An OPC Pastor Enters the Catholic Church

Feb 7th, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Articles


Please welcome our first of two newly added authors at Called To Communion, Jason Stewart. Jason was an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) before he and his wife Cindy entered into full communion with the Catholic Church in January of 2011. He earned his Master of Divinity from Mid-America Reformed Seminary (Dyer, IN) in 2005, and subsequently served for 5 1/2 years as pastor of Trinity OPC in eastern Pennsylvania. Jason and Cindy live in Rockford, IL, and have four children. He is currently completing a two year course of study with the Diocese of Rockford’s Diaconal Program. Jason wrote the following narrative about his conversion. We are blessed to have him aboard. (Our other new addition, Fred Noltie, will be properly introduced shortly!) Update: Jason tells his story on The Journey Home here. -Eds.

I hope to tell my story simply, because it is genuinely uncomplicated. Complex, yes. Multi-layered, sure. Who’s journey in the Christian faith isn’t? But I do promise to keep the telling of it simple by concentrating on the main catalysts that gave my wife Cindy and me the courage to approach the doors of the Catholic Church and with confidence begin to knock.


Jason and Cindy Stewart, after entering the Catholic Church

With that said, let me start this introduction by beginning at the ending. Cindy and I became Catholic because we came to see that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Jesus Christ. That is the reason. In truth, this reason should be the basic motivation for anyone seeking full communion with or remaining within the Catholic Church. All the thousands of otherwise good and important reasons for being Catholic pale in comparison with this fundamental truth of her divine origin. You see, if she is that City whose founder and builder is God, then we must live within her walls. Now I realize what I’ve written to this point does not satisfy the many, many questions — and objections — Protestant Christians may have in reading a story like mine. Most certainly not. But staying true to my promise not to complicate things, I’ve begun with the ending so as to make plain the reason from the beginning.

Because this is a “conversion” piece you have the advantage of knowing that we didn’t always accept this profound claim about the divine origin of the Catholic Church. And therein lies the curiosity of our story. I was a Presbyterian minister and pastor in a conservative denomination. My theology was solidly Reformed, having been educated at a reputable Reformed institution known both for its orthodoxy and pastoral emphasis. As a pastor I was committed in my ministry to classical Reformed belief and practice. Even now I remain grateful for the Reformed faith, as you’ll see. So the question naturally is, what happened? What instigated our study of Catholicism? What moved us to have a change of heart about the Catholic faith?

Our decision to leave Presbyterianism for the Catholic Church surprised many. We can sympathize given that in the past we’d have been incredulous if told we’d be Catholic one day. And yet looking back now from our vantage point we can trace the trajectory that led us to full communion with the Catholic Church, and it’s a trajectory that progressed naturally and imperceptibly over time - a growing appreciation for the necessity and role of the visible Church; a deepening understanding of the sacramental nature of the Christian faith; the apostolic quality intrinsic to Church authority; the unique function of the Minister of the Gospel in the liturgy and life of the Church; the inescapable dynamic of tradition within the Christian Faith; and an increasing awareness of the implications of the adjectives “one” and “catholic” as used by the Nicene Creed to identify the Church of Jesus Christ. Each of these areas of faith track back from where we are now as Catholics to where we were when Reformed. They prepared the way for us to give serious consideration to the Catholic faith when the time came.

It would be helpful here for me to begin listing the main catalysts that prompted us to engage the claims of the Catholic Church. After noting them, I’ll present each one on its own in order to explain how it contributed to effect our change of heart concerning Catholicism.

1. The positive principles of the Protestant Reformation.
2. The writings of the Church Fathers.
3. The nature of Church authority.

Having these three areas of study laid out before us, let me emphasize here the importance of the present website in prompting our journey toward the Catholic Church. Called To Communion was at first merely a pebble in my apparently well-tied Presbyterian church shoes. For the life of me I could not fathom how these men (most seminary trained) could leave the Reformed faith for Rome. A blend of curiosity, skepticism and concern (I knew one of the men personally) inclined me to try to understand what turned them Catholic. Over time CTC became for me a mountain that permitted no clearly designated detour around it to Geneva. Facing and answering these issues on a personal level were important to me as a pastor. I had to admit that the well-reasoned arguments from the contributors of the site were substantial enough that they could not be brushed off and ignored. So I began to investigate, assured that there were biblically, theologically, philosophically, historically satisfying Reformed answers to the challenges presented by CTC.

1. The positive principles of the Protestant Reformation.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that the Protestant Reformation was a tragic necessity, something that needed to happen, painful as the consequences may have been. This was my view. My understanding was that the fundamental spirit of the solas of the Reformation were incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church. This incompatibility is what I believed compelled the Protestant reformers to dedicate all their energies to unburdening the Church of Jesus Christ from what they believed to be the weight of man-made, extra- or un-Scriptural traditions that had sapped the strength of apostolic Christianity to the point of near collapse. God’s glory and the true way of salvation had been effectively smothered in the Church by the theological inventions of Catholicism, so my thinking went.

As I began to dig down to the most foundational differences dividing Protestants and Catholic, the book The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism by Louis Bouyer was recommended to me. Bouyer was a Lutheran minister who converted to Catholicism mid-last century. I was already familiar with him and appreciated his work and insights on Christian liturgy but had paid little attention to his discussions on Catholicism. What piqued my interest now was the peculiar thesis of this one book. Bouyer claimed that the Catholic Church is necessary for the full flowering of the principles of the Reformation. Put differently – Protestantism needs Catholicism in order to become all it aspires to be, which, of course, if true means the Protestant Reformation was completely unnecessary. Worse, it means that the Reformation was impossible from the outset because the reformers had unwittingly cut themselves off from the only source that could make their vision fruitful. To my Reformed and Presbyterian ears this sounded more than strange. Given my understanding of Catholic teaching, Bouyer’s idea was akin to saying a terminal illness is integral to the full flowering of bodily health. Or a fire is best fueled by depriving it of oxygen. Or the growth of a plant is impossible without rooting it in infertile soil. In my mind, Bouyer’s absurdity had to be explained, so I picked up the book and read.

What I discovered in reading the work was that the author’s claim was well founded. He demonstrates this repeatedly chapter by chapter. He enthusiastically affirms the positive principles of the Reformation showing the reader that, understood properly, each principle has its natural home in the Catholic faith. He then proceeds to critique the more negative aspects of Reformation doctrine (e.g. sola scriptura) contending that these negatives in the course of time undermined Protestantism’s positive principles, eventually giving birth to the reality known as Protestant Liberalism. Without question, I cannot do justice to the potency of Bouyer’s work in just a paragraph or two. A reflex for Reformed Christians reading this would be merely to dismiss the argument of Bouyer’s work as absurd. Recall that such was my initial reaction too, which is why I encourage you to read the book for yourself and take seriously the thesis present in its pages. Suffice it to say, he is persuasive in arguing that the positive principles of the Protestant Reformation are not antithetical to the Catholic Church but rather draw their strength and vitality from her existence.

The material found in The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism suggested a possibility I had never explored. What if the beauty of my Reformed faith was in fact the reflection of an original beauty? Could it be that I as a Protestant was seeing the Christian faith through a glass darkly? I had to find out.

2. The writings of the Church Fathers.

Another subject for study in engaging Catholicism was the Church Fathers. Catholics regularly make the claim that these leaders of the early Church are Catholic. I had a renewed interest to test this claim. My sense was that it would be easily disproved. After all, the reformers themselves had been avid students of the Fathers, quoting them in their theological works with ease and without contradiction over against Catholic teaching, right?

Going into this I had to admit that my familiarity with the actual works of the Fathers was limited. Thumbing curiously through a random volume from Schaff’s Patristics collection or culling a quote from Ignatius or Augustine or reading a history of early doctrine text for seminary coursework exhausted my contact with these ancient Christian authors. I had known for a long time that the Church Fathers did not share my Reformed theological vocabulary. But such was to be expected, I guessed. The Protestant Reformation with its precise theological formulations was many centuries away when these men wrote. So what (my thinking went) if Irenaeus or Justin or Augustine didn’t sound exactly like our Reformed creeds and catechisms? Yet now in examining their writings I began to sense that indeed there was something more profound at work than a mere difference in expression or emphasis. Was the Catholic claim right? Continued reading suggested that the actual theological substance of the Fathers was different. Certainly the Fathers didn’t seem at odds with the positive elements of the Reformation. But I noticed in my reading that they thought differently than did the reformers. Their approach to the Christian faith took another route. They seemed to cut an early theological path that when traced did not exactly connect to the one blazed by the reformers in the 16th century. I began to consider whether a person would naturally pick up the distinctive trail of the Protestant Reformation if one started with the writings of the early Church? The answer increasingly seemed to be no.

I knew the reformers had explicitly rejected much of what I was finding in the Church Fathers.

Page after page revealed a common faith during that early period in which bishops succeeded Apostles, baptismal waters regenerated, bread and wine transformed, penance was necessary and salutary, purgatorial fire cleansed, the Blessed Virgin was an active Mother to the faithful, departed saints prayed, Peter held the Keys, and the Eucharist was a sacrifice for the living and the dead. There appeared in their minds no awareness of or concern for the cardinal doctrines of the Reformation so painstakingly spelled out as essential to the gospel. Actually…the Fathers sounded Catholic.

This was unexpectedly unsettling for me because no external argument(s) in favor of a Catholic reading of the Fathers had been made in conjunction with my reading of them. The writings themselves served to give voice to the arguments. The words on the page became the witness or opponent (depending on one’s perspective). I began to ponder whether a person would naturally pick up the trail of the Catholic Church if one started with the writings of the early Church? The answer increasingly seemed to be yes.

At this point someone could object that the Church Fathers were not Catholic. My question would be, what then were they? Most certainly they did not share the peculiar faith of the Protestant Reformation. While it is possible to place a non-Catholic interpretation upon carefully selected sentences and paragraphs from the Fathers, a sustained reading makes such an interpretation impossible to maintain. In reading them one discovers that they appear to be natives of the Catholic Church. Wrenching them out of their natural Catholic context is detrimental to both the power of their witness and the proper understanding of the inquiring reader.

My suggestion here is to take up and read the Church Fathers. Read them in context. Read all of them. Allow them to define their terms. Take them at their word. Yes, this is a time investment. And it requires an open mind. But if you devote yourself to reading them, your perspective on the early Church will be forever changed and enriched. At the very least I’m hopeful you’ll come to acknowledge that these churchmen were Catholic. Better yet, you may become convinced that these Fathers are authentic witnesses to apostolic Christianity.

3. The question of Church authority.

As a Presbyterian I believed that Jesus personally appointed twelve men to the office of Apostle and sent them to proclaim the gospel (Mark 3:13-19). In giving them this office he endowed it with his own divine authority to guarantee that they would faithfully transmit his words and works to others (Matt. 28:18-20). The character of their authority is seen in any number of statements Jesus made concerning them:

“And he said to them….’The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me’” (Lk. 10:16).

“‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld’” (John 20:21-22).

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:17-18).

“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).

Clearly such a position runs contrary to the way so many Christians believe today: Men have no divine authority, right? And yet, Jesus tells them that he is received or rejected in direct proportion to whether his Apostles are received or rejected. No man can forgive sins, right? And yet, Jesus gives them his authority to forgive sins. No man’s decisions are binding on believers, right? And yet, Jesus tells them that their Apostolic decisions will accomplish God’s will and obligate believers in faith and practice.

With this divinely bestowed authority, the Apostles were called and equipped by God to be the leaders of Jesus’ Church. They were chosen by him to head up an identifiable, organized assembly/community of his followers. Given the character of their unique role in the Church, it was necessary to be in communion with the Apostles of Christ in order to be a Christian — submitting to them, worshiping under their governance, receiving their teaching, etc. (Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:1-3). Faith involved submitting to a living authority — the Apostles. These Apostles had received and submitted themselves to Jesus Christ and his teachings, and those who heard these Apostles received and submitted themselves to them and to their teachings. By receiving and submitting to the Apostles and their message the early believers were receiving and submitting to Christ and his message. To be in the Church one had to accept the living, teaching voice of the Apostles because they alone were the unique bearers of Jesus’ authority and message. An individual or group could not abandon this Church headed by the Apostles and establish its own a few blocks over. This was the nature of Church authority in the earliest period of apostolic Christianity.

So I believed, and still believe.

In light of my burgeoning study of Catholicism, I began to ponder with renewed interest this biblical portrait of Church authority and how it related to my present experience as a Presbyterian – What was the nature of Church authority today? How did it relate to the Apostles? What happened then when the Apostles died? Did the Church abruptly cease to have a living authority to guide her? Was there no longer a living teaching voice to which believers must listen? Revisiting these basic questions in light of the Catholic Church proved enlightening.

My answer to such things in the past had been that the Apostles committed and transmitted their authority in written form through the inspired documents of the New Testament. Everything necessary for salvation and the Christian life had been captured in their surviving letters and writings. Submission to the Apostles and their teachings was then measured by submission to the Bible and its teachings. Yes, as a Presbyterian I recognized there were leaders in the Church to whom obedience was due (Heb. 13:17) — being a pastor, I was one of them — but obedience to such leaders was dependent on whether or not they themselves were obeying the voice of the Apostles in the writings of the New Testament. Like the noble Bereans, each believer was to evaluate their leaders and their teachings by the Bible. To use the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, “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.” This is known as the principle of sola scriptura.

Putting this doctrine through the theological, philosophical and historical paces in the hope it would bear up under close scrutiny was uncomfortable for me. My assumption had always been that it was unquestionably true. I had believed it since a child. Now I was going to give my best effort to examine the familiar teaching from an outside perspective in order to ask its basis.

Coming at the doctrine from a different point of view, I had to admit certain weaknesses in it that ultimately changed my thinking. Here’s what I saw. First, the Bible doesn’t teach the principle of sola scriptura. The Scriptures are an incomparable guide for the moral life of the Christian, but they nowhere claim to be a comprehensive source for doctrine, worship, and the government of the Church. Second, the Church Fathers don’t teach sola scriptura. The Fathers did not promote anything resembling a “Scripture alone” position but instead recognized the necessity and authority of the traditions handed down from the Apostles. Third, the “Bible-based” fragmentation of Protestantism argues against the soundness of sola scriptura. All claim to be following the Bible. All arrive at different understandings of what it teaches. With such variety what standard shall we use to determine who is correct? The Bible? Fourth, the fact that the individual Protestant’s private judgment remains the final authority in evaluating faith claims undermines the principle of sola scriptura. Each person chooses the church group that agrees with his interpretation of the Bible. If disagreements arise within the group, a person then stays or leaves based on whether his interpretation is embraced or rejected. If rejected, the individual searches for a new church group that is in agreement with his interpretation of the Bible. Thus the individual remains the final arbiter of what the Bible teaches. Fifth, the fact that the Apostolic letters and writings give no divinely inspired indication what books are to be included in the canon of the New Testament makes impossible the principle of sola scriptura. How can the Bible be the ultimate authority when its very content is uncertain? Catholics believe the divinely guided Church was necessary to define what books belong to the New Testament.

Now I haven’t walked you through the details of the arguments for these five conclusions, but I hope you follow the links to the articles on CTC that provide clear reasons for what I’ve suggested above.

In contrast to this “Scripture alone” position, the Catholic Church teaches that the Church, not the Bible, is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). That by divine design it is the Church that upholds and protects the truth of the gospel throughout the centuries. The doctrine of Apostolic succession means that Bishops as successors of the Apostles are enabled by the Holy Spirit in their sacred office to preserve the Apostolic deposit of faith against every kind of error, distortion and corruption. Jesus promised to guide and instruct the ordained leaders of the Church (Jn 14:25; 16:13). The Holy Spirit’s guidance is Christ’s guarantee that the shepherds of his Church will never tamper with, pervert, or misunderstand the gospel. This is known formally as the Catholic doctrine of magisterial infallibility — the pope alone or the pope and the bishops in union with him are divinely protected from teaching error when they define matters pertaining to faith and morals.

As I studied this subject of Church authority, I began to see that the Catholic doctrine of Apostolic succession naturally connected to the biblical portrait of Church authority as it existed in the days of the Apostles. The Church wasn’t bereft of a living teaching authority when the Apostles died because these Apostles appointed qualified men to succeed them in the office of bishop, transmitting by succession a full share in the Apostolic authority so essential to the preservation and proclamation of the Apostolic deposit of faith. It became clear to me that the Bible and Church history confirm and corroborate this important teaching of the Catholic Church. Jesus gave us a Church with a book, not a book with a Church.

Conclusion

Let me begin this conclusion by ending at the beginning: My wife Cindy and I entered into full communion with the Catholic Church because we came to see that this Church is the Church established by Jesus Christ. We came to this realization in large measure by spending time in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, reading other positive presentations of Catholic teaching, and speaking with flesh and blood Catholics in all walks of life and vocations. The many misconceptions we had about what Catholics believed were cleared away as we dug deeply into the teaching resources of the Catholic Church and talked with actual Catholics. We began to recognize that all the Church taught and claimed was verified and confirmed in the Bible, by history, and in the lives of the saints. Over time we came to understand that the Catholic Church represents the fullness of what Christ wanted to reveal to his people; that it possesses all the gifts that our Lord wanted us to have; and that the Church in its liturgy, its apostolic teaching, the Eucharist, the sacraments, and its saints, serves as the definitive place where God’s grace is on full offer. The reason being — it is the Church of Jesus Christ most fully and rightly ordered through time. Yes, unquestionably a profound claim. But it is the one made by the Catholic Church in all ages, and it is the claim we have come to accept.

This is your invitation to test and see. I assure you that there is no lack of evidences for her divine origin. Such are openly verifiable and abundant. One need only the willingness to discern them. Whatever my personal story may be, the proof of the Catholic Church’s divine origin resides in the realm of history. The evidences are public, out there for you to examine. You are not at the mercy of my personal judgments concerning this claim about the Catholic Church. Instead you are free to investigate the facts of the Church’s perduring existence, her miraculous life, her divine teachings, the abiding fruit of her mission in the world from the time of Christ even down to our present day. The clues are all there; they await you. You need only begin to pursue them.

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  1. Jason,

    Welcome aboard! Thank you for your wonderful post. I too recommend, with a hearty endorsement, Father Bouyer’s work The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism.

  2. Mr. Stewart,

    Your article was very encouraging to me. I am also a former member of the OPC taking RCIA right now. May I ask how your congregation and session handled this news? Was it a gradual process or more of an abrupt move? Did you take any of your sheep with you when crossing Tiber?

  3. Welcome to the Catholic Church and welcome to CTC. Glad to have you with us on both counts.

  4. Jason,

    Thanks for a wonderful article. I particularly liked this paragraph about the Fathers:

    “Page after page revealed a common faith during that early period in which bishops succeeded Apostles, baptismal waters regenerated, bread and wine transformed, penance was necessary and salutary, purgatorial fire cleansed, the Blessed Virgin was an active Mother to the faithful, departed saints prayed, Peter held the Keys, and the Eucharist was a sacrifice for the living and the dead. There appeared in their minds no awareness of or concern for the cardinal doctrines of the Reformation so painstakingly spelled out as essential to the gospel. Actually…the Fathers sounded Catholic.”

    I remember my own encounter with the Fathers – especially Augustine – and coming to the same conclusion. At first, I just tried to qualify my Protestantism, and I conceived of nuanced theories to harmonize my Protestants dogma with what I was learning. Eventually, however, it occurred to me to ask, “Why is it so important to retain Protestantism, anyway?” At that point, I was almost as good as Catholic.

    -David

  5. Augustine wrote: “For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life” (On Christian Doctrine, book II, chapter 9).
    In a letter to Jerome, he wrote: “I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error” (Letter 82 from Augustine to Jerome).
    In this article, the writer begins with the misconception that the Catholic Church is “that City whose founder and builder is God.” If Stewart held that understanding of Hebrews 11 while still a Presbyterian pastor, then how messed-up was the rest of his biblical theology? “That City” is the promised inheritance of those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ, “a single offering” by which he “has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). It is the promise which Peter said we are waiting for: “new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13). God have mercy!

  6. Welcome, sir!

    I have a feeling we’d get along very well. Great story, well told.

  7. Andre,

    My time as pastor of Trinity came to a natural conclusion at the end of 2010 due to the financial dynamics of the congregation. This new phase in the local church’s life happened to coincide with our entrance into full communion with the Catholic Church. Because we were concerned not to disturb the Presbyterian identity of the congregation, we did not make our decision public.

    Blessings to you in your RCIA preparations!

    – Jason

  8. Dear Steve,

    Please adhere to decency and respect and the posting guidelines. If you would like, you could ask Jason your questions directly rather than referring to him in the third person. I have great confidence that he would answer and do so with respect. Thank you.

  9. Dear Tom,

    No disrespect intended.

    Thank you.

  10. Thank you for the fantastic witness to our Catholic faith. My favorite line was this:

    At this point someone could object that the Church Fathers were not Catholic. My question would be, what then were they?

  11. Steve (# 5),

    Keep in mind what I wrote about interpreting the Church Fathers:

    While it is possible to place a non-Catholic interpretation upon carefully selected sentences and paragraphs from the Fathers, a sustained reading makes such an interpretation impossible to maintain.

    Ss. Augustine and Jerome repeatedly strike the identifiable notes of Catholicism throughout their writings. Immersing oneself in the rhythm of their treatises, sermons, and letters helps to attune the ear to the complete melody, as it were.

    Also, perhaps you’ll agree that Revelation 21:1-4 suggests a resolution to the problem you posed regarding the nature and character of the biblical City.

    – Jason

  12. Jason,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I attend a PCA reformed church, but have been investigating the claims of the Catholic Church for several years. I have found both Protestant and Catholic apologetics sites guilty of Church Father proof texting. It is all too easy to go fishing for quotes that back up a given opinion, especially on the issue of whether of not the Bible is the sole infallible authority. It does take considerable time and effort to read the ECF’s in broad swaths, instead of tiny pre-digested snippets, but absolutely critical in understanding their beliefs. In my layman’s reading of some of these sources, I can certainly appreciate the very Catholic nature of many ECF writings, but the wider lense view of their beliefs about Scripture as the sole infallible authority eludes me. It seems that both the Protestant and Catholic arguments have some validity. Any resources you would recommend that show convincingly that the ECF’s believed in an infallible authority other than the Bible?

    -Burton

  13. Welcome, Jason and Cindy! A former OPC parishioner, I entered the Catholic Church in April of 2009. God bless you and your family!

  14. Welcome Home, Jason! Thank you for your willingness to follow Christ no matter what the cost.

    If I may respond to something Burton said:

    It seems that both the Protestant and Catholic arguments have some validity.

    I agree with you. I do not think we would have the denominations like we do if Protestants could not make “strong” (valid) arguments for their positions. But, I like to think of it by way of analogy:

    If my sister makes a strong argument that could be construed to support me being her brother but which could also be construed to support someone else being her brother (and not me), who is her brother? I am, of course. Why? Because I am her brother. We have the same parents.

    So, I asked myself where did my preacher come from? Really, where did he come from? I looked for his spiritual parents and found out that I had put my entire family on a ship that had departed Alabama some 60 years ago. So, I looked for an older ship. I stopped in the 16th century and tried to figure out if this is where it all began again. The Reformation claimed to be a spiritual/ecclesial “do over”, right?

    As Jason alluded, if the Reformation was unnecessary then the “re-do” was unnecessary. To go back to the analogy, if the “DNA test” was a fraud, it doesn’t matter how much I can make the other guy look like my sister’s brother. He isn’t. So if the Reformation is unnecessary, then stopping in the 16th century is unnecessary. The argument may be valid but it is not credible. To put it another way, if your question is about a minor premise, then once the Major premise is proved invalid, the conclusion can never follow.

    One cannot pretend to have another go at the Reformation. We are historical animals. So, either the Reformation was necessary or it was not. Hard Stop. If not, than either the Church Fathers were Catholic or the Catholic Church was a 4th century novelty and the anabaptist, pentecostal and sabbatarian sects are right. But those sects are wrong, and the ECF’s witness a robust Catholic theology, and moreover, assume a burgeoning ecclesiology that is thoroughgoing Catholic as well.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  15. The idea that one can find an extra-biblical, authoritative traditions in the ECF or even perhaps in some elements of the ancient church is irrelevant. The reformation was about making Christ the center once again of the Chistian tradition (worldview). The revelation of God to man, contained in Scripture presents itself as the final authority on all matters of faith and praxis. Any move beyond that idea is a dangerous one indeed. We find ourselves mixing with those who, by their traditions make void the very Word they protend to uphold just as the religious of Jesus’ day. I can take one look at the Pope, decked out in his gold, high and lifted up and I need to look no further. This generation seems to insist that we revisit every theological issue the church has settled since her existence. This is truly the generation of the uninformed.

  16. Great story, thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading future posts. My wife and I are in RCIA now and had previously attended a PCA church. My story tracks yours in many ways, including being amazed at Bouyer’s insightfulness and eventually squaring up to the fact that the church fathers are unmistakably Catholic, if not in their every turn of phrase (which those of us raised Protestnt read through Protestant lenses) then in the broad current of their thought, including their insistence on baptismal regeneration which (as the authors of this site have pointed out), because it cannot be squared with reformed soteriology, eventually convinced me of their Catholicity. And, like you, I came to realize that as a Protestant, I was the final arbiter of ‘what Christianity is,’ whether I decided each issue for myself or decided which pastor/teacher/scholar I would follow. I knew this could not be the way to find the faith of the apostles.

    Peace to you and your family.

  17. Jason,

    Speaking as a Protestant minister, the natural response to your story of conversion is sorrow that Scripture plays such a small role in it.

    You see, as a former Roman Catholic, it is the weakness of the church’s claim to be the faithful interpreter of Scripture — not in the abstract, but in the concrete, on a text by text basis — that leads me to question the claims of the church today. If I were led to become a Roman Catholic — given my current history, a highly unlikely proposition — I would hope and pray that it would be because I was convinced that what the “Spirit-inspired Church” said compelling conveyed the truth of what the very word of God said. After all, that is the claim of Rome, isn’t it? Not that the Scriptures are unimportant, but that what the Roman church says is relatively more important, indeed necessary, as an authoritative interpretation of the Word of God.

    Yet Scripture plays such a small role in your conversion story. I suspect you may backtrack now and say that no, Scripture was the key (maybe not). But either way, as it stands, Scripture plays a minor role in your story.

    So, I suppose my question is, Why does Scripture play such a small role in your conversion story (as written)? Note, this isn’t a matter of sola scriptura. It’s just a matter of Scriptura. Protestants and Rome both agree that Scripture contains the words of life. We both agree that it is the very word of God, God’s word in a way that no word of the church can ever be. So why does it play such a small role in your story?

    Regarding your second point, as a church historian (Ph.D. and all that) who has read a fair bit of the Fathers, complete works, in context, etc., it seems to me like you were asking the wrong question when you read them. I never expected to find in them the backward echo of the Reformation. Nor did I expect the backward echo of medieval Romanism. I didn’t find either. That would seem to be historically naive. I did find, however, a regard for the Scriptures, and a humility with respect to their own teaching, that could only result in them being the final arbiters of Scripture by a most curious combination. Of course the Reformers explicitly rejected much of what is found in the fathers. They accepted much of it as well. They recognized them as a mixed bag — why would we expect more of any human writings? — and to be surprised to find the contrary shows a lack of knowledge of the Reformation.

    Under your first section, “The positive principles of the Reformation,” you don’t identify a single positive principle of the Reformation. Why?

  18. Ed D,

    The idea that one can find an extra-biblical, authoritative traditions in the ECF or even perhaps in some elements of the ancient church is irrelevant. The reformation was about making Christ the center once again of the Chistian tradition (worldview).

    This is mere assertion and hand-waving. Moreover, if you could find what you admit is possible, then it could not be “irrelevant”.

    The revelation of God to man, contained in Scripture presents itself as the final authority on all matters of faith and praxis. Any move beyond that idea is a dangerous one indeed. We find ourselves mixing with those who, by their traditions make void the very Word they protend to uphold just as the religious of Jesus’ day.

    I believe sola scriptura is a tradition of men that makes the Word of God of none effect. The revelation that “presents itself as the final revelation” is the person of Jesus Christ. He personally founded a Church and personally left that Church His Spirit to both: remind them of what he said and lead them into all truth. To discuss sola scriptura in more detail, I recommend these four articles at CTC: Sola Scriptura: A Dialogue between Michael Horton and Bryan Cross, Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority, Is Sola Scriptura in the Bible? A Reply to R.C. Sproul Jr., or Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium: What did Jesus Teach?.

    I can take one look at the Pope, decked out in his gold, high and lifted up and I need to look no further. This generation seems to insist that we revisit every theological issue the church has settled since her existence. This is truly the generation of the uninformed.

    Let’s set aside that last sentence since it was an ad hominem. To show that someone is uninformed, you would need to show how what they are saying clearly ignores evidence. For example, it would be uninformed to come to a site like this and pretend that a litany of gentlemen with advanced degrees and who were the best and brightest in their Reformed circles are “uninformed”.

    I can sympathize with your (lack of) feelings for the Pope. I was totally there myself at one time in my life. In fact, I preached sermons where I told people that religion (like Catholicism) erects the veil of separation God came and “rent in two” through His Cross. Yet, now I do not believe this at all. Now, I see the Catholic Church as the only reasonable and appropriate effect of God having became flesh and dwelt among us. The pageantry, regalia, et. al. brings glory to God–especially if you take the time to study what all of the symbolism means and the rich history of faith and martyrdom it projects. Anti-Catholicism is another tradition of men, and the easy quid pro quo mind swap that can take place–Jew religious for Catholic religious–is a canard. Certainly the Catholic can lose sight of the fact of what “it all means” and in their mind become like the man who is outwardly religious only. However, that is not because of his religion but because of his condition. So, too, the Protestant may imagine his minister like a CEO of a company: the suite ensemble, crew cut, two children, picket fence, and leased volvo. I could then say, “See, I only have to look at your minister to see that your religion is just a mirror of the culture.” I admit this is a canard, but it is a canard like my (and your) judgement was of the Pope’s “gold on a high chair…” as being some affront to Christ. Nay. If the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth then every Christian who shows him love, shows him love in relationship to their love of Christ.

    That is why I love the Pope. I love him because of my love for Jesus. (Luke 10:16, Matt 10:14-15, John 5:43)

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  19. [...] An Orthodox Presbyterian Enters the Catholic Church – Jason Stewart, Called to Cmmnn [...]

  20. The doctrine of sola scriptura, contrary to your view, exists in Scripture no different than Christ’s authority. Jesus’ authority was granted to Him by His Father. In other words, He was not authoritative because some man testified to that fact. The same is true of Scripture. Scripture, being the very Word of the very God of all that is, has been, and ever shall be, our sole authority for faith and practice. Nothing can be added to that standard by man. Whatever man brings, he brings as a man. What God gave by His act of grace, He gave. The truth of praxis and doctrine is settled by appeal, not to some man-made institution, but by appeal to God’s truth, the truth that He has displayed to us in Scripture. Is Scripture not enough? Did God forget something? Did He leave something out? Do we not have the Spirit? Does the Pope possess a Spirit I do not possess? Are not all believers called into the one and same body of Christ and endowed with the same Spirit? Did not Peter err and require correction from another who possessed the same Spirit? Did not Paul point to the authority of God’s revelation to make the necessary correction? Without sola scriptura, man must rely solely on fallen man to establish a reliable tradition that transcends himself. Such an endeavor is not only impossible, it is foolish.

  21. Brian Lee,

    Yet Scripture plays such a small role in your conversion story. I suspect you may backtrack now and say that no, Scripture was the key (maybe not). But either way, as it stands, Scripture plays a minor role in your story.

    I won’t speak for Jason however I want to say that I’ve read many conversion stories over the years and seen a lot of Protestant reactions. A reoccurring theme in Protestant reactions is that the conversion story did not have enough X or did not have enough Y.

    I once posted my conversion story on another website and filled it with scriptural references. The complaint I received was, “Well, you only used your brain and did not say anything about the Holy Spirit and your heart…” Surely, had I written just about the Holy Spirit and my heart the complaint would have been, “Sheesh, you did not even use the bible!”

    So, not to be dismissive but it is interesting to me that we converts are sort of damned if we do and damned if we don’t when it comes to outlining our reasons for entering into the Catholic Church.

    Having said that, I can say that my first foray into a Catholic way of thinking started when I read the bible again as a first time father about six and half years ago. It was in reading Acts that I first sensed that there was a big problem with my ecclesiology.

  22. Burton,

    Thanks for commenting. I applaud your willingness to investigate such monumental matters.

    Any resources you would recommend that show convincingly that the ECF’s believed in an infallible authority other than the Bible?

    Taking a step back (your wider lens, if you will), we know the rule of faith for the Apostolic Church was the living teaching authority of the Apostolic College. As I noted in my article, faith in those days involved submission to a living authority, alive in the world, able to speak to faith and morals at that very moment. No doubt the Old Testament Scriptures occupied a unique place and functioned in an indispensable way in the life of the infant Church, but it was the Apostolic preaching (there was no New Testament) that provided the norm for faith and defined the practices of the earliest believers. Protestants generally agree with this picture of Apostolic Christianity.

    Of course, this scene changes dramatically in the Protestant mind with the death of the last Apostle. From that moment on it is said that the Apostolic norm is found exclusively in the writings of the Apostles and their associates. Needless to say, the Catholic cannot locate any evidence in the Apostolic letters suggesting that Jesus (or his Apostles) intended for his teaching to be circumscribed in the pages of a book, no matter how important the book. One would think a statement from Jesus or the Apostles informing us of such a plan would be necessary if the Protestant is to adopt the idea of the Bible as the sole infallible authority in the life of the Church. But there is nothing of the kind. As invaluable as Sacred Scripture is as the inspired and inerrant written word of God, there is no Apostolic pedigree to the notion that the Scriptures are intended to operate as the sole rule of faith in the post-Apostolic Church.

