Christian Unity and Life

Dec 23rd, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Next month Christians worldwide will observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from January 18 to 25. Since unity between Catholics and Reformed Christians is the particular focus of this site, we too will partake and encourage participation in this week of prayer that Christ’s John 17 prayer for our unity will be fulfilled in our time.

abortion protest

It’s been a big year for Christian unity as Orthodox/Catholic talks have moved ahead, slowly but surely, and the Anglican Ordinariate has offered a way for Anglicans to come into communion with the Catholic Church without abandoning their English patrimony.

Though the things that divide us are important and compromise on fundamentals is not an acceptable road to unity, I believe that the things that unite us are greater, and much more powerful.

The creeds and councils that both Reformed and Catholics hold dear, the moral law that binds all men that we both defend, the reverence for the Scriptures as God’s holy word, these things bind us together against a world that opposes us on all these counts.

One particular aspect of the moral law that brings a particularly strong point of unity is our common defense of human life from conception to natural death against the legion of threats that assail life from all sides in our culture.

I make my living as a pro-life activist with the Pro-Life Action League and I’ve seen multiple examples of the cause of life bridging the gap between Reformed Christians and Catholics. It hasn’t always been so and it’s not always so now. I have seen pro-life protests devolve into Protestant/Catholic arguments, but I find it increasingly rare.

In 2007, when Planned Parenthood opened what was at the time the largest abortion mill in the country in Aurora, Illinois, where I live, literally thousands of Christians from every stripe came together to oppose this unwanted killing center in our town. Protestants and Catholics joined together in 24-hour a day prayer outside the facility in the days before it opened and they continue to this day to fight this scourge side by side.

That prayer effort continues to this day, though not on the same scale, and my colleagues and I continue to pray and strategize together with a group of Protestants and Catholics every couple of weeks to come together in our shared commitment to life that flows from our shared commitment to the Giver of Life.

The particular unity I’ve seen in my community over the issues of life and the wonderful fellowship I’ve shared on the front lines of the abortion battle with my protestant brothers and sisters has given me great hope for our eventual reunion. People who share such deep commitment to life in Christ cannot remain separated in worship forever.

As we approach this octave of prayer that our differences come to an end, and as we approach our shared feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, let’s focus on our shared commitments and let them increase our affection for each other in the Lord. And keep an eye on the blog. We’ll be posting more about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity as it approaches.

We’ve got the whole rest of the year to discuss our differences, and we must if we are to attain the unity Our Lord so greatly desires for us. But for this one week, let’s foster our mutual loves and commitments for the good of all Christ’s Church.

423 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. Unity must be based and grounded in truth. That can never happen so long as the Roman Catholic church holds to some of its doctrines.

  2. Hi, Henry! Glad you could join us.
    Why don’t you start spelling out those doctrines, and we can have a discussion?

    Just to get things started – we Catholics also believe that unity must be grounded in truth. Furthermore, we believe that Christ has given us a way to discern truth and to distinguish it from error: The Teaching Authority of His Church.

    Do you believe Christ has given us an authority, a Rule of Faith, to discern truth from error? If so, what do you think it its?

    Looking forward to your response,

    David

  3. Henry — Thanks for the comment. I agree, complete unity can’t be bought at the price of glossing over doctrinal differences. That’s why we don’t enjoy inter-communion with the Reformed churches.

    But that’s not the kind of unity I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the unity we have as people who know, love and worship the Triune God. It’s not full communion, but we have both been knocked over by the grace of God and it has caused us to care about things, like babies in their mothers’ wombs, that can bring us closer together, closer to fulfilling Christ’s prayer that we would all be one.

    Doctrinal unity isn’t going to arise out of arguing and mutual anathemas. It’s going to arise out of love and I’ve been greatly pleased to see that love grow as I’ve worked together in the pro-life cause with Protestants, who I think are terribly wrong on a host of crucially important issues.

    I hope we can at least agree that taking care of the most vulnerable in the name of Christ is something we can do together while we work and pray for the resolution of our doctrinal differences.

    Yours,

    Matt

  4. Hi David,
    There are a number of doctrines that do separate Protestants and Roman Catholics. The Marian dogmas is a major one. Purgatory and indulgences would be a couple of more.
    The problem with relying solely on the teaching authority of a church is that men can and do err. Just because a church authority claims something to be true or apostolic does not make it so.
    Do you think all doctrines that Christians believe must be well grounded in Scripture?

  5. Matt,
    People of all kinds of beliefs can come together to work on important issues like abortion. The problem is that its one thing to agree on the evils of abortion and another to think that there are not significant theological issues between people. I suppose if people don’t get into deep a discussion about these things, there will be some kind of peace. I don’t think that the kind of unity that certain Roman Catholics and Protestants want will ever be possible on a doctrinal level. What do you think?

  6. Henry (re: 1 & 5),
    You are pointing out that Catholics and Protestants believe mutually exclusive doctrines that prevent unity. That’s certainly not lost on anyone who’s spent any time interacting with this site. If you are new to CC, I encourage you to go under the “About” tab and select the note to readers. There you will find links to the lead articles that present the core arguments from the owners of this site. Each argument builds on the previous argument. I also recommend you go to the complete archive and read blog posts in chronological order that are related to the main articles. Don’t worry if the discussion in the combox ended a long time ago, fire away with a question and these guys will get back to you quickly.
    One of the main issues that’s been discussed (at enormous length) is related to your question to David:

    Do you think all doctrines that Christians believe must be well grounded in Scripture?

    As a Protestant, I’ve always endeavored to ground my thinking on doctrine in Scripture. The problem I’ve run into is that many of the essential doctrines I believe in are contradicted by doctrines held by other Protestants who seek to ground their doctrines in Scripture. Often, these other Protestants are holier and more intelligent than I am. Of course, as a reformed protestant, I can line up a number of super smart and holy individuals who hold the same doctrines that I do. But, then again, so can others on the opposite side. This has caused me to question whether the Protestant method of discovering doctrinal truth that we are called to submit to with faith is a reliable method. After all, if many other men who love Jesus, have the Spirit, and have spent their lives in very high level studies of Scripture, church history, and theology, cannot agree on essentials like the nature of baptism, eternal security, the nature of the Lord’s supper, etc, then why should I expect that my Prot approach will yield me anything other than a well-informed opinion on these matters? You might say that the Catholic church is just another group of men like those I refer to. But, this only begs the question, because if the Catholic church is what it says it is, then it is not like these other groups and it gives far greater clarity on these doctrinal issues than we find from the Protestant method.
    If what I’m saying about the Protestant method is true, and if what you say about men erring is true, then I wonder what reliable means Jesus gave us to discern error from truth.
    Hope you hang around and dive into the resources here at CC.
    Mark

  7. Hi Henry,
    Thanks for the response. Of course, Mariology and Purgatory do separate Protestants and Catholics. And I appreciate your willingness to engage the question of our Rule of Faith. We really cannot deal adequately with the former until we settle the latter. In answer to your question, it really depends on what you mean by “well grounded.” As Catholics, we believe that Scripture is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. In fact, it is the only inspired, written source of Revelation and it plays a uniquely important role in Christian doctrine. However, we do not believe that Scripture is the Rule of Faith. That is to say, neither Christ, nor the apostles, nor any divine authority has ever identified Scripture as the final arbiter of truth or of Christian doctrine.

    As I seek to know and understand the Christian faith, my first question must be “How am I to know what the Christian faith is?” Protestants assert: “The Bible Alone!” But what is their warrant for that assertion? What divine authority ever revealed this? None, that I know of. At best, Protestants usually provide evidence for the inspiration and authority of the Bible – conclusions I fully embrace as a Catholic. But of course, inspiration and authority are not in question. Only the Bible’s status as final arbiter or rule of faith is in question.

    Your objection to the Church’s teaching authority (men can err) only holds if you assume God does not superintend the teaching of some men under some circumstances. But we believe that God does superintend the teaching of some men (Catholic Bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome), under some circumstances (when they solemnly define dogma), and preserves them from error.
    This is what Christ promised when he said, “All authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to me. Therefore, Go and teach all nations, etc. And I will be with you until the end of the age.” And “whoever hears you, hears me,” and “As the Father sent me, I send you,” and “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,” etc.

    If you feel like it, check out the article on this site: “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium: What did Jesus Teach?” and tell me what you think.

    Thanks,

    David

  8. Hi David,
    Since we agree that the Bible is inspired-inerrant we don’t need to discuss that at this time. The next question we will need to deal with is your claim of church authority not erring. Where did Jesus explicitly promise that the leaders of your church “under some circumstances (when they solemnly define dogma), and preserves them from error.”? Matt 28:19-20, Luke 10:16 or Matt 16:19 has nothing to do with Jesus promising that church leaders could err. The context alone for these passages is not about what you are trying to claim.
    Actually Jesus and His apostles warned that false teachers would come into the church itself and deceive many. See Acts 20:29 and 2 Peter 2:1. We also know from Revelation 2:14-15,20 that error was being embraced in some churches. This shows that Jesus did not promise that church leaders would be protected from error otherwise these warnings would be unnecessary and these errors in the church at Pergamum and Thyatira would not have happened.
    Let’s test to see if your church teaches error or not. In a document entitled Nostra Aetate he section on Islam begins thus:
    ” The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men.”
    Your catechism at 841 says essentially the same thing- ” The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

    How can your church claim that the Muslim is worshiping the same God as Catholics do when they deny the very nature of God Himself i.e. the Trinity?

    This is why the claim your church is preserved from error is not true. Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.

    Blessings

  9. Henry — Above you said:

    I don’t think that the kind of unity that certain Roman Catholics and Protestants want will ever be possible on a doctrinal level. What do you think?

    Thanks for the question. As long as you hold to the Westminster Confession (or your Protestant confession of choice) and I hold to the Magesterium of the Catholic Church, no, we can’t have that kind of unity.

    For reunion between our communities to happen, one side will have to persuade the other and that’s what this site is all about.

  10. Hi Henry,

    I agree that the question of inspiration is not at issue. However, the question of the Bible’s status (is it the Rule of faith) is still very much at issue. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are correct about the Magisterium, and Christ did not authorize it. Is this an argument in favor of sola scriptura? Not really. All it is, is an admission that the magisterium is not the rule of faith. It doesn’t establish that Scripture is the rule of faith. Many Christian groups, in fact, take this position. Both the Orthodox and Protestant Liberals would agree that The Catholic Church is not the rule of faith. However, both would deny that Scripture is the Rule of Faith.

    It seems to me that you still need to produce evidence that Christ intended the Bible to serve as the rule of faith.

    Now, I have produced some evidence (which you dispute) that Christ intended the Church to be the rule of faith. He instructed the apostles to teach his doctrine, and promised them divine assistance. We also know from the book of Acts, and the pastoral epistles that the Apostles passed this charge on to those they appointed to take up the leadership of the infant church. We also know that the Christians of the late first and 2nd century understood this to be a transmission of apostolic authority. We also know that it was a matter of public record that some churches possessed apostolic authority directly – having been founded immediately by apostles – and that others had a lesser, mediate authority. (Once again, please see “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium).

    I grant that you can dispute these claims. You state that “context” is against my interpretation and, by implication, against the interpretation of the infant and patristic church. I suppose we can discuss that context, among other things. I wonder how you would understand Christ’s commission to his apostles and his promise of divine assistance? Do you think the apostles did not have charge of the infant church? Do you think they lacked divine authority to teach in the name of Christ? Do you think the Holy Spirit allowed them to teach error? The fact that some Christians in antiquity or Scripture held false doctrine is really of no moment here. This, in fact, is why Paul admonished the Corinthians to heed his apostolic authority, and to agree on everything. The danger of false doctrine is ever present to the Church. This is why it is so important that we understand precisely what Christ intended as the safeguard of Christian doctrine. Until we answer that, it seems to me that your objections to Nostra Aetate are entirely question-begging.

    So, I’ll ask again – Did Christ make any provision for the preservation and transmission of Christian Doctrine? Does the Holy Spirit make any provision to keep some Rule of Faith (whatever that might be) free from error? If not, then we are left to skepticism and subjectivism. It’s anyone’s guess what true Christian doctrine is.

    On the other hand, if you believe that Christ identified some Rule of Faith for the Church, please tell me where he does so, and what it is. If we can agree on that, then we can hopefully discern whether or not Nostra Aetate is faithful to Christ’s Rule of Faith. As it is, you have left me uncertain by what rule I am to evaluate the teachings of Vatican II.

    Thanks,

    David

  11. David,
    Since the Scripture alone are inspired-inerrant what other book-teacher-institution can claim to be of equal or greater authority than the Scripture?
    It is true that the apostles did have the authority of Christ to teach in His name. It is to them alone that He revealed Himself which is recorded in the NT. He did guide them and it was them or those closely associated with them that wrote down what Jesus and themselves taught. This is why a doctrine must be grounded in the Scripture if it is to be considered true and apostolic. Only the Scripture are adequate to be a foundation for doctrine because only the Scriptures are inspired-inerrant. This is why putting your faith in the leadership of your church is to trust in men and not the Scripture.
    This is why we can examine any examine any doctrine with Scripture and to see if it is apostolic or not. My example of showing you from your own catechism that it has erred in claiming the Muslim and Christians worship the same God. This alone shows that your church is not protected from error. Those passages in Acts, 2 Peter and Revelation show divine protection against error does not exist.
    If you want to know how to evaluate what teachings of Vatican II or any council then search out the Scripture. Did the apostles or the Lord Jesus teach such a thing? If they didn’t, then its not apostolic but the teachings of men.

    BTW- You will have to show that the bishops of your church have the same authority as the apostles if you want your authority claim for your church to stand.

    Blessings

  12. MarkS,
    Are you assuming the Roman Catholic church is right and if so, how do you know? What is your criteria for evaluating their claims?
    What do you do when a doctrine-teaching of the Roman Catholic church is not grounded in Scripture?

  13. Hi Henry,

    I think the linchpin of your argument is this statement:

    “Only the Scripture are adequate to be a foundation for doctrine because only the Scriptures are inspired-inerrant. ” Would you agree?

    As I have studied the history of Protestant apologetics, I find this assertion again and again, from Luther to today’s Evangelicals like R.C. Sproul and Keith Matthison.

    Here is my difficulty: How do you know that only an inspired document can be an “adequate foundation for doctrine?” Isn’t this precisely the point in question. Catholics say, “Who says so? When did Jesus tell us that we had to have an inspired document as the foundation of Christian doctrine?” Merely to assert this is to beg the question. You claim we need an inspired document as our Rule of Faith. I deny. What evidence do you have for this assertion?

    On the contrary, I assert: “Our Rule of Faith needs divine authorization. Inspiration does not, de facto, convey that authorization. It is perfectly conceivable that Christ would intend us to possess an inspired document, without intending that document to serve as a rule of faith. He might intend it, for example, as an inerrant prayer book, a moral guide, or an historic witness to the life of the people of God. None of these necessarily require it to serve as a sole authority for doctrine. We still need Christ, or some divine authority, to tell us what the Rule of faith is.”

    Consider the following syllogism (which I think conveys your argument):

    The Sum of all known, inspired documents must constitute the rule of faith.
    Scripture is the sum of all known, inspired documents.
    Therefore, Scripture is the Rule of Faith.

    My question is – How do you know that the Major premise above is true? This is precisely the point at issue.

    Instead, I would propose this syllogism:

    1) Our Rule of faith must be established by Divine authority.
    2) Christ identified the teaching of the apostles as the Rule of faith.
    3) Therefore, the teaching of the apostles is the Rule of faith.

    As to how I know that the bishops of the Catholic Church received that apostolic authority, I would point you again to my article “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium: What did Jesus Teach?”

    thanks for the interaction,

    David

  14. David,
    It follows from the position that the Scriptures as being inspired-inerrant makes it a sure foundation in which to base doctrine on. The Scriptures are the sure Word of God. Jesus for example based His teachings and ministry on the OT which was considered to the Word of God. Jesus’ teachings and His apostles qualifies as Scripture.

    What also follows is that if a doctrine is not grounded in Scripture or contradicts Scripture that doctrine is either false or non-apostolic. Its at this point where the Roman Catholic church runs into problems with some of its doctrines.

    Can you clarify what you mean by Rule of faith? I want to make sure I understand you.

  15. Henry,

    Let me also respond to this statement:

    “Since the Scripture alone are inspired-inerrant what other book-teacher-institution can claim to be of equal or greater authority than the Scripture?”

    I would like to say it is not a question of greater authority; it is a question of different authority.
    As Catholics, we believe that the Scriptures are fully, and divinely authoritative in the role for which God intended them. They are, among other things, an inspired witness to the life and ministry of Christ, a repository of Hebrew Prophecy and Poetry, a selective record of apostolic teaching, and a source for the prayer and paranesis of the Church. In that capacity, there is no question of something else being of greater authority. However, there is one thing that God does not intend. He does not intend the Scriptures to serve as a rule of faith. In that capacity, He has made other arrangements and given other instructions.

    To give a rather silly analogy – God does not intend the Scriptures to serve as a Mathematics textbook. By no means, however, does this mean that my math text book is of “greater authority” than the Scriptures, considered absolutely. However, in its own sphere, and in the capacity for which God intended it, my math textbook possesses an authority which Scripture lacks – namely, to be a math textbook.

    In a similar (but more important, even divine) way, the church’s Magisterium possesses an authority that Scripture lacks: to be a Rule of Faith. (Since God says so). Do you understand?

  16. Hi Henry,

    I think you’ve changed your phraseology a bit. You have just written:

    “It follows from the position that the Scriptures as being inspired-inerrant makes it a sure foundation in which to base doctrine on.” Earlier you wrote that “only the Scriptures” are such a sure foundation.
    Now, I would agree with the one form of your statement, but not the other. Of course, it is sound to base doctrine on Holy Scripture! All Catholics believe that! But we deny that Scripture is the only source for Christian doctrine.

    The term “Rule of Faith” is used by Protestants (the Westminster Confession, for example) to specify the final authority in controversies over religion. (See WCF, ch.1 and ch. 31 for example).

    The fact that Jesus appealed to the OT is not really at issue. Of course he did. Catholics also appeal to the OT, and believe that it is an inspired, divine authority. You will note, however, that Jesus also claimed a unique role to interpret, apply, supplement, and even abrogate elements of the OT. He clearly did not view the OT’s authority as final – nor do we. (Nor do you, I assume.) So this really does nothing to advance the claim that the OT and the NT together constitute the Rule of Faith.

    Once again, just because the Bible is inspired (we agree) does nothing to advance the claim that God intends it to serve as the Rule of Faith (we deny). My question to you remains:

    Did Jesus make provision for the continuing, authoritative transmission and preservation of the Christian faith? If so, what did he identify as the Rule of Faith?

    thanks,

    David

  17. David,
    The Scriptures are more than just a different authority than from church leadership authority. They are also as you have stated are “fully, and divinely authoritative” for which God intended. They alone are His Word to the church. Church authority is different and authoritative so long as this authority does not violate the higher authority to which the Scriptures are. When a church teaches something contrary to Scripture such as the CCC at 841 then that church has erred.

    Where does the God say that the church’s Magisterium is a Rule of Faith?

    regards

  18. David,
    The way the Christian faith is preserved is in Scripture itself. It is apostolic doctrine that is to be preserved and taught which is found in the Scripture alone. When you deny the Scripture as the Rule of Faith you leave yourself open to all kinds of false doctrines which is what you have in the Roman Catholic church. The CCC 841 is just one example of many that can be shown.
    The other problem you have when you reject Scripture as the rule of faith you have no way to determine if a doctrine of your church is biblical-apostolic or not. The way to determine false doctrine is to compare it with Scripture. This what the Bereans did in Acts 17:11 and Paul exhorts us in I Thes 5:21.
    Church authority in and of itself is inadequate as a Rule of Faith because men can and do err. This is why Scripture warns of false teachers who will come into the church and deceive many. This has happened in the RCC and in some protestant churches.

  19. Hi Henry,

    You still are avoiding my question: Did Jesus identify the Scripture’s as the rule of faith? Did he identify anything as the rule of faith?

    You can’t say that CCC 841 conflicts with the Church’s rule of faith until you identify what the rule of faith is. You keep asserting that Scripture is the Rule of Faith, and I keep asking you to show me how you know this to be the case.

    Once again, please, just answer the question: Did Jesus give us a Rule of Faith? The answer is either “Yes,” or “No.” If yes, then please show me what he identified as the rule of faith. Until we establish this, we are just running in circles.

    Thanks,

    David

  20. David,
    I’m not clear what you mean by Rule of Faith. What exactly does it mean?

  21. Henry,

    I’ve been following this site for some time. Just to let you know where I’m coming from – I’m a lifelong Evangelical Protestant, currently attending a solid Reformed church which is very Bible centered in its teaching and preaching. I do have some serious misgivings about the underpinnings of our Protestant understanding of authority and have been for a while considering the claims of the Catholic Church. I share your concern that some Catholic doctrines appear to contradict the Truth as presented in the Bible.

    I have a question about this statement you made in comment #18:

    “Church authority in and of itself is inadequate as a Rule of Faith because men can and do err. This is why Scripture warns of false teachers who will come into the church and deceive many. This has happened in the RCC and in some protestant churches.”

    How do we know which churches have fallen into heresy? It seems that the answer “those who are not true to the clear teaching of the Bible” is inadequate because it begs the question of who gets to decide. If each individual can read the Bible and then define heresy vs schism vs orthodoxy, how can one individual possibly claim that his understanding is the right one (and therefore can claim some authority as to the truthfulness of others’ definitions of orthodoxy, etc.)

    Any thoughts?

  22. Hi Burton,
    We can know which churches have fallen into heresies by studying their doctrines and comparing them with Scripture. Take what the catechism of the Catholic church says at 841 for example. If you know what Islam teaches about the nature of God (non-trinitarian) and what Christianity teaches about the nature of God (trinitarian) then they both cannot be the same God. Islam denies the Jesus is God and died for our sins. What this means is that this official teaching of the Roman Catholic church is false because we are not worshiping the same God since Islam denies these fundamental characteristics of God.

    Do you think Jesus held the leaders and people responsible to know and understand the Scriptures? Do you think Christians have a responsibility to know truth from error?

  23. Henry writes: The way the Christian faith is preserved is in Scripture itself. It is apostolic doctrine that is to be preserved and taught which is found in the Scripture alone .

    The Catholic Church teaches that scriptures are authoritative, so we are not disputing that point. But you are asserting something besides that point, you are asserting that “… apostolic doctrine that is to be preserved and taught which is found in the Scripture alone.” It is the “alone” in your assertion that Catholics dispute, and Catholics dispute that because the scriptures explicitly contradict what you are claiming about “alone”:

    … brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thes 2:15

    That which the brethren must hold to, and stand firm in, are the traditions passed down by the Apostles. The means used by the Apostles to transmit those traditions are both oral and written. Because scriptures are authoritative, I must reject your claim that only which was written by the Apostles forms the basis for what I must hold fast to.

    It is because scriptures are authoritative that Catholics must reject the Protestant doctrinal novelty that the Protestant bible is the only authority that the brethren must hold fast to. The Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is a self-refuting absurdity because the scriptures nowhere teach the doctrine of sola scriptura!

  24. Hi Mateo,
    Where else is apostolic teaching to be found but in the NT? What oral traditions did the apostles pass on? Can you give me an example of an oral tradition of an apostle not found in the NT?

  25. Henry,

    To answer your question: a rule of faith is a final doctrinal authority.

    Question still stands. Did Christ give us a rule of faith?

    -David

  26. Henry,
    Looks like the rapid fire session is off and running. You asked me,

    Are you assuming the Roman Catholic church is right and if so, how do you know? What is your criteria for evaluating their claims?

    No. Like I said, I’m a Protestant My criteria: Examining the Biblical, historical, theological, and philosophical issues aspects of the issues.

    What do you do when a doctrine-teaching of the Roman Catholic church is not grounded in Scripture?

    I research intelligent Catholic sources to find the Catholic perspective on the issue and I evaluate it with the above criteria using intelligent Protestant sources.
    I know you are getting a little piled on right now, but if you would answer a couple questions related to my comments above, I would appreciate it.
    Q: If many other men who love Jesus, have the Spirit, and have spent their lives in very high level studies of Scripture, church history, and theology, cannot agree on essentials like the nature of baptism, eternal security, the nature of the Lord’s supper, etc, then why should I or anyone else expect that the Prot approach will yield me anything other than a well-informed opinion on these matters?

    Q: If the way I framed (for the sake of argument) the Protestant method is true, and if what you say about men erring is true, then what reliable means did Jesus give us to discern error from truth?

    Like Burton, the question of how we reliably distinguish truth from error within the Protestant or Catholic paradigms has weighed on my mind for a long time. Your suggestion that we simply compare doctrines with the Scriptures just won’t cut it. Consider Keith Mathison’s response to a confessional Lutheran who claimed that Presbyterians don’t believe the Bible’s teaching on baptism: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/we-believe-bible-and-you-do-not/

    Mark

  27. David,
    The final doctrinal authority would be the Scriptures because they alone are inspired-inerrant. Christ gave the church the church apostles (no longer exist), prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers who are to build up the body of Christ with sound doctrine. See Eph 4:11-16; I Tim 4:6.

  28. MarkS,
    In regards to your first question what makes you think you are going to find the answer you seek in the Catholic church? The Catholic church has its opinions on these matters also.
    Its not the Protestant approach that will settle the matter but what do the apostles teach that matters. Just look at the Marian dogmas and the claims that the Catholic church makes about her and see if the Lord Jesus or His apostles taught these things about her. This is the advantage of demanding the grounding all doctrines on Scripture. We know with certainty what the apostles taught and what they taught is sufficient for all that we need for salvation and living in Christ.
    On your second question, some issues cannot be decided with absolute certainty because we don’t know enough about it. This is something we have to accept. Claiming that Rome knows with absolute certainty won’t cut it either. In fact its worse when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture by the Catholic church. There is no such thing as an infallible interpretation of the Scriptures by the Catholic church. You are left with your private interpretation.
    If you think that the comparing Scripture with the doctrines of a church will not cut it then you are left at the mercy of fallible men to tell you what is true. For example, do you really think that Muslims and Christians worship the same God? The Catholic church says we do. What do you say?

  29. Henry asks: Where else is apostolic teaching to be found but in the NT?

    Exactly where the scriptures tell us it is found, in what was passed on by word of mouth by the Apostles.

    Henry asks: What oral traditions did the apostles pass on?

    All the traditions that the brethren must hold fast to, and stand firm in, that were not written down in the New Testament!

    Henry asks: Can you give me an example of an oral tradition of an apostle not found in the NT?

    Yes, I can easily do that. We know from the scriptures alone, that the brethern met in their local communities and practiced liturgy. How they practiced that liturgy cannot be known from reading the scriptures, since the scriptures give no details about what constitutes proper liturgy. One needs to know the oral traditions handed down by the Apostles to know how to practice the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist in a valid and licit manner.

    We also know from the oral traditions handed down to the brethren by the Apostles, that the Apostles believed that the Sacraments of the Church were channels of saving grace instituted by Christ. How many Sacraments that the Apostles believed to exist cannot be determined from reading the NT alone, nor can one determine the essentials of the seven Sacraments of the Church by reading the NT alone. Since the Apostles taught by oral tradition that the Sacraments of the Church are the primary channel of saving grace, not knowing what constitutes the essentials of the Sacraments, or even what the Sacraments of the Church actually are, is a very serious problem for all Protestants. There is no Protestant sect that knows what constitutes the essentials of all seven Sacraments, because if they did know that, they would cease to be Protestants, and they would become Christians that stand firm in, and hold fast to, what was taught orally by the Apostles!

  30. Henry — If I might enter the fray, I think the center of this conversation is in the wrong place.

    Christ did give the Church a reliable means for solving doctrinal disputes, and it isn’t comparing Scripture with Scripture, though that’s involved.

    He was also so good as to leave us a record of this method in the Scripture itself. That record is contained in Acts 15 in the account of the Council of Jerusalem. There, the Apostles and the bishops they had ordained to take their place (more on that later) met to resolve a doctrinal dispute.

    They discussed the Scriptures, what they knew of Christ and His teaching, then they prayed to the Holy Spirit for unity and reached a decision that they proclaimed to be binding on all Christians.

    This on its own might just be an interesting tidbit of history were it not for the fact that this is exactly how the Church governed herself ever since. The doctrine of the Trinity you referred to earlier as a mark of orthodoxy? Show me homoousious in the Scripture. You can’t cause it’s not in there. But it is absolutely necessary for an orthodox understanding of the Trinity and that word, and our current understanding of the Trinity as a whole, came down to us from a council that was considered binding on all the faithful just like the Council of Jerusalem.

    You will, no doubt, object that the Council of Jerusalem was different because the Apostles were there, but I would submit that it was not different and the detail that the other bishops they ordained were part of the council is a key fact included in Scripture for a reason.

    The only method the Scripture gives us for the transfer of authority in the Church is the laying on of hands from someone who already has authority as we see with St. Paul and St. Timothy. Observing the history of the very early Church, it is clear that they believed that the authority being transferred was not identical to Apostolic authority, but retained the power of teaching authoritatively and teaching in a way that was guided by the Holy Spirit. Either this is true or the Church went of the rails immediately after the death of the first Apostle, and if that’s true, you may as well go be a Mormon.

    But the Church carried on precisely as one would expect if the Apostles had handed over the power to teach with the authority of the Holy Spirit just as the Scriptures indicate and it is to their successors that we can look today to find authentic Christian doctrine and the resolution of doctrinal disputes. Those successors are the bishops of the Catholic Church who can trace their lineage all the way back to the Apostles who were given their authority by Christ Himself by the laying on of hands.

    Anyone else claiming to teach authoritatively in Christ’s name is an impostor who does not have authority from God. How could he if the only method laid out in Scripture is the laying on of hands from someone who already has authority from Christ?

    If Christ gave authority to interpret Scripture by the laying on of hands (and He did) and if the Apostles passed on that same authority the same way (and they did), then speculating about our conflicting opinions on the meaning of the Scriptures will get us nowhere. We need to find the authorized interpreters.

    For more (and better) on this topic, I’d refer you to St. Francis de Sales’ “The Catholic Controversey”, particularly the chapter on Mission, which you can read here:

    http://www.goodcatholicbooks.org/francis/catholic-controversy/church-mission.html

  31. Henry,

    You wrote:

    “David,
    The final doctrinal authority would be the Scriptures because they alone are inspired-inerrant.”

    Notice that you have not answered my question. I did not ask, “What do you consider to be the Rule of faith?” I know that already. You think the Scriptures are the Rule of Faith, for the reasons you stated above. So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will repeat my original question which I have been posing since #2 above:

    “Did Jesus give us a rule of faith? Did Christ identify a Rule of Faith? Did He specify a Rule of Faith?”

    You keep saying that Scripture is the Rule of Faith. Fine. Show me where Jesus identifies Scripture as the Rule of Faith. If Christ tells us to follow Scripture as our final doctrinal authority, then I will grant you the palm. But so far, all you have done is to assert that Scripture MUST be the Rule of Faith, because only Scripture is inspired. But, once again, no one here disputes the inspiration of Scripture. What we dispute is the inference: Inspiration=>Rule of Faith.

    You can’t simply assert this. You must provide evidence. And even by the canons of Protestant logic, the only basis for an assertion of doctrine – binding on the whole Church – must be revelation. So, I repeat – where has God revealed that Scripture must be the Rule of Faith?

    -David

  32. David,
    I already told you what the rule of faith is based on the nature of the Scriptures (inerrant-inspired Word of God) and the responsibility of the church to teach the sound doctrine that is grounded on the Scripture. The Scriptures are the infallible rule of faith since God can neither lie nor err. ‘The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever’ (Psalm 119:160).
    What you are looking for is a simplistic phrase or sentence that uses terms like “rule of faith” or that Jesus identifies the Scripture as the “rule of faith”. None exist in the Scripture itself. However, we do know from Scripture that Jesus considered the OT the Word of God and His teachings as the Word of God. See John 12:49-50. It follows from this that the Scripture is the Rule of Faith since there is nothing else that is inspired nor inerrant.
    Now its your turn. Show me another authority that is greater or equal to the Scripture. Please don’t tell me its your church leadership that you claim is protected from error since I have already shown it to be in error. It must be something else. So what would it be?

    regards

  33. Henry,

    Would you say that infallible men were involved in the recognition/reception of Scripture as canonical?

  34. Matt,
    Church leadership has authority and a responsibility to teach the truth. It is not infallible nor incapable of error for the mere fact it is made up of fallen men and the Lord Jesus never promised the church some kind of divine protection from error. In fact, Scripture warns that it can happen. Authority in and of itself does not protect one from error nor does a position of authority. Look at Peter in Galatians 2:11-14. Here is one of the leaders of the NT church and Paul rebukes him for error. We also know that popes have erred.

    Don’t you find it strange that the Roman Catholic church claims to be the “authorized interpreters” of Scripture has never infallibly interpreted the Scripture? I find this absolutely astounding that they supposedly have this great ability that would help Catholics know the meaning of Scripture but never use it. What this does is to leave Catholics with only their private interpretations of Scripture just like Protestants. Go figure.

  35. Henry — I think we’ve all been trying to get to more fundamental issues than your specific point about the Muslims. Let me briefly address that.

    The Jews worshiped God in His oneness for thousands of years. Were they not worshiping the same God we worship? Scripture shows it’s quite possible to worship the true God without being aware of the mystery of the Trinity. Job wasn’t even a Jew by all accounts and certainly didn’t know the Trinity, but he offered sacrifices that God found acceptable.

    Bear in mind, too, that many Muslims live in cultures where they have never been exposed to the Triune God.What God does with the praises offered to Him by people who, by no fault of their own, don’t know His true name or His true nature is entirely up to Him.

    The Muslims are certainly in error about the Trinity (and a great many other things) but they are more right than most religions in that they worship a God who is one, all powerful and transcendent. The fact that they do not know of God’s three-ness does not necessarily mean their worship is not directed towards the true and ever living God.

    The documents you cite are not saying, “The Muslims are fine just the way they are.” The Church still evangelizes and seeks to convert Muslims to the true faith, but, especially as a basis for dialog and evangelization, the Church has sometimes spoken laudably of the aspects of the true faith they have retained. This in no way constitutes the Catholic Church “teaching error”.

  36. Mateo,
    i agree that the apostles taught orally. The problem is that there is no record of anything they taught orally. You don’t know what they believed outside of their writings. No one does. Without a written record from them, its all speculation on your part.

  37. Matt,
    The Muslim of today knows what Christianity teaches about the nature of God and they reject it. Your church is claiming that despite this rejection, you and them are worshiping the same God. Allah is not Yahweh.
    Do you believe you are worshiping the same God as a JW who teaches that Jesus is a created god? Or do you believe that the Mormon is worshiping the same God as you do? The Mormon claims that God was once a man.
    This is why theology matters and why our theology must be grounded in Scripture. If it isn’t, then we will quickly find ourselves in error. Agreed?

  38. Joshua,
    Fallible men were in involved in determining the canon of Scripture.

  39. Henry,

    I apologize in advance for piling on, but I have a few questions based on your reply to Mateo which stated: “The problem is that there is no record of anything they taught orally. You don’t know what they believed outside of their writings. No one does. Without a written record from them, its all speculation on your part.”

    Putting aside the question of whether or not the Holy Spirit protects oral tradition, I’m curious what you make of early Christian writings. We do have records of early Christians who sat at the feet of the apostles and learn from them. My question is, can these early writings be of use to today in our task interpreting scripture?

  40. Hi Henry,

    I’m really not looking for a simple phrase. I don’t expect Jesus to use a technical, theological vocabulary. I’m looking for ANY EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER that Jesus considered the Scriptures to be the rule of faith. You have offered two suggestions:

    1) Jesus quotes the OT as an authority,
    2) Scripture is inspired.

    Neither of these demonstrates what you set out to prove. Both are perfectly compatible with the thesis that something other than Scripture can serve as the Rule of Faith.

    You keep insisting that only Scripture can be the rule of faith since only Scripture is inspired. But that is to beg the question (i.e. to assume what you should rather demonstrate). It is just this claim that I dispute. I deny that only an inspired document can serve as the rule of faith. What evidence can you produce to refute me?

    As for Jesus citing the OT – a few observations.
    1) Citing the OT as an authority does not show that this authority is the Rule of Faith (i.e., the FINAL doctrinal authority). Very simple to show this. Do you believe that, during the earthly ministry of Jesus, that the OT was the final doctrinal authority? I certainly hope not, because this would imply that Christ himself possessed less authority than the OT. Clearly, Christ’s authority superseded that of the OT. So, the fact that Christ quoted the OT does not demonstrate that he considered it to be the final authority.
    2) Citing the OT also does absolutely nothing to demonstrate the final authority of the NT (which, of course, had not been written during Jesus’ ministry.) Your claim simply doesn’t follow from the evidence.

    As to your challenge,

    As I mentioned above, (15) I have not claimed that the Magisterium is of greater authority than Scripture – I have claimed that it has a different authority than Scripture. Furthermore, your claim to have proved the error’s of the Magisterium is entirely question begging. Merely proof-texting passages that seem, by some interpretation, to be in conflict does not prove that they are actually in conflict. Don’t you think skeptics could do the same thing with Holy Scripture itself? As a Protestant, what do you do when you encounter passage of Scripture that seem in conflict? You seek to harmonize them. Why? Because you accept, a priori, that they must harmonize since they are both true. Thus, the conflict is only apparent, and they are true in two different senses.

    In the same way, if I encounter an apparent conflict in the sources of revelation (Scripture and Tradition), I ask, “How may these be harmonized?” To discount this possibility at the outset is to beg the question.

    The evidence, again, for the divine authority of the Magisterium is
    1) Jesus’ teaching commission to the Apostles,
    2) His promise to lead the Church in all truth,
    3) His promise that the Church would not fail,
    4) The apostles’ transfer of that commission to successors, like Timothy and Titus,
    5) The witness of the early Church that this is precisely what happened,
    6) The model provided by Acts 15 for the resolution of doctrinal difficulties,
    7) The imitation of that model by the patristic church,
    8) The non-existence of the Canon of Scripture (let alone the non-existence of the Scriptures as a rule of faith) before the commission of Pope Damasus I to Jerome, Athanasius’ Easter letter, and the Councils of Carthage.
    9) And the witness of the unity, miracles, and sanctity of the Catholic Church (Wheat and tares notwithstanding).

    So, again, what evidence is there that Christ, the apostles, God, or even the early Church considered the 66 Book Protestants Canon of Scripture to be the Rule of Faith established by Divine Authority?

    -David

  41. Henry — Nobody is saying the Muslims are right, but you have no idea what any one of the millions of Muslims in the world does or does not know about the Trinity. Those who know the Trinity and reject it are culpable, but I would say that many do not, or may have heard it dismissed by fellow Muslims but never had it explained by a Christian.

  42. Henry (re: #38),

    So on what grounds do you accept the canon as authoritative?

  43. Matt,
    the issue is not what the individual Muslim believes but what is the official teaching of Islam on the character of God. This is what CCC 841 is addressing. Islam’ official position denies the Trinity and Christ as God and dying for sin. Would you agree?

  44. David,
    Let me quickly address your comment “You keep insisting that only Scripture can be the rule of faith since only Scripture is inspired. But that is to beg the question (i.e. to assume what you should rather demonstrate). It is just this claim that I dispute. I deny that only an inspired document can serve as the rule of faith. What evidence can you produce to refute me?”
    Are you saying here that there are 2 “rules of faith”? Do you deny that the Scripture is a Rule of faith?

    Point 2 above needs some clarification. Was Jesus speaking to the entire church or just to His disciples? What is the context of John 16:13?

    Thanks

  45. Henry.

    You said, “Take what the catechism of the Catholic church says at 841 for example. If you know what Islam teaches about the nature of God (non-trinitarian) and what Christianity teaches about the nature of God (trinitarian) then they both cannot be the same God. Islam denies the Jesus is God and died for our sins. What this means is that this official teaching of the Roman Catholic church is false because we are not worshiping the same God since Islam denies these fundamental characteristics of God.”

    This is a false conclusion. The CCC 841 does not say that Muslims worship the same God.

    Here is what CCC 841 says:

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

    Note that the Muslims ‘profess’ to hold the faith of Abraham. It does not say they hold the faith of Abraham.

    Also, it can be said that in their intent, they are trying to worship the God of Abraham who is the one, merciful God but they do not worship God correctly.

    So, CCC 841 says nothing about whether Muslims worship God in truth. It does not say that Muslims are right about the nature of God either. In other words, CCC 841 is not attempting to argue or state that Muslims are right in their rejection of the incarnation or the Trinity. Everybody knows they are wrong. CCC 841 merely says that a people called Muslims exist and that they profess to worship the God of Abraham who is the true God.

  46. Henry,

    Just to clarify – No, not 2 rules of faith. By definition, you can have only 1 final arbiter, only 1 norm to resolve doctrinal dispute. You can’t have 2 supreme courts, for example.
    In the Catholic Faith, Scripture is a little bit analogous to the U.S. Constitution – the Magisterium is a little bit analogous to the Court, certain traditions a little bit analogous to common law. [This is a very simplistic caricature, and not at all exact. For illustrations purposes only.]

    your question: do I deny that Scripture is a rule of faith? That depends on the sense in which you use the word – clearly, I believe that Scripture is a source for Christian doctrine and I also believe that nothing in the deposit of faith can contradict Scripture RIGHTLY INTERPRETED.

    However, I do not admit that Scripture is THE rule of faith, in the sense of being the final authority which determines the shape, content, and meaning of the Deposit of Faith. I don’t believe this, because Jesus did not teach this. This idea – Scripture as the Rule of Faith in that sense – was the invention of Martin Luther. This idea does not have divine authority. It has only human authority -Luther’s – which is to say, no authority at all. As you are fond of pointing out, humans can err.

    If I am going to acknowledge something as the final arbiter of doctrinal controversy, that something must be identified by divine authority. Christ identified the teaching of the church as that final arbiter. ACTS 15 is an ideal example of that authority functioning as Christ intended. History witnesses to its ongoing functioning in the ministry of those bishops with apostolic succession.

    Scripture, though inspired and inerrant, was not intended by Christ to serve that function.
    I have never seen any Protestant provide evidence to the contrary.

    Thanks,

    David

  47. Henry writes: Church leadership has authority and a responsibility to teach the truth.

    I agree, and the scriptures explicitly teach that this is the case. So please name for me who, in the church that Christ personally founded, has the authority to teach the truth!

    Henry asserts: Church leadership … is not infallible nor incapable of error for the mere fact it is made up of fallen men …

    How can you possibly believe that this is true? You have been claiming (correctly) that the New Testament is inspired and without error. Who wrote the New Testament? Fallen men. How then, is it possible that fallen men could write the New Testament? They were able to do that because the Holy Spirit gave them the charismatic gift of inspiration, and it that charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit that guarantees that the New Testament is “God breathed” (literally inspired). Because the scriptures are God breathed, they are also inerrant.

    Henry asserts: … the Lord Jesus never promised the church some kind of divine protection from error.

    How do you know that? You admit that you do not know what the Apostles taught orally, so it is illogical for you to claim that you have certainty that the Apostles never believed that the church that Christ personally founded has divine protection from teaching error.

    How do you know that the Apostles did not believe that those men authorized to teach in the name of Christ, have a guarantee from God that they could teach no error when they promulgated doctrine as the official teaching of the church that Christ personally founded? If, as you are asserting, the church that Christ personally founded, could teach heresy as her official doctrine, then you are asserting that the church that Christ personally founded can become an instrument of Satan that leads men astray. So why did Christ bother to found a church, if his personal church could become an instrument of Satan that spreads false doctrine across the world? And why would you believe that some Protestant sect that was founded by some mere man or woman can’t also become an instrument of Satan that spreads false doctrine? If Christ isn’t going to bother to protect the church that he personally founded from becoming a source of heresy, why is he going to protect Protestant sects founded by mere men and women from becoming sources of heresy?

    Henry asserts: … he Lord Jesus never promised the church some kind of divine protection from error. In fact, Scripture warns that it can happen.

    The scriptures nowhere teach that the church that Christ founded can teach heresy as her official doctrine! The scriptures warn us that false teacher will appear to lead the brethren astray, but these wolves in sheep’s clothing are NOT the men authorized to teach in the name of Christ in the church that Christ personally founded, they are usurpers with no authority that try to lead the brethren into sects founded by mere men.

    Henry asserts: Authority in and of itself does not protect one from error nor does a position of authority.

    Who gave authority to fallen men to write the letters of the New Testament, and who protected these men from teaching error? Legitimate authority is protected from teaching error, if God is the one guaranteeing that no error will be taught.

    Henry asserts: Look at Peter in Galatians 2:11-14. Here is one of the leaders of the NT church and Paul rebukes him for error.

    Eusebius, in his history of the church claims that this Peter was not the Apostle Peter, but a man named Peter who was one of the brethren that accompanied James, the brother of the Lord, to Galacia. It is this other Peter that Paul rebukes in Galacia. Even if Eusebius is wrong, Paul was upholding the ruling of the Council of Jerusalem, and Peter (whoever he was) was not. So you are only arguing that Paul was correct in his rebuke because he upheld what the church Christ personally founded taught as her official doctrine in the Council of Jerusalem. If that official doctrine is not protected by the Holy Spirit from being without error, then Paul’s rebuke is meaningless.

    Henry asserts: We also know that popes have erred.

    Who is this “we”?

    Henry asks: Don’t you find it strange that the Roman Catholic church claims to be the “authorized interpreters” of Scripture has never infallibly interpreted the Scripture?

    What I find exceedingly strange is your idea that I don’t believe that the church Christ personally founded has never, in her two thousand years of existence, infallibly interpreted the scriptures that she wrote! What I find even stranger, is that I should listen to Protestants that do not claim to teach infallibly in order to understand what the scriptures teach!

    Henry asks: i agree that the apostles taught orally. The problem is that there is no record of anything they taught orally.

    So you say, but how can you possibly know that what the Apostles taught orally never was written down in extra-biblical documents? For example, have you ever heard of the Didache? How would you know that this extra-biblical document does NOT faithfully record what that Apostles orally taught the early church?

    Henry asks: You don’t know what they believed outside of their writings. No one does. Without a written record from them, its all speculation on your part.

    All you are proving is that you don’t know anything about what the Apostles taught orally, because you have the strange idea that no one ever bothered to write down what the Apostles taught orally. That is like claiming that the Jews living today have no knowledge of how the Temple Liturgies were performed in the time of Christ because the details of those Temple Liturgies are not recorded in the Old Testament!

    The faithful Jews in the time of Christ believed that what God had revealed to the people of God had been preserved in both the oral and written tradition. Never did the Jews conceive of themselves as a “people of the scrolls”. To conceive of the Jews as a “people of the book” is a Muslim conception of the Jews. The Apostles were all Jews, so I don’t think it is reasonable to think that they believed that Christ, a Jew by birth, founded a new religion that turned his disciples in to a “people of the Protestant bible”.

  48. Sean,
    Do you think the Mormon and JW worship the same God as you do? After all, they claim to be worshiping God and would go so far as to say they are Christian.
    How can the Muslim be worshiping the same God as Abraham when Allah is not Yahweh? I don’t get it.

  49. Mateo,
    You write -“I agree, and the scriptures explicitly teach that this is the case. So please name for me who, in the church that Christ personally founded, has the authority to teach the truth! ”
    All church leaders have the responsibility to teach the truth. See Eph 4:12-16.
    Would you agree?

  50. David,
    How do you know when your church rightly interprets Scripture? Where has it ever infallibly done so?

  51. Well said, Sean. Thanks for the clarification.

  52. Mateo,
    You are the one who is claiming that your church cannot err. Its up to you to show that in light of the fact that Jesus never promised it and we have warnings against false teachings and teacher in the church. The Roman Catholic church was used as an instrument of evil in the past. Just look at the inquisitions that went on for centuries with the approval of the popes and magesterium. This was a wicked activity by your church. If Jesus was protecting the church from error and evil this would not have happened.
    You want an example of a false teacher in your church let me point you to St. Alphonsus Liguori who wrote the Glories of Mary. He is a canonized saint and doctor of your church. These are some of the highest honors in your church. You can find his work here: http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/glories.htm. It is absolutely shocking what he writes about Mary and devotion to her. I’d like to know what you and other Catholics think about this.

    Does your church claim that the Didache are actual oral teachings of the apostles?

    I still have yet to see from you a specific example of an oral teaching of an apostle outside the NT. Until you can produce an oral teaching of an apostle you cannot claim to know what it was.

  53. David,
    Would it be correct to say you believe your church is the final arbiter of truth and cannot err?

  54. Henry,

    Should I take your silence to mean that you concede my point: no source of revelation has identified Scripture as the Rule of Faith? If so, then you are not alone. Some important Protestant theologians have also conceded this. For example, the Dutch theologian Leonard van Rijssen argued, like you, that Scripture’s status as rule of faith could not be discerned from the content of revelation, but only as an inference from its attributes (namely, inspiration). According to Protestant historian Richard Muller, Rijssen understood Scripture’s canonical authority “as a deduction, not directly from divinity or divine authority but from several attributes of Scripture.”

    So, do you concede my point? God has not revealed that Scripture is to be the rule of faith? If you do not concede, then I would appreciate your showing me where and when God revealed this.

    Now, as to how I know when my church rightly interprets Scripture –
    First, let me point out – I don’t think Scripture is the only source of revelation. So I am also concerned to know when my Church rightly interprets non-Scriptural data as well. Natural law, oral tradition, etc.
    But, to answer your question, I know that my church teaches with authority when she declares, by solemn definition, that she has done so. I also know when the universal testimony of the whole church agrees in teaching a doctrine – whether or not it is accompanied by a solemn definition.

