Reformation Sunday 2011: How Would Protestants Know When to Return?

Oct 29th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Imagine that the Occupy Wall Street protest continued for years, during which time the community of protesters divided into different factions, each with different beliefs, different demands, and different leaders. But the protests continued for so long that the protesters eventually built makeshift shanties and lived in them, and had children. These children grew up in the protesting communities, and then they too had children, who also grew up in the same communities of protesters, still encamped in the Wall Street district. Over the course of these generations, however, these communities of protesters forgot what it was that they were protesting. They even forgot that they were protesting. Life in the shanties in Wall Street was what these subsequent generations had always known. They did not even know that they had inherited a protesting way of life, separated from the rest of society. When asked by a reporter what Wall Street would have to change in order to get them to return home, they looked at him confusedly, and responded, “We are home; this is home.” They no longer had any intention to ‘return to society’ upon achieving some political or economic reform. For them, camping out on Wall Street was life as normal, and those with whom they had grown up camping simply were their society.

What if Protestantism in its present form is the fractured remains of a Catholic protest movement that began in 1517, but which has long since forgotten not only what it was protesting, but that it was formed by Catholics, in protest over conditions and practices within the Catholic Church? What if Protestantism has forgotten that its original intention was to return to full communion with the Catholic Church when certain conditions were satisfied?

During the week approaching Reformation Sunday last year those questions prompted me to write, “Trueman and Prolegomena to “How would Protestants know when to return?”.” I included the term ‘prolegomena’ because before discussing the conditions under which Protestants can return to full communion with the Catholic Church, Protestants (and Catholics) must first recover the memory of our history, not only our shared history as one Church prior to the sixteenth century, but also the history by which we came to be divided during that century. Recovering that history shows not only that the early Protestants never intended to form a perpetual schism from the Catholic Church, but also helps us remember that Protestant communities are by their history, communities in exile from the Catholic Church, and thereby by that history ordered toward eventual reconciliation and reunion with the Catholic Church. According to that history Protestantism began as a protest movement initially made up of Catholics protesting the Catholic Church and seeking to reform her; it was never intended to remain perpetually in schism from her.1 Semper Reformanda does not translate as “perpetually in schism.” Hence in “Trueman and Prolegomena” I quoted Protestant professor of historical theology Carl Trueman, who wrote:

[W]e [Protestants] need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in others words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do each and every day.

Yet even among those Protestants who retain the memory of Protestantism’s origin as a Catholic protest movement, Reformation Day is typically viewed as a day of celebration. On Reformation Sunday of 2009, we posted a 1995 Reformation Day sermon by the Protestant theologian Stanley Hauerwas, named by Time magazine as America’s best theologian. A few weeks ago I had a chance to talk with Hauerwas in person, and he said that he still affirms every word of that sermon. In that sermon Hauerwas says:

After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.

Tomorrow will be celebrated by many Protestants as “Reformation Sunday.” To be sure, part of what Protestants celebrate on Reformation Day are what they believe to be the truths upheld and preserved within Protestantism. But without careful qualification, celebrating “Reformation Day” while remaining separated from the Catholic Church is a kind of performative contradiction, because it implies that separation, not reform, is the ultimate goal of the protest. Celebrating Reformation Day can be for that reason like celebrating a divorce, or more accurately, celebrating estrangement from our mother and from all our brothers and sisters who remain in her bosom, when in truth Christ calls us all to full communion and prays that we would be one. Moreover celebrating what is a division can blind the celebrants to the evil of that continuing division, just as celebrating divorce could blind children to its evil, or celebrating abortion could blind the celebrants to its evil.

But Reformation Day can be approached differently. It should be an annual reminder of the continuation of the evil in our midst that is the Protestant-Catholic division, a division that causes scandal to the rest of the world regarding the identity and efficacy of Christ’s gospel. In that respect, Reformation Day is a day to ask ourselves the following question:

What have I done, since the last Reformation Day, to help bring reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics?

If the answer is ‘nothing,’ then by our inaction we are in actuality perpetuating the schism which has continued now for almost five hundred years. Reformation Day ought therefore be a day in which Protestants are reminded to enter into authentic and charitable dialogue with Catholics, and Catholics are reminded to enter into such dialogue with Protestants, in order to put this schism behind us as a tragic event in Church history, through which God can nevertheless bring good. The lot of those who despair over the possibility of reconciliation is to die without seeing it. However, that generation which in faith truly believes that with God nothing is impossible will live to see it, and will be graced with the everlasting privilege of being the instruments through which this reconciliation is accomplished.

Having recollected our memory of our history, and a shared understanding of the early Protestants’ intention to reform the Catholic Church, not to form a schism from the Catholic Church, each Protestant faces the following question: How would I as a Protestant know when to return? No one Protestant can answer that question for all Protestants, because no one Protestant has the authority to speak for all Protestants. Each Protestant therefore must answer that question for him or herself.

But at the same time, the Protestant is faced with a second-order question and a second-order problem. The problem is that if we survey a thousand Protestants, and ask each what the Catholic Church would have to change, in order for him or her to stop protesting and be reconciled to the Catholic Church, we get almost a thousand different answers. When the Protestant reflects on his own act of setting conditions that the Catholic Church must meet in order for him to return to full communion with her, he is faced with an awareness that because each Protestant has a different set of conditions for return, and because he has no unique authority above that of all other Protestants to speak for all other Protestants, his very approach makes Protestant-Catholic reconciliation impossible. That’s because even if (per impossible) the Catholic Church could abandon her own doctrine and adopt a Protestant doctrine, the Church could not possibly adopt and simultaneously hold the incompatible Protestant positions on any particular theological question.2

The Protestant who reflects on this cannot but notice that to approach reconciliation this way is to fall into ecclesial consumerism, as each person demands that the Church conform to his own interpretation of Scripture before he will submit to her. Implicit in the very nature of an “I won’t return unless the Church does x” condition for reconciliation is a denial of ecclesial authority, a denial that not only presumes precisely what is in question between Protestants and the Catholic Church with respect to the existence of magisterial authority, but implicitly exercises that magisterial authority. So the second-order question is this: How can a Protestant pursue an end to the Protestant-Catholic schism without falling into ecclesial consumerism?

If, as Neal and I argued in “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority,” to make conformity to one’s own interpretation a condition for submission is performatively to make oneself one’s own authority, the Protestant’s very act of laying out a list of conditions for reunion with the Catholic Church is not a theologically neutral act. In this act the Protestant intrinsically arrogates to himself an interpretive authority exceeding that of the magisterium of the Catholic Church. He is therefore confronted not only with the changes he wants to see in the Catholic Church, but with the realization that if he sets conditions that the Catholic Church must satisfy in order for him to return to full communion with her, he is performatively arrogating to himself ultimate interpretive authority, and seeking to conform the Church to the image of his own interpretation of Scripture. So the question I invite our Protestant readers to answer is not “What would the Catholic Church have to change in order for me to return to her?” but rather, “What does the multiplicity of Protestant answers to that question reveal about both the prospects and presuppositions of that approach to Protestant-Catholic reconciliation?

  1. So long as Protestants redefine schism from the Church as heresy, that memory will remain hidden. []
  2. See, for example, the various Protestant notions of justification in the recent book Justification: Five Views. []
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  1. I have read this blog posting over more than once to make sure that I had absorbed the full message. After doing so, I will say one thing; Read what you have written and then ask yourself, “Why would Protestants *want* to return?”.

  2. This protestant will return to the Roman Catholic church when the Roman Catholic church brings its beliefs into agreement with the Book of Concord.

  3. Ethan (re: #1),

    Because they love Christ, and want to be in full communion with the Church He founded

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  4. Bryan, Christ did not found the Roman Catholic Church. The foundation upon which Christ’s church was to be built in Matthew 16 was the recognition of Jesus as the Christ, not the person of Peter for recognizing that fact.

    Your article talks about problems with every individual interpreting Scripture for themselves. Yet, the Roman Catholic Church continues to point at its own interpretation (a misinterpretation) of a single Scripture to justify its existence. It’s made worse because it’s not a single individual perpetuating that misinterpretation, but an entire group of people worldwide.

    So, I will repeat my initial question; Why would Protestants want to return?

  5. re #1, ” “Why would Protestants *want* to return?”

    I think first they would have to (a) be aware that the original Protestants intended reform, not schism — AND (b) believe that this was the correct approach.

    Perhaps the prevailing narrative now is that the original Protestants were sadly misguided, that reform was impossible, and that schism was and always has been the correct way.

  6. Dear Steve,

    You answered that Protestants will return to the Catholic Church when the Catholic Church adopts beliefs that are in agreement with the [Lutheran] Book of Concord. You miss a major argument in Bryan’s post here. Specifically, he explained that:

    When the Protestant reflects on his own act of setting conditions that the Catholic Church must meet in order for him to return to full communion with her, he is faced with an awareness that because each Protestant has a different set of conditions for return, and because he has no unique authority above that of all other Protestants to speak for all other Protestants, his very approach makes Protestant-Catholic reconciliation impossible. That’s because even if (per impossible) the Catholic Church could abandon her own doctrine and adopt a Protestant doctrine, the Church could not possibly adopt and simultaneously hold the incompatible Protestant positions on any particular theological question.
    The Protestant who reflects on this cannot but notice that to approach reconciliation this way is to fall into ecclesial consumerism…

    You validate this point by citing the Lutheran standards as the standards which the Catholic Church must adopt in order to effect your [personal] reconciliation.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  7. So, the other day I was walking through the encampment on the south side of the park. I had just reached the outside perimeter, on the corner of Broadway and Cedar, when I ran into an old friend. Gone were the tie-dye shirts and ragged jeans. In their stead stood a perfectly pressed Brooks Bros.

    “Gordie!” I yelled. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

    We embraced.

    “So, it’s official then? You’re outta here for good?”

    “More than that,” he replied, with a sheepish grin, “I landed a gig on the Street.”

    “I knew it!” I exclaimed. “I always knew it! The most vociferous protesters often surprise you in just that way. What brings you down here?”

    “See if I could talk a little sense in to some of you guys,” he said, chuckling.

    I returned the favor. “Well, I can hardly wait. But tell me, what was it that finally caused you to change your mind?”

    “I suppose one day it just clicked—I finally decided to submit myself to the Street. You know, in effect, deny that we had any right to be protesting in the first place. Add to that the sheer cacophony of this place and the fact that there was no one protester here that could decide anything for all of us, because no one protester has the authority to speak for all the other protesters. Each protester therefore must make decisions about any of this stuff for him or herself. And that’s exactly what I did. So, my choice wasn’t really a choice per se, but acquiescence to the truth that the Street had been right all along.”

    “Oh,” I said, somewhat embarrassed at the circularity of his point. “I see.”

  8. Ethan, (re: #4)

    Your question/comment makes good sense if you don’t think that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. And so I agree with ‘bearing’s comment in #5. This post is building on previous posts, and it wasn’t my intention in this post (or in this combox) to argue for the thesis that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. This post assumes that the reader has read the two previous Reformation Day posts on Called To Communion, one from 2009, and the other from 2010. I linked to them in the body of the post above. I’ve also written some other things that taken together provide substantive evidence that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. One I co-wrote with Tom Brown is titled “Christ Founded a Visible Church.” That article argues for the visibility of the Church. Another related and much shorter post is titled “Why Protestantism has no “visible catholic Church”.” Another is titled “Philosophy and the Papacy.” (Update: See also the post on the “motives of credibility.”) I think it is helpful to see in the Church Fathers the recognition of a need for a visible principle of unity for the Church, and the understanding that Christ Himself understood this, and thus gave the keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter, to establish the Church with a visible principle of unity and a touchstone for schism from the Church. I wrote three other things related to that. One is titled “The Chair of St. Peter.” Another is on St. Cyprian; that’s titled “St. Cyprian on the Unity of the Catholic Church.” Another is an examination of the writing of the fourth century African bishop St. Optatus, on his work on schism, in reference to the Donatists. That is titled “St. Optatus on Schism and the Bishop of Rome.”

    The fundamental and determining reason for being Catholic is that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. The only other possible contender for being the Church Christ founded are the Orthodox who have particular Churches [‘particular Church’ is a technical term] founded by the Apostles, not any Protestant denomination founded since the sixteenth century. Otherwise, one has to deny that Christ founded a visible Church with essential visible unity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  9. Christ founded the Body of Christ, the Church in all of its aspects, incarnations, what have you. The Roman Catholic Church is simply the first church to lay claim to being the One True Church, a claim that’s been made countless times since.

  10. Ethan, (re: #9)

    I think it wouldn’t be fruitful for us merely to trade assertions; at least, I don’t think we could reach agreement in that way. I’ve provided some evidence in the links in comment #8, and I know you couldn’t have read them all in the ten minutes between my last comment and your latest comment. In those links, I explain why the Body of Christ is visible, and essentially visibly unified. This is what allows for the distinction between branches within the Church, and schisms from the Church. See “Branches or Schisms?,” as well as “Michael Horton on Schism as Heresy.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  11. Ethan,

    I was reading your response when I recognized me. I held your position. I held a practical denial of scripture and I was part of a denomination which claimed to be bible believing, which we were except when we were not.

    For a fine example of my previous position and the pickle of being bible believing except when we were not willing to believe the bible, a man with the perfectly good name of Simon was renamed Kephas in Aramaic by Jesus Himself. To be sure, this man is Peter in English-speaking countries, Cephas in Paul’s correspondence, and the work Kephas means rock.

    The name Rock had been associated with God in the Old Testament, however the new Rock is immediately associated with the Church by Jesus when Simon is renamed Peter. The juxtaposition is obvious, and it is a real damaging work to disassociate Peter and the Church.

    Peter is the second most noted person in the New Testament and the person used by our Lord in His initial accommodation of the gentiles in the Church. Despite his weaknesses and failures, Peter is the leader, especially in Acts after the Ascension.

    The recognition of Peter and his function carries on through the early Church fathers who see Peter’s function operating in his successors. It is the continuation of the function of the chamberlain (key bearer) used by the kings of Israel, which gives us an idea of how part of the Church looks from our Lord’s point of view.

    Paul does some descriptions of the Church, noting “first there are apostles;” and Paul sees the Church as the pillar and ground of faith.

    Jesus guarantees the Church against defection, Hell does not prevail. Jesus promises the third Person of God, the Holy Spirit, as the means by which the Church is led to the truth. Presumably that divine leadership includes the scripture and its interpretation.

    The yellow pages in my city note 63 denominational bodies, including a not necessarily related group of churches listed as “independent.” In order to believe that it is the Holy Spirit guiding these disparate and conflicting bodies and their ideas seemed (and seems) to me to make God to blame for the conflicting positions and opinions. Jesus is described as the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. What was being said by those 63 bodies is that Jesus was in fact changeable to comport with their various ideas and positions. Who is in charge?

    “It’s made worse because it’s not a single individual perpetuating that misinterpretation, but an entire group of people worldwide.”

    What does it mean when a particular Church believes the words of scripture? What does it mean when Jesus’ own words are upheld and not denied? What does it mean when God is not limited in the ways we limited Him in the denomination I was once in? It means that God can be God and I am not in the place of hindering or denying Him. It means that Jesus is in fact in charge of this particular Church, maintaining it with His power, the limitations or failures of individual Catholics do not undo that fact.

    I am a Catholic. I was not always a Catholic but I am now. I am no longer rebelling against our Lord. I am no longer limiting Him to suit my limitations or my previous anti-Catholic bias. God is God and I am a creature. He does not have to meet my standard, I need His grace to even respond to His standard. What a relief.

    Cordially,

    dt

  12. Chris, (re: #7)

    Thanks for your comment. It seems to me that your narrative is a response to one particular question in my post, namely, “How can a Protestant pursue an end to the Protestant-Catholic schism without falling into ecclesial consumerism?” And the answer suggested in your narrative is something like this: “He cannot. Even if he ceases his protest and submits to the Catholic Church, he is in that very act being an ecclesial consumerist.”

    My response to that is, as I argued in “The Tu Quoque,” that there is a principled epistemic difference between submitting in the “obedience of faith” to the Church that Christ Himself founded when He was on the earth, not because it conforms to my interpretation of Scripture but because Christ founded it, on the one hand, and on the other hand seeking to form or join a novel community of persons that holds the doctrines that generally match one’s own interpretation of Scripture, because their doctrines generally match one’s interpretation of Scripture. When we work our way through Church history, and we examine the plethora of heretical sects that arose and decayed over the past two thousand years, we find that these heretical sects all have something in common; they were each formed on the basis of a particular [novel] interpretation of Scripture, and other persons not infrequently joined them on the basis of their agreement with that interpretation, rather than submitting to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church Christ founded. In other words, following the Church that is already there and has always been there in continuity from the Apostles, is an act of faith in Christ who founded it; but forming a new sect on the assumption that the Church that has always been there in continuity from the Apostles is wrong, has always been an act of pride and rebellion against ecclesial authority.

    And as Christians, we know both that Satan wants to get us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Pride is the chief of the seven deadly sins, and this was the sin by which Satan fell. So we know that one of his goals in attacking Christ’s Church is to get Christians to rebel against Christ, by rebelling against the authority Christ established in His Church. We also know that he is an angel of light, that is, he makes evil seem good. That’s how he deceives men, and that’s how he tempts. So how can he get men to rebel against Christ, while making them think that they are serving Christ? He does this through pride portrayed as zeal for Christ and His gospel. He works like this:

    “Look at these verses. Don’t they teach something other than what the Church teaches? Don’t you love Christ, and don’t you love His gospel? If you love Christ, then you need to defend the truth, since the Church and her magisterium have abandoned Christ and His gospel. Start your own group, and lead these lost souls back to the truth of the gospel found in Scripture.”

    That’s a narrative that could be found in the history of many heretics over the course of Church history. That’s not the virtue of faith, but the vice of pride coated in the veneer of love for Christ and His gospel. Such persons take interpretive authority to themselves, rather than submitting to the ecclesial authority Christ established, in succession from the Apostles. This is the way Satan causes schisms and heresies, through a pride in which a person takes to himself an ecclesial authority not given to him by the Magisterium Christ established. So there is an alternative to ecclesial consumerism. It is the faith that “believes and professes all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” In other words, it is to believe and submit to the Church that has always been there (even before the sixteenth century, and all the way back to the Apostles), in the humility that is the very opposite of the pride that takes to oneself an ecclesial and interpretive authority that has not been given to oneself by those already having that authority.

    This is what St. Thomas Aquinas explained (see “St. Thomas Aquinas on the Relation of Faith to the Church“) about the relation between faith and the Church, namely, that faith in Christ is faith through the Church Christ founded, not just ‘faith’ through one’s own interpretation of Scripture. That is distrusting Christ, by distrusting the Church He founded, and distrusting His governance of His Church through the persons He chooses and authorizes. Any heretic can do that; this is what makes heresy a sin, that it is rooted in a pride that does not submit to Christ, by refusing to submit to those whom Christ authorized and established. That pride is at the very heart of ecclesial consumerism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  13. Chris,

    Personifying the analogous reasoning of your would-be Street/Catholic acquaintance, you wrote:

    I suppose one day it just clicked—I finally decided to submit myself to the Street. You know, in effect, deny that we had any right to be protesting in the first place. . . . Each protester therefore must make decisions about any of this stuff for him or herself. and that’s exactly what I did. So, my choice wasn’t really a choice per se, but acquiescence to the truth that the Street had been right all along.”

    Of course, that presentation attacks a straw man, for it entirely misconstrues the Catholic argument, specifically the argument which Bryan has again advanced in the present article. Namely, the Catholic challenges the very notion I have placed in bold – i.e. that each protester must “make decisions about any of this stuff for him or herself”. Instead, the Catholic argument concerns the locus or grounds for determining the content of revelatory truth in the first place. It does not, primarily, concern the content of that truth in itself. The Catholic convert does not make an ad hoc “acquiescence” to the body of doctrinal teachings promulgated by the Catholic Church, as if choosing the Catholic set of doctrines from among all the other available Protestant sets – just because; or because he has simply grown tired of doctrinal bickering among various groups. That would indeed be arbitrary and ad hoc. Ironically, that sort of move more closely resembles the fundamental approach underwritten by Protestant revelatory epistemology. Yet, that is precisely what you have attributed as the motive for your would-be Catholic friend’s conversion. Not surprisingly you quip:

    “Oh,” I said, somewhat embarrassed at the circularity of his point. “I see.”

    No circularity is involved. The Catholic argues that before a person even begins to assess what the doctrinal content of revelation might be, he had best come to some notion of how one knows that any purported revelatory doctrine is, in fact, revealed by God in the first place. Just as in knowledge of natural things, it is crucial that one first give attention to the “how do you know” epistemological question. So too, in supernatural knowledge, crucial attention must be paid to the “how do you know” doctrinal epistemology question. Hence, doctrinal epistemology is of absolutely fundamental relevance to the question at hand. Protestant communions explicitly embrace the notion that the fundamental, brass tacks, foundation for determining the content of revelation is private judgment concerning the doctrinal teaching of Sacred Scripture. As Luther declared:

    Unless I am convinced by [my interpretation of] Scripture and by [my] plain reason and not by Popes and councils who have so often [in my opinion] contradicted themselves, my conscience is captive to the word of God [as I interpret it] [Bracketed words are my own, meant to draw out what seems evidently implied but unsaid.]

    Luther well knew the fundamental issue at stake, as the above quote attests. Is there a knowable external authority which God has designated as the proximate ground or foundation for determining the content of revealed truth, or must that content be determined by the lights of the individual reading his bible (which of course did not drop from the sky-but that’s another issue altogether)? Luther makes (from a Catholic POV) the fateful decision; he opts for the later, though he knows that there is an external authority which lays historical claim to having been designated by Christ to do the very thing which Luther has now arrogates to himself. Hence, he must declare that popes and councils have erred.

    The Catholic convert claims that, upon historical inspection, he discovers what Luther was well aware of, an existing external authority present across the centuries, claiming to possess authority from Christ to determine the content of revelation. However, unlike Luther, he does not find grounds for thinking that popes and councils have contradicted themselves. Hence, he determines that Luther (and all of Protestantism with him) took a heartbreaking wrong turn at a juncture located at the very root and foundation of the Christian religion.

    Luther crucially rejected the Church Christ founded in her capacity to lead men to the truth. Which, of course, is not to say that Luther or anyone else had not the right to protest moral abuses among the Catholic clergy. Such protest was deeply needed and was always a feature of prophetic voices among the people of God, from the OT prophets criticizing the priests of Israel, to the humble St. Francis of Assisi confronting a less-than-holy pope. But protest against immoral actions among God’s people or God’s leaders is no justification for starting a new people of God or a new Church. That is the very action which holy Moses rejected when given that option after the Israelite infidelity with the golden calf.

    In short, the Catholic convert is questioning the bedrock epistemology that undergirds all Protestant theology. He thinks he has good historical reasons for asserting that the Catholic Church was established by Christ as the guardian of revelatory content. He wishes to engage the Protestant on this most fundamental question ideally before moving on to discussions about the content of revelation in itself. Indeed, one can easily see the ultimate futility of focus on the later without at least simultaneous focus on the former.

    The convert finds the Catholic Church prefigured in the OT prophets and kings, concretized in the words of Jesus in the gospels, as well as in the Acts of the apostles and in the NT epistles. And if these documents are said to leave any doubt about which way the early Church came down on the issue of fundamental doctrinal epistemology or the visibility and unity of something called “the Church”; one need only turn to the post-apostolic Fathers to find abundant evidence of one visible Catholic Church being overseen by bishops united by the authority invested in the successors of Peter. In this discover process, it is true that the Catholic, like the Protestant, must use his own mind and will in assessing the historical evidence to determine whether Christ did indeed found the Catholic Church and authorize her to guard the deposit of faith down though the ages. But notice, at the very least, that this approach has the advantage of narrowing the problem down to a root issue.

    Moreover, the Catholic conclusion regarding the ultimate grounds for determining the content of divine revelation differs from the Protestant in a crucial way which, I believe, provides an antecedent reason for taking the Catholic position very seriously:

    For assuming that the Protestant is right in asserting that the ultimate epistemic foundation for determining the content of revealed truth is private judgment or interpretation of Sacred Scripture; it seems to follow that something like doctrinal relativism is simply intrinsic to that position as an unavoidable consequence (and this estimate is borne out in practice over the last 490+ years as well). Whereas, if the Catholic is correct in his historical assessment that Christ founded the Catholic Church to fulfill that very role, then Christians have open to them a non-relativistic means by which to know the content of revelation. That I take to be an antecedent reason for giving serious consideration to the Catholic argument; unless, of course, one is prepared to embrace the religious consequences of incorrigible relativity and uncertainty regarding something dubbed “the deposit of faith”.

    Finally, there is also a significant difference regarding the evidential content which one can explore while making an assessment between the Catholic versus Protestant epistemological paradigm:

    The Catholic can point to a wide array of “motives of credibility” open to public investigation in the historical record in defense of his conclusion regarding the claim that Christ-established and authorized the Catholic Church as a trans-generational, trans-geographic community centered around the successors of the apostles in communion with the successors of Peter. Bryan has written several posts which highlight just such historical evidences. So far as I can tell, there is nothing like a “motive of credibility” open to public investigation regarding the Protestant claim that an individual’s private judgment of the doctrinal content of Scripture should serve as the key to determining the content of divine revelation. There is only a raw personal assertion of authority – as Luther’s quote well epitomizes.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  14. My question: When will the Roman Catholic Church repent and come back to the Orthodox Church? How can you expect the Protestants to come back when you are in schism yourself?

  15. Hello Grace (re: #14),

    Welcome to Called To Communion. One thing we [you and I] have in common is that we believe that there is such a thing as schism. So, that’s a start. But in order to determine who is in schism and who is not, we first need to agree on the visible principle of unity of the Church, by which we can know which community is the Church Christ founded, and which communities are in schism from the Church Christ founded. I have discussed this in more detail in the last three articles linked to in comment #8 above. Regarding the prospect of Catholic-Orthodox reunion, see my post “Kallistos Ware: Orthodox & Catholic Union.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. I seek to be in communion with Christ and those who follow Christ. That is all. And that is where I will leave it.

  17. I am a revert back to the Catholic faith. I have spent many years in various Evangelical denominations and the Spirit has led me back home to Rome. I love this quote by St. Ignatius below. He was also believed to be a disciple of Saint John.

    “Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”
    ~Saint Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117)

  18. Ethan,

    Don’t you see a problem? While I agree that we all want to follow those who “follow Christ” and be in communion with Christ, it still begs the question of (a) who/where is Christ’s Church and if there is such a thing, (b) how does my attitude toward it impact the notion of “following Christ” and “being in communion with Him”? No Catholic here would disagree with your #16, but rather would affirm that your attitude in #16 propelled them to investigate the claim of the Catholic Church–the Scandalous One you can read about in the writings of Ignatius, Aquinas, Newman and on the pages of the New York Times today. Our desire to follow Christ caused us pause to wonder how this Catholic Church has managed to last the various epochs of time, internal tumult and intellectual and political struggles and yet exist today in an overwhelming manner unprecedented of any institution in human history.

    Generally, and if I am mischaracterizing you please correct me, “being in communion with those who follow Christ” can also be just another way of saying “being in communion with those who are living the faith the way I think it should be lived”. In this form of Christianity, the individual Christian becomes the judge, jury, evidence and plumb line of orthodoxy. Despite Chris D’s comment, the decision to become Catholic–while personal like ALL decisions–turns this paradigm on its head. Instead of striding into the courtroom, one must genuflect at the door submitting oneself to both the authority vested in Christ’s Church and the history of that Church.

    Becoming Catholic was a challenge for me because the Catholic Church is like Noah’s ark. It has a lot of people on board who appear to be stinking things up, but I’m called to love them and through our visible unity we can help each other on our way to heaven (Matt 13:24-30).

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

    Roger,

    Are you related to the famous Francis Ouimet? (I couldn’t resist)

  19. Ethan, RE#1

    “Why would Protestants *want* to return?”.

    This statement assumes that somewhere in the New Testament Christ or an Apostle gives the individual the right to follow God however he “wants.” I would be interested in seeing a defense of that…

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  20. Aaron, re #19: My relationship is with Christ and with my fellow believers and is dictated by God, not the Pope or the countless levels of hierarchies between the Pope and myself under the circumstance that I were a Catholic. I will stand in front of God at the Day of Judgement and be accountable for my life and how I lived it in accordance with how God said to live it, not anyone else. So, for the Catholic Church to tell me how I must believe is putting itself as an intermediary between God and myself, between Christ and myself and between the Holy Spirit and myself. The Scriptures do not include such a structure or any indication that I have to go through anybody else but Christ to come before the Father. John 14:6 says nothing about the Catholic church as far as getting to the Father. Nobody comes to the Father but through Christ.

    Why would I, as a Protestant, want to “return” to a church that puts a barrier back up between God the Father and myself? Why would I want to have to go through countless levels of hierarchies before I can come before God and have a relationship with him? I don’t want to because I want a direct relationship with God. That’s what Christ did on the cross. Why Catholics don’t want that, I don’t know.

  21. @Brent re: #18, Christ’s Church is the Body of Christ. It is no singular denomination or sect. At the same time, it is all of them. We cannot all be heads, hands or feet. I suspect that there is some group out there that’s the equivalent of the appendix. Nobody knows its purpose and sometimes it causes major problems, but there’s an inkling that it’s essential. The point is, for the Catholic Church to insist that it’s the only church that has it right and therefore every other group should reconcile themselves to it and be joined to it is like one part of the Body of Christ saying that it is the only essential part and that every other part isn’t performing its purpose.

    All those who follow Christ are parts of His Body. All those who acknowledge Jesus as the Christ are those that are members of the One True Church, having that acknowledgement as its foundation, not just Peter, who ended up as the basis of the church in Rome. As I said in another comment, there have been countless churches, the Roman Catholic Church just the first of these, that said it was the One True Church and that nobody else had it right. I’m sorry, but that assertion is just as wrong when the Catholic Church makes it as when others do. The Church that Christ built and started is ALL of us, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, etc. To continue to assert that Catholicism is the only group that got it right is to say that only one part of the Body of Christ is essential and that’s something that Christ specifically warned against.

  22. Ethan,
    Things between us and God are not always barriers. Sometimes they are bridges. Do you interact directly with Jesus? Does he appear to you in visions and speak with you? I think it is more likely he goes though some intermediary. Think of scripture. Did Jesus personally write it? No. Did he even personally recommend it to us? No. So guys like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are intermediaries. Nothing wrong with that in principle.

    What if someone said they experienced God in a sunset? Would you say they are silly because John 14:6 does not mention sunsets? Of course not. God can work through anything. But how does he normally work? Does He normally work through Christian leaders who teach the word and administer the sacraments? I know that was true for me when I was a protestant. So why is it such a stretch that God wants you to follow someone who teaches the word in a particular way and administers the sacraments in a particular way? The question is how do we select such a leader? Do you agree that it is reasonable to think of denominational questions this way?

  23. Ethan,

    The Scripture says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” (Heb. 13:17) How ought we determine who are the ecclesial leaders to whom we should submit? Should we do so by finding persons who agree with our interpretation of Scripture? If not, then how do you think we should find these leaders?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  24. Wow Ethan!

    Paul tells us that the Church is the body of which Christ is the head. Now what Church might that be? If it is a visible body then it is that lamp on a hill and it is made for everyone. It is universal. “It’s made worse because it’s not a single individual perpetuating that misinterpretation, but an entire group of people worldwide.” I disagree with the misinterpretation bit but do agree with worldwide item. Jesus told the Church to bring the good news to the entire world. We are obedient in that regard and have been since the Acts of the Apostles started.

    Would the Church Jesus founded, and of which He is the head, have the right to make binding decisions? If the Holy Spirit is guiding this Church, could it define things like the triune nature of God, the divine humanity of Jesus, the definition of Mary as the mother of God (immediately related to Who Jesus is as God and man), and what constitutes the canon of scripture?

    If the Rock and his successors are the chamberlains of the King of creation, would those individuals be the signification of where our Lord’s Church exists?

    The alternative is the conflicting committee of individuals and bodies proclaiming what they are willing to believe and of what they are willing to disbelieve. Been there. Done that. Found it to be woefully unsatisfactory. I was not fit to replace any of the Persons of God, nor was I fit to dictate what They should adhere to or about how They should act in any instance. I was not fit to replace our Lord’s chamberlain, the vicar of Christ, the pope. I was not fit to replace the local bishop. I was not fit to be in charge.

    I noted in my initial response that I found I was in conflict with the scripture, and in particular with Jesus’ own words. I could not use the justification that I believed what my peers believed, which is in fact no justification at all. Jesus noted that He came to do the will of His Father. The key was obedience expressed through love. One is supposed to love our Lord more than we love other, subordinate loves. Jesus displayed what love entails. Jesus was obedient through to His death on the cross.

    God is not required to bend to me, rather I am required to bend to God. The Old Testament is full of references to stiff necked people. It is a reference to pride. Pride is what drove Eve to eat that apple and give it to her husband. That is not a recommendation for anything.

    We all love God. The real question is whether we willing to be obedient even when we don’t understand Him or what He is doing? That was the question confronting me and you already have the answer. I needed to obey, noting that once I was obedient, I began to understand. I was asked to act in good faith, not in knowledge. I was called to Christianity, not to Gnosticism. I was called to agree with God, not He with me. I was like Peter when he said, “To Whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.” John 6:68 which is at the end of the bread of life discourse when a lot of Jesus’ followers left Him over the question of eating His Body and drinking His Blood. They did not like His expression of reality. The position expressed by the people who left Jesus is the current position of my old denomination. The Church He founded, the Roman Catholic Church, holds what He said to be literally true. The Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world is also the Passover Lamb Which must be eaten. He is also the real Bread from Heaven, the Manna in the desert of this life and the only Food capable of sustaining one on the journey to the next World. He is the Householder Who brings out things both old and new. He gave a completed meaning to the Passover and the journey in the desert and He gave it in His Person Which He gives to us at daily Mass when we receive Him.

    I know a lot more now than I did when I jumped the Tiber. None of it is secret. It is published in the Old and New Testaments, in the early Church Fathers, in the decisions of the councils, in the writings of the saints, in papal pronouncements, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is out in the open for anyone to read.

    If someone wants to task me with the failures of Catholics, no surprises there. The history of Catholicism is like the Old Testament. Our successes and failures (the real ones, not the imaginary ones) are out in the open. The Old Testament sees the Jews as being corrected and brought back to a state of grace. They were not replaced by the Samaritans or the Irish.

    The Church has been corrected as needed by the divine providence of God. It has not been replaced. The gates of hell have not prevailed against it, rather it continually prevails against the gates of hell. I am one such success in a sea of successes, and I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.

    I will stand in judgment before the Lawgiver and Judge Who is the judge of everything. There won’t be any secrets and there won’t be any surprises. I will be guilty of manifold failures. I will be utterly dependent on Jesus’ purchase of my soul through His Incarnation, Suffering, and Death; and my hope of a resurrection into His Kingdom, should that occur, will be entirely due to His grace.

    Note that I hope for salvation. What He did is sufficient for me, however I do need to respond to His grace in order “to work out my salvation in fear and trembling,” so that my faith can be seen through my works because “faith without works is dead.”

    My second conversion, my becoming Catholic, was one of those responses to grace. I had to deny myself and pick up my cross. I had to let Jesus be Jesus, and Peter be Peter, so I could be me.

    I’ll mention you in my prayers today.

    Cordially,

    dt

  25. Randy, I willingly listen to others who have more experience and wisdom than me in Christianity. However, they didn’t place themselves in authority over me. If anyone did, Christ did. I’m sorry, but most of the responses I’ve gotten here have merely solidified my impression that the Roman Catholic Church has placed itself in authority, as opposed to Christ having done so.

  26. Bryan, Scripture, both Old and New Testaments has countless examples of Christ calling leaders and placing them in authority or communicating to people, such as in the reference you cited, that they should submit themselves to leadership. What it does not contain is an example of a Christian choosing himself or herself as a leader and saying follow me or else. I stay far away from those who do.

    I don’t just look for those with whom I agree. If I did, I wouldn’t need that leader because I would essentially just be talking with myself. Generally, if I submit to an authority, it is through the conviction of the Holy Spirit speaking to me through something that person has said and generally because their words pointed out something that I was or was not doing that didn’t agree with Scripture. To imply that because I’m not a Catholic, I just going around looking for people to “tickle my ears” is offensive.

    At this point, I see no way of resolving this conversation to the satisfaction of either of us. You probably wouldn’t give up until I have decided to “rejoin” the Catholic Church. I, due to the fact that many of the things that the Catholic Church engages in which are extrabiblical, non-Scriptural or anti-Scriptual, will not “rejoin”. Some of Luther’s issues with the Catholic Church may or may not be resolved. I suspect he would have many more to add to them these days.

    One last word, Bryan. From what I’ve read on your blog and in your responses to me, I consider you to be a fellow Christian, my brother in Christ. I’m not meaning to imply at any level that you are not such or that Catholics are not members of the Body of Christ. I suspect that there are numerous problems with how both of us are living out our faith. At the same time, I felt that it was important for me to clarify my reasons for not being a Catholic. If you find fulfillment in the Catholic Church and a connection with Christ through it, then wonderful. I don’t. That’s not to say that it isn’t there. Just not for me. Not all are meant to be hands and feet. Some of us are the appendix.

  27. This paragraph….

    “Tomorrow will be celebrated by many Protestants as “Reformation Sunday.” To be sure, part of what Protestants celebrate on Reformation Day are what they believe to be the truths upheld and preserved within Protestantism. But without careful qualification, celebrating “Reformation Day” while remaining separated from the Catholic Church is a kind of performative contradiction, because it implies that separation, not reform, is the ultimate goal of the protest. Celebrating Reformation Day can be for that reason like celebrating a divorce, or more accurately, celebrating estrangement from our mother and from all our brothers and sisters who remain in her bosom, when in truth Christ calls us all to full communion and prays that we would be one. Moreover celebrating what is a division can blind the celebrants to the evil of that continuing division, just as celebrating divorce could blind children to its evil, or celebrating abortion could blind the celebrants to its evil.”

    ….reminded me of this post I just did: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/babies-in-church-part-viii-judge-your-mother-o-child-the-tragic-necessity-of-the-reformation/

    I’ve been conversing with the RC apologist Dave Armstrong. (see here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/dave-armstrong-debate-update-end-of-round-1/ ). Round 2 will be coming up, and will address the issues brought up here and more.

    Here is a preview paragraph:

    “In your saying this, am I right to assume that you see us as asserting that the Church, in fact, has not, since Pentecost, been a continuously conspicuous and identifiable (i.e. visible) historical institution? It is true that we do not think that this always needs be the case (see more below, in the indefectibility section). That said, perhaps persons who see the Church in this way, might also be able to put it this way: since the Church is in some very real sense Christ’s body it needs to – in order to act as Christ’s teaching office – in some sense be a visible and a definable human society. Along with this, we might also quote First Things’ David Mills, who says, “For the Catholic unity comes from shared membership in the Catholic Church, not from agreement on some distilled essence of Christianity.” (in other words, to say something like “nondenominationalism [i.e. “generic Christianity”] is the new ecumenism”… “ the fulfillment of the dream of Christian unity” is completely wrong). If this is the case we agree in full, and submit that we think this is how the Church has always been understood throughout the ages.”

    But still, this definition, you would say, is incomplete. Here we must add that you say the Church is that body of persons that submits to, and thereby is in communion with, the continuous line of the successors of Saint Peter. The Catholic Church is therefore properly called that which is governed by the Successor of Peter (and by the Bishops in communion with him you would say). In which case, to some degree, it is not only us Lutherans who have evidently re-defined the Church, but the EO churches as well. I know you think that there is more wrong with us then there is with them, but in any case, we are happy to be in their company here (this said, since Vatican II, the RCC also says that “The Churches which [even if] not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. [Dominus Iesus §17]: recently, Benedict said to an EO delgation: “the incomplete communion that already unites us must grow until it attains full visible unity.”)

    This brings us to another issue: you would say that our definition is yet incomplete because we do not insist on a continuous Apostolic Succession (something I think we have nonetheless). You said to me “Lutherans redefine apostolic succession as well, in a way quite different from how it was always understood”, and “Bishops are casually assumed in the Bible to be a permanent Church office. Why is it, then, that Luther got rid of them and placed power in the secular princes? Why do most Lutherans no longer have bishops today?”. Although we disagree that bishops are different than presbyters by divine rite, I do think the Reformers made a great mistake here. Second, again note again that Luther himself had been validly ordained in Rome’s eyes (and also note that Irenaeus, though he recognizes the hierarchy in the church, also notes that all of the churches pastors share the “infallible chariism”: again, we follow Jerome in saying that Biblically, the distinction between bishops and presbyters can be shown to be by human, not divine rite). Third, please note that since Christ succeeded Melchizedek (“a priesthood that does not pass over to others”, Hebrews 7:24), we see that true succession “can be interrupted, provided that it has the succession of doctrine connected with it”. The Apostles, who immediately succeeded no one, were the true successors of the prophets (who did not always have a succession of their own – one especially thinks of John the Baptist here) because they received and spread their pure doctrine, following their faith. (Gerhard, 372). Finally, a fine quote from Epiphanius’ Panarion: “For He abides forever to offer gifts for us – after first offering Himself by the cross, to abolish every sacrifice of the old covenant by presenting the more perfect, living sacrifice for the whole world. He Himself is temple, sacrifice, priest, altar, God, man, king, high-priest, lamb, sacrificial victim – became all in all for us that life might be ours in every way, and to lay the changeless foundation of his priesthood forever, no longer allotting it by descent and succession, but granting that, in accordance with His ordinance, it may be preserved in the Holy Spirit.” (55) This is our view….

    And yet, I am not Roman Catholic or EO. Here is one main part of the argument in miniature:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/babies-in-church-part-iii-the-unattractive-body/

    A clip:

    With Jesus, there was nothing about Him, externally at least, that should have attracted us to Him. He was rather unspectacular, ordinary, simple – just like the Church. It was not His physical appearance, “ancient historical feel”, relevance, ability to capture and keep great numbers, aesthetic beauty, etc. that drew the sheep to Him. Likewise for His body, the Church.

    In the paper, I go on to show through Gerhard that RC teachers, have, throughout the ages, said that as we get closer to the Last Days, the Church would be smaller, fractured… not so visible.

    Which is the Lutheran position. I invite you to check out my round 2 debate with Dave in an effort to learn more about the Lutheran position. In it, I summarize many of Gerhard’s arguments from On the Church (which, along with his Confessio Catholica, was never really answered by the RC church).

    That is how I am trying to work towards unity.

    In Christ,
    Nate Rinne

  28. @Ethan:

    Why would I want to have to go through countless levels of hierarchies before I can come before God and have a relationship with him? … Why Catholics don’t want that, I don’t know.

    Dear, dear Ethan, what in the world are you talking about?? Since I became a Catholic, 17 years ago, having been a Protestant for 25 years before that, I find it impossible to express the difference. My intensely personal relationship with Jesus is so totally transformed since becoming a Catholic – and I receive Him bodily – now that is a personal relationship! – every day at Mass.

    You make my head swim! There are no hierarchical barriers between me and God. There are, indeed, as Randy said, bridges. Every believer in the Lord Jesus – you, included, if you pray for me or wish me well – is such a bridge; none of you can possibly be a barrier.

    I fear you have a very distorted and unreal idea of what it means to be a Catholic. I remember with tears my first Confession, on being received into the Church. I felt my Saviour embrace me and forgive my many – how very many! – sins. I wanted to rush out to all my Protestant friends and shout, “You don’t know what you are missing!!! Run, do not walk, to the nearest priest and beg him to receive you into the Church!”

    jj

  29. Hi Ethan,

    Re: #25

    I’m confused because you say the problem is that the RC Church claims authority for herself. But what she claims is that Christ gave the apostles authority, and that the authority Christ gave was passed on to her through apostolic succession.

    I think the real problem must be that you believe either:
    a) Christ gave no authority to anyone, or
    b) the humans who received authority from Christ were not allowed to pass on the authority they were given, or
    c) the RC church is not the continuation of that the early church (due to apostacy or whatever).

    Scripture clearly indicates both (a) and (b) are true.

    * Christ, the Good Shepherd, commissioned Peter to watch His sheep
    * Christ gave all the apostles authority to teach, baptize, and forgive sins.
    * The apostles established bishops in every church with the authority to continue the work of overseeing the flocks.

    I can sympathize with you if you balk at the idea of humans given authority “by God”. Humans have certainly misused authority both outside and inside the Church, to do terrible things. But humans and organizations need leadership and authority to act corporately as one body. We need authority to maintain “one faith”. Without this authority, you have the tragedy of Protestantism. So, Christ commissioned human leaders to perform the work of teaching the gospel and overseeing the flock.

    The model of authority Christ gave to his chosen disciples was not the worldly model. He gave the model of the servant. Those who have leadership in the Church, like the apostles and the first bishops, work by serving the Church. We submit to them just as they submit their lives to serve us. This fulfills Peter hope that we would “submit to each other”.

    Regarding “extra-biblical” traditions, have you read 1 Thess 2:15? In it, Paul instructs us to hold fast to the apostolic traditions passed on both by word of mouth AND by letter. Scripture condemns traditions of men, but not the apostolic traditions, which were revealed by the Holy Spirit.

  30. @Ethan (#20):

    OK, I think I get at least a few of the points you’re making, but others are somewhat rather more mysterious.

    My relationship is with Christ and with my fellow believers and is dictated by God, not the Pope or the countless levels of hierarchies between the Pope and myself under the circumstance that I were a Catholic.

    First thing’s first: Every Catholic I’ve ever met knows and understands that a right relationship with Christ is how one goes to heaven – put more bluntly, putting Benedict XVI up on a cross and crucifying him for our sins would do exactly nothing, salvifically speaking. And everyone (most specially the smart Catholics here) will have no problem agreeing to just that. But you are aware of what the Catholic claim is, yes? If indeed your relationship is with Christ and is dictated by God, a faithful Catholic will claim that God told Peter (and his successors) to be in charge. Moreover (I take it in a very real sense) Christ didn’t pick Peter because Peter was awesome or even because Peter’s successors would necessarily be that great (although, esp. in the last 500 years, most of them have been pretty darn good).
    I guess it seems to me like you’re eliding over precisely what the faithful Catholic claims. OF COURSE you have a relationship with God, and OF COURSE you have a relationship with other believers. But you also have a relationship with Christ’s church – and one (at least logically consistent) possibility is that God-as-Christ could well have put Peter and Peter’s successors in charge of the church. But instead of dealing with this possibility in anything approaching a systematic fashion, all that I have seen here is a dismissal of the possibility itself – a possibility that, in my opinion, any intellectually serious Christian is obliged to deal in a responsible and straightforward fashion. Now of course I don’t know you or your background, so my thoughts might be wide of the mark (and if so preemptive apologies are offered) – that said, though, the methodology you seem (to me) to be displaying is one of dismissing a theologically significant claim rather than taking it (and the possibility of its truth) seriously.

    So, for the Catholic Church to tell me how I must believe is putting itself as an intermediary between God and myself, between Christ and myself and between the Holy Spirit and myself.

    I don’t know your theological background at all, but this leaves me SERIOUSLY uncomfortable – and here’s why: The claim you make is perfectly generalizable to any other church that “tell[s] you how [you] must believe”. To my mind, any church (or at least any serious Reformed church) will tell you how to believe – that’s the whole point of the Westminster Confession, at least to my mind. So if you’re of a non-denominational persuasion, I guess this would be an intellectually consistent position. But as far as Calvin, Luther, or any of their more conservative progeny go, one of the church’s jobs is to direct its followers to right beliefs – which intrinsically involves the church telling me what to believe. So then we loop into the old question again that Bryan asked in #23: It’s a given that the church is going to help lead me to right belief. Which church will you let lead you, and which church will I let lead me? Can’t say I find your analysis in #26 compelling, but that’s just me (You seem to suggest that a necessary condition of [ecclesial?] submission is essentially interior and subjective – that you must feel the conviction that the Holy Spirit is speaking through the person you’re dialoging with. Christ doesn’t seem to place such a condition on submission in Matt. 18:17, but your mileage may vary. Or maybe you didn’t intend your criterion to be a necessary condition in the first place – in which case the purpose of its being in your comment is mysterious to me.)

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  31. Ethan,

    Not to pile on, but when you say this:

    What it does not contain is an example of a Christian choosing himself or herself as a leader and saying follow me or else. I stay far away from those who do.

    You should realize that this is exactly what Luther and Calvin and the Anabaptists and all the original Protestant leaders did. And it is what every new leader in Protestantism has done who has split from his old church/denomination to start his own.

  32. Dear Ethan –

    Thank you for posting in this thread. I disagree that posters here of differing opinions can’t come to a greater unity. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick, but it really can happen since the Holy Spirit is working to bring all of us into unity with each other through his own Body, the Church.

    I think you do make Bryan’s point for him fairly well, however. As far as I can tell, Bryan is arguing that if there is any hope for reuniting Christianity, protestants need to grow in the awareness that they are protesting. Once we accept denominations as a true and inevitable mark of the Church, the likelihood of reconciliation is lessened and drastically so.

    I think you could contribute to this discussion greatly by answering whether or not you can give a list of things you are currently protesting. (Note, I’m not asking for an actual list, just whether or not an actual list exists or not). If such a list does exist then we can then our discussions can be fruitful. If not, then this will be much more difficult.

    As Bryan said, in order to bring about a more fully united Christianity:

    Protestants (and Catholics) must first recover the memory of our history, not only our shared history as one Church prior to the sixteenth century, but also the history by which we came to be divided during that century.

  33. Fr. Bryan and Bryan,

    Amen to the quote! It was when I reclaimed that common history that I began to evaluate my grounds for protestation. If I had no grounds any longer–I thought–I should return. I did.

    Ethan @21,

    We agree with the minor premise, that Christ’s church is made up of parts (there is all of the personal diversity you describe within Catholicism: cloistered nuns to stay-at-home moms). However, we disagree with the major premise, that it is not possible for a member of the body to be in schism from the Body of Christ–His Church. This view is necessitated by the idea that denominations and sects are equal parts within, not fractures to the necessary unity of the Body of Christ.

    The point is, for the Catholic Church to insist that it’s the only church that has it right and therefore every other group should reconcile themselves to it and be joined to it is like one part of the Body of Christ saying that it is the only essential part and that every other part isn’t performing its purpose.

    If this were a mere assertion, we agree. If Christ, for example, merely asserted that he were the Son of God, then we would have problems. However, he did not merely assert he was the Son of God.

    If in fact the “Church” Jesus Christ established was visible in such a way that we could identify her as apposed to Mormons or some other church (ones I would imagine you don’t think are a denomination or sect of Christ’s church), then the question is begged what principle did Christ give so that believers could discern Christ’s church from a counterfeit. In other words, if you were in the 4th century, how would you teach your children to find Christ’s Church instead of a Donatist sect? The Donatists said that Jesus was the Christ–but then again so does Joel Osteen.

    I also think it is dangerous to juxtapose the faith of St. Peter and the person of St. Peter. Christ is the head of His Church, and as the head, he has the prerogative to put in charge who He wants. If I don’t like it, if I think the ones He has put in charge to be incompetent, unnecessary, superfluous, etc.; that is not merely a judgment I make of them but is additionally a judgment I make of Christ. I can want me, my myself and Christ, but if He established a Church that could be identified from those churches or groups who are not the One He established, then I get Her too as part of the “following Christ” deal.

    The claim of the Catholic Church isn’t that she was the “one who got it right”. Rather, she claims to be the One founded by Christ Himself. Did Christ merely build an invisible “following” of spiritual groupies, or did he found a church, an entity that would rival Israel because of its universal visibility–a necessary sign that God had come to earth? Did Christ found a “methodist, lutheran, pentecostal cleveland tennessee, dutch reformed, greek, armenian, Wesleyan, Holiness…Church”? Or, did he found a One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? In the former one has division, in the later one has diversity.

    Peace to you on your journey

  34. Wow, lots of responses. But you replied short to me so I will keep it short with you

    Randy, I willingly listen to others who have more experience and wisdom than me in Christianity. However, they didn’t place themselves in authority over me. If anyone did, Christ did. I’m sorry, but most of the responses I’ve gotten here have merely solidified my impression that the Roman Catholic Church has placed itself in authority, as opposed to Christ having done so.

    You do put you finger squarely on the issue. Who puts leaders in place? Protestant or catholic is not as important Christ-appointed or man-appointed. That is precisely the question I asked when I was discerning whether or not to become Catholic.

    I have 5 protestant pastors in my immediate family. Who places them in authority? Jesus? Themselves? The members of their church? I honestly had to say it was more the ladder two options. Could God work through those things? Sure. But why them and not the pastor of the church down the road a bit? I could only find human reasons for that.

    Could it be that some leaders are blessed by Christ in a more powerful way? I could not see why not.

  35. Ethan,

    I was responding to your comment #20. There you said “The Scriptures do not include such a structure or any indication that I have to go through anybody else but Christ to come before the Father.” The Catholic Church does not teach that persons cannot pray directly to God; in fact we pray directly to God daily. The necessity of being in communion with the successors of the Apostles is like the necessity of being baptized; it does not replace an immediate relationship with Christ, it strengthens and nourishes and protects it. The Apostles were not barriers between the early Christians, and Christ; they were the bridges, the shepherds who guided and protected the flock entrusted to them by Christ. Otherwise, no one would have known what Christ taught privately, during those three years with the Apostles, and no one would have known what was heresy and what was orthodoxy. In the same way, the bishops whom the Apostles ordained are not barriers to Christ, but are likewise bridges, shepherds whom Christ appointed through His Apostles to govern His flock. They are the leaders to whom we are to submit, “for they keep watch over our souls as those who will give an account.” (Heb. 13:17) Your way of picking persons to whom to submit is not the way handed down by the Apostles. The Apostles didn’t teach the early Christians to submit to those persons about whom they obtained an internal conviction or bosom-burning. The Apostles taught the early Christians to submit to the leaders whom they [i.e. the Apostles] ordained and established in office. (See the Apostolic Succession section of my reply to Michael Horton.) And that succession of bishops continues down to Pope Benedict (see here). So by submitting to the successors of the Apostles, one submits to the Apostles, and by submitting to the Apostles, one submits to Christ and expresses love for Christ.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  36. Hello all,

    Checking back here. Doesn’t look like anyone is interested in talking directly. If you are interested, I have just published my second response to RC apologist Dave Armstrong surrounding these very issues.

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/round-2-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-the-unattractive-body-of-christ/

    I note that serious Lutheran-Catholic dialogue on these matters seems to be quite a bit different from Reformed-Catholic dialogues.

    Christ’s blessings to all,
    Nathan

  37. Nathan,

    As a frequent reader of the discussions that take place here at C2C I would encourage you to read through the various articles here and interact with the arguments presented. The authors here have been doing a great job laying out the case for Catholicism and I wish more Protestants would engage what has already been written.

    Brian

  38. Brian,

    I have been reading articles from this blog for at least 2 years ago, if not more. I am well aware of the arguments.

    God bless you,
    Nathan

  39. Nathan,

    Thanks for your response. I made my comment out of the desire to see more Protestant interaction with the articles themselves. As a lay Catholic, I am interested in hearing the Protestant critique of the arguments presented here and a demonstration of how their specific premises or conclusions are incorrect. If you are already an active participant and are actively engaging the articles directly, thank you!

    Brian

  40. Nathan,

    Dave Armstrong has responded to you at length. I am glad he took the time to do that. Although I have not read it all it seems you guys had a charitable exchange. If you have been reading here for two years that is great. Is it possible for you to put specific questions on specific posts? That is the best way to get answers here. Especially if the question is on topic and shows you read the post.

  41. Randy,

    Yes, Dave responded to me and now I have responded to him in “Round 2”, which I posted yesterday. Dave plans to answer that as well.

    Yes, I think Dave and I both have a fervent desire for charitable dialogue. I appreciate his thorough approach, because I am the same way (though I’m not making claims about my knowledge here – more as regards asking questions)

    Thank you for the invite to comment here – I may do so, although I already must flee from the temptations of blogging. I am sure you know what I mean. : )

    Christ’s blessings,
    Nathan

  42. Brian,

    I rarely engage the articles here directly. I do so elsewhere.

    +Nathan

  43. @Fr. Bryan Ochs (#32) —

    Thanks for your point. I’m a Protestant studying theology and philosophy at a Catholic college and have been listening to the various arguments on both sides for a couple of years. I agree that it’s hard to have much fruitful dialogue if I (or anyone) as a Protestant doesn’t know what their objections are, most basically.

    For me, it all comes down to the authority of the Catholic Church, and as an earlier commenter said (which of course I can’t find now), there’s no point debating specific points of doctrine until that central issue has been addressed. That has been and still is my position.

    I am not resistant to becoming Catholic, but I have not been convicted that Christ has given the Catholic Church infallible authority. I have heard most of the arguments, and they make sense, but they have not convicted me that I am wrong (that is, I feel they ask me to infer that Christ intended such infallibility, which at present I cannot do with honesty). I have some friends that try to debate the issue with me by presenting arguments intended to convince me I’m wrong, but they have generally been unfruitful. I try to tell them that I believe the only way I will become Catholic is if the Holy Spirit works within me to convict me (through both arguments and my own desire) that I am called to do so. I believe it would be wrong for me to join for any other reason;*mere* intellectual persuasion is human and subject to error. Therefore I am still Protestant, though I almost always attend on-campus Mass on Sundays while at school rather than find a ride off-campus to a Protestant Church. I cannot honestly say if I will ever become Catholic, but I am always interested in Spirit-led Catholic brothers and sisters who wish to witness to the work God has done in their hearts and understanding. I do believe that in starting with what unifies us (not small is Jesus Christ!), we are on the best possible path to unity.

    Peace of Christ.

  44. Dear Noelle –

    That was a very beautiful post. I really appreciate your honesty.

    Thank you for that.

  45. Noelle,

    I do agree intellectual persuasion isn’t enough. At some point you need to act. Getting deep into the arguments can create a paralysis by analysis. When you have done enough thinking it will still be hard to make the jump. That does not mean you are not called. It just means obedience is hard.

    I would recommend digging into all the specific points of doctrine you say you are avoiding. Sure authority is in the center. But looking at all the issues helped me. First of all, I saw how surprisingly defend-able the Catholic doctrines were from scripture. Every time I thought a protestant had found a killer argument I found a Catholic beautiful rebuttal.

    That brings me to the second point. Catholic theology is beautiful. When you dig into it more you see that. If you just talk about authority you don’t notice it near as much. Catholic thinkers, especially Thomistic philosophers, seemed to have a much deeper well of amazing spiritual wisdom.

    Lastly, the sheer number and complexity of the issues acts as an argument against Sola Scriptura. The idea that it is up to me to find the golden strand of truth in this haystack of human opinion just seems absurd when I am struggling to even gain a cursory understanding. The unworkability of it at a personal level became obvious.

  46. Noelle,

    I ask this as a fellow Protestant truly curious to understand your journey: how do you expect the Holy Spirit will lead you? What sign will He give, and how will that be more objective than intellectual persuasion? I have grappled with this myself and come to the conclusion that I must pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit while pursuing the Truth with every ounce of mental energy He has given me. There certainly does come a point when intellectual persuasion becomes a sort of idol unto itself – the demand that every argument be ironclad before I am willing to take the inherent risk in any step of faith and obedience. However, I also think that waiting for the “leading of the Spirit” can be used in the same way – never taking a step (or leap) because I never “felt led”.

    Burton

  47. @Burton:

    how do you expect the Holy Spirit will lead you? What sign will He give, and how will that be more objective than intellectual persuasion? I have grappled with this myself and come to the conclusion that I must pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit while pursuing the Truth with every ounce of mental energy He has given me. There certainly does come a point when intellectual persuasion becomes a sort of idol unto itself – the demand that every argument be ironclad before I am willing to take the inherent risk in any step of faith and obedience. However, I also think that waiting for the “leading of the Spirit” can be used in the same way – never taking a step (or leap) because I never “felt led”.

    Burton, this is superb! We do see, now, “in a glass, darkly” – yet we do see. I remember the day – late afternoon, actually, on a ‘plane from Wellington to Auckland – when, after some 10 months of pretty much agony, thinking through issues, praying, being frightened, being encouraged, that I prayed – quite literally – “Lord, I know enough. I’ll never dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ – but I am sure that if I knew for certain I was to die tomorrow, I would want to see a priest. If You don’t stop me, I’m going to become a Catholic.”

    That ‘if You don’t stop me’ would be presumption – if I hadn’t done the ten months’ agonising. On the other hand, if, indeed, I had waited until I had no intellectual questions left, I would never have acted.

    That was at the end of July, 1994. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to God for giving me the courage to make that leap – not in the dark, but, nonetheless, not in some undeniable intellectual certainty, either.

    jj

  48. Burton

    There certainly does come a point when intellectual persuasion becomes a sort of idol unto itself – the demand that every argument be ironclad before I am willing to take the inherent risk in any step of faith and obedience. However, I also think that waiting for the “leading of the Spirit” can be used in the same way – never taking a step (or leap) because I never “felt led”.

    That’s good!

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  49. Randy writes: Lastly, the sheer number and complexity of the issues acts as an argument against Sola Scriptura. The idea that it is up to me to find the golden strand of truth in this haystack of human opinion just seems absurd when I am struggling to even gain a cursory understanding. The unworkability of it at a personal level became obvious.

    Well said! The sheer unworkability of sola scriptura would be more than enough for me to make me flee from this Protestant novelty. At first sola scriptura, and the daughter doctrine of “bible freedom”, sounds really good, but after a while having “bible freedom” is no more fun that trying to eat your way to the bottom of a supertanker full of vanilla fudge.

    Sola scriptura is a doctrine that denies the authority of every church. If one accepts the Protestant doctrine of “bible freedom”, then what one must one do to if he or she is serious about learning with certainty what the doctrines of Christianity actually are? Instead of freedom, one has to carry a soul-crushing burden for the rest of one’s life. Did the first seven Ecumenical Councils get their Christology right? Sola scriptura teaches that I can’t trust the Catholic Church that promulgated those doctrines. I need to study those Ecumenical Councils and make the determination for myself. I can’t trust the teachers in my Protestant denomination to guide me either, because, according to sola scriptura doctrine, there are no teachers other than the Apostles that can teach with conscience binding authority. I cannot trust that anything is without error that is outside of what is written down in the pages of my Protestant bible – I must determine for myself the validity every single doctrine of Christianity that has ever been proposed for the last two thousand years using my Protestant bible as my sole authority.