    What we do find in the Apostolic writings is an unmistakable witness to the purposeful and intentional program of the handing on of the Apostolic deposit of faith from the Apostles to their successors. St. Paul instructs Timothy, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Here is biblical confirmation of the Catholic doctrine which holds that Jesus committed his teaching to living men who in turn handed it on to other appointed men. This is corroborated by the early Church Fathers in any number of places through their witness to Apostolic succession in their own day. It was a given of the Christian faith that Christ had entrusted his Apostles with his own authority, teaching, and mission and that they were to transmit this authority, teaching, and mission to other approved men. The result is that the Church would never lack the living voice of Christ, for his voice would be heard always in the successors of his Apostles.

    This is the ecclesial milieu of the early Fathers. This is the ecclesial milieu of the Bible. One must therefore gage their loftiest sentiments about Scripture (sentiments a Catholic would share, by the way) by the measure of the totality of their faith. Someone positing a competition between the authority of Scripture and the authority of the Church within the Fathers is foisting on them a crisis which loses its strength when it is remembered that their statements about the authority of the Bible are made from within the bosom of a stoutly framed doctrine of Apostolic succession.

    Does this help, Burton?

    – Jason

  23. [...] friend Jason Stewart tells his very patristic conversion story. Check it out! 0 Comments No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this [...]

  24. @Brian Lee (#17),

    Thanks for stopping by and offering your thoughts. To reveal my biases upfront, I’m one of those lifelong Protestants currently in RCIA and seriously contemplating Catholicism. I’m no theologian, of course, but I’ve done a fair bit of reading. All of which is to say that, in terms of expertise, you (and others on this site) have me beat by a mile and a yard. There was, nevertheless, one point you mentioned on which I’d like to offer my own observation.

    You wrote:

    Of course the Reformers explicitly rejected much of what is found in the fathers. They accepted much of it as well. They recognized them as a mixed bag — why would we expect more of any human writings? — and to be surprised to find the contrary shows a lack of knowledge of the Reformation.

    My own reading of the early Reformers (particularly Calvin & Luther) has indicated to me that they believed they were soundly within the Apostolic and Patristic tradition. As such (particularly in Luther’s case) they took great pains to argue that they (the Reformers) were the ones following the church fathers and that the RC church was the one who had wandered away. I assume you know this already. Which is why it was puzzling to read what you wrote earlier on in your comment:

    I never expected to find in [the Patristic sources] the backward echo of the Reformation. Nor did I expect the backward echo of medieval Romanism. I didn’t find either. That would seem to be historically naive.

    I find this odd since so VERY many scholars during the Reformation (Catholic or otherwise) were concerned to argue that their own views were, in fact, consistent with the Patristic tradition. Perhaps you didn’t read Patristic sources looking to find Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, etc, but pretty much all the parties involved were claiming for themselves the mantle of Patristic progeny. So since Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bellarmine, More, and de Salles all seem to think that being within a Patristic tradition is a sine qua non for orthodoxy (to say nothing of orthopraxy), I don’t think it’s terribly surprising that a convert would at some point get around to reading Patristic sources and expecting to find some consistent theology therein which was continued in one (or more) major strands of Christianity. YAMV (Your anecdotes may vary), but I’ve sat through any number of Protestant sermons where the minister strives to prove that some particular doctrine or other in fact wasn’t a Lutheran/Calvinist/Baptist innovation but in fact has good solid grounding in the early church’s writings.

    So after a lifetime full of being told that the Patristic sources were consonant with (or contained “in seed form”) the various doctrines of Protestantism, I too have made my way around to actually reading their own writings. What I find there isn’t Protestantism “in seed form” but a rejection of “the seed form” of Protestantism and an acceptance of “the seed form” of modern Catholic/EO doctrines. Take an easy example (well, at least easy for me). Sure the Patristic sources appeal to scripture to support their views – as well they should! But when the chips are down (less metaphorically, when an ecumenical council is called to deal with some pressing heresy), they argue from scripture but follow it up by, in the end, subjecting their own interpretations of scripture to whatever the ecumenical council has decided is the correct interpretation of scripture. Those who don’t abide by the council’s decisions (who maintain their private interpretation of scripture over and against the contrary findings of an ecumenical council) are heretics. Interestingly, the only persons one finds defending their private interpretation against the findings of an ecumenical council are themselves the heretics.

    Comes now to the Reformation. There’s an ecumenical council and it proclaims, in essence, “Luther and Calvin, some of what you said is outside the boundries of orthodoxy”. What do Luther and Calvin (and their followers) do? They leave the church, proclaiming that it has fallen into error and they are here to save Christ’s followers from “that whorish supposed church”. Rhetoric aside, this is EXACTLY the same situation that has arisen plenty of times in church history: Call council, council deliberates, council decides, and all are obligated to submit to the council. Instead of doing so, we get WCF 31.4: “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.” And, unsurprisingly, the way the councils are used as a “help in both” generally works out to be something like “Yeah, we’ll agree with them when they’re right…but when they got it wrong it’s okay to rebel and schism the church”. It’s that frame of mind I’ve found explicitly rejected in Patristic sources – not the needfulness of Scripture, but that when the chips are down we’re supposed to submit to the church’s interpretation of Scriptures over our own, EVEN WHEN WE THINK THEY’RE WRONG. Gee, where have I heard that before? (Matt. 18:17, anybody?)

    Anyways, that’s a long and rather verbose way of making the following point: I don’t think it’s illegitimate to search Patristic sources and expect to find the “seed form” (or whatever you want to call it) of Calvinism, Lutheranism, Zwinglianism, Catholicism, or Eastern Orthodoxy. The representatives of those groups explicitly encourage the view that their beliefs are consonant with Patristic sources. If, of course, I shouldn’t read Patristic sources expecting to find “seed forms” of Calvinism, Catholicism, etc, then several pastors giving more than a few sermons I’ve been blessed to sit through didn’t get that memo.

    I’m off to teach. Have yourself a good day! =)

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin Keil

  25. Sean,

    I’m not cherry picking here, as I made clear when I said that Scripture’s authority is the one tenet supposedly shared by Rome and the Reformation (speaking of Reformation principles). It’s mostly lacking in the flow of the narrative, and the texts cited are relevant but rather tired buttresses for church authority. Since Rome claims to believe in Scriptural authority (as interpreted by the magisterium) and the Reformation claims Scriptural authority (as interpreted by the church through the ages), it would expect it to be a common place from which to argue. However, it’s relative absence suggests that Scripture doesn’t play as large a role in the Roman system as they claim. So this isn’t just taking pot-shots.

    Further, the specific example you cite, the leading of the Holy Spirit, rather confirms my point. The Reformed confessions (to which Jason had subscribed his agreement in his ordination vows) tell us that the Holy Spirit guides us in and through Scripture. Indeed, the Spirit is not to be separated from the Scriptures he inspires. So talking about how Scripture led him to Rome would have been talking about how the Spirit had led him to Rome. Further, if he had bolstered his own understanding of Scripture by showing that it was an understanding shared by the saints through the ages, he could have made clear the Roman claim that Scripture is on their side in this debate.

    But that would have been difficult, because in my view, the Scriptures as read and understood by saints through the history of the church don’t support the essential claims of post-Tridentine Rome.

  26. Dear Ed,

    You dismiss the Church with, as Brent said rightly, a wave of the hand. Your comment, “This generation seems to insist that we revisit every theological issue the church has settled since her existence,” is very ironic. You are right and I would add that this generation, in so far as they are doing this, are following the principles of the very men that you think re-captured the Gospel. I would hope that you contemplate that and be more open to Jason’s story.

  27. Benjamin Keil (24):

    Two different questions, whether to say “The Fathers are Roman/Reformed” vs. “our Roman/Reformed view is consonant or in agreement with what we find in the broad emphases of the Fathers.” The first is anachronistic and naive (and is how Jason framed his discoveries). The second is a sound way of searching and weighing the evidence one finds in the fathers. And the second one, by the way, is fully in agreement with what I said. The fathers are a mixed bag. That’s why the Reformers reject what they say at many points (Rome, not so often), while presenting a case that their views of salvation and scripture and authority are consonant with what they generally taught.

    One might say that it was merely a rhetorical slip on Jason’s part, and that he actually meant the latter. I’m happy to grant that, but the flow of the argument as presented (and many others I’ve seen similarly structured) implies that the naivety and anachronism is actually inherent in the thinking.

    And of course, Luther and Calvin didn’t leave the church. They were excommunicated, and sought to continue worshiping the Lord faithfully in accord with the teaching of Scripture and the saints through the ages.

  28. Brian Lee,

    Thanks for the clarification. I get what you are saying.

    If you asked every Catholic convert in America why they converted you would probably get thousands of different reasons. Some would cite scripture more than others. Some would cite the fathers more. Some might cite other reasons. Jason chose to give his brief recounting in his way. I don’t think it’s fair to read into his brief essay that scripture did not play a role in his conversion or that in becoming Catholic he abandoned scripture or anything like that.

    You wrote:

    Further, if he had bolstered his own understanding of Scripture by showing that it was an understanding shared by the saints through the ages, he could have made clear the Roman claim that Scripture is on their side in this debate…But that would have been difficult, because in my view, the Scriptures as read and understood by saints through the history of the church don’t support the essential claims of post-Tridentine Rome.

    Which saints are you talking about?

    I believe this is what Jason said in his post when he wrote:

    Page after page revealed a common faith during that early period in which bishops succeeded Apostles, baptismal waters regenerated, bread and wine transformed, penance was necessary and salutary, purgatorial fire cleansed, the Blessed Virgin was an active Mother to the faithful, departed saints prayed, Peter held the Keys, and the Eucharist was a sacrifice for the living and the dead. There appeared in their minds no awareness of or concern for the cardinal doctrines of the Reformation so painstakingly spelled out as essential to the gospel. Actually…the Fathers sounded Catholic.

  29. Brian Lee –

    I, for one, am happy that Jason didn’t directly cite scripture in his conversion story. I’m very interested in these discussions and read a lot of debates between Catholics and Protestants. I have noticed that the more scripture is used, the more convoluted the issues become. That might sound surprising, but I am just giving you my observation. What usually winds up happening is that these debates devolve, rather rapidly, into a proof texting match. See the discussions in the Christian Unity thread with Henry, for an example of this type of discussion.

    By not citing scripture directly (It is clear to me that scripture is implied throughout his story) he saves us from that type of fruitless discussion and allows us to focus on the more foundational issue, which is the question of who has the last word on interpreting the text. While you might find the lack of scripture unconvincing, I guarantee you that not all Protestants to. There are many on this cite who have given up their attempts to perfectly exegete the Bible. When we look at the scripture alone we often find many different interpretations. The one I cite often on this website is John 20:21-23. Who did Jesus give the authority to forgive sins in his name? The scripture is unlcear, and this is an extremely important question that does effect each of our battles with sin. Are there men with this authority today? If there are, I’d like to find one and ask him to forgive my sins in his name.

    So whether or not Jason was deliberately leaving direct citations of scripture or not is beside the point, for me and others. It saves us a lot of breath and allows us to go straight after the more foundational issue of interpretive authority.

  30. Brian,

    I have only a brief moment to comment, and I’m doing so to assure you I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and for being willing to offer criticisms from your point of view. This website exists to foster dialogue between Reformed and Catholic Christians, and if it is accomplishing this goal, then God be praised.

    Yet Scripture plays such a small role in your conversion story. I suspect you may backtrack now and say that no, Scripture was the key (maybe not). But either way, as it stands, Scripture plays a minor role in your story. So, I suppose my question is, Why does Scripture play such a small role in your conversion story (as written)?

    To reply to your question, yes, the Bible was extremely important in verifying, confirming, and corroborating for us the teachings of the Catholic Church. Try to imagine reading the Scriptures without having to constantly glance over your shoulder for fear someone is going to tamper with the textual idiosyncrasies of your group’s particular theological tradition. Our encounter with Catholicism helped us acknowledge that we needed to resign our posts as private guardians of the biblical text, for the simple reason that that job had already been filled a long, long time ago, and publicly (1 Tim. 3:15). This time it wasn’t for us the same old, same old of cobbling together bits and pieces of biblical text (with or without a larger church group) until something emerged we deemed personally worthy of belief. No, we finally began to realize that neither we, nor the most spiritually fit of our companions, packed the type of muscle required to bear the weight of so profound a thing as the Apostolic faith. You have to be divinely equipped for that sort of task.

    Because the Catholic Church follows the authority structure of Apostolic Christianity – Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium – each of these three formed the stable foundation on which we planted our spiritual feet as Catholics.

    I hope to comment again sooner rather than later, but in the meantime, I hope you’ll permit me a good natured poke – Shall I take your claim about the reformers worshiping faithfully with “the saints through the ages” as a rhetorical hiccup or as naive and anachronistic?

    Blessings,

    – Jason

  31. @Sean – #21:

    My experience also, I’m afraid. I must say, too, that since I became a Catholic, 16 years ago, I have come to know and to love Scripture – I was going to say ‘more,’ but it would be better to say something like ‘anew.’ I have been reading the Bible annually all my Christian life (I became a Christian in a Protestant context only at age 27), but since becoming a Catholic, it has been a new and far deeper book for me.

    jj

  32. Welcome home, Jason!

  33. Brian Lee,

    Would you be willing to address more directly Benjamin’s statements regarding the role of ecumenical councils, their authority, and how the individual Christian (one like me – without advanced degrees) can determine which teachings of which councils can be legitimately rejected as heretical and which are orthodox. Another way of asking it, how can I know that Luther was any different than Arius or Donatus?

    -Burton

  34. I can take one look at the Pope, decked out in his gold, high and lifted up and I need to look no further.

    Ed Dingess

    Truly. For because Catholics fully believe Jesus the Christ is their Lord and Savior, of course they would bedeck the vicar of Christ in finery fitting for an office so close to their King. And so they deck out that vicar, their Pope, in their gold…

    If Catholics didn’t believe in Jesus and trust in His words, then their church’s chief pastor would wear, oh, a business suit and be of the world.

  35. Dear Brian Lee,

    I cannot speak for Jason, but I can tell you truthfully that Scripture was the beginning and end of my conversion to the Catholic Faith. Like Jason, I was first challenged to rethink my interpretation of Scripture by the Church Fathers. I asked myself why I would privilege Calvin’s reading of Scripture over Augustine’s, for example. But the fathers were no final authority for me, as a Protestant. They merely raised questions. I then went back to the Scripture, to Protestant biblical study, to my linguistic tools, to re-examine what I had been taught as a Protestant. – And I found it lacking.

    I don’t think there is one distinctly Protestant doctrine that can be established on the basis of Scripture alone. This is the reason why I quit being Protestant, and it is a major reason I became Catholic (thought not the only reason).

    -David

  36. One more thing:

    You wrote: “And of course, Luther and Calvin didn’t leave the church.”

    I think you could try to make this argument with regards to Luther. (I’m not saying I would agree.) He was a priest, who tried to bring reformation (as he saw it) to the Church in Germany.

    Calvin, however, is another story. He was never ordained in the Catholic Church. He was merely recruited to the Genevan Reformation by William Farel. He utterly rejected the idea that he needed any validation from the existing ecclesiological structure, and he frequently appealed to his own conscience and his own interior experience of “calling” to justify his ministry. As much as he loathed sectarianism in others, he favored it in his own case.

    Unless you want to presume a Protestant definition of Church, I don’t think you can make your case historically for Calvin not leaving the Church.

    -David

  37. Ed D,

    You wrote:

    “This generation seems to insist that we revisit every theological issue the church has settled since her existence.”

    A question: how do you think the Church settles theological issues?
    Do you, for example, think the mode of baptism is a settled issue? How about the Holy Trinity?
    How would you know if “the Church” (as you understand that term) got it right?
    When is it ok to revisit a theological issue?

    Thanks,

    David

  38. Brian Lee,

    Others have answered you much better than I can. But I wanted respond to this:

    “But that would have been difficult, because in my view, the Scriptures as read and understood by saints through the history of the church don’t support the essential claims of post-Tridentine Rome.”

    I remember thinking and saying the very same thing for years, or at least trying to convince myself of that claim. But it was precisely the scriptures that led me back to the Church that I left for Protestantism when I was still a boy. There were many verses that haunted me as seeming way to Catholic prima facie and upon examination for nearly 30 years (on and off).

    These texts typically were the ones in reference to baptism and Holy Communion and the role of faith and works. From John to Acts, to 1 & 2 Corinthians to James to 1 Peter there were all these verses that made no sense from a baptistic or Reformed perspective. The interpretations always seemed to be tortured and usually amounted to saying “this verse is not really saying what it seems to be saying” or we need to interpret the unclear in light of the clear.

    It was always in the back of my head and it was always exceedingly disturbing. I was not just a Protestant. I was a former Catholic who was “saved” out of Catholicism. But eventually something had to give and my journey took off when I started be honest with these texts. It was very painful at first but eventually it turned scripture into a beautiful, coherent tapestry that made more sense as a whole and that it ever had before. It no longer had to be jammed through an interpretive paradigm that I had to adopt. For it was dispensational then covenantal and then law/gospel over the course of those 30 years. Not to say that there is no truth to the latter two, but it is so much more.

    Bottom line is that scripture led me to the Catholic Church not away from it. And I did struggle greatly with Trent until I actually read it and not quotes from it (not to say that is what you have done). I found I could not use scripture to refute it because the council so thoroughly draws it’s theology from scripture.

    Of course the Fathers played a role too. But for me it ultimately was scripture that showed me that many protestant claims were simply unbiblical or insufficiently biblical and that many verses in the New Testament make no sense from any perspective other than a Catholic one.

    So I would encourage you to pray about it and try to look at scripture (and Trent) with fresh eyes, asking the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth no matter where it leads.

  39. How about the existence of God? Let’s revisit that issue every year. The virgin birth? The resurrection? In fact, why don’t we install a practice requiring that we revisit every single theological issue, regardless of how basic it is, on an annual basis. Not often enough? How about every six months? The church does not settle the issue, per se. The church only settles an issue when she rightly interprets sacred Scripture. That is to say, when the church actually understands God’s communication the way God intends, then she has settled the issue.

    Nowhere did I say or even imply that every single theological issue has been settled. The mode of baptism remains open to debate. The holy trinity, on the other hand, does not! The nature of the end, with regard to details, remains open for debate. The existence of God, the inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth, the resurrection, all on the other hand, are not open for debate. We Protestants refer to the reformation principle of the perspicuity of Scripture.

  40. Ed,

    I’m not sure if sarcasm is the best way to introduce yourself to a new group of people.

    But I think the most controversial line in your reply is this:

    The church only settles an issue when she rightly interprets sacred Scripture.

    Who are you – or who is anybody? – to determine when the Church rightly or wrongly interprets scripture?

  41. Ed,

    “The mode of baptism remains open to debate. The holy trinity, on the other hand, does not! The nature of the end, with regard to details, remains open for debate.”

    This statement is an example of the subjective authoritarianism of Protestantism that is inevitable, and which has been beautifully captured in the book that Jason mentioned (The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism by Father Bouyer, and I think it would be worth your time to read it, if only to get a sense of the Catholic position). On what basis, Ed, do you determine that one matter is settled and another is not? When I was a PCA minister I certainly thought that the mode of baptism was settled, when someone should be baptized was settled etc… I am sure most Presbyters in the Presbyterian world that I frequented (ARP, PCA, OPC) thought the same. Yet, you say it remains open for debate. How does one adjudicate such matters?

    As a Catholic I am able to recognize that a matter has been settled when the Magisterium of the Church, whether in its various forms, informs me and the faithful that the matter at hand has indeed been settled. I can say that this Magisterial authority from the outside may appear to be stifling but I can say that my experience has been that from the inside, as a Catholic, I find it very liberating and actually very vitalizing, especially as I serve the Church as a teacher of the faith to the faithful.

  42. This is a false disjunction. Either I accept the magisterium or skepticism? First, the Magisterium has no more of the Holy Spirit than the next Christian. Second, who is to say that your interpretation of the Magisterium is correct? You speak as if you are not in a boat, but your back is to the sea and you yell from your boat over to me that I am in a boat.

    The appeal is to Scripture, always to Scripture, and to Scripture alone. This is not to say that the mind of other’s who have grappled with a subject should be dismissed. It should not. The views of others should be considered, at least on matters that are not quite as clear. You must agree that some things are clearer than others in Scripture. Why do I need the Magisterium to interpret the resurrection for me? The gospel is clear. Who is in charge of interpreting the interpreters for me? At what point can I actually engage in the interpretive process? Am I free to interpret the priest’s sermon? Says who? A man? A fallen man? A man in need of the very same redemption I was in need of? Why THAT man? Says whom? If you are removed from the interpretive process and must fully submit to the magisterium, aren’t you violating the rules of interpretation by engaging in this discussion? Seriously, the best you can do is say that the Magisterium is right because they are right. You cannot appeal to Scripture in support of the Magistrium. Only the Magisterium can handle the text. Inevitably, a man said that Peter was God’s man. Peter never said that. The NT documents do not support it. The history of the NT Church does not support it. Yet, it is because a man said so. And his interpretation is the right one because, well, he said it is the right one.

    You have no biblical basis whatever for the authority of the Magistrium. Even Paul said follow me as I follow Christ. Paul’s words of warning to the Ephesian elders rings true: “from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things.” How is such a thing remotely possible in the RCC model? It isn’t. How dare anyone say that the Magistrium could possibly be wrong!

  43. @Ed Dingess:

    The appeal is to Scripture, always to Scripture, and to Scripture alone.

    Ed – this sounds good – but it does mean – does it not? – that there can be no such thing as visible church unity. Jesus must have been praying for something else in John 17, don’t you think – or else, perhaps, His prayer will be denied.

    During the 20 years I was in the (tiny) Reformed Churches of New Zealand – as a deacon for the last three years, before I became a Catholic – I saw two splits on doctrinal grounds. Appealing to Scripture, without a God-given referee – the Magisterium, in fact – must, surely, mean a Church shattered.

    jj

  44. John,
    I can think of no denomination with views as diverse as one sees in the RCC. Jesus was not praying for the unity of the Magisterium. He was praying for the unity of His church. In Rome one has a priest who holds to exclusivism in one region and in another region, one to inclusivism. One RC politician here in the states will oppose abortion and another defend it. One RC leader will embrace gay marriage while another condemns it. The truth is that the membership within the RCC is anything but unified in their worldview. In fact, one would probably be hard-pressed to find such disunity in any other single protestant denomination. The ciricles of disagreement within protestant denominations are typically much smaller than those in Romanism. The Magisterium seems powerless to effect any meaningful change. Rome has to restrict the dialogue to the abstract, because in reality, her people, for the most part, ignore her. They believe whatever they want and the Magisterium has as proven impotent in her ability to bring about any meaninful change. There is no unity in Rome outside abstract debates among priests, pastors, scholars, and teachers who love to draw lines in the sand and pretend they all speak with the same voice, all the while knowing they don’t even come close.

  45. @Ed Dingess:

    I can think of no denomination with views as diverse as one sees in the RCC.

    Ed – ok, granting this for the sake of argument – although the diversity you are talking about, if I understand you, is diversity within the Catholic Church – nevertheless, you do seem to be agreeing with me that Jesus did not mean to pray for institutional unity. Would that be correct? And do you agree that:

    The appeal is to Scripture, always to Scripture, and to Scripture alone.

    without a ‘referee’ necessarily means that institutional unity is impossible?

    I’m not really trying to make a point – just to find out if we do agree on this fundamental – or, rather, these two fundamental – points – Jesus did not intend to pray for institutional unity, and the appeal to Scripture, when the decision must be made only by the two appellants, means you cannot, in fact, have institutional unity.

    jj

  46. Ed,

    You said:

    The doctrine of sola scriptura, contrary to your view, exists in Scripture no different than Christ’s authority. Jesus’ authority was granted to Him by His Father. In other words, He was not authoritative because some man testified to that fact. The same is true of Scripture.

    No Catholic says that God’s Word found in Sacred Scripture derives it’s authority from the Church. However, the Church was given the authority by Christ to teach doctrine (and this authority was given before one word of the New Testament was written down), and one such doctrine is the canon of Scripture. In this way, the Church is responsible for saying that “this” not “that” is Scripture.

    Scripture, being the very Word of the very God of all that is, has been, and ever shall be, our sole authority for faith and practice.

    I agree with the first half of that statement, but the conclusion “sole authority of faith and practice” does not follow from the premise. Unfortunately, Scripture does not teach that. Scripture records that “the Church is the ground and pillar of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Scripture also records that if you have a dispute, “go to the Church” (Matt 18:17).

    Whatever man brings, he brings as a man. What God gave by His act of grace, He gave. The truth of praxis and doctrine is settled by appeal, not to some man-made institution, but by appeal to God’s truth, the truth that He has displayed to us in Scripture.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “he brings as a man”. We agree that man should not appeal to a man-made institution. I don’t think anyone should appeal to a church founded by a mere man (e.g., Calvin, Luther, Smyth or Wesley). However, the Church Jesus founded is not “some man-made institution”–although it does consist of men. In Scripture, we are given a record of Jesus handing off his authority to His Apostles. What were his Apostles to imply from this act? That the kingdom would die upon their death? Do we have one word from Christ instructing them to “write down this Gospel so it might be the ‘sole rule of faith’”? No, not at all. Instead, they did what he did. They passed off their ministry to successors. That is why St. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:14:

    “But continue thou in those things which thou hast learned, and which have been committed to thee: knowing of whom thou hast learned them”

    Is Scripture not enough? Did God forget something? Did He leave something out?

    Why would you ask the first question? It is a false quandary. God did not forget anything. In fact, when I was a Protestant, the multitudinous teachers vying for the place of “purveyor of true Christianity” made it out as if God had, in fact, “forgotten something”. Why would my grandmother with a poor 6th grade education be doomed to be a heretic–tossed about by every wind of doctrine pumped through the television? God did provide, but she was estranged from that provision by no fault of her own. He provided a Church that teaches with His authority.

    Do we not have the Spirit? Does the Pope possess a Spirit I do not possess? Are not all believers called into the one and same body of Christ and endowed with the same Spirit?

    We have the same Spirit, but not the same gifts. “Some apostles, prophets…” (Eph 4:11)

    Did not Peter err and require correction from another who possessed the same Spirit? Did not Paul point to the authority of God’s revelation to make the necessary correction?

    No, he did not teach err. Did he possibly sin? Sure. (Impeccability is not a prerequisite for teaching right doctrine. See Matt 23, Rom 11:29) But, in order to correct St. Peter’s actions, St. Paul was directly implying St. Peter’s teaching at the Jerusalem council:

    “And the apostles and ancients assembled to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter, rising up, said to them: Men, brethren, you know, that in former days God made choice among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, who knoweth the hearts, gave testimony, giving unto them the Holy Ghost, as well as to us; And put no difference between us and them [Jew/Gentile], purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why tempt you God to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we believe to be saved, in like manner as they also.” Acts 15:7-11

    Without sola scriptura, man must rely solely on fallen man to establish a reliable tradition that transcends himself. Such an endeavor is not only impossible, it is foolish.

    It is foolish to rely solely upon men (like you and me), unaided by grace and without authority given to them by Christ, to interpret the Scriptures and teach doctrine that is true. Such an endeavor has been now tried for 490 years, and it has been a foolish calamity. Instead, one should listen to the Church Jesus established, who is aided by grace, and given the Spirit to lead the bride of Christ into all truth–i.e., teach doctrine that is true. That is a Church to whom one should submit, not as a mere institution of man, but as a institution founded on and by the person of Jesus Christ.

    Peace in Christ,

    Brent

  47. Ed,

    I gather your comment in #42 was to me. I did not say that you either accept the Magisterium or skepticism but I do say you and Protestantism in general need to accept either the Magisterium or subjective authoritarianism. You may think, for example, that certain matters are open to debate, like the mode of baptism, when it should be administered, but others within Protestantism think those matters are not open to debate. Who decides this?

  48. Tom,
    You arrive at what remains open based on the exegetical evidence in Scripture itself. Let’s take baptism as an example. I do not think everything concerning baptism is open for debate. I think the “mode” of baptism should not be held as firmly as the requirement itself. The reason for this has to do with the meaning of BAPTIZO. Should we insist on plunge or dip or wash or immerge? Because of the possibility of error, I think it wrong to insist on a narrow mode for baptism to the condemnation or exlusion of other possibilities. The basis of my view is not my own personal preference as you can see. It is the result of a lack of exegetical evidence to establish a clear answer either way. On the other than, THAT baptism is necessary within the Christian community I think is a matter that is settled. Necessary for what? That is beyond the scope of this discussion. I think I made my point. Or at least I hope I made my point.

  49. Ed:

    One RC politician here in the states will oppose abortion and another defend it. One RC leader will embrace gay marriage while another condemns it. The truth is that the membership within the RCC is anything but unified in their worldview. In fact, one would probably be hard-pressed to find such disunity in any other single protestant denomination.

    I don’t understand why you, and other protestants, think this is a persuasive argument against the magisterium. No Catholic I know of will claim that heresy and dissent aren’t serious pastoral problems. There is heresy in the Church. There is dissent in the Church. But, this seems very different to the type of disunity in Protestantism in which nobody has any real authority over anybody else. Do you agree?

    who is to say that your interpretation of the Magisterium is correct?

    The magisterium. This is because the magisterium can re-state itself clearly. It is a living body, which is able to clarify itself. The Bible alone cannot do this.

    the Magisterium has no more of the Holy Spirit than the next Christian.

    If you’re talking about the sanctification that occurs in the spirit you are right. If you are talking about the charism of teaching error, then you are wrong. We are one body, made up of many parts. Not every part has the same function.

  50. Fr. Bryan:

    I am very displeased with the authority issue in Protestantism. Frankly, the state of the church in that respect is exceptionally disturbing. Moreover, I am quite displeased with the abandonment of the practice of excommunication within Protestantism. This has led to many ruinous behaviors within the church and left her impotent to rectify, what has become in many cases, exceedingly deplorable conditions.

    In addition, I am altogether dissatisfied with the state of proselytization that we have managed to reach within our congregations. The hyper-individualism of western culture has had devastating effects on the church.

    I do not wish to leave the impression that I think the RCC is the only entity with problems or even that her problems are always more acute than those within the PC. The problem of authority/standard within the PC is a legitimate one that seems insoluable to me at times. At present, the answer is God’s glory through the fight for truth and unity in that truth regardless of the apparent lack of progess we seem to witness to that end.

  51. Ed,

    I do not think you made your point because the question I asked you was simply: who decides what is open for debate, who determines what theological matters are not settled? Do you? Does a denominational body? The National Association of Evangelicals? You stated that we arrive at what is open based on the exegetical evidence of the Scripture. I would invite you to check out some excellent articles on our site that deal with this matter
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

  52. Dear Mr. Stewart,
    Welcome to persecution and prosecution. Becoming Catholic has put cross hairs on your back.
    The State will force you to kneel to it, then kill you.
    You would have lived a longer life had you stayed Protestant.
    (see —-> http://www.ncregister.com/blog/steven-greydanus/no-obama-compromise )

  53. @Ed Dingness:

    On the other than, THAT baptism is necessary within the Christian community I think is a matter that is settled.

    Hmm… Neither the Quakers nor the members of the Salvation Army would agree with you. Are they not part of the Christian community? And, if not, why not?

    jj

  54. You do realize that as a PC I reject the view of apostolic succession. This being the case, your model does not solve the problem at all. It merely relocates it. Moreover, what do you think the Magisterium does when they are evaluating truth claims or dogma? I would hope they do what the PC does, exegesis. The difference is that the RCC proclaims as athoritative what actually could be group error. After all, the Magisterium is not above error. Even Peter erred, did he not? Councils have erred in the past and changed course, have they not? The infallibility question has been demonstated to be false throughout history. For Sola Scriptura, well, Scripture NEVER changes. The authority of Scripture has not been dimished. Error creeping into the church and sects springing up are to be expected since the holy apostles told us they would arise. My only issue is our unwillingness in the PC to deal with these heretics and immoral men by means of excommunication. We simply do not have the stomach for it. I do wonder if the RCC fairs any better than we in that respect.

  55. Hi Ed,

    Do you think Sola Scriptura is a revealed doctrine? Has God told us that the Church is to have no rule of faith apart from Scripture?

    Thanks,

    David

  56. Ed,

    Do you believe that, based on sound exegesis, the doctrine of sola scriptura is closed?

    -Burton

  57. Ed,
    Some members of the Catholic Church have many diverging opinions about some teachings of the Church. This does not mean however that the Church is not of one mind about them. For instance the teaching of the Church on abortion is quite clear and anyone who is in favour of abortion is against the teaching of the Church. Again the teaching on Gay Marriage is also quite clear and anyone for such a marriage is clearly going against the teachings of the Church.

    Rather than listen to the myriad of voices within the Church it would be far more worth your while to find out what the Church actually teaches through the Catechism of the Church. It contains all of the official teachings.

    Blessings
    NHU

  58. [...] to these events and to Mr. Stewart.One wonders whether his new-found comrades at the Roman blog, Called to Communion, are aware of the facts of his conversion experience. In his account, he characterizes the events [...]

  59. Brian Lee (# 17 & 27),

    Again, thank you for your interaction on this article.

    Reviewing your comments again tonight, I’m interested to ask whether or not the “mixed bag” category you’ve proposed is merely an ideological mechanism for preserving some semblance of continuity between the Fathers and the Reformers when it is advantageous for you as a Protestant, while at the same time providing you the wiggle-room to maneuver when faced with doctrines contained in these authors that are less agreeable to your theological program?

    “They are not Catholic nor Reformed; they are a mixed bag.”

    And off you run with the goodies while I’m left holding the bag containing the Catholic sounding bric-a brac of the Fathers you didn’t want. By denying them a Catholic identity, you seek to sever them from the Catholic Church in our day. By declaring them not reformed, you disavow an organic connection with these early Christian leaders so as to insulate yourself against the wholesale endorsement of their theology and practices.

    Let me suggest, however, that the identity of the Fathers is seen in the contours of their belief and practice. Surely we can identify a subject by observing that particular subject’s habitual characteristics. You know the old saw – If it looks like a Catholic, believes like a Catholic, and prays like a Catholic, then it probably is a Catholic.