    Thanks,

    David

  55. Henry,

    Your #53 above:

    “Would it be correct to say you believe your church is the final arbiter of truth and cannot err?”

    It is correct to say that the Church is the final arbiter of Christian doctrine and of those truths essentially connected to the truths of revelation. (She is not the final arbiter concerning whether or not I had eggs for breakfast.) And, She cannot err when she teaches Christian doctrine with the full weight of her authority – intending to define the limits or meaning of the deposit of faith for all Christians for all time. Individual members of the Church, and even the Pope, can be in error under other circumstances.

    David

  56. Henry:

    I think the question I would want to hear an answer to from you right up front is to ask why you think that the collection of writings that we call the Scriptures – or, rather, the collection that you call the Scriptures, since they are not the same collection – is, in fact, inspired and, therefore, inerrant.

    jj

  57. David,
    I believe that the Scripture alone is what you call the rule of faith for Christians because it alone is the inspired-inerrant Word of God. This follows from the nature of Scripture itself i.e. inspired-inerrant-God-breathed. Church authority does not rise to this standard. It can’t because the authority is composed of fallen human beings who can and have erred.
    You claim that Scripture is not the only source of revelation. What other sources of revelation are there?

    What do you do when your church teaches doctrines or makes statements contrary to Scripture such as CCC 841?

  58. John,
    Your question would involve quite a bit space. Suffice it is to say the church of the 4th century got the canon right and the Jews of the OT knew what Scripture was.

  59. @Henry:

    Your question would involve quite a bit space. Suffice it is to say the church of the 4th century got the canon right and the Jews of the OT knew what Scripture was.

    Well, but somehow it seems to me that my question:

    I think the question I would want to hear an answer to from you right up front is to ask why you think that the collection of writings that we call the Scriptures – or, rather, the collection that you call the Scriptures, since they are not the same collection – is, in fact, inspired and, therefore, inerrant.

    is fundamental to all this discussion. I don’t see why you actually think the Scriptures – rather, your, in my view truncated, version of the Scriptures, is inspired and inerrant. You don’t have the assurance of an infallible Church of their status. How do you know the Church of the 4th Century – which Church, in fact? By then there were conflicting bodies – got it right, and how do you know even what writings the Jews thought were Scripture?

    These were some of the questions that ultimately led me from my Reformed church allegiance to becoming a Catholic, some 16 years ago.

    jj

  60. Henry.

    You said: “What do you do when your church teaches doctrines or makes statements contrary to Scripture such as CCC 841?”

    Please see my response to that from earlier today before continuing to raise this as if it proves that the Catholic Church teaches error.

    The fact is that CCC 841 is simply stating a fact. It is not saying that Muslims are right in their understanding of the Godhead. Therefore, CCC 841 is not proof that the Catholic Church teaches something contrary to scripture.

    Neither does the fact that you disagree with St. Alphonsus Liguori mean that the Catholic Church teaches doctrine contrary to scripture.

    Sean

  61. Hi Henry,

    I note that you still have not answered my fundamental question from #2 above, and which I have restated in every post.

    Do you concede that no divine authority has identified Scripture as the Rule of Faith?
    Or, if you’d prefer me to rephrase, Do you concede that no divine authority has identified Scripture as the final arbiter of doctrinal disputes?

    The answer is either, “Yes, I concede,” or “No, I do not concede, and here is the divine authority that has identified Scripture as the Rule of faith . . . ”

    -David

  62. Sean,
    What does this mean-” ….the Muslims these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”? Adore means to worship.

    Do you think your church can err in matters of faith and morals and has been divinely protected from doing so?

    Have you read the Glories of Mary?

  63. David,
    There is no record in Scripture that the church is the Rule of Faith either. In fact the church is never mentioned as being incapable of erring. What we are left with is the Scripture alone is the inspired-inerrant Word of God which cannot lie. This is never said of the church or its leaders. Are you willing to concede this?

  64. John,
    The history of canon of Scripture is quite complex and i have no problem believing that the Lord Christ was working through the Jews in the OT and the church of the 4th century to reveal to us what the canon is.
    When you became a Catholic were you fully aware of all that the Catholic church taught? Did you study what indulgences were and what was involved in the Marian dogmas before you joined?

  65. Henry, (re: #62),

    Regarding the question of Muslims, see the third paragraph of comment #21 here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  66. Henry:

    The history of canon of Scripture is quite complex and i have no problem believing that the Lord Christ was working through the Jews in the OT and the church of the 4th century to reveal to us what the canon is.

    OK, but then I don’t see how we can discuss matters of authority. Your view is that the Scriptures are authoritative and you won’t tell us why. You only say that it is ‘complex’ and that you ‘have no problem believing’ what you believe.

    When you became a Catholic were you fully aware of all that the Catholic church taught? Did you study what indulgences were and what was involved in the Marian dogmas before you joined?

    Pretty much aware, yes, and studied, yes – but on what basis was I, in your opinion, to make my decision? If it was “examine the doctrines and decide which are true,” then what measuring stick should I have used to decide if they were true? If it is the Scriptures – the Protestant Scriptures, in fact – then we are back to my original question: On what basis do you – or I – decide that these writings, and these only, are inspired and inerrant.

    And of course after that, when I think I see different ways of interpreting those Scriptures, on what basis do I decide which interpretation is correct?

    I think the questions of what writings are Scriptures, and why they are inspired and inerrant is fundamental if you are going to take a Sola Scriptura position.

    jj

  67. Henry:

    There is no record in Scripture that the church is the Rule of Faith either.

    I Tim 3:15 kind of does that, it seems to me – the Church is the pillar and ground of truth.

    jj

  68. Henry, re#63

    Luke 10:16 — “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

    Matt 18:18-20 – “And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

    The Church that you cannot find being given as the rule of faith in the NT is, in fact, found in those to whom Jesus addressed the two passages above: Peter and the Apostles. They are the Church as Christ founded it – they and their successors are the Magisterium. “Unto the end of the world” – how can Jesus fulfill His promise be with his Church unto the end of the world if He is not also with those who succeed the original 12? All truth is in Him, so what He promises here must be the case.

    Jesus says they will teach with divine authority (“he who hears you hears me“). There, Henry, is your rule of faith. Not “he who by the power of Holy Spirit is convinced he has a right interpretation of Scripture hears me” but he who hears the Church through time.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  69. Henry asserts: You are the one who is claiming that your church cannot err.

    I am claiming that the Catholic Church is the church that Christ personally founded, and that every Protestant “church” is an institution that some mere man or woman personally founded. That every Protestant “church” was founded by some mere man or woman is a historical fact that cannot be disputed. For the record, I don’t expect you believe, just because I say so, that the Catholic Church is the church that Christ personally founded.

    You believe that the scriptures found in your Protestant bible are authoritative, inspired, and inerrant, and so do I, since the scriptures found in your Protestant bible are but a subset of the scriptures found in the Catholic bible. Therefore, you and I have some common ground that we can work from. Let us take a look at what is found in your Protestant bible in Matthew Chapter 18, verses 15 through 18. Specifically, I want to focus on verse 17, which I will quote from an RSV Protestant bible:

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

    Here, Christ is teaching those who would be his disciples that must listen to the church when she teaches, or they will suffer the pain of excommunication from the church. “The church” that all Christians must listen to is the church that Christ personally founded, and not the personal “bible churches” founded by mere men and women such as Garner Ted Armstrong, Chuck Smith, John Calvin, Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russell, Martin Luther, Aimee Semple McPherson, John Knox, the Campbell brothers, etc, etc, etc.

    Since I claim that the Catholic Church is the church that Christ personally founded, I can also claim that the scriptures are authoritative for me, since the scriptures tell me that I must listen to the church that Christ personally founded or be excommunicated. You, on the other hand, are defying the authority of the scriptures found within your Protestant bible when you choose to listen to the doctrines taught in churches that mere men and women founded. There are no scriptures that authorize men and women to found their own sects whenever they disagree with the official teaching of the church that Christ personally founded. That is why I scoff at every Protestant when he or she claims that scriptures are authoritative, since no Protestant accepts the teaching of Christ found in Matthew 18:17.

    Henry asserts: Its up to you to show that in light of the fact that Jesus never promised it and we have warnings against false teachings and teacher in the church.

    The scriptures found within your Protestant bible tell me that Christ personally founded his own church and that he guaranteed that the powers of death will never prevail against her. The scriptures found within your Protestant bible tell me that Christ is the head of the church that he personally founded. It is up to you, to give me a plausible reason why I shouldn’t listen to the church that Christ personally founded. One thing is certain, you won’t find any verses within your Protestant bible that authorize rebelling against existing church authority and founding of personal “bible churches” whenever some man or woman dissents with the official teaching of the church that Christ founded!

    mateo asks … please name for me who, in the church that Christ personally founded, has the authority to teach the truth …

    Henry responds: All church leaders have the responsibility to teach the truth. See Eph 4:12-16. Would you agree?

    Ephesians 4:11-16 says this (quoting from the Protestant RSV bible):

    And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

    Of course I believe what is written in these verses. But what do these verses have to do with Protestants? “Pastors” can’t refer to Protestant pastors, because no Protestant pastor listens to the church that Christ founded – Protestant pastors either listen to the “churches” that they personally founded, or they listen to “churches” founded by rebellious men and women that tore up the Body of Christ by separating themselves from the Body of Christ. Protestants have no “unity of faith”. What Protestants have are thousands upon thousands of bickering and divided denominations that cannot all agree on even one single doctrine of the faith! Do I think that Protestant pastors are commanded by Christ to teach their personal beliefs in sects that they personally found? No, I do not. Protestant pastors have no authority to teach, period, since they have no divine mandate to spread their unscriptural novelties that divide the Body of Christ.

    Henry asks: Does your church claim that the Didache are actual oral teachings of the apostles?

    The title of the Didache is “The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.” (see http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html )

    What plausible reason can you give for believing that what is written down in the Didache is NOT the oral traditions handed down by the Apostles?

  70. Yet another passage that provides some more evidence that you ask for in #63. This is from Mat 18:15-17 (I think he passage above that is labeled Mat 18 is actually Mat 28):

    If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

    Notice Jesus does not give any instructions for the case where the church gives the wrong answer. He says there is something called “the church”. It is visible and able to give answers to disputes. You are to obey her.

  71. Hi Henry,

    It sounds to me like you have conceded my point. No divine authority has identified the Scriptures as the Rule of Faith. I’m glad we have that settled. Now, as to your question . . .

    I do concede that Scripture does not identify the Church as an inspired source of Doctrine. I never said otherwise. However, I do not concede that Scripture does not identify the Church as the Rule of faith. (And, of course, tradition also witnesses to this.)

    What does Scripture say of the Church?

    The Gates of Hell won’t overcome it (Matt. 16:18)
    She is to make known the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10)
    She is the pilar and ground of the Church: (1 tim 3:15)

    Furthermore, Scripture also shows us that Jesus did make any provisions for the transmission of his doctrine.

    He commissioned apostles to teach, and promised to lead them into all truth.

    Did they make provision for successors?

    Yes, they appointed presbyters and bishops.

    Is there any record of what their authority looked like when confronting doctrinal disputes?
    Yes, Acts 15. The Apostles and leaders of the Church met in council and imposed a binding ruling on the whoel church based on the fact that “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”

    Granted that individual Christians or particular Churches can fail to preserve doctrine, it is
    not possible for the church universal to fail in her doctrine without the above promises failing. How can she be the pillar and ground of the truth, how can she always overcome the gates of hell, how can she make known the manifold wisdom of God, if there is no guarantee that God preserve her?

    -David

  72. Thanks for the correction, Randy. Indeed in my #68 I meant Matt 28: 18-20 (not Matt 18)for the verses quoted and the point I was making.

    Frank

  73. Hi Henry,

    I have another question. You have continually stated that “Scripture is the Rule of Faith.”
    Do you consider this statement to be a dogma of the faith, binding on the consciences of all Christians, or do you consider it to be mere theological opinion, which one can accept or reject as seems good?

    Yes – Dogma of the faith? or No, not dogma of the faith?

    Thanks,
    David

  74. I’m noticing that Henry’s objectors are making 2 arguments (among others, but at least these 2):

    1) That Henry cannot objectively demonstrate that his canon of Scripture is divine revelation. (As John puts it in #56: I think the question I would want to hear an answer to from you right up front is to ask why you think that the collection of writings that we call the Scriptures – or, rather, the collection that you call the Scriptures, since they are not the same collection – is, in fact, inspired and, therefore, inerrant.)

    2) That the evidence of the Catholic Church’s divine authority is found in the divine revelation of the (canonical) Scriptures. (cf. comments 67-71). (It is presupposed here that a divinely inspired canon exists and that y’all :) know what it is. In other words, it is presupposed that that Catholic Church’s canon of Scripture in divine revelation.).

    Making these 2 arguments simultaneously would be inconsistent unless one could do one of the following 2 things:

    1) Demonstrate that the Catholic Church has *divine* authority (which would entail the authority to establish a divinely inspired canon) and do so on the basis of objective reason alone (historical fact + logic + etc.) – that is, without appealing to the ‘scriptures’ as anything more than some of the many ancient writings that have historical value.

    2) Demonstrate that the Catholic Church’s canon of Scripture is *divine* revelation one and do so on the basis of objective reason alone (historical fact + logic + etc.)

    This is essentially what I have been attempting to argue (however clumsily) over here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/wilson-vs-hitchens-a-catholic-perspective/comment-page-2/#comment-25125. While I have received some helpful feedback/interaction, I have yet to receive satisfactory answers to my basic questions. Perhaps some of you guys could help.

    Peter

    PS- I’ve posted this comment over on the wilson vs hitchens page so that you won’t have to keep switching back and forth.

  75. Hi Peter,

    This thread is a bit confusing, since Henry is having a conversation with several of us simultaneously.
    Thank you for attempting to distill the main points. However, let me re-state my own line of reasoning for clarification. (Note: my main line of argument can also be found in http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/03/sola-scriptura-vs-the-magisterium-what-did-jesus-teach)

    Protestants make, as I see it, two contradictory claims:
    1) Doctrine must be founded and defined only upon the witness of divine revelation, which can be found only in the Scriptures. (This position is known as the doctrine of Sola Scriptura)
    2) Sola Scriptura is a doctrine of the Christian Faith.

    These claims are contradictory, based on the admission that many Protestants have made (Henry, Muller, Rijssen, and others) that Sola Scriptura is not revealed in Scripture (or any source of revelation).

    When you unpack the Protestant argument for SS, it boils down to an inference from inspiration. Since Scripture is the only inspired source of revelation, it must be the Rule of Faith. What I keep pushing for is, however, is recognition that this premise needs to be demonstrated, not simply asserted. I deny the premise. Inspiration is not the criterion for identifying the Rule of Faith. On the contrary, I am quite content with the Protestant doctrine that any doctrine must be derived from the content of revelation. If Protestants are going to assert SS as a doctrine, then it is incumbent upon them to show that this doctrine is contained in the source(s) of revelation. No Protestant that I am aware of has ever met this burden of proof, and some have explicitly admitted its impossibility.

    -David

  76. P.S.

    The Alternative is to admit that SS is mere theological opinion, not contained in the deposit of faith.

    In this case, we are left with two options:
    1) God has not specified a rule of faith for the Church, or

    2) God has specified some other Rule of Faith for the Church.

    Obviously, folks around here take option 2.
    -David

  77. Peter,

    Let me also briefly respond to your request.

    Some Catholic apologists attempt to do just what you are suggesting.

    Let us start with Scripture as an historical record, and not necessarily an inspired text.
    This record provides evidence (which, as not-yet-defined as inspired is open to dispute) that Christ founded a Church, commissioned apostles, and promised them divine assistance.
    Early Church history confirms that this was the understanding of the early Christians, who also believed this authority passed to successors. None of these claims depend upon Scripture being inspired.

    The holiness, unity, sanctity, and miracles of the church which received and promulgates this doctrine provides a further motive for its credibility.

    Faith, as an assent to these claims, moved by these motives of credibility, is nonetheless a gift of grace.

    For those who have this gift of faith, they then also believe the Church’s testimony concerning the inspiration of Scripture.

    -Is this what you are getting at?

    -David

  78. Mateo,
    What makes you think that the church in the NT is the Roman Catholic church? The church of the NT does not have a pope i.e. supreme leader, Marian doctrines, indulgences, a celibate leadership or an office of priest. The church of the NT and the Roman Catholic church are not the same things.

    You write “What Protestants have are thousands upon thousands of bickering and divided denominations that cannot all agree on even one single doctrine of the faith!”
    Do you know of any Protestant church that does not believe that Christ is God in the flesh, died for our sins, belief in Him is necessary for salvation, man is fallen, and the Scriptures are the Word of God? Can you give me 2-3 names of a Protestant churches that don’t believe these things?

  79. David,
    Your write-“Granted that individual Christians or particular Churches can fail to preserve doctrine, it is not possible for the church universal to fail in her doctrine without the above promises failing. How can she be the pillar and ground of the truth, how can she always overcome the gates of hell, how can she make known the manifold wisdom of God, if there is no guarantee that God preserve her?”

    Excellent question. We can look at the history of the Roman Catholic church and her doctrines to see if this is the case. We know popes have erred and the papacy is littered with evil men. We know what happened in the inquisitions and we know that your church needed reform around the time of the reformation. The admittance of needing reform shows that what the church was doing and teaching was out of sync with the will of God. We also know your church has allowed false teachings. The Glories of Mary is one example as is CCC 841.
    So the idea that the RCC has been protected and preserved from error just does not stand up in light of the evidence.

  80. David,
    It is not necessary to believe that the Scripture is thee rule of faith to be a Christian. Those that are ignorant of it or reject it will run into problems. Roman Catholics are a good example of the problems they have when they reject this principle, this rule. It opens up people to believe all kinds of false doctrines.

  81. Mateo,
    If the Didache is the oral traditions handed down by the Apostles why isn’t it in the Bible?

  82. David,
    You write “….When you unpack the Protestant argument for SS, it boils down to an inference from inspiration. Since Scripture is the only inspired source of revelation, it must be the Rule of Faith. What I keep pushing for is, however, is recognition that this premise needs to be demonstrated, not simply asserted. I deny the premise. Inspiration is not the criterion for identifying the Rule of Faith…”
    Do you deny that various Scriptures are the Word of God because they claim so and Christians and Jews of the OT believe so?
    Why should the Word of God not be the Rule of Faith?

  83. Henry,
    Your question:

    “Why should the Word of God not be the Rule of Faith?”

    Because they should not be forced to serve a function for which God did not intend them.

    What I have asked for, again and again, is some evidence that God actually intends the Scriptures to be the rule of faith. No Protestant I know of has ever produced any evidence beyond his own subjective experience and private theological opinion.

    The answer to your question is really the same to any question of theological speculation. Why should I believe or disbelieve this or that theological doctrine? Only because God has revealed it, or not revealed it.

    You keep insisting that the catholic church errs, because she runs contrary to your interpretation of scripture. But in doing so, you keep committing the fallacy of begging the question. You begin with the assumption that Scripture (and your interpretation) is a sufficient basis for judging the truth or falsehood of Catholic Doctrine. But that is precisely the point in question. FIRST you have to establish that Scripture (as interpreted by Henry) can serve that purpose. I contend that it cannot.

    Even if I were deny the divine authority of the Catholic Church (which, of course, I don’t), this still does nothing to prove your implicit claim that God intends Scripture to be the Rule of Faith. You have tacitly admitted that God never told us to treat Scripture this way. The history of the Christian tradition for 1500 years demonstrates that the Church never received the Scriptures in this way. What evidence is there that God intends Scripture to be the rule of faith?
    And, barring such evidence, how can you possibly insist on it? All you have done is say that you don’t personally like the history of Catholicism, and you prefer to rely on Scripture. You can’t actually demonstrate that Catholic Claims contradict the Deposit of Faith until you establish how you know what the deposit of faith is. Otherwise, you are just saying, “Catholicism contradicts what I like to consider the deposit of faith. However, I cannot insist that anyone else consider the deposit of faith in the same way, since I cannot demonstrate that God wants us to view it this way.”

    -David

    -David

  84. Henry.

    With statements like this one that you made: “What makes you think that the church in the NT is the Roman Catholic church? The church of the NT does not have a pope i.e. supreme leader, Marian doctrines, indulgences, a celibate leadership or an office of priest. The church of the NT and the Roman Catholic church are not the same things.

    You are raising issues that have been covered here on Called to Communion previously and in greater detail than could ever be achieved in a combox discussion.

    Obviously, all of us Catholics believe that all of the teaching of the Catholic Church including the Papacy and Marian doctrines etc are consistent with biblical Christianity. So, a statement like, “The NT does not support the papacy…” is going to be met with, “Yes, it does and here is why…” and then we’ll just revert into a typical bible debate that never really gets anywhere. Rather than do that, why not spend a few hours in the archive on one topic at a time?

    A good place to start is the archive. I might suggest reading the articles about the biblical church and apostolic succession as this strikes at the heart of Mateo’s claim about the NT Church being one in the same as the Holy Catholic Church.

    David said:

    All you have done is say that you don’t personally like the history of Catholicism, and you prefer to rely on Scripture. You can’t actually demonstrate that Catholic Claims contradict the Deposit of Faith until you establish how you know what the deposit of faith is. Otherwise, you are just saying, “Catholicism contradicts what I like to consider the deposit of faith. However, I cannot insist that anyone else consider the deposit of faith in the same way, since I cannot demonstrate that God wants us to view it this way.”

    Amen. And that is a good summary of the interaction you have provided thus far.

    At this point I am going to ask that you tell us how you know that the Catholic Church contradicts the Deposit of Faith. Until we get to the heart of this question I really don’t think we can continue approving your comments when they repeatedly make the same claims over and over again.

  85. David,
    Where in Scripture does it say that it should not be the Rule of Faith? You can’t even produce from the Scripture that the church is to be the Rule of Faith either. We both know from Scripture itself that the church can and has erred. It is not inspired nor inerrant. That’s why the Scripture warns that there will be false teachers in the church itself that will deceive. Men can err and do.
    Do you like the history of the Roman Catholic church? Do you like the evil popes you have had and the inquisitions? Do you deny that your church is responsible for these things?
    I most certainly have demonstrated that the Roman Catholic church has erred. I gave you a short list above that shows it either contradicts Scripture or disregards it. We can go deeper into this if you want.
    You are a good example of what happens when a person rejects the Scripture as the Rule of Faith and have put the leaders of your church in the position of ultimate authority because you believe they cannot err because of divine protection. It makes it impossible for you to recognize its errors and correct them.
    I’m not entirely sure about this but I remember reading or hearing somewhere that the current pope in his younger days that he lamented the idea of the church being infallible or incapable of teaching error because it means it would not be able to correct itself. Needless to say, i was shocked. Claiming that your church cannot err is an impossible task given its long history and the nature of man not to mention the evil one’ attacks over the centuries. There is just to much evidence against this claim of being incapable of teaching error. You and your fellow Catholics carry one heavy burden.

  86. Sean,
    I am well aware of what the RCC teaches and the claims it makes. To claim that the Marian dogmas are biblical for example cannot be done with the exegesis of those passages that are used to support them. I understand the deposit of faith to be what the Lord Christ and His apostles taught. I think the reason that many discussions on theology between Catholics and Protestants don’t go to far is because of the claim that your church cannot err. If it cannot err, then anyone who says she does or gives a good argument against a doctrine of your church will ultimately be dismissed because the church cannot err.
    I can understand people getting frustrated about these things and want me to go away. I probably should leave now before I get banned. Its been great to dialoguing with you all. I may not agree with you but I do admire your convictions and willingness to put them on the line.

    Regards

  87. Henry,

    I am not threatening to ‘ban’ you. I don’t believe we’ver ‘banned’ anybody except for that guy from Time Cube.com….

    My concern is really only about saying the same things over and over again and speaking past one another which ulimtately just kind of clutters up the conversation.

    We’re all about open dialog here and answering the hard questions.

    At this point, you have made your case which is essentially: The Catholic Church errs so therefore it cannot be the church of the New Testament.

    Our response to that is easily evident from some of the previous comments.

    Also, as the blog moderator, I am tasked with trying to keep things ‘on topic.’ When in a given thread somebody raises mulitiple issues that have previously been discussed in great detail, its my job to say, “Hey, did you know that this topic has already been covered?” Further, if you find something in say one of the articles about the papacy that you take issue with you can always make a comment in that combox. All of this just helps to keep the conversations neat and tiddy.

    God Bless.

    Sean

  88. Henry,

    We welcome you!
    You wrote:

    “I can understand people getting frustrated about these things and want me to go away. I probably should leave now before I get banned. Its been great to dialoguing with you all. I may not agree with you but I do admire your convictions and willingness to put them on the line.”

    We don’t want you to go away! And we’re not frustrated with you! This website exists to promote discussions between Catholics and Protestants. My only regret is that there have not been more Protestants on this discussion thread. I don’t want you to feel “piled on” by all these Catholics.

    I, myself, once believed exactly as you do, just as strongly, and I am very sympathetic to your point of view. If we engage you critically, it comes from having lived intellectually on both sides of these issues.

    God bless! Stick around!
    -David

  89. David, (RE: #74-#76)

    Thanks for your comments. I am grateful for the interaction.

    RE: Comments 75 & 76:

    I could present evidence from within Scripture in defense of a case for Sola Scriptura and you could then present counter-evidence and attempt to qualify the evidence I presented…and so on. But both of us would be *pressuposing* that Scripture and our canons thereof are divine revelation. And, if what we are ultimately trying to determine is whether or not the Catholic Church is the true, divine Church the Christ founded then I would prefer not to engage in a dialogue based on shared presuppositions since the Catholic Church teaches to have unsubstantiated pressupositions is fideism, and fideism excludes the possibility of genuine faith (in Christ & his Church).

    If you want to help Henry and I to “discover” that the Catholic Church is the true, divine Church the Christ founded, then you should not attempt to dialogue with us on the basis of our “fideistic presuppositions” about the Scripture since it will be impossible for us to have genuine faith so long we hold to these pressupositions. Instead you should encourage us to jettison our pressuppositions from the outset and to pursue, instead, the “motives of credibility” , which, according to the Catholic Church, are: 1) “within the grasp of the humblest intelligence”, and 2) the means by which we can move from lack of “definite and certain knowledge of Divine revelation” which “precedes faith” to possession thereof (see here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05752c.htm).

    You wrote:
    “Let us start with Scripture as an historical record, and not necessarily an inspired text. This record provides evidence (which, as not-yet-defined as inspired is open to dispute) that Christ founded a Church, commissioned apostles, and promised them divine assistance. Early Church history confirms that this was the understanding of the early Christians, who also believed this authority passed to successors. None of these claims depend upon Scripture being inspired.”

    2 main problems here:

    1. When you say “Let us start with Scripture” what specific ancient historical documents are you refering to and why did you select these rather than others? My reply to Kevin Dulin is largely applicable to your comments here: “Your solution seems to suffer from the same weakness as that of the Encyclopedia in that it presupposes a specific set of “texts” from the outset. Which “texts” are we to “first read”? Why these and not others? An appeal to the history of the Church (i.e. the Church’s “deciding the inspired canon”) does not yield an authoritative answer: since we have yet to establish the Church’s divine origin, there is no principled difference between choosing to “first read” the Catholic Church’s canon and choosing to “first read” the canon approved by any other Church that claims to be the true Church that Christ founded.” (see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/wilson-vs-hitchens-a-catholic-perspective/comment-page-2/#comment-25141)

    2. You say that “None of these claims depend upon Scripture being inspired.” In one sense, what you say here is obviously true: the fact that we are examining ancient documents and the claims those docouments make does not in any way imply that they are “divine revelation”. However, once we establish that the documents we are examining are not only historically reliable but also *prophetic* (i.e. they predicted things and these things came true) then we must conclude, as the Encyclopedia does, that “these books must really contain what they claim to contain, viz. Divine revelation”. The Encyclopedia is saying that as soon as we discover the historical accuracy and prophetic nature of a specific set of ancient documents (i.e., the “Old Testament” and “New Testament”) we can have “definite and certain knowledge” that this entire set ancient documents are “divine revelation”. This makes it all the more essential for us to determine which set of ancient documents (i.e., which “books”) the Encyclopedia is refering to when it uses the words “New Testament” and “Old Testament”.

    As I wrote my original comment (#81) on the “Wilson vs. Hitchens” post: “The Encyclopedia seems to presuppose a canon (fideistically? – I mean that as a sincere question) as evidenced by the words “a book” or “these books”: What “books” are they taking about? The New and Old Testaments. OK, But how do we objectively determine the precise contents of the New and Old Testaments? As far as I can tell, no answer is given for this question. Further, as the Encyclopedia demonstrates, we cannot appeal to the authority of the Church to definitively answer this question because it is logically impossible to determine that the Church is “Divine” – and thus, authoritative – without first determining that the New and Old Testaments are in fact “Divine revelation”. Nor can we appeal to “Apostolic Succession” as having the “Authority to Answer the Question” (as Tom Brown does in “The Canon Question”) because, again, we have yet to establish that the New and Old Testaments are in fact “Divine revelation”, and as such we cannot argue that Apostolic Succession (anything else for that matter) was Divinely instituted. We must locate and define (i.e., specify the contents of) “Divine revelation” and before we can appeal to the authority of an institution, whose divine origin and authority we can only argue for on the basis of the very “Divine revelation” which we have yet to locate and define.” In other words, the “Canon Question” must be settled before the “Church Question” (i.e., How can we locate the true, divine Church today?) can even be entertained. (see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/wilson-vs-hitchens-a-catholic-perspective/comment-page-2/#comment-25125)

    Later I wrote:
    “The bottom line is this: You need locate and define “divine revelation” before you can locate and define a “divine Church”. If you appeal to the divine authority of the Church to locate and define the “divine revelation” then you are guilty of fideism (i.e., an “arbitrary leap”), in that you have presupposed that the Church has the authority to locate and define divine revelation for you, without objectively establishing – on the basis of reason alone, via the motives of credibility – that the Church has such authority. On the other hand, if you attempt to locate and define the “divine revelation” on the basis of reason (historical investigation + logic + etc.) alone – as the motives of credibility dictate – then you are subject to all of the very same types of objections that Protestants face with regards to the “Canon Question”.” (see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/wilson-vs-hitchens-a-catholic-perspective/comment-page-2/#comment-25191)

    If you believe that the divine origin and authority of the Catholic Church can be established without first discovering that the NT and OT are divine revelation then I will ask you the same question I asked Bryan in comment #89 of the Wilson vs. Hitchens post: How would you go about demonstrating that the Church is divine if you could not appeal to the NT or OT as anything more than “documents having historical value” (i.e., not as divinely inspired texts)? The basic questions is these: where are you getting divine revelation from? And how do you know that it is divine revelation? (http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/wilson-vs-hitchens-a-catholic-perspective/comment-page-2/#comment-25200)

    Apologies for all the “self-quoting”! Not trying to be a pompous jerk; just want you to be aware of the broader context of what I am attempting to argue. If you haven’t already (and assuming you have the time, energy, & inclination), I’d suggest reading through comments #81-89 over at on the “Wislon vs. Hitchens” post, as well as the Encyclopedia’s entire section on the motives of credibility before we engage further.

    Thanks again.

    Peter

  90. Hi Henry,

    I’ve been following this thread. I think the claims you make are worth discussing and indeed they are all topics that are frequently discussed on these pages. If anyone is frustrated by your claims it is because your argumentation in some places seems to follow these lines:

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Argument_by_assertion

    Peace –

  91. Henry,

    I echo the words of both Sean and David, so as long respect is maintained by those discussing, we welcome you and your comments, including your disagreements.

    If I may make a response to your #86, “I think the reason that many discussions on theology between Catholics and Protestants don’t go to far is because…” rather than saying it is because the Catholic Church claims it cannot err, it would appear to be, who gets to speak for Protestantism? Is there such a thing as Protestantism as a unified theological movement? No. There are Protestantisms, Baptists (the various types of Baptists), Presbyterians (and the various types of Presbyterians) , Lutherans (the various types of Lutherans) etc…, as you know. I will never forget the night at dinner when after some talk about Christianity a waiter asked me what denomination I was. I responded, “Presbyterian Church in America”, to which he, having just read in the papers and hearing on the news about the debate of homosexuality in a Presbyterian denomination, asked, “Oh, the ones that are debating homosexuality.” To which I had to explain that my brand of Presbyterianism had split off in 1973, etc… how we affirmed the Bible and traditional Christian morality. The difficulty in engaging Protestantism for the Catholic is this: which type of Protestantism is the Catholic engaging. In some sense, I am not going to talk to all Protestantisms in the same way because they don’t all have the same objections. Another example will suffice: A Bishop was visiting the classrooms at school. One of the students, a non-Catholic, asked, “Why do Catholics baptize babies?” His Excellency replied with genuine respect and asked in return, “Before I answer this question may I ask a question to the class?” The student said, “yes.” His Excellency asked the students, “How many students in here are Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Lutherans?” About five hands out of the 25 in the class went up (mostly Methodist and Episcopalian). The Bishop then remarked, “The important thing to recognize that it is not so simple to say this is a problem between Catholics and Protestants but a problem between Protestants and Protestants.”

  92. Henry,

    As a fellow Protestant, I am very sympathetic to your argument that some specific Catholic doctrines contradict the teachings of the Bible. I would point to some of the very doctrines that you have listed. My struggle with Protestantism involves a deeper issue: can any Christian read the Bible and determine which churches are in error, which doctrines are orthodox, which are central and which are peripheral, which books make up the bible and which don’t? I know that you say YES!, of course we can read the Bible and plainly see the Truth with regard to those doctrines and moral teachings that are essential. But if you or I happen to disagree, based on the Bible, over something that one of us believes to be essential to the Faith, then who gets to decide? I think that history strongly suggests that this question is more than theoretical. I am sincerely looking for a positive argument for a Protestant paradigm that “works” in answering this question. I find that too often the Protestant argument is instead negative (“it CAN’T be the Catholic Church because they believe________”).

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  93. Hi Burton,

    Re: # 92. You cannot read the bible and appeal to its authority as to what church to listen to. Although the bible is the written word of God it is still just the written word and cannot speak for itself. You need a living breathing authority to do that. You would not take the criminal code of the USA for instance and appeal to it to decide who was a criminal and who wasn’t, you need a living judge to do that. The code however, would be the truth of the law but you still need a living authority to interpret it. Isn’t that why lawyers make big money? To fight it out in court and let the judge decide? Why would you think that the word of God would be any different? True, the Holy Spirit could be your interpreter for you but He doesn’t normally work that way. If He did then we would all believe the same thing wouldn’t we? Because ever church appeals to the Holy Spirit. Maybe you can explain it to me but I just don’t understand the reasoning as to why it is such a hard concept to grasp? Just asking, not trying to be a smart A–

    Blessings
    NHU

  94. @Burton:

    …if you or I happen to disagree, based on the Bible, over something that one of us believes to be essential to the Faith, then who gets to decide?

    This was one of the issues that made me worry about Protestantism – the very question which doctrines are essential is itself something one has to decide. As Reformed, there were a number of things that I thought essential that my Evangelical friends didn’t think were so.

    I was struck by something my 36-year-old son said to me, just this last Christmas when he was at home with us for the holidays. He was talking a bit about why he is a Catholic. He is not particularly theologically-inclined. He said that he was so glad he was a Catholic now (he was 19 when he left the Reformed Church and became a Catholic), because the alternative seemed to him that he had to invent the whole world for himself if he were a Protestant. He had to make himself the absolute centre of everything.

    I thought it a powerful and revealing statement.

    jj

  95. mateo said:
    The title of the Didache is “The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.” (see http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html )

    What plausible reason can you give for believing that what is written down in the Didache is NOT the oral traditions handed down by the Apostles?

    There are several reasons to doubt this:

    1) The name is irrelevant. I’m certain you are aware of the supposed “Gospel of Thomas”, which is not accepted as canonical. Is that a mistake of the Catholic Church since it says it is the gospel of Thomas?

    2) The order of cup and bread differs both from present-day Christian practice and from that in the New Testament accounts of the Last Supper. So either the gospels got it wrong or the Didache got it wrong. They both can’t be right.

    3) If it were oral traditions handed down by the apostles, it would be scripture, a part of the canon. If it is oral traditions handed down by the apostles, is the Catholic Church in error by not including it in scripture?

    4) It is not up to anyone to prove that this work isn’t oral traditions of the apostles. It’s difficult to prove a negative. Instead the burden is on you to provide evidence that this writing does include oral teachings of the apostles. So feel free to provide such evidence.

  96. Burton (re: 92);

    But if you or I happen to disagree, based on the Bible, over something that one of us believes to be essential to the Faith, then who gets to decide? I think that history strongly suggests that this question is more than theoretical.

    This is exactly the point I tried to raise with Henry and like you, I’m interested in a principled Protestant response. The scorched earth tu quoque gives no intellectual or religious comfort. I guess I start with these premises: 1. Jesus Christ came as the definitive and final revelation of God to man. 2. God wills that his truth can be reliably identified and distinguished from falsehood.
    I think Catholics and Protestants both agree with these premises. The Protestant responds to these and essentially says, therefore, Sola Scriptura. But I agree with your question on the reliability of sola. The Catholic says: therefore, it’s Tradition, Scripture, and the Church as authorized interpreter. This answer, I admit, provides the reliability required in point 2. The question is whether it’s true. Further, what’s haunting to me is if sola is out and the Catholic church isn’t credible (I’ll also throw in the EO and other churches that practice Apostolic Succession), then what do we make of Jesus? If Jesus did not accomplish a reliable way for us to know his truth then what did he accomplish and who is he really?
    I wonder if you’ve had similar thoughts.
    Mark

  97. @ MarkS, Burton, Peter , Henry.

    Well men I guess after all is said and done with our questions and answers it all boils down to what MarkS said in the last statement of # 96. Who was He really? It is the same question that Jesus asked his own disciples. Who do men say that I am? And they answered him saying some say that you are Elijah or John the Baptist or another prophet. And He asked them, But who do you say that I am? And Simon answered, you are the Christ, the son of the living God. (Mark 8: 27-29) In faith we say with Peter, Yes He is… Must he prove it again?

    Blessings
    NHU

  98. Henry asks: What makes you think that the church in the NT is the Roman Catholic church?

    That is a really good question! If I said that I believed this because I prayed to God, and God told me that this was so, I don’t see why that would carry any weight with you. So let me clarify a few things so that you might understand where I stand.

    First, suppose one has sufficient faith to believe that the Protestant bible is inerrant and is seeking to know the truth by examining only what is explicitly taught in the Protestant bible. In that case, I think that natural reason, unaided by supernatural grace, is sufficient to bring one to the conclusion that Protestantism is not an option for anyone that wants to be a disciple of Christ. Why do I say that? I say that because the Protestant bible explicitly teaches that Christ founded his own church, and that Christ commands to all that would be his disciples, that they must listen to the church that he founded or be excommunicated. There are no exception clauses give by Christ for not listening to his church, such as, I don’t need to listen to the church that Christ founded if I disagree with her, or, I can ignore what the church that Christ founded teaches if my conscience doesn’t bother me when I do that.

    No Protestant can claim that they listen to the church that Christ personally founded, because all Protestants either listen to churches that were founded by men and women, or they don’t listen to any church at all. That said, if a man believes that his Protestant bible is inerrant, is his reason, unaided by grace, necessarily going to lead a man that desires to be a disciple of Christ away from Protestantism and into the arms of the Catholic Church? I don’t think so. What I am arguing for is a certain asymmetry – if I believe that Protestant bible is inerrant, I can know by reason alone, that Protestantism is not an option for me if I would be a disciple of Christ. But reason alone, unaided by grace, is not sufficient to compel me to become a Catholic, based solely upon my belief that the Protestant bible is inerrant.

    So what does a Protestant bible tell me about the church that Jesus personally founded? First, of course, the Protestant bible explicitly tells me both that Christ did found a church (Matt 16:18), and that if I would be a disciple of Christ, that I must listen to the church that Christ personally founded or be excommunicated (Matt 18:17). David Anders’s post # 71 and Frank La Rocca’s post # 68 cites scriptures that show that Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against Christ’s church, and that Christ would be with his church until the end of time. Therefore, the church that Christ personally founded must have an unbroken history that can be traced back for roughly two thousand years. That age criterion for Christ’s church eliminates every Protestant sect from being the church personally founded by Christ, since no Protestant “church” has a history going back two-thousand years. So what possibilities are left for the man or women that would be a disciple of Christ, given the age criterion? The only possible contenders are the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Church. I can give you the reasons for why the OO and EO can be ruled out, but that would take this thread way off topic. The reasons, again, have to do with what it means to follow Christ’s command to listen to his church, and that involves a discussion about Ecumenical Councils, and the criteria that establishes the validity of an Ecumenical Council.

    Henry asks: If the Didache is the oral traditions handed down by the Apostles why isn’t it in the Bible?

    The Didache is a recording of what the early Christians received from the Apostles as catechetical instruction from the Apostles. The Didache makes no claim that it was written either by the Apostles or by an eyewitness to Christ, and that would be sufficient for excluding it from the canon of scriptures based on the criteria used by the Catholic Church for determining the canon.

    Henry asks: Do you know of any Protestant church that does not believe that Christ is God in the flesh, died for our sins, belief in Him is necessary for salvation, man is fallen, and the Scriptures are the Word of God? Can you give me 2-3 names of a Protestant churches that don’t believe these things?

    Sure I can, right off the top of my head. But first, why would you think that these are criteria that all Protestants must accept to be orthodox? By what authority are you making this claim?

    On to your list of Protestants that deny the doctrines you have listed.

    Christ is God in the flesh: Jehovah Witnesses and Church of God Abrahamic Covenant (COGAF) deny that Christ is God in the Flesh. Unitarians, Oneness Pentecostals, and Mormons deny the Trinity, without denying the divinity of Jesus.

    Christ died for our sins: Calvinists. Calvinists do not believe that the Good News is that Jesus loves you and died for your sins. Calvinists believe in limited atonement, which means that the Calvinist Gospel is Jesus might love you, but probably doesn’t, and Jesus may have died for your sins, if you are lucky enough to be one of the “elect”.

    Man is fallen: Most “progressive” Protestants.

    Scriptures are the Word of God: Protestants that listen to the Jesus Seminar, Bishop Shelby Spong, Bart Erhrman …

    Belief in Christ is necessary for salvation: Southern Baptists, and all the Evangelical Christians that fall on the “non-Lordship” side of the Lordship Salvation Controversy. You might think that I am crazy for saying that Southern Baptists don’t believe that belief in Christ is necessary for salvation, but Southern Baptists preach the doctrine of antinomian OSAS (Once Saved, Always Saved). The Southern Baptist claim that once a man is “saved”, that there is no conceivable sin that that the “saved” man could commit that would make him lose his salvation. That means that a boy could get “saved” when he was eight years old, backslide in his adult years, and die as an unrepentant Satan worshiping apostate that did not believe that Christ was necessary for his salvation. If what I hear on the radio and on television is any indication, I would guess that most Christians that claim to be “evangelical conservatives” also believe in the Protestant doctrine of antinomian OSAS.

  99. Mark, the following is from Michael Liccione’s post on this topic. You might find interesting:

    In many comments on this site as well as old posts on my own blog, I have argued that there is an irreconcilable difference between the respective “hermeneutical paradigms” of Catholicism and Protestantism, meaning conservative Protestantism. Here I shall call the difference one of ‘interpretive paradigms’ (IPs) so as to lighten the jargon. An IP is a systematic framework for interpreting the data that is “underdetermined” by the data, meaning that the data do not dictate it, but are themselves are interpreted by means of it, and that more than one IP is logically consistent with the data. Now when the dataset is as large as that of theology, no interpretation of the data that’s alleged to yield the doctrinal content of the deposit of faith can be made without bringing some IP to the data. In fact, given the size and complexity of the dataset, more than one IP can be at least rationally plausible, even though no two such IPs are entirely consistent with each other. Now in my experience, no debate between Protestants and Catholics, including the one that’s occasioned this contribution, makes any genuine progress without directly addressing what amounts to that difference of IP. And so I shall now characterize the difference so that the debate can be fruitful, and the uncommitted inquirer accordingly better positioned to discern which is the more reasonable of the two.

    I shall omit consideration of any liberal-Protestant IP for a reason I gave at the beginning: none share with Catholicism two crucial assumptions, which I set forth, that frame a clear context of debate. In fact, I would argue that any “liberal” IP reduces religion straightaway to a matter of opinion, thereby making it impossible to identify anything as divine revelation rather than as mere human opinion about how to interpret sources that have been alleged to transmit divine revelation. Now according to the conservative-Protestant IP, the only way to reliably identify the formal, proximate object of faith — which means identifying the correct ensemble of secondary doctrinal authorities and their proper relationship to one another — is to study the written sources from early Christianity, mainly but not limited to Scripture, and make the correct inferences from them. Inconsistencies in such a body of inferences can only be resolved, when they can be resolved, by appeal to inspired Scripture, which trumps anything to the opposite effect in the other, uninspired sources. Hence the slogan ad fontes, a rallying cry of the Renaissance humanists who so influenced the early Reformers. On this approach, the doctrinal content of the deposit of faith consists in what is (a) explicitly asserted in Scripture and (b) what can be inferred from those assertions with valid deductive and inductive arguments, such as those made in the early “catholic church” to yield Nicene orthodoxy. Once we’ve identified a set of such statements, we’ve learned all we need to know about which doctrines are revealed and apostolic, which in turn are all and only the doctrines we must believe. Anything beyond that is human opinion masquerading as divine revelation, and thus a deception. So much for DD as the Catholic Church has come to understand that idea.

    But according to the Catholic IP, such a methodology is insufficient for reliably identifying the formal, proximate object of faith as distinct from human opinion. Though necessary, studying the early written sources and making inferences from them can only yield human interpretive opinions, unless validated by some clearly identifiable authority whose interpretation of the relevant data is divinely protected from error under certain conditions — a gift which, all sides would agree, is at least logically possible, given what and who God is. That interpreter is, of course, understood to be the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, which consists in the “college” of bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome. The Magisterium is not only the divinely appointed authority that distinguished which early writings were divinely inspired from which were not, but is also the authoritative custodian and interpreter of the inspired books and all else that has been handed down from the Apostles, which includes extra-scriptural Tradition such as the liturgy, creeds, and certain pious beliefs and practices. Those are taken to cohere with Scripture to form one “deposit of faith,” even though, in many cases, they are not inferable from Scripture by rules of logic alone. Hence, as Vatican II says:

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

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

    It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls. (Dei Verbum §10; references omitted, emphasis added).

    The general conditions on infallible teaching are described in another document of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium (§25 ff). Now as a matter of history, only rarely does a pope infallibly teach unilaterally. A more common way in which infallibility is exercised is in the issuance of dogmatic as distinct from disciplinary “canons” of “ecumenical” councils. And ordinarily, the college of bishops as a whole teaches infallibly when “though dispersed throughout the world, they are in agreement that one position is to be definitively held.” That was the situation for the entire time before the first ecumenical council, that of Nicaea in 325, and remains the situation in many cases of doctrine today.

    Now there is a certain sense in which a “confessional” Protestant such as Mathison could accept the formula: “Sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church are so linked… that none can stand without the others.” That may be seen in how Mathison argues for sola as opposed to solo. Even though his argument is unsuccessful, he does consider all three secondary authorities — Scripture, Tradition, and the Church — severally indispensable and mutually interdependent, together forming the proximate, formal object of faith. The fundamental disagreement that confessional Protestants have with the Catholic Church should thus be seen as over (a) which body of people forms the church with the requisite teaching authority, and (b) how that church is to be identified. The answer to (a), whatever that is, derives from the answer to (b), whatever that is. Unsatisfactory though it is, we’ve at least seen Mathison give an answer to (b), and accordingly to (a).

    Now I do not say that Mathison’s argument for his answer to (b) is the only or the best that a confessional Protestant can give. But it is evident that, on the Protestant IP, the only way to answer (b) with anything more than provisional human opinions is to construct a rationally unassailable set of inferences from Scripture and from other early sources that enables us to grasp what is, and can readily be seen as, the plain sense of Scripture. “The Church,” both then and now, is accordingly identifiable as whatever collection of people faithfully assents to what is thereby grasped. But under no circumstances is she to be considered infallible. Given as much, the question fairly arises: How to explain the fact that many baptized, churchgoing people don’t agree about what the plain sense of Scripture is, or even that it’s always and necessarily inerrant even when agreed to be plain? If the proximate, formal object of faith can be clearly identified by a rationally unassailable set of inferences from the pertinent early sources, the primary one of which is assumed to be inerrant, does that tell us that those who don’t find that set rationally unassailable are either unlearned or willfully irrational? Remember: the “rationally unassailable” set of inferences is not itself inerrant, because nobody holding it can be considered an infallible interpreter, even if at least one of the sources is itself inerrant.

    The historical and scholarly evidence, which I have no time to review in detail, would suggest that the answer to the above question is no. Even during those intermittent periods over the last two millennia when there was relative consensus about what Christian orthodoxy is, there never has been a time when all dissenters could be fairly dismissed as either unlearned or willfully irrational. Wrong, yes; disobedient to what is, in fact, duly constituted ecclesial authority, yes; but not unlearned or willfully irrational. In these matters, some people just don’t see as “plain” what others do, and that is not always a vice, because revealed theology is not like mathematics or natural science — where what is obvious in itself, but not obvious to many people, becomes obvious to the person who has been fully initiated into of the discipline. Yet unlearned or willfully irrational is how we would have to view dissenters, if the conservative-Protestant IP were itself the one most rational to adopt.

