sola scriptura practitioners of his own day:

    “I was doing my part, therefore, acting as a man trained to cherish unity. Where there is division and passion, there is no place for God. Now, the Lord forgives all if they change their mind and by this change of mind return to union with God and to the council of the bishop. I trust in the grace of Jesus Christ, who will free you from all enslavement. I exhort you never to act in a spirit of factiousness, but according to what you learnt in the school of Christ. When I heard some say “Unless I find it in the official records — in the Gospel I will not believe”; and when I answered them “It is in the Scriptures,” they retorted: “That is just the point at issue.” But to me the official record is Jesus Christ; the inviolable record is His Cross and His death and His Resurrection and the faith of which He is the Author. These are the things which, thanks to your prayer, I want to be my justification.”

    To Ignatius of Antioch, the official record is Jesus Christ. It is Christ that has been given to us. The scriptures come along with him, but He is greater than they are. It isn’t “me and my bible.” It’s me and Christ, and Christ and all of us. The way to deal with people who say they won’t believe unless they find it in the scriptures isn’t Ignatius’ first approach (“It is in the scriptures”) but his beautiful and touching second approach: “But to me the official record is Jesus Christ; the inviolable record is His Cross and His death and His Resurrection and the Faith of which He is the Author.” And we all know that for him, as for all the saints, a necessary condition of being close to Christ was to accept the council of the bishops. The faith is not a set of propositions. It is a living relationship with Christ. And that living relationship comes from praying before the one altar and partaking of the one Eucharist, under the one Bishop, as Ignatius so frequently said.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  418. Steve G (#408):

    Please forgive my delay in replying; it’s been a few days since I’ve had time enough to look at this thread. I see comments that have done a good job of rebutting some of the usual epistemological objections to the Catholic doctrine of infallibility, and I’ll have something to say about those if need arises. For now, I just want to point out that you have largely misunderstood to you my previous reply to you.

    First, I had written:

    …if there is such an [infallible] authority, than that is an article of faith, not of reason. So the question how I “know” there is such an authority is unhelpful as formulated. All it does is raise a further question: what counts as “knowing” when the object of “knowledge” is a tenet of faith as distinct from human reason? The same question arises for any article of faith, such as the content, inspiration, or inerrancy of the Scriptural canon.

    You objected:

    But I have to disagree with this. I believe there is a rational aspect to faith. I believe there is strong evidence for the reliability of the scriptures, for the existence of a man named Jesus, and for his death and resurrection as proof of his being the Son of God. It is “faith” but I believe my faith rests on good evidence, not just something grasped at blindly.

    Now for one thing, I entirely agree that there is “a rational aspect to faith.” Truth cannot contradict truth; so, the truths of divine revelation, which are apprehended by faith, cannot contradict truths discoverable by reason alone. Moreover, truths of faith and truths of reason form a whole by which the truth about humanity and its place in the scheme of things can be grasped far better than it could be by reason alone. And perhaps most pertinent to this discussion, it is both possible and salutary for believers to have, and give, “reasons for the hope” that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).

    At the same time, however, the truths of faith cannot be established or demonstrated by reason alone; if they could be, they would be truths of reason, not of faith, so that we wouldn’t need divine revelation and grace to assent to them. Accordingly, the function of “reasons” for believing the truths of faith is to show that there is better reason to make the assent of faith than not. That is what the discipline of “apologetics” is for, and it’s an important discipline. But let us not imagine that apologetics can demonstrate the truths that are knowable only be divine revelation, as if there were a knockdown argument for them that relied only on premises knowable by reason alone. That would be to deny the very nature of the assent of faith. All apologetics can do is present reasons that support faith, by showing that faith is reasonable and cannot be refuted by “rational” arguments. That’s because the assent of faith is a divine gift, not something compelled by a chain of reasoning.

    Second, I had written:

    A more helpful question would be this: what reasons, if any, are there to prefer the Catholic HP to the Protestant, or vice-versa?

    You objected:

    I think this totally misses the point. The issue isn’t what we “prefer”, the issue is truth. The Jews would have “preferred” a kingly messiah to rescue them from Roman rule, instead they got a suffering messiah to rescue them from sin. God often acts unexpectedly, in ways that we would not agree with if we were “running the show”. To say we choose on which we would “prefer” I think would be a grave mistake. Truth should be our guide, not what we “prefer”.

    What you’ve done there is zero in on my use of the word ‘prefer’, as if I thought preference were entirely a matter of subjective inclination or fancy. But you simply ignored the fact that I asked what reasons there are to prefer the Catholic to the Protestant HP. That is an objective matter. My argument is not that preferring the Catholic to the Protestant HP is a matter of subjective inclination or fancy, but that there’s an objectively better reason to adopt the former than the latter.

    For present purposes, the most important such reason is the argument I developed in the blog post of mine to which I linked you. You have not addressed that argument. If you did, we’d have my actual position to discuss, not what you mistakenly think is my position.

    Best,
    Mike

  419. @417
    “But to me the official record is Jesus Christ; the inviolable record is His Cross and His death and His Resurrection and the faith of which He is the Author. These are the things which, thanks to your prayer, I want to be my justification.”

    I agree with this 100%. However the rest ignors Jesus’ own view of Scripture, nor does it do anything the disprove Sola Scriptura. In fact it sounds like Ignatius was fighting against SOLO scriptura rather than SOLA scriptura. That would be another point I would agree on. Of course I know most here refuse to make the distinction. Just as most seem to not recognize the distinction between Law and Gospel.

  420. My argument is not that preferring the Catholic to the Protestant HP is a matter of subjective inclination or fancy, but that there’s an objectively better reason to adopt the former than the latter.

    For present purposes, the most important such reason is the argument I developed in the blog post of mine to which I linked you. You have not addressed that argument. If you did, we’d have my actual position to discuss, not what you mistakenly think is my position.

    Michael,

    I read your blog post and I’m afraid it doesn’t address my argument either :) The point of your blog post seems to be that there are, for lack of a better word on my part, “philosophical” reasons to prefer the Catholic HP to the Protestant one. For as you said in your blog:

    So the question at hand morphs into another: what grounds are there for preferring one HP to the other? That is an inescapably philosophical question.

    However, that really doesn’t deal with the “truth” of the issue. The real question as has been agreed is:

    The fundamental issue between Catholicism and Protestantism is whether there is any visible ecclesial authority which God has promised to preserve from doctrinal error under certain conditions. The former affirms that there is; the latter denies it.

    That’s an historical question, not a philosophical one. As I noted earlier, the issue is not what we “prefer” (for philosophical reasons) but what is the truth. Did God ordain a visible ecclesial authority or not? If God didn’t establish such an authority, then your points about the preferable HP are irrelevant. The issue isn’t philosophical preference but historical fact. So as you put it to me, you have not really addressed my issue.

  421. Jason said:

    Hilary and other Gallicans have been strengthened by the example of Irenæus, and by his faithful words of reproof and exhortation, to resist Rome, even down to our own times.

    …good thing, that, since apparently there is now no one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church to be found anywhere on the face of the Earth (if the self-appointed “Reformers” are to be believed). So you’re guaranteed a job until the end of time.

