Reflections – Graduating Catholic from a Reformed Seminary

Jun 7th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

I would like to thank Dr. David Anders for encouraging me to write this post. I would not have had the idea on my own, but I am hopeful that it can now serve as a way for me to thank the faculty of RTS in Washington D.C. and encourage future dialogue between the Reformed and Catholic Christians.

Approximately thirty credit hours into the Master of Divinity program at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Washington D.C. I made the decision to enter into the Catholic Church. Since I’ve already had a chance to describe my theological journey to the Catholic Church here on a Called to Communion podcast, I would like to share some of my experiences after my conversion while still a student at RTS. Although I made the decision to convert more than two years before I graduated it was only in my last three semesters at RTS that I attended as a confirmed Catholic.

(Sometimes I would stop here, the Basillica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, on my way to class at RTS. It might not have been a typical stop for an RTS student, but it always helped me slow down and focus my heart and mind on Christ.)

In the fall of 2008 when I finally resolved to convert to the Catholic Church from the Presbyterian Church in America I faced the tough question of whether I would stay at RTS and finish my degree. At first I didn’t even know if I would be allowed to stay. I had already heard horror stories of Catholic converts at Protestant institutions being pushed out after their decision to convert. After realizing I could stay I had to ask the difficult question of whether I should. After consulting with numerous people I respect, both Catholic and Reformed, I made the decision to continue at RTS. I withdrew from the M.Div. program and finished out at RTS in D.C. with a Master of Arts in Religious Studies. I graduated on June 4th, 2011.

I can say with all honesty that the faculty of RTS in D.C. treated me with more kindness than I possibly could have imagined. They never made me feel unwelcome at the seminary and were willing to engage Catholic questions whenever I would ask. Nonetheless the situation made for some awkward experiences as I sat in class and talked with students. I’ll never forget the reaction of some of my classmates when they asked me what church I was at. I think the most common response was a look of disbelief and then a simple “…seriously?”

In the summer of 2009 I had the chance to take a three day intensive class, “Ministry in a Postmodern Context”, with Michael Horton. A couple times he made jokes about the Catholic Church and the reason people convert. At one point, maybe only in a half joking manner, Horton suggested that people convert because the papacy offers a senior pastor that many Protestant congregations are failing to offer.  Horton makes a similar comment in his book, God of Promise. This mindset suggests that people become Catholic primarily because their existential experience within Protestantism is unsatisfying. As I sat in the class though, I realized that Horton was mistaken. All the Catholics I knew who had converted from Calvinism had embraced the Catholic Church through a thoughtful and scripturally informed theological journey.

During breaks, which we frequently had during the intensive classes, I had the chance to have lunch with groups of RTS students and I was always surprised to discover how many had been at least baptized in the Catholic Church. This reality reinforced the perception, almost always present in Reformed circles, that when Catholics have a true conversion to Christ they leave the Catholic Church. In truth, however, these students had never really entered into the fulness of the Catholic Church; they were never catechized, they were never taken to Mass regularly, they were never taught the unbroken history of the Church back to the Apostles themselves. In addition, they had no exposure to the sea of converts from Reformed churches into the Catholic Church. Since they now lived in the “Reformed World,” they were likely only to meet other people with similar stories who had likewise left the Catholic Church. Where would they come in contact with people who had gone in the other direction, who had been baptized in a Reformed Church, but became Catholic for theological reasons? I found that these interactions simply didn’t happen.

Even from a sociological standpoint I was fascinated by the mindset of these two groups. From their own experiences, the Reformed believed that Catholics who truly found Christ became Protestant while the Catholics believed that any Protestant who truly wanted pure and undistorted Christianity became Catholic. Both groups (Catholics from Calvinism and Calvinists from Catholicism) were either unaware of, or maybe just ignored, the existence of the other group. However, I did notice a profound difference between these two groups and the stories they shared of their conversions. Those who had left Catholicism for Calvinism never loved Catholicism to begin with. On the other hand, the Calvinists who had gone Catholic had previously been the most zealous of Calvinists. They were believers who knew and loved the Reformed tradition and had essentially followed it until the road came to an unexpected end.

I have frequently been asked whether or not the Professors at RTS accurately articulate the teachings of the Catholic Church when juxtaposing it with the Reformed tradition. The answer here is complicated. There is no doubt that at times I heard gross misrepresentations of what the Catholic Church teaches. For example, in the Michael Horton class I mentioned earlier, a class with probably fifty students in it, Dr. Horton condemned the Vatican II position on the possibility of salvation for those who do not profess faith in Christ. Horton offered a caricature of the Catholic position which suggested that Vatican II taught that anybody who lives a good life will be saved. In fact, Vatican II taught nothing of the sort. Though Vatican II affirmed the truth that some men may be saved apart from a conscious knowledge of Christ as Savior (a truth affirmed by the WCF as well in the case of infant mortality and mental retardation), the Council maintained with clarity that salvation comes only through Christ.

The other distortion of Catholic teaching that I noticed took an unexpected form. As might be expected, several classes discussed the crucial differences in the understanding of justification between the Catholic Church and the Reformed tradition. At times, the substance, or the brute facts, concerning how the Catholic Church understands justification were accurately presented. These facts, however, had been completely removed from the context of God’s love. In contrast, the Professors presented the Reformed view of justification as the most wondrous act of God’s love. To be fair, Catholics tend to do this to the Reformed as well. I’ve heard Catholics present the Reformed view as if God still despises us, but has found a loophole to his own justice through the death of Christ.

If the dialogue towards unity is to continue, we must recognize that for both the Catholic and the Reformed, the death of Christ on the cross is the supreme act of God’s love. For it is here that he merited salvation for us and attained the promised blessings of the old covenants for God’s people. It is here that salvation can be by grace alone and not by works. It is here that God’s love melts away the hardness in the hearts of his children. It is here that we must focus our eyes if we are to make any progress towards Christian unity.

Indebted to the Reformed Tradition

I had expected that as I settled into the Catholic Church I would begin to feel less indebted to the Reformed tradition. As I reflect on my experience at RTS, however, I realize the exact opposite has happened. If you click on the welcome link on the Called to Communion home page you’ll find an answer to the question, “Who are the members of Called to Communion?” There you will find this statement.

We are grateful for all that we learned about the Christian faith in the Reformed tradition. We are also grateful for the piety that we found within the Reformed congregations to which we belonged, and for the love for truth that is a significant aspect of the Reformed tradition. We do not view ourselves as having left our Reformed faith behind, but rather as having found its fullness in the Catholic Church.

Now that I have graduated from RTS I feel a deeper affinity with these words than ever before. I am humbled by the leadership at RTS D.C. My professors are among the most scripturally knowledgeable believers I have ever met. The whole of their lives is clearly informed by the love of God. Their focus is Christ and they live out of a profound thankfulness for his saving work on the cross. I do not wish to estrange myself from them or pick a fight with them. I simply want them to discover what I have. I want them to see that the glorious benefits that we have in Christ, benefits which they articulate so well, benefits which they first taught me to relish in, are available right here, in this life. They are available in the Catholic Church. They are available in the Eucharist, in the liturgy, in Confession, in Absolution, in Holy Water, in witnessing baptism, and in real communion with the saints of old.

208 comments
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  1. Jeremy:

    Thanks so much for this! I was especially struck by this:

    I had expected that as I settled into the Catholic Church I would begin to feel less indebted to the Reformed tradition. As I reflect on my experience at RTS, however, I realize the exact opposite has happened.

    I was raised nothing, became a sort of street Christian in 1970, fairly quickly – by 1975, say – became Reformed. It was the Reformed writers who taught me such things as the importance of the visible Church and of God’s Covenant and the Sacraments as covenant signs – and whose teaching – especially the writings of Cornelius Van Til, and in a personal way, the writings of James B. Jordan – led me to the Catholic Church. I have said to my Reformed friends that in becoming a Catholic I have not abandoned anything that I believed as a Calvinist, only that I think I have found their fulfilment in the Catholic Church.

    jj

  2. Hi JJ,

    I am glad some of this could resonate with your own story. So when did you actually come into the Church?

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  3. Jeremy – with my wife and three of our four children, we were received on Christmas Eve, 1995. I have a bit of a story about it here. If you e-mail me at j /dot/ jensen /at/ auckland /dot/ ac /dot/ nz, I can send it to you as .pdf – more convenient :-) I wrote it in 1998, so there have been a lot of changes since then.

    Having been a fairly serious student both of Calvin and of the presuppositionalist people, I have found it so very natural to grow into St Thomas Aquinas.

    jj

  4. I did notice a profound difference between these two groups and the stories they shared of their conversions. Those who had left Catholicism for Calvinism never loved Catholicism to begin with. On the other hand, the Calvinists who had gone Catholic had previously been the most zealous of Calvinists. They were believers who knew and loved the Reformed tradition and had essentially followed it until the road came to an unexpected end.

    Wow that resonates with me. As a recent convert from the PCA I can confirm this. I may not have been the most knowledgable Calvinist, but I was “Ligonier” knowledgable if you take my meaning. I was quite zelous and certainly loved Jesus. My conversion to Catholicism was mainly theological. Simply put, I came to see Catholicism as true. EVERY former Catholic I have ever met that became Reformed did so AFTER a conversion experience, and before that experience were not fervent Catholics whatsoever, usually they were raised Catholic but not catechised and no faith seen at home from the parents.

    -David M.

  5. Thanks David,

    I think Tim Troutman or another CtC guy pointed this trend out to me a few years ago, but once I started paying attention I found very few exceptions.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  6. Jeremy,

    Thanks for the witness.

  7. I would like an informed Catholic to try and harmonize Unam Sanctum with Vatican II. With a harmonization that would have made sense to anyone living in 1300 and 2010. Not going to happen.

    After Vatican II all claims to infallibility crumble like dust. The only defensible Roman Catholic position would be a sedevacantist position. But then, what would be the point?

  8. [...] From Reformed Presbyterian to Catholic! – Jeremy Tate, Called to Communion [...]

  9. Thanks a lot Jeremy for sharing your journey with us. I remember being baptized into the Presbyterian community as well.

    Greetings from Africa.
    Godwin Delali Adadzie

  10. Geoff (re: #7),

    See comment #1128.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  11. I’m sorry. I didn’t see an answer to the thrust of my question.

    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/b8-unam.html

    “Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ…”

    vs. the Catechism

    838 “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.”[322] Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.”[323] With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”[324]

    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.”[330]

    Even if you can find some way to harmonize the two, would you say that when my grandmom was growing up this was the understanding of the Roman Catholic Church? I assure you it was not.

  12. Jeremy,

    I find your post totally ridiculous. As a former faithful Catholic who was “properly catechized,” you are grossly mistaken to think that ex-Catholics who convert were somehow ignorant of the teachings of Catholicism. You may want to read the book “Far From Rome, Near to God” which gives the testimonies of 50 former priests who converted to Christianity. These were zealous men who dedicated their lives to Rome, but by God’s grace were given the gift of eternal life through the gospel.

    Concerning your claim that we ex-Catholics are ignorant of Church history and apostolic succession, this is also a blatant misrepresentation. Is it possible that our opposition is informed by an understanding of history – that we question how the pornocracy, the Great Western Schism, and the condemnation of previous popes by their successors jibes with apostolic succession? Or how forgeries such as the Donation of Constantine and the False Decretals were used to promote Roman authority?

    You have abandoned the simplicity of faith in Christ for salvation. You have placed yourself under a system that denies that you can know for sure that you are going to heaven. You have placed yourself in an organization that denies the finished work of Christ, one that re-presents the sacrifice of Christ in the abominable idolatry that is the mass. You have departed from the faith, and turned to idolatrous mediators that hide Jesus from you. But what really amazes me is your ability to deceive yourself into thinking that there is any possible unity between the gospel of Rome and the gospel as taught by your professors at RTS.

    I also blame the leadership of RTS, especially those who were involved in ECT, including my former professor, Harold O.J. Brown, and the former president of the Orlando campus, Frank James. Your conversion is the awful fruit of the false ecumenical spirit of the age.

    I hope you come to your senses.

  13. Jeremy,

    They are multiple problems with your claims and on many different levels, especially theological and historical. I will not address those here and now. For the most part you are staying away from them preferring to be just “nice.” Well, there is also a problem with being nice as well and in the etymological and root sense as you can see here:

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=nice

    Let me just address one of the misconceptions and misrepresentations you are making resulting from your treatment of what at best is particular and specific that seems to be presented by you as something general and rather common:

    “…In truth, however, these students had never really entered into the fulness of the Catholic Church; they were never catechized, they were never taken to Mass regularly, they were never taught the unbroken history of the Church back to the Apostles themselves.”

    Let me tell you about myself that definitely does not fit into the pattern you are trying to woven above and other places. I was born and raised in Roman Catholic family in one of the most staunch Roman Catholic countries in the world – Poland. It was mandatory for me to attend mass with my parents and all the way into the day of my rebirth from above in my mid 30s. I have been catechized from first grade all the way to the High School. I have been an altar boy and later a lector actively and seriously participating in RC mass . I have Roman Catholics priests in my family who have been interacting with Pope JPII before he was the pope and after he became one. In short I had more exposure to and more teaching from Roman Catholicism (and that is the proper name for it and not just Catholicism as you write) than you will have and for a long time too.

    Yet, yet with all of that intensive Roman Catholic catechesis, with all of that serious and personal commitment to Roman Catholic faith that I had all the way into my mid 30s and with all of those rituals and masses I attended in piety with my parents and later with my children and with all of the orthodox Roman Catholic environment I grew up in, lived in and breathed in I have never ever knew Christ and His Gospel there and I have an experiential and factual base to say that NONE of those multi – decades Roman Catholics I interacted with then and later knew Him or His Gospel.
    This is a strong claim but I have facts after facts, experience after experience to support and substantiate it.

    There was and there is a reason for that. There is a reason for the alienation of all these people from the truth of the Gospel and that reason is painful but true: what Roman Catholicism teaches and expounds a priori precludes anyone to know the truth of the Gospel apart of the divine intervention and grace that reaches into the heart of darkness. There is a valid reason that I am not a Roman Catholic anymore despite my family objections and pressure, despite my background and despite my heritage and that reason is the Lord of Glory who in His mercy manifested Himself to me and by Father’s Grace I have been drawn into the fold of His mercy. The road was not easy but I am a Reformed Believer today and I thank God every day for that and for pulling me out of the system based of external grandiose while at the same time it is internally suffocating those who are in it.
    I have rather justified understanding that your conversion into Roman Catholic religion was influenced and based on the first while you have not noticed yet the second. By God’s grace you will….

    Coram Deo,

    Christophe

  14. Thanks for sharing your story! Deo Gratias!

  15. Geoff, (re: #10)

    The statement in Unam Sanctum is qualified in two ways: first, it is not addressing the distinction between perfect and imperfect communion, and second, it is not addressing cases of invincible ignorance. The Catechism paragraph you cited (CCC 838), however, is addressing precisely cases under both those qualifications, namely, cases of imperfect communion due to invincible ignorance.

    would you say that when my grandmom was growing up this was the understanding of the Roman Catholic Church? I assure you it was not.

    Of course not. But the Church is not dead; it continues to grow not only in numbers, but also in its understanding of the deposit. This is called “development of doctrine.” Tertullian, around AD 206, writes about this growth:

    The rule of faith, indeed, is altogether one, alone immoveable and irreformable; the rule, to wit, of believing in one only God omnipotent, the Creator of the universe, and His Son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised again the third day from the dead, received in the heavens, sitting now at the right (hand) of the Father, destined to come to judge quick and dead through the resurrection of the flesh as well (as of the spirit). This law of faith being constant, the other succeeding points of discipline and conversation admit the “novelty” of correction; the grace of God, to wit, operating and advancing even to the end. For what kind of (supposition) is it, that, while the devil is always operating and adding daily to the ingenuities of iniquity, the work of God should either have ceased, or else have desisted from advancing? Whereas the reason why the Lord sent the Paraclete was, that, since human mediocrity was unable to take in all things at once, discipline should, little by little, be directed, and ordained, and carried on to perfection, by that Vicar of the Lord, the Holy Spirit. “Still,” He said, “I have many things to say to you, but you are not yet able to bear them: when that Spirit of truth shall have come, He will conduct you into all truth, and will report to you the supervening (things).” But above, withal, He made a declaration concerning this His work. What, then, is the Paraclete’s administrative office but this: the direction of discipline, the revelation of the Scriptures, the reformation of the intellect, the advancement toward the “better things?” Nothing is without stages of growth: all things await their season. In short, the preacher says, “A time to everything.” Look how creation itself advances little by little to fructification. First comes the grain, and from the grain arises the shoot, and from the shoot struggles out the shrub: thereafter boughs and leaves gather strength, and the whole that we call a tree expands: then follows the swelling of the germen, and from the germen bursts the flower, and from the flower the fruit opens: that fruit itself, rude for a while, and unshapely, little by little, keeping the straight course of its development, is trained to the mellowness of its flavour. So, too, righteousness— for the God of righteousness and of creation is the same— was first in a rudimentary state, having a natural fear of God: from that stage it advanced, through the Law and the Prophets, to infancy; from that stage it passed, through the Gospel, to the fervour of youth: now, through the Paraclete, it is settling into maturity. (On the Veiling of Virgins, 1)

    And in the fifth century St. Vincent of Lérins writes about development of doctrine as well, as I recently explained here. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman also wrote about it in the nineteenth century, in his well known book titled An Essay on the Development of Doctrine.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. Hi Dale,

    Welcome to Called to Communion and thank you for taking the time to visit the website. Since I have offered a personal testimony I don’t mind you objecting on a personal level to my decision. First, I was clear in my post to speak of my own experiences. I have found that when people leave the Catholic Church they are likely to enter into circles where they will be affirmed in that decision.

    Here’s what ironic about what you write. I made the decision to convert to the Catholic Church in my mind six months before I resigned from a youth ministry position at a Reformed Church. My wife was the only person who knew of my intention to join the Catholic Church. As I continued doing youth ministry in a reformed setting I focused my talks and ministry towards the areas where Reformed and Catholic theology overlap. This would include salvation as a gift of free grace, the benefits of union with Christ, the freedom of life in Christ, and the assurance of God’s love for us. I wanted to respect the Reformed church I had committed to, yet I also wanted to honor the Magisterium of the Catholic Church since I had already come to recognize that she alone had the authority to authentically interpret the Bible. During this time I received the greatest encouragement from the parents of students I worked with. They commented on the positive influence my love and passion for Christ was having on their kids. I taught them the Scriptures and gave talks and received nothing but encouragement. Then, when I made my decision to convert public, many of these same parents would no longer interact with me. Nothing had changed in my theology, but they rejected me simply because I was now “Catholic”.

    I can assure you that I love Christ as a Catholic more than I ever have. This is not because I have manufactured a renewed love for God by my own strength. I haven’t. I have simply been taken captive by the wonder of God’s love. In the Catholic Church, God’s love is not something I primarily just hear about, it is something I experience through the Eucharist. I can imagine your experience might be different. However, there is no warrant whatsoever, in the testimony of the New Testament or in the first 1500 years of the Church, of Christian worship without the Eucharist (see Acts 2:42). I would be interested to hear how your Christian life does not suffer from deprived of the Eucharist. How do you reconcile the practice of your Church, of offering only monthly communion (I’m assuming) with Scripture? Where does Scripture teach that the first Sunday a month? Can you imagine any of the other three focuses of the early Church (the Apostles teaching, prayer, or fellowship) being set apart for only one Sunday a month?

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  17. Dale Rutiger,

    You behave exactly as every Catholic who left the Church of Christ for Protestantism that I know does, by promoting with rabid venom and condemnation an incredible ignorance of the teachings of the Catholic Church. The loss of charity which is evident in your post only serves to reinforce the Lord’s teaching found in St. Matthew Chapter 7.

    Jeremy,

    I always rejoice at the gaining of a new brother in Christ. May Jesus Christ be praised now and forever.

    Brian

  18. “The statement in Unam Sanctum is qualified in two ways: first, it is not addressing the distinction between perfect and imperfect communion,”

    You are correct. It is addressing whether Greek Orthodox are even sheep of Christ at all. The answer at that time would be a big no. It isn’t imperfect communion. The answer of Unam Sanctum is no union.

    “Of course not. But the Church is not dead; it continues to grow not only in numbers, but also in its understanding of the deposit. This is called “development of doctrine.””

    Development of doctrine isn’t going to help you here. Not when you have a pope kissing a Koran. It isn’t about invincible ignorance.

    If you go about 1900 years with one understanding about something as key as salvation and then, turning on a dime, and allowing for Muslims to be saved as Muslims, there is no reason to trust the Roman Catholic Church about any current teaching. They can develop right out of anything. Not to mention that this contradicts Romans 10. Not to mention that it completely undermines the epistemological claim that you need Rome to help you figure stuff out. If you were listening to Rome prior to Vatican II, you held an incorrect view about salvation for hundreds of years even according to Rome.

    Btw, Muslims explicitly deny the Trinity. If you grant them “invincible ignorance”, you might as well grant that to everyone at all times.

    I remain convinced. The only somewhat coherent Roman Catholic position is from the sedevacantists. They at least understand the dilemma.

  19. Jeremy,

    Thank you for this wonderful article and your subsequent comments. Your personal experience resonated with me as my journey included as well a “revival” of intimacy with Christ. Moreover, I have been overcome with joy to see the “relationship with God” blossom for my wife since coming into the Catholic Church. Ironically, she was raised where “relationship”=salvation (as was I), and it has only been since becoming Catholic that her relationship with God has blossomed as such. So much so, that recently she told me that since partaking of the Eucharist daily, she is now starting to understand why we won’t be married in heaven. Ouch! That hurts my pride, but put a big smile on my face.

    God bless you and yours!

    Brent

  20. Geoff, (re: #18)

    You wrote:

    It is addressing whether Greek Orthodox are even sheep of Christ at all. The answer at that time would be a big no. It isn’t imperfect communion. The answer of Unam Sanctum is no union.

    Because it is not talking there (in Unam Sanctum) about those not in invincible ignorance. That’s fully compatible with what CCC 838 says, because the CCC is there talking about persons in invincible ignorance.

    Development of doctrine isn’t going to help you here. Not when you have a pope kissing a Koran. It isn’t about invincible ignorance.

    The Pope’s act (which I think was objectively wrong) has nothing to do with the compatibility of the statement of Unam Sanctum and CCC 838.

    If you go about 1900 years with one understanding about something as key as salvation and then, turning on a dime, and allowing for Muslims to be saved as Muslims, there is no reason to trust the Roman Catholic Church about any current teaching. They can develop right out of anything.

    The Church has never formally or universally taught that all those who never had a chance to hear the gospel are damned to hell. The Church knows of no other way of salvation than through the Church Christ founded and the sacraments Christ established in her as a way of union with Him. But the Church also knows (and has always known) that God is omnipotent, and capable of acting outside the visible extension of the Church. Vatican II simply made that explicit. So there was no “turning on a dime” regarding the possibility of salvation for those who have never heard.

    Development is distinct from both corruption and accretion. But in order to understand and distinguish the three categories, first you have to acknowledge the three categories, and so far, I don’t see you even acknowledging the possibility of genuine development. Blessed Cardinal Newman has provided criteria for distinguishing development from corruption and accretion, in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, which I linked to in my previous comment.

    Not to mention that this contradicts Romans 10.

    In attempting to “not to mention” it, you mentioned it. But, nothing in Romans 10 contradicts what the Church taught at Vatican II.

    Not to mention that it completely undermines the epistemological claim that you need Rome to help you figure stuff out.

    It doesn’t undermine that at all. We do need the Church to help us reach heaven; this is one reason why Christ founded the Church. But God, being omnipotent, is not incapable of working beyond the visible bounds of the Church. It would be foolish (and sinful) to knowingly reject the grace available in the Church Christ founded (through the sacraments He instituted) because one knows that in God’s power He is not limited to the visible bounds of the Church and the sacraments He established.

    If you were listening to Rome prior to Vatican II, you held an incorrect view about salvation for hundreds of years even according to Rome.

    Not incorrect, but incompletely explicated. Same with the Christians living prior to the Council of Nicea in AD 325. They did not know that Christ was homoousious with the Father. But that doesn’t mean their view was “incorrect,” only that it was incompletely explicated.

    Btw, Muslims explicitly deny the Trinity. If you grant them “invincible ignorance”, you might as well grant that to everyone at all times.

    That a person denies the Trinity does not ipso facto make him incapable of invincible ignorance. See Jimmy Akin’s article on invincible ignorance. In stating the possibility that a non-Christian can be saved, the Church is not saying anything about what percentage of such persons are saved, or how difficult it is for such persons to be saved. It is much more difficult to be saved as a baptized person in imperfect communion with the Church than it is in full communion with the Church, as I explained in comment #480. It is even more difficult for those who have never received baptism or heard the good news of Christ.

    I remain convinced. The only somewhat coherent Roman Catholic position is from the sedevacantists. They at least understand the dilemma.

    I’m not surprised you remain convinced, given what you have said so far. But the question isn’t about you, nor does the question depend on where you stand on the matter. The question is whether what the Church now teaches is both compatible with what she has always taught, and whether it satisfies the criteria for authentic development. And nothing you have said so far shows that the teaching of Vatican II is not an authentic development of what she has always taught.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  21. Dear Christophe,

    Welcome to Called to Communion and thank you for engaging my post. First, the statement you quote;

    In truth, however, these students had never really entered into the fulness of the Catholic Church; they were never catechized, they were never taken to Mass regularly, they were never taught the unbroken history of the Church back to the Apostles themselves.

    If you take a look at the post I was describing the students I had lunch with at RTS and not every Catholic who has ever left the Catholic Church. I spoke from my own experience, though I am fully aware that other people have had quite different experiences. It is important for me to know your experience and I think it’s also important for you to know mine. I think we can both agree, however, that experience does not have ultimate authority to reveal truth. Your negative experience of Catholicism does not negate the truth of the Catholic Church just as my positive experience does not prove the truth of the Catholic Church. The authority we do agree on is Scripture. As a Protestant I came to the conclusion that a doctrine at the very foundation of my faith, Sola Scriptura, was unscriptural. Like every other false doctrine, Sola Scriptura has caused incredible damage.

    As for your testimony that people in fact do leave the Catholic Church when they find Christ I would ask you to revisit a Catholic parish and get to know some people. At my local parish I have become best friends with a previously Assemblies of God campus minister and also with a man who grew up in the household of a dispensational pastor. As a Calvinist, I never would have been friends with these two men. Yet, as a Catholic, we have unity and deep fellowship. We have all turned from our sectarianism to the divinely established Church. I am blown away by the love these men have for the Lord. I feast off my conversations with them and I am humbled by the way they live. They live lives wholly devoted to Jesus Christ.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  22. Jeremy, thanks for your article. Question for you and the rest of the C2C community:

    Say you were on a bus talking with someone and you had about 60 seconds before one of you had to get off at your stop. The conversation has turned to spiritual things and this person, being an unbeliever with no church background, asks “what must I do to be saved.” What would your response have been prior to your conversion to Catholicism, and what would it be now? Remember, you’ve got a very short amount of time in which to give your answer and you may never see this person again so you you must be completely direct and to the point. This is not a trap I promise, I am honestly interested in the answer.

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  23. Hi Aaron,

    Great question. Catholics absolutely affirm the response of Paul and Silas to the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16.

    Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

    It is important to also note what happens next. The jailer and his household were baptized. This baptism is concomitant with his belief in Christ in such a way that they cannot be divorced from one another. We are saved through believing in Christ (John 3:16) and we are saved through baptism (1st Peter 3:21). This is exactly what Scripture teaches;

    Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 16:16

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  24. Experience tells me that belief in the Real Presence is the real marker for who joins or leaves the RCC. If someone believes Christ is really present in the Eucharist, they aren’t going to become or remain Protestant. Indeed, it seems that “committed, well-catechized” Catholics who break communion with Rome most often do so in the direction of SSPX, et al.

  25. Jeremy,

    Exactly. I would also add Peter’s response to the Jews in Acts 2. The Jews also asked “What shall we do?” and Peter’s response was “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.” No wonder he also said in his epistle that “baptism now saves you,” as you’ve pointed out. It’s all very coherent.

  26. Jeremy,

    So, are you saying that you were surprised by the reaction from the members of your PCA church? The fact that you can say that “nothing changed in your theology” amazes me. When you were teaching the youth ministry, you may have been using a common vocabulary, but you definitely were not using the same dictionary. What do you mean by “salvation as a gift of free grace”? Did you teach the youth on the Catholic doctrine of merit? On the ex opere operato working of the Roman sacraments for salvation? While teaching the assurance of God’s love for them, were you also telling them that if they committed a mortal sin then the would no longer be in union with Christ? That their salvation was dependent on their relationship with the Roman Catholic Church? That they should look to Mary for their sanctification (CCC 829)?

    Brian thinks that I am spewing venom. Far from that, I am concerned for truth, and for the well-being of your soul. I am also concerned about what is likely your goal: conversion of your evangelical friends to Catholicism. I would rather that you would be hot or cold. Don’t pretend that you are some kind of “evangelical Catholic.” There is no such animal.

  27. Dale,

    I focused my ministry towards students on Christ. Out of respect for both the Reformed tradition and the Catholic Church I confined my teaching to areas where Catholicism and Reformed theology overlap. So, to answer your question, did I teach them the Catholic doctrine of merit? No. That is not an area where Reformed theology and Catholic theology overlap. By the way, the Catholic doctrine of merit is not what you’re implying. It is not earning justification. We are only speaking of what that come about through the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. The Catholic Church teaches dogmatically that salvation is by grace alone.

    I noticed you did not attempt to reconcile the testimony of the New Testament with the practice of your own denomination concerning the celebration of the Lord’s Super. Since I have responded to you, despite your clear violation of the posting guidelines concerning personal attacks, I will wait for your response to my question before continuing the discussion. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  28. Dale,

    oops “works that come about” not “what that come about”

  29. Jeremy,

    I am sorry that you feel that I am attacking you personally. That is not my intention. I am only trying to point out to you the inconsistency of your arguments. Shouldn’t you rebuke Brian, who accuses me of spreading rabid venom, or stating that I am ignorant of the teachings of the Catholic Church?

    You obviously have a strong devotion to the Roman eucharist. You believe that Jesus is physically present in the sacrifice of the mass. You feel that by eating the wafer you are consuming the literal body and blood of Jesus, and that this is promoting your final justification and acceptance into heaven. The Roman claim to the physical body of Christ is a strong deterrent to leaving the Catholic Church. If I believed that Jesus was physically present in the eucharist, and that my salvation depended upon my participation in the mass, then I would go to mass daily. But the sacrifice of the mass is contrary to scripture (see especially the book of Hebrews). There are no rules in the bible concerning how frequently the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated. And it is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, that is currently on earth. He is our comforter while we wait patiently for the return of Christ.

    I enjoy two fellowships. At one, the Lord’s Supper is celebrated bi-weekly. At the other, a messianic Jewish congregation, we enjoy a love feast every week.

  30. Jeremy,

    “I think we can both agree, however, that experience does not have ultimate authority to reveal truth. ”
    ~J.

    Agreed but that was not the claim nor presentation nor the point I was making in my initial post. So for you to address that is besides the point and outside of the context of my original post. In fact this is what I stated concerning those matters and right up front too:

    “They are multiple problems with your claims and on many different levels, especially theological and historical. I will not address those here and now.”
    ~C.

    If a disclaimer is made as it was and right up front it is really pointless and circumventing to pursue the area behind it as if a disclaimer was not made. I hope you can notice that…

    “The authority we do agree on is Scripture. As a Protestant I came to the conclusion that a doctrine at the very foundation of my faith, Sola Scriptura, was unscriptural. Like every other false doctrine, Sola Scriptura has caused incredible damage. ”
    ~J.

    That is a subject that I will not get into here for the very practical and experiential reasons but you are horrendously wrong and mislead about it. The damage is done by a general LACK of truly living out and truly practicing Sola Scriptura and not per definitionem of it. As far as incredible damage done to people I have seen it in Roman Catholic religion personally and up front and over a long decades as well and that is something that you have no substance yet to discuss it any further.

    “I would ask you to revisit a Catholic parish and get to know some people. At my local parish I have become best friends with a previously Assemblies of God campus minister and also with a man who grew up in the household of a dispensational pastor. As a Calvinist, I never would have been friends with these two men. Yet, as a Catholic, we have unity and deep fellowship. ”
    ~J.

    :) Jeremy as a Pole living for a long time in US I know personally more practicing Roman Catholics here in US and in Poland that you do now or will. At least for a very long time… So let us be realistic here and walk on a solid ground. I hope you can concede that logical point. In Lord’s providence I have been in Assemblies of God as well right after I have been called out by Grace and I know people there as well. In fact have been conducting Bible studies for them and over a long time as well. For you to state that as a Calvinist you would never have been friends or interact with Arminians sounds rather strange and unrealistic due to unquestionable fact that today majority of the Church is of that theological persuasion. Furthermore, I am not at all surprised with you finding new Roman Catholics among Arminians from Assemblies of God or other Pentecostal denominations for they hold many and very similar to Roman religion views on the nature of God, nature of man and en masse practically reject Biblical and Apostolic teachings of the superiority of God’s revelation over all matters of faith.

    Coram Deo,

    Christopher

  31. @ Geoff and Mr. Cross:
    I am not sure the Neo-Con Catholic or the Sedavacantist position are the only ways to make sense of the obviously different ways of how the Church talks about EENS. Further, I don’t see how what V2 says about this can be rightly considered a development. It seems much more like a giant step backward since it is less clear than previous statements. Yet, it is a pastoral approach and not so much doctrinal or theoretical. I have stated elsewhere that the claim that those who have are invincibly ignorant cannot be held accountable for their ignorance is a 2+2=4 moment… a “no duh” moment. But there has been a disturbing turn in the last hundred years or so where non-dogmatic and unoffical statements are treated as dogmatic and official teaching. The guidelines for invincible ignorance are very strict and is damn near impossible for a normal person. The other disturbing problem is that there has been a move to make invincible ignorance into somehow a justifying thing. That is to say, if you are invincibly ignorant you *will* be saved. No, it just means that you can’t be damned for not knowing what you could not know with some study. But it also, even worse, denies the absolute requirement for an Act of Faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God, and the only faith pleasing to God is the Catholic Faith, because He gives it as a gift. So even the invincibly ignorant must make an Act of Faith in order to be saved and enter Heaven.

  32. Dale,

    Regarding your reference to the book “Far From Rome…”, you may be interested in a short video I made pointing out (editor and pastor) Richard Bennett’s erroneous understanding of several Catholic teachings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8HKFFxViZg

    Yes, he is a former Catholic priest, but his formation in the Catholic Faith was sorely lacking in many respects.

  33. Hi Christophe,

    Thanks for the response. I am single handed with three little ones for the rest of the day so won’t be able to respond to your last comment until late tonight or tmr. I’d be interested to hear though what led you to embrace the Reformed faith (considering all the forms of Protestantism out there).

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  34. This is correct, no one can enter Heaven without dying with faith, hope, and charity rooted in Christ.

    Incidentally, one can have faith and even hope and not have charity. The doctors of the Church teach that such a man (one having faith but not charity) is damned. As Saint Paul taught, charity is more important than faith, though charity requires faith.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  35. Yes, Taylor. That is a very important point to add. Such a faith is a dead faith, as St. James says, and is not salvific.

  36. Aaron,

    Say you were on a bus talking with someone and you had about 60 seconds before one of you had to get off at your stop. The conversation has turned to spiritual things and this person, being an unbeliever with no church background, asks “what must I do to be saved.” What would your response have been prior to your conversion to Catholicism, and what would it be now? Remember, you’ve got a very short amount of time in which to give your answer and you may never see this person again so you you must be completely direct and to the point. This is not a trap I promise, I am honestly interested in the answer.

    As a protestant I would still have wanted to connect this person with a church in some way. I would not want to just have him say the sinners prayer and then go where ever the spirit led him. I think a lot of protestants would do that. IF you reflect on what kind of encounter with a pastor such a protestant would be hoping and praying for it seems like it would be a pseudo-sacramental. He wants this unchurched person to become spiritually joined to a person. A person that meets some sort of pseudo-priestly description. Then through that to be made part of the universal church of Christ. This is what a Catholic would want as well. Telling him to go to a Catholic parish and ask for baptism is just a more reliable way of trying to achieve the same thing. We don’t need to imagine pseudo-priests or pseudo-sacraments because we have real priests and real sacraments just like Peter and Paul did in the book of Acts.

  37. @ Jeremy Tate,

    Thanks for your story, it was edifying.