    Along that line, I am reminded of this:

    The Reformers unequivocally rejected the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. This left open the question of who should interpret Scripture. The Reformation was not a struggle for the right of private judgement. The Reformers feared private judgement almost as much as did the Catholics and were not slow to attack it in its Anabaptist manifestation. The Reformation principle was not private judgement but the perspicuity of the Scriptures. Scripture was sui ipsius interpres and the simple principle of interpreting individual passages by the whole was to lead to unanimity in understanding. This came close to creating anew the infallible church…It was this belief in the clarity of Scripture that made the early disputes between Protestants so fierce. This theory seemed plausible while the majority of Protestants held to Lutheran or Calvinist orthodoxy, but the seventeenth century saw the beginning of the erosion of these monopolies. But even in 1530 Casper Schwenckfeld could cynically note that “the Papists damn the Lutherans; the Lutherans damn the Zwinglians; the Zwinglians damn the Anabaptists and the Anabaptists damn all others.” By the end of the seventeenth century many others saw that it was not possible on the basis of Scripture alone to build up a detailed orthodoxy commanding general assent. (A.N.S. Lane, “Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey,” Vox Evangelica, Volume IX – 1975, pp. 44, 45; emphasis added).1

    I would add that Schwenckfeld made his wry observation thirteen years after Luther had nailed his theses to the door, and two years after the ill-fated Colloquy of Marburg.

    To see Protestant theological antagonists treating each other, as well as Catholics, that way is evidence that the Protestant IP is not the most rational one to adopt. For treating all determined opponents as either unlearned or willfully irrational is itself unreasonable — even when Catholics do it, as not a few have done in the past, including but not limited to the Arian controversy. Yet Mathison treats Catholicism as though Catholics would have to be unlearned or willfully irrational to believe it. If he doesn’t treat all non-Reformed Protestants similarly, that might be because, now that centuries have passed, Protestants can find it in themselves to treat charitably any Christian who is not a Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church has got beyond the old, insultingly dismissive attitude toward Christians who do not accept her claims; other Christians, especially the Reformed, would do well to reciprocate. Fortunately, some have.

    Nevertheless, it seems to me that Reformed Protestants have what seems to them good reason for such hostility, which is why it’s hard to blame them for their attitude. That reason would be that the conservative-Protestant IP is itself, unlike the Catholic, rationally unavoidable for anybody who share the two assumptions which I said, near the beginning, “frame a clear context for debate.” And they have what qualifies as an argument for that belief. I shall conclude by outlining that argument, which is now common among Protestants, and showing why it fails.

    V.

    In various forms, the argument that the conservative-Protestant IP is itself rationally unavoidable (for anybody who shares the two above-referenced assumptions) appears in what Cross has called the tu quoque objection to the Catholic Magisterium’s claims for itself. Mathison himself uses a version of the tu quoque against Cross’ advocacy of apostolic succession as the way to identify “the Church” as interpretive authority. But particular examples are not important here, for the argument takes pretty much the same form regardless of which particular doctrine is at issue, and its primary application is to the Catholic Magisterium’s claim to infallibility under certain conditions.

    The argument is that, even if we suppose arguendo that some ecclesial authority is in fact infallible under certain conditions, such an authority cannot be infallibly known to be infallible, so that infallibility cannot in any instance supplant private judgment, which of course is fallible. In other words, supposing for reductio that the Catholic Magisterium can’t be wrong under certain conditions, the only reasonable basis for believing as much would be an argument that can only be made fallibly, and is therefore not certain. If one argues that the Catholic Magisterium, being infallible under certain conditions, infallibly teaches under those conditions that it is infallible, one is merely arguing in a circle. So one cannot rely on ecclesial infallibility to make the Magisterium’s claim to infallibility credible — a conclusion I readily accept as a Catholic. Now according to the objector, one must argue instead, but of course fallibly, that a study of early Christian sources makes such an affirmation rationally unassailable as an inference from those sources. For absent infallible arguments, that’s the only way to approach the requisite level of certainty. Yet such an affirmation is far from rationally unassailable, as the history of doctrine amply demonstrates. So there is reason enough after all to believe not only that the Catholic IP is rationally avoidable, but that the conservative-Protestant IP is rationally unavoidable. For the Catholic himself must make use of its characteristic methodology to support his own position, and that use is performatively absurd, because it commits the Catholic to making precisely the sort of judgment that the Catholic Magisterium is supposed to obviate.

    Now the authors of this site have produced their own responses to that sort of argument, and I do not want to criticize those responses here, because I believe they are substantively correct. But to bring out more clearly why the above argument fails, I shall frame the rebuttal a bit differently.

    Nobody disputes that “arguments” of whatever kind in theology can only be made fallibly, even when they are made by councils or popes. But in view of that fact, consider two things. First, the proponent of the Catholic IP is not committed to claiming that his IP is rationally unavoidable, because he is not committed to claiming that the Magisterium’s claims for itself, as part of the formal, proximate object of faith, are rationally unassailable given a study of the early “sources.” He is committed to claiming only that, when interpreted in light of the Catholic IP, the sources make the Magisteriium’s claims for itself seem reasonable enough, which is not in dispute. On the other hand, the proponent of the conservative-Protestant IP is committed to claiming that his way of identifying the proximate, formal object of faith is rationally unassailable, given such a study. So the Protestant IP here entails making a stronger claim than the Catholic, and accordingly requires stronger support. But that support is not forthcoming, for if it were, then dissenters could only be unlearned or willfully irrational — a dyspeptic conclusion that cannot be justified on independent grounds that would corroborate it. So the methodology to which the conservative-Protestant IP commits its user is not only fallible, but also does not yield rationally unassailable conclusions.

    For example, the Protestant has no way, other than fallible arguments, to secure his account of what belongs in the canon, which account, in the case of the OT, runs counter to what the older traditions of Catholicism and Orthodoxy eventually concluded. Therefore, he has no way, other than the use of fallible arguments, to show how the canon should be identified. And if he doesn’t have more than that, then he has no way of making certain that the way he identifies the norma normans for the other secondary authorities is correct.

    Second, there is a positive reason for holding that the Catholic IP is the more reasonable one to adopt for somebody who shares the two basic assumptions framing the debate. That reason is that, if the Catholic Magisterium’s claims for itself are true, then we have an authoritative interpreter whose judgments, though not unassailable from the standpoint of reason alone, are nonetheless secured by divine authority. Of course that by itself in no way shows that said claims are true. What it shows, in conjunction with the reason I’ve already cited against the conservative-Protestant IP, is that, if said claims are true, then there is a principled as opposed to an ad hoc way to distinguish the formal, proximate object of faith from fallible human opinions about how to identify it in the sources. And that is the way in which the Catholic can distinguish the assent of faith from that of opinion. Eschewing any interpretive infallibility from any quarter, ecclesial or individual, the advocate of the conservative-Protestant IP has no principled way to make that distinction.

    For the above two reasons, the tu quoque objection fails. The Protestant IP is rationally avoidable because it cannot present the conclusions reachable by means of it as rationally unassailable. And the Catholic IP is rationally preferable, even though also rationally avoidable, because it offers a principled way to make the distinction that the two basic assumptions framing the debate call for making. By contrast, just as sola appears to be just solo waiting to show itself, conservative Protestantism appears to be liberal Protestantism waiting to happen all over again. That is why the inquirer who shares said assumptions, but isn’t sure whether to become Protestant or Catholic, does better to choose the latter.

    Of course nothing I’ve said so far shows that that the Catholic IP is superior to the Eastern-Orthodox IP. Both are committed to ecclesial infallibility, and thus do not share the basic defect of any Protestant IP. Both are committed to apostolic succession as a necessary condition for identifying “the Church.” And both are rationally defensible. In my opinion, answering the question which IP, the Catholic or the EO, is the more reasonable depends on subtler considerations of the development of ecclesiological doctrine than I’ve broached here. But that is a task for another time and place.

  100. Sean-David and others,
    Thank you for your response. The reason I said what I said about being banned is because in my experience on Catholic sites is that if I keep bringing up the tough issues that face Catholics like I’m trying to do here I first get warned and then banned. For example, I was dialoguing on Catholic Answers forums in that same manner as here and eventually got banned permanently. I was accused of denigrating the Catholic church even though I was using facts and reason for my views. I did not mock nor call anyone names but continued to show respect to those I disagreed with and yet got banned. Go Figure.
    I think dialogues like this are important because it forces us to either fine tune what we believe or to reject it. This can be gut wrenching at times.
    Trying to stay on topic can be difficult since Roman Catholic theology is so intertwined and that’s why I may bring up something that does not appear to have relevance. All doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic church will eventually come back to its authority of its leaders. David knows this as I’m sure most Catholics do.

    Henry

  101. David,
    Do you have an official list by the Catholic church of all the Sacred traditions? Catholics continue to make this claim about Sacred Traditions but I have never seen a list of all the Sacred Traditions. This would help me greatly.

    Thanks

  102. Mateo,
    You wrote so much but i have some questions-comments on a couple of things. You wrote-“Therefore, the church that Christ personally founded must have an unbroken history that can be traced back for roughly two thousand years. That age criterion for Christ’s church eliminates every Protestant sect from being the church personally founded by Christ, since no Protestant “church” has a history going back two-thousand years.”
    Protestants can trace there “lineage” to Christ Himself through the Roman Catholic church and beyond. The original Protestants came from the RCC. If you read about the history of the Protestant Reformation you will find it was the leadership of the Catholic church that is the primary cause of it. Rome was corrupt and refused to repent and this caused the reformers to break away. They had no choice.
    It is true that Christ died for all but His death is only beneficial to those who believe in Him (the elect). If His death is applicable to all of mankind then the doctrine of hell that Jesus taught is false.

    It is true that some Protestants believe the Bible is not inerrant and has errors. I suspect many Catholics do also.

    Some Protestants believe that Jesus is their Savior but is not their Lord. Those that embrace such a belief are mistaken because the Scripture teaches otherwise.

    Don’t think that all Catholics believe all the same things. Surely you are not going to tell me that they do are you?

    Jehovah Witnesses and Church of God Abrahamic Covenant (COGAF) deny that Christ is God in the Flesh. Unitarians, Oneness Pentecostals, and Mormons are not protestants but cults. I don’t think even knowledgeable Catholics on these sects would claim they are protestants.

  103. Henry,

    Denzinger produced an “enchiridion” in the 19th century that compiles just about every official church pronouncement on doctrinal matters up to that time. You can find it here:
    http://www.catecheticsonline.com/SourcesofDogma.php

    I would also point you to the history of the liturgy (East and West), the texts of which are readily available, the writings of the fathers, and the Doctors of the Church – also, readily available.

    But, really, the question of church tradition is not all that complicated. I don’t have to know every twist and turn of liturgical history, for example, to know that infant, Trinitarian baptism is part of the tradition. Augustine, when debating Pelagius, for example, could appeal to this universal practice as evidence that Infants need saving from sin. It’s not like a need a searchable database of “traditions” in order to do a lexicographical word study in order to know the teaching of the Church.

    And finally – Keep up the questions! You won’t get banned here for anything except vulgarity, ad hominems, etc.

    I’m still looking forward to getting back on the Rule of Faith!

    -David

  104. Burton,
    How I wish there was an infallible interpreter of the Scriptures today. The fact is that there is none because all men are fallen and we are limited by what we know and understand. I know Rome claims to be the infallible interpreter but just look at its history and its doctrines and you will see errors. We must learn to live in the tension that we will not all agree and will see things differently. Look at what Paul writes in Romans 14:1-13 where he acknowledges there will be differences among believers. Its not until Christ returns when we will see clearly.
    We do know what the essential doctrines are that we are to believe. There really is not much dispute that God is triune or that Jesus died for our sins and you must believe in Him for salvation. It’s the secondary issues that we have differences about. Infant baptism and the meaning of the Lord’s supper are a couple of examples of these differences.
    It seems to me that you would like things to be neat and tidy when it comes to the Christian faith. I wish it was myself but the reality is that it’s not. I think that if you continue to study the Scripture and read good books on theology you will find greater clarity on some things. I also find it helpful to ask others why they believe as they do. This can help to fine tune your thinking.
    Hope this helps

  105. Henry,

    How do you know which are “essential” doctrines and which are “secondary?”
    You listed differences over the sacraments as “secondary.” Are you aware that both Calvin and Luther considered these “essential.” Calvin declared that proper understanding of the Eucharist was necessary for salvation, and that improper celebration of baptism also excluded one from salvation? (For citations, see my article “How John Calvin made me a Catholic.”
    And, how do you know that the Trinity is essential? Prominent Christian leaders today, like T.D. Jakes, deny the doctrine, as did Isaac Newton, and a sufficient number of Christians in the first 4 centuries that the Church needed to call several councils to settle the question.

    On your theory, how do you distinguish “essential” from “non-essential” doctrines? And, please, don’t be tautological or question begging by answering “the essential ones are the ones that are essential” or “the essential ones are the ones that are plainly essential in the Scriptures.” Given that even Protestants have never agreed on what’s essential, how can you be so sure?

    -David

  106. David,
    One way to know if a doctrine is essential is know what the implications of denying it. The gospel of Christ as Paul mentions in I Cor 15:1-4 would be an example of an essential doctrine. To deny it, condemns you.
    Deny the Trinity means you deny the Father, the Son and the HS. It is to call God a liar that Jesus is not God in the flesh. Baptism and the Lord’s supper are essentials since Christ commanded them. The issue is what is the meaning of them.

    Is it essential for salvation for a Catholic to believe that all grace comes through Mary or that a Catholic must believe that they worship the same God as Muslims?

  107. Re #89

    Peter wrote:

    The basic questions is these: where are you getting divine revelation from? And how do you know that it is divine revelation?

    But perhaps an even more basic question relates to your own epistemological dilemma: namely if someone gave you truthful answers to these questions, how would you know it?

    -MSG

  108. Henry asserts: Rome was corrupt and refused to repent and this caused the reformers to break away. They had no choice.

    Of course they had a choice! The “Reformers” could have kept their membership in the church that Christ founded and continued to bring about the “reforms” that they thought were necessary. Christ did not say that those who would be his disciples must listen to his church only when they agree with what she is teaching. There are no “exception” clauses to Matthew 18:17, and Protestant theology that asserts otherwise is merely dissent from what the scriptures explicitly teach. It is because all Protestants reject what Jesus taught in Matthew 18:17 that I don’t believe that any Protestant really accepts scripture as being authoritative.

    You acknowledge that the “Reformers” were once members of the Catholic Church, and you claim that they were justified in leaving the church that Christ founded to found their own personal “bible churches”. You do this while claiming that scriptures are authoritative, but you cannot show me the scriptures that teach that men can leave the church founded by Christ and start their own protesting sects. You can’t do that, because there are no scriptures that authorize men to start their own personal sects that stand in opposition to the church that Christ personally founded!

    Peter G. asserts: I could present evidence from within Scripture in defense of a case for Sola Scriptura …

    I deny that you can do that. There are no verses in a Protestant bible that support the Protestant doctrine that the Protestant bible is the only authority that a Christian in our era must listen to. You can’t find any scriptures that support the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura because that heresy is explicitly contradicted by the scriptures found in your Protestant bible!

    Claiming that scriptures are an authority that all Christians must accept is not a point of controversy between Catholics and the Protestants that believe their Protestant bible is inerrant. It is one that to say that the Protestant bible is inerrant,and thus authoritative, and it is quite another thing to assert that the Protestant bible is the ONLY authority that Christians must recognize as being authoritative. The Protestant bible explicitly repudiates the latter claim, because the Protestant bible explicitly teaches that the followers of Christ must listen to the church that Christ personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication!

  109. David,
    Let me see if I understand you. There is no official list of Sacred Traditions that one could study that has some kind of official seal from your church. Would this be correct?

    Since you seem knowledgeable about the church fathers I have a question for you. Did these fathers speak for the entire church when they wrote? Was it like when a pope speaks today, he is speaking for the entire RCC and was what they wrote binding on the entire church of the time?

  110. Henry — I don’t want to derail your conversation with David, but one quick point. There’s no denying that all grace enters the world through Our Lady. Christ, the font of all grace entered the world through her. Everything we have in Christ physically entered the world through her womb.

  111. Mateo,
    The church of the NT is not the Roman Catholic church in structure nor doctrine. Your church teaches things that Jesus and His apostles never taught. Things like indulgences and the Marian dogmas are a couple of examples. Peter was not a pope in the NT church nor is the papacy a position that is mentioned in any passage on the structure of the church. See Eph 4:11 and I Tim 3. This is why its not correct to claim that the RCC is the church that Jesus founded. They are not the same things.
    Do you deny that your church at the time of the Reformation was corrupt?

  112. Matt,
    There is not one verse of Scripture that can support that. What your church claims goes far beyond what you have written. Consider these quotes:
    1) “Leo XIII, Encyclical, Supremi Apostolatus officio. Sept 1, 1883. ASS 16, 1883. 1113: “We judge nothing more powerful and better for this purpose than by religion and devotion to deserve well of the great Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, who is the treasurer (sequestra) of our peace with God, and the mediatrix (administra) of graces… .”
    2) “St. Pius X, Litterae Apostolicae, August 27, 1910, AAS 2, 1910, 901: “We, to whom nothing is dearer than that the devotion of the faithful towards the Virgin of Lourdes, the treasurer [sequestra] of all graces, be more and more increased, think we should gladly assent to these wishes.”
    3) Pius XI, Apostolic Letter, Galliam, Ecclesiae filiam, March 2, 1922, AAS 14, 1922 186: “She, the Virgin Mother, [is] the treasurer [sequestra] of all graces with God.”
    4) John XXIII, Epistle to Cardinal Agaganian, Legate to Marian Congress in Saigon, Jan 31, 1959, AAS 51, 1959, 88: “For the faithful can do nothing more fruitful and salutary than to win for themselves the most powerful patronage of the Immaculate Virgin, so that by this most sweet Mother, there may be opened to them, all the treasures of the divine Redemption, and so they may have life, and have it more abundantly. Did not the Lord will that we have everything through Mary?” Discorsi II, 66: “From her hands hope for all graces.”

    There are many more quotes like this which shows they are showing more than just Jesus being concieved in Mary and being birthed by her.
    This is also evidence against the position that the RCC has been preserved against teaching error. The Scripture never presents Mary in this way. Its not even close.

  113. Henry asks: Let me see if I understand you. There is no official list of …

    Henry, before there can even be an official list, there must first be an office, then there must be officers that hold that office. Only then can the officers promulgate an official list. This point is essential to the arguments I have been making with you. We need to ask the question, does the church that Christ personally founded have offices within his church, and what authority is vested in those offices? From the Protestant bible we can know that within Christ’s church there are offices that need to be filled because that is explicitly mentioned in the Protestant bible. After Judas committed suicide, Mathias is appointed by the living Apostles to fill the office that is vacant:

    `His office let another take.’ Acts 1:20 RSV

    It is interesting to me that in the original KJV translation, this verse is translated as “His bishoprick, let another take”.

    The Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is a denial that there exists a teaching office within Christ’s church that has the authority to officially define doctrine that would be binding upon all Christians. That is why within Protestantism one can only get non-conscience opinions about what the doctrines of Christianity really are. You assert:

    We do know what the essential doctrines are that we are to believe.

    You make that assertion, but then you dismiss Protestants that disagree with you as being members of cults – “ Jehovah Witnesses and Church of God Abrahamic Covenant (COGAF) deny that Christ is God in the Flesh. Unitarians, Oneness Pentecostals, and Mormons are not protestants but cults.”

    It is very convenient for you that any Protestant sect that rejects what you claim are the “essential” doctrines of Christianity are merely cult members and not really Protestants at all. What other Protestant sects not really Protestants but members of cults? Are Southern Baptists members of cults because they sit on the opposite side of the fence as you in the Lordship Salvation Controversy? If anyone disagrees with what you think are the “essentials” of Christian doctrine, are they cult members, or can some sincere man disagree with what you consider “essential” and still be a Protestant?

  114. Henry,

    You wrote:

    “One way to know if a doctrine is essential is know what the implications of denying it. ”
    Question 1) Where did you get this criterion? Why should I accept this criterion of “essential” instead of another?

    Martin Luther proposed another criterion of “essential.” He wrote:
    “The witness of the entire holy Christian church (even if we had nothing else) should be enough for us to maintain this doctrine [of the Eucharist] and neither to listen to nor tolerate any sectarian objections. For it is dangerous and terrible to hear or believe anything contrary to the common witness, faith, and doctrine which the entire holy Christian church has maintained from the beginning until now—for more than 1500 years throughout all the world.”

    Now, to me, that seems a very good criterion of “essential.” On what basis would you dispute Luther’s criterion? St. Vincent of Lerins, of course, proposed another criterion of essential: that which is believed everywhere, always, and by all. Also seems reasonable.

    2) So I consider the consequences of denying the doctrine to see if its “essential.” What kind of consequences, in your view, are sufficient to make a doctrine “essential?”
    3) And if you judge a doctrine to be “inessential,” what does that mean? That it is not divinely revealed? Or that God doesn’t care if we know if or not?

    This line of reasoning seems very tautological to me. “A doctrine is essential so long as I judge its consequences to be essential.”

    Explain to me how you are not being tautological.

    And, as per your questions, there is an “official list” only of those elements of tradition that the Church has seen fit to define or clarify. (Such as is found in Denzinger’s Enchiridion, mentioned above.) There are many elements of the tradition which have never been singled out or clarified in this way, but which might be in the future, should the need arise. But once again, if what you want is a clear presentation of the deposit of faith, as held by the Catholic Church, you don’t need an exhaustive list of every tradition. In fact, this is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church is meant to do – provide a definitive statement of Catholic Doctrine for the universal church.

    As an analogy, I am sure your family has a host of traditions which everyone knows, but no one has ever bothered to write down. (Holidays, dinner-time rituals, etc.) As a family, these guide your interactions, collective memory, etc. From time to time, however, the authorities (parents, for example) may have to make explicit mention of them, such as “Henry, don’t you know we always say grace before meals? Why are you eating Aunt Edna’s Pecan Pie before we prayed?” The fact that no one has written them all down and posted them on the kitchen wall is no impediment to their serving to inform and guide the family meals. Does this make sense?

    -David

  115. On the question about the fathers:

    The writings of the fathers are not equivalent to the pronouncements of Popes and Councils. However, that doesn’t prevent them “Writing for the whole Church.” Augustine, for example, clearly addressed matters of doctrine that were highly relevant for the whole Church and many of his doctrines have been received by the whole church as authentic statements of Catholic belief.

    The fathers are uniquely important witnesses to the faith of the early church, and their agreement is a particularly important witness. They are not, however, individually infallible.

    -David

  116. David,
    I am not being tautological. I gave a principle that helps us to know what an essential doctrine would be. Do you deny that the gospel and the doctrine of the Trinity are essential doctrines? That to deny them is to deny core doctrines of the faith?

  117. Henry,

    I want to understand your response to my question in comment #92:

    “But if you or I happen to disagree, based on the Bible, over something that one of us believes to be essential to the Faith, then who gets to decide?”

    In #104 you seem to be saying that, because you and I are fallible, we will not always agree and that my desire for some authority that can decide these matters reflects an unhealthly longing for doctrinal neatness and tidiness. But I think you would insist that there exists some body of essential doctrines that are clear enough from the Bible that anyone with an open heart will be able to discern them, and that adherence to these doctrines in non-negotiable (neat and tidy). Unless we succumb to relativism, we all have a “line in the sand” that defines for us the distinction between heresy and orthodoxy. So my question still stands, how do we as Protestants do this in a way that avoids doctrinal relativism and individualism?

    Perhaps another way to get at this: I am uncomfortable with the idea that, as a Protestant, I never really have to submit my will to anything or anyone that I don’t already agree with. This strikes me as deeply contrary to the Christian paradigm that starts with the very heart of the Trinity. These are the sorts of issues that must be addressed before we can get into the truth of any specific doctrine.

    -Burton

  118. Henry (#112),

    You’ve referred quite a few times in your posts to the “Marian dogmas”. Do you know what these actually are?

    The pull quotes in your #112 are not dogmatic statements – they are statements of devotion to the Blessed Mother, but “Mediatrix of All Graces” is not a Marian dogma. There are some in the Church who would like to have it declared so, but the Holy Spirit has not (yet) moved the Church to do this. Here are the only Marian dogmas (things which all the Catholic faithful are required to believe) that have been proclaimed to date:

    Mary is the Mother of God (QeotokoV, Theotokos), proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

    Mary was Ever Virgin, before, during and after the birth of Jesus, proclaimed in 649.

    Mary was immaculately conceived, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on 8th December 1854.

    Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul, proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on 1st November 1950.

    So you cannot honestly continue to object to “Marian dogmas” unless you wish to challenge one of the actual Marian dogmas.

    I would ask that you confine yourself to actual Church teachings if you intend to continue to make accusations about false teaching, and not continue to harp on the examples you’ve trotted out thus far.

    – Frank

  119. Mateo said:

    The Southern Baptist claim that once a man is “saved”, that there is no conceivable sin that that the “saved” man could commit that would make him lose his salvation. That means that a boy could get “saved” when he was eight years old, backslide in his adult years, and die as an unrepentant Satan worshiping apostate that did not believe that Christ was necessary for his salvation.

    Mateo, this is false. If you are going to criticize Protestants, then you ought to be accurate in those criticisms. A Southern Baptist would say that if a person claimed to be saved, but died an “unrepentant Satan worshipping apostate”, as you put it, then they were never saved to begin with. Instead they falsely claimed to be saved. Southern Baptists would also say that you know a man by his fruits, and Satan worship is not the fruit of a Christian.

    I read Catholics here asking that Protestants be accurate in their description of Catholicism. I ask that you do the same. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve seen you make this inaccurate statement or statements similar to it. Please refrain from doing so in the future or I’ll have to doubt the sincerity of anything you have to say.

  120. mateo said:

    Southern Baptists, and all the Evangelical Christians that fall on the “non-Lordship” side of the Lordship Salvation Controversy.

    Again, the statement about Southern Baptist’s is false. If you took a moment to actually read what Southern Baptists believe you’d find the following:

    IV. Salvation

    Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

    A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

    Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.

    B. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

    C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.

    D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

    Based upon the above (from the SBC Faith and Message), how do can you say that Southern Baptist’s don’t believe in the Lordship of Christ. Again, I ask you to stop posting falsehoods.

    I also ask the moderators here how often can a person post falsehoods about Protestant beliefs without being called out for it. Again, I see concern expressed for the accurate portrayal of Catholic beliefs but I don’t see anyone expressing the same about this person’s false postings about a Protestant denomination.

  121. Henry (#104),

    Which books would you consider to be “good theology”? Newman’s Apologia? Chesterton’s Othodoxy? St. Thomas’ Summa? How do you distinguish good from bad? I read the Bible daily.

    Also, as one Protestant to another, it is entirely unhelpful to your argument to insist on lobbing out the most objectionable RCC doctrines you can find like so many theological hand grenades. In fact, whether or not we happen to agree with Marian dogma or indulgences is utterly beside the point. If the RCC is what it claims to be, then we should both submit to her authority as we would to our Lord, ESPECIALLY if we happen to disagree with some doctrines. If the RCC’s claims to authority are demonstrably false, then we need to positively assert a clear Rule of Faith that allows all Christians, in spite of their fallibilty, to safely arrive at the saving Truth. To my way of thinking, this would have to include a clear demonstration of which doctrines are essential using the Bible alone, and a demonstration of why any reasonable person with an open mind and heart would pick the Protestant canon over the Catholic canon.

    Nelson, (#93)

    Do I see the weaknesses of a Protestant interpretive paradigm that lacks a living magisterial authority? Of course. But it is not so simple as a short hop and skip from this recognition to the waiting arms of the RCC. I also struggle greatly with many RCC doctrines, but more importantly what appears to me as changes in purportedly infallible doctrines over time. This echoes the sentiment of MarkS (#96). What if neither option is credible? (why to I sense the imminent pounce of an EO lurker!!)

    In all seriousness, I am trying to objectively examine the claims of each side – I hope you can see that this is not a simple process.

    -Burton

  122. Hi Henry
    re: your # 111 You say, “ Do you deny that your church at the time of the Reformation was corrupt?” I will state that the Church at the time of the Reformation was not corrupt. Yes there were some at the top government of the Church at the time that were corrupt. But saying the Church was corrupt would be like saying the country of the USA was corrupt because some people in the US government are corrupt. I don’t think you can go that far. There has been corruption within the Church from it’s very inception. That does not make the Church corrupt. One of the twelve that Jesus chose was corrupt did that make all twelve corrupt? Are you saying that there should be no sinners within the Church? I would agree with that, there should be no sinners within the Church but there will be until the second coming of Christ. Sin within the Church was no reason to divide the Church in schism. Luther et al.. Had no more right to divide the Church than Arius did in the 4th Century. Reforming the sinner from within is the proper way of dealing with sin and not fracturing the Body of Christ until it becomes a scandal to the whole world.

    You speak of indulgences and Marian dogmas. Do you know what indulgences are? What Marian dogmas do you object against? You don’t say, so how can one defend against it?

    Blessings
    NHU

  123. Burton (#121),

    It’s tough to learn much about anything when you focus on the “hard cases”. It’s like trying to fall in love with someone while always staring at the one imperfection on your (potential) beloved’s lower right cheek. You need to spend the vast majority of your time looking at the whole face; then you will get to know her much more accurately than if you start with every potential scar.

    Of course if this was physics we could keep running experiments and if one experiment definitely showed that the theory was wrong then we would have to dump the theory. But this isn’t physics. There are no definitive demonstrations here. Every demonstration we do (especially demonstrations regarding historical details and changes) involves a fair amount of measurement error. Given that, we need to ask: what would we expect to find from our analysis if the Catholic claims were true? Do we want to base our decisions on one experiment, on one tough issue, or on an average of all of them?

    What we would expect to find if the Catholic claims are true is that the vast majority of our questions about these claims would be firmly answered in favor of the Church, by our own research. But we would also expect the almost certain existence of an”upper tail” of difficult questions about which our own research is inconclusive, or even tends to point away from the Church’s claim. Given that each of our historical explorations will be filled with measurement error, it is statistically impossible that such an upper tail would not exist.

    In such an environment, it doesn’t quite make sense to say (and I don’t know whether you’re saying exactly this): “The Catholic claims almost all make sense to me, but there are a handful of cases where my own research would tend to suggest that the Church has reversed myself, so I can’t be Catholic.” If the Catholic claims are true, and if history is measured only sporadically, and with error and ambiguity, the this is exactly what we would expect. In the alternative case, if the Catholic claims were false, we would expect that most of her claims would be falsifiable from historical research (as is the case with Mormans, say), but some of them could not be.

    Once you see that there’s no “perfect” demonstration from history, the next step is to take your imperfect demonstration, put it on the back burner for a while, and go meet some Catholics! You need to spend time with Catholics. If there aren’t any where you live, you need to spend some time with the saints. Read Teresa of Avila, and Saint Francis De Sales. Read Leo the Great and Mother Teresa. Go find a Eucharistic adoration chapel, and sit and pray there for a while. You have to kick the tires a bit, and step outside all the abstraction. There is real Love here, and it will change your life. But only if you try.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  124. Burton,
    If you or anyone else is considering the claims of the RCC or any church then its important to understand all that it teaches. If a church such as the RCC claims to be the church that Christ established then it should teach what Jesus and His apostles taught. You have a responsibility to “examine everything carefully” and to be on guard against false teachings. If you think that the Marian dogmas is what the NT taught then you have a responsibility to demonstrate clearly from Scripture that these are apostolic doctrines.
    Do you think the gospel message is a clear and essential doctrine? Would have some difficulty demonstrating from Scripture what it is?

    If by the Catholic canon you mean the OT apocrypha then that is another discussion.

  125. Steve G @120,

    I’ve responded to your comment in a relevant thread on perseverance. Pax.

  126. Frank,
    I know and understand what the Marian doctrines are. I know your church claims she was without sin. I know it claims she was assumed into heaven and that she is the queen of heaven. I know all this and more. The problem is that the Scriptures never taught this about her. In fact it was unknown for centuries.
    The doctrine that Mary was sinless is not taught in Scripture. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. See Rom 3:9,23, and 5:12. There is also no statement of Scripture that she was an exception to the effects of the fall. Luke 1:28 is not about Luke 1:28 is not her being sinless either. That greeting is about something else entirely.
    Let me ask you about the quotes of the popes. Were they speaking the truth about her when they wrote these things?

  127. Burton,
    Have you ever looked at the doctrinal statements of 3-4 Protestant churches? If you did, you would find agreement among them about the following:
    1) God is the Creator
    2) He is eternal
    3) He is triune
    4) Jesus died for our sins
    5) Jesus rose again
    6. The Bible is the Word of God
    7. Man is fallen and in need of salvation
    8. All believers are to be baptized.
    9. Man is saved by Christ alone by faith alone
    10. The Lord’s supper

    These are some of the essential doctrines that all Protestants believe in.

  128. @Burton (#121):

    the RCC is what it claims to be, then we should both submit to her authority as we would to our Lord, ESPECIALLY if we happen to disagree with some doctrines. If the RCC’s claims to authority are demonstrably false, then we need to positively assert a clear Rule of Faith that allows all Christians, in spite of their fallibilty, to safely arrive at the saving Truth.

    I agree. Indeed, I would go further. Given the claim of the Church to be uniquely appointed by God to be the Teacher to all men of the truths of the faith, if it is false, it strikes me as being like Jesus’s claim to be God – if false, it is abominable; if true, it is irresistible. I have more time for the Protestant who says that the Catholic Church is a synagoguge of Satan than for the one whose attitude appears to be more or less, “Oh, well, if that’s what does it for you…” The former may be able to be convinced that he is wrong – and may become a Catholic; the latter is close to being a relativist.

    There is something near to a “Liar, Lunatic, Lord” argument, it seems to me, regarding the claims of the Catholic Church. Either they are true – in which case submission seems to me morally unavoidable – or they are false – in which case submission is unthinkable.

    jj

  129. Hi Burton

    Re# 121 I am certain that you are very sincere in your search for truth. I did not mean to imply that you are not. Sorry if it came across that way. I have been Catholic all my life and I am 70 yrs old so have a hard time trying to think of it in another way. I do have other members of my family who are not of the RCC but we don’t discuss it much. I love to read the back and forth answers and questions on here. It is thoroughly enlightening.

    Blessings
    NHU

  130. Steve G writes: Mateo, this is false. If you are going to criticize Protestants, then you ought to be accurate in those criticisms. A Southern Baptist would say that if a person claimed to be saved, but died an “unrepentant Satan worshipping apostate”, as you put it, then they were never saved to begin with.

    You don’t know the Southern Baptists than the ones that I know! The Southern Baptists that I know have told me many times that there is no conceivable sin that a “saved” man could ever commit that would make him lose his salvation. Period, end of story.

    If I ask the Southern Baptists that I know if there is some sort of minimal moral behavior that a man must do to avoid damnation, they would reject that idea, because that would be a form of “salvation by works”. The Southern Baptists that I know are hard-core antinomian in their soteriology, and their doctrine of OSAS is dependent upon a concept of justification that is completely severed from sanctification. As to the question of whether a “saved” eight year old boy could ever become an unrepentant Satan worshiper, I had one Southern Baptist pastor tell me that God would kill the boy and “take him home” before that could ever happen. Not every Southern Baptist that I know would go so far as that, but they would all affirm that there is no conceivable sin that the “saved” boy could ever commit that would cause him to be damned. Once Saved, Always Saved – that belief is at the core of the Southern Baptist religion.

    The Southern Baptist doctrine of OSAS is different from the Calvinist doctrine of OSAS in that the Southern Baptists believe that men have freewill, and that sanctification is not forced on anyone by “irresistible” grace. The difference between Southern Baptist OSAS doctrine and Calvinist OSAS doctrine is at the root of why Calvinists accuse the Southern Baptists of being “Arminians”.

    Steve G asserts: Based upon the above (from the SBC Faith and Message), how do can you say that Southern Baptist’s don’t believe in the Lordship of Christ. Again, I ask you to stop posting falsehoods.

    Steve G, you seemed to have missed this from the SBC Faith and Message website that you quoted:

    … Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

    The above is the Southern Baptist doctrine of OSAS. The “saved” boy may grow up to be a backslid man who grieves the Holy Spirit, but don’t worry, because he “ shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” IOW, the faith that boy showed as an eight year old boy when he got “saved” is sufficient to “bring him home” no matter how he leads his life as an adult. If you think that Southern Baptists don’t really think this way, then I suggest that you enter into dialog with actual Southern Baptists in one of their chat rooms on the internet.

  131. Henry asserts: The church of the NT is not the Roman Catholic church …

    Henry, if the Catholic church is not the church personally founded by Christ, then why were the “Reformers” trying to reform the Catholic Church? I have no desire whatsoever to reform the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, the Mormon Church or the Presbyterian Church because all these Protestant “churches” are merely man founded institutions. Because these Protestant “churches” are man founded institutions, I don’t really care if one of these institutions would threaten to excommunicate me, since excommunication from a man founded institution is the equivalent of getting kicked out of a country club. I might not like getting kicked out, but “excommunication” from a man founded institution does not put my soul at risk.

    So I ask you Henry, what possible reason can you give me for the “Reformers” desire to reform the Catholic Church, if the Catholic Church was merely a man founded institution that was utterly corrupt? If the “Reformers” didn’t believe that the Catholic church was the church personally founded by Christ, then they were fools for trying to reform her, since they were wasting their time on a pointless task. Why bother trying to reform a corrupt religious institution founded by, presumably, heretics? Where is the scriptural warrant for wasting your time on that self-imposed task?

    If the Reformers were trying to reform a man founded corrupt religious institution, then they were fools. If they were trying to reform the church that Christ personally founded, then they were not fools, as long as they kept their membership in the church that Christ founded. They only became fools when they became cafeteria Catholics that broke away from the church that Christ founded to found their personal religious sects that dissented with the official teaching of Christ’s church.

  132. Mateo,
    The Reformers such as Luther did not want to break away from the RCC. They did believe Christ established the church but the church of that day did not reflect Christ. That’s why a reformation was needed. It was the leadership of the RCC that forced him and other reformers to split. I’d encourage you to read the history of those times and what led to the split. It might shock you.
    Belonging to a church will not save you even if its the “right” one. Just as the Jews believed that they were sons of the promise they were cut-off. See Romans 11. Don’t think that Christ would not split His church if He deemed necessary. Just look at His warnings in Revelations 1-3.
    Do you think He allowed and made the Reformation possible or was it out of His control?

  133. Henry,

    A tautology is a statement that is true by definition (and, therefore, does nothing to advance an argument).
    The word “essential” means, by definition, that which is utmost importance, or cannot be dispensed with.

    Thus, to say “essential doctrines are those that cannot be dispensed with, or denied, without grave consequence” i simply to say, “Essential doctrines are essential.” Hence – a tautology.

    Of course, I believe that the Trinity is essential – because I have a principled way of distinguishing the essential from the non-essential. The Rule of Faith, established by Christ, tells me so.

    So far, you have not given me a principled argument explaining how you can distinguish the essential from the non-essential. You have merely engaged in tautology.

    -David

  134. Henry, (re#126),

    I think it will be a challenge to communicate to you the Scriptural evidence for Mary’s sinlessness because your view of Scripture seems very literal – sort of two-dimensional. Certainly there are things pretty plainly stated in Scripture, such as the necessity of Baptism for salvation (Jn. 3:5 ff). There are other doctrines that require a reading of Scripture that sees the broad arc of OT prophecy and its realization in the NT — not a literal verse or verses that simply state a doctrine. I challenge you to find the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in the Bible – not just the mention of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but the full-orbed doctrine of Three-in-One that is found the Nicene Creed.

    So, on to the Immaculate Conception.

    If Jesus is the “new Adam” – fulfilling that part of the bringing about the “new creation” who is the “new Eve”? Mary is the “new Eve”. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, here is something from St. Irenaeus, an early Church Father – one among many similar reflections from the early Church:

    As Eve by the speech of an Angel was seduced, so as to flee God, transgressing His word, so also Mary received the good tidings by means of the Angel’s speech, so as to bear God within her, being obedient to His word. And, though the one had disobeyed God, yet the other was drawn to obey God; that of the virgin Eve the Virgin Mary might become the advocate. And, as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a virgin it is saved, the balance being preserved, a virgin’s disobedience by a virgin’s obedience.

    Now it is a general principle that Old Testament foreshadowings of certain ideas or types find their fulfillment in a superior form in the NT. Adam/Jesus is one such example. Another such is Eve/Mary, as St. Irenaeus writes. Eve was born without the stain of original sin. If Mary is a superior type of “the woman” [Ge: 3:15 — who is “the Woman” whose seed will be the enemy of the serpent? Mary, of course. This is why Jesus refers to her as “woman” throughout the NT — he is calling her by her prophetic name] — how can she be born in any less a state of grace than Eve? This is precisely what the Angel means when he addresses her as “Full of Grace.”

    As to your Rm 3:23 objection, Jesus was a man and was born without sin (as were Adam and Eve), so already exceptions exist. As to HOW Mary was conceived without original sin, that was through the merits of the Cross being applied to her at the moment of her conception. God is not limited by time and so for Him to do this does not involve the problems of temporal sequence that limit us.

    Furthermore, nothing unclean can be in the presence the God — I’m sure you’d agree with that proposition. Well, in the uniting of Mary with the Holy Spirit that gave rise to the conception of the Son of God, Mary would have to be without sin or else the Holy Spirit could not have united with her, following the Biblical principle I have just cited.

    Will you find “Mary was born without original sin” in a Bible verse? No. Is this doctrine Biblical? Yes – if you read the whole of OT and NT in their proper relation.

    If you respond, please tell me where this explanation fails — and please cite the Scripture that makes your case.
    Do not jump to another objection before addressing this one.

    – Frank

  135. Henry,

    As to your 127 – doctrines that all Protestants agree on.

    Is this your criterion for “essential?” That which most Protestants agree on?

    If so, this would not be tautological. So, is this it – the essential is that which most Protestants agree on?

    If so, I would ask you, “How do you know that interdenominational agreement is the criterion of orthodoxy?”
    What divine authority told you that this was the criterion of orthodoxy? And if no divine authority revealed this, how do you know it is true? Why can’t most Protestant denominations be wrong in what they agree on?

    -David

  136. And, I’m still waiting for an answer to this question:

    How do you know that only an inspired, written document can serve as the Rule of Faith?
    What evidence can you produce to show that God intends such a document to be the Rule of Faith?

    So far, all you have done is to say, “It must be so.”

    Thanks,

    David

  137. David,
    I have answered this question a number of times. Its based on the fact that the Scriptures alone are the inspired-inerrant Word of God. Jesus Himself commanded His disciple to teach all that He taught them. See Matt 28:20. This is why the Scripture alone is the Rule of Faith.

    Now its your turn. Since we agree that the Scriptures are inspired-inerrant Word of God do you claim the same thing for your leaders? For this to be true all your leaders would have to be at the same level as the Scripture which would require them to be infallible since that is another characteristic of Scripture. I already showed that there is no such passage of Scripture that guarantees that the church leaders would be incapable of teaching error. I gave you a couple of reasons against that idea.
    As you say, “it must be so” won’t carry the day for you.

    Regards

  138. David,
    In regards to essential doctrines and how we can know them does not require some kind of divine authority for us to know them. Most Roman Catholics would agree with that list. How is it that these Protestant churches could agree on this list without the aid of the Roman Catholic church?

    Secondly, can you show me that these doctrines are not essential? Can you show me via the Catechism, councils or papal documents that these are not essential doctrines?

  139. Henry (re: 124 & 127);
    I think Burton and I have adequately laid out for you the fundamental issue that we Protestants must address in order to have a principled and coherent basis from which to challenge RC doctrines. Burton’s #121 sums it up well. Your only responses to this issue so far have been that we need to examine RC doctrine and that Protestants have unity on a list of doctrines that you have asserted are essential without first establishing a principled basis for how one can reliably identify these essentials. Regarding your list, I assume you would not put down such a list were you aware that the RC church can agree with ALL of the items. Yes, they would nuance and explain things in ways you would not agree with, but so would Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc, etc.
    Anyone can pick a list of teachings and call them the essentials of Christianity because people who agree with that person are all in agreement together. In a previous comment, I provided a link to an article where a MO Synod Lutheran scholar argued that Reformed Prot’s do not believe the Bible b/c they do not adhere to the Lutheran view of baptism. That’s a serious charge and I would agree that if the Lutheran view of baptism is correct, then whether or not we baptize our children is a serious matter. If I dismiss the Lutheran view as possibly true, but non-essential because other intelligent, Christ-loving, sola scriptura Christians don’t agree with them then that’s ad hoc. It makes “agreement” among my ad hoc group of like minded people the touchstone of orthodox Christianity. In principle it means that I find myself and what I think is essential to be the touchstone of orthodoxy.
    Mark

  140. David Anders RE:133

    You offer a principles way to possibly identify “essential doctrines” by acceptance of the majority of Protestant denominations but I think that would still be unworkable in practice. First they’d have to decide who qualifies as actually Protestant and at least some Anglicans and Presbyterians claim that they aren’t actually Protestant, even though they are. Then, determining a majority would still be a problem because would we go by 1 vote / (conference or board) or would we weight the votes by the number of followers or parishes? And of course there is the world wide Protestant menagerie that is much different than the American segment….. And of course if a dozen or so votes change, essential doctrine could change as we see every month in the Anglicans and the ELCA ..

  141. David,
    How do Catholics go about determining if their interpretation of a verse or passage of Scripture is correct? I have heard that if their interpretation conflicts with doctrine then they know its wrong.
    How about in those cases where it had nothing directly to do with a doctrine? What does a Catholic do to determine if he has the correct interpretation?
    How does having an authoritative-infallible interpreter of Scripture help the average Catholic to know if he has interpreted a verse or passage correctly?

    Thanks

  142. Henry, (re#126)

    You asked:

    Let me ask you about the quotes of the popes. Were they speaking the truth about her when they wrote these things?

    Those quotes from the Popes contain many statements about the Blessed Virgin. Which ones are you referring to? And – not to make too fine a point of it – what do you mean by “the truth”? Divine Revelation? The outcome of a process of natural reasoning (like 2+2=4 is a truth)? Please let me know which statements you’re asking about and what you mean by “the truth” in your question.

    Do you understand the Church’s teaching that the Popes are infallible only under a very specific set of conditions – none of which apply to these statements? And therefore even if any of them contain error (which I am not conceding), this in no way contradicts Papal infallibility?

    – Frank

  143. Henry

    Re: your # 127. All of the beliefs that you have listed with the exception of # 9 are beliefs that the reformers took with them when they left the Catholic Church and even #9 is true if you leave out the “by faith alone” There is no place in Scripture that says we are saved by Christ by faith “alone”. That was an invention of Luther. Not all Protestant churches believe in the sacrament of baptism either or at least they don’t agree as to its purpose. The same with the Lord’s Supper. One believes it is the body of Christ others believe it is only symbolic etc etc. So Protestantism can not even agree as to what is essential. Therefore your list is wrong from the very start.

    Blessings
    NHU

  144. Frank,
    Truth is what which corresponds to reality. It doesn’t matter if its by reason or revelation. Truth must follow this principle. Yes, I understand what it means when the pope speaks ex cathdra or infallibly.
    Did these popes speak the truth when they wrote these words? Does grace come through Mary or not as these popes wrote?

  145. Nelson,
    Protestants believe in all the things I wrote. The differences comes from the mode, understanding or something else. All believe that Christians should partake of the Lord’s supper but not all agree on Jesus’ meaning. Same kind of thing goes for baptism. All Protestants believe they should be baptized the differences are when.
    If salvation is not by Christ alone by faith alone, then you are claiming you must add something to the work of Christ that must be performed by you to gain salvation. Would you agree?

  146. Nelson,
    Did you know that there were others before Luther who believed in faith alone in Christ alone?
    See Joseph A. Fitzmyer Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 360-361.

  147. Hi Henry,
    Re: # 137
    David,
    I have answered this question a number of times. Its based on the fact that the Scriptures alone are the inspired-inerrant Word of God. Jesus Himself commanded His disciple to teach all that He taught them. See Matt 28:20. This is why the Scripture alone is the Rule of Faith.

    As the above shows you have just argued in a circle. You have said that Scripture alone is the Word of God therefore Scripture alone is the rule of faith. But how do you know this? By Scripture alone? How do you know that your Scriptures are even the Word of God? How do you know that these Scriptures contain all that Jesus told His disciples to teach? Could the Church that the Apostles belonged to have taught teachings that were not contained in the Apostles writings? Surely the Apostles did not write everything down that Jesus taught them? Or else I think the world would not contain all the books. ( John 21:24)

    Blessings
    NHU

  148. Henry,

    When the Church Fathers speak of “faith alone,” the ‘alone’ means without the Jewish ceremonial law, not without agape. By contrast, when Luther and Calvin speak of “faith alone,” they mean faith-as-uninformed-by-agape. So the patristic references Fitzmyer provides 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.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  149. Henry.
    You state in # 145 that all Protestants believe in baptism and the Lord’s Supper but that their understanding of them can be different. Understanding certainly contributes greatly to belief but is not everything. So if there is a difference in understanding which shapes the difference of belief and both parties appeal to your “rule of faith” which is the scriptures, who gets to decide which party is correct in their understanding and belief? How do you decide? It is obvious that you do not decide or else there would only be one Protestant Church and not the many churches that there are. So as I see it, the essentials in belief even though they “all” believe in the essentials, can be different according to how you wish to interpret the “rule of faith” and everyone is free to decide for themselves.

    I believe that faith in Christ must be tempered by our life in Christ. It is not those who believe in Christ only but those who DO what Christ demands who win salvation. Certainly salvation is a free gift and we can not earn it but as St. Paul says, we must work out our salvation in fear and trembling. If our lives are not changed through our faith in Christ no amount of belief will be enough to save us. Then Christ will say depart from me for I know you not. Though salvation is a free gift, our works in Christ are in fact works of Christ through us. Therefore our works are not strictly speaking our works but Christ’s works.