    To examine every single doctrine of Christianity that has been proposed over the last two-thousand years and determine for myself whether or not they are valid would take every single waking hour of every day for the rest of my life. How is that freedom? Could Christ possibly intend me to spend the rest of my life struggling to know what the doctrines of Christianity actually are? I can’t believe that Christ does intend for me to live that way, since I see that Christ has called for me to live a life of faith. But faith in doctrines that are not true cannot be saving faith. If I am the one that is determining what the doctrines of Christianity actually are, how can I live by faith? By definition, to have faith, I must have faith in something other than myself! Because the demands placed on me by sola scriptura doctrine are so incredibly unreasonable, and because sola scriptura makes real faith impossible, it seems to me to be more than reasonable to reject the doctrine of sola scriptura on the grounds that Christ would never burden me with the consequences of this doctrine.

    Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

    Randy writes :I would recommend digging into all the specific points of doctrine you say you are avoiding.

    If sola scriptura is a foundational doctrine of one’s faith, then every single doctrine of Christianity that has ever been proposed must be examined! The responsibility rests on the individual to work through the morass of conflicting opinions within Protestantism that surround every single doctrine of Christianity. We are talking about examining the faith of thousands upon thousands of Protestant sects that have not a single doctrine that they all agree is correct (other than the Catholic Church need not be listened to).

    I think the most reasonable thing to do is to examine the doctrine of sola scriptura itself. Since there are no scriptures that teach the Protestant novelty of sola scriptura, what possible reason can a Protestant have for making a novel doctrine that is taught nowhere in scriptures the foundation of one’s faith?

    Once one is free from the bondage imposed by the sola scriptura mindset, one can move to the next step. And that would be to examine if the Protestant claim that there is no church that can speak with conscience binding authority makes any sense in the light of scriptures.

    … if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matt 18:17

  50. Randy,

    I know what you mean when you talk about these arguments and rebuttals. And I have looked them in the face many times. I wouldn’t say I’m altogether avoiding them, but I’m not constantly doing battle with them either. I find that it causes the “paralysis” you mentioned coupled with anxiety and a diminished sense of trust in God’s guidance. It’s just that I don’t look for hard proof in regard to these questions because I don’t think that’s the nature of most matters of faith. That isn’t to say they aren’t reasonable or well-founded and adequately argued! Just that they leave more room for God to lead the heart than mere human logic by itself does. And so I figure at this point, since I’ve heard most arguments, it’s going to be a matter of inner conviction (a work of the Holy Spirit) that will have to change my mind. And that hasn’t happened yet. Also, I’m not at all dogmatic about “Sola Scriptura.” I think what most Protestants mean by that is untenable. But not in a way that proves to me the necessity of the kind of Magisterium the CC proposes. Again, a matter for a discussion all its own.

    Burton,

    I found myself smiling to be hearing such a question from a fellow Protestant. You remind me of myself :) Hmmm…what do I mean by the Holy Spirit’s guidance? I can’t tell you exactly how it would play out, because He works differently depending on the person and circumstance, often using many different things to lead a person. I expect that it would look something like an inner conviction that becoming Catholic was right stemming from a lot of prayer and “letting things sit” in my mind, and interaction with Catholic brothers and sisters–but a conviction strong enough to overcome the misgivings I currently have that keep me from accepting the arguments I have heard as sufficient in themselves. It can’t just be a momentary “feeling” — I’ve had plenty of those in both directions. The fact is, I’m not really afraid to become Catholic; I’ve been more afraid I’ll be tempted to be intellectually dishonest because so much of it appeals to me and so many of my dearest friends are Catholic. I really think that I have enough of a “personal” desire in favor of becoming Catholic that resistance isn’t the central problem, at least not for me. It might be for other people, depending on where they are coming from.

    The ways of God are mysterious, but never contrary to reason. They may, however, be above human understanding — but that just means they are grounded in a far superior divine reason, the source of our understanding anyway. So, again, I don’t know or presume to predict how the Holy Spirit would lead me (if He does) into the Catholic Church. I don’t, because I can’t know, because I trust that He knows what I don’t, and because if I tried to anticipate too strongly what He was going to do I would be in danger of substituting my own expectations for his guidance. That is, I would be presuming to know what no one ever knows in its entirety, especially when it comes to specifics: the will of God. I love God; therefore I love his will. But I don’t know his will in all things. I know that his will is for me to seek Christ, and I believe that so long as I do what I *know* his will is and pray that he will constantly sanctify me, he will take care of the rest. No matter where we are, we all have to do that, I think.

  51. Noelle,

    There is so much candid honesty in your comment(s). Thank you so much for sharing. I will admit that if I had been confronted in various times in my life with the Catholic arguments–although impressive and convincing–I would have failed to feel/sense that extra leading of the Holy Spirit to do something about it. It really wasn’t until my first child was born that I felt the impetus to act–and by act I mean to confront my Protestant theology–because my child had now become a victim of my inaction. I wondered in that desert for over a year before I was ever confronted with the Catholic Church as She is. Even then, upon feeling the weight of the arguments and engaging in the spiritual tug-of-war that is conversion, or rather submission of my will to the possibility that God had established a Church of which I owed my allegiance and a Eucharist I owed my devotion, I still hesitated. It’s why I call my blog “almost not”, because that was my journey. Almost every week, I was teetering on the fence between falling in love and running away. I felt like Zacchaeus, interested and watching, but afraid to get down out of my tree. It was when I entered Mass, that fateful morning, and silently sat in the back and the Scriptures were opened and we stood to hear the King’s words:

    “Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law: and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”- Matthew 10:34-39

    And I wept in my hand, knowing what this meant. It meant that I could no longer, with what I knew, say I am a Christ follower and not follow Him to the utmost. While the choice meant a severing of closely held relationships and the straining of many others, I knew that the Lord had set before me a plow and if I turned away now, I was not worthy. I came into the Church over a year from that day, but it was on that morning that my heart was overcome by what my head knew.

    Peace to you on your journey

  52. Mateo,

    Not to get to distracted from the cental point, but what the heck is vanilla fudge? I thought fudge was chocolate….

    LOLOLOL

  53. Noelle,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. Perhaps a bit silly of me to ask you to predict how the Holy Spirit might lead you. I admire your heart of openness and love for our Lord. As you may have gathered from the unwritten words in my previous post, I have been poking gingerly about the edges of the Catholic Church for some time now, trying to discern whether or not she represents a great reality, a monumental Truth, a profound encounter with Christ. I must confess that having thus engaged her, I do look at my Protestant ecclesiology in a different and less favorable light, and have arrived at the conclusion that a visible, living authority must exist for orthodoxy to be defined and preserved in any meaningful sense. So here I sit between two worlds, waiting for irrefutable arguments to emerge or a strong push from the Spirit to overcome my intellectual insufficiencies.

    I share your confidence in God’s providential care for those who humbly seek to love Him with an obedient heart. I am equally confident that my Heavenly Father loves me enough to require an act of the will, a purposeful movement on my part to break free from the calcifications that so easily begin to harden when I, for too long, insist upon a risk free obedience.

    Are there particular doctrinal issues that keep you Protestant in a positive sense (as opposed to keep you from becoming Catholic)?

    Burton

  54. Noelle writes: … I figure at this point, since I’ve heard most arguments, it’s going to be a matter of inner conviction (a work of the Holy Spirit) that will have to change my mind.

    To be honest Noelle, I am not that sympathetic to that argument. Please allow me to explain why I am not.

    The scriptures in a Protestant bible teach that Christ founded his own church (Matt 16:18), that Christ is the head of the church that he founded (Eph 5:23), that Christ promised that the Holy Spirit will be with his church forever (John 14:16), that the Holy Spirit will teach Christ’s church, and bring to Christ’s church a remembrance all that Christ taught (John14:26), that the powers of death will never prevail against the church that Christ founded (Matt 16:18), that Christ’s church is founded built upon the Petrine office (Matt16:18), and that Christ’s church teaches with an authority that can bind our consciences and must be listened to upon pain of excommunication (Matt 18:17).

    If a Protestant believes that the scriptures contained in their bible are the inspired, inerrant word of God, I would not disagree with that, since every book in a Protestant bible is but a subset of the books contained in a Catholic bible. Here is my point: if God has given one the grace necessary to believe that what one is reading in a Protestant bible is without error, I would argue that the scriptures quoted above are more than sufficient to bring one to the reasonable conclusion that no Protestant sect can possibly be the church founded by Christ.

    We know from scriptures that Christ founded a visible church, and that he promised that the powers of death would never prevail against the church that he founded, therefore, the church that Christ founded must still be on earth, and his church must have a history that is two-thousand years old. Even the oldest of the Protestant sects have a history of less than five-hundred years, and every Protestant sect was founded not by Christ, but by some mere man or woman.

    If I truly believe that the scriptures that I am reading in my Protestant bible are the inspired, inerrant, word of God, then I have been given a tremendous gift from God – the supernatural gift of faith. I might not have a perfect faith, but I would have more than enough faith to step out in faith and leave Protestantism to seek the church founded by Christ. And I should leave Protestantism and seek Christ’s church without asking for a sign from God before I make that move, since by asking for a sign I am not acting in faith, I am acting only if I have been given a sign.

    Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. Matt 12:38-39

    Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, `You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” Matt 4:7

  55. Noelle,

    I’ve been following this conversation via email.

    You said:

    “I’m not at all dogmatic about “Sola Scriptura.” I think what most Protestants mean by that is untenable. But not in a way that proves to me the necessity of the kind of Magisterium the CC proposes. Again, a matter for a discussion all its own.”

    I think this is a healthy attitude. In some ways, some of the first Lutherans had just this attitude. See the first several paragraphs of my first response to Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/my-reply-to-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-regarding-his-examination-of-martin-chemnitzs-examination/

    The key paragraph:

    “The concept of a contemporaneous existence of the Word of God in a corrupted verbal form, and a pure written form, spawned Chemnitz’s explanation of traditiones in the second locus, De traditionibus. Here he lists the first of eight different types of traditiones as Scripture itself, i.e. the things that Christ and the Apostles preached orally and were later written down. Then follows: 2) the faithful transmission of the Scriptures; 3) the oral tradition of the Apostles (which by its very nature must agree with the contents of the New Testament canon); 4) the proper interpretation of the Scriptures received from the Apostles and “Apostolic men”; 5) dogmas that are not set forth in so many words in Scripture but are clearly apparent from a sampling of texts; 6) the consensus of true and pure antiquity; 7) rites and customs that are edifying and believed to be Apostolic, but cannot be proved from Scripture. Chemnitz rejects only the eighth kind of tradition: [8] traditions pertaining to faith and morals that cannot be proved with any testimony of Scripture; but which the Council of Trent commanded to be accepted and venerated with the same reverence and devotion as the Scripture. The important element of this last of the traitiones appears not to be the fact that such traditions of faith and morals not provable from Scripture actually existed, but that their status of equality with Scripture was foisted upon the church by the Council of Trent.” P. Strawn, Cyril of Alexandria as a Source for Martin Chemnitz, in Die Patristik in der Bibelexegese des 16. Jahrhunderts, Wolfenbu”ttleler Forschungen, Bd. 85, Hrsg. v. David C. Steinmetz, Wiesbaden 1999, p. 213-14.

    Pretty nuanced really.

  56. Noelle,

    I read your responses but did not gain an impression of which church/theology you adhere to, which may be my lack of recognition.

    I remember that Peter was given the revelation that Gentiles could be saved, and he acted on it (Acts 10).

    Later there is the difficulty of the Judaizers who want Gentiles / pagans to be formed in Moses before they are baptized into the Church. Paul rails against them in a lot of his letters. Finally he pushes the issue to the Church in Jerusalem, to Peter, James and John in particular. Paul, an apostle, looks to the universal Church to make a clear decision on this problem. I would suggest that we see a pattern emerging about how authority is used.

    The decision coming from the Jerusalem council is unique to the problem that Paul is confronting. The idols of the Gentiles / pagans are not the idols that Israel had to address in coming out of Egypt. The sacrifices offered by the Jews involved animals sacred to the Egyptians. The Jews were forced to overcome the awe and fear they felt in confronting Egypt, its power as expressed by its deities. The God of Israel made them kill those animals sacred to the Egyptians as a sign of His despite for gods who are not gods. It was the only cure for what ailed the Jews.

    The decision coming out of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) noted that the Gentiles / pagans were called to salvation and were given the same Spirit as the Jews. Peter noted that the Law was unbearable by their Jewish ancestors. The instruction from Jerusalem was that the converts were to abstain anything polluted by idols, from fornication (usually associated with temple prostitution), from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood. What the Jerusalem council forbade was those things particular to the converts that Paul was making.

    In citing Acts 10 and 15 I recognized different forms of authority being acted on. Peter acted in Acts 10 and the Church came aboard. The Church in Jerusalem acted in Acts 15 and Paul’s warrant for how he was handling the demands of the Judaizers was upheld.

    As an aside, there has been a rumor that Paul was in conflict with Peter over the restrictions from the Jerusalem council. I have not run into any such documentation in my reading of the early Church. I do remember that in my protestant days, we tended to favor Paul over Peter, but then Peter represented the authority of the Catholic Church and we were hostile to that authority.

    Peter and Paul are servants of our Lord. Both gave their lives in His service, in the pursuit of bringing the good news to everyone who would receive it. Both are servants of the Church Whose Head is Jesus. In this they are one.

    Cordially,

    dt

  57. Mateo,

    Thank you for your thoughts. The drawback to your claim is that it’s based on the assumption that I already know I should be Catholic or at least that I should leave the Protestant church. I am not convicted of either: having heard most of the arguments has not presented me with enough information to make a decision. The Scriptures you quote, while often used in support of the CC’s authority, do not prove the position to me. Again, the Catholic Church appeals to me and I have several reasons for liking the idea of becoming Catholic. Therefore, if that is something meant for me, I await it as a gift from the hands of God. Perhaps you disagree, but this is based upon my very real relationship with God. If I can’t trust him to lead me, I can’t trust anyone. I am confident that he is capable of convincing me to become Catholic if he so desires; I do not believe I am resistant to that. May he have mercy on me if I am, but again I have more often been worried that I would be dishonest and become Catholic *without* confronting issues that I should confront. That would be a bad choice on my part. I am in love with Christ; therefore if I see that he is most truly to be found in the Catholic Church, why on earth would I want to stay out? I simply have not been convicted on that point. You are coming from a different starting point than I am, already believing the Catholic Church is the Church Universal–this is not clear to me. Also, no Protestant Church would claim to be “the church” Christ has founded, insofar as it is a denomination. Insofar as it is a member of the worldwide body of Christ, they would say they are a part of the Church Christ founded. Most Protestants do not believe Christ founded the Church as an institution but as a spiritual family of believers that can take many (better or worse) visible forms. I’m not proposing to criticize or defend any of that here, because I don’t think it’s particularly relevant to the topic at hand. But my main point is that the argument regarding the Church Christ founded is not one that will convince most informed Protestants: it is, in fact, probably one of the specific points of disagreement many Protestants have with Catholics. Please know that I hold Catholicism in the utmost respect.

    Brent,

    Thank you for your story. As far as I know, fear of being separated from those I love has not really factored in significantly to my quest, if it could be called that. Because I love Christ, I really believe that if I truly thought this was the Church he founded I would have no issue at all with joining it — I would join it very gladly. Of course, there is always pressure from very thoughtful Protestant family I have, but I know that I would still be accepted and loved if I chose to become Catholic. To be honest, I don’t strike up significantly close relationships with people who would be that judgmental toward Catholicism, because I don’t believe that is an attitude born of Christian love. In any case, you can rest reasonably assured that my block is not one of reluctance to face the facts, but of “waiting on the Lord.” And I have utmost confidence in His will, whatever it may be. :)

    Nathan — thanks for the paragraph you quoted. I think it touches on a common problem Protestants have in regard to accepting the CC as authoritative. I don’t know if it would be a decisive argument against it for me or not.

    Donald: I was baptized Methodist, but do not specifically profess their doctrines. I prefer the Anglican Church; my uncle is an Anglican priest in the conservative branch. I find liturgical and sacramental life very beautiful and important. Thanks also for your insights.

  58. Burton,

    That’s a good question. In fact, I have not found most of the classic positions that are said to separate Protestants from Catholics to be true separations. Take Sola Scriptura: in the sense most Protestants take it, this is not a good position. That is, it is based on a fundamental misconception regarding the way the Church began and the Gospel was spread. It is impossible that the Church could have begun by placing faith in Scripture alone, since the Canon was in some flux for a good while until an official list was published by the Church. The Gospel has always been a matter of “tradition” in the sense of an adherence to the teachings of Christ on the written and verbal authority of His Apostles. The Canon was affirmed in reference to how well it agreed with the already-established understanding/teaching of the Faith proclaimed by the Apostles–not as though it was subjugated to [t]radition, but rather as a safeguard to be certain that it was authentically the words of the Apostles, in line with Christ’s teaching, and hence of the Gospel. That is, Scripture and (at least in a certain sense) what Catholics call “Tradition” were integrally intertwined from the beginning. And yet many Protestants speak of “Sola Scriptura” as though Christ handed the New Testament to the Apostles himself as the standard by which all things were to be judged. Clearly that is not what He did, and the position is overly (perhaps dangerously) simplistic. Further, whether acknowledged or not, every Protestant denomination is defined by its own tradition that it holds to as the authentic interpretation of the Gospel. This is just what the Catholic Church claims to do, only it tries to back its authority up on well-supported foundations whereas most denominations just take the word of their founder. I think Protestants should at least take more account of the understanding that has developed in the Church since its beginning (at least “small t” tradition), because whether or not mistakes have gotten into the mix, we certainly can’t do better by starting over from scratch and inserting our own authority (because then we’re back to the same problem again!)
    Or take “Sola Fide.” This is often proclaimed as though in contrast to a Catholic “works-based” salvation. But I have found no such teaching on salvation in the Catholic Church. Salvation always comes exclusively by the merits of Christ’s salvific work on the Cross; but the Catholic affirmation is simply that “faith without works is dead”: that it is no true faith that merely intellectually assents and does not live itself out. True faith must be lived, and true “works” of faith are crucially rooted in love of which Christ is the supreme example. I can think of no well-balanced Protestant that would not agree with that. Works are more emphasized in Catholicism, but for our own benefit, because they teach us to imitate Christ and are used by the Holy Spirit for our sanctification. Yet no one denies that no one but the Holy Spirit sanctifies, and that no amount of “good works” apart from Him will do a person any good. Certainly no one will reach heaven apart from the unmerited gift of salvation coming from Christ’s sacrifice.

    There are doctrines that I have reserve about in the Catholic Church, and I have not seen evidence strong enough to compel me to become Catholic. I have seen many rational arguments, some of which impress me more than others. I have seen great grace and wisdom in the Catholic Church and certainly believe that the Holy Spirit is mightily at work within it. But nothing has been strong enough to push me over the edge and convince me that I must place myself unconditionally under its authority.

    But I’m not sure that there are doctrines that keep me specifically Protestant in the positive sense. The classic ones I have generally found to not be true divisions; the ones that I find still carry some weight with me (especially regarding Mary in relation to us and to Jesus) I do not hold as objections because they are Protestant but because of my love for Jesus and his Gospel and the difficulty I have reconciling these doctrines to what I know most basically is at the heart of the Gospel. What I have said before (and this is another reason why it would have to be God that makes me Catholic!) is that, as matters stand, there are doctrines that present too much of a problem to me to be ignored, and that can be for only two reasons: they are wrong or I have misunderstood them. If I have misunderstood them, then my trying to convince myself to assent would do more harm than good since it would involve my compromising the content of my faith — I would not be assenting to the true Catholic doctrine in that case. If they are wrong, even less should I try to convince myself. I do not know they are wrong, but I do know what the Gospel teaches; therefore, if I have misunderstood them God will have to show me that they are not in conflict with the Gospel but add to my understanding of it.

    That’s my basic position. And I leave it at that: if God does nothing then as matters stand now I cannot become Catholic. But I remain open to his changing my mind if he so desires. He certainly has shown me a great deal of himself through the Catholic Church.

    —As a side note to those of you who have been debating some of these issues with me: In all honestly, the more I get into the intellectual tangle of trying to sort out these disagreements, the less clear the whole matter appears to me. I maintain that there is probably no argument you can give me that will change my mind right now, not because there are no good arguments, but because the issue with me is not one that can be resolved through debate. It is, and will remain, a matter of the heart, and it is my heart that will have to be convicted ultimately, in harmony with my intellect. It’s a both-and thing. My heart is not refusing to follow my intellect, because I don’t speak of “heart” as meaning “what I feel like doing subjectively.” I speak of the heart in which the Holy Spirit works, the heart that He has already caused to fall in love with Christ: and all he has to do is speak to it in such a way that I see clearly and without denial that I have found the place where I may be closest to Christ. I love him and refuse to seek anyone else. The Catholic Church has nothing for me if it does not have Christ; if it has Him, it has everything. But since a person is a unified whole, intellect and heart are not separated: my intellect will not be convinced until my heart is, and my intellect also holds my heart back from rashly following mere emotion until the case has become satisfactory. But ultimately, my heart and intellect are one: they are me. And I say: give me Christ. And only the Holy Spirit can do that, so may His will and His alone be done.

    Peace to you all in Jesus Christ.

  59. Noelle (#58),

    Just a note (as a recently former Protestant headed into confirmation in the Catholic Church this year):

    You said that the two possibilities regarding troubling Catholic doctrines are that 1) you have misunderstood them, or 2) they are wrong. Having been through a rather laborious discernment period myself, I’d like to point out the third possibility (and the one that was, at first, my own lot): 3) I am (knowingly or not) committed to a contrary doctrine or assumption stemming from my Protestant upbringing that itself is wrong. It was on really digging in to that question that my own journey into the Church began in earnest.

    I pray that God blesses you with insight and grace in your journey of faith.

  60. Noelle (#58)

    I was a cradle Catholic (1950’s), not well catechized, who after drifting away from the Catholic Church, spent 14 years in the Presbyterian Church (1995-2009) where I learned most of my biblical theology. I returned home to the Catholic Church in 2009 and my wife (a Presbyterian Elder) converted around the same time. Like you, I found a great love for Christ in Reformed circles, and wonderful, faithful friends. What drew me back to Rome? John 6.

    If you want the whole Christ in your life, the only place He can be found – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – is in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Here is where you can experience the most profound, encompassing, intimate union with Him this side of death. John 6 was to me inescapable – and the only place I could obey Christ’s command to eat his flesh and drink his blood was in the Catholic Church.

    I will pray the Holy Spirit moves you to embrace this profound and distinctive truth about the Catholic Church so that you may experience the joy of this union with Christ that can only be found in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  61. Noelle,
    I appreciate your honesty. As someone currently in the throes (it can be quite painful at times) of conversion I know that these things are not easy. But there is one thing that I’ve learned in my life that stands out and has proven true yet again in my conversion experience (which all total lasted about 6 months, although the seeds of which were planted much earlier). It specifically relates to how the Holy Spirit is speaking to us and what we might be expecting that to look like. I share it here in the hopes that you may benefit from it in some fashion.

    What I have learned is this: the Holy Spirit has always tended to speak to me in the very ordinary things of life. Even now in my conversion to the Catholic Church I never really had one definitive “aha!” moment where everything came together; rather it was a hundred things, any one of which taken by itself would prove nothing. But the fact of all of them together started to suggest something to me, something that could not be ignored any longer. Apologetic arguments like those found on this site were among those things, but it was more than that. It was something my 2 year old said the morning I went to Mass for the very first time (“Come eat Jesus” at the breakfast table), it was a growing sense of ease in regards to some of the Catholic Dogmas that at first made me uncomfortable (Mary, the Papacy, to name a few), it was how unbelievably clear John 6 really is, and how utterly amazed I was that anyonecould interpret it any other way (myself included), it was the unbelievable amount of wisdom found in the Papal Encyclicals that even as a Protestant I would have readily recommended to anyone in my church to read and be the better for it, it was the warmth that began to grow in my soul that not only do I have a Father in heaven but a mother too! I could list 50 more things.

    The elephant in the room builds itself slowly, piece by piece, such that one day you realize quite surprisingly that it’s staring you in the face. But as C.S. Lewis says about Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, “He’s not a tame lion, but he is good.” Such it is with the elephant.

    Peace on your journey.

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  62. Noelle,

    Don’t mind me popping in here again… : )

    One thing that I would like to point out is that Lutherans, along with the EO and the RCC, also believe in baptismal regeneration, and real presence of Christ at the Lord’s Supper (i.e. we partake of Christ orally by actually eating His body and blood for our spiritual edification).

    Many, it seems to me, as they move from Evangelicalism to Rome, for example, often don’t consider that serious Lutherans are fierce about the sacraments as well (though not as many sacraments).

    Blessings to you,
    Nathan

  63. I am really enjoying the insights you all are providing. Thank you for doing so in a wholehearted but respectful manner. It makes all the difference. :)

    Nathan, thank you for that point. It’s certainly one worth making and should be taken into consideration in the whole scheme of things. (Thank you for your comment as well, Frank. I certainly think that would be one strong attracting factor were I to ever become Catholic.)

    SB — that is a good point, one that did actually cross my mind when I was writing that answer (#58). I think the reason I did not include it was that many of the kinds of things that bother me should, I think, be central to anyone’s faith, and I do not believe are specifically Protestant doctrines. For instance, the role of Christ, which can neither be imitated or replaced anywhere. I’m reasonably certain (and have become more certain as I’ve conversed with Catholic friends and professors) that any acceptable doctrine concerning Mary or the saints, even from a Catholic perspective, would have to respect that. Therefore if I get a bad feeling that a proposed doctrine is making Christ less central, it either is doing so, or I do not properly understand it. I think that’s really why I only gave two possibilities. I try not to centrally identify myself with a human sub-movement of Christianity (like Protestantism, even if I happen to be one), because I believe that as Christians the only things we should hold with unswerving devotion are those truths that are foundational to the Faith and no mere human interpretation. Plus, I think we (Protestants especially) need to take more into account in our understanding of the faith than the few centuries of specifically Protestant thought since the Reformation. I feel, in short, that there are certain things that cannot be otherwise for any authentically well-balanced Christian faith, and thus are non-negotiable to me, but others I am aware could be wrong. The reason I must do this is simple – if you hold that you could be proven wrong on any and all points, you can theoretically be converted to any number of expressions of Christianity (or derivations from it) on the assumption that even though you thought x was indispensable to any orthodox Christianity, it may not be. Does that make any sense? I found that I have been softened, as it were, toward practices and doctrines I formerly reacted more strongly against (Marian dogmas and devotions being among them), but only because I realized that it is not necessary to compromise the centrality of Christ to espouse them. Really, the only things I hold foundationally (i.e., that I will not compromise on) are the doctrines contained in the Creed and, especially, the utmost importance of the centrality of Christ in all things. That’s because I know this is a Christian, and not specially Protestant, doctrine. But I think all Christians should hold these as non-negotiable. Some (not all!!) Catholics have unfortunately not understood this and have unknowingly accepted abuses that went beyond what the CC teaches and detracted from their faith in Christ. In other words, we always need to be on our guard so that we aren’t tossed about by “every wind of doctrine.” Nevertheless, I certainly do grant your point that certain hallmarks of Protestant theology are not, in fact, well-centered Christian doctrine. Some of these I have gladly been corrected on because I have seen that the more orthodox approach is much richer and more satisfactory to faith. Truth is always like that :). So thank you for pointing that out. We must always be open to being corrected, and I strive to be. I’m just jealous of my love for Jesus and I don’t ever want it to be replaced. And I think Catholics would agree that this is a good non-negotiable to have. ;)

    Aaron —

    Thank you, thank you! You articulated where I am exactly. I think that’s what I expect the Holy Spirit to do in me if he ever leads me into the Catholic Church. That’s why I don’t expect to hear an argument that once-and-for-all proves the case to me. It is much more subtle than that. Your discoveries in regard to the beauty and wisdom in the Catholic Church echo mine. I have seen much beauty and depth there, but I can’t say any more than that right now. I have very dear friends that love Jesus incredibly and are serious Catholics, and have shown me how apt Catholicism is to a true and rich faith in Him. In just the manner you described, I leave the matter in the “hands” of the Holy Spirit and Christ. I have no desire to rush the matter, because the pace of God is better than ours. Even if I never do become Catholic, my faith will have been greatly enriched by my encounter (which will hopefully be ongoing!).

    I liked your analogy with the elephant and Aslan. I absolutely agree. And I take comfort in the fact that I know the Lion, that I love Him, and that wherever I go will only be to be closer to Him. He is, ultimately, my non-negotiable. I certainly hold proper doctrine to be essential in understanding Him, but I think the foundation I have been given from both my parents and my studies at Franciscan University is solid enough that it has effectively helped me to recognize the voice of the Shepherd, if you will. Not that I never am mistaken, but I have trust that He has not misled me in teaching me to love Him; I am always asking to be corrected if I am wrong. In any case, I think that if I ever come to face that stealthy elephant in the room, it will be because I have seen in its eyes the reflection of the Lion. I will not, cannot, follow anywhere I do not see Him, but where I do see Him I want to follow and I ask for the grace to do so. He is, indeed, a very good Lion; I’m not sure he would be half so good if he were tame :)

  64. Noelle,

    Thank you for your response. Part of my search involved Episcopalianism, the American version of Anglicanism, and I did some digging. First, Anglicanism does not recognize a sacrifice regarding the Eucharist. What Jesus did is not extended through time to His followers by confecting bread and wine into a sacrificial Meal under Anglican understanding. The first Passover notes that an unblemished lamb must be sacrificed and eaten (eaten is real important). There were no vegetarians among the Jews at the Passover. The Lamb of God of the New Covenant, marked by a new Passover, is seen as a sacrificial meal by the RC, the EO, and in scripture, but is not seen as a sacrificial meal in Anglicanism’s theology.

    Separately, I have seen Mary as a pointer to her Son. She fulfills
    1. The role of the woman whose Seed will crush the head of the serpent;
    2. The virgin who will conceive and give birth;
    3. Of allowing her Son to display the real meaning of the commandment regarding honoring one’s father and mother – in scripture, by honoring her request at the wedding in Cana;
    4. And of fulfilling the role mapped out by Solomon and Bathsheba in 1st Kings whereby the mother of the king becomes the queen, whose role is to intercede with the king on behalf of his subjects. The technical term is Gebirah. We first saw this at the wedding at Cana when Mary brought it to her Son’s attention.

    Mary is the mother of the King of Israel (the Roman justification for killing Him) which makes her the queen. She is also the mother of the redeemed who intercedes on our behalf. (Numerous references to the king and his mother in 1st and 2nd Kings.)

    Bryan Cross has been very good about posting the talks of Dr. Feingold. In one of those talks, he notes that Mary was conceived without sin by the power of God because it was in His power to ensure that the woman who would bear the Messiah was never under the influence of evil for even one moment. Noting the Catholic doctrine of original sin, she was preserved from that lack of grace from the moment of her conception. It was something that God could do for her and did, by the merits of His Son, before they occurred in time.

    Dr. Feingold’s talk was another one of those moments where someone at this site added to my understanding, and if you have not had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Feingold, I recommend him highly. He is a gift to all of us.

    Cordially,

    dt

  65. Noelle writes: The ways of God are mysterious, but never contrary to reason.

    Amen! Noelle, thank you for engaging in this conversation. Like others reading your responses, I am impressed with your honesty.

    Noelle writes: The drawback to your claim is that it’s based on the assumption that I already know I should be Catholic or at least that I should leave the Protestant church.

    I think I should clarify what my position is. I am arguing that if one has been given the grace to believe that the scriptures in a Protestant bible are the inspired, inerrant word of God, and if one also has an ordinary ability to reason, that that combination of grace and reasoning is more than sufficient to lead one to believe that one cannot rationally believe that the powers of death have prevailed against the church that Christ founded.

    Why would I say that? If one reads a Protestant bible (or a Catholic bible), one finds a story of God and man, and man’s response to that relationship between God and man. It is not a story that man can be proud of. God continually enters into a relationship with man through the covenants that he initiates, and God is always faithful to his covenant promises. But man … man is not a dependable or faithful partner. In the OT, Israel, God’s chosen people, become so unfaithful, that the Prophet Hosea likens Israel to a shameless whore:

    Rejoice not, O Israel! Exult not like the peoples; for you have played the whore, forsaking your God. You have loved a prostitute’s wages on all threshing floors. Hosea 9:1

    The history of the human race as it is recorded in OT is that of God’s unwavering faithfulness and man’s rebellion, ingratitude and unfaithfulness. Enter Christ into our history as the Word made flesh. Did man change when God became incarnate in Bethlehem? No. And God did not change either. In the NT we see the ever-faithful God that never breaks his promises founding his own church, and giving to man the promise that the power of death will never prevail against the church that he founded.

    Christ also commands that his followers must listen to his church or be excommunicated. I am arguing that if one has been given the grace to believe that the bible teaches the truth, there is no reasonable excuse that can be given for disbelieving Christ when he says that all of his disciples must listen to his church – the church that can never die. And that is why I say that if anyone has been given the grace to believe that what is written in the Protestant bible is without error, that he or she has no rational reason for being a Protestant, since every single Protestant church is, at best, a church that is in schism with Christ’s church.

    We all know that every single Protestant “church” that exists today is a personal “church” that was founded by some man or some woman. Reason alone tells us, that at the very best, a Protestant denomination is a group of believers that teaches no heresy, but are in schism with Christ’s church. That has to be true, unless the church that Christ founded did indeed die, and was re-established on earth once again during the so-called “Reformation”. But to believe that, one would have to reject the promise of Christ that the powers of death will not prevail against his church, and brazenly assert that Christ was wrong, that his church did die. And if one is rejecting what Christ has promised to man, why bother being a Protestant in the first place? So again, at best, a Protestant denomination is in schism with Christ’s church, and at worst, a Protestant denomination is comprised of people that teach and believe heresy. And because there are thousands upon thousands of Protestant denominations that teach contradictory doctrine, reason alone tells us that most Protestant sects are not just in schism with the church that Christ founded, but are, in fact, denominations that teach a corrupted Gospel.

    Now the Catholic Church claims that she is the church founded by Christ, and she at least has a two-thousand year old history that gives some credence to that claim. Am I arguing that because one has no excuse for being a Protestant, that one must become a Catholic just because the Catholic Church claims to be the church founded by Christ? No, I am not making that argument. I am simply saying that the scriptures alone gives one more than sufficient reason to flee from Protestantism –that through scripture alone, one is given sufficient knowledge to know that it is wrong to be in schism with the church that Christ founded. How one finds the true church is a different question.

    Noelle writes: Again, the Catholic Church appeals to me and I have several reasons for liking the idea of becoming Catholic. Therefore, if that is something meant for me, I await it as a gift from the hands of God. Perhaps you disagree, but this is based upon my very real relationship with God. If I can’t trust him to lead me, I can’t trust anyone. I am confident that he is capable of convincing me to become Catholic if he so desires; I do not believe I am resistant to that.

    I don’t disagree with you when you say this. To find the church that Christ founded does require one to trust God, and to act on the graces that he has gives to you. But to know that one cannot be a Protestant and be faithful to what is written in the scriptures is something that can be known by reason unaided by grace.

    Suppose a teacher gave Protestant bibles written in English to a group of English speaking Hindu students. The teacher then tested the Hindu students on their reading comprehension skills, using the same criteria that the teacher would give for any other book written in English. I contend that if these Hindu students had a normal amount of reading comprehension skills, they would be able to tell the teacher that there is nothing written in a Protestant bible that supports the founding personal “bible churches” that teach unauthorized personal interpretations of what is contained in the scriptures. The Hindu students would have to go outside of what is written in the Protestant bible to find the reasons that Protestants use to justify the founding of personal “bible churches”.

    The Hindu students that read only the Protestant bible would easily see that a man named Jesus founded his own church, and that he expected his followers to listen to what his church teaches. Whether the Hindu students would believe in this Jesus and decide to listen to the church that Jesus founded is a different question altogether than one involving mere reading comprehension skills. I contend that reason, unaided by grace, is sufficient to give one the knowledge that the Protestant bible does not teach that men and women are authorized to found their own personal “bible churches”. If you disagree with this conclusion, simply quote to me the verses in a Protestant bible that authorize the founding of personal “bible churches” built upon a foundation of the private interpretation of scriptures.

    Noelle writes: … I have more often been worried that I would be dishonest and become Catholic *without* confronting issues that I should confront.

    I am not unsympathetic to that in the least. But I believe that the number one issue that all Protestants need to confront is the Protestant doctrine that is the substrata upon which the doctrine of sola scriptura is built, namely, the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. Where is it taught in a Protestant bible that the individual has more authority than the church founded by Christ? Nowhere!

    Noelle writes: … You are coming from a different starting point than I am, already believing the Catholic Church is the Church Universal …

    But how did I come to believe that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be? When I was twenty, I chose to reject the Catholic Church and become an apostate. I rejected not only the claims of the Catholic Church, but Christ himself. I only became a Catholic revert because God first gave me the grace to believe that what I thought about the bible might be wrong. I have no doubt that God was pursuing me as I was running away from him, and that in my rebellion, God and trying to bring me back into a relationship with Christ. At some point I knew that God was calling me to be a Christian, and I knew something about what that entailed from reading the bible. I knew from reading the bible that I would have to give up being the lord of my life, and accept Christ as my Lord.

    God was calling me to complete abandonment to the will of God, and believe me, being a Catholic was the last thing that I wanted to become! I knew that it was time for me to make a choice, and that I could harden my heart against accepting Christ as my Lord if I so chose to do that. During that time of wrestling with the Lord, I once had a thought that if I have to become a Christian, then I will just become a Unitarian, because then I can be a Christian and believe whatever I want to believe. But immediately upon thinking that thought, I saw what I was really doing – I was still rebelling against God and I was desperately trying to find a way to keep myself as the lord of my life. I wanted to be able to call myself a Christian, but keep for myself the primacy of conscience. The whole pernicious practice of church shopping shows that although the individual Protestant might not consciously be aware of it, the Protestant church shopper believes in the primacy of the individual conscience. Somehow, the Protestant has come to believe that he or she has the right to seek out a denomination that agrees with the Protestant’s own personal interpretation of scriptures, instead of being obligated by the scriptures to seek out and submit to the church that Christ founded.

    “We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong.” – G.K. Chesterton

    Noelle writes: … Also, no Protestant Church would claim to be “the church” Christ has founded, insofar as it is a denomination. Insofar as it is a member of the worldwide body of Christ, they would say they are a part of the Church Christ founded.

    To get back to the point of Bryan’s article, how can any Protestant denomination maintain that they are not in schism with the church founded by Christ?

  66. Noelle (#58):

    You say:

    “There are doctrines that I have reserve about in the Catholic Church, and I have not seen evidence strong enough to compel me to become Catholic”.

    And yet you seem to supply your own such evidence (or at least reasoning) in all that preceded that statement!

    You might consider the following article which I found provocative and helpful:

    Why Only Catholicism Can Make Protestantism Work: Louis Bouyer on the Reformation

    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0097.html

    In Christian Unity,

    Michael

  67. Noelle (#58) [and Michael (#66)]

    Michael’s suggestion is a brilliant one. Bouyer, a Lutheran who converted to Catholicism, is a perfect bridge between the two worlds – utterly sympathetic, fair and balanced in his approach. A detailed review of the book, which might spark interest in reading it in its entirety, can be found here.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  68. Bouyer was one whose writings were essential for me – in particular his “Du protestantisme à l’Église” (I think the English translation is entitled “The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism“).

    jj

  69. Mateo,

    Thank you for your concern and true attempt to make sure I understand your argument. Unfortunately, the issues you brought up drag along with them a whole slew of issues that, in themselves, would take a post of considerable length to address. I will try to keep it brief. (hehe)

    You said (I would love to know how you do those nifty little quote boxes!):

    “We all know that every single Protestant “church” that exists today is a personal “church” that was founded by some man or some woman. Reason alone tells us, that at the very best, a Protestant denomination is a group of believers that teaches no heresy, but are in schism with Christ’s church. That has to be true, unless the church that Christ founded did indeed die, and was re-established on earth once again during the so-called “Reformation”. But to believe that, one would have to reject the promise of Christ that the powers of death will not prevail against his church, and brazenly assert that Christ was wrong, that his church did die. And if one is rejecting what Christ has promised to man, why bother being a Protestant in the first place? So again, at best, a Protestant denomination is in schism with Christ’s church, and at worst, a Protestant denomination is comprised of people that teach and believe heresy.”

    That statement alone entails a lot of assumptions on several levels. Keep in mind that I am not trying to prove Catholicism wrong or to get you to agree with my position, but I’m just trying to explain to you why I have the information you’ve spoken about and still do not find it sufficient to cause me to convert. Those are two different things, in my opinion. Also, it would be useful for you to know that I am playing devil’s advocate on some of these questions; I do not hold to a large number of Protestant positions. Nevertheless, for the sake of the argument I have to defend them if only to clarify what they actually are, because I don’t believe an effective rebuttal can be based on a misunderstanding of the position.

    1) We are not in agreement that every Protestant church is a “personal church” that was founded by some man or woman. I therefore take issue with the premise. There is a significant difference between a church and a denomination. The denominations were founded by men; but in the Protestant view a “denomination” is merely a sort of sub-species still contained in the Church Universal. Thus (and I leave out particular denominations that *do* try to make the claim that they are somehow the only true church, because that is altogether unfounded), the Protestants whose position I find reasonable believe that the Church Universal is comprised of many denominations all professing the same faith in Jesus Christ, while disagreeing on particulars. I have always been discouraged by my parents from holding dogmatically to any denomination’s views in the same way I would hold dogmatically to the articles of faith in, for instance, the Creed (the things without which one would be founding a new heresy –the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, the all-sufficiency of His Sacrifice, etc.). Also, I seriously doubt any Protestant would grant you the point that, in order to be Protestant, they had to deny Jesus’ words promising that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. This is not merely because they have ignored it; it’s because they interpret it to mean something else. I was always raised to understand it in the sense that the Church and therefore the Gospel would never become extinct. Protestants view the Universal Church in a much less visible manner; it is delegated to a sort of spiritual level.

    I fully expect you to disagree with this; but my goal is not to convince you or even to defend the position. Rather, it’s to explain that it is entirely possible for a Protestant to hold to his convictions and not be in denial of the words of Christ. Perhaps we are mistaken; I leave that to God. But I know far too many Protestants who think very deeply about their faith and would be the last ones to trivialize anything Christ said or commanded. It is an entirely different matter to hold a mistaken interpretation than to actually ignore something Christ has taught. I’d also like to point out that, from a Protestant interpretation of the words of Christ, the accusation could easily come up that there are certain passages in Scripture that Catholics ignore. I am most certainly not making such an accusation (far from it!), but it serves to show that merely because a person (Catholic or not) cannot see another way of interpreting the words of Christ, one would have no sufficient ground for deciding it was the case. I am also not suggesting that the way of coming to conclusions about the content of Scripture is the same for a Protestant as for a Catholic. There is a basic hermeneutical difference there, based on an acceptance or rejection of a Spirit-led Magisterial authority to lead one into proper interpretation.

    Also, most Protestants do not accept that the visible authority seen in the Catholic Church was ever what Christ intended when he founded His Church — they would insist that such authority was a superfluous and dangerous construct of man. Again, I do not propose this position as my own, but it’s important to realize that most Protestants do not believe that they are or ever were in schism from the Church. They believe that they merely revitalized what Christ intended from the beginning, and that the only thing they broke from was a hindrance to the faith, a construct of man. I am sure there are ample arguments against this, and you are welcome to articulate them if you wish. But remember that it will not be me you are giving these arguments to, but the Protestants I am representing when I describe this belief. The other thing is that arguments merely show why any one person might hold to a belief; but when opposing sides have given the matter equal thought and care, it is highly unlikely that they alone will serve to change someone’s mind. I think a hugely important step in fostering Christian unity is in recognizing that some Protestant objections are founded on extremely important questions; and in certain cases given the understanding many Protestants have of Catholicism, one would hope those objections would arise. They often betray a fierce loyalty to Christ. Call it misplaced, but it still stems from genuine, Spirit-fostered love of Christ (in honest cases).

    I am also fully aware of the difficulties that arise from the Protestant rejection of a visibly authoritative Church. Again, however, it has not been enough to convince me to “switch camps” for lack of a better term. I am Protestant because I was born Protestant, not because I am in protest against the Catholic Church. However, I cannot just throw deep-seated values out the window because I heard arguments that made sense. It is very possible to have compelling arguments that are wrong–I have seen it before. Therefore it is impossible that argument alone should convince me to become Catholic. It can most certainly be a part of the process, but it will not be the sole reason I either reject Protestantism or accept Catholicism, if I ever do either.

    2) Your example of the Hindus is too hypothetical to prove your point, in my opinion. It could just as easily have been cited by a Protestant to prove their point. It stems from a belief that a given interpretation of Scripture is obvious to anyone. But that is not the case. If it were, taking the perspective of a Catholic, there would be no need for a Magisterium. A mistake certain Protestant denominations make (I will not name names) is that you take Scripture at face value alone because if you engage in more delicate hermeneutics you are “explaining things away.” This leads to some very serious deficiencies in Scriptural interpretation and a serious failure to value the subtlety and depth of Scripture and the need to handle its interpretation with great care. I feel that you are making a similar assumption about the meaning of Scripture in your argument against Protestantism. It seems you believe that this is something anyone should see upon looking at Scripture; and yet very often well-versed and avid scholars of Scripture reach completely different conclusions, without dishonest motives. Part of this lies in what you expect to find in the meaning, and we all have expectations so none of us, taken alone, is immune. I actually believe that one of the things that would attract me to the Catholic Church is just the opposite of what you seem to assert: it is, in fact, not obvious enough for anyone to determine precisely what we should take Scripture to mean on certain principles, and hence the question would arise whether a more supernaturally-led authority would be needed to guard from error. Therefore I don’t think you can prove from Scripture alone that the Catholic Church is the Church universal, although perhaps you can have strong supporting references and even base your arguments from Scripture.

    I would like to clarify, too, that I do not take the classic Protestant position on Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide. I am not in flat-out opposition to it, but I believe it needs some serious qualifiers. The only reason I would hold to Sola Scriptura would be because it is impossible not to have some infallible (or in this case inerrant) authority to serve as a rule for the faith. As I have not been convicted of the authority of the CC, I have recourse to Scripture as the only thing in which I am certain there is no error. Nevertheless, I do believe that, in some fashion, the Spirit has worked in his Church over the centuries to aid its understanding of the faith. Therefore I also take very seriously Christian tradition, small-t. For that reason, too, I firmly deny any sort of “primacy of the individual conscience.” What has been clearly shown to be an integral part of the content of the faith, indeed based upon the Gospel as taught by the Apostles, clarified with the aid of the Holy Spirit, and rooted in the sure measure of Scripture, no Christian is at liberty to deny. The authority of Scripture is, most basically, the thing that takes precedence over individual opinion; it is a written expression of the Gospel message whose clarity has been sharpened and deepened over centuries of Christian thought and submission to the authority of God (and, yes, the Church at some level as a corporeal expression of that authority). For the honest Christian who has submitted themselves to God and his Truth, there can be no adherence to “primacy of individual conscience” as though what I believe makes it right. Truth is not relative; and yet where there is not consensus on a matter, one must make an honest effort, asking the Spirit for guidance, to discern the meaning contained in the Word of God as written down, in all reverence and submission. I agree, some Christians fail to do this, and that is blameworthy. But I don’t stand with people that do that; I stand with those that submit their understanding, as far as they are able, to God.

    As far as Sola Fide goes, I have all but rejected that. In fact, it did not take me long to realize that it was never an adequate explanation–I always felt it. And, to be honest, I think any well-balanced Protestant would discover that his understanding of salvation is not at all far from the Catholic position. It’s been a misnamed difference, in my opinion, based on mutual misunderstanding. Protestants adhering to this think they are rejecting the “Catholic doctrine” of salvation earned by works, which no properly catechized Catholic could possibly hold to. Though there are unfortunately some movements that do try to strip things down to mere faith to the detriment, ironically, of the Christian’s faith, I believe they are, even from a Protestant perspective, wrong.

    I know you see myriad problems with only believing Scripture has the authority to guide us in matters of doctrine. I have heard the arguments and taken them seriously. Honestly, I am in a no-man’s land right now, and my views have not solidified completely. It will take time for that to happen. But in all things I seek His Truth and not my own opinion. You can rest assured that I take this all seriously and am not unaware of the arguments behind Catholicism. But, again, it isn’t possible that I will be intellectually “strong-armed” into becoming Catholic, which means that it will not be an intellectual argument alone that will cause me to convert. (Read Aaron’s post, #61, for an apt description of what the process would have to look like for me.) I do not believe that it’s a mere matter of intellectual assent, unaided by grace. Things simply are not clear enough to me, regardless of the arguments I’ve been faced with. One reason is that I am too aware of how convincing an argument can be when you aren’t looking at the whole picture, and I have also heard intellectual problems against Catholicism coming from Protestant friends. I must, then, see “the whole picture” — and not just intellectually — before I can be convinced (I’ve had logic professors very good at convincing us of a position they then proceeded to reject as wrong.). My faith involves intellect, but it is an affair of the heart. And it still has to be my heart that is convicted, ultimately. Perhaps it’s just the way I work, but it will be rare that I will ever be compelled to radically change my mind on intellectual grounds alone. My whole self has to be “won over” as it were. And I am certain that God is capable of doing that.

    Peace in Christ.

  70. Haha…well, I guess the quote boxes are added in later :)

    Something else I would like to ask. I do struggle sometimes with Marian devotion, insofar as it’s related to our relationship with Christ. Even some of my most centered and devout Catholic friends will sometimes speak of Mary as though she’s the one they go to when they feel they can’t face God, or as though she’s somehow more approachable than God. Even though the final motive is to love God himself (eg., Christ especially), something deeply bothers me about thinking of Mary as more approachable than Jesus. I mean, wasn’t that the whole point of the Incarnation? Isn’t Christ supposed to be approachable to us like no other, precisely in that He was made man? I mean, if we still need a human mediator between us and Him, His whole incarnation seems to lose some of its best meaning, and our intimacy is diminished with Him because we still deem Him “too high” for us. Yes, He is very high, but He became man so that we might approach Him, wouldn’t you say?

    Any other explanation of Mary’s role I can accept, but not one that places her as a sort of intermediary between us and Christ. I want to go straight to Him without impediment! I can understand asking for Mary’s intercession, seeking to love Him in union with her, but that’s different to me. I do not believe that anyone understands us — including our shame at sin, or our weakness — better than Christ. Not even Mary can understand us that intimately. Wasn’t that what He did during His Passion; didn’t He unite Himself to us in the most intimate of ways? Are we not wedded to Him because we died with Him? I just don’t see how there is any room for a “stepping stone” to Him from that perspective, if our union with Him is that intimate.

    Please accept my apologies if I have offended anyone. I don’t intend to. Yet I can accept no compromise when it comes to Jesus. It is my hope that you will see a misunderstanding in my interpretation of this, and enlighten me.

    P.S. I’m not really looking for apologetic arguments here and probably won’t reply to them (partly because I don’t have a lot of time during the week for that, what with school and all). What I’m looking for is explanation from experience, from your own personal faith and understanding of the Gospel. I look forward to any insights you all might have!

  71. Hello Noelle,

    I added the boxquotes for you. Go to the ‘About’ tab above, and then go to the ‘Comment Formatting’ tab. It explains how to do it.

    If you really want to understand the Church’s teaching on Mary, and Marian devotion, then I suggest getting out a notepad, and setting aside a good block of time (a number of hours) to read the articles at all the links (and listen to the lectures embedded in those links) in comment #542 of the “How John Calvin Made me a Catholic” thread, as well as the two lectures embedded in that comment itself, all in the order I laid them out there.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  72. Noelle,

    I don’t think I’ve met anyone who did not have an emotional experience when they crested this particular hill. My own emotional experience is that I did not want what Catholicism represented to be true, because it was going to cost me, and it did. It cost me my friends, and a place where I was comfortable with what was familiar. Catholicism was contrary to what I had originally held and believed, so it also involved the fact that I was wrong, and a lot of people I liked and respected were also wrong. Jesus told us to count the cost. I did.

    I would note that in my process of discovery, I went to my peers and co-congregants and told them what I was seeing. We were “bible believing” and I saw both particular statements, especially Jesus’ own words, and context as the scriptures moved from the old covenant to the new covenant. My position and the position of the church I was in was contrary to the particular words and the context. Jesus was denied on a practical level. He could not be Himself so that we could justify our positions.

    Three times I took the charge up this hill, and three times I weighed the arguments I was given. Note that I understood that my peers had particular considerations, such as parents, relatives, friends, years of services, missionaries, and our particular brand of revival to deal with. Each time I worked though the arguments, the Catholic position became stronger and clearer.

    My head was going in one direction and my heart was going in the opposite direction. CS Lewis noted that the head is supposed to rule the heart, so that the emotions are properly directed. Our Lord noted the proper disposition of one’s loves, comparing Himself with parents for instance, and told us Who needed to be first.

    I loved my peers and wanted the best for them, and I loved Him, and once the questions I had were answered (and many were in abeyance pending a time when I could and would understand them), I had to make the choice between them and what I saw as a failure to believe His words, and Him and the words He spoke.

    We do live by faith. That is the basis for my action.

    On the occasions when I do look back, I am sorry to have lost my friends, but we all make a choice on what is really important. Imitate me as I imitate Christ, Paul told us. Fair enough. Our Lord gave up heaven and proximity to His Father to save us. Paul gave up being a Pharisee to become a servant of Jesus, and after a period of time, an apostle.

    Not so much was asked of me.

    Cordially,

    dt

  73. Noelle,

    Even as a Catholic who returned to the Church after a long absence, I also cringe when I hear people talk about Mary being more approachable than God. On the other hand, there are also Catholics who have a difficult time relating to her. When I returned to the Church, I completely accepted all the Marian doctrines, but it took me a long time to warm up to Our Lady emotionally. I think that different emotional reactions to Mary are based more on differing temperaments and personal backgrounds than any Church teaching. There’s nothing about Marian devotion per se that interferes with relating to Jesus directly. The opposite is true. Closeness to Mary and closeness to Jesus are mutually reinforcing.

  74. Donald –

    Thank you for sharing that. I pray that I may ever be open and docile to Christ and His truth. It’s what I ultimately live for, and without it everything loses its worth. Thank you for submitting yourself to Him even when it was very difficult. May it give us all the hope and courage to do the same whenever it’s necessary.

    Charlotte,

    Thank you for your gracious words. That point regarding differing temperaments and backgrounds was very insightful. Perhaps I am partly having difficulties because my background, as a Protestant, is so different and hence I am not coming from the same place as some of my friends, who were raised to be comfortable with Marian devotion. Truly, any number of expressions of faith are acceptable to me so long as they give Christ his place not only as God, but as Supreme Lover, intimately in relationship to us. And I know it isn’t for me to know the inner workings of any particular person’s faith, but I really would like to understand this particular aspect better.

    Bryan,
    Thank you. If I have the time I will look into those articles.

  75. Noelle,

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey. I do have one question. You seem to exclude a number of common protestant positions. You deny Sola Fide outright and say you also reject many forms of Sola Scriptura. My question is where do you see yourself landing? Do you see yourself ascribing to a completely new set of doctrines? in other words, if you discern a theology that no church, protestant or catholic, teaches then what would you do? I wonder this because it sounds like you have excluded all the major protestant traditions. Yet you don’t yet feel called to become Catholic. That seems to leave you in no man’s land. Would you stay there indefinitely? Does something have to give?

    If you suppose the theology you discern is true and Jesus promised to not leave us orphaned (Jn 14:18) then the question of where is your proper church family should have a real answer. I would go further and suggest that this question should always have had an answer. That is if you discerned this true theology 1000 years ago there should have been a church family that you fit in.

  76. Noelle,

    I’m not a fan of his, but you know even the iconoclastic N.T. Wright has defended Luther’s use of “faith alone” in Romans 3. : ) Blessings to you again.

    + Nathan

  77. Dear Nathan,

    I’m a bit confused. In #27, you comment on the post at hand and then link to various posts that you feel address the article and highlight your discourse with a high profile Catholic apologist. I commend that discourse. In #36 you claim that no one here wanted to respond directly, but in #40, Randy pointed out that Dave A. has responded to your particular arguments at length. Then in #42 you said you “rarely engage the articles here directly, but you do so elsewhere”. Then you pop back in in #55, #62 and #76. The tone of all of your comments has been irenic, and I take no issue with that. However, the above narrative has me scratching my head.

    If you don’t mind, so as to bring this back to the topic at hand, why would someone who is exploring their Christian faith consider Lutheranism? What is her compelling case? That she gets all the doctrines right? More right? Mostly right? Is a Christian narrative of history a Lutheran one? Did Christ come, die, rise again and give us Lutheranism? I don’t mean these questions to be polemical, just trying to see the trees for the forest (or however that goes).

    Should one become Lutheran because you are “fierce about the sacraments”? Moreover, and more germane to this article, when would Lutherans know when it is time to return to Rome? And how, qualitatively, would that be different from another Protestant group?

    Warmly in Christ,

    Brent

  78. Randy,

    You are right; in some ways I certainly am in a “no-man’s land.” I don’t think that should be permanent, but I think it’s where I have to be right now, for the time being. The wilderness, too, can be part of the path to the Promised Land. :)

    I don’t know if I can tell you whether I see myself as believing a theology that no Church teaches. I don’t think I do; at least that isn’t my intention. Rather, I’m seeking the most authentic and rich understanding of the Christian faith I can find, one that is too often stunted in modern Protestantism (we seem to have thrown the baby out with the bath water, if you will. Also keep in mind that a large number of Protestants don’t see themselves as many different Churches but as members of the worldwide Body, hence a Church that is constituted simply by those that profess faith in Christ, regardless of denomination.) In any case, this is a process for me right now; I am seeking. Therefore I couldn’t give you a hard list of what I do and don’t profess on everything. On the essentials I am certain; on the other (still extremely important) issues I am coming to varying degrees of certainty. I feel like I am going through a sort of osmosis right now. It will only be later that I can fully articulate the content of what I came to believe through that osmosis. I am as the bud before a flower– in some ways the thing itself and in others not it competely yet. (In a sense this is a continual process for the Christian, but I think certain moments are more decisive than others).

    The other thing is that I think that the “Sola Fide” position is something I had already begun to see differently from earlier in my life. My family isn’t what you’d call a “typical” Protestant family. I mean we don’t just accept a package of beliefs unquestioningly unless it comes with the sure authority of Revelation. Anything that is clearly an interpretation of man, we prayerfully study and try, as best we can (with humility) to arrive at the conclusion that seems best in light of what we know of God — the position that seems to be most faithful to His Revelation (for us, Scripture). On those matters we may disagree with someone, even strongly. but will not estrange ourselves from them because of it. As far as “Sola Fide” goes, I feel there is enough content in the basic Gospel that, if well understood, should allow a Protestant to realize that merely chalking things up to intellectual assent is not right. Nevertheless, I am sure that very many Protestant friends and family would take issue with my position, for misguided reasons in my opinion. To be honest, however, Protestants so widely vary in “marginal” doctrines — for lack of a better term — that I can’t exactly say I don’t hold a position any church teaches. Really, I have always been taught to look at denominational differences as secondary to the core message of the Gospel, which was the only thing the Church (taken as all Christians worldwide and across time) taught for certain. And since Protestants shy away from saying the Church teaches anything (they prefer to delegate it to Scripture since the former denotes to them innovations of man rather than actual divine Revelation), the fact that “no Church” teaches a particular doctrine might not carry weight the way it would with a Catholic.

    Anyway, there’s my rambling answer to your question. I hope it made sense (it’s a bit late so I’m not sure how coherent I am anymore!)

    Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance!

  79. Noelle #78,

    Also keep in mind that a large number of Protestants don’t see themselves as many different Churches but as members of the worldwide Body, hence a Church that is constituted simply by those that profess faith in Christ, regardless of denomination.

    I understand that this is how Protestants “see” themselves. I saw myself this way at one time (your third paragraph describes my upbringing!). The question that woke me up in the middle of the night wasn’t whether or not I could see myself that way, but whether or not it was in fact a part of reality. This seemed to be the general modern problem, a motif repeated everywhere, and I started to have the sneaking suspicion that my religion was what I “saw” (or my group saw) and not what was actually there. Which leads, inevitably, to the question:

    How do you know revealed religion? (a part from other sciences or species of knowledge) If it is by the process in your third paragraph–even with the very best of intentions, love for God and prayer–it is flawed and leads back to the original question. I don’t make this observation casually, but as someone who while in college lived like a hermit in study and prayer. I had been around the ecclesial neighborhood, and knew that Christianity was either (1) a religion for lunatics, (2) a merely private conviction (bosom burning), or (3) something more. The atheists agree with #1. #2 means I am no better off than the secularists. My journey was about figuring out if #3 existed.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  80. Brent,

    I simply don’t have time to give myself wholly to discussion here, as much as I would enjoy it. One must make tough choices.

    As I told Dave Armstrong, of course Jesus was Lutheran. Seriously, I contend that the whole of the Apostolic deposit and truth is found in Confessional Lutheran Churches. We are truly Church, having preserved the ancient message in truth and purity.

    Seriously though, I keep popping in because I thought it might be interesting to follow the conversation here, albeit with much skimming. And not only that, but I feel compassion for Noelle, and simply want to give her bits and pieces of what we have to say when it looks like what we have to say might be appreciated by her.

    That’s all.

    God bless you,
    Nathan

  81. Noelle, RE #78,
    I used to think similar to what you describe in your post before my conversion. I used to think that the different denominations really only differed on what you referred to as the “peripheral issues” but that the Gospel message, or the essentials, stayed relatively intact. What I slowly came to see was that I was utterly deceived. Ask a Calvinist, Joel Osteen, and a Roman Catholic what the “good news” is and I hate to say it but you will get three different answers. This was a problem for me. I mean, someone had to have the uncorrupted Gospel message as it was intended to be preached. But who? And in what principled way was I supposed to find it? Sola Scriptura said that I need to read the Bible and see what the Gospel message was for myself. This was untenable for me for two main reasons: 1) the Bible is full of warnings against self-deception so no matter what conclusion I came to I could be deceived, and 2) the fact that there were so many differing opinions discouraged me so much I thought that objectively arriving at it was near impossible.

    I know that one of your issues is whether a Magisterium is essential to the church or not and this is where for me this issue ties in. Now I could live with those two problems above when it came to “peripheral issues,” and indeed I did. But we are talking about the Gospel itself. One of those things that was so helpful for me in my conversion was this article by Dr. Liccione. In it he makes the claim that if anything else it is at least possible in principle that God gave to His Church the gift of infallibility. And this is possible in principle because of who God is, the fount of all Truth itself, in whom there is no confusion or uncertainty. I found that this gift to the Church was indeed the only way that the Gospel itself could be preserved in such a way that we could be objectively sure we have it as opposed to subjectively sure. That objective way is Apostolic Succession, and it is not an interpretive claim (subjective), but rather an historical claim (objective).

    In a nutshell, for me, I do not believe Christ left us a Church where I have to stake my eternal salvation on my best guess as to what the Gospel message even is.