    Blessings,

    – Jason

  60. Ed,

    I think it would be helpful if you read the linked article I provided. Many of your questions are answered there.

  61. All,

    Thank you for your many kind and thoughtful replies. No disrespect, but my current calling doesn’t leave me the liberty to engage all of the lines of argument here. My goal was to comment upon and reply to aspects of Jason’s narrative, and I regret I can’t do much more than a few brief replies.

    Primarily to Jason, who has taken the trouble to recount his story and reply:

    I’m glad Scripture played a role (30), but I must say I don’t recognize your characterization of a Protestant way of reading scripture (glancing over shoulder, private guardians of biblical text, cobbling together bits and pieces). A lot of Protestants (including many I would term “broadly evangelical”) have this kind of confused reading of the bible, but I have found the view and use of Scripture in the Reformed tradition to be far more nuanced, rich, and humble.

    I’ll take your poke. No hiccup, no intentional anachronism, and I don’t think it’s naive. As you know, the Reformation was of course a reformation of worship as well as doctrine, so clearly it represented a break with its immediate past. But it was Reformed on principles found in Scripture, primarily, but also reflecting the elements found in the worshiping church through the ages. It was also Reformed with the recognition that false worship and idolatry has been with the people of God since the giving of the covenant on Sinai, and so all practices in the church must be measured by the clear commands of Scripture. Again, I’m sure you’re familiar with the regulative principle of worship.

    Regarding the “mixed-bag” of the Fathers (58), they are men (many men, in fact). Of course they err, disagree, teach a mixture of things. At many points what they teach is in strong agreement with the Reformation (on salvation, faith, yes, authority). At many points it isn’t. It’s not about wiggle room, because I don’t have to “own” everything every one of them said. So your use of the concept of “Catholic identity” is admittedly a bit odd to me. I confess a holy, catholic, church in the creed, but not a Roman one. (Speaking of pokes, Roman catholic strikes me as an oxymoron, as a truly catholic church is not bound to a certain place or certain persons). I don’t deny the Fathers are members of the catholic church in that sense, any more or less than I am.

    Regarding the Sacraments (Dave, 38), I’m not a baptist, or a Zwinglian. I do think they both have serious problems with the text of Scripture. I don’t get squeamish as a Reformed Christian when I read of baptism saving us, or Christ being present in the bread and wine of the supper (though I do struggle to see the aristotelian construction of transubstantiation taught in the text, or the fathers).

    I’ll grant, David (36), that Calvin left the church… if fleeing for your life under threat of execution for the Protestant faith is “leaving.” He was not, as Luther was, ordained in the Roman church. So he didn’t leave the ordained Roman ministry. His calling (and departure, and re-calling) to Geneva was unusual, no doubt, not because of his own actions, but because the church in Geneva was still in a state of flux following its departure from Rome (which he did not lead, though he did defend). I think you’re flat wrong that “he utterly rejected the idea that he needed any validation.” Yes, he rejected that he needed a validation from Rome. No, his interior experience was not the justification for his ministry. But he did see his calling by the magistrates and church structure of Geneva (such as it was) to be a valid calling… as every Protestant in every Reformed land did in the sixteenth century.

    OF COURSE I want to presume a Protestant definition of the church, and you want to presume a Roman one. But the bottom line is that Calvin fled under threat of death (for the crime of teaching what, exactly?), and served the church of Christ where he found it, and where it found him, when it called him to service.

    Thank you for the interaction. I’ll be signing off, not meaning any disrespect. If anyone wants to contact me, you can click through to my website and do so by email.

  62. Jason and Cindy,

    Humbly welcome to the Catholic Church. Your courageous journey is inspiring and followed the path of the wise Bereans visited by Saint Paul. Being a cradle-Catholic I have come to appreciate that the “best” Catholics today are converts like both of you. God Bless. Aleks Klidzejs

  63. Jason,

    Forgive me for sharing half my conversion story here, but I trust that this is of some value to the discussion. Most commenters on this site have correctly pointed out the divisions within Protestant denominations on key issues such as soteriology, ecclesiology, baptism, the sacraments, .et al. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen a lot of commenters mention the factions just among Reformed denominations. That’s why we have OPC, PCA, reformed baptist, ARP(?), URC, RC-US, CREC, Conferderation-Rec etc. During my Reformed days, I never understood why they never merged and if they did, they could only be a force for good. The guiding principle behind starting a new denomination, according to the Reformed, is that if you are fully persuaded by scripture and the Holy Spirit that what you’ve been revealed is the Word of God, you are free to do so, provided that you do it peacefully and that you work it out with your current session (to whom you have previously submitted). To the Reformed mind, this process is “biblical” but to the Catholic mind, its scandalous because it’s just another justification for schism, which the epistle of Timothy warns against.

    At first, I paid no mind to the Reformed factions. I was told that the separation had more to do with regional/cultural/practical differences rather than theological. The existence of the North American Council (NAPARC) gave me a little assurance that unity was still important. In fact, my OPC’s session accepted all NAPARC members in the event of a pulpit supply. (They’ve even used Reformed Baptists and Anglicans to preach from time to time.) But where the NAPARC denominations seemed to really draw the line was between them and those of the Auburn Avenue camp. I understand that it hasn’t been deemed a “heresy” in most of these denominations and Peter Leithart was actually cleared of it. But had he been judged a heretic, it really would have been of no consequence since he’s already a pastor in a denomination that doesn’t see it as a heresy. I first heard of federal vision in 2006 from a very trusted friend who first introduced me to reformed theology. At the time I committed to membership in the OPC, and the leadership there basically said that it’s a “justification by works” movement. So I disregarded it, but around 2009-2010, I went straight to the federal vision sources-Shepherd, Leithart, Jordan, Wilson and was actually convinced of their arguments from Scripture and the confessions. I determined that they were more faithful to what John Calvin intended, and thus began my crisis. In private conversations with truly reformed, Westminster West types I’ve been told that FV was heresy. I wanted to reconcile it all. Could I embrace FV but still be a member of the OPC? I wanted to learn more about that than what I was being given every Sunday. I attended one CREC service and the pastor there had no scruples in preaching from early church fathers. They seemed to put more of an emphasis on a visible church structure and sacraments. You can see where this is going. Ultimately, that structure rested on sola scriptura.

    In my exit interview, federal vision, NPP, and NT Wright were suddenly my pastor’s best friends. He told me that he’d be comfortable if I worshipped with them but that he would worry for my soul if I joined the Catholic Church. When I heard that, I was even more comforted by my decisions. Because suspicion toward Rome seems to be the only thing uniting Protestants at this point. You’ve probably been to many a potluck where people will act as if embracing amillennialism is a matter of eternal consequence. But these Reformed Calvinist to Catholic conversions really puts things in their proper perspective.

  64. Andre Chouravong writes: The guiding principle behind starting a new denomination, according to the Reformed, is that if you are fully persuaded by scripture and the Holy Spirit that what you’ve been revealed is the Word of God, you are free to do so …

    The individual is free to start his own denomination as long as he is convinced that what he believes is “scriptural”. When push comes to shove, the individual’s private interpretation of the scriptures is the ultimate temporal authority for the individual. So how can there be any principled difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura?

    Jason Stewart writes: Like the noble Bereans, each believer was to evaluate their leaders and their teachings by the Bible. To use the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, ”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.” This is known as the principle of sola scriptura.

    If I understand correctly, the WCF states that“ all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined” by the individual believer. The individual believer is the ultimate arbiter (supreme judge) of whether or not the decrees of councils, etc, are “scriptural”. It seems to me, that the WCF is clearly teaching the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. Is that correct?

    Brian Lee writes: … the Reformers explicitly rejected much of what is found in the fathers. They accepted much of it as well. They recognized them as a mixed bag …

    The unstated premise here is that the Reformers, as individuals, had the authority to decide for themselves whether or not what the Early Church Father’s taught was “scriptural”. Again, the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience is assumed from the very beginning.

    So how does this play out in real life? My personal religious beliefs must be “scriptural”. Who decides what is scriptural is, ultimately, me. I am free to cherry pick the Early Church Fathers to “prove” that what I believe is right. If the Early Church Fathers don’t agree with what I believe, that is only proof that what the Early Church Fathers believed was a “mixed bag”. Given these two principles, every single one of the thousands upon thousands of the sola scriptura confessing Protestant sects that exist today can justify what they believe. That these two principles result in thousands upon thousands of sects teaching contradictory doctrine should be of no surprise, except that the scriptures are supposed to be perspicuous.

    Brian Lee, what I find really interesting about your “mixed bag” statement is that it seems to me that you are openly admitting that the doctrines confessed by your particular Reformed sect are not reconcilable, in the whole, with what the Church Fathers taught. So why is anyone supposed to believe that the doctrines taught in your Reformed sect are any more “scriptural” than the doctrines taught in any other Protestant sect? Every Protestant sect can make the same claim – what we believe is scriptural, and here are the cherry picked quotes from the Early Church Fathers that prove it.

  65. Brian Lee (# 60),

    I understand you won’t be responding, but I’d like to offer one more comment on this matter. Thank you, again, for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    I’ll attempt to say this a little differently: your “mixed bag” category reminds me of the old German proverb – “Wash my fur, but don’t get me wet!” You desparately need at least some historical continuity with the Fathers in order to demonstrate that there is a pedigree for your Reformed beliefs, but the continuity must be carefully measured or else you’ll end up soaked with more of it than you’d wished. Declaring the Fathers a mixed bag is, as I see it, an abitrary intellectual device that helps you maintain control over the historical water supply, if you will.

    Do Catholics share this problem (“wash my fur, but don’t get me wet!”)? In contrast the Catholic Church allows the flood of ecclesiastical history to pour over its life without the least fear of becoming oversaturated. Why? The consensus of the Fathers in history is part and parcel of the Tradition of the Church. Not so for Protestantism as it must by its very nature (and for its very survival) take a defensive posture toward anything existing outside its peculiar interpretation(s) of the Bible.

    Regarding all the glancing, guarding and cobbling in relation to the Scriptures, I refer you to the following link:

    Click here to go to “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.”

    Blessings,

    – Jason

  66. Thanks for sharing that, Andre!

  67. Brian Lee,

    I’m disappointed that you have signed off from this site. Personal email is fine as far as it goes, but one of the benefits of posting on a forum such as this is that folks like me, stuck somewhere between these two worlds, can get a much clearer sense of the foundation of each argument. Iron sharpens iron and all that. My question regarding Luther vs Donatus/Arius etc is so central for me, because it gets to the heart of the “workable-ness” of Protestant concepts of ecclesial authority, heresy, and schism.

    Jason,

    Thank you for your long resonse to my question regarding source material from the ECF’s regarding infallible authorities. Perhaps I am asking for too much (sources from the ECF’s writings clearly showing that the authority of a visible magisterium was equal to, or at least not subordinate to, the authority of Scripture). The long lists of ECF quotes at Protestant web sites, usually consisting of the “lofty sentiments” about Scripture you were alluding to, certainly seem to suggest that the Scripture was viewed as the ultimate authority. I think you are saying that, given the clear role of apostolic succession and ecclesial authority in the early church, they simply could not have believed in Sola Scriptura as espoused by the reformers. However, if it could be demonstrated that the majority of the ECFs viewed Scripture in a way akin to the Reformers (the church has authority, but the Scripture trumps), AND if it could be demonstrated that this understanding was workable in dealing with schism and heresy, then any impetus I may have to convert would be considerably reduced.

    - Burton

  68. Brian Lee and Ed,

    (Brian first)

    though I do struggle to see the aristotelian construction of transubstantiation taught in the text, or the fathers

    The Church used Aristotelian language of reality to explain what she always believed. Your same logic might be turned on the Creed. Nonetheless, we might say that one could “see” homoousion in Scripture, like one could “see” transubstantiation in the language of Scripture and the ECF’s.

    No, his interior experience was not the justification for his ministry.

    But the “prophet” Guillaume Farel was certainly important to giving Calvin the “courage” to preach, was he not?

    Ed D,

    You do realize that as a PC I reject the view of apostolic succession.

    I understand that is what you believe. So as to foster dialog, I’m using your terms (Scripture) to show you that one can adduce AS but not sola scripture from Scripture. Your response is:

    1. I don’t believe that (I already knew that)
    2. “After all, the Magisterium is not above error. Even Peter erred, did he not?” (as stated, this is assertion and seems to ignore
    my previous comment
    where I show that St. Peter did not err in his teaching)
    3. “Councils have erred” (this is also an assertion as stated. Would you care to qualify?)
    4. “The infallibility question has been demonstated to be false throughout history.” (same note as #3)

    Let’s discuss this and not simply state our talking points like we are having a presidential debate. : )

    For Sola Scriptura, well, Scripture NEVER changes.

    We both agree Scripture NEVER changes (well, at least until the 16th century when some redaction was done to the Old Testament). In other words, one need not hold to “Sola Scriptura” in order to believe that Scripture never changes.

    Error creeping into the church and sects springing up are to be expected since the holy apostles told us they would arise.

    Yes. We agree. I say you are in a heretical sect right now. You say I am in one. How are we to decide which of us is in schism from who? Where is the Church? I know the Reformed answer: “Wherever the Scripture is proclaimed and Sacraments administered faithfully to Scripture.” Full stop. Who gets to decide what “faithfully” means? This definition of “Church” begs the question, and is just one more reasons “Why Protestantism has no “visible catholic Church”.

    My only issue is our unwillingness in the PC to deal with these heretics and immoral men by means of excommunication. We simply do not have the stomach for it. I do wonder if the RCC fairs any better than we in that respect.

    In this thread it has been mentioned many times that the RCC “excommunicated” Luther, Calvin, et. al. You also mentioned the multitudinous views you perceive within RCC. However, what I note in your comment–and that type of comment in general–is that the person claiming “Look at all the RCC heretics!” can at the same time easily identify RCC orthodoxy well enough to know who is dissenting and who is not. In fact, they would probably also admit that the dissenters know they are dissenting. However, the same cannot be said in Protestantism. If one dissents in Protestantism, it is his right to dissent. Why? Because being a “faithful” Protestant means being true to your individual conscience, which means that you always reserve the right to dissent from any church, because any church can err. In turn, schism is impossible, church shopping makes sense, and the individual is the Supreme Court of faithfulness to God’s Word. You should be outraged that whomever you think is a heretic in the PC is not being excommunicated. You have an option: leave. If you leave, then you could join a different church that agrees with you. Then you would, on the Protestant view, be a part of the “true Church” which is “faithful to the Scriptures”.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  69. Ed (and others)

    In #49 I said the following:

    I don’t understand why you, and other protestants, think this is a persuasive argument against the magisterium. No Catholic I know of will claim that heresy and dissent aren’t serious pastoral problems. There is heresy in the Church. There is dissent in the Church. But, this seems very different to the type of disunity in Protestantism in which nobody has any real authority over anybody else. Do you agree?

    Let me clarify, since the distinction finally popped into my head (though I’m sure this distinction has been pointed out elsewhere on CtC). The difference between Catholic disunity and protestant disunity is this: Catholics know full well what the Church teaches and what the content of the faith is. A politician who supports abortion knows that he is dissenting, and if there is any confusion, the magisterium can clarify itself and make its teaching known more clearly. But the Catholic who dissents and the Catholic who does not dissent know full well what the Catholic Church actually teaches. There isn’t any confusion on the content of the faith itself.

    Protestants, on the other hand, do not know when they are dissenting because they interpret the Bible differently. A protestant who says, “I disagree with my pastor on “x” because I interpret the bible to say “y.” And, unfortunately, the Bible alone cannot resolve these conflicts because. In order for a protestant to dissent from the Bible they would have to know exactly what the Bible says and disagree with it anyway. They would have to say, “The Bible is wrong about “x,” just as Catholics say “The Church is wrong about “y.”

    Very few, if any, serious protestants would do that.

    That seems like a pretty obvious distinction between protestant and Catholic dissent. Does anyone disagree with this?

  70. Ed,

    Why Protestantism has no “visible Catholic Church” can be found here.

  71. Fr. Bryan,
    It just occurred to me that a defense of the abstract idea of protestantism is probably not the best way to approach this topic. Scripture clearly teaches that Christ is the head of His church. The idea of an individual man serving as head of the NT is entirely lacking in Scripture. There is no hint of this idea in the history of the first century church, nor is there any instruction indicating such a structure was in place. Moreover, there is no prohecy implying such will be the case in the future. As Head of His Church, Christ promised, through the act of regeneration to provide His church with the Holy Spirit who would aid and enlighten the minds of believers for the purpose of understanding His binding revelation which He gave us in the form of the apostolic traditon, a.k.a. Scripture, a.k.a. the Faith. I do not intend to diminish the offices and gifts that Christ also set within His church for the purpose of instructing the saints in any way. At the same time, those gifts do not provide for guarantees against error which is why we have the preserved record of revelation as our standard.

    Many protestant demoninations are structured with a presbyterian style and others are ruled by a plurality of elders. These denominations know what they believe. Almost all of them have a statement of faith. The PCA has a very sound statement, adhering to the Westminster Confession. I would venture to guess that these churches are just as faithful and many, more so, to their respective confession as the RCC.

    You method of setting the RCC up over against the PC implies there are only two entities involved in the debate. That is simply not the case. The RCC is merely one denomination among many. Just like all the demoninations, she is the immediate product of men, who are no less fallen than other men and who are no more gifted than other men. It is a fallacy to place all protestants in one bucket and attack them for not having one head to whom they must submit. Your approach of setting up two churches, the RCC on the one hand, and the PC, on the other is illegitimate now that I understand the gist of your argument. If your assumption were true, perhaps your criticism might be persuasive in so far as it concerns authority or the lack thereof in the PC. I have already expressed my displeasure with these circumstances.

    If a PCA clergy or a SBC clergy were to deny the virgin birth, there would be serious consequences. If the man refused to recant his position, he would eventually face severe discipline up to excommunication. Why? Because these bodies have settled the question of the virgin born Christ and to revisit the subject without grounds is illegitimate and represents a crisis of faith untennable for the clergy or even the believer to hold. The ground of the churches authority for excommunication is scripture alone. No one will appeal to a council or to tradition or even to a father. The appeal will be to Matthew or to Luke and that is sufficient.

  72. Burton writes: … if it could be demonstrated that the majority of the ECFs viewed Scripture in a way akin to the Reformers (the church has authority, but the Scripture trumps), AND if it could be demonstrated that this understanding was workable in dealing with schism and heresy, then any impetus I may have to convert would be considerably reduced.

    I think something needs to be clarified. The Catholic Church does not believe that the teaching authority of the living magisterium of Christ’s church is ABOVE the scriptures of Christ’s church. I don’t think any Early Church Father believed that either. Here is what the CCC says concerning this point:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    The Magisterium of the Church

    85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

    86“Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”

    The CCC states that task of interpretation of the scriptures has been given to the “bishops in communion with the successor of Peter.” These men are not superior to the Word of God, but are, instead, the servants of the Word of God.

    The controversy sparked by the “magisterial Reformers” has nothing to do with the authority of scriptures. Both the Reformers and the Catholic Church recognize the unique authority of scriptures. The controversy sparked by the Reformers is a controversy about the interpretation of scriptures. And this controversy is all about primacy. The Reformers claimed that the individual trumped the church. The Reformation is based on a doctrine taught implicitly by the Reformers, the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. The Catholic Church has never taught such a doctrine of primacy; she has always taught the doctrine of Petrine primacy. CCC 85 quoted above is a succinct definition of the doctrine of Petrine primacy.

    The Reformers rejected the doctrine of Petrine primacy and they used the cover of sola scriptura to obfuscate their doctrine of primacy (the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience). Luther came close to actually defining the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience when he said:

    Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason — I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the Word of God. – Martin Luther

    Here, Luther brazenly rejects the “authority of popes and councils” unless they agree with Luther. Luther has placed his private interpretation of the scriptures as an authority above that of “popes and councils”. This is a supremely arrogant position to take. Nevertheless, the foundational doctrine of the reformation is laid out here by Luther, and that is the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. Given that the controversy of the reformation is really a controversy over the location of primacy, I cannot agree with you when you write this:

    … the majority of the ECFs viewed Scripture in a way akin to the Reformers (the church has authority, but the Scripture trumps)

    The original Reformers believed that their private interpretations of the scriptures trumped the official teachings of the church. I don’t think that you can find any ECF that confessed the Reformers’ doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience.

    Once the Reformers started dissenting with the official teachings of the church that they were members of, they eventually became the leaders of their own personal bible churches. Then the Reformers demanded that the members of their personal bible churches submit to their authority. But what kind of “authority” is that? If mateo founded his own personal bible church that was a breakaway faction of a Reformer’s personal bible church, what does that prove? That mateo is an authority that is correct in his personal interpretations of the scriptures? No, that would only prove one thing, that mateo has the arrogance to believe that his interpretations of scriptures trumps the interpretations given by that of a Reformer. It is precisely because the Early Church Fathers did NOT think that their opinions trumped the official teachings of the church, that the Early Church Fathers could affirm what Christ taught concerning excommunication:

    If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Matthew 18:17

    The Early Church Fathers were members of the church – the church that Christ personally founded. They understood that their personal interpretations of the scriptures did not trump the authority of the church. When Imperial Rome ceased her persecution of the church, the bishops of the church could hold Ecumenical Councils to settle disputes over interpretations of the scriptures. The bishops of Ecumenical Councils issued decrees of formal excommunication from the church for heretics. Where are the post Nicene Church Fathers that objected to what was going on here, namely, the practice of Ecumenical Councils issuing decrees of formal excommunication? The power to exercise the discipline of excommunication is a power that is invested by Christ with the church that he personally founded.

    Did the Early Church Fathers teach the Reformers’ doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience? I don’t see how they could, since that Protestant doctrine lays waste to Christ’s teaching found in Matthew 18:17. If I only have to listen to the church when she agrees with my personal interpretation of the scriptures, then I don’t have to listen to the church unless she agrees with me.

    “When I submit (so long as I agree), the one to whom I submit is me.”

  73. [...] to change. The articles I have written here and here pretty much refute everything that is said in his conversion story. Still, let us go through this one by one, and show how these arguments against Sola Scriptura make [...]

  74. Dear Burton,

    A few points that make distinguishing the authority of scripture from ecclesial authority in the ECF”s hard:

    (1) There’s an important sense in which scripture is above ecclesial authority in the Catholic system. Scripture, generally speaking, doesn’t change. But ecclesial authority is always in conversation with its time, and it seems to me that later formulations can clarify and reinterpret previous decrees in ways that would not necessarily have been obvious to their original authors.

    (2) The early church didn’t always distinguish between doctrine and discipline as clearly as we do today. This makes comparisons of scripture’s authority and ecclesial authority in their quotes difficult to place: are they comparing ecclesial authority on doctrine with the authority of scripture, or ecclesial authority on discipline with the authority of scripture?

    (3) The early church had great practical trouble in promulgating papal decrees as well as convening universal councils; it also had great practical trouble in “polling” all the bishops. So infallible ecclesial authority was not often made use of, and features little in ECF comparisons of scriptural authority with other types of authority.

    If someone were to ask me: which is a higher authority, scripture or a papal decree, I would definitely say scripture, and I am a Catholic. Scripture is inspired, after all, and I doubt most popes have written inspired documents. But since all appeals to scripture are appeals to interpretations of scripture, of course I follow God’s plan for who should interpret the scripture: not me alone, but me following the bishops in communion with the pope.

    And what that pope teaches can’t just be completely reversed by the next pope. As Pope Boniface said around 422AD: “For it has never been allowed to discuss again what has once been decided by the Apostolic See.”

    So in that sense, ecclesial authority has an irreformable dimension. But it is less irreformable than scripture itself.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  75. To answer mateo very briefly:
    It is quite easy and very convenient for you to sit here, today, in whatever luxury you do sit, and pass judgment on Luther accusing him of being arrogant. Luther’s revolt toward popes and councils coincided with his learning of Scripture. Moreover, if popes and councils were so accurate and so precise in how they interpreted Scripture, how do you account for the corruption that ran wild in the RCC of Luther’s day. The immorality within the church, with the clergy, and within the highest ranking orders stood in testimony against itself. It was obvious and history stands as its judge. Luther had no choice in the matter. Regeneration by God’s Spirit placed Him in the most unenviable position of scoundrel to the religious institution of his day. He would either suffer at the promptings and intense flames of the Spirit’s conviction as He brought Luther into greater light or he would suffer as a heretic, so deemed by the pope and church of his day. What would any of us know of Luther’s actual turmoil? He was not arrogant. He only wanted to maintain his sanity and the only way he could do so was to obey! And that obedience meant reformation at the most fundamental levels of the church.

  76. Burton,

    To sum up, there are two Facts which the ECFs had to reckon with: the Fact of scripture, and the Fact of the Church. They never, so far as I know, pitted one Fact against the other. They did not, for example, pit the Fact of scripture against the Fact that the Church is governed by Bishops, Priests and Deacons, or the Fact that some Bishops are more important than others. They didn’t view this constitution of the Church as an act of ecclesial authority so much as a Fact which had to be dealt with, just as the Fact of the existence of inspired texts had to be dealt with. These facts are not in competition, and in order to think in the Catholic paradigm one cannot try to place them in competition. They’re both givens, and the ECFs seem to have taken them as givens; and so do Catholics today.

    Now, any particular decree of the Church may be in competition with scripture, to a greater or lesser degree depending on how firmly the decree has been established. But that competition can’t lead us to the extreme point of abandoning the Fact of the Church and its apostolic succession. I am confident from my readings of the ECF’s that to them Scripture is a Fact no more or less essential than the basic constitution of the Church is, in its apostolic succession and priestly orders, and sacraments. The ECFs were not in the business of abandoning the Fact of apostolic succession in order to save the Fact of scripture.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  77. Ed Dingess writes: It is quite easy and very convenient for you to sit here, today, in whatever luxury you do sit, and pass judgment on Luther accusing him of being arrogant. Luther’s revolt toward popes and councils coincided with his learning of Scripture.

    Luther wasn’t arrogant? This is what Luther had to say about the sacred scriptures that he didn’t personally care for:

    Martin Luther on the inspired books of the Old Testament:

    ‘We have no wish either to see or hear Moses.’

    ‘Job . . . is merely the argument of a fable . . . ‘

    ‘Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it . . . Solomon did not, therefore, write this book . . .’

    ‘The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness . . . ‘

    ‘The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible.’

    Martin Luther on the inspiration of the synoptic Gospels:

    ‘St. John is the only sympathetic, the only true Gospel and should undoubtedly be preferred to the others. In like manner the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Paul are superior to the first three Gospels.’

    Martin Luther on the Epistle to the Hebrews:

    ‘It need not surprise one to find here bits of wood, hay, and straw.’

    Martin Luther on the Epistle of St. James:

    ‘an epistle of straw.’

    ‘I do not hold it to be his writing, and I cannot place it among the capital books.’

    Martin Luther on the Book of Revelation:

    ‘There are many things objectionable in this book,’

    ‘I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is a sufficient reason for rejecting it’ . . .

    Apparently Martin Luther’s understanding of the mind of God was so enlightened that he could examine the Epistle of James, and then declare that since this was “an epistle of straw”, that the Apostle James never wrote it. As for the Book of Revelation – ‘I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is a sufficient reason for rejecting it.’ To me, these aren’t exactly the words of a humble servant of the scriptures.

    Moreover, if popes and councils were so accurate and so precise in how they interpreted Scripture, how do you account for the corruption that ran wild in the RCC of Luther’s day. The immorality within the church, with the clergy, and within the highest ranking orders stood in testimony against itself. It was obvious and history stands as its judge. Luther had no choice in the matter.

    I am always astounded at this line of reasoning by Protestants. If Luther could identify leaders in the Catholic Church that were sinners (which is not anything I would dispute), that fact alone justifies jumping to the conclusion that the official teachings of the Catholic Church must be wrong. How does that make sense?

    Is it rational to claim that the Constitution of the United States should be discarded because of the Nixon Presidency? No. Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew had to resign to keep from going to jail. Nixon resigned from office when it was clear he was going to be impeached for his conspiracy in criminal activities during his presidency. The aids closest to Nixon served jail terms. Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. The fact that Nixon was a scoundrel, as were the men closet to him, does not prove that the Constitution of the United States is defective. Likewise, the fact that leaders in the Catholic Church during Luther’s time did not live up to the moral standards taught by the Catholic Church, does not justify jumping to the conclusion that the doctrines of morals and the doctrines of the faith officially taught by the Catholic Church were wrong. If anything, the fact that Luther believed that the leaders in the Catholic Church were not living up to the moral standards of the Catholic Church only proves one thing – that Luther agreed with the moral doctrines officially taught by the Catholic Church. How can one ever justify rejecting the doctrines of the faith that had been taught for over a thousand years because of the moral failings of current leaders? Luther’s rejection of the doctrines of the faith cannot be justified on those grounds!

  78. Aren’t the ecumenical councils proof enough that the ancient Christians didn’t believe in a doctrine of scripture akin to what the first Protestants taught? Mateo has already given the famous quote from Luther. He rejected popes and councils. His conscience was captive to the bible only. No one could tell him that he was wrong if his conscience was convinced. But until the 16th century I know of no one ever suggesting that an ecumenical council’s ruling on a dogmatic issue could be overturned. Even putting aside the issue of the role of the bishop of Rome, the very notion of holding a council to settle a theological dispute and then overturning it would have, I think, come across as simply absurd. They didn’t hold meetings like that to resolve important debates without believing that conciliar decisions had binding authority on all Christians. The only ones who did were the groups who entered into schism before the Protestants such as the Church of the East and the Miaphysites, but even then from what I’ve read of their literature it wasn’t the authority of councils ‘as councils’ they were calling into question, but the validity of the councils that ruled against their opinions, usually arguing that a later ecumenical council was wrong because it was contrary to the conclusions of an earlier ecumenical council. The idea that individual conscience and individual interpretation of scripture would trump the judgment of the visible apostolic Church was completely foreign to them.

    So I scratch my head when Protestants sometimes bring forward quotes in praise of scripture as if that somehow negates everything else we know about the ethos of the ancient Christians and their view of the Church. The strong view of the Church safeguards the strong view of scripture by giving us ordinary Christians the satisfaction of knowing that we simply drink in the truth that God wants us to have. Like the Ethiopian eunuch, we don’t just pick up a bible and magically know what it means. We need someone to explain it to us. For me, it was asking the question of “who is supposed to explain it to me?” that really made a difference in how I approached the claims of the Catholic Church.

  79. Does the pope say to you?
    μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ. For this is what the holy apostle Paul said. And this is what Luther proclaimed. Popes are men with sinful nature just like the rest of us. They have committed tragic errs of theological and moral judgment. Councils likewise, make up of fallen men, are quite subject to immoral living and theological scandal. History testifies to the facts of both. Paul said imitate me just as I imitate Christ. Are there popes we could never say this about? Since he is the vicar of Christ, every pope should be Christ’s example. There seems no room in your dogma to the contrary. Which pope should we imitate? Leo and his lust for materialism so out of control he oppressed the very poor to whom Christ commanded us to do good? Perhaps Urban, whose position so went to his head that he sat in the seat of God himself, claiming the power to remit sins for those who would engage in the holy fight against the Muslims. What did Christ think about waging war? Maybe we should look to Alexander IV? He bought the papcy and I am sure he was not the only one to do so. This man murdered for wealth and is said to have fathered seven illegitmate children.

    The political environment of the papacy in the RCC is no different from that which goes on in the world. Lu. 22:24-30 comes to mind. This environment along with its ramifications are clearly seen in the Papal interrugnum in 1294. The division among the bishops was remarkably disturbing. So much for Jesus’ prayer for unity.

    Luther stood against the evils of indulgences and various other abhorent teachings of the church because their could not be found in Scripture. His argument was simple: God has not turned Scripture over to men so that they may add and remove whatever pleases them as their set up their kingdoms and use the very Scripture that is supposed to set men free, to oppress them and bring them into bondage.

    It is a fact that Popes have erred morally and doctrinally. That they have set up kingdoms and turned the papacy into nothing more than a power seat. These men have contradicted the very Word of God they are charged to unhold and proclaim. When confronted with Scripture, they resorted to clever interpretations designed to defend their behavior and increase their lot. Peter tells us that those who pervert the teachings of Scripture, to include Paul, do so to their own destruction.

  80. If there is corruption in the police organizations of a country would it be legitimate to throw out the criminal code of the country because some police officers steal, murder, assault other people etc. Or would the proper thing be to get rid of those who are criminals and clean up the mess?

    If there is corruption of some of the members of the Church would it serve the purpose to get rid of the Church or to either reform those members or excommunicate them? Or should we just re-write the whole Christian faith to suit ourselves?

    I for one cannot understand the mentality of throwing out the baby with the dirty bathwater. Where does Scripture say to do that? If there was corruption within the Church ( and I’m not denying that some members were corrupt) should they not have corrected the problem from within rather than throw out the whole Christian Church?

    Now I just know some one is going to say it was so corrupted that it couldn’t be reformed and corrected, but history tells us a different story. Corruption and rancour within the Church was always handled by Councils and excommunications from her very beginning even until the 16th century. In fact the Church reformed herself during and after the council of Trent. So it was not an impossibility.

    Meanwhile Protestantism is never reformed they just keep throwing out the baby with the water and start brand new. Again and again. What, 10,000 or more times now? Does anyone think it will ever stop? Scripture was never meant to be for private interpretation lest anyone should boast. Though I know of very few instances where in Civil Law they throw out the whole of the political system for some corruption within it or throw out a baby with the bath water so to speak, it seems to be the thing to do with the Christian faith. It makes entirely no sense and never did.

    Blessings
    NHU

  81. Ed,

    “You(r) method of setting the RCC up over against the PC implies there are only two entities involved in the debate.”