    Some back ground before some questions. One of my friends went to one of the RTS campuses. We talked at length and through the magic of the internet I sat in on a few classes. I helped them do research (digging up much better primary sources especially for pre-1500’s material) as well as study for tests (which allowed me access to study material and other people’s notes and preliminary test answers). One of the things that I was amazed at was how often the RTS material was a very poor or wrong understanding of how the Church understood herself.

    1.) It seemed to me that the “Catholicism” that they were talking about was a misguided and misunderstood variant of the Thomism that predated Vatican II. I have some Thomistic material that is pre-VII and sometimes the language structure is similar but not exact in how the material at RTS presented things. Where did you see RTS as gaining their knowledge of Catholicism from?

    2.) Most non-Catholics seem to be unaware that Catholicism is not equivalent to the Roman Rite. In your experience, how was RTS in presenting non-Western Catholic theology, as well as non-Thomistic Western Catholic theology?

    3.) I clearly recall a visiting professor discussing the problems that Presbyterian’s have with love. My most heated arguments with my Reformed friends (as in they flew in to a rage) has been over 1.) my suggesting that God’s mercy triumphs His justice/need for dispensing wrath. 2.) That God is love, in His nature. Did you find a difference in how “God is love” was understood at RTS DC vs. your Catholic understanding?

    4.) I have met Reformed who would agree with you that It is here that salvation can be by grace alone and not by works. while I have met others that would not agree with you and would say rather that salvation comes from the decree of God’s sovereign election alone (with imputed alien justification being the vehicle by which that decree is carried out). In terms of grace (which for reformed is STRICTLY and full stop “divine approval”) could you nutshell explain how RTS DC presented the origin as well as the transition of man from a non-justified state to a state of justification?

    5.) Were you attending RTS based on funds from relatives, support from your Reformed community? Was your intent to become a Reformed preacher? Were you being supported and encouraged to become a preacher from your family/friends/faith community? How was your change to Catholicism viewed by these people?

    Thanks!

  38. Dale,

    The list of logical errors consisting of unwarranted equivocations, false or weak analogies, categorical errors and just pure assertions that you make in your video is just staggering. Bigger yet is even if Mr.Benett is as ignorant about Roman religion as you assert then there is 49 other priests in the book that do testify to the falsehood of Roman religion. Are they also ignorant? Were they also sleeping in their seminary classes? Or rather simply we should dismiss your critique of Mr.Benett in the context of the book of “Far from Rome Near to God” (noticed your intentional dropping of the second part of the title…hmmm) as a logical error know as fallacy of unrepresentative sample and a classic example of fallacy known as poisoning the well? I strongly contend for that classification of your presentation.

    Furthermore you really need to refresh on your logic skills for you making all kind of errors like:

    * weak analogy and wishful thinking by asserting that canon of Scripture is open @2:19 and therefore claiming that divine revelation is contained in Scriptures and Catechism/Tradition @2:45.

    *false analogy, oversimplification, overgeneralization, misrepresentation, incomplete evidence, Ad Ignorantiam and others fallacies when you claim “two different forms” of revelation @3:20

    *false analogy, overemphasizing anecdotal evidence and other fallacies @ 4:40 when you assert equivocation between Peter and JPII in terms of asserted SAME inspiration.

    *False analogy, Jumping to Conclusions, incomplete evidence and other logical fallacies when you claim that you can ask “saint on earth and in heaven” @ 6:24.

    That is just few specific examples of your logical fallacies clearly visible in your speach but there is more Devin. For your presentation is repleted with Ad Baculum, Ad Ignorantiam, Ad Misericordiam, Ad Verecundiam and other fallacies. That you make in such a cavalier way and without a slightest thought given. Over all very weak and very inconsistent presentation striving to be something that is not. Thanl you and I hope you consider this and improve it.

  39. “I’d be interested to hear though what led you to embrace the Reformed faith (considering all the forms of Protestantism out there). ”

    Dear Jeremy,

    Thanks and quick answer to a quick question along with one comment.

    *”what led you “? – CONSISTENCY reflecting the consistency of Holy Wisdom evidenced in the Word.

    *”all the forms of Protestantism out there” – There is only ONE form of Protestantism a historic and orthodox at that. Supposed divisions are of second and third tier of importance and are purposefully exaggerated by Roman Catholics or others like Messianic Jews as well and are an example of Poisoning the Well fallacy and tactic.

    Coram Deo,

    Christophe

  40. CORRECTION:

    My post addressing some of the logical fallacies made in the Devin’s video should be obviously addressed to him, i.e. – Devin and not to Dale. Dale I apologize for that.

    C.D.

    Christophe

  41. Christophe,

    You wrote:

    there is 49 other priests in the book that do testify to the falsehood of Roman religion. Are they also ignorant?

    If it is unthinkable that 49 ex-Catholic priests could be wrong, then it is much more unthinkable that the world’s 410,000+ Catholic priests testifying to the truth of the Catholic faith could be wrong/ignorant. Or, perhaps, instead of arguing from numbers, we should consider together the merits of the evidence, both Scriptural and historical.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  42. Just a reminder to all participating in this discussion to review the posting guidelines. There are some newcomers with this thread – which is great – but let us all keep the discussion going with a spirit of charity.

    If any questions about the posting guidelines you can find them here

  43. Christophe

    You did not once actually demonstrate how Devin’s points were guilty of those fallacies. You merely gave the latin term for the fallacy and declared that it was clearly visible that he was guilty of them. Making those kinds of remarks comes off as pretentious rather then a desire for fruitful discussion to try and discover truth.

    Jason

  44. @ Christophe

    Given that I come out of the Lutheran wing of Protestantism, I do take quite a bit of exception to your notion that Reformed is the “one” and “historic” and “orthodox” form of Protestantism. I know that Reformed like to think of themselves as the “gold standard” of what it means to be Protestant, but you really are not.

    A question for you: It is the reading of the scriptures that have made me Catholic. More specifically, my constant reading of them convinced me that Protestantism was wrong and this occurred prior to my interest in Catholicism. What roots me in being Catholic now is my constant daily praying of the scriptures (i read the scriptures to learn and I also pray them to worship). My question for you is, why do you think my reading of scripture has made me what I am today?

    All the converts to Catholicism that I know are Catholics because they started to read the scriptures more, not less.

  45. Christophe,

    I have to say that I find your arguments to be thoroughly unconvincing and even somewhat repulsive. As someone who’s not nearly as theologically sophisticated as any of the other posters here, but rather as your average lay Catholic convert, I’ve noticed that many who leave the Catholic Church do so, not because they have found the Truth after an eager search nor even as Jeremy says because they were not properly catechized, but rather for personal reasons such as, “The Catholics I met weren’t good people and they obviously didn’t know Christ.”

    Well, that’s fine and dandy, but to be quite honest, or rather “to be realistic and walk on a solid ground,” my experience runs exactly the opposite. I have grown up among mostly Protestant friends in a thoroughly Protestant neighborhood. After turning to Christianity I began attending various Protestant churches, primarily Evangelical. Perhaps, having been raised amidst Protestants, I know more Protestants than you will ever know having been raised in a primarily Catholic country. And yet, in all that time, I rarely encountered that deep spiritual joy that to me indicates a personal relationship with Jesus. Instead, I encountered either social conformism, weak, subjective sentimentality, superficial moralism or at the other extreme downright immorality (e.g. drugs, drinking, embezzlement, an adulterous pastor, theological justifications for behavior that has always been considered outside the pale of Christian morality, etc. etc.) Clearly, I might be able to say these Christians did not know Christ. That being said, if I had rejected Protestantism on that basis, I certainly would not be worthy to grace the doors of any other church. I might even have been guilty of the sins of pride and hypocrisy.

    So when you come here and refuse to engage in arguments regarding Sola Scriptura (which I have never heard adequately explained by a Protestant) and the Real Presence (again, the evidence of John 6 and St. Ignatius never having been properly explained away by any Protestants I’ve met) but instead make claims (absent any factual substantiation) that people you grew up with obviously did not know Christ, (according to your standards and for reasons known only to you) and that Catholics are idolatrous (again for reasons you do not specify), do you honestly expect anyone to be convinced that you and not Jeremy (who has had the charity and grace to acknowledge the debt he owes his Protestant teachers) “know the real Christ”?

    Furthermore, to say “There is only ONE form of Protestantism a historic and orthodox at that” seems rather rich to me considering very few Protestants today would agree with almost any Protestants living a mere few hundred years ago. Have you excommunicated all the Protestants who don’t agree with your version of Protestantism?

  46. “If it is unthinkable that 49 ex-Catholic priests could be wrong, then it is much more unthinkable that the world’s 410,000+ Catholic priests”

    Bryan,

    You are taking my statement of: ‘there is 49 other priests in the book that do testify to the falsehood of Roman religion. Are they also ignorant? ” out of CONTEXT. I said that SPECIFICALLY to address logical fallacies of Poisoning the Well and Unrepresentative Sample among many others used by Devin in his video to discredit the book titled: “Far from Rome Near to God” and its testimony. By no means and not by any stretch of imagination was I advocating “arguing from numbers” as you imply…Of course there is a massive amount of proofs from Scripture, Church fathers and history that debunk and deconstruct Roman religion and its many anti biblical axioms. There are whole volumes of on that and thousands of web pages and I do not see any point of repeating that here besides what is absolutely necessary for the simple time and experience sake.

    Coram Deo,

    Christophe

  47. Dale and Christophe,

    I don’t know if either of you have been following the Solo vs Sola issue sparked by Keith Mathison’s book, “The Shape of Sola Scriptura”. If you have, do you agree with Mathison’s assessment that Solo is not a valid interpretive paradigm, but that in some sense Scripture must be read in the context of the church using what he describes as the Rule of Faith? I ask because I, too, am a Reformed Protestant, but after a decade of studying these issues, I am having a hard time remaining Protestant. The central issue for me is what appears to be the practical inability of Sola Scriptura as an interpretive paradigm to reliably distinguish between schism, heresy, and orthodoxy (as I have mentioned on other threads). This question is not meant to address whether the RCC is a viable alternative, but rather to specifically address the apparent (to me) incoherence of Protestantism on this point.

    Burton

  48. @Jason,

    ‘You did not once actually demonstrate how Devin’s points were guilty of those fallacies. You merely gave the latin term for the fallacy and declared that it was clearly visible that he was guilty of them. ”

    I did with four examples and indicated specific times for them. If one understands logic he will see it. If one does not one can research it and then see it. As to the terms; out of about fifteen terms mentioned only few are Latin terms so your point is invalid and even those have English equivalents that can be found. I am sorry but I have a life to live and cannot write pages of text here that would be to everyone’s standards. As to the rest of your assertion it is simply ad hominem and yes that is Latin and yes that is a type of a logical fallacy as well.

    C.D.

    Christophe

  49. Christophe, what exactly is this massive amount of proofs? That’s a pretty huge claim, and you haven’t shown that it’s true.

    Best,
    Mark

  50. @Nathan B:

    I can say ‘amen’ to that. In my case, also, the Scripture played an essential part in my becoming a Catholic (from a Calvinist/Reformed position rather than Lutheran). Though I did read the Scriptures a lot when I was a Protestant – once through the Bible each year, for instance, and as I am fortunate enough to have Greek and Hebrew, I read the NT in Greek once a year, the OT in Hebrew through a couple of times, though I read it mostly in English), I now read the Scriptures yet more – partly because I pray the Divine Office, which is a large portion of the Bible – and with far more profit, both because I meditate more on the Word, and because I have the resources better to understand it, being a Catholic.

    jj

  51. “do you agree with Mathison’s assessment that Solo is not a valid interpretive paradigm, but that in some sense Scripture must be read in the context of the church using what he describes as the Rule of Faith?”

    Burton,

    I am not familiar with Mathison. I am not sure if this is just a typo but it is not “Solo” but Sola Scriptura and it does not mean the only rule of faith but the highest rule of faith. That is a very point completely lost on most Roman Catholics. Since it is the highest rule of faith it is consequently understood and practiced within the Church of Christ where the true Gospel is consistently expounded, two sacraments are observed and church discipline effectually executed.

    ‘The central issue for me is what appears to be the practical inability of Sola Scriptura as an interpretive paradigm to reliably distinguish between schism, heresy, and orthodoxy (as I have mentioned on other threads). ”

    The central issue is what is the ultimate authority and the view of the Word of God. If you understand that it is the highest authority and you have high view of the Scriptures then you will have no trouble to see how the Word is completely sufficient in providing discernment for those issues your mentioned within the context of the Biblical Church. To make the case more visible ask your self how much clarity there was during the great schism of 1054 which was the greatest division in the history. Both sides at different times and different bodies used and claims all of the terms: schism, heresy, and orthodoxy,

  52. Bryan, this is a remarkably curious way of meshing Unam Sanctum vs the Catechism.

    “Because it is not talking there (in Unam Sanctum) about those not in invincible ignorance. That’s fully compatible with what CCC 838 says, because the CCC is there talking about persons in invincible ignorance.”

    Are you getting this from any official teaching of the Magesterium? Because the qualification regarding invincible ignorance seems nowhere in view in the Catechism. And if I understand invincible ignorance correctly it is something that the person can’t even possibly figure out if they tried.

    That would be a weird position for a Roman Catholic to take because the Greek Orthodox are well aware of Rome, and Roman claims, and they have access to the Scriptures which allegedly show that Peter was given papal authority.

    So that’s why I ask has the Roman Catholic officially clarified this.

    “In attempting to “not to mention” it, you mentioned it. But, nothing in Romans 10 contradicts what the Church taught at Vatican II.”

    “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”

    Paul’s logic is pretty straightforward. You need to call on the name of the Lord to be saved. So you need to hear. So someone has to preach. And they have to be sent. That’s not what Roman Catholics currently teach.

    Again, are you basing your view on an infallible interpretation of Romans 1o given to you by the Magesterium?

    In regards to development, his whole issue is partly why I find the “development” doctrine you lean on so weak. Development is something like we believe a Messiah is coming in 500 BC and we figure out it is Jesus and get the details in 50 AD. Development to you can mean something like we believe something at one point and the direct opposite at a another point. That isn’t development. That’s doing a 180.

  53. Hi Dale,

    I was wrong to assume you are part of a Reformed Baptist community. Please forgive me. Let me say as well that I genuinely appreciate your concern for my soul. Since I’m only a few years removed from the Reformed faith I can assure you that your concern is not falling on deaf ears. In college I was in a Bible study with a girl named Anna. I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed with a believer before. She was amazing in her love for Scripture and in her whole hearted devotion to Christ. We were in an RUF Bible study together. Then, one day, Anna didn’t show up. The RUF pastor informed us that she had made the decision to return to the Catholic Church. At the time, I had no category to process this. Her conversion completely bucked my experience of the Catholic Church. In a sense, I was concerned for her soul. Yet, I knew her well enough to know that her sole concern in life was intimacy with Jesus Christ. She made me think.

    Far from considering the truth of the Catholic Church, you seem to doubt that it is even possible to be Catholic and truly in love with Christ. I think your self confidence on this front points out an undeniable aspect of Protestant identity. Protestant communities, if they are to remain true to themselves, must continually condemn the Catholic Church. As one PCA pastor pointed out to me when I first began to consider Catholicism, “the apostasy of the Catholic Church is the only justification for our existence.” Protestantism, in all its forms, must condemn the Catholic Church or face an identity crisis. The Catholic Church on the other hand, has its identity in its relationship with the Lord Jesus, not in the communities it condemns.

    Back to your response concerning the Eucharist; I am glad to hear you celebrate the Lord’s Super weekly. However, you clearly reject the true presence of Christ. Despite the unanimous testimony of the early Church and despite Scripture, you have found the memorial view more compelling. I would love to discuss John 6. What in the context of this passage suggests to you that Jesus was merely using figurative language? Where do you see this in the text itself? I remember hearing all the Protestant arguments as a seminary student and thinking to myself, “this is it…these are our best arguments against the Catholic view.” The Catholic view is affirmed in Paul (1st Corinthians 11:29). This is a great place to dialogue. I appreciate your willingness to engage us.

    In the Peace of Christ, Jeremy

  54. Burton (re:47),

    I’m familiar with the Mathison solo/sola distinction and contributed some to the discussion here on the topic. But first of all, what heresies and schisms do you think that the Reformed Protestants have not been able to adequately address? I’m familiar with all of the various Reformed confessions and systematic texts. Take the confessions for a start. The Reformed confessions – Belgic, WCF, Thirty-nine Articles, London, etc were created by different Reformed Protestants at different times in different cultures, and yet they seem to come to the same conclusions on most all of what they address on the vast majority of theological issue out there. There are of course some differences particularly on ecclesiology and the exact nature of the sacraments, but these are not issues that generally touch on heresy within the Reformed camp. So what differences do you see between Reformed confessions and systematic texts out there that trouble you?

    So on Mathison, yes I agree. Scripture must be read in the context of the ecclesiastical authority given to us (obviously RCC, EO, and Protestant disagree just what the nature of this is, but that aside for the moment) and the tradition handed down to us (rule of faith). Now what Mathison does early on in his text which I find helpful is look at how the Early Church used Scripture and tradition. In the early centuries of Christianity, says Mathison, there is no question that Scripture provides an infallible standard for the Church. The question between Catholic and Protestant is whether there is anything else besides Scripture which, along with the Scripture, is the infallible standard to be used by the Church as her final and infallible rule of faith. If it can be shown that in the minds of the theologians of the Early Church theologians that there is no “something else” added to Scripture then we are left with Scripture alone (sola scriptura) as the final bar of authority for the Church. And so given this, Mathison sets out on the task of analyzing the various Church Fathers to ascertain what they did believe concerning the nature of the traditions of the Church. But before going any further, is this how you understand Mathison and do you think he is asking the right questions?

  55. @ John Thayer Jensen.

    Thanks! I know this isn’t true for all Protestants but it often seems to me that formation on how to pray the scriptures is very rare. I have had courses and I have books on how to pray the scriptures. They will study them very intently but formation on how to pray them can be very rare. One of my Protestant friends was particularity shocked when I suggested that the scriptures (especially the gospel) should be sung during worship service. Over the years I have come to see the value in the Divine Office as an apologetical tool — I will try to rope people that I am in discussions with into praying parts of the Office. For myself, I have found that by spending so much time in prayer with the scriptures that certain Protestant ideas are instinctually untenable. A big one is imputed justification. It is very very very clear that the OT promises infused justification and the NT delivers on that promise.

  56. Geoff,

    You wrote:

    the qualification regarding invincible ignorance seems nowhere in view in the Catechism.

    Just go down eight paragraphs from #838, to #846, where it says:

    Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

    So obviously what the CCC says in #838 about those in imperfect communion applies only to those who don’t meet the condition stated in #848, i.e. applies only to those who are in a state of invincible ignorance concerning the Catholic Church being the Church Christ founded.

    And if I understand invincible ignorance correctly it is something that the person can’t even possibly figure out if they tried.

    The truth concerning that of which they are invincibly ignorant is something they couldn’t have known, given their circumstances, capacities and opportunities.

    That would be a weird position for a Roman Catholic to take because the Greek Orthodox are well aware of Rome, and Roman claims, and they have access to the Scriptures which allegedly show that Peter was given papal authority.

    Merely knowing some things about the Catholic Church and knowing Scripture as taught from a non-Catholic point of view, are not necessarily sufficient to put one in a position of mortal sin for not becoming Catholic.

    Paul’s logic is pretty straightforward. You need to call on the name of the Lord to be saved. So you need to hear. So someone has to preach. And they have to be sent. That’s not what Roman Catholics currently teach.

    First, St. Paul is speaking about the ordinary means; in speaking of the ordinary means, he is not ruling out extraordinary means; he himself was knocked off a horse by a light from heaven. He knew God isn’t limited to human means, so he wasn’t tying God’s arms in this passage. Second, St. Paul wasn’t condemning babies or mentally handicapped persons to eternal fire. Nor is he condemning to hell all the Old Testament persons who did not know of Christ explicitly or directly, but believed in God and sought to serve Him. So it is important to understand that he is talking not only about the transition from enmity with God to friendship with God, but also about the transition from friendship with God without knowledge of Christ to friendship with God with knowledge of Christ.

    St. Paul is not talking about the necessity of “confessing with one’s mouth” in an absolute sense, but in a qualified sense, just as the necessity of baptism is not absolute, but qualified, because there is baptism of blood and baptism of desire. Given the ordinary means, and with respect to persons of sufficient mental capacity and opportunity to hear the gospel, believing in Christ and confessing Him as Lord is necessary for salvation, and those who [knowingly, willfully and finally] reject Him cannot be saved. But that does not warrant the conclusion that every person who does not confess Christ with his mouth is ipso facto damned. To draw that conclusion is to turn St. Paul’s statement into a systematics text, and treat it as saying more than what it actually says, by reading it against a background of assumptions not present in the text, but brought to the text by the reader.

    Not every person was damned prior to Christ’s coming. The coming of Christ does not thereby damn everyone who does not confess Christ on account of not having heard of Christ. Why would the righteous Gentiles (e.g. Cornelius) scattered around the world, on the day of Pentecost, suddenly cease to be in a saved state and instantly become damned until the gospel came to their region? That makes no sense. And St. Paul was not teaching that.

    He is talking about bringing Christ to a world in which for those who had attained the age of reason, salvation was always, already, only by faith of some sort (in whatever degree of knowledge the person had, both through natural law and through actual grace), whether for Jews (Abraham, David) or for Gentiles (Rom 2). Christ, however, is the fullness. Those who had mourned and grieved and suffered and groped were not damned for their [invincible] ignorance of Christ; they would remain that way (i.e. without the fullness of the grace and knowledge of God through Christ) unless someone preached Christ to them (or God supernaturally manifested Himself to them). But that does not mean or entail that all such persons who did not hear of Christ, and therefore could not confess Him with their lips, were damned.

    You see “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” and you conclude, “Everyone who does not call on the name of Jesus will be damned.” But that simply does not follow. Not only because in invincible ignorance it is possible to call on the name of the Lord without explicitly referring to Jesus’ name, but also because St. Paul is not teaching that those who don’t confess Christ are damned, but rather that the salvation Christ brings in the New Covenant comes, under the ordinary means, only to those who hear and believe, confess and are baptized.

    Development is something like we believe a Messiah is coming in 500 BC and we figure out it is Jesus and get the details in 50 AD.

    It is true that development cannot be predicted by mere men, but that does not mean that we cannot distinguish authentic development from corruption or accretion only until after the fact.

    Development to you can mean something like we believe something at one point and the direct opposite at a another point. That isn’t development. That’s doing a 180.

    I agree that that’s not development. No authentic development can contradict what was laid down before. See the section on development in the article on St. Vincent of Lérins, and see also Newman’s An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  57. @ Christophe

    The central issue is what is the ultimate authority and the view of the Word of God. If you understand that it is the highest authority and you have high view of the Scriptures then you will have no trouble to see how the Word is completely sufficient in providing discernment for those issues your mentioned within the context of the Biblical Church.

    Should a book, made by human hands, written in human language, written according to human thought, and which is static and non-living be accorded ultimate authority?

    OR

    Is Jesus Christ the ultimate authority?

    Now Jesus is the Logos of the Father and the scriptures are the Word of God but that does not mean that you can equate the two. Jesus is a person and the Bible is a book — they are not the same thing so you cannot say Bible as Word of God = Logos of God. Now scripture says that every knee on earth, under the earth, and in heaven shall bow to Jesus. If the bible is the ultimate authority, then that which is lesser than Jesus does not bow to His authority.

    Be mindful that you are not turning scripture into an idol by making its authority greater than the Son of God.

    For Catholics, the Bible, the Magisterium, and Tradition participate in Jesus’ authority, but in different ways unique to themselves but also intra-dependent with each other. The authority of the scriptures needs the authority of Tradition to give it life and it needs the authority of the Magisterium to give it authenticity in its preaching. All three authorities though bow before the authority of Jesus, who alone is the head of the Church and by and in whom all authority of the Church functions.

  58. Hi Jeremy.

    Either Jesus becomes a piece of bread or he doesn’t. Jesus spoke in parables, and in John 6 when He spoke of “eating” He was intending “believing.” Jesus also said: “Do this in remembrance of me.” He did not say, “Do this to re-present me as a sacrifice.” Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.” Proclamation does not mean sacrifice. And what does Paul mean by “until He comes?” Until he comes in physical form as a wafer? Or until the second coming? When Jesus say that where two or three gather in my name, there I am in their midst, is he there physically? Christ in you, the hope of glory? Physically in me?

    Regarding history, Paul is pretty clear that error and apostasy would enter the church very early.

  59. Geoff (#52),

    You write:

    “Paul’s logic is pretty straightforward. You need to call on the name of the Lord to be saved. So you need to hear. So someone has to preach. And they have to be sent.”

    Sent by whom?

  60. Christophe

    If anything I said came across as an ad hominen attack on you that was not my intention and I apologize. I never attacked you to in an attempt to disprove something you wrote. I pointed out that you merely declared that certain statements Devin had made were guilty of logical fallacies and never demonstrated why it was the case. (Which in your post to me you still merely say that they are more or less obvious, with the qualification that the observant person is familiar with logical laws.) The kind of discourse that includes statements like “yes that is latin and yes that is a type of logical fallacy” will only hinder fruitful discussion, especially from your position where, I assume in your mind, we Catholics are heretical. If you want to show us that we’re wrong you need to demonstrate why and how and not just make bold assertions.

  61. Dale,

    You wrote,

    Jesus spoke in parables, and in John 6 when He spoke of “eating” He was intending “believing.”

    How do you know this? How do you know what Jesus was intending? Jesus spoke to his followers about believing frequently, but only here, where he speaks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, did his followers respond by abandoning him.

    When Jesus is using figurative language the text of Scripture is clear. He frequently begins parables with “The Kingdom of God is like…” But He never says, “This bread is like my body”. There is not a single gospel account of the Last Supper where Jesus employs the figurative language that your position requires.

    Of course Catholics affirm that we celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him. This does not mean that the Eucharist is ONLY a memorial. This view is an impoverished perversion of the sacramental grace that Jesus died to give us.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  62. Dale,

    When I was an Evangelical Pentecostal, we held to the “plain meaning of scripture,” except when we did not. Not being the sharpest pencil in the box, it took me a while to understand the frequent exceptions to “the plain meaning of scripture.”

    I was seeing the themes in scripture as they moved from the Old Testament to the New, including many of those involving our Lord. I saw Abraham’s prophecy that God Himself would provide the lamb when Isaac asked his father where the sacrifice was.

    I saw the unblemished pascal lamb, which must be eaten, as part of Moses’ direction when he was preparing to lead the Jews out of Egypt and out of their slavery.

    I saw the manna in the desert.

    I saw all of that fulfilled in Jesus while reading it in the Synoptics, in Corinthians, and found it explained very well in John 6.

    Jesus, recognized by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God (re Abraham’s prophecy) is Personally the fulfillment of the Passover, the Sacrifice which must be eaten; and the supernatural Manna in the desert of this life Who is the only Food capable of getting us to a supernatural destination, Heaven.

    It was the plain meaning of Scripture as well as the context, and when I looked at myself, I was like those people in John 6 who could not believe and stopped following Jesus. I saw that as a warning, and I did not want to be counted among that group of people.

    I took the plain meaning of scripture and the contextual meaning of scripture and found I was wrong, so I had to look for what was true. Jesus was quite clear about Who comes first, and my denomination – consistent so far as I knew with other Protestant / Evangelical / Pentecostal denominations –denied Jesus’ own words by hiding behind their theological positions, whatever those might have been.

    Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. It is quoted at every Mass. I am a son of that Church founded by our Lord Who is its Head, and that Church is the one which celebrates that Sacrifice every day.

    Cordially,

    dt

  63. Dale,

    The reason I have pushed the conversation in this direction is because this is a discussion subject on which Protestants sometimes have an epiphany. Hopefully, at some point in the debate, you might step back and say, “Wait a minute…what am I doing? I am arguing against the presence of the Lord. I have taken the position that Christ is not present while my opponent argues that He is.”

    In your last response, the exegetical argument you offered on John 6 was essentially that Jesus did not meant what he said (and what everybody in his presence that day clearly thought he was saying). This passage, Christ’s Eucharistic Discourse, has no room in your theology. Therefore, you cannot delight in His words here, you can only explain them away.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  64. “Should a book, made by human hands, written in human language, written according to human thought, and which is static and non-living be accorded ultimate authority?”

    @Nathan B.

    What you said above is completely counter-biblical and anti Christian statement contrary to what that “book” claims and proves for itself. And you wonder why truly Reformed Christians as well others see you clearly as apostates and heretical. Sir, the Word of God is θεόπνευστος – theopneustos and that ONE word and idea behind it is confirmed and found all over the Bible and shutters to a myriad of pieces your above conjured assertion and I do not have to quote to that end either assuming that the audience here knows at least large portion of the multitudes of the passages containing that self verification of the Word of God.

    “Now Jesus is the Logos of the Father and the scriptures are the Word of God but that does not mean that you can equate the two. Jesus is a person and the Bible is a book — they are not the same thing so you cannot say Bible as Word of God = Logos of God. ”

    I must admit that rarely do I see such erroneous, false and illogical constructs as this one. I mean Devin’s video is full of errors and common fallacies but he is really on a different level than your construct above… Why am I saying this? Because you create a crude straw man to justify your error.
    Do you really think that Protestant Believers in Apostolic faith confuse book with the person in some way? Do you think Christians think that book is the person and the person is the book? Seriously? Well that is a logical conclusion from your straw man assertion. Furthermore you introduce a false dichotomy between the person of the Eternal Son of God, Second Person of Trinity and God’s revelation of truth in vain hope that you can smuggle in and justify your extra and anti biblical traditions that have been developed long time after scritpurization has been completed and over long time as well.

    The Lord of Glory in his very own words shatters your false dichotomy between Him and His truth as well for this is what he says about the Scriptures:

    “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures.”
    ~ Luke 24:27 NET

    “Be mindful that you are not turning scripture into an idol by making its authority greater than the Son of God.”

    False assertion and equivocation with your idolatrous tendencies… Sir the Word of God cannot possibly anything else but that what it is – The Word of God. You can swing your wedge and try to drive that in between God and His revelation but the fallacy of that is so obvious that even a smarter atheist will see it not to mention a Christian.

    “For Catholics, the Bible, the Magisterium, and Tradition participate in Jesus’ authority, but in different ways unique to themselves but also intra-dependent with each other. ”

    Sir do not preach to me what Roman religion is… I have been there and for decades too. Did you read my previous posts? Apparently no or without any effect. This above statement is false. There is plenty of traditions that you hold that are not only extra biblical, counter biblical but also INDEPENDENT of the Bible in the worse sense.

    C.D.

    Christophe

  65. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for the encouragement. Sorry for the delay getting back to you.

    1.) It seemed to me that the “Catholicism” that they were talking about was a misguided and misunderstood variant of the Thomism that predated Vatican II. I have some Thomistic material that is pre-VII and sometimes the language structure is similar but not exact in how the material at RTS presented things. Where did you see RTS as gaining their knowledge of Catholicism from?

    In my experience, the Professors read the Church Councils first hand. However, they evaluated the truth of Catholicism through the lens of “Reformed Orthodoxy”.

    2.) Most non-Catholics seem to be unaware that Catholicism is not equivalent to the Roman Rite. In your experience, how was RTS in presenting non-Western Catholic theology, as well as non-Thomistic Western Catholic theology?

    In my experience at RTS the Catholic Church was presented as equivalent to the Roman Rite. Personally, I did not even learn of the Eastern Rite until I started reading Called to Communion.

    3.) I clearly recall a visiting professor discussing the problems that Presbyterian’s have with love. My most heated arguments with my Reformed friends (as in they flew in to a rage) has been over 1.) my suggesting that God’s mercy triumphs His justice/need for dispensing wrath. 2.) That God is love, in His nature. Did you find a difference in how “God is love” was understood at RTS DC vs. your Catholic understanding?

    This certainly resonates with me, but more from my RUF days in college rather than my time at RTS. My Professors at RTS were pastoral in the way they taught and were always interested in communicating God’s love and the truth that God is love, to the students.

    4.) I have met Reformed who would agree with you that It is here that salvation can be by grace alone and not by works. while I have met others that would not agree with you and would say rather that salvation comes from the decree of God’s sovereign election alone (with imputed alien justification being the vehicle by which that decree is carried out). In terms of grace (which for reformed is STRICTLY and full stop “divine approval”) could you nutshell explain how RTS DC presented the origin as well as the transition of man from a non-justified state to a state of justification?

    In my systematic III class there was a major emphasis on the order of salvation. The greatest stress here, in contrast with Arminianism, was that man’s heart must be regenerate before he can believe the gospel. What I did find fascinating, however, was that more often than not Professors asserted that the battle cry of the Reformation was “justification by faith.” I was fascinated by how frequently they would leave out “alone” for the Catholic Church affirms that was are justified by faith as well. The Church just believes man must have agape, or love for God, as well. Even more amazing was that the sola fide position, in my classes at least, was reduced to a pure hypothetical. There could never really be a man who only had saving faith. They were clear about this…”We are saved by faith alone, but by a faith that never is alone” was the saying.

    5.) Were you attending RTS based on funds from relatives, support from your Reformed community? Was your intent to become a Reformed preacher? Were you being supported and encouraged to become a preacher from your family/friends/faith community? How was your change to Catholicism viewed by these people?

    Yes, a Church was gracious enough to pay for the first half of my seminary and I am very greatful for their generosity. I was seeking ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America, where I had come under care of the New York Metropolitan Presbytery in 2006. I felt that I had strong affirmation from PCA pastors, friends, and family, to pursue ordination. My conversion was difficult and baffling to many of my friends and family as they were excited to see me become a pastor and didn’t understand why I would leave that dream for the Catholic Church.

    Thanks for your interest! Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  66. Christophe,

    1. As I say in the video, members of the Church seem to take a large share of the blame for Mr. Bennett’s poor formation. I’ve listened to his full story on another mp3, and I was saddened–he clearly sought to live his faith but really needed a wise, faithful mentor to come alongside him and help him. It seems that didn’t happen, and he saw faults in other priests and members of the Church that disillusioned him.

    2. I am a busy man and so shortened the title of his book. No offense intended or fallacy committed. Just abbreviated the title, which you had already fully spelled out for other readers.

    3. The canon of Scripture is not open. If you inferred that from my statements, I apologize and will try to improve the way I present that.

    4. I was using a colloquial way of speaking when talking about revelation (which is why I added “if you will”). I affirm Dei Verbum which states “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God.”

    5. No, it is not the same kind of “inspiration” between JPII (making binding decrees) and Peter (in writing his epistles). But the material point I make is that God infallibly guided fallible St. Peter in writing two epistles (which Mr. Bennett believes), so what is the principled reason for rejecting the belief that God would not guide another bishop of Rome (e.g. JPII) under certain conditions? Mr. Bennett does not answer that in his video.

    6. We can talk about the communion of saints elsewhere sometime.

    7. I’ve never heard of most of those fallacies, but I would say, as I give the benefit of the doubt to Mr. Bennett, please do the same for me. He make some errors in his talk that demonstrate that his understanding of Catholic teaching is not completely accurate. He clearly knows much about the Catholic Church and I have no doubt was really a priest for some time.

    I don’t want to derail this thread, so I don’t plan to respond further on this topic. Feel free to add comments to the youtube video if you like, or find the post with the video on my blog and comment there.

    God bless,
    Devin

  67. @Nathan B.

    “A question for you: It is the reading of the scriptures that have made me Catholic. More specifically, my constant reading of them convinced me that Protestantism was wrong and this occurred prior to my interest in Catholicism.”

    I would like to see the TOP THREE Scriptures that “made” a Roman Catholic out of you… Please when you describe yourself be precise and use a full name for your beliefs which is ROMAN CATHOLIC and do not abbreviate that to Catholic only for I am Catholic while I am not a Roman Catholic. I hope you can see the point and also not shun from the full name of your faith. Same request goes to all the others who do exactly the same thing…

    “What roots me in being Catholic now is my constant daily praying of the scriptures (i read the scriptures to learn and I also pray them to worship). My question for you is, why do you think my reading of scripture has made me what I am today?”

    Your emotions only if you truly were not influenced in any way, shape or form by Roman Catholic agenda presented via TV, Radio, Podcast, Book, Pamphlet, Internet web site of some social situation.

    “All the converts to Catholicism that I know are Catholics because they started to read the scriptures more, not less.”