    Blessings
    NHU

  150. Nelson,
    Do you think Jesus believed that the OT was the Word of God? Do you think what He taught that He knew was the Word of God also? The answer is yes. See Matt 5:17-19 and John 12:44-50.
    It is true that the Jesus taught other things we don’t know about John 20:30 and His apostles did also such as in Acts 19:9-10 that we have no record of. The problem is that we don’t know specifically what these things were because we have no written record of them.

    Peace

  151. Henry, (re#144):

    You quoted the following in #112:

    1) “Leo XIII, Encyclical, Supremi Apostolatus officio. Sept 1, 1883. ASS 16, 1883. 1113: “We judge nothing more powerful and better for this purpose than by religion and devotion to deserve well of the great Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, who is the treasurer (sequestra) of our peace with God, and the mediatrix (administra) of graces… .”
    2) “St. Pius X, Litterae Apostolicae, August 27, 1910, AAS 2, 1910, 901: “We, to whom nothing is dearer than that the devotion of the faithful towards the Virgin of Lourdes, the treasurer [sequestra] of all graces, be more and more increased, think we should gladly assent to these wishes.”
    3) Pius XI, Apostolic Letter, Galliam, Ecclesiae filiam, March 2, 1922, AAS 14, 1922 186: “She, the Virgin Mother, [is] the treasurer [sequestra] of all graces with God.”
    4) John XXIII, Epistle to Cardinal Agaganian, Legate to Marian Congress in Saigon, Jan 31, 1959, AAS 51, 1959, 88: “For the faithful can do nothing more fruitful and salutary than to win for themselves the most powerful patronage of the Immaculate Virgin, so that by this most sweet Mother, there may be opened to them, all the treasures of the divine Redemption, and so they may have life, and have it more abundantly. Did not the Lord will that we have everything through Mary?” Discorsi II, 66: “From her hands hope for all graces.”

    And you have asked me if I think they speak the truth that “grace comes through Mary.” Since it was Mary’s “let it be done unto me according to thy word” (reversing the disobedience of the first Eve) that made the Incarnation possible, and since by that obedience Christ, the source of all grace, entered the world, the answer to your question is “yes.”

    Now please please respond to the challenge I gave you in #134 to show me where – in the full doctrinal formulation Christians profess in the Nicene Creed – you can find the Holy Trinity in Scripture. Not just the existence or presence of the Three Persons (as at Jesus’ baptism), but the full understanding of the Three-in-One and how they are related to each other.

    Pax Tecum,
    Frank

  152. Bryan,
    When Paul wrote Eph 2:8-9 does he speak specifically of love in this passage? No he doesn’t.
    Do you believe we must add to the work of Christ to gain salvation or did Christ gain our salvation by the way He lived and died?

    Peace

  153. Henry,

    By itself, the fact that St. Paul doesn’t specifically speak of love in Eph 2:8-9 doesn’t show whether the faith he is referring to there is living faith (i.e. faith-informed-by-agape) or dead faith. The argument from silence is, of course, a fallacy. But his use of the term ‘faith’ throughout his writings provides evidence that when he uses it without qualification, he is speaking of living faith, i.e. faith-informed-by-agape, “faith working through love.” (Gal. 5:6)

    Do you believe we must add to the work of Christ to gain salvation or did Christ gain our salvation by the way He lived and died?

    Both. We have “redemption through His blood” (Eph 1:7), but we must also “work out our salvation” (Phil 2:12), because our salvation is “through sanctification” (2 Thess. 2:13), and sanctification is something we are to pursue (Heb 12:14). As St. Paul says to St. Timothy, “for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (1 Tim 4:16) That would be impossible if Christ’s work so completely ensured our salvation that nothing was required of us. Likewise, if Christ’s work removed the possibility of our participation in our salvation through our actions, St. Peter couldn’t have said, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” (Acts 2:14) He would have said instead, “Christ already gained your salvation, and since you can’t add anything to the work of Christ for your salvation, therefore I guess you can all go home now, because you all must already be saved.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  154. Hi Henry,

    Re: # 150, yes I believe that Jesus believed that the OT was the Word of God. I also believe that Jesus taught as one having authority. He is the Living Word of God and thus His authority supercedes that of the written Word. On Many occasions He told the Jewish authorities that you search the Word of God and it is of Me that it speaks.

    Jesus no doubt taught other things that the written Word does not contain , even as you stated in question # 150. He left a Church to teach with His own AUTHORITY not a written document(s)to follow as we will. As the written document(s) testify of Him, it is the Church that speaks for Him. He commanded no one to write, only to teach.

  155. In St. John’s Gospel the following words of Our Lord are recorded:

    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

    Henry- I don’t mean to join in the already complex conversation here. So please simply consider my point. But don’t bother directly responding to me. In some of your previous comments, I understand you to be suggesting that He did everything and we do nothing. But to suggest that the vine achieves its purpose in a manner completely independent of the branches is to contradict the very message of Christ recorded in the passage above, it seems. Thank you!

  156. @Henry:

    All Protestants believe they should be baptized the differences are when.

    Salvation Army Protestants don’t – or are they not Protestants?

    jj

  157. @Frank La Rocca:

    …show me where – in the full doctrinal formulation Christians profess in the Nicene Creed – you can find the Holy Trinity in Scripture. Not just the existence or presence of the Three Persons (as at Jesus’ baptism), but the full understanding of the Three-in-One and how they are related to each other.

    This was one of Newman’s great points – well before he was a Catholic. He pointed out that Sola Scriptura – meaning all things must be found in Scripture – could not even prove the full doctrine of the Trinity.

    jj

  158. John,
    Is the Salvation Army a church?

  159. Herbert,
    Christ did everything necessary for our salvation i.e. died for our sins and established our relationship with the Father. Now that we are saved in Christ we are to live out our lives in Christ by actively abiding in the vine (Christ). That is, we are to be obedient to Christ by knowing what He taught and living it out.

  160. Nelson,
    Do you think your church has a responsibility to teach what Jesus taught as recorded in the gospels which are written down? Do you think these writings i.e. the NT supersedes what comes after the apostles died?

  161. Bryan,
    No man can add to what Christ gained for us. That’s why its a gift. It is totally of Him Who died for our sins that we might be saved and have a relationship with the Father. This is what only Christ could do on His own for us. This is why salvation is all of Him. No one can add to this.

    On our part we are not to be passive but work out our salvation i.e. to put into practice in our daily living what God has worked in us by His Spirit. I think 2 Cor 5:14-15 says it so well on how we are to live out our salvation in Christ:
    14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
    15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

    We are no longer to live for ourselves but for Him. I think we both agree on this.

  162. Frank,
    Here are some Scriptures that support the Trinity:
    The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons. The Bible speaks of the Father as God (Phil. 1:2), Jesus as God (Titus 2:13), and the Holy Spirit as God (Acts 5:3-4).
    Scripture is clear that there is only one God: “There is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:21-22; see also 44:6-8; Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 4:35; 6:4-5; 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Kings 8:60).

    Hope this helps

  163. @Henry:

    Is the Salvation Army a church?

    That was the point of my question. I am asking you. In our small town in New Zealand (Pukekohe), it is the only place where its adherents worship. There are no sacraments. My understanding is that General Booth originally thought his followers would go to their own churches, but that is not what happens. Two of my and my wife’s close friends are officers there. Their beliefs are, in general, those of their Baptist friends – except they don’t think sacraments are necessary.

    Are they:

    – Protestants?
    – Catholics????
    – ?????

    If they are not Protestants, what grounds would you say excludes them from being Protestants?

    PS – they consider themselves to be Protestants.

    jj

  164. Henry, re#162:

    You wrote:

    Hope this helps

    It does not. All it indicates is that the NT would seem to contradict the OT by offering up three Gods instead of one.

    I assume you are familiar with the Nicene Creed. Here, again, is the question I asked, and which you have not answered:

    Now please please respond to the challenge I gave you in #134 to show me where – in the full doctrinal formulation Christians profess in the Nicene Creed – you can find the Holy Trinity in Scripture. Not just the existence or presence of the Three Persons (as at Jesus’ baptism), but the full understanding of the Three-in-One and how they are related to each other.

    You have given Scripture that shows the existence of the three Persons. That is not what I asked. You have given Scripture that shows God is One. That is also not what I asked.

    Please answer the question I actually asked, not the one you would rather answer.

    “I can’t” is an acceptable answer.

    – Frank

  165. Henry,

    I’ve been eagerly following this discussion since it began. Thank you for taking the time to respond to everyone who is engaging you. I’m interested in your latest response to Bryan. I just offered Mass and I found the preface to the Eucharistic prayer to be quite beautiful. The prefaces are beautifully articulated theological statements. They declare the truths of the faith we celebrate and our focused on the Paschal mystery, the work God did for our salvation. The preface I prayed today stated, “For through his Paschal Mystery, he accomplished the marvelous deed, by which he has freed us from the yoke of sin and death…”

    So Catholics agree with you that Christ has accomplished our salvation. It is right in our prayers that we pray when we gather every Sunday. But this mystery is deeper and even more mysterious. Paul tells us that Christ’s sacrifice was lacking. He says, “I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” (Col 1:23) Thus, there is a tension right at the beginning of Christianity that Christ’s sacrifice has accomplished everything and yet we make up for what is lacking in it. Thus, Bryan can say that he believes that Christ gained our salvation and that we add to the work of Christ.

    As Herbert said above, you are very busy and might not have time to get to everyone. Don’t feel pressured to respond to this question. I simply present it for you, and other readers, to ponder in your hearts as Mary pondered the Word in her heart. What does Paul mean when he says that he makes up for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ?

  166. Henry,

    @ 127 you gave Burton a list of 10 beliefs, essentials according to you. However, I cannot understand what you mean by “these are some of the essential doctrines that all Protestants believe in.”

    For example, you listed:

    8. All believers are to be baptized.

    9. Man is saved by Christ alone by faith alone

    10. The Lord’s supper

    Let’s consider just these three. For two people to “agree” on a “doctrine” they would need to have both (A) dogmatic content (i.e., what makes a doctrine doctrinal) and (B) a shared sense of that content (we can call that a concept). What seems baffling to me is your assertion that “These are some of the essential doctrines that all Protestants believe in.” Think about it in an analogy (then I’ll come back to dogmatic content and “concept”).

    Imagine that you say you believe in “football”, and I say I believe in “football”. We show up to play, and I’m wearing a bathing suit and you’re wearing cleats and a helmet. Now, we both say we believe in football. However, clearly one of us is wrong in our belief. Further, it would be foolish to say that the concept of “football” acts as some kind of essential belief that unifies us. In fact, we might say that because we both believe in “football” and yet our concept is so different, the concept of football is what divides us.

    So, I show up at a SBC. They believe in “baptism”. They claim it is an “outward expression of an inward reality” and is only to be administered to those of age who already believe. I then ago to a Methodist church that is baptizing an infant and claiming something very different. You see, your “essentialism” only identifies common language. However, just because a democrat and republican both use the phrase “foreign policy” doesn’t mean they are united by the common concept of “foreign policy”.

    Thus, your list of essentials seems to backfire. It is precisely in the areas of Scripture that you claim are perspicuous enough to establish the necessity of belief (your top 10) that Protestants (the group alleged to be united by these essentials) forcefully disagree. In fact, your list as such could not be called dogma or doctrine, because the only way that lists serves as a placeholder for Protestant unity is if the items on the list are emptied of all their meaning (thus, no dogma). But no Protestant church believes your #’s 8, 9, and 10 are “good no matter what you believe as long as you believe something”. Of course they don’t. Thus, each of those items do possess dogmatic content, and subsequently are incongruous (amongst Protestants). They function as theological homonyms; they sound the same but don’t mean the same thing.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  167. Frank,
    Let me encourage you to read again the passages I gave you on the Trinity. In those passages we have 3 persons being referred to as God and yet the OT says there is only one God. How do we explain this without embracing the idea of multiple gods?
    Christians since the beginning have believed that there is only one God even though there are 3 persons. The term used to describe this is the Trinity.
    No one can give “the full understanding of the Three-in-One and how they are related to each other.” Can you?

  168. Hello Fr Bryan,
    Its been very helpful for me to dialogue with Catholics. It forces me to think deeper and search the Scriptures. That is a good thing and worthwhile.
    In regards to Col 1:24 Paul is referring to the sufferings he has for the cause of Christ. The word “afflictions” means trouble, pressure or trouble and is never used for the death of Christ. We know from his letters and Acts that he suffered greatly for the gospel. The idea here is that just as Jesus suffered in proclaiming the kingdom, so should those who follow Him should expect the same and share the same kinds of suffering.
    What do you think it means?

    regards

  169. Hi Brent,
    My list was meant only to show that all Protestant churches believe in these things and the necessity of them. Baptism in various denominations is administered differently and under different conditions. That does not mean they don’t think baptism is not essential. Same for the Lord’s supper in what it means.
    If a person is looking for absolute unity in beliefs and practices there are a number of cults i could recommend. As I have said elsewhere, Christian theology and practice can get messy. So long as man is fallen, there will always be differences.

    Peace

  170. Henry,

    Thank you for your response. While I agree with the fact that people who follow Christ should expect similar afflictions, and enduring them to spread the Gospel is very noble, but I don’t believe that that is what St. Paul is getting. Or, if it is, I think there is something beyond this.

    I think Paul is literally saying that human suffering (St. Paul’s, as well as mine and as well as yours) can be united to Christ’s suffering on the cross and can actually contribute to our salvation as well as the salvation of others. Paul’s suffering contributed to other’s salvation, and therefore, he made up in his body what was lacking in Christ’s suffering. This is called the doctrine of Redemptive Suffering.

  171. Henry,

    My list was meant only to show that all Protestant churches believe in these things and the necessity of them.

    My point was that their “things” and “them” are not the same “things” and “them”.

    Baptism in various denominations is administered differently and under different conditions. That does not mean they don’t think baptism is not essential. Same for the Lord’s supper in what it means.

    Again, those concepts are acting as mere theological homonyms. Unless you want to say that Catholics believe in the Lord’s Supper and Baptism and so do you and therefore we are united by the concepts of the “Lord’s Supper” and “Baptism”. Of course, that is not true.

    If a person is looking for absolute unity in beliefs and practices there are a number of cults i could recommend. As I have said elsewhere, Christian theology and practice can get messy. So long as man is fallen, there will always be differences.

    1. I don’t imagine you go to a church that professes beliefs and practices that are not unified. I’ve never read a statement of faith, creed or confession that claims “this is not a unified set of beliefs and practices proscribed herein”. Having beliefs and practices that are unified is not the sign of a cult, per se, but the sign of coherency. In fact, it is a sign of a cult to not have unified beliefs and practices. A cult or sect, being extracted from the main, uses various concepts and ideas that are divorced from their context and thus are irrational in nature. They are irrational because they do not have their proper referent in reality.

    2. The history of Christianity evidences that it is those who do not listen to the ones Christ sent, and the ones they sent (Matt 10:14-15, Luke 10:16, John 20:21), who do not share in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. Thus, there are differences.

    Peace in Christ,

    Brent

  172. Brent,
    Not sure what you are getting at when you write-“My point was that their “things” and “them” are not the same “things” and “them” in regards to essential doctrines. Can you clarify?

    Thanks

  173. Brent,
    What makes you think (Matt 10:14-15, Luke 10:16, John 20:21) are references to the Roman Catholic church? If you study the passages, you will find that Jesus is speaking specifically to His disciples and not to a church. Agreed?

  174. John,
    What is a sacrament and what are they supposed to do?

  175. @Henry:
    Regarding Brent’s

    Not sure what you are getting at when you write-”My point was that their “things” and “them” are not the same “things” and “them” in regards to essential doctrines. Can you clarify?

    Just giving something a name doesn’t mean the thing named is the same. Mormons tell me they certainly believe in the Trinity – but their Father and Son are distinct ‘gods’ and their ‘Holy Spirit’ is an impersonal force – and ‘what man is, God was; what God is, man may become’

    To say that belief in, say, baptism is common amongst Protestants only means a word. Some Protestants believe baptism is what makes you born again. Some believe it testifies to your new birth that happened by other means. Some believe it just puts you into a covenant relation with God (that was what my Reformed people believed). To say that baptism is common amongst them is only to use the word, not the thing.

    Likewise the Lord’s Supper. Mormons say they practise it – they use bread and water. Anglo-Catholics believe in transsubstantiation. Lutherans believe in consubstantiation. Baptists believe in symbolic representation. Reformed believe in covenantalism.

    Further, as I said, Salvation Army people don’t believe any sacrament is necessary.

    So to say that, for instance, Lutherans, Reformed, and Baptists all have in common belief in the necessity of baptism – by the way, the Baptist church I belonged to before becoming Reformed did not believe in the necessity of baptism, only in its advisability as a testimony – to say they all believe in baptism is not to say they believe in the same thing – else, if the word were all that were necessary, you should add the Mormons (and, arbitrarily, remove the Salvation Army). To say they all believe in the Lord’s Supper is not to say they believe in the same thing – unless the word alone is enough – in which case, add the Mormons, remove the Salvation Army.

    jj

  176. @Henry:

    What is a sacrament and what are they supposed to do?

    Surely that is the very question that is why it is not possible to say that Protestants have in common even the two great sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Even major Protestant communions – Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Reformed, and Baptists – have fundamentally incommensurable answers to your question. High Anglicans believe in ex opere operato. Lutherans believe in a kind of no-man’s land in between. Presbyterians believe in an ex fide operato mode. Reformed believe in a covenantal form of ex opere operato – if you receive the Sacrament but don’t believe or are unfaithful to it, you increase your damnation. Baptists believe in a testimonial symbolic view.

    What a Sacrament is and what it does surely cannot be what is common to Protestants.

    What, in my opinion, is common to Protestants is simply anti-Catholicism.

    jj

  177. @Henry:
    PS – when I became a new Christian, in 1969, at age 27, I first joined a Lutheran Church – I had no church background and knew nothing of churches and they had a youth ministry. Over the next few months I was catechised by Baptists, realised, from listening to my own baptism ceremony in the Lutheran Church, that they believed in baptismal regeneration. That was obviously – I thought! – wrong, so I left and became a Baptist (and was re-baptised). I began to study and saw the analogy between Baptism and circumcision – applied to infants – so became convinced of Reformed covenantalism – and became Reformed. Gradually, studying over the years, I came to realise that the New Testament (“baptism now saves you” – one of St Peter’s epistles) held a very realist view of baptism. When I became a Catholic – not for this or that doctrine but because I came to believe that the Catholic Church was the continuation of the Church of the Apostles – I was satisfied because this doctrine, which both the historical church and the New Testament, seemed to hold – was the Church’s doctrine.

    What is a Sacrament and what is it supposed to do?

    jj

  178. John,
    Let’s cut to the chase. What is the function of baptism in Roman Catholicism? Secondly, when Scripture uses the word “baptism” does it always mean water baptism?

    Thanks

  179. @Henry:

    Let’s cut to the chase. What is the function of baptism in Roman Catholicism? Secondly, when Scripture uses the word “baptism” does it always mean water baptism?

    Henry, you know the answers to both questions – the ‘chase’ is not to ask what this or that Christian group means by baptism, but your idea that you can list at least the two great sacraments – baptism and the Lord’s supper – as being held in common in any intelligible sense by all those whom most people would call Protestants.

    My comments above were only to clarify for you what seemed to be a problem: that saying that two groups share something by name is not the same as saying that they share the thing itself. Thus I would assert that there is no common referent either for the terms ‘baptism’ or ‘the Lord’s supper’ that you could say was shared by all, or even most, groups whom people call Protestants. That all Protestants think there is something talked about in the Bible called ‘baptism’ that (usually) involves the use of water and a symbolic washing; that all Protestants think there is something talked about in the Bible called ‘the Lord’s supper’ that is in some sense a ritualised meal – these things are true. If that is all you meant, then I would say your list of commonalities amongst Protestants is very thin, and in every case is shared by Catholics as well (even ‘faith alone’ can be accepted by the Catholic if the ‘alone’ is only meant to exclude strictly meritorious works).

    That is the ‘chase’ I would like to cut to. Everyone who cares knows what the Catholic Church means by Baptism. That is not the subject this sub-thread was about, and to switch to that subject is, it seems to me, to decline to respond to the sub-thread. The subject of the sub-thread is my claim:

    The only doctrine that all Protestants have in common is anti-Catholicism

    That is the ‘chase.’

    jj

  180. John,
    When a Protestant speaks of baptism he is thinking of immersion. That’s what the Bible teaches. The word is never used for sprinkling. He would also tell you that Jesus commanded it. If the Protestant you are talking to is knowledgable about the Scripture he will tell you that it is the way we identify with Christ in His death and resurrection. What matters is not what various people think it means, but what does the Scripture mean by it. That is the issue. That’s why I asked you what does a Roman Catholic mean by baptism and you didn’t answer it. Does the meaning Roman Catholics line up with Scripture? That is the only comparison that matters.

    The idea that “The only doctrine that all Protestants have in common is anti-Catholicism” is silly.

  181. @Henry:

    When a Protestant speaks of baptism he is thinking of immersion. That’s what the Bible teaches. The word is never used for sprinkling. He would also tell you that Jesus commanded it. If the Protestant you are talking to is knowledgable about the Scripture he will tell you that it is the way we identify with Christ in His death and resurrection. What matters is not what various people think it means, but what does the Scripture mean by it. That is the issue. That’s why I asked you what does a Roman Catholic mean by baptism and you didn’t answer it. Does the meaning Roman Catholics line up with Scripture? That is the only comparison that matters.

    In that case, the Reformed Church that I belonged to – helped to start, in fact – in Pukekohe is not Protestant. Regarding knowledgeable about Scripture, I don’t know what you consider knowledgeable about Scripture. I myself read through the New Testament in Greek annually, the OT in Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek (different bits) somewhat slower than once a year but many times, have studied quite a lot of Baptist theology (when I saw the above claim I knew, from my knowledge of NT Greek, that it wasn’t so), a great of deal of Lutheran and Calvinist theology. Our pastor was in a similar state.

    The idea that “The only doctrine that all Protestants have in common is anti-Catholicism” is silly.

    Is that your only argument against the proposal? After 42 years a Christian, exploring my way through the underbrush of Protestantism and finding my way to the Catholic Church, it seems to me the only commonality amongst Protestants. Your statement above that to be a Protestant means baptism is by immersion certainly excludes a very large number of Protestants. And this is quite aside from the much more fundamental issues of whether baptism is instrumental or simply referential. So I’d like to know what doctrine you think is common amongst Protestants qua Protestants, that can distinguish them from Catholics, but include them together into one group.

  182. Henry,

    You said:

    “If the Protestant you are talking to is knowledgable about the Scripture he will tell you…”

    That is just another way of saying that any protestant who does not agree with your interpretation of the Bible does not *truly* understand Scripture. Is the rule of faith then that interpretation of Scripture to which you subscribe that counts as “knowledgable”? I ask because you did not say every Protestant would admit to a clear fact or likelihood but rather to an interpretation. Which is just another way of saying the rule of faith is your own private conscience.

  183. John
    in 179 you stated:

    The only doctrine that all Protestants have in common is anti-Catholicism

    What do you mean by this?

  184. Hi Henry,
    Re: # 160
    Sorry its taking me awhile to get caught up. I was gone all day and just got back. Yes I think that the Church has a responsibility to teach the truth that Jesus taught. I believe that the members of the Church are the ones that wrote the Gospels. It was the Church that gave birth to the Gospels not the Gospels that gave birth to the Church. If the Church taught other than what the Gospels teach then she would be teaching against herself. I don’t think that the Gospels supercede what came after the Apostles died because I believe that the Gospels and the Church and Tradition of the Church all have their own unique Authority. One is not more authoritative than the others. It was Jesus’ commission to the Church to teach all the truth. The commission was to teach, forgive sins and to bring sanctification to the world. So the commission was not only to proclaim Jesus but to bring Jesus to the world. Without the Church there is no salvation. Do I think the Church is that important that salvation depends on it. You better believe it brother. ( no pun intended)

    Blessings
    NHU

  185. Henry (re: #180):

    A quick interjection. Neither the Westminster Standards nor the Three Forms of Unity teach that full immersion is necessary (cf. Westminster Confession 28.3; Belgic Confession 34).

    Josh

  186. Henry, (re# 167):

    You seem not to realize that I am asking you a more profound question than the one you are answering. You’re explaining to me what “Trinity” means. I already know what Trinity means. I’m certain you do, too. I am very familiar with St. Athanasius and with the Nicene Creed. I am asking you where the Bible explains the Trinity. Not where the Bible supplies the raw facts (three Persons in the NT, one God in the OT) that can lead to the concept of the Trinity.

    So, again, in which Bible verses is the concept of the Trinity actually explained?

    – Frank

  187. Brent,
    Each man is responsible for what he believes. Not all Catholics believe the same things. Just look at the different opinions and beliefs that they hold to. Some hold closely to what the church teaches and some will disregard it. I know this from personal experience talking to them. I know there are different understandings of Scripture among Protestants. There are various reasons for this. The same holds true for Catholics. Would you agree with this?

  188. John,
    Let me answer your question of what disquinishes Protestants from Catholics for the most part is the papacy, indulgences, the Marian dogmas, praying to the saints and purgatory. I know of no Protestant denomination that embraces these doctrines. Do you?

  189. Nelson,
    Your church does teach against the Scriptures in a number of places. The requirements for church leadership is one and the Marian dogmas such as Mary being without sin would be another. The church did not give birth to the gospels in the sense that they are the source of the gospels. The Lord Jesus is the source of the gospels while certain individuals in the church were responsible for writing them.
    The church is not a necessity for our salvation. What was necessary for our salvation was that Christ come into the world and die for our sins and rise again. He founded the church with the responisblity to preach the gospel to all creation and make disciples. He could have used other means to do accomplish this if He had wanted to. We must never think that we are indispensiable to Him rather that He gave us the great privilege in helping to advance His kingdom.

    BTW- I’m still trying to figure out exactly what Sacred Tradition is. Do you know of any offical list of all the Sacred Traditions of your church? I want to make sure I understand what this is and where did these various Sacred Traditions came from.

  190. JTJ – I was just reminded of another thing at least nearly all Protestant churches have in common. That is the idea that every aspect of the Faith ought to be reducible to a “list” or some single document statement of faith. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea that there is some subset of doctrine that is “essential.”

    Henry – no need to respond – just think about how you would make a list for your son to pass on to your grandson of everything you would like them to know about you and your parents and your family history.

  191. @Norm:

    in 179 you stated:

    The only doctrine that all Protestants have in common is anti-Catholicism

    What do you mean by this?

    I mean that on any of the doctrines which distinguish Christianity from non-Christian religions, you can find two groups of persons whom most would call Protestants who differ on these doctrines (meaning of baptism, for instance) in important ways. The one thing they all agree on is that one should not be a Catholic. When I say “anti-Catholic,” by the way, I don’t mean “aggressively battling against Catholicism,” I just mean “Catholic is not the right thing to be.”

    jj

  192. @Henry:

    Let me answer your question of what disquinishes Protestants from Catholics for the most part is the papacy, indulgences, the Marian dogmas, praying to the saints and purgatory. I know of no Protestant denomination that embraces these doctrines. Do you?

    Quite right – well, some AngloCatholics believe in some of these – except, in its Catholic sense, the Papacy. All of which is what I meant by ‘anti-Catholicism.’

    jj

  193. PS to #192 – my point is that of positive doctrines, I do not think you can find any that all those whom we call Protestants accept. They are defined by what they reject.

    jj

  194. Henry,

    “BTW- I’m still trying to figure out exactly what Sacred Tradition is. Do you know of any offical list of all the Sacred Traditions of your church? I want to make sure I understand what this is and where did these various Sacred Traditions came from.”

    David Anders helped answer this question in #103.

    Here are some thoughts on Tradition. It seems like a lot of non-Catholics understand Tradition as being completely separate from the Bible. The reality is that both the Bible and Tradition flow from the Word of God – Jesus. Scripture and tradition are intertwined with each other so deeply that you really cannot separate them. The fact that we believe that the documents that make up the scriptures are inspired is because we received them as inspired from the previous generation of Catholics, who received it from the previous generation, all the way back to the apostles.

    Scripture is confusing at times. Take, for example, John 20:21-23 which states: “[Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” So Jesus gave some group of people the power to forgive sins in his name. As a sinner, I want to know exactly who these people might be. Unfortunately, the Bible alone does not answer the question.

    I am unable to tell based on the Bible alone who specifically Jesus is talking to and what it means for me today. Is Jesus saying that all Christians have the ability to forgive sins? Is he saying that only those who were in this place with him have the ability to forgive sins? Is this ability able to be passed onto other people? Or did this end when these specific Christians died? I cannot know the answer to these questions based on scripture alone, and they do effect my salvation.

    I do know the answer to this question though because I am within the Sacred Tradition of the Church. We have not only received the written word, but a set of practices as well. One of those practices that the Church has received is the sacrament of reconciliation. The Tradition here does not contradict the scriptures. Rather, revelation (Scripture and Tradition) bears witness to the same reality, which is that Jesus Christ himself has shared his authority to forgive sins with priests who can trace their “ordination lineage” all the way back to the apostles.

    I guess in conclusion virtually everything that Catholics do and believe is Sacred Tradition. I can’t give you a list a complete list in the comboxes, but I can point you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is a nice summary of everything we believe.

  195. mateo asks: Henry, if the Catholic church is not the church personally founded by Christ, then why were the “Reformers” trying to reform the Catholic Church? … If the Reformers were trying to reform a man founded corrupt religious institution, then they were fools. If they were trying to reform the church that Christ personally founded, then they were not fools, as long as they kept their membership in the church that Christ founded.

    Henry answers: The Reformers such as Luther did not want to break away from the RCC. They did believe Christ established the church but the church of that day did not reflect Christ.

    Whatever the “Reformers” personally believed, it is a fact that the Reformers did break away from the church personally founded by Christ. The “Reformers” had a choice to stay in communion with the church that Christ founded, or to break communion with Christ’s church, and the “Reformers” made the choice to break away to found their own personal “bible churches”.

    This rebellion by the “Reformers” against the existing authority in the church that Christ founded is a big problem for you, and for all Protestants. As a Catholic I can legitimately claim that scriptures are authoritative for me, because I obey what Christ commands in the scriptures, namely the commandment of Christ that I must listen to the church that Christ personally founded or be excommunicated. You, on the other hand, because you are a Protestant, you cannot claim that scriptures are authoritative for you, since you acknowledge that you do not listen to the church that Christ founded. Instead of listening to the church that Christ founded, you, like every Protestant, listens instead to “churches” that are not founded by Christ.

    Henry, if a man does not listen to the church that Christ founded, is he excommunicated from the church that Christ founded?

  196. John Thayer Jensen writes: The only doctrine that all Protestants have in common is anti-Catholicism …

    I would point out that Satanists and atheists are are also anti-Catholic, so merely confessing anti-catholic beliefs cannot be a doctrine at gives Protestants an identity.

    I will stand by my previous statement, there is not a single doctrine that all Protestants hold in common, since within Protestantism every single doctrine of Christianity is disputed by some sect or another. Of course, my definition of Protestant is pretty loose – my definition is this: if a person claims he is a Protestant, then he is a Protestant. How else can I give a define “Protestant”? I am claiming that set of all people who are Protestants cannot be defined as being the congruent with the set of all people that hold certain doctrines in common, since the set of doctrines that all Protestants hold in common is a null set!

    Obviously, my definition of the set of people who are Protestants is too loose for Henry, and it seems to me that Henry wants to define the set of people that are Protestants to be the set of people that agree with Henry’s personal interpretations of scriptures. For example, Henry has already claimed that Unitarians and Oneness Pentecostals are not Protestants but members of cults. I am still waiting for Henry to answer my question of whether or not Southern Baptists are Protestants or cult members, since Southern Baptists do no agree with Henry’s personal interpretations of the scriptures. The problem for Henry is that Southern Baptists are often described as being the largest Protestant sect in the USA. If Henry doesn’t believe that Southern Baptists are Protestants, then I would like to know who, exactly, qualifies as being a Protestant.

  197. Henry,

    Each man is responsible for what he believes. Not all Catholics believe the same things. Just look at the different opinions and beliefs that they hold to. Some hold closely to what the church teaches and some will disregard it. I know this from personal experience talking to them. I know there are different understandings of Scripture among Protestants. There are various reasons for this. The same holds true for Catholics. Would you agree with this?

    Yes, everyone is responsible for himself. However, not everyone derives (the “what”) their belief by the same method. A Catholic who does not believe what the Church teaches may do so because of ignorance but sadly most of the time it is out of defiance. Nonetheless, even someone like yourself who is not Catholic could point out to them how their beliefs or practices are in direct conflict with the teaching of the Church. And, in that instance, you would be explaining a belief (the Catholic belief and how their belief was different from it) to them that did not derive from the same method as your “personal” beliefs.

    The “rule of faith” in Catholicism is what Scripture describes as the “ground and pillar of truth”. The Church does not make up truth–truth is from God–but she does act as God’s agent on earth authorized to teach His truth. A few comments ago, you asked if Jesus was speaking to a Church or his “followers” (John 20:21, Luke 10:16, etc.). The answer is: both. To reject God’s Apostles, and subsequently the ones they handed their ministry off to (they, following Christ’s pattern) is to reject Christ. That makes the Church the “ground and pillar of truth”. Were those who heard the Apostles preaching not “responsible for their own belief”? Of course. They were responsible to “receive” and “hear” the teachers in Christ’s Church on pain of the judgement of Sodom (Matthew 10:14-15). So, our faith is not our “personal faith” but the “faith of the Church”. It is up to us to make the “faith of the Church” personal; and we do this through prayer, the Sacraments, the liturgical calendar, amongst other things.

    Conversely, the “rule of faith” for the Protestant is private judgement not “the Church”. The “supreme court”, so to speak, the “ground and pillar of truth” is not the Church or even “a church” but their own private conviction. This conviction will be justified by either long theological treatises or by a bosom burning defense (“the Holy Spirit told me”). A manifestation of this reality in America is the inane amount of denominations. This phenomenon only makes sense if I always have the right to dissent from whatever church I attend, and thus rightly start my own church or join another (See: “When Church Shopping Makes Sense” (by me) or “Ecclesial Consumerism” (by Bryan Cross)). This is the explanation of why Protestants disagree.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  198. Henry,

    You said:

    When a Protestant speaks of baptism he is thinking of immersion. That’s what the Bible teaches. The word is never used for sprinkling.

    Are you aware that a considerable percentage of Protestants (mainline and others) sprinkle and do not baptise by immersion?

    Most of us are former Presbytertians at one time or another. Presbyterians sprinkle. Do you not consider them Protestant?

  199. Sean,
    If they are just sprinkinling then how can they be considered a New Testatment baptism which are full immersion?

  200. Fr Bryan,
    I agree that the Bible can be confusing at times. The reason for this at times is that we don’t know enough of the background of the passage to determine its meaning with certainity. This limitation applies not only to Protestants but Roman Catholics. To overcme this obstacle you or church leaders would have to some kind of supernatual insigth into the passage that others don’t. Is this what you are claiming?
    As for the forgiveness of sins, all Christians are commanded to forgive sins against themselves. See for example Matt 5:23-24, 6:14-15. In the Our Father we are commanded to forgive- “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
    Do you think that the only way for a man to be forgiven is that he must confess his sins to a priest to be forgiven?
    Are there any examples in the NT of someone going to a priest to confess his sins and being forgiven by that priest?

  201. Brent,
    If the “rule of faith” for a Protestant is just his own private convictions independent of the Scriptures then that would be a problem. What should I make of myself if I have told you my convictions-beliefs are found in Scripture? For example, I believe that Jesus is God and died for my sins and rose again. Because of this, I believe i have eternal life.
    Should I believe then, that this is just my “private conviction” without any basis in Scripture? Is what I am believing here just made up and not necessarily true?

  202. Mateo,
    Do you know of any Roman Catholic apologist who claims that Mormons or Unitarians are protestants? I would think that if anyone would know it would be a Roman Catholic apologist.
    As for my personal interpetations of Scripture being inaccurate because I’m a Protestant, can you show me the offical interpretaion of the Scriptures by your church? In other words, how do you know if your interpetation-understanding of a verse of Scripture is correct if your church has never offically interpreted that verse?

  203. John,
    What does it mean to be anti-Catholic? Would it be correct to say you are anti-protestant because you don’t agree with Protestants?

  204. Henry (re #199):

    So basically, Protestants are not agreed on the nature of Baptism.

    Now the Westminster Divines and Guido de Bres all considered themselves to be pretty biblical Protestants and they argued for sprinkling (or the non-necessity of immersion) on what they deemed to be biblical grounds. So why should a Protestant believe that you’re right about the Bible teaching full immersion when others are saying otherwise? And what do you think about infant baptism?

  205. Joshua,
    I think protestants are much agreed on the necessity of baptism because Christ commanded it but not on the mode of baptism. When the Scripture speaks of baptism it always means immersion. It never means sprinkling. Since this is true, how can it be considered a New Testament baptism if its just a sprinkling? For those who want to claim that sprinkling water on someone is a valid baptism then they are going to need to show from Scripture that this was a means of baptism. I do not know of one instance where sprinkling was considered a mode of baptism in Scripture.
    There are a number of problems with infant baptism. The major one is that the infant cannot repent nor express faith in Christ. The other problem is that it has resulted in millions of baptized unbelievers who don’t live for Christ but yet claim to be Christians.
    Water baptism should come after a person has professed faith in Christ and understand the implications of this. In the early centuries of the church, people were not baptised immediately but only after they had been catechized and tested for genuine faith.

    What do you think about infant baptism?

  206. Henry (re #205):

    Things are not so simple as finding out what ‘baptizo’ meant literally in Greek. Words often have broad scopes. For a Reformed refutation of immersion based on biblical/semantic/historical grounds see this article:

    http://reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/The%20Mode%20of%20Baptism.htm

    As for infant baptism, I believe that the covenantal structure of the kingdom of God is a strong argument for including infants in the covenant. The kingdom of God grows from the OT to the NT, it doesn’t shrink to exclude children of believers. There’s no place in scripture that states that only adults can be baptized; and household baptisms attest to this.

    Also, I’m surprised you’re alluding to the practice of the early Church since they baptized infants (among other things).

    Protestants are no more united to each other than they are to the Catholic Church if all they need to agree on is the necessity of baptism (without defining what the nature or mode of baptism is). Moreover there are some Protestant groups that don’t believe that water baptism is necessary at all (as long as one is baptized by the Spirit).

    So again, why should any Protestant trust you when there are other Protestant scholars who are saying otherwise? It’s not so simple as saying “baptizo means immersion in Greek” since there are clearly instances where the word is not used to indicate immersion exclusively (cf. the linked article above for examples).

  207. Good morning Henry ( well it’s morning here.)
    Re: your # 189. As I told you previously my Church ( and your Church BTW) does not teach against the Scriptures. To do so would mean that the Church established by Christ would be teaching against her very self. Your understanding of the Church and Scripture may be different than the Churches actual understanding of truth and that’s part of the problem we are discussing is it not? And I disagree with you that the Church did not give birth to the Gospels. The Church existed for the better part of a century before the writings of the NT were even completed and close to 3 centuries before the NT canon was even recognized officially as Sacred Scripture. True, the writings were held in high esteem for most of those years but never declared as Holy Scripture until later.

    What requirements do you feel is against Scripture to become a part of Church leadership? Not sure I follow you on that one. You are correct when you say that Jesus is the Gospel and that members of His Church wrote the writings of the NT which proclaim the Gospel. As I stated in my reply, The Church is most assuredly required for salvation. She is the Living Body of Christ and without being a part of Christ’s body there is NO SALVATION. It is not simply a matter of picking up the NT Scriptures and saying I believe in Jesus that saves you. It is membership in His Body. To become a part of Christ and have Christ become a part of us is salvation. Without Him we can do nothing ( His words not mine). Through baptism we are incorporated into His body, His life, death and resurrection. It is such that St. Paul could say. It is not I but Christ who works in me. ( I have not bothered to quote the Scriptures as to chapter and verse. I think you are quite familiar with them already)

    You are also correct when you state that Jesus could have chosen any other way to bring about salvation, but the point is He didn’t. Also true, we are not indispensable to Him but that He is indispensable for us. Thus without being incorporated in His Church (body) we are dead in our sins. He is and She ( the Church) is the ground and pillar of the truth. If you abandon Her you Abandon Him.

    Mary is the Mother of Christ. As we are all a part of His Body then she is also our spiritual mother. Thus Christ gave His mother over to the Church from Golgotha as He was dying for our sins. You know as well as I do that the OT Arc of the covenant was a Sacred object. So sacred in fact that to touch it even accidentally was to die. The Arc contained various objects but what was most sacred was the very presence of God Himself. Moses was even required to take of His shoes before approaching the burning bush because of the presence of God. Mary was no less sacred than the Arc of the covenant. She is the New Arc. Do you suppose that she was defiled even for an instant before the Almighty took up residence in Her womb? If you believe that’s true then I don’t think your God would be my God. I don’t believe that God can be associated with sin or corruption in anyway, shape or manner.

    Blessings
    NHU

  208. Joshua,
    Can you show me a single case in the NT where baptism means sprinkling? Can you show me one specific example of an infant being baptized? The answer is no to both questions. We see the baptism of infants in the middle-late 2nd-3rd century and fully in the 4th century. This was not a common practice in the late 1st to early 2nd century. What all this shows is that the apostles did not teach it.
    Sprinkling water on the head of someone is not a picture of the death and resurrection of Christ.
    A Protestant should trust me not because i say so, but I have the facts on my side. Look at the facts that are presented then decide.

    What do you do as a Catholic when you have catholic scholars that disagree with you? Why should a catholic trust you if a Catholic scholar shows otherwise?

  209. Henry, (re#202)
    You wrote to Mateo:

    I’m a Protestant, can you show me the offical interpretaion of the Scriptures by your church? In other words, how do you know if your interpetation-understanding of a verse of Scripture is correct if your church has never offically interpreted that verse?

    I did, in #134, regarding the Immaculate Conception. You’re not going to find something flat and two-dimensional like a list of verses followed the their official interpretation – that’s a very Protestant view of Scripture. What you will find is Sacred Scripture and Tradition (see, again #134)joined to together to define a dogma such as the Immaculate Conception.

    I realize you have a lot to handle with all the people you’re interacting with, but you did not respond the challenge I posed at the end of #134, which was to demonstrate specifically which part of the elements that go into the dogma of the I.C. you can refute, and the Bible verses you are using to refute it. Not just “it’s against Scripture” which you’ve stated many times and is only an assertion, but an actual argument from Scripture citing specific verses.

    If you’d like to see a much fuller presentation of the thumbnail that I sketched for you, it’s here

    – Frank

  210. Hi Henry,

    I appreciate your willingness to engage my questions. However, I still don’t believe you have answered me. It may be that I am not sufficiently clear, or that you have not understood me. In any event, you have not answered my question. I will explain:

    You wrote:

    “I have answered this question a number of times. Its based on the fact that the Scriptures alone are the inspired-inerrant Word of God. Jesus Himself commanded His disciple to teach all that He taught them. See Matt 28:20. This is why the Scripture alone is the Rule of Faith.”

    I understand your position – because Scripture alone is the inerrant word of God, Scripture alone can serve as the rule of faith. I get that. But the question I keep repeating is, “How do you know that inerrancy and inspiration are the criterion for identifying the Rule of Faith?” You just keep saying, “It must be so!” And I keep repeating, “How do you know? What divine authority revealed this?” Your answer is, “Well, God didn’t say otherwise.” But even if I grant that (which I don’t), what kind of answer is that? The Catholic position is that God has given us an inspired book (the Bible) but that God does not intend us to use this book as a rule of faith. Instead, it is to be an inspired source for doctrine, prayer, exhortation, liturgy, devotion, etc. But not a rule of faith. Indeed, it is nonsensical to say God intended the Scripture as the rule of faith without also saying that God intended the Church of the 1st 4 centuries to exist without a rule of faith! How do you think doctrinal controversy was solved in the 2nd century? Not by an appeal to the Bible. There was no such book (at least, not as Protestants understand it today.)

    But still, to repeat myself, How do you know that inerrancy and inspiration are the criteria for identifying the rule of faith. And please, don’t just tell me that it has to be so, because only the Scripture is inspired. The whole point at issue is – Catholics believe in a rule of faith that is not an inspired text. We freely admit this. If you want us to believe that the Scripture is the rule of faith, what evidence can you produce that God intends this?

    What is the evidence that God wants us to view the Bible as the Rule of Faith?

    This question, you have not answered. You just keep repeating, “ONly the Bible is inspired, therefore, only the Bible can be the rule of faith.” This is not an answer to my question.

    Looking forward to your answer,

    David.

    And, with regard to your question about the Trinity – Of course I believe it is essential. The Church tells me so. In the absence of the Council of Nicaea, however, I would likely not believe so.

  211. Henry, you wrote:

    David,
    How do Catholics go about determining if their interpretation of a verse or passage of Scripture is correct? I have heard that if their interpretation conflicts with doctrine then they know its wrong.
    How about in those cases where it had nothing directly to do with a doctrine? What does a Catholic do to determine if he has the correct interpretation?
    How does having an authoritative-infallible interpreter of Scripture help the average Catholic to know if he has interpreted a verse or passage correctly?

    -Well, when I read the Bible, I’m going to use grammatico-historical tools, just like Protestant interpeters. I’m going to look at context, authorial intent, intended audience, etc. etc.

    The job of the Magisterium is not to oversee every individual act of Scriptural exegesis. The magisterium usually only gets involved when some heresy (whether or not it is based on Scripture) becomes very prominent in the church and threatens either the unity of the Church, or the integrity of the deposit of faith.

    Keep in mind, however, that Catholics don’t approach the Bible to figure out what the Christian faith is. We receive that from the common witness of the Church through 2 millenia. We approach the Bible for edification and devotion.

    -David

  212. Henry, (re#186)
    Please also respond to the question I asked at the end of #186:

    You seem not to realize that I am asking you a more profound question than the one you are answering. You’re explaining to me what “Trinity” means. I already know what Trinity means. I’m certain you do, too. I am very familiar with St. Athanasius and with the Nicene Creed. I am asking you where the Bible explains the Trinity. Not where the Bible supplies the raw facts (three Persons in the NT, one God in the OT) that can lead to the concept of the Trinity.

    So, again, in which Bible verses is the concept of the Trinity actually explained?

    “There are no such verses” is also an acceptable answer.

    – Frank

  213. Henry,

    Again, I direct you to the link I posted.

    Show me a single instance where infant baptism is prohibited in Scripture. Why didn’t the apostles explicitly say “no infants in the covenant” since the Church (as a fulfillment of the OT covenant) would have expected that children would not be hindered but would be included in the covenant (Jesus himself said as much when he invited the little children to himself). The momentum of the OT covenant implies quite directly the inclusive nature of the covenant. If the New Covenant excluded infants, the apostles should have said so (especially in cases of household baptisms–oikos alluding to the covenant household).

    To argue that the apostles didn’t teach infant baptism simply because there is no explicit documentation in the 1st and 2nd century is a non sequitur argument. How does one explain the prevalence of infant baptism in the 3rd and 4th century?

    You don’t have the facts on your side. You didn’t even deal with any of the Protestant arguments in the link I posted. Which of them are wrong? You are just asserting that you’re right without showing it. And this is not a hard thing to do. You’re arguing against the facts of what ‘baptizo’ actually means. And you’re trying to build a positivist account of credobaptism not on explicit evidence in Scripture, but by pure force of assertion.

    Finally, if there is an issue that Catholic theologians disagree on (and there are areas where disagreement is permitted), then one can turn to the teachings of the Church as seen in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Councils, and Tradition to see how Scripture has been received and interpreted by the Church (not by a single person).

    No matter what your view on baptism, however, one thing this disagreement shows is the lack of unity in Protestantism on a fundamental sacrament of the Church.

  214. Henry,

    To overcme this obstacle you or church leaders would have to some kind of supernatual insigth into the passage that others don’t. Is this what you are claiming?

    No. I meant what I said above. Catholics know how to interpret this verse because they have received it from from the previous generation. The Catholic Church is not merely a communion of disciples in the present day. The communion extends through time. We are in communion with previous generations of Christians, because we have received their practices and their teachings.

    Ironically, it seems to me as if it is the protestant who claims that Christians have supernatural insight into the scripture. I have seen reformed Christians on this very website claim that the way we know the canon of scripture is because God’s sheep knows His voice.

    You have offered an interpretation of John 20:21-23:

    As for the forgiveness of sins, all Christians are commanded to forgive sins against themselves. See for example Matt 5:23-24, 6:14-15. In the Our Father we are commanded to forgive- “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

    Yes, we are commanded to forgive sins but this interpretation does not answer the question of whether or not all Christians have the authority to forgive sins in the name of God. Do you believe that you can forgive sins in God’s name? Most Protestants I speak to say no, you don’t, and in order to prove it they cite the verse that says we should pray by going alone into our inner room to pray in secret.

    Do you think that the only way for a man to be forgiven is that he must confess his sins to a priest to be forgiven?

    No. Baptism remits sins. So does a perfect act of contrition. See paragraph 1452 of the Catechism.

    Are there any examples in the NT of someone going to a priest to confess his sins and being forgiven by that priest?

    No, but that is irrelevant unless you can answer David Anders’ question that he has posed to you again and again. How do we know that the Bible is the rule of Faith? We do, however, see some important verses that teach us that only some people received the authority to forgive sins in Jesus’ name. For example, James 5:14-15 tells us that when people are sick, they are supposed to go to the presbyters. Not just any Christian, but a presbyter, who is to anoint them with oil and forgive sins.