    It is just this mindset that gives any credence at all to a Joseph Smith who comes along and says “Oh, what a sad state of affairs! Of course the Catholic Church is all completely corrupt, but Protestant chaos is surely not the solution! Oh, but look – I have another gospel, on these gold plates that I can’t show you and that were entirely unknown from time immemorial until now, but at least it will let you start over with a clean slate with a church you can trust (really, trust me)!”

  422. Jason,

    Re: your post # 416 and your quote from the Introductory Note to Irenæus Against Heresies

    I followed the link that you gave to the Calvin College website that maintains the Christian Classics Ethereal Library

    The Introductory Note that you quoted from was written by “Philip Schaff – (1819-1893), German-American theologian and church historian”

    From Wikipedia, I found this information about Philip Schaff:

    Philip Schaff

    … he lectured on exegesis and church history. In 1843 he was called to become professor of church history and Biblical literature in the German Reformed Theological Seminary of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania …

    Working with the Evangelical Alliance and the Chicago (1893) World’s Parliament of Religions, and in Germany, through the monthly Kirchenfreund, he strove earnestly to promote Christian unity and union. It was his hope that the pope would abandon the doctrine of infallibility and undertake the reunion of Christianity. …

    Reformed history professor Phillip Schaff had the laudable desire to see Christian unity, but he desired that unity at the expense of something he disliked, namely, Papal infallibility. Was Phillip Schaff biased in his reading of Irenæus? Perhaps so.

    Instead of just quoting Schaff’s commentary on Irenæus, could you provide a direct quote from Irenæus concerning the alleged heresy of Eleutherus, the Bishop of Rome?

  423. @Jason #416,

    I own the entire 38 volume set of Patristic writings compiled and edited by Phillip Schaff et al., to which you link over on the Calvin College site. I have read from it for years. Schaff and his fellow editors are notorious for spinning a heavy anti-catholic gloss in every Introduction and footnote where such an opportunity is even remotely justifiable. At times the naked level of theological bias is almost embarrasing from any scholarly POV. You might consider sticking with the actual text rather than loading too much apologetic weight upon historical polemics whose veracity are very much in question these days. For instance, the introduction you quote employs a hermenutical and offensively polemical approach which portrays the historical situation as follows:

    It is a striking example of this divine economy, that the see of Rome was allowed to exhibit its fallibility very conspicuously at this time, and not only to receive the rebukes of Irenæus, but to accept them as wholesome and necessary; so that the heresy of Eleutherus . . . have enabled reformers ever since, and even in the darkest days of pontifical despotism, to testify against the manifold errors patronized by Rome.

    Such remarks would make any professional propagandist proud. Indeed, a central goal discernable throughout the introduction is to link events together in such a way as to insinuate the commission of formal heresy by pope Eleutherus so that the author can present the thus maligned pope as a springboard which has “enabled reformers ever since, even in the darkest days of pontifical despotism, to testify against the manifold errors patronized by Rome.” Hard to imagine a more elegant and noble refrain emmenating from the lips of objective scholars eh? But what evidence has the author of the introduction put forward in support of the pope’s fallibility and heresy? The author offers the following:

    But he [Irenaeus] had the mortification of finding the Montanist heresy patronized by Eleutherus the Bishop of Rome

    Hummm. That does not exactly sound like clear evidence of Eleutherus teaching Montanism. What does the author mean by patronizing? Is it possible that Eleutherus, supposing he were the universal shepard of the Church, might choose to remain in dialouge with various persons who are tending toward various heretical notions in order to bring pastoral correction and reunion? Might this be viewed as patronizing? If indeed Irenaeus felt scandalized by Eleutherus’ pastoral toleration of schismatic persons, was Irenaeus himself correct in this judgement? Well, it is all guess work for both myself and Schaff, 19 or 20 centuries removed from the events. Hence the importance of ignoring such conjectures and focusing instead upon the source texts themselves. So here are some source texts which certainly seem to convey a very different notion of the whole affair than is gathered from Schaff’s introduction.

    From Eusebius:

    “And when a dissension arose about these said people [the Montanists], the brethren in Gaul once more . . . [sent letters] to the brethren in Asia and Phrygia and, moreover to Eleutherius, who was then [A.D. 175] bishop of the Romans, negotiating for the peace of the churches” (Eusebius, Church History 5:3:4 [A.D. 312])

    “And the same martyrs too commended Irenaeus, already at that time [A.D. 175] a presbyter of the community of Lyons, to the said bishop of Rome, rendering abundant testimony [about Irenaeus] to the man [pope Eleutherius], as the following expressions show: ‘Once more and always we pray that you may rejoice in God, Pope Eleutherius. This letter we have charged our brother and companion Irenaeus to convey to you, and we beg you to receive him as zealous for the covenant of Christ’” (ibid., 5:4:1–2).

    from Irenaeus himself:

    “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (Against Heresies 3:3:2 [A.D. 189]).

    Is it possible that there might be another side to this story??

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  424. Steve #420:

    Your reply indicates, among other things, that you have not understood what I mean by ‘hermeneutical paradigm’. I’ve explained my use of that phrase before on both this site and my own, but apparently you haven’t seen those explanations. So now I’ll provide one again, and use it that to rebut your central point.

    A hermeneutical paradigm is a comprehensive system for interpreting a set of data. For instance, the Lutheran HP involves taking a certain view of justification as the interpretive key for reading Paul, and then interpreting and other writings in the New Testament by means of that key. Now in the case we’re discussing, the raw data are indeed “historical.” And the question about them is this: given all the historical evidence available to us–what we now call the canon of Scripture, other documents from the early Church such as the Didache and the letters of Clement and Ignatius, the writings of other early Church Fathers and their opponents, corroborating archeological evidence, traditions handed down from the early centuries, and the various doctrinal developments among ecclesial bodies calling themselves Christian –given all that data, are they better interpreted according to the Catholic or the Protestant HP? Whichever one’s answer, that answer would be one’s reason for “preferring” one HP to the other. That’s not a matter of taste, but of intellectual cogency.

    Now I had written:

    The fundamental issue between Catholicism and Protestantism is whether there is any visible ecclesial authority which God has promised to preserve from doctrinal error under certain conditions. The former affirms that there is; the latter denies it.

    You objected:

    That’s an historical question, not a philosophical one. As I noted earlier, the issue is not what we “prefer” (for philosophical reasons) but what is the truth. Did God ordain a visible ecclesial authority or not? If God didn’t establish such an authority, then your points about the preferable HP are irrelevant. The issue isn’t philosophical preference but historical fact. So as you put it to me, you have not really addressed my issue.

    Of course I agree that the question is one of “truth” not just “preference,” if one takes preference, as you insist on doing, to be a matter of taste. But the problem with your objection is its tacit assumption that what you call the “historical question” of “truth” can and should be addressed without making a rational decision for adopting one HP, as opposed to the other, for interpreting the historical data. It cannot be, and therefore should not be. For one cannot rationally decide between competing HPs merely by appeal to the very data they are meant to interpret. Further considerations are also necessary for deciding how to interpret the data. That’s because, if the raw historical data could settle what you call the question of “truth” just by themselves, there would be no need to interpret them by means of any one HP over against competing ones. The answer to the question of authority would be obvious on its face, without an interpretive key. But it isn’t at all obvious–which is why every comprehensive theology proposes some HP for interpreting the historical data I cite, and includes some account of doctrinal authority.