    That is certainly not the experience I have and if you read here carefully not the experience of others as well. Quoting from Lindsay from his post #45:

    “I encountered either social conformism, weak, subjective sentimentality, superficial moralism or at the other extreme downright immorality (e.g. drugs, drinking, embezzlement, an adulterous pastor, theological justifications for behavior that has always been considered outside the pale of Christian morality, etc. etc.) Clearly, I might be able to say these Christians did not know Christ. That being said, if I had rejected Protestantism on that basis,”

    Did you catch that…? “…ON THAT BASIS” and what is THAT basis? Is it the same one you claim? I.e. “they started to read the scriptures more, not less.” NOPE he was dissatisfied with PEOPLE, with their SIN and there is NOT A WORD about reading the Word of Truth initially so please do not overgeneralize for the words of Lindsay debunk your overgeneralization about the reasons of apostatizing from the Gospel. This is exactly my experience with apostates from the Gospel of the Lord of Glory. They leave due the social situations. They leave due frustrations. They leave due their impression with theatrical grandiose of Roman mass and other rituals. They leave do the empty promise of Roman mass in which they hope to gain what they never received from the truth of God contained in the Word of God. They leave due their impression with the hiostory of Roman religion not recognizing a multitude of historical witness that debunks it as truly Christian like pronocracy of popes or the great schism of 1054. That is my experience and I dare to say that this the type of reason that is definitively MORE predominant than what you are trying to portray as evidenced in the post of the fellow apostate Lindsay. I hope you give it a serious thought Sir.

    Coram Deo,

    Christophe

  68. So the “plain meaning” of John 6 where Jesus equates “eating” with “believing” backs up the Roman Catholic position on the Real Presence even though the context of when Jesus is talking doesn’t have the Last Supper or the Passover Seder in the text.

    But everything in that passage which presents an Augustinian/Calvinist view of election and salvation isn’t clear?

    Is this correct?

  69. Geoff,

    Since when has the Cathoilc Church condemned Augustine’s view of election? Just a heads up – Protestants on this site have generally quit trying to press the “Augustine was an early Calvinist” argument. The real St. Augustine believed in the authority of the Pope, purgatory, and Eucharistic Adoration and his views on election and predestination are certainly within the parameters of Catholic orthodoxy. Please show me which Church council ever condemned Augustine’s view of election.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  70. I’m not saying that Roman Catholics have condemned Augustine. I’m just commenting that they find clarity in things that involve their doctrines and lack of clarity in things that aren’t their doctrine but can be seen more clearly in the same text.

  71. Geoff,

    Let’s make this easy. Can you produce anything that demonstrates how Augustine’s understanding of salvation is different from that of Trent? During my Reformation Church History class, an RTS Professor (now at Gordon Conwell), Dr. Frank James said that Augustine would have been “horrified” by Luther’s doctrine! Is Frank James, this renowned Reformed scholar, mistaken?

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  72. Bryan,

    I would recommend reading the following about inclusivism (Roman Catholic and otherwise) since it ably handles the Cornelius objection: http://justaftersunrise.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/the-%E2%80%9Cvery-pernicious-and-detestable%E2%80%9D-doctrine-of-inclusivism/

    You are correct Romans 10 is talking about ordinary means. But extraordinary means still involve God sending the gospel message. Paul’s series of rhetorical questions would fall apart if belief wasn’t necessary and “invincible ignorance” (apparently a low bar if Greek Orthodox with access to Scriptures can meet it) was a valid category.

    Again, do you have an infallible (or even fallible) interpretation of Romans 10 from the Magesterium so that you can accurately understand the text?

  73. Jeremy (#21)

    At my local parish I have become best friends with a previously Assemblies of God campus minister and also with a man who grew up in the household of a dispensational pastor. As a Calvinist, I never would have been friends with these two men. Yet, as a Catholic, we have unity and deep fellowship. We have all turned from our sectarianism to the divinely established Church.

    Tracks with my experience as well. I have been Catholic about 5 months, but the most striking thing about going to Mass is the diversity. EVERY kind of diversity imaginable. And talking to other converts, I have come to see conversion as just simply a miracle. Some of the most unlikely tales are convert tales. Pentecostals converting for the Eucharist, Lutherans converting because of Medjugorje, Atheists converting because of the Pope. This Calvinist converting because of sola Scriptura. We Catholics are a weird wild bunch. As a Calvinist, I would have looked down my nose at every one of them, and now we are all partaking of the same Christ together in one Church! What a miracle.

  74. @Christophe,

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my writing (I wrote that off in a haste as I was heading out the door). I thought I had made a pretty clear statement that I DID NOT reject Protestantism because of the lack of faith I encountered. I was responding to your oft-repeated claim that you know a lot of Roman Catholics and they obviously didn’t know Christ. Well, I’ve known a lot of Protestants and someone might be able to claim they didn’t know Christ either.

    But I refused to reject Protestantism on that basis. Specifically I said, “if I had rejected Protestantism on that basis, I certainly would not be worthy to grace the doors of any other church. I might even have been guilty of the sins of pride and hypocrisy.” Did you miss that part?

    I then asked you to defend two theological positions that did form the basis of my rejection of Protestantism.

    Unfortunately, you seem instead to rely on vague and cliched canards such as: “There is plenty of traditions that you hold that are not only extra biblical, counter biblical but also INDEPENDENT of the Bible in the worse sense.” Very well, which ones? You see, we’ve all heard these statements and furthermore, we’ve all heard ad nauseum the specific passages that have been used to discredit the ROMAN Catholic religion. Do you think anyone here would have converted if those positions had not been adequately refuted?

    We all realize you have been there and done that in regard to “Romanism.” Did it occur to you the people here have been there and done that in regards to Protestantism. Did it occur to you the people here used to make the same vague and inflammatory statements you are currently making? Did it occur to you the people here used to believe, as you do, that the Roman Catholic Church is a heretical institution that holds extra-scriptural traditions and idolatrous worship? And yet, through even more careful reading of Scripture and a careful study of what the Church actually teaches, they realized they were misguided.

    I suggest you go read the debates that are currently taking place between Catholics and Protestants and perhaps then, if you can get over your knee-jerk anger and reactionary hatred of the Roman Catholic Church, you’ll see that your positions (which are not news to anybody) have been adequately addressed.

    To everyone else, I apologize for the statements I made earlier. My first intention was merely to congratulate Jeremy on his conversion and support him in his journey. Unfortunately my blood got boiling when I read Christophe’s statements. My response was, however, rather uncharitable, sloppy and off-the-point. I really do apologize and with that I won’t hijack the discussion anymore.

    BTW Christophe, I’m a woman, not a man.

  75. Aaron G. (#22)

    Say you were on a bus talking with someone and you had about 60 seconds…

    Is there a bottle of water close by? ;-)

  76. Thanks for the encouragement Lindsay!

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  77. Though born Catholic, I was never taught my faith, or rather I was taught a liberal deistic faith where Jesus was just a man and all religions are the same and you confirmation was unimportant (so I wasn’t). When my parents stopped going because of a tragedy in the family, I did also since Church didn’t provide anything that wasn’t available elsewhere. I would not even have been a Christian if I did not marry a wonderful Presbyterian wife and learnt the faith at her church. Though Presbyterianism had many things that were true in my experience, the basic narrative seemed like a “just so story” where all i’s are dotted and all t’s are crossed. Life just isn’t like that. The Book of Job (my favourite Old Testament book) presents a very different God the refuses to be put into a nice little box.

    Although learning theology, from a variety Protestants ultimately lead me to the Catholic Church (via the Orthodox Church), all that did was just accept that Catholicism was Christian and it had a better claim to being called “The Church” than all Protestant denominations combined. But you could be Christian anywhere.

    I returned to the Catholic faith for 4 main reasons:

    (1) Obedience. The words of John ring true for me. How can you love God who you cannot see if you can’t love your brother who you can see? How can you claim obedience to God who you can’t see if you can’t be obedient to his Church who you can see. Scripture and Jesus himself repeatedly calls us to be obedient to God’s Church even when that Church is the corrupt Sanhedrin who would ultimately crucify Christ. Modern Protestantism has little place for obedience to any church (unless you consider the LSD Christian or want to be Amish). Obedience is to God alone, but we can pick our theology and our church and our understanding of God and what he wants for us to suit our preferences.

    (1) Unity. I saw how the Church looked like from outside Christianity. So many contradictory systems make Christianity a joke in the eyes of secularists. To say that “we all agree on the essentials but not on the optional elements of the faith” is nonsense when Protestants can’t even agree on the several issues related to baptism. Atheists and agnostics do have cause to disbelieve a fragmented Christ. Average Protestants have cause to believe that “it doesn’t matter what you believe or do as long as you’re a sincere Christian” when Protestant leaders have so many visions of what Christianity is and can’t agree.

    (2) Old testament witness. God never told any prophet to “separate from the Hebrews and start a new Hebrew Denomination”. He always went back to his people even though they arrogantly abused his love. I looked for old testament examples of the reformation and found one in the divided kingdoms. The grievances for the division were valid, but the division itself would require cutting themselves off from the Jewish equivalent of sacraments (namely the Temple) so man made alternatives were created. God still loved the Northern Kingdom and even rose up prophets among them (e.g. Amos), and even loved the Samaritans which were about as close analogy to the LSD as you can get. But he stayed with the South, and forced events so that all Northerners into union with the South.

    (3) A narrative that held together without being a just so story. If salvation depends on saving faith and saving faith comes from a knowledge of the Bible, then it personal evangelism is the least efficient way to accomplish this task. God could have easily sent Bibles to all parts of the world like Gideons does presently and the Holy Spirit could have both testified to it’s truth and got people to read it. Heck he could just give people the knowledge at birth the way babies know how to suckle. There has to be a reason for such inefficiently that puts people’s salvation at risk if God is good. Jesus could have just died as a baby at the hands of Herod to atone for our sins and just made sure that people knew his sacrifice. He didn’t have to go through all the drama of the Cross. There has to be more. It’s the personal dimension, which has rules but is not a nice neat axiomatic system. It’s what makes the “Book of Job” make sense and be so edifying even if it defies a pure logic.

  78. Lindsay, that was very well said. Sometimes it is better to bite your tongue than spread more poison. But even Jesus, when on earth couldn’t convince everyone of the truth.

    Peace to you

  79. I would like to see the TOP THREE Scriptures that “made” a Roman Catholic out of you… Please when you describe yourself be precise and use a full name for your beliefs which is ROMAN CATHOLIC and do not abbreviate that to Catholic only for I am Catholic while I am not a Roman Catholic. I hope you can see the point and also not shun from the full name of your faith.

    Christophe,

    Didn’t you say you were once Catholic and that you knew something about the Church’s teachings? Our faith is “Catholic.” Our rite is “Roman.” The professor of my St. Ephrem class last semester, a Maronite priest, is Catholic and in communion with me and the hundreds of millions of other Catholics who belong to different rites within the one Catholic Church. He and I share the same faith, but only one of us is ROMAN Catholic. To say that we are “shunning the full name of our faith” when we call ourselves Catholics is just silly.

  80. @Lindsay,

    “I was responding to your oft-repeated claim that you know a lot of Roman Catholics and they obviously didn’t know Christ. Well, I’ve known a lot of Protestants and someone might be able to claim they didn’t know Christ either. ”

    And whats is that proving and what is that bringing to the table? Nothing.

    “I then asked you to defend two theological positions that did form the basis of my rejection of Protestantism. ”

    I have addressed one of them shortly or extensively depending who you are talking to… Jeremy thinks it is too long and that is why he is still holding it, or?. Given that constraint is it really beneficial for me to address the other, i.e. Sola Scriptura? Especially given how much material for that is out there that you should have known if you were a Protestant? I do not think so…

    “Do you think anyone here would have converted if those positions had not been adequately refuted?”

    You would be surprised by many different reasons people convert for some of which I have mentioned already as you would be surprised by the ignorance of the issues.

    “Unfortunately, you seem instead to rely on vague and cliched canards such as: “There is plenty of traditions that you hold that are not only extra biblical, counter biblical but also INDEPENDENT of the Bible in the worse sense.” Very well, which ones?”

    I have addressed your Eucharist conjuration already and that is on hold as to the choice of the moderator of this forum… And you expect me to do that again and be on hold as well… ?

    “Did it occur to you the people here used to believe, as you do, that the Roman Catholic Church is a heretical institution that holds extra-scriptural traditions and idolatrous worship? And yet, through even more careful reading of Scripture and a careful study of what the Church actually teaches, they realized they were misguided.”

    Like what for example? What made you realize that you were misguided and of what? I get a feeling that your post on that will not be placed on hold… :) So go ahead here is the chance for you to reconvert me into Roman Catholicism… Give it your best…

    “I suggest you go read the debates that are currently taking place between Catholics and Protestants and perhaps then, if you can get over your knee-jerk anger and reactionary hatred of the Roman Catholic Church, you’ll see that your positions (which are not news to anybody) have been adequately addressed.”

    There we go again. full blast of logical fallacies… Arguing from ignorance, emotions and authority. I have no hatred for Roman Catholics. My whole family is in that terrible bondage. If I testify to the truth it is out of love which you paint into hatred to keep your misguided conscience under control. Do you really think that I am not aware of debating materials between the Gospel and Roman religion? What is your basis for that empty claim? That is very condescending and prideful comment and sadly you are lowering this discussion to a different and purely emotional level.

    Coram Deo,

    Christophe

  81. Christophe – further to David Pell’s # 77, we have already had a discussion about what it means to be the “Catholic Church” here.

  82. Christophe –

    See my comment # 42.

  83. Hi guys,

    I have a question for Jeremy and other people who attended Reformed Seminaries. You said that it is common to find misrepresentations and misunderstandings of what the Catholic Church really teaches, but did you ever come to a point where you noticed that what the Seminary was teaching was not actually believed by the Reformers themselves? For example, I’m starting to see more and more evidence that folks like John Calvin never believed in Active Obedience, yet such is bedrock Reformed Orthodoxy and taught by many big name professors. Here is an article I recently wrote on the subject.

  84. To all discussants I engaged with,

    Thank you for your interaction but faced with physical impossibility to present my substantiated points with quotes and references to theological literature that is beyond my control and perfectly in control of others I am unable to effectively continue this discussion. Thank you for your time and I would like to part with you with this truth from the Word of God:

    “Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits 19 of the world, and not according to hrist.”

    ~ Colossians 2:8 NET

    Coram Deo

  85. @ Christophe,

    Name’s Benjamin – nice to make your acquaintance. To be honest, I’m on vacation and have been trying my best to avoid posting on this until my return. Your numerous posts in this thread have prompted me to do otherwise.
    Frankly, I’ve been reading with some interest your recent interactions, particularly those with Lindsay. She’s bowed out of the conversation, so I’ll just butt in long enough to say that I, at least, have found your tone towards her demeaning, insulting, and otherwise uncharitable. I’m prepared to make allowances for the fact that one’s “internet voice” might not accurately represent one’s views were they to be expressed verbally (“Methinks the internet doth make jerks of us all”, as it were). That said, your posts read to me as if they were full of venom and, if not hatred, a disdain of Catholicism disproportionate to what is called for in the spirit of Christ-likeness. Quick tip: suggesting that your opponent’s have “a misguided conscience” (#79) or suggesting that that one is “fellow apostate” to another (#67) generally makes you sound more like a jerk than a defender of the True Faith(tm).
    The purpose of this post isn’t to tell you to buggar off – I’d rather you hung around and threw your views into the mix. That said, as a Protestant, I’ve little patience for those who use (what sounds like) such uncharitable language, and whether you intend so or not, that’s definitely the way your posts “sound” to me.
    (On a vaguely related note, I’ve taught college logic, and I’m utterly mystified as to how Lindsay’s claims involve the fallacies of Appeals to Ignorance, Authority, or Emotion. If you’d care to clarify further, I’d be interested, but as of right now, I’m not buying). Looking forward to your future thoughts, albeit (hopefully) in a more Christlike tone.

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin

    Lindsay,
    As I mentioned before, I’m on vacation, which is why you’re not getting a separate post. Just wanted to thank you for throwing your opinions and views into the mix here. I get the impression (hopefully an accurate one) that the decisions you’ve made and views you’ve expressed are things you’ve put much time and thought into. I definitely can respect that. :-) Hopefully you’ll continue to post your comments as future articles come out? Regardless, I’ve enjoyed reading what you’ve wrote here and your contributions to the discussion. Just thought I’d mention that. Okay, back to vacationing – time for a meal out with my wife! :-)

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin

  86. Andrew,

    Thanks for your response (#54). I had to sit and think for a bit about your question “what heresies and schisms do you think the Reformed Protestants have not been able to adequately address”. I not sure the question is answerable in the sense that (it seems to me) Reformed ecclesiology precludes the possibility of defining these concepts in the traditional sense (as believed and acted upon by the early church). In other words, “schism” has become “denomination”, an inherently different idea. So before we discuss Mathison’s approach, am I misunderstanding the Reformed concept of schism? How would it practically work out ?

    Burton

  87. @Jeremy, Nelson, Benjamin,

    Thanks everyone for the nice comments. I’ll briefly answer some of Christophe’s objections in the next post but I have, for the most part, decided to bow out for a couple of reasons:

    Most importantly, I figure if I feel the need for confession after engaging in an ecumenical dispute, it’s probably time to make a graceful exit.

    Secondly, although I’ve followed these disputes closely and have indeed rejected the claims of Protestantism at least partially as a result of the inability of anyone to handle the challenges of Sola Scriptura and evidence for the Real Presence (as well as other issues such as division and authority, etc., etc.) I was not being modest when I said I am not as theologically sophisticated as most here. I don’t claim to be able to enter the debate at the level that others have. I do not have an advanced degree in theology and therefore I’ll leave the heavy lifting to those that do. I’m always open to listening to those who have intelligent remarks to make on either side, though.

    Thirdly, I’m really busy as well!!

    Thanks again though and I look forward to reading more posts here. I loved Jeremy’s.

    Best,
    Lindsay

  88. “And whats is that proving and what is that bringing to the table? Nothing.”

    Exactly my point from the very beginning.

    “Especially given how much material for that is out there that you should have known if you were a Protestant?”

    I’ve read the material. I was asking you to tell me something they haven’t.

    “I have addressed your Eucharist conjuration …”

    Calling it mere conjuration is proof you either never understood the idea in the first place or are uncharitable in your willingness to address the real issue, namely what Catholics interpret as God’s promise in John 6 and the early Church’s acceptance of that interpretation as evidenced in the letters of St. Ignatius and others.

    “And you expect me to do that again and be on hold as well”

    If your other posts are even less charitable than the ones that have made it through moderation, I can understand why they might be on hold.

    “So go ahead here is the chance for you to reconvert me into Roman Catholicism… Give it your best…”

    I’m not trying. Only God can change hearts. But I have a hard time sitting idly by as the Church I love is spat upon in a vile and incendiary manner.

    “I have no hatred for Roman Catholics.”

    I did not say you did. I said you had a hatred for the Roman Catholic CHURCH. Your choice of vocabulary in the following sentences (“bondage,” “misguided conscience,” “Roman religion”) provide irrefutable evidence of the fact.

    Peace out,
    Lindsay

  89. Geoff,

    You wrote:

    But extraordinary means still involve God sending the gospel message.

    Surely in some cases, but whether in every case, has yet to be established. Actual grace from Christ’s work on the cross goes to everyone person in the whole world, but that doesn’t mean that every person supernaturally hears the gospel.

    You wrote:

    Paul’s series of rhetorical questions would fall apart if belief wasn’t necessary and “invincible ignorance” (apparently a low bar if Greek Orthodox with access to Scriptures can meet it) was a valid category.

    Actually, it doesn’t fall apart at all. It is all fully compatible with baptized babies who die in infancy going to heaven, and with the category of invincible ignorance, because he is speaking only of the ordinary means.

    To ask for the official Magisterial teaching of a particular passage is to misunderstand how the Magisterial teaching authority works. It provides (negatively) doctrinal boundaries within which to interpret Scripture, and it provides truths, definitions and a general theological framework in which and by which we understand Scripture.

    My point here was only to show that Vatican II’s teaching did not contradict what came before, and nothing you have said so far has established any contradiction.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  90. Hi Nick,

    You wrote;

    You said that it is common to find misrepresentations and misunderstandings of what the Catholic Church really teaches, but did you ever come to a point where you noticed that what the Seminary was teaching was not actually believed by the Reformers themselves?

    Yes. I noticed it more after reading Dr. Anders’ article, “How John Calvin made me Catholic” and his interview on EWTN’s journey home. Dr. Anders pointed out how far removed contemporary Reformed churches are from Calvin’s high view of the Eucharist and his reluctance to have lay people interpret Scripture apart from the authority of the Church. I would add to this that the Reformers, especially the 1st generation magisterial reformers, were also extremely concerned about Church unity. There was a desire to unite the reformed churches early on that is now largely absent from contemporary Reformed theologians. The 1st generation reformers were deeply disturbed about the fragmenting direction of the Reformation. In my seminary experience, there was not a strong belief in the destructiveness of denominationalism. I got the sense that everybody has become so use to the status quo that they come to accept it as a new normal. I never had a class where the denominational problem was addressed as a true crisis. I am convinced the reformers themselves would be aghast to see how their movement has disseminated into thousands of divisions today. Great question, thank you.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  91. “, although I’ve followed these disputes closely and have indeed rejected the claims of Protestantism at least partially as a result of the inability of anyone to handle the challenges of Sola Scriptura”

    I’ve never found Roman Catholic arguments against Sola Scriptura to be compelling. Primarily because of what we see in the New Testament. There was no magesterium. People recognized what the Scriptures were as a community without a church council or anything along those lines.

    Jesus rebuked people for not understanding Scripture even though they were without an infallible church.

    So just as the Jews in Jesus days had Scripture without an infallible magisterium having a tradition going back to Moses, we have Scripture today without an infallible magisterium with an outside tradition going back to the apostles.

    Any arguments against Sola Scriptura can’t account for the situation a 1st century Jew found himself nor Jesus’ expectation that they knew what the Scriptures were and could interpret them correctly.

  92. Hi Geoff!

    Here is my own understanding of this topic:

    http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=528668&page=3#31

    The explanation is 3 posts long. I hope you find it helpful. May God bless you and your loved ones!

    Bryan Cross!

    We write about a lot of the same stuff. If you’re ever in MD, let’s get together! :)

    With love in Christ,
    Pete Holter

  93. Geoff,

    Even if you don’t find any good arguments that prove that sola scriptura is false, have you found any that prove that it’s true? If so, can you provide it?

    “Primarily because of what we see in the New Testament. There was no magesterium. People recognized what the Scriptures were as a community without a church council or anything along those lines.”

    Can you prove this?

    “Jesus rebuked people for not understanding Scripture even though they were without an infallible church.”

    Nobody is claiming that the infallible Church was always around. Even if there was an infallible ecclesial authority for the Jews before Jesus, I don’t think that the Catholic view would say that the infallible Church founded by Christ was always around as a visible entity. It came when Jesus established it. So, if Jesus corrected somebody before he established the infallible Church, what does this show?

    Best,
    Mark

  94. Burton (re:86),

    So it seems like you have at least two concerns. First you don’t see how we can get to clear distinctions on orthodoxy and heresy given the divisions within Protestantism. And this is why I thought it would be good to start out asking just how much division there in the Reformed confessions and systematic texts. My observation is that there is very little substantive difference. There is lots of different ways the data is packaged and presented, but despite the fact that lots of different administrative entities (churches and denominations) have produced of them has not created much in the way of division over the tenets of the Christian faith in these texts or the confessions which summarize them. So I would say that no, denomination does not mean schism. There are sometimes good reasons and sometimes not so good reasons for new denominations forming, but we should not infer that Reformed denominations are in schism with each other. I’m PCA, but I’m fine with worshiping in just about any other Reformed denomination out there. I like Phillip Schaff’s term, “the family of Reformed churches” that he used to describe the churches of the Reformation.

    Secondly, you are concerned about the workability of Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura in differentiating truth from error. And you mention Mathison’s work on the topic which I think is a good place to start. Mathison appropriately starts with an analysis of how the Early Church used Scripture and tradition. Certainly the early centuries of the Church were characterized by lots of analysis of what the Scriptures said on various topics. The early Fathers were convinced that Scriptures were of divine origin and thus were an infallible standard for the churches as they developed their understanding of how they were to follow Christ. It is Mathison’s contention that early on in the Church this was the only infallible standard utilized by the theologians. He then discusses the transition period when some theologians seemed to hint at the fact that certain traditions of the Church promulgated by the ecumenical councils could also be considered infallible.

    I don’t know how much of the response to Mathison from the folks here at CTC you have read, but there are several articles here with innumerable responses, much of it worth wading through. I would note that much of the discussion here has focused on what the individual Christian’s interpretation of Scripture is, which as I’ve pointed out to a number of folks here, is not at the center of the matter as it is presented by Mathison. Reformed Christians, like Catholic Christians, believe that tradition is absolutely necessary and the Scriptures must be interpreted by the Church (again noting that EO, Protestant, and Catholic have a different understanding of what this concept of “Church” is). So the debate over sola scriptura is not over what our understanding of Scripture as individual Christians is, but rather what the infallible standard of authority for the Church ought to be. Is it just Scripture or is it Scripture plus some traditions (as those traditions are defined by either RCC or EO ecclesiastical structures)? So to answer this, we have to begin at the beginning as Mathison does. There are so many texts that could be used on such a venture. As one great example, I was just reading some of Athanasius’ Discourses Against the Arians.. To me these texts illustrated just the sort of things that Mathison gets at.

    Burton, let me also add that I’m glad to be talking to you about this because you are what I think Mike Liccione refers to as a theologically uncommitted observer (or something like that). Firmly committed Catholics and Protestants debate these matters back and forth and often get nowhere, and so the role of someone sitting in the middle who is not sure which way to turn is of much value is these discussions. And lastly would add that I hope you can find your way through all of this to a point where you are confident that you are serving Christ in the way that He would have you to serve Him.

  95. Geoff,

    I’d like to respond to some of your statements about ancient reading and interpretive practices.

    I’ve never found Roman Catholic arguments against Sola Scriptura to be compelling. Primarily because of what we see in the New Testament. There was no magesterium. People recognized what the Scriptures were as a community without a church council or anything along those lines.

    This is true neither for the Jews nor the Christians. Each group did recognize a certain subset of texts as canonical, but, sticking with the Christians, there was in fact debate on the subject until magisterial authorities began to make proclamations about the biblical canon. Furthermore, to my knowledge the specifically Protestant canon of 66 books was not enumerated by any individual or community until the Reformation.

    Jesus rebuked people for not understanding Scripture even though they were without an infallible church.

    To my knowledge, Jesus rebuked not “people,” but specifically the scribes and Pharisees, who presented themselves to the community as legal scholars. He was chiding them for claiming to understand the Law but not realizing its true implications.

    For example, Jesus did not rebuke the Ethiopian eunuch, who said to Philip, “How can I understand what I’m reading if I don’t have someone to explain it to me?” Jesus also didn’t rebuke the Christians in the community at Jerusalem, who “listened to the teaching of the apostles” rather than going home and pouring over their study bibles (which they couldn’t afford and couldn’t read). Contrary to your assertion, what believers are told to do in the New Testament is submit to their elders, not pit their private interpretations of the Bible (which they can’t afford and can’t read anyway) against the Church’s.

    It’s also worth pointing out that “they didn’t have it in the Old Testament, so we don’t have it in the New Testament” is a rather disappointing argument. Aren’t we supposed to be a bit better off than the Jews of the Old Covenant?

    Also, your statement here frames the problem as one purely of epistemology, which it isn’t. We have never claimed that no one can come to any true knowledge of God simply by reading the bible on his own. What we have claimed is that 1) rogue biblical interpreters are very prone to error and 2) sola scriptura can’t serve as a coherent principle of unity. So, for example, my community says that there are 73 books in the bible and yours says that there are 66. We also disagree on a host of other things. On your model, what recourse do we have in this situation? Which community has the right answers? How should new converts know which community to join? If you say “by reading the bible,” the response surely must be, “which bible?”

    Any arguments against Sola Scriptura can’t account for the situation a 1st century Jew found himself nor Jesus’ expectation that they knew what the Scriptures were and could interpret them correctly.

    Neither the dictates of scripture, the examples of the scriptural narratives, nor the sociology of reading in antiquity allow for the conclusion that Jesus expected every individual to know the full extent of canonical scripture and interpret it correctly on his own.

  96. Jeremy, you wrote:

    “Of course Catholics affirm that we celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him. This does not mean that the Eucharist is ONLY a memorial. This view is an impoverished perversion of the sacramental grace that Jesus died to give us. ”

    I do not by any means hold that the Lord’s Supper is “ONLY a memorial.” The Holy Spirit is a powerful agent in the celebration of the remembrance of the offering of the body and blood of Jesus for our salvation. We do receive grace when we as Protestants partake.

    My issue is with the Catholic teaching that Jesus is physically present based on John 6. I suppose that one of the attractions of Catholicism to you is the continuity of the ancient church through the Church Fathers. I recommend that you study the teachings of Augustine on the Sacrament in relation to John 6. He held to a spiritual and figurative understanding of John 6, while at the same time rejoicing in the power of the sacrament.

    Sacraments are signs that point to the reality. I wear a wedding ring. It reminds me of the union with my wife. It is a sign – a powerful sign. When I am away from my wife, say on a business trip, I remember her. But I don’t bow down to my wedding ring. It has a figurative and spiritual meaning to me.

    Catholicism has several root errors. She make mediate things that should be immediate (by placing many mediators between the Catholic and Jesus). She make meritorious things that are gracious. She leaves things unfinished that are finished (e.g. mixing sanctification with justification, adding Tradition to God’s Word). And the grievous error of making physical those things that are spiritual. This is idolatry, and is seen in the papacy, transubstantiation, sacramentals (such as wearing a scapular or miraculous medal), the veneration of relics, etc.

    I encourage you to take a fresh look at John 6.

    Dale

  97. “Neither the dictates of scripture, the examples of the scriptural narratives, nor the sociology of reading in antiquity allow for the conclusion that Jesus expected every individual to know the full extent of canonical scripture and interpret it correctly on his own.”

    “They have Moses and the prophets. If they won’t listen to them neither will they listen if someone rises from the dead.”

    “But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

    “Have you not read this Scripture: “‘The stone that the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone?”

    “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,”

  98. The fact of the matter is that the Jews knew the extent of the Old Testament canon. If they didn’t, how could have either Jesus or the apostles appealed to Scripture? How could they even say “the Scriptures say”…?

  99. Hi Dale,

    You wrote:

    My issue is with the Catholic teaching that Jesus is physically present based on John 6. I suppose that one of the attractions of Catholicism to you is the continuity of the ancient church through the Church Fathers. I recommend that you study the teachings of Augustine on the Sacrament in relation to John 6. He held to a spiritual and figurative understanding of John 6, while at the same time rejoicing in the power of the sacrament.

    Let’s take a look at Augustine’s theology of the Eucharist:

    That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. (Augustine, Sermons, 227).

    Whatever his interpretation of John 6, Augustine did not question, but affirmed and proclaimed, the truth of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Hear him again:

    “What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction”(Augustine, Sermons 272)

    Again, you write:

    Sacraments are signs that point to the reality. I wear a wedding ring. It reminds me of the union with my wife. It is a sign – a powerful sign. When I am away from my wife, say on a business trip, I remember her. But I don’t bow down to my wedding ring. It has a figurative and spiritual meaning to me.

    Again, hear the Church Fathers on this. Augustine taught nothing new here. He is in continuity with Christ, the Apostles, and the saints of the first 4 centuries. Here’s Ignatius, (writing in 110 A.D), who was a disciple of the Apostle John:

    “those who hold heterodox opinions,” that “they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again”

    Again, your view cannot be supported from Scripture or from the testimony of the great saints of the Church. I am not just trying to win an argument. To deny Christ in the Eucharist is a serious thing. Thank you for the dialogue.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  100. Andrew M. (re: #94)

    You wrote:

    And this is why I thought it would be good to start out asking just how much division there in the Reformed confessions and systematic texts. My observation is that there is very little substantive difference. There is lots of different ways the data is packaged and presented, but despite the fact that lots of different administrative entities (churches and denominations) have produced of them has not created much in the way of division over the tenets of the Christian faith in these texts or the confessions which summarize them. So I would say that no, denomination does not mean schism. There are sometimes good reasons and sometimes not so good reasons for new denominations forming, but we should not infer that Reformed denominations are in schism with each other. I’m PCA, but I’m fine with worshiping in just about any other Reformed denomination out there. I like Phillip Schaff’s term, “the family of Reformed churches” that he used to describe the churches of the Reformation.

    Three years ago, there were at least 44 Reformed denominations, just in the US. Their [simplified] history is depicted in the following diagram:

    But, in light of that, here are two relevant statements from the Church Fathers. St. Jerome wrote:

    Between heresy and schism there is this difference, that heresy perverts dogma, while schism, by rebellion against the bishop, separates from the Church. Nevertheless there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church. (In Ep. ad Tit., iii, 10)

    In St. Augustine’s work titled “Of Faith and the Creed” which he delivered to the bishops assembled at the Council of Hippo-Regius in AD 393, which was the “general assembly of the North African Church,” he wrote the following:

    Inasmuch, I repeat, as this is the case, we believe also in The Holy Church, [intending thereby] assuredly the Catholic . For both heretics and schismatics style their congregations churches. But heretics, in holding false opinions regarding God, do injury to the faith itself; while schismatics, on the other hand, in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe. Wherefore neither do the heretics belong to the Church catholic, which loves God; nor do the schismatics form a part of the same, inasmuch as it loves the neighbor, and consequently readily forgives the neighbor’s sins, because it prays that forgiveness may be extended to itself by Him who has reconciled us to Himself, doing away with all past things, and calling us to a new life. And until we reach the perfection of this new life, we cannot be without sins. Nevertheless it is a matter of consequence of what sort those sins may be. (Of Faith and the Creed, 10)

    So, here are some questions:

    First, because, as St. Jerome and St. Augustine explain, there is a difference between heresy and schism, what would schism from the Church look like? That is, if, as you claim, every Reformed denomination is not a schism, then what would distinguish a schism from the Church from every other Reformed denomination? Or is schism from the Church [as distinct from heresy or apostasy] not even possible in your ecclesiology?

    Second, St. Cyprian wrote against the Novatian schism, and St. Optatus and St. Augustine wrote against the Donatist schism. Why did they [i.e. St. Cyprian, St. Optatus, and St. Augustine] see Novatianism and Donatism as schisms from the Church, rather than as mere denominations or ‘branches’ within the Church? Were these saints wrong about this, or, if they were right, why were Novatianism and Donatism schisms from the Church while Reformed denominations (and/or other Protestant ecclesial communities) are not schisms from the Church?

    Third, is what you are referring to as “the family of Reformed churches” the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church which Christ founded, or are all Protestant traditions (besides the Reformed tradition) also part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded? If only the “family of Reformed churches” is the Church Christ founded, then exactly which Reformed denominations are in the Church Christ founded, and which are out, and what is the principled and authoritative basis by which those that are in are distinguished from those that are out? But if other Protestant traditions besides the Reformed tradition are part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, then why is the present situation not a situation of schism between those communities (e.g. Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.) on the one hand, and the Reformed denominations on the other hand?

    Fourth, if the Reformed denominations were in fact presently all schismatic sects, having splintered and fragmented over the past five hundred years into many distinct entities since their sixteenth century schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded, how would you know? How would the present situation be any different? Would the difference be that the Catholic Church would teach in accord with your [present] interpretation of Scripture, while the Reformed denominations would teach contrary to your [present] interpretation of Scripture, or would it be some other difference?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  101. Andrew,

    I must admit that I take a certain guilty pleasure in standing back and watching you “heavy hitters” (aptly put, Lindsay!) exchange blows. But at the heart of it all I am somewhere between Protestantism and “something else”, hoping for the wisdom to see the Lord’s Truth and the courage to follow His lead. These waters are certainly murky at times. I appreciate your postings at CTC.

    I have followed the Mathison threads closely. I also engaged in an interchange with John on the St. Vincent thread regarding this same topic and had a hard time getting a simple, straight answer. (John, if your following this, feel free to jump in!)

    Bryan, thanks for the well articulated summary of the questions that I feel are as yet not clearly answered – if schism does not equal denomination in Reformed ecclesiology, then what is schism? How would we recognize it? Is there any sense that we can condemn schism as such and call the schismatic to repentance and full communion with the church? How would this differ from heresy? Given the wide disparity of doctrine and practice within Protestantism, how is the relative lack of disparity within Reformed circles relevant?

    Thanks, all

    Burton

  102. Geoff,

    The fact of the matter is that the Jews knew the extent of the Old Testament canon. If they didn’t, how could have either Jesus or the apostles appealed to Scripture? How could they even say “the Scriptures say”…?