    Blessings.

  215. @Henry:

    If they are just sprinkinling then how can they be considered a New Testatment baptism which are full immersion?

    But – the question we are all asking!! – if they sprinkle, are they ipso facto not Protestants?

    jj

  216. Hi Henry

    Re: # 208 and the different methods of baptising.

    THE DIDACHE
    Estimated Range of Dating: 50-120 A.D.
    Chronological List of Early Christian Writings
    Online Text for Didache
    Roberts-Donaldson English Translation

    Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

    Now I know that the Didache is not Scripture but it is a document that was written during the time of the Apostles and it shows that even at that time how the right of Christian initiation was accomplished. So Christians of the time were not only using immersion to baptise but the pouring on of water as well.

    Blessings
    NHU

  217. John Thayer Jensen writes: When I say “anti-Catholic,” by the way, I don’t mean “aggressively battling against Catholicism,” I just mean “Catholic is not the right thing to be.”

    JJ, somehow I missed reading your posts # 192 and #193 before I made my post #195. It is true that to be a Protestant that one must believe “Catholic is not the right thing to be.” But that also can be said of every religious person that is not a Catholic (Eastern Orthodox, Muslims, etc).

    John Thayer Jensen writes: PS to #192 – my point is that of positive doctrines, I do not think you can find any that all those whom we call Protestants accept. They are defined by what they reject.

    Your point here about positive doctrines is spot on. Is it possible to come up with a set of positive doctrines such that all the men and women that confess this set of doctrines would be congruent with the set of people that call themselves Protestants? There is a qualification about this set of positive doctrines – the doctrines in this set must be believed by ONLY Protestants – the doctrines cannot include doctrines that would be confessed by those who identify themselves as being Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Hindus, Muslims, Copts, or any other religion that is not “Protestant”. I am saying that it is not possible, and Henry is mistaken when he asserts otherwise.

    One problem for Henry is that the original “Reformers” were cafeteria Catholics. Martin Luther and John Calvin did not reject every doctrine taught by the Catholic Church, they only rejected some of the doctrines of the Catholic church. Luther and Calvin held fast to a considerable number of essential Catholic doctrines. So what are the positive doctrines that only Protestants believe, the doctrines that are not believed by Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox etc? Those doctrines would have to be the novelties taught by the Reformers. Henry has a problem here too, because the novelties taught by Luther were not the same as the novelties taught by Calvin. It is in the irreconcilable differences between the novelties taught by Luther and the novelties taught by Calvin that gives Lutherans an identity that is different Calvinists and visa versa.

    Protestantism has been around for about five-hundred years now, and this protesting movement has spawned thousands upon thousands of doctrinally divided Protestant sects. Suppose we collect the novelties taught by all the Protestant sects that are spread across the world, and toss their Protestant novelties into a bucket. We then sift the novelties in the bucket with a sieve, a sieve that allows a novelty to pass through the sieve only if that novelty is accepted by each and every Protestant sect that exists in the world today. If we find even one novelty that passes the sieve test, we can then define Protestants by what they believe. The set of Protestants, is the set of people that confess the doctrinal novelty that passed the sieve test. All the other religions in the world do not confess the Protestant novelty, and that is one of the things that makes them not Protestants.

    JJ, like you, I assert that there is no positive doctrine that can pass the sieve test, and that is why Protestants cannot be defined by what uniquely Protestant doctrines they hold in common. Henry’s contention that real Protestants believe in the doctrine of the Trinity does not pass the sieve test, because Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox confess that doctrine also, and they are not Protestants. If we sieve test all the “essential” doctrines that Henry has listed, we will find none of them pass the sieve test, either because the doctrine being tested is also confessed by Catholics, or the doctrine being tested does not pass the test because at least one Protestant sect rejects that doctrine.

    One can test what I am saying in the real world with a little effort. I have engaged in a several internet discussions with Protestants where we argued over this specific point about the doctrines that are exclusively confessed by all Protestants. I remember one discussion in particular that involved a Unitarian-Universalism pastor, a “progressive” Methodist that believed in “doctrinal pluralism”, a conservative Southern Baptist, a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and several other Protestants of various stripes including Lone Ranger Protestants that didn’t belong to any Protestant sect at all. That particular thread had over a thousand posts before it died, and in the end, it did not produce a single uniquely Protestant doctrine that every Protestant engaged in the discussion was willing to accept. If we continue to argue with Henry about the “essential” doctrines that are unique to Protestantism in the comment boxes, I am quite sure that this thread would go over a thousand posts with no uniquely Protestant doctrine ever being identified. Unless, of course, we let Henry define Protestants as the set of people that agree with his own personal interpretations of the scriptures, which might mean that Protestantism exists as a set with only one member, or, at best, the true Protestants the set of people that belong to the Protestant sect that Henry belongs to.

    Henry, please identify what Protestant sect you belong to. That would greatly help me understand where you are coming from.

  218. @Henry:

    What does it mean to be anti-Catholic?

    I mean the position that not being a Catholic is at the heart of a Protestant’s Christianity.

    Would it be correct to say you are anti-protestant because you don’t agree with Protestants?

    Not in the same sense. The Protestant is self-defined by what he rejects; the Catholic by what he accepts. All the things that I positively believed as a Protestant – through all three ‘phases’ of my Protestantism (Lutheran, Baptist, Reformed) I still believe now – it was the things that I rejected as a Protestant that I now embrace.

    That is what I meant by the ‘anti-‘ in ‘anti-Catholic.’ Certainly there are things that I believed as a Protestant that I no longer believe – they were all the negations. I believed, at one point, that the Pope of Rome was the anti-Christ. I believed that prayers for the dead were wrong. All these were rejections – rejections of practices of most Christians through most of time.

    I am ‘anti-Protestant’ only in rejecting the rejections of most Protestants.

    jj

  219. @Henry:

    I think protestants are much agreed on the necessity of baptism because Christ commanded it but not on the mode of baptism. When the Scripture speaks of baptism it always means immersion. It never means sprinkling. Since this is true, how can it be considered a New Testament baptism if its just a sprinkling? For those who want to claim that sprinkling water on someone is a valid baptism then they are going to need to show from Scripture that this was a means of baptism. I do not know of one instance where sprinkling was considered a mode of baptism in Scripture.
    There are a number of problems with infant baptism. The major one is that the infant cannot repent nor express faith in Christ. The other problem is that it has resulted in millions of baptized unbelievers who don’t live for Christ but yet claim to be Christians.
    Water baptism should come after a person has professed faith in Christ and understand the implications of this. In the early centuries of the church, people were not baptised immediately but only after they had been catechized and tested for genuine faith.

    So Protestants disagree about the mode of baptism; about the age of baptism; and, as I have pointed out, and much more fundamentally, about whether it actually is God’s instrument for regeneration or not. I repeat that my Salvation Army friends consider themselves Protestants – and disagree on your “necessity of baptism.”

    So we can say, I think, that at least baptism is not something that unites Protestants.

    What do you think about infant baptism?

    Again, since you know I am a Catholic, you know the answer to this. I think with the Church.

    jj

  220. @Joshua L:

    Things are not so simple as finding out what ‘baptizo’ meant literally in Greek. Words often have broad scopes.

    Actually, ‘baptizo’ means ‘baptise.’ ‘bapto’ means ‘to dip’ and ‘baptizo’ is clearly derived from it, etymologically. The meaning of a word in any language is not necessarily related to its etymology, but to its usage. The word ‘baptizo’ itself exists precisely to refer to the practice itself as a ritualised practice. If the user just means ‘to dip,’ he would use the ordinary word ‘bapto.’

    And of course that ritual itself, as possibly applying to infants, is at best ambiguous in the New Testament – it applies to ‘households’ – and it is identified with circumcision (Colossians 2:11-13).

    But, as I said to Henry above, I think with the Church.

    jj

    jj

  221. John,
    Protestants are untied on all kinds of doctrines. They all believe in that list i gave above. They all practice baptism and know what it means.
    Do you know where I can find the offical position of the Salvation Army on baptism? I looked for it but could not find anything on it.

  222. Fr Bryan,
    David failed in establishing that the Roman Catholic church is thee Rule of Faith. He failed to deal with:
    1) Jesus never promised the church could not teach error let alone the Roman Catholic church which did not exist at the time. There is not one verse in the gospels that make this claim.
    2) Jesus and His apostles warned that there would be false teachers that would come into the church itself and decieve many. If the church could not err then this warning would be unnecessary.
    3) We have examples of the embracing of false teachings in the church in Revelation. Jesus Himself rebukes these churches for holding to false doctrines. This shows rather quickly that the church can fall into error.

    Thank you for acknowledging that there is not one case of a man confessing his sins to a priest in Scripture. Most Catholics i talk to are skeptical when I tell them this.

    I’d like to focus on this particular comment i made and your response- I wrote-“Do you think that the only way for a man to be forgiven is that he must confess his sins to a priest to be forgiven?”
    You wrote-“No. Baptism remits sins. So does a perfect act of contrition. See paragraph 1452 of the Catechism.”

    My question is this: how does baptism remit sin? Where is this taught in Scripture?

    How does a Catholic know when he has made a perfect act of contrition when no man can know himself exhaustively or perfectly? Again, I have to ask where the apostles taught this?

    Thanks

  223. Henry asked:

    My question is this: how does Baptism remit sin? Where is this taught in Scripture?

    Acts 2:38: Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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

    It is in the reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit – what Catholics call Sanctifying Grace – that Baptism remits sin. It is an act of God through the Sacrament He ordained when Jesus Himself partook of it in the Jordan. He did not accept Baptism because He needed to remit sin, but to sanctify the act such that it would be efficacious for us.

    Still waiting for answers to my questions about the Trinity and Immaculate Conception.

    – Frank

  224. Joshua,
    There are all kinds of things in Scripture that it does not directly prohibit. Does that mean those things not specifically prohibited are persmissible? Of course not. You write-“To argue that the apostles didn’t teach infant baptism simply because there is no explicit documentation in the 1st and 2nd century is a non sequitur argument. How does one explain the prevalence of infant baptism in the 3rd and 4th century?”
    My argument is not a non sequitur. Rather there is no evidence that the apostles taught it or practiced it. For those that claim they did have the burden of proof to show that they did. So far that burden has not been supported well.
    There are a number of reasons why infant baptism came about in the early centuries of the church. The fundamental issue is what happens to infants when they die? Must they be baptized as adults are? Jesus is silent about it as are the apostles. I can see how people would be concerned about this and why they would want their infants baptized lest they go to hell. Would you agree?

  225. @Henry:

    Protestants are united on all kinds of doctrines. They all believe in that list i gave above. They all practice baptism and know what it means.

    Focussing just on baptism, all Protestants think they know what baptism means, yes – and they think different and incompatible things. The Lutherans, for instance, think it means you have actually been born again when you are baptised; the Reformed definitely deny that it makes you born again.

    We are going in circles here. The differences amongst Protestants on the meaning of baptism are very great and the only way you can call it something in common is by saying they all believe in something denoted by the word ‘baptism.’

    Likewise, I must say, for your other points – which is, after all, obvious, since it is precisely on those points that denominations differ (and do not intercommune).

    Do you know where I can find the offical position of the Salvation Army on baptism? I looked for it but could not find anything on it.

    Salvation Army on the Sacraments

    Note, regarding baptism:

    …as is the water baptism practised by some other Christians.

    And, regarding Holy Communion:

    No particular outward observance is necessary to inward grace.

    I personally think the sub-thread of whether there are any positive doctrines that unite Protestants has been beat to death. There are not. That you, Henry, believe certain doctrines to be taught by Scripture is fine – it is a waste of bandwidth to assert repeatedly that all others who call themselves Protestants agree with you. They do not. It is, on the other hand, a perversion of language to say that those who do not agree with you – e.g. over the necessity of total immersion for baptism – are not Protestants. Protestants are those whom most people would call Protestants. That is how language works. The meaning of a word is the meaning a speech community intends by it. I can no longer (sadly) use ‘gay’ to mean ‘having a cheery and light-hearted manner.’ A genuine loss by this politically-motivated exercise, but a loss nonetheless. Protestants are those persons that the English-speaking community means by them. They do not agree on any of your list except (for most of them!) anti-papalism.

    jj

  226. Henry,

    “David failed in establishing that the Roman Catholic church is thee Rule of Faith.”

    I don’t see that he ever attempted to establish this. Lets say that he did attempt and failed. Where would that leave us? It would leave us without a Rule of Faith, since you have not made a case that the Bible is the rule of Faith. David has not attempted to establish that the Church is the Rule of Faith because until you either present an argument that scripture is the rule of faith or accept that it is not the rule of faith, this discussion won’t get anywhere.

    There is not one verse in the gospels that make this claim [that the Church is the rule of faith].

    And to this point you have not cited a single verse that claims that the Bible is the rule of faith.

    Jesus and His apostles warned that there would be false teachers that would come into the church itself and decieve many. If the church could not err then this warning would be unnecessary.

    Or, it could mean that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Zwingli were all false teachers and that Jesus was warning against their teaching.

    I’d like to focus on this particular comment i made and your response…

    Unfortunately, I do not want to focus on that. I want to regain focus on the topic of hand, which is whether or not the Bible is the rule of faith. You have not yet demonstrated this, and I don’t want to spill anymore cyber-ink talking about peripheral issues. Sorry.

  227. Frank,
    You write-“So, again, in which Bible verses is the concept of the Trinity actually explained?” You want a simple answer to a complex question. That is not possible. We know the Scripture affirms that God is a Trinity and the word Trinity is a theological concept that is borne out by Scripture.
    I don’t expect you to like this answer but I can think of nothing better. Telling me your church tells you so only gives us another reason for it. I suspect if you were to look at the reasons your church gives you for the Trinity it would match the Scriptures I gave you.

  228. 1) Jesus never promised the church could not teach error. . . .

    John 16:13, Matt. 16:18, 1 Timothy 3:15.

    Furthermore, I dispute the assumption that this doctrine must be established by express words of Scripture. This assumes Sola Scriptura, which I reject, and which Jesus never taught, and which you have not established.

    2) Jesus and His apostles warned that there would be false teachers that would come into the church itself and decieve many. If the church could not err then this warning would be unnecessary.

    Not true – Catholics are perfectly capable of believing erroneous things, in spite of the Magisterium of the Church. The history of the Nicene council is an ideal example, as well as the history of some Catholics in Congress that I could name.

    3) We have examples of the embracing of false teachings in the church in Revelation. Jesus Himself rebukes these churches for holding to false doctrines. This shows rather quickly that the church can fall into error.

    –Agreed – this shows that particular churches and particular Christians can and do fall into error frequently.

    -David

  229. Henry asks:
    Mateo, Do you know of any Roman Catholic apologist who claims that Mormons or Unitarians are protestants? I would think that if anyone would know it would be a Roman Catholic apologist.

    I can’t speak for every would-be Catholic apologist, I can only speak for myself. If a Mormon or a Unitarian told me that considered themselves to be Protestants, I would accept what they say. Who am I to tell them otherwise? Most Unitarians that I know consider themselves to be Protestants, and some of the Mormons that I know would claim that they are Protestants that believe in Christ.

    A Catholic apologist should teach what the Catholic Church officially teaches, and as far as I know, the Catholic Church has never tried to define what it means to be a “true” Protestant. The Catholic Church only defines the doctrines that Catholics must accept to be practicing Catholics, and she lets other religions define for themselves their own doctrines. Protestants are free to define for themselves whatever novelties they want to believe in, but there will never be doctrinal unity between Catholics and Protestants as long as Protestants believe in the primacy of the individual conscience.

    Henry, I challenge you to give me one doctrine that every “true” Protestant must believe, a uniquely Protestant doctrine that is NOT confessed by any other religion.

    Henry writes: As for my personal interpretations of Scripture being inaccurate because I’m a Protestant …

    I have never claimed that your personal interpretations of scriptures are necessarily wrong, just because you are a Protestant. I don’t even know what Protestant sect that you belong to. For all I know, most of your personal interpretations are the same thing that I believe as a Catholic.

    Henry writes: … can you show me the official interpretation of the Scriptures by your church?

    A Catholic is free to believe that every official doctrine of the Catholic Church is an interpretation of scriptures. The current Pope said just that in something that I read not too long ago (but I can’t remember off the top of my head where the pope said that). Personally, I believe that the scriptures are materially sufficient to uphold all Catholic dogma, and as far as I know, the Catholic Church has never taught that I should not believe that this is true.

    Henry, as a Catholic, I believe that all doctrine of the Catholic Church is an interpretation of scriptures, and I can easily point you to a book that is a collection of the sources of Catholic doctrine – the Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitionum (Handbook of Creeds and Definitions). This book is often referred to as “Denzinger, ” and this book is quoted often in the offical Catechism of the Catholic Church. When a footnote in the CCC quotes DS, it is quoting this book.

    Henry asks: In other words, how do you know if your interpretation-understanding of a verse of Scripture is correct if your church has never officially interpreted that verse?

    The Catholic Church never interprets individual verses wrenched out of their context. Most educated Protestants would not subscribe to a hermeneutic that interprets a single scripture verse wrenched out of context either. A single verse of scriptures must be understood within a context that includes every verse of scripture. The following is some of what the Catholic Church teaches about sacred scripture and its proper interpretation:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    II. INSPIRATION AND TRUTH OF SACRED SCRIPTURE

    105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

    107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”

    III. THE HOLY SPIRIT, INTERPRETER OF SCRIPTURE

    109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.

    110 In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.”

    111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. “Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written.”

    Henry, is there anything that you disagree with in what I quoted from the CCC?

  230. Henry,

    There are all kinds of things in Scripture that it does not directly prohibit. Does that mean those things not specifically prohibited are persmissible? Of course not.

    Just so you know, there is a relatively well known pastor in my area named Mark Driscoll who would disagree with you here. He is the “theology pastor” of a dozen or so “churches.” He uses the fact that the Bible doesn’t condemn anal sex within marriage [to argue]that it is permissible. See for yourself here: http://marshill.com/2008/11/30/question-21-can-i-perform-anal-sex-on-my-wife/

    So Mark Driscoll and those who submit to his teaching do in fact believe that unless the Bible explicitly and directly prohibits a given action that it is permissible. I listen to a lot of his sermons and he uses the Bible this way constantly. Is he not a true protestant? How about the members of his congregations?

  231. Henry, (re#227):
    You wrote:

    You write-”So, again, in which Bible verses is the concept of the Trinity actually explained?” You want a simple answer to a complex question.

    You have just proven that the Trinity cannot be explained by direct citation from Scripture because the question itself is too complex. I could not agree more!

    Why then do you insist that we Catholics provide you with simple Scriptural citations to “prove” the different doctrinal questions you are raising? For example, just because the Immaculate Conception cannot be found in a direct Scriptural quotation does not prove it is against Scripture any more than the Trinity is. The Trinity is an understanding that develops out of Scripture through time, but which is not located directly in Scripture itself. This understanding is an example of what Catholics refer to as “Sacred Tradition.” So much for Sola Scriptura.

    Where does that leave you (and me) then? Where do we turn for the absolute truth about complex doctrinal questions – truths we can stake our eternal salvation on (Jn 8:32)? This is not a rhetorical question, Henry. I would really like to know where you think we can turn to find these absolute truths that affect our very salvation? Please do not answer “Scripture” if by that you mean “Scripture alone.” It has already been demonstrated that that approach is not sufficient.

    – Frank

  232. JJ writes: I personally think the sub-thread of whether there are any positive doctrines that unite Protestants has been beat to death. There are not. That you, Henry, believe certain doctrines to be taught by Scripture is fine – it is a waste of bandwidth to assert repeatedly that all others who call themselves Protestants agree with you. They do not. … Protestants are those whom most people would call Protestants. That is how language works. The meaning of a word is the meaning a speech community intends by it.

    JJ, I agree with you that “Protestant” can only be defined by mere convention. If a person calls himself a Protestant, we should accept that, because we can’t never identify Protestants by what they, and they alone, believe. But I think that Henry believes that what is good for the goose, is good for the gander, that is, if a person calls himself a Catholic, then he is a Catholic.

    Henry, to clarify my point, to be a practicing Catholic, one must believe what the Catholic church officially teaches. If a Catholic knowingly dissents from even one formally defined doctrine of the Catholic Church, that person has incurred the penalty of automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church. These knowing dissenters cease to be Catholics by their act of dissenting, just as Martin Luther and John Calvin ceased to be members of Christ’s church when they dissented with the official doctrine of Christ’s church. And thus we come once more to what Christ taught in the scriptures, that those who would be disciples of Christ must listen to what his church teaches, and if they refuse to listen to his church, they will be excommunicated from his church (Matthew 18:17).

    No Protestant listens to the church that Christ founded.

  233. Henry,

    You still haven’t answered the main point: Protestants have no unity with regard to Baptism (or the Lord’s Supper, for that matter).

    The very fact that there are Protestants who genuinely believe in sola scriptura and disagree with you proves precisely the point that Scripture is not as perspicuous as you make it to be. I’m not convinced by your arguments, and I know Reformed seminary professors who would regard your mode of interpretation as more modern than Christian.

    And yet you continue to claim that you alone have the true biblical interpretation.

    Reminds me of a quote from Newman:

    Far be it from us to say that we are certainly right; we only say that the whole early Church was certainly wrong.We do not impose our belief on any one; we only say that those who take the contrary side are Papists, firebrands, persecutors, madmen, zealots, bigots, and an insult to the nineteenth century.

  234. @Mateo:

    JJ, I agree with you that “Protestant” can only be defined by mere convention. If a person calls himself a Protestant, we should accept that, because we can’t never identify Protestants by what they, and they alone, believe. But I think that Henry believes that what is good for the goose, is good for the gander, that is, if a person calls himself a Catholic, then he is a Catholic.

    Yes, a common view on the part of non-Catholics: “You say Catholics believe X, but I know plenty of Catholics who don’t believe X.”

    The point, of course, as you clearly indicate, that it is possible for any person – whether a Catholic or not, whether a Christian or not, to know whether any particular self-denominated Catholic is in agreement with the Church or not. And of course my – and your – point is that this is not possible for the general term ‘Protestant.’

    It is possible for members of any particular Protestant denomination. Tell me that you are a member of one of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand and I will at least know what you believe about the Trinity, about baptism, about the Lord’s Supper, about church government. Tell me that you are a Protestant and I will know very little – even about the Trinity, since there are many who both call themselves Protestants and are so-called by most others who are not even Trinitarian in any useful sense.

    jj

  235. Gents,

    I remember when I realized that “Protestant” just served as a place-holder for dissenting Catholic. That was an eye-opener. Of course, a Protestant today does not see themselves that way, but the original “Protest-ants” did. That is why I’m “Almost Not Catholic”, because being a Protestant is being “almost Catholic”. Of course, as we all know, being “almost” anything is no good. It is just a euphemism for “not”. As my 5 year old daughter laments, “It is so sad so many do not believe everything about Jesus”. She is equally flabbergasted that churches claim as their title, “First Church of God” or “The Church of Christ” (etc.). We don’t go around the house talking this way, but I’ve realized that when you are Catholic from day one (like my daughter and not-me), you develop fully Catholic sentiments. I’m happy for my kids. I did not realize that growing up as an “Almost Catholic” (i.e. Protestant), I developed an immunity to the meaning of words. I never thought twice about the fact that all kinds of denominations were claiming all kinds of titles for themselves that could in no way all be true. I guess it also holds true that a certain kind of immunity to the magnanimous differences between Protestant theologies can grow in you when you are told “this is the way it is–this is the way God intended it”. Lucky for me, I got to teach Bible to high schoolers from 6 or 7 different denominations in one room. It smacked me out of my slumber.

    God bless all!

  236. Frank,
    Since you will not accept my answer to your question -“Where do we turn for the absolute truth about complex doctrinal questions – truths we can stake our eternal salvation on (Jn 8:32)? This is not a rhetorical question, Henry. I would really like to know where you think we can turn to find these absolute truths that affect our very salvation?”
    How do you think a Jew would have answered this kind of question 75 years before Jesus was born?

  237. Hi Henry,
    Re: #236
    I don’t know what Frank will answer to this question but I would say that a Jew 75 yrs before Jesus was born would have spoken to his Rabbi about the complexity of his salvation or his priest. Who would have probably looked it up in the scrolls of the Word of God at the time and then applied his answers to their living traditions. Most Jews of that century would not have had the bible in their back pocket or probably wouldn’t be able to read it anyway so they had to rely on their priests and rabbis to teach them. Much the same as the Church of the middle ages.

    Blessings
    NHU

  238. Henry (re#236),

    First of all, I did accept your answer about the Trinity, which was, to summarize, that Trinity “is a theological concept borne out by Scripture.” Not actually literally stated as such in Scripture, but “borne out by Scripture” – which is something a little different. In words, the raw facts necessary to conceive of the idea of “Trinity” are to be found in the Bible, but it took something (someone) else to actually formulate it into a doctrine. There are no doctrines in Scripture, only the raw material from which to formulate doctrines – and it is very important to understand there is a difference between a doctrine and the scriptural evidence that doctrine is based on.

    So in light of that, please try now to answer the question from me that you quote in #236. Please re-read the original question from my #231 as I put it to you before answering.

    As far as the Jew 75 years before the birth of Christ, if he was a fully orthodox Jew (not one of the syncretistic Jews who mixed Judaism with pagan beliefs), he would turn to the teachings of the Rabbis – the Jews’ version of “Sacred Tradition.”

    – Frank

  239. David,
    I can see you and the others don’t believe that the Scriptures alone can be a rule of faith. I did some research on this concept and came across this statement:
    “The word rule (Latin regula, Gr. kanon) means a standard by which something can be tested, and the rule of faith means something extrinsic to our faith, and serving as its norm or measure. Since faith is Divine and infallible, the rule of faith must be also Divine and infallible; and since faith is supernatural assent to Divine truths upon Divine authority, the ultimate or remote rule of faith must be the truthfulness of God in revealing Himself. But since Divine revelation is contained in the written books and unwritten traditions (Vatican Council, I, ii), the Bible and Divine tradition must be the rule of our faith; since, however, these are only silent witnesses and cannot interpret themselves, they are commonly termed “proximate but inanimate rules of faith”. Unless, then, the Bible and tradition are to be profitless, we must look for some proximate rule which shall be animate or living.” The Rule of Faith-CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA

    Is this what Roman Catholics believe by the Rule of Faith?

  240. Fr Bryan,
    What does the Bible say about sexual practices among married hetersexual couples? Don’t Catholics believe that unless the Bible or the Catholic church explicitly and directly prohibits a given action that it is permissible?
    Its my understanding that most Catholics ignore church teaching on birth control. Do you think this is true and if so what does it mean?

  241. Frank,
    Comparing the support for the Trinity with Immaculate Conception of Mary is absurd. There is not one verse in Scripture of how Mary was concieved.
    As for your question: “Where do we turn for the absolute truth about complex doctrinal questions – truths we can stake our eternal salvation on (Jn 8:32)? ” The only place to turn to is the Scripture is because it found only in the revelation of God in Christ which is found in Scripture alone. Without the Scripture, men could never know the answer to these questions.

    BTW- what is your understanding of what Sola Scriptura? What does it mean?

  242. Henry,

    The phrase “rule of faith” has been used variously throughout Christian History.
    When I asked you about the Rule of Faith, I intended it in the sense employed by the Westminster Confession: a final judge, or arbiter, of doctrinal disputes.

    I don’t want to get drawn off into a linguistic or etymological discussion. Use whatever phrase you like, but “Rule of Faith” is helpful shorthand for this concept, and, as I mentioned, has a history within Protestant Confessions.

    Protestants hold that the Rule of faith (in this sense) is the Bible, interpreting itself.
    They also hold that this doctrine (sola scriptura) itself is part of the deposit of faith. Their confessions teach it explicitly as something to be believed with divine faith.

    Catholics rightly point out that revelation knows no such doctrine. There is no evidence that God intends the Scriptures to serve this purpose. At best, Protestants can show that Scripture is inspired, authoritative, and “useful,” none of which Catholics deny and which is therefore not in question.

    The question I have been asking from the beginning is “what evidence can you produce that God intends Scripture to serve as a Rule of faith.”

    Merely asserting, “Scripture alone is inspired,” is to beg the question, not to answer it.

    At one point, you tacitly admitted that no source of revelation identifies Scripture as the Rule of Faith. If you still admit this, I would point out that, by Protestant logic, sola scriptura cannot be a doctrine of the faith, because all doctrines of the faith must be established by divine revelation.

    So, to restate the question in another way: If you believe Sola Scriptura is a doctrine of the faith, then can you show where it is taught in divine revelation? Or, do you deny that it is a doctrine of the faith? Or, do you deny that all doctrines need to be established by divine revelation?

    Still Waiting . . . ,
    David

  243. Joshua,
    Since you think i don’t have the correct interpetation of Scripture, how do you know when you have the correct interpretation of a passage of Scripture? Who or what tells you when you have the correct interpretation?

  244. David,
    What does Sola Scriptura mean? What do Protestants mean by this term?

  245. David,
    When are you going to show me that the leaders of the Roman Catholic church are the rule of faith that God intended? The Scriptures you have used to support this claim have been taken out of context or have nothing to do with your claim. You can’t even depend on papal succession. Consider this quote:
    “The Pope and the Council (Boston: Roberts, 1869), 74, asserted:
    Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages in the Gospels (Matt 16:18, John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peters successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these texts, yet not one of them whose commentaries we possess Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenashas dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter! Not one of them has explained the rock or foundation on which Christ would build His Church of the office given to Peter to be transmitted to his successors, but they understood by it either Christ Himself, or Peters confession of faith in Christ; often both together. Or else they thought Peter was the foundation equally with all the other Apostles, the twelve being together the foundation-stones of the church. The Fathers could the less recognize in the power of the keys, and the power of binding and loosing, any special prerogative or lordship of the Roman bishop, inasmuch as what is obvious to any one at first sight they did not regard the power first given to Peter, and afterwards conferred on all the Apostles, as any thing peculiar to him, or hereditary in the line of Roman bishops, and they held the symbol of the keys as meaning just the same as the figurative expression of binding and loosing.”

  246. What does Sola Scriptura mean?

    Westminster Confession:
    “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”

    “When are you going to show me that the leaders of the Roman Catholic church are the rule of faith that God intended?”

    Should I take this response as tacit admission that you do not have an answer to my question?
    I’m happy to go into this, but every time I raise the question of Scripture, you respond with, “Oh yea, well you can’t prove your claims about the Church?” This seems like an evasion to me, and I want to settle one question at a time. In the meanwhile, why don’t you read http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/
    And start a new thread there attacking the arguments put forth. Here, however, I would really like to get your answer to my very simple question, without evasion, subterfuge, question begging, mere assertion, or tautology. Can you, or can you not, provide evidence that God intends the Scriptures to be the rule of faith?

    -David

  247. David,
    You charge me that “Merely asserting, “Scripture alone is inspired,” is to beg the question, not to answer it.”
    I am not asserting that the Scriptures are inspired but that they are inspired-inerrant because God is the source of them. That is not begging the question.

  248. Henry (re: #243):

    Since you think i don’t have the correct interpetation of Scripture, how do you know when you have the correct interpretation of a passage of Scripture? Who or what tells you when you have the correct interpretation?

    That’s precisely the point, though. With the rest of the Christians throughout history I confess, “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” I can actually make that appeal without contradicting myself. But how do you know that you have the correct interpretation? You have no choice but to argue that your interpretation is correct because it’s apparent to you (though it may not be as apparent to others, as evinced in the case of baptism above).

    It appears that your strategy thus far has been to simply attack the Catholic Church when you, as a Protestant, don’t have an answer to a question. So far you haven’t shown how there is anything remotely near a consensus on the issues of the Sacraments within Protestantism (in fact, you’ve proved the point that you hold to a particular view of Baptism that no confessional Reformed/Presbyterian communion held to), neither have you shown why anyone should take your word that Protestantism is true or that sola Scriptura is biblical. As a Protestant, you have no authority; only the Bible does. So if I don’t see the Bible teaching what you say it does, I have no reason to listen to you. Nevermind the complicated issues of history or hermeneutics (you seem to not care for these when it comes to the issue of the term ‘baptizo’), it’s all about what I, the Protestant individual, believe the Bible is teaching. So, again, why should any Protestant listen to what you believe the Bible teaches? And how are you not simply acting as your own pope?

  249. David,
    I’m not just going to defend my view and not ask the same for you. You have repeatedly stated that the Scriptures cannot be the Rule of Faith and i have tried to show that they are. All you have done is to assert that the Scriptures cannot be the rule of faith. You have not shown one passage of Scripture that shows the Scriptures are not to be the rule of faith.
    You have tried to show your church is the rule of faith and have failed to do so. Do you claim your church leaders are inspired and inerrant? No. Are they capable of error? Yes. Did Jesus promise to protect the church from error? No. Do we have cases where your church erred? Yes.
    Its best to look at both claims and go from there. That is the only way this discussion can be profitable.

  250. Joshua,
    I don’t understand your answer of how you know if you have the correct interpretation of a passage of Scripture. How does your answer “That’s precisely the point, though. With the rest of the Christians throughout history I confess, “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” I can actually make that appeal without contradicting myself.” answer specific issues in understanding a specific text of Scripture? For example, what is the correct interpretation of Col 2:13-14 for example and how do you know its correct?

  251. @Henry:

    You charge me that “Merely asserting, “Scripture alone is inspired,” is to beg the question, not to answer it.”
    I am not asserting that the Scriptures are inspired but that they are inspired-inerrant because God is the source of them. That is not begging the question.

    Henry – ‘begging the question’ means ‘assuming the truth of what you are supposed to be trying to prove.’ What you are supposed to be proving is that, given that the Scriptures are inspired-inerrant because God is the source of them – given that, for the sake of argument – that somehow that proves they are the Rule of Faith. But the very question is to prove that their status means they are the Rule of Faith.

    It is a syllogism you are proposing:

    Major premiss: If the Scriptures are inspired-inerrant, then they are the Rule of Faith.

    Minor premiss: The Scriptures are inspired-inerrant.

    Conclusion: The Scriptures are the Rule of Faith

    But your Major premiss has to be proved. It is not self-evident that the character of the Scriptures means they must be the Rule of Faith. God could have provided inspired-inerrant Scriptures, and intended that the Rule of Faith – the method by which a man knows what to believe and what not – is by asking an infallible teacher.

    This is what David means by saying that you are begging the question.

    jj

  252. Henry (re #250):

    I understand Scripture through the teaching of the Catholic Church. From one perspective, this is not very different from how Reformed people approach Scripture when they do so through their confession of faith.

    So, for instance, if I interpret Col 2:13-14 as teaching imputation of Christ’s active obedience so that I, as a believer, do not have to cooperate with grace but need only have faith to be saved, this would contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church as received from the Apostles. On the other hand, if I understand the passage as teaching the forgiveness gained through the cross of Christ, applied through the sacrament of Baptism, then I stand within the bounds of Tradition. This is a very broad and general way to approach that particular passage, but I think you get the point.

    Now that I’ve answered your question, I will copy and paste the questions that I posed above. I’d like to hear your response (here I go block-quoting myself…):

    So far you haven’t shown how there is anything remotely near a consensus on the issues of the Sacraments within Protestantism (in fact, you’ve proved the point that you hold to a particular view of Baptism that no confessional Reformed/Presbyterian communion held to), neither have you shown why anyone should take your word that Protestantism is true or that sola Scriptura is biblical. As a Protestant, you have no authority; only the Bible does. So if I don’t see the Bible teaching what you say it does, I have no reason to listen to you. Nevermind the complicated issues of history or hermeneutics (you seem to not care for these when it comes to the issue of the term ‘baptizo’), it’s all about what I, the Protestant individual, believe the Bible is teaching. So, again, why should any Protestant listen to what you believe the Bible teaches? And how are you not simply acting as your own pope?

    Best,

    Joshua

  253. Henry wrote:

    “You have repeatedly stated that the Scriptures cannot be the Rule of Faith and i have tried to show that they are. ”

    No, you have just asserted that they must be, because they are inspired.

    And you misunderstand my charge of begging the question. It is not question begging to assert that Scripture is inspired. It is question begging to assert that inspiration is the criterion for recognizing the rule of faith.

    And, Henry, you did it again. Instead of answering me, you just said, “You first.” Look, we’re not getting anywhere here. Before we can argue with one another, we at least need to know what we’re asserting.

    Before you go attacking my arguments, or I go attacking yours, can we at least agree on what they arguments are? I don’t think we’ve even gotten that far. Let me propose the following. Just tell me if you agree with the way I have framed the issue. Then, we can dig in. Fair?

    Henry’s position:
    1) Scripture is inspired and inerrant.
    2) The Catholic Church is not inspired and inerrant.
    3) Therefore, Scripture not Catholic Church is rule of faith.

    Is this a fair statement of your position?

    My position:

    1) Christ established Catholic Church as rule of Faith.
    2) Therefore, Catholic Church is rule of faith.

    I already know that you dispute my premise 1 above. So, hold off on attacking for just a moment, and just tell me if you think I have framed the issues fairly. If not, please offer a different framing. Once we establish what we’re actually arguing about, then we can get on with it. Agreed?

    -David

  254. David,
    How is it question begging that inspiration can be or should be a critieria for the rule of faith? Who is to say this is not an adequate basis for understanding and establishing the Scripture as the rule of faith?

    I would agree that you have the premises correct.

    Proceed…

  255. Joshua,
    People should believe what I believe only if it can be grounded in Scripture. For instance, should anyone believe that Jesus died for our sins and is the only way to God because I say so? Of course not. What they should do is to see what the Scripture says about these things. Some issues are not so easily answered. Baptism is taught in Scripture and is something all Christians should do. However, it may not be that simple. Some believe baptism must be done to infants to wash them from original sin. Some will say that it is not necessay for infants to be baptized. Your church will say that it is necessary. If I ask for clear biblical examples, we find none. Or I can ask did Jesus or His apostles teach it? Again, they don’t. So what do people do?
    Don’t think that just because you have a pope that you do not have the reponsiblity to interpret the Scripture correctly. In fact, I don’t where any Catholic today would appeal to a pope for the correct interpretation. Do you?

    In your interpretation of Col 2:13-14 what is the Tradition for your answer and where can I find it that source that interprets Col 2:13-14 in the manner you have?
    This is important if you don’t want to be guilty of private interpretation as Protestants are.

  256. Timothy 3:12-17
    Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

    And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

  257. Henry (re#255)

    Do you affirm the Nicene Creed?

    Frank

  258. Henry,

    “People should believe what I believe only if it can be grounded in Scripture.”

    Should people believe that Scripture is the rule of faith because it can be grounded in Scripture? If the belief that Scripture is the rule of faith should it not be grounded in scripture should we not believe that Scripture is the rule of faith? Furthermore, if the documents that make up the scripture cannot be determined from Scripture should we not believe that they are Scripture?

  259. Henry (re #255):

    People should believe what I believe only if it can be grounded in Scripture.

    That’s the problem, though, isn’t it? People don’t believe that certain things are as grounded in Scripture as others. I think infant baptism is quite evident in the covenantal nature of Scripture though it may not be explicit (just as the Trinity is nowhere explicit–one must bring together various strands of Scripture as well as give heed to the Liturgy of the Church; e.g., worshiping Christ, etc.).

    For instance, should anyone believe that Jesus died for our sins and is the only way to God because I say so? Of course not. What they should do is to see what the Scripture says about these things.

    And this is precisely where the problem comes in. Some Protestants see justification by faith and works (Finney); others teach salvation through baptism of the Spirit (Pentecostals); others teach baptismal regeneration (Lutherans); still others believe that the Lord Supper is purely symbolic (Zwingli); there’s Jonathan Edwards emphasis on regeneration and affections versus the more old school presbyterian emphasis on catechism in someone like Nevin; you’ve also got the issue of dispensationalism, the nature of Israel, the rapture, and I can go on and on. Now each of these believe that Scripture is clear on these issues (otherwise why would the Lutherans have separated from the Reformed; or the Wesleyans from the Whitefieldians? If the only important thing is clear, isn’t everything else adiaphora?). If you’ve ever spoken with a dispensationalist (maybe you are one) they are pretty emphatic that everything they believe is straight from the Bible. But it’s not so obvious to the rest of us. Each group has their own set of hermeneutical assumptions and it would be naive to underestimate the effect of modernity on how one reads Scripture. You don’t have to be a liberal to be modern.

    Some issues are not so easily answered. Baptism is taught in Scripture and is something all Christians should do. However, it may not be that simple. Some believe baptism must be done to infants to wash them from original sin. Some will say that it is not necessay for infants to be baptized. Your church will say that it is necessary. If I ask for clear biblical examples, we find none. Or I can ask did Jesus or His apostles teach it? Again, they don’t. So what do people do?

    So basically you’re saying that the issue of baptism is easily answered from Scripture and you have the correct interpretation. So how do you know that that’s how paedobaptism arose? Do you have documentation that it didn’t exist until people were concerned about their dying children? So the practice arose just like that? Give the early Church a little more credit than that, please. Why would they so easily introduce a foreign practice into the Church?

    The Church existed prior to the New Testament. And the New Testament is not exhaustive as to how the Church should exist. The Church was already established when those epistles were written! So why would Paul or anyone else for that matter think that he needed to write down every detail concerning the practice of the Church or the Liturgy? Paul even mentions that there are other things that he will give instructions about in person (1 Cor. 11:34).

    In a sense, the Bible is like a user’s manual (this is a rough analogy so bear with me). The user’s manual doesn’t tell you how to build the object it came with, merely how to use it. Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us how to build the Church from the ground up, Christ already has established His Church on His apostles and the prophets. The Bible helps us navigate through the Church. Again, it’s a rough analogy, but I think you get my point.

    Don’t think that just because you have a pope that you do not have the reponsiblity to interpret the Scripture correctly. In fact, I don’t where any Catholic today would appeal to a pope for the correct interpretation. Do you?

    Whoa, when did I say that I don’t have responsibility to interpret Scripture correctly? Do you think Catholics don’t care about the proper interpretation of Scripture? We believe strongly in reading the Bible within the Church precisely so that we don’t misinterpret it.

    I have a strange sense that your odd question about appeal to the pope is simply a way to avoiding answer the question I posed: how are you not acting as your own pope?

    In your interpretation of Col 2:13-14 what is the Tradition for your answer and where can I find it that source that interprets Col 2:13-14 in the manner you have?
    This is important if you don’t want to be guilty of private interpretation as Protestants are.

    What an odd question. I think you misunderstand the nature of biblical interpretation in the Catholic Church. I also think that you have a very flat view of Scripture. It’s the Word of God. No commentary on the Bible could exhaust the wealth stored in it. We have centuries of Catholic exegesis, theologians who interpret the same passages in different ways. But difference does not necessarily mean contradiction. This also pertains to our view of interpretation as not being strictly literal (or literalistic). Moreover, the way that Scripture is applied to different times may vary (thus the need for a living voice).

    No, I certainly don’t want to be guilty of private interpretation in the way Protestants are… But you seem to have an image that Catholics must be absolutely uniform in every way. There are acceptable differences within the Catholic Church (look at the presence of the Eastern Catholic/Byzantine Liturgy). In other words, one Catholic need not have an identical interpretation of a passage as another as long as the interpretation does not contradict the Faith.

    And just for kicks, I’ll give the full Newman quote that I partially quoted earlier. It seems appropriate.

    We [Protestants] uphold the pure unmutilated Scripture; the Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants; the Bible and our own sense of the Bible.We claim a sort of parliamentary privilege to interpret laws in our own way, and not to suffer an appeal to any court beyond ourselves.We know, and we view it with consternation, that all Antiquity runs counter to our interpretation, and therefore, alas, the Church was corrupt from very early times indeed. But mind, we hold all this in a truly Catholic spirit, not in bigotry.We allow in others the right of private judgment, and confess that we, as others, are fallible men. We confess facts are against us; we do but claim the liberty of theorizing in spite of them. Far be it from us to say that we are certainly right; we only say that the whole early Church was certainly wrong.We do not impose our belief on any one; we only say that those who take the contrary side are Papists, firebrands, persecutors, madmen, zealots, bigots, and an insult to the nineteenth century.

  260. @Henry:

    How is it question begging that inspiration can be or should be a critieria for the rule of faith?

    Because you haven’t proven it. No problem if you can’t. I believe a lot of things I can’t prove. But you shouldn’t put it forward as though it were obvious and no reasonable person could doubt it.

    jj

  261. Robert, (re #256):

    You quote a beautiful passage from Scripture. Was your intent to contrast what it says with what the Catholics in this dialogue have been saying, that is, to present this as evidence for Sola Scriptura or that Scripture is the Rule of Faith?

    There is nothing in those verses with which Catholics disagree – Scripture is certainly “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” But nowhere does this passage make the claim that Scripture is the Rule of Faith, only that it is the source of the good things listed.

    Earlier in the passage we find, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” This sounds like an endorsement of a teacher or teachers, people who teach truly and with authority – a trustworthy teacher who can provide authoritative guidance in studying the Scriptures.

    This trustworthy teacher is, for the Catholic, the Church:

    if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 1 Tim 3:15

    The Catholic belief in the Church as the Rule of Faith is Scriptural. The Protestant belief in Sola Scriptura is not, because nowhere in the Bible does it say that Scripture is “the pillar and foundation of all truth” or anything else resembling the Rule of Faith.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  262. Henry,

    Question begging is to assume what you have to demonstrate.

    You and I disagree on whether or not inspiration is a sufficient criterion to establish the identity of the rule of faith. Since this is the issue in dispute, you cannot simply assert inspiration as the criterion. You must provide evidence.

    I will grant, however, that you have attempted to do so.

    So far, I think I have detected two arguments in your thread:
    1) Scripture does not deny that Scripture is the Rule of faith, and,
    2) The Catholic Church is not the rule of faith.

    I think a simple thought experiment can demonstrate that neither of these establishes your case.

    1) Scripture nowhere denies that St. Paul was an enchilada. Therefore, St. Paul was an enchilada.
    This is what is known as the argument from silence and, as you can see, it proves nothing.

    2) My left toe is not the rule of faith; therefore, Scripture is the rule of faith.

    Even if I were to grant (which I don’t) that the Catholic Church is not the rule of faith, your conclusion (Scripture is the rule of faith) does not follow from that premise. Any more than it follows from the premise “My left toe is not the rule of faith.”

    Thus, you are left basically asserting – without evidence – what needs to be demonstrated. Hence, begging the question.

    You can contest my thesis: Jesus established the Catholic Church as the Rule of faith. You can contest this thesis on exegetical, historical, intuitive, or logical grounds. However, you see that at least I have proposed something that can be falsified or verified. I’m simply asking you to do the same.

    Propose some verifiable/falsifiable argument meant to establish the thesis “Scripture is the rule of faith.”
    To assert that Scripture must be the rule of faith, since it alone is inspired, proves nothing, because that is what I am disputing. How can you show me I’m wrong?

    To assert that Scripture doesn’t deny your doctrine is an argument from silence.

    To deny that the Catholic Church is the rule of faith does nothing to show what is the rule of faith. My dog Emma isn’t the rule of faith, either. How does knowing this do anything to establish what IS the rule of faith.

    Thanks,

    David

  263. David,
    Anyone can use anything for a rule of faith. People do it all the time. My point with Scripture being the rule of faith is that it is alone the Word of God that is inspired and inerrant. This is a sufficient basis for the rule of faith. Jesus Himself commanded us to place our faith in Him and His teachings for life. Those teachings are found only in the Scripture and nowhere else.
    If you want to falsify my position then you are going to need to show first that the Scripture is not he Word of God that is inspired and inerrant. Once you have done this, then you will have shown that my trust in the Scripture as a rule of faith is misplaced.

    The Scripture is also sufficient for all that I need to know about God and Christ, how to live for Christ and to help me grow in Christ. It is also sufficient in telling me what is apostolic and what is not. By knowing it I can know truth from error. Its riches are in inexhaustible.

    Now if you want to make the Roman Catholic church a rule of faith then you are faced with a multitude of problems. For one, the Roman Catholic church nor any church for that matter is equal to the Scripture in authority. The church is a valid authority when its doctrines conform to the Scripture and not when they do not.

    Peace

  264. Fr Byran,
    Is the Word of God, the Scripture, sufficient for what a Christian needs to know about God, Christ and how to live in Christ?

  265. David,

    I don’t think you are being fair to Henry in your last post. You say “Thus, you are left basically asserting – without evidence – what needs to be demonstrated. Hence, begging the question.”

    Henry has provided evidence – teachings other than what is found in scripture. Lets take the IC doctrine for example. It is nowhere mentioned in scripture. The Roman Catholic position is that the church is the “rule of faith”, therefore it can speak authoritatively on IC. How do we know the RC is the rule of faith? It claims to be so, and specific interpretation of certain passages (which might also mean something different). To us Protestants, that seems like begging the question.

    It is rather like the “divine right of kings” – I’m in authority because God put me there – the proof is that I’m in authority.

    Scripture doesn’t call itself the “rule of faith” – but neither does it call the Roman Pontiff or that magisterium (to distinguish it from the Eastern Orthodox equivalent) the “rule of faith”. Both are an argument from silence.

    Scripture does speak of itself very highly (inspired). It does not speak of the church that way – but rather warns that people will be deceived in the church. Given what scripture says about itself, and what it says about humanity (even humanity gathered in a church), it makes logical sense that the rule of faith for our lives should be the God-breathed word. The organization of a church, while profitable as well, should always be double-checked against scripture, lest the wolves get into the sheep fold.

    Not to go off on a tangent, but I do find it curious how doctrines like ‘papal infallibility’ come about. From my perspective, it is the logical conclusion to the printing press. Once the masses get the Inspired Word in their own language, in books that anyone can read – the only way the magisterium can keep shepherding that flock is to elevate its own authority. Papal Infallibility puts the church’s writings on-par with scripture (even more so when the dogma is not fully defined). The faithful then hang on every word as a new continuing revelation.