    Indeed, more than one HP is at least rationally plausible. As I wrote in my blog post:

    As I survey the stories told by by various intellectual converts, either to Catholicism or to this-or-that version of Protestantism, I am struck by a common theme: Intelligent, well-informed people can study the same historical and theological sources, and be motivated to do so by the same troubling questions, and yet come to mutually incompatible conclusions about how to interpret the data so as to answer the questions.

    That is just plain fact: there can be no dispute about it. So one cannot appeal to the raw historical data by themselves in order to settle the question of doctrinal authority. The data tell us only “what various people said and did about God”; they do not tell us what God wants us to believe by means of them. So, one must look beyond them in order to settle on an HP for interpreting them as support for one account of doctrinal authority over against others.

    The question then becomes what rational grounds might have for preferring one HP to others. I called those ground “philosophical,” and I supplied them. If you don’t like that label, use another to which you’re less allergic. I’m less interested in the question what label to put on my argument than in getting people to see that the argument is relevant. In this comment, I’ve explained why it’s relevant. The only question is whether it’s also sound.

    In closing, I return to a curious statement you made: ” If God didn’t establish such an [infallible] authority, then your points about the preferable HP are irrelevant.” That’s incorrect. if God didn’t establish such an authority, then my argument is unsound, not “irrelevant,” and the Protestant HP is preferable. But the upshot of my argument was that, in that case, “religion reduces to a matter of opinion.”

    Best,
    Mike

  425. Mateo #422

    See my 423, I see we are thinking along the same lines!

    Cheers,

    Ray

  426. This is, of course, very much a subsidiary issue to this thread, but interested parties may wish to consult Elizabeth A. Clark, “Contested Bodies: Early Christian Asceticism and Nineteenth-Century Polemics,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 17:2 (2009): 281-307. Clark, who is not a Roman Catholic partisan by any stretch, devotes part of this article to Arthur Cleveland Coxe, the “American editor of the Ante-Nicene Fathers series,” who “advanced his cause by adding anti-Catholic footnotes and ‘elucidations’ to the Fathers’ writings” (abstract, p. 281). If you wish to be responsible in your studies of the Fathers, when it comes to ANF introductions, footnotes, and elucidations, caveat lector!

    in Christ,

    TC

  427. Ray Stamper’s #415 helped me tremendously. A book that was instrumental in my becoming a Catholic was Newman’s “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.” This sounds to me so much like the argument of that book. Ray, am I hearing you correctly?

    jj

  428. Ray Stamper: See my 423, I see we are thinking along the same lines!

    We may have been thinking along the same lines, but your response to Jason was way better than my response. After reading Schaff’s Introductory Notes at CCEL, it seemed obvious to me that Philip Schaff was distorting history to suit his agenda. I didn’t know much more about Philip Schaff than what I read about him on Wikipedia. Your post was very enlightening to me. Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed reply!

    T Ciatoris: …Arthur Cleveland Coxe, the “American editor of the Ante-Nicene Fathers series,” who “advanced his cause by adding anti-Catholic footnotes and ‘elucidations’ to the Fathers’ writings” … If you wish to be responsible in your studies of the Fathers, when it comes to ANF introductions, footnotes, and elucidations, caveat lector!

    Thanks for the heads up about Coxe’s anti-Catholic additions. As you say, this is a “subsidiary issue to this thread”, but your caveat and Ray Stamper’s remarks are germane to this CTC article: The Church Fathers-A New Resource, an Old Source. That CTC article hyperlinks to http://www.churchfathers.org, and from the homepage of churchfathers.org I found this:

    Despite the fact that their writings are all available for free online, many people have not taken the time to educate themselves on what the Church Fathers have taught.

    The churchfathers.org hyperlink directs to the CCEL library – so caveat lector to all that read the introductory notes and footnotes at CCEL!

    EWTN maintains a library of Christian Sources that is an alternative to the CCEL online Library.

    If one is interested in studying the Early Church Fathers, I highly recommend the three volume set, The Faith of the Early Fathers by William A. Jurgens. The three Indexes that come with Jurgens are priceless.

    Jurgens comes with a very good General Index that contains what one would expect in a reference work. The other two invaluable Indexes are the Index of Scriptural References and Citations, and the Doctrinal Index.

    All the quotes by the Church Father’s in Jurgen’s books are all numbered by the convention that follows the numbering of the Rouët de Journel’s Enchiridion patristicum. This numbering scheme allows Jurgens to compile his Index of Scriptural References and Citations, and his Doctrinal Index.

    Index of Scriptural References and Citations – If one has a particular verse of scriptures in mind, one can quickly see if there is a citation in Jurgens for that particular verse of scriptures. For example, I see that Ezechiel 47:1-12 has a citation number 34, which is a quote from the Letter of Barnabas.

    Doctrinal Index – IMO, this index alone is worth the price of the three books. In the Doctrinal Index I find a listing for number 100: Sacred Tradition is a true source of revelation. This doctrine has citation numbers 192 198 242 291 295 371 (818b). The citation numbers allow one to quickly look up which Church Father spoke to this doctrine. Catholic Answers uses Jurgen’s Doctrinal Index as the primary source for their The Father’s Know Best tracts.

  429. Incidentally, the “Introductory Note” to Against Heresies that Jason quotes in 416 is by Coxe, not Schaff. See the Preface to ANF vol. 1 on p. v.

    in Christ,

    TC

  430. When I, by the Grace of God, discovered the Early Fathers as a Protestant, I frequented the CCEL library online (before they started charging). It didn’t take me long to realize that many of the footnotes and introductions were not accurate descriptions of what was written in the texts at all… and I was a Protestant that was not so trilled about the idea of becoming Catholic at the time. Eventually, I would only use that site for the “actual” writings of the Fathers and ignore the obvious anti-Catholic deliberate distortions in the intros. The Father’s writings are very thorough, in my opinion, as they try to explain in as much detail as possible the reasons for the Faith. Their Scriptural exegesis is rather detailed too. Therefore, it seems redundant to offer an “interpretation” of an already robust and thorough interpretation. But, I suppose, some will do anything to justify their positions, even if it means creating glaring contradictions.

    To me, it was a relief when newadvent.org started posting the works of the Fathers. They largely purged many of the deliberately misleading introductions, but a few of them remain. Honestly, though, there may be a place for those introductions in the way of evangelism. For me, a person who was just trying to objectively seek for the Truth and let that be my guide, those intros had the effect of making me even more disaffected by Protestantism as a whole. I had had enough of that nonsense of twisting reason to fit the square block into the round hole. I was annoyed by it, and it annoyed me even more to see them do it to an Early Church they had no claim to.

  431. T Ciatoris: Incidentally, the “Introductory Note” to Against Heresies that Jason quotes in 416 is by Coxe, not Schaff. See the Preface to ANF vol. 1 on p. v.

    You are right, thanks for the correction.

    CCEL

    Title: ANF01. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus Creator(s): Schaff, Philip (1819-1893) Print Basis: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprint 2001 Rights: Public Domain CCEL Subjects: All; Early Church; Classic; Proofed; LC Call no: BR60 LC Subjects: Christianity Early Christian Literature. Fathers of the Church, etc.