    The historical development of the Old Testament canon is not so cut and dry. Please note that none of your scriptural citations demand awareness of a completed 39-book canon. If you take a look at some of the literature on the subject, you will see that our knowledge of Second Temple Judaism leads us to believe that there was an emerging sense of a tripartite division of the Jewish scriptures into “Law, Prophets, Writings” during that period, but the final wrangling over the extent of the canon did not take place until well into the Rabbinic period. Scholars used to think that a council of Jewish scholars at Jamnia somewhere towards the end of the first century was responsible for the closing of the canon, but even that theory has been discarded in light of the recognition that the canon was closed later and, contrary to your assertions above, through the authority of Rabbinic scholars, not through some kind of democratic community consensus. On that note, even the ancient Jewish scholars who compiled the Babylonian Talmud and thought that the canon had been fixed many centuries before them believed that it had been done by an assembly of scholars and prophets, not by democratic community consensus. So whatever we come up with regarding the canon, we should be in agreement that no one ever thought that centralized authority wasn’t necessary to come up with it.

    What’s important to point out, though, is that the recognition of this historical process does not contradict the use of terms that you’ve pointed out in scripture like “Law and Prophets” or “the Scriptures.” Such phrases are compatible with the notion that certain texts were agreed upon as authoritative by certain communities, but that an entire canon (especially the books that different Jewish communities ended up disputing, like Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and the so-called Apocrypha or Deutero-canonicals) was not yet fixed.

    This only covers one facet of my earlier response, and although things are getting quite busy for me as I prepare to leave the country, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the other points I raised above. If you are interested in further discussion on the canon topic, I would highly recommend our article The Canon Question if you haven’t already read it.

  103. @ Dale #58

    The Greek in “Do this in remembrance of me” is anamnesis. It does not mean to “intellectually recall a memory”. It means to “again make present a past event or action or state which those now present enter into”, to be a bit long winded about it.

    Also when we look at the Jewish Passover, what is occurring is not simply a “intellectual recalling” but rather an anamnesis. This is why the Jewish father asks his son “Why is THIS night different from all other nights” NOT “Why was THAT night….”. The celebration of the present passover becomes one and the same event as the first Passover.

    Thus when Christ connects his new covenant to the Passover, He is telling us that we are to, each time we celebrate the covenant, enter into communion with the mystery of the original event via anamnesis.

    Because things are so linked, disbelief in the reality of that which is now present is also disbelief in that which was then present.

  104. Jeremy,

    Context is critical when quoting any writings. You give a snippet and an abbreviated version of Augustine in Sermon 272, which you say supports transubstantiation. Here is the actual quote from Augustine (from Turretin fan’s blog):

    [What you can see on the altar, you also saw last night; but what it was, what it meant, of what great reality it contained the sacrament, you had not yet heard. So what you can see, then, is bread and a cup; that's what even your eyes tell you; but as for what your faith asks to be instructed about, the bread is the body of Christ, the cup the blood of Christ. It took no time to say that indeed, and that, perhaps, may be enough for faith; but faith desires instruction. The prophet says, you see, Unless you believe, you shall not understand (Is 7:9). I mean, you can now say to me, “You've bidden us believe; now explain, so that we may understand." Some such thought as this, after all, may cross somebody's mind: “We know where our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh from; from the Virgin Mary. He was suckled as a baby, was reared, grew up, came to man's estate, suffered persecution from the Jews, was hung on the tree, was slain on the tree, was taken down from the tree, was buried; rose again on the third day, on the day he wished ascended into heaven. That's where he lifted his body up to; that's where he's going to come from to judge the living and the dead; that's where he is now, seated on the Father's right. How can bread be his body? And the cup, or what the cup contains, how can it be his blood?” The reason these things, brothers and sisters, are called sacraments is that in them one thing is seen, another is to be understood. What can be seen has a bodily appearance, what is to be understood provides spiritual fruit. So if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the apostle telling the faithful, You, though, are the body of Christ and its members (1 Cor 12:27). So if it's you that are the body of Christ and its members, it's the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the Lord's table; what you receive is the mystery that means you. It is to what you are that you reply Amen, and by so replying you express your assent. What you hear, you see, is The body of Christ, and you answer, Amen. So be a member of the body of Christ, in order to make that Amen true.]

    Courtesy of Turretin Fan, here are some writings by Augustine that support a figurative reading of John 6:

    1. NPNF1: Vol. II, On Christian Doctrine, Book III, Chapter 16 (section 24).
    If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,” says Christ, “and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us.

    2. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 25, §12.
    “They said therefore unto Him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” For He had said to them, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eternal life.” “What shall we do?” they ask; by observing what, shall we be able to fulfill this precept? “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent.” This is then to eat the meat, not that which perisheth, but that which endureth unto eternal life. To what purpose dost thou make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and thou hast eaten already.

    3. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 26, §1.
    Wherefore, the Lord, about to give the Holy Spirit, said that Himself was the bread that came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe on Him. For to believe on Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again. A babe within, a new man within. Where he is made new, there he is satisfied with food.

    4. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 26, John 6:41-59, §18.
    In a word, He now explains how that which He speaks of comes to pass, and what it is to eat His body and to drink His blood. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” This it is, therefore, for a man to eat that meat and to drink that drink, to dwell in Christ, and to have Christ dwelling in him. Consequently, he that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, doubtless neither eateth His flesh [spiritually] nor drinketh His blood [although he may press the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ carnally and visibly with his teeth], but rather doth he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment, because he, being unclean, has presumed to come to the sacraments of Christ, which no man taketh worthily except he that is pure: of such it is said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

    5(a). John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Exposition of the Psalms, Part 3, Vol. 18, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Psalm 98, §9 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2002), p. 475.
    But the Lord insisted: It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn 6:54). “Understand what I have told you in a spiritual way. You are not asked to eat this body that you can see, nor to drink the blood that will be shed by those who will crucify me. What I have revealed to you is something mysterious, something which when understood spiritually will mean life for you. Although it is to be celebrated in a visible manner, you must understand it in a way that transcends bodily sight.” Exalt the Lord our God, and worship his footstool, because he is holy.

    5(b). NPNF1: Vol. VIII, St. Augustin on the Psalms, Psalm 99 (98), §8.
    It seemed unto them hard that He said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you:” they received it foolishly, they thought of it carnally, and imagined that the Lord would cut off parts from His body, and give unto them; and they said, “This is a hard saying.” It was they who were hard, not the saying; for unless they had been hard, and not meek, they would have said unto themselves, He saith not this without reason, but there must be some latent mystery herein. They would have remained with Him, softened, not hard: and would have learnt that from Him which they who remained, when the others departed, learnt. For when twelve disciples had remained with Him, on their departure, these remaining followers suggested to Him, as if in grief for the death of the former, that they were offended by His words, and turned back. But He instructed them, and saith unto them, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Understand spiritually what I have said; ye are not to eat this body which ye see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify Me shall pour forth. I have commended unto you a certain mystery; spiritually understood, it will quicken. Although it is needful that this be visibly celebrated, yet it must be spiritually understood.

    6. NPNF1-7, Tractates on John, Tractate 27, Section 1
    And He explained the mode of this bestowal and gift of His, in what manner He gave His flesh to eat, saying, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” The proof that a man has eaten and drank is this, if he abides and is abode in, if he dwells and is dwelt in, if he adheres so as not to be deserted. This, then, He has taught us, and admonished us in mystical words that we may be in His body, in His members under Himself as head, eating His flesh, not abandoning our unity with Him. But most of those who were present, by not understanding Him, were offended; for in hearing these things, they thought only of flesh, that which themselves were. But the apostle says, and says what is true, “To be carnally-minded is death.” [Rom. vii. 6.] The Lord gives us His flesh to eat, and yet to understand it according to the flesh is death; while yet He says of His flesh, that therein is eternal life. Therefore we ought not to understand the flesh carnally.

    7. NPNF1-7, Tractates on John, Tractate 27, Section 3
    “But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples murmured at it,”—for they so said these things with themselves that they might not be heard by Him: but He who knew them in themselves, hearing within Himself,—answered and said, “This offends you;” because I said, I give you my flesh to eat, and my blood to drink, this forsooth offends you. “Then what if ye shall see the Son of man ascending where He was before?” What is this? Did He hereby solve the question that perplexed them? Did He hereby uncover the source of their offense? He did clearly, if only they understood. For they supposed that He was going to deal out His body to them; but He said that He was to ascend into heaven, of course, whole: “When ye shall see the Son of man ascending where He was before;” certainly then, at least, you will see that not in the manner you suppose does He dispense His body; certainly then, at least, you will understand that His grace is not consumed by tooth-biting.

  105. @Andrew McCallum:

    And this is why I thought it would be good to start out asking just how much division there in the Reformed confessions and systematic texts.

    But Andrew, what authority is to decide that it is just those texts (and not, for example, the Baptist confessions, or the Anabaptist ones, or, indeed, the writings of Mary Baker Eddy (sp?) or the Book of Mormon) that are the “Reformed confessions and systematic texts?” They are certainly Reformed.

    Given your personal acceptance of particular confessions as authoritative, it may at least be less challenging to decide who does and who does not deviate from them – but what is that acceptance based on? The Catholic Church believes that Jesus established that Church, with its guarantee of infallibility, and with the guarantee extending, when push comes to shove, to the ex cathedra definitions of the Pope. That claim might, in principle, be wrong. But do the Reformed suggest that, for instance, the Heidelberg Catechism was itself guaranteed by Jesus to be infallible?

    jj

  106. @ Geoff

    The fact of the matter is that the Jews knew the extent of the Old Testament canon. If they didn’t, how could have either Jesus or the apostles appealed to Scripture? How could they even say “the Scriptures say”…?

    To strengthen what David Pell #100 said, at the time of Christ, the Sadducees accepted only the five books of Moses as scripture while the Pharisees accepted the five books of Moses plus the books of the prophets (including the writings, and histories) as scripture. The Pharisees of the diaspora gravitated towards accepting the Septuagint as scripture while the Judea Pharisees, who tended towards xenophobia, gravitated towards the Hebrew only text.

    The early Church (including the Apostles) springs more so from the diaspora, eschewed the Zionist element in Judaism, and uses as a source Pharissetical theology. Thus the Jewish scriptures that the early Church used as “inspired by God” where those accepted by the Pharisees (the Pentateuch plus the writings of the prophets etc.) and as found in the Greek not just exclusively Hebrew.

  107. @ Jeremy Tate #65

    Thanks for getting back to me. I enjoyed your answers.

    Some follow-up questions to keep the thread going.

    In my experience, the Professors read the Church Councils first hand. However, they evaluated the truth of Catholicism through the lens of “Reformed Orthodoxy”.

    One of the problems within Catholicism, as I am sure you are aware of, is how one is to read Vatican II. It is a big fissure between the liberal and traditional wings of the Church. When it comes to your study at RTS DC, how did your professors read Vatican II? Are they simply interpretating it according to “Reformed Orthodoxy” or according to the past dogmatic statements of Catholicism and then evaluating that through “Reformed Orthodoxy”.

    Additionally, how did RTS DC understand “Reformed Orthodoxy”? Are they talking about Confessionalism or about neo-Orthodoxy or something else? I am asking this because I have noticed that Reformed tend to appropriate historic verbiage but mean something quite a bit more modern. For example Doug Wilson’s “classical christian education” is quite a bit more modern than what it should be if he was just re-booting medieval scholastic education.

    In my experience at RTS the Catholic Church was presented as equivalent to the Roman Rite. Personally, I did not even learn of the Eastern Rite until I started reading Called to Communion.

    That is sad. Though they are our best kept secret that shouldn’t be a secret. Would you mind also addressing how aware RTS DC was of non-Thomistic Western Theology? For example, the theology of Augustine, early ascetical theology, early medieval Irish theology, Franciscan theology, the neo-Thomism that arrose in response to the French Revolution, the modern German/French ressourcement and nouvelle theologie movements?

    Would you mind also listing 5 Catholic theologians that RTS found to be “standards” that a Reformed individual could read to understand Catholic theology first hand?

    On the subject of love, I have run across major Protestant theologians who have taught that it was a sin for a person to desire for God to love the individual. Did RTS DC have this misunderstanding? Often you will find Protestants discuss love as only agape and they will often denigrate the desire to be loved (eros).

    In my systematic III class there was a major emphasis on the order of salvation. The greatest stress here, in contrast with Arminianism, was that man’s heart must be regenerate before he can believe the gospel. What I did find fascinating, however, was that more often than not Professors asserted that the battle cry of the Reformation was “justification by faith.” I was fascinated by how frequently they would leave out “alone” for the Catholic Church affirms that was are justified by faith as well. The Church just believes man must have agape, or love for God, as well. Even more amazing was that the sola fide position, in my classes at least, was reduced to a pure hypothetical. There could never really be a man who only had saving faith. They were clear about this…”We are saved by faith alone, but by a faith that never is alone” was the saying.

    This I find very interesting for it reads to me more Lutheran than Reformed. The RTS material on the subject that I was exposed to stressed the imutation aspect of things rather than the regeneration or the faith aspect. I agree that love is important and is a vastly huge divide between Catholics and Reformed — for Reformed justification is independent of man’s love for God (one rests on the justification via faith and this faith is not alone but the gifts of love etc. come with it), and yet for Catholics justification is dependent upon man’s love for God.

    I was wondering if you might be able to speak to the general movement within the RTS community. There is a lot of stuff going on in the Reformed world and I was wondering where you see the general scope of seminary education heading? Is it headed towards those professors that are less hostile towards Catholicism, find that NPP and Federal Vision have something to say, headed towards a neo-Reformed, or is the old guard on ascendance? I remember stuff that was suspicious to, say for example Horton and Frame.

    I was wondering if you might be able to speak towards how anti-“non Reformed” bigotry was handed, both when expressed by students and faculty. I don’t mind good heated debate and disagreement nor professors telling their students that different belief systems are wrong, but I am thinking here more towards the bigotry that one can find and which I am sure you are aware of.

  108. Dale (re: #95),

    You wrote:

    I recommend that you study the teachings of Augustine on the Sacrament in relation to John 6. He held to a spiritual and figurative understanding of John 6, while at the same time rejoicing in the power of the sacrament.

    By ‘spiritual’ St. Augustine does not mean a denial that the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. I explained in comments #4 and#24 of Taylor’s “Augustine on Adam’s Body and Christ’s Body – Is Reformed Theology Truly Augustinian?” that St. Augustine is merely denying the Capharnaite heresy, not denying the ontological transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  109. @ Christophe #64

    There is a lot of missdirection in your argument. Let me again reiterate “Should a book, made by human hands, written in human language, written according to human thought, and which is static and non-living be accorded ultimate authority?”

    What of this do you object to? Which of this do you deny? Are you trying to tell us that you consider the bible 1.) To not be a book 2.) to not be made by humans 3.) to be written in a non-human language 4.) the thought of which it contains to be alien to human thought 5.) the text to be malleable and transitory OR PERHAPS 6.) The bible to be a living document?

    I find that you wish to give to a book authority which belongs only to the Son of God. I am reminded of how the Pharisees and Sadducees and Scribes did this. What rage they flew into when the Son of God said unto them But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

    Do you not see a mirror between the reaction of your argument to me saying that the Son of God is more authorative than the Holy Scriptures and that the scriptures are not authorative in it of themselves but rather their authority stems from the God, who authenticates them, with the reaction of the Pharacees to Jesus for saying the same thing?

    Using your own quote form Luke 24:27, do you not see that Jesus places Himself above the scriptures here? First it is stated that the scriptures testify about Him, which means that the scriptures point towards but do not contain Him. That the end of scripture is Christ, and not scripture, should be enough to tell you that scripture is not the ultimate authority. The end is greater than that which points to it. Secondly do you see how it is Christ that interprets scripture? Christ did not use scripture to interpreted scripture (thus scripture is not self interpretating) but rather used his own person to interpret it. Thus again Christ is the ultimate authority. Thirdly, and this cannot be denied, an interpreter has an independent authority to that which he interprets. He interprets because he has a mastery of the subject and a command over it. If you are following the language of the Gospels the authors are at pains to say that the Pharacees only told you what scripture says — they did not interpreted it because they were not scriptures master. But when it comes to Jesus, the authors of the Gospels make it clear that Jesus does not tell people what scripture says rather that he interprets it. Thus again Jesus has more authority than the scriptures.

    Yes I have read what you have written, and I must say I, like Benjamin Keil, am very concerned with its tone.

    You claim to know what the Catholic faith is about in detail, but I don’t see that claim backed up by anything in your writing. So I would like to ask you a question to see if you truly do have a real understanding of what the Catholic faith is:

    Some Christians once came to see the old Reverend Mark and among them was Reverend John. Wishing to test them, Rev. Mark told to them a passage form scripture. Each in turn, he asked them what it meant. Each explained it as best he could. But to each one Rev. Mark said, “You have not yet found the answer.” Finally he came to Rev. John.

    QUESTION: What was Rev. John’s answer and why was it correct?

  110. Bryan (re:99),

    So Bryan, on these Reformed denominations, what exactly are the differences between them? And then let’s compare that with the differences that exist in Roman Catholicism today. Do you think that the staggering variances of opinions in the ultra-liberal to the ultra-conservative Roman Catholic continuum are more or less than the differences between the Reformed denominations today? Do I even have to ask the question?

    On Augustine, the Church at that time used an administrative unity to guard the unity of the faith. But such an ecclesiastical system is a two edged sword, and if there is anything we learn from the evolution of the Medieval Church it is that such an ecclesiastical system can guard or attack the Christian faith. So what happens when such a system does the opposite of what it was intended to and those in the leadership of the Church care about wars and money and power as the administration of RCC did in the time leading to the Reformation? After all, the Roman and hierarchical nature of the Medieval RCC is hardly something that is in the deposit of the faith. Read the Apostles, read the sub-apostolic fathers! Where is there anything hierarchical let alone Roman? There are of course lots in the foundational ecclesiological statements in Scripture on the government of the Church, but it is all about the government of local congregations. There is nothing defining administratively the connection between in the congregations. And then in the early centuries of the Christian Church there is again no hierarchy and no Rome. So if the distinct hierarchical relationship of Rome is key to understanding schism then why is there no mention of the hierarchical or Roman Church (as the current RCC defines it) in Scriptures and no practice of it in the early centuries of the Church.

    I would agree that Augustine could not have foreseen the schism between East and West and then the break in the West at the Reformation, but then he could not have not foreseen what the RCC became in the height of her corruption in the Medieval Ages. Do you think that Augustine could have possibly said that the Crusades or the Inquisition were the products of the true Church? And even Catholic historians point out that at Trent the biggest problem even before dealing with the important theological issues was the moral backwardness of the RCC clergy going right to the top of the hierarchy. So again, what happens when the ecclesiological system that evolved into the distinctly RCC system becomes divorced from the Christian faith? Is formal unity all that matters, and when is it right to break from an ecclesiological structure that has broken from the Christian faith? Never? No matter what the hierarchical systems becomes?

    Concerning Donatism, do you think that if the issue was whether to allow those who had professed Manichaeism to be allowed to stay in the Church, that Augustine would have said yes, we can all be Catholics? So isn’t that exactly what happens in the RCC today when the RCC allows for all sorts of liberal heretics to stay within the Church? Do you think Augustine would have approved? Again, how bad do things have to get in an ecclesiastical system before the pastors, elders, bishops of a given church or group of churches decide it’s time to leave? So no the Church Fathers were not wrong to insist that the Donatists stay in the Church because both sides professed the same faith, but does it logically follow that absolutely no theological controversy should ever create a split where one partly is justified in leaving.

    You are asking for principled basis for determining heresy and schism, so I would again ask you if you think that the Reformed communities have not done a good enough job in defining orthodoxy. Are there all sorts of contradictions between these works and if so where? Same question on the confessions. I’ll make it easy for you – just pick two and tell me where the fundamental differences are. OK, I’m guessing you are not going to come up with much here, so the second question is then where have the Reformed churches failed to differentiate between heresy and orthodoxy? And the third question is how does the RCC stack up in all of this? Just how many various types of heretical beliefs are there worldwide are there in the officers of the RCC?

    So have I said anything here that I have not said before to you? You have not presented anything to me in #99 that I have not answered before. I was actually interested in interacting with someone (Burton here) who is not firmly committed at this point. But if you want to go through the same discussions as before, go ahead and answer me….

  111. if the Reformed denominations were in fact presently all schismatic sects, having splintered and fragmented over the past five hundred years into many distinct entities since their sixteenth century schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded, how would you know?

    Wow Bryan, talk about a loaded question!! OK, well if you are going to define the RCC as the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church…” then the debate is over in your mind before it ever started. But I’ll give you another chance, Bryan. Do you think you could rephrase the question in a way that really asks a question and is not just a vehicle for you to launch your pre-made conclusions into your question? Do you understand that whether the Reformation RCC was the One, holy, etc Church is just the matter which is under consideration?

  112. John (re: 104),

    what authority is to decide that it is just those texts (and not, for example, the Baptist confessions, or the Anabaptist ones, or, indeed, the writings of Mary Baker Eddy (sp?) or the Book of Mormon) that are the “Reformed confessions and systematic texts?” They are certainly Reformed.

    John,

    The London Confession I mentioned is a Baptist confession. So maybe you could tell me where you think the differences are between the London Confessions is and the other Reformed confessions.

    On Mary Baker Eddy, do you think there is some sort of confusion between what the Reformed help historically and the the so called Christian Science movement did? Have we not drawn a sufficient distinction between the two?

    But do the Reformed suggest that, for instance, the Heidelberg Catechism was itself guaranteed by Jesus to be infallible?

    No, we don’t. But why would it need to be?

  113. Hi Burton (#100),

    I’d like to jump in, but am preoccupied with the other thread. All I can do here is stick my toes in, so to speak. And I know it’s frustrating, but I don’t think there necessarily is a simple, straightforward answer to your questions about schism. One thing I’d recommend, as before, is to look at the history of the eastern churches. Try asking yourself, what happened in the aftermath of Chalcedon? If you can reach a conclusion on how to see the Oriental Orthodox, it may help you in thinking about division more generally.

    God bless,
    John

  114. @Andrew:

    On Mary Baker Eddy, do you think there is some sort of confusion between what the Reformed help historically and the the so called Christian Science movement did? Have we not drawn a sufficient distinction between the two?

    Andrew, my point is not that there is any significant agreement between Mary Baker Eddy and the Westminster Confession (for example), but that Mary Baker Eddy did not arise out of Catholicism but out of Protestantism. By defining Reformed Christianity in terms of certain confessions – I don’t know which ones you would hold, but whichever they are – you have by definition excluded Christian Science, Mormonism, Jesus-Only-ism, etc.

    Perfectly reasonably – except to argue that there is not much variation across Reformed believers if you define Reformed believers as those who agree with those confessions is rather a truism.

    You said above to Bryan that there is a great deal of variation amongs believers calling themselves Catholics. But there is one unquestionable definition of what is a Catholic. It is a person in union with a bishop in union with the Pope.

    If the Heidelberg Catechism (for instance) is something sent by Christ as the standard, then, fine, we know how to define a Reformed Christian. If it is not – and if it is not infallible, then it isn’t going to be enough to define a Reformed Christian – then your idea of a Reformed Christian seems a bit circular.

    Even defining the Bible as that is less than helpful, it seems to me. Mary Baker Eddy would have claimed, I suppose, to have been in complete conformity with the Bible.

    And, yes, above you commented on Bryan’s comment:

    if you are going to define the RCC as the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church…

    Well, yes, of course. Your surprise hardly seems appropriate. Bryan is, after all, a Catholic. The Catholic Church (I think calling it the ‘Roman Catholic Church’ is a bit tendentious) is not quite properly said to be the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” but rather that the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” subsists in the Catholic Church. But that Bryan, and any Catholic, believes that can scarcely be a mystery to you. It is not as if those who are Catholics on this blog are in what Newman would have called a state of doubt, nor that we believe that claim as an inference – or even with ‘notional assent.’ We give the assent of faith to that. Otherwise, we would not be Catholics.

    jj

  115. Hi Dale,

    Let me begin by granting to you that the extensive passages you quote from Augustine’s commentary on John 6 suggest a figurative understanding of the passage. This does not mean that Augustine interpreted the sacrament as a memorial. It does not mean that he rejected the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord. How can we be sure of this? Look at his commentary on Psalm 98 and his clear affirmation of the Catholic practice of Eucharistic adoration.

    It was in His flesh that Christ walked among us and it is His flesh that He has given us to eat for our salvation; but no one eats of this flesh without having first adored it . . . and not only do we not sin in thus adoring it, but we would be sinning if we did not do so.

    Augustine is commending us to adore the same flesh we eat. Does Augustine want us to adore simple bread? You accused me of taking Augustine out of context, yet you have not interpreted Augustine’s exposition of John’s 6 in the context of everything else he taught about the Eucharist. In St. Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on John 6 he refers back to Augustine. Referring to “my flesh is true food”, in John 6:55, Aquinas writes;

    Augustine explains these words this way. A thing is truly said to be such and such a thing if it produces the effect of that thing. Now the effect of food is to fill or satisfy. Therefore, that which truly produces fulness is truly food and drink. But this is produced by the flesh and blood of Christ, who leads us to the state of glory, where there is neither hunger nor thirst: “They will neither hunger nor thirst” (Rv 7:16). And so he says: For my flesh truly is food, and my blood truly is drink.

    I was not familiar with the heresy Bryan referred to in his response to you until I read it myself, but I can assure you that Augustine was not arguing against the true and Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, passed down from the Apostles, continually affirmed by saints, and continually affirmed elsewhere in his own teaching. We agree on the importance of context, so lets interpret Augustine’s commentary on John 6 in light of everything else he taught about the Eucharist and not as if this was the only place he discussed the nature of the Eucharist.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  116. Andrew M.,

    In your replies (#110, #111), I could not determine where and what were your answers to my four questions in #100. Would you please put each of my four questions (from #100) in blockquote, and then put your answer to each of the four directly under each question? That will make it easier for me (and Burton) to find your answer to each of the four questions. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  117. Bryan (and Burton),

    Would you please put each of my four questions (from #100) in blockquote, and then put your answer to each of the four directly under each question?

    OK, will do:

    First, because, as St. Jerome and St. Augustine explain, there is a difference between heresy and schism, what would schism from the Church look like? That is, if, as you claim, every Reformed denomination is not a schism, then what would distinguish a schism from the Church from every other Reformed denomination? Or is schism from the Church [as distinct from heresy or apostasy] not even possible in your ecclesiology?

    I think we need to working definition of schism. Augustine said of the schismatics that they were those who “in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe.” Obviously Augustine said much more about schism but this is what is at the heart of the matter. Schism is created by those who create havoc and dissention in the Church by their ungodly and self-centered actions. And generally it’s not hard to tell who is and who is not doing this.

    But I’m guessing that you want a definition of schism that focuses more on the breaking of the organizational unity. If there is only one administratively unified and hierarchical Church then all breaking away from this one formal organization is schism. And so looking at the Protestant congregations through this kind of paradigmatic lenses, it seems you are judging that when there is a formal division between one organizational entity and another that this must be the result of a schism. But please consider this very real world example. Let’s say that a PCA missionary goes to a remote African region and establishes a congregation there. He could try to connect that congregation to the PCA, but chances are he would not and the mission sending wing of the PCA would likely work to form some new organizational entity. So now there is a new denomination but there is by no means any schism. Or take the examples of the relationship between the PCA and the various sister denominations. There is no necessary division of mission and confession between our respective communions. If you were to attend the assemblies of both of the denominations you would not get any sense that they were divided in any substantive theological or missional sense. In a word they are not in any sense in schism. So you might ask why then are they organizationally distinct. And the immediate answer to this is why should they be organizationally united? Is it really a truism that centrally administered organizations are more effective than locally administered ones? To us Reformed, a one world centralized bureaucracy to rule the Church does not make organizational sense and as stated before, there is nothing in the Scriptures that says anything about the organization of the Church beyond the congregational level. And there is nothing in the organization of the Church immediately preceding the Apostles that would lead us to believe that there was anything remotely resembling an administratively unified entity, let alone a hierarchical or Roman one.

    So then a counter question to you – When we see the very wide theological diversity in the RCC, what should we make of theological and practical divisions within the RCC that are not manifest in terms of formal administrative division? What of those in the RCC who break with the current Pope and go their own way within the RCC – are they in schism in any sense?

    Second, St. Cyprian wrote against the Novatian schism, and St. Optatus and St. Augustine wrote against the Donatist schism. Why did they [i.e. St. Cyprian, St. Optatus, and St. Augustine] see Novatianism and Donatism as schisms from the Church, rather than as mere denominations or ‘branches’ within the Church? Were these saints wrong about this, or, if they were right, why were Novatianism and Donatism schisms from the Church while Reformed denominations (and/or other Protestant ecclesial communities) are not schisms from the Church?

    I’m going to paste what I wrote before on this one: Concerning Donatism, do you think that if the issue was whether to allow those who had professed Manichaeism to be allowed to stay in the Church, that Augustine would have said yes, we can all be Catholics? So isn’t that exactly what happens in the RCC today when the RCC allows for all sorts of liberal heretics to stay within the Church? Do you think Augustine would have approved? How bad do things have to get in an ecclesiastical system before the pastors, elders, bishops of a given church or group of churches decide it’s time to leave? So I agree that the Church Fathers were not wrong to insist that the Donatists stay in the Church because both sides professed the same faith, but it does not logically follow that absolutely no theological controversy should ever create a split where one partly is justified in leaving.

    Third, is what you are referring to as “the family of Reformed churches” the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church which Christ founded, or are all Protestant traditions (besides the Reformed tradition) also part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded? If only the “family of Reformed churches” is the Church Christ founded, then exactly which Reformed denominations are in the Church Christ founded, and which are out, and what is the principled and authoritative basis by which those that are in are distinguished from those that are out? But if other Protestant traditions besides the Reformed tradition are part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, then why is the present situation not a situation of schism between those communities (e.g. Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.) on the one hand, and the Reformed denominations on the other hand?

    I did not answer this one because I thought you were asking a loaded question. If we assume that Christ ordained an administratively centralized hierarchical and Roman Church then we cannot escape from the fact that any ecclesiastical entity that the Pope does not approve of is in schism and must return. And so I was questioning your assumption in my last post and asking you to rephrase the question in a way that does not assume what is to be proved at the outset.

    Fourth, if the Reformed denominations were in fact presently all schismatic sects, having splintered and fragmented over the past five hundred years into many distinct entities since their sixteenth century schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded, how would you know? How would the present situation be any different? Would the difference be that the Catholic Church would teach in accord with your [present] interpretation of Scripture, while the Reformed denominations would teach contrary to your [present] interpretation of Scripture, or would it be some other difference?

    Again apart from you front loading your conclusions into your assumptions concerning the historic Christian Church here, you are also assuming something about what schism is. You are rejecting at the outset the possibility that there could be two administratively distinct entities working towards a common goal that are not in fact splintered or fragmented.

    And again on my previous questions, what happens within the RCC when two parties fragment and splinter but remain administratively unified? Are they united in the biblical conception of unity? To put this another way, what is more important, formal unity or the unity of heart and mind and purpose existing between believers and congregations?

    The issue of MY personal interpretation of Scripture is not at issue here any more than YOUR personal interpretation of the tradition of the Church .

  118. Andrew, (re: #117)

    Thanks for your reply. I read through your response to my first question from #100, but I still couldn’t find in it your answer to my question. My first question asked you what schism from the Church would look like today, or, whether schism from the Church (again, where schism is something distinct from heresy and apostasy) is not even possible in your [Protestant] ecclesiology. In your reply, you didn’t say whether schism from the Church is possible, nor did you say what it would look like, and how it would differ in appearance from any another denomination.

    (As for your questions to me, I first want to understand your answers to these four questions. I assure you, I’ll answer these questions if you wish, when it is clear what your answers are to these four questions.)

    Regarding my second question, it seems that you believe that the Church Fathers were right to urge the Donatists to return to the Church. But the reason you think that Reformed denominations (and/or other Protestant ecclesial communities) are not schisms from the Church is that you believe that Reformed denominations have the right interpretation of Scripture, whereas the Catholic Church has the wrong interpretation of Scripture. And therefore the Reformed denominations were justified in leaving the Catholic Church.

    The problem with that answer is that if Scripture is rightly interpreted understood only in the community to which it was entrusted (contra “solo scriptura“), then it is entirely misguided to form or join a religious community based on its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, rather than finding by way of direct, organic continuity the very same community to which the Scripture was entrusted in the first century, and allowing the divinely established teaching authority within that community to provide the authentic interpretation of Scripture. The former approach creates ‘church’ in one’s own image (ala ecclesial consumerism), while the latter approach allows the Church Christ founded to form and shape one into Christ’s image. Every group of heretics in history has thought its own position was justified by Scripture, and that it was justified in separating from the Catholic Church. Merely believing that one’s own interpretation of Scripture is right is common to every other Protestant tradition, as Mathison notes in “We Believe the Bible and You Do Not.” So, merely thinking that one has the correct interpretation of Scripture, and that the Church got it wrong this time, is not sufficient to justify schism from the Church, because we know that the heretics of all the ages thought this very same way, and yet were not justified in separating from the Church on the basis of their own determination of the meaning of Scripture.

    Regarding my third question, I do not know why you think that my asking whether you think that “the Reformed family of churches” is the Church Christ founded is a “loaded question.” If the “Reformed family of churches” is not the Church Christ founded, then logically, since you are in “the Reformed family of churches,” either (1) the Church Christ founded no longer exists, or (2) the Church Christ founded exists and you are not in it. And those are important consequences. Whether “the Reformed family of churches” is the Church Christ founded is therefore an important question for anyone who wants to be in the Church Christ founded, and who is contemplating entering or leaving “the Reformed family of churches.”

    Nor is it a loaded question to ask you which Reformed denominations make up the Church Christ founded, if you believe that “the Reformed family of churches” is the Church Christ founded. It is a perfectly reasonable question; otherwise, if some of the denominations at the link I included are not part of the Church Christ founded, this would be very important to know. Nor does the question assume the truth of the Catholic Church. The question is logically compatible with the Catholic Church not being the Church Christ founded. So it is not a loaded question.

    In addition, if an inquirer wants to know where is the Church Christ founded, it is quite reasonble to ask whether it includes other Protestant denominations (i.e. Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.) or only includes Reformed denominations. Just because the answer to a question might cause discomfort to some, that doesn’t mean the question is a loaded question. Asking whether other Protestant denominations and traditions (besides the Reformed family of churches) are included in the Church Christ founded does not presuppose the truth of the Catholic Church. So this is not an unreasonable or loaded question, though I grant that it is a difficult question for any Protestant to answer in a non ad hoc manner.

    Regarding my fourth question, you also did not answer that question, because you thought the question was loaded. But in order to avoid falsehood, we have to be willing to ask questions such as “If my position was false, how would I know?” That’s part of intellectual honesty. That is, we have to be willing to put our own position in in the dock, and consider it from the point of view of competing positions. But, you seem to think that in evaluating Protestantism vs. Catholicism, even making use of the hypothetical possibility that the Catholic Church is true, and that the Protestant denominations are in a state of heresy and schism from her, is already to take the Catholic position. But consider an example. Imagine talking with a Branch Davidian, and you say to him: “If you were wrong, and you were presently in a cult run by a delusioned false prophet, how would you know?” And he responds, “That’s a loaded question; even to consider the hypothetical possibility that David Koresh is wrong is unacceptable.” You would see that his refusal even to consider the question (“How would you know if you were wrong?”) is a methodological mistake that traps him in his present error, by preventing him from allowing himself to come to see his errors as errors. So, that’s not a methodology you want to adopt, for the very same reason, namely, because you don’t want to trap yourself in error (since you are not infallible) by refusing to consider what would be different if the Reformed denominations were in fact all sects in schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded, and in heresy insofar as they deviated from Catholic dogma.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  119. Bryan, (re: #118):
    I would be interested in hearing your answer to your own question number 4. As I have been discerning the claims of Catholicism as the Church Christ founded I am interested to know how, if you were wrong as a Catholic, you would know? One of the things that I have been tossing around in my head but haven’t actually articulated until now is this: It seems that inherent to Catholicism is a distrust of ones own ability to interpret/reason correctly spiritual matters. This presents a problem in that as a Catholic you could never trust your interpretation of Tradition (the true line of apostolic succession, for example) or your interpretation of Scripture. You have to as a matter of principle turn all interpretation over to the Magisterium. And so it goes without saying that the Magisterium will never declare the Catholic Church itself to no longer be the Church Christ founded, or that all the bishops that make up the Magisterium are actually not the true line descended from the Apostles. So if you were wrong how would you know without resorting to some form of your own interpretation. And to continue with your example in #118, doe not the Magisterium in effect give the same response as the cult member, that to consider the Magisterium as wrong is unacceptable, and thereby guaranteeing your loyalty?