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  82. Nathan writes: As I told Dave Armstrong, of course Jesus was Lutheran. Seriously, I contend that the whole of the Apostolic deposit and truth is found in Confessional Lutheran Churches. We are truly Church, having preserved the ancient message in truth and purity.

    Luther was a member of a church before he broke away from that church and founded his own personal church – the church that bears his name.

    The church that Luther rebelled against – was Christ the head of that church? If not, then when, exactly, did Christ cease to be the head of that church?

  83. mateo,

    I believe Luther did what he did *because* he was a loyal son of the Church and wanted to help his mother, of whom Christ was the head: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/babies-in-church-part-viii-judge-your-mother-o-child-the-tragic-necessity-of-the-reformation/

    +Nathan

  84. Nathan

    In claiming that the old temple religion of Jesus was his “mother” (church) and comparing it to the “new” temple (Catholic Church) as Luther’s “mother” (church) you may be correct in a certain way. However Jesus stated to his followers about his “mother” (church) to do as “they” say not as “they” do.1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. (Math. 23:1-3)

    Luther would have been Justified in helping to reform his “mother” (church) but not tear it down. Reformation should have been from the inside not the outside. There is no doubt of the corruption of some of the members of the church at that time, and possibly most of the members of the Church of that time. That does not mean however because there are sinful members within the Church , even within the leadership of the Church that you should kill (destroy) the Church. Moral corruption must be changed within it’s members by change from within but not by murder or suicide.
    Luther and the so called reformers ended up reforming nothing, but ended up dividing the Church in schism and heresy and has ended up as one of the greatest scandals of Christendom. You do not reform by dividing .You reform by edifying. So should Luther have done. The Church would have therefore been renewed and not divided. Where is Christ’s command to divide the Church? His command was to unify the Church and be as one as He was one with the Father.
    I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22 I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. 23 I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me. ( John 17: 21-23)
    The Reformation of the reformers, Luther et al. Makes of Christianity the laughing stock of the world. They do not see our love of each other and they do not say, “see how they love each other”.

  85. Nelson:

    “Luther and the so called reformers ended up reforming nothing, but ended up dividing the Church in schism and heresy and has ended up as one of the greatest scandals of Christendom. You do not reform by dividing .You reform by edifying. So should Luther have done. The Church would have therefore been renewed and not divided. Where is Christ’s command to divide the Church? His command was to unify the Church and be as one as He was one with the Father.”

    Luther and the “Lutherans” wanted to reform the Church, not divide it. That’s what the 95 theses was about. The Church divided because it did not heed proper correction. After his excommunication he did write things that were a bit harsher. Harsh language fills the prophets though – and the Apostle Paul as well: http://cyberbrethren.com/2011/03/25/archeologists-discover-letter-written-to-st-paul/ Still, note the irenic tone of the Augsburg Confession. And yes, I do believe John 17 is a wonderful prayer that we should look to each and every day.

  86. Nathan,

    As I told Dave Armstrong, of course Jesus was Lutheran. Seriously, I contend that the whole of the Apostolic deposit and truth is found in Confessional Lutheran Churches. We are truly Church, having preserved the ancient message in truth and purity.

    Again, what principled method can I use to distinguish your claim from all the other Protestant communities? Should I study the Bible more? Pray? Will that guarantee I see your claim? Do I need the Holy Spirit?

    Your claim is not unique in that every Protestant community would either say (1) their Confessions correspond to the true Gospel or (2) their church broke off from your church (or some other) “*because* [they were] a loyal son of the Church and wanted to help [their] mother, of whom Christ was the head”. For (1), we would need a principled method to judge the competing claims–the point of my first question(s). For (2), we would need a theology that judges schism from as distinct from heresy.

    In Lutheranism, we can track the history of Pietism to learn a little bit about some of the “loyal sons” who are the fathers of modern day evangelicalism. I’m sure you don’t think credo-baptism is part of the “whole of the Apostolic deposit”, but then again it doesn’t matter if the credo-baptists were merely being loyal sons of the Church of whom Christ is the head.

    No Catholic denies that Christ is the head of His Church–although the repetitive phrase (used by Protestants) seems to try to act like rebuke. What we reject is the idea that Christ did not pass off that leadership, steward it, to the Apostle and that they–taking a cue from our Lord–passed it off to their successors. This charism was given by Christ and preserved by the Divine Paraclete to this day. It creates a real, supernatural yet visible Communion with Christ through his Apostles, and particularly the principle of unity (prince) of those Apostles–St. Peter. Today, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. It was built in the time of Constantine and was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324 AD. The first Council of Nicea was commenced just one year later. This is not a Church that is “more or less visible” at times. She is a light that was lit and never put under a bowl, She has always been on a hill: from Sion to Golgotha to Rome. When you walk away from her, you can concoct a theory about the “real” but she will always overshadow you–pointing to a visible reality beyond what man is capable of creating on his own.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  87. Re: the conversation centered on Noelle”s situation:

    My experience, and the experience of most converts I talk to, is that the subjective experience and fruits of the sacraments are so strong that these various intellectual doubts soon fade away following conversion.

  88. Brent,

    Fair enough. And of course the question of authority is what it ultimately comes down to. Again, however, I’m in the middle of a process that only the Holy Spirit can complete, and for whatever reason things aren’t that clear to me at this point. It’s a lot of information to assimilate and make sense of, but I trust His guidance. :)

    Aaron,

    Yes, that is the fundamental issue for me, at least intellectually. But as I mentioned to Brent, it’s a lot of information and it takes some time to make sense of it all. Maybe it takes me longer than others, but I don’t consider myself wise enough to lead myself into the truth alone. Self-deception is a possibility in all areas of human reasoning, which is why I must trust the Lord and His guidance. I think He will reveal what I need to see in time, and I believe He is already in the process of doing so. But it’s a process, and there’s no use my trying to outrun God. Also, if the Gospel is true, I think we have to be able to trust God at some level, even if we are fallible. I don’t believe, whatever may be the case about Protestantism, that the Mercy and Providence of God will leave us stranded and abandoned without assurance of His help and saving power. And I don’t believe anyone ever went to hell because of mistaken belief, or even mistaken doctrine alone. My theology professor once pointed out that it’s one thing to be guilty of the sin of heresy and quite another to accidentally believe something heretical. And if my faith in Christ leaves me just as in the dark about my fate as I would be without it (perhaps in more doubt than before) then it is no Faith. This is not the Christ I know, the Christ who is light of the world. That is, faulty though I may be for adhering to Protestantism right now, I do no believe it results in being left in the dark about my destiny in Him. No Christian church thinks it’s a game of dice, that is for certain. And, I am reasonably certain, if you lay out the contents of the Nicene Creed you will find that no Christian of any denomination denies that. If they deny any element of it, they are at the least a marginal group in the eyes of all other Christians, or (more likely) seen as a heretical group. There must be some consensus if Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who both profess to be Christian, have been nearly universally rejected by all Christian denominations as heretical. At least the seed of the Gospel must still be agreed upon, at least the bare minimum necessary to accept Christ’s salvific work and live for Him.

    Also — I do actually think some kind of authority beyond individual interpretation of Scripture is necessary, as does my family. I believe that the Holy Spirit has guided the Church into all truth, and that the current state of division is not right. I just don’t know if or how the charism of infallibility is involved, and what it will take for Christians to be fully unified again. I know each side has their claims as to what needs to happen, but they can’t all be right. I do place my hope in the power of God to reunite his Church into an undivided communion of Christians again.

    May he do so, and quickly. Amen.

  89. Nathan (#85),

    You wrote:

    Luther and the “Lutherans” wanted to reform the Church, not divide it. That’s what the 95 theses was about.

    We’re all familiar with the standard Protestant objection to Luther’s excommunication: ‘He was trying to reform the Church from within.’ What often seems to pass unreviewed is the method of Luther’s approach to such reform. Only consider the act of nailing a list of grievances onto the door of a church. It is particularly pretentious to publicize something in regards to which the Scriptures admonish discretion, and Luther was particularly pretentious in the way he went about publicizing it. Someone as concerned to remain one with the Church as Luther is touted to have been might have thought better of such a rambunctious approach to ‘reforming from within.’

    You also wrote:

    The Church divided because it did not heed proper correction.

    Your use of the word ‘proper’ begs the question suggested above. While Luther was not wrong about everything that bothered him, he just as clearly wasn’t right about all of it either. Your comment does not account for the content of Luther’s critique which was mistaken. Nor does it account for the criticism that can be leveled against the harshness of his tone before his excommunication. It at least requires a defense to suppose that Luther’s ‘correction’ can be understood to be ‘proper’ from either angle.

    Finally (and with Nelson’s comment in #84 also in view), as Bryan Cross has argued here (in the second paragraph under 3), ‘[s]ince every schism is a separation from the Church, the Church’s unity is undiminished by schism.’ So it will not do to write in a way which assumes agreement that the Church has divided in the first place, without first engaging the counter claim that the Church has never divided, but has instead endured many and various schisms, in which a particular individual or group has separated or been separated from the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

    Pax,

    Chad

  90. Noelle (re: #88),

    God’s blessings to you, my sister in Christ. I have been reading and following your discussions here on this thread, to some extent, though I haven’t been able to follow them as carefully as others have. Last year, I returned (as a “revert”) to the Catholic Church, from one of the most anti-Catholic Protestant backgrounds I can imagine– that of “Reformed Baptist” theology and ecclesiology. “Rediscovering” the Catholic Church, in a sense, while still a Reformed Baptist, was one of the most bracing, challenging, and yet ultimately joyful, experiences of my life. I had been taught, as an RB Christian, that the Catholic Church offered a person only A.) damning “works-righteousness” and B.) uncertainty about his/her salvation (although B would seem to be contradicted by A, actually, in RB thinking….).

    However, over time, especially after I actually returned to the Catholic Church, I realized that Protestant Reformational thinking, whether of one confessional denomination or another, could not truly offer me certainty of my salvation. (The Catholic Church, of course, believes claimed certainty about one’s salvation to be presumption, and therefore, she doesn’t claim to offer it. She does, however, offer a confident yet humble hope, the kind of which the Bible often speaks.)

    I wrote a good bit about this lack of certainty of salvation in Reformed thinking, in both an objective and subjective sense (the subjective being from my own personal experience) , in a comment here last year, which I will reproduce much of below. I’m leaving this here for you, as something that might possibly be helpful, given your comment, above, about Protestantism not leaving you “in the dark” as to your “eternal destiny.” From June of 2010:

    “Reading through the comments for this post, and comments on related posts at C2c, I just had a stunning and terrifying realization. The entire time that I was a convinced Reformed Baptist (from, approximately, 2005 until earlier this year), within the parameters of the Reformed soteriology I held, there was no way for me *know*, in fact, that I was saved. Logically, it would also seem that this would also apply to *anyone* who accepts Reformed soteriology– whether Presbyterian, Reformed Anglican/Episcopal, Bible church, Calvinistic Methodist (as was George Whitefield), and so on. I will explain my thinking and invite anyone to correct me if my reasoning is flawed, or completely incorrect, here.

    As a Reformed Baptist who, by definition, believed in the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints (the Reformed understanding of “eternal security”), to be sure (no pun intended!), I believed in assurance of salvation, I sang about it in church, and when I evangelized non-Christians, it was at least my *desire* to share the concept of assurance with them. I *thought* that I knew I was saved, and that my salvation was secure for all eternity. In fact though, there was no way for me to know. All that I could *truly know* is that I possessed *signs* of belonging to the elect.

    However, there were other, worrisome “signs” in my life that sometimes led me to *doubt* whether I was one of the elect. I repeatedly struggled with certain sins, and sometimes, chose to give in to them. My Reformed friends would tell me that the fact(s) that I *did* struggle, and that I lamented and hated my sin, showed that I was a true brother in Christ, one of the elect.

    There was the other side of that coin though. I still *did* give in to sin at times, and at those exact moments, chillingly, the sin felt good. I also felt sickness, revulsion, and self-reproach, but part of me did like the sin. Soon after would come repentance and confession to God, and many times, talking with fellow Reformed Christians about my various sin struggles. These friends would assure me that I was continuing to hate and fight sin, and that those are signs of being elect. They would also lovingly warn me (as they should have, as my friends) not to become complacent *about* my sin or *about* my assurance– for either of these could lead a hardness of heart and a “falling away,” thus proving that I never really belonged to God.

    Therein lies the crux of the problem with the Reformed concept of assurance. It isn’t really assurance. It is a “confidence,” one might say, though without complacence, that one is saved, based on the appearance of *signs* that one belongs to the elect. However, those signs could all be ultimately temporary in one’s life, and therefore, illusory. One must also, from time to time, check one’s life to make sure that the “signs” of belonging to the elect aren’t beginning to be outweighed by possible “signs” of being reprobate (non-elect).

    The latter was a periodic struggle (and over time, a heavy burden) for me, as a Reformed Baptist who sought to have “assurance” of my salvation. I could never *truly* have assurance of my salvation, in any sense *other* than how I appeared to be showing signs of belonging to the elect, from one day or week or month (which might have been very encouraging) to another day or week or month (not as encouraging).

    To be clear, none of the above has *anything* to do with why I have now, formally and decisively left Protestantism and begun the process of reconciliation to the Catholic Church, which I angrily and ignorantly left almost fifteen years ago. This process has a been a long and very hard one, brothers and sisters. I say that to *all* of my brothers and sisters in Christ– Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and any and all others! :-)

    I have re-read and re-studied relevant Scriptural passages (in light of the whole counsel of Scripture). I have studied Church history and the competing claims about that history. I have discovered, and have now been greatly taught and humbled by, the writings of the Church Fathers (both “early,” “medieval,” and more recent). I have had hours upon hours of discussions with Protestant friends, who have attempted to show that the objective evidence doesn’t lead, or doesn’t necessarily *have* to lead, to the Catholic Church. For me to be honest though, with God, myself, and others, the objective evidence has led me there– and I will not, cannot, in good conscience, turn back from what I have seen by God’s grace.”

    Noelle, in the Catholic Church, I have found that it is actually *easier* to discern if one is “right with God” then in Protestant Reformational thinking. For the Catholic, he/she is either currently in a state of grace or not. If not, then repentance, confession, and absolution are in order– the latter two of which Christ is seen entrusting to His Church in John 20:19-23.

    I know that you are not yet at the point that I was in June of 2010. I’m not here to pressure you, nor, I trust, is anyone else. I will pray for you though, and I mean that sincerely, whether your journey leads you to the Church or not. Obviously, given that I do believe that the Catholic Church is, objectively speaking, what she claims to be, I hope that you are led to her. Either way though, you have my prayers in Christian brotherhood.

  91. Noelle @#88,

    I completely understand. None of my comments have been meant to accomplish or imply some final “victory” shot. I’m not meaning to rush you. These are very enormous issues and may God grant you grace in the process. Everything I’ve read tells me of your intense trust and love for our Lord. He is leading you!

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  92. Nathan,

    As I was gravitating away from evangelicalism, I did extensive reading of Luther through his writings, and of the history of his time, especially in Germany. It was appalling.

    He justified the idea that anyone inhabited by the Spirit of God was capable of apprehending and expounding the scripture. When he found people expounding the scripture differently than he did, he condemned them. He was their license, then he was their judge in the harshest terms he could muster. He might truly be considered the father of evangelicalism in that he provided the justification for their position, but was hatefully contemptuous of their various theologies and scriptural positions.

    When he wasn’t justifying the peasants as free men in Christ, which led to their revolt against the princes, he was justifying the princes, dukes and other landholders in their repression of the peasants, including justifying killing the peasants as being pleasing to God. In the Peasants War, the losers held Luther up as a traitor, and based on his own writings, he was certainly that.

    My own impression of Luther is that he was a man with no center, save himself, and his life reflected that consideration. He was in revolt against virtually everything, and loyal to no one except himself. He did not come across as the prophets of Israel did, calling Israel and/or Judah to repentance and conversion, and did not display the attractiveness of those men. He was vile.

    Being without a center, he was like a flag in a crosswind.

    Having read Luther and having read the history of Germany in Luther’s time I was acutely aware that I wanted nothing to do with him, and wrote him off based on his own writings and history.

    There is a lot more to this individual than a comment can accommodate, but if you are interested, the writings and the history are widely available and by now probably mostly on line. You might merely line up the various writings and the history of that time and you’ll see the results of Luther.

    Cordially,

    dt

  93. Brent,

    “Your claim is not unique in that every Protestant community would either say (1) their Confessions correspond to the true Gospel or (2) their church broke off from your church (or some other) “*because* [they were] a loyal son of the Church and wanted to help [their] mother, of whom Christ was the head”. For (1), we would need a principled method to judge the competing claims–the point of my first question(s). For (2), we would need a theology that judges schism from as distinct from heresy.”

    You mean you don’t just trust me? Even when I just say “come and see”? : ) Yes, I think these are all legitimate concerns. I address them all in the arguments with Dave Armstrong. I go into way too much depth there.

    Chad,

    I think you are right about him having harsh words before his excommunication. Mea culpa. That said, his appeals for correction did not start out that way, as a reading of Hendrix’s Luther and the Papacy shows. Also, nailing theses for academic discussion among theological faculty where Luther did was the normal way of doing things in his day.

  94. Nathan

    Luther may have started out with a desire to reform the Church, I will give him the benefit of the doubt on that. However the results were not a reformation that helped the Church but was one that ended up in schism and not only a bit of heresy along the way. Where can you see that this revolt against the Church was a good thing? I thought the “letter to St. Paul” was quite funny by the way, thanks for the laugh.

    I do believe also that the Reformation may have had the affect not entirely intended in the end by the “reformers”, in that the Church was forced to deal with the situation in house and undergo reform through what is known as the counter-reformation. That still leaves Luther et al. In schism against the authority of the Church and that can never be a good thing. I realize that tempers flare and that both sides were at fault and pride may have played a big part in what happened. The truth though is that no matter how you look at it schisms took place that should never have taken place.

    The past is the past. We must now work to mend the fractures and learn to embrace one another as true brothers in Christ. We all have a part to play in that. Revolts against the Church then and now leave an ugly wound in the Body of Christ and really is a scandal to us all. I pray as you do brother that the Church will be whole again someday soon.

    Peace
    NHU.

  95. Nathan writes: Luther and the “Lutherans” wanted to reform the Church, not divide it.

    What was the name of the church that the Lutherans wanted to reform?

    Was Christ the founder and head of the church that needed reforming? If not, why would Lutherans want to reform a church that was neither founded by Christ, nor had Christ as its head?

    Or are you claiming that Christ founded the church that needed reforming, but that Christ was no longer the head of his own church? If Christ was no longer the head of the church that he founded, when, exactly, did the powers of death prevail against the church that he founded?

  96. Hello all,

    No time to talk now. Should be able to find time tomorrow to briefly address each of you…

    In Christ!
    Nathan

  97. donald todd,

    Let me briefly say that while I don’t dispute your facts, I think you got the man all wrong. I’m sure Pope Benedict would disagree with you. Luther was all about pastoral theology.

    How I see it: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/do-spill-the-pure-milk-of-the-word/

    +Nathan

    More tomorrow…

  98. Nathan,

    I had no preconception about Luther other than a general, vague impression that the human race owed him some thanks. I was looking for the truth, looked long and hard at Luther, and discovered the truth about him. You think Luther was about pastoral theology. I measured his words and his acts and had a real different impression of the man.

    You think the pope would differ with my position. I see the senior most servant of the Good Shepherd out searching for the lost sheep. He wants to bring them back to the Fold. Reaching out to the Lutherans is a pastoral function. It does not resemble the Peasants War, it resembles Jesus’ prayer that we all might be one.

    Cordially,

    dt

  99. Nathan,

    I go into way too much depth there.

    Would you mind and attempt to answer my question in this combox? My understanding of your debate with Dave A. is that it was not directly related to my question. You can even copy and paste the excerpt from your blog that succinctly addresses my concern with your assertion which you had time to make in this combox–and I am confident that you know right where the answer is or would be willing to point me with a link to the section of what you have described on your blog as “48 page papers”. I am a little concerned about having to dig all around your site for relevant answers, since all of your links have been to only your latest blog posts (see 97) and in #97 I did not see the direct relevance to Mr. Todd’s comment (although vaguely on topic). Again, I said/asked:

    Your claim is not unique in that every Protestant community would either say (1) their Confessions correspond to the true Gospel or (2) their church broke off from your church (or some other) “*because* [they were] a loyal son of the Church and wanted to help [their] mother, of whom Christ was the head”. For (1), we would need a principled method to judge the competing claims–the point of my first question(s). For (2), we would need a theology that judges schism from as distinct from heresy.

    For the sake of the readers, lurkers and commenters here–and so as to not just make this a link-fest back to your blog whereby the readers, lurkers and commenters here are forced to scour your blog for an answer to their very short question–would you mind either answering the question or linking to a direct answer (you may reference a particular paragraph or section)? Moreover, and to the point of this article:

    When would Lutherans know when to return to Rome (the Church Martin Luther left), and how would that return be different than another Protestant community? (to my knowledge of your blog you have never answered that question)

    Warmly in Christ,

    Brent

  100. donald todd,

    I won’t whitewash Luther, just say that he’s not as bad as you make him out to be. I find your comments inaccurate, and so do many others. He realized after the fact that he needed to write more carefully – and regretted it. In his role in the peasants war he let both the peasants and nobles have it – condemning both sides.

    Nelson,

    Glad I made you laugh with the Galatians thing. Did you get the serious point? : )

    You said: “However the results were not a reformation that helped the Church but was one that ended up in schism and not only a bit of heresy along the way. Where can you see that this revolt against the Church was a good thing?”

    It was not within Luther’s full control how Rome would react – either right away, or looking ahead. I still hope they will come around. You can say what happened was predictable, but with God, all things are possible – and he is able to do far more than we can think or imagine, right? Luther naive? Maybe. Like a child? Hmmm.

    Schisms should indeed never happen and the Church should be whole. I may sense strongly when I speak with a person that they know Christ. But what matters is what they teach, when the chips are down.

    mateo,

    Christ was the founder and head of the Church that needed reforming, yes. Christ is the head of His Church, and all things, in fact. The powers of death did not prevail against the Church. One of the pieces of evidence for this is that the RC Church was blessed to have Luther.

  101. Brent,

    I’m sorry. I just have a lot of work to do. : )

    Your claim is not unique in that every Protestant community would either say (1) their Confessions correspond to the true Gospel

    Yes. They are wrong. I can’t explain it succinctly here. In short, if only men – guided by the Apostolic Fathers and their help – took the Scriptures more seriously. The Gospel is only too clear. Baptismal regeneration (and this even for infants), the real presence in the Lord’s Supper, the authority of pastors to bind and loose, and the exclusivity of salvation by grace, through faith in Christ alone are only too clear. A suppression of the truth is the only thing that causes division. I know you don’t think I can say this and be credible without the backup of an infallible authority. I disagree. The fact that both the EO and RCC for example believe that they are infallible creates a situation where we will never have doctrinal unity – unless someone totally must adjust their belief about who they are in essence…. No, Acts 17 is the way to go (Bereans) and this means all of us need to not only be united in telling Reformed and Baptists, for example, that we love them, but they are totally wrong on the Sacraments and also not failing to seriously deal with – and not paper over (JDDJ) our differences….

    -or (2) their church broke off from your church (or some other) “*because* [they were] a loyal son of the Church and wanted to help [their] mother, of whom Christ was the head”.

    No, that may be true about the 16th c. break-offs, but its not always true about break-offs today. Rarely true, I would venture. The rest of the folks in the 16th c. were clearly wrong (I know you think this sounds arrogant – it does so to me sometimes to, but I think its what I must say). Lutherans were not liked by either the Protestants or RCs precisely because they were in the middle, which was closest to the truth.

    -For (1), we would need a principled method to judge the competing claims–the point of my first question(s).

    in my first response to Dave, I take the quote from 55 and discuss what it means on the ground more. I think there is a principled method, and Chemnitz embodies it. In short, Luther’s “novelties” were really no different than those of Cyril of Alexandria’s in his battle vs. heresy. In both cases, both men talked rather uniquely in that they made very explicit what had only been minimally implicit before. The main difference is that greater numbers sided with Cyril and earlier. Luther’s vindication is still to come on a wider scale (or if it does not, we should not be surprised, since in the Last Days we know things will get very very bad…)

    -For (2), we would need a theology that judges schism from as distinct from heresy.

    Yes, schism has to do with a failure to love by not restraining yourself from doing things that may not be sinful in themselves but cause offence – or by asserting adiaphora as dogma. Churches split for non-doctrinal reasons all the time. Rome, however, was teaching heresy.

    “When would Lutherans know when to return to Rome (the Church Martin Luther left), and how would that return be different than another Protestant community? (to my knowledge of your blog you have never answered that question)”

    Well, primarily, when Rome recants stuff like this: “If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake… let him be anathema.”

    That’s basically the crux of the matter, I think. Other things all flow from this, I think.

    By the way, someone else had asked me about Matthew 23:2-3. Just note that all over the rest of the N.T. Jesus also says the Pharisees are teaching falsely. The leaven is hypocrisy and false teaching. Teaching can include behavior as well (we teach by our lives) but clearly Jesus is not excluding the content of the Pharisees teaching, which can be shown by several clear examples, So, in sum, context is important, just like it is with things like “call no man father…”

    And with that, I am taking a break, although I will try to get back within a few days.

    In Christ,
    Nathan

  102. Nathan,

    First a quote from you: “I won’t whitewash Luther, just say that he’s not as bad as you make him out to be. I find your comments inaccurate, and so do many others. He realized after the fact that he needed to write more carefully – and regretted it. In his role in the peasants war he let both the peasants and nobles have it – condemning both sides .”

    1. Which comments are inaccurate?
    2. Which others find my comments to be inaccurate?
    3. “He realized after the fact that he needed to write more carefully – and regretted it.” What is your reference for this statement?

    There is a sequence of events in the prelude to the Peasants War. First Luther justified the peasants as free men in Christ, and excoriated the ruling class as part of that diatribe. When the peasants acted on his justification for their position as free men by insurrection against the ruling class, Luther then justified the ruling class putting down the insurrection without regard for the cost in lives, in part by excoriating the peasants. The documentation is readily available and can easily be placed within German history.

    The diatribes against the princes are in his tract On Authority. For a description of how Luther felt at that time, as described in what he wrote, the following sample: But you want to know why God has ordained that the temporal princes should make such shameful mistakes? I will tell you. God has handed them over to their wicked hearts and will make an end to them.

    To the princes he wrote: People cannot, people will not put up with your tyranny and caprice for any length of time.

    Having rebelled against the Church, Luther turned his attention to the secular rulers of Germany.

    The peasants, who Luther justified as free men in Christ, published a manifesto with twelve articles. Luther approved it, noting the peasants “readiness to be guided by clear, plain, undeniable passages of scripture.” (In explanation, the peasants agreed with what Luther said about them and saw political freedom from the princes as part of this freedom.)

    When Luther saw his guidance leading to war, he wrote An Exhortation to Peace. He wanted to damp down the fire behind the budding rebellion. The exhortation failed to bring back an audience Luther thought his own. His ideas inhabited the peasants and they no longer needed him to justify their cause. By this time, he himself was factually irrelevant and had lost control of a movement he was trying to champion. (Leadership of the peasants had fallen to Munzer who would later lead the peasants on the field of battle, where they would be crushed.)

    Finally Luther wrote a tract entitled Against the Murderous and Rapacious Hordes of the Peasants, urging the ruling class to crush the rebellion. “Therefore let all who are able, mow them (the peasants) down, slaughter and stab them, openly or in secret, and remember that there is nothing more poisonous, noxious and utterly devilish than a rebel. You must kill him as you would a mad dog; if you do not fall upon him, he will fall upon you and the whole land.

    So much for the peasants being “guided by clear, plain, undeniable passages of scripture.”

    Your words: “In his role in the peasants war he let both the peasants and nobles have it – condemning both sides,” are ahistorical. Luther’s words were the ideas that caused the Peasants War, and generally preceded it. What Luther realized after the fact, if anything, is moot. The damage was done, the rebellion fomented and then crushed with Luther first on one side, then the other.

    I noted that I arrived with no real preconceptions about Luther, but with a mild inclination toward the good. You arrived with a disposition to honor him whether or not he deserved any honor at all. Therein lies the difference in our views of Luther. If what I read and what I wrote to you is correct, I have a better reason for my position than you do for yours, because I arrived without a position to maintain and was therefore free to examine without prejudice the available evidence.

    Historically Luther can best be described as
    1. rebelling against the Church
    2. rebelling against Germany’s secular rulers by justifying the peasants drive for political freedom
    3. rebelling against the peasants who would bring down Germany’s secular rulers by justifying the deaths of the peasants by Germany’s rulers

    which leads to a reasonable conclusion that Luther was in opposition to ideas not his own; in opposition to his own ideas which he disowned when those ideas became impractical; and my own inescapable conclusion that Luther was a rebel.

    The closest I came to what you are facing is when I understood that I would be departing my old church because it was on the wrong side of what Jesus was saying in the scriptures, and what the scriptures were saying about Him. I had to make a choice and found I could not ignore Him. Finding Him became the measuring stick for me. The rest was superfluous or worse.

    The prophets of Israel and Judah, our Lord, most of the apostles and many of the apostles’ early disciples paid for their positions, often with their lives. Luther ran from his positions.

    I looked at Luther’s moral character and I ran from Luther.

    I am a Roman Catholic.

    Cordially,

    dt

  103. Nathan

    You are right when you say Luther had no control over Rome. Luther did have control over himself though. It was Luther who started the whole problem with his actions. Yes it was predictable what would happen and Luther also knew that. His desire though was not so much to change the moral conditions of the time as to change some of the teachings of the Church. As far as the moral conditions go the “reformers” where no more moral than the Catholics. Luther admits as much in his some of his writings. If he had stuck to reform of the moral condition and helped the Church through that terrible period he might now be called a Saint.

    Luther attempted to please God through a work inspired mentality and found it impossible to do. His Superiors told him that God excepted him the way he was and he did not have to torture his mind over it. From what I read of Luther he was afflicted with some kind of mental problem and could not achieve peace within himself. I am not saying he was mentally retarded but had a problem more related ( I believe) to OCD.

    Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is an 1. anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety, or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions. Symptoms of the disorder include excessive washing or cleaning; repeated checking; extreme hoarding; preoccupation with sexual, violent or religious thoughts; ( Wikipedia)

    When he eventually found the chapter in his Bible that gave him cause to calm his mind He immediately started to change teachings within the Church to conform with what he thought it meant. Though he was mentally stabilized by what he thought. It does not necessarily mean that he was correct in his diagnosis or interpretation of what he read.

    Of course the “Reformation” was much more than this. It was a tinderbox waiting to explode and Luther was the flame. His personality and conflict with the Leaders of the Church at the time was all it took to set the spark that placed the whole world of the time in Jeopardy. As I say though Luther was only one person whose actions sparked revolution, once it started it grew a life of its own.

    Was it bound to happen? I have no doubt. Did God use that opportunity to clean up the Church? Oviously. God often uses the bad to draw out some good. Yes what happened was “bad” it should never have happened. But because of it God, caused reform to happen from within the Church. I don’t believe for a moment that Luther was naive or childlike. I believe that he had a very hot temper and a mouth that he used to his own advantage.

    Luther was still left with the question of “ By What Authority” do you teach these things? Was the Church required to change their teachings every time someone found a passage in Scripture that suited their particular problem? Enter Protestantism, now everyone who solves their slightest problem through their interpretation of the Scriptures, there goes another new church and the Holy Spirit was with them. I am not convinced Luther started a good thing yet I know God wrought a good thing from it. WE now have to WORK HARD to bring unity back into that Church that Luther had a hand in fractioning. You are correct when you say “what matters is what you preach when the chips are down”. That was Luther’s problem as well.

    Peace
    NHU

  104. Nathan,

    So as to make sure I understand your claim, you articulated more or less that the principle by which one can make judgements between various theological positions is by judging how much they are:

    1. Being guided by the Apostolic Fathers and their help
    2. Taking the Scriptures more seriously
    3. Arguing from Scripture and are proven in time or maybe not

    That would mean that anyone who disagrees with Lutheran theology is either not being guided by the Apostolic Fathers, not taking the Scriptures seriously enough, or has not yet seen the day where Luther is vindicated.

    If by Apostolic Fathers, you mean the Apostles and not the Church Fathers, then I think this makes sense in a way. Church Fathers can err (we agree), and so the Evangelical or Reformed–taking Scriptures very seriously–claim that one is not saved by baptism but rather it is a sign and seal of that which has already occurred by faith. These Evangelicals and Reformed will use the same reference to the Bereans to point to the accuracy of their theology against yours, and neither of them claim infallibility. Instead, they compare what the Church Fathers, councils, et. al. say against their interpretation of Scripture–which is plain–and reject baptismal regeneration.

    I know you don’t think I can say this and be credible without the backup of an infallible authority. I disagree. The fact that both the EO and RCC for example believe that they are infallible creates a situation where we will never have doctrinal unity – unless someone totally must adjust their belief about who they are in essence

    My comments above prove that doctrinal disunity isn’t the problem of some church claiming infallibility, it seems to work just fine without any claim to infallibility.

    I think you can be credible, I just don’t think you can speak with authority–meaning I should (not can) believe what you say. In other words, not just any Tom, Simeon, or Harry could have picked up the Torah in Acts 2 and said, “This is that” and then told everyone listening, “Trust me, it’s obvious even a caveman can get it.” The difference between rational credibility and supernatural authority is the difference between Christ and your dentist. They are not incompatible (reason and faith) but they are not the same–and what I’m afraid your view gives us is a lot of theological dentists.

    The rest of the folks in the 16th c. were clearly wrong…Lutherans were not liked by either the Protestants or RCs precisely because they were in the middle, which was closest to the truth.

    Lutherans were not liked by and could not agree with other Lutherans (Gnesio vs. Philippists). I also reject the via media for the same reasons Newman did (see Apologia Pro Vita Sua. The thesis, “Luther will be vindicated (well, maybe not)” is an unfalsifiable claim. You are basically saying that Luther will be right if he is proven right and Luther will be right if he is proven wrong. Either way, “Go Luther, Go! Go Luther, Go!” I may be a papist, but I’m not hanging onto any Pope’s non-cathedra theological opinings like that. Well, I will take them under pious advisement. As I have discussed over at Dave’s blog, and as DT is alluding, Luther’s view of his own ideas is bashfully papal-esque and his followers apparently even the more. At least Catholics say you can be reasonable and disagree with us, you just can’t be faithful.

    Rome, however, was teaching heresy…“If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake… let him be anathema.”

    Besides begging the question (the quote above), I was shocked when I read Trent for the first time. Like so many Protestants born into it for no fault of my own, I expected to read, “If any one saith, that justifying faith is not pure Mary worship, let him be anathema.” But, instead I found what you quoted. I love Scripture. When I read canon XII (your quote) in context (see Canon 1 and 2 for starters), I see the wisdom of Mother Church. She is assuring the faithful that faith in Christ is not some psychological condition–no matter how internally conflicted Luther was. Saving faith requires agape and this love acts. It is why Jesus in the Gospels so abundantly speaks of works, because he came to not just save us from ourselves but for others; and it will be those who did not feed, cloth, or visit that will be told to depart–even if they are very confident in his mercy (Lord! Lord!). Which is the point of everything leading up to Canon XIX and ultimately Canon XXXII which says:

    “If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.”

    May will all place our hope in the grace of God working in our lives!

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  105. mateo asks Nathan:

    What was the name of the church that the Lutherans wanted to reform?

    Was Christ the founder and head of the church that needed reforming? If not, why would Lutherans want to reform a church that was neither founded by Christ, nor had Christ as its head?

    Or are you claiming that Christ founded the church that needed reforming, but that Christ was no longer the head of his own church? If Christ was no longer the head of the church that he founded, when, exactly, did the powers of death prevail against the church that he founded?

    Nathan responds: Christ was the founder and head of the Church that needed reforming, yes. Christ is the head of His Church, and all things, in fact. The powers of death did not prevail against the Church. One of the pieces of evidence for this is that the RC Church was blessed to have Luther.

    Nathan, I am not quite sure I understand the point that you are trying to make. You say that “Christ was the founder and head of the Church that needed reforming.” I take that to mean that you believe that the Catholic Church is the church that Christ founded, and that Christ was the head of the Catholic Church when Luther was a member of the Catholic Church.

    Is that correct?

    If Christ was the head of the Catholic Church when Luther swore vows of obedience to the Catholic church, then who gave Luther the authority to break those vows? Who told Luther that he could leave the church that Christ founded and go out and found his own personal church?

    Nathan writes: Christ is the head of His Church, and all things, in fact.

    I quite agree. Christ is the head of the church that he founded, the Catholic Church, and Christ is the head of his own church even when members of his church commit sin. And yes, of course, Christ is the Lord over all created beings, both men and angels. We know from scriptures that every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord, and that includes Satan and the rebellious angels. If I decide to act like a devil and commit sin, Christ is still the Lord. If I commit the particular sin of going into schism from Christ’s church, I am acting like a devil, and I need to be reconciled to the Lord by repenting of that sin.

    Christ is the Lord of Martin Luther, Mary Baker Eddy, Garner Ted Armstrong, Charles Taze Russell, Aimee Semple McPherson, and every other man and woman that has started their own personal “church”. Suppose I follow the lead of Martin Luther and I found my own personal church. I don’t see how it follows that my personal church suddenly becomes the church that Christ founded, even if I run around crying with a loud voice that Christ is my Lord. Maybe my own personal church teaches no heresy at all and has thousands of members – my own personal church still isn’t the church that Christ founded, it is a personal church that I founded. My personal church will always be in schism from the church that Christ founded, and until I disband my personal church, the members of my personal church will be kept from full communion with the church that Christ founded.

    Nathan writes: The powers of death did not prevail against the Church.

    Again, I agree. Christ founded the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church never died, and never will die, which means she will always possess the authority that Christ gave to his church. Since Luther was a member of the church that Christ founded, Luther was obligated by Christ’s explicit commandment to those who would be his disciples to listen to what Christ’s church teaches upon pain of excommunication. (See Matt 18:17). Listening to my own personal church cannot be construed to be the equivalent of listening to the church that Christ founded, since listening to my own personal church makes void Christ’s commandment that I must listen to his church whether I like it or not.

    Nathan writes: The powers of death did not prevail against the Church. One of the pieces of evidence for this is that the RC Church was blessed to have Luther.

    The Catholic Church welcomes all repentant sinners into her bosom. It is quite true that Catholic Church was blessed to have Luther as one of her members when Luther was repentant for his sins. All repentant sinners are blessed by God – a truth that both Protestants and Catholics acknowledge. But I don’t understand what point you are trying to make here. Is having a heart that is unrepentant for sin a blessing? Who am I blessing if I commit the evil of schism by founding my own personal church?

  106. Hi Nathan,

    In #93, you wrote:

    That said, his appeals for correction did not start out that way, as a reading of Hendrix’s Luther and the Papacy shows.

    There has been no dispute (between the two of us at least) about the tone in which Luther’s appeals for correction began.

    You also wrote:

    [N]ailing theses for academic discussion among theological faculty where Luther did was the normal way of doing things in his day.

    This is precisely the problem at issue. It was a significant oversight, both in terms of the pretension it portrayed (sin is an ecclesial matter, not an academic one, as though Luther the academic could, with his fellow academics, resolve the matters at hand) and in terms of the contradiction it poses to the popular theory that Luther wished to reform from within and (as it is often suggested) that he therefore unjustly suffered excommunication. Perhaps Luther’s initial desire was to reform from within. But it was not this desire itself that resulted in his excommunication, as though he subsequently suffered a grave and ironic injustice purely on the basis of his desire to pursue matters internally, that is, within the Church. Instead, it was the initial publication (and eventual mass publication and dissemination) of his 95 theses — whereby he moved the discussion from within the Church to a context outside the Church — which functioned as the chief catalyst in the events that unfolded, including the discipline he received.

    Not only was Luther’s excommunication not ironic, the hemorrhaging which transpired in the following decades was concomitant with Luther’s method of reform, which suggested that an epistemic framework outside and apart from the apostolically ordered Church could be productive for the reform of the Church, despite the absence of the sacraments (though the sacraments are the means our Lord has given for growth, correction of sin, and reform from sin).

    This is what is at stake in the article above, which asks a second-order question (in the closing three paragraphs) about Trueman’s earlier question: ‘How would Protestants know when to return?’ One way to phrase this second-order question is: On what basis can it legitimately be supposed that Protestants are in any position to answer the first question (about knowing when to return) from a place epistemically located outside and apart from the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, when any condition contained in the answer [to the question ‘How would Protestants know when to return?] would itself belie the persistent protestant epistemology of the person answering the question? That is, a person who answers the first question with the formula, ‘When the Catholic Church does x, it will be time for me to return,’ is a person who is still committed to being his own magisterium, which requires a Protestant epistemology in order to give an answer. Although the first question is often posed to Protestants about the potential for their own conversion, it’s really an unhelpful one, since it abets the Protestantism required to answer it. It can never actually be answered by someone who is ready to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church, because what it means to be received into the Catholic Church is to forsake all conditions for submitting oneself to it. Therefore, a person will never be truly Catholic as long as he believes there is an answer to the first question. He can only become truly Catholic by discarding it. Even if a person had at one time come up with what he thought was a decent answer, upon his conversion he will have forsaken the answer as unnecessary in the first place. Deliberating on the question renders return impossible.

    The connecting point between the first and second-order questions and Luther is this: As soon as Luther saw the situation to be one which required something to be reformed before he could submit to the authority of the Church, he rendered himself a Protestant. His eventual excommunication in 1521 was ultimately a ratification of the epistemology he had previously adopted in 1517.

    Pax,

    Chad

  107. Chad #106,

    There is an interesting statement made that “the level of thinking which produced the problem is not adequate to solve the problem”.

    From what I have seen of the history of the Church in the centuries leading up to Luther is a series of reformers (and I’m not talking about Hus, Wycliffe, et al, I’m talking about the ones who stayed within the Church) who attempted in various ways to change what had become a very, very bad, systemic problem. There were very many factors which contributed to the situation at hand and I don’t want to try to diagram that problem.

    I’m not sure I know exactly why Luther did what he did (and I am certainly not defending him as I personally think he was pretty vile) in nailing up the thesis, but it may have been an attempt, in consideration of the previous fruitless efforts of reform, to “think outside the box” and motivate change.

    Whatever the case, your statement regarding keeping the discussion within the Church certainly doesn’t hold a lot of water, escpecially in light of the recent scandals which have lit up the press boxes. It is pretty clear that keeping the Church problems confined to the Church, as great as that might sound in theory, can still (500 years later) create some pretty horrible situations. Unfortunately it is the hands of the civil magistrates who are resolving the sex scandals rocking the Church today. Would you really tell some of the people who have been abused “You definitely shouldn’t talk to the Police about the fact Father so and so was abusing you, call the Bishop.”?

    Lets be clear that the abuses which were occurring were incredibly vile and due to the socioeconomic enmeshment of the civil authority and Church there was little to no court of appeal for the victims. Frankly, the theological innovations which were developed as a cover for the schism are a secondary issue for most protestants I know. Most of them don’t know or care too much about the theological distinctions. What they do think about is the abuse of authority.

    So to answer the question “how would Protestants know when to return”, most are probably looking for some assurance that if they submit to the authority of the Church they aren’t going to get crushed. If you think about it, the more cases of protestant clergy scandals there are, the less that particular objection holds water. Sinful men are on both sides of the gap…

  108. Jeremiah,

    I think by “keeping discussions in the Church” Chad meant “not forming a schism from the Church.” He wasn’t talking about keeping anything secret from anyone. Questions or comments about the sexual abuse scandal should be directed to this post.

    As for “some assurance that they aren’t going to get crushed,” they will get no such thing, because the Church can make no such guarantees. Being crushed by pagans or by bishops might be just the martyrdom God has called them to. The Catholic Church is not a tame Church, domesticated to suit our fancies. It is the furnace Christ has prepared for our sanctification and eternal glory. Taking up our cross involves entering His Church, no matter what the cost. Schism from the Church to avoid some such suffering is like a Christian offering incense in sacrifice to Nero to avoid becoming a human torch in his gardens. That is not the way saints are made. As Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

    “I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
    “Then drink,” said the Lion. . . .
    “Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
    “I make no promise,” said the Lion.
    Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
    “Do you eat girls?” she said.
    “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. . . .
    “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
    “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
    “Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
    “There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

    [Excerpt from The Silver Chair]

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  109. Noelle,

    My apologies. I had read this and it took a while for it to register. I am not the sharpest pencil in this box which explains the tardiness of this particular reply.

    From you: Any other explanation of Mary’s role I can accept, but not one that places her as a sort of intermediary between us and Christ.

    In the old testament, in the old covenant, God does something new through Solomon and his mother Bathsheba. That something involves Solomon bowing to his mother, having a chair (throne) brought for her, and involves her noting the needs of the king’s people. She represents them to him. The formal name is the Gebirah. We see that function, the relationship between the king and his mother, echoed throughout 1st and 2nd Kings. I think I personally counted more than 18 references to the king and his mother working through those books, including one where the king and his mother are carted off to Babylon as hostages. They shared a fate.

    What new truth, revealed incompletely in the old testament under the old covenant, is God revealing to us, which finds fulfillment and perfection in the new testament, as part of the new covenant? What is the relationship between the crucified King of the Jews and His mother? How does that relationship affect us?

    In a subsequent note, you said: I pray that I may ever be open and docile to Christ and His truth. It’s what I ultimately live for, and without it everything loses its worth.

    Amen. May we all be docile to His will, and willing to change our stance to conform to His position.

    Cordially,

    dt

  110. Jeremiah,

    I think the unfortunate scenario of the modern day sex scandal in the Church is a fact of life from within the Church that is due to the sinful nature of her members. I am NOT excusing it at all but it is the result of the same kind of problem that faced the Church in the 16th century. A very, very bad state of immorality that existed for the most part because the Bishops of the Church were not doing their Jobs.

    The Bishops are the shepherds of the flock. They are the leaders of the sheep. If the leaders have their eyes closed to their surroundings how can they lead? If they do not lead by example how will the sheep follow? God was not kind to Israel when His people wandered into sin. He delivered them into bondage until the finally listened to their prophets then they were returned to their land. God still protects his Body the Church and in modern times the sins of the Church are eventually made known ( the sexual scandal) . It is obvious though that it is not the corruption of the teachings that are leading the sheep astray, but the moral corruption of the members. That is the biggest scandal that needed and today needs dealing with. When Luther broke with the Church during the Reformation Period and brought about a schism It became as such over doctrine as well as immorality. There was nothing wrong doctrinally but morally left much to be desired.

    You say “ Frankly, the theological innovations which were developed as a cover for the schism are a secondary issue for most Protestants I know”. It is just those theological innovations that developed that now have to be addressed. True the Church has to exercise their God-given authority to lead and not abuse that leadership. They must lead by example. IF they lead the sheep will follow. There will always be sin in the Church until the second coming of Christ and no doubt there will be more hard things for us to digest. But if the leadership is God-blessed we will see those “hard things” at the minimum.

    Peace
    NHU

  111. Noelle, I watched this episode of The Journey Home the other day, and for some reason, I thought of you and your journey. Maybe it will help you or someone else here. (Here’s the link YouTube provided, by the way.)

    I’m a convert from a Baptist-Reformed Baptist-Presbyterian background, in case you’re curious. My husband & I entered the Church at Easter Vigil this year, our elder son (he’s 3 now) was baptized a week later, and our second son was baptized last Sunday, thanks be to God!

  112. Noelle,

    I have been following this thread off and on. I share your reaction to some of what the RCC teaches about the role of Mary – especially the meaning behind such titles as “Mediatrix of all Graces”. I wonder if I can, in good conscience, convert to a faith that holds such beliefs that, at least at a visceral level, seem to in some way diminish the role of Christ as the mediator of all grace. This subject has been dealt with at length on other threads, so I won’t rehash it all here.

    However, as I have stated elsewhere, I do sincerely hope that I never convert to Catholicism as a result of my coming to intellectual agreement with some critical mass of doctrines. This would make the Catholic Church just one more “doctrinal affinity church” that I join because it happens to be the best fit for my own personal belief system.

    As much as the “Mary thing” and the “indulgences thing” give me the heeby-jeebies, the central issue is: do I remain Protestant because I am convinced that Scripture is the sole infallible authority, or do I become Catholic because I am convinced that the RCC is the Church founded by Christ and therefore obedience to Him requires submission to it.

    Burton

  113. Burton writes: … do I remain Protestant because I am convinced that Scripture is the sole infallible authority, or do I become Catholic because I am convinced that the RCC is the Church founded by Christ and therefore obedience to Him requires submission to it …

    Excellent question! If you would, please explain to me how any Protestant ever becomes convinced that “that Scripture is the sole infallible authority”.

    There are no scriptures that teach that “Scripture is the sole infallible authority”. On the contrary, the scriptures explicitly teach that anyone who would be a disciple of Christ must listen to the church that Christ personally founded. If they don’t listen to Christ’s church, they will be liable for the punishment of excommunication from Christ’s church. (Matt 18:17). St. Paul describes the punishment of excommunication as being turned over “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor. 5:5), which is a punishment that I would think that all faithful Christians would want to avoid!
    .

    What I want to point out here is that sola scriptura confessing Protestants are building their personal “bible churches” upon a foundation that has absolutely no scriptural basis, namely, the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. If a Protestant is going to make the choice of basing his or her faith on a foundation of extra-biblical doctrine, how can he or she possibly object to Catholics believing in doctrines that the Protestant may believe are “extra-biblical”? The sola scriptura confessing Protestant has no grounds whatsoever for objecting to belief in doctrines that are not explicitly taught in scriptures, since the foundation of their faith is extra biblical!

    To address your other point – the Catholic Church does claim that she is the church founded by Christ, and that all Christians are conscience bound to listen to what she teaches when she exercises the full weight of her teaching authority.

    I don’t expect anyone to believe that the Catholic is really the church that Christ founded just because she says that she is. But I do believe that anyone that is claiming that scriptures have real conscience binding authority are obligated by the scriptures to seek out the church that Christ personally founded. That makes Protestantism untenable, since all Protestants listen to sects that are founded by mere men and women, and none of these sects claim that the Lord personally founded them.

    Burton writes: However, as I have stated elsewhere, I do sincerely hope that I never convert to Catholicism as a result of my coming to intellectual agreement with some critical mass of doctrines. This would make the Catholic Church just one more “doctrinal affinity church” that I join because it happens to be the best fit for my own personal belief system.

    You are so right about that! An adult can only really become a Catholic convert by believing that the Catholic Church is the church that Christ personally founded. If you believe that the Catholic Church is the church that Christ personally founded, then you are professing that you believe that you have found the church that is right when you are right, and the church that is right when you are wrong.

    If I believe that the scriptures teach that I have the right to “church shop”, then why would I care if I were to be excommunicated from some Protestant sect? I can just go “church shopping” until I find a Protestant sect that agrees with what I think it should teach. And if I can’t find a Protestant sect that teaches what I think it should teach, then I can just found my own personal “bible church” that teaches, quite naturally, what I think it should teach. How can anyone read the scriptures and think that this is what Christ taught? Christ explicitly taught that anyone that would be his disciple must listen to the church that he personally founded. To me, it takes a perverse twisting of scriptures to explain away that commandment of Christ to come up with an interpretation that means that I am only obligated to listen to Christ’s church when I agree with what she is teaching, and if I don’t agree with her, that I am free to found my own personal “bible church” that teaches what I personally believe is true!

  114. said mateo:

    To me, it takes a perverse twisting of scriptures to explain away that commandment of Christ to come up with an interpretation that means that I am only obligated to listen to Christ’s church when I agree with what she is teaching, and if I don’t agree with her, that I am free to found my own personal “bible church” that teaches what I personally believe is true!

    … thus ‘extending’ the Church to cover every contingency!

  115. Michael Goodrich, I don’t understand your last comment.

    Certainly, if I found my own personal “bible church” that teaches only what I believe to be true, then my “bible church” does cover every contingency – at least for me.

  116. mateo, I was actually supporting your statement observing how every contingency of doctrine/practice is covered (accommodated) when literally any person is free to start a church and teach more or less his own doctrine feeling free to disagree with other church’s in an arbitrary manner.

  117. Thank you, Michael Goodrich.

    I wrote:

    To me, it takes a perverse twisting of scriptures to explain away that commandment of Christ to come up with an interpretation that means that I am only obligated to listen to Christ’s church when I agree with what she is teaching, and if I don’t agree with her, that I am free to found my own personal “bible church” that teaches what I personally believe is true!

    When I wrote that, I was thinking how ludicrous it would be for me to found my own personal “bible church” and then pat myself on the back because I was never excommunicated from my own personal bible church! But that is exactly what John Calvin did when he founded his own personal bible church in Geneva. John Calvin reserved the right to himself to excommunicate anyone from his “bible church” if they taught “heresy”. But John Calvin was the ultimate ecclesial authority within his personal bible church, and John Calvin ultimately determined what constituted heresy. Was John Calvin ever going to excommunicate himself from his own personal bible church for teaching heresy? Was Martin Luther ever going to excommunicate himself from his own personal bible church for teaching heresy? Has anyone that has founded their own personal bible church ever excommunicated themselves from their own personal church for teaching heresy?

    Many problems arise when men and women found their own personal “bible churches”. One big problem with the founding of personal bible churches is that it makes Christ’s teaching about excommunication totally meaningless.

    Bryan Cross writes: Implicit in the very nature of an “I won’t return unless the Church does x” condition for reconciliation is a denial of ecclesial authority, a denial that not only presumes precisely what is in question between Protestants and the Catholic Church with respect to the existence of magisterial authority, but implicitly exercises that magisterial authority.

    Magisterial authority is the authority to teach in the name of Christ. Men and women that found their own personal bible churches implicitly exercise magisterial authority when they claim to have the authority to excommunicate someone for teaching heresy. When John Calvin claimed that he had the authority to excommunicate people for teaching heresy, John Calvin was also claiming that he has the magisterial authority to define what constitutes heresy for Christ’s church.

  118. Finally getting back here. Will be ruffling some feathers, I am sure…

    Donald todd,

    I don’t think that it is Luther’s fault that the peasants used his writings to justify their own foolish war. Perhaps all we can say is that he overestimated their ability to spiritually discern what he was saying. If you have the time, I would like to see which words of Luther were so liable to be interpreted so as to justify their insurrection.

    Nelson,

    Luther was naive *and* he had a temper. I think Luther’s “psychological problem” was that he took God’s words of law – and official Roman Catholic doctrine about penance – seriously (I believe Pope Benedict has acknowledged this, and even commended his early writings for study) – far more so than others in his day.

    Brent,

    “That would mean that anyone who disagrees with Lutheran theology is either not being guided by the Apostolic Fathers, not taking the Scriptures seriously enough, or has not yet seen the day where Luther is vindicated.”

    The first two, mostly the second one. The Evangelicals and Reformed don’t take the Scriptures seriously enough, otherwise they would realize the importance of baptismal regeneration and the real presence of Christ’s body and blood – and the role of the pastor in confession and absolution.

    “You are basically saying that Luther will be right if he is proven right and Luther will be right if he is proven wrong. Either way, “Go Luther, Go! Go Luther, Go!””

    Indeed – insofar as he speaks in agreement with the Scriptures. “Go Scriptures go”, more like it. : ) You go on to talk about faith working in love as being that which justifies, and all I can say is that is, frankly, damnable talk. Of course many will say “Lord, Lord”, but they will not be the humble in heart who cry out for the Lord’s mercy – and simply, like a child, trust Him, when He tells them that all is well (see Rom. 5:1, I John 5:13). Quite honestly, for thinking otherwise, you should be ashamed of yourself, and though I am sure you are a good man (whom I would love to have as a neighbor), I will keep my children as far away from you as possible insofar as you would ever try to teach them in your words about Christ, His mercy, and saving faith.

    Mateo:

    “But I don’t understand what point you are trying to make here. Is having a heart that is unrepentant for sin a blessing? Who am I blessing if I commit the evil of schism by founding my own personal church?”

    Obviously, I don’t think Luther sinned, and had an unrepentant heart. As I have clearly said, this was the problem with the Mother he was pained to justly attack for her adulteries.

    Chad,

    “Instead, it was the initial publication (and eventual mass publication and dissemination) of his 95 theses — whereby he moved the discussion from within the Church to a context outside the Church”

    So you think Luther had a lot of control over that, huh? Maybe he was seeking this, but I tend to think that he was not. He certainly wanted to talk with Church leadership over these troubling issues – and thought he had some good practical solutions as well.

    “the hemorrhaging which transpired in the following decades was concomitant with Luther’s method of reform, which suggested that an epistemic framework outside and apart from the apostolically ordered Church could be productive for the reform of the Church, despite the absence of the sacraments (though the sacraments are the means our Lord has given for growth, correction of sin, and reform from sin).”

    Luther upheld the value of all seven sacraments, even if he only upheld baptism and the Lord’s Supper (and right understandings of these) as those things that Christ Himself instituted for our salvation. He did not eliminate the seven sacraments, but demoted some of them (re-defining Sacrament, which he did explicitly, not in a sneaky way!)

    All – Look again at the last words I said:

    “Matthew 23:2-3. Just note that all over the rest of the N.T. Jesus also says the Pharisees are teaching falsely. The leaven is hypocrisy and false teaching. Teaching can include behavior as well (we teach by our lives) but clearly Jesus is not excluding the content of the Pharisees teaching, which can be shown by several clear examples, So, in sum, context is important, just like it is with things like “call no man father…””

    I suggest all of you need to deal with this fact. Dave Armstrong, wonderful, polite, gentle and respectful, that he is, needs to deal with it (and I hope he will try).

    I think I have made very strong points here with him (http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/round-3-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-a-few-good-pharisees/) and I invite you all to search the Scriptures, for only therein will we find life (Isaiah 8:20)

    Such is ecumenical dialogue men. The truth hurts. Much love to you in Christ the Lord.

  119. As far as Mat 23:2-3 goes. What fact are we to deal with? That you declared Jesus to be not saying what His words clearly say? Yes, that is a hard truth to deal with. When a good Christian person such as yourself takes a position that so clearly contradicts scripture and tradition. Jesus says “obey.” You say “disobey.” I choose to obey Jesus.

    It does show the problem with Sola Scriptura. What do you do when there is an intractable disagreement? After a while continued discussion just seems to make the parties dig in their heels harder. So the message we send to the world is that doctrine is unknowable. The best we can hope for is charitable disagreement and no real knowledge. Even when scripture seems very clear, as it does here, Christians will disagree and in the end we will have a bunch of opinions and no way to know which is true.

  120. Nathan,

    Per your request:

    On Authority (previous response to you)

    Two Imperial, Inconsistent and Disgusting Orders Concerning Luther (1524), note the word imperial.
    From the bottom of my heart I bewail such a state of things in the hearing of all pious Christians, that like me they may bear with pity such crazy, stupid, furious, mad fools… May God deliver us from them, and out of mercy give us other rulers. Amen

    Advice to All Christians (1522)
    It seems as if a rebellion is going to break out… and the whole clerical body are about to be murdered and driven out, if they do not prevent it by an earnest, visible change for the better. For the poor man, in excitement and grief on account of the damage he has suffered in his goods, his body and his soul, has been tried too much and has been oppressed by them (the ruling class) beyond all measure, in the most perfidious manner. Henceforth he can and will no longer put up with such a state of things, and moreover, he has ample reason to break forth with the flail and the club as Karsthans threatens to do.

    When the peasants wrote their Manifesto, they noted their “readiness to be guided by clear, plain, undeniable passages of scripture.” This petition for redress included a requirement that the ruling class’ claims, against the peasants, including tithes, denial of hunting, fishing, and forest rights, must be proved from scripture.

    The third article of the Manifesto stated: There are to be no serfs, because Christ has liberated us all.

    Fanatical ministers harangued the peasants and pushed them to execute their scheme, telling them that it was “God’s will” that they should “kill and destroy without mercy until the mighty were laid low and the promised Kingdom of God established.”

    The peasants honestly believed Luther to be with them and his sympathy and and support was theirs. The peasants appealed to Luther’s gospel and quoted his writings in support of their program. They called themselves his followers and declared it their purpose to put his principles into practice.

    The Exhortation to Peace has two parts. The first is addressed to the ruling class and again places the blame on them. The second part is addressed to the peasants. It is different than his previous works in that it instructs the peasants to accept suffering and persecution from the ruling classes.

    As noted in my previous missive to you, Luther had already lost control of these people. He asked them to lay down their arms and they refused. It should be noted that the peasants were now using his justification that man inhabited by the Holy Spirit could read and interpret the scriptures, and the peasants were doing so in a different manner than Luther.

    Against the Murderous and Rapacious Hordes of the Peasants was issued around May 4, 1525.

    The Peasants’ War was realized in 1525.

    A good, non-Catholic history of Luther was written by Arthur Cushman McGiffert in 1911. You’ll find a lot more references and quotes in this history.

    Cordially,

    dt

  121. Nathan,

    None harm. You said:

    You go on to talk about faith working in love as being that which justifies, and all I can say is that is, frankly, damnable talk. Of course many will say “Lord, Lord”, but they will not be the humble in heart who cry out for the Lord’s mercy – and simply, like a child, trust Him, when He tells them that all is well (see Rom. 5:1, I John 5:13).

    I follow you in the beginning, but lose you in the ending. St. Matthew records (7:7-26):

    Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened….All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!

    Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them….(setting aside Luther’s words about what he thought his new message was producing)

    Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven (did I miss the “simply, like a child, trust Him, when He tells them that all is well “?), he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? (works without charity: See 1 Cor 13) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.

    Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock…And every one that heareth these my words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand.

    .

    We agree that God requires a contrite spirit of humility. We disagree that such a spirit will not cooperate with grace in such a way that–by the merits of Christ and by His grace alone–will do “his words”. The “humility” you describe is a presumptive one, that assumes through the assertion of the will in a belief one can obtain what one does not truly act upon–which is the justifying faith described in Hebrews (“So-and-so did “x”, and were justified by their faith…because living faith is faith that works). That kind of faith is like a man who tells his wife, “I love you with everything in my being”, closes his eyes, and strains to show her his intense commitment. Just at that moment, the baby cries in the other room and the bill collector comes to the door. The husband, emboldened by his “childlike” love for his wife, closes his eyes more, confident in his steadfast commitment to her. When he finally opens his eyes, he notices she is not there because he never knew her.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  122. Nathan,

    To your comment (to all) about the Pharisees, I made this observation in my latest post at my blog:

    “The Catholic Church is the only Church in the world that teaches like Christ. I will grant you that it could be just a big charade. However, it should be noted that the Scriptures witness both our Lord’s admonition to listen to the Pharisees when they are on the seat of Moses (Matthew 23:2) and the idea that “he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29). Since we know that the word “scribes” is co-extensive with Pharisees (from Mark’s treatment), what gives? The point is that Jesus is the new Temple and new Seat of Moses. He is Truth. When He passed off His keys to His steward St. Peter, He knew that he (St. Peter) too would have to sit on His seat–the Chair of St. Peter. This seat is temporary but necessary until the Return of the King.