    ANTE-NICENE FATHERS Volume 1 The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D. & James Donaldson, LL.D. revised and chronologically arranged, with brief prefaces and occasional notes by A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D.

  432. Can anyone recommend a comprehensive set of translations of the ECFs other than Jurgens or the ANF?

  433. Hey Ryan,

    There isn’t really a comprehensive set of translations. ANF-NPNF is fine as long as the reader recognizes the shortcomings of the introductions and commentaries. As another commenter mentioned, many of the writings are available through Newadvent.org. Other useful but incomplete series are Early Christian Writings and Popular Patristics.

  434. There are also the “Fathers of the Church” volumes published by Catholic University of America and the more recent “Ancient Christian Writers” series published by Paulist Press.

  435. Ryan,

    To what David said, I’d like to add the Fathers of the Church series (CUA Press) and, if you read French and have access to a good library, the bilingual (French and original language) Sources Chrétiennes series, which is quite extensive. There’s also IVP’s new Ancient Christian Texts series. For St Augustine in particular, New City Press has a new series of translations that should eventually include all of his writings. Finally, I could be wrong, but I suspect David meant Ancient Christian Writings (Paulist Press), which is also a helpful series.

    Happy (and fruitful) reading,

    TC
    Sancte Francisce, ferens Christi stigmata, ora pro nobis!

  436. Oops, sorry for the overlap, JJ.

  437. [...] http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/how-john-calvin-made-me-a-catholic/ [...]

  438. I see Dr. Ander’s leap to the Catholic Church as puzzling. On one hand he discredits Calvin for having people thrown into prison. Where did Calvin learn this? He learned about it from Rome. This was the world Calvin was brought up in. In my view both were wrong for doing so because this kind of an act is unbiblical. Nowhere in the New Testament did the apostles teach that the church should throw someone into prison for not believing church doctrine. They could be dismissed from the church, or if their views were against the Gospel could be taught again. The problem with Rome and Calvin was the same as it is in any church period. They did not adhere to sola scriptura.
    Dr. Anders says that the Catholic Faith is the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints. One of the items he failed to talk about is church tradition. Whenever a Pope speaks from his throne, his words BECOME Scripture and then traditions come from them. Church tradition in the Catholic Church is on par with Scripture and Papal infallibility as far as being authorative. Is this the right way to find and to maintain truth? I think not. What about the veneration of Mary? What about praying to Saints? What about the Catholic teaching that justification is not by faith alone, but also by works? Are any of these in the Bible? Catholics will point to the popes and church tradition to say, “they are all good and permissible”. We can go on and on about the other issues in the Catholic Church such as Purgatory and the denial of marriage of the clergy, but this would take too much time.

    The “Faith once for all delivered to the Saints” that Jude talks about is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of this great news in NAS Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Would Paul be at odds with Rome? You better believe he would.
    Thomas Aquinas was mentioned by Dr. Ander. Aquinas in his Summa Theologica actually makes the point that Scripture is the only reliable authority in the church because it doesn’t change. The Catholic faith that Dr. Ander has embraced has changed over the centuries. Popes disagree with each other. Even today in the Catholic church there are priests in the church who disagree about many issues. I know of a man in Indiana who was led to Christ by a Catholic Priest. The Priest told him that salvation could be his if he believed in what Jesus Christ did for him on the Cross. He taught this man in a catholic school that salvation was by grace through faith ALONE in Christ. This doesn’t sound like a unified church, but people in one church who have many viewpoints.
    Calvin didn’t do right in every area of his life. Neither did Luther or Wesley. Peter denied Jesus three times, and was later chastised by Paul in Galatians 2.And the truth is I don’t always do right either. If we judge truth by the acts of believers then we might as well all give up now. Faith is not in a system or in the righteous acts of people who say they believe. Faith is in Christ, who He is, what He has done. Faith is found over the centuries when we read all these things in God’s Word. This is why Scripture alone is the authorative voice God’s sheep must listen to. If we don’t then we WILL drift away. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
    Scripture is our authority. As a pastor when I preach my people can judge what I say by the Word. When a priest speaks on Saturday or Sunday he can be judged by the Word. When a pope says something, even from his throne, even the smallest of catholics can scrutinize what he says by God’s revealed Word, the Bible.

  439. I see Dr. Ander’s leap to the Catholic Church as puzzling. On one hand he discredits Calvin for having people thrown into prison. Where did Calvin learn this? He learned about it from Rome. This was the world Calvin was brought up in. In my view both were wrong for doing so because this kind of an act is unbiblical. Nowhere in the New Testament did the apostles teach that the church should throw someone into prison for not believing church doctrine. They could be dismissed from the church, or if their views were against the Gospel could be taught again. The problem with Rome and Calvin was the same as it is in any church period. They did not adhere to sola scriptura.

    The problem was not so much sending people to prison. It was the consistency of his position. If he really believed everyone has the right to interpret scripture and rebel against the church when the church gets it wrong then why does he not give these people that right. You say views against the gospel should not be taught. But who determines which views are against the gospel? Calvin thought the Catholic church had no right to do that but he seemed to claim that right for himself.

    Dr. Anders says that the Catholic Faith is the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints. One of the items he failed to talk about is church tradition. Whenever a Pope speaks from his throne, his words BECOME Scripture and then traditions come from them.

    His words do not become scripture. They become a part of sacred tradition. All documents are part of tradition but some have more authority than others. But the pope is not to define new traditions. HE is to deepen the church’s understanding of that Faith once delivered.

    Church tradition in the Catholic Church is on par with Scripture and Papal infallibility as far as being authorative. Is this the right way to find and to maintain truth? I think not.

    Sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and the magisterium do work together. The phrase “on par” suggest a competition or conflict between them. We don’t believe there is. But we do believe the scriptures are inspired by God. We don’t say that about tradition or papal infallibility. We say they are inerrant but not inspired. So, again, on par is a bad phrase.

    What about the veneration of Mary? What about praying to Saints? What about the Catholic teaching that justification is not by faith alone, but also by works? Are any of these in the Bible? Catholics will point to the popes and church tradition to say, “they are all good and permissible”. We can go on and on about the other issues in the Catholic Church such as Purgatory and the denial of marriage of the clergy, but this would take too much time.

    So what about these things? Do you have the true and complete doctrine on these matters? Why should we believe you? Are any of these things condemned in scripture? Yes, it takes time to go over these things. But there is no short cut. The reality is you opinion is based on scripture, reason, and tradition just like the Catholic position is. But how can you claim your doctrine as THE biblical doctrine and the Catholic one as not biblical? You can’t.

    The “Faith once for all delivered to the Saints” that Jude talks about is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of this great news in NAS Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Would Paul be at odds with Rome? You better believe he would.
    Thomas Aquinas was mentioned by Dr. Ander. Aquinas in his Summa Theologica actually makes the point that Scripture is the only reliable authority in the church because it doesn’t change. The Catholic faith that Dr. Ander has embraced has changed over the centuries. Popes disagree with each other.

    The Catholic church has changed but not on essential matters. So what about Protestantism. Are you saying it has not changed? Then you didn’t read this paper.