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  120. My post doesn’t seemed to have been approved so I’ll make the point again.

    The Roman Catholic Church admits that they don’t have unity at the same time they claim to have unity. Go read the Catechism on the Eastern Orthodox:

    838 “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.”[322] Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.”[323] With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”[324]

    So people who believe in Christ are in imperfect communion with the Catholic Church. So we’re part of the Catholic Church but we’re not officially a part of the organization.

    They are admitting an organizational disunity with a number of believers while claiming spiritual unity with them. This undermines apologetic claims to unity when you admit to disunity among believers.

  121. Aaron,

    I wouldn’t presume to answer for Bryan, but as a much less scholarly Catholic than Bryan I’d like to answer for myself.

    I find that as simply a fairly well catechized Catholic I do feel that I am able to read and interpret scripture and tradition for myself – but not by myself. In “thinking with the Church” I am actually free to engage myself in myself in interpreting scripture and applying theology. I can do this because armed with a decent general understanding of Catholic theology and a copy of the Catechism I don’t have to worry about thinking myself into becoming a heretic.

    I think of it like exploring a wilderness. I have lived all my life in close proximity to mountainous wilderness. I am very cautious about heading off into unfamiliar wilderness just to explore. Without at least a crude idea of what is out there and where I can find landmarks and civilization I am very nervous about my ability to find my way to safety. Also, without basic survival gear and food and water I must limit myself to very short explorations. On the other hand, armed with maps, a compass, basic survival equipment and some water I am much more confident in making explorations.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is like a amp and survival kit (it isn’t everything I need, but it is significant). I can explore and speculate but when in comes to survival I can locate myself and find my way back to a trail.

    You would be right that in the end I rely on the Church and the Catechism rather than my own judgment. You Betch’ya I do! Just like when in the wilderness I rely on my map and compass rather than my own judgment. I also rely on survival ‘training’ rather than my own thinking in emergencies. I KNOW that my sense of direction can get confused. I know that when under real stress and fear I can make bad decisions – better to trust in expert tradition. That is why I rely on training and guidance OTHER than my own judgment when I get in trouble in the wilderness. Equally I know that it is nearly impossible for me (or 99.99% of all individuals) to identify and clear my own bad judgments, rationalizations, self-deceptions and logical errors. The Church and her Authorized (Authoritative) Instruction is my guide.

    You Said:

    Geoff #120 You have to as a matter of principle turn all interpretation over to the Magisterium.

    This overstates the matter considerably. I trust in the Church for the final and definitive interpretation, but the Magisterium doesn’t interpret every verse of scripture, nor does it constrict or finalize every point of tradition or theology. Just like studying a map is not substitute for actually going to a Wilderness area, studying the Catechism is not a substitute for reading scripture myself. And just as a map frees me to experience the wilderness, the Catechism give me the freedom to experience Scripture. A map enhances my experience exploration of wilderness and a Magisterium enhances my experience exploration of scripture.

  122. Bryan said: Thanks for your reply. I read through your response to my first question from #100, but I still couldn’t find in it your answer to my question.

    Bryan,

    You may be having trouble finding it because we have not arrived at a definition of “schism.” I suggested one but you did not comment on it. So what is schism, and if you don’t like Augustine’s admittedly generic one can you come up with another definition? And I think it is fair to ask you to propose a definition that does not presuppose Roman Catholic ecclesiology as part of the definition.

    My guess is that you want to define schism in terms of breaking with a purely hierarchical system of church government. If that is so then we would have to agree that Protestantism is just a mass of schisms at the outset and any further breaks just add to the problem. So that just gets us back to the problem over what a ecclesiological system is the correct one given the foundation documents we have concerning ecclesiology (Scripture) and secondly the examples that we see on how the congregations operated immediately after the Apostolic era.

    I think that the examples I gave to you demonstrate that it is possible to have administratively separate entities that are not in schism. That is, there is no lack of unity between the two despite the fact that they are not formally and administratively unified. So for example the EO churches could operate by an autocephalous principle but not be in schism with each other. Or two Protestant denominations could operate under different governments but not be in schism with each other. Of course I am using the Augustine kind of observation on schism here which again brings up the question of definitions. My guess is that you have a different definition but I don’t know what that is yet…..

    Regarding my second question, it seems that you believe that the Church Fathers were right to urge the Donatists to return to the Church.

    Right, because they were of the same faith. If they had not been of different faiths the Fathers would have insisted that they separate.

    But the reason you think that Reformed denominations (and/or other Protestant ecclesial communities) are not schisms from the Church is that you believe that Reformed denominations have the right interpretation of Scripture, whereas the Catholic Church has the wrong interpretation of Scripture.

    Well, two denominations could be in schism from each other given the Augustine quote I gave you, but it does not necessarily follow that they must be. As a general rule two entities can be formally separate but working toward the same goal and be of the same mind. There was no formal ecclesiastical structure that is laid out in Scripture that defined a relationship between the Christian congregations and there was no such institution in the early years of Christianity and yet the congregations were in unity, they were not in schism.

    I think that between Catholic and Protestant, the better place to start with rather than disagreements on interpreting Scripture is differences in interpreting tradition (this is why I told Burton that I thought that Keith Mathison was right on target when he starts with this issue rather than on trying to debate certain Scripture texts). Sometimes when I read what you write my first thought is that I disagree with your interpretation of the tradition of the Church. We disagree for a start on the implications of the “direct, organic continuity…” that you refer to. It is certainly not obvious or clear to us that the “we have Peter as our Father” kinds of argument work to establish the fidelity of those who are Peter’s successors. As in the EO case, there are a number of possible interpretations, no?

    On the “loaded” comment. I’m looking at this statement of yours again: if the Reformed denominations were in fact presently all schismatic sects, having splintered and fragmented over the past five hundred years into many distinct entities since their sixteenth century schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded, how would you know? How would the present situation be any different?

    It sounds like you were assuming the 16th century RCC was the one, holy, etc Church. However as I read it again perhaps you are posing the question as to IF the RCC was the one, holy, etc Church and then if it were true that the Protestants had splintered into thousands of different schisms, then how could we tell. If that’s what you are asking then I take back the “loaded” comment.

    And if that’s what you are posing then my answer would be that we could only say that all of these Protestant groups are in schism from the RCC (the true Church ) if we could agree on first what constituted the historical Church and second what constituted schism from that Church. As before if your interpretation of the development of the Church into a hierarchical body was what God intended then all separations from her are schisms as the RCC Magisterium now defines that term. And again I think that the touch point between Catholic and Protestant here is not over our respective interpretations of Scripture but rather of our respective interpretations of tradition.

  123. Aaron, (re: #119)

    Let me first address your question whether distrust of one’s own ability to interpret / to reason is intrinsic to Catholicism. Consider two verses from sacred Scripture:

    “Oh LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high;
    I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” (Ps. 130:1)

    “Seek not what is too difficult for you, nor investigate what is beyond your power. Reflect upon what has been assigned to you, and do not be curious about many of His works, for you do not need to see with your eyes what is hidden. Do not meddle in what is beyond your tasks, for matters too great for human understanding have been shown you. For their hasty judgment has led many astray, and wrong opinion has cause their thoughts to slip.” (Sirach 3:21-24)

    Intellectual humility is not skepticism (or the fideism that results from skepticism). Skepticism treats our intellectual powers as less than they are, and less than we already know them to be. But intellectual humility also requires avoiding intellectual pride. And one form of intellectual pride is an overestimation of our intellectual power. So intellectual humility requires a truthful recognition of our epistemic powers in relation to their various objects. And this truthful recognition must include an accurate appraisal of our limits in relation to matters too great for us. This is what the verses I quoted above are saying.

    Next, we need to treat nature and grace each in turn. First nature. Even at the level of nature, there is such a thing as intellectual pride. It might very well be a case of intellectual pride for the person who doesn’t have a natural ability to work with numbers to aspire to the vocation of nuclear physicist. And examples can be multiplied.

    But this is true also, and even more so, with regard to what is supernaturally revealed, because it is above us not just by our individual endowment of particular gifts, but it is above us as human. By our very nature as humans, it is out of our grasp. I explained this, to some degree, about a week ago — see the paragraph that begins “Because the deposit is supernatural … ” in comment #68 in the thread under the St. Vincent of Lérins article.

    So, if what is supernatural is above us, how do we find it? On the one hand is the error of rationalism, which reduces all that is supernatural to what is within reach of the natural power of human reason. Rationalism is incompatible with faith, because it eliminates the possibility of faith. Rationalism is a kind of atheism, because it presupposes that nothing is beyond man’s grasp, and thus that man is the highest being (or that there is no being higher than man). On the other hand is the error of fideism, which I addressed in the Wilson vs. Hitchens article. The middle position between those two errors is the Catholic teaching on the relation of nature to grace, and in particular the relation of reason to faith. (I treated the relation of rationalism, fideism, and the orthodox position, in comment #893 of the “Solo Scriptura” thread.) We find the divine revelation through motives of credibility. (On the motives of credibility, see comment #66 in the Wilson vs. Hitchens thread.) But we believe the divine revelation not by human reason alone, but by a supernatural gift of grace. This is why faith is necessarily a supernatural gift, because we can’t drum it up ourselves. But neither is faith irrational, because by reason and the motives of credibility, we can grasp the evidence that this testimony is divinely authorized. So I can trust my reason with respect to the motives of credibility, but it would be foolish to trust my own reason regarding the interpretation of a supernaturally inspired text, or to place my own interpretation of that text above that of the divinely established interpretive authority in the Church. (To treat the Bible as something that does not require supernatural aid to interpret, is to treat the Bible as something not supernatural in origin.)

    The motives of credibility point to divinely authorized persons, i.e. Moses, and the prophets, and the Apostles. Faith in God has always required the people of God to believe in God through divinely appointed persons. In the first century, those divinely authorized persons authorized persons to succeed them, and carry on their office. (See the “Apostolic Succession” section of my reply to Michael Horton.) What we see in Church history is continuity in ecclesial authority, structure and practice when the last Apostle died. The Church carried on smoothly, under the authority of the bishops whom the Apostles had appointed. There was no break (let alone a sharp break), as though prior to the death of the last Apostle, faith required submission to the Apostles and their teaching, but then as soon as the last Apostle died, all Christians had equal interpretive and ecclesial authority. Faith has always required submission to the divinely established authorities in the Church. That’s why a [formal] heretic who disbelieves even one article of faith, has no faith even in the other articles, because by disbelieving the one, he shows that his reason for believing the others is their conformity to his own reasoning, rather than on the authority of God through the Church. In other words, the heretic shows himself to be a rationalist, and thus his own god. (See “St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church.”) So the answer to your question is this: No, distrust of one’s own ability to interpret or reason is not intrinsic to Catholicism if we are talking about what pertains to nature and the motives of crediblity. But when we are talking about things above us, especially supernatural things, then it is right not to trust in our own reason to do what it is not authorized or equipped to do. In such cases, reason itself helps us see that it is more reasonable to trust those who have been divinely authorized, than to trust ourselves to do what we have not been authorized to do, i.e. provide the authoritative interpretation of Scripture for ourselves, to ourselves.

    Next, let me address your last question: Does not the Magisterium in effect give the same response as the cult member? No. Because Catholics are not fideists. The identity and authority of the Catholic Church are knowable by reason, through the motives of credibility. See comment #12 in the Son of a tu quoque thread. See also Session Three of Vatican I, as well as Fides et Ratio, and Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, especially the section on dehellenizing Christianity. Those explain in more detail the relation of faith and reason.

    It was public knowledge during the first eleven centuries where is the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” It was the same Church that met at each of the seven ecumenical councils. So in regard to your question, “if you were wrong how would you know without resorting to some form of your own interpretation,” during the first millennium and a half, in order for it to be the case that the Catholic Church was not the Church Christ founded, some form of “ecclesial deism would have had to be true, while the true Church went invisible for fifteen hundred years. So, I would expect a Calvinistic soteriology, invisible-Church ecclesiology right from the beginning, without bishops, and without apostolic succession, and without baptismal regeneration, and without chrismation/confirmation, without penance, without the Catholic conception of the Eucharist, etc. I wouldn’t expect the early Church to be Catholic, as David Cloud puts it; I would expect it to be Protestant. I wouldn’t expect it to be so difficult for a Protestant seminary professor to show that the Church Fathers were even aware of the [Protestant] gospel. I could go on, but it is late. So I hope this is sufficient to answer your question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  124. Bryan, thanks for your response. I fully agree with you when you said: “intellectual humility also requires avoiding intellectual pride. And one form of intellectual pride is an overestimation of our intellectual power. So intellectual humility requires a truthful recognition of our epistemic powers in relation to their various objects.” I have to make this point almost daily with some of my fellow Reformed because there seems to be a tendency to be absolutely dogmatic about so many things. I have to constantly remind them (and myself!) that we see through a glass darkly and we should thus be much more humble (dare I say charitable) with those of disagreeing theological viewpoints.

    That being said, I still do not see where you answered my question: if you were wrong how would you know? Maybe you could give an example of something the Church began teaching that would make you admit you were wrong. For example: if my church/denomination began ordaining openly gay clergy I would be bound by my conscience to declare that church apostate and thus leave it. What if in 50 years the Catholic Church begins doing the same thing? Or something similar? I, as a Protestant, always reserve the right to prayerfully let my conscience be my guide. In your position, if the bishops/pope declare that clergy can be openly gay then your conscience is thus bound.

    Also, it seems as though you are saying that you accept the credibility of the claims of the Catholic Church, especially the claim of Apostolic Succession (and thus the authority of the Magisterium) but this seems to just say that these claims seem credible TO YOU. Which again is kind of the point. Maybe these claims do not seem credible to others. We are back to personal interpretation/reason. And I freely admit that the Protestant is in no better position.

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  125. Andrew, (re: #122)

    You wrote:

    You may be having trouble finding it because we have not arrived at a definition of “schism.” I suggested one but you did not comment on it. So what is schism, and if you don’t like Augustine’s admittedly generic one can you come up with another definition?

    My first question asked you what schism from the Church would look like today, or, whether schism from the Church (again, where schism is something distinct from heresy and apostasy) is not even possible in your [Protestant] ecclesiology. I’m not asking you what I think schism from the Church would look like today; I’m asking you what you think schism from the Church would look like today. So if you think that in order to answer my question, you and I must first reach some shared definition of ‘schism,’ then you are misunderstanding my question. I’m not asking you anything about me or my position or my understanding. I’m asking you something about your position. Here’s the question once more: According to your position on schism, what would schism from the Church would look like today, or, is schism from the Church (again, where schism is something distinct from heresy and apostasy) not even possible in your [Protestant] ecclesiology?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  126. In that case Bryan, I’ve answered your question. I’ve given you a definition along with discussion and examples or where it does and does not happen. Yes, schism in Reformed communions stands out like a sore thumb, much more than it does in the RCC communion from what I can see since so much of divergence from the RCC standards is buried as long as the individual or congregation who diverge from those standards are willing say that they are still part of the RCC and are willing to say that they answer to the Pope.

    There are very clear and concise confessions and detailed systematic texts which deal with what is and what is not accepted as being within Reformed standards. And when folks veer outside of them and create the kind of dissension that Augustine speaks of then they are disciplined in some manner. Take the FV folks as a for instance.

    Of course I am not talking about organizational schism but then you have not specifically asked about that. But I’m guessing you will get to that….

  127. Aaron,

    I, as a Protestant, always reserve the right to prayerfully let my conscience be my guide. In your position, if the bishops/pope declare that clergy can be openly gay then your conscience is thus bound.

    This first assumes the possibility of such a declaration which would be against both the Tradition and Scripture. However, Catholics claim that per the Holy Spirit’s work in the Church that is impossible not qua her human faculty but by the power of the Spirit. Pope BXVI just talked about that in relationship to the holiness of the Church here. The point, I thought, of CTC is to dialogue regarding those points of doctrine that those outside of full communion with the Catholic Church find repugnant to Sacred Tradition and Scripture. This also assumes another version of ecclesial deism that radically divorces the personal quality of the means of our salvation (Christ) and subsequently the Church He founded. Peter Kreeft mentions that here in his conversion memoir that was posted this morning. Lastly, it seems that the dilemma you are presenting could just as easily be applied to the teachings of Christ (e.g., Him being the Messiah, His Resurrection, etc.). Which makes your statement not more than saying that our will is always able to refuse assent.

    Maybe these claims do not seem credible to others. We are back to personal interpretation/reason. And I freely admit that the Protestant is in no better position.

    Let’s pretend my last name is Thomas. What if you asked me, “how is it that you became a Thomas”? I would tell you that I am a Thomas because of genetic male succession and the tradition of passing on the surname. This particular fact about me would not be grounded in the authority of my assertion, but rather in the facts of history. Ironically, this is exactly the way in which we know Apostolic Succession. Yet, to know and believe are two different things–and while it seems silly to not believe in what we know to be the case—to believe requires more than to merely know something. Belief requires action. Thus, for example, the Resurrection is a historical fact. To deny it, one must first not believe in its possibility and therefore make it an object that is beyond what is knowable (Hume). However, you and I believe in the Resurrection not because we have a burning in our bosom but because we know it happened. The Resurrection, an historical reality, gains theological import as the fait accompli as we come to know by faith the mystery of the Incarnation and His paschal ministry

    So, by Apostolic Succession do you mean to say that the bishops did not pass on their ministry from the beginning? Or, are you to mean that what they did was somehow illicit? Therein lies the rub. If the later, we both assume the historical facts (Apostolic Succession) but their import is colored by whether or not we in fact believe that Christ established a visible Church and that His Spirit has had an intimate fashioning in her unfolding until this very day. If what they did was illicit, then the Church was corrupt from the beginning and the Mormons may have the most compelling story of us all.

    Peace

  128. Aaron, (re: #124)

    You wrote:

    That being said, I still do not see where you answered my question: if you were wrong how would you know?

    That was what the last two paragraphs (and especially the last paragraph) of #123 were intended to answer. If the Catholic Church were not the Church Christ founded, we would be able to discover this by discovering that the early Church was not Catholic, and that the Catholic Church of today is not the same Catholic Church of the first millennium. The identity and authority of the Church are located through the motives of credibility, which would not be there (or would point elsewhere), if we were wrong.

    Maybe you could give an example of something the Church began teaching that would make you admit you were wrong. For example: if my church/denomination began ordaining openly gay clergy I would be bound by my conscience to declare that church apostate and thus leave it. What if in 50 years the Catholic Church begins doing the same thing? Or something similar? I, as a Protestant, always reserve the right to prayerfully let my conscience be my guide. In your position, if the bishops/pope declare that clergy can be openly gay then your conscience is thus bound.

    The Church has no authority to teach anything contrary to what has been taught infallibly whether through the ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium. So it is impossible, for example, for the Church to teach that violations of the sixth commandment are now permissible. The Church simply has no authority to teach such a thing. That’s what the gift of infallibility provides, a protection from going against what has already been definitively laid down. For example, some persons are pushing for there to be women priests. But, not only does attempting to ordain a woman [and attempting, as a woman, to receive ordination] incur automatic [latae sententiae] excommunication, but Pope John Paul II stated definitively and infallibly in 1994:

    “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4)

    And the following year, Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, by way of a reply approved by the Pope, confirmed that the teaching had been taught infallibly, as belonging to the deposit of faith. That means that it can never be reversed, even to the day Christ returns on the clouds in glory. Until Christ returns, anyone (including any bishop or bishops, even the pope) who would claim that women can be ordained priests, would be claiming something contrary to the Apostolic deposit.

    So, if (per impossible) a pope or council were to teach something truly (not merely seemingly) contrary to one of the dogmas of the Catholic Church, we would know that this was not authoritative teaching, but heretical. And we would surmise either that the persons relaying this information to us are deceiving us, or that the Magisterium issued such a statement under duress (i.e. with a gun to its head), in which case it is not authoritative. We believe that Christ has endowed His Church with the charism of truth and indefectibility — see Ecclesial Deism. So asking a question like, ‘Would you leave the Church if the Church decided to teach dogmatically that Jesus Christ is not God or that homosexual acts are not gravely sinful?” is something like asking “Would you reject God if He declared that Jesus is no longer His Son or that He now condones homosexual acts” It presupposes a non-Catholic conception of the Church, just as the latter question presupposes a deficient conception of God.

    Also, it seems as though you are saying that you accept the credibility of the claims of the Catholic Church, especially the claim of Apostolic Succession (and thus the authority of the Magisterium) but this seems to just say that these claims seem credible TO YOU.

    I’m wondering if you have read C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man. I recommend the very first chapter, titled “Men Without Chests.” There he deals with two authors (whom he calls Gaius and Titius) who treat all objective claims regarding beauty and morality, as though they are merely statements about oneself. Gaius and Titius write:

    When the man said “This [waterfall] is sublime,” he appeared to be making a remark about the waterfall . . . Actually . . . he was not making a remark about the waterfall, but a remark about his own feelings. What he was saying was really I have feelings associated in my mind with the word “Sublime,” or shortly, I have sublime feelings. …. This confusion is continually present in language as we use it. We appear to be saying something very important about something: and actually we are only saying something about our own feelings.

    Lewis then proceeds to explain what’s wrong with Gaius and Titius’s epistemology. It is a form of skepticism. It reduces objective value claims about objective reality to claims about subjective experience of reality. And your statement just above, seems to try to do the very same thing with my claims about the motives of credibility. I’m not merely saying that the motives of credibility seem credible “to [me].” (Let’s avoid all caps, please.) I’m saying that the motives of credibility objectively point to the Catholic Church being the Church Christ founded. The proper response from you is not to treat that claim as a claim about me, but to evaluate the truth of that claim about objective reality. In other words, the question to investigate is this: Do the motives of credibility truly point to the Catholic Church being the Church Christ founded, or do they point elsewhere?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  129. Andrew, (re: #126),

    You wrote:

    In that case Bryan, I’ve answered your question. I’ve given you a definition along with discussion and examples or where it does and does not happen.

    Where, *exactly* did you answer it? Please try not to make me guess what and where your answer is. If you have already answered my question, and I missed it, could you please simply copy and paste only your answer to my first question: What would schism from the Church (where schism is something distinct from heresy and apostasy) look like today, or, is schism from the Church not even possible in your [Protestant] ecclesiology? Thank you!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  130. Bryan,

    I can try to reiterate and simplify:

    Augustine said of the schismatics that they were those who “in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe.” So what typically happens in a Reformed community today is that someone or some congregation will take on a Reformed body (or group of them as in FV) and declare that a particular Reformed tenet(s) is in error or that the Reformed body is misunderstanding part of Reformation tradition. They create lots of dissension and leave in the end or get kicked out. The FV pastor of Auburn Ave. church (cannot think of his name at the moment) did this – just as the courts of the PCA caught up with him he left the PCA after creating a tremendous amount of discord.

    Often this kind of thing happens over smaller theological issues (i.e. specific ideas of how Christianity applies to culture) but the schismatic decides that he must break company with others and leave or be told to leave. Schism focuses just what Augustine mentions – breaking of brotherly charity and does not necessarily involve heresy, although it could.

    Schism does not necessarily correlate with organizational divisions. That is, a new denomination could form without there being any schism. The most centralized form of ecclesiology is not necessarily the best and oftentimes denominations are created because a smaller organizational entity can serve the purpose of the Church (as that is laid out in Scripture) better than a larger more centralized entity.

    From our standpoint schism, as I have presented it here, happens all the time in the RCC but the RCC just absorbs it and the person or congregation continues to teach whatever it is they want but are still called “Catholic” and are still kept within the RCC as a member/congregation in good standing. One recent convert from Rome called Catholicism “the Hinduism of the West,’ because it can absorb such a great many things. I think this gets to the point of why schism as I describe it does not happen too much in the RCC. I mention this because it brings us again to the importance of definitions. If you want to understand how I see schism you need to know my definition of schism.

  131. Andrew,

    Can we take your example of the FV folks as an example of schism and run with it? I am really trying to understand the Reformed definition of schism and I’m still having some trouble. The short definition from Augustine seems too generic and hard to apply. By that example, it seems we would have to acknowledge the RCC’s right to label Luther a schismatic.

    If the FV faction decides to break off and form their own denomination, would we still label them schismatics?

    Burton

  132. Andrew, (re: #130)

    Thanks for your reply. Here was my question:

    What would schism from the Church (where schism is something distinct from heresy and apostasy) look like today, or, is schism from the Church not even possible in your [Protestant] ecclesiology?

    And here is your reply:

    So what typically happens in a Reformed community today is that someone or some congregation will take on a Reformed body (or group of them as in FV) and declare that a particular Reformed tenet(s) is in error or that the Reformed body is misunderstanding part of Reformation tradition. They create lots of dissension and leave in the end or get kicked out. The FV pastor of Auburn Ave. church (cannot think of his name at the moment) did this – just as the courts of the PCA caught up with him he left the PCA after creating a tremendous amount of discord.

    Often this kind of thing happens over smaller theological issues (i.e. specific ideas of how Christianity applies to culture) but the schismatic decides that he must break company with others and leave or be told to leave. Schism focuses just what Augustine mentions – breaking of brotherly charity and does not necessarily involve heresy, although it could. Schism does not necessarily correlate with organizational divisions. That is, a new denomination could form without there being any schism.

    In your first paragraph, you give the example of Steve Wilkins, and his departure from the PCA in 2008. And in your second paragraph, you say that “schism does not necessarily correlate with organizational divisions. That is, a new denomination could form without there being any schism.” But I do not see why, in your mind, Wilkins’s act of leaving the PCA and joining the CREC is an example of schism from the Church, unless you think that the CREC is in schism from the Church, and is not a branch within the Church. I mean, if when leaving the PCA and joining the CREC, Wilkins and his congregation remained in the Church Christ founded, then how are they in schism from the Church Christ founded? In other words, it seems to me that only if you think that the PCA is in the Church Christ founded and that the CREC is in schism from the Church Christ founded, would the example of Wilkins even be a possible candidate for schism from the Church. So, just to clarify, for the sake of understanding your example: Do you think the CREC is in schism from the Church Christ founded? If not, then how is the Wilkins’ case an example of schism from the Church?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  133. Andrew,

    Your response to Brian addressed my earlier question, which I submitted before your post was up.

    This sounds a bit silly, but are you saying that if a split occurs cordially it is a denomination, but if it occurs with animosity it is schism? Would you be willing to spell out more explicitly the material difference between those divisions which are beneficial (I think what you refer to as organizational divisions) and harmful divisions (schism?)

    Also, it does seem that the early church spoke and acted as though schism was a breaking away from the church, not the splintering of the body into groups that all would have an equal claim to call themselves the church, or at least a valid expression of it. My issue is not whether the RCC has this right, but how the Protestant concept of schism seems to be inherently different from that of the early church.

    Thanks again, all, for your thoughts

    Burton

  134. From our standpoint schism, as I have presented it here, happens all the time in the RCC but the RCC just absorbs it and the person or congregation continues to teach whatever it is they want but are still called “Catholic” and are still kept within the RCC as a member/congregation in good standing. One recent convert from Rome called Catholicism “the Hinduism of the West,’ because it can absorb such a great many things. I think this gets to the point of why schism as I describe it does not happen too much in the RCC.

    They cannot teach “whatever they want.” They can only teach whatever the bishop will tolerate. Some bishops tolerate quite a bit. But the fact that many disagree with the bishop does not mean schism is impossible. It is just defined by the judgement of the local bishop or in rare cases Rome might step in. But there is someone with authority to judge whether this teacher’s errors are bad enough to separate him from the church.

  135. @Andrew:

    Augustine said of the schismatics that they were those who “in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe.” So what typically happens in a Reformed community today is that someone or some congregation will take on a Reformed body (or group of them as in FV) and declare that a particular Reformed tenet(s) is in error or that the Reformed body is misunderstanding part of Reformation tradition.

    This does seem to match the experience of Reformed groups that I saw during the 20 years I was Reformed, and it seems to me that these could not properly be called schisms in Augustine’s sense – precisely because the congregation that separates – or is kicked out – claims that they do not believe what the parent body believes.

    Nor do I think this really helps:

    Often this kind of thing happens over smaller theological issues (i.e. specific ideas of how Christianity applies to culture) but the schismatic decides that he must break company with others and leave or be told to leave.

    because precisely what counts as a ‘smaller theological issue’ is one of the things at stake in ‘believing just what we believe.’ Is, for example, paedobaptism a smaller or greater issue? Is paedocommunion (which was thought a major issue by one congregation in my Reformed experience – and not by the parent body) a smaller of greater issue?

    These matters stem, it seems to me, from the lack of any agreed authority for Protestants – other than the authority of private interpretation. That is, Protestants say that the Bible is their authority – but ‘authority’ must mean the right to decide what the Bible means or teaches in this area, or else it does come down to private interpretation – every man his own Pope.

    jj

  136. …. unless you think that the CREC is in schism from the Church, and is not a branch within the Church.

    I’m not saying anything about the CREC. I’m just noting that if someone is a hell-raiser and creates dissension and discord within the brothers and creates divisions between them, that person is schismatic. This is true whether or not they go and form some other ecclesiological organization or not. So I think the counter question to the Catholic is to consider two cases, one where there is division of belief and practice and charity within an ecclesiastical body but where there is no formal division, and the other where there is unity of belief and practice and charity, but the brothers are in two separate ecclesiastical entities. In which one of these two cases is there schism, or if you think there is schism in both, then which one is the worse case of schism?

    I mean, if when leaving the PCA and joining the CREC, Wilkins and his congregation remained in the Church Christ founded, then how are they in schism from the Church Christ founded?

    I think that they still are in the Church Christ founded, although I would not say this of everyone damages the peace of the Church. Like Augustine said, there can be schismatics who have the same faith and they should be encouraged to make peace.

    And I don’t think that the PCA is the Church Christ founded, but it is part of it. The fact that the congregations in the first century were not part of a hierarchical organization does not mean that they were not all part of the Church. I think you are tilting towards an assumption that the Church must be one organization entity to be the Church that Christ founded.

    Barton said: Would you be willing to spell out more explicitly the material difference between those divisions which are beneficial (I think what you refer to as organizational divisions) and harmful divisions (schism?)

    I think it’s helpful at this point to ask the more general philosophical question as whether powerfully centralized hierarchical institutions are the most efficient at getting anything done. My perspective is that they are highly inefficient and generally it is good to have a balance between local and more centralized control of an institution. So maybe you would disagree but I think in general terms there is always a benefit to decentralizing institutions, be there civil or ecclesiastical. To me the study of the High and Late Medieval Church demonstrates this time and time again. From the Catholic standpoint there can be no formal divisions even if there is little practical unity within the one Church. For us Reformed schism is more related to what Paul and other NT writers talk about when they speak about unity and being of the same mind and so on. But the assumption of the Catholic side is that the Church must be organizationally one and that’s the assumption we are in effect addressing when we speak of schism.

    My issue is not whether the RCC has this right, but how the Protestant concept of schism seems to be inherently different from that of the early church.

    So as you read about the commitment to the purity of the Early Church, so you think that the Fathers would have insisted on organizational unity no matter what the theological and practical divisions within the Church were? I agree that the Early Church could not have possibly foreseen the schism between East and West and then between Catholic and Protestant, but then would they have ever been able to see what happened to the Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation? My perspective is that the Early Church was concerned about both organizational schism as well as actual spiritual schism within a body. So, yes the Reformed perspective on schism is not perfectly aligned with that of the Early Church, but then neither in the perspective of the modern RCC.

  137. John T said: This does seem to match the experience of Reformed groups that I saw during the 20 years I was Reformed, and it seems to me that these could not properly be called schisms in Augustine’s sense….

    Hello John, and sorry for not replying to your last post. I did qualify my point about the Augustine quote to say that this was definitely not all that Augustine said about schismatics. For sure, Augustine had an ecclesiology quite different from that of the Protestant Reformers. But I was just bringing out one aspect of Augustine’s understanding which is an important one, and one where I think that the modern RCC gives much too little emphasis.

    …. precisely because the congregation that separates – or is kicked out – claims that they do not believe what the parent body believes.

    but whether or not they get kicked out they can still damage the purity and peace of the Church, right? This is the sense of schism which I think Augustine is getting at. And in the RCC if someone teaches something false, but does not get kicked out, but continues to stay in the RCC and teach something contrary to the Magisterium, are they not guilty of schism in the more narrow sense that Augustine speaks of in the quote from him I used?

    On paedobaptism and paedocommunion, in general these are smaller issues but of course people can make huge issues out of anything.

    On the authority of the Bible, as state before, the interpretation of Scriptures is never separated from the tradition of the Church (Reformed as well as Catholics have confessions) nor the teaching authority as we see it instituted in the Scriptures and subsequently practiced in the Church immediately after the Apostles. So again we get back to assumptions about what is the Church and what is an appropriate teaching authority.

  138. Andrew, (re: #136)

    Of Wilkins and his congregation you wrote:

    I think that they still are in the Church Christ founded, although I would not say this of everyone damages the peace of the Church.

    If, in your mind, Wilkins and his congregation are still in the Church Christ founded, then Wilkins and his congregation are not an example of persons in schism from the Church, in which case by pointing to the example of Wilkins in comment #130, you haven’t yet answered my first question. My first question in comment #100 is not “What would schism look like?, but rather, What would schism from the Church (where schism is something distinct from heresy and apostasy) look like today, or, is schism from the Church not even possible in your [Protestant] ecclesiology? So, pointing to a case in which the person is not in schism from the Church, is not an answer to my question. I’m asking you what schism from the Church (where schism is something distinct from heresy and apostasy) would like today.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  139. Bryan,

    I’ve been watching this back and forth. I think Andrew M. has defined schism the best that his ecclesiology can bring to bare. If the Church isn’t visible and distinguishable as an entity by someone not in it, I cannot see how schism could imply anything visible under that model. “From” is a hard preposition, because it functions visually. When one uses it they generally can identify two distinguishable points (from “A” to “B”).

    Creating dissension and discord “within the brothers” or being a hell-raiser “within the brothers” implies that one can distinguish both who the brothers are and what it means to be within is.

    Since by definition, schism is to break away, and since the CREC is still a part of the Church Christ founded, they are not schismatics since they are still within the brothers.

    Andrew,

    I think it’s helpful at this point to ask the more general philosophical question as whether powerfully centralized hierarchical institutions are the most efficient at getting anything done. My perspective

    Isn’t this just shifting the conversation. I don’t see how this is relevant to either Burton’s question or the current discussion. Would you agree that there are certain advantages of large entities in that it is much more difficult to bring about change and therefore those entities tend to be much stabler in the long-run? Further, your claim isn’t predicated on the large/small distinction but between the visible/spiritual distinction.

    And to my comment to Bryan, what you are doing in differentiating the organon and the spirit of the Church is to put forward a type of ecclesial docetism. But the Church is not an Angel nor will it ever be. We will always require corporality–even in glory. Yet to assume unity at the level of the spirit but not at the level of the body is to put forward a dichotomy that necessarily always precludes the possibility of anyone knowing whether or not one is in schism from or not. I am no angel, so if schism is merely spiritual, I’ll never know when it happens and thus can never know if one is outside the Church or not (qua schism). Burton’s question is relevant, and I would be interested in your specific response, since he merely wants to know how he can determine if the ecclesial community he stumbles upon is a part of the Church Christ founded or not and not some theory about hierarchy or not. In fact, the Church Christ founded could be a small, local congregation and it would still be possible to be in schism from her in the Catholic sense.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  140. Bryan,

    You are asking me about formal organizational divisions (between PCA and CREC in this particular case). But the primary meaning of “schism” in the OED is a rent or a division. This is the sense of the term that is transliterated as “schisma” in the NT and the way I’m using it. You are asking me about the relationship between formal ecclesiastical bodies which reflects a secondary meaning (see the OED) of the word which is a formal division. The concern of of the NT is the primary sense of the term, while that that of the RCC is the secondary sense. There are many references to lack of unity and charity in the NT and warnings against schism, but it is not a matter of formal ecclesiastical separation that is of central concern in the Scriptures.

    So I’ve given you some examples of what “schisma” look like in the original sense of the term, and you want me to tell you what it would look like in terms of the relationship of between Protestant ecclesiastical bodies. You are looking for an explanation of a Protestant conception utilizing Roman Catholic taxonomies. But I cannot give you an all abiding rule that explains the outworking of schisma (primary sense) in terms of organizational unity or lack thereof. You have to understand Protestantism using Protestant classifications, not Roman Catholic ones.