    Jesus’s ministry started in the old temple, opening the scroll, and infallibly declaring “this is that” which Isaiah prophesied. The Church’s ministry, ingrafted into the new Temple (Christ) began the same way, only this time St. Peter was sitting in the new Chair, infallibly declaring “this is that” which Joel prophesied. I think it is more than coincidence that the New Testament witnesses the continual hypocrisy of St. Peter even after the coming of the Holy Spirit (denied Christ and then denied eating with the Gentiles). Our Lord made sure to instruct those who were listening to pay attention to those who sat on the Seat of Moses. In their ears, his admonition resonated but not at the new covenant level it should have. Our Lord was preparing them for the attention they needed to give to the new seat, and it is laid bare in Scripture the obvious parallel between our Lord’s actions and St. Peter’s.”

    Also see Bryan’s excellent articles, “The Chair of St. Peter” and “St. Optatus on Schism and the Bishop of Rome“.

  123. Nathan writes: Obviously, I don’t think Luther sinned, and had an unrepentant heart.

    Why don’t you think that choosing to go into schism from the church that Christ founded is not a sin?

  124. Randy (#119),

    You definitely need to look at my response to Dave Armstrong, if you haven’t already. Note his comments to me in the comment section.

    Yes, Jesus said we should all be one. He also said through His Apostle that there must be divisions among us, to show who has God’s approval.

    Join us. We are not the dark side.

    +Nathan

  125. dt,

    Yes, the peasants were obviously reading the Scriptures – and Luther – wrong.

    It seems cruel to say that 100,000 slain peasants were quite stupid, but I say that with no malice. I pity them.

    Obviously, in Luther’s “Advice to All Christians (1522)” he was clearly talking about what seemed to be the inevitability of a rebellion, given the ruler’s poor treatment of the peasants. He should be commended for saying out loud what many were hesitant to say. Later, of course, he is right to tell the peasants to not rebel – even if he would have encouraged them to do what they could legally to improve their situation – per the Apostles.

    As someone who is familiar with Luther’s early works, particularly the Freedom of the Christian, one would have to badly misread (deliberately) Luther to find justification for political rebellion.

    +Nathan

  126. Brent (121),

    “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven”

    Right – what is His will? See here:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/babies-in-church-part-vi-the-arrogance-of-the-infant-b/

    Now of course the Christian who does not grow in trust will not grow in love… and then will, like a lost sheep, stray from the Shepherd’s side from the ways that are right and safe and true. And when that happens, can trust survive? How can doubt-inducing sin not take hold? How can one receive forgiveness for sins that one does not call sin? That one has grown to love?

    Still, yes, it all starts with faith like a child, and we are constantly called back to that.

    I stand by my words Brent – your teachings harm the faithful.

    On to #122….

    In 122, I am not sure why this argument bests mine (also please see my latest to Dave and his comments to me). It seems to me that I could, for the sake of argument, accept everything you say from your clip above, and still hold my position.

    I will go to your blog and look at it.

  127. mateo,

    “Why don’t you think that choosing to go into schism from the church that Christ founded is not a sin?”

    Again, the RCC is guilty for not accepting the correction of a faithful son of the Church. Had they done so, there would have been no schism. Luther did not want schism. Evidently Rome did, for she spit him out.

    +Nathan

    P.S. – and with that, I will stay away from here for a week again (one must set limits on one’s self!). Will be back though.

  128. Re: 127

    Nathan,

    The Church excommunicated him, which Christ gave Her the authority to do. But the Church didn’t choose schism. The Church can’t choose schism any more than Christ can cause someone to reject Him.

    Whether or not Luther was faithful, those who followed Luther and broke from the Church chose schism. They could have remained in the Church and continued to work for reform. But since they believed that the Church had defected, they broke off.

  129. Hi Nathan,

    I trust these remarks (penned last night) will touch down also on your posts this morning, subsequent to #118, where you wrote:

    So you think Luther had a lot of control over that, huh? Maybe he was seeking this, but I tend to think that he was not. He certainly wanted to talk with Church leadership over these troubling issues – and thought he had some good practical solutions as well.

    And when he didn’t get his way, he forcibly arrogated to himself the prerogative to arbitrate in matters Jesus had previously vested in the apostles and their successors. Here’s what’s interesting: Once Luther discards the authority structure Jesus established for the Church, he makes his own ideology the measure of truth, and licenses others to do the same as far as he is concerned. That is to say, while the Church may still have a problem with the laity arrogating to themselves the authority to arbitrate in matters Jesus vouchsafed to the Church’s magisterium, Luther could have no problem with this in principle, since he adopts the same epistemic point of standing. Ironically, if I therefore adopt Luther’s epistemic framework, I’m not ever bound to agree with him about anything else, since in his ideology, the locus of truth has shifted from an externally governing body to the individual cognizer’s perception of the perspicuity of Scripture. Perhaps I, as in individual cognizer, read my Bible’s statements about humility, decide that Luther acted cavalierly in the face of dissenting authority, and discard Luther.

    This self-perpetuating cell division is what Luther’s epistemology produces. It can never hope to heal the problem, since its solution is to separate from it in order to resolve it outside the means Jesus has established. This is what I meant in my remark (#106) about Luther shifting the discussion from within the Church to a context outside the Church.

    As for my point about the sacraments, I’m well aware that Luther held up his idea of them. What I should have explained is that once he has discarded the authority vested by Jesus in those among whom he is not included, that’s all they are. Wittingly or not, he disinherited the very means of healing the problems that bothered him. The only way for Luther to make a contribution to the correction of sin in the Church (if this was truly what he wanted) would have been for him to reverse his epistemological misstep and become a productive participant in the sacramental life of the Church. (Let the Protestant considering a conditional return reconsider the whole notion of ‘condition’.)

    This should change the whole complexion of the discussion (which the article above seeks to do) by shifting the question: from the idea of some acid test Protestants may perform in order to determine whether the Church is adequately healthy for them to re-enter, to a reconsideration of the notion that anyone outside the Church can procure the tools to correct it anyway (and beyond this, the degree to which it is broken in the first place).

    For a more detailed engagement with Luther’s apparent inability to see just these kinds of issues, the protestant scholar David Steinmetz has written a penetrating analysis here.

    Jeremiah, if you’re reading, you’ll note how this intersects with your question about what I meant by a shift in Luther, which Bryan has summarized accurately in #108. It was not so much a practical shift that interested me as it was an epistemic one, before which Luther understood the Church to be the ground of truth claims about God and his ways with the world (1 Tim 3:15), and after which he did not. The really salient point is that this shift occurred before Luther was excommunicated, thus making it especially difficult to shore up the popular caveat that Luther ‘never intended to divide the Church’ (which Nathan repeats in #127). This caveat is irrelevant, since he had already schismed himself from it by adopting an epistemology foreign to it, even before his excommunication was formalized in 1521. To the degree he wished for others to agree with him, schism is precisely what he was promoting.

    I do think your follow-up question is an interesting one. As for where I would send a victim of abuse, it depends on what the goal happens to be. In my mind, what a person is likely to need more than the constable’s justice is the bishop’s pastoral care, perhaps specifically the anointing of the sick. Emotional and psychological trauma–to the degree they are spiritual matters at their core–are problems only God can heal. If it is the case that God has in Christ established the sacraments as his way of acting for the nourishment and healing of the body of Christ, appealing to the legal jurisdiction of the magistrate will be no more productive than appealing to the intellectual prowess of the academy (in juxtaposition to the Church’s magisterium) in bringing about the healing so sought. There is nothing incompatible in suggesting that the victim also see a doctor, since the particular set of problems the doctor is equipped to address are within the province of the doctor’s expertise. The particular set of problems Luther wished to address are not the within the province of the laity, whether academicians or arm chair readers who received his published theses.

    Pax,

    Chad

  130. Nathan,

    Interestingly, there have been people in the Church who were excommunicated and later canonized. I was just reading that Mother Mary MacKillop was excommunicated in 1871. But she was later canonized in 1995.

    But in Luther’s case, after he was excommunicated, he (and his followers) subsequently chose schism.

  131. Nathan writes: Again, the RCC is guilty for not accepting the correction of a faithful son of the Church.

    A faithful son is a man that stays faithful even when the going gets tough. Luther became an unfaithful son when he committed the mortal sin of schism from Christ’s church. If Luther had stayed a faithful member of the Church that Christ founded, perhaps he could have accomplished some real reform within the Church that Christ founded, just like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Brigit of Sweden or St. Catherine of Sienna or St. Joan of Arc …

    Nathan, if I think that the USA needs reforming, I don’t accomplish that by renouncing my citizenship in the USA.

    Johnathan Brumley writes: The Church can’t choose schism any more than Christ can cause someone to reject Him.

    Well said!

  132. Jeremiah (et al),

    Just in case my last sentence in #129 seems redundant, here was my thinking behind the point: The doctor is equipped–i.e., trained–to address a certain set of problems in the human body. This training involves primarily the acquisition of knowledge. But it is not until he is licensed that such problems as he is trained to address are rightly within his province to address. Similarly, no one here disputes Luther was a smart fellow. His training involved the acquisition of knowledge–a goodly bit of it, even. But from this it does not follow that the problems he identified in the Church were within his province to treat (in the way he meant for his contributions to do), and it represents an epistemic shift in his own ecclesiology to arrogate to himself the prerogative to do so anyway. Publishing his Theses (and yes, Nathan, the initial publication at the very least was entirely his own decision), was a quintessential case of malpractice.

    Pax,

    Chad

  133. Nathan,

    re 125

    Did you make any effort at all to determine if what I wrote was correct? It would appear not. Rather you decided that one hundred thousand peasants were wrong – and dead, just so Luther could be right. Your position is an impressive feat of what? You decided that all those people who were present at that time misconstrued what Luther said and what Luther wrote, despite the fact it was plainly spoken and written (with extant copies), and was testified to by the people of that time, as well as put in historical context.

    In my small city, there is the Evangelical Church of America, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and the Lutheran Church Wisconsin Synod. I decided to check on Lutheran denominations and found the following at Wikipedia:

    AALC – American Association of Lutheran Churches
    ACLC – Association of Confessional Lutheran Churches
    ALCA – Apostolic Lutheran Church of America
    AFLC – Association of Free Lutheran Congregations
    ALCC – Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church
    ARC – Alliance of Renewal Churches (charismatic/Pentecostal)
    CALC – Canadian Association of Lutheran Congregations
    CLA- Conservative Lutheran Association
    CLBA – Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America
    CLC – Church of the Lutheran Confession
    CLC – Concordia Lutheran Conference
    Eielsen Synod – Eielsen Synod
    ELCA – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    ELCIC – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
    ELCM – Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium of North America
    ELDoNA – Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America
    ELS – Evangelical Lutheran Synod
    EELK -Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
    GCEPC-The Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church
    ILC – Illinois Lutheran Conference [2]
    ILF – International Lutheran Fellowship
    LLC – Laestadian Lutheran Church
    LELCA – Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    LCC – Lutheran Church – Canada
    LCCF – Lutheran Conference of Confessional Fellowship [3]
    LCMC – Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ
    LCMS – The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod
    LMS-USA – The Lutheran Ministerium and Synod – USA
    LCR – Lutheran Churches of the Reformation
    LCS – The Lutheran Confessional Synod
    NALC – North American Lutheran Church
    OLCC – Orthodox Lutheran Confessional Conference
    Protestant Conference – Protes’tant Conference
    ULMA – United Lutheran Mission Association

    It would appear that Lutherans cannot agree on what Luther said. Your reaction to what Luther wrote is to write it off (which is what people also do about those parts of scripture with which they disagree). It is the pick and choose position. Pick and choose was certainly at the heart of my old evangelicalism and it appears that those claiming Luther for inspiration recognize it as limited only by what they are willing to believe, as well.

    When Munzer was dying after loosing the battle, he accused Luther whose teachings he had imbibed and advocated of having been the cause of his death. The winners, in accord with Luther’s instructions regarding the crushing of the peasants, whipped, choked, hung, burned, beheaded, tortured and slaughtered the peasants to teach them to learn to fear the powers that be.

    Indeed, Luther had an impact on Germany which was being felt in the last century, in practices in accord with his own disposition. He empowered the ruling classes to do whatever it took to control the masses and it was a lesson that Germany imbibed.

    I did not like his theology, thinking it reduced man to something less than a man. I did not like his writings and the contempt that they displayed for whomever was his target at the time. Both led me to consider his character, which is best described as abysmal.

    In a previous comment I asked you for the following information:

    1. Which comments (of mine) are inaccurate?
    2. Which others find my comments to be inaccurate?
    3. “He realized after the fact that he needed to write more carefully – and regretted it.” What is your reference for this statement?

    You did not reply to those questions. Will you?

    dt

  134. @Nathan:

    Yes, the peasants were obviously reading the Scriptures – and Luther – wrong.

    It seems cruel to say that 100,000 slain peasants were quite stupid, but I say that with no malice. I pity them.

    It does seem to me that to the follower of sola Scriptura, the only possibilities when it is obvious to such a person that person(s) X are reading the Scriptures are wrong, are:

    1) They are stupid
    2) They are wicked
    3) They are misled by the devil or by their own sinfulness

    But to those persons in the class X, it is, I presume, obvious that you the person who have judged them are reading the Scriptures wrong. Therefore, you are either:

    1) Stupid
    2) Wicked
    3) Misled by the devil or sin

    jj

  135. You definitely need to look at my response to Dave Armstrong, if you haven’t already. Note his comments to me in the comment section.

    I did read it. I was surprised you out-lasted Dave. He normally wins the wars of attrition. The trouble is it changes nothing. Context does not trump the words of Jesus. After understanding the context you need to go back to the original words and honestly reflect on what Jesus was saying.

    The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

    Even after reading your context there is just no way I can read those words as meaning anything else but you must obey them.

    Even the very concept of obeying only when you agree seems untenable to me. What law or rule do we obey only when we think it is right? Governments, schools, workplaces, etc. They all make laws that are for everyone. The idea of obeying only the laws you think are good laws really only exists in protestantism. Anywhere else it is just unthinkable. I don’t believe that Jesus thought it either. He would never come out with something as nonsensical as that.

    The truth is all leaders are sinful. They need grace to teach. It is when we think we found a teacher that can teach by works that we are in trouble. That is what protestant leaders have. Human education. Human intelligence. Human opinion. None of that is bad but it needs to be in addition to the grace of God. We can never choose the natural gifts over the supernatural gifts. For one, the natural gifts just are not good enough. Secondly, we don’t know any leader’s heart. Lutheranism was plagued by moral failures from the beginning. It is not a question or moral strong or morally weak leaders. They are all weak. It is a question of letting God choose weak leaders or choosing them yourself. Jesus here tells His followers that the ladder option is sinful.

  136. Nathan (#126),

    The “will of the Father” (according to Matthew 7) is “the law and the prophets” which is to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself (see Matthew 22: 37-40).

    How can one receive forgiveness for sins that one does not call sin? That one has grown to love?

    Agreed. As long as someone doesn’t call the sin of schism sin, he cannot grow in love.

    What we disagree about is what is “Church”. As Bryan has pointed out today, Protestantism doesn’t believe in a visible Church. Or rather, it cannot. This is because, as Hilaire Belloc put it in his book, The Great Heresies:

    “[Protestantism] did not, after the various heretical propositions had been condemned, set up a separate religion over against the old orthodoxy. Rather did it create a certain separate moral atmosphere which we still call “Protestantism”. It produced indeed a crop of heresies, but not one heresy. The Protestant attack differed from the rest especially in this characteristic, that its attack did not consist in the promulgation of a new doctrine or of a new authority, that it made no concerted attempt at creating a counter-Church, but had for its principle the denial of unity. It was an effort to promote that state of mind in which a Church in the old sense of the word–that is, an infallible, united, teaching body, a Person speaking with Divine authority–should be denied; not the doctrines it might happen to advance, but its very claim to advance them with unique authority.” (pp. 97 & 12; Tan Books & Publishers, 1991).

    By denying a Magisterial Authority in the Church Jesus established, one denies the unicity of the Church (Ecclesiae unitatem). One of the most important factors in being able to identify any thing at all is its unicity. We cannot find a thing if it is disintegrated. Or rather, what we will find is a disintegrated thing, but not the thing per se. Therefore, if the Church is not united to one head, Christ, and that is manifest visibly by a Magisterial Church invested with the same authority as Christ, then one has no hope in identifying the Church Jesus established. She is a chimera at worst, only invisible at best. If either, one would never know if he were leaving Her, thus eliminating the possibility of “schism from“. This is why the Holy Father calls Protestant churches “ecclesial communities” since they are merely a group of Christians choosing to form a community around their shared theology. They can leave that community and start another if they like, since there is no visible church and therefore no sin in leaving (schism) that community to start or join another. Thus, what one finds is a disintegrated thing (res dis unitatem)–not an “infallible, united, teaching body, a Person speaking with Divine authority”.

    This distinction is at the heart of our disagreement on my blog.

  137. I guess the editor of Christianity Today will never return:
    The Confidence of the Evangelical: Why the Spirit, not the magisterium, will lead us into all truth

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  138. Randy,

    I am writing this as a Catholic. I believe it was St Augustine who noted that a bad law was no law at all. Note that this (if I am right) pertains to the civil authorities, and in our own time in my country (the US), it would certainly apply to abortion as a right.

    I am Catholic, having learned the hard way that I was not fit to be a/the leader of a religion or a/the inspired interpreter of divine revelation, including the scriptures, in any meaningful way. I have surrendered those misconceptions and found Jesus’ words about Him setting me free to be accurate.

    I do pray for the authorities, starting with the Church. Later separately I pray for the governments of my country and state, but I do not hold them in the same regard as the Catholic Church, which would appear to me to be the Catholic position.

    Cordially,

    dt

  139. Read the CT article. He does not argue much from scripture. He argues badly from history. He just asserts there was no magisterium in the early church. That the apostles had authority but it must have been way different from Catholic authority. Then he asserts that even councils had to be reversed by later councils. Not sure what he is talking about there. It is really easy when you don’t have to document assertions or answer questions. The church will reach consensus on the issues of today the same way it reached consensus on the trinity. Just people reading the bible with no magisterium involved. Really?

  140. @Aaron (#137),

    Thanks for the link. That was disappointing and unimpressive. I’ve seen much better from Evangelicals explaining why they don’t become Catholics. But, frankly, that article seems pretty much par for the course from Christianity Today.

    TC

  141. Donald,

    What you are talking about is a hierarchy of authority. If one authority is deemed to be in error by a higher authority then you can disobey. That makes sense. But if you put yourself as the higher authority that judges the legitimacy of the authority you are under. That makes no sense. So when St Augustine said “bad law is no law at all” was he saying any law you think is bad can be disobeyed? I don’t think so. He must mean a law that contradicts God’s law. Even then not just your opinion of God’s law. There is a big difference. The government does not claim to be following scripture like the Church and the Pharisees would claim. So the violation of God’s law might not be a matter of opinion. Like when the Romans demanded Christians hand over the sacred scriptures to be burned. That law would be seen as bad because it violated a higher law. The emperor was explicitly attacking the church. It reminds me of the incident in Maccabees 2 that was yesterday’s reading. What was described as “enforcing the apostasy.” That can be resisted with disobedience. But nobody describes the Pharisees or the Catholic church as enforcing apostasy.

  142. Randy,

    Thank you. I stand corrected.

    Cordially,

    dt

  143. Randy and T. Ciatoris RE#s 139 & 140,
    I agree it was very poor reasoning. It is interesting though, a few weeks ago I was having a discussion with a Protestant member of the church my wife and recently left (to seek full communion with the Catholic Church) that this issue of the church wrangling over theological issues came up. It seemed that my Protestant friend, as well as the writer of the article above, have this notion that converts like myself just get sick of the constant back and forth when it comes to working out these issues and that we only convert because we feel like that doesn’t happen in the Catholic Church. But both my friend and the writer of the article miss the point completely. I have absolutely no problem with the church taking a long time to come to a consensus on any given issue of the day, but the difference is that in the Catholic Church, when the Magisterium does finally make a decision, however long that may take, the issue is closed. Since Protestantism has no such authority (and indeed doesn’t even recognize that one exists) they will forever be wrangling with things that were dealt with by the Magisterium a thousand years ago. It’s interesting that he mentions the Trinity but there are Protestant today who would deny even that (i.e. Oneness Pentecostals).

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  144. Aaron,

    All astute observations, especially your last sentence, where you pick up on the convenient but arbitrary gerrymandering often concealed within arguments like Galli’s. Additionally, you may find interesting what Bryan Cross wrote a couple of years ago about the verbal and conceptual slippage that sometimes occurs between desire for certainty and desire for truth.

    TC

  145. To all,

    Thank you much for the continual engagement. Regarding these conversations, I pray that God would help all of us (including me) to see that which He wants us to see.

    Randy,

    I am surprised that you read my “round 3” response to Dave and you are still simply saying “you must obey them”. I agree that we must obey them – and the legitimately ordained pastors of the Church (of which Gerhard concedes were in Rome). Still, this view is simplistic, you like those who parrot “Call no man father! Call no man father!” against RCs are being simplistic. You may not believe that Jesus taught his disciples that some of the teachings of the Pharisees were wrong and harmful (with the implication that they should not acknowledge these much less teach them themselves) but there it is, in black and light, as I show in some detail. I think you are right to say that we are sending the world the message that doctrine is unknowable, and for that, all of us (and especially non-Confessional-Lutherans) should be ashamed. We simply don’t know the Scriptures very well. It is clear from reading Luther’s writings vs. those of his opponents that he knew and understood the word of God far better than them. So I know it sounds like I am pronouncing us right by fiat, but I am not: I am inviting all persons to study the Scriptures, and I think what I wrote here will help persons as regards a consistent and biblical method of doing this: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/my-reply-to-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-regarding-his-examination-of-martin-chemnitzs-examination/ (Dave did respond to this, but I answered him in round 2 and then round 3 as well, I think very effectively).

    I don’t think that the Lutherans were plagued with morally weak leaders. Luther, Melanchton, Chemnitz may have seen themselves as this, but that is one of the reasons I see them as oaks of righteousness among others who were not this.

    Donald todd,

    More on your posts to me: I am just not sure where you think the smoking gun is here that proves Luther the scoundrel you think him to be – or that he is the primary one to blame for the revolution that occurred. I think most historians these days, a bit more tempered than the fellow you refer to, are a bit more sympathetic to Luther’s predicament here. We must realize what the times were then and avoid chronological snobbery – all without whitewashing persons for their crimes. To ask God for better leaders is not necessarily to support the concept of revolution. Regarding the necessity of the clerical body to change things, he means their own hearts, for they are part of the ruling class. There is a sense in which we are all equal in Christ – i.e. we all have access to a saving relationship with him (Gal. 3:28). But this does not mean we cease to be male, female, etc… Regarding economic inequality, as Paul tells us, if we can improve our position we should – does this also mean he supported rebellions?

    Regarding all of the Lutheran denominations you list, several of them are in fellowship with each other. Shall we talk about all the RC breakoffs as well? (or the EO ones for that matter?) And of course, all of the liberals in the RC church right now are not just fine so long as they are in communion with the Pope? (most of them are not denied communion by their priests…). Of all the “denominations” it is notable that Lutherans trend towards merging with one another (after coming to an agreement on doctrine), not breaking off – when compared with Protestants. Even now, the WELS, ELS, and LCMS are having more talks with each other (I am LCMS and do have real issues with some of the teachings of these bodies).

    I don’t think I pick and choose Scriptures, Donald. I think this is what RCs tend to do, as I think I show forcefully here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/round-3-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-a-few-good-pharisees/ (Dave says persons will have to make their own judgments about what I’ve written – all I can say is that I think it’s abundantly clear that I won this debate on Matthew 23 [although I know Dave would say its not the case], so I sure do hope people will read so they can go on to judge).

    Luther was right to tell the leaders to put down the peasants. Would he have written differently about how to do it as regards his rhetoric? Absolutely. It was a hard lesson for him to learn. After their excessive use of force, Luther let the rulers have it (I may be able to find this for you [as I work in a library] if you insist, but I’m quite sure about this).

    You say you do not like his theology, but I assert it is his theology which is the Church’s theology – and which actually makes us Christian (see my comments to Nathaniel in the comments section here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/reformation-history-what-would-you-have-done/ ) That said, I wish he had been a bit kinder to some of his opponents as well (I feel the same way about the Apostle Paul, sensitive soul that I am). Here, I embrace and recommend the other two great Lutheran theologians: Martin Chemnitz and John Gerhard.

    Jonathan Brumley,

    The Church does have authority to excommunicate, but it did so unjustly with Luther. Bellarmine and other prominent RC theologians from this time admit that unjust excommunications do occur. Thereby, the Church did choose schism (and heresy to boot), because it excommunicated right, corrective teaching. The faithful Church did not choose schism. Also, obviously, if persons believed Luther taught the truth, and Luther was excommunicated for his teaching, it is a stretch to say that those who continued to follow him broke off from the Church. They were, basically, already out. Still, had more remained – and continued with Luther’s teachings – I’ll admit that this appeals to me (even as I would not do it if I had small children who really could not feed themselves from the Word)

    Chad,

    “Ironically, if I therefore adopt Luther’s epistemic framework, I’m not ever bound to agree with him about anything else, since in his ideology, the locus of truth has shifted from an externally governing body to the individual cognizer’s perception of the perspicuity of Scripture. Perhaps I, as in individual cognizer, read my Bible’s statements about humility, decide that Luther acted cavalierly in the face of dissenting authority, and discard Luther.”

    Scripture is clear and it shows itself to be this (although it is not to be thought that it should be read without assistance from the testimony of the entire church thoughout all the ages – the Church fathers, as I argue in my first round with Dave [re: Martin Chemnitz] serve as more than mere witnesses to Scripture) I invite you to read the section on Harmony (part VI) in my “round 2” response to Dave Armstrong: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/round-2-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-the-unattractive-body-of-christ/ If, after you have learned the Scriptures as well as Luther – and have thoroughly examined the historical situation and happenings in which he found himself, you still think that Luther was not appropriately humble, I would be very surprised. Humility does not mean bowing to error when spiritual lives are at stake. I invite you to see this post and the comments (especially my last comment to Nathaniel, which should make quite clear to you what was at stake [stuff you won’t learn in your RCA class or even Lutheran seminary classes, sadly]: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/reformation-history-what-would-you-have-done/

    “once he has discarded the authority vested by Jesus in those among whom he is not included, that’s all they are.”

    First of all, Luther was a legitimately ordained pastor and appointed professor in the church. In any case, see III The nature of the church in this response to Dave: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/round-2-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-the-unattractive-body-of-christ/

    “…[he should have] reverse[d] his epistemological misstep and become a productive participant in the sacramental life of the Church. (Let the Protestant considering a conditional return reconsider the whole notion of ‘condition’.)”

    He was a very productive participant in the sacramental life of the Church. Hence his penetrating insight regarding the problems with the “traditional” (i.e. Thomistic-Scholastic) RC doctrine of penance (see comments here again: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/reformation-history-what-would-you-have-done/ ). Regarding the article you link to, I’m happy to see that 400 years after the Reformation the RC historian Joseph Lortz acknowledged that Luther was right about the problems with Biel and Ockham’s pelagianizing views. This is progress. Still, if a right reading of Thomas is the antidote to these men however, why were these other views not explicitly condemned? On the contrary, at Trent, the views of the “radical” Augustinians (John Capreolus’ fans?) were marginalized and basically shunned. Further, there were major problems with what Aquinas’ supposedly more responsible views led to as well (again, see comments in link above – here Cajetan comes into play). Lastly, although Protestants today may be rediscovering Aquinas, one should consider that one of the three great Lutheran theologians (the one I used a lot in my debate with Dave) really did appreciate many aspects of Thomas’ teachings (and was very knowledgable of them), while condemning others (see here: http://www.worldcat.org/title/thomas-aquinas-and-john-gerhard/oclc/639827&referer=brief_results )

    Mateo,

    I would say that If Luther became a sinner when he was separated from the Catholic Church, it was in the sense that a woman becomes an adulteress after one’s spouse divorces her (Matthew 19). Mateo, your analogy fails because Luther did not leave, but was excommunicated. You seem to be forgetting that. I do think the US needs reforming, by the way, and will do what I can. But if it spits me out for trying, that does not mean I’ve renounced my citizenship.

    John Thayer Jensen,

    I think your way of looking things is helpful. I prefer “misled by the devil”. When dealing with truth it will always be a struggle to tell someone we love especially that they are wrong (because someone is wrong, or both, as the case may be!). I think it best to focus on the last one then. Let me repeat to you what I said to Dave Armstrong in my last response to him:

    Let us always remember that Satan is ultimately the One Christ came to defeat – not those for whom He came to bleed. And die. And give real peace and knowledge of salvation.

    Like a child resting in its mother’s arms.

    Semper pax,

    Nathan

    Brent,

    A pleasure to chat with you again. I appreciate the learning and conviction you bring to this debate.

    “Agreed. As long as someone doesn’t call the sin of schism sin, he cannot grow in love.”

    Sigh. You know my response. : )

    “As Bryan has pointed out today, Protestantism doesn’t believe in a visible Church. Or rather, it cannot.”

    Or maybe you don’t – Lutherans do believe in a visible Church. Please look at my most recent response to Dave Armstrong (and for more, parts III [nature of the church], IV [indefectibility] and V [infallibility] of round 2: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/round-2-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-the-unattractive-body-of-christ/) The title of the post lets you know where I am going.

    Belloc (via Brent):

    “It was an effort to promote that state of mind in which a Church in the old sense of the word–that is, an infallible, united, teaching body, a Person speaking with Divine authority–should be denied; not the doctrines it might happen to advance, but its very claim to advance them with unique authority.” (pp. 97 & 12; Tan Books & Publishers, 1991).”

    Actually, no, we don’t deny any of this. I refer you to the sections of my paper above and the 2nd part of my “round 3” response to Dave: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/round-3-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-a-few-good-pharisees/

    Belloc (via Brent):

    “This is why the Holy Father calls Protestant churches “ecclesial communities” since they are merely a group of Christians choosing to form a community around their shared theology. They can leave that community and start another if they like, since there is no visible church and therefore no sin in leaving (schism) that community to start or join another. Thus, what one finds is a disintegrated thing (res dis unitatem)–not an “infallible, united, teaching body, a Person speaking with Divine authority”.

    This is the general Protestant view of the Church. Belloc has not dealt with the Lutheran position, as most fully and richly expounded by Gerhard and other leading theologians.

    T Ciatoris,

    “I’ve seen much better from Evangelicals explaining why they don’t become Catholics. But, frankly, that article seems pretty much par for the course from Christianity Today.”

    Have you checked out my series of debates with Dave? : ) I don’t argue like Galli at all.

    I may be done here, but I may be able to talk more after the holiday.

    + Nathan

  146. Ethan,

    Don’t you realize that the following statement:

    The foundation upon which Christ’s church was to be built in Matthew 16 was the recognition of Jesus as the Christ, not the person of Peter for recognizing that fact.

    Begs the key questions that this forum regularly deals with? E.g.,

    Is your statement an authorized clarification (exegesis if you like) of the scriptural passage?

    Does your clarification descend from an unauthorized tradition?

    Hopefully you see the problem, namely that the actual message of the written text is subject to an interpretive framework or authority, and perhaps time is better spent examining those kinds of pre-commitments.

    Cheers,

    -Mike

  147. Nathan,

    You keep linking to your round 3 post. It is over 15,000 words so it would take many hours to refute. Not sure how much benefit there is in investing that time. Think of it this way. Suppose Jesus came down to my city and talked to my bishop and my priest and even talked to the pope. I would not expect that he would have nothing bad to say about them. I would expect a lot of very sharp attacks on the way they exercise their office as well as other matters. But that does not absolve me of the duty to obey them. They are fallible but legitimate leaders that I as a Christian need to obey.

    These men are all good leaders in my opinion but I still think they fall far short of being impeccable. The Pharisees are bad leaders. I think we still have a responsibility to obey bad leaders. How could Jesus teach that? How could Jesus tell us that we are not to judge leaders to be bad and simply stop obeying them? He could talk about the bad leaders of His day and command His followers to obey them. That is precisely what happens in Matt 23. Just in case anyone there thought Jesus was somehow unaware of their badness or endorsing their badness he explicitly condemns in the same breath many of the bad things they say and do. But He still says obey them.

    Now your argument documents the Pharisees badness. I get that. What you are essentially arguing is that Jesus is giving a very hard command. But then you make the jump to saying that implies Jesus does not mean it. That He does not want us to obey the Pharisees. I don’t buy that jump. In principle hard commands are not to be ignored or just obeyed to the extent we think they are reasonable. Our obedience to God must be complete and unconditional. I am sure you agree with that in principle.

    So your context misses the mark. You have a deeper assumption that God would not call us to obey really bad leaders. But He does. So our judgment of them does not matter. Their legitimacy is the only issue. Jesus shows us bad leaders can be legit. So if you think you have some great truth about God and your leader disagrees and asks you to stop teaching it then you have to stop teaching it. Even if you are right you need to obey that. Many saints had that happen and were later vindicated. But those are the exceptions not the rule. The rule is the church is right and the rogue teacher is wrong. Then the wisdom of God’s demand for us to obey is seen clearly. The faithful are not confused by some false teaching.

  148. Nathan,

    If I give you the names of the documents Luther wrote (and I did) and relate them to history (and I did) and you fail to see what is plain, it is not my problem at that point. (Suggestion: Don’t read the abridged versions of what Luther wrote, the unabridged versions read more clearly in displaying how Luther thought.)

    If I cite a Protestant historian (and I did) and you decide that he is anti-Luther (not my own impression when reading him), it is not my problem at that point.

    If you have decided to absolve Luther for his varied and changing positions inspite of what he wrote, when he wrote it, and ignored the historical outcomes of what he wrote, it is not my problem at that point.

    I did my part in good faith. I used my God-given reason to weigh ideas in a search for the Truth in order to serve Him obediently, and arrived at Catholicity after checking Luther and his times, but not before.

    The Old Catholics are no longer Catholic in the Roman sense. The SSPXers are not currently Catholic in the Roman sense, and if they hold to their denial of Vatican II and refuse the discipline the Church will demand, they will remain outside of the Church. In these cases, they are like the Lutherans, outside the Church.

    Augustine reminds us that where Peter is, there is the Church. That is not Luther’s position. I found Augustine heroic. Luther? Not so much.

    Cordially,

    dt

  149. Nathan,

    Sigh. You know my response. : )

    .

    Yes, but I don’t know how your response gets you out of the dilemma. It would be a novum that the Church could schism from a single person, namely Luther.

    Lutherans do believe in a visible Church. Please look at my most recent

    I have read it. An “unattractive body of Christ” is a way to rationalize schism. It is what we do when the intellect will not assent to that which is good, true and beautiful. I can affirm that the Church is unattractive while at the same time indefectible, infallible, visible and one. Our disagreement is not one of mere aesthetic preference.

    Actually, no, we don’t deny any of this.

    A Protestant can assert that they hold to the classical view of the Church. However, he does so not grounded in the revelation of God delivered to the Apostles and preserved by their successors in the Church, but rather grounded in an act of personal conviction. This is the distinction Chad has argued for in this combox. This is what Belloc meant (rest of the quote): “[Protestantism] did not, after the various heretical propositions had been condemned, set up a separate religion over against the old orthodoxy. Rather did it create a certain separate moral atmosphere which we still call “Protestantism”. The Protestant attack differed from the rest especially in this characteristic, that its attack did not consist in the promulgation of a new doctrine or of a new authority, that it made no concerted attempt at creating a counter-Church, but had for its principle the denial of unity.”

    The denial of unity happened by locating doctrine in the personal conviction rather than in the infallible Church. This movement was rationalized a variety of ways: inner witness of the Spirit, plain meaning of Scripture, strong desire to be relieved of psychological stress, etc. However, there is never a reason that schism from Christ’s Church is justifiable.

  150. All,

    I have to be serious about not coming back here until later. Quick comment for now…

    Still, I think I need to make clear how much I wish that what you all say about the infallibility of Rome is true (again, I am asserting the true church is visible, indefectible and infallible, just like all of you). It would be so much easier to just submit. By nature, I want to obey (my parents raised me to always respect authority, for God establishes offices and all authority). I think the American Revolution was wrong. The whole idea of just submitting to Rome – big, beautiful Rome – actually has appeal to me because it seems so orderly, so right, so good.

    But… people’s responses to my evaluation of Roman views of Matthew 23:2-3 is just the tip of the ice berg of what is amiss here – it seems beyond parody to me (like people just burying their heads in the sand). I understand the uncomfortibleness about the fractured church. It drives me crazy to (even though Paul said there would need to be divisions among us). I simply cannot understand how Rome can handle the Bible the way it does and feel justified (again, that’s why I wrote this [http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/reformation-history-what-would-you-have-done/] and now this just this morning: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/forgiveness-free-and-true-the-crux-of-the-reformation-the-essence-of-the-christian-life/)

    More post-Thanksgiving…

  151. Randy,

    I think you are starting to struggle with the realities of what the Biblical texts tell us about authority. Believe me, I am not averse to authority. I wish it was as easy as always obeying a duly appointed leader of the Church. That would make things much easier. Of course the “default ” is to obey.

    That said, here’s a nice summary of the relevant parts of my long post for you:

    Teaching can include behavior as well (we teach by our lives) but clearly Jesus is not excluding the content of the Pharisees teaching, which can be shown by several clear examples:

    A) Even in Matthew 23 he confronts the Pharisees for their false teaching (verses 16-22)

    b) When Jesus confronts the Pharisees over their false teaching… (Matthew 16, Mark 7, corban, etc.)

    c) The Pharisees obviously teach falsely about who Jesus is (John 5:39)

    d) The Pharisees reject the teachings of John the Baptist.

    e) Jesus and his disciples disobey the head authorities in the Church as regards things like man-made Sabbath Laws (not the Scriptural ones) and the washing of hands…?

    f) In Matthew 5 Jesus repeatedly says “you have heard” and “but I tell you”…. in the Sermon on the Mount (not bringing new teachings) and “John 5:39 disavows us of any notion that the Pharisees, generally speaking, understood the Scriptures.” They were like the Sadducees, who did not know the Scriptures or the power of God.

  152. donald todd,

    Again, I simply submit that most persons have what in my mind is a much more fair assessment of Luther, his times, and his struggles than you. I thought I did a rather thorough job of dealing with the quotes you provided. You say that Luther had varied and changing positions on the issue of the freedom of the Christian man (esp. as it pertained to peasants) and authority and I do not see this. I have read many of his writings from the 1520s and will keep my eyes open for opportunities to do so again, especially with what I believe to be your incorrect points in mind.”

    If Augustine told us to adhere to the Papacy, he also said this:

    “You must listen to those who are seated upon the throne, for by sitting upon the throne they are teaching the Law of God. Therefore, God teaches through them. But if they are teaching their own things, do not listen, do not do.”

    –Augustine, On John, tractate 46

  153. Brent,

    “It would be a novum that the Church could schism from a single person, namely Luther.”

    Luther had many other pastors who sided with him, like Athanasius, Augustine, and Cyril before him. Did some leave the church at these times? Yes. Did a greater % leave from Luther? Yes. Welcome to the End Times.

    I have read it….I can affirm that the Church is unattractive while at the same time indefectible, infallible, visible and one. Our disagreement is not one of mere aesthetic preference.”

    If you had read it (really, I don’t blame you for not – it is long and not easygoing), you would know that I do assert that the Church is indefectible, infallible, visible and one.

    Actually, no, we don’t deny any of this.

    “A Protestant can assert that they hold to the classical view of the Church. However, he does so not grounded in the revelation of God delivered to the Apostles and preserved by their successors in the Church, but rather grounded in an act of personal conviction.”

    I think this is your personal conviction, whereas I am grounded in the revelation of God delivered to the Apostles and preserved by their successors in the Church.

    “The denial of unity happened by locating doctrine in the personal conviction rather than in the infallible Church. This movement was rationalized a variety of ways: inner witness of the Spirit, plain meaning of Scripture, strong desire to be relieved of psychological stress, etc. However, there is never a reason that schism from Christ’s Church is justifiable.”

    No, the Church is infallible, we just have a different idea about how infallibility is located. I agree that schism from Christ’s Church is unjustifiable, and therefore, I am sad when I think about how Rome turned away from the pastor God raised up to correct them. The tragedy could have, and should have been prevented.

    Will check again in a week….

  154. I think you are starting to struggle with the realities of what the Biblical texts tell us about authority. Believe me, I am not averse to authority. I wish it was as easy as always obeying a duly appointed leader of the Church. That would make things much easier. Of course the “default ” is to obey.

    Actually Catholic teaching does deal with the hard cases. You assume a false choice. Choice #1 is blind obedience to every syllable that comes out of a leader’s mouth. Choice #2 is “default” obedience where there is a huge loophole that simply says we don’t have to obey when we feel the person isn’t speaking for God. Then you try and prove one by disproving the other. It does not follow.

    Jesus does put a kind of condition on obedience in Matt 23:2-3. It is not the condition you want to put on. He says we have to follow what they say because they sit on Moses seat. So their authority flows from the office they hold. Does everything they say and do carry that authority? No. But there needs to be a way to determine that. It does not involve just asking if you agree with the decision or teaching in question.

    First of all, failing to see a truth is not an error. So the Pharisees not seeing the many references to Jesus in scripture is not proof they are illegitimate. Same with John the Baptist.

    Secondly, errors of imprudent judgement still happen. Errors of doctrine matter because true doctrine should never change. Errors of bad judgement don’t saddle future generations in the same way. So God’s ordained leaders can execute God’s only begotten Son and not prove they are not legit. John 11:49:53 shows this.

    Third, errors taught without the full authority of the office can still happen. So Jesus saying they made some errors about oaths and Corban does not mean they are false leaders. It also does not mean we don’t have to obey. We might disagree with a decision about liturgy and we might be right. We still have to obey.

    Fourth, authority can be removed by a higher authority. Jesus was a higher authority. Later the apostles were. But Jesus does not say all His followers have that.

    These exceptions still take seriously what Jesus was saying in Mat 23. Most of the time the exception just means the leaders decision is not infallible. We are still called to obey. Some of the other conditions have called for more precision. Over time that has become clear. The point is Jesus was talking about something real. The concept of blind guides. He does not say these guys are blind so they are not guides. He calls them to be less blind precisely because they remain guides.

    So this all works in Catholicism. It does not work in protestantism. That is the one point that is clear. What Jesus is saying cannot be fit into the protestant model of authority. That model takes it as obvious that leaders we judge to be ungodly need not be obeyed. Jesus does not think that is obvious. Quite the opposite. So it means Jesus would not be a protestant.

  155. Nathan writes: … the Church is infallible, we just have a different idea about how infallibility is located …

    We need to agree on a definition of infallibility before we can proceed in this discussion. From the Catholic perspective, infallibility is a charism of the Holy Spirit that is given to authorized teachers in the Church that Christ founded, and that charism is exercised only under certain specific circumstances. When the charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit of infallibility is exercised by a man (or men), what is being taught as is known with certainty to be inerrant (without error), because the inerrancy of what is being taught is guaranteed by God. Only doctrines of faith and morals can have a divine guarantee of inerrancy.

    Nathan, given this Catholic definition of infallibility, could you tell me how you know when men teach infallibly? You can take it as a starting point that you do not need to prove to me that the scriptures written in your Protestant bible are guaranteed by God to be inerrant. Here is the problem. When I look at what Martin Luther did in history, I see that he interpreted the inerrant bible, and through his peculiar interpretations, he came up with a set of doctrinal novelties that give his followers a unique identity. (In the same way, I can identify a Calvinist, by first identifying the set of doctrinal novelties that are only believed by Calvinists). This is my point – Lutherans can be defined as the set of people that believe the doctrinal novelties that are unique to Lutheranism. Calvinists can be identified as the set of people that believe the doctrinal novelties that are unique to Calvinism. Mormons can be identified as the set of people that believe the doctrinal novelties that are unique to Mormonism … etc. etc. Given that there is a set of doctrinal novelties that only Lutherans accept as being true, what I want to know is this: Do believe that Luther was teaching infallibly when he came up with the set of doctrinal novelties that give Lutherans a unique identity?

    Nathan writes: … I am grounded in the revelation of God delivered to the Apostles and preserved by their successors in the Church.

    Are you claiming that the opinions that you have been expressing that contradict Catholic doctrine (and Calvinist doctrine for that matter) are guaranteed by God to be inerrant because you personally have been exercising the charismatic gift of infallibility?

    If it is not the case that you are claiming to teach doctrine infallibly such that all Christians are conscience bound to accept your peculiar interpretations of scripture, then please answer these questions:

    Is there anyone in the LCMS that can infallibly define a doctrine of the church such that all Christians throughout the world would be conscience bound to accept that definition?

    If there are circumstances under which the teachers in the LCMS can define a doctrine of faith or morals infallibly, then what are the specific criteria that would allow me, or anyone else, to know when this doctrine has been taught infallibly? In other words, how would I know when a teacher in the LCMS is promulgating an infallibly taught doctrine, as opposed to just giving me his well intentioned opinion that is sincerely offered for my edification.

  156. Nathan,

    Just in case this is not dead

    First a quote from you: “I won’t whitewash Luther, just say that he’s not as bad as you make him out to be. I find your comments inaccurate, and so do many others. He realized after the fact that he needed to write more carefully – and regretted it. In his role in the peasants war he let both the peasants and nobles have it – condemning both sides .”

    1. Which comments are inaccurate?
    2. Which others find my comments to be inaccurate?
    3. “He realized after the fact that he needed to write more carefully – and regretted it.” What is your reference for this statement?

    What you did not reply to are the questions noted above, even though they have now been asked at least three times. To be sure, I don’t believe you have an answer for any of those questions other than your predisposition to favor Luther no matter how wretched his past.

    In order to make your effort easier, I went, I saw, I left. The arguments in favor of Luther are dead issues for me. I really wanted to know because I was in search of the Truth and it was obvious to me that whatever Luther represented, it had a very limited relationship to the Truth.

    ?

    dt

  157. Nathan,

    You wrote:

    Luther had many other pastors who sided with him, like Athanasius, Augustine, and Cyril before him. Did some leave the church at these times? Yes. Did a greater % leave from Luther? Yes. Welcome to the End Times.

    I’m tempted to just leave this alone, but I will not. You cannot argue that the former sided with Luther. That would be an unfair retrojection. You can argue that Luther sides with the former, but that would take you demonstrating that the former believed that if the Church departed from teaching truth as they saw it, they would have grounds to leave the Church and that in effect The Church would be in schism from Athanasius, Augustine…You are going to have a really hard time doing that; especially given St. Augustine’s treatment of the Donatists. What you have to say is that “The Church” is that group whose view of orthodoxy most approximates “your view”; your view being “grounded in the revelation of God…”–as you say. What gets tricky is when you and someone else disagree. If the ground of your disagreement is revelation, then it will be a supernaatural means by which the disagrement will be resolved, not merely natural. Thus, you appealing to “the plain meaning of Scripture”–as if I were dubitable or stupid–implies a rational ground for resolving our conflict. Arianism doesn’t die because it was rationally unattractive. Arianism dies because the Church killed it, and Christianity outside the Church is absurd. To say it another way, our conflict is not over subject-verb agreement which entails a natural method of resolution. It is over “what” is implied or can be known from the deposit of faith which is a supernatural object which requires a supernatural method of resolution when there is a dispute. That is why on issues of faith and morals, the Church is the ground and pillar of truth.

    If you had read it (really, I don’t blame you for not – it is long and not easygoing), you would know that I do assert that the Church is indefectible, infallible, visible and one. Actually, no, we don’t deny any of this. No, the Church is infallible, we just have a different idea about how infallibility is located.

    I told you I read it, you imply that I have not read it. ??? I understand that you assert you hold to “x”, but you admit that we don’t understand or locate infallibility the same way. Thus, it is impossible for me to agree with your assertion even if you say it. Fair enough. How do you define infallibility? (see Mateo) Is infallibility, on your view, those Christians who always hold to the true Gospel? Is that the “Church”? Doesn’t that just beg the question, “What is the true Gospel?”

    I think this is your personal conviction, whereas I am grounded in the revelation of God delivered to the Apostles and preserved by their successors in the Church.

    No, this is my observation. A Protestant identifies the “true Gospel” by reading the Bible for themselves not by submitting their judgments to the Church. As I mentioned elsewhere, the first (final) cause of the Reformation was “the primacy of the individual conscience”. The formal cause was sola scriptura. From there, add any material you like and you will get all manner of heresy imaginable: faith in opposition to charity, non-necessity of baptism, unitarian view of God, etc. Unlike former heresies, Protestantism provides heretics with a rational method for pursuing heresy: the primacy of the individual conscience (i.e., will).

    Assuming your position, if a Catholic or any non-Lutheran wanted to “come Home” to Lutheranism–assuming that is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church–which form of Luthernamism would they join? Why?

    Peace in Christ,

    Brent

  158. Hello all,

    I am delighted that all of you are continuing this. Like I said, it may be a while before I can make time to do your responses justice again.

    Blessings to you all,

    Nathan

  159. Why do I have no desire to “return” to a wayward Catholic church? Jesus said,” New wine cannot be put into old wineskins.” How do I know Jesus said this? because Martin Luther translated the Bible into the common language despite the “magisterial authority” that would have kept it chained to the pulpit and away from men and women who’s souls longed for the joy of knowing God personally through the living Christ.

    Magisterial means “imperious or domineering”: an accurate description of the Catholic church. Not only do I reject this self-ascribed “authority” in the basis of scripture, but I also reject the resulting condecending tone that is reflected in Mr. Cross’ article.

    Acts 17:11 “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

    How dare they!

  160. Edward,

    Two points of fact:

    (1) At least sixteen complete translations of the Bible in German appeared before Luther’s, all with the Church’s official approval.

    (2) “Magisterial” may have acquired the connotations you note, but “magisterial” (along with “magisterium”) simply comes from the Latin “magister” (“teacher”). “Magisterium” means no more (and no less!) than “teaching office,” something I’m sure you would recognize as entirely biblical (cf., e.g., 1 Cor 12.28). I’m sorry if you find the word itself off-putting, but dictionaries will be dictionaries.

    best,
    TC

  161. Edward, #159

    You know Jesus said this because the Catholic Church – yes, that dreaded Magisterium – preserved without error the Deposit of Faith handed on to the Apostles by Jesus. Without the Catholic Church you would not even know which books of the Bible belong in the Canon, and could never know with certainty what things Jesus actually said and what sayings the Gnostics wanted to put in his mouth.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  162. Edward,

    Prior to the printing press, books required a great deal of labor and expensive resources to produce. If you were to visit a library during that period you would likely find all the books chained as well to prevent theft. The high cost was especially true in the case of Bibles that were kept in churches. If and when Bibles were secured with lock and key, it was not to keep the laity from hearing the Scriptures, it was to prevent their theft and ensure there was Scripture for the laity to hear! Did you attribute ill motives to the phone company when they secured the Yellow Pages to a phone booth?

    It appears as if you have been introduced to a bit of disingenuous and distorted information about Church history and the Catholic faith. This is unfortunate and sadly very common.

    Brian

  163. Frank,

    The same case could be made for the importance of Israel. God certainly used them, but as as group they have rejected the Messiah. Despite this sad truth, some Jews have left their faith and embraced Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Similarly, I left the Lutheran church after I was “born again” many years ago. That once vibrant denomination has, in many cases, abandonded scripture as their foundation and embraced the world’s values. The Catholic church has done the same. They “pulled up anchor” when they raised the pope’s teachings to the level of the scripture (ex-cathedra) and started teaching the strange gospel of “faith + Being a Catholic”.

    “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)

    Bunk.

    “My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and rightiousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame (Catholic Church), but wholly rest on Jesus name.” “… all other ground is sinking sand”.

    John 16:3 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

    This is not referring to the Pope.

  164. Edward,

    Infallibility is not the same as inspiration. With careful proofreading, a math textbook can be infallible, but it cannot be inspired. The pope teaching ex cathedra is infallible in matters of faith and morals, but under no circumstances do we teach that he is inspired. It is not the case that the pope’s teaching attains to the level of Sacred Scripture.

    It’s odd, given your ostensible commitment to sola scriptura, that you refute Lateran IV by citing a hymn. In any case, at the most basic level, the doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla salus is tautological, for the Church is the one Body of Christ, His one and only Bride.

    Regarding John 16.3, you’re right: Jesus is not referring directly to the pope. He is, however, referring to the Apostles in communion with St Peter. The successors of the apostles are bishops; the successor of St Peter is the pope.

    best,
    TC

  165. Sorry — technically, I should have said that the math book could be inerrant. Not infallible. My bad!

  166. Edward wrote (#163)

    Bunk.

    “Bunk” is not an argument.

    If you wish to challenge the Catholic teaching about the Papacy, you’ll have to start by showing how Mt. 16:18 means something other than what Jesus plainly says about Peter and the Church. And you’ll have to let us know by what authority you offer this alternative interpretation. Your private interpretation of Scripture will not suffice because that reduces to an argument about subjective opinions, about which we are cautioned in Scripture (2 Peter 1:20).

    Blessings,
    Frank

  167. Bunk is a statement of my opinion, similar to your opinion of Mt 16:18. Our opinions differ. The opinion I hold is the opinion of the majority of Christian theologians. Your “alternative” interpretation is held only by the Catholic Church. By what authority will you personally ascribe your opinion? The declaration of the Catholic Church or the Pope that this is the correct viewpoint is a circular argument. (“I say the church is built on Peter, I am his successor with inerrant interpretations, therefore the church is built on Peter”). Rather self-serving, don’t you think? Your entire premise is built on a misguided interpretation.

    The Mormon’s declare that they are the true church on their own authority as well. Ironically, they believe you cannot be saved outside of their church. Would you agree with me that their opinion is unbiblical nonsense?

    When I get to heaven, I will look forward to asking Peter if Christ’s entire church is built on him. I suspect we will have a good laugh about it, as Jesus looks on smiling and shaking his head.

    1Peter 2:6 “For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

  168. Edward, re#167 –

    And why should anyone base their eternal destiny on your opinion? Or for that matter the opinion of any man or men? Is that all the “assurance” you have of your salvation – a subjective interpretation of scripture supported by people who happen to agree with you? Do you really think Jesus would leave his sheep in such peril and uncertainty?

    What I cited in Mt. 16:18 was not my opinion, but the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself on the Rock of Peter. Who founded your church? When? I know who founded my Church – the second Person of the Trinity – and I know when — somewhere shortly before 33 A.D.

    The Catholic Church does not teach and define its doctrines based on the authority of men – it does so based on the authority of Jesus Christ which he gave to men (“he who hears you hears me and the One who sent me”) guided by and protected from error by the Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost.

    Mt. 16:18-19: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Jesus established a visible Church, with a visible head and a visible teaching authority (the Apostles in communion with Peter, and their successors who have received this authority by the laying on of hands from the time of Acts down to the present day).

    Look up “keys” in your Concordance and you’ll find out what it means for Peter to be given the “keys to the kingdom of heaven”. He is being given authority from Jesus – authority to bind and loose. His successors (and those of the Apostles) inherit this authority, by virtue of their sonship in Jesus Christ.

    Whose authority do you exert when you say, “bunk”? Show me where in Scripture it says it is men who are authorized to found “churches.” There is only one Church with all four marks that creedal Christians affirm –
    “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” and it is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, not Martin Luther or John Calvin or Aimee Semple McPherson.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  169. If I have a grievance as a Christian, such as a person teaching doctrine that is in my opinion not the truth, or if there is a person who is sinning and I tell him/her about it and they will not listen and I bring two or more witnesses with me to confront that person and they refuse to change or listen, I am told to take it to the Church for a correct and true decision on the problem. What I want to know is What church do I take the problem to? Who has the authority to tell me what is true or what is the correct answer to the problem? Is it the Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal , Orthodox, Evangelists, Anglican, Methodist, United or who do I see? By what authority do they advise me and how do they get at their answer? I may have eight different answers to this and which one will be true if any? If I am told it says such and such in the Holy Scriptures then I am not being advised by the Church but by some ones interpretation of Scripture. That is not good enough. While the Scriptures might be true it still must be interpreted correctly.

    Blessings
    NHU

  170. Frank,

    Far be it from me that anyone should base there salvation on my opinion or that of any mere man. That is precisely my point. It sounds like you have agreed with me!

    You assert without foundation that your belief is not an opinion, but it is. Your opinion is that the “Magisterium” is correct. It is an opinion we do not share. The Catholic position is that salvation is in the Catholic Church. The Protesant (and Orthodox) position is that Salvation is in Christ.

    Since you asked, I have two foundations for the assurance of my salvation, God’s Word and the internal wittness of the Holy Spirit that I received when I was “born again”. I would honestly love to hear where your assurance comes from. Have you been born again?

    Col.1:22-23 describes the source of eternal assurance:
    “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

    1 John 5:12-13 is another source of assurance for me:
    “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

    Gal. 4:6 describes the internal wittness of the spirit:
    “And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”

    John 3:3 “In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

    I pray we can share this blessed assurance.

    PAX

  171. Edward,

    First, congratulations! Seriously. It is a wonderful thing to have a conversion experience. The immediacy of God and the wonder one is privileged to experience initially and hopefully over time, is an amazing gift.

    When I had the privilege of my first conversion, I found myself with like-minded people but in my case, by my own effort. No one else was present when I went through that first conversion. I found myself an evangelical Pentecostal because the evangelical Pentecostals expressed great joy. This was different than my experience of other groups, especially the local Baptists, who seemed more motivated by anger and a willingness to condemn than by that joy I thought (correctly) should be the normative Christian expression. What Jesus did for us is really good news.

    The difficulty I experienced as an evangelical Pentecostal involved two very real considerations. First, the Yellow Pages under Church expressed a terrible separation, a contradiction considering Jesus’ words about being one in John’s gospel. We weren’t one. We did not in fact believe the same things about what we each considered important things.

    The Baptists did not believe in charismata (tongues, interpretation, prophecy, etc) because the gifts will come to an end. For the Baptists, the gifts came to an end with the last apostle. For those of us who were evangelical Pentecostals, we were speaking in tongues, experiencing interpretation and prophecy, and experiencing the other gifts. From our perspective the gifts were flourishing. What could the Baptists be thinking of? Who was in charge anyway?

    The second problem was related to the first problem. I consistently found that Jesus was saying one thing, and I (being consistent with my denomination) was saying something else. We loved the Lord but we often did not believe Him. If we had believed Him, we would have taken His words at face value, no matter how hard those words appeared to be.

    John 20:23 Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them. Whose sins you retain, they are retained. Those words were expressed to the apostles, not to the pew sitters. Where I was, we told people that we did not need a priest, we went directly to God. Okay. But what was God expecting? There appeared to be a gulf between Jesus’ words and our position.

    In Genesis, Abraham visits Melchizedek. Melchizedek accepts Abraham’s offering and provides a thanksgiving (Eucharist) of bread and wine. Later, the psalmist tells us that our Lord will be a priest of the order of Melchizedek.

    At the Exodus, the Jews are told to sacrifice a three-year old unblemished lamb. The lamb is to eaten (the eaten part is really important) and its blood is to be spread on the doorposts.

    John the Baptist introduces us to the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. That same Person consecrates the bread and wine of the Passover (Mt 26:26-29, Mk 14:22-25, Lk 22:19-20) as His Body and Blood. This is consistent with John 6 where He notes that we need to eat His Body and drink His Blood.

    John 6 is also where it is noted that people left Him because of those words. They did not believe Him.

    Paul, in 1st Corinthians 10:16 and 11:23-27 reiterates the synoptics and later adds the consideration that taking communion unworthily can be the cause of sickness and death, so we are to recollect ourselves before we abuse our Lord.

    That is the long and short of what I was seeing. That is what drove me to search for the Truth beyond my initial conversion.

    How were Jesus’ own words to be held? I found the Church which held Jesus’ words as literal, and had held them as such prior to His death and resurrection, before the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost when the apostles were empowered to proclaim the good news and continue building the Church established by Jesus.

    I had to choose between where I was and where Jesus’ words were taken literally on such important items as the new Passover with its sacrificial Meal, or the forgiveness of sins.

    I am moving on 40 years as a Catholic. I had answered every reasonable question I had, and I had waded through the history, the theologies, and the personalities of Protestantism before I got here. The joy is here. The history is here. Jesus did not dump the Church He founded, nor did He cause it to implode into virtually uncountable sects with their own interpretations of scripture. He is not the author of confusion.

    Men could not overpower Him, neither could the diabolical.

    The Church careens through the ages bringing the good news of Jesus’ salvation to us.

    The scripture, codified by this same Church, is what led me to her.

    God speed to you on your journey.

    dt

  172. Dear Edward (re: 163 and 167),

    The trouble with your quoting from a Catholic source and then dismissing it with the term “bunk” is not that you are expressing your opinion. The trouble is that by dismissing a Catholic position without articulating why you dismiss it, you do nothing to further the discussion between Catholic and Reformed Christians (or Protestants more generally). This site exists for that purpose.

    Comments like, “Rather self-serving, don’t you think?” lack the quality of charity that is essential to progress in this dialogue. Readers and contributors who have frequented Called to Communion will, I believe, agree that we have all made noteworthy strides in improving communication and mutual understanding by carefully policing our own words to ensure they possess the quality of charity.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  173. Edward, re #170:

    Thank you for your sincere and charitable prayer for my salvation. I pray the same for you.

    You wrote:

    You assert without foundation that your belief is not an opinion, but it is. Your opinion is that the “Magisterium” is correct. It is an opinion we do not share. The Catholic position is that salvation is in the Catholic Church. The Protesant (and Orthodox) position is that Salvation is in Christ.

    .

    There is no contradiction between salvation being in the Catholic Church and salvation being in Christ. The Catholic Church IS Christ — it is His Body on earth, and all are saved through Him in His Church, which is the means he gave to man for his salvation. The Catholic Church is the only church that can make this calim because it is the only one founded by Jesus Christ. This is the plain meaning of Mt.16:18 — it is not my opinion.

    When Jesus said “and lo, I will be with you unto the end of the age” he did not mean in some symbolic way or in a solely spiritual way, through the internal witness of the Spirit, or only as a written Word given to us in Scripture. He is with us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the sacrament of the Eucharist found in the Catholic Church – really and truly present. This is the meaning of the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 and this was immediately understood by the early Church even before the end of the Apostolic age.

    You wrote:

    1 John 5:12-13 is another source of assurance for me:
    “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

    In what sense do you “have Christ”? Intellectual assent? Personal conviction of the Spirit? I have those, but I also have Christ in the way he commanded us to “have” him:

    Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6:53-58.