    Even today in the Catholic church there are priests in the church who disagree about many issues. I know of a man in Indiana who was led to Christ by a Catholic Priest. The Priest told him that salvation could be his if he believed in what Jesus Christ did for him on the Cross. He taught this man in a catholic school that salvation was by grace through faith ALONE in Christ. This doesn’t sound like a unified church, but people in one church who have many viewpoints.

    Yes, that is Catholic doctrine. When “faith alone” is properly understood.

    Calvin didn’t do right in every area of his life. Neither did Luther or Wesley. Peter denied Jesus three times, and was later chastised by Paul in Galatians 2.And the truth is I don’t always do right either. If we judge truth by the acts of believers then we might as well all give up now. Faith is not in a system or in the righteous acts of people who say they believe. Faith is in Christ, who He is, what He has done. Faith is found over the centuries when we read all these things in God’s Word. This is why Scripture alone is the authorative voice God’s sheep must listen to. If we don’t then we WILL drift away. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

    But if what people regard as God’s truth keeps changing over time that is a concern. Was Calvin wrong then or are Calvinists wrong now? Or both? How do you know?

    Scripture is our authority. As a pastor when I preach my people can judge what I say by the Word. When a priest speaks on Saturday or Sunday he can be judged by the Word. When a pope says something, even from his throne, even the smallest of catholics can scrutinize what he says by God’s revealed Word, the Bible.

    Where did you get this idea? It came from Calvin and Luther. People you say are wrong about many things. How do you know they are not wrong about this? How do you know you have any authority to preach on Sunday morning? Maybe you are getting God’s word wrong in some important way and God would rather you not teach your ideas in His name. I am not saying that is true. I am just asking how you know it isn’t. False teachers don’t generally think they are teaching falsehood.

  440. Randy, I don’t know how to do the boxes. So I will put Randy says when I write what you said. Thx.

    Randy says
    But who determines which views are against the gospel? Calvin thought the Catholic church had no right to do that but he seemed to claim that right for himself.
    Scripture itself since it is God’s unchanging Word determines whether any of us are in the right or in the wrong.
    Randy says
    His words do not become scripture. They become a part of sacred tradition.
    My questions would be what role does tradition play in the Catholic Church? Does tradition have authority? If it does then doesn’t the Pope’s words become part of unchangeable authority? Is it possible for a Pope to say something on his throne and be wrong?
    Randy says
    Sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and the magisterium do work together. The phrase “on par” suggest a competition or conflict between them. We don’t believe there is. But we do believe the scriptures are inspired by God. We don’t say that about tradition or papal infallibility. We say they are inerrant but not inspired. So, again, on par is a bad phrase.
    You say they work together, but which one has the FINAL authority? Like I asked above, if the Pope says something on his throne that is wrong, do you then admonish him by the Word of God or by already established tradition? Since you believe the Bible to be the only inspired (God breathed in 2 Tim 3:16) document, then you believe it to be inerrant (without error). You say tradition and papal infallibility are inerrant, but how does that work when some Popes disagree with other ones? Also, since papal infallibility is inerrant, doesn’t that mean his words are elevated to the same standard as Scripture? If he never makes a mistake when he is on the throne, and his words have authority, then it seems like this would be the case. So from a practical standpoint on par is not too far off.
    Randy says
    So what about these things? Do you have the true and complete doctrine on these matters? Why should we believe you? Are any of these things condemned in scripture? Yes, it takes time to go over these things. But there is no short cut. The reality is you opinion is based on scripture, reason, and tradition just like the Catholic position is. But how can you claim your doctrine as THE biblical doctrine and the Catholic one as not biblical? You can’t.
    Can you give me one passage in the Bible where Paul or any of the other Apostles prayed to anyone other than God? As I ask that question, do I ask it because of tradition? No, I am asking a biblical question. Reason comes into it in that God has given us His Word the Bible. If He gave it to us, then He gives us a Word that is understandable. 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. I don’t ask you to believe me. I ask you to study God’s Word and to see if beliefs and practices line up with it. I also don’t claim to give you my view on the fundamentals of the faith. I claim what the Bible says. Anyone can know what the Word says if they will study and correctly handle the Word of truth. Martin Luther stood up at the diet of worms and proclaimed justification by faith alone. He didn’t make it up. He got it from the Bible. Paul would agree with Martin Luther over established Catholic Doctrine about justification. Here are a few verses from Paul. Romans 3:24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Romans 4:5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. alatians 2:16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

    Randy says
    The Catholic church has changed but not on essential matters. So what about Protestantism. Are you saying it has not changed? Then you didn’t read this paper.

    Here is one area where the church has changed a lot. Ignatius Loyola during the Catholic Counter Reformation proclaimed that anyone who believed in justification by faith alone is to be condemned. By condemnation he meant lost for eternity. Back then the protestants and the catholics knew their differences. Protestants believed in justification alone, whereas catholics believed in justification by faith plus works. In Vatican II protestants have been upgraded to wayward brothers. Wouldn’t you consider this to be a major change? Before we were all going to Hell. Now we are wayward brothers. It sure sounds like a huge change to me. I would say the veneration of Mary has been a huge change. The church didn’t always practice this. It came into the church when Constantine (brother of Ovaltine…ok bad joke) declared the whole empire Christian. Pagans came into the church with their practices. One of these was the worship of the, “Queen of Heaven.” The veneration of Mary came from this. So, this is a huge change in the church. I know some Catholics debate today if Mary plays a role in Salvation. All of this comes from non biblical beliefs and practices. I preach about Mary. She is to be honored as my sister in the Lord. She had tremendous faith for her age. But she said herself that she was in need of salvation, and her Son she bore gave it to her. Luke 1:46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, Mary, my sister in the Lord was saved by the same God I’ve been. Praise the Lord!

    Randy says
    But if what people regard as God’s truth keeps changing over time that is a concern. Was Calvin wrong then or are Calvinists wrong now? Or both? How do you know?

    Randy, this is exactly why Sola Scriptura is so important. People’s view about truth can change for a variety of reasons. It could be their limited knowledge, or it could be sin in their lives that blinds them. When we have a written objective standard, then we can at least know it’s there and can be learned and lived. I don’t point people to what I am saying. I strive to study the Word and show them what God says. How do I know I am right? I don’t. But I believe the Bible is right.

    Randy says
    Where did you get this idea? It came from Calvin and Luther. People you say are wrong about many things. How do you know they are not wrong about this? How do you know you have any authority to preach on Sunday morning? Maybe you are getting God’s word wrong in some important way and God would rather you not teach your ideas in His name. I am not saying that is true. I am just asking how you know it isn’t. False teachers don’t generally think they are teaching falsehood.

    Luther came first. But I would point out that Thomas Aquinas came up with it first in his summa theologica. For us to have authority over the ages, then we have to have an unchanging authority. Sola Scriptura does that for believers throughout the ages. How do I even know about Christ 2,000 yrs after he was on the Earth? It is by the Word, that hasn’t changed. You asked how do I know whether I have authority. Paul told Timothy he had pastoral authority. He told him 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage– with great patience and careful instruction. Timothy was taught by Paul, and if he stayed with Paul’s teaching then he had authority to preach. I do the same thing. I preach the same Gospel Paul preached. Of course I must admit he probably did it better than I do. Randy, if I am getting God’s Word wrong it will become evident by the people of God and other godly pastors. As far as false teachers are concerned, some believe they are teaching God’s Word. At the same time there is a difference when a teacher rejects what God’s Word has revealed. An example of this would be the doctrine of the trinity, which is that there is one God, who consists of three separate and distinct persons. What if a Catholic priest or theologian said, “I don’t believe that”. I believe there is only one person who is God. How would you deal with this person? You would show them the passages in God’s Word where the Father is called God, the Son is called God, and the Spirit is called God. And you show them that the Word fully declares there is only one God who created the Heavens and the Earth. If the teacher still rejects after you show them sufficient Scriptures then it’s not the Bible’s fault or Sola Scriptura’s fault that this person is teaching wrong doctrine. The problem is they have departed from God’s revealed truth found in His Word.