    Here is a question – if papal infallibility is true, and some of these statements are as-inspired as the word of God, how come the Bible is periodically updated with this new information? Surely the Roman Church has the authority to do that. In fact, wouldn’t that be precisely one of its jobs – reestablishing the cannon with updated revelation?

  266. Henry,

    You wrote:

    “Anyone can use anything for a rule of faith. People do it all the time. My point with Scripture being the rule of faith is that it is alone the Word of God that is inspired and inerrant.”

    Do you really mean this the way it sounds? It seems to me an admission that you have no basis for your position other than what seems reasonable to you. You keep asserting that Scripture is your rule of faith because it is inspired. I keep asking you to demonstrate how you know that God wants you to treat Scripture as the rule of faith. Where does he say that inspiration necessarily entails this? I contend that inspiration does not entail this. Without an answer to this question, you are simply admitting that this must be true only because it seems good to you. Well goodness, Henry, we can all argue like that!

    -David

  267. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for joining the conversation. I’m very curious about your statement that Henry has provided evidence. Perhaps I’m just blind, but I still can’t seem to find a principled argument anywhere in there.

    My question is “What is the evidence that God intends the Scriptures to be the Rule of faith.”

    So far, all I’ve gotten back is “They’re inspired.”

    This would only work if inspiration necessarily entailed final, regulative authority.
    But, I can see nothing in the definition of inspired (“God-breathed”) that suggests this. Inspiration implies authority, I grant you, but what kind of authority? Scripture is authoritative on those issues and for the purposes for which it was intended -such as, providing an authoritative account of the life of Christ, or being an exhortation to faith, hope, and charity, etc.

    Where is the evidence that the divine or human authors intended anything else?

    -David

  268. Joshua,
    One of the points you make in your response is the different views in Protestantism. Do you think Roman Catholic priests, scholars, bishops and laymen have different views on all kinds of things in your church? Just look at the issue of priests. Should they be allowed to marry or not? Lots of different opinions. Or should Mary be declared Coredemptrix with Christ? Even on Scripture you have a wide diversity of opinion. Take the 6 days of creation. There are a number of views among you. I also know Roman Catholic scholars that have different views than what Rome says.
    BTW- what is the official view of your church on the end times?

    In regards to the early church i suspect they had struggled with keeping false ideas out to the church. Most church members came from pagan cultures and brought into the church pagan ideas. I also think that many of the early leaders of the church were not that well grounded in Scripture. Its not like everyone had their own Bible back then or even that they could read well. Remember, you have congregations that are spread out over hundreds of miles across the middle east which would make communications among churches quite slow. It would be quite easy for false ideas to come into churches under this kind of scenario.

    My point is to show that even though your church claims to be one and have an infallible interpreter you still have all kinds of views in your church on all kinds of issues. You are not in any better position than Protestants.

  269. David,
    Is it reasonable to believe that the Scriptures are inspired-inerrant?

    Do you think that Jesus meant for us to build our lives and our understanding of God and salvation on His teachings? Are the teachings of Jesus an adequate rule of faith?

  270. Henry, (re #263):

    You wrote:

    My point with Scripture being the rule of faith is that it is alone the Word of God that is inspired and inerrant. This is a sufficient basis for the rule of faith.

    This is still begging the question, Henry, because you still only assert that Scripture is the rule of Faith. You do not demonstrate that this doctrine (not Scripture, but this doctrine) has divine authority. Without that demonstration of divine authority you are asking us to accept your word that it is “a sufficient basis for the rule of faith.” Sorry, but you do not speak with divine authority.

    Has it not occurred to you that your continuing unwillingness to answer David’s question makes your position look indefensible? You accepted David’s framework for the discussion in #254, and now you are reneging on that agreement.

    What is your evidence for the doctrine that Scripture is the rule of faith (not your evidence for Scripture being inspired-inerrant, which we’ve heard a dozen times now and no one disputes.) Not your opinion, but your evidence.

    Also, I look forward to your answer about the Nicene Creed (#257).

    – Frank

  271. Bob B,

    Thanks for jumping in here. What evidence has Henry provided to support either “The Bible is the Rule of Faith” or Sola Scriptura? I think that is the question David has been driving at.

    I agree Henry has tried to provide evidence from scripture concerning his attacks on Catholic dogmas, particularly the Marian dogmas. So far, the Catholics have avoided the bate in regards to defending the Catholic positions and kept focusing back on the one issue “What is the Rule of Faith?”

    In my judgement David, John, Brent, and Frank haven’t been question begging. Firstly they haven’t been pushing forward the Catholic claims or defending directly against Henry’s arguments contra-Catholic dogma. Nor have they responded with a claim that Catholic Authority proves that Henry is wrong about something.

    I can easily see where you might predict there is a question begging argument lurking in the background, and perhaps that is what you are suggesting. However, I don’t think anyone has actually made such an argument. There are several articles and discussion threads on this site that do address directly the authority of the Catholic Church. I don’t believe that those articles beg the question. Feel free to go to the site index (From the menu bar) and the Church topic and read through to see if those arguments rely on begging the question.

    I admit I feel a bit bad for Henry. I am glad he continues the discussion. However, I agree with David that there is not much point in going beyond the primary question we have been addressing until it is admitted that the Protestant position of sola scriptura and the Bible as the “rule of faith” can not be demonstrated from scripture. This is necessary to avoid having to come back to the individual Protestants personal interpretation of scripture at every turn in the argument. It is not necessary to prove that the Catholic claim to authority is true to further the discussion unless the Catholics intend to use “the Church says so” as an argument ender. Which is what Protestants oftentimes do with the Bible. “The immaculate conception contradicts the Bible!!! well??? Does the Bible really say so? Only if I agree with your interpretation AND your “Bible Alone” presumption.

    God Bless

    Paul

  272. Henry (re #268):

    Remember, you have congregations that are spread out over hundreds of miles across the middle east which would make communications among churches quite slow. It would be quite easy for false ideas to come into churches under this kind of scenario.

    Strange that every single ancient church should fall prey to paedobaptism despite the distance separating them.

    My point is to show that even though your church claims to be one and have an infallible interpreter you still have all kinds of views in your church on all kinds of issues. You are not in any better position than Protestants.

    You have asserted this, yes. But you have not yet shown it. Your argument against the claims of the Church, if true, would also necessitate a fallible Bible and, interestingly, is parallel to arguments that atheists make against Christianity as a whole. The presence of fallacious views within the Church (that are clearly neither binding nor authoritative) doesn’t somehow negate the infallibility of the Church. The presence of false prophets simply means that some prophets are false; not that the office of prophet is vitiated.

    Now, you might reply that the same rule applies for Protestantism, namely, that bad Protestants don’t make Protestantism as a whole bad. But who are the bad protestants? I know that you can point them out, but they would point at you on the basis of their interpretation of Scripture. When a Catholic theologian is out of line, there is a way that the Church can address this without appeal to merely subjective judgments of a single person’s interpretation. But is this possible in Protestantism? No. You have proved as much in how you respond to the baptism issue. Again, if I don’t believe your interpretation of the Bible is true (which I don’t), then I have no reason to listen to you. You have no authority over anyone except yourself. And the same applies to every single Protestant. No one can rule me but the Word of God (which really means, no one can rule me but myself).

    There is a substantial difference between a book and a living voice. Even Protestants acknowledge this by the fact that, at least some of them, still give a place for ecclesiastical courts; and even the centrality of preaching is a tacit admission that simply reading the Bible is not enough, there must be a living communication of it. But Protestants want to pretend that the Bible is enough (despite all the Protestant voices accompanying this holy book). Catholics rightly see that the Bible exists in and for the Church and can only be understood and properly interpreted through the Church (to whom Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers).

    You have not shown how Protestants are united in any way. You have continued to avoid the issue of division over baptism and the sacraments, the issue of authority, and so on. Again, your strategy seems to simply be to take everyone down with you; to show how Catholicism is false rather than show how it is that Protestantism is true. So I can’t help but continue to view the Catholic position as being in a much better position than Protestants because, despite the evident shortcomings of a number of Catholics, there is still a place to hear God speaking through Christ (without always being paranoid that I’m simply speaking to myself).

    This conversation is getting somewhat repetitive and it seems that you have plenty of other (much more patient) interlocutors. So this will be my final post until I see an actual reply (rather than what seem to be evasive questions).

    Best,

    jl

  273. Henry,

    Yes, I believe that the Scriptures are inspired and inerrant.

    No, I do not believe that the teachings of Jesus are an adequate rule of faith. Nor did the apostles.
    If the teachings of Christ, of themselves, without authoritative interpretation, had been an adequate rule of faith, then there would have been no need for the first council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), the letters of Paul, or the foundation of the episcopate. Paul would not have advised Timothy and Titus to appoint Presbyters who could teach the faith and refute error. Tertullian, Irenaeus, Clement, and Ignatius would not have needed to appeal to the bishops in succession to the apostles in order to define the deposit of faith. Luther and Zwingli would not have anathematized each other. Calvin would not have bemoaned the lack of unity among Protestants. There wouldn’t be 40,000 + Protestant denominations. My own Protestants seminary professors would have agreed on what Jesus taught (they didn’t), on what the church was (they didn’t), and on how Christians are to live (they didn’t).

  274. Is the Word of God, the Scripture, sufficient for what a Christian needs to know about God, Christ and how to live in Christ?

    The Word of God is most certainly sufficient for what a Christian needs to know about God, Christ and how to live in Christ. However, I do not believe that the Scripture alone is the Word of God. As you know, Scripture says that Christ himself was the Word of God. Christ was the fullness of revelation. He is the source of revelation. The Scripture proceeds from him, as well as the Sacred Tradition.

    We, as Christians, live on every word that comes from the mouth of God. I see no reason to think that every word that God has spoken is contained in the Scriptures. As David said earlier, Catholics lift of the scriptures for devotion and edification and instruction but not as a rule of faith. Can you demonstrate to me why I should believe every word that God has spoken is contained in the scriptures without simply asserting that it alone is inspired/inerrant?

  275. And, yes, I agree with David Anders and would add the caveat to my post that Revelation is sufficient provided that it is interpreted properly. And I do believe it is the Church that has the ability to interpret revelation with authority.

  276. Henry,

    You said,

    “What does the Bible say about sexual practices among married hetersexual couples? Don’t Catholics believe that unless the Bible or the Catholic church explicitly and directly prohibits a given action that it is permissible?
    Its my understanding that most Catholics ignore church teaching on birth control. Do you think this is true and if so what does it mean?”

    You are missing my point. You have spoken for all protestants time and time again. I brought up the example to demonstrate that you do not. I brought up the example to demonstrate that there is no unity among protestants because there is no place for them to attain unity. The Scriptures alone are unable to do this. In order to have unity we need to have an authoritative and living voice to interpret the scriptures.

  277. David
    “So far, I think I have detected two arguments in your thread:
    1) Scripture does not deny that Scripture is the Rule of faith, and,
    2) The Catholic Church is not the rule of faith.”

    I’m focusing on number 2 from above.
    “Thanks for joining the conversation. I’m very curious about your statement that Henry has provided evidence. Perhaps I’m just blind, but I still can’t seem to find a principled argument anywhere in there.”

    In order for the Catholic Church to be the “rule of faith”, one of 2 things need to happen. Either: 1 The Catholic Church must teach in line with scripture 100% of the time (not err). or 2 Scripture must defer its authority to the Catholic Church.

    The evidence falls under category 1. The teaching of IC (as well as many other dogmas) does not fall in line with scripture, and is specifically extra-biblical. It may be true (I’m not debating that) but it is not revealed by a known inspired source, nor can you create this doctrine from a plain reading of scripture (like you can with the doctrine of the Trinity).

    “Where is the evidence that the divine or human authors intended anything else?”
    God also gave us the Old Testament, which was the “rule of faith” for the Israelites. Why would God provide those writings for his OT followers, but not give us what is necessary in the New Testament? As Henry asked, is the word of God sufficient?

    I hope you understand the dilemma we all face. On the one had, we have the inspired word of God. What that means, in terms of “what is the limit of it’s authority” may be an unknown. On the other hand, we have a group of people (the Roman Church) claiming to be the (only) authority that can correctly interpret the book, but also has a spotty history and expands the teachings of the book into non-book related areas (IC, Papal infallibility, etc.)

    Either we can take just the book, knowing that it is inspired and therefore authoritative (at least on some level); or we can take the Roman Church, spotty history and all, strange extra-biblical teachings, scary smells and bells, and pray that it won’t lead us astray.

    Throw in there the extreme fallibility of all humans, Some Huss and Luther, inquisitions, crusades, and a dash of Eastern Orthodox schism; and you can quickly see why protestants choose an inspired text over the Roman Church “authority”.

  278. Hi Henry,

    You say that the Scriptures are the Word of God and inspired of God? I don’t believe it. How can you possibly know that? Did God come down from Heaven and give them to you.? You say that Jesus is the Christ. HUH? How do you know that? There are a goodly amount of us out here that don’t think it’s true. SO if your telling me that your scriptures are what you are going to use to convince me you will have to prove it to me. I will not accept it simply because you say so. SO here is your chance to make me a believer. How can you convince me that that book you call scripture wasn’t written by somebody about 500 years ago? OR that it hasn’t been changed along the way?

    Blessings
    NHU

  279. Bob B (re#277):

    You wrote:

    The teaching of IC (as well as many other dogmas) does not fall in line with scripture, and is specifically extra-biblical.

    Addressing only the narrow issue of whether the doctrine of the IC is “extra biblical” please see my #134 in response to Henry on this question.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  280. Fr. Bryan

    I often think that Catholic claims of Protestant dis-unity are often much overstated. Yes, there are 30k+ denominations, but there are not 30k+ communions (a better measurement of unity). For example, Henry and I probably disagree on infant baptism, and maybe even a host of other doctrines. However, that wouldn’t prevent me from communing with him (at least not from my side). In fact, when it comes to fencing the table, my church requires 1: Trinitarian Baptism. 2: John 3:16 test. 3: not excommunicated elsewhere.

    In this vein, there is plenty of room for unity. It isn’t important to me weather or not Henry baptizes his kids. We can both wrestle with those ideas against each other, but our convictions on the matter shouldn’t prevent communion. Scripture alone is plenty – at the very least it teaches us to love those who we disagree with, and approach each other in humility. It also teaches that people are convicted by the same God in different ways.

  281. Dear Frank and all,

    Before any of the moderators at Called to Communion were born, I was a Roman Catholic, baptized as an infant, went to parochial schools and was a altar boy at the Latin Mass. Religion was in my younger life, but the knowledge of the Love of God and His Great Salvation in His Son Jesus Christ was not manifested to me in the Roman Church. The Roman Church taught out of its catechism and frowned upon the personal study of the Scriptures, unless it was taught under the leadership of its own teachers of catechetical indoctrination.

    Apparently the semantical term, “rule of faith”, was introduce by the early church fathers, who presented their exegesis’ against early heresies. The Catholic Encyclopedia states the following:

    The word rule (Latin regula, Gr. kanon) means a standard by which something can be tested, and the rule of faith means something “extrinsic” to our faith, and serving as its norm or measure. etc.

    Why should the Faith of God mean something “extrinsic” to our gift of Faith in the first place. It is the Spirit of the God of all Truth that initiates His call into the dead soul of a man or woman to come into the light of His Son, Jesus Christ and live. Now if Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, then what would be the evidence of that Faith or as you call it the “rule of faith”. The Spirit of God’s answer, through Paul, is definitive and Divine. “But the Fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Long-suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance: against such there is no law or rule”. The substance of that which is not seen is made evident within God’s Gift of Faith to those who endeavor to live their lives in accordance with the word of their testimony and the Blood of Jesus Christ that bought them. “If we live in the Spirit, then let us walk in the Spirit”. God’s Gift of Salvation Faith is simple to the simple. Why should we walk in death, while we can walk in newness of Life within Son of God? Should it not be as Paul’s testimony: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the Life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

    Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb of God, and not the traditions of men.
    Robert Glenn

  282. Frank

    The orthodox communion also rejects the teachings of IC as an innovation. Of course, they see the root of the problem in the Roman Catholic misunderstanding of ancestral (original) sin. I’m not saying they are right, but what I am saying is that it is possible to hold to apostolic traditional teaching without being Roman, and that the Roman teachings post schism are the ones most protestants have issue with.

    In either case, it is possible for Mary to be the theotokos without IC.

  283. Bob

    The original post was regarding “The week of Christian Unity.” Henry’s first response was:

    Unity must be based and grounded in truth. That can never happen so long as the Roman Catholic church holds to some of its doctrines.

    Thus the main focus has been the basis on which Henry claims that the Catholic Church must renounce some of its doctrines to promote Christian unity. Henry’s claim is based on the Protestant model of the Bible as the rule of faith.

    Therefor much of this argument is not primarily about whether the Catholic Church is right or wrong. It is about what can rationally serve as a “rule of faith” for Christian unity. Henry has held up the flag for the Protestant team that scripture alone is the basis for unity. I think the Catholics here have demonstrated rather clearly the falsity of that proposition. Protestants possess hardly a shred of unity even though they all share the same convictions that scripture is the inerrant word of God and the highest authority.

    So thought experiment. If the Catholic Church were to concede that Henry and you are right and abandon some doctrines for the sake of unity what would happen? Exactly which doctrines would have to be abandoned and which could we keep? Who would decide? Or… What particular Protestant group should we unite with? If the Catholic Church became Lutheran would Christianity now be united? No!

    Do you see the problem?

    That has been and is the reason behind this discussion. Catholics have argued that what Protestantism proposes is A ) a man created super doctrine of Sola Scriptura and B) a demonstration of anything but unity, the only thing that unites Protestantism is not being Catholic. Any concept of Christian Unity that is based in Protestant principles is both completely unworkable as evidenced by Protestantism itself, and False since it is not Biblical. If you and Henry wish to stick with “Bible Truth” as the basis for unity then you need to provide evidence that supports the case for Protestantism. Show from the Bible that the Bible is the “rule of faith” and provide some objective criteria for what common beliefs Protestants are actually united on.

    We want unity based in Truth, well first we have to know what Truth is. Henry and you claim that the Bible as “rule of faith” is true. Until you can either demonstrate that it is true or even reasonable there is no basis for discussion of particular doctrines.. Unless you admit that scripture alone is not of devine origin.

    This whole prior discussion and the one point that we have been batting around for 4 days are necessary to resolved in order to address or debate your proposed dichotomy

    In order for the Catholic Church to be the “rule of faith”, one of 2 things need to happen. Either: 1 The Catholic Church must teach in line with scripture 100% of the time (not err). or 2 Scripture must defer its authority to the Catholic Church.

    Every Catholic here will argue for weeks on end that the Catholic Church absolutely does teach “in line with scripture 100% of the time.” However, as long you cling to the idea that the evangelical Protestant version of “Bible only” meaning only things that are obvious to you in scripture count and that “in line with Scripture” means what you think it means there is no point is addressing those questions.

    What we are hammering out here is what is the basis for determining truth? You would like, and are probably used to Catholics accepting your terms for determining truth. That isn’t going to happen on this website.

  284. Hi Bob,

    You state that there is a dilemma that we all face with the understanding of the limitations of Scriptures authority. This would be very true. Although the Scriptures are inspired and believed to be the Word of God, the problem rests with the fact that they cannot speak for themselves. They need an interpreter. No matter how easy some feel it is to interpret there is obviously a lot of problems in interpretations. That is evident in the amount of different churches in existence based on interpretations of the same scriptures.

    Now part of that dilemma is who is going to be the interpreter, would you not agree with this? In one corner we have the Catholic Church who has existed throughout 2000 yrs. And claims to be the mother of the scriptures and retains the right to interpret them according to her teachings and Traditions. In the opposite corner we have the Reformers from 500 yrs ago who claim that the Church is not the legitimate interpreter and that they were free to interpret the scriptures to suit themselves. The problem is if the Scriptures are in fact the Word of God and infallible – inerrant They cannot be wrong. Therefore how can the Reformers be right when they contradict themselves in their very interpretations. Contradict so badly in fact that they themselves split asunder. It seems to me that if Christ was to have the church teach the truth and nothing but the truth the teaching authority would have to be a living authority, able to qualify their teachings throughout the whole of their existence or else the truth is lost. If that’s the case then we have no way of knowing the truth. It’s a hard fact to except but where is that LIVING AUTHORITY.

    Blessings
    NHU

  285. Bob,

    Your comment on #280 captures beautifully and tragically why I wrote: When Less is NOT More about a month ago on this site.

  286. Hi Bob,

    If I understand you, I think you are proposing two things:

    1) In the absence of a better alternative, being left with an inspired, inerrant text is the best rule of faith we can come up with, even if we don’t know the limits of its authority, and

    2) The OT was the rule of faith for Israel. A fortiori, God would have also provided a written rule for the Church.

    Thanks! These are arguments we can engage.

    As to 1: You are admitting here that a foundational doctrine (the identity of the rule of faith) is an inference from empirical data, and not the express teaching of revelation. If you really believe that, then you are contradicting a major premise of Protestant theology. If Sola Scriptura is an article of faith then, by definition, it must be established by divine revelation. You have 3 options:
    1) Show that Sola Scriptura is established by revelation, and not simply by an argument from fittingness.
    2) Admit that Sola Scriptura is not an article of faith, but mere opinion.
    3) Acknowledge that not all articles of faith are established by Scripture.

    As to 2:

    It is not at all clear to me that the OT was the rule of faith for Israel. Jesus certainly did not treat it as the rule of faith, as he felt free to abrogate its commands, and to offer authoritative interpretations that could not be derived simply by “Scripture interpreting Scripture.” However, even if the OT were the Rule of Faith for Israel, how does this establish that the NT is the rule of faith for the Church? You could just as easily argue from the difference between the covenants and Jeremiah 31 that the New covenant has no need of a written revelation at all.

    -David

  287. Bob,

    You wrote:

    “It isn’t important to me weather or not Henry baptizes his kids. We can both wrestle with those ideas against each other, but our convictions on the matter shouldn’t prevent communion. ”

    How do you know whether or not its important? Calvin and Luther both thought it was an issue of eternal salvation, and that to deny baptism to one’s child was to put oneself (and one’s child) outside the bounds of the true church and of saving grace.

    Protestants have no principled way of answering this question about essentials.

    -David

  288. So thought experiment. If the Catholic Church were to concede that Henry and you are right and abandon some doctrines for the sake of unity what would happen? Exactly which doctrines would have to be abandoned and which could we keep? Who would decide?

    I would suggest that the Catholic Church should resolve their differences with the Eastern Orthodox. Getting all the original primates on the same page would be a good start. From what I know of the EO, their problems with Catholicism are pretty much the same problems Protestants have (though more doctrinal and less personal). Who would decide? – Well, it wouldn’t be Sola Pope.
    My point isn’t that the orthodox are correct – but rather that the Pope has a history of making changes and decrees, then expecting the rest of Christendom to fall in line – and is surprised when they don’t. Unity happens naturally when there is humility and grace in the midst of disagreement. History suggest such behavior isn’t the Roman way.

    Now part of that dilemma is who is going to be the interpreter, would you not agree with this?

    I can agree – to an extent. The implication is that some are anointed or given special authority to interpret, and the conclusion is the Magisterium. Prior to the printing press, it made sense to have special people set apart who can interpret for the rest of us. However, the bar was low – being literate was a specialized skill in those days. Being able to read either meant being nobility or clergy. Once the printing press came into being, the ability to interpret any writing (not just biblical) went from a centralized location to the individual.
    So do I need an interpreter? Well, not for any other book I read – and certainly not for the vast majority of the Bible.
    Oxen are lead about by a ring in their nose, and a yolk on their neck. All this quibbling about authority is an attempt to get us to change masters. The appeal isn’t to Jesus, it is to Rome. If the words of Jesus were sufficient, the Sola Scriptura would be a fine master.

    How do you know whether or not its important? Calvin and Luther both thought it was an issue of eternal salvation, and that to deny baptism to one’s child was to put oneself (and one’s child) outside the bounds of the true church and of saving grace.

    Protestants have no principled way of answering this question about essentials.

    Either God never cared about the adult / infant debate, or he ceased caring at some point, or one / both of us are sinning by not caring in the same way God still cares. What I think (and I could be wrong) makes God most happy about the adult / infant baptism debate is that Henry and I aren’t ready to kill each other over it (as we might have 500 years ago). Also, it is a false conclusion that the only “principled way” is a pope. Again, the Eastern Orthodox have a great set of answers, and they emphatically don’t need (or want) the magesterium.

    As to 1: You are admitting here that a foundational doctrine (the identity of the rule of faith) is an inference from empirical data, and not the express teaching of revelation. If you really believe that, then you are contradicting a major premise of Protestant theology. If Sola Scriptura is an article of faith then, by definition, it must be established by divine revelation. You have 3 options:
    1) Show that Sola Scriptura is established by revelation, and not simply by an argument from fittingness.
    2) Admit that Sola Scriptura is not an article of faith, but mere opinion.
    3) Acknowledge that not all articles of faith are established by Scripture.

    I have a book. In this book are things that I know are the actual words of God. You have an organization that claims to interpret the book that I have. It seems to make a lot of claims that run contrary to the book, and the history of your organization is somewhat… spotted. If my opinion must fall into one of your 3 categories, then I guess that I choose 3. The fact that I choose faith in the book alone is not something the book commands me to do.

  289. Bob B

    You write, “I often think that Catholic claims of Protestant dis-unity are often much overstated….”

    I don’t believe they are overstated. It is the will of Christ that all Christians be one. We as Catholics believe this unity to be a very deep unity. Union of mind, action, and worship. If we are correct that unity is supposed to run this deep, then Catholics are not overstating protestant disunity. Obviously Catholics believe there is room for legitimate differences as is demonstrated by the different Rites of the Church. However, the unity of these Churches is expressed by their submission to the Bihsop of Rome.

    I can see how Martin Luther – or any Christian who lived during this time – could have thought the Bible to be a better place to find unity. History simply hasn’t showed this to be the case. The entire concept of Unity is eroding. Arguments put forward by non Catholics on this site make that clear, at least to me.

    Consider Baptism. Henry asserted that every protestant believes in the neccessity of baptism by immersion in water (127). Then it was pointed out by several that many protestants don’t believe in the necessity of baptism by immersion, so Henry backtracked and said that “The differences comes from the mode, understanding or something else.” That is what inevitably happens when Scripture alone is our final authority. Our standard for unity winds up wearing down until there is literally nothing that unites us.

  290. Fr Bryan,
    You write in regards to the disunity -“brought up the example to demonstrate that there is no unity among protestants because there is no place for them to attain unity. The Scriptures alone are unable to do this. In order to have unity we need to have an authoritative and living voice to interpret the scriptures.”
    The problem is that even though you have an authority that claims to speak for God, your church is not completely unified. You have a broad range of beliefs among Catholics. Just look at how many Catholics practice birth control in direct opposition to church teachings. Or look at the differences of opinion on whether priests should marry or not.
    In regards to a “living voice to interpret the scriptures” that to is problematic since your church has never infallibly interpreted them. There are all kinds of different interpretations of Scripture among Roman Catholics. Would you aggree?

  291. Bob B writes:The Roman Catholic position is that the church is the “rule of faith”, therefore it can speak authoritatively on IC. How do we know the RC is the rule of faith?

    What Henry is arguing is that the Protestant bible is the ONLY inerrant authority that Christians in our era have access to. He is not acknowledging that the rule of faith, for himself, is the Protestant Bible plus his private interpretations of the Protestant bible.

    Why should I accept his rule of faith as my rule of faith? Why can’t I say that my rule of faith is the Protestant bible plus my private interpretations of the Protestant bible? The Protestants that argue for the doctrine of “bible freedom” argue for just that rule of faith. The Protestant doctrine of “bible freedom” is just another name for solo scriptura. Does the “Reformer’s” doctrine of sola scriptura inevitably reduce to solo scriptura? Yes, it does, and that point has already been made in the CTC article Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.

    It should be obvious why their can be no unity of faith when the rule of faith for Christians is the Protestant bible plus my private interpretations of the Protestant bible. If there is no interpretive authority, then anything goes, which is exactly why we have thousands upon thousands of divided Protestant sects teaching contradictory doctrine.

    What I am arguing is that a rule of faith that consists of the-Protestant-bible-plus-my private-interpretations-of-the-Protestant-bible is a self-contradicting absurdity. Not only does the Protestant bible nowhere teach this absurd rule of faith, it explicitly forbids this as a rule of faith, if I am to be a disciple of Christ. If I claim that the Protestant bible is authoritative, I cannot also claim that it is authoritative for me if I accept the Protestant rule of faith of sola scriptura!

    Interpretive authority of the Protestant bible is the heart of the dispute between Catholics and the Protestants that confess sola scriptura doctrine. Practicing Catholics do not dispute that the words found in a Protestant bible are God-breathed – they are. What interpretive authority has primacy is the real question. So where does the Protestant bible tell me where I am to find the interpretive authority that has the power to bind my conscience? Suppose that brother Sabellius and I both acknowledge that the Protestant bible is God-breathed, and thus inerrant. But I think that brother Sabellius is teaching heresy in his private interpretations of the Protestant bible, and I want him to repent of his sin since he is tearing up the Body of Christ by teaching false doctrine. Brother Sabellius, on the other hand, sincerely believes that he is not preaching heresy. Do the scriptures contained within our Protestant bibles tell how to resolve this interpretive dispute? Yes. Does the Protestant bible authorize us to split the church into warring sects that teach contradictory doctrine? No. The Protestant bible tells us exactly how to resolve our dispute – we must bring our dispute to the church that Christ personally founded, and when she rules on our dispute, we must listen to what Christ’s church teaches. The person that refuses to listen to the church that Christ personally founded must be excommunicated. (Matthew 18: 15-18)

    Bob B, Henry has already acknowledged that the Catholic Church is the church that Christ personally founded. What Henry has not done is give any scriptures from the Protestant bible that justifies why he is not in communion with the church that Christ founded, nor has Henry quoted scriptures from the Protestant bible that gives him an exemption for not listening to the church that Christ personally founded.

    I don’t want to seem that I am picking on Henry, because Henry is only doing what every Protestant does – he does not listen to the church that Christ founded, because his rule of faith is founded on the Protestant principle of the primacy of the individual conscience. Unfortunately for Protestants, primacy does not belong to the individual, primacy belongs to the church that Christ personally founded.

    Bob B writes: I don’t think you are being fair to Henry in your last post. You say “Thus, you are left basically asserting – without evidence – what needs to be demonstrated. Hence, begging the question.”
    Henry has provided evidence – teachings other than what is found in scripture. Lets take the IC doctrine for example. It is nowhere mentioned in scripture.

    Bob B, where does it say in the Protestant bible that the church founded by Christ cannot settle a matter of doctrine involving the Mother of God? Nowhere. Neither does the Protestant bible make a claim for itself that every doctrine taught by the church that Christ founded must be also be explicitly taught in the verses found in the Protestant bible. All the Protestant bible says about this matter is that those who would be disciples of Christ must listen to the church that Christ personally founded or be excommunicated. Your unstated premise that the doctrine of the IC must explicitly taught in the Protestant bible before it can be accepted by the members of Christ’s church is question begging.

  292. Bob b

    In 265 you wrote:

    I don’t think you are being fair to Henry in your last post. You say “Thus, you are left basically asserting – without evidence – what needs to be demonstrated. Hence, begging the question.”

    Henry has provided evidence – teachings other than what is found in scripture. Lets take the IC doctrine for example. It is nowhere mentioned in scripture. The Roman Catholic position is that the church is the “rule of faith”, therefore it can speak authoritatively on IC. How do we know the RC is the rule of faith? It claims to be so, and specific interpretation of certain passages (which might also mean something different). To us Protestants, that seems like begging the question.

    I echo the others who are appreciative of your contribution and joining in the conversation. I think there is a problem with the way that you and Henry are arguing. I haven’t seen anyone point it out, so I will restate it. Apologies if it has been.

    It seems to me that there are people putting forth two different and opposing claims. On the one hand we have “Protestants” who are putting forward the belief that Scripture alone is the rule of faith. On the other hand, Catholics have been arguing that the Church is the rule of faith. We are here having this discussion to investigate this question and to test each other’s views in hopes that we can all discover the correct answer to the question, “What is the Rule of Faith?”

    Here is the problem. Some of the protestants here are assuming that scripture alone is the rule of faith when they attack the Catholic position. This simply can’t be the way we go about having this discussion. We need to eevaluate the Catholic position on its own terms, just as we need to evaluate Sola Scriptura on its own terms. If we should believe that all doctrines must be contained in the Bible, then that doctrine must be contained in the Bible. If this doctrine Sola Scriptura is not contained in the Bible then it must necesserily be false (or at the very least it must not be considered “essential”). For this reason, many Christians believe Sola Scriptura to be internally irrational.

    The other claim, that the Church is the Rule of Faith cannot be evaluated with the same criterion as Sola Scriptura. If it is to be evaluated based on its own system, then it doesn’t have to have any scriptural support. I believe it does have scriptural support, but it does not need scriptural support. Basically, in order to prove that it isn’t internally irrational it needs to claim that it is the rule of faith… which it does.

    This does NOT lead to a conclusion that the Church is the Rule of Faith. Rather, it simply shows that it passes a test that other rules of faith do not. While we can eliminate the Bible alone as the rule of Faith because it doesn’t pass its own definition as a rule of faith, we cannot do the same for the Church or anything else that claims it is the rule of faith.

    This is why David Anders stated above that he is unwilling to provide an argument from Scriptura alone that the Church is the Rule of Fatih. To do so would be to assume that the Bible alone is the rule of faith, which he doesn’t believe.

    I hope that makes some sense.

  293. Henry,

    thanks for acknowledging the following:

    “If my opinion must fall into one of your 3 categories, then I guess that I choose 3. The fact that I choose faith in the book alone is not something the book commands me to do.”

    This illustrates why Newman believed Protestantism ultimately devolved into liberalism. At the end of the day, Protestants must appeal to subjective criteria, even if they reference Scripture, to justify their interpretation of the Christian faith. You choose to submit yourself to Scripture alone because, as you admit, you don’t like the alternatives – not because you can show this choice to be objectively demanded by the facts of revelation.

    If I actually believed this way, I would have no confidence in the Christian faith.
    -David

  294. Bob B,
    You wrote in #288:

    “Now part of that dilemma is who is going to be the interpreter, would you not agree with this? “

    .”I can agree – to an extent. The implication is that some are anointed or given special authority to interpret, and the conclusion is the Magisterium. Prior to the printing press, it made sense to have special people set apart who can interpret for the rest of us. However, the bar was low – being literate was a specialized skill in those days. Being able to read either meant being nobility or clergy. Once the printing press came into being, the ability to interpret any writing (not just biblical) went from a centralized location to the individual.
    So do I need an interpreter? Well, not for any other book I read – and certainly not for the vast majority of the Bible.”

    Of course not every book that you read will need interpreting for you. However the Bible is not just any book it is very complex in parts and many have as hard time interpreting it. For instance if I gave you a book on Physics and Quantum Theory most people would have a hard time understanding it ( not saying you would personally) They would need a teacher to explain it to them and even then might have difficulty understanding. The Bible can be like that. Not everything needs to be explained for certain but some pretty basic stuff needs to be. i.e. baptism, Lord’s supper, justification etc etc. Sure all Christians practice these things ( well almost all Christians )but the evidence is that there are many understandings of it and they can’t all be correct.
    Blessings
    NHU

  295. David,
    I almost fell off my chair when you wrote that “No, I do not believe that the teachings of Jesus are an adequate rule of faith. Nor did the apostles.”
    A rule of faith should be able to tell us what is important and how we are to live lives pleasing to God. This is exactly what His teachings do for us. So for you to claim that His teachings are inadequate as a rule of faith shows you do not understand Scripture and its function in our lives.

    Just because there was a council in Acts 15 and Paul addresses other issues does not mean the teachings of Jesus are not an adequate rule of faith nor does it mean that they are inadequate because people disagree about their meaning. Even in your church you don’t have total agreement on everything. If anything its been worse for you when you look at the history of the popes and the other things that I have brought up.

  296. Henry,

    You said,

    “The problem is that even though you have an authority that claims to speak for God, your church is not completely unified. You have a broad range of beliefs among Catholics. Just look at how many Catholics practice birth control in direct opposition to church teachings. Or look at the differences of opinion on whether priests should marry or not.”

    There IS a broad range of beliefs among Catholics. The reason, however, is the very same reason that protestants lack unity. These Catholics believe that their interpretation of the world in which we live is correct, so they don’t need an authority figure to help them out.

    No Catholic is putting forward the claim that there aren’t heretics or dissenters in the Church. Rather, what is being put forward is that disunity in the Catholic Church is a complete different type of disunity than the disunity in Protestantism. The reason is that Catholics become disunified when they dissent from the Church’s teaching. Protestants become disunified when they interpret the Bible as they see fit. A Catholic who dissents on Birth Control will tell you, “I do not accept the Church’s teaching on Birth Control.” A protestant who finds himself at odds with another protestant says, “I interpret the Bible differently than you do.”

    I have attempted to demonstrate that what we might Catholic disunity is different from what we might call Protestant disunity. Have I made the case?

    Furthermore, there is no substantive disunity among Catholics on the issue of clerical celibacy. All Catholics agree that it is possible to allow for a married clergy. The disunity is not in whether we can or can’t. It is whether we should or shouldn’t. As far as the rule of faith goes, you can have either opinion and be well within the bounds of orthodoxy.

    In regards to a “living voice to interpret the scriptures” that to is problematic since your church has never infallibly interpreted them. There are all kinds of different interpretations of Scripture among Roman Catholics. Would you aggree?”

    No, I don’t agree that the Church has never interpreted the Scriptures. Read any papal encyclical or any Church document from any Council and you will see interpretations of scripture all over the place. Yes, I would agree with you that there are different interpretations among Roman Catholics. Scripture is very rich in meaning and there can be multiple interpretations of different verses that are all true. However, as you well know, there can also be interpetations that are not true. When these arise, our lving magisterium can speak clearly and authoritatively so that all Christians seeking deeper communion with Christ and others can benefit from it.

  297. Fr Bryan.
    You wrote: “I see no reason to think that every word that God has spoken is contained in the Scriptures.”
    This is true. However the only word of God we have is found only in the Scripture. If you don’t agree with this then where else is it to be found and how do you know it truly the Word of God?

  298. Henry:

    Now that we are some nearly 300 posts into this thread, it is increasingly apparent to me that you here not to engage in dialogue, but to bash Catholicism. If you were here to dialogue, you would have answered the two questions from me (the IC and the Nicene Creed) that are still hanging and you would have engaged David in the central topic of this thread – according to the terms you agreed to with him.

    Instead of responding to challenges, you attack the Church. It is not the fact that you are attacking her that is the problem, it is that you’re using this as an avoidance mechanism. This is intellectually dishonest and there is nothing to be gained from continuing a discussion with you as long as this behavior persists.

    – Frank

  299. Fr Bryan-David,
    What is the function of a rule of faith? What do you think it should do?

  300. Henry,

    You’ve asked these questions and they’ve been answered. I’ve already participated in this discussion more than I should have and I’m not going to spend any time repeating what I or others have already said. See David Anders’ comments #16, #242, and #246.

  301. Basically, in order to prove that it isn’t internally irrational it needs to claim that it is the rule of faith… which it does.

    This does NOT lead to a conclusion that the Church is the Rule of Faith. Rather, it simply shows that it passes a test that other rules of faith do not.

    This is not a compelling argument. The Eastern Orthodox also claim to be the “true” church, in the same vein as the Roman Catholics. I’m not sure they would use the term “rule of faith”, since that comes from our Western obsession with logical argumentation, but their claims are equally haughty. In any case, if a Protestant were to go looking for a church with the ‘rule of faith’, they have at least 2 choices amongst Christendom, and that’s not even counting non-Christian religions that make the claim. In fact, to make the claim is relatively easy. Proving it… well, now your into matters of faith, opinion, and who’s story you want to believe.

    I don’t believe they are overstated. It is the will of Christ that all Christians be one. We as Catholics believe this unity to be a very deep unity. Union of mind, action, and worship. If we are correct that unity is supposed to run this deep, then Catholics are not overstating protestant disunity. Obviously Catholics believe there is room for legitimate differences as is demonstrated by the different Rites of the Church. However, the unity of these Churches is expressed by their submission to the Bihsop of Rome

    This is a bit of a red-herring that could quickly descend into a discussion on visible v. invisible church. When all is said and done though, you hit the nail on the head. It seems to be about Rome, not Christ.

    You choose to submit yourself to Scripture alone because, as you admit, you don’t like the alternatives – not because you can show this choice to be objectively demanded by the facts of revelation.
    If I actually believed this way, I would have no confidence in the Christian faith.

    Don’t like the alternatives doesn’t really sum it up. I don’t trust the alternatives, because of history, because of their current demands, and because of the outlandish claims. Given the evidence against the alternative, simply trusting in Gods word seems pretty solid footing in comparison.

    I could flip the question on its head. If the Roman Catholic church was exactly the same, except for the claim of being the “one true church”, would your whole world of faith crumble? Would you become Orthodox, because of their similar claim?

  302. Bob,

    I appreciate your recent comments – I think they sum up what I perceive to be the bottom-line reasoning of most Protestants (and if you have been following this thread, you know that I am also Protestant). On a visceral level, I completely agree with the sentiment, “I’ll take Scripture-alone any day over the RCC with all its baggage and dubious claims”. I think this prettly well sums up Michael Horton’s response to the “Sola-Solo” article: since we know it can’t be Rome, here’s how it can work with Sola Scriptura, even though its not perfect.

    You may well be correct in your assertions – after all, the Church Fathers made some pretty strong statements about the Scripture as the highest authority – but in an effort to be fair and as objective as possible, I am trying to entertain the notion that it may be my bias and unexamined presuppositions that lead me to the conclusion that certain Catholic doctrines etc cannot be true.

    From this stance, I think it is a little easier to pretend that I have never before heard of Christianity or of its various manifestations and examine each carefully. I think the fundamental question is, “how do I know what is True?” I think that you and Henry would answer that since we know that the Bible is inspired-inerrant, it is the only safe source, known to be free from error. There is a certain consistency to this argument, but I think that it does entail presuppositions that must be examined:
    1. These 66 books define what we call the Bible, and there is no reasonable argument for any
    other list of books.
    2. The Bible is sufficiently clear as to what is required for salvation, such that any reasonable
    person with an open heart would agree with both which doctrines are essential, and the
    orthodox meaning of those doctrines.
    3. It can be shown historically that when disagreements arise over #1 or #2, the Bible can be
    successfully used to resolve the dispute.

    Do you agree with my basic line of reasoning?

    Thanks,

    -Burton

  303. Bob B

    This is not a compelling argument

    I think you’ve missed the point again. This was not an argument that the Church was the rule of faith. It was rather an argument that we can’t evaluate the claim that “The Church is the rule of faith” by assuming that Scripture alone is the rule of faith.

    Do you agree or disagree?

  304. Burton
    I think I would agree with your points 1 and 2. On 3, I hold to a less emphatic view at to weather resolution is necessary in all cases. I am content taking a stand on an issue, parting ways (new denomination, or new church) with the full knowledge that my stance might be the incorrect one. This is not to devalue the process of reconciliation, but comes from a recognition of my own fallen nature. I would hope that a parting of ways would not mean an end to communion.

    I am also thankful that communion with Christ is not dependent on communion with Bob. I would argue the same applies to the RCC.

    I think you’ve missed the point again. This was not an argument that the Church was the rule of faith. It was rather an argument that we can’t evaluate the claim that “The Church is the rule of faith” by assuming that Scripture alone is the rule of faith.
    Do you agree or disagree?

    I understand this blog exists to argue that the RCC is the ‘rule of faith’, and we should evaluate that claim. In order to do that, we need to put aside our assumption that the scriptures are the rule of faith.

    The point I’m trying to make is that the end result is a circular argument. The RCC must be the ‘rule of faith’ 1: because it claims to be so 2: because the bible doesn’t claim to be so 3: the RCC is divinely instituted (see claim 1).

    The problem is that just because 2 is true, doesn’t mean the Bible isn’t ‘the rule of faith’, and furthermore, there are more institutions other than the RCC that claim divine institution. We aren’t encouraging the ‘exploration’ of these institutions claims are we?

  305. Henry,

    You started this conversation in comment #1 saying, “Unity must be based and grounded in truth. That can never happen so long as the Roman Catholic church holds to some of its doctrines.”

    I agree that unity must be based on and grounded in truth; I have argued the same thing myself. So, I wanted to know which Catholic doctrines you think are not true, and why you think they are not true. If we can come to understand why we disagree on these doctrines, we will have come closer to resolving what separates us.

    In comment #4 you mention the Marian dogmas, purgatory and indulgences. But you didn’t say why you think they are false doctrines. I’ll discuss the Marian dogmas briefly below, but as for purgatory and indulgences, see my post titled “Indulgences, the Treasury of Merit, and the Communion of the Saints.”

    In comment #8 you wrote:

    See Acts 20:29 and 2 Peter 2:1. We also know from Revelation 2:14-15,20 that error was being embraced in some churches. This shows that Jesus did not promise that church leaders would be protected from error otherwise these warnings would be unnecessary and these errors in the church at Pergamum and Thyatira would not have happened.

    The Catholic teaching concerning the infallibility of the Church is not that particular Churches (e.g. the Church at Corinth, or the Church at Thyatira, etc.) cannot fall away from the true faith [the Church at Rome being an exception], or that particular bishops (the bishop of Rome excepted) cannot teach heresy. The Catholic Church teaching on the infallibility of the Church is that the Magisterium as such cannot teach heresy. And that teaching is fully compatible with the passages from Acts and Revelation to which you refer. That’s why it does not follow from those passages in Acts, 2 Peter and Revelation that “divine protection against error does not exist.” (comment #11) Those passages only show that there is no divine protection of particular Churches, and particular bishops (the bishop of Rome excepted) and particular priests. They do not show that the leadership of the universal Church can fall into heresy. See the section titled “Indefectibility of the Mystical Body” in my article “Ecclesial Deism.” See also the Catholic Encyclopedia article titled “Infallibility.”

    Also in comment #8 you wrote:

    How can your church claim that the Muslim is worshiping the same God as Catholics do when they deny the very nature of God Himself i.e. the Trinity? This is why the claim your church is preserved from error is not true. Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.

    As I pointed out in the link at comment #65, if the denial of the Trinity entails not worshiping the same God, then it would follow that Jews do not worship the same God as do Christians. And that would entail the heresy of Marcionism, the notion that the God whom the Jews worshiped (and still worship) is not the Father of Jesus. So the irony here is that you use this as an example of an ‘error’ taught by the Catholic Church, when in fact it shows your own position to lead to the heresy of Marcionism.

    In comment #11 you wrote,

    This is why putting your faith in the leadership of your church is to trust in men and not the Scripture.

    You never explained how your alternative avoids trusting a man’s interpretation of Scripture (assuming you are man). When Christ authorizes men, then trusting those men (in the way Christ commands) is trusting Christ. And that’s the doctrine of Apostolic succession, which I have explained in the “Apostolic Succession” section of my reply to Michael Horton.

    In comment #14 you wrote:

    What also follows is that if a doctrine is not grounded in Scripture … that doctrine is either false or non-apostolic.

    No, logically, that conclusion does not follow from the premises.

    In comment #28 you say,

    Just look at the Marian dogmas and the claims that the Catholic church makes about her and see if the Lord Jesus or His apostles taught these things about her.

    But again, you don’t actually say how you know these dogmas are false. By presupposing that Scripture alone is the rule of faith, you are begging the question (i.e. assuming a Protestant paradigm in order to evaluate the Catholic paradigm).

    In comment #52 you say:

    You want an example of a false teacher in your church let me point you to St. Alphonsus Liguori who wrote the Glories of Mary.

    You do not state which of his teachings you think is false, and why you think they are false. Presumably, again, it is because you don’t find them in Scripture. And again, this criterion for whether a teaching is true or false begs the question by presupposing the Protestant paradigm, as I (and others) have explained above.

    In comment #111 you wrote:

    Your church teaches things that Jesus and His apostles never taught. Things like indulgences and the Marian dogmas are a couple of examples. Peter was not a pope in the NT church nor is the papacy a position that is mentioned in any passage on the structure of the church. See Eph 4:11 and I Tim 3. This is why its not correct to claim that the RCC is the church that Jesus founded.

    Here you not only seem to be presupposing that there is no authoritative Apostolic Tradition other than Scripture, but you also seem to be unaware of the nature of the development of doctrine. The development of doctrine has been discussed in more detail in other threads here (such as the “The Commonitory of St. Vincent of Lérins). See also Newman’s An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

    In comment #112 you write:

    There are many more quotes like this which shows they are showing more than just Jesus being concieved in Mary and being birthed by her. This is also evidence against the position that the RCC has been preserved against teaching error. The Scripture never presents Mary in this way. Its not even close.

    In claiming that going beyond what is explicitly stated in Scripture is “evidence against” the truth of the Catholic doctrine, you beg the question, by presupposing the Protestant paradigm that Scripture alone is the rule of faith. And begging the question isn’t the way to resolve our disagreement, the disagreement you referred to in comment #1.

    In comment #126 you wrote:

    I know your church claims she was without sin. I know it claims she was assumed into heaven and that she is the queen of heaven. I know all this and more. The problem is that the Scriptures never taught this about her. In fact it was unknown for centuries.