    And because of this, I know I have access to eternal life through his Body and Blood. Jesus tells me so. If your church does not have a valid Eucharist, you do not “have” Jesus in this way. This is where my assurance comes from – the Sacraments he instituted.

    You also asked if I have “been born again.” Yes. I was born again of water and spirit, when I was baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Through faith in Christ and his work on the Cross and by the grace of God, I was washed in the blood of the Lamb and my soul was made white as snow. This assurance, too, comes directly from Jesus:

    “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” John 3:5.

    You really should get to know the Church through the eyes of someone who does not have a misguided or prejudiced understanding of who she is and what she teaches. You would find there the fullness of the means of salvation Christ won for us on the Cross.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  174. Edward,

    I think it is great you are here. I am a serious Lutheran, trying to have a good discussion with some serious Catholics (don’t worry guys, I’ll get to answering your questions – hopefully tomorrow).

    First of all, I think it is very wise of you bring up the topic of confidence of salvation. You point out that critical passage in John 5, which quite frankly, *no* RC or EO believer has a good answer for (Romans 5:1 goes right along with this).

    Frank said:

    “This is where my assurance comes from – the Sacraments he instituted.” and “Through faith in Christ and his work on the Cross and by the grace of God, I was washed in the blood of the Lamb and my soul was made white as snow. This assurance, too, comes directly from Jesus.”

    I am guessing that Frank’s will say that his assurance – *if* he is s a faithful RC – is not a personal certainty (I am thinking about the kind of certainty that we have that we are in a stable love relationship with a/Another) falls far, far short of the John passage you quote. Ask him more questions about the concept of “state of grace” and the sin of presumption.

    That said, donald todd makes some really good points about confession/absolution, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. You seem like a Protestant who takes the Bible very seriously. Here I would just point out that those in the middle (serious Lutherans) have the best of both worlds, in that they do not discount any of these passages we’ve discussed, but believe them firmly.

    + Nathan

  175. Tom,

    Perhaps you did not like my choice of words or follow the logic of my argument. Please accept my apology.
    As for your statement about my words “lacking the character of charity”, I have a question: Do you really want to make your self the judge here? I’m making a serious point. Rather than addressing that point, you have chosen to judge my words and character. If I choose to point out the folly of an argument, it will unlikely come across as pleasant to anyone who disagrees. Overall, I think the discussion has maintained a very positive tone.

    2Cor. 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

    Shalom

  176. Nathan,

    We are glad that you’re here too! Serious Lutherans are always welcome. I think that you mean 1 John 5 (that is the passage that Edward referred to). Catholics believe this verse firmly, as we do all of Sacred Scripture. A couple of years ago, I wrote something on the topic of assurance, from a Catholic (and specifically a Thomistic) perspective. My conclusion is that, per St. Thomas and in complete fidelity to Trent, Catholics can indeed enjoy personal assurance of salvation, by looking to God’s promises in the Gospel as good news “for me.” Check it out: St. Thomas Aquinas on Assurance of Salvation.

    Andrew

  177. Andrew,

    Interesting. I’ll take a look. I’ve been listening to Dr. Feingold’s lectures, and I believe it was at the beginning of the Q & A period on the topic of merit that he talked about the sin of presumption – and quite clearly expressed that we really can’t have confidence that we are in a state of grace unless we have a special revelation.

    This would seem to back up what Trent says, as well as many other prominent RC theologians since the time of the Reformation, such as Bellarmine:

    The 16th and 17th Jesuit Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, called by many the “chief of the papal theologians” lived in the times shortly after Trent and was canonized in 1930, I believe. This is how he summed up the issue being discussed here in his chapter on “Justification” (chap. 3): “The doctrine that in the present life men cannot attain to an assurance of faith regarding their righteousness, with the exception of a few whom God deems worthy to have this fact revealed to them by a special revelation – this doctrine is a current opinion among nearly all theologians.”

    Here is what Trent says: “For even as no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, even so each one, when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace; seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.”

    James Akin, speaking about the Joint Declaration of justification, defending a similar line of thought, said the following:

    Too often Catholics have made it sound as if it is not possible to have any assurance of salvation. This is based on a misreading of the Council of Trent. The council stated only that one cannot “know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error” (DJ 9; emphasis added) and that one cannot know “with an absolute and infallible certainty, [that he will] have that great gift of perseverance even to the end, unless he shall have learned this by a special revelation” (DJ, can. 16; emphasis added).

    Looking forward to reading the article…

  178. Nathan, (re: #177)

    You wrote:

    and quite clearly expressed that we really can’t have confidence that we are in a state of grace unless we have a special revelation.

    That’s not what he said. We cannot have the certainty of faith that we are predestined for glory or that we have the gift of perseverance, because that fact [i.e. Bryan is predestined for glory], if it is a fact, is not part of what Christ revealed in the deposit of faith. And therefore, except by a special revelation to an individual, no individual can have the certainty of faith that he is predestined for glory, or that he has the gift of perseverance. Lawrence Feingold explains this, beginning in the 71st minute of his lecture on Predestination (see here). And that’s what Bellarmine means by “in the present life men cannot attain to an assurance of faith regarding their righteousness.” He isn’t denying the possibility of moral certainty of our being in a state of grace; he’s denying that the higher kind of certainty we can have in the articles of faith is a certainty we can have either in our being predestined to glory, or in our having the gift of perseverance, or even in our presently being in a state of grace. Likewise, the statement by Trent is saying the very same thing, “no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.” Trent isn’t denying the possibility of moral certainty of our being in a state of grace; rather, Trent is denying that we can have the certainty of faith about our being in a state of grace. The certainty of faith is not subject to error because the articles of faith were revealed by God, and God cannot lie. And Akin’s statement is saying the same thing.

    The certainty Andrew is speaking about, regarding the virtue of hope, is a certainty grounding the expectation that God will provide all the graces I need to die in state of grace, so long as I cooperate with those, and that if I die in a state of grace, Christ will certainly give to me the object of our hope, i.e. the promised eternal life which is the Beatific Vision. The certainty of hope is not an absolute certainty that I am predestined to glory, or have the gift of perseverance, nor is it the certainty of faith that I am predestined to glory, or have the gift of perseverance. Nor is it either of those kinds of certainty that I am presently in a state of grace. But, that does not rule out the possibility (and indeed the goodness) of having moral certainty that am in a state of grace. And by hope I expect with certainty that God will provide all graces I need to die in a state of grace, so long as I make use of them and do not spurn them, and that if I die in a state of grace, Christ will receive me into His eternal Kingdom.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    Update: Joe Heschmeyer has a helpful post on this titled “Three Major Arguments Against “Assurance of Salvation”.”

  179. @Bryan Cross:

    …no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.

    One of the earliest cracks in my confidence in Reformed theology came in 1984 at a Bible study with, amongst others, our pastors. Our Reformed teaching was that we are saved by faith alone. Fair enough, but it was clear that some said they had faith but their faith was pretty evidently not what we called “true faith” – what St James calls “living faith.”

    I reasoned at the time – and upset most people by saying – that – based on Jeremiah’s “the heart is desperately wicked; who can know it?” – I could be self-deceived. I reasoned then that I must not and would not hug to myself some sort of certainty based on things like “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

    It was a beginning. It was 10 more years before the other pieces fell into place and I was received with inexpressible joy into the Catholic Church.

    jj

  180. Dear Edward (re: #175),

    As for your statement about my words “lacking the character of charity”, I have a question: Do you really want to make your self the judge here? I’m making a serious point. Rather than addressing that point, you have chosen to judge my words and character. If I choose to point out the folly of an argument, it will unlikely come across as pleasant to anyone who disagrees.

    As a contributing author and editor of CtC, I take seriously our commitment to promoting a charitable discourse based on the substance of one another’s ideas, not on ad hominems or rhetorical plays. So, in that sense the contributing authors are the judges here; for want of that the discussion suffers greatly. I did not address your point because I did not see your point in the one-word sentence “Bunk.” Please note that I said nothing critiquing your character, but rather noted that words “like” the words you used (themselves) lacked the quality of charity. You did not charitably point out the folly of an argument by stating “Rather self-serving, don’t you think?” For generally, and in my opinion in this particular instance, stating arguments in the form of a question runs the risk of coming across as uncharitable.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  181. Nathan,

    In my response to Edward, I do not make anyreference to baptism. It is always important to reference the source document as it solves problems before they occur.

    Since we have been responding to one another under the Reformation Sunday 2011 post, I deem it important to note that we are in a wide disagreement about Lutheranism, and if Edward is interested in those responses, he is certainly welcome to visit that post and weigh those arguments.

    One of the items I read involved the real history behind the the movie The Exorcist. There was a boy whose aunt was a spiritualist and ouiji board user. She involved her nephew is this evil and he was eventually overcome by the spirits involved in this practice.

    The family was Lutheran. When medical and psychiatric professionals could not cure the boy, the parents went to their pastor. He admitted that he had nothing which might be used for an exorcism and actually recommended the Catholic Church, which has a rite of exorcism.

    That family approached the Archdiocese of St Louis. The archbishop appointed an exorcist. That exorcist required the family to once again go to both medical and psychiatric specialists to verify that nothing the medical or psychiatric community could do would relieve the boy of his afflication. If the affliction is based on a medical or psychiatric problem, an exorcism is the wrong answer.

    The afflication included displays of knowledge the boy could not naturally possess, cuts coming from the inside of the boy’s skin manifesting on the outside, his bed floating and crashing on the floor, and other displays consistent with demonic position.

    Once the necessary medical and psychiatric documentation was provided, the Jesuit exorcist went forward with the exorcism. It ran over a number of days, and at a certain point the boy was asked if he wanted to be free of the possession. He stated that he did. The exorcism continued until the diabolical was gone from that boy’s life. The Lord, acting through His exorcist, freed the boy.

    The entire family became Catholic and the boy who was freed was recognized for leading a pious life as a man.

    The power to drive the devils out was something our Lord had given His Church.

    dt

  182. I believe Edward is making some great points here, even if he is a bit caustic. I know him personally, and he’s a really nice guy.

    Anyway, Jesus makes it obvious that he is using symbolic language in John 6 (when he says “eat my flesh”). The focus of the passage is “one who believes [in me] has eternal life”. The passage has to do with spiritual redemption, not digestion. This is just obvious from the context.

    When he says “I am the bread of life”, this is one of the seven famous “I am” statements in John:

    I am the Bread of Life (6:35) (stated after feeding 5000)
    I am the light of the world (8:12) (stated just before giving sight to blind man)
    I am the Door to Life (10:7)
    I am the Good Shepherd (10:11) ((these two are allusions to Psalm 23)
    I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25) (stated just before raising Lazarus)
    I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6) (stated just after He predicts His own betrayal and death)
    I am the True Vine (15:1) (stated in context of his description of the work of the HS)

    As you know, John writes a “spiritual gospel” according to Clement of Alexandria:

    “Last of all, John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospels, being urged by his friends and inspired the Spirit, composed a spiritual [pneumatikon] Gospel.”

    Tasker states that this means John’s is a “theological” gospel. John shows the theological symbolism of each event. The event and its interpretation (by John) are more closely interwoven than in the other gospels.

    These seven “I am” statements are no exception. They are indeed symbolic. Including, of course, “I am the bread of life”. To state that this is literal “bread” is to miss the point of the entire passage.

    What if doctors did an autopsy of a person that died just after communion? Will they find Jesus’ DNA in their stomach? And, even if they did, what would this profit that person?

    The answer, of course, is that it has no spiritual value. Verse 54 refers to SPIRITUAL “eating” – partaking in Christ and His new life. Jesus clarifies this is the meaning in verses 61 – 65. “The Spirit gives life… the flesh counts for nothing”.

    This passage has nothing to do with communion. It’s quite a stretch to say this is a command to become a cannibal of the body of Christ.

    This is backed up by all of Paul’s letters. Rather that defining salvation in terms of communion, it is defined in terms of knowing Christ and his redemption through the cross. Paul essentially explicated what is means to “eat my flesh” – to know Christ crucified by “dying with Him.” He explained what it means to “drink my blood” – to know Christ in His resurrection, being raised to new life.

    Perhaps the biggest problem Protestants and others have with this Roman doctrine is the place it gives to the Catholic “Priest” (Protestants, of course, view all believers as Priests). John Wycliffe opposed the dogma of “transubstantiation” on the ground that the Roman Catholic Church and its “priests” claim to have power over salvation by withholding the Eucharist from individuals. Thus the Church can withhold an individual’s salvation. Wycliffe, of course, declared that the Bible, not the Pope, was our authority. Many who held to Wycliffe’s doctrine were punished by death.

    Blessings to you!

    Charlie

  183. PS. I encourage everyone to read the excellent letter written on this topic (and other topics important to Roman Catholics) by Bartholomew F. Brewer, Ph.D., a former Roman Catholic Priest.

    http://crossbearer-brian.tripod.com/id196.htm

  184. Bryan

    Thank you for the very concise and rich comment. I think you have done a good job summing up the RC position. I will listen to the rest of the Feingold predestination lecture today (it will be my fifth – I’ve already listened to the Q and A for that session). Still, it seemed pretty clear to me from the Feingold merit Q and A that my statement “[he] quite clearly expressed that we really can’t have confidence that we are in a state of grace unless we have a special revelation” is not wrong (yes, yes – I will listen to the predestination one).

    “Nor is it either of those kinds of certainty that I am presently in a state of grace. But, that does not rule out the possibility (and indeed the goodness) of having moral certainty that am in a state of grace.”

    I want to know more about what “moral certainty” means, and how it is different that from the personal confidence that we have that we are in a stable relationship with another person (you may not have the certainty that I do that my relationship with my wife is strong and secure, but I may have all the certainty in the world: I am just as sure as this as I am many more important things that I know, in spite of the doubt I fight against). I understand how you want to make a distinction between a person’s certainty that they are in a state and the certainty [of faith] that we have regarding articles of faith that were revealed by God. Fair enough. Still, they are inextricably connected. This is just what St. Thomas is getting at when he locates our certainty in “the objective criteria of the sacraments (he focuses upon Baptism) than upon the subjective criterion of one’s own faith” (from Andrew’s article. That is what Luther tried to do.

  185. Donald todd,

    First of all, shame on that Lutheran pastor. I hope he wasn’t an LCMS pastor, but he may have been. My pastor’s brother, who is also a pastor, has had to deal with exorcisms as well.

    You quoted some of what Luther had said and made some comments as to what he meant or what the implications of those comments had to be. I disputed these your conclusions. Those are the comments I found to be inaccurate. In any case, I think I responded to most every Luther quote you mentioned. Maybe you could tell me which comments I made (as regards the meaning and implications of your chosen Luther quotes) you found to be inaccurate.

    ““He realized after the fact that he needed to write more carefully – and regretted it.” What is your reference for this statement?”

    Reformation historians (whom I trust) I have heard say this.

    “it was obvious to me that whatever Luther represented, it had a very limited relationship to the Truth.”

    I will pray for you then.

  186. Randy,

    You say failing to see a truth is not an error, or sin. That would seem to be exactly the opposite of what Jesus tells the Pharisees in John 5. For their blindness they are culpable. They should have recognized Him. John the Baptist was culpable as well, but his blindness was more of the “I believe, help my unbelief” kind of blindness. Regarding your second example (“errors of imprudent judgment can happen”), I am really sorry, but I can’t figure out what you are saying here. It is not a part of my argument to insist that Caiaphas was illegitimate. As the Scriptures say, he was the high priest and made a true prophecy (ironically) – I do not question that he held his position by legitimate means. When you say that “Third, errors taught without the full authority of the office can still happen” I am assuming you mean these men have authority that flows from the office they hold, but all of their statements do not carry that authority (especially erring teachings). You say there “needs to be a way to determine that”, which is…. (though we still must obey). It seems to me that some of these not-“ex cathedra” teachings that should be obeyed will be less consequential than others (Jesus is pretty upset about the oaths and corban thing). Your fourth point is intriguing to me. It seems to me that there were days in the O.T. when prophets came who were to be obeyed against most all of the religious authorities (priests). These men did not claim to be infallible, but we rightly hear them that way. We have no reason to believe that John was given an office that would be officially recognized by Assembly in his day.

    “He calls them to be less blind precisely because they remain guides.”

    I agree.

    “[The Protestant] model takes it as obvious that leaders we judge to be ungodly need not be obeyed.

    You misunderstand. We don’t fail to obey them because they are ungodly, i.e. unrepentant. As Augustine pointed out vs. the Donatists, even unbelievers can teach rightly and might validly hold office in the Church – which we should respect. We would disobey them when they are teaching falsely and what they teach is detrimental to the Gospel itself (i.e. if even an angel of God…).

    This is only responsible, and Augustine himself said so in explicit terms.

  187. Mateo,

    “We need to agree on a definition of infallibility before we can proceed in this discussion.”

    I like this method. Too bad it wasn’t followed as regards the Joint Declaration on Justification…

    We need to agree on a definition of infallibility before we can proceed in this discussion. From the Catholic perspective, infallibility is a charism of the Holy Spirit that is given to authorized teachers in the Church that Christ founded, and that charism is exercised only under certain specific circumstances. When the charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit of infallibility is exercised by a man (or men), what is being taught as is known with certainty to be inerrant (without error), because the inerrancy of what is being taught is guaranteed by God. Only doctrines of faith and morals can have a divine guarantee of inerrancy.”

    I agree, and think this fits well with Confessional Lutheran doctrine – except I’m not sure why we’d limit things to faith and morals. The only question is *how* this inerrancy of teaching is guaranteed by God: how does it play out on the ground? Here we need to look at the Scriptures, as is always the case.

    “Nathan, given this Catholic definition of infallibility, could you tell me how you know when men teach infallibly?”

    In short: the true rule of faith (see my first response to Dave Armstrong), which goes hand in hand with the Scriptures received by all the Churches from the beginning (so, primarily the 4 Gospels and Paul’s letters). See my first post to Dave Armstrong (and subsequent debates for clarification) for more info.

    “This is my point – Lutherans can be defined as the set of people that believe the doctrinal novelties that are unique to Lutheranism.”

    They are only “new” in a very qualified sense. Actually, they are old.

    “Do believe that Luther was teaching infallibly when he came up with the set of doctrinal novelties that give Lutherans a unique identity?”

    Again, I won’t accept your presuppositions about unique Lutheran identity. Jesus was “Lutheran”. I believe that out of all of the teachers of Luther’s day, what he taught was most clearly in line with the Holy Scriptures and the Rule of Faith (which is often only tacitly known – see 1st response to Dave again). I think yes, usually, when he was concerned to act as a teacher of the church he spoke infallibly (here I would commend to you what he commends himself: his small and large catechisms).

    “Are you claiming that the opinions that you have been expressing that contradict Catholic doctrine (and Calvinist doctrine for that matter) are guaranteed by God to be inerrant because you personally have been exercising the charismatic gift of infallibility?”

    Infallibility exists, but it is a second thing. As C.S. Lewis says, you get these by focusing on first things. That said, my response to you is: take Isaiah 8:20 and Acts 17 to heart. Come and see. Compare our confessions with these, perhaps take the time to read in full my debate with Dave. Thank you.

    “Is there anyone in the LCMS that can infallibly define a doctrine of the church such that all Christians throughout the world would be conscience bound to accept that definition?”

    Oh yes – I am quite sure of this. God always raises up a few that we should listen to (as in days of old as well).

    “If there are circumstances under which the teachers in the LCMS can define a doctrine of faith or morals infallibly, then what are the specific criteria that would allow me, or anyone else, to know when this doctrine has been taught infallibly? In other words, how would I know when a teacher in the LCMS is promulgating an infallibly taught doctrine, as opposed to just giving me his well intentioned opinion that is sincerely offered for my edification.”

    I would challenge you on this your attitude. Where do you see anything like this attitude in the Scriptures? Did any of the prophets or Jesus say that people should listen to them because they were infallible (i.e. a priori)? Or did persons recognize them as infallible for other reasons? I would say that you are seeking a kind of certainty that has not been given. My only answer it for you to dwell in the Scriptures, and to take every word of them very seriously….

  188. Brent,

    I did not argue that Athanasius, Augustine and Cyril sided with Luther. I argued that as with these men, Luther had many pastors side with him (though a lesser % of those in the visible church then with those other men).

    As I read on, it seems your concern is that Luther left the Church (again, he was excommunicated) while the other men did not. On what basis do you say this? Because more than ½ of the then-known Church went with Athanasius, Augustine and Cyril? Because the Pope went with them? What if it had just been the Pope and a few congregations? (I know – I hate “what if?” reflections as well : ) ). I agree with Augustine that the Donatists were wrong, but note also the explosive quote I provided to donald todd (not the most recent post to him). I agree that “Christianity outside the Church is absurd” and that the “Church is the ground and pillar of Truth”, but can the Church get smaller in the End Times?

    Brent:

    “I told you I read it, you imply that I have not read it. ???”

    I apologize. Mea culpa for my lack of charity. As Luther said, we should put the best construction on everything. I guess it just seems really amazing to me that you could have read it because the arguments you are making and the questions you are asking (even now) seem to me like those a person would make/have if they hadn’t read it. I also don’t think that I should be required to define indefectible, infallible, visible and one here (as of yet) seeing as how I have made it clear there are differences in how we define these terms (in my round 2 post to Dave Armstrong that you read I go into real depth here) and that this is of serious consequence (the Joint Declaration does the opposite, by the way). The point is that these terms are important to us and we uphold them, even if, given the emphasis on our theology, they are rarely talked about in much depth.

    I had said: “I think this is your personal conviction, whereas I am grounded in the revelation of God delivered to the Apostles and preserved by their successors in the Church.”

    You said:

    “No, this is my observation. A Protestant identifies the “true Gospel” by reading the Bible for themselves not by submitting their judgments to the Church….”

    Overly simplistic. You want to make me into a general free-wheeling-autonomous-conscience Protestant untethered from a Scriptures and a concern to uphold the Church’s rule, which I am not. In other words, it’s becoming hard for me to imagine that you really want to have a conversation with me….

    “Assuming your position, if a Catholic or any non-Lutheran wanted to “come Home” to Lutheranism–assuming that is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church–which form of Luthernamism would they join? Why?”

    The LC-MS and those in fellowship with her. Come and see. I have already explained why above.

    May God bless and enlighten you all… given that we are in the Christmas season, it may be a while before I can converse again, but unless I die, I will, sooner rather than later.

    +Nathan

  189. Charlie (182),

    OK, I need to say one more thing… : )

    “Anyway, Jesus makes it obvious that he is using symbolic language in John 6 (when he says “eat my flesh”). The focus of the passage is “one who believes [in me] has eternal life”. The passage has to do with spiritual redemption, not digestion. This is just obvious from the context.”

    Interestingly, Luther agrees with you. That said, he would also smack you upside the head for not taking Jesus’ actual words at the Passover more seriously. Further, just because John is talking about spiritual eating here does not mean that those Christians who read His Gospel would not be reminded of the eating that was not just spiritual, but physical as well….

    We do indeed take Christ’s body and blood into our very mouths. One need not think like Aquinas (transubstantiation) in order to believe this. One simply needs to take Jesus at His words and stop asking “how” and believe like a child.

    +Nathan

  190. All,

    I also responded to Andrew (176) at the post where he directed me: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/08/st-thomas-aquinas-on-assurance-of-salvation/

    If you are interested in this debate, I encourage you to come and see what is said there.

    +Nathan

  191. Nathan,

    I did not argue that Athanasius, Augustine and Cyril sided with Luther. I argued that as with these men, Luther had many pastors side with him

    I see what you were saying now. Thank you for clarifying. I do not see why any schismatic group could not claim this.

    As I read on, it seems your concern is that Luther left the Church (again, he was excommunicated) while the other men did not. On what basis do you say this?

    You cannot have it both ways. If Luther and his small compatriots were the “true Church” than he could not be excommunicated, since excommunication is something the Church does. So, are you arguing that Luther and his small group that on your view is the true Church excommunicated the Roman Catholic Church? This would seem to me to be your only option, since the RCC ceased to be church–on your view–and as such would be powerless to excommunicate. If they were “Church”, then Luther was not in the “Church” upon his excommunication.

    If you don’t argue for this, then you misunderstand what excommunication is. Excommunication is a disciplinary action meant to bring the excommunicate back into the Church. As you know, many of Luther’s complaints were addressed, but they were not addressed with him being in the Church. That would have been wonderful. He had that opportunity. He did not take it.

    I guess it just seems really amazing to me that you could have read it because the arguments you are making and the questions you are asking (even now) seem to me like those a person would make/have if they hadn’t read it. I also don’t think that I should be required to define indefectible, infallible, visible and one here (as of yet) seeing as how I have made it clear there are differences in how we define these terms (in my round 2 post to Dave Armstrong that you read I go into real depth here) and that this is of serious consequence (the Joint Declaration does the opposite, by the way). The point is that these terms are important to us and we uphold them, even if, given the emphasis on our theology, they are rarely talked about in much depth.

    I’ll let you continue the discussion of infallibility with Mateo. You saying that Luther taught infallibly is incredible and worthy of a rejoinder, of which I’m sure Mateo will give you. I’m a little at a loss for understanding how a term looms so large in Lutheran thought but is “rarely talked about in much depth”. 

    Overly simplistic. You want to make me into a general free-wheeling-autonomous-conscience Protestant untethered from a Scriptures and a concern to uphold the Church’s rule, which I am not. In other words, it’s becoming hard for me to imagine that you really want to have a conversation with me….

    I do want to converse. So, I’m presenting you with my observation and I am trying to understand how your method for obtaining to the true gospel is different than the one I generally observe regarding Protestants. That seems fair. My observation is not a characterization, as it is one that you grant exists among many who call themselves “Protestant”. Moreover, I don’t think they would say they are, “free-wheeling-autonomous-conscience Protestant untethered from a Scriptures and a concern to uphold the Church’s rule”. Hence the need for clarification.

    What method, would you recommend I suggest to my father, for identifying the LC-MS as the Church Jesus founded as distinct from all other Lutheran Churches and all other Christian churches at large. You said, “I have already explained why above.” I don’t agree, as I am certain that sending him this combox to read would not produce the effect you intend.

    Ave Maria,

    Brent

  192. Charlie, re#182:

    You wrote:

    Perhaps the biggest problem Protestants and others have with this Roman doctrine is the place it gives to the Catholic “Priest” (Protestants, of course, view all believers as Priests)

    .

    You are exactly right. And it was in order to justify his attack on the sacramental Priesthood at its core, to undermine its very basis for being, that Zwingli introduced this theological novelty. Only a desire to achieve some worldly end could inspire such a distorted and ahistorical reading of the Bread of Life Discourse.

    This doctrine can easily be defended from either an historical perspective, or from the language, context and reactions of the hearers of this passage at the time Jesus spoke it. Historically orthodox belief in the early Christian church right up to the time of the Revolution always acknowledged the Real Presence. All the Fathers who defined the core doctrines of Christianity in the early councils, the Fathers of the very early middle ages, then the great medieval Doctors all held to the Real Presence as a universal belief. You really do have to ask yourself how these Fathers and Doctors could have been right about the Trinity, the divine nature of Jesus, and all the other early core doctrines and been unanimously wrong about the Real Presence. At the least, it defies common sense. The absence of dissenting writings regarding the Real Presence is more historical evidence that it was never a controversy, even from the earliest days of the church. If you do not know the writings from this time that affirm the Real Presence (and not by way of settling a dispute, but in the manner of restating what “we all know”) I can give you the references to read for yourself.

    Regarding the text itself, for you to state that the symbolic nature of it is obvious is to beg the question. When Jesus says for the first time that they must “eat” his flesh, he uses what is translated as the ordinary Greek word for “eat”. Most of the disciples recoil in shock at the image, horrified at the cannibalistic imagery. Now, if Jesus intended “eat” to be understood symbolically, then this was the time to assure his listeners that he was using a metaphor. But he does not do that. He intensifies the meaning of “eat” by next using the word “munch” or “gnaw” – emphasizing the physicality of the act – not a spiritual meaning.

    Further to this point, if He had intended his hearers to take a spiritual meaning from the discourse, he could not have chosen a worse metaphor to use, since every Old Testament reference to eating someone’s flesh and drinking their blood was to pronounce a curse upon the person to be “eaten.” Jesus would not compound the difficulty of speaking metaphorically by using a metaphor for a curse at time he was teaching about its opposite – eternal life.

    Finally, what about the reference to the Manna? Was Manna real, bodily food? Jesus’ reference to the Manna in this discourse is another teaching that accords with the pattern that New Testament fulfillments prefigured by Old Testament types always exceed those Old Testament types (Adam/Jesus; Eve/Mary; Moses/Jesus). To claim that the food in John 6 is only symbolic, and not real, is to interpret the NT fulfillment as less than the OT prefiguration.

    Accepting Jesus at his word is a test of faith, and many of his hearers failed, but those who remained with Him became the foundation upon which He built His Church.

    The spiritual interpretation many Protestants offer has much in common with the early Docetist heresy, which claimed that Jesus only had a spiritual body. The Docetists were wrong and so were Zwingli and all those who choose to believe him, instead of believing Jesus, the Apostles and the universal Church.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  193. Frank,

    Thanks for your response. There are a myriad responses that can be given to this… I wish I had time for all of them!

    You are right that the the participle in verse 54, trwvgwn, is almost shockingly graphic: it means to eat noisily, often used of animals (“gnaw,” “nibble,” “munch”). When used with reference to people, it often has the idea of enjoyment (Matt 24:38) and close comradeship.

    Even so, it just does not follow that this is a reference to the Eucharist. By anyone’s definition there must be a symbolic element to this “eating” to which Jesus speaks. Once this is admitted, the passage falls together much better (as in the previous references in the passage) as referring to a personal receiving of (or appropriation of) Christ and his work. In fact, the vividness should increase the sense of full reception, participating, and “feasting” on Christ and His new life (see 1 Cor 12:13; 2 Pet 1:4, etc).

    It was a hard statement, not because Jesus wanted to convert them to cannibalism, but to point to his sacrificial atonement soon to come. This bothered the Jews, who were looking for a reigning (not suffering) Messiah, and it seems to bother Catholics as well … in that neither can depend upon their works for their salvation.

    Another argument is purely existential. I teach religion at a well-known college, and about 1/3 of my students are Catholic, 1/3 Protestant, 1/3 whatever. I notice that 95% of my Catholic freshmen have very little knowledge of the Bible, very little knowledge of Catholic doctrine, and essentially no passion for Christ. Their lives are, for the most part, minimally moral. They are depending upon their works for their salvation, and they readily admit this. However, about 95% of my Protestant and evangelical students tend to know the Bible well, have a basic grasp on their theology, and are passionate and much more vocal about their love for Christ. This is not an isolated observation.

    I have other arguments but need to bow out for now…

    Blessings in Christ,

    Charles

  194. Charlie,
    I have been reading the back and forth of this debate and it seems that you have not answered Franks question re: the historical evidence for the real presence. You also state that ( your interpretation) this discourse has to do with works earned salvation and that is why the Jews and Catholics shun the spiritual aspect of it. Maybe I don’t understand where your coming from here. But It would seem very strange if Jesus was using an “ you have to eat me” metaphor for “you are saved by faith in me” Wouldn’t it be easier just to say what he really meant.

    I don’t know about so called Catholics who do not know their faith but I am sure there are plenty of them. I Know just as many Protestants who are in that same boat but that doesn’t answer the question of the Real Presence. When I receive the host at Mass I receive body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus and not a small piece of bread that I pretend is Jesus or that the bread is a symbol of my faith in Him.

    Blessings
    NHU

  195. Charlie,

    You wrote: Another argument is purely existential. I teach religion at a well-known college, and about 1/3 of my students are Catholic, 1/3 Protestant, 1/3 whatever. I notice that 95% of my Catholic freshmen have very little knowledge of the Bible, very little knowledge of Catholic doctrine, and essentially no passion for Christ. Their lives are, for the most part, minimally moral. They are depending upon their works for their salvation, and they readily admit this. However, about 95% of my Protestant and evangelical students tend to know the Bible well, have a basic grasp on their theology, and are passionate and much more vocal about their love for Christ. This is not an isolated observation.

    Whatever caused you to write that is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. In this place, the Catholics are generally quite knowledgeable and willingly express their love for the Messiah.

    When I was a protestant we were of the symbol position regarding the eucharist, but then we did not use words like sacrament. Injunction was the popular word for us.

    When I was reading your responses, I noticed your aversion to taking our Lord literally when He told His followers that they needed to eat His Body and drink His Blood. I left protestantism because I could not avoid taking Him literally. As noted in at least one other response, there is a build up from the old covenant/testament to the new covenant/testament that includes the Passover and the Passover meal being fulfilled in a unique way by the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. Who am I to tell Him no?

    God is not limited by your perception or your willingness to believe Him. He was not limited by the followers who departed from Him grumbling in John 6. The synoptics, John 6, 1 Cor 10 and 11, the early Church fathers and the various histories all attest to the Real Presence. I left the “heresy of Jesus as bread” (which factually my ministers lacked the authority to confect in any case) for the privilege of eating the Passover Meal of the new covenant. Evidently God can even manifest Himself in more than a human form.

    Unfortunately for you, you are preaching to the converted, many of whom departed your precincts for the Church.

    dt

  196. Charlie, re#193:

    Nelson said pretty much what I would have said in a short response. I don’t know how anyone can explain away the historical evidence, especially anyone who is aware of just how much there is.

    Also, your poorly catechized Catholic students are no argument for or against the Real Presence – only for catechesis of our children.

    But even regarding with your interpretation and the way it works against the one I offered, the issue there, more fundamentally, is how we come to know what is the true, original deposit of faith. And Eucharistic doctrine is certainly an element of that. If you’ve not done so, I would urge you to read The Tradition and the Lexicon by Bryan Cross. And then ask yourself by what authority you interpret the Bread of Life Discourse to be symbolic. And then ask yourself what authority Zwingli, et al. had to change the doctrine.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  197. Dear NHU,

    Thanks for your response. Sacerdotal mass was officially instituted by Cyprian in the 3rd Cent. It cannot be proven that “All the Fathers who defined the core doctrines of Christianity in the early councils … held to the Real Presence as a universal belief.” I’ve read the Church Fathers and this simply cannot be substantiated.

    There are several biblical problems with this view of the Eucharist:
    1) It makes the priest a “mediator” – in a place only Christ can be – and a determiner of who receives salvation. This stands in direct contrast to 1 Tim 2:5, the entire book of Hebrews, and much of Romans.
    2) The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus Christ – the same sacrifice as that of the Cross. The 1994 Catechism describes the Mass as “the sources and summit of the Christian life”; “the sum and summary of our faith”. The RC Church emphasizes that Christ is actually resacrificed (“re-presented”) in the Mass. This is totally against the book of Hebrews.
    Hebrews 7:27. He died once for all.
    Hebrews 9:11-15. He entered once for all.
    Hebrews 9:26. Once for all.
    Hebrews 9:28. Christ offered once.
    Hebrews 10:10. Once for all.
    Hebrews 10:11,12. One sacrifice for sins.
    Hebrews 10:14. For by one offering.
    Hebrews 10:15-20. There is no longer offering for sin.

    The real problem for Protestants is just this: Catholicism teaches that Christ is still offering Himself today in thousands of Masses conducted regularly throughout the world. Notice in Hebrews the words used: “Once” (3x), “One” (2x). There is no increase in justification through communion; no sacrificial system to increase it; no application of His sacrifice necessary. “It is finished”! (John 19:30). In fact, Hebrews is intentionally contrasting Christ’s “once for all” sacrifice with the need for continual sacrifices by the Levitical priests. See especially Heb 9:25-28. The RC doctrine of Mass implies the insufficiency of the sacrifice of Calvary.

    In the Matchless Name of Christ,

    Charlie

  198. Charlie,

    On my cell phone so can only reply briefly.

    The only way you get Hebrews to conflict is to interpolate a word (re-sacrifice) into the carefully chosen wording “re-presented”. You completely alter the meaning.

    It is Christ himself who re-presents the once for all sacrifice of Calvary.

    More later.

    Frank

  199. Its not unfortunate at all, since I do not believe in luck or fortune. What WAS unfortunate was the fate of Wycliffe, Huss, and other pre-reformers who dissented.

    Yes, I did carefully choose “re-sacrifice” to mean the same as “re-present” since this is directly out of RC doctrine. Vatican II confirms Trent, stating, “The faithful gather, and find help and comfort through venerating the presence of the Son of God our savior, offered for us [now] on the sacrificial altar.” Pope Pius XII stated that Mass is “truly and properly the offering of a sacrifice…” The Catholic Encyclopedia states, “We may establish that the Eucharist is a true sacrifice”.

    The problem is that it is STILL YOUR WORK and YOUR MERIT that makes it possible for God to restore you to the process of justification. In the end it is something YOU MUST DO that keeps you out of hell. Argue as long and fiercely as you will, you only add to your insecurity and your denial of the simplicity of First John 5:11-13 and Ephesians 2:8-9.

  200. Dear Charlie,

    On my blog, I’ve addressed the problem (myth) of Catholics “re-sacrificing Christ”.

    The “logic” goes as follows:

    1. Catholics call every Mass a sacrifice
    2. There is “one single sacrifice”
    3. Since I cannot figure out how #1 and #2 are compatible*
    4. Therefore, the Mass because it happens more than once “pretends” (they would have to believe this) to re-sacrifice Christ

    Using this same “logic”, let’s try another Biblical truth:

    1. God says that he is not a man (Num 23:19; and it is fairly obvious that since God is outside of creation he is not a man), and Jesus calls himself a man.
    2. Christians say that Jesus is God
    3. Since I cannot figure out how #1 and #2 are compatible*
    4. Therefore, Jesus is not God because God is not a man and Jesus is a man

    Notice that the crux of the “logic” in both is #3. It is in our understanding not, per se, in the thing itself. In other words, in both cases, if one could understand how #1 and #2 are compatible, then #4 is not true.

    We agree that “how” the Mass participates in the “once for all” Sacrifice of Christ is a mystery. But, just because I cannot figure out “how”, does not mean that I am not required to believe. You can read the rest of my post here and feel free to engage its arguments in that combox; as I did not intend to derail this combox. I’ll admit that I do not go into detail regarding Hebrews (post-forthcoming), but rather analyse the logic of the Protestant objection. This particular objection should not be a reason that we are not in full communion with each other, for it is a real canard if there ever was one.

    I’ve worshiped in your world, and now I’ve worshiped as a Catholic–so I speak as someone with more than theoretical knowledge. I know you do not propose easily believism (I hope), but your statement, “The problem is that it is STILL YOUR WORK and YOUR MERIT that makes it possible for God to restore you to the process of justification”, just appears to be willful ignorance of Catholic theology. I hope not. As if the Bible has no imagery or language describing us as co-laborers. Worse, it is as if you take some un-chatechized bloak’s opinion as Catholic dogma, which would be as damaging to discourse if I took my uneducated grandmother’s opinion as Protestant dogma. God forbid! Canon V, VII, XVI (second use of the word “merits”), and XXXII (has extra nos in its cross-hairs) of Trent (Sixth Session)all directly contradict your claim. You can also find the section on Justification in the Catechism here.

    Let me ask you, if you do not want to be justified, can God justify you? If not, does that not make God’s justification contingent upon you? Well, I hope we can agree that question is a misnomer, but it is the same kind of misnomer that you present in your reductio. Let’s work to understand each other. Misnomers and canards will not do.

    By the way, I’ve met so many faithful, God-loving, “Bible-believing” Catholics since I have converted. I’m sorry about your unfortunate experience.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  201. Charlie (re: #199),

    You wrote:

    The problem is that it is STILL YOUR WORK and YOUR MERIT that makes it possible for God to restore you to the process of justification. In the end it is something YOU MUST DO that keeps you out of hell.

    For whom is this ‘the problem’? As a Catholic, I don’t find it problematic, and am not afflicted with the anxiety about my destiny that many Protestants appear to assume Catholics must be. Out of curiosity, was there absolutely nothing you did to inherit the heaven you anticipate, or were you born with it? If, for example, you side with St. Paul, who writes that it is with your heart that you do something (believe and become justified) and with your mouth that you do something else (confess and become saved) [Rom 10:9-10], we’re in basic agreement that it’s everyone’s “problem” that in the end there is something WE MUST DO to avoid Hell. The rest is just an argument over the details (e.g. the emphasis Catholics would place on reading Rom 10:9-10 with and in light of, rather than against or forgetful of Rom 6:3-5, since professing one’s heart’s belief with the mouth is what an adult does before the Church at his baptism, and what a youth–who has already been baptized as an infant–does before the Church at his confirmation). These texts, and the theological componentry they describe, must be read together canonically, as a unity, rather than against one another disparately.

    Here, too:

    Argue as long and fiercely as you will, you only add to your insecurity and your denial of the simplicity of First John 5:11-13 and Ephesians 2:8-9.

    The only ‘simplicity’ we Catholics would deny is that the verses stand on their own, as you seem to treat them. Since they don’t, and are instead surrounded by so great a cloud of other textual witnesses (James 2, or Matthew 25, for instance), the point is yours to argue, not ours, if you think ‘belief’ in 1 John 5 can be bifurcated from action in James 2. And the point is yours to argue, not ours, if you think the ‘salvation’ to which St. Paul points in Ephesians 2 will in the end bypass the accountability our Lord describes in Matthew 25.

    In the grace of Christ,

    +Chad

  202. Charlie –

    The problem is that it is STILL YOUR WORK and YOUR MERIT that makes it possible for God to restore you to the process of justification. In the end it is something YOU MUST DO that keeps you out of hell. Argue as long and fiercely as you will, you only add to your insecurity and your denial of the simplicity of First John 5:11-13 and Ephesians 2:8-9.

    I just did a talk on this in my parish. If you would kindly consider some thoughts (most of this is likely known to you and is included for context).

    In order to save His people from slavery, God sent a sent a series of plagues over Pharoe’s land. The final plague was the worst, the slaying of the first born of each household. In order to escape this plague, God instituted a ritual called Passover. The Israelites were to take an unblemished lamb, kill it, sprinkle its blood on the door post and then they were to eat the lamb. When they did this, death would pass over them and their first born would be spared. After this, Pharoe set the Israelites free.

    Only they were still slaves to sin. When the time came for God to set his people free from sin he wanted to make sure everyone knew what he was doing. He wanted to make sure it was understood that these were saving acts. So, at the time of the actual Passover, Jesus used many of the same symbols found in Passover to save us. Jesus himself was the unblemished lamb who would be killed and whose blood would mark the door to salvation.

    God also commanded that the Passover be kept annually in order to remember these events. Catholic worship is similar. God himself came down from heaven and instituted our worship. He commands us to do what he did at the last supper in remembrance of him, though this wasn’t to signify a mere act of the mind. This rememberance, anamenesis, went beyond an act of the mind and actually made the that which was remembered present again. It pulls past events into the present.

    And again, Jesus used some of the same symbols as Passover, signaling that this type of worship would have a saving effect on those who participate in it (more on that in a moment). In Catholic worship the salvific acts of Christ are made present. They are not additional events. They are the actual events, made present. And, in our worship, there is an unblemished lamb that is slain and (here is the kicker) eaten just as at Passover there was an unblemished lamb that was slain and eaten.

    Thus, in the worship which Christ himself instituted and which continues today in the Catholic Church, we see all of the elements that God uses to save. Thus, the Mass is a saving act if we properly understand salvation. When I say that the Mass is a saving act I do not mean that it guarantees our salvation. It is not my belief that God arbitrarily instituted an act of worship to arbitrarily save people. Rather, God instituted the Mass so that the work of redemption – the Paschal mystery – can be applied to the life of the Christian in order to sanctify him.

    Thus, participating in the Mass really does save us because the Merits of Christ is applied to our life. During the Mass, the Christian is able to offer (among other things) their own sufferings to God. God uses our sufferings, for we make up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ in our own bodies (Colossians 1:24). God literally takes our sufferings and uses them to redeem us and others.

    So in conclusion, the celebration of Mass truly is an event that brings salvation to the world. It applies the cross to every aspect of the Christian life, including our Joys, works, and sufferings. The Mass makes present the events that won salvation for the World, and allows the Christian to enter into them. In the Mass, these mysteries are applied to the life of the Christian!(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Through a spiritual and bodily union with Christ, the divine life increases in the Christian and he is caught up into the mystery of the Trinity and he becomes a participant in the divine nature (1Peter 1:4).

    I hope that made sense. If there are any holes I will gladly fill them in, though it is the weekend now and (if you weren’t aware) priests are pretty busy on the weekend.

    Blessings to all.

  203. Charlie.

    Just to answer your post then we will get back on topic as Brent suggested. The sacrifice of the Mass is in fact the self same offering of Christ as the one and only sacrifice on Calvary but only in an unbloody manner. It is a re-presentation of the sacrifice NOT a representation. The sacrifice on Calvary was done once and forever.

    The sacrifice of Jesus was offered to the Father in eternity and eternity is the great NOW . In other words the sacrifice takes place in eternity forever. Our participation in the Great sacrifice is when we offer it up NOW every day by joining with Christ in his offering as his mystical body, the Church. It is a way that everyone can make themselves present at the offering of Christ to the Father. Christ died once at Calvary. He does not die over and over again. His sacrifice as the lamb of God is applied to all who partake of it. In it we are joined with Christ to offer the sacrifice to the Father. It is not a new sacrifice and Christ is not bloodied again nor does he die again.

    It is Christ who is offering the sacrifice of the Mass. The priest is only one who stands in His place while consecrating the bread and wine. However it is Jesus who does the offering in a mystical manner. Christ then offers his body and blood to each of the participants in the Eucharist as a spiritual but really present communion with him. It is the way we partake of his redemptive sacrifice on a daily basis.

    It is an historical fact the even as far back as the 1st century the Mass was regarded as a sacrifice, as the didache summarizes. I do not expect someone who is not Catholic to fully understand what is going on at the Mass as to be truthful about it there are many Catholics who don’t understand fully what’s going on either.

    By participating in the Mass we make an offering of ourselves as well as Jesus because we are part of his body, the Church. The Eucharist binds us to Christ and we are one with Him in our sacrifice.

    The Mass may have got its name in the 3rd century but the sacrifice was always partaken of by the people of Christ from as far back as the Last Supper.

    Blessings
    NHU

  204. @Charlie:

    The problem is that it is STILL YOUR WORK and YOUR MERIT that makes it possible for God to restore you to the process of justification. In the end it is something YOU MUST DO that keeps you out of hell.

    It seems to me you are conflating two things here:

    1) What we do – offer Christ’s Sacrifice
    2) Whose merit it is that justifies us – Christ’s merit, of course

    If the first bothers you, shouldn’t it worry you that for most Protestants, there is still something you must do to be justified – namely you must believe?

    Alternatively, you could be – as some Protestants are – a universalist. All men are justified by the merits of the Sacrifice of Christ.

    jj

  205. Charlie,

    Here is what is written in my Missal in the commentary for the people as they assist at Mass, at the Canon of the Mass (where the sacrifice is once again made present on the altar). Please note epecially the boldface words.

    “From all time, the Canon has been recited silently. The congregation present can contribute nothing to the sacrificial act itself; the people are present before a mystery which it is for the consecrated Priest alone to accomplish” (1962 Roman Missal, p. 885)

    which must be read in light of:

    “The Son of God is about to renew His supreme miracle, by the sole authority of His Word spoken through the Priest.“(p. 891)

    and together with:

    “The Host and the Chalice upon the altar plead before God on our behalf just as our Lord sacrificed on the Cross pleaded for us on Good Friday because it is identically the same sacrifice which is renewed on our altars in an unbloody manner>”(p. 895)

    You will note from this several things:

    1. The people are totally dependent on the sacrifice Christ made
    2. It is Christ’s authority that accomplishes this, the Priest is present only
    in persona Christi.
    3. This is not a new sacrifice. Christ is not being sacrificed again. That was accomplished once for all on Good Friday. This is a re-presentation of “identically the same sacrifice”. Yes, it is mysterious because it transcends boundaries of time and space, but that is also what the resurrected Body of Christ did in Scripture.

    The Mass is an anamnesis which is more than just “memory”, as you know, it is “making present” the original event across the boundaries of time – just as the Jews did and do at Passover, the OT prefiguration of the sacrifice of the Lamb, whose blood is smeared across wood.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  206. Charlie might reflect on the prayer that is offered in the Divine Mercy Chaplet – I don’t know, it might offend him or not – but it illustrates how one may offer the once-for-all Sacrifice of Christ without its being a matter of ‘crucifying the Lord again:’

    Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly-beloved Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for my sins and those of the whole world

    The merit is not in the offering by me – except the ‘condign merit’ that God ascribes to me by my participation in the grace He gives me. The merit is in Christ’s self-offering. I am only uniting myself with it.

    jj

  207. John Thayer said:
    “It seems to me you are conflating two things here:
    1) What we do – offer Christ’s Sacrifice
    2) Whose merit it is that justifies us – Christ’s merit, of course
    If the first bothers you, shouldn’t it worry you that for most Protestants, there is still something you must do to be justified – namely you must believe?”

    Now we are getting somewhere! This allows me to clarify a few things!

    1) What faith really is. Faith is not a work! It is simply trust and humble reception. It is the open hand, the complete trust in another – in this case the Person of Christ. It is also trusting in Christ’s work – that it is sufficient for me, and that MY WORK can never replace HIS WORK. Any “work” on my part with respect to salvation diminishes the sufficiency of HIS WORK of redemption. See Rom 3:23-26. Notice there:
    – “Justified freely” (past tense, implying a one-time reception) – not “being justified”
    – “his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (past tense) – our redemption is complete
    – “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood” (past tense) – no need to “re-present” Christ; because it is truly His blood that covers our sins
    – “to be received by faith” (past tense) – no mention here of works in the reception, a sacremental system, or anything done on the part of me
    – “He did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (present tense) – the past work of Christ on the cross justifies us in the present.

    2) There is no conflating of principles. Another problem with transubstantiation lies in a lack of understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in redemption. Transubstantiation has replaced the Holy Spirit, the one who applies the redemption of Christ in our present context, connecting me with the Real Presence of Christ!

    3) I reiterate that Catholics misunderstood who a “priest” is. See 1 Peter 2:5, 9. All believers are priests, with Jesus as our High Priest. There is no need for another priestly mediation!

    4) The RC notion of transubstantiation rests upon a mistaken interpretation of the words of Christ, ‘This is my body’, etc. When these words are placed in their proper context in which they were uttered (the Last Supper), it is difficult to imagine that they could have been so misinterpreted. Christ, of course, often taught by parables and figures of speech. When, in the presence of his disciples, he broke the bread and said, ‘This is my body’, it was obviously a simile – a common literary devise in His language as in ours. To quote one NT commentator, “It could not possibly have occurred to the disciples that he meant that the bread was his actual physical body. All the conventions of Hebrew thought, of the acted parable which we find in the Old Testament, would have prevented such a literal understanding. The words could only have been understood symbolically.”

    5) Transubstantiation actually goes against the nature of a sacrament. A sacrament by definition is a sign of something else. However, transubstantiation turns the sacrament into the very thing it is supposed to signify or stand for.

    What we have is one error that grows out of another until you have a whole system of errors.

    Blessings,

    Charles

    PS. I appreciate the concern that I might be offended. However, I must admit I found this quite humorous! You cannot possibly offend me on this site.

  208. @Charlie:

    Now we are getting somewhere! This allows me to clarify a few things!

    1) What faith really is. Faith is not a work! It is simply trust and humble reception. It is the open hand, the complete trust in another – in this case the Person of Christ. It is also trusting in Christ’s work – that it is sufficient for me, and that MY WORK can never replace HIS WORK. Any “work” on my part with respect to salvation diminishes the sufficiency of HIS WORK of redemption. See Rom 3:23-26.

    Sure, no disagreement here. But it is something that YOU have to do. That was my point. The thing you receive by faith is Christ’s merit. The thing the priest offers at Mass – by faith, by the way – is Christ’s merit. Faith is certainly not opposed to work in this sense, of what I do versus what God does – cf. James on faith and works.

    I took your 2 points to be saying that somehow the problem with Mass was that it was the priest’s work. It is not. It is Christ’s work. The priest is offering it – by faith – there is no way he can see the crucified Lord on Golgotha, nor can we – the priestly people (the Church doesn’t disagree with you on this, either). He believes God and obeys Him (‘obeys’ because, of course, we think that is what Jesus intended by His “do this!” command).

    But the merit of the (re-)Sacrifice in the Mass is not the priest’s. It is all Christ’s.

    Too many other things in your post and I haven’t time to respond, but I just thought it odd that you would say that the Mass is the work of man and the merit of man. It is the work of man only in that man is obeying God. The merit is Christ’s. And in the sense that man is obeying God, your ’empty-hand’ faith – which is perfectly correct, it seems to me – is a work only in that sense – you are doing what God tells you.

    Or so it seems to me.

    jj

  209. Charlie, re #207:

    Regarding 1 Peter 2:5, Non-Catholic Christians sometimes cite 1 Peter 2:5, 9 (and Revelation 1:6) to support their claim that if the Church is “a kingdom of priests,” it cannot have a special ministerial priesthood as well. Nevertheless, in these texts, 1 Peter is equating – and Revelation is echoing – the words of God to the ancient Hebrews recorded in Exodus 19:6. If the Lord could refer to that entire nation as priests, even though they had an ordained priesthood, then surely the same is true of the Church.

    You wrote:

    PS. I appreciate the concern that I might be offended. However, I must admit I found this quite humorous! You cannot possibly offend me on this site.

    This might be taken to mean that you have found the dialogue on this site to be a source of amusement. I hope this is not true as it might indicate a lack of respect for the views of those with whom you engage in dialogue. Perhaps there was some humor in comments by John Thayer Jensen or me that has escaped me – I’m not always the sharpest pencil in the box.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  210. JJ –
    Thanks for your follow up comments. I have to admit I feel sad for you, truly. You have listened to church dogma, not the plain perspicous scriptures, and as a result are misunderstanding “merit”, misunderstanding James, misunderstanding “sacrifice”, misunderstanding salvation/justification, and misunderstanding “the Church” as the dispenser of Christ’s merit. And where does this leave you? A state of insecurity regarding your salvation (see First John 5:11-13!)

    Regarding “Merit” – SInce justification is entirely the work of God on the cross, there is NO NEED FOR receiving “merit” through the Mass. It is entirely unprofitable, unnecessary, and ineffectual. What possible effect could it have on a believer who already'”has been justified”? It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies through the Word of God, and your “faith in” the Mass is not only misplaced, it is harmful regarding your confidence with respect to your justification. When God’s righteousness is mentioned in the gospel, or Romans, it is God’s action of declaring righteous the unrighteous sinner who has faith in Jesus Christ. The righteousness by which the person is justified (declared righteous) is not his own (theologically, proper righteousness) but that of another, Christ, (alien righteousness). That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law, said Luther. Faith is that which brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ. Thus faith, for Luther, is a gift from God, and “. . .a living, bold trust in God’s grace. This faith grasps Christ’s righteousness and appropriates it for the believer.

    Regarding James – You said, “Faith is certainly not opposed to work in this sense, of what I do versus what God does – cf. James on faith and works.” Its obvious that faith leads to works in James. Most of my Catholic students end up admitting this (on their own). The notion of faith being “justified” by works is, of course, is a justification of one’s faith before non-believers in Jerusalem, where James was the Pastor. A “living faith” will lead the saved person to perform works, and will be brought to maturity by works; a “dead faith” will not.

    I hope this makes sense to you!

    Blessings,

    Charlie

  211. Frank and JJ,

    I meant no offense! So sorry if you took it that way. Perhaps we all (myself included) can “lighten up” a bit. Theology is (supposed to be) a joyful thing! :) Its part of experiencing “the glorious freedom of the children of God”! (Rom 8:21)

    Regarding priesthood, I do understand the RC view on this. The difference is that, in the OT there was a person designated a “high priest” who would enter the holiest part of the temple and offer a sacrifice for the sins of all the people, including all the priests. Now, with Jesus as our “high priest”, he has offered a once-for-all sacrifice for all the priests within his body (i.e., all believers). There is NO NEED for a continuation of any form of His sacrifice. That’s the whole spirit of Hebrews 10! Hebrews calls Jesus the supreme “high priest,” who offered himself as a perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 7:23–28).

    There is no mention in the entire NT of a separate “priesthood”. Rather, church leaders are repeatedly referred to as “elders”, “pastors”, etc. Thus, there is no longer a priesthood as a group that is spiritually distinct from lay people.

    You are saying there are 3 levels of “priests” in the NT (Jesus, ordained “priests”, and ordinary believers). Such distinctions are just not found in the NT! Rather, Jesus is the “High Priest” and we are all “a royal priesthood.” God is equally accessible to all the faithful, and every Christian has equal potential to minister for God. This doctrine stands in opposition to the RC concept of a spiritual aristocracy or hierarchy within Christianity.

    The priesthood of all believers does not preclude order, authority or discipline within congregations or denominational organizations. For example, Lutheranism maintains the biblical doctrine of “the preaching office” or the “office of the holy ministry” established by God in the Christian Church. The Augsburg Confession states [From Article 4:] “Furthermore, it is taught that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us … [From Article 5:] To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel … [Article 14:] Concerning church government it is taught that no one should publicly teach, preach, or administer the sacraments without a proper [public] call.[5]

    No one has answered (from scripture) what effect the Mass can have upon a believer with respect to salvation. Some have basically said “you have to take this by faith”, but I will not place my faith in a Church decree that violates scripture.

    My wife made me promise that this is my last posting … I need to spend time with my family (my top priority!)

    Charlie

    PS. by the way, I encourage everyone to see the “Courageous” movie – wonderful!

  212. Charlie,

    My wife made me promise that this is my last posting … I need to spend time with my family (my top priority!)

    Enjoy your time with them this Advent season. If you return, the exchange can continue.

    Frank

  213. Charlie,

    I know you’re not writing any more, but in case you’re still reading, just a couple of comments.

    (1) The “once and for all” character of Christ’s sacrifice in Hebrews does, obviously, distinguish it from the repeated sacrifices of the Old Law, but you’re interpreting it in precisely the wrong direction. The unicity of Christ’s sacrifice does not confine it to a single spatio-temporal moment, but, on the contrary, draws it into eternity, and it is precisely this that permits its re-presentation in the Mass for our participation. Accordingly, re-presentation pertains to participation in the once-and-for-all sacrifice of our Great High Priest who is permanently and eternally in the heavenly Holy of Holies. And that is, I’m sure you can see, entirely different from the discrete repetitions of animal sacrifices under the Old Law. Obviously, much more can and should be said, but this combox is hardly the place for an extensive exegesis of Hebrews.

    (2) There are not three “levels” of priesthood, but rather distinct modes of participation in the One Priesthood of Jesus Christ — i.e., that which is common to all the baptized, and that which belongs to the ordained.

    (3) If I might recommend a book on the biblical background for the distinction between the priesthood of the baptized and the ministerial priesthood in the New Covenant: Andre Feuillet, The Priesthood of Christ and His Ministers is a good start.

    best,
    TC

  214. Did anyone notice the prayer over the offerings today? The prayer that the priest prays on behalf of the entire congregation?

    Be pleased, O Lord, with our humble prayers and offerings, and,
    since we have no merits to plead our cause,
    come, we pray, to our rescue
    with the protection of your mercy.

  215. @Charlie:

    JJ –
    Thanks for your follow up comments. I have to admit I feel sad for you, truly. You have listened to church dogma, not the plain perspicous scriptures…

    Well, of course you may be right. As St Paul might have said, however, it is mad for me to cite my qualifications for understanding the Scriptures, but just a little of my history:

    Born in 1942, brought up with not the slightest thought of God or religion or anything until 1969, was brought to Christ in a street evangelist context, through reading whilst pursuing my p0st-grad linguistic studies brought to the Lutheran church (1970), Reformed faith (1974), continued through reading and study over the 19 years until 1993 when, again after many years of study, I knew that the Catholic Church might be, not only right in this or that, but the actual Church Jesus established and the Church every Christian ought to belong to.

    Regarding those Scriptures, I have read the New Testament probably 60 or 70 times through – continue to read it once through per year. My normal reading of it is in Greek, but I have read it in English, of course, a number of times, and in Yapese (the language I worked on whilst I was working as a linguist). I have read through the Old Testament once in the Hebrew/Aramaic, and Greek for those bits not available in either, much of the Pentateuch in Hebrew several more times, the Psalms in Hebrew quite a lot – I enjoy trying to chant the Hebrew. I have been a student (I mean by reading) especially of Paul Tournier, a Lutheran ethicist whose name now escapes me, most of the classic Reformed theologians, more popular works by Francis Schaeffer, R. J. Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, and especially influenced by James B. Jordan – subscribed for years to a variety of Reformed theological journals.

    Oh, and Catholic dogma? Well, yes, but I’m afraid only since I became a Catholic. You see, my decision to become a Catholic was not based on study of dogma, deciding that this or that teaching was correct, so that the Catholic Church must be Jesus’s Church. That would simply have made me a Protestant who had chosen the Catholic Church as his denomination. I would have been a Catholic not because I had submitted to the Church, but because the Church agreed with me – with my own beliefs based on the purported perspicuity of the Scriptures.

    Instead, I became a Catholic because I thought I could see – from studying the Scriptures and studying history – that Jesus had intended us all to belong to one visible Church (that from the Scriptures); and that, if that were so, it was not possible plausibly to put forward any other such body.

    So … if I were to do what St Paul in what he called his ‘madness’ did, I would cite all the above.

    And, naturally, none of it makes anything true or false. But I was a little piqued by the idea that you might have thought that the Church had more or less said “open your mouth and shut your eyes” and had poured its dogmas into my passive soul or something. Having had no religious upbringing, I have had to fight for what I have. God be thanked for His Church!

    Of course regarding the substance of what you and I started on, my only point was that the priest is not working his – or my – way to Heaven. God grants that. And I have yet to experience any “state of insecurity” regarding my salvation. It is absolutely founded on the Rock Jesus Christ. I can, indeed, cast it aside, turn from Him – but I am confident that He Who has begun a good work in me will perfect unto the day of salvation.

    If for any reason you might be interested in how I became a Catholic, you can read about it in that link.

    jj

  216. Father,

    Yes, how beautiful!!! The Church’s Liturgy is life, true life. Thank you for your priesthood.

  217. I apologise for my long and unnecessary – and probably counter-productive – comment #215. St Paul had a position that he had a duty to maintain; I have not (and doubt if my rant would have maintained it if I had).

    jj

  218. Nathan, (re: #184)

    You wrote:

    Still, it seemed pretty clear to me from the Feingold merit Q and A that my statement “[he] quite clearly expressed that we really can’t have confidence that we are in a state of grace unless we have a special revelation” is not wrong

    Then a few lines later you wrote:

    I want to know more about what “moral certainty” means …

    If you don’t know what “moral certainty” means in the Catholic philosophical tradition, then there is no way you can possibly know that for Catholics “we really can’t have confidence that we are in a state of grace unless we have a special revelation,” since, not knowing what “moral certainty” means, you don’t know whether someone who has “moral certainty” can thereby have “confidence.”