    Randy, thanks for the time. As a testimony I say this. I am a blood bought, justified,presently being sanctified, someday glorifed child of God who has the hope of Heaven. Paul says my feelings about the salvation I possess. Romans 4:6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

  441. Early on someone posted something claiming Rick Warren is a Calvinist. I submit PROOF that Rick Warren is no Calvinist, but a PELAGIAN!

    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2010/10/rick-warrens-lecture-at-desiring-god-conference.html

  442. Jason,

    Could you point us to written material for your “proof” rather than a tedious, lengthy podcast? It is not clear to me that teaching the necessity of repentance equates to Pelagianism, and that’s about as far into the podcast that I could stand get, so I’m not even sure if that’s what the speaker actually meant. It seemed to me that Warren was being proof-texted. I don’t care much for Warren’s teaching or philosophy, but he should be at least treated fairly. A written critique would be far easier to evaluate.

    Nathan

  443. Nathan, just listen to the podcast the whole way through. It will be worth it. Warren is obviously NOT a Calvinist, and obviously IS a Pelagian. And Rick Warren is not teaching Biblical repentance. And no, I have heard Warren speak enough that I don’t need to waste my time with his books to know if he is a Pelagian heretic or not.

  444. Jason,

    I simply haven’t the time or inclination to put up with something so poorly put together. Why should I consider the claims that Warren is Pelagian any less specious than the claims that Roman Catholicism is Pelagian? It’s a claim that demands written exposition, not insinuations on a podcast. Quote Warren denying the necessity of grace and I’ll be more sympathetic.

  445. I know that this thread is old, but I just this day happened to stumble across it. Does it not seem that the things Dr. Anders finds repulsive in Calvin are found in greater measure in Rome? Calvin is so intolerant and narrow-minded! And Rome of the 16th century was not? I wish we were able today to consult the 16th century French Protestants about the kind, diversity-loving, Roman church? They might have another opinion.

    It seems to me that Dr. Anders has turned-up his nose at a teaspoon of Calvin’s rottenness but is willing to swallow a bucket of refuse from Rome.

  446. Bill T.,

    I read your comment and I understand you disagree with Dr. Anders position, however I did not see any substantive examples or evidence. If you could explain your opinion with specific examples I would appreciate it.

    Pax
    Matthew

  447. Hey Bill, #445

    I gather from what you’ve said that if I want to write a piece that is critical of Calvin, then I must necessarily include in that piece on Calvin an additional critical examination of “Rome”—OR ELSE whatever I’ve written is just an argument that “Rome” is impeccable.

    You see the problem with that, right? Nowhere in this piece by Dr Anders is the argument made that “Rome” is impeccable. Nowhere is it even implied. Nor is it relevant to the substance of this post. You’ve simply pulled it from thin air.

    Suppose I were to say, ‘You’re right, Bill: Calvin and what you’re calling “Rome” were both capable of being mean, so let’s not criticize Calvin.’ We still have the more important issues addressed here by Dr Anders, namely, that Calvin rejected

    key elements of … Evangelical tradition. Born-again spirituality, private interpretation of Scripture, a broad-minded approach to denominations – Calvin opposed them all.

    Could that opposition mean, as Dr Anders says, that Evangelicalism is not a direct descendant of Calvin but represents, instead, the failure of Calvinism?

    Whereas Calvin spent his life in the quest for doctrinal unity, modern Evangelicalism is rooted in the rejection of that quest.

    So, setting aside all criticisms of the man Calvin, what are your thoughts about the much more important issues in this post?

    Best,
    wilkins

  448. Has Dr. Anders writtn on the Eastern Orthodox Church. I wonder if why he didn’t go EO.

  449. Seems to me that the comments here are overlooking other noteables of the faith who likewise rightly critique Calvin. May I suggest the following resources (the first being my preference):

    I. George Bryson – “The Darkside of Calvinism – the Calvinist Caste System” which one can obtain direct from the author’s site at: http://www.calvarychapeltheology.com/resources.html

    George is part of the Calvary Chapel “movement” of Chuck Smith and is a pastor/teacher of over 40 years and who leads an outreach church movement in Russia. George does not hold to Arminian beliefs.

    II. Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell – “Why I am Not A Calvinist”

    Calvinsit systematic theology, whether of the Hyper or Hypo strain, flies in the face of John 3:16…and as these persons make clear…so disfigures the truth of Scripture that one hardly knows where to turn.

    While I am a layperson believer, and currently of a non-denominational bent, EWTN and the Journey Home continue to adjust my vision of the Catholic Church and in a manner that is far more open than closed. At this juncture in my walk the Holy Spirit and our Lord has not yet revealed to me where I rightly belong…but I continue to pray and seek His wisdom along the lines that the great brother in Christ, RA Torrey (sometimes called the Elisha to Dwight L. Moody’s Elijah) suggests will get me there; namely, through relying on the revealed promisses of God in His Word and through the intercession of the Holy Spirit — and ALL of this through “constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer.”

    Above all we must know against who we battle – and it is not the various expressions of our faith. It is as Paul instructs in Eph 6:

    Ephesians 6:12-20 (New American Standard Bible)

    12For our (A)struggle is not against (B)flesh and blood, but (C)against the rulers, against the powers, against the (D)world forces of this (E)darkness, against the (F)spiritual forces of wickedness in (G)the heavenly places.

    13Therefore, take up (H)the full armor of God, so that you will be able to (I)resist in (J)the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

    14Stand firm therefore, (K)HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING (L)PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,

    15and having (M)shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE;

    16in addition to all, taking up the (N)shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the (O)flaming arrows of (P)the evil one.

    17And take (Q)THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the (R)sword of the Spirit, which is (S)the word of God.

    18With all (T)prayer and petition (U)pray at all times (V)in the Spirit, and with this in view, (W)be on the alert with all (X)perseverance and (Y)petition for all the saints,

    19and (Z)pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me (AA)in the opening of my mouth, to make known with (AB)boldness (AC)the mystery of the gospel,

    20for which I am an (AD)ambassador (AE)in chains; that [a]in proclaiming it I may speak (AF)boldly, (AG)as I ought to speak.