    Here you again beg the question by presupposing that Scripture alone is the rule of faith, and you use an argument from silence. But though the question of when Mary was made sinless was debated, the fact of her sinlessness was attested very early by the Church Fathers, because she was understood to be the new Eve, as Christ is the new Adam. See my post titled “Mary’s Immaculate Conception” and the lecture therein. See also the book titled Mary and the Fathers of the Church, by Luigi Gambero. Moreover, it is not true that there was no early evidence for Mary’s assumption, because although there were relics of all the Apostles, there were never any [first-class] relics of Mary. See my post titled “Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven.”

    In comment #126 you wrote:

    The doctrine that Mary was sinless is not taught in Scripture. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. See Rom 3:9,23, and 5:12. There is also no statement of Scripture that she was an exception to the effects of the fall. Luke 1:28 is not about Luke 1:28 is not her being sinless either. That greeting is about something else entirely.

    Mary’s sinless is not explicitly stated in Scripture, but to assume that it must be stated explicitly in Scripture, in order for it to be doctrine, is to beg the question by presupposing that Scripture alone is the rule of faith. God promised that He would put enmity between the woman and the serpent. And He wasn’t talking about making women afraid of snakes. See the link I referred to above. Regarding the passages from Romans, the ‘all’ does not include Jesus, and it does not include Mary. In order to know that, however, you would have to interpret Scripture with the aid of Tradition, not in a vacuum. You assert that Luke 1:28 does not mean that Mary was without sin, and of course, without the aid of Tradition I understand exactly why you would see it that way. But, again, in the Catholic paradigm we understand Scripture through Tradition, not as though Tradition does not exist. And with the aid of Tradition, we can see that Luke 1:28 does have implications regarding Mary’s sinlessness.

    In comment #189 you wrote:

    Your church does teach against the Scriptures in a number of places. The requirements for church leadership is one and the Marian dogmas such as Mary being without sin would be another.

    I’ve already addressed above your claim that the Marian dogmas are “against the Scriptures.” Here you assert (but do not substantiate) that the Catholic requirements for Church leadership are against Scripture. Presumably you are referring to celibacy. But the discipline of clerical celibacy is not contrary to Scripture. Otherwise, St. Paul (who was single) could not have been a Church leader.

    In comment #245 you claim,

    Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages in the Gospels (Matt 16:18, John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peters successors.

    To see that this is false, read “The Chair of St. Peter” and Steven Ray’s book Upon This Rock.

    So, it seems to me, after examining all your comments in this thread, that the primary reason why you think some Catholic doctrines are contrary to Scripture is that you are using Scripture alone as the rule of faith, and not the Tradition handed down in the Church Fathers and further clarified and developed by the Magisterium. So for us to come to unity regarding the Catholic doctrines you think are false, we need first to back up and discuss the authority and role of the Tradition. I have laid out the Catholic understanding of that in section VIII “Scripture and Tradition” of my reply to Michael Horton.

    Tomorrow begins the week of prayer for the unity of all Christians. May God bring us together in true and perfect unity, as Christ prayed in John 17.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  306. Bob,

    My problem is that I don’t think that the 66 books are clearly equivalent to what we call the Bible. I think a very reasonable case can be made for both Protestant and Catholic canons. I don’t believe that God would have intended for us to each figure this out for ourselves, given the importance of the Bible to our search for Truth. In fact, the very idea that this could be anything but infallibly defined seems ridiculous. I have started using a Bible that contains the deuterocanonicals because the only canon declared to definitively be the Bible by a church council included these books. This is the very issue that led me to consider the claims of Rome. I don’t want to launch into the Canon question, because it is exhaustively addressed on another thread, but how do you personally defend the Protestant presupposition of 66 books, and of a canon that cannot be infallibly defined?

    -Burton

  307. Perhaps I am missing something here. Why, exactly, can’t we evaluate the claim, by examining what is written in a Protestant bible, that the church that Christ personally founded in necessarily part of a rule of faith for the brethren?

    Let us concede that the Protestant bible is God-breathed, and thus inerrant. The way I see it, the question that the Catholics are asking in various ways to the Protestants posting to this thread is this: Does the Protestant bible make the claim for itself that it is the ONLY source of authority that I must accept as a Christian? I say that the Protestant bible itself explicitly answers that question in the negative, therefore, we can easily conclude that the Protestant bible cannot be the “sole rule of faith”.

    Because Catholics can, and should, concede that the scriptures found in a Protestant bible are God-breathed, they can also concede that these scriptures are also an authoritative source of inerrant doctrine for the brethren. Obviously the Apostles didn’t possess Protestant bibles, so the Protestant bible must include at least part of what is contained in the deposit of faith. Whether the Protestant bible is a document that contains the entirety of the deposit of faith is a question that does not impact what I am trying to say. That question is a topic for another thread.

    What happens when a dispute arises among the brethren about a point of doctrine which requires an authoritative voice that can speak as to what is contained in the deposit of faith? Is the Protestant bible silent about where one locates the authority that can bind the consciences of the brethren? Do I need to search for an extra-biblical source to answer that question? No, I don’t need an extra-biblical source. The Protestant bible itself teaches where the locus of authority resides. The Protestant bible teaches that the authority that can bind the consciences of the brethren is the church that Christ personally founded. That is explicitly taught in the Protestant bible, in Christ’s teaching found in Matthew 18:15-18.

    In Acts chapter 15, we see that particular teaching of Christ being put into action. A dispute breaks out among the brethren about a point of doctrine in the communities around Antioch. Some of the brethren from Judea are claiming that the salvation of the Gentiles is dependent upon the Gentile men being circumcised. Paul disputes that point of doctrine, without the brethren of Judea conceding Paul’s claims to the contrary. How is that dispute settled? Do the brethen from Judea “agree to disagree” and go back to Judea? Is the solution found in starting up personal “bible churches” where doctrinal disputes are never settled? No, the brethren in the communities around Antioch settle the dispute in the way commanded by Christ – they take their dispute to the church founded by Christ, and those who have the authority to speak in the name of Christ settle the dispute.

    Matthew 18:15-18 and the verses about the Council of Jerusalem in Acts chapter 15 are the foundational verses for the practice of holding Ecumenical Councils to settle once and for all disputes about points of doctrine. The Protestants cannot show that the “bible alone” is sufficient to act as the sole rule of faith, because no such idea is ever taught in the Protestant bible. Nor is there anything in a Protestant bible that supports the idea that doctrinal disputes are settled by dividing up the Body of Christ in to personal “bible churches” where conflicting doctrine is taught in thousands upon thousands of doctrinally divided sects.

    To sum up my argument, we can know from the Protestant bible alone that the Protestant bible alone cannot be the sole rule of faith for the brethren, since disputes inevitably arise about the interpretation of the Protestant bible. We can also know from the Protestant bible alone, that when disputes over interpretation of the Protestant bible arise among the brethren, that those disputes are authoritatively settled by taking the dispute to the church that Christ personally founded for a conscience binding ruling on that dispute.

    Bob B writes: I am content taking a stand on an issue, parting ways (new denomination, or new church) with the full knowledge that my stance might be the incorrect one.

    Show me the verses in the Protestant bible that justify your contentment with doctrinally divided Protestant “bible churches”! Why aren’t you concerned about not listening to the church that Christ personally founded? Why doesn’t the prospect of being excommunicated from the church founded by Christ not bother you?

  308. Bob B:

    I understand this blog exists to argue that the RCC is the ‘rule of faith’, and we should evaluate that claim. In order to do that, we need to put aside our assumption that the scriptures are the rule of faith.

    Agreed.

    The point I’m trying to make is that the end result is a circular argument. The RCC must be the ‘rule of faith’ 1: because it claims to be so 2: because the bible doesn’t claim to be so 3: the RCC is divinely instituted (see claim 1).

    The problem is that just because 2 is true, doesn’t mean the Bible isn’t ‘the rule of faith’, and furthermore, there are more institutions other than the RCC that claim divine institution. We aren’t encouraging the ‘exploration’ of these institutions claims are we?

    I’m personally not discouraging the ‘exploration’ of other institutions. I think that if we were to evaluate each of these institutions (that claim to be the rule of faith) we can determine which of these institutions has the strongest claim to be the Church that Jesus Christ himself established. Perhaps we can’t have certainty on the matter, but we can say that one Church is more likely than the other.

    Premise 2 might very well be true. The Bible alone might be the rule of faith. If it is I’m sure there is a wonderful argument to support that claim. I have yet to see it put forth in this thread (or anywhere else).

  309. Tradition

    The long answer is that I grew up with a pastor for a father. I take it for granted that he would not mislead me intentionally. It may be that the canon we use is incorrect, but my view is that even a snippet of scripture is sufficient. 66 books may not be the correct number, but there is a certain level of confidence that we don’t have extra.

    It is also my understanding that the deuterocanonicals contain more proof texts for various Roman Catholic beliefs. Seeing as I don’t support the beliefs, I don’t support their texts either. It is also my understanding that some of the books weren’t canonized until Trent. That was a particularly bad council for us protestants, and largely a reaction to the reformation. I suspect that without the reformation, Trent would not have happened (though some sort of house cleaning counter-reformation action might have happened). In any case, the magisterium put the walls around their sandbox at that council, and some books were caught in the cross fire.

  310. Show me the verses in the Protestant bible that justify your contentment with doctrinally divided Protestant “bible churches”! Why aren’t you concerned about not listening to the church that Christ personally founded? Why doesn’t the prospect of being excommunicated from the church founded by Christ not bother you?

    I’m wondering ‘who’ will be excommunicating me? Surely since Trent all Protestants have been excommunicated, if not explicitly, then implicitly. Since the RCC is the only one true church, then by your standard, I’m already out!

    As for the rest of your comment, the early church assumed that it would be the leaders (bishops for lack of a better word) that would be deciding disagreements. There were several Bishops, all working together, deciding the ‘rule of faith’… until 1054. For whatever reason, the rules changed then. The RCC decided to go it alone. The church of the 7 councils has remained and continues to point out various errors in the RCC – all of which rise out of the pride of primacy. It isn’t about Christ, it is about Rome.

    Protestants are on the other side of that schism. We are the fruit of those doctrinal changes, and the catalyst for many more (see Trent). The protestant way of resolving disputes is less… satisfactory than the RCC way (anathematizing), but much of that could come from the treatment the early protestants received at Trent.

    Christian Unity and Life. This isn’t about ‘rules of faith’, interpretive authority, or even IC. It’s about a 20 year old kid who left his abusive mom back in the 1500’s, and he’s been making it on his own so far. Mom want’s him back home, and swears she has reformed… but this 20 year old just doesn’t trust her yet. She still has the whooping stick propped up by the door, still drinks her whisky, and still has her list of anathemas pinned to the refrigerator. And the cry for her boy? Oh, there is no remorse. It’s all submit to authority, and ‘it was my right to kick you out in the first place’.

    I’m not sure this thread has much more room for my pontificating, so I think I’ll bow out. It’s been fun!

  311. Bob wrote:

    “The long answer is that I grew up with a pastor for a father. I take it for granted that he would not mislead me intentionally . . . My view is that even a snippet of scripture is sufficient. 66 books may not be the correct number, but there is a certain level of confidence that we don’t have extra.

    It is also my understanding that the deuterocanonicals contain more proof texts for various Roman Catholic beliefs. Seeing as I don’t support the beliefs, I don’t support their texts either.”

    I appreciate what Bob wrote, as it resonates with what I used to believe and experience: you begin your Christian life based on trust and experience – not logic or the search for truth. At a certain point, you have to decide what to do with “cognitive dissonance.” If a text purporting to be Scripture contradicts my long held beliefs, for example, do I question my beliefs? Or, do I dismiss the challenge.
    It is very, very hard to abandon the faith of one’s childhood, that one learned at the knee of a loving Father. Trust me, I know.

    Our Lady, Help of Christians, Pray for us!

  312. Bob B,

    I hope you’ll stick around. I also hope that you’ll pursue dialogue rather than pontificating, particularly when that pontification is based on false information. For example, your information about the status of the deuterocanonicals before the sixteenth century and your conception of the cause and significance of the events of 1054 are simply and demonstrably false.

    in Christ,
    John

  313. Bryan Cross,
    You write in response to my comment on the basis for unity -“I agree that unity must be based on and grounded in truth; I have argued the same thing myself. So, I wanted to know which Catholic doctrines you think are not true, and why you think they are not true. If we can come to understand why we disagree on these doctrines, we will have come closer to resolving what separates us.”
    There are many things the separate Roman Catholics from Protestants that are quite significant. The Marian doctrines are some of the clearest examples of our differences because it is quite easy to compare the claims of the Marian dogmas with Scripture. A Protestant that holds to Sola Scriptura and knows Scriptures will see problems with them very quickly.
    One of the main points from Catholics on this thread has been the issue of who has authority and what is the rule of faith. My understanding why Catholics such as David and Fr Bryan want to establish the Roman Catholic church as the rule of faith and for the church to be protected from error is to then be able to claim these and other doctrines of the RCC cannot be false since the church is protected from error. Its an ingenious defense but it has some serious problems with it.
    I really do not expect to see true unity in the way that Catholics and Protestants want. There is just to many obstacles to overcome.
    What do you think?

  314. Dear Robert Glenn (#281),

    I’m sorry to hear of the deficiencies in your catechesis. I’m curious as to what catechism you were taught from that left out the love of God, salvation in Christ, and the importance of reading the Bible. The 1941 Baltimore Catechism, for example, says quite early on:

    23g. Are Catholics encouraged by the Church to read the Bible?
    Yes; Catholics are encouraged by the Church to read the Bible, especially the Gospels, which tell about the earthly life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man.

    23h. What is the chief message of the New Testament?
    The chief message of the New Testament is the joyful announcement of our salvation through Jesus Christ.

    It is not difficult to find many more questions in the same Catechism that speak of God’s great love for us and His offer of salvation through our Lord Jesus. Were these points of Catholic faith entirely neglected in your religious education? This is an honest question. If this is the case, you were cheated out of learning accurately what the Catholic Church teaches.

    As to the “extrinsic” character of the rule of faith, this simply indicates that there is something outside of us to which we submit—namely, the truth that God reveals, the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), the form of doctrine that we are to obey from the heart (Rom 6.17). It is certainly not meant to deny that divine faith, given us by the Holy Spirit, is interior, personal, and certain. But because it conforms, not to our own preference or fancy, but to God’s objective revelation, the rule of faith by which we test our beliefs must be “extrinsic” to our own assent of faith.

    in Christ,

    John

  315. Burton,
    Are you aware there are errors in the deuterocanonicals. None of these books claim to be written by a prophet and were not listed in the Jewish Bible. There are some serious problems with accepting these books as Scripture.

  316. Henry,

    I have another snow day and everything at my parish is cancelled again!

    You said,

    “My understanding why Catholics such as David and Fr Bryan want to establish the Roman Catholic church as the rule of faith and for the church to be protected from error is to then be able to claim these and other doctrines of the RCC cannot be false since the church is protected from error.”

    I want to defend the claim that the Church has interpretive authority over the Scriptures because its true, and I like truth. I want to show why Sola Scriptura is false because it is false and I don’t like it when people buy into false things. Again, if unity must be grounded in truth then this is a foundational problem that must be resolved. As long as we hold different views as to who/what has the final say on doctrinal matters we can’t have unity. If we do resolve this than we can have unity.

    Thanks again for your contributions. I have enjoyed the discussion and will continue to follow it as long as the snow is falling.

  317. Henry, (re: #313)

    You wrote:

    There are many things the separate Roman Catholics from Protestants that are quite significant. The Marian doctrines are some of the clearest examples of our differences because it is quite easy to compare the claims of the Marian dogmas with Scripture.

    Lots of things are easy. But the question, recall (from comment #1), is what is true, not what is easy. And you have not shown that any Marian dogma is either false or contrary to Scripture.

    A Protestant that holds to Sola Scriptura and knows Scriptures will see problems with them very quickly.

    You have yet to show a single “problem” between a Marian dogma and Scripture. You have, however, continued repeatedly to assert that there are problems with the Marian dogmas. And that’s easy. But it doesn’t get us any closer to unity. If you really want to effect unity between Protestants and Catholics, you have to do more than merely assert that there are problems with Catholic doctrines. You have to take the time to lay out arguments and evidence, and then be willing to listen to the Catholic response.

    One of the main points from Catholics on this thread has been the issue of who has authority and what is the rule of faith. My understanding why Catholics such as David and Fr Bryan want to establish the Roman Catholic church as the rule of faith and for the church to be protected from error is to then be able to claim these and other doctrines of the RCC cannot be false since the church is protected from error. Its an ingenious defense but it has some serious problems with it.

    Such as …? Do you see the pattern? You assert that there are problems, but then fail to specify what are the problems and why they are problems.

    I really do not expect to see true unity in the way that Catholics and Protestants want. There is just to many obstacles to overcome.

    It takes faith, patience, and perseverance. If we lack those, the schism will continue. But if we are diligent, God will effect reconciliation and reunion.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  318. Fr Bryan,
    I’m glad I don’t have to contend with snow. Hope you are safe. I find it astounding that you and David reject the Scripture as the rule of faith. When Jesus finished His teaching on the Sermon of the Mount in Matt 5-7 He fully expected people to understand what He had just taught and to apply it. In fact He warned of the consequences of not understanding and applying what He had taught in Matt 7:24-27. If this is not a rule of faith then nothing is. Would you agree?

  319. Henry,

    Thanks for your concern. I’m at a lower altitude than most of my parishioners so things aren’t that bad down here. The only reason I might have to drive is if I get called to the hospital in an emergency. I’m praying it doesn’t happen.

    When Jesus finished His teaching on the Sermon of the Mount in Matt 5-7 He fully expected people to understand what He had just taught and to apply it.

    I completely agree that Jesus had authority and I believe that he shared this authority with a certain group of men. Scripture shows that these men had the ability to authoritatively settle doctrinal disputes (See Acts 15). When one of these men, Judas, died, the other apostles appointed his successor. This successor Matthias was NOT appointed by Christ himself. This is evidence that the apostles could share their authority to settle doctrinal disputes with other men.

    It is my belief that this authority is still present in the world. By submitting to the men with this authority, we are submitting to Christ.

    If this is not a rule of faith then nothing is. Would you agree?

    No, I don’t agree. I believe that the rule of faith is found in the successors to the apostles.

  320. Henry,

    I’m curious about what you just wrote about our Lord: “He fully expected people to understand what He had just taught.”

    That just doesn’t seem to accord at all with Scripture. Consider:

    Matt. 13:
    And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted . . . Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND.”

    Also, you are astonished that I don’t believe Scripture is the Rule of faith.
    And Yet, you still refuse to give me any evidence that God wants me to believe this. Apart from divine revelation, why on earth should I believe an unbiblical, human tradition – invented by a mad, Saxon monk?

  321. Bravo Lord Jesus Christ,

    The praise of Thee shall continually be in my mouth, For thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto thy Way of Salvation!

    Matthew 7 verse 21 thru 29
    <blockquote21Not every one that says unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven.
    22Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name? and in Thy Name have cast out devils? and in Thy Name done many wonderful works?
    23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity.
    24Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
    25And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
    26And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
    27And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
    28And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
    29For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

    Dear Henry,
    Unfortunately, these scholarly gentlemen will have to make their appeal to the Magisterium to get a right understanding of the Way and the Truth and the Light of men.

    Robert Glenn

  322. Henry,

    OK, I understand that there are arguments against the deutero’s, but there are also some good arguments for them (see the lengthy Canon thread). My point is that I do not think you can reasonably insist that your argument for the 66 is so convincing and unbiased that anyone with an open mind will agree with you, nor do I think that any one individual has the authority to proclaim the true list. So we are left with my opinion of the list against your opinion of the list – who gets to decide?

    Also, after studying the New Testament and church history at length (over about ten years), I have come to the conclusion that justification by faith alone is simply wrong. Do you believe that this doctrine is essential? Would you still consider me to be a faithful Protestant? How would we settle this disagreement? Do we even need to?

    Burton

  323. @Henry:

    I find it astounding that you and David reject the Scripture as the rule of faith. When Jesus finished His teaching on the Sermon of the Mount in Matt 5-7 He fully expected people to understand what He had just taught and to apply it. In fact He warned of the consequences of not understanding and applying what He had taught in Matt 7:24-27. If this is not a rule of faith then nothing is.

    This seems a little disingenuous. I don’t accept Scripture as a Rule of Faith – meaning that Scripture, in my interpretation, is the only thing that can bind my faith – but I believe with absolute faith that the Scriptures contain the Word of God and I seek daily deeper understanding of His Word in it and I spend my life trying to apply it. I am sure that both Father Bryan and David do the same – and I think you know they do.

    Not accepting something as the Rule of Faith – and I have said the Rule of Faith, because every Catholic believes it is a Rule of Faith when read within the mind of the Church – has nothing to do with whether one seeks to understand and to apply what Jesus taught. Indeed, I would claim that my acceptance of the Scripture as a Rule of Faith read in the context of the Church and of Sacred Tradition enables me much better both to understand and to apply the teachings of Jesus. I am not in the position of having to be a Lone Ranger Christian.

    jj

  324. David,
    What is the context of Matt 13? Why did Jesus speak to the people in parables? It was because the people had hardened hearts. See Matt 13:14-16. It was to the disciples i.e. that were truly following Him that He revealed to meaning of the parables. See Matt 13:11, 16.
    Also, the Sermon on the Mount is not a parable.
    What further evidence do you need to believe that the Scriptures alone were meant for us to believe and build our lives on? What greater “rule of faith” can there be but the teachings of the Lord Jesus? Jesus Himself speaks in the place of God and He alone is the ultimate authority. Read what Jesus said about His teachings in John 12:44-50. He certainly meant here that He alone is thee “rule of faith” for all men and all men will be held accountable by Him.

    Keep in mind that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not based on men but on the very Word of God. Even if madmen were to proclaim this truth it would not make it any less true.

  325. Burton,
    How did you come to the conclusion that that justification by faith alone is simply wrong?

    To deny this doctrine is to deny the gospel.

    In regards to the deutero’s and who gets to decide is not the issue. Anyone can decide what to believe about them. The issue is should books that contain errors, false teachings and not accepted by the Jews as Scripture be accepted as Scripture in a Christian Bible? Just because a church authority accepts them as Scripture does not make them the Word of God.

  326. John,
    Since I’m making the case that the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5-7 is a rule of faith and you claim to “read in the context of the Church and of Sacred Tradition enables me much better both to understand and to apply the teachings of Jesus.”
    What Sacred Tradition do you go to, to understand what Jesus meant in 5:4-6? I’d be curious what Sacred Tradition says about this passage since I have been studying this passage for a while. Knowing what the RCC officially teaches about this passage might shed some light on my study.

  327. Henry, (re#324):

    To deny this doctrine is to deny the gospel.

    Prove it, using Sola Scriptura.

    Frank

  328. Henry,

    You wrote:

    What is the context of Matt 13? Why did Jesus speak to the people in parables? It was because the people had hardened hearts. See Matt 13:14-16. It was to the disciples i.e. that were truly following Him that He revealed to meaning of the parables.

    –I couldn’t agree more! Jesus revealed the meaning of his teaching to his disciples – Those whom he had chosen! (And, by the way, those whom he sent forth to teach in Matt. 28).

    Also, the Sermon on the Mount is not a parable. — No argument here.

    What further evidence do you need to believe that the Scriptures alone were meant for us to believe and build our lives on?

    –“Believe and build lives on” is not what’s at stake. This is misconstruing what me mean by a Rule of Faith. I believe the Scriptures. I just don’t believe that God gave us the Scriptures to settle doctrinal controversy, or to define the limits and meaning of the deposit of faith. I’m still waiting for you to produce evidence to the contrary.

    What greater “rule of faith” can there be but the teachings of the Lord Jesus?

    –Once again, I agree. Show me where Jesus teaches that Scripture is the Rule of Faith, and I’ll agree with you. So far, you haven’t done this.

    Jesus Himself speaks in the place of God and He alone is the ultimate authority.

    –Yep, no argument.

    Read what Jesus said about His teachings in John 12:44-50. He certainly meant here that He alone is thee “rule of faith” for all men and all men will be held accountable by Him.

    –Yep, no argument, still.

    Keep in mind that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not based on men but on the very Word of God.

    –Ok, now here you’ve made an assertion that demands some evidence. Show me where “the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not based on men but on the very Word of God.”

    You still haven’t done this. If you can do this, I’ll concede Sola Scriptura. So far, however, you haven’t even attempted to. You just keep asserting, over and over, that Scripture is God’s word and inspired. We agree, we agree, we agree. This is not the point at issue.

    And still waiting . . . . ,

    David

  329. David Anders writes: I appreciate what Bob wrote, as it resonates with what I used to believe and experience: you begin your Christian life based on trust and experience – not logic or the search for truth. At a certain point, you have to decide what to do with “cognitive dissonance.” If a text purporting to be Scripture contradicts my long held beliefs, for example, do I question my beliefs? Or, do I dismiss the challenge.

    I can appreciate this too. I don’t agree with every Protestant interpretation of the scriptures, [who can? – Protestants interpret the scriptures in so many contradictory ways!]. I know too many well educated and sincere Protestants to dismiss them all as being either “knaves or fools” because they don’t interpret the scriptures in the same way as I do. Still, the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura denies that anyone has the ability to exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility in any conceivable circumstance. And this inbred skepticism of anyone claiming a primacy of authority when interpreting scriptures leads many sincere Protestants into suffering what I call the Hard Sayings of the Bible Syndrome.

    Suppose I am a member of a Protestant sect that I love and trust – I read a passage of scriptures that seems to contradict what my Protestant sect teaches, but my Protestant sect also teaches that the scriptures are inerrant. Therefore, I have a verse of scriptures that must be true, but I can’t see how to reconcile it with what my sect teaches. My way out of this dilemma is to put that scripture verse aside into a file labeled “The Hard Sayings of the Bible”. Someday, when I am more educated, better read, have more time to examine the issue, surely I will be able to reconcile this Hard Saying of the Bible with what my sect teaches. If the verse is in my Hard Sayings of the Bible file, the only reason that it is there is because there must be something wrong with me, and not with the people that I trust. The Hard Sayings of the Bible Syndrome is difficult to reconcile with a doctrine of scriptural perspicuity, but that gives me even more reason to think that I must be defective, since all the people that I trust are telling me that the scriptures are perspicacious!

    I have a book written by Protestant authors that purports to explain the Hard Sayings of the Bible:

    … Are you grappling with a difficult verse in the Bible? And are you looking for a short, easy-to-read answer that really makes sense without explaining away the verse? Hard Sayings of the Bible is the handy reference book you need. Here you will find explanations of over 500 of the most troubling verses to test the minds and hearts of Bible readers. Four seasoned scholars, all with a notable gift for communicating with people in the pew, take you behind the scenes to find succinct solutions to a wide variety of Bible difficulties, ranging from discrepancies about numbers to questions about God’s justice ….

    Reference: Book Description from Amazon.com
    http://www.amazon.com/Hard-Sayings-Bible/dp/083081423X

    For many Protestants, a Hard Saying of the Bible is found in 1John 5:16-17 where the Apostle John speaks about sin that is mortal and sin that is not mortal. I bought this book to see what the authors had to say about these verses, and I was surprised to find out that they didn’t explain away these verses. They didn’t exactly explain what constitutes mortal sin, but neither did they deny that the scriptures speak about mortal sin. Which gives me reason to hope, that someday, Protestants and Catholics might be able to agree about what the perspicuous scriptures teach!

  330. Henry,

    As many here have pointed out, there are significant problems with your assertion that the Bible alone is the highest authority Christians have to settle doctrinal disputes. One of them is that the Bible is a text and texts must be interpreted. As has been pointed out many times, Christians who hold Scripture alone as their highest authority often come up with completely different interpretations.

    This is a huge dilemma for Christians, unless there is someone that has the ability to interpret the scripture with Christ’s own authority. As I said above, I believe that share his authority with the apostles. Do you deny that Christ shared his authority with the apostles?

  331. Henry,

    Does “rule of faith” make sense if we call it the final arbiter or final authority? In other words, “who” gets to decide what the correct interpretation regarding what constitutes true teaching on faith and morals. Faith and morals because being wrong in either will lead a soul to hell (loss of salvation).

    An authority or rule is only good in its ability to resolve a conflict. You claim that Scripture is the final authority (rule of faith) because it is inspired. Catholics say it is inspired, but it is not the final authority. Catholics say authorities are people (or God)–agents that can act as an authority. A book can be authoritative, but it cannot be an authority.

    Thus I ask, who is the final authority in the Christian religion regarding faith and morals? We both have the same book (the Bible) as our authoritative reference (albeit Catholics also have the living Sacred Tradition plus the books that were cut out in the 16th century). We can both see that the Bible was not written like a catechism. I would imagine you would say Christ is the final authority in your religion. If Christ is the final authority, did he pass this authority off to anyone? Does your authoritative book (the Bible) mention anyone? If so, who?

    We say the Church? Where is that Church? The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  332. David,
    I am not just asserting Sola Scriptura but giving you reasons that its true because of the nature of the Scriptures themselves. Now we do agree that the Scriptures are inspired-inerrant. What it seems to me is that we disagree on the implications of this. I believe they are sufficient as a rule of faith and gave you an example or 2 from the teachings of Jesus.
    Your statement “I just don’t believe that God gave us the Scriptures to settle doctrinal controversy, or to define the limits and meaning of the deposit of faith. ” helps me to see clearer what you mean. I do believe that the Scriptures are the “referee” in doctrinal matters. What I mean is that if a doctrine can be clearly grounded in Scripture, then it is binding. Clear doctrines in Scripture are things like the nature of God and salvation.
    Those things that cannot be grounded firmly Scripture would not be binding nor apostolic. Things like eating meat on Fridays during lent or the Marian doctrines would be in this category.
    I don’t expect to persuade you or anyone else to believe in Sola Scriptura but i do think its worthwhile to discuss these matters.
    The church does have a responsibility to solve doctrinal matters whenever possible. Sometimes its not possible. For the church to do this does not require it to be infallible nor incapable of error. Not even the apostles in Acts 15 were incapable of error. There has been only One human being in history that could not err. The rest of us have to study and pray and still acknowledge our limitations.

    It seems the RCC works under the assumption of some kind on development of the deposit of faith. If that is true, do you think that Mary should be proclaimed co-matrix with Christ?

  333. Fr Bryan,
    I agree that Protestants coming up with different interpretations of Scripture. This is a problem for a variety of reasons such as not enough information and not doing good exegesis. How I wish there was an infallible interpreter of Scripture today like the Lord Jesus. But such a thing does not exist. You can look at how Roman Catholics interpret the Scriptures in the early centuries and compare them with today. They are not always the same thing.
    I asked John about how the RCC interprets Matt 5:4-6. Would you happen to know the official interpretation of this passage?

  334. Brent,
    See my response at 332. I’d like to know what you think since I’m presenting an example that gives your belief about your church in opportunity to show me how this works.

    Thanks

  335. @Henry:

    What Sacred Tradition do you go to, to understand what Jesus meant in 5:4-6?

    I read the Fathers. I read the Catechism. I read the Scriptures. I pray and study. In fact, I do what every Protestant does.

    What I do not do is to decide that my interpretation of this or any other verse is true if I know that the Church tells me otherwise. Regarding this particular verse – or, indeed, almost any other you might choose – the Church has not given any binding interpretation. Indeed, this particular passage of Scriptures has many, many applications – it is not a matter of “this verse means that thing in the rational world and nothing else.”

    Sacred Tradition is not a kind of Ouija Board that I consult to get The Answer. Sacred Tradition is the accumulated wisdom of 2,000 years of Christians in harmony with the Holy Spirit Whose dwelling place is the Church, the Body of Christ – not simply in individual Christians so that they disagree with one another.

    I would suggest you avoid a simplistic view of God. He is far bigger than a simple system (“baptism must only be by full immersion”; “salvation is by faith alone and if you get any kind of works mixed up you have denied the Gospel”). I remember when I became a Catholic I felt as though I had come out of a narrow, cramped room into a huge open place.

    jj

  336. Henry,

    You didn’t answer my question. I asked if you denied that Jesus shared his authority with the apostles. Based on response to David in which you stated, “Not even the apostles in Acts 15 were incapable of error” seems that you do deny it. Is this true? Do you think that the apostles could have made a mistake in their articulation of Christian doctrine to the faithful?

  337. Henry,

    You asked about Sacred Tradition and the intepretation of Matt. 5:5-6. As others have mentioned, Sacred Tradition is a vast repository of thought and insight and so one could only point you to some part of Sacred Tradition unless you have months available to read.

    Here’s something specific, called the “Catena Aurea” (“Golden Chain”) – a compilation done by St. Thomas Aquinas of reflections on the four Gospels from the early Church Fathers.

    You asked about Sacred Tradition and the intepretation of Matt. 5:5-6. As others have mentioned, Sacred Tradition is a vast repository of thought and insight and so one could only point you to some part of Sacred Tradition unless you have months available to read.

    Here’s something specific, called the “Catena Aurea” (“Golden Chain”) – a compilation done by St. Thomas Aquinas of reflections on the four Gospels from the early Church Fathers. This
    link will take you to Matt. 5.

    There you will find each individual verse followed by some brief commentary taken from the early Church Fathers, each of whose abbreviated names is listed along with their commentary. A list of the abbreviations used starts on page xv of this.

    I hope you will spend some time in the company of these great Saints and Doctors of the Christian faith.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  338. Fr Bryan,
    Depends what you mean by sharing His authority. He gave them authority with limitations. Their authority was always under His guidance.
    Yes, the apostles could have made a mistake in their articulation of Christian doctrine to the faithful. Paul alludes to this in Gal 1:8 where he writes-“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Paul’s rebuke Peter in the same book is example of falling into error.
    I do not believe that what they wrote in the NT is in error at any point.

  339. Henry,

    Only 7 passages of Scripture have been officially interpreted by the Church. Obviously, the Church teaches many doctrines that are supported by both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The Trinity would be one of them. Obviously, the Church could not interpret one passage of Scripture that definitively evidences “The Trinity”. Instead, Mother Church sees the entire deposit of faith, including Sacred Tradition, and defines what is the truth regarding faith and morals. Those doctrines as taught by the divinely authorized Church Jesus left us serve as a kind of theological boundary line. Then, see JJS at #334.

    So, now that I’ve answered your question, will you answer mine and Fr. Bryan’s?

  340. John,
    Paul is quite clear about the gospel and he warns that anyone who deviates from it is to be accursed. To mix works into the gospel is to deny it. See also Gal 2:16-21.

  341. Henry,

    You said:

    I do not believe that what they wrote in the NT is in error at any point.

    Why not?

    best,
    John

  342. Henry @339,

    What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? -James 2:14-22

    For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”-Romans 4:3

    So, according to St. Paul, Abraham was justified by his faith. What was his faith? According to St. James, his faith was when he offered Issac his son on the altar.” (works).

    In Galatians 2:16-21, St. Paul is talking about the Jewish ceremonial law. See vv.14-15.

    All of this mirrors Our Lord’s words in Matthew 25:31-46.

  343. Brent… I think you mean JTJ. JJS hasn’t been active in this thread. I haven’t seen him in a while, actually.

    Henry… John S kind of got where I was going with this, I think. I personally haven’t explored a line of reasoning here so I’m thinking my way through it too. Perhaps it will lead to a dead end. I’m not sure. Point is, if we can’t be sure that the apostles had the authority to teach without error than how do we know that their writings are inspired? To think that some of their teachings are without error and others are not without error seems pretty arbitrary to me.

  344. Henry,

    “who gets to decide” is exactly the issue, because I disagree that these books contain errors and false teachings, and I disagree with your contention that first century Jewish inclusion is the sine qua non litmus test of canonicity. I don’t have the authority to define the canon, but neither do you. Who does? If no one does, then why is my definition of canon any less legitimate than yours?

    As for the role of faith and works in salvation, the New Testament read as a whole (Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels, Pauline epistles, and the Book of James) clearly show that faith alone (as defined by Luther and Calvin) does not save. This is the gospel. All is grace, but faith must be accompanied by the works of love. I suspect you will disagree with my interpretation, but why should I submit myself to your interpretation?

    Burton

  345. Let me add… To think that some of their teachings are without error and others are not without error seems pretty arbitrary to me, unless we have a principled reason for distinguishing them. Do you have a principled reason for distinguishing them?

  346. Fr Bryan,
    My faith in the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture is not based on the capabilities of men but on the God Who is the author of Scripture. Men can err but God can’t.

    Are you asking me if I think any of the apostles erred? If that is your question, then it would no since all that we have of their teachings is found in the Scripture alone and I believe Scripture does not err.

  347. Burton,
    The issue of the canon of Scripture is quite complex. Needless to say I think the church of the 4th century got it right. Could they be wrong and missed something and should have added another book? Perhaps. I think the case for the 39 books for the OT canon is stronger than the RCC canon that includes the apocrypha. The reason why the Jews are so important is because the NT affirms their place salvation history. Paul in Romans 3:2 when he mentions the advantage the Jew has. He writes-”
    1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?
    2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.
    The oracles of God would be the OT itself. It was God who spoke through Jewish prophets and wrote down what they said.
    Now if the ones who were entrusted with the oracles of God i.e. the OT and they don’t have the apocrypha in their canon that is a serious blow to the RCC OT canon.

    This is for Brent also.
    Paul is quite clear that it is faith alone in Christ alone that saves us. See John 3:16; Eph 2:8-9 for example. What James is addressing is the issue of the man who claims to believe but has no fruit of that belief. If a man claims to believe in Christ but has no fruit that shows a changed life then that man has a dead faith. This kind of man is a phony.
    A living faith will produce good works. A dead faith will not.

  348. Henry
    ,re# 345. Thank you for agreeing with what I said in # 149 and I quote:

    I believe that faith in Christ must be tempered by our life in Christ. It is not those who believe in Christ only but those who DO what Christ demands who win salvation. Certainly salvation is a free gift and we can not earn it but as St. Paul says, we must work out our salvation in fear and trembling. If our lives are not changed through our faith in Christ no amount of belief will be enough to save us. Then Christ will say depart from me for I know you not. Though salvation is a free gift, our works in Christ are in fact works of Christ through us. Therefore our works are not strictly speaking our works but Christ’s works.

    I didn’t thank you were going to answer me. Thank you ..

    Blessing
    NHU

  349. JohnS,
    I don’t believe there are any errors in Scripture because God is the author of Scripture. Do you believe there are errors in Scripture?

  350. Mateo,
    You write-” Catechism of the Catholic Church

    II. INSPIRATION AND TRUTH OF SACRED SCRIPTURE

    105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

    107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”

    III. THE HOLY SPIRIT, INTERPRETER OF SCRIPTURE

    109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.

    110 In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.”

    111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. “Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written.”

    Henry, is there anything that you disagree with in what I quoted from the CCC?”

    I can see no problem with this. This helps to answer the question of the apostles being incapable of error also. Since God is the author of Scripture as your catechism says, then it cannot be in error. If men were the source of Scripture then error would be possible. Would you agree?

  351. Henry,

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    There is nothing in this verse that is inconsistent what Brent wrote.

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

    You do understand that the works St. Paul refers to here are the observance of the prescriptions in the Mosaic law, the very same works he rejects in Romans 3:28 (‘the works of the law’). These are not the works done with agape that Brent refers to.

    Neither of these passages (nor any other in Scripture) says “faith alone.” That is your interpretive tradition. You see, you have a sacred tradition too, but apparently don’t realize it. The only place in the Bible where the words “faith alone” appear, they are preceded by “not by” (James 2).

    So you say you are saved by faith alone. May I ask, Henry, whose faith?

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  352. Dear Burton (#347),

    You said:

    Needless to say I think the church of the 4th century got it right. Could they be wrong and missed something and should have added another book? Perhaps.

    By recognizing that, in your opinion, there is a chance that the Protestant canon is wrong, you are recognizing that the Protestant collection and selection of books in the Bible was a fallible human endeavor. This leaves with, at best, a fallible collection of infallible books. About that position, as I’ve said elsewhere:

    A fallible collection of infallible books cannot function as a binding authority, for “what can be more absurd than a probable infallibility, or a certainty resting on doubt?”

    (Quoting John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (U. of Notre Dame Press, 1989), p. 80.)

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  353. @Robert Glenn:

    24Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.

    I note, Robert, that what Our Lord says here is that it is necessary not only to hear but to do. I remember being struck by this when I became a Catholic. When I was a Protestant, I had always missed the necessity of works as well as hearing and believing. Indeed, when the children in our Reformed Church sang songs about building one’s house upon a Rock, we thought it meant believing God’s promises without works by contrast with believing together with doing works.

    jj

  354. Henry,

    I’m back to work, so this will be one of my last comments, if not my very last comment. I appreciate you taking the time to interact with us. I do, however, hope that you will open your mind and heart up to what we are saying. It is out of desire to be obedient to Christ that we are obedient to the Church – Christ’s body. Submitting to the Church as the rule of faith avoids some of the inherent difficulties present in submitting to the Bible alone not the least of which is that every person needs to be a scripture scholar in order to do this well.

    If scripture alone can be shown to be the highest authority to settle doctrinal disputes (rule of faith) then I will gladly submit to it. Unfortunately, we have given you every opportunity to present an argument and you haven’t done so. We have presented several reasons that scripture alone can’t be the highest authority to settle doctrinal disputes. The reasons include that it is a text and texts must be interpreted as well as the fact that no source of divine revelation claims that it is the highest authority over doctrinal matters. These have either been misunderstood, ignored, or simply dismissed (I’m not accusing you of doing any of this intentionally. I chalk it up to being unfamiliar with each other’s faith-culture, which is a phrase I just made up right now).

    We’ve been all over the place in the discussion and I apologize if I’ve personally taken it anywhere that was unhelpful. Before I have to bow out of it can I get you to grant a couple of things? First, can you admit that when Catholics submit to the Church they believe that they are submitting to Christ and his authority (Sure, we may be wrong, but I’m not asking you if we’re correct or not. What I’m asking is that do you believe that in OUR mind we are submitting to Christ?)? Second, will you admit that there is no evidence from divine revelation that Scripture alone is to be the highest authority in doctrinal disputes (I’m not asking you to deny that Scripture is the rule of faith. All I’m asking is for you to grant that there is no evidence within it that it is the rule of faith).

    I pop up on here from time to time. If you stick around, maybe we’ll interact again.

    In the peace of Christ,

    Fr. Bryan

  355. mateo asks: Henry, is there anything that you disagree with in what I quoted from the CCC?”

    Henry responds :I can see no problem with this. This helps to answer the question of the apostles being incapable of error also. Since God is the author of Scripture as your catechism says, then it cannot be in error. If men were the source of Scripture then error would be possible. Would you agree?

    Yes, I agree, the scriptures must be inerrant since God is the author of scriptures, and God cannot lie. Now will you please answer three questions for me?

    When you read the scriptures where Christ commands that the faithful must listen to the church that Christ personally founded or be excommunicated, did God make an error by allowing these verses into the Bible? (See Matthew 18:15-18)

    If, as the bible instructs me, I am supposed to listen to the church that Christ personally founded, and I refuse to do that, should I consider myself to be excommunicated from Christ’s church?

    What Protestant sect do you belong to, and who is the man or woman that founded your Protestant sect?

  356. Henry and Fr Bryan:
    How do the verses from Gal 1:8 and 9 affect the discussion about scriptures. Below is from my
    “The New American Bible” copyright 1987.

    8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let that one be accursed! 9 As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one you received, let that one be accursed!

  357. Frank,
    Is there any work that men can do that add to what Christ did on the cross to pay the price for our sins? If there is, what work is it that a man must do to be saved?

    You do realize that there were Catholics who lived before Luther who also taught “faith alone”? Consider these quotes:
    “Robert Bellarmine listed eight earlier authors who used sola (Disputatio de controversiis: De justificatione 1.25 [Naples: G. Giuliano, 1856], 4.501-3):

    Origen, Commentarius in Ep. ad Romanos, cap. 3 (PG 14.952).

    Hilary, Commentarius in Matthaeum 8:6 (PL 9.961).

    Basil, Hom. de humilitate 20.3 (PG 31.529C).

    Ambrosiaster, In Ep. ad Romanos 3.24 (CSEL 81.1.119): “sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei,” through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God; 4.5 (CSEL 81.1.130).

    John Chrysostom, Hom. in Ep. ad Titum 3.3 (PG 62.679 [not in Greek text]).

    Cyril of Alexandria, In Joannis Evangelium 10.15.7 (PG 74.368 [but alludes to Jas 2:19]).

    Bernard, In Canticum serm. 22.8 (PL 183.881): “solam justificatur per fidem,” is justified by faith alone.

    Theophylact, Expositio in ep. ad Galatas 3.12-13 (PG 124.988).

    To these eight Lyonnet added two others (Quaestiones, 114-18):

    Theodoret, Affectionum curatio 7 (PG 93.100; ed. J. Raeder [Teubner], 189.20-24).

    Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law). Cf. In ep. ad Romanos 4.1 (Parma ed., 13.42a): “reputabitur fides eius, scilicet sola sine operibus exterioribus, ad iustitiam”; In ep. ad Galatas 2.4 (Parma ed., 13.397b): “solum ex fide Christi” [Opera 20.437, b41]).”

    Though the word “alone” is not in the text it is implied since none can add to what Christ has done for us.

  358. Fr Bryan,
    Its to bad you are leaving. It was just starting to get interesting. I made a solid case for the rule of faith with a couple of teachings of Jesus. If there are any doctrinal disputes about some thing then the first place to look would be the Scripture. Do the Scriptures shed any light on the dispute? In many cases they do. That’s why knowing the Scripture is so important but so many who claim Christ are ignorant of them. Take eating meat on Fridays for example. As a protestant i can look for such a command in Scripture and see if it makes on specific command to Christians that they are not to eat meat on Friday’s and if they do it is sin. What do we find in Scripture about this? Nothing. What should I conclude from this? Is it an apostolic command or is it a tradition of men?
    I don’t recall that you nor David never came up with a specific example of a doctrinal dispute was settled and it was never challenged again in your church. Maybe I missed it. It would be good to see how your system cashes out.

    In regards to your questions–“First, can you admit that when Catholics submit to the Church they believe that they are submitting to Christ and his authority (Sure, we may be wrong, but I’m not asking you if we’re correct or not. What I’m asking is that do you believe that in OUR mind we are submitting to Christ?)?”
    Yes.
    “Second, will you admit that there is no evidence from divine revelation that Scripture alone is to be the highest authority in doctrinal disputes (I’m not asking you to deny that Scripture is the rule of faith. All I’m asking is for you to grant that there is no evidence within it that it is the rule of faith).”
    No.

    Wish you well.

  359. Tom,
    You write–” A fallible collection of infallible books cannot function as a binding authority, for “what can be more absurd than a probable infallibility, or a certainty resting on doubt?”
    (Quoting John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (U. of Notre Dame Press, 1989), p. 80.)”
    I have no doubt that the Scriptures are inspired-inerrant. So does the RCC. The authority of the Scriptures is not derived from the human authors or the church but from God Himself Who is the author. This is why the Scriptures and what they teach are binding on all. Jesus Himself said as much in John 12:48-“He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”

  360. Tom,

    I think you meant to address your recent post to Henry.

    -Burton

  361. Henry (#349)

    You said:

    I don’t believe there are any errors in Scripture because God is the author of Scripture. Do you believe there are errors in Scripture?

    No, I don’t believe there are errors in scripture.

    How do you know that God is the author of all — or, indeed, any — of the books of the New Testament?

    John

  362. John S,
    This is what the Scriptures say.

  363. Henry,

    Where do the scriptures say that God is the author of these books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans…? You get the idea.

    John

  364. John S,
    Why don’t you tell me how the RCC knows these books have God as the author? Were they supernaturally revealed to a pope or someone in the church?

  365. Henry,

    How did you first determine the Scriptures so that you could then subsequently consult them as to their Divine authorship? Would have been moot at that point, no?

  366. Michael,
    I first took the Scriptures as the Word of God because others have said it so. Then I read and studied the Scriptures and its histories and believe they are the Word of God. Can you tell me the process that the church used in determining which books belonged in the Canon of Scripture?

  367. Henry,

    You asked:

    Why don’t you tell me how the RCC knows these books have God as the author? Were they supernaturally revealed to a pope or someone in the church?

    The Catholic Church knows these books to have God as their author because the Holy Spirit has led her to recognize their apostolic provenance and authority and, therefore, to proclaim them in her sacred liturgy as the Word of the Lord. This guidance has been confirmed on several occasions by the teaching office (“magisterium”) of the Church, whose authority derives from Christ and the Holy Spirit, passed down from the Apostles to their successors, the bishops.

    I’ve done you the courtesy of answering your question. Please answer mine: You had said you knew God was the author of the New Testament because “[t]hat is what the Scriptures say.” I asked:

    Where do the scriptures say that God is the author of these books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans…? You get the idea.

    I await your response.

    in Christ,
    John

  368. Henry 332-

    To quote you:

    The church does have a responsibility to solve doctrinal matters whenever possible.

    You’re on to something. Who is the church in your mind and why do they have a responsibility? The OPC can take a doctrinal stance and it’s only binding on its members and they always qualify it with “subject to the scriptures.” Very circular if you ask me.

  369. John S,
    You are asserting that the HS lead the the church not proving it.
    I know the history of how the church went about determining which books are Scripture and why. If a book was written by an apostle or one associated with an apostle then that book was considered Scripture. Matthew was an apostle, Peter dictated to Mark, Luke was associated with Paul and John was an apostle. This is why for example that the NT Apocrypha books were rejected. None could truly be connected to an apostle.
    To be an apostle one had to have either walked with Christ and been a witness to His resurrection. We know who the apostles were because of we have a record of them in the gospels and in the writings of the early church. Paul is an exception to this principle being directly appointed by Christ after His resurrection.

    hope this helps

    BTW- this was not the only test that was used to determine what was Scripture and what was not.