    Actually Ed I rather like this and in fact I have used it myself. Now we will most certainly disagree as to its implications. In order to make your case, you have to claim that the Church is one denomination among many, which, of course, the Church does not recognize herself that way. But let us leave that to the side for a moment. As you have rightly suggested, there is no such thing as Protestantism, just as there is no such even as Presbyterianism (the list could go on and on) as if we this thing known as Protestantism or Presbyterianism spoke with one voice on matters of faith and morals. For example, when I was a Presbyterian minister I had to define what kind of Presbyterian minister (PCA). Now my question for you, Ed, is this? Do you think Jesus intended this fracturedness?

  82. Dear Ed,

    Thank you for sharing 1 Corinthians 11: 1 in greek. Verse 2 is also important:

    “Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you.”

    Notice, St. Paul’s admonition is to follow his actions as he follows Christ. So too we should follow our pastors with such caution, the chief servant of whom is the Pope. He is the pastor of pastors. Yet setting their actions aside, we have been directly instructed by our Lord (1) to receive them in their office and also (2) to hear their words (teaching); Matthew 10:14-15.

    The problem I see in your analysis is that you will grant that the Scriptures were written by “fallen men”–even St. Peter himself (who denied Christ thrice!). Yet, you trust that God preserved them from error and inspired them to write the very Word of God. Incredible faith, and a faith you and I share! So, simply because someone is “fallen” or “sinful” does not exclude them from being used by God in marvelous ways. As a Catholic, I am amazed out how God has used the Magisterium (teaching office) of His Holy Church to teach without error for 2,000 years–an act, though, inferior to the grace given to the writers of Scripture. In spite of Her human frailty, God continually leads his Church “into all truth”. For anyone who threatened the integrity of this ministry from within, their mouths were shut. In other words, Pope’s and bishops simply did not teach. Why? Because this is not the Church built by the mere effort of men. She is not a denomination–a manifestation of imagination. She is a Church built and being built by Christ, himself.

    So much for Jesus’ prayer for unity.

    But, here She is. Her mere existence is a sign of contradiction. After all that you describe, all the turmoil, the Catholic Church is still here–full of saints and scoundrels and everyone in between (like me!). Over just the last century, she has more than doubled. This certainly does not look like a Church on the decline. What about all those churches that bare the name of their human founders? They are truly on the decline. Not because God does not care for their members, but because God did not found those churches.

    Peter tells us that those who pervert the teachings of Scripture, to include Paul, do so to their own destruction.

    And he still does today. He left us The Chair of St. Peter, the singular cathedra by which the Church, united to Her One head Jesus Christ, gains her visible unity–a gift given to Her by Our Lord. “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build…”.

    Christ has built and is building his Church! Alleluia!

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  83. By the way, please forgive my many typos!

  84. Thank you for a very touching article. I shared it with an evangelical friend of mine who asked me this question: If the Catholic church is the church established by Christ, how do you account for the errors and excesses that led to the Reformation? He is not debating whether schism was the answer to the problems of the time. He just wants to know how you reconcile serious problems with the promise that Christ would protect the Church from error.

    Now perhaps those were just ‘perceived ‘ errors and excesses but I was unable to answer him so I’m asking you.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  85. Tom,
    Do I think Jesus “intended” this fracturedness? “Intend” is quite a nuanced theological term. On the one hand I affirm God’s sovereignty. On the other hand I affirm responsibility. Legitimate division within the Legitimate church is clearly sinful and in violation of Christ’s command.

    Jesus prays for and commands unity. Therefore, division is sinful. However, what qualifies as unity? A baptist and presbyterian may agree on many core doctrines and disagree on mode of baptism and eschatology. Moreover, they may affirm the testimony of one another as legitimately Christian. They may extend to one another all the benefits afforded to brethren in the community. Are they divided?

    That the Church does not actually see herself as one body spread through multiple denominations is an affirmation that requires justification. As a reformed baptist I affirm that there are legitimate believers in numerous denominations. At the same time, I would argue that not every Christian denomination is in fact a legitmate Christian church. There are entire organizations that espouse pernicious teachings that are so profoundly wicked, they demand wholesale rejection by the true Christian community.

  86. [...] Church. I recommend “Into the Half-Way House: The Story of an Episcopal Priest,” “An OPC Pastor Enters the Catholic Church,” and “Ecclesial Unity and Outdoing Christ: A Dilemma for the Ecumenism of [...]

  87. Ed, I am curious: you refer to the PC. Is this short for ‘Protestant Church?’ If so is this church ‘one’ such that it satisfies the mark of the church (one, holy, catholic, apostolic)? Here’s why I ask, in #71 you said

    The RCC is merely one denomination among many.

    But for 1500 years it was the only so-called denomination (which actually makes the term ‘denomination’ meaningless to use in connection with it). So how do you explain the fact that for 1500 years the ‘oneness’ of the Church meant one thing (ie-visible, no ‘denominations’ etc…), but since the Reformation you would be forced to argue that now the ‘oneness’ of the Church means something almost entirely different (invisible, sectarian)?

    Also, I think your strategy of using the moral failings of some members of the Catholic Church (even at the highest levels), at some points in history, is being wasted on us here at C2C. Most of us were Protestants for way too long to think that those things are missing from protestant churches. You have cited several examples of such behavior from Catholics and Popes; do you really think it fruitful for us to start throwing out past and present protestants and pastors who were/are involved in sometimes gross sin? I hope not, for the list would be just as extensive…

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  88. Mr. Stewart,

    I want you to know it is never too late to reconsider your decision. I left an OPC church for Rome and it has been a confusing and painful eight years. Please consider the possiblity that God is chastising you for sins as he did me. Search your heart in light of the Commandments. Remember that punishment for sin can fall to your subsequent generations. Fear the Lord and walk humbly before Him.

    In Christ,
    Eric

  89. Concerning the police analogy, I think this better lends itself to my position. I do not deny the Church authority that is rightfully hers. She has the power to bind and to loose. However, the rock of her authority is Scripture. She is to police her children as well as her dogma. I admit that all demoninations fail at this, some more so than others. The lack of discipline and excommunication within most communities have served to fan the flames of skepticism and contributed to a disdain for the Church and her seemingly double-standards. This is our own fault. We must do better and soon. There is a part of me that confesses that the PC has created so many problems and given rise to so many errors that I sometimes cannot help but lament its existence. It is during these times I am reminded of the same problems that confronted the holy apostles as well as the Jewish prophets. In fact, it seems that there has always been this crisis of deception that the Church has had to battle throughout the ages.

  90. Brent,
    How would you as a Catholic falsify your statement-”As a Catholic, I am amazed out how God has used the Magisterium (teaching office) of His Holy Church to teach without error for 2,000 years–”? What would be necessary to show that your church has erred?

  91. Aaron,
    PC does refer to the protestant churches. As for you question regarding the RCC being the only one for 1500 years, there is a simple answer: burn those who disagree with you. I realize this may sound harsh, but nevertheless, history tells us it is true. Moreover, you may want to check your facts. The Roman Church was not the only one in existence for 1500 years. Check your sources. There has always existed, outside of the RCC, communities of believers that rejected the numerous pagan influences, immorality, and doctrinal error that would eventually characterize much of Romanism.

    The RCC is as much a product of Roman emperialism as it is a religious institution. Over one period of time, hundreds of thousands were murdered for heresy. John Huss and William Tyndale among them. I suppose that if one were forced to hide in order to worship, that the only visible church would be the one with the stake and wood. I do not mean to indict current RCC for past error. So please do not think I am accusing the Church today of these things. I am simply offering an explanation for why there “appeared to be” only one church for so long. Unity is not so difficult to accomplish when you can burn and imprison your detractors. I am guessing this is not the kind of unity even Jesus was praying for.

  92. Jason, as someone who was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at Easter 2011, let me join the chorus of rejoicing for the Spirit’s work in your life. I’ve just been reading Bouyer: in fact he is to the left of my computer as I sit in my office at OSU writing this. I can’t help being amazed by how often he has explained *exactly* why I became Catholic, not in defiance to, but in accord with, exactly those principles of Christianity that I grew up with as a Fundamentalist Independent Baptist, with years of conservative-evangelical and Reformed education and interaction on my way to a Religion & Literature Studies PhD and a professorate at a conservative evangelical Bible college. The errors and faulty assumptions which led to destructive antinomies at the heart of my earnest, conservative Protestant (even radically dissenting) tradition (with its anti-traditional mindset) were not the truths I could defend from Scripture, but the truths I had to explain away, or avoid, in Scripture. I kept expecting to encounter similar points of self-defeat, or difficulties it would take decades to “work through” (as it had taken me nearly twenty years to “work through” my understandings of the hard points in Protestant doctrinal development from my Fundamentalist starting-points). I did not find any; from the moment I first came into the presence of the Eucharist, and answered “Yes” to the question “Is God here in some way He is not elsewhere?” there was less than a year of hard but blessed learning, through the Season of Purification and Enlightenment, through the Scrutinies, through Confession of Faith, to Confirmation, to Communion. What blessedness! Welcome Home.

  93. Ed

    How so does the police analogy lend itself to your position? Where is the Church Authority that you rightly claim as hers? You say the authority is the Bible. The rock upon which the Church is built. However the Church existed long before the NT was even written. The Apostles at no time required the members of her to submit to the written rock, they were to submit to the Church. But if you are solid in your understanding that the written “rock” of the Church is the “true” authority, which interpretation should we choose as the ultimate one? It still seems to me that you have thrown out the baby with the bath water.

    You stated in another answer that Baptist and Presbyterian may disagree on mode ( and reason) of baptism but they are still Christian in spirit but it seems to me that baptism is not a lesser teaching of the Church but a very important one. That being the case who has the authority to judge what is right and true in even this so called lesser teaching? Baptist, Presbyterian or Lutheran? There may be various denominations that espouse pernicious teachings and who would they be? I think however they would not consider that to be the case but may even consider your denomination to be the one at fault.

    You see that is the problem. Without a standard of authority that is a LIVING standard no one can judge what is the truth. Sure I will agree that the Holy Scriptures speak the truth, but who’s authority is the correct one and how do you know that? The various PC churches all claim the truth of Scripture and private interpretation. Does it really come down to eany meany miny moe?

    Blessings
    NHU

  94. Ed,
    You wrote:

    “As for you question regarding the RCC being the only one for 1500 years, there is a simple answer: burn those who disagree with you.”

    This comment suggests that the only reason a more Protestant-looking church didn’t evolve for 1500 years was the presence of Roman and/or imperialist persecution of “Biblical” Christians.

    I wonder if you know about the history of the Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Malabar (Indian), Persian, Chaldean, Greek, Maronite , and Slavic Churches? None of these looks anything remotely like Protestantism and all have been -to varying degrees – independent of Roman and/or imperial influence.

    If your thesis were correct, why did a Lutheran or Calvinist reading of Scripture not evolve in any of these cultures? And please don’t say its because they didn’t read the Bible. That would be very naive of you.

    Far from being the obvious reading of Scripture, Protestantism is something that only emerged in the medieval west, in answer to specifically Catholic questions about the nature of the sacraments, worship, and an Augustinian understanding of grace. In other words, No catholic church – No emergence of Protestantism.

    Doesn’t this militate against your thesis?

    -David

  95. Ed,

    I admit I am out of my league in this discussion, but I will interject anyway in that I do not see an attitude of humble submission in your arguments.

    Catholics are called to submit to all Catholic teaching regardless of whether he or she understands the reasons behind it or even whether he or she agrees with it. For instance, a Catholic who truly feels in his or her heart and by Scripture study that artificial birth control is not a sin, must STILL submit to the Church’s teachings. In Protestantism, this same person, having felt they found adequate Scriptural support, could free themselves from submission on the issue. In Protestantism, one justifies his or her position instead of submitting to another position. THIS causes disunity.

    If you are not willing to submit to another authority, especially when you feel it could be wrong on certain issues, then you are operating on a kind of arrogance. We are ALL so sinful that none of us can expect to naturally agree with all of Christ’s teachings, NOR can any single one of us know all of His teachings from our independent studies.

    In Catholicism, we submit to what we are taught (not what our studies yield us), and teach what we are taught (not what what our studies yield us). Thus those persons who assemble the Magisterium are in fact, NOT teaching what they yielded in their own studies, but they are instead bound to only teach what it is they were taught.

    This systems is directly Scriptural. Scripture teaches us to submit to one another. Christ taught us in Matthew to submit to the teachings of others, even if their behavior was hypocritical. Paul teaches us that He, as a teacher, has become a father to us in Christ, and he also reminds us to obey or fathers and mothers in the Lord, as the commandment says! Paul warns of false teachers, but NEVER does he instruct to test teachers by their Scripture adherence, instead we are to take comfort in who they learned their knowledge from (apostolic succession). Furthermore, despite the existence of false teachers, Paul (nor Christ, nor anyone else in Scripture) gives the idea that there will never be trustworthy teachers throughout the Church age (such that one must lean on Scripture alone).

    Scripture alone is the result of man not willing to submit to someone else’s teachings, it is the result of man not willing to admit he could be wrong.

    Peace be with you,
    Adrienne

  96. Adrienne

    Thank you for your well-articulated post. The idea of the necessity of submission to an authority with which I may or may not agree is one of the most compelling arguments for a visible authoritative magisterium. On issues like contraception, the frequent Protestant answer of “pray about it and listen to the Spirit’s leading” seems woefully inadequate, especially given our frequent incapacity to distinguish the Spirit’s leading from our own sin driven desires. Married Christian couples are far from immune to the clouding influence of sin on this issue in particular. I say all this as a Protestant who has recently woken up to the reality of the deeply sinful nature of contraception, and just starting to grasp what true chastity within marriage looks like.

    -Burton

  97. Eric,

    I’m so sorry that your years in the Catholic Church have been difficult. Have you had an opportunity to talk with a spiritual director about your confusion and pain? Have you had any other Catholics to lean on and depend on? Being Catholic is supposed to be a joyful experience, though not without the cross of course. I have prayed for you.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  98. Burton,

    God bless you for plumbing the riches of the Church’s teachings on human sexuality. (in my experience) As a former Protestant, it at first appears as pure beauty, then becomes a heavy cross, but soon you realize that the cross is in fact the purpose of your marriage. After which, you come to experience the pure joy of his grace that pours into your life by being free, total fruitful and faithful in your marriage.

    I will keep you in my prayers.

    God love you,

    Brent

    (not meaning to hijack this thread, but wanted to encourage Burton)

  99. …. and while I’m at it and have a few more moments….

    Ed, you asked what determines unity. Well, Jesus gave us the answer and displayed the answer to that question quite clearly.

    In John 17 He prays that we would be unified in our words such that the world would believe. Furthermore, He prays that we would be one like the Holy Trinity is one. The unity described here is far greater than the least common denominator category of “essentials” given by Protestants justifying their unity with one another in words.

    Now let us look to Christ and the Father as an example of oneness. Christ always attributed His words and works to obedience to His Father. Granted, this is natural because of the nature of the Trinity, but Jesus, being God, never had to display this kind of overt obedience, He could have instead claimed His own authority, as He did indeed have it. Yet, He lead us by the example of submission. Jesus is equal to God, and just as you pointed out, all humans are equal (while you were arguing that no man had the ability to interpret Scripture better than another man). Jesus showed us humble, loyal, unwavering submission amongst equals.

    Burton, thanks for your reply to my comment! It is indeed quite revolutionary to recognize the flaws in the contraceptive mentality. Chastity in marriage is such a beautiful, freeing and redeeming teaching. I love that the Church is adamant that God made me perfectly the way I am, female, fertility and all.

    God Bless!
    Adrienne

  100. I thank God for all the learned persons who have contributed above. Each has displayed a deep knowledge of our shared history and journey of faith. It is clear that the areas where we fail to overlap are principally caused by the tradition in which we were formed, being a lens through which we navigate our journey.
    Jason Stewart’s journey seem to have been inspired by his thirst for knowledge and understanding, and a real thirst for the richest source of empowerment for his already strong faith, to be truly formed by what formed the whole body of Christ, His Church.
    As a cradle Catholic, lapsed and then re-born as a Spirit filled convinced and convicted member of that same church, I did not need to delve into the Early Church fathers, my journey was empowered by Word and Sacrament, and reinforced by contemporary writers and preachers.
    As I began to study in my limited way, I was filled with enthousiasm as it became clearer that I was part of an unbroken tradition of Word and Sacrament, and that, if I learned and followed the teaching of the Church and obeyed the Commandments then I would seek God’s will for me and embrace it.
    From much of my reading of recent years, it would appear that there are many very well educated and Spirit filled people within the wider church whose studies into the early writings of the Church Fathers are made because the Holy Spirit has led them to thirst for a water that more profoundly quenches that thirst.
    Most will have no doubt found through their studies that the path that they are following is rooted and faithful to the life and teaching of the early church, but many, from John Henry Newman, through Scott Hahn and now Jason are finding that their roots begin to grow in a direction they could not have foreseen and that they organically become Catholic. They are not uprooted, their roots just soak up the nourishment that has been there for 2000 years but that they were denied because of the Reformation.
    Every community of faith that tries to follow Jesus will possess gifts and graces, but the continued fracturing of the body of Christ can never have been justified, each fracture will have had understandable reasons and most undertaken with commendable spirit, but the body was again damaged.
    I doubt that Martin Luther, with the benefit of 500 years of hindsight would be happy with the fruits of his labour. He might, on the other hand draw some comfort that what he started is now perhaps showing signs of turning full circle.
    I will pray for all you good people experience even more completely than you do now, the true peace and joy of being a still imperfect follower of Christ. Keep running the race.

    In Christ
    Bill Kane

  101. AT,
    Doesn’t the conscience of the Catholic hold ultimate authority what they should do?

  102. Adrienne,
    Isn’t it ironic that a Roman Catholic would be telling me that sola scriptura is the product of a man not willing to admit he could be wrong. Actually, sola scriptura is the very product of admitting that a man was wrong. Did not Luther have to begin to admit that much of what he had been taught and accepted without questions could be wrong? Of course he did. Otherwise we would have no reformation. The very fact that we had a reformation is proof that these men came to realize that were wrong!

  103. Eric,

    I echo K. Doran’s prayers.

  104. Ed,

    Thank you for taking the time to reply.

    I asserted that Sola Scriptura is the result of man not admitting he himself could be wrong. In the example of Luther you gave (and the birth of Sola Scriptura) Luther was asserting that someone ELSE was wrong, not himself.

    Peace be with you,
    Adrienne

  105. Dear Ed, (re#100)
    You wrote:

    Isn’t it ironic that a Roman Catholic would be telling me that sola scriptura is the product of a man not willing to admit he could be wrong. Actually, sola scriptura is the very product of admitting that a man was wrong. Did not Luther have to begin to admit that much of what he had been taught and accepted without questions could be wrong? Of course he did. Otherwise we would have no reformation. The very fact that we had a reformation is proof that these men came to realize that were wrong!

    . You win today’s prize for circular reasoning. In essence you just argued, “the Reformation happened because the Church was wrong. How do we know it was wrong? Because the Reformation happened!”

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  106. K.Doran and Tom,

    Thanks for your concern and prayer. Apart from the sacrament of confession, I have never really had anyone to give me direction or a shoulder for leaning. I never sought out others face-to-face because my confusion and pain stem from doctrine and practices in the Roman church. I reasoned that the direction and advice of other RC would lead back to these central issues. The root of my problems reach deeper than my own inner struggles and subjectivity. The reason for my post was to offer a plea to one who has not “ossified” in Romanism, though I do believe the ossified can be saved by grace. I would extend this same plea to you for the glory of God in Christ and ask that you search your hearts in light of God’s commands. It was on account of
    pride and covetousness that brought me to this idolatrous system. Chastisements from the Lord and grace for a happy return. Thanks for your responses.

    In Christ,
    Eric

  107. Eric,

    You said: “I never sought out others face-to-face because my confusion and pain stem from doctrine and practices in the Roman church. I reasoned that the direction and advice of other RC would lead back to these central issues. The reason for my post was to offer a plea to one who has not “ossified” in Romanism, . . I would extend this same plea to you for the glory of God in Christ and ask that you search your hearts in light of God’s commands.”

    You can’t really get to know a way of life until you live it openly and in free communication with others. Why don’t you change your mind and seek out others face-to-face? That’s how we learn and grow.

    Thanks for care for my soul. You should know that God has helped me infinitely in the Catholic Church. He’s taught me the existence of objective truth, the boundaries and goals of objective morality, and he has opened up for me a life of joy. For example, like many others, I would never have known that contraception was evil had it not been for the counter-intuitive advice of the church. But now that I know, my whole life has been improved by that knowledge. The Catholic church is preparing me for everlasting life. Why would I reject joy, peace, truth, love, and salvation?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  108. Being a complete novice when it comes to contributing to a learned discussion such as this, it draws me to pray and reflect on what I read and what is written on my heart.

    Jesus commanded the church to ” go teach all nations”, not to write a textbook from which everything could be learned. If the church had set out to write a textbook, I imagine it would look different to the Bible; the Old Testament might be a given (or not), but the New Testament would most assuredly not look like it does.

    The New Testament is a collection of those writings selected from the much larger available collection of writings to be the most appropriate to support what the church actually taught. There was no syllabus, no developed table of contents, no rewriting or sub-editing. The blood and faith of the early Martyrs was as important a teaching tool as the oral tradition which was written and collated after much of that blood was shed.

    Luther was drawn to challenge initially some of the practices of the church, and it is correct to say that some of those pratices had strayed from the true teachings of the church. The analogy of the Nixon administration and the USA constitution is very much to the point. From my limited understanding Luther sought to edit the established canon of scripture by deletions, but he did not revisit those writings not selected by the early church to suggest their inclusion. I am sure that if I am wrong in this, you will all write to tell me so.

    All of the great teaching institutions, universities and the like, retain their teaching role, they do not merely provide library books and say ” just read these and you will come to know everything”. ” All scripture can be used for teaching” does not amount to all teaching can only be found in scripture. The church is “the pillar and the ground of truth” founded by Christ on the rock of Peter, and sustained by the unbroken succession of the papacy.

    The fact that certain individuals in that unbroke succession fell short of their calling never caused the church to lose her bearings since Jesus said that He would be with us for all time and that the gates of hell would not prevail against us.

    I hope that in contributing here, I develop further in faith and that you will all praye for me

    In Christ

    Bill Kane

  109. K.Doran,

    We are not too far from one another. Your willingness to ascribe to God infinite help in the Catholic Church is most pleasing to Him and serves as the foundation for joy, peace, truth, love and salvation. Please understand my willingness to confess a Catholic Church, both visible and invisible, that was founded by Christ our Lord. No ordinary possibility of salvation is found outside this Church because Christ dwells in it by His Spirit and lavishes us with manifold gifts. But the moment you crossed that threshold of hope, a stumbling block of error caused you to trip. That block of error is Romanism’s teaching on contraception ( but not limited to this ).
    It opposes artificial contraception while introducing “NFP” as a natural and licit alternative. Embedded deeply within NFP is a human act to oppose (contra) the fruit of conception.

    This “way of life” delivered to me in the RCC had so many perplexing twists and turns. I can’t do it justice on these short exchanges.

    Eric

  110. Hi Frank,
    Thanks for the award. I feel honored. All reasoning is circular because humans are finite. You begin with Scripture in order to end with Scripture. The RCC begins with the Magisterium in order to end with the Magisterium. Actually, my reasoning is not a vicious circle. The only way for Luther to spark the reformation from the begining was to realize his beliefs were wrong. He did not realize his beliefs were wrong because of some reformation. The cause of the reformation was the realization that the visible church had wondered far from Scripture and was sorely in need of reform. An arrogant man would have rejected any notion that the views which he grew up with and held dear to his heart his whole life were actually wrong. Instead, Luther, realizing the truth after studying Scripture for himself, merely applied what the sacred writings taught to his own church. And they would have killed him for it if they could have found him. Is this how we are to disagree with one another? The answer is not do as the Bereans did! No, the answer in the RCC at that time was to wood and fire. You will submit or we will kill you. There is no defense for practices such as these in any church.

    Luther called the debate over his 95 theses out of a love and concern for truth. He wanted dialogue. Repeatedly, the RCC refused to engage and only issued threats and warnings and finally the papal bull. Reform exists to correct wrong. If arrogance prevailed, reform would never exist because wrong would never be acknowledged.

  111. I would urge all of you to read a wonderful little book called “A.D. 381″, by Charles Freeman. It gives a wonderful in depth account of the history of the time between early Christianity and the Roman church.

    One conclusion you will clearly see is that while the early church fathers were certainly catholic and united in one faith, even with the diverse views of the churches around Christendom, they were certainly not Roman. There were no basilicas, big fancy hats and robes, no imperialistic view that “one church” meant that “one” church ruled them all.

    The gathering of bishops and apostles was done throughout Christendom, and Rome was never the center of anything for most of the first 400 years of Christian life together. Once the Roman finances and prestige began to become a factor in Christianity, there were now rivals and politics and imperialism deeply affected by Rome infiltrating the church. One Roman official had himself appointed bishop of one church to quell controversies over the Nicene creed. The author quotes one historian who said at one point there were 100 murders for every bishopric which became open.

    The church fathers were never a part of “Roman” catholicism. As a matter of fact each church was named after its own province, such as the church in Corinth, or the church in Ephesus. There was never a Roman church in Ephesus. The ideal of one ruling church over the others is an imperialistic idea from the bowels of Rome herself. Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo in Africa, not Rome. This is where the error begins of which the Reformation is an ongoing dialogue.

    I do agree that there is much to be desired on both sides of the dialogue. However, a truly catholic faith would be one in which the Protestant Church and the Roman Church could sit down and recognize each other as legitimate churches of Christ. This is the heart and soul of catholicism as the early church fathers believed and practiced.

    I do agree with the viewpoint that the Protestant church in trying to rid itself of Roman Catholicism, ironically took an imperialistic view of sola sciptura. While getting rid of a few Roman trappings , she ended up keeping the worst one, imperialism. However, pointing out that the church fathers did not have sola scriptura is not really an arguable point. They did not have printing presses back then and the bible was not fully composed. They did value at their core what was to later become the scriptures.

    I do see some longing in people to find the one true church and come back to mother church, or fathers of the church. However, the mass is largely medieval rites of Italian origin under Roman culture. The hierarchy of the early church was grossly distorted under Roman influence. This is hardly the stuff of “true” gospel. I mean if you like medieval rites and Roman organizational structures, then you are in heaven, but to imagine that the early church fathers worshiped this way is quite erroneous.

  112. Rev. Robert Jones,

    Who is the “Protestant Church”? In other words, if “the Protestant Church and the Roman Church could sit down and recognize each other as legitimate churches of Christ”, who would sit down for the “Protestant Church”?

    In advance, thanks for the clarification.

    Your separated brother in Christ,

    Brent

  113. A.T.

    You seem to have missed my point completely. Luther was not raised a reformer. Luther was a devout Catholic of the Augustinian order. Before he could EVER arrive a the correctness of sola scriptura, he had to begin with the idea that HE was wrong. Therefore, it was not necessarily an act of arrogance, although it was an act of rebellion, but not from the start. Not all rebellion is wrong. To rebel from false teaching is proper and moral and every Christian has a duty to it. Jesus Himself, when He preached repentance to the Jews was commanding them to rebel from their beloved Judaism and embrace their Messiah. The apostles were threatened to stop preaching this new doctrine and then beaten. Their response was a question: is it not better to obey God rather than man? Luther learned from Scripture that many of the practices and views of the RCC were simply eroneous. He was especially disturbed by the selling of indulgences and the abuse that the church was inflicting on the poor. It was montrous. He simply asked for an open debate around the practice, naively assuming a certain level of integrity in the Church of his day. Luther assumed that because he wanted to obey the plain teachings of Scripture, everyone else did as well. He could not have been more gullible at the start. It did not take him long to lose his innocence. The Church saw to that.

    I hope I have made my point a little less ambiguous.

  114. Rev. Robert Jones:

    I appreciate your comments. Thank you for the book referral.

  115. You gotta be kidding me, reverend. Do you know who wrote AD 381? Do you know what else he wrote? “The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason.” The man is a pseudo-historian who cannot be relied on very much except to shape history after his left-leaning, anti-religious biases.

    Please tell me you read other books to get a second opinion. Take a look at the Recommended Books link here on this site if not.

  116. Rev. Robert additional comment:

    It is worth mentioning that Freeman’s observations certainly help us understand how Romanism came to dominate visible Christianity. However, there is a danger that Freeman introduces along the same lines as Bart Erhman. The presence of fringe heresy in the early church does nothing to negate that historical fact, well documented I might add, that orthodoxy never lost its footing and was always predominant through the first 3-4 centuries of visible Christianity. As emperialist thinking invaded the visible church, this began to change. The reformation was a movement back to Scripture and a call to return to othrodoxy. There is a diversity within the unity of the one church but one must be careful how they identify that diversity. The idea that there is a diversity of central dogma to be recieved and accepted by all has never been received or taught in orthodox Christianity. I should mention that I do not include small matters of obscurity. If every dogma in Christendom is of equal weighting and heresy brings with it certain condemnation, I fear none of us are safe.

  117. Rev. Robert Jones –

    Thanks for recommending the book. I’ve never heard of it before, but it looks like it was published fairly recently.

    How does the author interpret certain quotes from the Early Fathers that do seem to point to Roman Primacy? For example, Ignatius of Antioch who in 110 said the following:

    “Ignatius . . . to the church also which holds the presidency, in the location of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and named after the Father” (Letter to the Romans 1:1 [A.D. 110]).

    Or this from Irenaeus:

    But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition”

    Other quotes similar to this can be found at Churchfathers.org. In light of these quotes, it seems difficult to make a case that there was absolutely no tradition of Roman Primacy in the early Church. Furthermore, letters from the Bishop of Rome were being distributed to other Churches and read allowed during their celebration of the Eucharist.

    Does the author of AD 381 address these issues? I’d be curious to see what he has to say about them.

  118. Dear Rev. Jones (re#107)

    It would be interesting to know just what sort of church recognizes you as “Reverend.” I checked out the Freeman book. It laments the “death of free speech” in 381 A.D. and extols the return of “religious toleration” in the 17th century. It is, another words, based on an anachronistic view of history. It furthermore depicts the heretic Arius as the subject of unfair treatment and “intolerance”, not as the heretic he was – at least insofar as his denial of the divinity of Christ as expressed in the Nicene Councils and accepted as orthodoxy among Catholics, Orthodox and (most) Protestants.

    The conclusions in the book traffic in essentially secularist critiques of religion in general, and Catholicism in particular. So all that bugaboo about “imperialism” is easily dismissed by any serious student of religion. I am surprised that a “Reverend” would be taken in by secularist arguments.

    You must not be aware that the Catholic Church has multiple Rites. The Catechism lists seven rites. These rites so listed: Latin, Byzantine, Alexandrian, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, and Chaldean, are actually families of liturgical expression. These rites are the descendants of the liturgical practices that originated in centers of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria. Each has many features in common and trace their lineage to the days of the Early Church Fathers. Liturgies develop through time as a fuller and more faithful expression of the truths lived out in them are understood. But the essentials of the Latin Rite (Roman Catholicism) were all in place in the 5th Century. Any unprejudiced history of the liturgy can provide you with this information.

    So your point that Augustine was not a Roman Catholic is meaningless. Everyone in all those Rites is a “Catholic” – they express certain cultural differences in their Liturgies – the differences being the product of cultural differences. All the members of these Rites are united in their recognition of the Primacy of Peter – this is what makes them Catholic. This kind of unity within diversity is one of the great strengths of the Catholic faith, and militates against shallow accusations of “imperialism” and “conformity” found in books like Freeman’s.

    I can only assume you like the book because it reinforces your own anti-Catholic viewpoint. Well, if you’d like to learn some of what Catholicism actually is, please stick around and learn from the various discussion threads on Called to Communion.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  119. Rev Jones,

    The question is not whether anything changed after Christianity became legal. Of course a lot did. The question is did the faith change. Not whether they built fancier churches or wore fancier clothes. You can talk about that but doctrine is more important. Was the church Catholic in its doctrine? You say “the early church fathers were certainly catholic and united in one faith.” OK. They why should we not embrace that faith? It might need reforming but we should not be reforming by denying things the early church saw as central to the faith. That is precisely what the reformation did.

  120. @Ed Dingess:

    To rebel from false teaching is proper and moral and every Christian has a duty to it. Jesus Himself, when He preached repentance to the Jews was commanding them to rebel from their beloved Judaism and embrace their Messiah.

    Hmm… This doesn’t sound quite right to me. To accept the Messiah wasn’t to rebel against Judaism, but genuinely to believe it – and to see that it led directly to the Messiah.

    When I became a Catholic, I wasn’t rebelling against my Reformed Protestantism. I was seeing precisely where it led. My Reformed teachers taught me, amongst other things, that Jesus had intended a visible Church – that that Church had, of its very essence, to be one – and that that Church had real authority. To receive its teachers was to receive Him; to receive Him was to receive His Father.

    I looked up the line of progression from my Reformed elders, who had authority over me, and saw that there was a break – precisely at Luther – when he decided that his understanding of Scripture trumped that very authority. I told my pastor that he had taught me too well. I had, indeed, to accept Church authority – and the legitimate line of that authority was now in Denis Brown, (then) Bishop of Auckland Diocese.

    Those Jews who accepted Christ did not rebel against their beloved Judaism; they submitted to it. I did not rebel against my Protestantism; I submitted to its teaching.

    Luther, on the other hand, genuinely did, as you yourself said, eventually rebel.

    Obedience is better than sacrifice, and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.

    jj

  121. I wonder now if we are going to cavil about words. The Judaism of Christ’s day, the established religious institution of the Jews. I do not speak of the covenant with Israel brought by God through Moses. If the Judaism of Christ’s day was what you actually say it is, and it was that simple, it seems rather difficult to account for such a wholesale rejection of the Messiah. The Judaism of that day was not unlike the RCC of our day. The parallels are striking. They too, had somehow misplaced authority, wrenching from God’s hand and placing it their own. God’s word was no longer the authority, but rather the interpretation of a man. In fact, take a trip back to Eden and see if there are similarities there as well. Hath God said? Did God mean? You will be like Him! Man wrested from God the divine interpretation of the law given to him, and placed upon it one of his own choosing. In so doing, he displaced the authority of God with his own authority.