    And I still think my question to Burton is apropos here. What is the bigger problem – 1) formal separation where there is no schism in the biblical sense of the term, or 2) actual spiritual division between the brothers that is not manifest in a formal separation?

  141. Andrew, (re: #140)

    Appealing to the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to determine what is and is not schism in or from the Church, is not theologically ‘neutral.’ It assumes that those editors have more authority than do the leaders of the Church to determine what is and is not schism in or from the Church. And since dictionary editors determine the meanings of terms by their manner of usage in the broader society, appealing to the OED to determine what ‘schism’ means in the Church assumes that how terms are most commonly used in the broader society is what they must mean in the Church. Implicit in that methodology is a denial that the Church has any authority to determine what theological terms mean in her own theology. It would entail, for example, that if the primary sense of the word ‘marriage’ in our society comes to be a commitment of love between any number of persons of any sex, then this is what the term must mean in theology. If the primary sense of the word ‘heresy’ in our society comes to be any form of belief that goes against what is widely accepted, then some of the Church’s doctrines would become ‘heresy.’ Appealing to the dictionary to determine what schism is is like taking a poll to determine what heresy is. It assumes that doctrine is determined by a democracy of the present society as a whole, including both believers and unbelievers. I have written about the non-neutrality (i.e. question-begging nature) of appealing to dictionaries and lexicons as a way of doing theology, in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.” But, since Protestants have only an invisible Church, and since no ‘branch’ has the authority to determine for all the other branches what is heresy or what is schism, you are left with no option but to appeal to dictionaries, and hence to popular usage, to answer theological questions such as what is schism.

    But, I think your answer to my first question is clear from your most recent comment. In my first question (in #100) I asked:

    What would schism from the Church (where schism is something distinct from heresy and apostasy) look like today, or, is schism from the Church not even possible in your [Protestant] ecclesiology?

    Your answer is that schism from the Church (where schism is something distinct from heresy and apostasy) is not even possible in Protestant ecclesiology. And I agree that in Protestant ecclesiology, schism from the Church (where schism is something distinct from heresy and apostasy) is not even possible.

    In my second question (in #100), I asked:

    Why did they [i.e. St. Cyprian, St. Optatus, and St. Augustine] see Novatianism and Donatism as schisms from the Church, rather than as mere denominations or ‘branches’ within the Church? Were these saints wrong about this, or, if they were right, why were Novatianism and Donatism schisms from the Church while Reformed denominations (and/or other Protestant ecclesial communities) are not schisms from the Church?

    Your answer in #117 is “I agree that the Church Fathers were not wrong to insist that the Donatists stay in the Church because both sides professed the same faith.” Notice that this answer acknowledges that there is such a thing as schism from the Church. The problem with this answer is that it does not fit with your answer to my first question. If schism from the Church is not possible in Protestant ecclesiology, and yet the Church Fathers were “not wrong to insist that the Donatists stay in the Church because both sides professed the same faith,” then it follows that the Church Fathers did not hold to Protestant ecclesiology. It also follows that you think it is “not wrong” to hold a Catholic ecclesiology and not to hold a Protestant ecclesiology. Presumably, your response is that visible (institutional) unity is not wrong, but is not required in Scripture. Therefore, it was not wrong for the Church Fathers to insist that the Donatists stay in the Church because both sides professed the same faith,” but that insistence was not grounded in Scripture. Not only that, but you would say, presumably, that the Church Fathers were wrong to think that the Donatists were, by their separation from the Catholics, separating from the Church. In your view, I take it, the Catholics and the Donatists were both in the [invisible] Church as branches within the Church, even though they were not in communion with each other. Is that an accurate description of your position?

    Regarding my third and fourth questions in #100, you have not yet answered those.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  142. Aaron G … if my church/denomination began ordaining openly gay clergy I would be bound by my conscience to declare that church apostate and thus leave it. What if in 50 years the Catholic Church begins doing the same thing? Or something similar? I, as a Protestant, always reserve the right to prayerfully let my conscience be my guide.

    Aaron, what you articulating is the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of individual conscience,which is the doctrine upon which the Protestant doctrine of sola/solo scriptura is built. What you are claiming is that the church that you belong must teach what your conscience guides you to believe, rather than submitting to what the church teaches, and letting the church form your conscience. You are claiming the right to dissent from church teaching, as long as your dissent is “prayerful”. You, and a millions of other Protestants, claim the right to dissent from church teaching, as long as the dissent is prayerful, and that is exactly why the world has thousands upon thousands of Protestant sects that teach contradictory and irreconcilable doctrine. When the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience becomes the foundation of one’s ecclesiology all sorts of bad fruit becomes manifest in reality – thousands upon thousands of divided sects, the practice of church shopping, the founding of personal churches, the loss of any understanding of what it means to be orthodox in one’s beliefs, etc.

    You claim that you “reserve the right to prayerfully let my conscience be my guide.” But who gave you the right to sit in judgment of the church that Christ founded? The “right” that you are claiming is nowhere to be found in the scriptures, and assuming such a “right” puts you completely at odds with Christ. Christ founded a visible church with bishops, priests and deacons holding offices within his church, and he commanded that his followers must listen to his church or be excommunicated:

    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matt 18:15-18

    The Protestant doctrine of the primacy of individual conscience makes this teaching by Christ utterly meaningless. The individual Protestant always reserves the “right” to judge the church, and if the church doesn’t conform her teachings to the individual Protestant’s beliefs, the Protestant can always exercise the right to found his or her own personal denomination that teaches exactly what he or she wants to hear – as long as he or she is “prayerful” when the new sect of Protestantism is established.

    Bryan Cross: I mean, if when leaving the PCA and joining the CREC, Wilkins and his congregation remained in the Church Christ founded, then how are they in schism from the Church Christ founded?

    Anderw McCallum: I think that they still are in the Church Christ founded …

    Here we have an example of two Protestant sects, the PCA and the CREC, that teach contradictory doctrine. One of these sects has to be teaching heresy, because it is impossible that both sects can be teaching orthodox doctrine. What Andrew is claiming it that a man or a woman can found a new sect that teaches novel doctrines, and that new sect is still in the Church Christ founded. How is that scriptural? It isn’t scriptural, but that is a consequence of the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience.

    John Calvin was a cafeteria Catholic that took control of a church and was given the “right” by the civil government of Geneva to excommunicate anyone that disagreed with John Calvin. What if I became a cafeteria Catholic and founded my own personal church that taught unheard of doctrinal novelties, just like John Calvin did. What if I claimed the authority to excommunicate anyone that disagreed with me? Would my new personal church be part of the church that Christ founded? If even heretics can be part of the church that Christ founded, then anyone can claim to be part of the church that Christ founded.

  143. Burton: Given the wide disparity of doctrine and practice within Protestantism, how is the relative lack of disparity within Reformed circles relevant?

    Good question, but I would like examine the contention that within the “Reformed family of Churches” that there is a “relative lack of disparity”. Andrew made that claim when he wrote “My observation is that there is very little substantive difference.” Bryan points out that there are “at least 44 Reformed denominations, just in the US.” How many Reformed sects are there in the world? Wikipedia gives this answer:

    The Reformed churches are a group of Protestant denominations characterized by Calvinist doctrines. They are descended from the Swiss Reformation inaugurated by Huldrych Zwingli but developed more coherently by Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger and especially John Calvin. In the sixteenth century the movement spread to most of Europe, aligning with national governments in most cases, though several of these national or specific language based churches later expanded to worldwide denominations. There are now many different reformed churches: a 1999 survey found 746 Reformed denominations worldwide
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformed_churches

    How many Lutheran denominations are there in the world? The Lutheran World Federation, an organization with membership of 95% of all Lutheran denominations worldwide has this information on its home page:

    The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 145 member churches in 79 countries all over the world representing over 70 million Christians.
    http://www.lutheranworld.org/lwf/

    If we take the 5% of the Lutheran denominations that don’t belong to the Lutheran World Federation (e.g. Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Synod) and add them to the 145 churches in the Lutheran World Federation, my math calculates that there are 153 different Lutheran denominations in the world.

    Worldwide there are 746 Reformed denominations compared to 153 Lutheran denominations. Andrew McCallum wants me to believe that within the 746 Reformed denominations that there is less doctrinal division than is found within the 153 Lutheran denominations. I am not buying it.

    I once asked Andrew McCallum in another CTC thread that if the Reformed church that he is currently a member of began to teach what he considered to be false doctrine, did he reserve the right to leave that church and go join another church. Andrew confirmed that he reserved the right to go church shopping under those conditions. (Andrew has named the PCA as his current church in his post # 94) . Presumably, Andrew would determine that the PCA has no teaching authority, and then church shop among one of the 745 other Reformed denominations. Which makes Bryan’s four questions to Andrew in his post # 100 quite relevant. I would especially like to see Andrew give a clear answer to this question posed by Bryan in his third point:

    If only the “family of Reformed churches” is the Church Christ founded, then exactly which Reformed denominations are in the Church Christ founded, and which are out, and what is the principled and authoritative basis by which those that are in are distinguished from those that are out?

    If the PCA, could, as a theoretical possibility, begin teaching heresy, how would I, or Andrew McCallum, or anyone else know that to be the case? How am I supposed to know which of the 746 Reformed sects does not teach heresy? Am I the only one that thinks that at least some of these Reformed sects are divided from the other Reformed sects over important doctrinal matters?

  144. Bryan,

    My comments on schism are not primarily focused on critiquing you or the Catholic Church for using “schism” the way you do. I understand and expect that you would use the term this way. What I am trying to do is explain why I use the term “schism” the way I do since you asked me about what schism looked like from MY perspective. Concerning the OED, we are utilizing the English language to communicate here and there are rules for how words are to be used. The OED is the standard English dictionary upon which others have been formed so it’s not a bad place to start. And it includes concise definition of theological terms. Also, as I pointed out, the Greek term “schisma” from which we get the English term is used to describe brotherly separation and division outside of the context of any formal ecclesiastical separation.. The English term, the Greek term, and the biblical usage of the term point to the fact that we can rightfully speak of schism without necessarily implying anything about separation of ecclesiastical governing bodies.

    Rather than say that schism in the second sense of the OED term (what I find fleshed out in the Catholic Encyclopedia and other Catholic sources) is not possible in the Reformed churches, let’s say that this concept of schism is not necessarily at issue in the Reformed churches. And likewise the primary meaning of schism in the OED (what the Scriptures generally speak of ) is not necessarily at issue in the Roman Catholic congregations.

    Your answer in #117 is “I agree that the Church Fathers were not wrong to insist that the Donatists stay in the Church because both sides professed the same faith.” Notice that this answer acknowledges that there is such a thing as schism from the Church.

    No. It acknowledges that there should be no organizational schism/division where there is no good reason for it. Augustine was convinced that the Donatists were of the same faith even if they did not think so. This again brings up my Manichean example. What if those who wanted to separate were affirming Manichean beliefs rather than Donatist beliefs? Would Augustine have chased after the professors of Manicheanism insisting that Catholic and Manichean could all be part of the same Church?

  145. Andrew, (re: #144)

    Thanks for your reply. So, here’s where we stand with regard to the four questions I asked in comment #100:

    BC: First, because, as St. Jerome and St. Augustine explain, there is a difference between heresy and schism, what would schism from the Church look like? That is, if, as you claim, every Reformed denomination is not a schism, then what would distinguish a schism from the Church from every other Reformed denomination? Or is schism from the Church [as distinct from heresy or apostasy] not even possible in your ecclesiology?

    AM: Schism from the Church [as distinct from heresy and apostasy] is not possible in Reformed ecclesiology.

    BC: Second, St. Cyprian wrote against the Novatian schism, and St. Optatus and St. Augustine wrote against the Donatist schism. Why did they [i.e. St. Cyprian, St. Optatus, and St. Augustine] see Novatianism and Donatism as schisms from the Church, rather than as mere denominations or ‘branches’ within the Church? Were these saints wrong about this, or, if they were right, why were Novatianism and Donatism schisms from the Church while Reformed denominations (and/or other Protestant ecclesial communities) are not schisms from the Church?

    AM: The Church Fathers were wrong to think there is such a thing as schism from the Church [as distinct from heresy or apostasy]. The Donatists and Novatians were not in schism from the Church. There was simply unnecessary institutional separation, but this was not schism from the Church.

    BC: Third, is what you are referring to as “the family of Reformed churches” the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church which Christ founded, or are all Protestant traditions (besides the Reformed tradition) also part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that Christ founded? If only the “family of Reformed churches” is the Church Christ founded, then exactly which Reformed denominations are in the Church Christ founded, and which are out, and what is the principled and authoritative basis by which those that are in are distinguished from those that are out? But if other Protestant traditions besides the Reformed tradition are part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, then why is the present situation not a situation of schism between those communities (e.g. Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.) on the one hand, and the Reformed denominations on the other hand?

    AM: [Has not yet been answered.]

    BC: Fourth, if the Reformed denominations were in fact presently all schismatic sects, having splintered and fragmented over the past five hundred years into many distinct entities since their sixteenth century schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded, how would you know? How would the present situation be any different? Would the difference be that the Catholic Church would teach in accord with your [present] interpretation of Scripture, while the Reformed denominations would teach contrary to your [present] interpretation of Scripture, or would it be some other difference?

    AM: [Has not yet been answered.]

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  146. Goodness Bryan! You are back where we first started from! Do you want me to go back and give you exactly the same answers I did before? Should we go back around the circle one more time?

    You never even made an attempt to reply to the relevant examples I gave you. As a for instance, I asked you about the biblical conception of schism is and you never even tried to engage. Do you think this is irrelevant? As so many times in the past I have interacted with you, you try to judge Protestantism through the conceptual lens of Catholicism and when I point it out to you, you return back to the original question as if I never said anything.

  147. Andrew, (re: #146)

    You wrote:

    You are back where we first started from! Do you want me to go back and give you exactly the same answers I did before?

    No, not at all. You claimed in #117 that my third and fourth questions (in #100) were loaded questions. I explained in #118 why my third and fourth questions (in #100) are not loaded questions. They are questions that do not require presupposing anything uniquely Catholic; they are questions that anyone deliberating between Protestantism and the Catholic Church should seek to answer, prior to deciding between them.

    You never even made an attempt to reply to the relevant examples I gave you. As a for instance, I asked you about the biblical conception of schism is and you never even tried to engage.

    As I explained in #118, I’ll answer your questions after receiving your answers to my four questions. I think it is very important in dialogue to be disciplined, focused, and methodical, doing only one thing at a time in an organized fashion. Otherwise, it leads to confusion.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  148. No, not at all. You claimed in #117 that my third and fourth questions (in #100) were loaded questions. I explained in #118 why my third and fourth questions (in #100) are not loaded questions.

    And then in #122 I asked you for a clarification and said I would withdraw the loaded question statement depending on how you answered. But you did not respond with any clarification.

    As I explained in #118, I’ll answer your questions after receiving your answers to my four questions

    Bryan – I’ve answered your questions partly by trying to get you thinking differently about schism and the different conceptions of it between between Catholic and Protestant communions. But you did not like the way I was trying to answer your questions and just went back to the same way of conceptualizing of them. There is nothing I can do about you refusing to address my explanations, but it just does not make sense to go back and say the same thing I already said to you in the beginning of this discussion.

    So again as an example, you ask about how schism would look in the Reformed communions and I answer you in terms of the primary meaning of schism and you fire back more questions about the secondary meaning of schism. If I cannot get you out of that conceptual box I cannot answer your question. Believe me Bryan, I’m trying to explain this to you, but you are not willing to listen to an explanation in a different conceptual framework. So I have to give up with unfortunately you still being confused as to how the Reformed think about the matter.

  149. Andrew, (re: #148)

    You wrote:

    But you did not respond with any clarification.

    What I’m looking for are your answers to my third and fourth questions in comment #100. If there is something about the questions that is unclear to you, just let me know and I’ll try to clarify the questions. What exactly, about the third and fourth questions, is unclear to you?

    But you did not like the way … you refusing to address … If I cannot get you out of that conceptual box … you are not willing to listen … you still being confused ….

    As I explained in #125, in asking you these four questions, I’m not asking you anything about me. So all these statements about me are not relevant to my third and fourth questions. You have answered the first two questions (thank you), but I’m still waiting for your answers to my third and fourth questions.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  150. Bryan,

    I’m not answering about you, I’m answering about me. It was MY perspective that I was trying to get you to understand. I answered you very precisely on #1 and #2 and waiting for your clarification on #3 and #4 (which never came although I spelled out what I was asking clearly).

    You did not like my answers to #1 and #2 and kept ignoring my points about my perspective and refusing to answer questions which were meant to help you understand MY perspective. So all I can do is, like times before, just give up. If you did not like the way I answered the first time it’s not going to help to try a second time that I can see. Pity….

  151. Andrew, (re: #150)

    You wrote:

    I answered you very precisely on #1 and #2 and waiting for your clarification on #3 and #4 (which never came although I spelled out what I was asking clearly).

    I appreciate your answers to my first and second questions; I don’t agree with them, but I am thankful that you were willing to state your answers to them. I’ve read through all your comments in this thread, and haven’t found what is unclear to you about my third and fourth questions. Perhaps I missed it. Would you clarify exactly what about my third and fourth questions is unclear to you?

    … and refusing to answer questions which were meant to help you understand MY perspective.

    If you want me to understand your perspective, the best way to do that is not to ask me questions (since asking me questions means you want to understand my position), but to answer mine. That will help me better understand your position. I’m glad you have answered my first two questions. If you don’t know the answers to my third and fourth questions, you could ask the other elders of your session, or some Reformed theologians (e.g. Horton, Sproul). It seems to me that being a PCA Ruling Elder yourself, you should be prepared to give an answer to questions such as my third and fourth questions (in comment #100). Even if you presently don’t understand those questions or know how to answer them, you should find out how to answer them, so that you will be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a defense of what you believe.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  152. Bryan said:

    It seems to me that being a PCA Ruling Elder yourself, you should be prepared to give an answer to questions such as my third and fourth questions. Even if you presently don’t understand those questions or know how to answer them, you should find out how to answer them.

    In my experience in the last year, PCA elders dont care to engage all that much with my questions. Especially when they are hard questions. When it comes down to it, the basic response to my conversion to Catholicism has been, “why don’t you just become Anglican… anything but Catholic!” and when that fails the answer is silence. I will say though that Andrew is the exception to this. His comments here at CTC show he is willing to thoughtfully engage, and I really appreciate that Andrew. You are doing the job a lot of Reformed people refuse to do, so kudos. But having said that, you really should answer Bryan’s questions, no matter what the answer is. Don’t be afraid of the truth wherever it leads, and don’t let your #1 instinct be to “defend”. Answer the questions honestly and logically and let it be. The questions were just way too simple for hemming and hawing on your part. My 2 cents.

  153. David – agreed that the most common reaction from PCA elders, in particular, is an unwillingness to ‘go there.’ I am just speaking from experience. I have many friends that have left the PCA and became Catholic. Typically their experience is an initial pouring forth of the ‘typical’ objections like a) worshiping Mary, b) not trusting the bible etc. When those are addressed by the pending convert and the conversation moves towards authority and ecclesiology the conversation pretty much comes to an end as the elders, at least from experience that I have collected, don’t want to go there.

    I have several friends that wrote their sessions thoughtful explanations and were promised a response but those responses never materialized.

  154. Thank you all. I have been following this thread for quite a while, and learning much. My sincere appreciation, but don’t send me the test. I am not sure I am yet up to it.

    While my experience coming out of Evangelical Pentecostalism was different, in that it had different questions (we certainly had a less explicit vision of “church” or of “sacrament” than did either Catholics or Calvinists), in another sense it was the same. Questions, searches, answers, and – which seems quite often identical for those of us on the road to Rome – an ever clearer sense of the truth of the Catholic Church. Grace and reason working together to recognize a particular end, and once achieved, a new beginning which unfolds moment by moment, day by day.

    I also recognized Sean’s last statement: “were promised a response but those responses never materialized.” In my case, I was asked if I was joining the Roman Catholic Church to save it. I answered that I was joining the Roman Catholic Church to be saved. At that point I was finally written off.

    Just in case, St Dismas please pray for me.

    Cordially,

    dt

  155. BC: First, because, as St. Jerome and St. Augustine explain, there is a difference between heresy and schism, what would schism from the Church look like? That is, if, as you claim, every Reformed denomination is not a schism, then what would distinguish a schism from the Church from every other Reformed denomination? Or is schism from the Church [as distinct from heresy or apostasy] not even possible in your ecclesiology?

    AM: Schism from the Church [as distinct from heresy and apostasy] is not possible in Reformed ecclesiology.

    1. The 746 Reformed sects are not in schism with the church that Christ founded.

    2. The PCA and the CREC are not separated from the church that Christ founded, even though the PCA and the CREC are divided over doctrine. As a minimum, that means either the PCA or the CREC is teaching heresy.

    Conclusion: teaching heresy does not separate one from the church Christ founded, as long as the heresy is taught within a Reformed sect.

    3. The Reformed sects teach their version of the doctrine of One Saved, Always Saved . If one is truly one of the elect, and a member of a Reformed sect, apostasy is a sin that is impossible to commit.

    Conclusion: neither schism, nor heresy, nor apostasy are sins that the members of Reformed sects need to worry about committing.

    Question. Why do the scriptures warn against committing the sins of schism, heresy, and apostasy?

  156. Andrew M,

    It seems to me Bryan’s question(s) can be reduced to this: Do you believe the Bible is perspicuous (i.e. Formally Sufficient) on ecclesiology?

    If ‘No’, that would entail – aside from denying Sola Scriptura – that ecclesiology is a ‘non-essential’. But surely such a thing would have dubious consequences (unless I’m missing something) considering that ecclesiology touches directly upon Christology and Salvation. (This is, ultimately, why Catholics are so big on ecclesiology.)

    If ‘Yes’, then you should have no problem discerning what Reformed camp has this ‘essential’ correct, as well as know and point out to your fellow Protestants (for the good of their soul) that they are in serious error on an ‘essential’ of the Faith.

    If you’re too busy at the moment to give a more full response, I’d appreciate a simple Yes or No.

  157. Nick,

    I’m not sure why you are making the connection to sola scriptura here. When we say something is clear in Scripture we don’t mean that everything in Scripture is clear. WCF 1:7 speaks directly to this. In biblical terms both Paul and Peter both speak to things which are elementary and things that are difficult to understand.

    On ecclesiology there are things which are clear and there are things which are not clear. As an example, one of those things that is not plain is the distinction between elder and bishop. This is one of the intramural debates within Protestantism. But the distinction between Presbyterian and Episcopal ecclesiologies s is not a matter that is at the heart of the Christian faith. The connection between ecclesiology and salvation is there as you say, but this fact is not altered by whether we worship in an Anglican or a Presbyterian communion.

    One of the questions I had for Bryan earlier in the thread is whether Roman Catholic ecclesiology is perspicuous. It seems to me that many converts to Catholicism make the judgment that the Roman Catholic Church can be be clearly known by tracing the current RCC back to Apostolic times. Of course to us Protestants this is not clear. And actually for the EO it’s not clear either.

  158. Bryan (re: 151),

    OK, thanks for the conversation.

    Cheers….

  159. Burton,

    I hope that helps answer the questions you raised in #86, #101, #131, and #133.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  160. Andrew wrote,

    “And even Catholic historians point out that at Trent the biggest problem even before dealing with the important theological issues was the moral backwardness of the RCC clergy going right to the top of the hierarchy.”

    Morality was the very question before Augustine in the Donatist controversy. It was the Donatists who held that “moral backwardness” caused the death of the Catholic Church, and Augustine who took the opposite position, putting such questions as the following to the Donatists: “if all men throughout all the world were of the [bad] character which you most vainly charge them with, what has the chair done to you of the Roman Church, in which Peter sat, and which Anastasius [Benedict XVI] fills today; or the chair of the Church of Jerusalem, in which James once sat, and in which John [Fouad] sits today, with which we are united in catholic unity, and from which you have severed yourselves by your mad fury? Why do you call the apostolic chair a seat of the scornful? If it is on account of the men whom you believe to use the words of the law without performing it, do you find that our Lord Jesus Christ was moved by the Pharisees, of whom He says, ‘They say, and do not,’ to do any despite to the seat in which they sat? Did He not commend the seat of Moses, and maintain the honor of the seat, while He convicted those that sat in it? For He says, ‘They sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not’ (Matthew 23:2-3). If you were to think of these things, you would not, on account of men whom you calumniate, do despite to the apostolic seat, in which you have no share” (Answer to Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 51:118). “[W]hen such men [as the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees] sit in the seat of Moses, for which the Lord preserved its due honor, why do you blaspheme the apostolic chair on account of men whom, justly or unjustly, you compare with these?” (Against Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 73:162) For “not even on account of those Pharisees, with whom you compare us,—not from any motives of prudence, but from malice,—did our Lord enjoin that the seat of Moses should be deserted, which seat He doubtless meant to be a figure of His own; for He said indeed that they who sat in Moses’ seat were ever saying and not doing, but warns the people to do what they say, and not to do what they do, lest the chair, with all its holiness, should be deserted, and the unity of the flock divided through the faithlessness of the shepherds” (Against Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 61:138).

    The office of the teaching authority of the Church stands even if the individual teachers who fill those offices fail. In Letter 209, Augustine talks about a bishop that he had chosen for ordination and who had been accused “of intolerable tyranny, extortion, and various kinds of oppression and abuse.” Augustine had his part in seeing to it that the man retain his bishopric while yet being barred from exercising his ministry under circumstances so scandalous. Augustine was afraid that an appeal that had been made on behalf of this bishop to the Pope was going to result in his full reinstatement, and Augustine’s threatened recourse is to simply go into early retirement over what he saw as being his own failure when he had hastily installed the unworthy bishop in the first place. He said, “I do not blame the people of Fussala for pouring into your ears their justifiable complaint of me that I imposed on them a man of whom I had no experience, or at least one lacking the stability of years, who caused them so much trouble.” Imagine yourself being a layman of Fussala, and Augustine had selected an unqualified bishop to preside over you. And after hearing of the numerous sins of this bishop, all Augustine did was to remove him from the ministry while letting him retain his honor as a bishop. Imagine the humility and the love that it requires to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), when, to what may be your great indignation, even the best of bishops in Saint Augustine exercised such leniency over one who had been accused “of revolting immorality.” Would this have been enough for you?

    Augustine also drew attention to what Cyprian wrote about certain Catholic bishops: “Cyprian says in his letter of such bishops of his own time, his own colleagues, and remaining in communion with him, ‘While they had brethren starving in the Church, they tried to amass large sums of money, they took possession of estates by fraudulent proceedings, they multiplied their gains by accumulated usuries’” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 4, Ch. 9:13). Touching on this constant theme of the Donatist controversy, Augustine says to the Donatists, “if the wicked pollute the good in unity, then even Cyprian himself already found no Church to which he could be joined. But if the wicked do not infect the good in unity, then the sacrilegious Donatist has no ground to set before himself for separation” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 7, Ch. 54:103).

    The chaff within the visible Church on account of grave moral sin greatly outnumbers the wheat, and this is no disturbance to Augustine’s mind. He writes, “Of this countless multitude are found to be… the crowd which within the Church afflicts the hearts of the saints, who are so few in comparison with so vast a host” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 7, Ch. 51:99).

    “As a believer, he would be taken to be cherished in the bosom of the Catholic Church, and would be taught in due course the conduct required of him. He would see many who do not practise the required duties; but this would not shake his faith, even though these people should belong to the same Church and partake of the same sacraments as himself. He would understand that few share in the inheritance of God, while many partake in its outward signs; that few are united in holiness of life, and in the gift of love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us, which is a hidden spring that no stranger can approach; and that many join in the solemnity of the sacrament, which he that eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks judgment to himself, while he who neglects to eat it shall not have life in him, and so shall never reach eternal life. He will understand, too, that the good are called few as compared with the multitude of the evil, but that as scattered over the world there are very many growing among the tares, and mixed with the chaff, till the day of harvest and of purging” (Against Faustus, Bk. 13, No. 16).

    “You have been afraid of the comparison of your numbers with the multitude throughout the world; and therefore, in order to win praise for the scantiness of your party, you have sought to bring in the comparison of yourself walking in the narrow path. Would to God that you had betaken yourself not to its praise, but to the path itself! Truly you would have seen that there was the same scantiness in the Church of all nations; but that the righteous are said to be few in comparison with the multitude of the unrighteous, just as, in comparison with the chaff, there may be said to be few grains of corn in the most abundant crop, and yet these very grains of themselves, when brought into a heap, fill the barn. For the followers of Maximianus themselves will surpass you in this scantiness of number, if you think that righteousness consists in this” (Against Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 45:106).

    But Augustine leaves us with this encouragement:

    “It is the same Church which is occasionally obscured, and, as it were, beclouded by the multitude of offences, when sinners bend the bow that they may shoot under the darkened moon at the upright in heart. But even at such a time the Church shines in those who are most firm in their attachment to her” (Letter 93:30).

    May God bless you and your loved ones!
    Pete

  161. Andrew, I wish you would not shut down on this. I checked the site this morning at 6:00 in anticipation of your response to Bryan and you have just given up? Argh. Then you said some problematic things as well.

    “But the distinction between Presbyterian and Episcopal ecclesiologies s is not a matter that is at the heart of the Christian faith.”

    So says who? It could be that it is quite close to the heart of it. You are willing to declare this fiat while at the same time I think you would say it is a fallible fiat.

    “The connection between ecclesiology and salvation is there as you say, but this fact is not altered by whether we worship in an Anglican or a Presbyterian communion.”

    Thus says… who? Although the Catholic Church agrees with you in the sense that worshiping in either of those two communions will put one in the same relation to the Church.

    I wish you would not bow out with Bryan, at this point, for anyone who has read all the comments, I think it leaves things hanging unnesesarily.

    -David M.

  162. Andrew wrote,

    “I think we need to working definition of schism. Augustine said of the schismatics that they were those who “in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe.” Obviously Augustine said much more about schism but this is what is at the heart of the matter. Schism is created by those who create havoc and dissention in the Church by their ungodly and self-centered actions. And generally it’s not hard to tell who is and who is not doing this.”

    For Augustine, the mere physical separation itself is wicked. He speaks of “the most grievous sin that is involved in separation itself” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 1, Ch. 13:21). And he lauds the faithful among the ancient Israelites when compared with the Donatists because “they did not withdraw themselves by bodily separation from their union with the people” and “they did not separate themselves by a physical departure or withdrawal, nor did they seek out another people among whom they could live” (Letter 108). If “obstinate persistence” is added to the separation, schism becomes heresy. He said that the Donatists “pertinaciously adhered to their dissension and turned the schism into a heresy” (On Heresies, 69:1), and that “we do not lay any charge against you but the one of schism, which by your obstinate persistence in it you have now made heresy” (Letter 87, 4).

    He says…

    “…we must distinguish between the case of those who unwittingly join the ranks of these heretics, under the impression that they are entering the true Church of Christ, and those who know that there is no other Catholic Church save that which, according to the promise, is spread abroad throughout the whole world, and extends even to the utmost limits of the earth […] [T]hose who are baptized there through ignorance, thinking that it is the true Church of Christ, are guilty of less sin in comparison than these, though even they are wounded by the impiety of schism; nor do they escape a grievous hurt, because others suffer even more. For when it is said to certain men, ‘It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you,’ it is not meant that the men of Sodom shall escape torment, but only that the others shall be even more grievously tormented” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 1, Chs. 4:5 & 5:6).

    Here we see that even for those who, “through ignorance,” think that they are entering the “true Church,” they are yet still “wounded by the impiety of schism” when they see that they are separated from the Catholic Church but choose to remain in what they think is the true Church. They will not escape torment. :(

    “Let us throw ourselves together on our knees before the Lord. Do you share with us our unity; let us share with you your contrition and let charity cover the multitude of sins… Be at peace with us, brothers. We love you” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 2, Ch. 13:18; Letter 105, Ch. 4:13).

    With love in Christ,
    Pete

  163. Pete,

    Fantastic quotes from Augustine! ISTM that if Protestants are willing to see the Donatist schism as, in fact, an unjustified/irresponsible schism within the “early church” in light of Augustine’s clear testimony that personal immorality among the clergy can never be used as a valid pretense for division within the Church; then it becomes very, very difficult to resort to accusations of similar immorality at the time of the Reformation as a valid reason for division in the 16th century. Here at CTC, our Protestant friends generally employ two broad lines of objection to the Catholic faith: bad Catholics and bad theology. What you have demonstrated by your last post is that the former (at least for St. Augustine whom so many Protestants champion) simply cannot stand as a valid obstacle to ecclesial reunion (nor should it have ever been the basis for such). Only the later consideration (bad theology-heterodoxy-doctrinal truth) could possibly provide a justifiable basis for rejection of the Catholic claims.

    It would be good if Catholics and Protestants could come to agree on this point so that the division between us might be reduced/isolated to the theological/doctrinal. The bad-praxis card often seems to be played whenever theological debate begins to reach the point of brass tacks (authority, ecclesiology, etc); and that’s a shame because it just muddies the discussion with an issue that ought to have been put to rest (unless we want to say that the Donatists were right to reject ecclesial unity based on immorality among bishops/priests and that Augustine was wrong to defend against the same – but how many Protestants are willing to openly defend the Donatist position against the authority of the great St. Augustine I wonder?).

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  164. Pete & Andrew,

    The Church Fathers’ teaching on schism from the Church has no authority with Andrew, because in Andrew’s opinion, very soon after the death of the Apostles, the Church Fathers fell into the error of thinking that Christ founded His Church as a visible unity having visible unity essentially, not accidentally. The Church Fathers, according to Andrew, did not understand that the Church Christ founded was only an invisible Church that might or might not, at any given time, manifest visible unity. Because of this error on their part, they mistakenly treated schism from the [accidentally] unified institution known as the Catholic Church as though it was schism from the Church Christ founded, when in fact [for Andrew] it was only schism within the invisible Church Christ founded, both parties always remaining within the Church Christ founded.

    How do we know the Church Fathers were wrong about schism from the Church? According to Andrew, we know that they were wrong about this because we don’t find spelled out clearly in Scripture either (1) the essential visible unity of the Church or (2) the error of schism from the Church (as something distinct from heresy and apostasy). And if Christ had wanted to found a visible Church with essential visible unity, He would have made sure to make that explicit in the New Testament, along with the error of schism from the Church (as something distinct from heresy and apostasy). But since those things are not spelled out explicitly in Scripture or at least indisputably, therefore we can know not only that they are not part of the Apostolic deposit, but also that when the Church Fathers (e.g. St. Cyprian, St. Optatus, St. Augustine, etc.) teach against schism from the Church, they show themselves to have fallen into error about the nature of the Church Christ founded, having illicitly added essential visible unity to the ecclesiology given in the Apostolic deposit.

    From the Catholic point of view, the problematic assumptions in your [Andrew] argument by which you conclude that the Church Fathers were wrong about schism from the Church, are your assumptions that (1) unless something is spelled out clearly in Scripture, it isn’t part of the Apostolic deposit, and (2) the teaching of the Church Fathers does not provide the Tradition in which and by which to interpret Scripture rightly, but instead, one’s own interpretation of Scripture alone is the criterion by which to determine whether what the Fathers say is a corruption or an accretion. These fundamental Protestant assumptions are doing all the work (behind the scenes) in preventing appeals to the Fathers to serve as evidence in support of Catholic ecclesiology. And this leaves us at a seemingly intractable disagreement, if we do not take a step back and critically examine the evidence for or against those two Protestant assumptions. For me, taking the ecclesial deism glasses off opens one to the possibility of allowing the teaching of the Church Fathers to fill out and inform one’s understanding of what is the Apostolic deposit, and thus opens one to seeing the patristic arguments against schism from the Church not as evidence of false accretion to the Apostolic ecclesiology, but as evidence of the content of the ecclesiology in the Apostolic deposit, and therefore as a hermeneutical platform from which to view and understand the Scriptures rightly.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  165. Bryan,

    Excellent!

    Andrew #157,

    WCF 1.7 clearly states that only those Scriptures which are “necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation” are “clear in themselves” or “plain unto all”.