  450. Although I am not a seminary trained Christian and have not delved into Reformation history as Dr. Anders has, I converted from Reform-Tradition Protestantism to the Catholic Chruch for much the same reason as Dr. Anders. In a re-reading of “the Confessions” of St. Augustine I found the threads that connected Christ’s teachings with the Catholic Church’s. And since Augustine was so acclaimed by Reform Tradition Protestants I began to wonder about the Reformation. How could the church have been so right up to Augustine and then be ‘righted’ back to Augustine by the Reformation when the Reformation led to a belief system in the sacraments that was so different from what Augustine taught. Something seemed illogical and inconsistent. I asked myself, maybe what I had been taught about the Reformation as a Protestant was not correct. Did the Catholic Church really lose its spiritual way for 1100 years, rough time span from Augustine to Luther? What happened during those years? Could Christ have let his Church be polluted by ‘false teachings’ of Roman Catholicism, as I was taught as a Protestant, for 1100 years? Whoa that’s a long time! Gee, I thought that Christ himself had said that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail agains it”– i.e. His Church. If Christ was to believed on all things he said, then he must be believed in this statement as well. Ergo, then maybe the Church that St. Peter was commissioned by Christ to lead was “Catholic” and continuous and not “Reformed” and splintered-off. These were just some of the questions that popped into my mind that started to chip away at my foundation in Reform-Tradition Protestantism. To finish the story, I made the decision to become Catholic with good doses of ‘leaps of faith’ that were necessary to bridge the eventual, and I submit necessary, gaps in understanding that precede every person’s conversion. You simply can’t possibly understand everything nor explain everything with precise proofs and irrefutable logic. But you can certainly question what you have heard and been taught and come to believe as fact, when you uncover things that challenge the premises of those beliefs. And that is my story.
    Thank You Dr. Anders for telling your story.

  451. Tis why we do not follow a man but Christ alone. Blessings to you.

  452. Christi,

    How do you know you are not following man but Christ alone? Looking at the site you linked it seems you are counting on quite a number of men to help you follow Christ alone. There are references to Calvin, Paul Washer, John MacArthur, John Piper, and many references to “reformed” sources. You seem to feel that is what following Christ alone looks like. I used to think that too and I was blessed by all those men. But how do we know that way of following Christ has not made some serious errors?

    The data in this article suggests that that method of following Christ alone has embraced very different thinking at different points in history. Do you agree with that conclusion? Would you expect followers of Christ alone from a few centuries ago to be that different from what they are today? The bible says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

  453. [...] at Called to Communion, David Anders writes about How John Calvin Made me a Catholic: … Calvin shocked me by rejecting key elements of my Evangelical tradition. Born-again [...]

  454. I think it’s a travesty that you went so long within the walls of the reformed camp without having a thorough understanding of Calvin and his theology. I learned these things as a convert to reformed theology within the 1st few months. Neither Calvin nor Luther imagined themselves leaving the Catholic Church, much less starting something new. They were thrown out when they refused to comply with the vast and grevious abuses of the Catholic Church.
    Which leads me to this – I could address all the issues you have with reformed theology but it always comes down to the same question i.e. how can an unrighteous sinful human being ever be made right with an eternally holy God, who will not pardon the guilty? The historic orthodox answer, from Calvin, Luther, St.Bernard, Chrysotom, Augustine, St.Paul, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, etc has always been the same. “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity”. The question is one of imputation. Is salvation based upon the righteousness of Christ imputed to the sinner (so that God is just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Christ), or does Christ and the sacraments enable me, by infusing righteousness into me.
    Excuse me for saying, but your personal pilgrimage means nothing in light of this question. What does the bible say? And yes, we can refer to the fathers of the church – I listed just a few above who held to the historic reformed position. I would gladly throw in my lot with Rome if she would get this one thing right – because it is the whole root of the matter. Until she does she remains apostate. But you don’t have to. I can assure you there are many reformed churches out there that understand the continuity of the Roman church, and understand their place in that continuity. One need not leave Geneva for Rome. But you do need to leave Rome for Heaven. Not because it is the much-dreaded Roman Catholic Church, but because their doctrine of salvation is not God’s doctrine of salvation. It truly is “By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone – to God’s glory alone”. Anything less simply will not do.

    With all sincerity – Brett D.

  455. Dear Brett,

    I appreciate your fervor. In answer to your concerns, I’m pretty sure that the Roman Catholic Church has never maintained or taught that forgiveness of sins happens by any means but by God’s grace, which is both necessary and sufficient to remit the guilt of sin.

    The question remains, how does one come by this grace, if soteriological Universalism is not true? By believing that one has received it? This leads to clear and insurmountable circularity, a major reason why I am now so glad to be Catholic: I have as much assurance as I could be that I am in the Church that Jesus founded. In this, the “Reformed” folks have a real problem – where is the Church? Is it invisible and its membership determined by the one orthodox belief that you cited? If so, this comes down to the private convictions of a mereological sum of individuals, and this is not a Church. Full stop. Is it the PCA? Pretty pathetic fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that he would sustain his Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it, if you ask me – are you willing to place your hope in Christ on the fortunes of one segment of the “Split Ps” (“P” for Presbyterian)? This is the dilemma facing any non-Catholic who wants to take Biblical talk of “The Church” seriously. Either we have to call something “The Church” that doesn’t even resemble *a* Church, or it’s one denomination, that may not even pretend to be that Church.

    The way that one overcomes this dilemma is to renounce individualism and not choose “a church” based on its conformity with *your* preselected beliefs, but be taught by a Church with an unbroken line of apostolic succession back to the apostles themselves – if this is not The Church, because those with charge of it abdicated them by their heresy (as defined by *whom*??) then there is no Church, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit failed, and God is not sovereign. If there is a Church, it must have been there all along. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but the real Church is one that reforms *itself* (e.g., Council of Trent, Vatican II), not that is led by isolated cults of personality that decided they could throw out centuries of Holy Tradition and start over on their own terms and think that *that* is the Church of Christ.

  456. The Roman Church may teach salvation by “grace” but it defines it radically different from the Apostles and the Church Fathers. The Reformation (Lutheran wing especially) did not throw out tradition, they threw out those teaches which contradicted the clear teachings of scripture. At Trent the Papists affirmed that which was against scripture and threw out the clear teachings of scripture and actually created the Roman Catholic Church at that point formally. It was Rome that left the Church not the Lutherans. The Church is where God’s word is preached rightly divided and the sacrements rightly administered. The Roman Catholic Church does not make the grade scripturally because it’s denial of the Gospel via a false doctrine of Justification.

  457. Let me qualify that, that does not mean that the Roman Catholic Church does not contain Christians within it. I would further add the the RCC has reached the state that it did through inovation. The Lutheran Reformation threw out the innovations and quoted the Church Fathers heavily to prove it. I don’t know how many times I have been told by Roman Catholics that their church does not teach for instance that the Mass is a bloodless resacrificing of Christ which is clearly against their own catechism and history. http://gnesiolutheran.com/the-mass-and-the-sacrifice-of-christ/ This previous link demonstrates the point. I applaud catholics who do not believe those teachings of their church that are against the clear teaching of scripture but ignoring the discrepency does not make it go away.

    Kudos Brett!

  458. In the debate on justification, there’s one point that I am fairly confident about: the central Church Fathers did not teach the Reformation construal of the forensic imputation of righteousness. Both Luther and Calvin acknowledged this. As Luther commented: “‘Augustine has sometimes erred and is not to be trusted. Although good and holy, he was yet lacking in the true faith, as well as other fathers … But when the door was opened for me in Paul, so that I understood what justification by faith is, it was all over with Augustine.”