    Your refusal to submit to your elders and to select another man to whom you would prefer to submit was not an act of submission at all. It was an act of rebellion. The question you must ask is whether or not you rebelled against truth or against error. The one with the authority in this entire scenario that you describe was, at bottom, you! It was YOU who decided where authority would rest. It was YOU who decided which person to empower. And as long as their authority is actually derivative of your authority, it is a psuedo-authority at best. Reformed Christians do not place “authority” blindly in the presbyter.

    The scandal of appointment to leadership in the RCC in the 16th century was nothing short of absolutely absurb, filled with the most perverse sort of politics. Men who were not only entirely untrained for the task, but who lived lives that would have completely disqualified them in the beginnings of the church. There were boys, as young as 10 and perhas younger appointed by the Pope to serve as bishops! This is so outrageous I can hardly believe that informed people can defend the idea that these leaders were endowed by Christ to lead. I am only speaking of the 16th century. However, if one looks farther back at her record, it is nothing short of embarrassing. Shall we submit to fornicators? Cheats? Liars? Swindlers? Oppressors and murderers? These are the leaders of the one true church? This is the light of the world? This is the visible church? How far from Christ! How far from love! How far from light she is! How far from truth! This is exactly what Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin witnessed in their day.

  122. @Ed Dingess:

    Luther called the debate over his 95 theses out of a love and concern for truth. He wanted dialogue.

    Understood – but doesn’t ‘dialogue’ presuppose two parties on a common level? If I want dialogue with the Church, then – surely?! – I no longer accept the Church as in authority over me.

    When I became a Catholic, I made the following statement: “I believe and hold what the Church believes and teaches.”

    There is an asymmetry here. In order to ask the Church to dialogue with me, I have to at that point step back from that.

    So it seems to me that Luther, by wanting dialogue, had already denied that the Catholic Church was Christ’s appointed Teacher for men. He had started by presupposing that the Catholic Church precisely was not what it claims.

    After that, of course, whatever the outcome, Luther is not a Catholic.

    jj

  123. Ed (re#107):

    Luther was not arrogant. Really? How much humility does it take to decide that – solely on one’s own reading Scripture – the Canon established for the preceding 1100 years was wrong and in need of a revision that, apparently, had escaped every other religious thinker for the past millennium? No, not arrogant at all.
    See also Mateo’s #77 above.

    Tell me how you think this is justified. What authority does a single man have to do this? I’d really like to know.

    Frank

  124. Ed (re#110) -

    If all Luther wanted was an answer to his questions regarding the abuse of indulgences, why did he not go to the local Bishop and ask for a dialogue? Why did he choose the most disrespectful and inflammatory means available to him – the posting of the theses on the door of the Cathedral?

    Also, the Catholic Church stopped the abuse of indulgences (which was principally the work of one man, Tetzel, who condemned for this practice). The Papal Bull of indulgence gave no sanction whatever to the idea of indulgences for the dead (which was Tetzel’s innovation, not the Church’s) . Indulgences for the dead was based upon a vague scholastic opinion – rejected by the Sorbonne in 1482, and again in 1518, and certainly not a doctrine of the Church – which Tetzel improperly put forward as dogmatic truth.

    Since the abuse of indulgences was never sanctioned by Church doctrine, you can’t claim it as an error in teaching. And how exactly does the Church’s failure to rein in this loose cannon affect the validity of its teachings on sacraments, the priesthood, its doctrines of grace and Christ’s merit which all of orthodox Christendom believed and obeyed since Apostolic times?

    Please tell me – I’d really like to know.

    Frank

  125. Your system insists that whatever the church teaches must ipso facto be true because it is being taught by the church. This simply begs the question and removes any and all need for discernment as commanded by the holy apostle John in I John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” (NAS) And again from the apostle Paul, “But he who is spiritual appraises (judges) all things.” (I Cor. 2:15) The warning from Paul to the Ephesian elders would also make for serious difficulty as Paul charges these men to be on guard and watch out for false teachers who will arise even from among them and teach pernicious things. There were false teachers, leaders, elders, if you will, who brought their heresy into the churches of Galatia and Paul was so displeased that he pronounced a curse up them. In fact, Paul said if I or even an angel from heaven preach to you ANOTHER gospel other than that which you have recieved, let him be accursed. Here is Paul, speaking under the unction of the Spirit and telling the Galatian believers that if he ever comes to them with anything other than what he already delivered, they are to reject him as cursed by God. In your system, if you accept everything a bishop says on the ground that he is a bishop, you cannot obey John or Paul. In other words, God’s word that instructs you to be VERY discerning about the truth you are taught by those over you falls to the ground meaningless.

    Peter instructed elders not to “lord it over” those in their care. I think killing people you deem heretics would qualify as “lording it over.” This, Peter forbad in no uncertain terms. Yet your bishops have ignore the inspired words of Peter and burnt men at the stake for the alleged transgressions. This Peter would not have permitted, having been harshly and sternly corrected by our Lord for this attitude prior to conversion on more than one occasion.

    This same Peter warned about the pernicious false teachers that would come to destory the flock. He spent most of his second letter warning about these men and instructing believers to be on their guard! You should also note that not one single NT document was actually written exclusively to elders or bishops. They were each written to the entire community that they addressed. The instructions are to the Christian, all Christians. These Christians were ordered to be on their guard and watch out for false teachers. Peter closes his second letter by warning the believers that anyone, ANYONE who is guilty of twisting Scripture does so to their own destruction. This means the Christians as well as the leaders. This means that visible leaders can twist the Scripture and if that is true and the only authority I use are visible leaders, well, I have myself a real pickle then, don’t I. In your system I have alternative but to accept the teachings of a visible bishop even though Scripture clearly warns that false bishops will arise. How do we know they are false? Is it because they disagree with the other bishops? Well, when two bishops don’t agree, and we are to follow a bishop, which one do we follow and why that one? They have equal authority, being bishops and all. Otherwise I am rebelling.

    It is not only permissible to rebell against leaders who twist the Scripture, it is required! To do so is not sinful. The authority for doing so is the Scripture itself. If you want to push the conversation to hermeneutics, I am fine with that since my dissertation was in that area.

  126. Dan S (#83),

    Your friend wonders –

    If the Catholic church is the church established by Christ, how do you account for the errors and excesses that led to the Reformation? …. He just wants to know how you reconcile serious problems with the promise that Christ would protect the Church from error.

    Karl Adam, in his book Roots of the Reformation , offers an honest summary of the state of Christendom at the end of the 15th century:

    [A]mongst the common people, a fearful decline of true piety into religious materialism and morbid hysteria; amongst the clergy, both lower and higher, widespread worldliness and neglect of duty; and amongst the Shepherds of the Church, demonic ambition and sacrilegious perversion of holy things…..

    The author then writes of Luther:

    [H]e let the warring spirits drive him to overthrow not merely the abuses in the Church, but the Church Herself, founded upon Peter, bearing through the centuries the successio apostolica [apostolic succession]; he let them drive him to commit what St. Augustine called the greatest sin with which a Christian can burden himself: he set up altar against altar and tore in pieces the one Body of Christ.

    In this light, he imagines vividly for us how things might have turned out had Luther kept his ecclesiastical cool in the midst of the desperate need for moral reform:

    Had Martin Luther then arisen with his marvelous gifts of mind and heart, his warm penetration of the essence of Christianity, his passionate defiance of all unholiness and ungodliness, the elemental fury of his religious experience, his surging, soul-shattering power of speech, and not least that heroism in the face of death with which he defied the powers of this world – had he brought all his magnificent qualities to the removal of the abuses of the time and the cleansing of God’s garden from weeds, had he remained a faithful member of his Church, humble and simple, sincere and pure, then indeed we today should be his grateful debtors. He would be forever our great Reformer, our true man of God, our teacher and leader, comparable to Thomas Aquinas and Francis of Assisi. He would have been the greatest saint of the German people, the refounder of the Church in Germany, a second Boniface…

    Perhaps it would help your friend to consider that moral abuses (as scandalous as they are) do not equal doctrinal error. Christ promised to preserve his Church in the truth of the gospel. And so he has, does, and will. Such a profound promise is consistent with the fact that men are not always morally faithful to the graces God gives them. Despite the weakness, frailty and sinfulness found within the Church, there is the divine guarantee that God, by his Holy Spirit, working in the college of bishops in union with the pope, will preserve his Church from teaching and believing that which is false in regard to the gospel.

    Does this help?

    Blessings,

    – Jason

  127. In reply to several of Ed’s comments about how bad things were among many of the bishops at the time of the Reformation: you’ve said this multiple times, as if it would negate their authority as the shepherds of Christ’s Church. Perhaps you should review Matthew 23, where Jesus explicitly says that hypocrisy among those who sat on the seat of Moses did not absolve the Jews from obeying them. The hypocritical leaders would get theirs, as our Lord makes clear, but the people were still commanded to obey (some “commanding them to rebel” from Judaism!).

    Also, in response to your claim to the contrary in 121, the two letters to Timothy are explicitly written to him as a new bishop. We read them because they are inspired and edifying, but they are not written to “the whole community” because they do not address the whole community. They address Timothy.

  128. Frank,
    What would be the point in a discussion with a bishop on indulgences when your church claims to be incapable of error? The only recourse Luther would have had was to keep his mouth shut because the church cannot err no matter what.

  129. Jason,
    There is no promise from Christ to protect the church from error. What Jesus and His apostles do warn is that there will be false teachers that will come into the church to deceive.

  130. @Ed Dingness:

    I wonder now if we are going to cavil about words. The Judaism of Christ’s day, the established religious institution of the Jews.

    and

    Your system insists that whatever the church teaches must ipso facto be true because it is being taught by the church. This simply begs the question…

    and finally:

    It is not only permissible to rebell against leaders who twist the Scripture, it is required! To do so is not sinful. The authority for doing so is the Scripture itself. If you want to push the conversation to hermeneutics, I am fine with that since my dissertation was in that area.

    This is all quite to the point, Ed. The fundamental issue – which is not even hermeneutics, but rather presuppositions and epistemology – is whether sola Scriptura is <i<in fact how we are to know revealed truth, or whether in fact Christ has appointed an infallible Teacher – a ‘Magisterium’ – as an authority for deciding such questions.

    If sola Scriptura is correct, then, of course, Luther was quite right to oppose his personal understanding of Scripture to that of the Church – regardless, by the way, of the moral failings of some of the human representatives of the Church, then or now.

    But if sola Scriptura is correct, then the anabaptists who opposed Luther were equally right to oppose Luther. Michael Servetus was perfectly correct to oppose Calvin. The bottom line of sola Scriptura is “each man his own Pope.”

    But if the Magisterium idea is correct – and it seems rather consistent with Jesus’s telling His followers to do what those sitting in the “seat of Moses” told them, even when they themselves did not follow their own teaching – why, in that case, then Luther was right to oppose abuses, corruptions, oppression – but not to refuse to submit to the Church when it opposed him, even if it did so unjustly.

    It is questions of actual fact we must deal with. Is the Catholic Church’s hierarchy of Christ’s ordination or not? Arguing about the actions of persons based on our two contrary beliefs about that fact is not helpful.

    jj

  131. Dear Ed, (re:#122)

    Was that reply intended for me? I’ll assume it was since it followed my post immediately.

    You claim Catholics do not need to exercise discernment. This is false. Particularly for those who convert (or return) as adults, we must discern that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ upon the rock of Peter and against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail. That’s some pretty heavy lifting, Ed.

    Once the true Church has been discerned, then we obey the ordained, apostolic authorities of that Church because they were established by Jesus Himself, with the promise that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth as they exercise their responsibilities in the Church. Or do you not believe Jesus when he made this promise?

    No Bishop or Pope has ever taught contrary to Scripture, no ecumenical council or Pope has ever promulgated a dogma contrary to Scripture. This was the belief of the Early Church Fathers, and the belief of all faithful Catholics for the last 2,000 years. Warts and all, we’re still here, and we’re still the largest Church and charitable organization on earth. This is ONLY because we have enjoyed the protection of the Holy Spirit Jesus promised to HIS church – not to any other churches, i.e. those founded by mere men and which bear those men’s names. Only the Catholic Church bears all four marks of the true Church: one, holy catholic and apostolic.

    Christ never taught that His Church would be free from moral error – he taught that it would faithfully pass on the Apostolic Deposit of Faith. Mere men are not protected from moral error (even Peter denied Christ three times in a deplorable lack of loyalty), but when mere men are successors to the (mere men who were) Apostles, they are protected from teaching doctrine contrary to the Deposit of Faith received by the Apostles, through the power of Christ’s word. You can rail against it all you want, but you can’t prove a single doctrinal error taught by the One True Church of Jesus Christ.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  132. Your problem is that the only way for you to “know” if there is an infallible teacher, the Magisterium, is to ask, the infallible teacher, the Magisterium. What do you think they will tell you. The warnings issued to all NT believers serve as strong evidence that no such infallible teacher existed during the time of the NT writings, or has existed at any time thereafter. Not even the holy apostles can be considered infallible teachers themselves. Peter’s lapse is clear proof of that fact. What we have is an infallible message. The only infallible teacher we have is, of course, the Holy Spirit. And this infallible teacher teaches Christ’s infallible message to his bodythrough fallible men.

    The anabaptists would be right to oppose Luther if they have Scriptural mandate to do so. The same applies to Servetus.

    You must answer the challenge I issed regarding the numerous warnings of the NT writings regarding false teachers and teachings. You seem to have conveniently ignored my objection.

    We do not simply observe small moral failures on the part of these “infallible” teachers, so called. We also observe voluminous dogma constructed by the councils and popes over the centuries that are without any basis whatever in Scripture.

    I do not dismiss your point regarding the centrality of presuppositions and epistemology to the discussion. Ultimately, however, the issue of hermeneutics is unavoidable in these sort of disputes.

  133. John,
    I am also interested to know how it is you can refer to Scripture in order to support your view of an infallible Magisterium. That sounds like something a Protestant could do, but not a catholic.

    Speaking of epistemology, how is you know that the Magisterium is legitimate and that they are an infallible teacher?

  134. J.J.,
    Thank you for your dialog with Ed, you’ve covered several of the points I would have wanted to make. I appreciate your camaraderie.

    Ed,
    Your education and accomplishment muscle flexing (mentioning your thesis work) was not missed by me, and I maintain that I am truly out of my league in this conversation as I have never written a thesis, nor have I formally studied theology, but I will challenge you that it is you who has failed to understand me, or more specifically, the Catholic position.

    You’ve tried to steer away from my points of submission and humility by mentioning poor behavior and poor choices made by Catholic men. Being as educated as you are, you should already know that the Catholic position separates the apostolic deposit of faith protected by the Holy Spirit amongst men from the sinfulness of those men. Yet, you are attempting to derail the conversation by bringing up the sins of men. This is rather intellectually dishonest of you. J.J. provided the scriptural support for this by the very words of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

    So allow me to provide more clarity to my point. When two persons disagree about matters of Truth, at the least one of them is wrong, yet neither believes he is wrong. Scripture, more specifically Jesus, never assures that a man by himself will be protected from error. Only the Church will be protected from error. In the example of Luther versus his fellow Catholics, at the least one of them was wrong. Luther maintained that HE was correct, yet the Catholics were able to point to theologians for 1500 years and say it is not ME who is correct, it is everyone in this succession who is correct. When a Protestant submits to a church, it is because he agrees with their teachings. When a Catholic submits to the Catholic Church it is because he relinquishes the right to agreement, and (as you admitted protestants do NOT do) follows “blindly”, with the faith of a child, regardless of whether or not he agrees. A Catholic is to submit because he is acknowledges his weakness by virtue of humility.

    You don’t seem to have taken into consideration that you (or Luther, for that matter) could be wrong. You mentioned J.J.’s reconciliation to the RCC as a rebellion instead of submission. When a man changes affiliations, it is absolutely an admission of weakness, that he was wrong. Yet, submitting to something because you already agree with it, is not true submission. Submitting to the RCC, to Sacred Tradition guarded by the Magisterium, is the ultimate act of submission, it admits that while a man waivers, the RCC has NOT wavered. I, as a Catholic, admit that I could be wrong. So, I submit to another Authority, to the Church Christ established to teach me, to be a Mother to me, and that He nurtures me through the Sacraments. I give up the right to be right, I submit.

    Peace,
    Adrienne

  135. Ed,

    You must answer the challenge I issed regarding the numerous warnings of the NT writings regarding false teachers and teachings. You seem to have conveniently ignored my objection.

    Warnings that false teachers would rise up in the Church do not in anyway lead to the logical conclusion that the magisterium itself (the Pope and bishops unified together in teaching) will become corrupt. Some possible false teachers that rose up from within the Church that come to my mind are the Judaizers, Arius, Nestorius, Marcion, Pelagius, and Martin Luther. None of these men were the magisterium, but they were all false teachers.

    Is it not possible that this is the type of person the scriptures warn us about?

    I’m sorry if you’ve felt a bit ignored, Ed. The truth is, those of us who’ve hung around this site for a while have had this same discussion before. Last week it was a gentleman named Henry. This week its you. So perhaps people have grown tired of it. Maybe they really are ignoring you. I don’t know. But have you perused this website very much since you’ve been posting? If not, I would suggest you check out the archives and read up on what the main contributors here at CtC have said about these issues. I specifically recommend:

    Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority

    Mathison’s Reply to Cross and Judisch: A Largely Philosophical Critique

    Some Preliminary Reflections on Mathison’s Dialectic

    Sola Scriptura: A dialogue between Michael Horton and Bryan Cross

    And finally,
    Sola Scriptura vs. The Magisterium: What did Jesus Teach

    I’ve enjoyed your contributions and I hope this doesn’t deter you from continuing, because that isn’t what I want to do. I just think it might be helpful for you to look at these and raise some of these issues you are raising in the other threads where they have already been discussed.

    Blessings to you, Ed.

  136. @Henry:

    What would be the point in a discussion with a bishop on indulgences when your church claims to be incapable of error? The only recourse Luther would have had was to keep his mouth shut because the church cannot err no matter what.

    As I am quite certain you know, the Church cannot err, but individual churchmen err – God help us! – frequently. The Pope can err and does. He cannot err when he proclaims a matter respecting faith or morals and makes it clear that all Christians are required to believe it as a matter of divine faith. That is far narrower than “what would be the point in discussion with a bishop [on any matter at all] when the church claims to be incapable of error?”

    jj

  137. @Ed Dingess:

    The anabaptists would be right to oppose Luther if they have Scriptural mandate to do so. The same applies to Servetus.

    Certainly. And who gets to decide between Luther and the Anabaptists? Between Calvin and Servetus? Servetus burned only because Calvin had the ear of the city fathers and Servetus had not.

    You must answer the challenge I issed regarding the numerous warnings of the NT writings regarding false teachers and teachings. You seem to have conveniently ignored my objection.

    Of course I have not! The Church – the Catholic Church! – is full of false teachers and teachings. It is the Church that cannot err, not Bishop This or Theologian That. Everyone knows that and I am sure you do as well.

    We do not simply observe small moral failures on the part of these “infallible” teachers, so called. We also observe voluminous dogma constructed by the councils and popes over the centuries that are without any basis whatever in Scripture.

    ‘Basis’ is in the eye of the beholder. The Church thinks that the Bodily Assumption of Mary can be seen in Revelations 12. You do not. Who decides who is right? See above regarding Luther and the Anabaptists. The question is whether God has promised to protect the Church from promulgating error under certain specific circumstances (i.e. all Christians must believe it). The Church has not promulgated anything that contradicts Scripture – though you may decide you see no basis in Scripture for some of the Church’s teachings. Additionally, the Church does not agree that every teaching must have some obvious source – chapter and verse – in Scripture. The Church believes that Christ left a Church first, not Scripture – and that the Church passes on some things that it did not put into writing explicitly – including, for example, the detailed doctrine of the Trinity – and the doctrine of the Bodily Assumption of Mary.

    jj

  138. @Ed:

    I am also interested to know how it is you can refer to Scripture in order to support your view of an infallible Magisterium. That sounds like something a Protestant could do, but not a catholic.

    “The Gates of Hell will not prevail against it” is an example.

    Speaking of epistemology, how is you know that the Magisterium is legitimate and that they are an infallible teacher

    This is what I meant when I said one had to decide on presuppositions before anything else would make sense. At some point you decided – on non-revelational grounds – that the Scripture was the Word of God and that it was inerrant. Here is what Ronald Knox in his superb Belief of Catholics says:

    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.

    These are matters that every man must decide in advance. One cannot believe that Scripture is Scripture on the word of Scripture itself, nor can one believe that the Church is authoritative on the word of the Church itself. You must start somewhere.

    jj

  139. My thanks to Brent, as well as the author of the article for responding, as well as the other thoughtful responses here. I do not wish to defend the book “A.D. 381″, or author which I recommended, I merely wished to introduce it as another interpretation of history. I do understand that the Roman church has not had a favorable view of this book or anything else which thinks other than its thoughts. Hence, the Reformation.

    In answer to Brent, the “sitting down” of Catholics and Protestants could be as it were in the days of the early church fathers when they had Councils. Gatherings of the Bishops of diverse groups for discussion and debate. It was only after many years were certain extreme views agreed to be heretical. We now seem to use that word “heretical” at every jot and tittle we disagree with our brother or sister.

    Perhaps a Council could be a web board like this one. Perhaps we could agree that wherever Christ is worshiped and glorified is an ecclesia, a church, a body of believers like ourselves. Perhaps we could stop trying to prove the other wrong by some minute point of scripture or history, or our interpretation of it, or our ownership of the church fathers, and simply listen to all the various points. Perhaps we can put our “heretical” guns back in their holsters.

    Until we can do that, I do not think either side which traces it lineage back to Christ through the church fathers and through Rome herself, can be called children of the living God. I embrace the stream of the church fathers who faithfully sought to practice the servant hood of Jesus Christ in the best way they knew how. I celebrate the fact that God chose to use Rome to spread the message all over the known world. I also embrace the reformers who called us to new ways of looking at our faith in light of an emerging modern world in the enlightenment.

    I do understand that the reformers had a chip on their collective shoulders and we protestants have inherited it. I also understand that the Roman church was not so loving and understanding of diverse views, but perhaps you get that way after always being assaulted. I do not think we can move forward by trying to prove the other as wrong. I think we need to celebrate all that is right and learn from one another.

    We have cultural differences which make us all uncomfortable. I have to admit that I do not like the big white Pope hat. I do not think Peter wore that. Seriously, it freaks me out.

  140. Reverend,

    You said, “Perhaps we could agree that wherever Christ is worshiped and glorified is an ecclesia, a church, a body of believers like ourselves. ” (#135)

    While I appreciate your friendly, humble and honest attempt at all-inclusiveness, I must point out that following Christ isn’t about what we agree upon. He didn’t leave us to ourselves to figure out His teachings all on our own. However, recognizing the love our separated brethren have for Christ, for each other, and for others is something we can and do do.

    To just accept everyone’s beliefs is to ultimately say that what Christ taught didn’t matter. Now, not even Christ, speaking nothing but Truth, could convince everyone of it. He did not chase persons down to make them believe. He let them leave. However, those who came seeking Truth, He explained it to them and did not compromise for the sake of their feelings. So, we must stand up for Truth amongst seekers of Truth (not simply allow everyone to be right). Though we must also recognize that not even Christ could convince everyone of Truth.

    Peace,
    Adrienne

  141. (Rev.) Rob. Jones,

    First, the “Roman” Church was alive and kicking 250 years before Constantine. The problems with the book you recommended are not only problems for Catholics, but for serious historians.

    I do not wish to defend the book “A.D. 381″, or author which I recommended, I merely wished to introduce it as another interpretation of history. I do understand that the Roman church has not had a favorable view of this book or anything else which thinks other than its thoughts. Hence, the Reformation.

    The last line in that paragraph undermines what you claim to be trying to do. On the one hand you don’t defend the book, but on the other hand you anachronistically take off your glove and slap the Church in the face on behalf of it.

    In answer to Brent, the “sitting down” of Catholics and Protestants could be as it were in the days of the early church fathers when they had Councils. Gatherings of the Bishops of diverse groups for discussion and debate

    Who doesn’t get invited? If I called myself a bishop, could I attend as a bishop?

    We now seem to use that word “heretical” at every jot and tittle we disagree with our brother or sister.

    Who does? What church are you a part of that does? (since you said “we”)

    Perhaps a Council could be a web board like this one.

    I’ll admit, its at this point that you lost me.

    I also embrace the reformers who called us to new ways of looking at our faith in light of an emerging modern world in the enlightenment.

    Just so I know where you are coming from, do you also “embrace the modern theological movements who call us to look at our faith in light of an emerging scientific worldview that portends the throwing off of older archaic views of faith and morality?”

    I do not think we can move forward by trying to prove the other as wrong. I think we need to celebrate all that is right and learn from one another.
    We have cultural differences which make us all uncomfortable. I have to admit that I do not like the big white Pope hat. I do not think Peter wore that. Seriously, it freaks me out.

    What about the papal tiara “freaks you out”? I’ve linked to the wikipedia article where you can explore the symbolism of the hat. In fact, wikipedia has articles on all kinds of Roman Catholic garb that might seem distasteful to your protestant sensibilities. Lastly, the fact that St. Peter did not where “x” is besides the point. He did not wear socks with his shoes. Times change, so we should seek to figure out from where the tradition sprung and what does it mean.

  142. Rev. Robert Jones,

    Thanks for your remarks, and your contributions to this thread. I hope that you will stick around.

    While Brent has already responded, I would like to share thoughts on your comment (not in order):

    Perhaps a Council could be a web board like this one. Perhaps we could agree that wherever Christ is worshiped and glorified is an ecclesia, a church, a body of believers like ourselves. Perhaps we could stop trying to prove the other wrong by some minute point of scripture or history, or our interpretation of it, or our ownership of the church fathers, and simply listen to all the various points. Perhaps we can put our “heretical” guns back in their holsters.

    While I wouldn’t call it a “council,” I do think that sites such as this can be very helpful for seeking out unity. I have learned a lot from this website about Reformed Theology, not only from the Catholic contributors like Bryan Cross who no longer are reformed, but from people like Andrew McCallum and Jason Stellman. I used to find reformed theology completely outrageous. Now, I see some beauty in it and I feel more comfortable drawing from reformed sources. I have come to believe that reformed theology isn’t so bad… it just rarely goes far enough. That isn’t to say there aren’t things within the theology I find to be false. Rather, I mean to say that as a system of thought I see some really beautiful things that aren’t opposed to Catholic theology.

    Until we can do that, I do not think either side which traces it lineage back to Christ through the church fathers and through Rome herself, can be called children of the living God. I embrace the stream of the church fathers who faithfully sought to practice the servant hood of Jesus Christ in the best way they knew how. I celebrate the fact that God chose to use Rome to spread the message all over the known world. I also embrace the reformers who called us to new ways of looking at our faith in light of an emerging modern world in the enlightenment.

    And as a Catholic I think I can appreciate the reformers as well. Their evangelical spirit really is alive today within the Catholic Church. I’m thankful, of course, for what we might call the “counter reformation” and the ceasing of unfortunate practices. I have been influenced by many evangelical ministries in my life, including summer camps, Young Life, and a ministry at my college called, “The Inn.”

    I do understand that the reformers had a chip on their collective shoulders and we protestants have inherited it.

    I think that is a good way of putting it. I, for one, get so annoyed when non Catholics view anything and everything coming out of Rome with skepticism. I wish that more protestants would be open to many Church teachings, one area being the Catholic Church’s beautiful theology of marriage and the importance of being open to life ( not using contraception).

    I also understand that the Roman church was not so loving and understanding of diverse views, but perhaps you get that way after always being assaulted. I do not think we can move forward by trying to prove the other as wrong. I think we need to celebrate all that is right and learn from one another.

    I can agree with this, but I do think that we also need to condemn all that is wrong as well.

    We have cultural differences which make us all uncomfortable. I have to admit that I do not like the big white Pope hat. I do not think Peter wore that. Seriously, it freaks me out.

    No offense, but that is kind of weird that it freaks you out. Practically, when a Catholic is at mass and they see a Mitre all they will think is, “Hey thats cool. A bishop is here.” How else would they know if he was a bishop (beyond introducing him every time he celebrates Mass). Anyway, for more on the mitre see this wikipedia article.

    In answer to Brent, the “sitting down” of Catholics and Protestants could be as it were in the days of the early church fathers when they had Councils. Gatherings of the Bishops of diverse groups for discussion and debate. It was only after many years were certain extreme views agreed to be heretical. We now seem to use that word “heretical” at every jot and tittle we disagree with our brother or sister.

    First of all, what sort of diversity are you talking about here? I really am not sure what you mean. If you are talking about the way in which they celebrated the Eucharist, then yes, these groups were diverse but guess what: They are still present in the Church today in the Eastern Rites.

    I also don’t think it was “many years” before groups were being deemed heretical. I would argue we see it at the council of Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles.

    And I do think Brent asks a very important question. Who gets to come to this council? Where do we draw the line? If I leave the priesthood, start a Church, and declare myself bishop of that Church, do I have the right to go to this “council.”

    My thanks to Brent, as well as the author of the article for responding, as well as the other thoughtful responses here. I do not wish to defend the book “A.D. 381″, or author which I recommended, I merely wished to introduce it as another interpretation of history. I do understand that the Roman church has not had a favorable view of this book or anything else which thinks other than its thoughts. Hence, the Reformation.

    Like Brent, I think this paragraph is a bit unfair. Simply because a Church is in need of reform does not mean that you have to leave the Church and start a new one, leaving the original hanging out to dry.

    I’m very happy, Reverend, that you want a more unified Christianity. I do too. What I, and so many others, have come to believe is that the type of deep unity – intimacy even – that Christ wants for his Church is impossible under Sola Scriptura because in the Sola Scriptura system, nobody submits to anything. Whereas commentors such as Ed Dingess would like to believe that he submits to the Bible Alone, the reality is that he submits to his own interpretation of the scriptures. That isn’t what Christ wanted.

    In order for Christians to have the deep intimacy with each other that Christ wants us to have, we need a visible Church to submit to. Otherwise we have the phenomenon of ecclesial consumerism where I choose a Church to go to based on what I want the Church to teach, as opposed to what the Holy Spirit wants the Church to teach.

    Blessings.

  143. Thank you for sharing your story.

  144. John Thayer Jensen:

    You have just negated all authority transcending man with one post. Authority necessarily stands OVER us. Authority is not derivative of the human decision. God existed prior to the human being. In that existence, He is eternally authoritative. If God needs us to make Him our final authority, then He is not God. Presuppositions are not the product of arbitary human reasoning. This is as much a metaphysical question as it is an epistemological one. I will comment briefly on your 6 points, coming from the Protestant Reformed view.

    1. God existence has been etched in the conscience of man at the point of his existence. Scriture teaches this emphatically and without ambiguity in Romans 1. In addition, all men, in their unregenerate condition pervert, corrupt, suppress and exchange that knowledge for a god like unto creatures and beasts. In other words, all sinners reject God in perference for a god that is not so offensive to their senses. We do not need the church or a man to know that God exists. We agree.

    2. The Revelation of God in Christ to the World is another matter altogether. This revelation was of a different sort than that revelation of God Himself. This revelation is a special revelation of God to mankind which requires additional work by the Holy Spirit in order for blind sinners to see it. This work of the Holy Spirit takes place through the preaching of the gospel, which is the written record of that revelation in Christ. Without the written record, we would not know about this revelation. In addition, without the work of the Holy Spirit opening the eyes of men, they would never recognize it. The church is absolutely neccessary if men are to know about this revelation because men come to a knowledge of it by hearing the gospel. The church is entrusted with the gospel. We disagree.

    3. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ is also included in that special revelation of Scripture, which has been entrusted to the church. Without Scripture, man would know nothing about these events. In addition, man will not truly accept these historical facts without faith being imparted by the Holy Spirit. He is blind except that God might open his eyes. The church is therefore necessary in this case as well. We disagree.

    4. The fact that our Lord founded a church is also a fact of sacred Scripture. The same argument for 2 and 3 applies here. We disagree.

    5. That the church is guaranteed not to err in teaching is a doctrine nowhere presented in Scripture. The preponderance of the NT was written so that correction in the church may be realized for, although she was the true church, she also tended toward error. That the apostles in the writing of Sacred Scripture were guaranteed to produce no error in that undertaking is recieved and embraced by all of orthodoxy. However, that the church has guarantees against any error of any kind for any period whatever, is not supported by Scripture nor is it consistent with the historical records of the church herself. Granted, that the gates of hades will not prevail against the church, we agree. And that heresy will never enter the pure church of Jesus Christ, we agree. But the medium by which such heresy is resisted, we do not agree. That heresy has invaded the visible church cannot be denied, except by those whose extreme prejudice blinds their thinking on the matter. That heresy is not permitted to invade the true church, which church is invisible from a human perspective, is undeniable. God’s will does not permit it to enter and all who embrace it are ipso facto denied a presence in the true church. This does not mean that men cannot, for a short season be persuaded of wickedness. But God, in His grace always promises that such persuasion will not stand and cannot stand under the power of His glorious light. We disagree.

    6. The consequent intellectual duty of believing what the church believes is a matter we agree on if we can agree that the church means the true church which is not necessarily the visible church. But I know you shall not grant me this position without stern resistence. To say that we must believe everything that those who call themselves the church believes is contrary to Scripture. It was Jesus Himself who said not everyone who says they are the church, are in fact the church. The church is those who DO the will of the Father after hearing His words. Surely we disagree.

    God is the head of creation. Christ is head of His church. Christ was revealed the Father to us. The Holy Spirit illumines our minds to receive this revelation. This revelation is self-authenticating. We do in fact receive the authority of Scripure based on what Scripture says about itself. That is to say, we presuppose the truth and authority of Scripture because this is precisely what Scripture teaches about itself. Otherwise, we are guilty of setting ourselves up as judge over Scripture. Such a position unavoidably lends itself to human autonomy which is precisely where the fall entered. By God’s grace, the Father elects those whom He is pleased to save. Christ stands in their place, under divine judgment so that we may be counted righteous before God, not essential righteousness, but imputed righteousness. The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to the heart, opening the eyes of the blind sinners to see God’s truth in His revelation and to submit to all that He saves by faith alone. These, God eternally secures as His own, perserving and protecting them from all heresy and pernicious evil by His own power. It is not that we are protected from sinning, but rather that we are protected from being overcome by sin, once for all falling from His light with the end state of condemnation.