    However, this seems to go against 2 Timothy 3:16 with which I am sure everyone is familiar. If 2 Tim 3:16 is true and not WCF 1.7, then those passages which are not perspicuous must also have import for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (dogma)–all of which imply salvation. However, since WCF 1.7 is clearly not taught in Scripture then the doctrine of sola scriptura (to Nick’s point) does not hold. If it does not hold, then we would reasonably expect the arbiters of WCF 1.7 to have the authority to delimit the apostolic deposit only to those things which are “clear in themselves” or “plain unto all”. Further, WCF 1.3 implies a similar type of extra-biblical authority. Ironically, WCF 1.9 and 1.10 contradict the interpretative decision of WCF 1.7 which makes WCF 1.7 even less intelligible.

    Even more as a principal of unity for a non-visible Church, a phone book’s glance or the casual attendance of 5 different protestant sects will reveal that which is “clear in themselves” or “plain unto all” is not so clear and not so plain.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  166. Andrew wrote,

    “Concerning Donatism, do you think that if the issue was whether to allow those who had professed Manichaeism to be allowed to stay in the Church, that Augustine would have said yes, we can all be Catholics? So isn’t that exactly what happens in the RCC today when the RCC allows for all sorts of liberal heretics to stay within the Church?”

    Greetings in the Lord, Andrew!

    If “liberal heretics” are not being explicitly corrected, then this would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the responsible bishops; but heretics are really outside the Church anyway, in spite of such dereliction, even if they appear to be within. And we have to be generous in our judgments because heretics “cannot be easily convicted” since heresy “is a sin which lies concealed in the mind” of those “who in the wilfulness of their perversity continue to fight against truth which is perfectly well known to them” (Letter 93, Ch. 3:10).

    Augustine would say that we have to correct those whom we can correct, avoid those we can’t, but by all means bear with the sins of all, maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Bringing forward the examples of two different men, he says,

    “Let us suppose that the one, for the sake of argument, held the same opinions as Photinus about Christ, and was baptized in his heresy outside the communion of the Catholic Church; and that another held the same opinion but was baptized in the Catholic Church, believing that his view was really the Catholic faith. I consider him as not yet a heretic, unless, when the doctrine of the Catholic faith is made clear to him, he chooses to resist it, and prefers that which he already holds; and till this is the case, it is clear that he who was baptized outside is the worse. And so in the one case erroneous opinion alone, in the other the sin of schism also, requires correction” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 4, Ch. 16:24).

    And using your example of a Manichaean, Vincentius Victor was a convert to the Catholic Church from the Donatist splinter group known as the Rogatists. Augustine pointed out eleven propositions held by Victor that were opposed to the Catholic faith, and one of those propositions was the Manichaean tenet that the human soul is “of God” in the sense that it is created “out of His own nature” (On the Soul and its Origin, Bk. 4, Ch. 38), thus involving the divine nature in mortal corruptibility and change. He wrote to him that “if these dogmas of yours are severally maintained with pertinacity, they may possibly engender as many heresies as they number opinions.” He then goes on to explain what constitutes heresy:

    “I do not by any means wish you to think, that by holding these opinions you have departed from the catholic faith, although they are unquestionably opposed to the catholic faith; if so be you are able, in the presence of that God Whose eye infallibly searches every man’s heart, to look back on your own words as being truly and sincerely expressed, when you said that you were not over-confident in yourself as to the opinions you had broached, that they were all capable of proof; and that your constant aim was not to persist in your own sentiments, if they were shown to be improbable; inasmuch as it was a real pleasure to you, when any judgment of yours was condemned, to adopt and pursue better and truer thoughts. Now such a temper as this, even in relation to what may have been said in an uncatholic form through ignorance, is itself catholic by the very purpose and readiness of amendment which it premeditates” (On the Soul and its Origin, Bk. 3, Ch. 23).

    Augustine was aware that he communed with the “carnal minded” who held heretical opinions but who were not for that reason heretics, and that if “the carnal babes of the Church… could be individually asked for an accurate exposition of their opinions” concerning the Trinity, they “would probably show a diversity of opinions as numerous as the persons who held them” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 3, Ch. 15:20). He said that “it would be possible for a Catholic catechumen to light upon the writings of some heretic, and, not having the knowledge requisite for discerning truth from error, he might entertain some belief contrary to the Catholic faith, yet not condemned by the words of the creed,” and receive this doctrine “under the impression that he was studying the work of some great and learned Catholic” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 3, Ch. 14:19). If this man “was baptized with that belief in the Catholic Church,” what would happen to him? He would be saved in spite of having this “defective faith” in the same way that infants are likewise saved, by the power of the sacrament alone:

    “For, as in the sacraments of the old covenant some persons were already spiritual, belonging secretly to the new covenant, which was then concealed, so now also in the sacrament of the new covenant, which has been by this time revealed, many live who are natural. And if they will not advance to receive the things of the Spirit of God, to which the discourse of the apostle urges them, they will still belong to the old covenant. But if they advance, even before they receive them, yet by their very advance and approach they belong to the new covenant; and if, before becoming spiritual, they are snatched away from this life, yet through the protection of the holiness of the sacrament they are reckoned in the land of the living, where the Lord is our hope and our portion” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 1, Ch. 15:24). And as this befalls the adult from what we might call an insufficiency of learning, “so in infants who die baptized, we must believe that the same grace of the Almighty supplies the want, that, not from perversity of will, but from insufficiency of age, they can neither believe with the heart unto righteousness, nor make confession with the mouth unto salvation” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 4, Ch. 24:32).

    As to the Donatists holding the faith, this is true for most of them concerning the Trinity: “the greater part of them declare that they hold entirely the same belief regarding the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost as is held by the Catholic Church” (Letter 185). But Augustine also points out that “The whole Christ is the head and the body. The head is the only begotten Son of God, and his body is the Church, the bridegroom and the bride, two in one flesh (cf. Ephesians 5:23, 30-31). Those who shall dissent from what the sacred Scriptures say concerning the very Head, even if they are found in all places in which the church is designated, are not in the church. And on the other hand, those who consent to the sacred scriptures concerning the very Head, and yet do not communicate with the unity of the Church, are not in the Church, because they dissent from the testimony of Christ Himself concerning the Body of Christ, which is the Church” (On the Unity of the Church, 4:7). And as to the fact that they hold the wrong faith concerning the Church, Augustine says in another context that “it is no slight matter, even within the Catholic Church itself, to hold a faith entirely consistent with the truth about even God Himself, to say nothing of any of His creatures” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 3, Ch. 14:19). So they actually do hold the wrong faith because they’re wrong, not about God Himself, but about His Church. And because of this, they believe a false Gospel:

    “But how can we be sure that we have indisputable testimony to Christ in the Divine Word, if we do not accept as indisputable the testimony of the same Word to the Church? For as, however ingenious the complex subtleties which one may contrive against the simple truth, and however great the mist of artful fallacies with which he may obscure it, any one who shall proclaim that Christ has not suffered, and has not risen from the dead on the third day, must be accursed— because we have learned in the truth of the gospel, ‘that it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead on the third day’ (Luke 24:46) — on the very same grounds must that man be accursed who shall proclaim that the Church is outside of the communion which embraces all nations: for in the next words of the same passage we learn also that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem; and we are bound to hold firmly this rule, ‘If any preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed’ (Galatians 1:9)” (Letter 93, Ch. 7:23).

    I hope you have a blessed day!

    With love in Christ,
    Pete

  167. Is the author or anyone else who is a regular at this site been aware of the comments on this article made by Dr. James WHite of Alpha and Omega ministries? I don’t find them personally compelling but didn’t know if anyone else might want to share their thoughts?

    Thanks

  168. Bill

    I listened to about 5 minutes of White’s treatment. I find it odd that if White was concerned for the state of Jeremy’s soul that White did not reach out to Jeremy but instead just opined on the situation publically. It leaves the impression that James is more concerned with impressing the people who listen to his podcast than anything else.

    Further, if he (James) wanted any kind of interaction he (James) would at the very least allow comments or make his comments here much less reach out to Jeremy.

  169. Bill,

    Just a related FYI, I invited James White and his colleague TurretinFan to engage on the Canon Question article here at Called to Communion. The former never attempted a response, so far as I have seen, and the latter told me he was working on a response, but I never saw that he posted it.

    Further, James White and I interacted via my blog and his on the communion of saints sometime back, but he prefers not to comment on other blogs and instead just post on his own, which as you noticed does not allow comments, making fruitful dialogue very difficult.

  170. Hello Andrew ($157),

    I was making the connection to Sola Scriptura *only* in so far as determining whether ecclesiology was ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’ (I wasn’t calling into question SS).

    Based on whether ecclesiology is essential or not can we proceed to determine the status of issues like schism and heresy. For example, if ecclesiology is non-essential, then schism is also a non-essential (or non-issue) in your Christian paradigm. If how the “household” is run and managed is a non-essential, then schism/heresy would be a subset of that.

    You gave the example of Scripture being not-perspicuous is the distinction between elder and bishop. I think that’s a good example. If one of the ‘powers’ of a bishop is to excommunicate and/or ordain elders and deacons and laymen, then it would seem a distinction between elder and bishop is important for determining schism. If the bishop is indistinguishable from the elder in this regard, then schism is going to look different. So the question is, is two different definitions of schism a non-essential issue? If so, then schism is akin to whether a Christian body prefers the Words of Jesus printed in Red ink rather than Black ink.

    If that’s true, and it theoretically could be, then it would seem the Early Church Fathers and Apostles went way overboard in calling schism a grave sin.

    Of course, if a Protestant wanted to argue a certain distinction between bishop and elder is a Perspicuous teaching, then it would entail schism being perspicuous as well. And from there true and schismatic Reformed camps can be discerned.

  171. Andrew and Bryan,

    I will echo David Meyer’s appeal for the conversation to continue on this important topic. The tone of these threads can understandably get a bit heated – Bryan, perhaps the “if you don’t know the answer go find someone who does” approach is a tad counterproductive.

    Andrew – I want to understand your position in as simple terms as possible. It sounds like you would define schism as division within the church, with the schismatic being the party causing the division by sowing discord and dissension over a non-essential doctrinal or practical matter. Heresy would then be defined as holding beliefs contrary to orthodox doctrine as defined by Scripture interpreted through the lens of the rule of faith. Do you believe that most divisions (denominations) within Protestantism occured over docrtinal non-essentials? Did these occur in such a way as to avoid the charge of schism? If so, how? It would be very helpful if you could provide examples of denominational division versus schismatic division, and clearly define the essential element that distinguishes one from the other. If you feel you have done so already, would you point me to the post #?

    You noted that the early church prioritized doctrinal unity over visible unity. John suggested that I read the post-Chalcedon history of the Church in the East as an example of how division/schism can occur and be defined without the necessity of a visibly unified church (if I am reading his intent correctly). I think this gets to the heart of the matter. Can ecclesial division occur in such a way that the fundamental unity of the church is intact? The other central issue: in the early church, which version of schism is best supported by the historical data? I think that this is what you (Bryan) were getting at with your insistence that Andrew answer the “schism from” question. On this point, I would agree that the burden of proof lies with the Reformed Christian – to show how the Church didn’t mean “schism from” but rather “schism within”. I say the burden lies with the Reformed because on the face of things it seems that the most straightforward reading of the Fathers suggests a “schism from” understanding.

    John – was your point that Eastern Bishops believed that unity must be based on the orthodox interpretation of the apostolic deposit, not communion with the bishop in Rome?

    If the Reformed and EO IP identifies heresy as deviation from orthodox doctrine as defined by “Scripture …..read in the context of the ecclesiastical authority given to us (obviously RCC, EO, and Protestant disagree just what the nature of this is, but that aside for the moment) and the tradition handed down to us (rule of faith)” (Andrew #54), then it seems that you both (Andrew and John) are pointing to the same idea: that it is possible to interpret Scripture through tradition in such a way as to clearly identify the unifying principle of the ecclesial body (contra schism) and orthodox doctrine (contra heresy). For this IP to be “workable”, would it not be necessary to be able to clearly identify: 1. the canon of Scripture 2. the right ecclesial authority 3. the nature of tradition (rule of faith)?

    I fear I may be rambling too far afield. John, you commented on this thread that a Reformed definition of schism is not simple or straightforward. But why not? (imagine here a two-year-old stamping his foot!)
    Schism is either “schism from” or “schism within”. If it is “within”, then surely there is some clear way to distinguish schism from legitimate branching (denomination, faith tradition, etc).

    Have a blessed Father’s Day

    Burton

  172. Burton,

    You wrote: “Bryan, perhaps the “if you don’t know the answer go find someone who does” approach is a tad counterproductive.”

    Point taken. I’m sorry — I didn’t mean to be patronizing or pushy. I meant it as a sincere request. I am asking Andrew to ask his pastor (Fred) or any other Reformed theologians what is the answer to those third and fourth questions, because I believe that those are very important questions for getting to the bottom of the Protestant-Catholic divide. What I don’t want to happen is for Andrew to blow off those questions, and then come back to CTC two months from now as though this present conversation can simply be swept under the rug of time. That’s what prevents us from getting to the bottom of the disagreement — and Andrew and I have been discussing this issue since 2007.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  173. Hi Burton,

    Sorry, I meant to take only a few days off from the discussions here, but an unusually hectic week kept me away till now.

    A way of approaching to schism question is to ask, after communion is severed, is one side always left separate from the Church?

    Did you see #80 in the Vincent thread? My point there was that, when a division occurs, sometimes it makes sense to speak of separation from, other times it doesn’t. It was in that connection that I brought up the Oriental Orthodox. If you can reach a conclusion on what happened when Chalcedonians and Miaphysites parted ways, I think it’ll help you settle your beliefs about ecclesiology.

    God bless,
    John

  174. I find it odd that if White was concerned for the state of Jeremy’s soul that White did not reach out to Jeremy but instead just opined on the situation publically. It leaves the impression that James is more concerned with impressing the people who listen to his podcast than anything else.

    What I find interesting is a Calvinist would be concerned with Jeremy’s soul at all. I mean he accepted Jesus and the Calvinist creed. He even went into the Master of Divinity program at Reformed Theological Seminary. If “once saved always saved” does not kick in for a guy like that then who does it apply to? James White of all people should be arguing his salvation is assured no matter what. Or do you have to be certain you acceptance of Jesus is somehow more sincere than Jeremy’s? Not just a little more sincere but massively more sincere. I would hate have to be sure of that. Jeremy seems very sincere.

    Maybe he is saying becoming Catholic somehow voids Perseverance of the Saints. That God can forgive any sin except crossing the Tiber. I was there. I attended a Calvinist church for decades and heard and believed those assurances of salvation. Then when I converted it was the Calvinists who became concerned about my eternal soul. Interesting.

  175. Ray Stamper wrote,

    Pete,
    Fantastic quotes from Augustine!… Here at CTC, our Protestant friends generally employ two broad lines of objection to the Catholic faith: bad Catholics and bad theology. What you have demonstrated by your last post is that the former (at least for St. Augustine whom so many Protestants champion) simply cannot stand as a valid obstacle to ecclesial reunion (nor should it have ever been the basis for such).

    Thanks for the encouragement, and Amen! It was by the will of the Sovereign King that Augustine laid his African hands on me, to shake me up and bring me safely back home to the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ.

    In Christ,
    Pete

    Petilian said: ‘[A]ll the time you call us by the false title of heretics…’ Augustine answered: ‘For, in fact, it is dissension and division that make you heretics; but peace and unity make men Catholics’ (Against Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 96:218-219).

    “[T]he society of Christians may not be divided on account of evil ministers” (Saint Augustine, Against Petilian, Bk. 3, Ch. 50:62).

  176. Bill wrote,

    Is the author or anyone else who is a regular at this site been aware of the comments on this article made by Dr. James WHite of Alpha and Omega ministries? I don’t find them personally compelling but didn’t know if anyone else might want to share their thoughts?

    Thanks

    Greetings, Bill!

    Did you have a particular point in mind that you’d like to discuss?

    I can appreciate James White’s criticism of this statement:

    We do not view ourselves as having left our Reformed faith behind, but rather as having found its fullness in the Catholic Church.

    A statement like this gives the impression that the Reformed faith is true insofar as it goes, and that the Catholic faith is simply more true in the same kinds of ways. But a more accurate representation would be that Reformed converts really have left some portions of their Reformed faith behind, while finding the fulfillment of other portions in Catholicism. Embracing Catholic Christianity involves both the reception of truth and the rejection of error.

    But maybe the authors of this statement have a different way of explaining their meaning that Dr. White would appreciate.

    Have a blessed day!

    In Christ,
    Pete

  177. @Randy:

    I mean he accepted Jesus and the Calvinist creed. He even went into the Master of Divinity program at Reformed Theological Seminary.

    “Once saved, always saved” is not “once having apparently accepted the Gospel, always saved.” If you were Reformed (as I was), but then later become a Catholic (as I have done), then it is clear that you never really believed in the first place. One of my dear Reformed friends told me, after I became a Catholic, that he had thought he knew me – but he realised now he had never really known me. I only appeared to be a Christian before.

    IOW, phaenomenologically, OSAS and the Catholic view that you can reject grace and lose your salvation come to the same place in the end.

    jj

  178. Randy (#174),

    I think that the Calvinist answer to your question is that when a person apostatizes, it is shown that they were never saved in the first place. “Once saved always saved” cannot kick in because it was never active. Such apostates were predestined to think that they had faith, when in reality they did not, and were only deceiving themselves; for if they were elect, they would have persevered. 1 Jn. 2:19 would likely be cited as support.

  179. “Once saved, always saved” is not “once having apparently accepted the Gospel, always saved.” If you were Reformed (as I was), but then later become a Catholic (as I have done), then it is clear that you never really believed in the first place. One of my dear Reformed friends told me, after I became a Catholic, that he had thought he knew me – but he realised now he had never really known me. I only appeared to be a Christian before.

    I understand that. But the point is that it has to mean something. Most Calvinists do think it means something. I certainly did. But if even the most devout Calvinist Christian cannot have any assurance of salvation because you cannot know they are Christian. Even to yourself you only appear Christian. You could be fooling yourself. You know nothing at all about anyone. If you have to go to those extremes to save your doctrine then you cease to live in the real world.

    I know as a Calvinist we looked up to those who went to seminary. They were so strong in their faith. If they were not saved then what chance do we have? Similarly if OSAS says nothing about them then it says nothing about anyone. It is to be dismissed as a useless doctrine. I just don’t think Calvinists do that. In fact, if they did it could be orthodox. It would be like being predestined to glory. It would be distinct from being predestined to grace. That is living a life of grace does not mean you are predestined to glory. If they really taught that it would not be heresy from a Catholic point of view.

  180. @Randy:

    the point is that it has to mean something. Most Calvinists do think it means something. I certainly did.

    I remember in 1984 – 8 years before even the vaguest thought of Catholicism crossed my path – in a Bible study with several, including my pastor, realising, and saying, that one could not have certainty of one’s salvation. True, if one believed – true faith, that is – one was saved. But “the heart is desperately wicked; who could know it?” I argued then that certainty of salvation was presumptuous – and potentially dangerous.

    They were not very happy with me. They thought my view was not very Reformed.

    They were right :-)

    jj

  181. I want to understand your position in as simple terms as possible.

    Burton (and All),

    Sorry to take so long to respond. It’s just a very busy time for me right now. I’ll try to respond to some of the other comments later but it may be another day or two. I certainly do want to continue to discuss the matter of ecclesiology and schism further, I just did not feel that Bryan and I were making any progress and I did not want to repeat myself and go through the same cycle of questions that I had already answered.

    If we are going to start with as simple terms as possible I would suggest we start with what the Scriptures have to say about schism. “Schisma” from which we get the English term is a division between brothers which creates a fundamental break within the body. The Scriptures has lots to say about such division but never talks about it in the context of formal administrative divisions. There is a secondary and derived meaning of schism which is a more technical term focusing on the formal separation within an ecclesiastical body. In the modern RCC understanding this secondary and formal understanding of schism is, in effect the only issue at stake.

    It sounds like you would define schism as division within the church, with the schismatic being the party causing the division by sowing discord and dissension over a non-essential doctrinal or practical matter. Heresy would then be defined as holding beliefs contrary to orthodox doctrine as defined by Scripture interpreted through the lens of the rule of faith. Do you believe that most divisions (denominations) within Protestantism occurred over doctrinal non-essentials? Did these occur in such a way as to avoid the charge of schism? If so, how? It would be very helpful if you could provide examples of denominational division versus schismatic division, and clearly define the essential element that distinguishes one from the other. If you feel you have done so already, would you point me to the post #?

    Schism often deals with matters fundamental to the faith and therefore heresy, but certainly not always. I did give a few examples earlier on but I can give more. Take the examples that have happened so many times in the 19th/20th centuries with denominations that have been challenged by those who have insisted that doctrines like the eternality of the Son of God are false. They create schism within the Church. Generally what happens is that there is a formal split between the conservatives and the liberals on the matter. My contention is that the conservatives in these cases are not at fault and more than that, they are required for the sake of the peace and purity of the Church to break communion. In the RCC there are the same sorts of liberal/conservative splits (schism in the biblical sense) but in the RCC there is no formal administrative split. Catholicism has the same sort of very liberal to ultra conservative continuum that Protestantism does but they “solve” the problem of schism by not formally and administratively dividing. So in Catholicism there is every bit as much schism in the biblical sense (“schisma”) but there is no schisms in the sense of secondary meaning of the term. The RCC does not divide over a theological issue even when that issue is a matter that strikes to the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

    You noted that the early church prioritized doctrinal unity over visible unity. John suggested that I read the post-Chalcedon history of the Church in the East as an example of how division/schism can occur and be defined without the necessity of a visibly unified church (if I am reading his intent correctly). I think this gets to the heart of the matter. Can ecclesial division occur in such a way that the fundamental unity of the church is intact?

    Yes, certainly the EO and their concept of an autocephalous set of churches is worth looking at. It raises a valid objection concerning the necessity of a hierarchical system of church government. And for whatever we might think of Eastern Orthodoxy in general, one critique we cannot raise is that fundamental unity is not possible in the EO system. And I would say the same thing of the Reformed understanding of ecclesiology. Different administrative entities do not necessarily undermine the unity of the Church. And as the RCC situation has demonstrated time and time again, the lack of formal schism does not equate to Christian (biblical) unity.

    All of this relates to my previous question about whether Augustine would have affirmed that the Church should not have divided if those wanting to leave were holding to Manichean rather than Donatist beliefs. It’s a matter of when if ever a ecclesiastical body should divide. It’s not enough to note that the ECF’s in the West (but not in the East) had a hierarchical notion of ecclesiology and no division could be countenanced. This fact is beyond the debate. The question is rather why they held to this position and would they have held to it even if it had meant unifying those who explicitly affirmed Nicean, Chalcedonian, etc orthodoxy with those who explicitly denied such orthodoxy. This is what has happened in the modern RCC. One recent convert from Roman Catholicism noted that Catholicism could be aptly called the Hinduism of the West because of its capacity to absorb such a great many belief systems. This certainly hits the nail on the head and illustrates the divide between the the modern RCC and the Church of early centuries of Christianity.

    The other central issue: in the early church, which version of schism is best supported by the historical data? I think that this is what you (Bryan) were getting at with your insistence that Andrew answer the “schism from” question. On this point, I would agree that the burden of proof lies with the Reformed Christian – to show how the Church didn’t mean “schism from” but rather “schism within”.

    It would be my contention that they meant both. This would certainly be the case with the Donatist controversy. So again the question comes up whether no formal administrative schism should ever occur even when it means the Church becoming a mixture of orthodoxy and heresy.

  182. Andrew, (re: #181)

    You wrote:

    I just did not feel that Bryan and I were making any progress

    That tends to happen when a person avoids answering the questions on the table. We could very easily “make progress” if you would simply and straightforwardly answer the third and fourth questions in comment #100.

    In the RCC there are the same sorts of liberal/conservative splits (schism in the biblical sense) but in the RCC there is no formal administrative split. Catholicism has the same sort of very liberal to ultra conservative continuum that Protestantism does but they “solve” the problem of schism by not formally and administratively dividing. So in Catholicism there is every bit as much schism in the biblical sense (“schisma”) but there is no schisms in the sense of secondary meaning of the term.

    You are confusing schism with heresy. Catholics who deny some dogma of the faith, but have not separated from their bishop, are not in schism, but they are in [at least material] heresy. To treat heresy as though it were schism (as though the word ‘schism’ just means holding to false doctrines) is to eliminate schism from your theology (which makes it difficult to answer questions about schism as something distinct from heresy and apostasy).

    The RCC does not divide over a theological issue even when that issue is a matter that strikes to the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

    The Catholic Church cannot divide, because unity is one of the essential marks of the Church as the Body of Christ. When there is a disagreement over a fundamental dogma, those who deny the dogma have separated themselves from the faith and unity of the Church; they are incapable of dividing Christ.

    Different administrative entities do not necessarily undermine the unity of the Church.

    In ecclesial docetism, you don’t need any bishops, presbyters, deacons, etc. The invisible Church remains one, no matter how divided Christians are in doctrine, sacraments, and government. Schism from the Church is defined away as impossible. (See “Denial of Visibility is Ecclesial Docetism.” )

    And as the RCC situation has demonstrated time and time again, the lack of formal schism does not equate to Christian (biblical) unity

    No one has claimed otherwise. That is, no has claimed that merely the absence of visible separation equates to full communion. Catholics who are in material heresy are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. Only Catholics who believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God, and are reconciled to their bishop enjoy the three-fold bond of unity Christ established in His Church: the same sacraments, the same hierarchy of bishops in full communion all over the world, and the very same faith.

    Augustine would have affirmed that the Church should not have divided if those wanting to leave were holding to Manichean rather than Donatist beliefs.

    Any Catholic who adopted Manichean beliefs would have thereby departed from the faith of the Church. When a Catholic becomes a heretic, and leaves the Church or is excommunicated, this does not divide the Church. The Church remains one, but the person or persons who go out from the Church, are separated from the unity of the Church. They do not divide the Church or lessen the Church’s unity; they divide themselves from the Church’s true God-given unity.

    It’s a matter of when if ever a ecclesiastical body should divide.

    Is Christ divided? No, but you seem to think there are times when His followers need to cut Him up. Christ cannot be divided. No matter what heretics and schismatics may do, they only separate themselves from His Body; they can never detract from the unity of Christ’s Body.

    The question is rather why they held to this position

    Because it is Apostolic Tradition. All the Church Fathers believed in the perpetual visible unity of the Church, not in merely an invisible unity.

    and would they have held to it even if it had meant unifying those who explicitly affirmed Nicean, Chalcedonian, etc orthodoxy with those who explicitly denied such orthodoxy.

    For the Church Fathers, as for the Catholic Church today, excommunicating heretics does not sacrifice the visible unity of the Church, because it does not divide the Church. In the Church, unity of faith, unity of sacraments, and unity of government always remain, until Christ returns. So what you are posing is a false dilemma, as though one would have to choose between visible unity on the one hand, and unity of faith on the other hand.

    One recent convert from Roman Catholicism noted that Catholicism could be aptly called the Hinduism of the West because of its capacity to absorb such a great many belief systems.

    Catholic theology cannot “absorb” any belief system, because theology is based on the divine revelation given by Christ. But Catholicism can recognize and acknowledge any truth, good, or beauty, in any other belief system. And this is why Catholicism can be received by any culture around the world. What is false and evil in that culture is not compatible with Catholicism, but whatever is true and good in that culture can be retained when it embraces the Catholic faith.

    So again the question comes up whether no formal administrative schism should ever occur even when it means the Church becoming a mixture of orthodoxy and heresy.

    The person who tries to justify creating a schism from the Church, because there are tares mixed in with the wheat, is doing exactly what the Montantists and Novatians and Donatists did. They even called themselves Cathars or ‘Puritans.’ They were the Rigorists. And that’s the great temptation of Rigorists, to separate from the Church when (in their minds) the Church isn’t holy enough or pure enough for them. It all comes down to a fundamental choice: whether to submit to the Church in humility, or to follow your own reason, thinking that you know better than the Church. If the Church were merely a human institution, following your own reason might be justified. But the Church is a divine institution, even more so than was the line of prophets in the Old Testament, for the Church is the very Body of Christ. When Naaman decided to submit to Elisha’s prescription, even though to Naaman it seemed more advisable to wash in cleaner rivers back in Damascus, he was submitting to a divine prescription. And so likewise with the Church. To submit to the Church is to submit to Christ. (Lk. 10:16) To trust one’s own interpretation of Scripture and place it above that of the Church is to exalt oneself in pride, rather than walking in humble faith and obedience to Christ.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  183. John,

    Having looked briefly into the Chalcedonian/Miaphysite issue, I still need some help connecting the dots. Based on my reading, several groups in Syria, Egypt, etc rejected the dual nature of Christ (dyophysitic) as defined by the Council at Chalcedon (Miaphysite = Monophysite?). Wouldn’t these groups legitimately be labeled heretics based on their rejection of orthodoxy as defined by the council?

    Are you trying to point out instances where schism occurred, but their was no clear “schism from”? It seems that how you define these historical examples depends on your underlying presuppositions. In other words, the Protestant would look at the RCC/EO split as just such an example of “schism within”, while the RCC would claim that the EO is in “schism from” based on their rejection of the authority of the bishop of Rome.

    I’m not sure that these examples will help me settle my ecclesiology as they do not explain the underlying basis by which the Reformed defines schism (whether “from” or “within”) and heresy. I would like to know how you would define “schism from” using the Reformed IP – specifically “schism from” what? If it sometimes make sense to call at split “schism from” and sometimes make sense to call it “schism within”, then what is the rule by which you define each?

    Thanks,

    Burton

  184. Hi Andrew! I’d like to share a couple of thoughts, and I hope that they are helpful.

    Andrew wrote,

    All of this relates to my previous question about whether Augustine would have affirmed that the Church should not have divided if those wanting to leave were holding to Manichean rather than Donatist beliefs. It’s a matter of when if ever an ecclesiastical body should divide. It’s not enough to note that the ECF’s in the West (but not in the East) had a hierarchical notion of ecclesiology and no division could be countenanced. This fact is beyond the debate. The question is rather why they held to this position and would they have held to it even if it had meant unifying those who explicitly affirmed Nicean, Chalcedonian, etc orthodoxy with those who explicitly denied such orthodoxy.

    Augustine would seek to correct the Manichaeans in the points where they were wrong, following this general principle:

    “I propose, with God’s help, to prove how rightly and truly in the sight of God it has been determined, that in the case of every schismatic and heretic, the wound which caused his separation should be cured by the medicine of the Church; but that what remained sound in him should rather be recognized with approbation, than wounded by condemnation…. if they observe some of the same things, in respect of these they have not severed themselves; and so far they are still a part of the framework of the Church, while in all other respects they are cut off from it. Accordingly, any one whom they have associated with themselves is united to the Church in all those points in which they are not separated from it. And therefore, if he wish to come over to the Church, he is made sound in those points in which he was unsound and went astray; but where he was sound in union with the Church, he is not cured, but recognized,—lest in desiring to cure what is sound we should rather inflict a wound… So in the points in which schismatics and heretics neither entertain different opinions nor observe different practice from ourselves, we do not correct them when they join us, but rather commend what we find in them. For where they do not differ from us, they are not separated from us” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 1, Chs. 7:9, 8:10, & 13:21).

    If any heresy begins to infect the hierarchy, the means of correction available to the Church, according to Augustine, would be the Scriptural refutations provided first by the local bishops, second by the local bishops in council, third by the apostolic see, and fourth by an ecumenical council. It is expected of all Christians to submit to the authority of the ecumenical council. Any errors made by ecumenical councils could be corrected by subsequent ecumenical councils, which are to be preferred to earlier ones.

    Andrew wrote,

    This is what has happened in the modern RCC. One recent convert from Roman Catholicism noted that Catholicism could be aptly called the Hinduism of the West because of its capacity to absorb such a great many belief systems. This certainly hits the nail on the head and illustrates the divide between the modern RCC and the Church of early centuries of Christianity.

    “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

    With love in Christ,
    Pete

  185. Bryan wrote,

    “How do we know the Church Fathers were wrong about schism from the Church? According to Andrew, we know that they were wrong about this because we don’t find spelled out clearly in Scripture either (1) the essential visible unity of the Church or (2) the error of schism from the Church (as something distinct from heresy and apostasy). […] From the Catholic point of view, the problematic assumptions in your [Andrew] argument by which you conclude that the Church Fathers were wrong about schism from the Church, are your assumptions that (1) unless something is spelled out clearly in Scripture, it isn’t part of the Apostolic deposit…”

    Hi Bryan!

    I agree with Augustine that all things necessary for salvation are made clear in the Scriptures. And I also agree with him when he says that the Scriptural testimony concerning the visible Church is unmistakably clear. I try to agree with Augustine in everything. :)

    “He was pleased to begin with commending my manner of life, which he said he had come to know through your statements (in which I am sure there was more kindness than truth), adding that he had remarked to you that I might have done well all the things which you had told him of me, if I had done them within the Church. I thereupon asked him what was the Church within which it was the duty of a man so to live; whether it was that one which, as Sacred Scripture had long foretold, was spread over the whole world, or that one which a small section of Africans, or a small part of Africa, contained. To this he at first attempted to reply, that his communion was in all parts of the earth. I asked him whether he was able to issue letters of communion, which we call regular, to places which I might select; and I affirmed, what was obvious to all, that in this way the question might be most simply settled. In the event of his agreeing to this, my intention was that we should send such letters to those churches which we both knew, on the authority of the apostles, to have been already founded in their time. As the falsity of his statement, however, was apparent, a hasty retreat from it was made in a cloud of confused words” (Letter 44, Ch. 2:3-4).

    “Our grief that our brothers hold to their hostility is accentuated by the fact that they hold to the same Scriptures with us, Scriptures in which those most evident proofs are found. As for the Jews who deny the Resurrection of Christ, they at least do not acknowledge the Gospel, but these brothers of ours are bound by the authority of both Testaments, yet they insist on falsely accusing us of betraying the Gospel, and they will not accept it when it is read. Now, it may be that they have studied the holy Scriptures more carefully as a preparation for undertaking this conference, and that they have discovered the numerous proofs of the promise that the Church will exist among all nations and throughout the whole earth, just as we see that it was handed down and presented from the beginning in the Gospel, and in the apostolic letters, and in the Acts of the Apostles. In these we read of the very places and cities and provinces in which the Church increased from its beginning at Jerusalem, and from there it spread into Africa, not by transferring itself there, but by growing there. But, they have not found there any divinely uttered testimony saying that the Church would die out in other parts of the world, and would survive in Africa alone, in the sect of Donatus” (Letter 129, 3).

    “For they admitted that they had nothing to say against the Catholic Church, which is spread throughout the whole world, because they were overwhelmed by the divine testimony of the holy Scriptures, which describe how the Church, beginning from Jerusalem, increased throughout the places in which the Apostles preached. They also wrote the names of those same places in their Epistles and Acts, and from there the Church spread among other nations. Against that Church they admitted openly that they had no case, and there our victory in God’s Name was most evident. For, when they agree to the Church with which we are in communion, but they are manifestly not, they testify that they were long ago beaten” (Letter 141, 4).

    “If you ask where peace is to be found, open your eyes to see that city which cannot be hidden, because it is built upon a hill; open your eyes to see the mountain itself, and let Daniel show it to you, growing out of a small stone, and filling the whole earth. But when the prophet says to you, ‘Peace, peace; and where is there peace?’ what will you show? Will you show the party of Donatus, unknown to the countless nations to whom Christ is known? It is surely not the city which cannot be hid; and whence is this, except that it is not founded on the mountain? ‘For He is our peace, who hath made both one,’ — not Donatus, who has made one into two” (Against Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 71:158).

    “[M]ay God separate you from the party of Donatus, and call you back again into the Catholic Church… Now are ye not in the mountains of Zion, the dew of Hermon on the mountains of Zion, in whatever sense that be received by you; for you are not in the city upon a hill, which has this as its sure sign, that it cannot be hid. It is known therefore unto all nations. But the party of Donatus is unknown to the majority of nations, therefore is it not the true city” (Against Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 105:239).

    “Whereas, if all these fragments would listen not to the voice of man, but to the most unmistakable manifestation of the truth, and would be willing to curb the fiery temper of their own perversity, they would return from their own barrenness, not indeed to the main body of Donatus, a mere fragment of which they are a smaller fragment, but to the never-failing fruitfulness of the root of the Catholic Church” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 1, 6:8).