  370. Andre,
    The church are the body of believers who believe in the gospel. The church has a structure as laid out in a Eph 4:11-12 and the qualifications of church leaders in 1 Tim 3. What is interesting is that where the structure of the church is mentioned there is not one mention of a pope or supreme leader of the church (except the Lord Jesus Himself as the head).
    It is the responsibility of church leaders to teach sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is what the Lord Jesus and His apostles taught. The only teachings we have from them is found only in Scripture.

  371. Henry asserts: I made a solid case for the rule of faith with a couple of teachings of Jesus.

    No you haven’t made that case at all! You haven’t ever tried to make your case with direct quotes from scriptures.

    Here is the problem as I see it. You believe that the Protestant bible is inerrant because it has God as its author. This is true, and not one Catholic posting to this thread has disputed this point, because no Catholic that knows his faith can possibly dispute this point. The problem is that you take your starting point – the Protestant bible is inerrant – and then produce a rule of faith that is nowhere taught in the Protestant bible. Your rule of faith is this: the Protestant bible, and your personal interpretations of the Protestant bible, is all you need to be a faithful disciple of Christ. And your rule of faith is no different than that of any other Protestant that confesses the false doctrine of sola scriptura, whether they be Lutherans, Calvinists, or non-denominational Lone Ranger Protestants.

    There is no possibility that your rule of faith is “scriptural” because your Protestant bible explicitly prohibits it as a rule of faith. Your rule of faith is a denial, not an affirmation, of what the Protestant bible teaches, because the Protestant bible explicitly teaches that to be a faithful disciple of Christ, you must listen to the Church that Christ personally founded, which is something that no Protestant does.

    Protestantism is founded on the false doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience, and the problem for Protestants is that the Protestant bible teaches interpretive primacy belongs not to the individual, but to the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. Ironically, it is the Catholics that can claim that the Protestant bible is authoritative, because no Protestant can claim that the Protestant bible is authoritative when they deny that the they must listen to the church that Christ personally founded!

  372. Henry, (re #357):

    You asked:

    Is there any work that men can do that add to what Christ did on the cross to pay the price for our sins? If there is, what work is it that a man must do to be saved?

    How did Christ’s death on the Cross, which satisfied God’s justice, redeem you, Henry? I am not questioning that it had the power to do this (I’m sure we agree that Christ’s suffering and death alone has the power to redeem us), I am asking how something Jesus did affects you and (this part is really important) in exactly what way does it affect you?

    As to your examples,:

    Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law). Cf. In ep. ad Romanos 4.1 (Parma ed., 13.42a): “reputabitur fides eius, scilicet sola sine operibus exterioribus, ad iustitiam”; In ep. ad Galatas 2.4 (Parma ed., 13.397b): “solum ex fide Christi” [Opera 20.437, b41]).”

    St. Thomas is only saying exactly what I said about Roman 3:28 – that the works of the Mosaic ceremonial law have no power to save. He is explaining the contrast between faith and works in Romans 3:28, not making an absolute declaration that faith alone saves. You’re doing the same thing with Aquinas that you’ve been doing with Scripture – wrenching little proof texts out without considering the larger context. St, Thomas also writes this in his Summa Theologica:

    The movement of faith is not perfect unless it is quickened by charity; hence in the justification of the ungodly, a movement of charity is infused together with the movement of faith

    . Taken in the larger context of his writings, seeing these two things together, it is clear that when he used the words “sola fide” he did not mean the same thing Luther did. Here’s another example:

    Augustine, De fide et operibus, 22.40 (CSEL 41.84-85): “licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intellegatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur” (Although it can be said that God’s commandments pertain to faith alone, … it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love”)

    Notice how St.. Augustine’s “solam fidem” is qualified by the rest of the passage

    “… it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love”

    This “works” is fundamentally different from the “works” condemned in Romans 3:28.

    Finally, your last statement:

    Though the word “alone” is not in the text it is implied since none can add to what Christ has done for us.

    I could come up with some pretty interesting doctrines from Scripture if I’m allowed to imply words that are not there! That is no way to formulate doctrine, it’s more like playing tennis with the net down.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  373. Henry,

    You said:

    You are asserting that the HS lead the the church not proving it.

    What, to your mind, would constitute “proof” of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church? For the record, I did mention whence the Church’s authority derives. To expand a bit: Jesus expressly conferred His own authority on the apostles, who were empowered by the Holy Spirit. The apostles passed on that authority to their successors. That’s why the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Do you deny that the Holy Spirit guided the Church in her discernment of the NT canon?

    I know the history of how the church went about determining which books are Scripture and why. If a book was written by an apostle or one associated with an apostle then that book was considered Scripture. Matthew was an apostle, Peter dictated to Mark, Luke was associated with Paul and John was an apostle. This is why for example that the NT Apocrypha books were rejected. None could truly be connected to an apostle.
    To be an apostle one had to have either walked with Christ and been a witness to His resurrection. We know who the apostles were because of we have a record of them in the gospels and in the writings of the early church. Paul is an exception to this principle being directly appointed by Christ after His resurrection.

    A few questions:
    1. I agree that apostolicity is a necessary condition of canonicity. Do you believe it is a sufficient one? If so, on what grounds? Are you aware of Jesus commissioning His apostles to produce inspired writings?

    2. Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that apostolicity is a sufficient condition. On what grounds do you trust the judgment of the fourth-century Church as to the apostolicity of the NT texts, particularly the contested ones (Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation)?

    3. I agree that the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles and the (second-hand) testimony of their close associates should be considered humanly trustworthy. But I’m curious as to why you trust the early Church’s judgment that the writings themselves are, not merely accurate, but inspired, i.e., of divine as well as reliable human authorship?

    In general, I admit that I am quite baffled by your remarkable and cavalier confidence in the judgment of the fourth-century Church on such an enormous issue. It is well attested that this same Church practiced and promoted many things you reject. For instance: the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, episcopal hierarchy, apostolic succession, veneration of relics, invocation of saints, prayers for the dead. You get the picture. If they got that much wrong, why in the world would you expect them to get the canon right? And if they may have erred, how can you read Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude, or Revelation with the assent of faith? (Let me be clear: I’m glad you do. I just think you’re unwittingly dependent on Sacred Tradition when you do so.)

    in Christ,
    John

  374. Henry 370,

    Have you swam the Tiber yet? I got frustrated when I first discovered this site and when each of my Reformed theological sacred cows were slaughtered (for lack of a better word). I even unsubscribed from the site’s mailings for a time believing that by ignoring something, it will go away. Yes, I’m tired of trying to find the correct doctrine, but it’s a lot easier when you discover who had the authority in the first place to declare doctrines.

    If the early church were just a collection of loose associations governed by elders, why ecumenical councils? What weight do they have? Are they just advisory opinions subject to scriptural interpretation? Elder also means bishop or overseer. My elder wears a mitre.

  375. Henry,
    Do you believe in a living Christ or just in a written story about Christ? Do you place your faith in the Living Christ or in the written word about Him. Even the Apostles claimed that their faith was in the Living Christ.

    Christ is the head of his Living Body , the Church. As a result that Living Body requires a Living Soul, Which is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in the Living Body to keep it Holy, One, Universal and Apostolic. He is the protector of the Church. He teaches, He forgives sins, He Sanctifies. He does not teach error, and has never done so. Therefore teachings of the Body of Christ, from the head of Christ are never wrong. Thus St.Paul can say if there is a problem go to the Church for the answer. He never says go to your written word to look it up and it will solve your problems.

    Every organism that has life within it needs a Living Head. So too does the Living Church. It needs a head that can co-ordinate the Body. That head was established by Christ when he breathed the life of the Holy Sprit into it on Pentecost. Protestantism has been running around with its head cut off since the Reformation. Basically because they slammed the head between the covers of THE book and hear His voice only when they open those covers and hear his voice “sporadically” when they have a need to hear Him. To them the Living Body must operate within the world without a visible head. And now like a monstrosity the head that was locked between covers has led to many heads like a Hydra because some only hear what they want to hear in private interpretation, with no one able to say for certain what the HEAD is actually saying.

    Is this your idea of what Christ’s Living Body is Like? Or does the Body have a visible head that can answer to the problems of the human condition? Did the head of the Body need development through it’s years of existence? Sure it did like a baby it’s growth blossomed and developed like any other living thing. It’s Living Memory is it’s Sacred Tradition. It doesn’t learn everything over each day as the sun rises or as the Body becomes infected. It uses its memory Which is guided by it’s Spiritual soul, the Holy Spirit, to feed the Body and to Cleans the Body.

    Are there sinners (cancer) within the Body? Yes. Does the Holy Spirit heal the Body? Yes. Will the Sin overcome the Body? NEVER. Christ is the Church and the Church is in Christ. Can we trust what the Living Authority of Christ says. Absolutely for it is God speaking through His Head on earth. THE BOOK reflects the Body’s Life and Teachings and she holds it up like a mirror for all the see. If the mirror gets distorted the Body’s life and teachings get distorted. Hold the mirror next to the Body and see the reflection. But look into the Body and see Christ as He really is. Face to Face as it were.

    Blessings
    NHU

  376. Frank,
    You ask-“How did Christ’s death on the Cross, which satisfied God’s justice, redeem you, Henry? I am not questioning that it had the power to do this (I’m sure we agree that Christ’s suffering and death alone has the power to redeem us), I am asking how something Jesus did affects you and (this part is really important) in exactly what way does it affect you?”
    Christ death on the cross paid the price for my sins in full. Jesus was punished for my in my place. That is not all. He also dwells me via His Spirit. See Rom 8:911; Col 1:27. It is His Spirit in me that tells me I am His child. Rom 8:16 and I am to keep His commandments which means I abide in Him and He in me and we know this by the Spirit He has given us. I John 3:24
    Since His Spirit dwells in me, He is working to conform me more and more to His image. I am to now have His word to richly dwell in me (Col 3:16) and to live no longer for myself but for Him (2 Cor 5:15). I am to live out-work out the salvation that He has gained for me in fear and trembling because God in working in me. Phil 2:12-13
    In summary i am to put off sin in my life and put on the attributes, characteristics and attitudes of Christ. Rom 13:14.

    You write-“I could come up with some pretty interesting doctrines from Scripture if I’m allowed to imply words that are not there! That is no way to formulate doctrine, it’s more like playing tennis with the net down.”
    Well said. This is what happened with the Marian Dogmas to be sure.

  377. Henry,

    You said that you assume the 4th century church got the canon right, but what historical source are you citing? Council of Hippo? Council of Carthage?

    Burton

  378. @Henry:
    John S asked:

    How do you know that God is the author of all — or, indeed, any — of the books of the New Testament?

    And you replied:

    This is what the Scriptures say.

    Gosh! Isn’t that kind of circular??

    jj

  379. John.
    Yes. Some arguments are circular but that does not mean they are not true.

  380. @Henry:

    Some arguments are circular but that does not mean they are not true.

    I stand in awe of the new logic – I am breathless!

    <blockquote)Everything John Jensen says is true. Proof is that John Jensen says that everything he says is true. (wish I could get my wife to agree to this!).

    Assuming that you don’t think my reasoning above is valid, how do I distinguish a valid circular argument from an invalid one? I do sincerely apologise for my denseness, but when I took my two University courses in logic, I seemed to get the idea that a circular argument could never prove anything.

    jj “Bear of Little Brain”

  381. Nelson,
    You write-“Christ is the head of his Living Body , the Church. As a result that Living Body requires a Living Soul, Which is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in the Living Body to keep it Holy, One, Universal and Apostolic. He is the protector of the Church. He teaches, He forgives sins, He Sanctifies. He does not teach error, and has never done so. Therefore teachings of the Body of Christ, from the head of Christ are never wrong.”
    It is true Christ does not teach error. All that we have of Him is found only in the Scripture. His teachings are without error.
    There are some problems with your claim that He protected your church. If this were true, there would have been no inquisitions or corruption that led to the Reformation. Even Roman Catholics at the time recognized the need for reformation. This shows that the RCC shows it was in error. If there was no error there would have been no need for a reformation.
    Its also an arbitrary standard to only limit infallibility only to doctrinal issues and not to the kind of life that is lived out especially of popes. If the pope is the vicar of Christ on earth then his life would have to match the same moral quality that Christ demonstrated. The history of the popes shows this is not the case at all.
    The idea that the church is kept from error by the HS sounds great until you look at the doctrines of the church and its history.

  382. John,
    If Jesus says that the only way to God is through Him because He says so, is that a circular argument?

  383. Burton,
    The Western Council of Hippo (393) was probably the first council to specify the limits of the canon, and it accepted the 27 book canon, allowing only them to be read in church under the name of canonical writings.

  384. Henry #382,

    If Jesus says that the only way to God is through Him because He says so, is that a circular argument?

    It is most certainly circular if Jesus did not give us some other ground for thinking that his words cannot fail to be true, such as miracles or bodily resurrection, or other such things which speak to his divine authority. Besides, almost none of the books which compose a Protestant bible actually contain a positive statment to the effect that the book in question was authored by God. In fact, most of the books don’t even identify the human author – much less the Divine. The passage in Timothy claims inspiration for the OT canon, not the new. But a statment in the book of Timothy to the effect that some other group of books was inspired by God is circular indeed unless one has some OTHER reason extrnal to the book for thinking that the book of Timothy, itself, is inspired by God. The reason Christ performed the works that he did (and also why he gave the apsotles the power to perform miracles) was precisely to validate his claims about himself and the authority of his teaching. That is why there is no circularity in believing the words of Christ. It is not simply because he spoke the words, but because he also gave us good reasons to think that his words are uniquely truth and life.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  385. @Henry:

    If Jesus says that the only way to God is through Him because He says so, is that a circular argument?

    No, because I believe on other grounds that Jesus is Himself God and therefore cannot lie.

    Circular reasoning is never valid. The problem here is that people are failing to recognise that no matter what Rule of Faith you believe in, you must have come to believe in it on the basis of private judgement. This is as true of the Catholic as of the Protestant, and is the subject of the Tu Quoque post on this site.

    The Catholic has followed Father Knox’s line of private judgement to come to the Church as the Rule of Faith:

    Let me then, to avoid further ambiguity, give a list of certain leading
    doctrines which no Catholic, upon a moments reflection, could accept on the
    authority of the Church and on that ground alone.

    (i.) The existence of God.

    (ii.) The fact that he has made a revelation to the world in Jesus Christ.

    (iii.) The Life (in its broad outlines), the Death, and the Resurrection of
    Jesus Christ.

    (iv.) The fact that our Lord founded a Church.

    (v.) The fact that he bequeathed to that Church his own teaching office,
    with the guarantee (naturally) that it should not err in teaching.

    (vi.) The consequent intellectual duty of believing what the Church
    believes.

    The advocate of Sola Scriptura appears to me to have followed this reasoning, with the critical modification to vi to the effect that:

    (vi-a.) The consequent intellectual duty of believing what the Church believes up to the point of the Church – the apostles and their amanuenses – having produced the New Testament and thereafter the duty and right to judge the meaning and application of the New Testament and its foundation documents the Old Testament on their own private judgement

    If this is correct, it means that your “I believe the Bible to be God’s Word because the Bible says so” ought to be “I believe the Bible to be God’s Word on the basis of private judgement as outlined above and, of course, because it is God’s Word, I expect it to testify to itself.”

    Logically all right, except that the rest of (vi-a) before is itself the place where, in my opinion, the Protestant goes wrong.

    I strongly urge the reading of Ronald Knox’s book, which is available on line.

    jj

  386. Henry,

    If Jesus says that the only way to God is through Him because He says so, is that a circular argument?

    Only if Jesus’s status as God become man is in question. Since Jesus established his divine authority it is not a circular argument.

    If I were to say the same thing, then it would be a circular argument because I have no authority to speak for God.

    Brian

  387. John,
    Is the Bible the Word of God even if I don’t believe it or am ignorant of it?

  388. @Henry:

    Is the Bible the Word of God even if I don’t believe it or am ignorant of it?

    Certainly – but your reason for believing that it is the Word of God requires a valid form of argument. Let us accept that the Bible declares itself to be the Word of God. I think this statement is very problematical, because it is the unity of the collection of writings itself that would have to be demonstrated, but accept it for the sake of argument. Then the Bible’s self-declaration is itself a true statement – but not any sort of proof. The proof requires reasons.

    The reason why John S asked you why you believed the Bible to be the Word of God was not to find out whether you believed that or not. We all know you do, and you know that we believe that, too. It was to find out precisely your reasons for believing that, which would help us to understand your underlying presuppositions.

    If it is literally true that you believe it because the Bible says so – and for no other reason – then the there are no grounds for your faith.

    Of course you explained elsewhere that you really believe it because, first, you were told it was so, and then, later, you came to experience it as so. That’s fine. That’s a valid argument form (whether adequate as a justification is a different question). But purely circular reasoning can’t prove anything.

    jj

  389. Henry

    RE: # 381

    Christ does not teach error. And you are simply wrong Henry, when you state that all we have of Christ is the written Word. We have His Church, His Bride, His Body. If every bible in the world were suddenly to disappear the Church would still teach and forgive sins and sanctify. She did it for almost 3 centuries before the New Testament was formed.

    Did you think that there would be no sin in the Church ever? The Church is made of sinful human nature and a DIVINE Nature but still operates under the authority of the HS. The HS came to the Church not to guarantee sinlessness for her members But to guarantee Holiness in Herself. That those who were placed in positions of authority should abuse that authority or commit grave sins does not affect the holiness of the Church. It affects those who are the sinners. The higher the position of authority the graver the sin. Jesus commissioned the Church to teach, forgive and sanctify. He stated those who hear you hear ME and those who hear ME hear the one who sent ME.

    By what authority did the reformers ( so called) take this authority upon themselves? By what right did they change what the Church taught? Did they think THE BOOK , the reflection of the Church, was theirs to take?

    True, there was a need of reformation during the middle ages. There is always a need for reformation. The reformers should have accomplished this from within the Church by healing the sinner not by discarding the authority of God.The idea that the church is kept from error by the HS sounds great . It is great.. It is Christ.

    Blessings
    NHU

  390. Henry,

    This was a problem I had when trying to teach teenagers the Bible at a Protestant high school (I was then a Protestant). A sharp 17 year old will catch that it is a circular argument to say “the Bible is the Bible because the Bible tells me so” (option A). In a kindergarden classroom that might work, but not for someone who has started to question why they believe what they believe. So, we are either left with “the Bible we have is the Bible because Jesus said so explicitly in the Bible” (option B) or “some Church decided that the Bible we have is the Bible because Jesus gave them the authority to do so” (option C). Regarding option B, last time I checked, the table of contents in a Bible doesn’t read:

    from J.C.

    Laughs aside, this put me in a real dilemma. If I acknowledged that Christ used the Church–authoritatively–to give us the canon of Scripture, it gave rise to other questions like “what else did Christ give them authority to do”? On what ground should I trust that Church? Which Church? If I’m to assume Christ gave them authority to do “x”, I better have some evidence that He gave them authority to begin with. What did I do? I kept trying to teach “self-attestation”, that those who put their faith in Christ “just know” that the Bible is the Bible. I tried a few other things I’m sure, but at the end of the school day I knew I was laying the ground work for their personal crisis of faith. I remember a few of my students asking, “Couldn’t any religion say that?”

    …and they were right. Scary. Next subject.

    In other words, there is nothing required of a religion if their book is merely the by product of self-attestation. The Bible is the Bible because the Bible tells me so, could be re-worded with the same credibility, “The Koran is the Bible because the Koran tells me so.” Both are grounded in the sentiment, the “bosom burning” of the believer. Mormons and JW’s, for example, use this line quite a bit.

    What I wish I could have told those young people was:

    1. God exists
    2. He came in the flesh
    3. He died for our sins
    4. He founded a Church and gave His authority to Her until His return
    5. She acts on his authority to define dogma
    6. One such dogma is the canon of Scripture

    That is credible, true and worthy of belief. It does not violate reason and is consonant with both Scripture, Tradition and history. That lesson, instead, would have laid a wall around their faith that would have fortified it through their coming college years.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  391. Henry,

    The Council of Rome (382), Council of Carthage (393), and the Council of Hippo (397) all affirmed the “deuteros” as part of the OT canon. I know you don’t accept these books as canonical, so how can you say that you accept the judgement of the 4th century church on the matter of what defines the Bible?

    Burton

  392. Henry (re#376)

    Christ death on the cross paid the price for my sins in full. Jesus was punished for my in my place. That is not all. He also dwells me via His Spirit. See Rom 8:911; Col 1:27. It is His Spirit in me that tells me I am His child. Rom 8:16 and I am to keep His commandments which means I abide in Him and He in me and we know this by the Spirit He has given us. I John 3:24

    Why is His Spirit in you and not in the atheist? What would happen if you did not obey His commandments?

    Since His Spirit dwells in me, He is working to conform me more and more to His image.

    Does this conforming to His image happen all by itself? Would it still happen if someone resisted?

    I am to live out-work out the salvation that He has gained for me in fear and trembling because God in working in me. Phil 2:12-13
    In summary i am to put off sin in my life and put on the attributes, characteristics and attitudes of Christ. Rom 13:14.

    How is this “live out-work out” and “putting off sin, etc” not works, Henry? It sounds like you’re doing something.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  393. Henry (re#376)

    You write-”I could come up with some pretty interesting doctrines from Scripture if I’m allowed to imply words that are not there! That is no way to formulate doctrine, it’s more like playing tennis with the net down.”

    Well said. This is what happened with the Marian Dogmas to be sure.

    It is unfortunate that you cannot see the difference between changing Scripture (which is what Luther attempted)and drawing out its full meaning by a deeper, fuller reading of a related set of texts without changing them, which is what the Church does. You have cut yourself off from the fulness of the Truth and appear not to realize it.

    And, you still have not refuted a single Marian dogma from Scripture, Henry. All you’ve offered is personal interpretations of Scripture, which Scripture itself forbids:

    Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation. 2 Peter 1:20

    . I pray for God to open your mind and heart to the fulness of the truth.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  394. Frank,
    Lets get into some of the specifics of the Marian dogmas. Let’s start with the immaculate conception.
    Since Scripture is the only information we have about her we must start there. With that in mind let me ask you some questions:
    1) Where is her conception mentioned in Scripture?

    2) Did the Lord Jesus make any statements about her being without sin?

    3) Do you any of the apostles in their writings make any mention about her not sinning or being an exception to her not being part of the fall?

  395. Frank,
    In regards to your post at 392:
    1) The HS was promised only to those who put their faith in Christ. It is not promised nor given to unbelievers. In fact the unbeliever is dead in his trespasses and sins and cut off from the life of God. See Eph 3:1-3, 4:17-19.

    2) The formation of the image of Christ in a Christian is a life long process that will not be complete until after death. Those who resist Christ work in their lives will be disciplined. See Hebrews 12:4-11.

    3) I never said that works are not important in our lives. Our works show that we are in Christ but they do nothing to gain us salvation. Christ did not save us to be couch potatoes but to be active in pleasing Him and advancing His cause. In 2 Cor 5:9-10 speaks of what our ambition is to be and that we will be judged for the deeds we have done in the body. This is not a judgement for sin or salvation because Jesus was already punished at the cross for our sins. This judgement has to do with how we lived for Him or ourselves since He saved us.

  396. Henry, I am still trying to figure out what you believe about the Protestant bible, how the Protestant bible plays a role in man’s salvation, and how men have unity through the Protestant bible. I believe your answers to some “thought experiments” might shed some light on what you believe.

    Thought experiment 1: A pagan that has never heard anything of western culture is stranded on an island. On that island is a Protestant bible written in his language, but the pagan is, unfortunately, illiterate. Can the illiterate pagan be saved? If not, why not? If so, how so?

    Thought experiment 2: A pagan that has never heard anything of western culture is stranded on an island. On that island is a Protestant bible written in his language, and this pagan can read his own language. He reads the bible. Can the literate pagan be saved? If not, why not? If so, how so?

  397. John,
    Would you consider Hebrews 6:13 a circular argument?

  398. Brent,
    You write–“This was a problem I had when trying to teach teenagers the Bible at a Protestant high school (I was then a Protestant). A sharp 17 year old will catch that it is a circular argument to say “the Bible is the Bible because the Bible tells me so” (option A). In a kindergarden classroom that might work, but not for someone who has started to question why they believe what they believe. So, we are either left with “the Bible we have is the Bible because Jesus said so explicitly in the Bible” (option B) or “some Church decided that the Bible we have is the Bible because Jesus gave them the authority to do so” (option C). Regarding option B, last time I checked, the table of contents in a Bible doesn’t read:

    …from J.C.”

    Would it be a circular argument if I opened a dictionary and the dictionary identifies itself as the dictionary? Of course not. The same would apply to the Bible would it not?
    We are not limited only to the Scripture attesting that it is the Word of God. Jesus taught that the OT was the Scripture and that His teachings should be understood in the same way. Christ did use the church to identify what the canon of the NT would be. It does not follow from this that the church could never be wrong about other matters of faith.
    We can do better than the cults or any other non-christian claims about their books being the Word of God by showing what the Scriptures say about the character and nature of the Lord Jesus. The Scripture tells us that He alone is God incarnate. Being God-incarnate means that He is the ultimate authority since there is no higher authority than God Himself. If He calls the OT the Scripture, who can tell Him that He is wrong? When a Muslim tells me that the Christian Scriptures are wrong about the claim that Jesus is God incarnate, he has to do more than just assert it but demonstrate it from the only records we have of Him. That my friend, cannot be done by the very Scriptures that attest to His deity.
    When a Mormon tells me that God was once a man like us, I go to ultimate authority and see what the Lord Christ taught about God. In this case, I know the Mormon is wrong because it contradicts what the Lord Jesus taught. What the Mormon needs to do is demonstrate that Jesus was not truly God and was mistaken about the nature of God. That he cannot do either.

    Would you agree that if a person teaches something that contradicts what Christ taught is false?

    Peace

  399. Dear Henry (sorry Burton!) (#359),

    You had originally said,

    Needless to say I think the church of the 4th century got it right. Could they be wrong and missed something and should have added another book? Perhaps.

    By saying Perhaps (i.e., there is a chance) that the church got the books of the Bible wrong, you are admitting that the collection of books in the Protestant Bible is fallible. Following my argument about this matter, you now reply:

    The authority of the Scriptures is not derived from the human authors or the church but from God Himself Who is the author.

    (Quoting from the Gospel of St. John isn’t helpful, since it’s question-begging, i.e., assumes you’re right that the inclusion of John is an infallibly correct decision.)

    I am not questioning the authority of Scripture. I am noting your logical understanding about the human authorities that collected the Bible, as you see them to have authority. Perhaps they got it wrong, unless there is a charism of infallibility given to the Church authority. (Therein lies the distinction from the Catholic view of the compilation of the canon, by the way.)

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  400. Henry,

    We are approaching 400 comments with no end in sight, but this is good if it’s for the sake of unity. What I would like to know is exactly how one becomes a Christian. Visit five Protestant communities and you’ll get five different answers. But what those answers have in common is what little role the church plays in salvation.

  401. Henry,

    I know you’re having to contend with a large number of interlocutors talking about a large number of subjects. In the midst of this, I hope you won’t forget to address my questions in #373, as well as the related questions of Burton (#391) and Tom (#399).

    Also, obviously I’m not this thread’s moderator, and I don’t want to speak for Matt Yonke, but I wonder if the discussion about Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception should be taken to a different thread, perhaps here.

    in Christ,
    John

  402. Henry (re#394)

    Since Scripture is the only information we have about her we must start there.

    Your initial premise is incorrect. It is the only information youhave about her because you adhere to sola scriptura. A Catholic is not subject to Protestant presuppositions. You cannot grasp the dogma because you reject the evidence. “None is so blind as he who will not see.”

    I already explained the doctrine in #134. You’re welcome to ask me about that post.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  403. Henry (re#395)

    1) The HS was promised only to those who put their faith in Christ. It is not promised nor given to unbelievers. In fact the unbeliever is dead in his trespasses and sins and cut off from the life of God. See Eph 3:1-3, 4:17-19.

    Agreed. What exactly do you do to put your faith in Christ? Sacrifice a bull? (just kidding) — but I’m really curious what you would say you doto put your faith in Christ.

    2) The formation of the image of Christ in a Christian is a life long process that will not be complete until after death. Those who resist Christ work in their lives will be disciplined. See Hebrews 12:4-11.

    I think you misread the questions. I didn’t ask how long it takes, I asked how it happens. I didn’t ask what happens to those who resist, I asked would it still happen if someone resisted.

    3) I never said that works are not important in our lives. Our works show that we are in Christ but they do nothing to gain us salvation. Christ did not save us to be couch potatoes but to be active in pleasing Him and advancing His cause. In 2 Cor 5:9-10 speaks of what our ambition is to be and that we will be judged for the deeds we have done in the body. This is not a judgement for sin or salvation because Jesus was already punished at the cross for our sins. This judgement has to do with how we lived for Him or ourselves since He saved us.

    Can’t really respond to this one until you’ve responded to #1 and 2 above.

    I look forward to your replies, Henry.

    Frank

  404. Andre,
    Visit 5 different orthodox-conservative Protestant churches and see what their doctrinal statements are on:
    1) the nature of God
    2) the nature of Christ
    3) What Christ did
    4) The nature of man

    I suspect you will not get 5 different answers.

    All of these Churches would teach that you must repent of your sins and believe in Christ followed by water baptism.

  405. John S,
    You wrote from 373–“A few questions:
    1. I agree that apostolicity is a necessary condition of canonicity. Do you believe it is a sufficient one? If so, on what grounds? Are you aware of Jesus commissioning His apostles to produce inspired writings?

    2. Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that apostolicity is a sufficient condition. On what grounds do you trust the judgment of the fourth-century Church as to the apostolicity of the NT texts, particularly the contested ones (Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation)?

    3. I agree that the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles and the (second-hand) testimony of their close associates should be considered humanly trustworthy. But I’m curious as to why you trust the early Church’s judgment that the writings themselves are, not merely accurate, but inspired, i.e., of divine as well as reliable human authorship?”

    1- Yes. Apostolicity is a necessary condition of canonicity and it is a sufficient one. The apostles were empowered to speak in the place of Christ. There is no direct command from Christ to write His teachings down. However in this culture it would not have been unusual for them to do so. Just as the OT Jews wrote down and preserved what the prophets said because they believed they were speaking for God so the NT community would have done the same for the teachings of Jesus since they considered Him greater than the prophets.

    2-This is a more involved argument for those books that were contested for a time. Needless to say these books were accepted for other reasons. Take Jude. Since he was the brother of the Lord Jesus this carried some weight. The only book were not completely sure about its author was Hebrews.

    3-I think the process that the church used in the 4th century was sound. The church did make these writings inspired but concluded that they were.

    In regards to your last comment at 373, Catholics mistakenly think that because the church got something right at one point like the NT canon that its always right on other matters. That does not follow nor can it be proven to be the case. No church is incapable of erring for the reasons I have given throughout this thread.

    I do believe the HS guided the process for the canon but have no way to show what that looked like. Do you?

  406. @Henry:

    Would you consider Hebrews 6:13 a circular argument?

    You know the answer to that, Henry – of course not. God swore by Himself. He knows Who He is. Has nothing to do with what your reason for believing the Bible to be His Word. That the Bible says it is proves it – to God. Why does it prove it to you?

    jj

  407. Hi Henry
    re# 398.
    You stated: Jesus taught that the OT was the Scripture and that His teachings should be understood in the same way.
    Where do you find that Jesus regarded His teachings as Scripture? He never commanded anything be written down and He Himself never wrote anything that we know of.
    Christ did use the church to identify what the canon of the NT would be. It does not follow from this that the church could never be wrong about other matters of faith.

    If Christ used the Church to identify what the canon of the NT would be but then let the Church slip into error later how are we to know when it teaches the truth and when it doesn’t? Why would the HS allow the Church to teach error.? Could He not keep it in the truth?

    Your theory that the HS abandons the Church makes no sense seeing as the Church is the Living Body of Christ. If the Church ( and all churches) is in error then what is the point of the Church as a teacher? Who can trust her ( or them). You make a liar out of the Body of Christ. The Body is not just a figment of imagination it is truly Christ Himself.

    I think your idea of church is much different than the Catholic Idea of church. What do you consider the Church to be? And what is it’s purpose on earth? I hope you would answer my questions as most of them haven’t been answered.

    Blessings
    NHU

  408. @Henry:
    Your argument goes like this:

    1) The Bible is the written Word of God.
    2) Therefore the Bible’s self-testimony is true.
    3) The Bible says it is the written Word of God.
    4) Therefore I believe it is the written Word of God

    But when I ask why you believe it to be the written Word of God, you come back with 4). The problem is that you haven’t justified 1).

    To anticipate – because you appear not to like answering questions, but to prefer to answer questions with another question – to anticipate, then, your question “John, do you believe the Bible to be the written Word of God?” – a question whose answer you know, of course, I will say that, yes, I believe it to be the written Word of God, but by contrast, apparently, with you, I know why. I believe it because the Church says it is.

    I have already given my reason for believing the Church’s word above in #385. It is Ronald Knox’s line of argument.

    jj

  409. John,
    If you were an atheist it would be important for me to show why I believe the Bible is the Word of God. Since we both agree that it is there is no need to make the argument. Rather what we have been discussing is your church authority and its implications. This is something I’m finding Catholics are having problems accepting.

  410. Henry,

    You wrote:

    Would it be a circular argument if I opened a dictionary and the dictionary identifies itself as the dictionary? Of course not.

    If you opened a book that wasn’t a dictionary, and it said it was a dictionary, would it still be a dictionary because it said it was a dictionary? Of course not. Any book claiming to be anything (dictionaries included) will identify itself as that which it claims to be. However, simply because a book claims to be a dictionary doesn’t make it a dictionary. You would need to know that someone or some group of people had the authority to give you the definitions in the book. Only on those grounds would you have warrant to trust that what you are holding is a dictionary. Otherwise, I could slap the word dictionary on a notebook, and inside you might find something like this:

    cat: (noun) a thing you throw into the ocean

    = not a dictionary

    You might say that you have grounds because God is the author of Scripture. Good, we agree. That God used the Apostles to write the N.T. Again, we agree. But, who did God use to canonize the New Testament that you can hold in your hand. Isn’t that a dogma, that one cannot add to or take away from the canon? Why do you trust the Church that did that?

    Christ did use the church to identify what the canon of the NT would be. It does not follow from this that the church could never be wrong about other matters of faith.

    Good. We agree. I still trust that Church’s teaching authority given to Her by Christ. You, though, need to explain both “who” constitutes the “Church” you are referencing, and on what principled grounds you accept Her authority to canonize the New Testament while rejecting all of Her other dogmatic decisions (See John S’s comment #373). I assume that you do not trust God or his Apostles in an ad hoc way to teach the truth. In other words, you do not think you have the right to accept a part of what God or the Apostles teach. Why do you believe you have the right to reject a part of what the Church teaches today while still accepting Her N.T. canon?

    Being God-incarnate means that He is the ultimate authority since there is no higher authority than God Himself.

    Does your Protestant Bible say anywhere that He passed this authority off to anyone before His glorious Ascension? (btw, please answer this question or I will start to feel like I am being interrogated and not having a dialog)

    Would you agree that if a person teaches something that contradicts what Christ taught is false?

    Of course. I’m not sure why you would ask that question. What we are discussing here is how you or I decide what constitutes the “teaching of Christ”. You admit that Protestants have various views on what constitutes “the teaching of Christ”. Therefore, it is going to be hard to figure out in the Protestant world what constitutes a contradiction of the “teachings of Christ” if various Protestant sects believe contradicting things about the “teachings of Christ”. As I mentioned, neither the Old or New Testament is written like a catechism. If Christ gave his authority to teach to His apostles, gave them the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth both to remind them of what he said and to teach them of what is to come (John 16:13), and they–following our Lord’s model–passed off this authority by the laying on of hands, then we should ask like Peter, “Where can I go, you have the words of eternal life?” Jesus ascended and handed off his ministry to his Apostles. Those who depart and do not listen to the Apostles reject Christ. Those who reject the one’s who the Apostles send, reject the Apostles and reject Christ.

    With much filial love in Christ Jesus for you my separated brother.

    Brent

  411. Alright, gents. I’ve been a bit too busy to monitor this thread too closely, but I think, after several hundred comments from a barrage of interlocutors tossing thoughts on a multitude of topics at Henry and Henry, quite manfully I might say, responding to all comers, we need to clamp this discussion down a bit so everybody can focus.

    Henceforth, I’ll be interacting with Henry and other comments won’t be approved. You’ve all been great debate partners, but Henry’s got some good questions that need laser beam focus.

    So I open the floor to you, Henry. Let’s pick one topic and focus on that till the questions REALLY get answered.

    It seems that the Catholic Magesterium’s claim to function as an inerrant tool of God to communicate truth to men is a pretty big sticking point for you. Would you like to start with that? Feel free to pick another topic. Ball’s in your court.

  412. Hi Matt,
    Sorry its taken so long to respond. I have been having computer problems. Church is thee foundational issue for Roman Catholic doctrines. If it is true that the Roman Catholic church cannot err in matters of doctrine then it would be true to say no doctrine is in error. You claim that “the Catholic Magesterium’s claim to function as an inerrant tool of God to communicate truth to men”. For such a claim to be true, you would have to demonstrate that the Lord Jesus promised specially to protect the Roman Catholic church from making error in any issue involving doctrines. So lets start here. Where is the evidence that the Lord Jesus made this claim?

  413. @Henry:

    John,
    If you were an atheist it would be important for me to show why I believe the Bible is the Word of God. Since we both agree that it is there is no need to make the argument. Rather what we have been discussing is your church authority and its implications. This is something I’m finding Catholics are having problems accepting.

    I don’t this this is right, Henry. The reason I am asking why you think the Bible is the Word of God (written – for Jesus is the Word of God) is that what your reasons are will determine what authority that Word has for you.

    Think about the book of Mormon. Neither you nor I think it is the Word of God written – but the Mormon does. If I ask him why, he will tell me two things – at least, my Mormon friends have told me these two reasons (1) reading it he just senses – the famous ‘burning in the bosom’ – that it is God speaking to him; (2) by following it, his life and the lives of others are made more upright, meaningful, full.

    You see from this that his reasons are all based on his own experience. That means that his authority for believing it is himself.

    And that, I fear, is the situation for the Protestant. You will tell me – you have told me – that you believe it to be the Word of God because it has God as its author. That only puts the thing into different words. To say that it is the Word of God and to say that it has God as its author are saying the same thing. The question is why do you think it has God as its author?

    I, as you know, believe it to be the written Word of God because the Church tells me so.

    jj

  414. Hi Henry, you said:

    “For such a claim to be true, you would have to demonstrate that the Lord Jesus promised specially to protect the Roman Catholic church from making error in any issue involving doctrines. ”

    For Christians to have unity of faith, we need to agree on the truth about two questions:

    1. Did God protect the Church from error in passing on the truths given to the apostles at Pentecost?
    2. Is the Roman Catholic Church the very same Church which Christ founded through the work of the apostles?

  415. Henry — Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but thanks for your comment.

    You demand a text where Christ declares the infallibility of the Roman Catholic Church, but that’s unfair since the Church hadn’t even made it to Rome within Christ’s lifetime. It’s like demanding an explanation of the homoousious union out of Christ’s mouth. It’s true, but it wasn’t defined until centuries after Christ’s death. In like manner, the decision of the council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts addressed a question that Christ hadn’t addressed during His earthly ministry, whether gentiles needed to be circumcised.

    Given that the Church followed the pattern of the council of Jerusalem in deciding such crucial issues as the nature of the Trinity, the dual wills of Christ, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, the canon of Scripture and many other issues which you accept lacking a clear testimony from sacred Scripture alone, it seems to me the burden of proof falls on you to prove that the Biblical model that the Catholic Church has followed for 2000 years is somehow less authoritative than your personal reading of Scripture.

  416. Hello,

    I am reading “A Luthern’s Case for Roman Cathlicism” by Koons and though I am not finished, something stuck out to me that I would like help with. I understand that Catholics hold to a doctrine of justification that is ‘more than forensic’ but is, at least, forensic, according to Koons.( I was just rereading Cur Deus Homo and Anselm does use law like language when saying that it was necessary that the God-Man pay back what man stole from God in the Garden).
    But what I don’t understand is, if the Roman Catholic can grant that a Reformed Christian, at least, believes in an alien righteousness, why would his strong standing on this be ananthemized? I see that a Reformed Christian cannot, from their point-of-view, grant this to the Catholic because the Catholic ( appealing to Scripture) has neccessited that “works of merit” be added to the declaration, even if they know, based on their own doctrine, that good works will surely come from a person who is “in Christ”. Do they not think that a Christian will surely produce good works? Unless, the Catholic believes that good works ARE what finalizes our salvation… Why the use of language when it should go unsaid except as a word of encouragement to spur one another on? How does a Catholic do it? Do you have to say, for instance, ” two drinks should do ya. Anymore is the sin of drunkeness”? Faith working through love seems to me to be what a Christian does; why say more?

    I see that when a person who was Reformed enters the Catholic Church they use the word “convertion”. Do you all believe that you were not Spirit filled Christians beforehand? You seem to grant that a Reformed Christian might be a true believer by their confession, so why the hope that there will be union( excepting Christ’s wish that is obvious) if the Catholic Church says that there is no salvation outside of her; not believing in an Invisible Church?

    I see that we all speak our particular parlance whether we are in broader evangelical circles, Reformed circles, or Catholic circles. Is there something definitive when both sides orbit around the word “faith”? Does the Catholic Church grant that any person who confesses that they believe in the sacrificial death of Christ and His resurrection are by, this alone, a true Christian? If they don’t why would they want union with a false church, sect, or cult?
    Can a person send out their prayers to the God of the universe as revealed in the Messiah who was promised in the Old Testament be certain that they are being received on the other end? Is is right to say that Mormon’s or even Muslim’s can be Christian’s if they trust in Jesus, even if their doctrine and church is a lie? I feel like I am being ping-ponged between the Reformed faith and the Catholic.

  417. Matt,
    I’m asking where Jesus promised that the church would be incapable of error. If you can establish from the teachings of the NT that Jesus promised to protect the church from error then you will have won your case. If not, then you will not be able to claim your church is protected from error.
    I know that the church in Acts and in the following centuries made decisions about various issues. I have no problem with the church making the decision they did in regards to circumcision in Acts 15. Later councils were also correct about the nature of Christ and the Trinity because these doctrines can be clearly supported by Scripture. The problem arises with other doctrines that your church promotes that are not supported by Scripture and in fact deny the teachings of Scripture. A number of doctrines come to mind such as the papacy, the Marian doctrines and indulgences to name a few. Just take the immaculate conception of Mary. Its not even mentioned or hinted at in Scripture. In fact many church leaders in the early centuries of the RCC taught against it.
    Ball is in your court to support the claim that the RCC cannot err.

  418. Alicia,

    I’m not sure I completely understand all of your questions but, trying to get at the heart of your inquiry, I’ll do my best.

    A person is a Christian through baptism, not by assent of intellect moved by the will (faith alone). Baptism can be implicit, as the catechism explains, but that is another conversation I think. The reason why we believe that unity (reunion rather) is so important, is as you say, it is Christ’s explicit will and infallible prayer. That’s all the reason we need – don’t you agree? When the Catholic Church, especially via Vatican II, says that people outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church might be saved by special providence, she means that and no more. i.e. she is not saying that those outside the Church will be saved, only that they might.

    Those outside of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches are deprived of the sacraments and are therefore at an objective ‘disadvantage’ in regard to salvation. That is another solid reason for us to desire the re-union of all Christians, and the initiation of all men into the arms of the Catholic Church – the Bride of Christ. We do not believe in an invisible Church and Christ instituted the sacraments because He knew and willed that they are efficacious in our sanctification.

    As for the word ‘conversion,’ I understand what you’re saying. I think this is more of an example of a linguistic limitation or shortcut. The process might better be described not as a conversion from one faith to another, but an entering into the fullness of the faith that was already kindled in us. If you came to believe that the Catholic Church was actually who she said she was, wouldn’t you immediately want to join/convert/enter? I think the word is just a distraction here. We do not mean to use it to categorize our former Protestant faith as non-Christian. Protestants are Christians by Baptism.

    As for forensic justification – I’m a little confused about what you’re asking. One thing I can say is that the Catholic Church does not uniformly condemn the use of legal terms to describe the justification process. Many Catholic theologians, notably St. Paul, have used such language. The error comes when we limit the definition of justification to such a point as to deny doctrines, known to the Catholic Church, to be true. The reason persons holding erroneous views on justification are anathematized in certain cases, is because those views are known by the Church to be in error. Even if it is true that someone believing those views may still, by providence, enter Heaven, it does not follow that the Church should allow them to continue in error.

    The Protestant error on justification, if the Church is right and it is an error, has had and will continue to have terrible consequences. Nevertheless, the Church continues to hope and pray continuously, that many who have held and continue to hold this erroneous viewpoint will, even by means unknown to us, achieve the Beatific Vision.

    I hope this has been somewhat helpful. Please let me know if you need additional clarification.

  419. Thank you for the answers. The only thing I am confused about now is whether the love I have for God and the desire I have of The Beatific Vision has been only the beginning of Grace all these many years. Do I discount the change God has worked in my since the beginning when I was baptised?( that’s another thing; I was baptized as an adult so my conversion must have come first.)
    And if I have been His since this time, but it is neccessary for my complete salvation that Ienter the Catholic Church, what is said of the transformation already done and the love I feel? Do the verses that t speak of the Christian’s perseverance only apply to Catholics? Does John 10 not apply to all those who profess salvation in Jesus? What does the Catholic Church say about the Lord’s Supper as understood by Lutheran’s and Anglican’s? Is Jesus not in their sacraments either?
    If things are that dire the Catholic Church should do more than speak of Protestants as merely “separated”. There should be a new term that denotes the severity of the nonCatholic’s position before God.

  420. Alicia,

    When we say that baptism is necessary that does not mean that either pre-baptismal grace is meaningless or even itself unnecessary. No one should discount or marginalize the real work God began in you before baptism.

    Does John 10 not apply to all those who profess salvation in Jesus?

    Baptism is an indispensable part of professing faith in Jesus. No one, except through invincible ignorance, could say “I profess faith in Jesus but at the same time I wish to disobey His commandments.” (“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” – John 15:14 RSV) and since we know Jesus commanded us and showed by example, that faith starts at Baptism, once one has a true conversion of heart, he/she ought to desire and pursue Baptism. As I said, it would not be an actual faith in Jesus in a case where someone did not pursue Baptism unless they were impaired by invincible ignorance (e.g. if their religious leaders misled them to believe that Baptism was unimportant or unnecessary). Had that person (having true faith) known that they needed Baptism, they would have certainly pursued it with eagerness. God knows all that; He is not confined by any limitations and cannot be fooled, as you know. Salvation comes to men in different ways, or in different modes, but always through Jesus Christ, always through Baptism, and always through the Catholic Church.

    We believe that Apostolic Succession is strictly necessary for a valid Eucharist and so any group of Christians that does not maintain such succession, (which includes Anglicans and Lutherans) does not have a valid Eucharist. They may celebrate it in piety through invincible ignorance and may thereby be at no fault of their own, but they are engaging in an objectively illicit ceremony not authorized by the Bride of Christ and therefore not authorized by Christ Himself. Is Christ present in their ceremony? I cannot say except to say that He is not present after the mode of the sacraments as He is with Catholic and Orthodox sacraments. Through the validity of Protestant Baptisms, the Holy Spirit is at work in Protestant congregations; we know that much.

    Regarding the term ‘separated,’ the Catholic Church has chosen that language to refer to them especially in recent years, in part, I would guess, to foster reconciliation. If she referred to them in harsher terms, it may have adverse effects (and cause them to harden, rather than soften their hearts.) Remember Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman but forgave her and reminded her softly to avoid sin. He did not call her an adulteress, even though she was; He did not tell her that her actions were mortal sins putting her in grave danger of hell, even though they were. He showed love and compassion, and His language reflected that. The Bride of Christ is only following her Lord.

  421. Kevin DeYoung, a pastor in the RCA, has written a piece over at the The Gospel Coalition titled “Toward Denominational Unity.”

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  422. It is interesting. We could learn a lot from those 10 points. Especially the ones where he calls people out for hiding important doctrinal differences. I see that in the Catholic church too. But the big hole remains. He says to focus on truth and let unity grow from it naturally rather than trying to manufacture unity through many tricks. That is wise. But it assumes we know the truth. That is precisely the problem. Sola Scriptura can make Pastor DeJong certain he has the truth but it can’t give all RCA pastors certainty around the same truth.

    I would even ask whether they should strive for “denominational unity.” Isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? Do we not want all believers to be united? So why work at a plan that even if it works will only bring unity to the RCA? The fact is these 10 points are not likely to work. There is nothing there that has not been tried and failed in the past.

  423. Aaron,

    The article is about denominational unity in the Reformed Church in America, a denomination that has 250,000 members, down from 300,000 in 2000 and down from 360,000 in 1980. One of the solutions Kevin DeYoung offers for unity is better adherence to the three forms of unity, something most Protestants would not even want to do let alone Catholics. So I dont think he really offers much solution for unity among all Christians, just the tiny RCA. Frankly, even if he got his wish and his denomination had rock solid unity, I just dont see how it really would matter all that much that 250,000 American Christians all agree with each other. One way in which such unity would be good, however, is in people knowing what they believe and why they believe it. As Christians we need to all examine why we are seperated and question the seperations. Perhaps more unity of belief and practice within each the hundreds of denominations would help move the goal of greater Church unity forward?
    But overall, I just don’t see the Catholic and Orthodox hierarchies signing on to the Three Forms of Unity anytime soon, and I think Kevin should think a bit bigger than the RCA in his search for unity.

    Peace,

    David Meyer

Leave Comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Subscribe without commenting