  145. @Ed – regarding your #140:
    I wish I had time to respond to this in some detail – and have not – work calls :-) Your response is one very, very familiar to me. The 20+ years that I was Reformed I was very much a Van Tillian presuppositionalist – which is what I read in your response. My poor wife, in the first year of our marriage, suffered through my reading aloud at table in the evening Van Til’s great “Syllabus: Introduction to Systematic Theology” :-)

    I really don’t disagree with much of what you have said – except that I think you need to turn it on its head.

    Perhaps you can take pity on my time limitations and let me just comment briefly on the very first sentence in your comment:

    You have just negated all authority transcending man with one post.

    I don’t at all see this. I have not spoken of authority, but of epistemology – of how we know things. It is true that, as you also say:

    God existence has been etched in the conscience of man at the point of his existence.

    Or, rather, I would say that with St Paul (Romans 1:19-21):

    Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

    20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    God is known to man – and man does, indeed, suppress this knowledge.

    But I think you are confusing authority with knowledge. As St Paul says, I know God from His creation. I know Him not because of authority – that would be to know Him because the Church or the Scripture or some other authority says so. To be sure, ultimate authority is God’s. But St Paul says I know God, not because He has told me, but because I can see Him in His creation and in my conscience.

    To know by authority means you must first recognise the right of the authority in question to tell you something. But I must first understand that God is God, and that He has that right. To understand that, I must look around me, and I must look inside me.

    No doubt to be continued on Knox’s other points – but let’s look at that very first business, shall we?

    jj

  146. Thanks again for all your replies. For some reason I am feeling a need right now to think and pray through some of this stuff. I intended my comment on the Pope’s hat to be a bit tongue in cheek, but I see by some reactions that we are all a little too tense to laugh right now. I get it.

    I do not know if you all are aware, but one quarter of all Christians on the planet right now are Pentecostal. They do not seem to share our penchant for arguing Rome vs. Reformation at all. I suppose we Protestants and Catholics could agree they are all heretics and at least we have one common ground. I say that sarcastically and am testing the waters to see if any humor or laughing at ourselves is possible or are we even more tense than I now observe?

    As a Protestant I really do love the Roman church. Many of my relatives are Catholic and I have enjoyed weddings and funerals and special occasions within the Mass. I was introduced to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit through the Catholic Charismatic Movement of the 1980′s. I really think Rome has done a wonderful job handling the more mystical elements of our faith while Protestants tend to relegate mystics to the loony bin. There is much I admire about the Roman church.

    To be honest, I guess the real pain and diverseness is that she does not seem to love me back as a fellow believer unless I bow the knee and accept her authority. I also hear the arguments here clearly that if we have no authority do we end up being a relativistic group of weirdos who are not really following Christ, and where does that finally end? It is a good question.

    I do have to point out that while Protestants do seem a bit fragmented because of the sola scritpura thing being our only guide, we haven’t fallen off the face of the planet in over 500 years. So I guess Christ is being celebrated and glorified and will continue to do so until He returns outside the Roman authority. The point being we are not totally lost. Each week in the local Protestant church communion is being celebrated, His name is being worshiped, people are inspired to serve Him, and He is proclaimed.

    I do not think we can win this argument on either side by decimating our opponent, nor would that be the Christ like thing to do in His name. Too often in America today politicians tend to follow this path. If my opponent is wrong, then I must be right. I hoped we Christians could lead them out of this silliness, but it seems we are still mired in it for over 500 years. If I prove you wrong, I still could be just as wrong in my views. It is not a ‘last man standing’ kind of debate.

    I was thinking the divisiveness might be more cultural than anything else and we could develop more toleration, but I am beginning to see the real issue is authority. If Rome admits we Protestants can exist outside her authority, then what does her authority mean, and is it really authority? It seems a real conundrum. However, by stressing the authority, Rome ironically creates the break which becomes the Protestant Reformation and perpetuates the argument. hmmmmmmmm

    I personally view this as a river flowing from Christ, and the different branches or streams of Christianity are still fed by the whole. It seems from what you all are saying here is that Rome views this as everyone outside her authority is heretical or cut off’? Does she view the Eastern Orthodox Church which departed in 1050 AD in the same way as heretical? If so, then I suppose we are not going to get very far discussing anything with people who need to state that they are right, even when they are wrong they are right, they always will be right, and anything you say is wrong because I am always right. If you do not agree I am right, be definition you are wrong and cut off.

    So I have two choices, Rome is right, or Rome is right. Hence, the Reformation… a new choice.

  147. Rev. Jones,

    I appreciate your comments, I really do. As you know, words have a way of not showing body language or facial expressions (sans emoticons). And, yes, these comboxes aren’t the place we come to tell jokes regularly. So, I’m sorry I missed your jest. Though, I’m not sure a jab at someone’s ethnic garb is the best ‘first move’ when trying to put down defenses. No worries, water under the bridge.

    I’m a 5th generation Pentecostal minister. My great-great grandfather, whom I knew until he died when I was 14, built the first Assemblies of God Church in Georgia. In fact, I held credentials with the second oldest Pentecostal denomination in the world (IPHC). Thus, I notice that you sift out Protestant and Pentecostal. I take offense. I know the Reformed folks didn’t generally think of us as Protestant, but we still held onto quite a few reformed distinctives. Sure, Pentecostals don’t care much about the discussions going on here (as a stereotype), but that is just the nature of the “dominionist” churches built in the early 20th century in America. We were too busy being the “Church of God”, the “Assembly” or the “Church of Christ”, etc. We were post-Protestant in a way, but still holding onto enough Protestant theology to thoroughly effect what we believed.

    Plus, we have not even mentioned that the “25%” is dwarfed by both the number of irreconcilable differences in that group (e.g., Oneness vs. Assemblies) and that the total number of Catholics who have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit exceeds the total number of Pentecostal/charismatics in the world. Though, I think that shared experience is a work of the Holy Spirit to call the church back together again (for another time).

    I want to thoroughly acknowledge something that you bring up. Christ is working in the lives of all those who call upon his name. Amen! He worked in my life well before I was ever Catholic. In fact, the Catholic Church acknowledged this well before I ever considered Her claims of being the Church Jesus personally founded:

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

    So there you have it. The Church does “love you back”. But, and I hope you can see this, that is why your book suggestion is so pernicious. If this dialog is about family reunion, then bad history can only make for bad blood. The Catholic Church has, does and will forever claim to be the Church personally founded by Christ. Upon the fall of Jerusalem, the fourth bishop of Rome, Pope Clement wrote to the church in Corinth commanding them obedience to their bishop. So, we cannot simply dismiss your book suggestion as if our dialog is what is truly detrimental to unity and your book will provide some kind of new look at history that should get us all back together. In fact, it will and has caused quite the contrary. I challenge you to read others books, and explore the merits of those arguments in lieu of the facts of history. Modern historians are obsessed to make politics the story of everything, and to diminish the role of religion in society. Again, please give this narrative a second look.

    I have followed Christ all my life. Yes, well before I was Catholic. At no fault of my own, I was born outside of Her communion. Once I came into contact with Her claims, and at the right time, I put all my energy into exploring the veracity of those claims. Why? Because, I love Jesus! Becoming Catholic wasn’t about saying, “I’m wrong” and “Rome’s right”. Although, obviously, there is always an admission like that lurking around every conversion’s corner. As moderns, sometimes we balk at those words because we want everyone to feel good. But, being wrong is okay if it means–in the end–I find the truth.

    Dear friend, I knew that following Christ meant following him to the end. If He started a Church, I should be a part of it. Period. Case Closed. That is what this website about–exploring that claim.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  148. Dear Brent:

    I am currently in the process of getting a book published which tries to remove the barriers of cessationism, dispensationalism, and other views which have long blocked the true investigation of the charismatic and pentecostal experiences. So I like to try to remove walls and barriers. I also respect others who honestly come to a divergent view after careful thought and prayer, and that we can love one another in Christ.

    I do not think that ideas and books should be considered “pernacious” because they present a viewpoint different from our own. My reading of the New testament is that the church was widely divided up and through the writing of Revelations where the letters are addressed to the “churches”, plural. Paul also did a bit of writing addressing the argumentation of churches and leaders . I also think there is scant historical data for the ensuing centuries, and that data can obviously be interpreted in a number of ways. In reading some versions of history I find that the view of all the original fathers of Christianity sitting down under the Roman Pope for tea is also quite an “interpretation”.

    My point is that better minds than us combing through hundreds of years of history have not found a definitive proof to end this discussion and pronounce “case closed”. Instead people have found multiple sides every time they look.

    I do agree that things seem very tense here and no matter what the other side seems to say it produces more pain and argumentation. Perhaps that is the conclusion of why there are multiple streams in the river of Christianity, the church. I apologize if my words and ideas hurt any or offended.

    I had one thought this morning, and perhaps it has already been thought before. If Rome declared that the reformers were “protesters” and outside the church, thereby creating the Protesting church, does that not mean that the authority of Rome actually created Protestantism, and therefore cannot be wrong?

    Anyway, I wonder if God asked us all to sit down and find a way we can live together in our diversity without having one hierarchical governement, while the Roman church kept its own hierarchical government, and recognized other Christian forms of hierarchy, could we imagine how that might work? Right now it seems the way it works is we keep saying to each other, I am right , you are wrong, nanny nanny boo boo. Seems like a very long childish argument. Obviously Christ is present and working in diverse Protestant and Pentecostal groups. Obviously Christ is working in the Roman Catholic Church. Can we get over it?

    Perhaps not, perhaps it is like a family that every time it gets together at Christmas Uncle Joe has to bring up that 40 years ago his brother ruined his birthday party and then all the old fights start up. Ironic isn’t it that the God of love, who sent His son in love, and gave us only one command to love one another , should produce a church that cannot actually keep that one command at the sacrificial cost of authority. Be well my friends

  149. Rev. Jones,

    I do not think that ideas and books should be considered “pernacious” because they present a viewpoint different from our own.

    That is not what I said nor is anyone apposing a point of view simply because it is different. The open comboxes here at CTC attest to just the opposite. I said it was pernicious because it promotes bad history.

    I find that the view of all the original fathers of Christianity sitting down under the Roman Pope for tea is also quite an “interpretation”.

    I find that quite anachronistic and back-handed.

    My point is that better minds than us combing through hundreds of years of history have not found a definitive proof to end this discussion and pronounce “case closed”. Instead people have found multiple sides every time they look.

    But it could be said quite the opposite. That greater minds than us have found the data to be a “case closed”: they return to Rome. Yet, just because something is true doesn’t mean people have to or will believe it. If anyone is waiting for everyone to become Catholic to affirm it as the Church Jesus founded, they will be like a third century Christian waiting for Tertullian to leave his Montanist sect.

    If Rome declared that the reformers were “protesters” and outside the church, thereby creating the Protesting church, does that not mean that the authority of Rome actually created Protestantism, and therefore cannot be wrong?

    If I leave my family, and protest them, and then my father says I’m protesting, is my father the one guilty of schism? No. I recommend Bryan’s article: “Branches or Schism?“.

    I am right , you are wrong, nanny nanny boo boo. Seems like a very long childish argument.

    I think your characterization of the argument(s) makes it to appear very childish. I think what is really childish is to simply ignore division in the name of diversity so we can all just “get along”. Children play outside as if nothing is wrong at a family reunion, even when none of the adults will talk to each other. That is not a virtue, but an ignorance. Adults should work out their problems, not ignore them in the name of diversity.

    Can we get over it?

    What?

    Ironic isn’t it that the God of love, who sent His son in love, and gave us only one command to love one another , should produce a church that cannot actually keep that one command at the sacrificial cost of authority

    Through authority, we gain that unity by which the world sees our love. Is it love to run out and start a new church every time one disagrees? Is it love to not submit to the Church Jesus founded? It is not unlike a 1st century Jew who claims to love Christ, but rejects his apostles because they are a rag-tag bunch who “claim authority”. Look even at what the Catholic Church faces today? Because of Christian division, the world seeks to stop Her mission to help the sick and feed the poor simply because she is the only church who has not slacked in her moral teachings (contraception). So, yes. One need not sacrifice truth to love. Love is completely compatible with truth. However, pride is not compatible with love. So, on the one hand you envision that it is the CC’s stance that keeps us from love, but on the other we posit that it is the unwillingness of those outside her fold to submit to her God-granted authority–out of pride–who make love less than realized.

    Peace to your on your journey,

    Brent

  150. Rev. Robert Jones,

    Given your latest comment, it seems to me that you are saying ‘because many people disagree about the nature of the Church and her history then we must remain agnostic about her nature and her history.’ Is this your position? If so, could this not be said about the claims of Christ? Should we remain skeptical about the claims of Christ because many experts doubt that He claimed to be Divine? Given this criteria we would have to say no case could ever be closed. We would all despair of the intellect’s ability to grasp reality–the spirit of the post-modern world.

    Nick Trosclair

  151. Reverend Robert Jones,

    In addition to the article Brent recommends, I recommend this one: St. Optatus on Schism and the Bishop of Rome.

  152. Dear Brent:

    Great Grandad must be rolling over in his Pentecostal grave. ;-)

    Dear Trosclair:
    I cannot see how you ramped a simple point about disagreeing all the way up to “agnostic”. The reformers obviously were trying to reform the Roman church. The Roman church eventually did reform many of their requests. It just took a few hundred years. So perhaps it would be accurate to view these two branches of the river of God as being the fast lane and the slow lane.

    Dear everyone else:
    It seems that everyone on both sides of this issue keep trying to put the Reformed and Roman streams of Christianity into the right lane and the wrong lane. Depending on which lane you are in the other guy is in the wrong lane and Christ is not leading them. According to Roman Catholics if you do not have the authority of Rome then Christ is not leading you, and according to Protestant catholics (we do affirm the catholicicity of the church in the Apostle’s creed) if you are following the authority of Rome then Christ is not leading you.

    I just happen to have a much more optimistic view that quite unbeknown to both sides, Christ is really leading us both in different ways. I know many Roman Catholics who agree with this, and I know many Protestant catholics who do as well. One day we will outgrow the need to have one as right and one as wrong. Some say we are in a new reformation, in which this view is now emerging as the fast lane, while the rest are stuck in this right/wrong controversy of now going on six hundred years. Good luck with that.

  153. Reverend –

    It seems that everyone on both sides of this issue keep trying to put the Reformed and Roman streams of Christianity into the right lane and the wrong lane. Depending on which lane you are in the other guy is in the wrong lane and Christ is not leading them. According to Roman Catholics if you do not have the authority of Rome then Christ is not leading you, and according to Protestant catholics (we do affirm the catholicicity of the church in the Apostle’s creed) if you are following the authority of Rome then Christ is not leading you.

    I don’t think that is fair, Reverend. Contrary to what you claim, nobody here has said that Christ is not leading non-Catholics. In fact, Brent gave you evidence of the exact opposite (#143).

    Rather, what people are arguing here (at least, what I’m arguing here) is that Sola Scriptura as a principle is unable to maintain the deep unity – the deep intimacy – that Christ wills for his Church to posses.

  154. Dear Rev. Jones,

    Who would deny the attractiveness of your view? Certainly it’s appealing, particularly in an environment that prizes tolerance and pluralism above all other virtues.

    On the other hand, surely you can recognize the potential for a new mode of arrogance in this same ostensibly benign and kindly view. This new arrogance is the one that claims to stand “above” the senseless fray of struggling for “truth” over the last several centuries — sometimes more and sometimes less civilly pursued — and shakes its head in patronizing bemusement. Can’t they see that both “streams” are part of the great river? Sure, you could be right; but that means, as you admit, that you yourself are in the “fast lane,” you yourself are the enlightened party capable of taking in and comprehending the whole “great river,” and so you are the one competent to pronounce on the relative merits and demerits of those streams that so foolishly take themselves and their respective truth-claims so seriously. In other words, you are saying to the Reformed: you’re fine, just so long as you don’t really believe the pricklier points of your Confessions. And you’re saying to the Catholics: you’re fine, just so long as you don’t really believe the teachings of the Magisterium. I am sure you hold this view with the best of intentions, but I hope you’re willing to pause and consider how objectively offensive it seems to us poor souls in one of the two streams, however subjectively innocently it is held.

    Finally, you seem to insist on imputing a coarse, ham-fisted, binary viewpoint to Catholics with regard to non-Catholic Christians, such that for Catholics either you’re a Catholic and being led by Christ or you’re a non-Catholic and simply not being led by Christ. I am confident that no Catholic on this thread would hold to such an oversimplified view, for the simple reason that I am confident that they all believe the teachings of the Magisterium. I wonder if you’d be willing to undertake any more serious study of the fine magisterial documents of the last half-century that deal with the relationship of Catholics to their separated brethren.

    Yours, I repeat, is an extremely attractive view. I held it quite passionately for some time. In the end, though, I simply couldn’t reconcile to what I found in history and, above all, in the Bible itself.

    All the best,
    John

  155. Quick clarification on my previous comment: I don’t believe that Christ is leading any Non-Catholic away from the Church. I do, however, that he is leading them towards the Church, which is his own body. For example, many protestants, out of a desire to follow Christ, are being led to rethink contraception and reject it as being truly marital – a truly loving act. From my perspective, this is Christ leading a non-Catholic into deeper truth.

  156. Dear Fr. Bryan

    I just read the article you proposed. Thank you. I am a fast reader.
    I am having a few problems. It sounds as if all this stuff is going on in Rome, but it was the understanding of every major historian that I have ever encountered that Christianity was a persecuted religion and not accepted by the Roman authorities until 313 AD under Constantine’s edict, and even then it was slow to be implemented. It seems these accounts seem out of order.

    It also seems a bit odd to be basing an entire Christian view point for all time on a few authors who were obviously still forming their own views. Obviously in the account there were dissenting voices in Christendom. Obviously about this time there emerged the notion of declaring those who had differing viewpoints as heretical and inventing all kinds of reasons for rejecting fellow brothers and sisters over ecclesiastical power and prestige. The whole account sounds deplorable and I think would be quite unrecognizable to either Christ or Peter.

    It sounds in this account that a few silly politicians were arguing over their territorial imperatives, obviously deeply influenced by the Roman world view and not Christ. The Greeks, not that influenced by the Roman world view also developed a much different approach which caused their eventual schism in 1050.

    I think all this article proves is that here have been dissenting views in Christendom from the beginning. as attested to in the Bible all the way up to 100AD. The idea that people referred to the bishop of Rome as “pope”, it is a well known historical fact that many bishops were referred to as “popa”, which also meant Father. It was not the same meaning as the Roman church has today of Pope with all his powers. So the Bishop of Rome might have been “popa’, but in certain writings so were the bishops of other provinces.

    The fact that there was respect for the popa of Rome as having been the one in Peter’s place may be true for some authors, but you do not see it in others which is the problem. It seems the idea of a Roman hierarchical system was slowly emerging, and these ways of handling differences by claiming some strong authority and then calling the dissenters heretics seems more a cheap political trick than the will of Christ.

    I do not wish to renounce this emerging view, as I have mentioned previously God used it to carry the gospel into the all the world. But just as he used Israel at one point and then lowered her status, it is not outside the will of God to chasten those whom He wills. In one season those against Rome could have been dissenters, in another season they could have been prophets. Its kind of hard to say you are always right because God once declared you right. That there is a dangerous position to be in.

  157. Rev. Jones,

    No, I hope he is rejoicing with the Mother of Our Lord in the presence of Christ! in pace requiescat. In fact, his grandson (my grandfather) is actually now reading books about Catholicism–because of my conversion. He is doing this about 50 miles from where the original church was built. For you, I recommend “Sober Intoxication of the Spirit” by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.

    One day we will outgrow the need to have one as right and one as wrong.

    Isaiah warned us that day would come. (5:20) Nonetheless, I agree and I see it coming. Lastly, I do recommend for you to read the articles on this site. Don’t make this combox your one-stop, sound-off board. We are seeking Christian unity through reconciling our important differences. The differences in Christianity are not mere window-dressing. We agree there is much good we can do together, but setting aside important doctrinal disagreements would only be a temporary cause of togetherness, not a path to real unity. So, please consider the articles on this site as an invitation to dialog–not dismiss–another Christian perspective.

    Peace in Christ,

    Brent

  158. Mr. Jones,

    For all of the hemming and hawing you’re doing about people getting over the “need” to be right and the “need” to show that others are wrong, your posts here boil down to the repeated pontification (I use that word purposefully) that you are right and everyone else is wrong. You, as so many other Protestants, have set yourself up as your own Pope, and now you would have us recognize you and your home-grown theology as authoritative. I find your position to be very ironic, and also a bit frightening (since we’re talking about what scares) insofar as some of the statements you’ve put forth, even down to the very words, are the kinds of arguments I regularly see non-Christians use against the notion that any one religion is “true” over and against the others.

  159. Rev. Jones,

    Just a couple notes about the prestige of the Roman Church in early times…. I would encourage you to go to the sources, the Church fathers, and what they said about them. Yes the early Church was persecuted; much of it happened in Rome and northern Africa. Many or all of the first couple dozen Catholic popes were also martyrs for the faith. (Some of the accounts may be legendary but we have no way of knowing at this point.)

    Reading popular level early Church history usually does more harm than good. (e.g. Bruce Shelly or George Barna or some other ideologist who barely has the slightest glimmer of academic credentials to write such a book.) You should either go directly to the sources themselves or read some books by accomplished and ecumenically respected scholars if you want to get a better picture of early Christianity. A few examples that would help: JND Kelley (Anglican); Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran), Johannes Quasten (Catholic), and some others in our recommended reading. You may also want to read the great Anglican liturgist Gregory Dix for a fantastic study on the development of the liturgy. The early liturgy is nothing like what Protestants celebrate, and very much like what Catholics, Anglicans, and Orthodox continue to celebrate.

    Earlier you claimed that Roman influence turned the Church Romish or something in the 4th century or later? based on that book you recommended. This is a great advertisement not to spend my time reading the book because even basic history informs us that Rome was on a sharp decline politically and economically at that time. In the early 4th century, the Roman capital was moved to Constantinople which makes that theory all the more silly. Besides, there is plenty of ante-Nicene evidence for a Roman primacy. The Orthodox also acknowledge that; don’t get too carried away with the idea that they have developed a ‘very different way of doing things that led to a schism’ – which is partially true – but mostly just an idea and not based on the reality of the situation. There are orthodox in communion with Rome, and there are many others who desire, as do we, the reunion of East & West.

  160. hmmmmm. It seems when you see the world through an authoritarian perspective, than anyone else who makes a good point is “pontificating” and anyone else who makes a bad point is being petulant. Seems like a hopeless situation..

    I do like to take what I call a ‘train platform view’ of things I am engrossed in. Like the train platforms of my youth, things look much smaller and manageable when viewed from afar. Alas, one person here declared me trying to be ‘more enlightened’ because of this simple thoughtful way of looking at the world.

    If Christ is my king, and I am but his lowly servant, wicked and undeserving of his love and great mercy, then he alone is my Magesterium. I like to be with him sometimes and try to see things from his perspective, looking down. I suppose from an authoritarian perspective I am then “looking down” on people and things, which is a bad thing. I suppose from a communal perspective such a view seems distant and aloof and I have elevated myself to way too high of a status, which is a bad thing. However, from Christ’s perspective it is very freeing and he invites us all to try it.

    Now I know to those in authoritarian perspectives that invitation seems akin to anarchy, and I am some rebel out of his mind. I know to those in the communal perspective i must seem arrogant as hell thinking I can actually see things from Christ’s viewpoint and thinking myself better than everyone else. One fellow actually said he has caught this view a few times, and even liked it, but then declared it immature and imaginative.

    There is a river which flows from the throne of God. Those who love and serve Him are part of that river, His love and mercy. If you fly above it you can see it with Him. If you swim in it you can feel its power and love coursing all around you. Whatever your boat or construct with which you navigate this river, Reformed or Roman,He is everything. I think I hear Him calling us onward.

    Christ is my popa, the Holy Spirit my authority, God my king. Mary has even grated me a few mercies in my time (shhhhhh don’t tell my Protestant friends). This whole kingdom thing is so much bigger. I m only a flea who has caught a glimpse, but I no longer believe in “hammering out our differences”. I believe in transcending them. I have not done that, just beginning. But I believe His church, all streams are being invited in this season.

    You do not have to quit your stream. You do not have to convert. I know its hard to imagine, but to the fellow who caught a glimpse, take another look. It is breathtaking.

  161. Dear Tim A. Troutman:

    Because one reads the writings of the early church fathers, or belongs to the same country club they once golfed at does not mean that every word that proceeds out their mouth is the word of God. I have often found when people start throwing around names and degrees and bibliographies they do not have the faintest idea of what the sources actually say, which also holds true for sola scriptura, and I do agree with all of you on that point.

    The simple point here is that as you read the many writings, not just the “approved” ones, you realize that the church was and is a work in progress, deeply divided and only united at times in the love of Christ. The very quotes many of you have made here actually bear that out. Using sola scriptura to prove your point, or using the historical chair of Peter to prove your point really indicates a weak argument.

    The point I made that the Roman world imperialistic view is still affecting both Reformed and Roman catholics is a well documented historical fact. To argue that point is beyond silly and places the ability to hold an academic discussion beyond reach.

    The difference between Reformed and Roman views is that the reformed view does not see the fathers as authoritative, and in reading them sees them often just as confused as we are today. They are historically interesting in showing us how modern views emerged, but they themselves were a work in progress as Augustine’s early and later writings show us. In his early work he thought there was cessation of miracles and by the time of the “City of God” he recounts 70 miracles which occurred in and around his churches.

    I do not wish to take away your view as seeing some of the fathers as authoritative and foundational to your view of Christendom. I like it. I just don’t follow it. Can you understand and acknowledge that, or do you have to keep hammering it out? I do not agree because I am either ignorant or stupid. I just do not agree. Is that OK?

  162. @Rev. Robert Jones:

    I have watched your comments and the replies with some interest – but must say that it has frequently seemed to me that you have a tendency to discount any seriousness in the reasons for separation – as though the real reasons were emotional, social, or psychological. You seem often to express yourself in ways that trivialise any possible arguments, as in your latest:

    Because one reads the writings of the early church fathers, or belongs to the same country club they once golfed at does not mean that every word that proceeds out their mouth is the word of God.

    I’m not sure if you would simply discount this comment of mine as ‘tense’ – but I may say that, for me, my becoming a Catholic, from a fairly well-considered Reformed position, seemed a matter of (eternal) life or death. John Henry Newman said that he became a Catholic because – and he thought this the only adequate reason for becoming a Catholic – he thought he could not be saved by any other means. He thought this, not because he thought there was no possibility of a non-Catholic, who was such in good faith, being saved, but because he would be disobeying God by not becoming a Catholic.

    Your proposal for what Ronald Knox’s hilarious satire called Reunion All Round, OR JAEL’S HAMMER LAID ASIDE, AND THE MILK
    OF HUMAN KINDNESS BEATEN UP INTO BUTTER
    AND SERVED IN A LORDLY DISH
    seems to me to amount to saying that if everyone would just stop believing what they believe, we could all get along most happily.

    The difficulty for me is that I cannot give up what I believe for the sake of some sort of false unity – and I know many Reformed friends who would say exactly the same – including, no doubt, Ed Dingness who has commented frequently in this post.

    jj

  163. Rev. Jones,

    Your reply amounts to saying “I disagree.” (Which everyone already knew.) And at the end you ask, is that ok. Sure it’s ok. You can believe whatever you want. But if you’re serious about dialogue, let’s do it. If you want to put your ‘most people who say names and stuff are ignorant’ theory to the test, then by all means, why don’t you share what makes you think I would fit into that category. For example, did I say anything wrong in my comment? If so, what was it and why was it wrong? Let’s just start on one thing – no blanket statements, show me a factual error or poor reasoning.

  164. Rev. Jones,

    Like I said, I’m a former Pentecostal who swam in the waters and knows what it feels like to think he can ride above the wave of debate. So, you said:

    The point I made that the Roman world imperialistic view is still affecting both Reformed and Roman catholics is a well documented historical fact. To argue that point is beyond silly and places the ability to hold an academic discussion beyond reach.

    = I’m taking my ball and going home.

    Well, I’m not playing either. I’m confused, though. On the one hand, you think we should tolerate each other. On the other hand, unless we subscribe to your authoritative view of history, we are “beyond silly” and “beyond reach” of an academic discussion. Well, that certainly is a statement which puts an academic argument “beyond reach”. Give us a reason, and then we can discuss; don’t just dismiss us as petulant.

    Ahh, but I see what is lurking here…

    …RELATIVISM!

    It admits all possible truth claims except the truth claim that discredits it. It envisions itself as a large river, but is so shallow that it can provide no relief. That is its hubris, and ultimately why it must become totalitarian (I’m taking my ball and going home!–and you won’t get to play either!). It is the least tolerant because in the end it is only tolerant of what is tolerant of itself. Its width gives the allusion that it can encompass all truths, but its lack of depth causes it to be immediately overcome by anything with substance. You cannot, with a slight of hand, dismiss arguments simply because you “disagree”. Of course, you can but that would be the pure act of the will. One can drive their car off a cliff if they want. So, it proves little that you “don’t follow” Tim’s way but “like it”. I find that odd, but incredibly normal in the post-modern world.

    “What’s good for you may not be good for me. Ta-ta, now.”

    Anyways, I wish you the best in your river–though I pray you don’t try to swim.

  165. Dear Rev. Jones,

    Thank you for your candor in #156. It does a great deal to illuminate your perspective. I am sorry to have elicited an “alas” from you.

    I’m curious about three things (well, actually more, but only three that I’m going to ask you about). There’s an interesting dialectic in your descriptions of your way of looking at the Christian mystery and its historical manifestations in and/or as the church. On the one hand, you say you seek and are perhaps sometimes granted a Christ’s-eye point of view that allows you to take it all in, so to speak. At others, you confess to being a mere flea who has only caught a glimpse. Now, I don’t for a moment deny that a synthesis of these antitheses is possible. I even fancy that I may have a bit of a grasp of it. So coherence is not the primary issue. But my question is this: on this account of your point of view, what puts the cap on what we might call the squishiness of the status of your own theological claims? What I mean is, the simultaneous presence of these two antitheses (the floating contemplation of the river and the flea) seems to allow you, in consecutive breaths, first to promulgate your heavenly visions as the unimpeachable fruit of a privileged perspective, and then, if challenged, to retreat to flea-like humility.

    Second, and related to this, where are the banks of the river you envisage? On what principles are they drawn? In other words, how do you know who’s “inside” and who’s “outside” its bounds? I think you’ve mentioned before that loving and glorifying Jesus are two key criteria (I would agree, by the way). Are there others? Are Mormons “in”, for example? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Were Arians? Gnostics? You get the idea. And following on this, from where are these principles derived?

    Third, I’m genuinely confused as to how I could possibly both embrace your vision and remain a faithful Catholic, for that would involve simultaneously affirming contradictory propositions.

    Lastly, as a point of information: you say in #152, “The Greeks, not that influenced by the Roman world view also developed a much different approach which caused their eventual schism in 1050.” Historically speaking, this is patently false: the Greeks were precisely the heirs of the empire and of the Roman worldview. “Byzantine” is our word. The Greeks at Constantinople called themselves the “Roman Empire.” The title “Ecumenical” for the Patriarch of Constantinople is an imperial word: the oikoumene is the Roman world. If you’re looking for the seat of caesaropapism, you need to look at the Bosporus, not Italy. The Roman papacy, on the other hand (and, by the way, the word is papa, not popa, which means, ironically, “junior priest” or “temple servant” in Latin), has had to spend much of the last 1500 years attempting to free itself from the kind of secular influence that had made the patriarchate of Constantinople one of the most dangerous jobs of the early middle ages.

    best,
    John

  166. Lastly, as a point of information: you say in #152, “The Greeks, not that influenced by the Roman world view also developed a much different approach which caused their eventual schism in 1050.” Historically speaking, this is patently false: the Greeks were precisely the heirs of the empire and of the Roman worldview. “Byzantine” is our word. The Greeks at Constantinople called themselves the “Roman Empire.” The title “Ecumenical” for the Patriarch of Constantinople is an imperial word: the oikoumene is the Roman world. If you’re looking for the seat of caesaropapism, you need to look at the Bosporus, not Italy.

    Very well said. Mr. Jones’ original post (#107) in which he theorizes that Roman political-economic prominence is responsible for the development of the Roman papacy betrays a misunderstanding of the basic contours of later Roman history, as you’ve pointed out here.

    The Roman Empire was divided into two halves in the late 3rd century by Diocletian, with one emperor in the east and another in the west. The capital was then moved to Milan, and again at the beginning of the 5th century to Ravenna. During this period of time the significance of Rome and the western Empire more generally was in a state of prolonged decline, whereas the importance of the eastern empire, especially from the time of Constantine and the founding of Constantinople, increased. The last western emperor was deposed in 476, and the western Roman empire dissolved. Rome was at that time under the rule of foreign invaders.

    What we have then, is an increasing availability of evidence in the 4th century generally, and the evidence that emerges supports the notion of Roman primacy all during a time when the significance of Rome was in serious decline. That isn’t to say Rome didn’t maintain its culture significance, but that is not the same thing as the political and economic leverage needed to “force one’s way” into the matter as argument in 107 made it sound. The evidence is the exact opposite of what Mr. Jones needs to prove his point and, as John pointed out, this site would be defending the Constantinopolitan Catholic Church if the “political power grab” theory were so sound.