    If you want to discuss this here, you have to refrain from that kind of approach, because otherwise you are just pushing your own ideology [judging Catholic doctrine by non-Catholic criteria in a question-begging way] rather than genuinely listening with an aim to understand Catholic theology on its own terms. And that’s not a sincere ecumenical dialogue. To learn about moral certitude, you could start with the Catholic Encyclopedia article on “Certitude,” and see St. Thomas’s answer to the question “Whether man can know that he has grace.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  219. Brent, Bryan (and others),

    I want to comment again. I’m hoping Monday.

    +Nathan

  220. Brent,

    “As I read on, it seems your concern is that Luther left the Church (again, he was excommunicated) while the other men did not. On what basis do you say this?”

    Luther did not leave the Church, much like Athanasius, Augustine, and Cyril. He was unjustly communicated (something even prominent RC theologians admit can happen). His vindication is still coming. Luther taught the true Apostolic faith in its purity, and those who followed him eventually had their views solidified in the Formula of Concord. Those blessed bodies who hold to these words as being true even today who have communion with one another can have full confidence that they are truly Church. That they are a true visible church on earth. Of this they have confidence, as much confidence as those who sided with Athanasius, Augustine and Cyril had (because these men all knew and defended the truth from the pure font of the Scriptures). I am not saying that Rome had no authority to excommunicate or that they were not a true Church. I won’t even say this today (see my final, *short* comments on this very interesting post: http://cyberbrethren.com/2011/11/15/why-was-the-lutheran-reformation-a-tragedy/ ) We have not excommunicated anyone, or even any false teachers – if you look in our Confessions you will see that we only condemn false teachings and nothing more.

    “As you know, many of Luther’s complaints were addressed, but they were not addressed with him being in the Church. That would have been wonderful. He had that opportunity. He did not take it.”

    Maybe you could explain how this would have happened. Would that not have required him to recant first?

    “I’m a little at a loss for understanding how [infallibility] looms so large in Lutheran thought but is “rarely talked about in much depth”.

    I don’t think it looms very large in our thought at all. It’s a non-issue (see my response to mateo) among us, because we don’t think you can know who will be infallible a priori.

    “What method, would you recommend I suggest to my father, for identifying the LC-MS as the Church Jesus founded as distinct from all other Lutheran Churches and all other Christian churches at large. You said, “I have already explained why above.” I don’t agree, as I am certain that sending him this combox to read would not produce the effect you intend.”

    I am delighted to hear that you have the wisdom to see that your father belongs in the LC-MS. You will not regret this decision. : ) Tell him to read my first argument with Dave Armstrong: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/my-reply-to-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-regarding-his-examination-of-martin-chemnitzs-examination/ It is the shortest of them all and extremely simple to understand. Dave did reply to this, and we went back and forth, but there is nothing that Dave was able to fully refute in this first reply.

    + Nathan

  221. John Thayer Jensen (204):

    “If the first bothers you, shouldn’t it worry you that for most Protestants, there is still something you must do to be justified – namely you must believe?”

    Later on you talk about it is something that YOU have to do….

    Chad Steiner (201)

    “Out of curiosity, was there absolutely nothing you did to inherit the heaven you anticipate, or were you born with it? If, for example, you side with St. Paul, who writes that it is with your heart that you do something (believe and become justified) and with your mouth that you do something else (confess and become saved) [Rom 10:9-10]”

    Both of you are missing the focus here. Faith is something that occurs in us. It is necessary, etc. Still, there is a passive aspect of faith/trust and an active aspect. The passive aspect of faith does nothing, it only receives and does not reject/resist. The passage in Romans 10:9-10 does not mean to say: “you can believe in your heart but if you do not confess in your mouth forget about it”, but to give comfort to those who believe in their heart (and of course, naturally, want to confess with their mouth).

    I think if you read this fine paper by Philip Carey you will see how Lutherans really do differ from other Protestants in this respect: http://www.scribd.com/doc/2269563/Sola-Fide-Luther-and-Calvin-by-Phillip-Cary

    John – its too bad you did not have the paper when you were struggling with the issues the Reformed doctrine on faith caused for you!

    +Nathan

  222. Bryan,

    Thanks for the comments. I’ll admit I was trying to get you to give me a short answer (which you did not, since you linked me to the ponderous article on certitude, which I, somewhat reluctantly, thank you for : ) ). I had said, “I want to know more about what “moral certainty” means, and how it is different from the personal confidence that we have that we are in a stable relationship with another person (you may not have the certainty that I do that my relationship with my wife is strong and secure, but I may have all the certainty in the world: I am just as sure as this as I am many more important things that I know, in spite of the doubt I fight against).” It’s not that I have no idea what “moral certainty means” – I have indeed examined this issue in the past in quite a bit of detail, and came to the conclusion that as regards the issue I bring up above (regarding certainty that one is in a strong and stable relationship with another person), “moral certainty” had little to say in relation to this. In any case, I read the particular article you linked to, and all I have to say is that I don’t think it is particularly helpful as regards my question (I enjoy philosophy as a topic very much, even as I think that it generally has little to say of much help as regards the thing that matter most, that is, the personal knowledge that we have about other persons and our relationships with them). Maybe I missed something in it (and you can help me see what you were seeing in it that was helpful to our discussion), but it seems to me that what is written there is not sufficiently clear to reassure anyone that the Roman Catholic Church permits one to simply *know* they have eternal life without committing the sin of presumption. If any given person can actually understand the article on certitude, I think they are likely to share this judgment of mine.

    But maybe I am wrong, and I don’t want to be uncharitable. Any help you can provide here (particularly from official Church documents or other more authoritative sources) would be appreciated.

    +Nathan

  223. Nathan,

    Luther was invited to Rome to address his concerns and refused that invitation. That choice was his, not the Church’s.

    dt

  224. dt,

    As the event with John Hus shows, an invitation from Rome was not always reason to rejoice. If Rome’s intentions really were to listen carefully to Luther’s concerns, one would think they, being sensitive to Hus-driven fears, would be willing to accomodate persons…

    +Nathan

  225. Nathan, (re: #222)

    You wrote:

    I have indeed examined this issue in the past in quite a bit of detail, and came to the conclusion that as regards the issue I bring up above (regarding certainty that one is in a strong and stable relationship with another person), “moral certainty” had little to say in relation to this.

    Then you didn’t come to the correct conclusion. That’s precisely the sort of certainty moral certainty is.

    In any case, I read the particular article you linked to, and all I have to say is that I don’t think it is particularly helpful as regards my question

    It is directly relevant to your question whether we can have confidence that we are in a state of grace. Moral certainty allows just that sort of confidence.

    what is written there is not sufficiently clear to reassure anyone that the Roman Catholic Church permits one to simply *know* they have eternal life without committing the sin of presumption.

    The article isn’t intended to “reassure anyone” that the Catholic Church permits one to “know” he is in a state of grace. The article is intended to explain the different sorts of certainty. Moral certainty is an epistemic category between ignorance on the one hand, and metaphysical certainty and the certainty of faith on the other hand. And believers can have moral certainty, and the confidence that accompanies moral certainty, that they are in a state of grace. That’s not presumption. Your claim in #177 that for Catholics, “we really can’t have confidence that we are in a state of grace unless we have a special revelation” is not true; it criticizes a straw man, based on an oversimplification of the Catholic position. We can’t have the confidence of the certainty of faith that we are in a state of grace, without a special revelation to us personally, but we can have the confidence of moral certainty that we are in a state of grace, without a special revelation to us personally.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  226. Bryan,

    Honestly, I am not trying to be difficult. I am simply trying to understand. In the article you linked me to, it said the following:

    “Moral certitude is that with which judgments are formed concerning human character and conduct; for the laws of human nature are not quite universal, but subject to occasional exceptions. It is moral certitude which we generally attain in the conduct of life, concerning, for example, the friendship of others, the fidelity of a wife or a husband, the form of government under which we live, or the occurrence of certain historical events, such as the Protestant Reformation or the French Revolution. Though almost any detail in these events may be made a subject of dispute, especially when we enter the region of motives and try to trace cause and effect, and though almost any one of the witnesses may be shown to have made some mistake or misrepresentation, yet the occurrence of the events, taken in the mass, is certain.”

    First, I note that moral certitude, according to the article, is only that which forms judgments about *human* character and conduct. Therefore, whatever might be said about this certitude as regards human relationships it would seem cannot be transferred to the human-divine relationship – unless one is talking about one’s own character or conduct. Second, it appears that the writer of the article assumes that “the Laws of nature” are more certain than any kind of moral certitude that can be derived from, or said to apply to, human relationships (as there are “occasional exceptions”). Third, when it says, “It is moral certitude which we generally attain in the conduct of life, concerning, for example, the friendship of others, the fidelity of a wife or a husband, the form of government under which we live” we are not told how we get this moral certitude nor what it consists of . I am talking about certainty without the concerns for occasional exceptions. I don’t care what the statistics are about marriages… let me tell you about mine, you know? In short, this paragraph is of little practical help.

    Next:

    “The term moral certitude is used by some philosophers in a wider sense, to include an assent in matters of conduct, given not on purely intellectual grounds of evidence, but through the virtue of prudence and the influence of the will over the intellect, because we judge that doubt would not be wise. In such a case, we know that an opinion or a course of action would be right as a rule, let us say, in nine cases out of ten, though we cannot shut our eyes to the possibility that the particular case which we are considering may be the exceptional case in which such a judgment would be wrong. Other philosophers say that in such a case we are not certain, but only judge it wise to act as if we were certain, and put doubts aside because useless. But it seems clear that in such a case we are certain of something, whether that something be described as the truth of a proposition or the wisdom of a course of action. This certitude might perhaps better be called Practical certitude, since it mainly concerns action. ”

    This also is of little help as regards the kind of certainty the Christian can attain to by help of Promise given in absolution of peace with God. Though he really receives it, it seems to me that words like these above can only cause doubt and confusion about what he receives…

    You say:

    “The article isn’t intended to “reassure anyone” that the Catholic Church permits one to “know” he is in a state of grace. The article is intended to explain the different sorts of certainty. Mortal certainty is an epistemic category between ignorance on the one hand, and metaphysical certainty and the certainty of faith on the other hand. And believers can have mortal certainty, and the confidence that accompanies moral certainty, that they are in a state of grace. That’s not presumption.”

    Bryan, I think we would be naive to think that the question about person’s “state of grace” was not in the minds of the persons writing this article. Let’s cut to the brass tacks. Would you say that when John in I John 5 writes that he wants us to “know that we have eternal life” that this is indeed distinct from – and perhaps unrelated to – moral certainty? In what sense is it distinct then, speaking philosophically (which I understand that you want to do)? And further, what then does the Roman Catholic church have to say regarding these John’s words in this passage? And Pauls in Romans 5:1?

    I desire a clear answer.

    Why do you think this statement of Luther was condemned in Exsurge Domine?:

    “By no means can you have reassurance of being absolved because of your contrition, but because of the word of Christ: ‘Whatsoever you shall loose, etc.’ Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition.”

    You see, I have heard many Roman Catholics speak as you do. I want to believe its true. But the reasons for me to doubt you are all around, particularly as regards the lack of clear quotations from authoritative documents and teachers of the church. I, on the other hand, point to statements from respected teachers that seem to either mitigate what you say… or to cause uncertainty and confusion as regards this issue…

    +Nathan

    P.S. I must stop writing now – I will try to check back again in a week. God bless.

    NOTE: as is clear from the context of this Luther quote, Luther is talking about the quantity and quality of contrition, not whether or not it is optional.

  227. Nathan, (re: #226)

    You wrote:

    Therefore, whatever might be said about this certitude as regards human relationships it would seem cannot be transferred to the human-divine relationship

    That would be a non sequitur, because it doesn’t limit moral certainty to ‘human-human’ relationships. A human-divine relationship is still a human relationship, because a human is one of the persons related by the relationship.

    Second, it appears that the writer of the article assumes that “the Laws of nature” are more certain than any kind of moral certitude that can be derived from, or said to apply to, human relationships (as there are “occasional exceptions”).

    It is not an assumption. Rocks don’t have free will; humans do. The behavior of humans is not known therefore in the same way as is the behavior of rocks.

    Third, when it says, “It is moral certitude which we generally attain in the conduct of life, concerning, for example, the friendship of others, the fidelity of a wife or a husband, the form of government under which we live” we are not told how we get this moral certitude nor what it consists of

    Nothing of what you are saying here justifies your claim in #177. You’re complaining about what the article doesn’t say, but you are not refuting the Catholic position regarding moral certainty.

    This also is of little help as regards the kind of certainty the Christian can attain to by help of Promise given in absolution of peace with God. Though he really receives it, it seems to me that words like these above can only cause doubt and confusion about what he receives…

    Neither the epistemic category of moral certainty nor the explanation of moral certainty causes doubt and confusion in the reception of absolution. When we have made a good confession and receive absolution from the priest, we are confident (with moral certainty) that we are absolved, but regarding our being then in a state of grace we do not have the kind of certainty that we have with the faith, or with the law of non-contradiction.

    Would you say that when John in I John 5 writes that he wants us to “know that we have eternal life” that this is indeed distinct from – and perhaps unrelated to – moral certainty?

    The kind of knowing he is talking about there in 1 John 5 is at the level of moral certainty. Romans 5:1 is not speaking of any individual in particular; that the baptized who are in a state of grace are justified by faith and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ is something we know with the certainty of faith. That I am in a state of grace is something I know not with the certainty of faith (since Christ never revealed that), but only with moral certainty, unless an angel appears and gives me special revelation that I am predestined to heaven (which hasn’t happened).

    Regarding the statement condemned by Exsurge Domine,

    By no means can you have reassurance of being absolved because of your contrition, but because of the word of Christ: “Whatsoever you shall loose, etc.” Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition.

    That statement is condemned because it separates the justification of moral certainty of one’s absolution from the condition of genuine contrition, when in fact the moral certainty of one’s absolution is not justified where there is no contrition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  228. Nathan,

    re 224

    You are now conflating Hus with Luther. We don’t know what would have happened to Luther because Luther did not go. That choice was his.

    dt

  229. Nathan (#220) wrote:

    Tell him to read my first argument with Dave Armstrong: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/my-reply-to-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-regarding-his-examination-of-martin-chemnitzs-examination/ It is the shortest of them all and extremely simple to understand

    So I clicked over, copied and pasted the article into Word and did a word count. It is over 11,000 words, Nathan.

    Surely you can offer something more succinct to Brent’s father?

    Frank

  230. Bryan,

    Ah… those automatic updates sent to gmail are tempting…

    Will write more later.

    For now:

    “regarding our being then in a state of grace we do not have the kind of certainty that we have with the faith, or with the law of non-contradiction.”

    Why not? If a priest rightly looses me from my sin, how is that not God speaking to me?

    “That statement is condemned because it separates the justification of moral certainty of one’s absolution from the condition of genuine contrition, when in fact the moral certainty of one’s absolution is not justified where there is no contrition.”

    No. You must have missed my note: as is clear from the context of this Luther quote, Luther is talking about the quantity and quality of contrition, not whether or not [contrition] is optional.

    +Nathan

  231. Also, I said:

    Therefore, whatever might be said about this certitude as regards human relationships it would seem cannot be transferred to the human-divine relationship

    You said:

    That would be a non sequitur, because it doesn’t limit moral certainty to ‘human-human’ relationships. A human-divine relationship is still a human relationship, because a human is one of the persons related by the relationship.

    The text says:

    “Moral certitude is that with which judgments are formed concerning human character and conduct”. So what I also said, namely “Therefore, whatever might be said about this certitude as regards human relationships it would seem cannot be transferred to the human-divine relationship – unless one is talking ***about one’s own character or conduct***” would still seem to apply.

    OK – I will not check my gmail updates! : )

    +Nathan

  232. Nathan, (re: #230)

    You wrote:

    Why not? If a priest rightly looses me from my sin, how is that not God speaking to me?

    Because we do not have the certainty of faith (or metaphysical certainty) about the condition of our own heart; we have only moral certainty.

    “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.” (Ps. 19:12)

    “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)

    “For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” (1 Cor. 4:4)

    You wrote:

    No. You must have missed my note: as is clear from the context of this Luther quote, Luther is talking about the quantity and quality of contrition, not whether or not [contrition] is optional.

    I didn’t say anything about Luther. I simply explained to you why the statement in question was condemned, regardless of what Luther intended by it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  233. @Nathan:

    John – its too bad you did not have the paper when you were struggling with the issues the Reformed doctrine on faith caused for you!

    Not sure what you mean here, Nathan. I never struggled with any issues on doctrine. The only struggle I ever had was whether the Catholic Church was, indeed, what it says – the Body of Christ in its fulness and the Church Jesus founded and intends us all to be in.

    jj

  234. Nathan,

    “His vindication is still coming.”

    That is not falsifiable.

    “Would that not have required him to recant first?”

    Yes.

    “I don’t think it looms very large in our thought at all. It’s a non-issue (see my response to mateo) among us, because we don’t think you can know who will be infallible a priori.”

    When I said, “it looms very large”, I was referencing you (comment #188–“very important”). If you can only know a posteriori (an act of teaching) if someone is infallible, than you can never trust them a priori–which would not be trust but judgment. If I only trust what I judge to be infallible, than I only trust myself. Christ taught truly because he was infallible, not because I think his teaching is infallible. Infallibility is a state of existence or action, inerrancy is the quality of a thing. Someone fallible can teach something innerant, but only qua accident. If a teacher is infallible, than he is so in virtue of his nature. Thus, his teaching will be essentially innerant. Your argument makes the Church the ground and pillar of truth–qua accident–which makes the Church a foundation of sand.

    “It is the shortest of them all and extremely simple to understand. ”

    11,000 words? No, it is just long enough and all-over-the-place enough to be almost impossible to interact with. Starters: It assumes a Protestant development of doctrine while rejecting a Catholic one. It uses St. Francis de Sales and St. Jerome to evidence a Protestant position of scripture–which is disingenuous at best. Moreover, your first quote to your pastor would be one-thousand miles above my father’s head (“The concept of a contemporaneous existence of the Word of God in a corrupted verbal form, and a pure written form, spawned Chemnitz’s explanation of traditiones in the second locus, De traditionibus. Here he lists the first of eight different types of traditiones…”).

    Are you arguing that a nuanced discussion of Chemnitz’s theology will lead on to the LCMS?

    Repeat:

    What method do you use to identify the “true Gospel” that is different from other Protestants? Or to put it another way, if it is your private conscience (influenced by Scripture) that determines who has infallibly taught (a posteriori), how is this different from any other Protestant group that judges their particular theological position to be grounded in the “Sola Regula Fidei Veritas” of Scripture? Additionally, why could they not also claim–with the same force as yourself–some “historical vindication” or “wait-and-see” with regards to their creed or ecclesial existence?

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  235. Brent writes: “I’m a little at a loss for understanding how [infallibility] looms so large in Lutheran thought but is “rarely talked about in much depth”.

    Nathan responds: I don’t think it looms very large in our thought at all. It’s a non-issue (see my response to mateo) among us, because we don’t think you can know who will be infallible a priori.

    So, Nathan, how does anyone know with absolute certainty when a teacher in the LCMS is exercising the charism of infallibly when he teaches? What are the exact criteria that allows me, or anyone else, to distinguish when a teacher in the LCMS teacher is promulgating conscience binding infallible doctrine, and when the LCMS teacher is merely offering his well meaning, but non-binding, theological opinion?

    Nathan writes: I also don’t think that I should be required to define … infallible… as how I have made it clear there are differences in how we define these terms …

    I don’t see how it is relevant to this discussion how you personally define the term “infallible”. Let us backtrack a bit. I wrote:

    We need to agree on a definition of infallibility before we can proceed in this discussion. From the Catholic perspective, infallibility is a charism of the Holy Spirit that is given to authorized teachers in the Church that Christ founded, and that charism is exercised only under certain specific circumstances. When the charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit of infallibility is exercised by a man (or men), what is being taught as is known with certainty to be inerrant (without error), because the inerrancy of what is being taught is guaranteed by God. Only doctrines of faith and morals can have a divine guarantee of inerrancy.”

    You, Nathan, responded to the above with this comment:

    I agree, and think this fits well with Confessional Lutheran doctrine – except I’m not sure why we’d limit things to faith and morals.

    I am glad that you can accept this understanding of infallibility. So that this discussion can proceed, let us agree for the time being that doctrines promulgated by the true church concerning faith and morals can have a guarantee from God to be without error. (From a Catholic perspective, damnable heresy will involve either a doctrine of faith or a doctrine of morals.)

    Nathan, you write:

    The only question is *how* this inerrancy of teaching is guaranteed by God: how does it play out on the ground? Here we need to look at the Scriptures, as is always the case.

    Let us look at the scriptures! The scriptures show us Christ commanding his disciples to listen to the church that Christ personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication (Matt 18:17). Nowhere do the scriptures teach that a disciple of Christ should listen to the doctrines taught in a personal “bible church” founded by a Mary Baker Eddy, a Charles Taze Russell, a Martin Luther, a John Calvin or any other mere man or woman.

    mateo asks: “Nathan, given this Catholic definition of infallibility, could you tell me how you know when men teach infallibly?”

    Nathan responds: In short: the true rule of faith …

    Please tell me what that is supposed to mean! The “rule of faith” for Christians is what is found in the scriptures, that is, those that who would be disciples of Christ must not listen to false teachers when they propound their various heresies, and those that who would be disciples of Christ must never follow men that would lead them into schism with the church that Christ personally founded.

    Nathan, since you admit the Christ founded the Catholic Church, and that Christ is the head of the Catholic Church, I am wondering what “rule of faith” you could possibly be following that justifies being in schism with the church that Christ personally founded? Where, exactly, are the scriptures that authorize rebellious men and women to leave the church that Christ founded and found their own personal “bible churches”?

    mateo writes: This is my point – Lutherans can be defined as the set of people that believe the doctrinal novelties that are unique to Lutheranism.

    Nathan responds: … I won’t accept your presuppositions about unique Lutheran identity.

    Do you not acknowledge that Lutherans have a unique identity that makes Lutherans Lutherans, and not Calvinists, or Southern Baptists, or Methodists, or Catholics or Copts? If what makes a Lutheran a Lutheran is not the confessing of doctrines that only Lutherans confess, then what is it, exactly, that gives Lutherans a unique identity that makes them distinguishable from everyone else on the planet?

    mateo writes: “Is there anyone in the LCMS that can infallibly define a doctrine of the church such that all Christians throughout the world would be conscience bound to accept that definition?”

    Nathan responds:Oh yes – I am quite sure of this. God always raises up a few that we should listen to (as in days of old as well).

    If that is what you believe, then it seems to me that you should be able to elucidate the criteria that allows me, or anyone else, to know with absolute certainty when a teacher in the LCMS is promulgating infallibly taught doctrine that binds the consciences of all who would be disciples of Christ. So what are those criteria?

    mateo asks: If there are circumstances under which the teachers in the LCMS can define a doctrine of faith or morals infallibly, then what are the specific criteria that would allow me, or anyone else, to know when this doctrine has been taught infallibly? In other words, how would I know when a teacher in the LCMS is promulgating an infallibly taught doctrine, as opposed to just giving me his well intentioned opinion that is sincerely offered for my edification.”

    Nathan responds:I would challenge you on this your attitude. Where do you see anything like this attitude in the Scriptures?

    Frankly, I see your challenging me on my “attitude” as nothing more than an evasion of my direct question to you.

    The scriptures explicitly teach that if anyone would be a disciple of Christ, that they must listen to the teachings of the church that Christ personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication. My “attitude” is entirely in line with what the scriptures teach! I don’t see any reason to listen to a “church” founded by some mere man or woman, because doing that contradicts the clear teachings of the scriptures!

    Anyone can found their own personal “bible church” and claim that their new “church” teaches the truth. But the hard truth is that the scriptures don’t give me, or anyone else, the permission to listen to churches founded by mere men, even if I personally agree with what these man founded “churches” teach.

  236. Hello all. Delighted to see this still going. You guys are very persistent!

    Hopefully more on Monday.

    Blessings in Christ the Lord,

    Nathan

  237. Everyone,

    I will respond to everyone besides Bryan later on today.

    Bryan,

    First of all, this is a summary of most of the key things you will find below: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/knowledge-first-and-foremost-baby-king-david-vs-adult-st-thomas/ (just published).

    You said:

    “regarding our being then in a state of grace we do not have the kind of certainty that we have with the faith, or with the law of non-contradiction.”

    I said:

    Why not? If a priest rightly looses me from my sin, how is that not God speaking to me?

    You said:

    Because we do not have the certainty of faith (or metaphysical certainty) about the condition of our own heart; we have only moral certainty.

    I say:

    I am concerned about God speaking to His people – can they trust Him and His words? The fact that our hearts are wicked is precisely why the repentant sinner does not look to the quality or quantity of his own contrition – or character or conduct (required to have “moral certainty”) – but the word of absolution. One simply calls what God calls sin “sin” and what he calls grace “grace” and rest in His arms like a nursing child. Upon reflection, we realize that in spite of the very real doubts that we have, it would be a damnable sin to not take God’s words as they stand. And there is *nothing* more certain than these words and the relationship they create and nurture, philosophers be damned. Damned!

    I said:

    “No. You must have missed my note: as is clear from the context of this Luther quote, Luther is talking about the quantity and quality of contrition, not whether or not [contrition] is optional.”

    You said:

    “I didn’t say anything about Luther. I simply explained to you why the statement in question was condemned, regardless of what Luther intended by it.”

    I don’t even know what to say to this – now, I am very confused. Since the Bull condemns Luther, did not the statement that was condemned mean what Luther intended by it? (from the Bull: “…Moreover, because the preceding errors and many others are contained in the books or writings of Martin Luther…”) How could it be otherwise? Are you then saying that on this point at least, Luther is clearly acquitted? Is it responsible or Christian to extract free-floating statements as you say was done here and attribute meaning to them that they do not have – especially in an effort to bring down condemnation on another? As regards the philosophy of language, would you say that this is the way Rome usually operates, i.e. different from most normal persons who have normal conversations? (and if so, how can we even really have a conversation?)

    By the way, in the 95 theses themselves we find these:

    7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.

    35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.

    and 38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for they are, as I have said, the declaration of divine remission.

    (for explanation of this thesis [38], which occurs after his visit with Cardinal Cajetan [see below], see Luther’s works [AE 31:191-196])

    Again, I believe you are simply wrong on the matter. Why should I not assume that the Bull condemned exactly what Cardinal Cajetan had said was condemnable, i.e. the idea that a person could have a moral certainty (to use your words) that they were in a state of grace? (i.e. “building a new church”):

    “Although the controversy over Unigenitus clarified the already existing disagreement between Cajetan and Luther over papal authority and credibility, Cajetan’s second objection revealed a substantial difference which had serious consequences for Luther’s ensuing attitude towards the papacy. Luther had asserted that Christians approaching the sacrament of penance should not trust in their own contrition but in the words of Christ spoken by the priest in the absolution. If they believed in these words, then they could be certain of forgiveness, because these words were absolutely reliable, whereas the sufficiency of their contrition was never certain. In reply, Cajetan upheld the prevailing theological opinion: although it was true that contrition was never perfect, its presence still made one worthy to receive the grace conferred by the sacrament. Still, one could never be certain that one’s contrition was sufficient to effect the forgiveness one hoped to receive. To hold the contrary, said Cajetan, was to teach a new and erroneous doctrine and to “build a new church.”… “Part of the reason for Cajetan’s sharp reaction lay in the different concepts of faith which he and Luther espoused. For Cajetan, faith was one of the virtues infused with grace, and it entailed belief that the doctrine of penance itself was correct. For Luther, faith was not this general confidence in the correctness and power of the sacrament but “special faith” in the certain effect of the sacrament on the penitent Christian who trusted the word of Christ. Cajetan quickly perceived the difference but failed to appreciate Luther’s underlying concern. To him Luther’s “special faith” appeared to be a subjective human assessment which undermined the objective power of the keys at work through the pronouncement of absolution. It imposed a new condition on the efficacy of the sacrament beyond that most recently defined at the Council of Florence; therefore, Luther was again challenging an explicit decree of the church. Luther, however, was striving for just the opposite: to put the sacrament on a more objective basis. He was trying to remove the uncertain, subjective element of human contrition as a basis for the efficacy of the sacrament and to replace it with the objective, certain words of Christ pronounced in the absolution” (Hendrix, Scott, Luther and the Papacy, Minneapolis: Fortress, 1981, p. 62).”

    I had said earlier:

    it appears that the writer of the article assumes that “the Laws of nature” are more certain than any kind of moral certitude that can be derived from, or said to apply to, human relationships (as there are “occasional exceptions”).

    You replied:

    “It is not an assumption. Rocks don’t have free will; humans do. The behavior of humans is not known therefore in the same way as is the behavior of rocks.”

    It is an assumption. From one perspective, there are no “laws of nature” (push this too far by the way, and one gets deism), even if there are things that occur in existence which we reasonably call “regularities”. Really – why not look at it this way? I am far more certain of my relationship with Christ than I am the existence of any “laws of nature” that can be thought, in truth, to “run” in an analogous fashion to something we designers (small d) have made (for instance, a clock).

    I said:

    “Third, when it says, “It is moral certitude which we generally attain in the conduct of life, concerning, for example, the friendship of others, the fidelity of a wife or a husband, the form of government under which we live” we are not told how we get this moral certitude nor what it consists of”

    You replied:

    “Nothing of what you are saying here justifies your claim in #177. You’re complaining about what the article doesn’t say, but you are not refuting the Catholic position regarding moral certainty.”

    How can I do that when what it is is not sufficiently clear? Do you happen to know where what I need to know to refute it been said?

    I said:

    “This also is of little help as regards the kind of certainty the Christian can attain to by help of [the] Promise given in absolution of peace with God. Though he really receives it, it seems to me that words like these above can only cause doubt and confusion about what he receives…”

    You said:

    “Neither the epistemic category of moral certainty nor the explanation of moral certainty causes doubt and confusion in the reception of absolution. When we have made a good confession and receive absolution from the priest, we are confident (with moral certainty) that we are absolved, but regarding our being then in a state of grace we do not have the kind of certainty that we have with the faith, or with the law of non-contradiction.”

    I disagree. The explanation of moral certainty, insofar as it deals not only with faith but with one’s evaluation of their own [moral] character and conduct, can, and often does, cause doubt and confusion in the reception of absolution. What does it mean to make a “good confession”? – this is the key. There are layers and layers of this in Rome, if one follows Thomas, who laid the foundation for the Roman Penitential System (RPS)

    I said:

    “Would you say that when John in I John 5 writes that he wants us to “know that we have eternal life” that this is indeed distinct from – and perhaps unrelated to – moral certainty?”

    You said:

    “The kind of knowing he is talking about there in 1 John 5 is at the level of moral certainty…. “

    Thanks for the answer. I think this is insufficient, which is why I just wrote the post I linked to above.

    Here’s the last part of it:

    In sum, there is nothing greater than the certainty – the knowledge of eternal life – that the received Promise creates in the individual believer. Here of course we are not talking about mathematical certainty, or that certainty which can be derived from axioms or discerned patterns (based on repeated experiments and observations), but rather personal certainty, personal knowledge – knowing a Person. And borrowing the language of law courts, one may believe that one’s parents truly love them “beyond a reasonable doubt”, but the Promise brings us into a realm beyond even that – into the realm of a loving and secure relationship that exists “beyond a shadow of a doubt”.

    God means for all else in life to proceed from this.

    +Nathan

  238. Nathan,

    Your discussion with Bryan is similar to that in the thread under “St. Thomas Aquinas on Assurance of Salvation.” Since Bryan is currently taking a break from CTC (in order to attend to other obligations), may we continue the discussion in that thread, rather than maintaining parallel discussions? I will try to respond to the points you make above, that are unique to this comment, in my (forthcoming) response in the other thread (note: it might be a while–Mondays and Tuesdays are my busy days). Of course, I am not trying to discourage anyone else from responding to you here, just trying to tidy up a bit, while Bryan is away. Clear as mud?

    Andrew

  239. Andrew,

    Clear. I’d prefer that actually.

    John Thayer Jenson,

    In comment 179 you talked about how you could be self-deceived as to whether or not you had true faith. Calvinism actually teaches that God will do this to believers. I see now though that you had not brought that up. Sorry about that.

    dt,

    What can I say? I will not say anything.

    Frank,

    You might be right. I was assuming (wrongly, probably) that Brent’s father was like him.

    mateo,

    Criteria for infalliblity (you: “then it seems to me that you should be able to elucidate the criteria that allows me, or anyone else, to know with absolute certainty when a teacher in the LCMS is promulgating infallibly taught doctrine that binds the consciences of all who would be disciples of Christ….”) – I have already given you my answer here, and there is no easy answer such that a person may always have confidence that they are following God so long as they simply obey persons who have been rightly ordained in the highest quarters – it all has to do with testing all teachers against the Scriptures. This is part and parcel of what those holding the rule of faith do. To act otherwise is to not act in accordance with the rule of faith. Please also see my final paragraph to Brent (next post).

    “The scriptures show us Christ commanding his disciples to listen to the church that Christ personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication (Matt 18:17). Nowhere do the scriptures teach that a disciple of Christ should listen to the doctrines taught in a personal “bible church” founded by a Mary Baker Eddy, a Charles Taze Russell, a Martin Luther, a John Calvin or any other mere man or woman.”

    You keep saying things like this (funny how you see no problem lumping Martin Luther and Mary Baker Eddy together ). You keep assuming that we left the church and started our own. My point is that we did not. Luther desired to remain within the church (not starting his own “Bible church” as you put it) and was wrongly excommunicated. Really, if anyone left the church such that they ceased to be church, it was Rome, not the other way around. There is obviously a huge problem with teaching what is fundamentally contradictory to the essence of the Christian faith.

    In other words, the diagram would look something more like this: http://homepages.csp.edu/tesch/Documents/ChristianChurchFamil.jpg

    Than anything like this: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/ChurchSchisms1_5MillsRvsd.JPG

    +Nathan

  240. Brent,

    Regarding the un-falsfiable-ness of a vindication for Martin Luther, here all I can say is “explore the Scriptures with me”. How in the Old Testament would one have proven Isaiah and Jeremiah false, if not from the Scriptures? (false prophets can perform miracles and in any case they performed no miracles).

    I said: “I don’t think it looms very large in our thought at all. It’s a non-issue (see my response to mateo) among us, because we don’t think you can know who will be infallible a priori.”

    You replied: “… If you can only know a posteriori (an act of teaching) if someone is infallible, than you can never trust them a priori–which would not be trust but judgment.”

    This does not necessarily follow. You can in good faith trust someone who has proved himself trustworthy – and only begin to question them when there is evidence, that on the face of it, would seem to clearly contradict what they say.

    “If I only trust what I judge to be infallible, than I only trust myself.”

    I am not saying that we only trust what we judge to be infallible. This is not my argument. My argument is more specific, and you are trying to extrapolate from my argument, build a system, and tell me that what I say contradicts that system.

    “Christ taught truly because he was infallible, not because I think his teaching is infallible.”

    Well, of course. We are talking about Christ. In the case of His other servants, it is not that they taught truly because they were guaranteed to be infallible, but because they were faithful. What we think has nothing to do with it. What is, is.

    “Infallibility is a state of existence or action, inerrancy is the quality of a thing.”

    So says you. What sayeth the Scriptures?

    “Someone fallible can teach something innerant, but only qua accident. If a teacher is infallible, than he is so in virtue of his nature.”

    So says you. What sayeth the Scriptures?

    “Thus, his teaching will be essentially innerant.”

    So says you. What sayeth the Scriptures? I care little for your vain philosophizing here.

    “Your argument makes the Church the ground and pillar of truth–qua accident–which makes the Church a foundation of sand.”

    Again, you disregard all I write, construct your system, and accuse me of not following it. False. God guarantees the infallibility of the Church, period.

    I said:

    “It is the shortest of them all and extremely simple to understand. ” (note: of my 3 responses to Dave Armstrong, it is the shortest – and I dispute that it is hard to understand at all)

    You said:

    “11,000 words? No, it is just long enough and all-over-the-place enough to be almost impossible to interact with.”

    Others would judge differently. For others, this is short. Accept my apologies that it would have been so for your father – who I should never have assumed was like you (sorry). I’d also recommend the Augsburg Confession, but that is even longer. In any case, a person will have to do some listening/reading, thinking, praying…

    “Starters: It assumes a Protestant development of doctrine while rejecting a Catholic one.”

    I don’t like the word “Protestant”. For the purposes of this discussion, yes, I do take the standpoint that the Lutheran doctrine is true and we are a true Church. Are you not assuming the same for yourself, or are you somehow completely objective and not subject to the normal human biases?

    “It uses St. Francis de Sales and St. Jerome to evidence a Protestant position of scripture–which is disingenuous at best.”

    Brent, please be a bit more understanding. Look at what Bryan has written above regarding the statements in Exsurge Domine that I falsely assumed were written with Luther and his views in mind. It is mind-numbing to say the least. Now of course St. Francis de Sales does not hold to a “Protestant [Lutheran!] position of scripture”, but the fact is that I think that his words are pretty clear (not liable to the kind of misinterpretation that took place with Luther’s words above), and that I don’t think he takes his own words seriously enough. I go on to show how Chemnitz could be seen to do something at least very similar to what de Sales advises….

    “Moreover, your first quote to your pastor would be one-thousand miles above my father’s head (“The concept of a contemporaneous existence of the Word of God in a corrupted verbal form, and a pure written form, spawned Chemnitz’s explanation of traditiones in the second locus, De traditionibus. Here he lists the first of eight different types of traditiones…”).”

    I assume it is not above your head though. I’m sorry – sometimes we project, and evidently my father is a bit more like me than yours is like you.

    Are you arguing that a nuanced discussion of Chemnitz’s theology will lead on to the LCMS?”

    Yes. The LC-MS and those in fellowship with her. As crazy and triumphalistic as that no doubt sounds to you and me both.

    “What method do you use to identify the “true Gospel” that is different from other Protestants?”

    See 11,000 word paper again. It’s quite clear, I think. I show the difference there – and I have given you the summary in comments above.

    “Or to put it another way, if it is your private conscience (influenced by Scripture) that determines who has infallibly taught (a posteriori), how is this different from any other Protestant group that judges their particular theological position to be grounded in the “Sola Regula Fidei Veritas” of Scripture?… Additionally, why could they not also claim–with the same force as yourself–some “historical vindication” or “wait-and-see” with regards to their creed or ecclesial existence?”

    Brent, you want easy answers to all of these things, but all I can tell you is to be a Berean. I’ve thought a lot about the nature of faith vis a vis more Enlightenment notions of understanding – obviously, this is a complex issue. (http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/sapere-aude-braveheart-or-blackheart/). The position that you are taking implies, it seems to me, that there is no external clarity to the words of the Scripture at all. It is my position that an atheist like the late Christopher Hitchens – given that he is really interested in knowing or is charged with the responsibility to know – can readily determine from the words of the Bible that Lutheranism is more in line with its contents than is the doctrines of the JWs and the Mormons – regardless of whether or not he believes any of it. To me this is glaringly obvious. Judging by what you have written above, you would seem to differ from this view. I am not sure that we can have a fruitful discussion then. Understand that from my perspective, it is your individual (private) conscience (influenced by authorities, namely Scripture and Roman Catholic tradition) that continues to *recognize/determine* (as this understanding has been formed within you) who has infallibly taught, based on the view of infallibility that you have received (which is the false view).

    +Nathan

  241. Nathan,

    Martin Luther is not a prophet. We disagree.

    You can in good faith trust someone who has proved himself trustworthy – and only begin to question them when there is evidence, that on the face of it, would seem to clearly contradict what they say.

    Trusting someone “in good faith” who has proved himself trustworthy is a contradiction in terms. To trust someone “in good faith” is to ignore the outcome of actions but instead to grant them trust a priori.

    My argument is more specific, and you are trying to extrapolate from my argument, build a system, and tell me that what I say contradicts that system.

    What are you talking about? It is not beneficial in a dialog to tell someone else what they are doing. Nowhere have I stated that I intend to “build a system”. Thus, this kind of engagement is counter-productive for dialog just like me saying, “Nathan, you are intentionally ignoring my arguments and obfuscating the issues through vague questions.” Instead, I will grant you in good faith, a priori, that you have good intentions and that the purpose of your writing is apparent.

    Yes. The LC-MS and those in fellowship with her. As crazy and triumphalistic as that no doubt sounds to you and me both.

    Now we are getting somewhere. We agree!

    It is my position that an atheist like the late Christopher Hitchens – given that he is really interested in knowing or is charged with the responsibility to know – can readily determine from the words of the Bible that Lutheranism is more in line with its contents than is the doctrines of the JWs and the Mormons – regardless of whether or not he believes any of it

    This is confused. On the one hand, I would imagine that you would argue that the Holy Spirit is necessary to understand the “things of God”. Maybe even the “mind of Christ.” Now, an atheist can adduce Lutheran theology, but I cannot? If you are to impugn my intentions to such an extent so as to imply more charity toward theology to one who ascribes God as non-existent, then we have nothing to talk about. Let the record lay bare in this combox–for the benefit of every lurker. If that is not your position, then I ask you to correct it. But, if you are arguing that all non-Lutherans are either stupid, dumb or deceitful, I’m not drinking the cool-aid even though you think I am.

    Understand that from my perspective, it is your individual (private) conscience (influenced by authorities, namely Scripture and Roman Catholic tradition) that continues to *recognize/determine* (as this understanding has been formed within you) who has infallibly taught, based on the view of infallibility that you have received (which is the false view).

    I understand that is your perspective. Okay, good, now I see what you think. Could you point to me where you got your definition of infallibility? Of course, you and I both think for ourselves. I cannot think in another mind. Also, I am against vain “philosophizing” (sophistry) just as much as the next person. However, a notion of infallibility, like the notion of “same substance”, will rightly be influenced in some way by philosophy. Influenced so much that it borrows from language that truly reflects reality. So, I do not reject prima facie philosophical language on the grounds that it some how intrinsically is in conflict with Scripture.

    Let’s drop this discussion. Why? Because it is clear that it is not becoming more charitable with time (implying my dad’s inferior intellect) and we cannot agree to a definitions of terms or methodology, so I do not see our dialog producing a positive net effect. Continue on with the others.

    May this Christmas Season bring you and your family joy in the Incarnation of our Blessed Lord!

  242. mateo writes to Nathan: …you should be able to elucidate the criteria that allows me, or anyone else, to know with absolute certainty when a teacher in the LCMS is promulgating infallibly taught doctrine that binds the consciences of all who would be disciples of Christ….

    Nathan resonds … there is no easy answer such that a person may always have confidence that they are following God so long as they simply obey persons who have been rightly ordained in the highest quarters – it all has to do with testing all teachers against the Scriptures …

    If there is no easy answer that you can give me, then give your hard answer! How does anyone know with absolute certainty when a teacher in the LCMS is exercising the charism of infallibility?

    If your “hard answer” has to do with “testing all teachers against the Scriptures” then please explain to me how I test your LCMS teachers against the Scriptures! How do I follow your Scripture testing procedure (whatever it is) and make a determination, with absolute certainty, that a teacher in the LCMS has exercised the charism of infallibility?

    I will grant you that if a LCMS teacher has exercised the charism of the Holy Spirit of infallibility, then he (or she) has promulgated new dogma that has a guarantee from God as being inerrant. I will also grant you that if your teachers in the LCMS can exercise the charism of infallibility, then I now have another source besides the Protestant bible of inerrant teaching about spiritual matters. It will be up to you to show me how you can possibly reconcile the idea that LCMS teachers can exercise the charisms of infallibility with Luther’s novel doctrine that the Protestant bible is the ONLY source of inerrant teaching that men have concerning spiritual matters!

    Now, I would suppose that if a teacher in the LCMS is only offering me well intentioned, but non-conscience binding, theological opinion, I should test that theological opinion against the scriptures too. So, Nathan, what is your “Scripture test” that allows me to make the distinction between infallibly promulgated dogma that cannot possibly be in error, and theological opinion that is, perhaps, in error? If you cannot clearly elucidate how I perform the test, then every teaching from the LCMS must be treated by me as non-conscience binding theological opinion, since no one can ever know when a teaching is infallibly promulgated, and when a teaching is merely well intentioned, but fallible, theological opinion.

    mateo writes: “The scriptures show us Christ commanding his disciples to listen to the church that Christ personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication (Matt 18:17). Nowhere do the scriptures teach that a disciple of Christ should listen to the doctrines taught in a personal “bible church” founded by a Mary Baker Eddy, a Charles Taze Russell, a Martin Luther, a John Calvin or any other mere man or woman.”

    Natan responds: You keep saying things like this (funny how you see no problem lumping Martin Luther and Mary Baker Eddy together ).

    Why should I have a problem with that? The scriptures explicitly teach that anyone that would be a disciple of Christ must listen to the church that Christ personally founded. I don’t see any Protestant doing that. Instead, I see Protestants listening to “churches” that mere men and women founded. As regards the relative theological purity of Martin Luther and Mary Baker Eddy, what, exactly, makes the doctrinal novelties that Martin Luther promulgated guaranteed by God to be inerrant, while the doctrinal novelties that Mary Baker Eddy’s promulgated are not inerrant? Very few Christians believe that Martin Luther had some near God-like understanding of the spiritual realm that prevented him from ever making an error in his theology. So how is anyone supposed to know when he or she should listen to Martin Luther, and not listen to the vast number of Protestants that contradict him on certain points of doctrine – men and women such as John Calvin, Garner Ted Armstrong, Ellen Gould White, Chuck Smith, John Wesley, the Campbell Brothers, Aimee Semple McPherson, Charles Taze Russell, etc., etc., etc.?

    Natan writes: There is obviously a huge problem with teaching what is fundamentally contradictory to the essence of the Christian faith.

    Yes, there is a problem with that, because you are describing is the teaching of heresy. It is a fact of history that Martin Luther was a cafeteria Catholic that decided that he could determine all by himself what doctrines of the Catholic Church were correct, and what doctrines of the Catholic Church were not correct. For Martin Luther, there was no temporal authority greater than Martin Luther. I believe that Martin Luther was wrong about that, but I would never accuse Martin Luther of being wrong about everything, since he did not reject every dogma of the Catholic Church when he founded the new church that bears his name. And I assume that a reasonable member of the LCMS would see that it is quite impossible for the Catholic Church to be wrong about everything too, since Luther did not reject every teaching of his former church. Therefore, determining when doctrine is infallibly taught is not a trivial matter, since either the Lutheran Church is teaching heresy, or the Catholic Church is teaching heresy, (or both are teaching heresy).

    So, Nathan, how do I know when Martin Luther exercised the charism of infallibility? And how is it that Luther could exercise the charism of infallibility, while the magisterium of the Catholic Church could not exercise that charism of the Holy Spirit?

  243. Brent and Mateo,

    Just stopping in to say probably after Christmas. Merry Christmas.

    Brent, I caught the beginning of your post: we would say Luther was prophetic – and that like the prophets he spoke forth the word of the Lord – we do not say he is a prophet per se though.

    Mateo – I just read your last paragraph (hard not to, though I am trying to resist the tempation this morning). The answer is that there is no real good reason those lead pastors in Rome could not have exercised the charism of the Holy Spirit and infallibility, but they resisted this gift – embracing that gift would have entailed embracing the assistance that God gave in the form of Luther.

    +Nathan

    +Nathan

  244. Nathan,

    If Martin Luther exercised the charismatic gift of infallibility, then how can Luther’s doctrine of “scripture ALONE” possibly be true?

    If what you are claiming is correct, to be an orthodox Christian, I would need to believe in both what has been revealed in scripture and believe in the novel doctrines that Martin Luther infallibly taught thorough his private interpretation of the scriptures!

  245. Protestants do not hold to any sort of infallibility, except if we are talking about God and the scriptures. The RC Church utilizes a form of the “naive realist” method of biblical interpretation (i.e., papal infallibility). Naïve realism in this sense advocates that the Pope provides us with direct awareness of the mind of God regarding matters of doctrine. Some contemporary churches hold to other forms of the Naive realism, leading each time to the notion that their church is the “true” church. In each case “interpretive authority” lies with the Pope, the Church itself, a Pastor or theologian, etc.

    Protestants, rather, utilize a “critical realist” method of interpretation. This agrees with the naive realist method in that “real” truth exists external to the human mind or interpreter (that is, truth lies in the mind of God, and yet God has revealed His mind to us so that it can be accessed by humans). However, Protestants differ with respect to “interpretive authority.” Such authority lies not with the church or an authorized interpreter but rather with the biblical author(s) (both the Holy Spirit and the human author) who retain “control” over how the scriptures are to be interpreted. The meanings deposited into the text by the biblical authors is indeed accessible to the reader of scripture. However, with the Holy Spirit as both the author and the one possessing interpretive authority, the human interpreter’s role is to work to “get at” the mind of the author. And this is indeed possible for each believer who knows Christ and has His Spirit residing with them.

    However, this method asks the interpreter to be “self-critical” regarding their attempts to interpret scripture. They know that no one human or church has a corner on the truth. However, they seek the author’s mind, and as they do they are thankful that the author (the Holy Spirit) is actually present to assist them in their interpretive task. Not that the Holy Spirit gives the interpreter direct access to the mind of God (i.e., back to Naive Realism) but rather the Holy Spirit works within the interpreter to sanctify their minds and hearts in order to assist them to understand the scriptures. They also understand that they need to assess past and present efforts to interpret scripture, but ultimately they know that the Spirit will lead them into truth. This process is intellectual, spiritual, personal, and yet communal. For more on this, check out Kevin Vanhoozer’s book, “Is There a Meaning in The Text?”

  246. Charlie,

    It’s one thing to talk about a ‘critical realism’ as opposed to Catholicism’s allegedly ‘naive realism’ (which, though I disagree with your description, perhaps contains some truth regarding the childlike naivety that is necessary in approaching theological and dogmatic truth), it’s another thing to actually put it into practice. It’s a bit analogous to Dispensationalists who tout a ‘literal’ hermeneutic without actually being able to consistently put it into practice.

    Based on this ‘critical realist’ approach to biblical interpretation, there’s no reason to assume that anyone knows the truth (no matter how much you want to affirm that truth exists). In the end it seems to me that your ‘critical realism’ will either end up either in agnosticism or an even more naive (not to mention disingenuous) approach to scripture.

  247. Charlie,

    You wrote:

    Naïve realism in this sense advocates that the Pope provides us with direct awareness of the mind of God regarding matters of doctrine.

    You later wrote:

    They [critical realists] know that no one human or church has a corner on the truth.

    It looks as though you are attempting to use a label (“naive”) to stigmatize the Catholic hermeneutical position, which distinctively maintains that (1) ultimate interpretive authority resides with the Church, and (2) the Church is, in certain circumstances, protected from error in her interpretation of divine revelation. But you have given us no reason to suppose that this methodology is “naive” in the dictionary sense of “showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment.” A Catholic could, if he chose to follow your example, merely stipulate that Protestant hermeneutics are an example of “skeptical” realism, and that we know that one Church does have a corner on the truth.

    In other words, you are merely begging the question.

    As a matter of fact, the Catholic can heartily affirm your glowing description of “critical realist” biblical interpretation (in the third paragraph), minus the question-begging assertion that “no human or church has a corner on the truth.” See the recent document, Verbum Domini, by Pope Benedict XVI, in which the Holy Father deals extensively with the interpretation of the Bible in the Church. If you like, you can still submit an essay on the document, and receive a copy (if you do not already own one) of Henri de Lubac’s Medieval Exegesis, vol. 1: The Four Senses of Scripture. As Barrett notes, “De Lubac’s work is an important multi-volume historical investigation into the ways in which medieval theologians listened to the written word of God and contemplated its riches.”

    I have read Vanhoozer, and am critical of critical realism for philosophical reasons, though I hope that this does not render me naive. As a Thomist, I advocate the middle position of moderate realism in philosophy (or, better, what Ed Feser calls “Scholastic realism” [cf., The Last Superstition, 90-91].) This position primarily addresses the problem of universals, but is relevant to hermeneutics (among other things), and calls into question some of the assumptions made by Vanhoozer and other critical realists (e.g., N.T. Wright). For details, see Thomas Howe, Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation. Interestingly, Howe is a Protestant (Baptist) and a Thomist.

  248. @Charlie:

    Naïve realism in this sense advocates that the Pope provides us with direct awareness of the mind of God regarding matters of doctrine.

    I wonder if you misunderstand what the Catholic Church thinks infallibility to amount to. It is not remotely a ‘direct awareness of the mind of God.’ Every Christian – and, a fortiori, the Pope, does exactly what the Protestant does: studies to know the mind of God, through the Scriptures, through the history of the thought of the Church, through theology and philosophy. The infallibility of the Church is expressed in many ways – and often to the dismay of many who are a part of that infallible gift. A good example is the 1968 Humanae Vitae – the majority on that commission thought artificial contraception would be approved. But the Holy Spirit had other ideas. Pope Paul did not have ‘direct awareness’ of the mind of God. He prayed and studied and thought and was given the grace to contradict the commission – and thus the infallibility of the Church was made manifest.

    It is noteworthy that the various ‘bad Popes’ – e.g. Alexander 6 – promulgated no definitions.

    The infallibility of the Church – and hence, finally, of the Pope as the focus of unity – is a matter of God’s providential protection, not of any ‘direct awareness.’ In a way, it is analogous to Scriptural inspiration. One does not need to believe that St Paul had any ‘direct awareness’ of the mind of God when he wrote his epistles – yet God guaranteed that they were inerrant and that they were what He wanted said.

    jj

  249. Thanks for the responses! There are many problems here. I’ll only address JJ’s statements for now:
    1) Which “The Church” are you referring to? Is this the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Jerusalem Church, or the universal “Catholic” Church of all truly redeemed Christians throughout the world?
    2) Why do we need the Pope to make such a decree, when the Scriptures are sufficient for faith, life, doctrine, and morals? (2 Timothy 2:16)
    3) How do I know that the Pope’s decree in this matter (i.e., artificial contraception) was correct? Are you saying the Pope cannot be wrong? Certainly they have been wrong in the past (Pope Honorius I, condemned by the Sixth General Council for teaching the monothelite heresy).
    3) How is an infallible interpretation any better or more necessary than the infallible revelation? (Divine revelation is a disclosure or unveiling by God. But to claim, as Catholics do, that God’s infallible unveiling in the Bible needs further infallible unveiling by God is to say that it was not unveiled properly to begin with).
    4) Why did Christians have to wait until1968 (!) to find out what they “should” believe about this issue? (They were in the dark for a long time!)
    5) Why was further clarity on this issue–beyond scripture–even needed? God’s special revelation is “evident” and “able to be understood” (Rom. 1:19-20). Our most significant problem with regard to the truth of God’s revelation is not clarification but reception (so, even though there is a difference between objective disclosure and subjective understanding, humans are “without excuse” for failing to understand the objective revelation of God, whether in nature or in Scripture, Rom. 1:20).
    6) Will this decree ever be changed in the future? There are hotly disputed differences among Catholic scholars on many issues (i.e., Scripture, tradition, Mary, and justification) as well as how they should interpret papal decrees! The RC church has a long history of indecisiveness regarding “infallible” pronouncements.

    I have other questions, but I suspect they all stem back to the role of Peter as the “first Pope”. This may be the next discussion!

    Merry Christmas!

    Charlie

  250. But hold on, Charlie… You didn’t answer any questions. According to your critical realism how do I know whose interpretation is correct? How do I know who I can trust (or should I not trust any other human since they’re not the Bible)? Doesn’t this sort of critical approach mean that every Christian has to first be a bible scholar, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, before he can have any degree of assurance that he even knows what it means to be a Christian? It would be very un-critical to think that the Bible is as perspicuous as you make it seem to be. The abundance of denominations with their diverging views on very fundamental issues attests to this.

  251. Charlie, some of your questions presuppose the Protestant answer (e.g. #2) – and to debate Protestant views on such things was not the point of my comment – and some go beyond anything I was intending to say (e.g. #6) – and to say whether Humanae Vitae is irreformable or not was not my intention.

    The point of my comment was only to correct what seemed to be a misconception on your part – namely, that you thought the some Catholic – whether the Pope or Bishops or whoever – had a ‘direct awareness’ of the mind of God. I only wanted to explain that no reasonably well-informed Catholic believed any such thing. There are certainly simple people who might believe it, but that is not what Catholics who know their faith believe. The Popes, and all Catholics, those who teach and everyone else, must study issues in the same way you or anyone does. Study the Scriptures, study the tradition, think with the mind of Christ, pray, pray, pray. Definitions – such as Humanae Vitae – are certainly not something that (pace your #4) Catholics didn’t know beforehand. That would seem to me obvious, if you know anything about the matter in hand. It had been the belief of Christians – all Christians, I think, Protestants as well as Catholics – until the moral storms of the 1920s began to raise the question whether artificial contraception might, after all, be all right, if the couple had right intentions. The idea that some things might need deep examination to be sure of their truth is, it seems to me, quite contrary to the idea of a ‘direct awareness’ of the mind of God.

    Catholics wanted to know what the Church thought. The question eventually was given to the Pope. He decided. It is notorious that very many Catholics have decided not to listen to him. All of this was only to explain that the Pope has no ‘direct awareness’ of the mind of God. It has nothing to do with revelation (your #3). It has only to do with understanding. It seems clear that, in this matter, at least – that of artificial contraception – the Scriptures are not so perspicuous as some would like them to be. Once all Catholics and Protestants knew that this practice was wrong. Now most Protestants and many Catholics do not think it is wrong. The Pope was not revealing anything. He was explaining something – exegesis, in fact – what Protestant theologians do all the time. We Catholics believe God guides the Pope in his exegesis when he intends definitively to teach something that all Christians must believe as revealed by God. Whether this is such a case or not – I think it is – is not my point. My point is that no one supposes the Pope had a ‘direct awareness’ of the mind of God. We suppose that he did his best to answer a question about morals.

    If I have misunderstood what you meant by the phrase ‘direct awareness of the mind of God,’ I apologise.

    PS – regarding #3 – of course I am not saying that a Pope cannot be wrong about something. If you wish to talk about Catholicism, you really must at least do enough homework to understand what Catholicism teaches. The Catechism is the place to go for this. Regarding the infallibility of the Church – and of the Pope in certain circumstances – paragraphs 888-892 in this page are the place to read.

    jj

  252. There are so many subtle problems in your answers it gets a bit overwhelming:
    1) Joshua – “According to your critical realism how do I know whose interpretation is correct? … Doesn’t this sort of critical approach mean that every Christian has to first be a bible scholar, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, before he can have any degree of assurance that he even knows what it means to be a Christian? It would be very un-critical to think that the Bible is as perspicuous as you make it seem to be.”

    Critical realism means that every believer seeks the Author of Scripture within a community of believers. They are “self-critical”, which means they know their own presumptions about doctrine might be wrong, and yet they know real truth exists and that the Holy Spirit is leading us into truth (and increasing confidence regarding true doctrine). It simply begins with “sola scriptura” – the Bible and Holy Spirit are our authorities with respect to the development of doctrine. We know “who is correct” – the Holy Spirit! The Spirit “shows” us through the authoritative scriptures whether or not a theology aligns with the truth of scripture! Perspicuity does not mean that everything in the Bible is absolutely clear but that the main message is clear. That is, all doctrines essential for salvation and living according to the will of God are sufficiently clear. Thus, each believer, and each denomination, is responsible to God to search the scriptures. Why is this so difficult for you?
    2) JJ – When you (and others on this site) continue to say and imply that “The Church” is the Roman Catholic Church I personally feel deeply hurt. I find such an assertion offensive. Those who assume this strike me as taking up an arrogant and naive position, demonstrating a real lack of understanding of early church history, along with a very narrow and unfounded interpretation of such passages as Matt 16:18ff.
    3) I do understand what the RC church teaches about infallibility – in my previous message I spoke too generally and am sorry I misrepresented the RC view on this. I understand the Pope does not claim to have “direct awareness.” However, the outcome seems essentially the same – since his doctrinal decrees cannot be wrong.

  253. Nathan, (re: #237)

    Though I’m on ‘sabbatical,’ I’ll say a few things in response to your #237 and then return to silence.

    You wrote:

    I am concerned about God speaking to His people – can they trust Him and His words? The fact that our hearts are wicked is precisely why the repentant sinner does not look to the quality or quantity of his own contrition – or character or conduct (required to have “moral certainty”) – but the word of absolution. One simply calls what God calls sin “sin” and what he calls grace “grace” and rest in His arms like a nursing child. Upon reflection, we realize that in spite of the very real doubts that we have, it would be a damnable sin to not take God’s words as they stand. And there is *nothing* more certain than these words and the relationship they create and nurture, philosophers be damned. Damned!

    The absolving priest speaks in persona Christi as His minister, and with His authorization. But the Church has never taught that the priest’s words of absolution are infallible. It would be odd and ad hoc if you, as a Lutheran, deny the infallibility of ecumenical councils, but affirm the infallibility of individual priestly absolutions. The priest in the confessional has only moral certainty (at best) that the penitent has genuine contrition. The priest can be deceived into absolving someone who is not truly contrite. And in that case the priest’s absolution is of course not infallible, because the person who is not contrite is not absolved by the priest’s absolution. In order for the priest’s absolution to be infallible, he would have to be given the charism of reading hearts to know infallibly (as God Himself knows the depth of the human heart) that the penitent was truly contrite before giving the words of absolution. But most priests have not been given that charism, and hence from the words of absolution it does not follow with absolute certainty (or with the certainty of faith) that my sins are forgiven and that I am in a state of grace.

    A “philosophers be damned” approach to theology is just another way of saying “theology be damned,” because it eliminates criteria for distinguishing theological truth from theological error, good theology from bad theology, orthodoxy from heresy. And eliminating those distinctions is equivalent to eliminating theology altogether while keeping the semblance. The result is variegated biblicism, producing all sorts of theological forms and flavors.

    You wrote:

    Since the Bull condemns Luther, did not the statement that was condemned mean what Luther intended by it?

    Not necessarily. The Church condemns heretical statements because of their objective meaning, regardless of what heretics might have meant by them. Just because someone may mean something particular or idiosyncratic by a statement doesn’t entail that the Church cannot condemn it for its objective meaning. The Church doesn’t take Humpty Dumpty’s side of the following debate:

    There’s glory for you!’
    ‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
    ‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.
    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

    You wrote:

    Are you then saying that on this point at least, Luther is clearly acquitted?

    No. I’m only saying what I actually said.

    You wrote:

    Is it responsible or Christian to extract free-floating statements as you say was done here and attribute meaning to them that they do not have … ?