    “This is the vision of Daniel which I am relating. This stone which was cut from the hill without hands increased, and ‘became,’ he says, ‘a great mountain, and filled the whole face of the earth’ (Daniel 2:34-35). Let us worship on that great mountain, if we desire to be heard. Heretics do not worship on that mountain, because it has filled the whole earth; they have stuck fast on part of it, and have lost the whole. If they acknowledge the Catholic Church, they will worship on this hill with us. For we already see how that stone that was cut from the mountain without hands has increased, and how great tracts of earth it has prevailed over, and unto what nations it has extended. What is the mountain whence the stone was hewn without hands? The Jewish kingdom, in the first place; since they worshipped one God. Thence was hewn the stone, our Lord Jesus Christ….That stone then was born of the mountain without hands: it increased, and by its increase broke all the kingdoms of the earth. It has become a great mountain, and has filled the whole face of the earth. This is the Catholic Church, in whose communion rejoice that you are. But they who are not in her communion, since they worship and praise God apart from this same mountain, are not heard unto eternal life” (Exposition on Psalm 99, 11).

    “As if anticipating that the inquirer would ask next by what plain mark a young disciple, not yet able to distinguish the truth among so many errors, might find the true Church of Christ, since the clear fulfillment of so many predictions compelled him to believe in Christ, the prophet answers this question in what follows, and teaches that the Church of Christ, which he describes prophetically, is conspicuously visible. His words are: ‘A glorious high throne is our sanctuary.’ This glorious throne is the Church of which the apostle says: ‘The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.’ The Lord also, foreseeing the conspicuousness of the Church as a help to young disciples who might be misled, says, ‘A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.’ Since, then, a glorious high throne is our sanctuary, no attention is to be paid to those who would lead us into sectarianism, saying, ‘Lo, here is Christ,’ or ‘Lo there.’ Lo here, lo there, speaks of division; but the true city is on a mountain, and the mountain is that which, as we read in the prophet Daniel, grew from a little stone till it filled the whole earth. And no attention should be paid to those who, professing some hidden mystery confined to a small number, say, Behold, He is in the chamber; behold, in the desert: for a city set on an hill cannot be hid, and a glorious high throne is our sanctuary” (Against Faustus, Bk. 13, 13).

    “[I]f you acknowledge the supreme authority of Scripture, you should recognise that authority which from the time of Christ Himself, through the ministry of His apostles, and through a regular succession of bishops in the seats of the apostles, has been preserved to our own day throughout the whole world, with a reputation known to all” (Against Faustus, Bk. 33, 9).

    With love in Christ,
    Pete

  186. If any heresy begins to infect the hierarchy, the means of correction available to the Church, according to Augustine, would be the Scriptural refutations provided first by the local bishops, second by the local bishops in council, third by the apostolic see, and fourth by an ecumenical council. It is expected of all Christians to submit to the authority of the ecumenical council. Any errors made by ecumenical councils could be corrected by subsequent ecumenical councils, which are to be preferred to earlier ones.

    Pete,

    Sorry for not answering your previous posts. You definitely had some good thoughts but it’s been a difficult time for me to do anything on-line this past several days.

    There are always correctives available to the Church and yes, the Early Church used them. But this is sharply contracted by the RCC at the Renaissance/Reformation eras (where the RCC had become fixated on power,wealth, secular battles,etc) as well as our own age. As I noted earlier I see no evidence to suggest that Catholicism has any less of a problem with liberalism and various other forms of humanism than Protestant does. The Catholics note that we split into different administrative entities over all sorts of issues, sometimes involving matters central to the Christian faith and sometimes not. In Catholicism there is a very similar divide from the very liberal to the ultra conservative except that in Catholicism there are no formal splits. So Catholicism is today a theologically and practically diverse mixture of all sorts of belief systems. Catholicism is truly the Hinduism of the West to quote one recent ex-Catholic.

    But what’s your perspective? Am I being unfair? Do you think that are any less actual divisions (“schisma” in the transliterated Greek) in Catholicism? We Protestant know lots of Catholics and we meet very few serious conservative types like those that author this blog. And when there are such divisions, particularly over de fide matters, is it better to stay together and declare that both sides are unified because they are administratively unified or is it better for those who affirm Christ to formally divide from those who deny him?

  187. Burton (#183),

    When the Orientals speak of one nature, they’re following St. Cyril, not Eutyches, whose doctrine they too condemn. There’s nothing magical about Chalcedon’s “in two natures,” just as there’s nothing magical about Nicaea’s “consubstantial.” Both expressions are terms of art and both are susceptible of orthodox and heretical interpretations. The OOs objected to Chalcedon’s language primarily because it went beyond Cyril’s phrase “one incarnate nature of God the Word,” and they feared it inadequately safeguarded against a Nestorian interpretation. That doesn’t make them heretics; disagreeing over the best way to express a doctrine is different from disagreeing over its substance.

    John Erickson of St. Vlad’s has a good paper about the controversy that you can access here. If you find yourself agreeing with him that Chalcedonian and Miaphysite Christologies are alike orthodox, then try asking yourself what happened in the century after Chalcedon, as the split took form. If one side left the Church, which is it, and why? However you end up answering, having an answer will, I think, help you firm up your beliefs about the Church’s unity.

    As to your question about schism, Reformed distinguish union from communion, and you can think of the distinction roughly in terms of a nation. By baptism we are born into the nation, the Church, where we are called to live in peace and fellowship with our neighbors. The nation has a government ordained by God, which is charged with preaching and administering the sacraments and preserving order. It does this last by censuring those who offend and, if need be, by exiling them. When the government is cohesive and functions well, it’s fairly easy to mark out disloyalty to the common unity. When the government is divided and in disrepair, that’s harder to do; restoring order should then be a priority. Even when the polity is in disorder, however, the nation remains one nation, and its underlying unity cries out to be realized.

    In Christ,
    John

  188. John,

    Thanks for your response. I will study this period of church history more closely – I think I’m seeing more clearly what you are getting at.

    You mentioned that the “two natures” language of Chalcedon and “consubstantial” of Nicea could each be interpreted in orthodox and heretical ways. Who has the authority to determine which interpretations are orthodox?

    Burton

  189. Dear John,

    Reformed distinguish union from communion

    This work fine as assertion, but I see nowhere in the Tradition or Scripture that makes this distinction perspicuous. I would assume that your understanding of the OO phenomena would be supported by something more than just your and Erickson’s take on that particular historical phenomena. Or, are you saying that it is part of the apostolic deposit in such a way that it is exemplar of how unity is retained despite division?

    The polity/nation distinction is interesting. You said it was a “rough” analogy, and I’ll agree with you on that point. Since nation-states are a relatively new phenomena, its hard to imagine how this analogy works in antiquity for what binds the nation-state together in the absence of an ordered polity is the visible territorial boundaries. However, a cursory reading of the history of nation-states demonstrates the fragility of those boundaries if and when the polity is in disorder. In fact, nations disappear and emerge as completely new nations. So in a way, history teaches us that a docetic nations don’t persist, and that strong polity is essential to the national interest. In other words, there are no invisible nations.

    I’ll grant that you knew all this and that is what you meant by “rough”. Yet, if we are to think about a unified Church in the Reformed sense you are trying to relay, I think we may need a better analogy.

    Cheers,

    Brent

  190. Andrew #186

    Are you suggesting that if an individual Catholic rejects a portion of the deposit of faith, as officially taught by the Church, that the individual somehow remains in full communion with the Church as long as they are “administratively unified?”

    Can you give me an example of what you are talking about? That is, a situation where two individual Catholics hold contradictory views on “de fide” matters where at least one of the individuals can not be shown to have accepted a heritical belief or to be in dissent?

  191. Andrew M. (#186),

    We Protestant know lots of Catholics and we meet very few serious conservative types like those that author this blog. And when there are such divisions, particularly over de fide matters, is it better to stay together and declare that both sides are unified because they are administratively unified or is it better for those who affirm Christ to formally divide from those who deny him?

    The Church is the Body of Christ. Group A seeking to formally divide from the remainder B of the Church because B includes heretics has three options:
    1) to accept formally breaking away from (i.e. no longer being part of) the Body of Christ.
    2) to reject B as not part of the Body of Christ, thus setting up A alone as the Body of Christ.
    3) to break the Body of Christ into factions which are neither at peace nor united in faith.

    Did I miss any options? [Perhaps (4), treating the "formal" Church as different from the actual Body of Christ, such that formal divisions do not violate the unity of the Body. But we're already talking about creating formal divisions that track deeper divisions in faith, so (4) isn't right, either.] Of those above, options (1) and (3) are clearly not acceptable: walking away from Christ’s Body, or doing violence to it. Option (2) requires God-given authority, the very authority of the Apostles. Consider Mt. 18:15-18: is there any question of whether the one who “refuses to listen even to the church” creates division within as opposed to breaking from?

    I agree that there are lots of nominally Catholic folks happy to reject de fide teachings while remaining, for all appearances, in the Church. But I don’t see how any kind of denomination-type divisions could be a suitable solution for the Body of Christ.

    In Him,
    Nathaniel

  192. Burton (#188),

    If you’re interested, Erickson has another paper called “The One True Church: Thoughts Concerning an Ecumenical Conundrum.” It’s in The Ecumenical Future, published in 2004 by Eerdmans. There should be a copy at Alderman Library (the fifth floor, unless they’ve reorganized the stacks since I was in Cville). The book also has a contribution from Vigen Guroian, who moved to UVa a couple years ago, after Dr. Wilken retired. Why not have a look, then send Dr. Guroian an email? I haven’t met him, but one of my friends has, and speaks highly of him.

    About your question, it depends on what you’re asking. As a disciplinary matter, it falls to the churches which receive the creeds and enforce them as terms of communion to determine which interpretations of the creedal language to accept and which to reject. On the other hand, if you mean who can tell whether a given interpretation is true to the apostolic faith, in principle any believer can, since the tradition from the apostles is public (the can of worms from the other thread).

    Brent (#189),

    Erickson isn’t alone in his take on the christological dispute. JP2 said much the same in his common declaration with the Oriental Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch:

    Their Holinesses confess the faith of their two Churches, formulated by Nicene Council of 325 A.D. and generally known as “the Nicene Creeds”. The confusions and schisms that occurred between their Churches in the later centuries, they realize today, in no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter. Accordingly, we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In words and life we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.

    Regarding the analogy, nations can persist in spite of political upheaval. For an ancient example, think of the Jewish people.

    In Christ,
    John

  193. Are you suggesting that if an individual Catholic rejects a portion of the deposit of faith, as officially taught by the Church, that the individual somehow remains in full communion with the Church as long as they are “administratively unified?”

    Brian – I am assuming that if someone has been baptized into the Catholic Church and remains there, attends mass, takes the partakes of the Eucharist as well as other sacraments, that they are in full communion with the Catholic Church. So I am asking about someone such as this who rejects some basic teachings of the Church whether or not they do so privately (like so many Catholics) or actively promote their doctrine or practice (like some of the RCC liberals and radical traditionalist types). I saw a recent Gallup poll which was comparing the beliefs of Catholics who were regular attenders of mass with non-Catholics in the community. There was basically no difference. I’m sure the result would have been largely the same if they had polled Protestants as well. I don’t see much difference in belief or practice between Catholics and Protestants and so one of the questions I am asking is basically what is more important – 1) formal administrative unity or 2) unity of mind and heart of those in a particular Christian community?

    My contention is that, in the West, the Early Christian Church relatively quickly developed a hierarchical system of authority because they believed that such a system would guard that unity of mind and heart spoken of in Scriptures and by the ECF’s (there are also philosophical and political issues which also drove such an understanding of formal unity, but I don’t want to overly complicate the issue right now). So my next question is what ought to happen, as during the period leading up to the Reformation, when this unity guaranteed just the opposite and even right up the RCC hierarchy as far as the Pope there was more interest in power,wealth etc (things that the RCC finally addressed at Trent) than spiritual matters And then same question today – what are we to say about administrative unity that becomes just a formal unity that does not necessarily reflect any unity of belief and practice? Are we Reformed really worse off because we have separated from those who openly reject Christ?

  194. John (#192),

    In your analogy, our baptism placed us into the “nation” of the “Church”. Your ancient example was a people not a nation. The Jewish people have a nation–Israel (which is kind of the whole story of the O.T.). A Jew born in the USA is not a member of the nation of Israel. He may be Jewish, but his Jewish-ness doesn’t make him a citizen of Israel. Thus, baptism doesn’t make one a member of a nation (per your analogy), but does make visible membership (citizenship) possible (Oleh’s certificate) in the case of the Jews. You and I are brothers, albeit separated.

    If you want to argue that our baptism unites us in the mystical body of Christ, that is what the Catholic Church teaches. This would be very similar to the way the Jews are united or any ethnic group is united in lieu of their common genetic ancestry. Our union isn’t genetic but spiritual. That’s good. However, to be a visible member of the “Church” (think citizen of Israel/Israeli), baptism clearly doesn’t do the trick, as the Evangelical down the street has been validly baptized but would, because I’m Catholic, likely anathematize me. Visible unity, nation-hood, is what the Jews longed for and received through Israel. Those who are Christian, too, receive a visible “Church” which consists not just in the hierarchy–which you seem to imply–but in the entire people of God who are visible members of the Catholic (Universal) Church he established. I commune with the Pope and the pauper.

    To posit anything less than this is ecclesial docetism and implies that the Jews received more (Israel) than the Body of Christ (The Church) received. Or that we are angels and they were men. I think the Incarnation answered that.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  195. @Andrew McCallum

    And the East doesn’t have a hierarchical system of authority? That would surprise the Orthodox greatly. http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8172
    http://www.serfes.org/biography/governance.htm
    etc.

    In your 193 you have an assumption which are leading to a wrong conclusion.

    I am assuming that if someone has been baptized into the Catholic Church and remains there, attends mass, takes the partakes of the Eucharist as well as other sacraments, that they are in full communion with the Catholic Church.

    Such a person would be in communion with the Catholic Church BUT not necessarily full communion nor necessarily having the fullness of communion.

    The Church is not for the perfect but it is for those being perfected. As such those who are in communion are also progressing towards a fullness of communion, and because they are progressing they may and often have various and personal things (opinions, actions, etc.) that are out of alignment and in disagreement.

    Calvin was more authoritarian than most Catholic bishops of his time. He was not called the pope of Geneva for nothing.

    You asked if the Reformed are worse off. Why does the authority of the Church exist in the Reformed schema? It is to impose God’s covenantal blessings upon the elect and to impose God’s covenantal curses on the reprobate. Thus Reformed communities, when they have theological controversies curse, cast out, and expunge from their midst those that those in power consider to be be teaching a false gospel. If a Reformed individual has vocal issues with this or that theology they are going to get called before their elders and basically be reamed out and cast out of the community if they refuse to toe the line of the elders.

    Now why does the authority of the Church exist in the Catholic schema? It exists to heal sinners (not to bless the elect nor curse those who are far off from God). In the Catholic schema, the will of God is for all sinners to be saved and this is accomplished by the ongoing activity of the Church in the world. As such, the Catholic schema provides for a very messy Church with people of all sorts of moral flaws and belief flaws still being in communion (although a flawed communion) with her as they are under going healing and progressing in the ways of Christ. The Catholic authorities work with and help to heal those who have wrong beliefs and activities — the first instinct is to seek to bring people to communion with Christ rather than separating out the “true believers” from the “false believers”.

    What are we to say about administrative unity that becomes just a formal unity that does not necessarily reflect any unity of belief and practice?

    That is why in the Catholic Church unity is sacramental unity, not administrative unity. The Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous Churches — that is they are not administratively unified with each other or with the Western (Roman) Church. Yet we are united because we have sacramental unity. This is why also that the sacraments work because they are what they are not because we have a specific belief about them. Thus a Catholic has unity or communion (not necessarily the fullness there of) because they participate in the sacraments not because they have this or that belief about the sacraments. This reflects John 10:38…if you do not believe at least believe the works — which is to say that acceptance and participation in the work of the Church works towards healing of the unbelief.

    Unity in the Church exists because of sacramental unity. Leaving administrative unity is a schism while leaving sacramental unity is excommunicating oneself. You asked Are we Reformed really worse off because we have separated from those who openly reject Christ? Yes because in the Protestant attempt to purify the Church, they broke sacramental unity and did away with it and as such lost precisely that which was the Church. In the whole attempt to purify and separate themselves from unbelievers, the Reformers lost the center. Protestant unity has become now unity forged from the agreement of like-minded men with those whom they agree with concerning the interpretation of scripture. Why do my Reformed friends tell me that they go to a particular church? They say its is because they agree with the pastors interpetation of scripture or as they put it “because he is biblical”.

    Why do most Protestant’s become Catholic? It is not because they intellectually agree, it is because they desire to submit in humility to the sacramental unity of the Church – they desire to receive that which is given in the sacraments, not to be amongst like minded people. It is that same humility that keeps the liberal Catholics in the Church even though they agree with very little. It is the same humility that keeps the conservatives from purging the liberals from the Church.

  196. Andrew M.,

    You asked (#193):

    what is more important – 1) formal administrative unity or 2) unity of mind and heart of those in a particular Christian community?

    This is like asking what is more important, the body or the soul? For the human being, both are essential. Likewise, for the Church, both visible unity and invisible “heart and mind” unity are essential. After all, unity of mind and heart does not suffice for assembling ourselves together, to hear the word and celebrate the sacraments. Now, someone might say, “I would sacrifice my body to save my soul,” and that is a noble resolution, only remember that to carry it through is to die. And the analogue is that any Christian who attacks the Church’s body in order to save her soul is attempting to wound or kill the Church. Of course, they only ever succeed in cutting themselves off from the unity of the Church.

    You then asked:

    And then same question today – what are we to say about administrative unity that becomes just a formal unity that does not necessarily reflect any unity of belief and practice? Are we Reformed really worse off because we have separated from those who openly reject Christ?

    To the first question, if the “administrative” and “formal” unity is the administrative and formal unity of the Church that Christ founded, then we are to say thank God for this unity, and we are to remain within this unity, even if others (visibly) within this unity openly dissent from its belief and practice. Our goal is not merely unanimity of belief and practice, which can be achieved by a variety of organizations, ecclesial or otherwise, more easily the less members. Rather our goal must be *true* faith and *right* practice, which we do not create or obtain or pick out for ourselves, but which are revealed to us by Christ, and received, preserved, authentically interpreted and applied, etc., in his Church.

    To the second question: In context, it seems that the “we” refers to whatever Reformed denominations you count as not having rejected Christ, and “those who openly reject Christ” refers to whatever Reformed denominations from which “we have separated.” Since I am not aware of any Reformed denomination that has declared openly, “We reject Christ,” perhaps the most I can say is that all Reformed Christians would be better off if they were part of a visible Church that cannot possibly reject Christ.

    Andrew P.

  197. Brent (#194),

    History knows of many states comprising multiple nations and nations spread among multiple states. The Jewish people is a nation which has a state. The state came into being in 1948, but the nation already existed, and the nation and state aren’t coextensive. If Israel dissolved itself tomorrow morning, the nation would continue to exist, just as it existed during the centuries from the end of the Hasmonean kingdom to the foundation of the modern State of Israel. Likewise, the nation would remain even if a second Jewish state were established tomorrow morning.

    Best,
    John

  198. Nathan,

    Your article is very much like I would expect from someone from an EO communion. He really does not talk about the structure of this “hierarchy” and is more interested in discussing the dialectic between authority and obedience and emphasizing that the Church should not be identified with authority.

    Reformed communities, when they have theological controversies curse, cast out, and expunge from their midst those that those in power consider to be be teaching a false gospel.

    But if one part has denied the faith, let’s say denied the virgin birth of Christ or denied that Christ came in the flesh, they should be anathematized, no?

    If a Reformed individual has vocal issues with this or that theology they are going to get called before their elders and basically be reamed out and cast out of the community if they refuse to toe the line of the elders.

    I think you are underestimating the grace extended in the typical Reformed church. We have lots of folks who come in with theological difficulties and we certainly don’t simply “cast them out.” We want to teach and heal sinners too, but we are not going to allow them to wallow in their sins. And if someone is in open rebellion (as exemplified in I Cor 5) then they should be removed from the church, but such discipline is for the purpose of bringing them to repentance. The design of such discipline is to remove the sin from the sinner, not the sinner from the Church.

    Why do most Protestant’s become Catholic? It is not because they intellectually agree, it is because they desire to submit in humility to the sacramental unity of the Church – they desire to receive that which is given in the sacraments, not to be amongst like minded people

    It sounds like very much like you are trying to divorce the intellectual content of the Christian faith from the practice of the Christian faith (worship/sacraments. ministry, mercy, etc). Yes sacramental unity is necessary but I cannot see how you can say that, for instance, someone who denies the virgin birth and someone who affirms it can be unified in sacramental unity. I would say that the one who denies this basic tenet of the earliest professions of the Christian faith is outside the faith and should be declared to be outside the faith. How can we commune in the sacraments with those who do not commune with Christ?

  199. I don’t want to slow down the vert interesting conversation, so feel free to not respond to this comment Matthew. You said in #198:

    Yes sacramental unity is necessary but I cannot see how you can say that, for instance, someone who denies the virgin birth and someone who affirms it can be unified in sacramental unity. I would say that the one who denies this basic tenet of the earliest professions of the Christian faith is outside the faith and should be declared to be outside the faith. How can we commune in the sacraments with those who do not commune with Christ?

    Your use of the virgin birth as an example is perfectly ad hoc. My guess is you are using it because it is a safe doctrinal point of agreement. But there are other “basic tenet(s) of the earliest professions of the Christian faith” ” such as Baptismal regenerationthat Protestants reject which you chose not to mention. With Zwingli most Protestants say “In this matter of baptism—if I may be pardoned for saying it – I can only conclude that all the doctors have been in error from the time of the apostles.”

    I could make a list of other such doctrines if you wish. (the feast of Corpus Christi this Sunday brings some things to mind) My point is that you are picking and choosing. Pointing to authority only when you agree, drawing an ad hoc line in the sands of history before which you submit to a magisterium but after which you do not looks very odd to those of us who see that it is your finger drawing the line, not the magisterium. there is no principled reason for you drawing it there and not another place. Where did the earliest Christians ever say that only the “earliest professions of the Christian faith” are the only things we need accept anyway? You assume it (in an aparently ad hoc way) but I see no reason to.
    You have no reason to accept Nicaea I but not Nicaea II, and that fact is just a big ‘ol elephant in the Reformed living room.

  200. Andrew M

    I am assuming that if someone has been baptized into the Catholic Church and remains there, attends mass, takes the partakes of the Eucharist as well as other sacraments, that they are in full communion with the Catholic Church. So I am asking about someone such as this who rejects some basic teachings of the Church whether or not they do so privately (like so many Catholics) or actively promote their doctrine or practice (like some of the RCC liberals and radical traditionalist types).

    There is a contradiction in here. The person who rejects Church teaching, but still partakes in the Eucharist is in grave sin and NOT in full communion with the Catholic Church.

  201. David M said: Your use of the virgin birth as an example is perfectly ad hoc. My guess is you are using it because it is a safe doctrinal point of agreement.

    David,

    You are right, I’m specifically aiming at something that we are in doctrinal agreement over. So I’m not choosing something random or ad hoc, I just don’t want to get into a debate within the debate. We both perceive that each other holds to doctrinal positions which cannot be justified by the writings of the ECF’s, but I’m focusing on the essence of schism and so trying to use examples of divergence from the Christian faith that we both agree are truly divergences. To us Reformed schism happens long before there is a formal break. It happens when a group within the communion creates dissension and drives apart the people of God. If this dissension is not a matter that should divide the people of God (i.e the disagreements in in the Novationist and Donatist controversies) then everything humanly possible ought to be done to bring the divided parties back together. But if the matter concerns an essential of the Christian faith (i.e. the virgin birth of Christ) then the two sides should formally divide unless those rejecting this essential element of Christianity will not repent. To my mind the two cannot stay together and call each other “brothers” any longer. Admittedly ecclesiological conflicts are not always this cut and dried and I’m speaking in general terms.

    Brian said : There is a contradiction in here. The person who rejects Church teaching, but still partakes in the Eucharist is in grave sin and NOT in full communion with the Catholic Church.

    Brian – It makes sense that you would say that there is a fundamental problem with someone who expressly affirms Catholicism but rejects official RCC dogma in not experiencing the fullness of their faith, but in the context of this conversation over schism I think we have to talk about people as either in communion or not in communion with a particular ecclesiastical body.

  202. Hi Andrew! I hope your difficulties aren’t bad difficulties, but that life is just keeping you busy. I share Augustine’s view that most Catholics are bad Catholics, but that we can’t give up ecclesial unity with the wheat on account of the mountain of chaff without becoming chaff ourselves:

    “You are doubtless aware that in the Jewish dispensation the sin of idolatry was committed by the people, and once the book of the prophet of God was burned by a defiant king; the punishment of the sin of schism would not have been more severe than that with which these two were visited, had not the guilt of it been greater. You remember, of course, how the earth opening swallowed up alive the leaders of a schism, and fire from heaven breaking forth destroyed their accomplices. Neither the making and worshipping of an idol, nor the burning of the Holy Book, was deemed worthy of such punishment” (Letter 51, 1).

    “Why have you severed yourselves, by the heinous impiety of schism, from the unity of the whole world? … Wherefore will you be guilty of dividing the garments of the Lord, and not hold in common with the whole world that coat of charity, woven from above throughout, which even His executioners did not rend? … If you hate those who do evil, shake yourselves free from the crime of schism… [W]herein has the Christian world offended you, from which you have insanely and wickedly cut yourselves off? … If the surrendering of the sacred books to destruction is a crime which, in the case of the king who burned the book of Jeremiah, God punished with death as a prisoner of war, how much greater is the guilt of schism! ” (Letter 76, 1, 3, 4)

    If any can have good grounds (which indeed none can have) for separating themselves from the communion of the whole world, and calling their communion the Church of Christ, because of their having withdrawn warrantably from the communion of all nations—how do you know that in the Christian society, which is spread so far and wide, there may not have been some in a very remote place, from which the fame of their righteousness could not reach you, who had already, before the date of your separation, separated themselves for some just cause from the communion of the whole world? How could the Church in that case be found in your sect, rather than in those who were separated before you?… We, however, are certain that no one could ever have been warranted in separating himself from the communion of all nations, because every one of us looks for the marks of the Church not in his own righteousness, but in the Divine Scriptures, and beholds it actually in existence, according to the promises” (Letter 93, Ch. 8:25, 9:28).

    Whoever, therefore, shall be separated from this Catholic Church by this single sin of being severed from the unity of Christ, no matter how estimable a life he may imagine he is living, shall not have life, but the anger of God rests upon him” (Letter 141, 5).

    “It is marvellous that you have preserved the testament [i.e., the Scriptures] and lost the inheritance… in that we see you separated from the communion of the whole world (a sin both of the greatest magnitude, and manifest to all mankind, and common to you all), [and] if I were desirous of exaggerating, I should find time failing me sooner than words… See from what an inheritance you estrange yourselves! see what an Heir you resist! Can it really be that a man would spare Christ if He were walking here on earth who speaks against Him while He sits in heaven? Do you not yet understand that whatever you allege against us you allege against His words? A Christian world is promised and believed in: the promise is fulfilled, and it is denied. Consider, I entreat of you, what you ought to suffer for such impiety” (Against Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 8:20).

    I further say that you are all guilty and accursed,—not some of you owing to the sins of others, which are wrought among you by certain of your number, and are censured by certain others, but all of you by the sin of schism; from which most heinous sacrilege no one of you can say that he is free, so long as he refuses to hold communion with the unity of all nations, unless, indeed, he be compelled to say that Christ has told a lie concerning the Church which is spread abroad among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Against Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 97:221).

    We need the truth proclaimed by the Catholic Church, we need the sacraments, we need the teaching authority of the pastoral office preserved through apostolic succession, and we need all of these things so that we can live a life of faith, hope, and love, receiving the great mercy of God. Is there something else that you think I can do that might help you? No one has helped me more with these types of concerns than Augustine. :)

    “Undoubtedly, those good and bad fishes of which the Lord speaks in the Gospel, as being within the same net, which gives unity to their group, swim about together in physical contact, but separation of kind, until the end of time, prefigured by the word shore” (Augustine, Letter 108).

    “Hence it is that the true Church is hidden from no one… here you have the coming of the Holy Spirit, whom He sent in tongues of fire, that He might make manifest the glowing heat of charity, which he certainly cannot have who does not keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace with the Church, which is throughout all languages” (Against Petilian, Bk. 2, Ch. 32:74).

    By the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    Pete

  203. Brian :There is a contradiction in here. The person who rejects Church teaching, but still partakes in the Eucharist is in grave sin and NOT in full communion with the Catholic Church.

    Exactly! Any Catholic (whether “liberal” or “ultra-conservative”) that knowingly dissents with any de fide definita dogma of the Catholic Church, is, by definition, a formal heretic. Heresy is a sin that incurs the penalty of automatic excommunication (latae sententiae) from the Catholic Church. This penalty for heresy is explicitly spelled out in the Code of Canon Law:

    Canon 751: “Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

    Canon 1364 §1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.”

    Who are these “Catholic” dissenters that deny de fide definita dogmas of the Catholic Church while not having the honesty to leave the Church with whom they dissent? Jesus told us who they are – they are the tares in the wheat field, and they will be separated from the wheat by the angels at the final judgment – Matt 13:24-30 & 37-43.

  204. @ Andrew McCallum #198

    In regards to the EO articles: These were just quick random samples of articles showing that the EO does understand that the Church is “hierarchical” in nature. One of the things that I think is rather important for non-Catholics understand about the Catholic Church is that the model of authority as expressed by the Roman Church is not necessarily synonymous with the model of authority as expressed by one of the Eastern Catholic Churches (which share the same model as the EO) nor should these exercises of authority be synonymous with how the Church as a whole is hierarchical. The hierarchical nature of the Church really is a philosophical expression about the Church’s ontology and not an expression of the governmental structure of the Church. The governmental structure of the Church really is the human aspect in her, while the hierarchical nature stems from the divine aspect of her as Christ’s Mystical Body united with the divine headship of Christ.

    I have mentioned this before on another thread but there are two main models of Church structure: Episcopal and Monarchical. Prior to Vatican II the Monarchical was dominant in Roman Catholicism but Vatican II made the Episcopal model dominant. This I think is also helpful especially as one seeks to understand how the Church sees herself. Neither model is dogma.

    But if one part has denied the faith, let’s say denied the virgin birth of Christ or denied that Christ came in the flesh, they should be anathematized, no?

    First there is a very large differance between denying part of the faith and having difficulties with part of the faith. Secondly, you are aware that the virgin birth of Christ means that Mary was physically a virgin before during and after the birth and not that Mary was a virgin at the time of conception? Lets take for a second that you don’t actually believe that Apostolic teaching. Do you not believe it because you are unaware of it, because you have difficulty with it, or because you deny it? Better yet, what should we do with someone who believes as such? The answer depends on what we think God desires from human. Does God desire to save sinners? OR Does God desire to save the elect and damn the reprobate? (5 Point Calvinist Position). If you are a Calvinist you cast them out and be done with them. If you are Catholic, you believe that God desires the salvation of sinners so you, as Jesus said, treat them as tax collectors and publicans, which means that you redouble your efforts and really try harder to bring them to the Gospel. A person who is denying an aspect of the Faith is out of communion with God. Sometimes they are far enough out of communion with God that they need to be publically barred from the sacraments — Why do Catholics bar serious sinners from the sacraments when the sacraments heal? This is because of two reasons 1.) the sacraments are holy things so it compounds the sin to receive the grace of God unworthily or in a manner that profanes the sacrament 2.) the sacraments are unearned gifts thus receiving when intentionally being out of communion is attempting to take by force that which is given freely.

    The Church’s first response to disbelieving members is not to kick them out and tell them to go someplace else to worship their false gospel but rather to point out to them how their beliefs are impacting their actions and how their actions are placing them outside of communion with Christ. By making this distinction, by pointing out and making clear that the sinner is in fact not well, the Church can then stress the need for healing and offer the means for healing both body and soul.

    I think you are underestimating the grace extended in the typical Reformed church.

    How can a typical Reformed community extend grace when grace is only divine approval? Does the Reformed pastor have the ability to speak on behalf of God and extend or retract His sovereign divine approval?

    Now I know my experience cannot speak to all Reformed communities but I have only seen then they should be removed from the church, but such discipline is for the purpose of bringing them to repentance be practiced as “repentance” equating to “agreeing with the elder’s personal interpretation of scripture”, and I have seen first hand the threat of being called before the elder’s terrify some of my friends. (I am thinking here of a Reformed Baptist thinking of switching to Presbyterian, and it being used as a wedge between married and dating couples to get everyone on the same page or break things apart.)

    How can we commune in the sacraments with those who do not commune with Christ?

    Well, first of all the sacraments are not signs of a previously established communion with Christ, if they were then yes you would have a point that perfect intellectually agreement is necessary before you would allow someone to partake of the sign — luckily Christianity isn’t for the intellectual elites. The sacraments themselves are what creates the unity. Now sacramental unity isn’t just for the perfect, but it is for the ill, the infirm, the dying. The sacraments create new life, create the communion both horizontally with men and vertically with God. Does God withhold His grace from those that have difficulty believing? No for grace creates our ability to believe.

    There is a well known Reformed website that uses a version from Amos, How can two walk together if they be not agreed? to stress the importance of perfect intellectual agreement as necessary prior to communion. It is surprising to me that this dating site misses the answer that love enables those who have discord to find harmony. The Christian Faith is not created because of men’s agreement in what they think the Faith to be, rather the Christian Faith is something that is received from God. This is why Catholics call the Faith divine — what we believe in Faith is true because it was received from God. This is why heresy is so bad — it is not a “I choose to believe in something other than you do” but rather “I choose not to receive what you have received from God”.

    What I am trying to do is to put things in the right order. Our affirmation of a particular belief system comes from our desire to receive that which it has to offer and our reception of what is offered informs and strengthens and creates our belief. “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” which is to say I have received help me to know and affirm that which I have received. Or still yet, theology is faith seeking understanding, not understanding seeking faith.

    For Catholics, the desire to receive what is offered by the Faith really is what keeps the very messy barq of Peter afloat on the sea. Of course the Church has a right to prevent those who do not desire to receive what is offered from receiving anyway, but the desire to receive the tzedakah of the Father is what keeps the liberal and conservatives from excommunicating each other, and it keeps the sinners who have great difficulty with the Faith from fully abandoning her.

    After all Christ said, if you do not believe, at least believe in the works. The Catholic Church is not quick at all to cast out those who do not believe and yet believe in His works.

  205. @Andrew McCallum:

    Brian – It makes sense that you would say that there is a fundamental problem with someone who expressly affirms Catholicism but rejects official RCC dogma in not experiencing the fullness of their faith, but in the context of this conversation over schism I think we have to talk about people as either in communion or not in communion with a particular ecclesiastical body.

    Andrew, I don’t think this will wash, because you, if you have been baptised, are in communion with the Catholic Church – the Church says so. That Communion is ‘imperfect’ – and so is that of a Cafeteria Catholic who says he doesn’t believe in the sinfulness of artificial contraception. But you are in schism – you understand, that I mean from the Church’s own point of view – and the Cafeteria Catholic is not.

    jj

  206. John,

    #197

    Good. We’ve defined our terms for the analogy.

    When I used people, you are using nation. When I used nation, you are using state. In addition to my critique on the basis of its irrelevance to antiquity, all my other comments still stand.

    Peace,

    Brent

  207. Nathan B: First there is a very large differance between denying part of the faith and having difficulties with part of the faith.

    Excellent point. The Catholic Church makes a distinction between involuntary doubt and voluntary doubt, obstinate doubt, and deliberately cultivated doubt:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

    Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

    Involuntary doubt is not cause for latae sententiae excommunication, it is a cause for proper catechesis. The person suffering from involuntary doubt cannot bring an unteachable spirit – a spirit of protesting – into the dialog with the catechist and expect that his or her issues will be resolved, because the obstinate refusal to listen to the church is either a free choice being made by the doubter, or it has its roots in demonic oppression. There is a reason why there is a Rite of Minor Exorcism during the period of the Catechumenate in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults!

    “Hear then the parable of the sower. When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path … Matthew 13:18-19

    Some people cannot understand the gospel because they are demonically oppressed. More dialog with such a person is not the answer, because they cannot be helped in their understanding without first receiving deliverance from demonic oppression.

  208. … the obstinate refusal to listen to the church is either a free choice being made by the doubter, or it has its roots in demonic oppression …

    Thinking about this further, the word “either” in the above sentence is a poor choice of words. Certainly it is possible that the person that refuses to listen to the church is just being stiff necked and stubborn. It is also possible that a person is under demonic oppression. Jesus had to deal with both cases. But those two states of mind do not comprise an exhaustive list of reasons for why person might not listen to the church. Invincible ignorance, for example, could be a cause for not listening to the church. There are other reasons too …

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