  167. Mr. Stewart,

    I must admit to being a bit saddened to hear of your joining the RCC. My first thought was: “Oh my, he’s gone ahead and drunk the Kool-aid, just like I did.” You see, I also became infatuated with Rome when I was received into the RCC ten years ago, having previously been a Protestant Christian. I also had been reading the ECFs, noting how “catholic” they sounded, so I swam the Tiber. There were, of course, things I didn’t like. I never did like Sunday mass in the RCC—too much Marty Haugen/OCP folk music for my taste, and it was not at all like the mass you hear on EWTN. What held me was the opportunity in the RCC to go to daily weekday mass. I naively overlooked all the troubling things I was discovering about the RCC (for example, the unusually high percentage of gay priests, the adulation of JPII in spite of his idolatry at Assisi, doctrinal issues, annulments, etc.) because I was able to have a daily devotional life in church. But I finally came to my senses when I happened to move to another state to take a new job. I discovered, to my chagrin, that the parishes in my newly adopted city did not allow the laity to share in the Eucharistic cup at weekday masses! I couldn’t believe it. This was clearly against Scripture and tradition. When I asked the priest why, he just looked at me, puzzled as to why it would be so important for me to share in the Precious Blood. That was the final straw. I concluded that I could no longer remain in the Roman communion. It was simply egregious and intolerable not to be allowed to drink from the cup, and to sugarcoat the practice by asserting “concomitance.” Indeed, I discovered later that almost all Roman Catholics in the world never get to drink from the cup. This, and the fact that I also had a bad experience when trying to sign up for Catholic Biblical School, caused me to reevaluate and then to leave the RCC. (At the screening interview required before signing up for Catholic Biblical School, I was told I would not be welcome if I held “literal” interpretations of certain Scripture passages, such as the story of Adam and Eve and Jonah and the Whale. I was told (wink, wink, nod, nod) that the Catholic Church “knew better.”) Anyway, that’s my experience. I hope you’re happy in the RCC. The infatuation will wear off, though. I decided that, for me, being a conservative Anglican was a far better (and more catholic) option. At least I could be confident I wouldn’t be denied the cup at the Eucharist.

  168. I appreciate the corrections on some of my historical views. When I go back and reexamine things I find I can also see many of your points, which makes the whole thing even more confusing, not clearer as some maintain would happen if I just looked at history.

    Perhaps I have disturbed the Pax Romano here by trying to think through some personal issues, and maybe they do not belong on a board such as this. I had erroneously believed that some of you who having lived in both streams of Christendom might share some emerging views of mine that there are strengths and weaknesses in both streams and maybe it is time to embrace that truth.

    In reading other threads it becomes apparent that many of you having found that the absolutes of orthodox protestantism were not so absolute, went looking for more certain absolutes, and seem to have found them in Roman Catholicism. I do not wish to comment on more threads here and end up making more of a mess.

    I also now realize that the very position of this board seems very different than discussions I have had with long standing Roman Catholics and even some priests who are now thinking outside the box. You guys actually came here looking for and desirous of the box. Red faced it seems I have been peeing in your bunch bowl letting out my streams of consciousness. I deeply apologize. This is the wrong time and the wrong place for my musings.

    I hesitantly raise one final point. It is a well known and documented part of both psychological and spiritual development that individuals come to a moment of crisis where their absolutes of faith no longer seem to hold true. Left with a choice between agnosticism or denying their own questions they enter a faith crisis. If God is not my way of understanding him, then does he exist at all?

    There are three roads which emerge from that crisis. One is to become agnostic or atheist. One is to seek stronger fundamentals and shore up the boundaries of faith. The third is to wrestle with God and discover Him both within our feeble expressions and outside them.

    It seems I have begun the third path and most of you here have begun the second one and we are simply talking at each other rather than communing. Perhaps that insight can help you deal with other weary travelers who may stop by this inn late one night for a pint of beer.

    I am truly pleased to have met you all. I do not mean the previous comments to imply that my path or anyone’s path is the better one. We all must walk our path. May God be with you.

  169. Daniel,

    Thank you for commenting. You wrote –

    I also became infatuated with Rome…The infatuation will wear off, though.

    True. Infatuations always do.

    Blessings,

    – Jason

  170. Rev. Jones – sorry for the pile up. I hesitated to comment to avoid such a situation. Listen, no one here is saying there aren’t good things in Protestantism. We all believe that there are and that, as the Church teaches, the Holy Spirit is also at work in Protestant faith communities.

  171. Daniel,

    With all due respect, it sounds more like you were infatuated, and later disappointed, with the Church of your own machinations rather than the Catholic Church. None of the things that “turned you off” have anything to do with doctrine or dogma. Trust me, when I was peering into the Catholic Church (far from actually accepting the Churchs teachings) I was troubled by much of what you are speaking of (gay priests, some of the things that JP II did, etc.). But, I realized instantly that those things were superficial because if I were to judge my own Protestant hodge-podge religion by the same standards, I wouldn’t be able to stay there either. What that did was make me delve into the actual teaching of the Church and try to understand if, the reason those other apparently bad things existed, were because of the doctrines and dogmas of the Church or if they were just Catholics behaving badly or making mistakes, which happens if you’re human.

    On the topic of not being able to drink of the consecrated wine. A Catholic understands that Christ is fully present in both the consecrated Bread and the Wine. So, a Catholic believes that receiving one species is the same as receiving them both. Therefore, it is not “necessary” for a lay person to drink the Wine if they’ve already received Christ in the consecrated Bread. So, I really don’t understand your complaint about that unless you simply did not believe that Christ was present in the Eucharist… the core Catholic belief. And, if you didn’t believe that, well… then my presumption that your infatuation was never with the Catholic Church at all must be true.

  172. Hi Joseph,

    I know I’ll never convince devout Catholics otherwise, but I guess this is just another instance of sola scriptura–that the Scriptures are the highest authority in matters of church doctrine and practice. See, in this instance of not being offered the consecrated wine, a person has to choose between obeying what the pope and bishops teach (i.e., that it’s not necessary for lay people to drink the consecrated wine) or what Jesus commands: “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.” I think I’ll be on firmer ground on Judgment Day having chosen Jesus’ command over the teachings of church authorities.

    Daniel

  173. Daniel,

    If I could offer a clarifying correction: “having chosen your interpretation of Jesus’ command over the teachings of church authorities.” I suppose you’ll be unlikely to agree with me, but I hope you’ll also recognize the import of this. Certainly, I don’t understand myself to be in a position of choosing between the teachings of Our Blessed Lord and the disciplines of His Bride. (To be precise, it is, of course, a discipline, not a doctrine.)

    I have prayed for you. May Jesus draw us all closer to His Heart.

    blessings,
    John

  174. Daniel,

    I am so sorry and sad that you have left the Church! I cannot begin to fathom how someone who has tasted the goodness of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist could ever leave it and instead partake of a mere shadow of the reality.

    Many of our Protestant friends say that this is just a phase and once we see what this religion is all about we will hopefully come to our senses. You call it infatuation, I call it finally finding my truly Beloved and He finding me. And, He can indeed be found and that is in the Holy Eucharist EVERY time I attend mass! He desires to be with His people and give them the graces to fulfill His will, why would one ever leave that and why would you desire them too? You, like many others, are questioning a convert’s commitment and presuming a fickleness of heart. Please Lord, may it not be so!

    I have prayed for you, as well.

  175. John,

    Thank you for your prayers. There is much commendable in the Catholic Church. I especially enjoy reading about St. John Vianney (are you named after him, perchance?) and his mystical experiences. These same sort of mystical experiences have been experienced by Anglicans (and other Protestants) as well. I suppose I could counter with a gentle rejoinder, asking, “How do you know that your interpretation of what the popes and bishops have written is correct?” I mean, if I’m not supposed to trust my interpretation of some simple words of Jesus (in Koine Greek class in seminary, John’s epistle was the simplest NT book in terms of vocabulary), how can you trust your interpretation of the words of the magisterium? And of course, we could go round and round on this to infinity. To me, it’s simply a matter that Jesus commands that we “drink.” And doesn’t both Sacred Tradition and the Scriptures back that up? (I mean, if St. Cyprian was upset that some were using water instead of wine in the eucharistic cup, imagine what he would have said if the cup wasn’t shared at all?) The Master commands, his disciples obey. (BTW, if the pope and bishops made a decision in the future that water was to be used instead of wine in the eucharistic cup, would you go along with it? At what point would it become impossible for you to obey the magisterium?) At any rate, I’m hoping Jesus at least offers me as well as Catholic laypersons the cup of the fruit of the vine at the heavenly banquet. You don’t think he will only offer the cup in heaven to those who were priests on earth, do you?

  176. John,

    A correction (see, I’m not infallible!): John’s epistle doesn’t contain the institution of the Eucharist narrative–just the synoptics and 1 Corinthians. I still think the words in Matthew, Mark, and Luke are pretty straightforward.

    Cindy,)

    Thanks so much for your prayers. Perhaps I am wrong about the Catholic Church, but I have just as much (or more) blessing in the Anglican church, even though I know you believe I’m not truly receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood. How could Jesus not give Himself “where two or three are gathered in his name”? In fact, the last Anglican priest I spoke with about the Eucharist believed in Transubstantiation (I don’t: I believe more along the lines of St. Irenaeus–that in the Eucharist there are two realities, an earthly and a heavenly, and that the things of this creation–bread and wine–are offered to the Father, and in a “sweet exchange” He gives us the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist (which of course is still composed of bread and wine).

    Daniel

  177. Daniel,

    May the Holy Spirit lead you in truth. You are in my prayers. I think it is important to acknowledge in this forum that cases like your are not at all rare. I’ve seen them in person. Regrettably, I’ve helped guide people through RCIA that have followed your path. So far not anyone that I have sponsored, but even that is probably only a matter of time. I seem to recall hearing some national statistics that were not terribly solid, but I think it is around 1/3 of RCIA receptions into the Church lapse within 2 years. That fits roughly with my observations. However, of those we need to sort out the types because they lapse at different rates. Many in the RCIA are long time non-catholic spouses. They tend not to lapse as they have prolonged their conversion to begin with. I could expand the taxonomy but I don’t think that is necessary. Two things are clear to me. First is that for converts from various protestant denominations the rate of lapsing is possibly 50% or higher. The second is that we have some kind of a disconnect in the process of consideration for many candidates. That must be at least partly a problem with how most parishes conduct RCIA and is an open question in terms of the candidates that come to us.

    I personally have seen several problems. I have known a few converts, and am thinking of one in particular, who were presented with an overly idealistic and “rose colored glasses” understanding of what it means to be “Catholic.” I wouldn’t say anything was false, or wrong, just that they were given the very lofty ideal of a Christian Community and perhaps experienced something like that in an exceptional parish. However, when due to circumstances they moved beyond that environment they were jarred by the reality of the messy Church humanity.

    I have also watched people for whom process does really seem to be best described as one of infatuation. They were in love with some aspect of Catholicism. In one case I recall vividly trying to discuss some weighty matters and challenge an RCIA candidate on the disconnect between some of their opinions/beliefs and actions and what the Catholic Church actually teaches. Very similar to people who are infatuated with an unhealthy relationship, such people seem to not be able to listen.

    Unfortunately the most common problem I have seen is just plain poor and out right wrong (BAD) teaching in RCIA. In these cases, the individuals running RCIA have their own personal understanding of the Church which is anachronistic and they don’t present the truth of the Church in full, sometimes outright distorting what the Church teaches to fit their paradigm. Mostly it isn’t that malicious. The more subtle form is to not really think it’s that important to get very intellectual or deep about the faith. In truth it isn’t necessary to know the faith in depth or to be too formally theological about every issue. However, when it leaves candidates for RCIA without sufficient comfort that they understand why the Church teaches as she teaches or in particular that the Church indeed does teach and that “personal interpretation of Scripture does not Trump Church” then we are going to have converts who face a crisis of the faith.

    Finally, I would point out something one of the converts here mentioned about a year ago. There is a let down once you actually BECOME Catholic. You are no longer new and special, you are just another person in the Pews. You are no longer getting to know the Church, you are IN the Church. It isn’t too dissimilar to marriages (without cohabitation) the fun part is over and now the work begins.

    God Bless

  178. Rev. Robert Jones,

    Thank you for your interaction here. I hope that you return to dialogue here. Perhaps you will reconsider after some reflection. In any case, I am praying for you. I followed the discussion but did not participate since I am not the intellectual equal to several contributors (or a fast and accurate typist) and saw no need to pile on.

    I have just one observation that I hope can be seen as a general lesson and not a personal criticism. In person we pick up clues about a person and consider our approach. Sometimes we get it wrong when they guy that looks like a plumber turns out to be a Ph.D. Physicist, but most often that serves us well. On the internet we lack those observations that help us even before a conversation begins, have some idea what we might be getting in to.

    I think the frustration some people experience coming to CtoC for the first time is a result of jumping in a bit quickly and being surprised by what they find. Rev. Jones, I think you expressed that frustration in your last comment. My experience is that many Protestants have very little experience (for tragically valid reasons) with Catholic who know, love, and defend their faith and defend it well. So this is often like spouting off on something about the fluid dynamics of toilets in the plumbing isle of Home Depot and it turns out the guy you are spouting off to models fluid flow for NASA.

    Rev. Jones, I have to lay it out. You jumped in with a lot of fire in your comments. You may have found Catholics in the past who didn’t challenge you on that 0r even agreed with you (at least tactically). It wouldn’t take much of a perusal of the CtoC site to learn that a more focused and careful approach would be necessary here.

    God Bless you

  179. Daniel (# 171),

    I know I’ll never convince devout Catholics otherwise…

    Why not use your interactions here as an aid to personal reflection on your own admittedly mercurial relationship with the Catholic Church? This could be an opportunity to revisit not merely what you perceive you don’t like about the teachings of Catholicism, but, perhaps more importantly, an occasion for an open-hearted evaluation of the nature of your first approach to the Catholic Church.

    We here at CTC are happy to be a sounding board for you, Daniel.

    Blessings,

    – Jason

  180. Daniel,

    Thanks for your response. I was not named, to my knowledge, after any canonized saint. I do love St John Vianney, though. The tu quoque objection has been discussed on this site in multiple threads. See here, here, and here. If the Church were, per impossibile, to attempt to change an irreformable dogma, I would be literally unable to obey a Magisterium at odds with itself.

    As for utraquism, being no great expert on the matter, I’m not particularly interested in pursuing things too far here. I am confident that the Church is correct in teaching, against Nestorius and others, that the Whole Christ is present under each species for the salvation of those who receive Him worthily. For the record, I don’t think your a fortiori argument about St Cyprian holds any water (no pun intended!). Certainly the Church has always maintained that the holy Sacrifice must be offered and consumed under both kinds. See here, for example, especially the Reply to Objection 2. And, of course, on purely textual grounds, Jesus’ command was to the Twelve, which means an interpretive move is necessary as to how far to extend the preceptive range of pantes. I agree that yours is prima facie a plausible one. (On the other hand, you don’t think every believer is also included in the humeis of touto poieite eis ten emen anamnesin, do you? In any event, the Church has ruled out your interpretation, for perfectly plausible (exegetical!) reasons. My point was just that you’ve decided to prefer your interpretation to that of the Church.

    Also: what Jason said.

    in Christ,
    John

  181. @Rev Robert:

    I hesitantly raise one final point. It is a well known and documented part of both psychological and spiritual development that individuals come to a moment of crisis where their absolutes of faith no longer seem to hold true. Left with a choice between agnosticism or denying their own questions they enter a faith crisis. If God is not my way of understanding him, then does he exist at all?

    I would really like to know whether you think that all of our conversions here, and our arguments, are only rationalisations. It seems from things that you say, of which the above quote is a sample, that you don’t believe that people decide to believe this or that on intellectual grounds, but rather that they decide to believe something in order to meet an emotional need – and then create plausible rationalisations to justify the decision.

    I have found it most frustrating in talking to people to see this. It seems to me by far the most absolute barrier to any actual communication.

    For what it’s worth I will say that, for me, both my becoming a Christian in the first place, and a Catholic 25 years later, were emotional matters. I will also say, that in both cases, had I not been convinced intellectually of the truth both of Christianity and in particular of the Catholic faith, I could not possibly have taken either step.

    Daniel, who has recently commented on this thread, seems to me a person who may – he may correct me – have made the decision to become a Catholic for reasons that were less than intellectually sound. He spoke of the Masses he saw on EWTN and deplored – as do I! – the really dreadful ways in which the Mass is sometimes celebrated. He has left the Catholic Church. It may be that his mind was not convinced. If not, then he did well to leave.

    Truth is all. Our will must act, but it must act on the light our intellect gives us. Our emotions ought to be brought into action to give impetus to the act that we know we ought to do. Anything less makes us less than human.

    I encourage you to realise that for many – I dare think all – of us who are regular commenters or posters here, it is truth that has drawn us. We are not following feelings first and harnessing truth to the service of that ‘need’ – rather a mixed metaphor, but that would indeed be placing the cart before the horse.

    “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    jj

  182. Dear Daniel,

    Be assured of prayers for you. I think Jason’s words are worth listening to as regards your own personal reflection.

    I could not help but notice what you wrote in #166 “At least I could be confident I wouldn’t be denied the cup at the Eucharist.” Daniel, you might be confident that you will not be denied the cup, but can you be confident that you are receiving the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ?

  183. Daniel,

    re: 175

    When I was moving from evangelicalism to the Church, I looked at Episcopalianism.

    I had already arrived at the position where I had learned that “the Lamb of God” was a loaded expression. The first iteration came from Abraham, who was on his way to offer Isaac when Isaac asked Abraham where the sacrifice was. Abraham noted that “God Himself will provide the lamb.”

    It was developed in Exodus (the Passover Lamb); expressed a bit more by Isaiah (53); and expressed forcefully by John the Baptist to John the Apostle when the Baptist pointed out Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.”

    The lamb is a sacrificial animal in scripture. Paul writes, “Christ our Passover.” A consistent Christian position is that Jesus, the perfect Sacrifice, fulfilled the Passover.

    The description of the Last Supper is in the context of the Passover meal.

    Nowhere in Anglicanism is it taught that the sacrifice at Calvary would be expressed going forward, yet that idea is consistent with the annual Jewish practice for Passover, that the observant Jew participates in that event even now, millenia later. It is also the position of the Church Jesus founded when regarding Jesus’ offer to us of His Body and Blood, the perfect Sacrifice. It occurs at daily Masses around the world.

    Anglicanism teaches that one may hold the Eucharist as real or as symbolic depending on one’s own decision making (nothing official or more properly, believe what you want), but does not hold it to be a sacrifice based on its dogmatic theology.

    I left symbolic communion behind and accepted quite joyfully the Church’s recognition of the Eucharist as the Passover extended through time and space to me. Jesus extended Himself to me in this Sacrament as the only Food capable of getting a human being into Heaven. Unless you eat My Body and drink My Blood you will not have Life within you. No “believe what you want” theological position, rather the Church guided by the Holy Spirit telling me what This is. My authority, whatever that may be, is not involved in this. God’s authority is involved which is consistent with what Jesus said and did in the Synoptics, in John 6, and in 1st Corinthians. He did not ask my permission or my agreement, rather He told me what He was doing through the Church of which He is the Head.

    Cordially,

    dt

  184. I am Mr. Jason Stewart’s sister and can verify that his testimony is true. I am a Protestant, but his arguments for Catholicism are so convincing that I am going through the Catholic Catechism for Adults with him. I am also attending RCIA classes with my mom. My brother is the best Catholic and Christian man I have ever known.

    Love in Christ,

    Kim Bednar

  185. John (#179),

    I liked your pun about my “water in the cup” argument “not holding any water.” Touche! Now, if I’m wrong, you can say I’m “all wet.” :-)

    Addressing your observation regarding παντες. Of course, in the immediate context, παντες is restricted to the Twelve. And in Luke 22, “τουτο ποιειτε εις την εμην αναμνησιν,” υμεις is again certainly restricted to the Twelve. Surely, though, the command is directed to all believers, no? For example, it’s interesting that this command in the Luke narrative is referring to eating the bread, not drinking from the cup. Therefore, if “τουτο ποιειτε” in Luke does not apply to all believers (and only to the Twelve–and thus, by extension, to priests only), no lay person should ever be offered the eucharistic bread. It’s for priests only. Now, in 1 Cor. 11, St. Paul applies Jesus’ command of “τουτο ποιειτε” to both the bread and the wine. He even refers to the gathered community sharing in “the cup of blessing which we bless.” Surely St. Paul offered the cup to the laity, don’t you think? And if he did, surely we should follow his apostolic example (Sacred Tradition–attested to in an apostolic letter) and offer the cup to all the gathered community.

    Daniel

  186. I apologize for returning so soon after my departure. I had stated that I found the Roman Catholic position a very tenable one, and had come here looking to bridge Reformers with Rome. Upon realizing this was not the forum for that task I excused myself. However, I was encouraged to read and study some more the writings contained herein, and upon doing so I begin to find the Roman position less tenable, not more so. I beg your indulgence, perhaps a poor choice of words, but I am at your mercy in wondering why I am going backwards.

    It seems in my reading that much authority is placed within a group of leaders called “the church fathers”, who mostly seem to live between the second and fourth centuries, give or take a few years. Their writing seems to eclipse that even of scripture according to some responses here. I have several problems which logically arise from that definition.

    1. A father by definition is a progenitor of something. George Washington is the father of America. The “church fathers” as you defined them lived and wrote hundreds of years after the foundation of the church. This would be akin to saying Ronald Reagan is the father of our country ( which some Republicans might actually wish to argue). To use the term “father”, and I do not wish to question their authority or legitimacy just simply the term itself, would imply that they “gave birth” to something new. So by continually using that term you seem to imply a break with the founding fathers, Matthew. Mark, Luke and John, Paul, Bartimus, etal., hundreds of years later, while giving a nod to the ‘stream’ from which your “fathers” came. At the very least it implies a divergence of some kind.

    2. The fact that our Lord said that Peter was “the rock” upon which he would build his church”, seems to imply that Peter was to lay the foundation. The Roman view seems to indicate that this created some “chair” because Peter was papa of Rome, and thereby anyone who sits in the “chair” has this same authority. There seem to be authors around this time who might disagree with this view. They were declared heretics, and the ones who espoused it were considered children. That seems about the single most relativistic argument among any I have seen here, coming from a group of people who seem to dislike relativism.

    3. If as some of you claim you are followers of truth, is it not true in light of history that Martin Luther was being truthful, and did the church not ultimately follow his reforms into practice? Does this not make Martin Luther one of our fathers by the use of the term herin, or is “Father” only delegated to those in a certain period of history, not including the foundational one? How did we declare that particular period of history “Fatherhood”.

    4. Some here argue that having the one true church under the one true leader promotes unity and avoids the problems of people leaving churches in such a relativistic way as in Protestantism. However, it has been my observation, herein as well, that the walls of Roman Catholicism seem just as porous as Protestant ones with people coming and going all the time. I also have observed that the imagined sense of authority one would gain under the Papacy seems in practice to be non existent. With 90% of catholic women using birth control the Papal office seems more akin to the Queen of England, more a beloved figurehead than anything else.

    I thank GNW_Paul in this thread who advised that most Protestants don’t really know much about Roman Catholicism may be correct. However, I am also wondering if ignorance wasn’t bliss, and if we reopen these issues then we may find out how deeply our divide really is? I agree with the author here who pointed out that most of my arguments seemed emotional or cutural. I thought that is what divided us. In looking at the material you all told me to look at, the Roman position seems to not make logical sense. Please advise.

  187. Jason and Cindy,

    Welcome to the Church that Christ founded. One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. As a “Reformed Baptist,” (and a fallen-away Catholic– long story), I was absolutely convinced that the Catholic Church had lost the plot, i.e. the Gospel, and many other aspects of “Biblical Christianity” along with it. I was sincere but very wrong. I still deeply love my Protestant friends, most of whom seem to believe that I am no longer a Christian. I understand them, because I was there, vociferously, where they still are.

    Jason and Cindy, you are in my prayers. Being Catholic is being in the Church which the world hates most fiercely– and which even many Christians hate, sadly, not truly knowing what the Catholic Church is, to Whom she belongs (Christ), and why she teaches what she teaches. Thank you for helping in the process of dialogue and education. I once could not have imagined returning to the Catholic Church. Now, I could imagine no other way for me to even *be* a Christian. Catholicism is Christianity! (Not that validly baptized Protestants aren’t Christians too, albeit separated painfully.)

  188. Rev. Jones,

    With 90% of catholic women using birth control the Papal office seems more akin to the Queen of England, more a beloved figurehead than anything else.

    It is at this point that I am starting to doubt your sincerity. You have repeated a meme that only takes googling “percentage of child bearing age women who use birthcontrol” to discredit.

    Only 62% of ALL women that are sexually active currently use contraception in the USA. One-third of those women aren’t even fertile, but use it to regulate their hormones. Which makes the number of sexually active, fertile women who use contraception only 40% or so. Source: Guttanmacher Institute (a liberal research group).

    What percentage of weekly Mass attending, practicing Catholics use contraception? I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet it is less than the general population (and certainly not 90%). All that set aside, the Church is a very large hospital. If you have ever been in a hospital, you know that some patients take the treatment better than others: some refuse treatment or do not take the treatments as prescribed while others follow the course and recover. Nonetheless, the hospital does not kick them out on the streets. So, too, the Church. Heck, Judas even got to hang around until the end. She is a hospital of sinners, not a club for “same-think”–whether that be the inclusive kind either. That cultish similarity of her members has always been–from the very first centuries–a characteristic of the sects.

    Lastly, you are right. Studying Catholicism can have two possible effects–but that has little to do with Catholicism. It has everything to do with what the seeker is looking for. In your case, it was clear that you were looking for something you had already decided before your search. You thought Catholicism was like, well, a really big version of Episcopalianism. Nope. That is the caricature that keeps many out of her walls. A big, gooey version of Episcopalianism would certainly portend “bringing everyone together”, “crossing bridges”, what have you, but it would be a temporary togetherness not a real communion; an Elton John concert not a worship service.

    The Catholic Church teaches with authority like Her founder, and that has a way of getting people upset–”bringing a sword”–as Her Lord so eloquently put. It’s offensive, I get it, but that’s Jesus.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  189. Hey Burton,

    have you read Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith by Avery Cardinal Dulles?

    if not, i happen to have an extra copy that’s yours if you want it. i’m at stephen [period] wilkins [at] gmail [period] com.

    praised be Jesus Christ

  190. Dear Brent,

    I was challenged by others to look at Roman Catholicism in a more logical way through the eyes of reason and truth. I noticed you missed all the really important points and went to only one. Picking at a thread in an argument and pulling it out, while ignoring the entire argument is hardly the stuff of truth, reason and logic. Discounting an entire point because one minor illustration of it was hyperbole is hardly the stuff of reason , logic and truth.

    My point was that there are many a statements here that having no Papal authority leads to divisiveness, chaos, and relativism. I find that historically untrue and relativistic, the very arguments you wish to protect us from. I am getting further confused by the minute.

  191. Daniel,

    Thanks for your response. And your counter-pun!

    As a matter of fact, I don’t grant the certainty of any of your “surely” statements. To take only your first assertion: no, to the contrary, surely the command is not to all believers, but at most to believers who have examined themselves (1 Cor 11.28). Even to say “all believers,” as you have done, is to impose an interpretive delimitation on the extent of pantes. You get the idea.

    But, again, the exegetical details are not really the point. As I said before, I’m perfectly comfortable admitting the plausibility of your interpretation. My intent is only to point out that it is hardly airtight. Are you willing to cede that point? To change metaphorical register: I certainly do not think it can bear the weight you’ve hung on it — namely, the weight, or at least a substantial portion of the weight, of opposing it to a discipline countenanced by what you must once have confessed with divine faith to be the authentic interpreter of the deposit of Faith. (And let’s recall again that discipline is all it is: it has never been viewed as doctrinally wrong for the laity to receive from the Chalice.)

    best,
    John

  192. My apologies to Brent, it turns out when i took his suggestion and Googled the precentage of sexually active Roman Catholic women using birth control it was not 90% as I originally stated. Turns out it is 98% according to the respected Guttmacher Institute. I found the quote here http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/sex-and-the-secularists/

    The more you guys ask me to look things up the more opposite things I find. Odd.

  193. Speaking generally, there’s a fine line between genuine dissent and trolling in these threads. If we’re going to nitpick about 90 percent or 98 percent when the original post was about an OPC pastor entering the Catholic Church, we’ve got issues!

  194. Rev, that 98% figure is precisely the one Brent was talking about. Easily exposed as false, and I agree with him, your sincerity is in doubt now.

  195. Rev. Robert.

    Edit: Hey, I was writing fast before and after re-reading I came off a little gruff – sorry for that. I edited comments.

    If you took 30 seconds to look at the supposed ’98% Guttmacher Institute Study’ you would know to never use it as an argument in this forum (or any other).

    That study is being ripped to pieces all over the internet. It is a completely bogus poll.

    Look here and here.

    However, the 98% figure is bogus. It comes from Figure 3 in a Guttmacher Institute study of the kinds of contraceptives women choose. Now, the mission of the Guttmacher Institute is to propagandize the use of contraceptives, and their studies should be viewed in that light. However, this particular study, though statistically primitive, does not itself make the claim attributed to it by the statistically illiterate.

    The 98% seems suspicious. What of the elderly? What about nuns? What about the proverbially fertile Catholic mother? Do they comprise only 2% of the Church?

    …We discover that the study was restricted to “women at risk for unintended pregnancy.” [emph. added]. They defined this group as those: aged 15-44 who were “sexually active” in the three months prior to the survey but were not pregnant, postpartum or trying to get pregnant

    IOW, it excluded any woman participating in the Darwinian effort to colonize the future. Excluded are Catholic women who are married, trying to have a baby (or at least open to the possibility), nuns and other virgins, and any woman older than 44 years or younger than 15. This may actually exclude a fair number of “Catholic women” from the population.

    So the study tells us only that 98% of women of child-bearing age who want to have sex without having babies use some form of birth control. That qualifies as a sort of “d’uh” moment.

    (Remember, Guttmacher focused on this group because their interest was centered on which form of birth control different groups used. It was not they who made the unwarranted inference to “all Catholic women.”

    BTW, you will notice the criteria also excludes anyone sexually active in the preceding three months, using contraception, but who became pregnant anyway. That would be an interesting number.

    Catholic women. On the Pill?

    Now what about those “Catholic women.” Figure 1 in the Guttmacher report provides a breakdown of religious participation. We find that only 30% of the “Catholic women” in their study reported attending church weekly, versus 11% who said “never” and 29% who said less than monthly. IOW, 40% of those claiming to be Catholic are either Easter Bunnies or never attend Mass. It’s unclear how “Catholic” such women really are. But it certainly seems as if they are less likely to have been touched by catechesis.

    In summary, that poll is bogus and using it will only demonstrate that you aren’t being careful.

  196. Protestant here. But actively following the HHS mandate and can’t sit by and watch a fellow Protestant swallow the bitter pill of the Planned Parenthood research arm, Guttmacher. Besides the fact that Rev. Jones’ argument is irrelevant (given the hospital metaphor above). Red herring.

    I got the following here:

    McGrew directs us to more problems, in the asterisk at the bottom. There we learn that the survey is: “Restricted to sexually active women who are not pregnant, post-partum, or trying to get pregnant.”

    So think of who would be included and excluded from this study:

    Included: Unmarried teens and young women who sleep with their boyfriends.
    Excluded: Unmarried teens and young women who follow the Church’s teaching on chastity.
    Included: Married women who are actively avoiding pregnancy.
    Excluded: Married women who are not particularly watching whether they get pregnant or not.
    Included: Promiscuous party girls.
    Excluded: Nuns.
    No wonder so many of them are using contraception! But the funny thing is, even once you include mostly lapsed Catholics and eliminate anyone who might mess up your number, it still isn’t true to say 98% are using contraception.

    They got that by subtracting the 2% of NFP users in their chart from the 100% of respondents. But look at the chart. It says 11% are using “no method.” By my math, it should be at least 13% not using contraception.

  197. Dear Rev. Jones,

    Perhaps we could engage more of the substance of your recent post (#185). For a debunking of the oft-quoted 98% figure, which is comically exaggerated—and quite frequently cited for political purposes—see the responses of others above. But irrespective of the statistic’s accuracy, I think we can agree that the sins of Catholics–for sinners we all are–are not a decisive argument against their doctrines.

    I don’t think your post gets off to a great start. You say:

    Their [the Church Fathers’] writing seems to eclipse that even of scripture according to some responses here.

    Really? Can you cite any specific examples from the comments? This is, after all, a serious charge, not lightly to be preferred. The Fathers guide our interpretation of Scripture, to be sure, but no one claims inspiration for them as we do for the Sacred Scriptures.

    I’ll respond to the rest of your points according to your numbering.

    1. The term “father” does not mean that they give birth to “something new.” They do, however, like St Paul (1 Cor 4.15; Gal 4.19; etc.), participate in the child-bearing of the Church, particularly by the authority of their teaching and their personal sanctity. In doing so, they build on the foundation of Christ and the Apostles. We do consider Christ and the Apostles “fathers,” though we do not generally refer to them as such. That’s just a matter of convention. The term “Apostolic Fathers” is often used for those such as St Ignatius of Antioch who were very closely linked to the Apostles. (St Ignatius, for example, was a disciple of St John the Evangelist and was installed as bishop of Antioch by St Peter.) We neither intend nor acknowledge any such “divergence” as you claim this “implies.”

    2. Our Blessed Lord names St Peter the “rock” upon which He will build His Church. This is, of course, not a replacement of but a participation in Christ Himself, who is the Rock, just as Christ the Shepherd calls Peter to share in that office (John 21), and Christ the true key-holder (Rev 1) hands them to Peter (Matt 16). Beyond making that simple point, I’m not sure how to respond to your argument, which cites no specific examples and concludes with a strange, non sequitur accusation of relativism. Could you explain how you see the Chair of Peter as “relativistic.”

    3. Exactly which teachings of Luther do you have in mind? Yes, some of his complaints about abuses were legitimate and were subsequently corrected. That doesn’t make him a Father. Other of his positions were false, and he refused to be corrected, preferring schism instead. I’m not aware of any clearly defined terminus ad quem for the age of the Fathers, but it is generally limited to those theologians and pastors whose teaching and sanctity of life were decisive for the geographical spread and dogmatic articulation of the Apostolic Faith over the first seven centuries or so.