    Again, the Church doesn’t take Humpty Dumpty’s view of language. See above.

    You wrote:

    Why should I not assume that the Bull condemned exactly what Cardinal Cajetan had said was condemnable, i.e. the idea that a person could have a moral certainty (to use your words) that they were in a state of grace? (i.e. “building a new church”):

    First because to the best of my knowledge Cardinal Cajetan never said that what was condemnable is the idea that persons can have moral certainty that they are in a state of grace. Cardinal Cajetan here (in the paraphrase by this secondary source you quote) was only teaching what the Church has always taught on this subject, namely, that because of the deceitfulness of the human heart, in this life we cannot have absolute certainty that we are contrite, exactly what I pointed out in comment #232 above.

    And second, because Luther’s statement “Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition” is contrary to the long-standing Catholic teaching that absolution is not independent of contrition. Without contrition there is no absolution. So the “whatever there may be of contrition” clause makes the statement contrary to Catholic doctrine. You can have moral certainty that you are truly absolved by the priest, only if you have moral certainty (by an examination of conscience) that you are truly contrite. Luther’s statement makes the confidence of absolution independent of the moral certainty of contrition, and dependent only on the fact of the priest’s absolving and on one’s own trust in that absolution; and that’s heretical because the moral certainty of absolution depends upon the moral certainty of contrition.

    You wrote:

    It is an assumption. From one perspective, there are no “laws of nature” (push this too far by the way, and one gets deism), even if there are things that occur in existence which we reasonably call “regularities”. Really – why not look at it this way? I am far more certain of my relationship with Christ than I am the existence of any “laws of nature” that can be thought, in truth, to “run” in an analogous fashion to something we designers (small d) have made (for instance, a clock).

    Moral certitude is a lesser sort of certainty than physical certitude because with physical certitude we directly grasp the very nature of something, whereas with moral certitude we know only indirectly, by signs. In the case of the human heart, in this life we do not directly grasp the condition of our heart, hence St. Paul says, as I pointed out in #232 above, “For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” (1 Cor. 4:4) If we directly grasped the nature of our heart, St. Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) could never have written such a thing.

    You wrote:

    How can I do that [i.e. refute the Catholic position regarding moral certainty] when what it is is not sufficiently clear?

    You can’t. I understand that this notion of moral certainty is not clear to you. My purpose in replying to you wasn’t to explain moral certainty to you, but to explain why your statement in #177 that “we [Catholics] really can’t have confidence that we are in a state of grace unless we have special revelation” is incorrect precisely because it ignores moral certainty.

    You wrote:

    The explanation of moral certainty, insofar as it deals not only with faith but with one’s evaluation of their own [moral] character and conduct, can, and often does, cause doubt and confusion in the reception of absolution.

    This is a mere assertion, on your part. Those who are catechized well enough to know moral certainty and to know not to expect absolute certainty or the certainty of faith regarding being in a state of grace, are not thrown into doubt or confusion by receiving in the confessional only moral certainty instead of absolute certainty.

    You wrote:

    In sum, there is nothing greater than the certainty – the knowledge of eternal life – that the received Promise creates in the individual believer. Here of course we are not talking about mathematical certainty, or that certainty which can be derived from axioms or discerned patterns (based on repeated experiments and observations), but rather personal certainty, personal knowledge – knowing a Person. And borrowing the language of law courts, one may believe that one’s parents truly love them “beyond a reasonable doubt”, but the Promise brings us into a realm beyond even that – into the realm of a loving and secure relationship that exists “beyond a shadow of a doubt”.

    The reason our assurance of being in a state of grace (let alone being elect to glory) cannot be absolutely certain in this life has nothing to do with whether we can be sure (with the certitude of faith) that God loves us. We (Catholics) are certain with the certainty of faith that God loves us; that is part of the divine revelation we received in Christ. God loves us all, and truly wants us all to be saved. (See “Lawrence Feingold on God’s Universal Salvific Will.”)

    By contrast, Luther’s notion that of His own mere will God abandons, hardens, and damns masses of men, means that you cannot have the certainty of faith that God loves you, since you cannot know from Scripture that you (Nathan) are one of the elect-to-glory and are loved by God. Therefore in order to know that God loves you, you have to depend upon (a) an inner experience [i.e. a quasi bosom-burning], (b) the veracity of that inner experience, and (c) the hope that this inner experience remains with you until you die. The follower of Luther can’t depend on any sacrament to provide absolute certainty (or the certainty of faith) that God loves him, since Luther didn’t believe that every baptized person who has received the Supper is elect-to-glory. Nor can the follower of Luther depend upon a priest’s absolution to give him the certainty of faith that God loves him, because Luther didn’t believe that only the elect-to-glory ever receive absolution from a priest. Of course, you could avoid this problem by departing from Luther on this doctrine, but at that point you would be making it absolutely clear that your particular set of doctrinal beliefs isn’t based on any authority of Luther, but ultimately on your own interpretation of Scripture.

    What makes it impossible in this life (apart from a special revelation) to have either absolute certainty or the certainty of faith that we are in a state of grace (or elect to glory) is that (1) Jesus did not reveal to the Apostles that Nathan is (or would now be) in a state of grace or is elect to glory, and therefore none of us (including you) can have the certitude of faith that you are in a state of grace or elect to glory, and (2) we cannot know with absolute certainty what is the condition of our own heart, and this fact is divinely revealed (see the verses in #232 above), and a fortiori we cannot know now with absolute certainty what will be the condition of our heart at the moment of our death. This is why we pray for the gift of perseverance; if we already knew we had the gift of perseverance, we wouldn’t need to pray for it. To claim that from our (Catholics) certainty of faith that Jesus loves us, it follows that we can have absolute certainty or the certainty of faith that we are in a state of grace, is a non sequitur. The conclusion does not follow from the premises. The condition of the relationship between two related parties does not follow from having absolute certitude (or the certitude of faith) about the condition and disposition of one party (i.e. the divine party) in that relationship, especially when that one party is immutable.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  254. Charlie,

    On what grounds–regarding theological knowledge–am I to assume (and agree with you) that “critical realism” is the appropriate methodology to employ when doing theology? Also, is sola scriptura a principle you arrive at in virtue of a critical realist position or is it a principle you assume a priori? If not a priori, than could you point to some evidence a posteriori, critically examined, that would lead one to sola scriptura (an examination that takes into account the panoply of theological opinions)? More importantly, how does your view of critical realism treat theology (Divine revelation) as a different species of knowledge, than say biology, and how does that difference impact the means for arriving at conclusions of that science (theology) according to your view of critical realism?

  255. Charlie (re. #252):

    So if it’s all up to a community of believers, who’s to say that one is right and the other is wrong? You do realize that the Catholic Church claims that her infallibility rests on the Holy Spirit, right? Why are you allowed to say absolutely that the Catholic Church is wrong, but that you’re right? After all, the Holy Spirit hasn’t led every community to accept such a modern epistemology as yours.

    Why does it begin with sola scriptura? Why should I even trust what you think the Holy Spirit is telling you (even if you say it is through scripture) when the Holy Spirit is saying something different to me and ‘my community’? In the end, it’s not that you’re allowing the Holy Spirit to speak, you’re simply dictating how everyone should understand Scripture as well as the Holy Spirit’s work. This is a subtle form of tyranny.

    Finally, with regard to perspicuity: it’s precisely on these allegedly clear issues that there is much disagreement. The Reformation happened because people disagreed about the ‘clear’ issue of how one is justified. And even in contemporary Evangelicalism there is major disagreement on how one is ‘saved.’ (E.g., even within confessional Reformed circles there are major disputes over this issue).

  256. @Charlie:

    JJ – When you (and others on this site) continue to say and imply that “The Church” is the Roman Catholic Church I personally feel deeply hurt. I find such an assertion offensive. Those who assume this strike me as taking up an arrogant and naive position, demonstrating a real lack of understanding of early church history, along with a very narrow and unfounded interpretation of such passages as Matt 16:18ff.

    I confess to being a little surprised by this, Charlie. Of course you will know that no Catholic thinks that the “Roman Catholic Church” in the sense exclusive of Protestants is the Church – we only believe that some – such as Protestants – are in a less than perfect union with the Church.

    But we don’t assume this, any more than you assume that the Bible is God’s written Word. You believe it – on good grounds, you think – and we believe what we claim about the Church.

    Should I feel hurt when you use phrases like “the Roman Catholic Church?” You certainly mean by that a body of Christians that is a part of the Church, whereas you know that we think the “Roman Catholic Church” is where the Body of Christ subsists (to use then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s term). Yet you persist in using this phrase, precisely because you believe it to describe the situation accurately. That is just fine and I don’t see why I should feel hurt because you believe something and act on it. I don’t really see why you should react differently. If we disagree about something, and want to discuss which of us might be right, you wouldn’t insist that I must start by agreeing that it is you, would you??!!

    3) I do understand what the RC church teaches about infallibility – in my previous message I spoke too generally and am sorry I misrepresented the RC view on this. I understand the Pope does not claim to have “direct awareness.” However, the outcome seems essentially the same – since his doctrinal decrees cannot be wrong.

    Leaving aside the rather broad idea that the Pope’s doctrinal decrees cannot be wrong – of course this is true only under certain circumstances – if, by the “mind of God”, all you mean is “true statements”, then, of course, the Pope knows the mind of God – so do you. You believe the Trinity to be true, don’t you? Heck, you believe two plus two to equal four. I took the phrase “the mind of God” to be rather deeper than that. If that is all you meant, then I’ll leave you to it. If a Protestant theologian tells me the God is three and one, he is right. If the Pope tells the Church (and it should be obvious to you that we Catholics believe that means all Christians) they must believe that God is three and one, we think that God will protect him from making such a decree if it is false. Both know the ‘mind of God’ in this rather attenuated sense – but it is the ‘direct awareness’ which I thought a misunderstanding.

    Blessed Christmas to you and yours (we here in New Zealand on the correct side of the world are experiencing 6AM on Christmas morning – the rest of you lot will have to wait :-)).

    jj

  257. Joshua – you wrote: “Based on this ‘critical realist’ approach to biblical interpretation, there’s no reason to assume that anyone knows the truth (no matter how much you want to affirm that truth exists). In the end it seems to me that your ‘critical realism’ will either end up either in agnosticism or an even more naive (not to mention disingenuous) approach to scripture.”

    On the contrary, Joshua, C.R. assures that truth can be located, and one can have increasing confidence that they actually hold the truth within their OWN heart and mind (rather than blindly following the authoritarianism of the Magisterium).

    CR simply states that the reader can have access to the author’s mind, since that mind has been clearly revealed. An analogy could be made to any other writing. Do I best understand the meaning of the Declaration of Independence by reading and studying it for myself, or by relying on someone’s “authorized interpretation” of it? Add to this the idea — supposing I was confused about what was meant by “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, and Thomas Jefferson just happened to show up. I could ask him personally what was meant. TJ could help me clear up misconceptions in my mind that I may have about these words. Even better if I were in a group of “believers” that could probe TJ’s mind together.

    It does not take an expert to interpret the crucial teachings of the Bible. As you know, the NT was written in the vernacular of the times, the common trade-language of the first century (koine Greek). It was a book written in the common, everyday language for the common, everyday person. Likewise, the vast majority of English translations of the Bible are also written in plain English, including Catholic versions. The essential truths of the Bible can be understood by any literate person. It really seems to me to be an insult to the intelligence of the common believer to suggest that they can read and understand the daily news for themselves but need an infallible teaching magisterium in order to understand God’s Good News for them in the New Testament.

    The Roman Catholic approach is ultimately authoritarianism. As stated in the Catechism (890): ” It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.”

    While this sounds safe, it is indeed authoritarianism. The Magisterium claims to provide a “guarantee” of truth. They are “infallible” in matters of faith and morals. Say what you will, this can only occur if the Magisterium’s edicts are held with the same authority, at least with respect to practical living, as scripture. Hans Kung has readily (and rightly) admitted this regarding the Magisterium. For example, the church’s members are required to follows the Pope’s decree regarding Birth Control, just as if it were plainly written in scripture. Even if this decree disagrees with the Parishioner’s own study of Scripture, they are expected to treat it is an infallible decree, one to be obeyed.

    Catechism 891 states “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office … The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,”

    My question for all Roman Catholics is: How can you possibly defend this? There are so many biblical, literary, and common sense difficulties with this. The famous passage for this – Matthew 16:18ff – indeed falls far short of support for the dogma of papal infallibility.

    1) First, there are several grammatical problems here. “Peter” is referred to in this passage it is in the second person (“you”), but “this rock” is in the third person. “Peter” (petros) is a masculine singular term and “rock” (petra) is feminine singular. Hence, they do not have the same referent (even if Jesus did speak these words in Aramaic, which does not distinguish genders, the inspired Greek original does make such distinctions).

    2) What’s more, the same authority Jesus gave to Peter here is given later to all the apostles (Matt. 18:18). Even if Peter is “the rock” referred to here by Christ, he was not the only rock in the foundation of the church. Jesus gave all the apostles the same power (“keys”) to “bind” and “loose” that he gave to Peter. These were common rabbinic phrases used of “forbidding” and “allowing.” These “keys” were not some mysterious power given to Peter alone but the power granted by Christ to His church by which, when they proclaim the Gospel, they can proclaim God’s forgiveness of sin to all who believe. As Calvin noted, “Since heaven is opened to us by the doctrine of the gospel, the word ‘keys’ affords an appropriate metaphor. Now men are bound and loosed in no other way than when faith reconciles some to God, while their own unbelief constrains others the more.”

    3) Some earlier Catholic authorities disagree with the interpretation that Peter was “the rock.” (such as John Chrysostom and St. Augustine). Augustine wrote: “On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed. I will build my Church. For the Rock (petra) is Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself built.”

    4) Paul affirms that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone” (Eph. 2:20). Paul clearly states that all the apostles, not just Peter, are the foundation of the church. He also specifies that Christ was the only one who was given a place of uniqueness or prominence as “the capstone”. Peter also referred to Christ as “the cornerstone” of the church (1 Pet. 2:7) and the rest of believers — himself included — as “living stones” (v. 4) in the superstructure of the church.

    5) There’s no indication in the NT that Peter was given a special place of prominence in the foundation of the church above the rest of the apostles and below Christ. He is one “stone” along with the other eleven apostles (Eph. 2:20).

    6) Peter’s role in the New Testament falls far short of the Catholic claim that he was given unique authority among the apostles for numerous reasons.
    a) While Peter did preach the initial sermon on the day of Pentecost, his role in the rest of Acts is scarcely that of the chief apostle. He is at best one of the “most eminent apostles” (2 Cor. 21:11).
    If Peter was the God-ordained superior apostle, it is strange that more attention is given to the ministry of the apostle Paul in building up the Church than to that of Peter in the Book of Acts. Peter is the central figure among many in chapters 1-12, but Paul is the dominant focus of chapters 13-28!
    b) Though Peter addressed the first council (in Acts 15), he exercised no primacy over the other apostles. Significantly, the decision came from “the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church” (15:22; cf. v. 23). Many scholars believe that James, not Peter, exercised leadership over the council, since he brought the final words and spoke decisively concerning what action should be taken (vv. 13-21).
    c) In Galatians Paul claimed to get his revelation independent of the other apostles (Gal. 1:12; 2:2) and to be on the same level as Peter (2:8), and he even used his revelation to rebuke Peter (2:11-14).
    d) Peter admits he was not the pastor of the church but only a “fellow presbyter [elder]” (1 Pet. 5:1-2).
    e) Peter would never have accepted the titles used of the Roman Catholic pope today: “Holy Father” (cf. Matt. 23:9), “Supreme Pontiff,” or “Vicar of Christ.” The only vicar (representative) of Christ on earth today is the blessed Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26). Rather, Peter referred to himself in much more humble terms as “an apostle,” not the apostle (1 Pet. 1:1, emphasis added) and “fellow-presbyter [elder]” (1 Pet. 5:1, emphasis added), not the supreme bishop, the pope, or the Holy Father.

    The bottom line is – how can this one controversial statement in Matthew 16 ever qualify for the sort of magisterial authority structure, complete with its claims for papal infallibility, as claimed solely by the Romans Catholic Church? Its a serious matter and I urge you all to weigh these points carefully.

    Blessings,
    Charlie

  258. Charlie,

    Your saying that critical realism provides a place for truth doesn’t make it so. I still don’t see how there can be truth. Your argument is simply that the constitution or Scripture is so straightforward that people can all easily recognize what is true and what is not. Really? Are you really going to use the constitution as an example? So why do we need the supreme court? And why so many disagreements over the meaning of the constitution?

    Moreover, given the alleged clarity of the basic teachings of salvation, it’s interesting that the Church Fathers taught nothing close to the Reformers’ doctrine of justification sola fide. Even Augustine would have to be judged to be in gross error on the issue of justification by faith alone.

    Finally, your analysis of Matthew 16 simply shows why a Protestant might have difficulty with the papal office. No Catholic claims that the papacy finds its justification from a single verse in Scripture; one must also take tradition into consideration.

    If the Catholic Church is ‘authoritarian’ for telling people that they need to believe certain things based upon divine authority, then isn’t any form of Christianity (even the infallible Bible–written by men) too authoritarian for you?

  259. Joshua,

    Now we’re getting somewhere brother!

    1) I actually mentioned the Declaration of Independence. It (essentially) has a single author, but he’s now dead. Thankfully, we now have the biblical author (the Spirit) present to guide us into all truth. Are you catching this? When you have the author present, you don’t need a Supreme court. I’ve presented the simplicity of this point many times, but you don’t seem to be catching it. With all due respect, I have to say this plainly – Your worry about disagreements over interpretations seems to me to be a lack of faith in the ability of the Author to clarify the meaning of scripture. Such a worry leads people to look for an authoritarian interpreter of some sort.

    That does NOT mean that teachers and the Church are not needed as aids in the hermeneutical process, but only that they should never be elevated to the place of “infallibility”.

    2) Who has told you the Church Fathers did not teach sola fide? Please research this for yourself. Here’s just a few examples:

    Clement of Rome: “And we [Christians], too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
    Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho): “No longer by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of a heifer . . . are sins purged, but by faith, through the blood of Christ and his death, who died on this very account.”
    Didymus the Blind: “. . . a person is saved by grace, not by works but by faith. There should be no doubt but that faith saves and then lives by doing its own works, so that the works which are added to salvation by faith are not those of the law but a different kind of thing altogether.”
    Hilary of Poitiers on Matthew 20:7: “Wages cannot be considered as a gift, because they are due to work, but God has given free grace to all men by the justification of faith.”
    Basil of Caesarea: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, that Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, redemption. This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is (or has been) justified solely by faith in Christ.”
    Ambrose: “Therefore let no one boast of his works, because no one can be justified by his works; but he who is just receives it as a gift, because he is justified by the washing of regeneration. It is faith, therefore, which delivers us by the blood of Christ, because blessed is he whose sins are forgiven, and to whom pardon is granted.”
    Jerome on Romans 10:3: “God justifies by faith alone.” (Deus ex sola fide justificat).
    Chrysostom: For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: Since God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent.
    Augustine: If Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified? . . . Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6). Abraham, then, was justified by faith. Paul and James do not contradict each other: good works follow justification.
    Augustine: “When someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence.”
    Ambrosiaster on Rom. 3:24: “They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God.”
    Cyril of Alexandria: For we are justified by faith, not by works of the law, as Scripture says (Gal. 2:16). By faith in whom, then, are we justified? Is it not in him who suffered death according to the flesh for our sake? Is it not in one Lord Jesus Christ?

    Should I go on?

    3) I understand Catholics look to tradition. But they first need to examine the scriptures, upon which their tradition rests. I presented several arguments, not only regarding Matt 16, but also from Acts, Galatians, etc. Which of my arguments did you find problematic?

    4) I found your last point especially helpful! The Bible is of course inspired by the Spirit. Critical Realist hermeneutics lead me away from the bondage of authoritarianism and into the “truth which sets us free.” That’s because Truth is not only propositional (as with RC naive realism) but also personal. Thus, as a protestant, I experience “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Brother, RC hermeneutics lead to bondage, because “truth” is no longer intimately connected with the Truth, the Person of Christ. It has been disconnected through the mediation of the magisterium. Christ IS actually able to convey Truth to us through His Spirit and Word. When you say that the Church is “telling people that they need to believe certain things based upon divine authority,” you seem to have actually replaced Christ as our Mediator with respect to Truth.

    Thanks and blessings,
    Charles

  260. Charlie,

    Such a worry leads people to look for an authoritarian interpreter of some sort.

    No, I did not. I looked for the Church Jesus founded. She happens to teach with authority.

    Thankfully, we now have the biblical author (the Spirit) present to guide us into all truth.

    That is what the Mormons and JW say.

    But they first need to examine the scriptures, upon which their tradition rests.

    Who says? Does CR give you this principle?

    Brother, RC hermeneutics lead to bondage, because “truth” is no longer intimately connected with the Truth, the Person of Christ. It has been disconnected through the mediation of the magisterium. Christ IS actually able to convey Truth to us through His Spirit and Word. When you say that the Church is “telling people that they need to believe certain things based upon divine authority,” you seem to have actually replaced Christ as our Mediator with respect to Truth.

    In 1 Timothy 3:15, Colossians 1:18, and 1:24, St. Paul has no difficulty speaking about Christ’s Church as His ACTUAL body. In Acts 9:4, St. Luke records that God himself asks Saul, “Why do you persecute me”? Who is the “me”? The Church.

    I have found RC hermeneutics to do just the opposite as you describe. (for starters, you can finally know the truth and be free instead of living in a constant state of tenuousness–justified away by some notion that the Holy Spirit will “someday working this all out”) I am intimately connected with Christ through the ministers HE ordained, not people who claim ministry for themselves or hermeneutical giftedness through some self-proclaimed gift of the Holy Spirit. You may have the credentials to do the hard work, but my grandma does not and I have to believe the Lord did not leave a Church for only the theologians. By the way, the Magisterium does just the opposite of what you claim. It connects us to Christ–who is fully God and man–through the means He established. It safeguards His truth and proves that He IS actually able to convey Truth to us through His Church–of which the Spirit and Word reside. The Spirit and Word are not commodities on the free market that anyone can claim as their own so as to arrive at the truth. No. Both are in their fullness in His Church–a part from which they exist only in part. We do not replace Christ as mediator, we follow Christ’s mediation instead of making up our own impressive theory and starting churches in our image and likeness.

  261. Charlie, (re: #259)

    You wrote:

    Thankfully, we now have the biblical author (the Spirit) present to guide us into all truth.

    The problem here is that ‘us’ means only those Christians who agree with you, since otherwise the Holy Spirit (who is the Spirit of Truth) would be leading various persons into multiple contrary positions. But claiming that only those Christians who agree with you have the Holy Spirit and are being led by the Spirit, is entirely self-serving and ad hoc. I explained this problem in much more detail recently in my reply to CT managing editor Mark Galli.

    You wrote:

    2) Who has told you the Church Fathers did not teach sola fide? Please research this for yourself.

    Those quotations do not support sola fide in the Protestant sense of sola fide. I have explained that in “Ligon Duncan’s “Did the Fathers Know the Gospel?,” and in “St. Clement of Rome: Ecclesiology and Soteriology,” “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?,” as well as more recently in the discussion following Robin Phillips’ “Sola Fide: The Great Ecumenical Doctrine.”

    You wrote:

    But they first need to examine the scriptures, upon which their tradition rests.

    That’s not the Catholic teaching concerning the relation of Scripture and Tradition, and it wouldn’t be helpful merely to beg the question here. See VIII. Scripture and Tradition in my discussion with Michael Horton.

    You wrote:

    Brother, RC hermeneutics lead to bondage, because “truth” is no longer intimately connected with the Truth, the Person of Christ. It has been disconnected through the mediation of the magisterium. Christ IS actually able to convey Truth to us through His Spirit and Word. When you say that the Church is “telling people that they need to believe certain things based upon divine authority,” you seem to have actually replaced Christ as our Mediator with respect to Truth.

    I have no idea how you inferred that if Christ established a teaching authority in His Church, then truth would no longer be intimately connected with the Truth, but that conclusion does not follow. If “the mediation of the magisterium” separates truth from Truth, then the fact that all we know about the life and teaching of Jesus comes to us through the Apostles would likewise sever truth from the Truth. But if the mediation of the Apostles does not sever truth from Truth, then neither must the mediation of the successors of the Apostles. Likewise, if the presence of Apostles teaching the people what to believe about Christ does not “replace Christ as our Mediator” then neither do the successors of the Apostles. Of course we agree that Christ, being omnipotent, is able to convey Truth to us through His Spirit and His Word. The question is whether He established a Church and teaching authority in that Church by which and through which to communicate His truth to us.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    Feast of St. John the Apostle

  262. Charlie (re #259):

    1) Declaration of Independence or Constitution. Either way the point remains the same. You realize people point to the Declaration of Independence for abortion rights? And who has direct access to the mind of the Spirit? If the author is present in the way you describe, how to explain the disagreements over justification (not to mention other teachings)? It’s not a lack of faith on my part; it’s simply a more realistic view of reality. If what you’re saying concerning the Spirit is true, there should be no division amongst Christians–or at least not protestants. Your view of the Spirit sounds more anabaptist than it does Reformed or Lutheran (who taught that their respective confessions were needed to understand Scripture).

    2) I’m wondering if you’ve read any of the Fathers that you’ve quoted. If justification sola fide simply means that they mention that we are justified by faith apart from the law, then everyone (even present day Catholics) can be counted as teaching justification sola fide.

    §1996 & 2010 of the CCC: Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

    Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification…

    Chapter VIII of the sixth session of the Council of Trent: …faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said be justified gratuitously, because non of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification. For, if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise as the Apostle says, grace is no more grace.

    Canon 1 of the sixth session of the Council of Trent: If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.
    Canon 2 If anyone says that divine grace through Jesus Christ is given for this only, that man may be able more easily to live justly and to merit eternal life, as if by free will without grace he is able to do both, though with hardship and difficulty, let him be anathema.

    Should I go on?

    Undoubtedly you will say that the CCC and the Council of Trent teach things directly contrary to justification sola fide… So do the Church Fathers you quoted. You can’t extract an entire doctrine of the Reformers from a sentence or two from the Fathers.

    3) Catholics do look to Scripture, but Scripture is not at odds with Tradition. If I must…

    1) First, there are several grammatical problems here. “Peter” is referred to in this passage it is in the second person (“you”), but “this rock” is in the third person. “Peter” (petros) is a masculine singular term and “rock” (petra) is feminine singular. Hence, they do not have the same referent (even if Jesus did speak these words in Aramaic, which does not distinguish genders, the inspired Greek original does make such distinctions).

    Interesting that there are many protestant exegetes who are willing to grant that petra is said in reference to Peter (Petros). It’s too obvious an allusion to Peter to say that there’s no connection, especially when read in Greek.

    2) What’s more, the same authority Jesus gave to Peter here is given later to all the apostles (Matt. 18:18). Even if Peter is “the rock” referred to here by Christ, he was not the only rock in the foundation of the church. Jesus gave all the apostles the same power (“keys”) to “bind” and “loose” that he gave to Peter. These were common rabbinic phrases used of “forbidding” and “allowing.” These “keys” were not some mysterious power given to Peter alone but the power granted by Christ to His church by which, when they proclaim the Gospel, they can proclaim God’s forgiveness of sin to all who believe. As Calvin noted, “Since heaven is opened to us by the doctrine of the gospel, the word ‘keys’ affords an appropriate metaphor. Now men are bound and loosed in no other way than when faith reconciles some to God, while their own unbelief constrains others the more.”

    But you still must explain why it is that Jesus gave the power of the keys to Peter alone (even if he gave it to all the apostles later). What’s the point of Christ doing that? Why is it even in the Bible?

    3) Some earlier Catholic authorities disagree with the interpretation that Peter was “the rock.” (such as John Chrysostom and St. Augustine). Augustine wrote: “On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed. I will build my Church. For the Rock (petra) is Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself built.”

    4) Paul affirms that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone” (Eph. 2:20). Paul clearly states that all the apostles, not just Peter, are the foundation of the church. He also specifies that Christ was the only one who was given a place of uniqueness or prominence as “the capstone”. Peter also referred to Christ as “the cornerstone” of the church (1 Pet. 2:7) and the rest of believers — himself included — as “living stones” (v. 4) in the superstructure of the church.

    Even in these interpretations, Peter seems to play a notable role. But, in case that’s not enough here’s some more.

    Here’s a quote from Augustine:

    If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them [the bishops of Rome] from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it.’ Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement. … In this order of succession a Donatist bishop is not to be found (Letters 53:1:2).

    Another from Ambrose of Milan:

    [Christ] made answer: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church. . . . ’ Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]? (The Faith 4:5).

    It is to Peter that he says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18]. Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church is, no death is there, but life eternal (Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David 40:30).

    Some more from Tertullian:

    Was anything withheld from the knowledge of Peter, who is called ‘the rock on which the Church would be built’ [Matt. 16:18] with the power of ‘loosing and binding in heaven and on earth’ [Matt. 16:19]? (Demurrer Against the Heretics 22).

    [T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when he conferred this personally upon Peter? Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys (Modesty 21:9–10).

    Jerome:

    ‘But,’ you [Jovinian] will say, ‘it was on Peter that the Church was founded’ [Matt. 16:18]. Well . . . one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division (Against Jovinian 1:26).

    I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails” (Letters 15:2).

    Should I go on? (I can if you’d like)

    5) There’s no indication in the NT that Peter was given a special place of prominence in the foundation of the church above the rest of the apostles and below Christ. He is one “stone” along with the other eleven apostles (Eph. 2:20).

    Sure, only if you ignore the central role that Peter played in the Gospels. It’s unusual how much more coverage he gets than the other disciples; how he saw the Transfiguration; how Christ asked him whether he loved him; how Christ told him to shepherd the flock; how Christ asked him who he thought Christ was; how Christ gave him the power of the keys (separate from all the disciples!); how Paul felt that Peter had to be confronted publicly for error rather than privately; how it was through Peter’s sermon that many were converted at Pentecost; how it was through Peter’s vision that the mission to the Gentiles began, and on and on… Sure, ignore all that and then perhaps one might argue that the NT affords Peter no significant role.

    6) Peter’s role in the New Testament falls far short of the Catholic claim that he was given unique authority among the apostles for numerous reasons.
    a) While Peter did preach the initial sermon on the day of Pentecost, his role in the rest of Acts is scarcely that of the chief apostle. He is at best one of the “most eminent apostles” (2 Cor. 21:11).

    Not only did he preach the initial sermon on Pentecost, but it was through Peter that the gospel went to the Gentiles. Remember Cornelius?

    If Peter was the God-ordained superior apostle, it is strange that more attention is given to the ministry of the apostle Paul in building up the Church than to that of Peter in the Book of Acts. Peter is the central figure among many in chapters 1-12, but Paul is the dominant focus of chapters 13-28!

    You display confusion. The fact that Peter is the first pope doesn’t make him the central character of the book of Acts. The Pope is not the main character of the redemptive story (just as Peter wasn’t in the gospels); Jesus is! So it’s no strange thing that Peter doesn’t figure largely in all of the book of Acts. The Pope doesn’t exist for himself, he exists as a shepherd of the flock. To think that Catholics view the pope as if he were the main character of redemptive history would be to misunderstand the Catholic view completely.

    b) Though Peter addressed the first council (in Acts 15), he exercised no primacy over the other apostles. Significantly, the decision came from “the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church” (15:22; cf. v. 23). Many scholars believe that James, not Peter, exercised leadership over the council, since he brought the final words and spoke decisively concerning what action should be taken (vv. 13-21).

    Look at councils of the Catholic Church. The pope does not always exercise authority that he has (by virtue of Christ’s granting it) over the rest of the bishops. The pope has no authority apart from Christ; but that’s different from saying that he has no authority period. So your point here is moot.

    c) In Galatians Paul claimed to get his revelation independent of the other apostles (Gal. 1:12; 2:2) and to be on the same level as Peter (2:8), and he even used his revelation to rebuke Peter (2:11-14).

    The fact that Paul felt that he had to rebuke Peter publicly shows that Peter had a significant office. Why would Paul rebuke Peter in front of everyone unless Peter stood in a place of great authority? Otherwise Paul would have rebuked Peter privately (as is customary per Matthew 18).

    d) Peter admits he was not the pastor of the church but only a “fellow presbyter [elder]” (1 Pet. 5:1-2).

    Where does Peter say he is not a pastor? He states that he is an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, one who shares in the glory to be revealed, who tends the flock of God (v. 2). Sounds pretty pastoral to me.

    e) Peter would never have accepted the titles used of the Roman Catholic pope today: “Holy Father” (cf. Matt. 23:9), “Supreme Pontiff,” or “Vicar of Christ.” The only vicar (representative) of Christ on earth today is the blessed Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26). Rather, Peter referred to himself in much more humble terms as “an apostle,” not the apostle (1 Pet. 1:1, emphasis added) and “fellow-presbyter [elder]” (1 Pet. 5:1, emphasis added), not the supreme bishop, the pope, or the Holy Father.

    I refer to everything above. These titles, however, involve extreme humility. The Holy Father, Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, as stated above, does not exist for himself. He’s not a king whom everyone serves. Rather, he is shepherd of all and therefore servant of all the servants of God.

    Finally, regarding 4: Why is the Church and Christ an either/or? If I, by accepting the authority of the Church, submit to the doctrines of faith, how am I replacing Christ with the Church? You will say that it’s because I’m ignoring what Christ actually says in Scripture. But is that really the case? Isn’t it possible that you read Scripture with too modern an eye and so approach Scripture in a fashion completely foreign to the early and medieval Church? As I said earlier, for someone espousing critical realism, you demonstrate a surprisingly modern self-confidence.

  263. Thanks for your responses. You defended your position well. However, I do not think the responses are convincing. They may provide some intellectual fortressing, but leave the soul ultimately vexed and uncertain regarding one’s position before God. If I were Catholic, I would have to view God’s love as less certain than my own earthly father’s, who accepts me as his son unconditionally. This is my final challenge to you, to consider your relationship with Christ, and his offer of certainty regarding your salvation in Him alone, as clearly stated in First John 5:11-13 (I must make this my last message for now).

    You arguments regarding Peter as the first Pope:
    Most scholars agree that the first real pope was Gregory I (590- 604 A.D.). Though you may say otherwise, the pope ultimately claims to be the mediator between God and men (with the power over souls in purgatory). Protestants find this objectionable regarding the doctrine of salvation (I Tim 2:5). None of your arguments can establish what is currently claimed regarding the Pope’s office; rather, the papacy replaces the Holy Spirit as the true “vicar” of Christ today. Indeed, the concept of papal infallibility is a large stretch that finds no justification in scriptures (including the ones you mention above). Power and authority belong solely to Christ; by claiming the pope as the head of the church, the Christian’s faith in Christ is existentially weakened. I witness this regularly with my students (especially those who have been fully “catechized”). Jesus is the head of the Church (Col. 1:18), and “has put all things under his feet, and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body” (Eph. 1:22, 23, J.B.V.; see also Col. 2:9, 10).

    The pope’s claim of the title “Holy Father” is also in direct violation of Christ’s warnings to His followers: “You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9, 10).

    I’m sure you are aware of the scandalous history of the Roman papacy. However, most Catholics Priests are not, and thus, church hierarchy seems to endeavor to deny, suppress, and cover-up the historical facts concerning its many doctrinal and moral abuses. Though most popes were men of integrity and high moral character, many were wicked and corrupt (being guilty of rape, adultery, fornication, incest, murder, assassinations, robbery, conspiracy, bribery, fraud, perjury, and the purchase of the papacy with money). Conveniently, 29 popes are listed as “anti-popes” in order to minimize the scandalous testimony of the papacy and erase this notorious blot from their history.

    Some popes have contradicted each other; some have condemned scientific truth; many have promoted and defended doctrinal heresies in direct conflict with the clear teachings of Scripture; some have endorsed massacres, atrocities, torture, imprisonment, and inquisitions against Rome’s opponents resulting in the deaths of millions.

    Some References:
    1 Ludwig Pastor, History of the Popes (a Roman Catholic historian).
    2 H.H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, pp. 767-793.
    3 Glen D. Kittler, The Papal Princes (a Roman Catholic author), 358 pages.
    4 John Foxe, Foxes Book of Martyrs.

    Blessings and Grace and Peace to you in Christ!

    Charlie

  264. Dear Charlie:

    I would like to address the “certainty of salvation” that you find in 1 John. I also see a doctrine of certain salvation in 1 John 2:3-6:

    “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. ”

    John promises us that those who keep his commandments will certainly be saved. This is an objective certainty. However, I do not have a subjective certainty that I shall continue to keep his commands. Like St. Paul, I hope and pray that I might, but this is dependent on the grace of God and my cooperation.

    -David

  265. (I said it was my last, but couldn’t resist!)

    David – great scripture brother! (1 John 2:3-6). Notice that it clearly states “by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments… By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” This can only be read as how a believer can have epistemological assurance of their current, authentic salvation. Its also wonderful because it confirms that we can be completely “in Him”, and can actually know it without wavering (even if we sin). We don’t need to worry about our Father’s love for us, or ask Mary to “pray for us in the moment of our death”. This is true liberation, brother! Its a passage speaking to the doctrine of ASSURANCE of salvation, not the doctrine of salvation per se. A subtle yet very important distinction, and I thank you for pointing it out!

    Blessings,

    Charlie

  266. PS. I should add, and must ask you to re-consider your last statement regarding “cooperation” in salvation – that is simply not here in this passage (or anywhere in 1 John). Please read this wonderful epistle again, but with the idea of “assurance” in mind. (If you add a distinction between objective and subjective certainty regarding salvation, you have indeed added a false dichotomy not found in 1 John … which clearly and repeatedly states “we know” and “we can know” for the very purpose of comforting believers with subjective certainty!)

    This is how God communicates His love to us, by providing such certainty, and based upon it my gratitude becomes overwhelming, and I then desire to walk in obedience to Him. Anything else is manipulation and performance, which leads to insecurity in my heart regarding God’s unconditional love for me. Get it?

  267. Brent,

    A pleasure to interact with you again. I appreciate your challenging questions.

    You said: Let’s drop this discussion. Why? Because it is clear that it is not becoming more charitable with time (implying my dad’s inferior intellect) and we cannot agree to a definitions of terms or methodology, so I do not see our dialog producing a positive net effect. Continue on with the others.

    I say: I only read this last bit of your previous message after I had read everything else (and been composing responses on the way). I am going to post those responses because I think our discussion has been very important. Brent, I am not angry at you at all, and have not flagged in charity towards you. My answers have been firm, terse and direct, but I assure you, they are not said with anger at all. This is why written messages can be a terrible medium! Further, where did I imply that your dad had an inferior intellect to yourself? Did you not tell me that he would not be able to understand what I written (the writing I had suggested he start with)? I’m sorry if I misinterpreted that. Maybe you were telling me that the quote from my pastor you cited as difficult was too hard for most any person to understand? Perhaps? I urge you to pray for grace that this discussion might proceed more charitably – and to continue on with me! I think we need to ask questions about why we define as we do and adopt the methods that we do. Why not explore this more?: I contend that how we do these things directly relates to how we are to live our lives as Christians.

    You said: “… If you can only know a posteriori (an act of teaching) if someone is infallible, than you can never trust them a priori–which would not be trust but judgment.”

    I said: You can in good faith trust someone who has proved himself trustworthy – and only begin to question them when there is evidence, that on the face of it, would seem to clearly contradict what they say.

    You said: Trusting someone “in good faith” who has proved himself trustworthy is a contradiction in terms. To trust someone “in good faith” is to ignore the outcome of actions but instead to grant them trust a priori.

    I say: Good point. I said that very poorly. We do trust some a priori, especially when we’ve grown up with them and they’ve never given us reason not to trust them. Others we trust after we see they are trustworthy (here I am thinking about character as related to this issue: we may also trust people when we feel we have no choice but to do so, or when they are experts in this or that area and we feel that they have no reason to be deceiving us about the facts of which they speak). Both, we might only begin to question, if there emerges evidence, that on the face of it, seems to clearly contradict what they have told us is true.

    You had said:

    “If I only trust what I judge to be infallible, than I only trust myself.”

    I said: I am not saying that we only trust what we judge to be infallible. This is not my argument. My argument is more specific, and you are trying to extrapolate from my argument, build a system, and tell me that what I say contradicts that system.

    You said in reply: What are you talking about? It is not beneficial in a dialog to tell someone else what they are doing. Nowhere have I stated that I intend to “build a system”. Thus, this kind of engagement is counter-productive for dialog just like me saying, “Nathan, you are intentionally ignoring my arguments and obfuscating the issues through vague questions.” Instead, I will grant you in good faith, a priori, that you have good intentions and that the purpose of your writing is apparent.

    I say: Brent, with all due respect how can you do that? I do not think that we always even know with certitude our own purposes for writing much less someone else’s. It seems to me that for you to understand the wider purpose of the things I write, you need to know everything I think, explicitly and tacitly. I think it is often possible to understand the limited purpose of individual sentences (e.g. I want to simply say that I the bus leaves at 5:00pm today), but to understand everything that lies behind all of the statements that we are making in the aggregate, it seems to me that you, for example, need to ask more questions and assume less about what you know of the larger picture I am painting and the purposes that surround it. In asking me good questions perhaps I myself will come to understand much better why I write what I do.

    I said: It is my position that an atheist like the late Christopher Hitchens – given that he is really interested in knowing or is charged with the responsibility to know – can readily determine from the words of the Bible that Lutheranism is more in line with its contents than is the doctrines of the JWs and the Mormons – regardless of whether or not he believes any of it.

    You said: This is confused. On the one hand, I would imagine that you would argue that the Holy Spirit is necessary to understand the “things of God”. Maybe even the “mind of Christ.” Now, an atheist can adduce Lutheran theology, but I cannot? If you are to impugn my intentions to such an extent so as to imply more charity toward theology to one who ascribes God as non-existent, then we have nothing to talk about. Let the record lay bare in this combox–for the benefit of every lurker. If that is not your position, then I ask you to correct it. But, if you are arguing that all non-Lutherans are either stupid, dumb or deceitful, I’m not drinking the cool-aid even though you think I am.

    Me: Brent, please be patient with me and hear me out. Your approach here illustrates what I was talking about above about assumptions. Here’s my point: let’s deal with concrete specifics. Do you think that Christopher Hitchens, if he had been asked to objectively determine whether Mormans or Lutherans (that’s the binary choice here) were closer to understanding the whole content of the Bible, would think that the Mormans were closer? (or what if the person doing this reporting was a more sensible atheist who does not assert that religion poisons everything but actually thinks it has some pragmatic value and that there are some really good things about it – would that make a difference to how you answer?). If you *had* to answer the question, what really would be your opinion? I genuinely want to know. Now, if you say “Lutheran”, I would say two things. First of all, of course you realize that this question does not necessarily imply that our atheist would have been able to so readily determine who was closer to the Bible if it was not a question of Lutherans vs. Mormons, but Lutherans vs. Catholics (for example, perhaps this could only be readily determined by a person that both you and I would be persuaded is a Christian in spite of serious differences in beliefs – and of course, we are assuming here, as above, a good deal of study and research that would be necessary). Second, [if you said “Lutheran” to the question] this is why I had suggested that it *seems* that this *may* be incompatible with what you wrote earlier, when you asked “if it is your private conscience (influenced by Scripture) that determines who has infallibly taught (a posteriori), how is this different from any other Protestant group that judges their particular theological position to be grounded in the “Sola Regula Fidei Veritas” of Scripture”, which it seemed to me implied that there could really be no way of determining whether or not any particular group of Protestants was closer to the truth *with help from the Scriptures* (i.e. it all becomes a matter of interpretation and the particular version of the “Rule of Faith” they have, and whatever the “words” seem to imply objectively makes no difference –this is why I had said to you: “The position that you are taking implies, it seems to me, that there is no external clarity to the words of the Scripture at all”). Now, I’m sure that you do believe you can tell whether particular groups of Protestants are closer to the truth than others, but I am trying to get you to consider this question differently from the way you usually do. This is what I see myself doing.

    So when you ask, “Now, an atheist can adduce Lutheran theology, but I cannot? If you are to impugn my intentions to such an extent so as to imply more charity toward theology to one who ascribes God as non-existent, then we have nothing to talk about. Let the record lay bare in this combox–for the benefit of every lurker. If that is not your position, then I ask you to correct it. But, if you are arguing that all non-Lutherans are either stupid, dumb or deceitful, I’m not drinking the cool-aid even though you think I am”, I simply ask you, rather than assuming things about how I understand the larger picture, to refrain from such assumptions and to stick to the questions I ask you (which of course you don’t have to answer). I have no idea why each and every non-Lutheran does not see the truth clearly, as I do not think these are questions I should ask. We can understand God’s wider purposes from the clear and fulsome Scriptures that He has left us, but there is much that He has not revealed to us: we can clearly understand that which we need to know. Again, I don’t know why each and every non-Lutherans does not see the truth clearly (many do: we have our own “come home to Wittenberg” stories): the mystery of iniquity is great. We are all affected by the curse of original sin, even after our baptisms. We all face a foe who would do whatever he can to lead us away from the clear words of Christ. We are besieged on every side. The love of many is growing cold – love for God and His precious Word. Jesus objectively describes what might happen with His parable of the sower, but I do not use His words myself to determine what exactly is the situation in the case of any man. I hope you understand what I am saying, as I know I have had to use a lot of words in order to clarify how I see this. I hope you will seriously consider answering my simple question above.

    You said: if it is your private conscience (influenced by Scripture) that determines who has infallibly taught (a posteriori), how is this different from any other Protestant group that judges their particular theological position to be grounded in the “Sola Regula Fidei Veritas” of Scripture

    I said: Understand that from my perspective, it is your individual (private) conscience (influenced by authorities, namely Scripture and Roman Catholic tradition) that continues to *recognize/determine* (as this understanding has been formed within you) who has infallibly taught, based on the view of infallibility that you have received (which is the false view).

    You said: I understand that is your perspective. Okay, good, now I see what you think. Could you point to me where you got your definition of infallibility? Of course, you and I both think for ourselves. I cannot think in another mind. Also, I am against vain “philosophizing” (sophistry) just as much as the next person. However, a notion of infallibility, like the notion of “same substance”, will rightly be influenced in some way by philosophy. Influenced so much that it borrows from language that truly reflects reality. So, I do not reject prima facie philosophical language on the grounds that it some how intrinsically is in conflict with Scripture.

    I say: I agree with you about borrowing from “language that truly reflects reality”. It is my contention that philosophy can be helpful here, but more often is not. More often, concepts that are shared cross-culturally that deal with concrete realities on the ground seem to be more helpful, I think. My definition of infallibility really comes from my belief in the indefectibility of the church: it is a necessary thing to have for the church to be indefectible: for it to continue to preserve foundational teaching that accurately reflects the reality we need to know and cling to to be saved. Only Jesus Christ in His fullness is strong enough to save, and therefore, only teaching that points to this fullness without detracting from it is strong enough to save. True doctrine, true words are life – words of “Spirit and life” as Jesus says. Quite frankly, the Church does not talk about how to know whether any particular individual within the church is infallible, but we can be assured that God will preserve His Church, even if that includes only a remnant. So I would argue that my notion of infallibility – which I culled from John Gerhard (“the entire church never errs in such a way that there are not any who follow the simple leading of the Word and who are sanctified by the direction and effectual operation of the Holy Spirit in truth and faith such that they retain the foundation of salvation, persevere free of fundamental errors, and are preserved by the power of God through faith unto salvation. However, sometimes they are few, and when persecutions and corruptions rage publicly, they hide in such a way that they are not noticed publicly in the world.” [On the Church, 189]”) – comes indirectly from what the Bible teaches about God’s preservation of the Church. What Bible verses would you point to? I think that it is really important that any understanding of infallibility is built on solid biblical references, so perhaps taking a look at the passages you think support the RC idea of infallibility would be helpful. I have seen lists of verses in the past (Dave Armstrong), but I don’t recall seeing any Bible verses that are particularly supportive of the Roman view. But perhaps I have been too hasty?

    Best regards Brent – no hard feelings here. I really have enjoyed interacting with you. I hope that you to had a wonderful Christmas season.

    + Nathan

  268. Mateo,

    Thanks again for the continuing interaction. Thank you for the questions.

    First of all, you really need to read my 11,000 word response to Dave Armstrong. I think it may have saved you some time here. : ) ( http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/my-reply-to-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-regarding-his-examination-of-martin-chemnitzs-examination/)

    Here is your key paragraph, I think:

    “Now, I would suppose that if a teacher in the LCMS is only offering me well intentioned, but non-conscience binding, theological opinion, I should test that theological opinion against the scriptures too. So, Nathan, what is your “Scripture test” that allows me to make the distinction between infallibly promulgated dogma that cannot possibly be in error, and theological opinion that is, perhaps, in error? If you cannot clearly elucidate how I perform the test, then every teaching from the LCMS must be treated by me as non-conscience binding theological opinion, since no one can ever know when a teaching is infallibly promulgated, and when a teaching is merely well intentioned, but fallible, theological opinion.”

    First of all, in the RCC your answer is simple: the magisterium tells you what is binding and what is not, and while being a Berean may be commendable, it is not required, because infallible teachers do not need to be tested vs. the Scriptures. Second, I don’t see the Bible itself talking about notions of infallibility versus opinion – even if such distinctions are important in life and are certainly present in our lives. In sum, the thing that I am most confident of in life is that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and I count myself among the worst. Yet, he tells me through His Apostle that He would have me know I have eternal life – that I have peace with God. He tells me though His pastors that this is for me personally, and I want to be like a little child, who simply believes these words God delivers to me through my pastor, not doubting them for a minute. This he continually delivers to me – even as He is always working to break my stubborn pride and sin – through His means of grace, His Word and Sacraments. Here is where I will talk about “absolute certainty” and the things God wants us to have “absolute certainty” about. I think we can learn a lot from children here, who obviously don’t make all kinds of distinctions about kinds of certainties. I am also confident – certain – that the Scriptures the Church recognized in the 4th c. are canonical, even if some are of greater importance than others (and I am certain that they were written to help the church “safeguard” the truth). And when I read the Lutheran Confessions of 1580 I recognize in them words that are faithful to the biblical text – I find no errors there, and this inspires great confidence and joy. And when I look at what the LC-MS says about the importance of the Confessions, and how all their pastors vow to uphold them, that means something to me. When I compare them with others, I believe I can be very confident that they are truly church indeed….

    It did not always think this way. This is something that I have grown into. When I was a child, I had childish thoughts…. I questioned my birthright fiercedly (flirting with every other church), and have gradually come to see that this is where I should rest. My only certainty for knowing anything is to go to the Scriptures that I know the early Church as recognized as containing the Apostolic teaching from the beginning. You say “If you cannot clearly elucidate how I perform the test” but all I can tell you is that we all need to know the Lord better (that is what Jesus told His opponents was the problem with them: they did not know the Scriptures, and even though they searched them, they failed to see that they were about Him). The most important things in life cannot be reduced to checklists and tests – and how things play out on the ground is often complicated. Some things we “know in our bones” much more than we can articulate them (even if we try, like I have – the 11,000 words….) What I’ve written above doesn’t even scratch the surface of all that needs to, or could be said. I really do think the response to Dave Armstrong sums things up pretty well – and that reading it will give you a good idea of why I think the views our church has are quite different from other Protestants. Please take a look. And then, if you want to ask more specific questions, please do (but chances are Dave Armstrong already asked your questions, and I believe I effectively answered them in parts 2 and 3 to him [he himself complemented me that I had argued strongly]).

    I think if you really started reading Luther, you’d see why your bringing up Mary Baker Eddy with him is so ridiculous. Take a look at his Large Catechism and tell me if it doesn’t sum up basic Christian doctrine beautifully.

    Blessings,

    Nathan

  269. Bryan,

    Thanks for your lengthy reply. First, my comments vs philosophers are only against the magisterial use of reason, that is, reason used in a such a way that the Scriptures are forced to submit to reason (classic example in Reformed theology: the finite cannot contain the infinite) and not vice-versa. Obviously, none of us can avoid using reason, nor should we. Hence, we embrace the “ministerial use” of reason. Second, it is clear to me that you were a bit hasty in your comments to me. You seem to be assuming that I hold to the Reformed faith. Either that, or you are insufficiently informed as to the key distinctions between what Lutherans believe and what the Reformed believe. Of course, this simply points out the need for Lutherans like myself to be in places like this, to help educate persons who want to know more – and I am quite sure that this means you (if only so you can debate us better : ) !)

    B: “the Church has never taught that the priest’s words of absolution are infallible. It would be odd and ad hoc if you, as a Lutheran, deny the infallibility of ecumenical councils, but affirm the infallibility of individual priestly absolutions. The priest in the confessional has only moral certainty (at best) that the penitent has genuine contrition…”

    Bryan, I think you are making this much more difficult than it needs to be. The absolution is certainly valid though without true repentance (which means no true faith) it is not effective/efficacious. Of course God is reconciled to them already (II Cor 5), but they are not with Him – and remain under His wrath. Hell will be full of forgiven sinners and children of God. Simply put: the priest acts rightly insofar as he hears a confession and forgives – up to 70×7, and beyond. The default assumption for the pastor should be that if someone asks for forgiveness, they should give them forgiveness – God’s forgiveness (their words here are God’s words). That he can never know for absolute certainty whether or not the person is truly repentant is beside the point. In short, regarding the matter of confession and absolution, we can and should take one another by our words – not having to probe into the vague area of “sincerity” – because we can take God, who is by nature sincere, by his Word. The pastor should not forgive when the person’s words indicate that he or she does not call “sin” what God calls sin, in which case the “binding key” is administered.

    Your quoting Humpty Dumpty is odd because it is nonsensical to talk about the “objective meaning of the words” apart from the intent of the author (and the context provided by his other words), and the Bull specifically implied Luther taught something that he did not, using his words in a misleading way. It seems the RCC church is the one acting like Humpty Dumpty.

    B: “… to the best of my knowledge Cardinal Cajetan never said that what was condemnable is the idea that persons can have moral certainty that they are in a state of grace. Cardinal Cajetan here (in the paraphrase by this secondary source you quote) was only teaching what the Church has always taught on this subject, namely, that because of the deceitfulness of the human heart, in this life we cannot have absolute certainty that we are contrite, exactly what I pointed out in comment #232 above.”

    To my knowledge, he said “one could never be certain that one’s contrition was sufficient to effect the forgiveness one hoped to receive” which seems to clearly imply that one cannot have certainty that they are in a state of grace. Young children, whom we are to imitate, when they feel sorrow for wrongs done and receive forgiveness do not worry whether or not they are sufficiently contrite or remorseful. Of course repentance must be there, but do any of us really desire to amend our lives as completely and with as much vigor as we ought to? I’m going to be like a child here, keeping my “reflective faith” – always subject to doubts and uncertainties – at bay (see here for more about what I am talking about here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/babies-in-church-part-v-the-arrogance-of-the-infant-a/ )

    B: “And second, because Luther’s statement “Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition” is contrary to the long-standing Catholic teaching that absolution is not independent of contrition.” Without contrition there is no absolution. So the “whatever there may be of contrition” clause makes the statement contrary to Catholic doctrine.”

    Again, you are simply not speaking with Luther then. Cajetan was. The Pope, in the Bull Exsurge Domine itself, said that he was – but he was not.

    “You can have moral certainty that you are truly absolved by the priest, only if you have moral certainty (by an examination of conscience) that you are truly contrite. Luther’s statement makes the confidence of absolution independent of the moral certainty of contrition, and dependent only on the fact of the priest’s absolving and on one’s own trust in that absolution; and that’s heretical because the moral certainty of absolution depends upon the moral certainty of contrition.”

    Again, Luther was not saying that there did not need to be true contrition. He only spoke against worrying about the quality or quantity of one’s contrition. If one worried about these things (and many did in his day), one should not stew over one’s sincerity. Re: I Cor. 4:4, it is clear that here Paul is doing precisely this – not stewing over his own sincerity and an obsession with total purity of heart (for he knows that he does not have this – Romans 7) but rather looking outside of himself and entrusting Himself to Another…

    I said: The explanation of moral certainty, insofar as it deals not only with faith but with one’s evaluation of their own [moral] character and conduct, can, and often does, cause doubt and confusion in the reception of absolution.

    B: This is a mere assertion, on your part. Those who are catechized well enough to know moral certainty and to know not to expect absolute certainty or the certainty of faith regarding being in a state of grace, are not thrown into doubt or confusion by receiving in the confessional only moral certainty instead of absolute certainty.

    Well, I can only go by my experiences in dealing with former Catholics. I suppose that all of them could have been poorly catechized. But given what I understand about the Roman Penitential system – at least in Luther’s day (see http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/the-roman-penitential-system-and-the-emergence-of-reformation-doctrine-part-i-of-ii/ and http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/the-roman-penitential-system-and-the-emergence-of-reformation-doctrine-part-ii-of-ii/ ), these things have been issues for well-catechized RCs in the past. I am not sure how much of what is said here still holds true in the RC church…. One more thing: I do think that all of these distinctions about types of certainties are most likely recently invented. Thomas made far fewer distinctions.

    B: “By contrast, Luther’s notion that of His own mere will God abandons, hardens, and damns masses of men, means that you cannot have the certainty of faith that God loves you, since you cannot know from Scripture that you (Nathan) are one of the elect-to-glory and are loved by God.”

    Luther himself repudiates you. See the papers linked to on Andrew’s post on Assurance and St. Thomas. See the Philip Carey article referenced there.

    B: “Therefore in order to know that God loves you, you have to depend upon (a) an inner experience [i.e. a quasi bosom-burning], (b) the veracity of that inner experience, and (c) the hope that this inner experience remains with you until you die.”

    No well-catechized Lutheran believes this. We cling to the external word alone. Trusting one’s own inner experience is anathema.

    B: “The follower of Luther can’t depend on any sacrament to provide absolute certainty (or the certainty of faith) that God loves him, since Luther didn’t believe that every baptized person who has received the Supper is elect-to-glory.”

    Oh yes we can. Just because every baptized person does not truly believe does not mean that we cannot have certainty that we have saving faith – even if “reflective faith” may at times doubt (see post linked to above as well)

    B: “Nor can the follower of Luther depend upon a priest’s absolution to give him the certainty of faith that God loves him, because Luther didn’t believe that only the elect-to-glory ever receive absolution from a priest. Of course, you could avoid this problem by departing from Luther on this doctrine, but at that point you would be making it absolutely clear that your particular set of doctrinal beliefs isn’t based on any authority of Luther, but ultimately on your own interpretation of Scripture.”

    Luther himself avoided this problem by not locating certainty in the doctrine of election but by advising persons to cling firmly to the Word and Sacraments. Remember, you are talking with a Lutheran, not a Calvinist.

    B: “….and a fortiori we cannot know now with absolute certainty what will be the condition of our heart at the moment of our death. This is why we pray for the gift of perseverance; if we already knew we had the gift of perseverance, we wouldn’t need to pray for it…”

    Again, I am talking about having certainty right now about being in a state of grace. One can have this, and one not torture one’s self with questions of the sincerity of one’s repentance (made worse by certain penitential practices in the RCC – again, see the links above). That is exactly the kind of inwardness Christ came to deliver us from….

    +Nathan

  270. Nathan, (re: #269)

    You wrote:

    Bryan, I think you are making this much more difficult than it needs to be. The absolution is certainly valid though without true repentance (which means no true faith) it is not effective/efficacious. Of course God is reconciled to them already (II Cor 5), but they are not with Him – and remain under His wrath. Hell will be full of forgiven sinners and children of God. Simply put: the priest acts rightly insofar as he hears a confession and forgives – up to 70×7, and beyond. The default assumption for the pastor should be that if someone asks for forgiveness, they should give them forgiveness – God’s forgiveness (their words here are God’s words). That he can never know for absolute certainty whether or not the person is truly repentant is beside the point. In short, regarding the matter of confession and absolution, we can and should take one another by our words – not having to probe into the vague area of “sincerity” – because we can take God, who is by nature sincere, by his Word. The pastor should not forgive when the person’s words indicate that he or she does not call “sin” what God calls sin, in which case the “binding key” is administered.

    All of that is compatible with it being true that (a) the words of absolution are not infallible because the priest does not have absolute certainty regarding the contrition of the penitent, and (b) that therefore the penitent cannot derive absolute certainty (but only moral certainty) from the words of absolution that he is in a state of grace.

    Your quoting Humpty Dumpty is odd because it is nonsensical to talk about the “objective meaning of the words” apart from the intent of the author (and the context provided by his other words)

    No it is not nonsensical to observe that language has a meaning independent of the intention of the individual language user. Here’s an example. If another language has the word ‘fire,’ and in that language it means “excellent,” then when that language-speaker yells ‘fire’ in a crowded theater in the US, it still means something to the persons present in the theater, even if that meaning was not intended by the speaker.

    To my knowledge, he said “one could never be certain that one’s contrition was sufficient to effect the forgiveness one hoped to receive” which seems to clearly imply that one cannot have certainty that they are in a state of grace.

    Here you are glossing the distinction between moral and absolute certainty, and that begs the question by imposing a non-Catholic paradigm on the Cardinal’s statement. The better approach is to understand the Cardinal’s statement on Catholic terms, i.e. in just the way I have explained it, namely, as denying that we can have absolute certainty of the genuineness of one’s contrition and that one is in a state of grace, but not denying that we can have moral certainty of the genuineness of one’s contrition and that one is in a state of grace. It should be obvious that if you criticize the Catholic Church by interpreting Catholics statements by way of a non-Catholic paradigm, you are simply begging the question. But in weighing the theological case between an excommunicated person (and anyone who might happen to follow him) and the Catholic Church, the burden of proof is always on the excommunicated person. And that is why a Lutheran justification for separation from the Catholic Church that depends on a question-begging critique of Catholic doctrine, is never a justification for separation.

    Again, you are simply not speaking with Luther then. Cajetan was. The Pope, in the Bull Exsurge Domine itself, said that he was – but he was not.

    None of that is incompatible with the truth of what I said about why Luther’s statement is contrary to Catholic doctrine.

    Again, Luther was not saying that there did not need to be true contrition. He only spoke against worrying about the quality or quantity of one’s contrition. If one worried about these things (and many did in his day), one should not stew over one’s sincerity. Re: I Cor. 4:4, it is clear that here Paul is doing precisely this – not stewing over his own sincerity and an obsession with total purity of heart (for he knows that he does not have this – Romans 7) but rather looking outside of himself and entrusting Himself to Another…

    Again, Luther’s statement makes absolution independent of contrition, even if that is not what Luther intended by the statement. The statement was condemned precisely for making absolution independent of contrition. So if you think absolution depends on true contrition, then you can embrace the Church’s condemnation of the statement according to the objective meaning of the statement.