    All one needs to do is to read Augustine’s “On the Spirit and the Letter” and “On Faith and Works,” and one will immediately see the manifest differences between Augustine and the Reformers; moreover, you will also see that the Tridentine Fathers were clearly working within an Augustinian framework.

    See Phillip Cary’s reflections on Augustine and justification: http://pontifications.wordpress.com/2008/01/07/augustine-on-justification/. Cary, it should be mentioned, is a strong supporter of Luther’s understanding of justification by faith.

  459. Thanks, Fr. Alvin, for some helpful historical perspective.

    Jason: Well, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but I don’t grant the truth of your assertions. In the meantime, I reiterate my questions about the Church and wonder if you could provide a definition of “church” that would at least let what you refer to as “The Church” qualify as *a* church; that is, without question-beggingly asserting your definition of orthodoxy and its implicit assumptions about who *really* believes it. Because it sounds to me like a “collection of not necessarily associated individuals that believe such-and-such” and I don’t see why anyone would call this *a* church, except that the term appears frequently in the NT and so it must apply to something regardless of what the actual meaning of the word is. But if a church must, in order to be one, include real and visible *communion* among its members (as in “in communion,” viz.: the title of this website), then the dilemma I noted arises: either there’s no Church, or the Church is one splinter of a denomination. Or the Catholic Church has been there along, it is one, it is catholic, and apostolic. By “apostolic” one shouldn’t mean “pretending that it’s still the fifth century and decrying anything else as ‘innovation,’” but rather recognizing the apostolic succession that allows the Church to endure over time and develop, as does an oak tree from an acorn, and most importantly thereby to be be present to every generation.

    Chesterton said “If the Church is anything, it is a Thing.” But in the hands of Protestants, unfortunately if it is a “Thing” at all it has to be an abstract idealized construct not requiring actual unity among its members. I reiterate the challenge to state why such a thing should be called *a* church, without begging the question that the church must be a scattered collection of individuals because that’s the only thing left that *could* be. The motivation for that conclusion seems to be from a reductio ad absurdum that simply asserts that the Catholic Church could *not* be correct. But one man’s reductio is another man’s modus ponens, so the materials are at least there for a possible logical conclusion that the Catholic Church is the Church.

  460. Jason,

    The mass is the bloodless re-presentation of the one sacrifice. The priest operates in the Office of Christ, since there is only one high priest and one sacrifice and one divine worship (not the thousands of protestant derivations that actually lack the efficacious cause of worship, namely Christ’s sacrifice). Like the Passover (which was a memorial of The Passover), the Mass (not type or shadow but sacrament and gospel reality) is what is happening in heaven outside of time throughout all of eternity. We participate in it again and again through the Mass because we live in time and space. However, at the moment of consecration we enter into the mystery of the eternal Lamb who was “slain from the creation of the world” (Rev 13:8). As John saw in the Revelation of Christ, “A Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Rev 5), we too always perceive Christ as the one who was slain and gives himself to us in the New Covenant sacrament and memorial of the Holy Eucharist.

    Further, since it is his body and blood that brings us salvation on Calvary (in time and space), how does a Protestant gain access to its resources without the Holy Eucharist? By believing in it? Doesn’t that act happen in time and space? Since I was a Protestant I know that I believed that my faith appropriated what happened 2,000 years ago. As a Catholic I believe that Calvary transcends time and space and that my faith need not be only that it happened 2,000 years ago but that it perpetually heals and saves mankind today. The efficaciousness of the One Act, transcends all time through the Eucharist and thereby makes reality in time/space “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World”–both in A.D. 34 and A.D. 2010.

    Many schismatics throughout the first 1,500 years of the Church threw out Catholic doctrine for their own (quoting Church Fathers, Scripture, and Prophetic Instruction). Luther’s revolt was no novelty it just spread error more universally because of the novel success of modernity and the way in which its themes corresponded to protestantism.

  461. Excuse me for saying, but your personal pilgrimage means nothing in light of this question. What does the bible say? And yes, we can refer to the fathers of the church – I listed just a few above who held to the historic reformed position. I would gladly throw in my lot with Rome if she would get this one thing right – because it is the whole root of the matter.

    This is the classic error. Considering your opinion of what the bible says to be objective fact in the face of sincere disagreement. Mathison, a protestant, has written on this question here. If you give us the kind of charity that this Baptist expects a Lutheran to give him it might open up some dialogue. It might also open your eyes to how much your position depends on accepting your opinion of scripture over someone else’s.

  462. You guys are expert straw man builders and red herring fishermen. I think the link I provided shows sufficiently that the “re-presentation” is a recent innovation just as transubstantiation is an innovation of the early medieval period.

    “Further, since it is his body and blood that brings us salvation on Calvary (in time and space), how does a Protestant gain access to its resources without the Holy Eucharist? ”

    Which kind of “protestant”? The only way to recieve any benefit from the Eucharist is faith, otherwise you receive condemnation. What if you heard the Gospel, repented and believed it but immediately died thereafter? Would one be damned because they had no opportunity for baptism or the receiving the True Body and True Blood by mouth? Of course not. Anymore than a baptised baby would be damned because they could not make a confession with their mouth. The Word of God is not without effect.

  463. Micah, you show that you were an evangelical by your ignorance .

    “Chesterton said “If the Church is anything, it is a Thing.” But in the hands of Protestants, unfortunately if it is a “Thing” at all it has to be an abstract idealized construct not requiring actual unity among its members. ”

    This is not true of Confessional Lutherans, which I am. Another straw man.

  464. Alvin Kimel, I would like to see a citation for your Luther quote. I have read some of the Church fathers myself and the ones I have ready taught Justification by faith alone and the farther back you go the clearer it is.

  465. OK, Jason I read the link. Quite frankly I don’t see his point. Here is the key quote

    Roman Catholics are quick to say that the Eucharist is not a re-sacrifice of Christ. They want to make it clear that Christ was offered once for all and that the Mass is not a re-sacrifice but a “re-presentation” of the sacrifice. We certainly do not want to misrepresent Roman Catholic theology, but we must ask how it is possible for the Mass to not be a re-sacrifice of Christ when the Mass is called a divine sacrifice (CCC, 1068) that is done over and over again. We are told that “the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice”; (CCC, 1367); that it is an unbloody offering that is proptiatory, (CCC, 1367); that it can make reparation of sins, (CCC, 1414); and is to be considered a true and proper sacrifice (The Catholic Encyclopedia, topic: “Sacrifice of the Mass”). We must conclude that it is a sacrifice that occurs over and over again and since it is said to be a true and proper sacrifice that is propitiatory, then logically it must be a re-sacrifice of Christ. If it is not, then how can it be called a sacrifice of Christ? Also, how could it be propitiatory if it is not a sacrifice of Christ since it is Christ’s offering on the cross that is itself propitiatory?

    What confuses me is the “We must conclude …” part. I cannot see any logic by which that conclusion follows from the premises given. In fact, the premises directly contradict the conclusion. The premises do not contradict Catholic teaching that Christ was offered once for all and that the Mass is not a re-sacrifice but a “re-presentation” of the sacrifice. So Catholic teaching is consistent. Matt Slick is not.

  466. Jason,

    no, not ignorant, you mistook my point, which was a *dilemma