    Merely looking outside of oneself would not be sufficient for knowing that one is absolved if there needs to be true contrition for absolution, since “true contrition” is something internal. Looking outside would be sufficient for knowing that one is absolved only if absolution in no way depended on contrition.

    One more thing: I do think that all of these distinctions about types of certainties are most likely recently invented. Thomas made far fewer distinctions.

    We can already find these distinctions in nascent form in Aristotle. But the Church has always maintained the distinction between the certainty of faith and the certainty that is presumption, since presumption has always been a sin, but the certainty of faith has always been a virtue.

    Luther himself repudiates you.

    No, your inability to have the certainty of faith that God loves you follows from (a) Luther’s own statement that God of His own mere will abandons, hardens, and damns masses of men [and thus does not love all men], and (b) the fact that Scripture does not say that you (Nathan) are loved by God. The inability to have the certainty of faith that God loves you follows necessarily from those two premises.

    No well-catechized Lutheran believes this. We cling to the external word alone. Trusting one’s own inner experience is anathema.

    I didn’t say that Lutherans believe that assurance comes from an inner-experience. Nor does the fact that Lutherans don’t believe that assurance comes from inner-experience refute my argument. I said that given Luther’s position on double-predestination, and given the fact that Scripture does not say that God loves you (Nathan), and given Luther’s belief that not all baptized persons are elect-to-glory (i.e. some baptized persons are not loved by God), it follows that inner experience is the only possible source of absolute assurance.

    Oh yes we can. Just because every baptized person does not truly believe does not mean that we cannot have certainty that we have saving faith – even if “reflective faith” may at times doubt (see post linked to above as well)

    The reason the follower of Luther cannot depend on any sacrament to provide absolute certainty (or the certainty of faith) that God loves him, is that reprobate persons can receive those same sacraments. Only if no reprobate person could ever receive baptism could one rightly infer from one’s own having been baptized that one is not reprobate. Likewise, only if no reprobate person could ever receive communion could one rightly infer from one’s own having received communion that one is not reprobate.

    Luther himself avoided this problem by not locating certainty in the doctrine of election but by advising persons to cling firmly to the Word and Sacraments. Remember, you are talking with a Lutheran, not a Calvinist.

    The soundness of my argument does not depend on whether you are a Lutheran or a Calvinist. Luther did not avoid the problem I am describing. That’s because clinging to the Scripture does not provide the certainty of faith that you are not reprobate, because Scripture never says that you (Nathan) are elect-to-glory, or that you (Nathan) are not reprobate. Therefore without looking to something inside yourself, you cannot rightly infer from any verse (or set of verses) in Scripture that you are not reprobate. Clinging to baptism or communion likewise does not provide the certainty of faith that you are not reprobate, because Lutheran theology concedes that reprobates can receive both baptism and communion. Therefore having received baptism and communion is insufficient to demonstrate election-to-glory, and is therefore insufficient to demonstrate non-reprobation, and is therefore insufficient to demonstrate that you are not hated by God.

    So, not only have you not yet shown that Catholics cannot have confidence that we are in a state of grace (as you claimed in #177), if you follow Luther’s notion of double-predestination, and if you reject the distinctions between absolute certainty, the certainty of faith, and moral certainty (such that there is only absolute certainty or no certainty at all) then either you yourself have no certainty that you are in a state of grace, and thus are worse off (assurance-wise) than Catholics, or you (unlike all other “well-catechized Lutherans”) must depend on some inner experience in order to have certainty that you are in state of grace.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  271. Nathan,

    None harm. Pax.

  272. mateo asks Nathan: …I would suppose that if a teacher in the LCMS is only offering me well intentioned, but non-conscience binding, theological opinion, I should test that theological opinion against the scriptures too. So, Nathan, what is your “Scripture test” that allows me to make the distinction between infallibly promulgated dogma that cannot possibly be in error, and theological opinion that is, perhaps, in error? If you cannot clearly elucidate how I perform the test, then every teaching from the LCMS must be treated by me as non-conscience binding theological opinion, since no one can ever know when a teaching is infallibly promulgated, and when a teaching is merely well intentioned, but fallible, theological opinion.

    Nathan responds: First of all, in the RCC your answer is simple …

    I didn’t ask for your opinion about what the RCC teaches about infallibility, I asked you to explain to me how anyone knows with absolute certainty when a teacher in the LCMS promulgates infallibly taught doctrine, as opposed to merely offering up non-conscience binding theological opinion. So far, you have either been unable, or unwilling, to answer that question. Do you ever intend to answer my question?

    Nathan responds: Here is where I will talk about “absolute certainty” and the things God wants us to have “absolute certainty” about. … I am also confident – certain – that the Scriptures the Church recognized in the 4th c. are canonical, even if some are of greater importance than others (and I am certain that they were written to help the church “safeguard” the truth).

    Why are you absolutely certain that the Catholic Church taught infallibly about the content of the canon of scriptures in the fourth century? Please give me the criteria that Lutherans use when determining when the Catholic Church has infallibly taught what all Christians must accept in order to be orthodox in what they believe! If your criteria is that Lutherans teach infallibly when what they teach is “scriptural”, then your criteria is so trite that it is worthless. All Protestant sects teach that their doctrine is scriptural, as does the Catholic Church. To move beyond the trite but true, I need to know the criteria that gives one absolute certainty that this interpretation of scriptures is infallibly taught, and this interpretation of scriptures is not taught infallibly. What are those criteria?

    Nathan responds: … when I read the Lutheran Confessions of 1580 I recognize in them words that are faithful to the biblical text – I find no errors there, and this inspires great confidence and joy.

    Millions, if not hundreds of millions, of Christians do not share your opinion that the Lutheran Confessions of 1580 are infallibly taught dogma, since these particular confessions are not explicitly taught in the scriptures. Many Lutherans that I know do not believe that the Lutheran Confessions are infallibly taught dogma! That said, just because the vast majority of Christians do not share your opinion about the inerrancy of the Lutheran Confessions of 1580, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Lutheran Confessions of 1580 were not infallibly promulgated. Maybe these confessions are guaranteed by God to be inerrant, and maybe they lack that guarantee. That is why it is imperative for you to explicitly elucidate to us your criteria for determining how Christians are supposed to know with absolute certainty when, and how, Lutheran teachers exercise the charism of infallibility.

    mateo writes to Nathan:If you cannot clearly elucidate how I perform the test, then every teaching from the LCMS must be treated by me as non-conscience binding theological opinion, since no one can ever know when a teaching is infallibly promulgated, and when a teaching is merely well intentioned, but fallible, theological opinion.

    Nathan responds: … all I can tell you is that we all need to know the Lord better

    Better than whom? How can you possibly know what my personal knowledge of the Lord is? Does your argument boil down to the assertion that if I don’t accept Lutheranism, I am either ignorant of the scriptures or an evil man – that I am either a fool or a knave? Not to pick on you personally, but many other Protestants make these accusations against Catholics too, that is, if I don’t accept the doctrines espoused by their particular sect of Protestantism, that it must be the case that either I am ignorant of what is “perspicuously” taught in scriptures, or that I am a liar that knows the truth but denies the truth.

    The problem with Protestant “perspicuity” doctrine is that Protestantism is thousands upon thousands of divided sects that teach contradictory doctrine. Someone in the Protestant world has to be teaching heresy, even if that is done out of ignorance and not malice. Protestants by and large don’t think twice about church shopping until they find a church that agrees with their personal interpretations of scripture. Once they find the true church (the church that teaches what they personally believe), they will claim that they are “submitting” to a church authority that binds their conscience (until they get some new understanding about what scriptures teach). Nowhere is “church shopping” authorized by scriptures, and nothing in scriptures authorizes Protestants to join “churches” founded by some man or some woman.

    To claim that scriptures have authority, I cannot pick and choose what verses I will accept in the scriptures (or throw out books of the bible because I don’t personally like them). The scriptures that most Protestants are willing to acknowledge as inspired explicitly teach that to be a disciple of Christ, I must seek out the church that Christ personally founded, the church against which the powers of death can never prevail. The scriptures tell me that I must listen to the Church that Christ personally founded, which is something that no Protestant is willing to do, since all Protestants either listen to churches founded by men and women, or they found their own personal churches (like Luther and Calvin did) and then listen to the novelties taught in their own personal churches! Luther and Calvin did not uphold scriptures by founding their personal bible churches, they attacked scriptures by becoming unrepentant schismatics.

    Nathan writes: When I was a child, I had childish thoughts…. I questioned my birthright fiercedly (flirting with every other church), and have gradually come to see that this is where I should rest.

    Where are the scriptures that authorize you to church shop, and where are the scriptures that authorize you to join a religion that was founded by a mere man?

    Nathan writes: I think if you really started reading Luther, you’d see why your bringing up Mary Baker Eddy with him is so ridiculous.

    What makes you think that I haven’t read Luther? Without a doubt, Luther is a cafeteria Catholic that did not start a new religion from scratch. Luther accepted many infallibly taught doctrines of the Catholic Church without question. Luther also promulgated doctrinal novelties, and it is the novel doctrines taught by Marin Luther that give the religion of Lutheranism a unique identity. Mary Baker Eddy did the same thing as Luther when she founded her personal religion – she assumed that she had authority to pick and choose which dogmas taught by the Catholic Church that she would accept, and then taught her own novelties. When she was done, a new Protestant religion, Christian Science, was created, and it is the novelties taught by Mary Baker Eddy that gives Christian Science an identity that makes her Protestant sect distinct from every other Protestant sect. In exactly the same way, it is the novelties that Luther taught that gives Lutheranism an identity that makes it unique from every other Protestant sect.

    My point is not that the novelties of Mary Baker Eddy are any more plausible than the novelties of Martin Luther, or the novelties of John Calvin, or the novelties of Garner Ted Armstrong. My point is that the novelties of Luther are novelties, and everyone who would be disciple of Christ that desires to be orthodox in their beliefs, needs to know the criteria that gives one absolute certainty when a Protestant’s novelties are guaranteed by God to be inerrant.

    To clarify, I am using “novel” in the sense that it is used in Patent Law. In Patent Law, novelty does not mean “gimcrack” or something worthless, it means that the object of the patent cannot be publicly known before it is patented – i.e. the object of the patent is something new. The legitimate development of doctrine can produce novel doctrines that are true, that is, what is implicit in the deposit of the faith can be made formally explicit. To make an analogy, the patent on the laser made formally explicit what was implicit in quantum physics. In a like manner, the Christological dogmas promulgated by the first seven Ecumenical Councils made formally explicit what was implicit in the deposit of the faith. Lutherans don’t have a problem with accepting the development doctrine, which is why they confess the Nicene Creed in their Liturgy. The problem that we are dealing with is not whether or not Christian doctrine can develop to the point where it is solemnify defined by church authority, but how it is we know with absolute certainty when a novel doctrine has a guarantee from God of being inerrant because the men that formally defined the doctrine exercised the charismatic gift of infallibility. Bryan’s article asks the question “When will Protestants know when to return”? Obviously, if Protestants cannot articulate the criteria for determining when the novelties they promulgated are infallibly taught, and when their novelties are well intentioned, but fallible, theological opinion, then Protestants will never know when to return, because they will never have any certainty of what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of Christianity.

    Nathan writes: The most important things in life cannot be reduced to checklists and tests – and how things play out on the ground is often complicated. Some things we “know in our bones” much more than we can articulate them (even if we try, like I have – the 11,000 words….)

    The Mormons can answer my question without your evasions. The Mormons say I must listen to the Prophet of Salt Lake City, and I can use a “bosom burning” test to verify the veracity of the Prophet’s teaching. Your criteria seems to be that I should reject the Prophet of Salt Lake City, but accept that Luther had a near God-like understanding of things spiritual, and that I should listen to you because you ”know in your bones” that Luther could speak no error when promulgating his novelties. At least that is what I have discerned so far, and I would be pleased if you could articulate what you really believe if I am wrong.

    In your 11, 000 word response, you write this:

    In a nutshell, here is my contention: The best and most faithful of the Apostolic Fathers (i.e. the most Apostolic among them) believed that all essential doctrines – for all practical purposes, the Rule of Faith – could be proven with Scripture.

    Here you are making a contention that the scriptures are materially sufficient to support all orthodox Christian doctrine. As a Catholic I don’t have a problem with that. I have a problem with Luther’s novelty of sola scriptura, which is NOT a doctrine that is fundamentally about scriptures and their inspiration and inerrancy, but rather, the sola scriptura novelty is a doctrine that is primarily a doctrine about primacy. That is, Luther denied the doctrine of Petrine primacy and asserted instead, the novel doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. Building upon the novelty of the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience, Luther justified rebelling against existing church authority and became an unrepentant cafeteria Catholic. The problem for Luther is that there are no scriptures that teach the primacy of the individual conscience. On the contrary, the scriptures explicitly condemn this pernicious heresy. The doctrine of the primacy of the individual was first taught by the serpent in the Garden, and the Fall was brought about by man making himself the primary authority for what is to be believed. The doctrinal chaos of thousands of thousands of Protestant sects that teach contradictory doctrine is the fruit of the false doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience.

  273. Brent,

    Thanks. I’d love to keep talking with you.

    mateo and Bryan,

    Hopefully, will be able to comment next Monday.

    In Christ,
    Nathan

  274. Bryan,

    You contend that:

    “(a) the words of absolution are not infallible because the priest does not have absolute certainty regarding the contrition of the penitent, and (b) that therefore the penitent cannot derive absolute certainty (but only moral certainty) from the words of absolution that he is in a state of grace.”

    First of all, there really is no need to focus on infallibility here, although I don’t think the issue is out of place completely. Even if a pastor is incorrect in his assessment that a person is penitent the real concern here is that actual penitent sinners would be able to trust – have faith in – the Words that the pastor says. And assuming the pastor does what he is supposed to do – namely, pronounce forgiveness on those who *by their confession indicate* that they recognize their relationship-destroying sin, desire to flee from it, and want a restored relationship with God – the pastor acts according to God’s will (call it “infallibly” if you please – guided by the Spirit, following the Word to forgive 70×7, He does not error…). Further, let us recognize that even if the pastor does pronounce someone who is actually impenitent “forgiven” (because they have said all the right words, but have done so only because they falsely believe that this mere external action of absolution amounts to a “get out of jail free card” – and hence they desire it for this reason) this still does not mean that the pastor has said something false. The reason for this is because it is indeed true that God is reconciled to this man through Christ because He is reconciled to the world through Christ. The tragedy is that this man is not reconciled to God however, because He does not have faith. Therefore, the wrath and judgment and vengeance of God remains on Him as it says in the Gospel of John. So, this person might “know” that they have peace with God, but they would, in fact, be deceived. My point would be that Christians who are genuinely worried that they have not repented enough (quality-wise or quantity-wise) or who are genuinely worried that they do not actually have any repentance – would be given the comfort of the Gospel. As regards to absolute vs moral certainty as regards being in a state of grace, the point should be that the penitent can be certain – namely, there is no need for him to have any doubts – that he is. Doubt is not a necessary part of faith – it is the antithesis of faith.

    I said: “Your quoting Humpty Dumpty is odd because it is nonsensical to talk about the “objective meaning of the words” apart from the intent of the author (and the context provided by his other words)”

    You replied: “No it is not nonsensical to observe that language has a meaning independent of the intention of the individual language user. Here’s an example. If another language has the word ‘fire,’ and in that language it means “excellent,” then when that language-speaker yells ‘fire’ in a crowded theater in the US, it still means something to the persons present in the theater, even if that meaning was not intended by the speaker. “

    I say: It may have “a meaning” but it does not have “the meaning” which is the point. In fact, words and phrases may indeed have multiple meanings independent of the intention of the individual language user, which underscores the importance of the context of the words and intended meaning of the author.

    I said: To my knowledge, [Cajetan] said “one could never be certain that one’s contrition was sufficient to effect the forgiveness one hoped to receive” which seems to clearly imply that one cannot have certainty that they are in a state of grace.

    You said: Here you are glossing the distinction between moral and absolute certainty, and that begs the question by imposing a non-Catholic paradigm on the Cardinal’s statement. The better approach is to understand the Cardinal’s statement on Catholic terms, i.e. in just the way I have explained it, namely, as denying that we can have absolute certainty of the genuineness of one’s contrition and that one is in a state of grace, but not denying that we can have moral certainty of the genuineness of one’s contrition and that one is in a state of grace. It should be obvious that if you criticize the Catholic Church by interpreting Catholics statements by way of a non-Catholic paradigm, you are simply begging the question. But in weighing the theological case between an excommunicated person (and anyone who might happen to follow him) and the Catholic Church, the burden of proof is always on the excommunicated person. And that is why a Lutheran justification for separation from the Catholic Church that depends on a question-begging critique of Catholic doctrine, is never a justification for separation.

    I say: Getting back to the author’s intended meaning, I am quite confident that you are misrepresenting Cardinal Cajetan. Whereas it is conceivable that someone could misquote Luther (as was done in the Bull), by attributing a meaning contrary to the one he intended, I do not think that can be done with Cajetan’s statement. He simply said that one could never be certain that one’s contrition was sufficient. If you contend that at this point in church history distinctions regarding certainty like those you are expressing here existed (and then should certainly be applied to the good Cardinal’s statement), I would contend that this is not the case, based on what I have read. Further, of course Cajetan is saying certainty is related to the quality or quantity of our contrition, which we reject.

    I said: Again, you are simply not speaking with Luther then. Cajetan was. The Pope, in the Bull Exsurge Domine itself, said that he was – but he was not.

    You said: None of that is incompatible with the truth of what I said about why Luther’s statement is contrary to Catholic doctrine.

    I say: I still don’t understand how we can have a conversation then. This has become about the words without the persons speaking them. This is the shell without the nut. This is the markings without the flesh and blood. I do not see how there is spirit and life – humanity – in this strange philosophy that I hear from you.

    I said: Again, Luther was not saying that there did not need to be true contrition. He only spoke against worrying about the quality or quantity of one’s contrition. If one worried about these things (and many did in his day), one should not stew over one’s sincerity. Re: I Cor. 4:4, it is clear that here Paul is doing precisely this – not stewing over his own sincerity and an obsession with total purity of heart (for he knows that he does not have this – Romans 7) but rather looking outside of himself and entrusting Himself to Another…

    You said: Again, Luther’s statement makes absolution independent of contrition, even if that is not what Luther intended by the statement. The statement was condemned precisely for making absolution independent of contrition. So if you think absolution depends on true contrition, then you can embrace the Church’s condemnation of the statement according to the objective meaning of the statement.

    Again, some words and phrases can have a multiplicity of meanings, and this is why, in the general course of things, the wider context is important. One of the possible meanings of Luther’s statement – even taken in isolation – is indeed that the quality or quantity of repentance does not matter. If Luther had said “bears are of a brown color” and I insisted that he meant bears were of a white color I would have no ground to stand on – true. Still this is not the case in our discussion where we are no longer discussing doctrine at all – we are now discussing philosophy of language. Your approach seems very mechanical to me, a la the “semantic web” fantasies.

    “Merely looking outside of oneself would not be sufficient for knowing that one is absolved if there needs to be true contrition for absolution, since “true contrition” is something internal. Looking outside would be sufficient for knowing that one is absolved only if absolution in no way depended on contrition.”

    Paul’s statements – and Luthers’s – presume true contrition (what was the first of Luther’s 95 theses, by the way?). I talked about this a bit with Andrew as well and this got fleshed out a bit more – what follows is our exchange:

    I had said: “In RC theology a person may have a “moral certainty” that they are in a state of grace – but this can only be determined by evaluating of one’s own [moral] character and conduct – not by clinging to the external Promise alone (of course after calling what God calls sin “sin”– ie. that thing and those particular things which separate us from Him).”

    Andrew said:

    “The second part of your statement, with the parenthetical material, raises a dilemma: If you are clinging to the external promise alone for assurance, then why bother considering sin, i.e., that in us (not external to us) which separates us from God? I think that at the end of the day we both want to depend upon the external Promise and to take seriously the fact that sin separates us from God, which seems to imply that the external Promise, though essential for assurance of salvation, is not alone sufficient for assurance of salvation. We both agree that the popular adage (based on a kind of Calvinism), “once saved always saved” is simply not true. So we both need to take into account how personal sin can affect one’s relationship with God, as well as the implications of this for assurance.”

    I replied:

    As regards your first couple sentences above, I can see why you would think this. I should have left that part about considering sin out of there. In fact, this is, strictly speaking, not necessary. The point is that if I, as a Lutheran, express confidence that I am saved, some may wonder whether or not my confidence is really false presumption – and that an underlying antinomianism lurks. At this point, I explain that it is not, and talking about “calling what God calls sin ‘sin’ and calling what God calls gift ‘gift’” is one ways of demonstrating this: by way of offering a good “confession” (in the sense that I confess I believe to be sin what God calls sin, meaning I want to flee from this relationship-destroying thing and desire forgiveness for it and its manifestations in my life). So, the external Promise is sufficient for the assurance of salvation, but when we are made to doubt that it is, this is one way of calming those doubts and answering those who would insist that we can’t rest in the fact that repentance and faith are fully gifts from God that are received by hearing His word (Romans 10, Isaiah 55). Again, all of these questions are related not to direct faith, which clings to the Promise in confidence in real time (see the post above about arrogant infants again: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/babies-in-church-part-v-the-arrogance-of-the-infant-a/), but “reflective faith” which we realize will always produce doubt due to the sin within us (here is another example of working through this doubt – I believe I linked you to this earlier: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/transformation-failure-3/).

    Back to this conversation. I said:

    One more thing: I do think that all of these distinctions about types of certainties are most likely recently invented. Thomas made far fewer distinctions.

    You said:

    We can already find these distinctions in nascent form in Aristotle. But the Church has always maintained the distinction between the certainty of faith and the certainty that is presumption, since presumption has always been a sin, but the certainty of faith has always been a virtue.

    I say: to my knowledge, Aristotle only distinguished between certain things and opinion – he did not have the further subdivisions of “certainty” we now find in Rome.

    You said: Luther himself repudiates you.

    and you said: No, your inability to have the certainty of faith that God loves you follows from (a) Luther’s own statement that God of His own mere will abandons, hardens, and damns masses of men [and thus does not love all men], and (b) the fact that Scripture does not say that you (Nathan) are loved by God. The inability to have the certainty of faith that God loves you follows necessarily from those two premises.

    I say: I have no such uncertainty. Predestination does not figure into my thinking at all, and I do not think it is there subconsciously either. Again, Luther himself would urge me to look to Christ and the Sacraments and to not think about predestination. As such, I do – and have trust and confidence in Him alone. I long to trust Him even more, but not to be saved, but because I am saved.

    I said: No well-catechized Lutheran believes this. We cling to the external word alone. Trusting one’s own inner experience is anathema.

    You said: I didn’t say that Lutherans believe that assurance comes from an inner-experience. Nor does the fact that Lutherans don’t believe that assurance comes from inner-experience refute my argument. I said that given Luther’s position on double-predestination, and given the fact that Scripture does not say that God loves you (Nathan), and given Luther’s belief that not all baptized persons are elect-to-glory (i.e. some baptized persons are not loved by God), it follows that inner experience is the only possible source of absolute assurance.

    I say: First, even if Luther did believe in double predestination, he did not explicitly teach it – and in his later years even advised people against talking about it as it caused confusion and sidetracked us from the real issues. Second, whatever the case, he told us that we were not to examine these hidden things, but to look only where God had directed us to look: namely, the promises of grace found in the absolution, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Third, confessional Lutherans as a whole condemn double predestination as a biblical aberration in the Formula of Concord. We don’t believe it.

    I said: yes we can. Just because every baptized person does not truly believe does not mean that we cannot have certainty that we have saving faith – even if “reflective faith” may at times doubt (see post linked to above as well)

    You said: The reason the follower of Luther cannot depend on any sacrament to provide absolute certainty (or the certainty of faith) that God loves him, is that reprobate persons can receive those same sacraments. Only if no reprobate person could ever receive baptism could one rightly infer from one’s own having been baptized that one is not reprobate. Likewise, only if no reprobate person could ever receive communion could one rightly infer from one’s own having received communion that one is not reprobate.

    I say:

    No, such thoughts are damnable really because they deny the gifts of God where He has given them to us. The reason we can depend on the sacrament is because God is faithful – the person who genuinely fears whether he has enough contrition or sincere enough contrition, etc, etc… needs to be comforted with the Gospel and assured that the Gospel is specifically for them. This is the whole point of being a pastor or a Christian, really.

    Let me try to put this in practice now….

    The comfort of sinners is the glory of God and the ushering in of His Kingdom, which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

    True… Christ at times speaks harsh words which terrify, trouble, and condemn us – they should, for as he says, we are evil and only God is good.

    But, at bottom, we know that he is not a hard man, but gentle and tender. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. He will not break the bruised reed nor snuff out the smoldering wick. Desiring mercy and ever compassionate, He comes only for pitiful sinners as our friend.

    To be certain of the stability of our relationship with God is to unreflectively depend on His Word of forgiveness in Christ, which brings with it life and salvation. We are like simple children in this matter, taking their dear Father at his word.

    It is by this forgiving Word that we have life and stand, not by faith in anything else, like: the strength of our faith; the performance of our actions; our conception and concern over the moral and spiritual transformation needed to stand in His presence.

    We are the ox who falls into the well and whom He immediately pulls out, not even waiting for words of repentance (see Luke 15) – and the angels rejoice at this. Having peace with God (Rom 5:1), we therefore do not let sin reign in our mortal bodies (Rom 6:11, the first active verb in the entire book).

    ***

    I said: Luther himself avoided this problem by not locating certainty in the doctrine of election but by advising persons to cling firmly to the Word and Sacraments. Remember, you are talking with a Lutheran, not a Calvinist.

    You said: The soundness of my argument does not depend on whether you are a Lutheran or a Calvinist. Luther did not avoid the problem I am describing. That’s because clinging to the Scripture does not provide the certainty of faith that you are not reprobate, because Scripture never says that you (Nathan) are elect-to-glory, or that you (Nathan) are not reprobate. Therefore without looking to something inside yourself, you cannot rightly infer from any verse (or set of verses) in Scripture that you are not reprobate. Clinging to baptism or communion likewise does not provide the certainty of faith that you are not reprobate, because Lutheran theology concedes that reprobates can receive both baptism and communion. Therefore having received baptism and communion is insufficient to demonstrate election-to-glory, and is therefore insufficient to demonstrate non-reprobation, and is therefore insufficient to demonstrate that you are not hated by God.

    So, not only have you not yet shown that Catholics cannot have confidence that we are in a state of grace (as you claimed in #177), if you follow Luther’s notion of double-predestination, and if you reject the distinctions between absolute certainty, the certainty of faith, and moral certainty (such that there is only absolute certainty or no certainty at all) then either you yourself have no certainty that you are in a state of grace, and thus are worse off (assurance-wise) than Catholics, or you (unlike all other “well-catechized Lutherans”) must depend on some inner experience in order to have certainty that you are in state of grace.”

    (end Bryan’s quote)

    Bryan,

    Two men may both tell you that they is certain that he is in a stable and secure relationship with his wife. If one marriage falls apart the next day and the other does not (but in fact continues until death), does this mean that the man whose marriage goes the distance did not have true knowledge like he said he did? Should we insist hell or high water that there is no way he could have known this – and that it was if anything, only a justified opinion? I say no. What we know is what we have yet to be shown is false. Applied more widely to the entire Catholic system that leads to this view of absolution: this is not about knowledge vs. opinion. This is about knowledge that cannot be pinned down as you like. This is about knowledge of the past being more important than man-made philosophies, systems, and views. That is what this is all about – and not the things you say above. I can speak from experience: I never worry that I am a reprobate. In fact, I see such thoughts as worthy of damnation itself – for God has met me in Christ to give me peace and the knowledge of eternal life (Romans 5:1 and I John 5:13). He forgives me in His Word in spite of the darkness of my heart (Rom. 4:5, 4:17; chapter 7). And He pursues me time and again when I pursue Him not. All through His concrete servants in history.

    He is good. I am not. But though His Son He sees me as good now, and I will be fully made so when He comes again. Of this I do not doubt.

    Thanks be to God!

    PS – I also have posted about this more with Andrew (see post #35 here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/08/st-thomas-aquinas-on-assurance-of-salvation/).

    If you reply it may be a while before I can reply again….

    + Nathan

  275. Mateo,

    A pleasure to speak with you again.

    Mateo: I didn’t ask for your opinion about what the RCC teaches about infallibility, I asked you to explain to me how anyone knows with absolute certainty when a teacher in the LCMS promulgates infallibly taught doctrine, as opposed to merely offering up non-conscience binding theological opinion. So far, you have either been unable, or unwilling, to answer that question. Do you ever intend to answer my question?

    Mateo, I’m sorry you don’t feel like I’ve answered your question. On my part, this is frustrating, because I’ve spend quite a bit of time trying. Here’s one more try: I’m sure that ***certain people*** (not all – we are talking about persons who have been exceptionally well spiritually formed, and whose habit it is to rely on the Holy Ghost incessantly as He works on them through His Word) can tell quite readily when this is the case, given the presence of the Church’s true rule of faith in their heart, which causes them to reflexively flee back to the Scriptures – that safeguard the Apostolic deposit – whenever they come across teachings that seem to them to be a bit strange or unfamiliar. Also, concern to see what the Apostolic Fathers and Church Fathers have said is not irrelevant, as the clarity of Biblical teachings may occur only after reading something the Fathers have written that does an exceptionally good job of clarifying something.

    M: Why are you absolutely certain that the Catholic Church taught infallibly about the content of the canon of scriptures in the fourth century? Please give me the criteria that Lutherans use when determining when the Catholic Church has infallibly taught what all Christians must accept in order to be orthodox in what they believe!

    Mateo, as the LC-MS and those in fellowship with her are truly Church, we can readily recognize that folks like Polycarp and Irenaeus and not Marcion are our spiritual forefathers. And these men either knew the Apostles personally or persons close to them. In God’s providence, He inspired these men to write down the Apostolic teaching to safeguard it for future generations. The Gospels, Paul’s letters, I-III John and I Peter were all unanimously accepted by the early Church as these were recognized to contain the Apostolic deposit –and they were incorporated into worship from the beginning. This is stuff that is not too disputable, I think.

    M: …If your criteria is that Lutherans teach infallibly when what they teach is “scriptural”, then your criteria is so trite that it is worthless. All Protestant sects teach that their doctrine is scriptural, as does the Catholic Church. To move beyond the trite but true, I need to know the criteria that gives one absolute certainty that this interpretation of scriptures is infallibly taught, and this interpretation of scriptures is not taught infallibly. What are those criteria?

    Mateo, we are going around and around here. Our viewpoints are different – see my first paragraph to you above. Our position, as I painstakingly laid out to Brent above, is that even an atheist, if given the charge to do so, could readily determine that the confessional Lutheran churches are closer to core message of the Bible than are the Jehovah’s Witnesses for example. In other words, there is an external clarity to the Words, and this must be taken into account. If you want more detail, I urge you to follow the comments starting here at this thread.

    Incidently, we do not claim infallibility for the Lutheran confessions. God does not give us such guarantees. We recognize them as a clear and true exposition of what the Scriptures teach.

    “ That is why it is imperative for you to explicitly elucidate to us your criteria for determining how Christians are supposed to know with absolute certainty when, and how, Lutheran teachers exercise the charism of infallibility.”

    Again, see first paragraph. Re-read. Consider. Reflect. Digest. Pray.

    Mateo to me:If you cannot clearly elucidate how I perform the test, then every teaching from the LCMS must be treated by me as non-conscience binding theological opinion, since no one can ever know when a teaching is infallibly promulgated, and when a teaching is merely well intentioned, but fallible, theological opinion.

    I said: … all I can tell you is that we all need to know the Lord better

    Mateo counters: “Better than whom? How can you possibly know what my personal knowledge of the Lord is? Does your argument boil down to the assertion that if I don’t accept Lutheranism, I am either ignorant of the scriptures or an evil man – that I am either a fool or a knave? Not to pick on you personally, but many other Protestants make these accusations against Catholics too, that is, if I don’t accept the doctrines espoused by their particular sect of Protestantism, that it must be the case that either I am ignorant of what is “perspicuously” taught in scriptures, or that I am a liar that knows the truth but denies the truth.”

    Mateo – I do not know your heart, nor do I care to make such accusations against you. When I say that we all need to know the Lord better, I say that first of all to myself. I really do believe that the more we know the Lord through His Word, the more that we will be able to determine who is truly Church. Or would you tell me something different as regards your efforts to help me come to a knowledge of what you believe to be true about the RCC?

    Mateo: “The problem with Protestant “perspicuity” doctrine is that Protestantism is thousands upon thousands of divided sects that teach contradictory doctrine. Someone in the Protestant world has to be teaching heresy, even if that is done out of ignorance and not malice. Protestants by and large don’t think twice about church shopping until they find a church that agrees with their personal interpretations of scripture. Once they find the true church (the church that teaches what they personally believe), they will claim that they are “submitting” to a church authority that binds their conscience (until they get some new understanding about what scriptures teach). Nowhere is “church shopping” authorized by scriptures, and nothing in scriptures authorizes Protestants to join “churches” founded by some man or some woman.”

    Yes, you point out many problems here. It seems to me that those Protestants are ignoring many of Christ’s words: about absolution, baptism and the supper. The word is plenty clear. About the fact that God means for us to all be one in unity of doctrine (most don’t emphasize this as important), if they would take a look at the first church of the Reformation, we might see some progress. Strangely, many won’t come near “the Lonely Way” (see http://cyberbrethren.com/2011/12/28/whats-up-with-the-evangelicals-and-reformed/ and http://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Way-Selected-Letters-1941-1976/dp/0758600046)

    Mateo: …The problem that we are dealing with is not whether or not Christian doctrine can develop to the point where it is solemnify defined by church authority, but how it is we know with absolute certainty when a novel doctrine has a guarantee from God of being inerrant because the men that formally defined the doctrine exercised the charismatic gift of infallibility.”

    Please demonstrate from the Scripture either a) where you see this happening or b) where this is promised. I see promises that God will preserve His Church, but I do not see promises that we will always know who is infallible by virtue of someone holding an office. This definitely did not happen in the Old Testament.

    Mateo: “Obviously, if Protestants cannot articulate the criteria for determining when the novelties they promulgated are infallibly taught, and when their novelties are well intentioned, but fallible, theological opinion, then Protestants will never know when to return, because they will never have any certainty of what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of Christianity.”

    No return will be possible until Rome is willing to at least begin serious discussions re: the book of Concord with the thought that “we could be wrong….”. So, sadly, I don’t think it will be happening.

    I said: The most important things in life cannot be reduced to checklists and tests – and how things play out on the ground is often complicated. Some things we “know in our bones” much more than we can articulate them (even if we try, like I have – the 11,000 words….)

    You said: The Mormons can answer my question without your evasions. The Mormons say I must listen to the Prophet of Salt Lake City, and I can use a “bosom burning” test to verify the veracity of the Prophet’s teaching. Your criteria seems to be that I should reject the Prophet of Salt Lake City, but accept that Luther had a near God-like understanding of things spiritual, and that I should listen to you because you ”know in your bones” that Luther could speak no error when promulgating his novelties. At least that is what I have discerned so far, and I would be pleased if you could articulate what you really believe if I am wrong.

    I say: it does not surprise me that the way the Mormans answer questions pleases you more than do my answers. I see some real similarities between Rome and Salt Lake City. Mateo, let me again inform you that I never said Luther spoke no error. I believe that he was merely a faithful pastor of the church who called things what they were when the Church had gone off the rails.

    Mateo:

    “Luther denied the doctrine of Petrine primacy and asserted instead, the novel doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. Building upon the novelty of the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience, Luther justified rebelling against existing church authority and became an unrepentant cafeteria Catholic. The problem for Luther is that there are no scriptures that teach the primacy of the individual conscience. On the contrary, the scriptures explicitly condemn this pernicious heresy. The doctrine of the primacy of the individual was first taught by the serpent in the Garden, and the Fall was brought about by man making himself the primary authority for what is to be believed. The doctrinal chaos of thousands of thousands of Protestant sects that teach contradictory doctrine is the fruit of the false doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience.”

    And here we stand.

    Also, I have been having a similar conversation with another gentleman. You may find the post and the content (and tenor) of the conversation to be interesting: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/reformation-history-what-would-you-have-done/

    +Nathan

  276. Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle posts on his facebook page, “A critic of a church & a servant in a church both see the same problem but respond differently. One goes online & the other goes to work.” With almost 600 likes as of this post, the crowd has gone wild.

    One can’t help, of course, wonder what distinguishes the internet from the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral. If Driscoll’s statement is true (and I think it is largely true), what is his principled reason for naming Luther a hero for publicly criticizing the Catholic Magisterium and demonizing people publicly criticizing his leadership of his Church?

    Can anyone help me find the distinction?

  277. Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle posts on his facebook page, “A critic of a church & a servant in a church both see the same problem but respond differently. One goes online & the other goes to work.” With almost 600 likes as of this post, the crowd has gone wild.

    Interesting that he got online to criticize those who get online to criticize others. I assume he “got to work” after logging off Facebook?

  278. It’s only fair to point out that when the Reformers began their “protest,” as Cross calls it, the Roman church was completely unwilling to have any kind of constructive dialogue. Attempts at Reform by the likes of Luther and Huss were met with threats of beatings and burnings, often carried out. You can see why Protestants haven’t been too interested in “resubmitting” ever since.

    But if Cross is seriously asking what it would take for Protestants to submit to the club of murderers and tyrants that is the Roman church, I could make a few suggestions. The Roman church could 1) Stop requiring its followers to pray to graven images; 2) Recant its position that the word of a man (the Pope) is equivalent to the Word of God; 3) Stop prescribing religious rituals and charitable donations as a means of forgiveness of sins; 4) Repent of its teaching that mass and baptism into its organization are means of salvation; 5) Stop protecting priests who molest children and instead deliver them to the authorities; and 6) Repent and seek the forgiveness off the children the church ripped away from their mothers in Spain in the 1970s.

    I’ll let you know if I think of more.

  279. Seth,

    The trouble with your list is it essentially amounts to making the church agree with you. Everyone else would have a slightly different list to make the church agree with them. Can you see why that is impossible for any church to do? There are just too many opinions. Do we even want a church that tries to please everyone that way?

    Your wording on many of your items is not very Catholic. I am not sure if you are unaware of the way Catholics describe their teachings on these matters. If you are I would suggest using this site and others to try and understand them better. We don’t want to describe another groups beliefs in a way they would never agree with. The doctrines are much more reasonable when you get past the anti-Catholic slogans and understand them in the context of a Catholic world and life view.

  280. If anybody is interested in continuing this conversation, I’ve got a new post (series) up that deals with this issue.

    All for returning. Let’s do it: http://wp.me/psYq5-pR

  281. Seth (#278),

    Welcome to CTC, and thank you for the comment. I’m going to ask you this, as an honest and respectful question– are you truly interested in answers to the objections that you’ve raised against the Catholic Church? I hope and pray that you are. Sometimes, Christians of an anti-Catholic bent (I used to be one of them as a “Reformed Baptist”) will stop by here with a flurry of objections– a “drive-by” comment, if you will– and they are either never heard from again here, or they respond to the answers given with reiterations of their objections and little else. Are you interested in actual discussion about Catholicism and Protestantism? Again, it is my hope and prayer that you are.

    When I was a five-point Calvinist, there was no question to me that the Catholic Church was wrong– and wrong on many of the *very points* that you raise. However, beyond reading exegesis of Scripture *largely from within the Reformed tradition* and reading anti-Catholic accounts of Church history, I didn’t feel much of a need to even challenge my objections. It was simply clear, to me, that the Catholic Church was Biblically wrong on several points.

    In retrospect, however, I was the one who was mistaken on several points, not the Church. First, the Church does not *require* her members to “pray to graven images.” Many, many Catholics do pray *in front of* statues, but they are not praying *to* the objects themselves. The commandment against the making of graven images in Scripture refers to the worship of idols. By contrast, Catholics worship God alone. The Catechism explicitly commands worship of God alone, and, at numerous points throughout history, the Catholic Church has *condemned* heretical groups which fell into idolatry.

    In both Scripture and Tradition (see 2 Thessalonians 2:15 on the issue of Scripture and Tradition), Catholics are explicitly told to give worship to no one other than God Himself. Have you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Doing so might be helpful, if you want to know what Catholics are required to believe *as* Catholics. The Catechism is saturated with Scripture. Pope John Paul II, who approved the Catechism, was a Scripture scholar.

    The Church does not hold the word(s) of the Pope to be above that of Scripture. The Pope and the Magisterium are the *servants* of the word of God, not sources of additional Divine Revelation. The teaching authority of the Church exists, partially, to protect believers from the errors into which many can stumble, and into which many *have* stumbled, through individual interpretation of the Bible. (Prosperity theology and non-Trintarianism being two of the more obviously egregious examples of those errors.) Catholics are encouraged to read the Bible– the Church translated the Bible into Latin, in the 4th century, *because* it was the common language of the Roman people at that time!–, but Catholics are not to engage in the Protestant error of individual interpretation of the Bible. For more on *Sola* Scriptura, *Solo* Scriptura, and the question of interpretive authority, please see this article (loading it may take a bit of time, as there are currently 1, 220 comments on the article in the comboxes): http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

    You may well say, then, “Ok, you claim that the Catholic Church doesn’t add to Scripture but only safeguards it. What about the Church’s teachings on Mary then? What about the other Catholic teachings that seem to contradict Scripture?” It’s important to note here that no one interprets Scripture in a vacuum. Reformed Protestants most assuredly do not do so. They interpret Scripture from within a theological framework and tradition– as Catholics do as well. The question is not *whether* to interpret the Bible from within a theological framework and tradition, but rather, whose framework and tradition is truly apostolic and most reliable?

    Reformed Protestants often cannot fathom Catholic teachings on Mary, the Sacraments, and other issues (and I’ve been there myself, as a former Protestant!)– but at least in my experience in Reformed circles, there is simply not much exposure, on a congregational *or* a seminary level, to serious Catholic Biblical exegesis. Seriously consider that state of affairs for a moment. Isn’t it just a bit lop-sided to have *so little* exposure to serious Catholic Biblical exegesis, and yet to condemn Catholic teaching out of hand?

    It is true that certain things that Catholics believe (on Mary and other subjects) are not explicitly stated in the Bible (and I know that you think these teachings *contradict* the Bible, as I once did!), but surely, for Bible-reading, Bible-loving Protestants, some serious time should be given to Catholic exegesis before simply dismissing Catholic teaching as being heretical? Think about it– we both affirm the Trinity as orthodox Christian doctrine. We both believe that the Bible teaches the Trinity. However, does the Bible alone really *clearly* teach that the Trinity is one God in three Person which are co-eternal and eternally distinct? If you just picked up a Bible, outside of any theological tradition, and began reading, would you come to that careful, nuanced understanding of the Trinity?

    The Marian doctrines, and certain other Catholic teachings, are not explicitly stated in Scripture, but they are *based on Scriptural teaching*– and in the case of Marian teaching, it is based on what the Bible tells us about *Christ Himself*. There are many articles on this site about Mary and the Saints of the Catholic Church. I encourage you to peruse the index of articles here. You might be surprised at much of what you read. The CTC authors were all once serious Reformed Protestants, and somehow, they came to embrace the very Church that they had once despised and rejected– the Catholic Church. Why not see what they have to say, from the Bible and church history?

  282. Believe it or not, I am not someone who wastes energy condemning Catholics or Catholicism. I have known followers of Christ who were members of the Roman church, and it is my belief that that God can, and has used the Roman church for good at times, with all its many sins.

    The problem I have with this article is not that it is “Catholic.” The problem I have is that it starts out advocating for unity among Christians, a righteous goal, and then uses that as a platform to demand that all Christians “resubmit” to human authorities in Rome, and adopt Roman doctrine, practices and customs.

    And I wonder if Mr. Cross has any idea what he just asked for. Where to begin?

    Perhaps the best place is your own statement that Roman Christians “are not to engage in the Protestant error of individual interpretation of the Bible.” So not only am I being told I must resubmit to corrupt human authorities, already I am being told to surrender my will, my mind, my own conscience! Do you realize this is among the greatest gifts of the Reformation, and one of the most cherished treasures of the Protestant world (and of most humans, frankly)? Do you know how many suffered and died so that Christians could read the Bible in their own language, and have their understanding lead by the Holy Spirit, not dictated by a sinful Priest? And you have the nerve to ask us to just give that back??

    While unity among Christians is desirable, the present reality is that denominationalism is not going anywhere anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean there cannot also be unity. I am from the Calvinist tradition, but have had many experiences of fellowshipping, worshiping and ministering side by side with Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists. At present, my family attends a Christian Missionary Alliance church, and has a weekly Bible study with Seventh Day Adventists. I must say that I have had considerably fewer such experiences involving Roman Catholics. Roman exhortations to Protestants about unity seem strange to me, as there seems to be a much deeper rift between the Roman church and all others than between any other two churches. I have spent much of my life pondering why this could be, and I have come to believe that the main reason is that, while there are exceptions, it is more important to most Roman Catholics to be Roman Catholic than to be Christians. I take no joy in saying this. But it explains many things, from the brutal treatment the Reformers suffered, to the Inquisition, to the Spanish adoption scandal, to the way the modern church covers the tracks of pedophile priests, allowing countless more to be victimized. Rome has always been a political engine, hungry for power and wealth, and either cannot or will not make a distinction between God’s kingdom and its own kingdom. And this is further emphasized by the way Mr. Cross’s desire for church unity translates into a demand that everyone submit to his church and do everything his church’s way. This type of demand rarely inspires unity.

    I will admit that I am not thoroughly schooled in “Catholic exegesis” and other Roman doctrines. On this point, I will simply echo the plea that John Huss emphatically repeated to Rome before they burned him: “I will submit to your correction as soon as you show me from the Bible where I’m wrong.” But I note that you did not even attempt to do this in your last post; you simply gave me exhortations to indoctrinate myself with the extrabiblical sources you’ve been indoctrinated with. I would be interested in learning about Catholic exegesis if you could show me from Scripture that I need to know about it.

    If you cannot do this, then perhaps instead of preaching to Protestants, you should be asking yourself this question: What has *my* church done, since 1517, to help bring about a reunification of the Body of Christ – not under Rome, but under Christ Himself? Has Rome repented of and undone its false teachings that created the need for the Reformation? Has it made restitution to those it cheated, led astray or persecuted? What has my church done to “resubmit?”

  283. Seth (re:#282),

    It’s interesting to me that you write your reply as though I have no understanding of Reformed thinking about Catholicism, when I actually used to *be* a five-point Calvinist Protestant who believed almost everything about the Catholic Church that you eem to believe (from your words here), and when I used to subscribe to the very same 5 Sola’s of the Reformation to which you subscribe. Four years ago, I could *written* much of your comment #282.

    What happened to change my mind? What did I learn exegetically, from studying the Bible itself, and from studying Catholic exegesis of the Bible? What did I learn about church history that could have possibly convinced me to return to the Church which I once thought was a major enemy of the Gospel, and out of which I attempted to “evangelize” Catholics?

    There are many answers to those questions. I don’t have time to go into *all* of them here now, but I can at least provide a beginning. Exegetically speaking, one example would be Matthew 25:31-46. The parable of the sheep and the goats became increasingly persuasive to me, in its apparently plain statement that our works of mercy *do* actually play a role in whether we go to Heaven or Hell– rather than the Reformed explanation of those works supposedly being merely the “evidence” of our already having been justified by God by grace alone through faith alone. (The Catholic does hold that our salvation is by grace alone, but not by faith alone, as sola fide contradicts apostolic, Biblical teaching.) I go into this, in actual exegetical detail, over at the thread for the article “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” I would recommend reading the article first, as it is largely exegetical in nature. My comments in the thread which might be helpful for you, in terms of seeing my own exegetical reasoning, are #192, #212, and #221. In addition to Matthew 25:31;46, I also mention other Biblical passages which I once read and understood from a Reformed point of view, but which ultimately came to make more exegetical sense to me from the Catholic view. If you want to discuss the topic of Sola Fide, it would be more on-topic to do so over here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/09/does-the-bible-teach-sola-fide/

    The “warning passages” in Hebrews– or, to be more exact, the *Reformed explanations* of those passages, also came to seem increasingly inadequate, as compared to Catholic exegesis. Reformed exegetes told me that those passages were not actually saying that true Christians could fall way from the living God and lose salvation, because such things could not happen for true Christians. God would not allow it. Therefore, the passages must have been either speaking of people who “appear” to be Christians but are actually not, or warning seeming Christians not to reject the Gospel, thus “proving” that they have never been saved, or, somehow, providing “warnings” of a falling away, among true Christians, that could never actually happen, because, again, supposedly, God would not allow it.

    The more I studied the actual *Biblical passages* in Hebrews though, the more the Reformed explanations of them sounded like Reformed *eiesegesis*, and by comparison, the Catholic view (that true Christians can actually fall away and forfeit their salvation) actually made more *exegetical sense* of these warning passages. I could give many other examples, but again, I can only say so much in one comment, and I’m already really “off-topic” for this post (as comments underneath a given CTC article are normatively supposed to directly engage the topic of that post, but you have provided many objections, in many different directions, in your comments here, so I’m trying to engage them to some extent).

    One last example though, in terms of Biblical exegesis– I increasingly noticed that many of Christ’s own words did not seem to be compatible with the Reformed doctrine of imputed righteousness. One example is The Lord’s Prayer. For more on this subject, please see this CTC article: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/reformed-imputation-and-the-lords-prayer/

    In addition to my own Biblical study and exegesis, my reading of writings by the earliest post-apostolic Biblical exegetes, the early Church Fathers (circa 100-500 A.D.) also provided strong evidence that both Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura had *never* been understood to actually be “Biblical teachings,” from Jesus and the first disciples, until the Protestant Reformation. The following website provides a beginning– simply a beginning, but a helpful one– into examining the beliefs of those earliest Biblical exegetes (after Jesus and the original apostles appointed by Him): http://www.churchfathers.org/

    Many of the objections that you raise concerning alleged (and yes, sometimes real) nefarious practices of various Church leaders throughout history can be rectified by reading accounts of Catholic history that are simply not rabidly anti-Catholic accounts. No Catholic whom I personally know would deny that there are many, many shameful, even wicked, episodes in the Church which we all wish had never happened– not mainly so that the Church would seem “more attractive” to non-Catholics, but simply because these things should have just never happened, period. The sex abuse scandals are disgusting and horrific– and I write that as one whose own life has been painfully touched by sexual abuse. The “cover-ups” are obviously not justifiable at all, nor do I wish to try to justify them. I should note, though, that until the last twenty years or so, there was much deeply mistaken thinking, in terms of the treatment of sexual predators in counseling, in Western society in general. Extremely lamentably, a good bit of that mistaken thinking made its way into the Church, and priests who had abused children and/or young adults were sent for counseling, and then sent to other parishes where, often, the abuses continued. Again, these things are not justifiable at all. I don’t wish to try to justify them. It must be said that imilar unjustifiable things have also happened though, for many, many years, in many local Protestant congregations, without *nearly* as much *mainstream media attention* as there has been on the scandals in the Catholic Church. (See the website, if you must, “Stop Baptist Predators.”)

    As for the Pope’s actions to stop the serious sin of sexual abuse in the Church, there have been many such actions. Nothing can undo the damage that has been done to the victims, apart from God’s healing in their lives, and the Pope has said as much in his writings and speeches on the subject. With that said, the Vatican website does have an entire section devoted to the Church’s response to the sexual abuse of minors: http://www.vatican.va/resources/index_en.htm

    I know that you’ve raised many other objections to misdeeds (both alleged, in my view, and admittedly real) in the Catholic Church, but I can only address so many of them in one comment. In my comment #281, I already mentioned that the Church translated the Bible into Latin, in the 4th century, *because* it was the language of the people (in Rome) at that time. This historical fact would indicate that the Catholic Church actually *did not* have a nefarious plot to keep the Bible from the people, but rather, that the Church *wanted* the people to read the Bible! In the words of St. Jerome, the man who did that translation of the Bible into Latin in the 4th century– “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” St. Jerome– a loyal member of the Catholic Church.

    You seem to believe that Catholics can only be Christians *in spite of* their Catholicism. I believed exactly the same thing for several years. Having been on both sides of the Reformation, I now see that Catholicism is *all about Christ*, through and through– and that, as John Henry Newman, an Anglican convert to Catholicism, once wrote, “If Christianity is historical, Catholicism is Christianity.”

  284. P.S. Seth, sorry for the typos in #283. It was a long night last night, and thus far, it has been a long day, and I’ve been typing while quite tired. I hope that what I’ve written has been intelligible. Thank you for your good questions.

  285. P.P.S. Seth: on your contention that the Catholic Church cares more about “unity its way” than about Christ Himself and unity in Him– your presupposition seems to be here that *your* understanding of Christian unity, built around getting together with Christians of other denominations, without insisting on doctrinal unity among them, other than unity on the Christian “essentials” that you have simply agreed, among yourselves, *are* the “essentials.”

    How do you know that your idea of Christian unity actually *is* Jesus’s idea of Christian unity? He prayed that his followers would be one, as He and the Father are one, so that the world would see and know that He was sent by the Father. In five hundred years, Protestantism has not yet produced even one Christian Catechism, on which *all Protestants* can agree, which can then be given to the world, as a statement of, and witness to, Protestant Christian belief and unity. By contrast, Catholicism produced such a Catechism, binding for *all Catholics worldwide*, in less than twenty years, and presented it to the world. That is Christian unity– one worldwide Church, with a clear, visible, teaching authority, that has clearly defined beliefs and practices (from Scripture and Tradition, 2 Thessalonians 2:15), which *calls* the non-Christian world to *Christian conversion* and to membership in that one worldwide Church. Why should we settle for any less Christian unity than that?

  286. “What do Protestants want the Catholic church to do, such that if it is done, Protestantism will end and they will become Catholic again?”

    This is the question that led me to read Martin Luther’s 95 theses. I expected to find denouncements of Marian theology, the Eucharist, and other Catholic doctrines that Protestants now reject. Instead, Luther’s theses only reject the Catholic doctrine of indulgences and vaguely question confession to priests and papal authority. My quest to understand modern Protestantism gets more interesting…

    I told some Protestant friends that for the first 1500 years of Christianity it was taught that bread and wine become Jesus’ real body and blood during consecration of the mass. I asked them, “Was this doctrine which Protestants now reject, wrong from the beginning?” Their response blew my mind. I expected them to open the bible and make scriptural arguments against it. Instead, they said in different ways, “Does it matter? Isn’t loving\accepting Jesus the most important thing?” To me this seemed the equivalent of a husband asking his wife to do something, her refusing but telling him she loves him anyway. How could Protestants refuse to obey Jesus’ commands to eat his flesh and drink his blood then say it didn’t matter because they loved him anyway?

    After much thought I’ve reached the conclusion there is nothing apart from an act of God that will bring American protestants back to the Catholic Church because the primary difference isn’t doctrinal – it’s cultural. Americans want choice and believe they have an inherent right to it. Coupled with a distrust\dislike of authority in general, you have the modern American protestant idea that they should be able to worship God the way they want, usually with rock music. It reminds me of a saying:

    “Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise.” -Sam Pascoe

  287. I just found this fairly new and quite interesting post by Dr. Peter Leithart on what he calls the “end of Protestantism,” and I thought it would be relevant to post the link here: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/11/the-end-of-protestantism/peter-j-leithart

    Dr. Leithart says that “The Reformation is not over. But Protestantism is, or should be.” This is a very
    Catholic-friendly article in many ways. I have to admit that, while knowing full well that Leithart is more ecumenically-minded than some Protestants, I was, and am, surprised by just *how* Catholic-friendly he sounds here, even while still disagreeing with the Church on important points. I hope that many people, here and elsewhere, will read his article and discuss it.

    Given just how much Leithart now finds that he and his like-minded colleagues share in common with orthodox, believing, practicing Catholics, I am led to ask the same question which Bryan asks in his piece here. Dr. Leithart believes that, somehow, Protestantism is over, or should be, but the Reformation should continue. He now openly accepts the Catholic Church as being a Christian body, and he accepts Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ. He still rejects certain Catholic teachings and practices, but he finds that that he has so much in common with Catholics that he now calls himself a “Reformational Catholic.” However, if he truly believes that Protestantism should end, then I have to ask a serious question– when will he personally act on that conviction and formally join the Catholic Church?

    Within Dr. Leithart’s own belief that he is a “Reformational Catholic,” how would he know when to join/return to the Church which bears both the name of Catholic, and the apostolic succession and the Papacy which, historically, theologically, and ecclesiologically speaking, are crucial parts of the *reality* of being Catholic?

  288. Christopher (#287)
    I smiled reading your comment:

    This is a very
    Catholic-friendly article in many ways. I have to admit that, while knowing full well that Leithart is more ecumenically-minded than some Protestants, I was, and am, surprised by just *how* Catholic-friendly he sounds here, even while still disagreeing with the Church on important points. I hope that many people, here and elsewhere, will read his article and discuss it.

    It was actually the writings of Leithart’s co-Federal Visionist Jim Jordan that were instrumental in leading me into the Catholic Church. I think that FV necessarily means friendliness to the Catholic Church; I do not think it means these men are likely to become Catholics. In a way, FV seems to me to be their defence against the Catholic Church – somewhat like Newman’s view in the via media. Newman thought that the best protection for Anglicans against becoming Catholics was to draw as near to the Catholic Church as possible – to show that one could remain Anglican without losing any of the benefits of the Catholic Church.

    Of course Newman finally saw the impossibility of this and entered the Church. It is my prayer for Jordan, Leithart, and their fellow FV-ites, that they, too, will finally go that way. I have a number of Protestant friends in that camp.

    jj

  289. PS – Leithart’s and Jordan’s reasons for not becoming (Roman) Catholics is precisely because they want to remain catholic. Rome’s problem is, indeed, its exclusivity. I have heard this from a number of Reformed people, too – not necessarily FV, either.

    jj

  290. […] is a lot in this post that I don’t agree with to, by the […]

  291. At least some Protestants have not forgotten that Protestantism was “born out of protest:”

    T4G 2016: We Are Protestant from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

  292. Bryan (#291),

    I watched this short “Together for the Gospel” video, posted here, with keen and personal interest, especially given that I was once a committed, enthusiastic member of the church where one of the T4G founders and speakers, Dr. Mark Dever, still serves as the senior pastor.

    During my time at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, I did not attend any of the T4G conferences, but I remember well the excited reports of CHBC members who did attend them– and, in a very real sense, I heard the particularly Reformational, anti-Catholic, Calvinistic theology of T4G every Sunday from the pulpit anyway. At the time, I didn’t see this theology as being “anti-Catholic” so much as “pro-Bible.” I equated the *interpretations* of the Bible that I heard from Dr. Dever (and from other leaders there) with the actual *teaching* of the Bible itself– though I did not yet understand that I was doing so.

    I thought that I was simply hearing the “clear teaching of Scripture” on what I understood to be the “essential issues” addressed in the Bible. Now, given that CHBC was/is a Reformed Baptist church where, occasionally, Presbyterian ministers are allowed to preach on Sunday mornings, the timing of baptism is not seen as an “essential issue of the Biblical Gospel.” This is to say, it is viewed as being important (to the point that Dr. J. Ligon Duncan is allowed to preach there but *not* to partake of the Lord’s Supper!), but not as an issue which distinguishes actually Christians from non-Christians. Upon what basis is this issue decided at CHBC? Upon the basis of Dr. Dever’s interpretation and public teaching of Scripture– which is presented to the congregation as simply being the careful application of “Sola Scriptura,” one of the Five Sola’s of the Reformation.

    In the minds of the men who founded the Together for the Gospel conference, then, justification by faith alone is an “essential of the Biblical Gospel,” but baptism is not, and nor is the continuation of miraculous gifts in the present age. Therefore, Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians, and “Reformed Charismatics,” such as C.J. Mahaney, can be “Together for the Gospel”– but as long as the T4G participants continue to define the Gospel in terms of “Scripture alone” and “justification by faith alone,” a world-class Biblical scholar such as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will, ultimately, always be viewed in polemical terms by those participants.

    Interestingly, even though T4G does not define the particular distinctives of Calvinistic theology as being “Gospel essentials,” I don’t remember any case in which a person who *does not* hold to those distinctives has been allowed to speak at the conferences. Upon what basis are the former *or* the latter decisions made? From what I can tell, it is upon the basis of the personal interpretations of Scripture of the T4G founders. These men passionately appeal, first and primarily, to “clear Biblical teaching and standards,” and secondarily, to “historic Reformed confessions,”– and I have no doubt that they are sincere in doing so. However, in the end, alliances are made, and lines are drawn, when and to the extent that they are drawn, on the basis of the leaders’ personal interpretations of Scripture alone.

    Apparently, then, to the T4G founders, Calvinists and Arminians are brothers and sisters in Christ, and they are “together in the Gospel,” even as they aren’t invited to *officially speak and represent* at the “Together for the Gospel” conferences (which speaks clearly, and sadly, of the fractured ecclesial and theological nature of Protestantism!) Catholics, though, are *not* viewed by T4G as brothers and sisters in Christ– at least not if they actually believe what T4G presents as the official teachings of the Catholic Church!–, so, finally, T4G is “together” in the sense of being vocally anti-Catholic and Calvinistic. Those are really the only two senses in which T4G is “together.”

    This was actually one of the realities which, when I considered it at some length and with serious reflection, helped to ultimately lead me from t4G ecclesiology and theology back to the Catholic Church. Jesus prayed that believers would be *one*, as He and the Father are one, so that the world would *see and know* that He was sent by the Father. These two goals of Our Lord in Sacred Scripture can never be accomplished by the ecclesiology and theology of T4G, even as Catholics can and should happily affirm those who participate to be our dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

  293. One not uncommon example of the bulverism fallacy is the argument (either made implicitly or explicitly) by Protestants that the reason the Catholic Church teaches what she teaches about justification, in contrast to the Reformed conception of sola fide, is because we (humans) have this desire for self-justification, and that at some point in the past we (Catholics) distorted the Gospel in order to make Catholic teaching concerning the Gospel conform to that desire. Bulverism is a kind of ad hominem (see #18 here). What is needed instead, to avoid the bulverism fallacy, is some actual historical evidence showing that the Gospel was distorted (and not developed) from sola fide in the early Church, to what the Council of Trent taught, rather than the just-so story that begs the question by presupposing that the Catholic Church distorted the Gospel in this way, and that she did so in order to gratify a human desire for self-justification. Avoiding this fallacy is one necessary step toward improving the fruitfulness of ecumenical dialogue:

    Here’s an example from Chris Castaldo’s “Is the Reformation Still Necessary?

    those of us with a modicum of self-awareness recognize our tendency toward self-justification. We succeed, we accomplish, we perceive ourselves to be significant, and this, we think, hastens our acceptance. It’s the normal pattern of life in the world.

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