    4. The failure of many Catholics to adhere to the Church’s teaching is hardly an argument against the truth or coherence of those teachings. For many Catholics, I’m sorry to say that the pope does seem to fill a role similar to that of the British monarch. But that de facto observation does not have any obvious bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim that he is, in fact, the universal pastor of Christ’s flock.

    best,
    John

  198. Rev Jones.

    Forgive it all coming at once but I have some more comments besides your use of the deeply flawed poll. I don’t have much time today so if I may, I’ll just make some comments after some of your comments from your latest. Your comments are italicized.

    It seems in my reading that much authority is placed within a group of leaders called “the church fathers”, who mostly seem to live between the second and fourth centuries, give or take a few years. Their writing seems to eclipse that even of scripture according to some responses here. I have several problems which logically arise from that definition.

    Well, your definition is false. I would have problems with that definition too. Nobody here has said anything remotely close to saying that the writing of the fathers eclipse scripture. So, this makes your point # 1 a non-starter.

    2. The fact that our Lord said that Peter was “the rock” upon which he would build his church”, seems to imply that Peter was to lay the foundation. The Roman view seems to indicate that this created some “chair” because Peter was papa of Rome, and thereby anyone who sits in the “chair” has this same authority. There seem to be authors around this time who might disagree with this view. They were declared heretics, and the ones who espoused it were considered children. That seems about the single most relativistic argument among any I have seen here, coming from a group of people who seem to dislike relativism.

    Authors around what time? Name them. Lets see who you are choosing to cast your lot with in this ancient debate and while you are at it explain how you avoid any relativism in making your choice.

    3. If as some of you claim you are followers of truth, is it not true in light of history that Martin Luther was being truthful, and did the church not ultimately follow his reforms into practice? Does this not make Martin Luther one of our fathers by the use of the term herin, or is “Father” only delegated to those in a certain period of history, not including the foundational one? How did we declare that particular period of history “Fatherhood”.

    Martin Luther, while correct in pointing out abuses where abuses existed, is not a father of the church. There were plenty of Catholics who were every bit as hard on the abuses as Luther and whose work against the abuses is well documented who remained in the Church. Luther, had he stopped with arguing against abuses in the sale of indulgences (and similar abuses) might have been a saint. Unfortunately, he went much further than that and created new abuses of his own. Therefore, he is not a father of the church but a heretic.

    Your point # 4 has already been addressed both by the hospital analogy and your use of that poll. But I will say that I’ve seen this argument before. What is it saying? Is it saying that the mark of a true church is the degree to which every self-professing member lives up to the teachings of that church? If that is the case than Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church must be the truest church of all because all the members are in lockstep with the teachings of that church right?

  199. Jason, forgive me if this has been asked/answered earlier and I missed it (perhaps you could refer to a particular entry or section of your essay): as you began to consider deeply the content and implications of the ECF and the question of apostolic authority, did you consider the Orthodox church at all? Your line of thinking and argumentation as you described it makes sense in seeing that Protestantism was likely incorrect, but was there a line of reasoning that led you specifically to embrace the RCC as opposed to Orthodoxy? Or was it more a practical issue of an Orthodox church being unavailable and Catholicism being much closer to the truth than Protestantism, therefore at least a step in the right direction but not necessarily the final step?

    I’m also Reformed Protestant but at a very similar point in my own journey, finding that the ECF texts (as well as other things) have simply opened my eyes immensely, but not being convinced yet that the Protestant (and Orthodox) assertion that the RCC has gone beyond its ‘deposit of faith’ and improperly acted unilaterally is false or irrelevant. I’d be very interested to hear educated, personal reflections on how you were able to convincingly choose RCC over Orthodoxy.

    Best wishes,
    Jeff

  200. FYI.

    Bryan reminded me of formal definition of ‘Church Father.’

    There are four criteria required to be a Church Father.

    1) the person had to live between the first century and the eighth century. St. John Damascene, who died in 749, is the last Church Father.

    2) the person had to live a holy life. No immoral person can qualify as Church Father.

    3) their teaching must be orthodox. This does not mean that they got every single thing right, but they at least had to be in agreement with what what was taught by the ordinary universal magisterium in their time.

    4) their teaching must be approved by the Church, and handed down within the Church as a faithful witness of the tradition.

  201. Jeff,

    Thank you for your question. It’s certainly one that must be included in any thoughtful study of the Catholic Church.

    The Russian Church and the Papacy, by Vladimir Soloviev made the biggest impression on me when I studied this subject. Soloviev was a Russian Orthodox layman living in the 19th century. This book is an English abridgement of his larger Russia and the Universal Church.

    Soloviev presents a cogent apologetic for the papacy specifically in relation to the situation of the Orthodox Churches. I would suggest spending some time with Soloviev’s themes as they relate directly to the issue you’re currently working through. I found his work extremely helpful.

    May the Lord bless you in your pursuit of these matters.

    Blessings,

    – Jason

  202. John S writes:

    1. The term “father” does not mean that they give birth to “something new.” They do, however, like St Paul (1 Cor 4.15; Gal 4.19; etc.), participate in the child-bearing of the Church, particularly by the authority of their teaching and their personal sanctity. In doing so, they build on the foundation of Christ and the Apostles.

    Reply: My logical objection is that after 200-300 years can you really claim these are “fathering”?
    The point being by yours and others definition it seems they are reforming, which logically opens the way for later reforming. It is simply logical. Also your point that they are not giving birth to something new but are “participating in child birth” seem to be saying exactly the same thing while denying you are….a logical inconsistency which hurts my brain.

    John s writes:

    2. Our Blessed Lord names St Peter the “rock” upon which He will build His Church. This is, of course, not a replacement of but a participation in Christ Himself, who is the Rock, just as Christ the Shepherd calls Peter to share in that office (John 21), and Christ the true key-holder (Rev 1) hands them to Peter (Matt 16)

    Reply: My question is where do you see Christ creating an “office”. Perhaps he is just giving the keys to Peter…period. Perhaps Peter still has them. Did anyone check his pockets? It seems from the articles I was told to read that leaders 200 years or more removed from Christ started giving themselves more and more power and declaring anyone who objected to this newly emerging power “heretics” …which was also a new use for this term. “Heretic” had previously meant after a long and careful study a position which the church stated could not be conducive with Christianity..ie. Gnosticism. It was now being used for people arguing over who owned the office of this or that bishopric (the Donatist controversy).

    Sean Patrick writes:
    Authors around what time? Name them. Lets see who you are choosing to cast your lot with in this ancient debate and while you are at it explain how you avoid any relativism in making your choice.

    Reply: Fr. Breyan asked me to read St. Optatus on Schism and the Bishop of Rome. Someone else asked me to read St Ignatius. After reading these articles they suggested the logical and reasoning questions and comments I had, I wrote here. Others asked me not to be cultural and feeling oriented, but to stick to logic and reason. I followed exactly step by step what I was being asked to do, and when I did, I found the opposite conclusion I was told I would find. I seem to be accused now of being “insincere”, and “wishing to find what I wanted to all along”, both of which do not seem very logical, rational, or sincere arguments.

    John S writes:

    4. The failure of many Catholics to adhere to the Church’s teaching is hardly an argument against the truth or coherence of those teachings. For many Catholics, I’m sorry to say that the pope does seem to fill a role similar to that of the British monarch. But that de facto observation does not have any obvious bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim that he is, in fact, the universal pastor of Christ’s flock.

    Reply: Does anyone here actually reply to the point that someone else writes? My point was not to question the authority of the Pope. I actually stated that earlier in my writing that I was not questioning authority simply raising logical inconsistencies. Others in this thread had written that following Protestantism leads to relativism, lack of authority, and everyone doing what they want to do. My point was that having a Pope did not seem to fare much better in real life. thereby logically negating their argument. The fact that 90%, 98% or 40% of Roman Catholics practice birth control, the point is having a Pope does not guarantee the lack of relativism as was argued by some here.

    Anyway, let me ask an even simpler question. There seems to be a lot of this type of argumentation here on this board. Do you guys even want this? Is this board merely for those moving from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism and those considering such a move? If so, it might be wise to put a notice up which states you do not wish to argue the reformation, deal with ecumenical issues, or put up with ignorant Protestants trying to cut their teeth on Roman Catholic doctrinal issues. This way you can simply refer to this rule when it starts.

  203. Dear Rev. Jones (re#201):

    You wrote:

    Reply: My logical objection is that after 200-300 years can you really claim these are “fathering”?
    The point being by yours and others definition it seems they are reforming, which logically opens the way for later reforming. It is simply logical. Also your point that they are not giving birth to something new but are “participating in child birth” seem to be saying exactly the same thing while denying you are….a logical inconsistency which hurts my brain.

    .

    Here’s a good example of the difficulty being encountered in communication with you. You state that it is a “logical” problem to say they were “fathering” 200-300 years hence. You insist you are simply following logic in raising this objection. The problem is you are arguing semantics not logic. There is nothing illogical about calling them “Fathers”. So this semantic argument being offered as “logic” calls your seriousness into question.

    You further say “it seems they are reforming.” Seems to whom? Seems on what basis? Would you agree there is an important difference between “reforming” and “clarifying”? No Church Father “reformed” any element in the Deposit of Faith handed down to the Apostles. They did meditate, clarify and illuminate – the formally stated doctrine of the Holy Trinity by the Nicene Councils is one good illustration of this.

    As for the “participating in childbirth” problem: this is again semantics, not logic. I was there – participating – at the conception and birth of my son. I was “fathering” him. I was also there throughout his whole early life trying to guide him as he grew up – I was still “fathering” him even though he’d already been born. If you can understand “birthing” as a poetic metaphor for “emerging into maturity”, then your problem of semantics is resolved.

    I’ll let others address your other points.

    By the way, you never answered my question in the first post I addressed to you (and if it’s in a response to someone else, I missed it) – of what church are you are a minister (“Reverend”)? I really am curious.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  204. John (#190),

    With much respect to you, I guess this is where I reach a roadblock in accepting the teaching of the magisterium. The Precious Blood is a non-negotiable item for me. It is a Treasure of Forgiveness of Sins which should never be denied to any believer (of course, I’m not speaking of believers in mortal sin, who are unrepentant, etc.). The Blood of Christ (and its sacramental reception) is the focal point of Christianity. John 6:56: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” How could I give up remaining in Christ and He in me? I will not give it up for the traditions of men.

    Daniel

  205. Robert,

    You asked:

    Anyway, let me ask an even simpler question. There seems to be a lot of this type of argumentation here on this board. Do you guys even want this? Is this board merely for those moving from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism and those considering such a move? If so, it might be wise to put a notice up which states you do not wish to argue the reformation, deal with ecumenical issues, or put up with ignorant Protestants trying to cut their teeth on Roman Catholic doctrinal issues. This way you can simply refer to this rule when it starts.

    The purpose of this website is stated on the “Welcome” section (which is found in the drop-down menu under “About,” just below the main banner at the top of this webpage):

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

    Of course, Catholics believe that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ established, and that reunion in the Church will be reunion in the Catholic Church. Obviously, Protestants disagree. But we believe that this point of disagreement can be the beginning rather than the ending of a conversation. We very much want to discuss the nature and the particulars of the Protestant Reformation, “deal with ecumenical issues,” and converse with Protestants who are wrestling with and/or trying to learn about the doctrines of the Catholic Church. If such are your concerns, then you are most welcome here–there is no rule against these things!

  206. Dear Frank:
    I am an ordained minister of the word and sacraments for 25 years in the Reformed Church in America, one of the oldest Protestant denominations in America which traces it origins back to Calvin and the Dutch Reformation.

    You write:
    Here’s a good example of the difficulty being encountered in communication with you. You state that it is a “logical” problem to say they were “fathering” 200-300 years hence. You insist you are simply following logic in raising this objection. The problem is you are arguing semantics not logic.

    Why is the difficulty with me? Semantics are an integral part of logic. If two people define the semantics differently, then the logical outcome might be widely divergent. i would think any intelligent person would accept this.

    In your subsequent reply you defined fathering in another way than was previously being used here, which further complicates the use of the word father. I have seen in some arguments here the term “father” being used as an authoritative position to solve some issue…ie. the church fathers said so, so therfore it goes. I was reacting to that definition.

    If you add a definition that the role of father is passed on as you just did as in your definition of “fathering”, and is “ongoing” as you further defined, then logically as long as there is a church, and there are bishops and priests, then fathering would continue, and you are using the semantic of father to imply an “ongoing” condition.

    I am willing to concede that your definition of fathering and my definition of reforming may be slightly different, but the point I made still stands.The process is ongoing, not a once and for all authoritative statement. Therefore if the process is ongoing, then it is still ongoing. That is logical. You guys seem to want to redefine words at your pleasure to make them fit your logic without realizing you have changed the argument when you change the definition of the words…semantics.

    I do not think that is “my” problem. I actually think I am beginning to see THE problem.

  207. Daniel (re #203),

    It looks as though your (particular) objection boils down to a disagreement with the doctrine of concomitance (i.e. the whole Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, is present in each of the consecrated species, and received by the communicant in either) and the adoption instead of a form of utraquism. Is this so?

    You can argue about the theological merit of the Catholic doctrine, but I find it curious that you would object to that doctrine as the “tradition of men.” That is way too general a designation, since not all men hold to this tradition. Rather, we could call it “the tradition, as concerning the Real Presence, of those men to whom has been given the authority to teach in the Catholic Church.”

    Of course, neither do I presume to refer to your doctrine, as stated in your last comment, as the tradition of men. So far as I can tell, it is merely the tradition of the Hussites.

  208. Daniel,

    When I partake of the body of Christ, because I partake of the Resurrected Lord–unlike the crucified Lord, there is no separation and therefore I partake of the precious blood. This is “faith in action”–so to speak. You are requiring the Catholic Church to submit to your literalist, fundamentalist interpretation of one particular passage in scripture. You throw away that church for what appears to be an appetite–since your reading is neither necessary nor the Church’s implausible as to the partaking of the precious blood. I call these “Luther” moments. We all have them, bear in mind. I could probably give you 3-5 things off of the top of my head that I think, at present, the Church is wrong about. However, that is besides the point. I am not willing to bet my eternal soul on the whims and wishes of a theological card player (me!).

    Are you willing to bet your eternal soul on your gift of interpretation over and against the Church that Jesus personally founded? Or, did you never truly–despite what you confessed when you came into the Church–believe that the Catholic Church is the church Jesus personally founded and left his Spirit with to lead the faithful into all truth?

    I understand my words seem direct/harsh, but I’m trying to understand (a) what it is exactly you ever believed and (b) how that squares with what you supposedly confessed when you came into the Church.

  209. (clarification of 207): “I could probably give you 3-5 things off of the top of my head that I think, at present, the Church is wrong about.”

    Rather, it would appear to my mind that my interpretation is more plausible than the Church’s on a few points of theology; nonetheless, I hold to the faith of the Church.

  210. Anyway, let me ask an even simpler question. There seems to be a lot of this type of argumentation here on this board. Do you guys even want this? Is this board merely for those moving from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism and those considering such a move? If so, it might be wise to put a notice up which states you do not wish to argue the reformation, deal with ecumenical issues, or put up with ignorant Protestants trying to cut their teeth on Roman Catholic doctrinal issues. This way you can simply refer to this rule when it starts.

    I think you may have hit the nail on the head with this comment. I’ve lurked plenty around here, and the common theme is 4-5 RC representatives v 1-2 protestants dropping by. The themes of the arguments very, but usually the protestants drop out of the discussion.

    It is hard to have discussion (ecumenical or not) when one side claims to have the corner on the truth. It gets even worse when you attempt to discuss a historical narrative (like Luther) – your filter determines if he is a heretic or saint.

    We believe that genuine unity comes through truth and never by forsaking or compromising the truth.

    Truth is whatever the magesterium says it is – with an understanding that this magesterium is infallible. You can’t come at this with bible passage quotes (magesterium has interpretive authority), the RCC’s own papal bulls (magesterium has interpretive authority), or even science (as Galileo found out). In fact, the church has quite a record of calling truth tellers heretics. All the evidence in the world (literally, look at all the God fearing protestants) – and the people here can’t call them ‘brothers in Christ’, or commune together (because the magesterium has interpretive authority). Every thought that disagrees with the magesteriums interpretation must be jettisoned – because the magesteriums interpretation is the divinely protected truth – and we’re a bunch of relativists for disagreeing.

    All this to say, dialogue becomes quite the exercise in futility. your 1-2 protestants drop out and leave or go back to lurking.

  211. Jeff (re #198),

    Following up on Jason’s reply to you in #200, Soloviev’s Russia and Universal Church is available here in pdf format.

  212. Let me try one more approach. If I am the King of England, and you are the King of France, and the King of Spain is threatening to attack me, I could write you and say, “Dear King of France, we both know you are the rightful heir to the throne of Spain. If you join me in my quest to defeat them then you can be the King of Spain once again”. You are kind of digging this idea so you agree, we defeat Spain and you now sit on the throne. A while later Spain rebels, the nerve of them, and wins against you, and they wish to seat the heir to the throne back as King. You of course appeal stating that everyone knows you are the rightful King of Spain as well as France. People ask, how are you the rightful King and you say, “The King of England says so”. So they ask who told him, and I say, “God”. Spain gives us the middle finger, seats its own King, and we promptly declare them to be Protestants. Why are they Protestants, because they don’t agree with you and me?

    The question here is authority. Who declares the Roman Church and its leader has supreme and only authority? You guys say….scripture. We then say, scripture doesn’t seem to clearly state that. You then say, but the church Fathers do. And we say, who told them, and you say, scripture. This is known as circular reasoning. You know what you know because you just know it.

    There is no problem with you choosing this form of authority. But when you state it is now authoritative over every other Christian on the planet, and we ask, “Why”? You state, because we just know it. The church Fathers said so, etc etc etc. The Coptic Church in Egypt did not agree with you in the 600′s and left. The Eastern Orthodox Church did not agree with you in 1050 and left. We did not agree with you in the 1600′s and left. Most other Christians never even bother asking you in the first place, they just did their own thing.

    I thought you guys had softened a bit on this over the years, and I admitted maybe I was wrong. Some of you did claim that you had absolute logical reasonable proof though that your argument was true and noble and that any rational person seeing it would agree. Instead I find this same old tired circular reasoning.

    I have no problem just walking by the Roman Catholic Church going “shhhhhh, they think they are in charge”. I really don’t. I had hoped you guys were a tad along in this, but I just don’t see what you tell me to see. I am really looking. I really would like to see what you all are seeing. But I don’t.

    They are closing 100 Roman Catholic Schools in my area. The exodus is profound especially involving the scandal of the priests which you assured everyone was not there for years. They are closing Protestant churches by the hundreds every week. Both our witness of Christ sucks, pardon my frankness, and the world is saying it sucks. They are voting with their feet.

    Most Christian leaders I talk to are looking for a post modern way out of this illogical unreasonable mess, both Catholic and Protestant. You guys seem to be heading the other way. God is obviously shaking His whole body to the core and you sit here talking about whether he is in the grape juice or the wafer. God help us.

  213. I have a couple of questions.

    1.Why wasn’t the selling of indulgences be stopped by the existing Pope Leo X?

    2.During the time of Wycliffe, had the CC long been “secularized”? What did this mean, and why did Wycliff feel it a bad thing?

    3. Did the CC have a long standing law to the treatment of heritics before Hus? In other words, was this a “birthing doctrine”, and the reason that Calvin borrowed it?

  214. Thanks, Andrew.

  215. @Rev. Robert:

    I am an ordained minister of the word and sacraments for 25 years in the Reformed Church in America, one of the oldest Protestant denominations in America which traces it origins back to Calvin and the Dutch Reformation.

    Now I’m curious – my brother in law is a Reformed minister, in Montana. Where is your congregation?

    jj

  216. Rev. Jones,

    Assuming your assessment of the Catholic argument for authority is correct (#211), what alternative authority structure do you propose, and how does it identify schism and heresy? I ask as a Protestant trying to understand how any Protestant sense of authority can accomplsh this.

    -Burton

  217. [...] An OPC Pastor Enters the Catholic Church [...]

  218. Rev. Robert Jones writes: The question here is authority.

    Yes, that is the way that I see it too, authority is the question. Interestingly enough, Jason Stewart just happens to have as a section in his article with the subtitle, 3. The question of Church authority. In that section, Jason presents five reasons why the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura undermines the authority of the church that Christ personally founded, and why the doctrine of sola scriptura is unsound.

    First, the Bible doesn’t teach the principle of sola scriptura

    Second, the Church Fathers don’t teach sola scriptura

    Third, the “Bible-based” fragmentation of Protestantism argues against the soundness of sola scriptura

    Fourth, the fact that the individual Protestant’s private judgment remains the final authority in evaluating faith claims undermines the principle of sola scriptura

    Fifth, the fact that the Apostolic letters and writings give no divinely inspired indication what books are to be included in the canon of the New Testament makes impossible the principle of sola scriptura

    I agree with what Jason is saying here, and this is why I could never embrace Luther’s novelty of sola scriptura and make Luther’s personal doctrine the foundation of my faith. Rev. Jones, I would like you to clarify something concerning Jason’s point four. Do you believe that your personal interpretations of the scriptures have more authority than the interpretations of the scriptures officially promulgated by the church that Jesus Christ founded?

  219. Bob and Robert (re #209 and #211),

    Your recent comments have fundamentally to do with the matter of ecclesiology. That is what this website has, for the most part, been focused on for the past three years (see the entries under “The Church” in our topical index). Obviously, this subject is vast and complex. Consequently, we have been trying to take things slowly, proceeding one step at a time, especially in the series of lead articles (as outlined here). These blog posts and lead articles represent our efforts, hitherto, to engage Protestants in a discussion of the nature and identity of the Church that Christ founded. Yes, we believe that that Church is the Catholic Church, but I cannot remember anyone, in any of these posts, constructing a circular argument to that end, contrary to Robert’s claims in #211.

    Bob, you indicate that the Catholic’s understanding of the Church’s teaching authority (i.e., the Magisterium) renders dialogue an exercise in futility. How would you respond if an agnostic or liberal claimed that your understanding of the authority of Sacred Scripture rendered dialogue an exercise in futility?

    From my point of view, each of these understandings is itself something that needs to become the subject of dialogue, so that we can come to a unity in the truth. Just as I would not, either in reality or pretense, cease to submit to the authority of Sacred Scripture in my conversations with liberals, I would not and do not cease to submit to the authority of the Magisterium in my conversations with Protestants.

    [Incidentally, I tried to describe the difference between the authority of divine revelation (inspired and infallible) and that of the Church (not inspired but infallible in certain circumstances) in my short post on Inspiration and Infallibility.]

    But in neither case must I rely upon circular arguments to support my position. In fact, I make it a point not to construct circular arguments, though perhaps not always with complete success. What is happening, in both cases, is that one party in the discussion believes that the authority to which he submits gives him, by the very nature of that authority, sufficient ground to believe some propositions which he would otherwise reject or else not quite believe, but merely entertain as more or less probable opinions. The authority in question is, so the believer maintains, at least a part of the evidence that needs to be considered in the evaluation of some specific matter in dispute (assuming that the putative authority has addressed the matter, in some fashion).

    Of course, this creates a problem for the person who believes that the “authority” to which his interlocutor submits is no real authority, or else not the kind of authority that it is supposed to be. But that is the very thing, then, that these folks need to discuss. There are various ways of approaching such discussions. Some liberals will throw passage after passage at Bible believers, claiming that they have discovered an error or contradiction that destroys the entire edifice of biblical authority. The Bible believer can respond piecemeal, but he can also take the approach of encouraging his interlocutor to consider the matter from another point of view, one which renders the entire data set (the Bible) intelligible as the infallible written word of God.

    In order to encourage his interlocutor to at least provisionally adopt this alternative paradigm, to see how the data gets sorted out in it, the believer will have to give some indication of the at least prima facie plausibility of the paradigm. So far as I can tell, and I cannot speak for everyone here, this has been our primary approach to the ecclesiological differences between Catholics and Protestants. Instead of starting out by arguing piecemeal for every single matter upon which we disagree, we have decided, as a point of emphasis, to try to give Protestants reasons for considering the “Catholic paradigm.”

    That paradigm itself, i.e., the Catholic Faith, includes and is authoritatively set forth by the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. But our arguments, designed to encourage Protestants to consider or re-consider the Catholic Faith, do not include, as a premise in the argument, the Catholic paradigm itself. There is a difference between believing something, in general being informed and guided by it (as we believe and are informed and guided by the Catholic Faith), and deploying that something as a premise in an argument for it.

    Anyway, I hope that this helps you understand how we, in general, are approaching this tremendous matter of ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. As it turns out, we have addressed many particular doctrinal matters in the course of three years’ blogging. These can most easily be accessed by perusing our topical index. Comments on any and all of these matters are welcome, in the comment boxes under the respective posts.

  220. @ Bob S – Hi Bob, thank you for mentioning that and glad to see you commenting here. You are right that there often ends up being an uneven match-up in numbers of Protestants & Catholics in the discussion. We are actively trying to avoid pile up but as you said, apparently we need to actively try harder. It is very difficult to accomplish this for several obvious reasons. Still, we’ll try to do better to avoid that in the future.

    You were right about that, but wrong about the implication that we simply appeal to the Magisterium without arguments. It looks like Andrew Preslar already explained why that was wrong while I was typing this comment. Thanks again for commenting and hope to talk with you more in the future.

  221. Burton (#215),
    I’m trying to figure out why a protestant would want (or need) to identify schism and heresy – at least at the level the RCC does. What does it benefit us to call each other heretical – does our differing understandings of baptism, the Eucharist, church structure, or any other number of doctrines cause us to be worshiping different gods?

    Furthermore, what does it gain either of us to break communion over these issues? Are either of us drawn closer to God in the process?

    If you are Orthodox or Catholic, these things are decided for you. The magesterium has ordered that to be Catholic, you must believe in IC, you must baptize your young, you must believe in transubstantiation. If you disagree, you are automatically in the wrong (sinning), heterodox / heretical / schismatic. The upside to all this is that you are all ‘one’ in ‘unity and truth’. It is easy to be one when anyone who disagrees is (at a minimum) disciplined.

    If you are a protestant, a lot more latitude should be given to what people believe. Yes, knock heads, debate theology, form opinions, and enjoy alphabet soup. However, when a baptist visits a reformed church – both can commune with Christ together (weather it is a transubstantiation communion, remembrance, or some unnamed mystical happening in the elements). What happens isn’t as important as the participation.

    Do you desire to label your fellow Christians as schismatic / heretical? If so, you might do better as a Catholic. I’m OK with the unknown – which is why I remain Protestant.

  222. @Andrew Preslar:

    From my point of view, each of these understandings is itself something that needs to become the subject of dialogue, so that we can come to a unity in the truth. Just as I would not, either in reality or pretense, cease to submit to the authority of Sacred Scripture in my conversations with liberals, I would not and do not cease to submit to the authority of the Magisterium in my conversations with Protestants.

    FWIW I just want to say “Hear! Hear!” to this. Most of the miscommunication here is because fundamental presuppositions are not being made the subject of discussion; rather, Protestants are presupposing Sola Scriptura and arguing that this or that Catholic belief or practice doesn’t jibe. And it may be that occasionally the case that Catholics are presupposing the Magisterium, and criticising Protestant beliefs or practices as not jibing with the Magisterium – although I must say I think I have seen very little of that.

    I have, in another post, repeatedly asked Henry for the reason he believes the New Testament to be of God. I think this is a fundamental question and needs an answer. I have, here and elsewhere, explained why I believe in the Magisterium (very brief line is: I believe in God for what amount to philosophical reasons; in Jesus as His Son on historical grounds; in the Church as His mouthpiece, again on historical grounds; and in the Church as infallible as a necessary consequence of these).

    Now any of my reasons is open to debate and I would welcome that. I think the question why the Sola Scriptura Protestant believes in Scripture is itself a fundamental question that should be discussed. I think the typical Protestant, if he thought it through, would go through basically my line of reasoning above – and then add the – I think unjustified – codicil that the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, produced the Scriptures and then signed out. But I would like to hear a coherent explanation from the SS Protestant as to why he believes in SS.

    We need to discuss presuppositions.

    jj

  223. Dear Rev. Jones,

    I guess it is your casual tone that leads some to believe you are not serious. As an ordained minister in care of souls, clearly you are not a casual participant in Christian life and yet you are prone to restate things said here with a casual disregard for there exact facts or issues in question.

    Example: “you sit here talking about whether he is in the grape juice or the wafer. God help us.”

    First, it is wine (not grape juice) and bread that constitute the matter of the sacrament. Second, and perhaps you did not know this, the debate those two men are having has to do with what the Catechism describes as “the Source and Summit” of our lives as Catholics – the Eucharist. Catholics believe (as attested to in Scripture and affirmed by the early Church Fathers, that this bread and wine, while retaining the appearance of bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus. The same body and blood sacrificed for us on Calvary. This is not, as your comment would seem to suggest, some petty squabble on the fringes of religious belief. This is (spiritual) life or death! Yes, and may God help us to know and live the truth of matters of such grave importance.

    Example: “Who declares the Roman Church and its leader has supreme and only authority? You guys say….scripture. We then say, scripture doesn’t seem to clearly state that. You then say, but the church Fathers do. And we say, who told them, and you say, scripture. This is known as circular reasoning.”

    That’s a mischaracterization that suggests either a superficial reading or a willful desire to distort. “Who” declares that the Church has supreme authority? Jesus : “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” How much more authoritative can one be than to have the power to “bind and loose” in the way Jesus describes.

    You reply, “I don’t see it that way.” The Catholic replies by pointing to the Church Fathers whose unanimous witness affirms the Catholic view of Christ’s pronouncement. It is not like ping pong, bouncing back between Scripture and the Fathers, it is that they are mutually reinforcing. That’s very different from your “circular” reasoning accusation. One Catholic principle that seems often to differ with what I hear from Protestants on this site is that of “both/and” against the Protestant “either/or”. It is not either the Fathers or Scripture is it both in a mutually reinforcing relation.

    Final example: “They are closing 100 Roman Catholic Schools in my area. The exodus is profound especially involving the scandal of the priests which you assured everyone was not there for years. They are closing Protestant churches by the hundreds every week. Both our witness of Christ sucks, pardon my frankness, and the world is saying it sucks”

    You must live a in very, very Catholic part of the U.S. I count about 150 in the New York Metropolitan area, serving 8 million people. Methinks you are indulging in a bit of hyperbole here.

    What was your point about the scandal? Just a stick to beat Catholics with? The scandals (which ARE in the past at this point) were a deep, ugly wound in the Body of Christ, the “smoke of Satan” as one Pope one described evil in the Church. Jesus did not promise that he would preserve his Church from moral error, his promise was for doctrinal error – errors in transmitting the Deposit of Faith. This is the role of the Magisterium, which began with the Apostles, and has been passed down through the laying on of hands for 2,000 years. The gates of Hell have not prevailed against her, no matter what hysterical headlines (and anti-Catholic agenda) in the news may try to suggest.

    You don’t see what we see because you’re standing outside the Church. It’s like the stained glass windows – they’re dull and indistinct from outside, but inside, they are vivid – illuminated by the light of truth.

    Frank

  224. Rev. Jones,

    A few more questions. Is reform continuing in the church now? Can you give me any examples of reform in the church in the past century? How do I identify true reform versus schism or heresy? The issue of contraception comes to mind. Were the changes initiated at the 1930 Lambeth Conference reform or heresy? Most importantly who gets to decide and why?

    I really want to understand how to approach these questions within the Protestant framework.

    -Burton

  225. Bob and Rev. Jones,

    I’m sorry if it appears we are “pilling” on. I have pulled myself out of the direct conversation in this thread to alleviate just that effect. However, I wanted to see if this was more anecdote than true. One thing I’ve learned in my day job (I’m home sick) is to verify with data what we all “assume” is the case. Especially, when people start complaining. So, I clicked on an article at random (Ecclesial Deism), and went through the combox making notes. Now, if I were going to a Protestant website that encouraged Catholics to come and dialog (e.g., “Where Rome meets the Reformation”) with a group of writers–all former Catholics, I would expect something like:

    1. Catholic makes a statement (question or objections)
    2. The Protestant replies
    3. The Catholic replies to the Protestant
    4. The Protestant replies
    5. Another Protestant replies wanting to clarify something to keep the conversation moving

    So, what did I find at CTC? I only went through the first fifty comments (or so), but here you go:

    the first 6 were congratulatory (nice job!)
    Protestant
    Bryan’s response
    reply to Bryan from Protestant
    Protestant comment/objection
    Protestant question
    Bryan’s response
    Protestant question
    Bryan’s response
    Protestant question/objection
    Bryan’s response
    Catholic question
    Catholic comment to Bryan
    Catholic comment
    Congratulatory comment
    reply from Bryan
    Protestant objection
    Bryan’s response
    another Catholic responds to Protestant objection
    Protestant objection
    Catholic response
    Protestant objection
    Catholic response
    A different Catholic response (trying to make progress)
    Bryan’s response linking to a reply to something the objector asked or said
    Another Catholic response
    Protestant reply
    New Protestant objection
    Bryan’s reply
    T Rieollo’s reply
    Protestant objects again
    Protestant speaks again
    Catholic response
    Another Catholic response
    Tim’s response
    Protestant response to Catholic response
    2 Catholic responses
    Protestant response

    This seems fair. Go through this combox and see what you find. The same thing. Now, the number of contributors is besides the point. You already know there are a whole host of Catholics–both contributors (by looking at the “about” section of the website) and consistent friends of the site–willing to try to answer Protestant questions and/or objections. In fact, I find Catholics asking Protestants questions all the time here, so the combox at CTC is a far cry from a winner-takes-all, my-way-or-the-highway slug fest. I’ve seen websites like that (triablog). In fact, more than once, the editors of this blog have decided not to publish one of my comments because they felt it was too inflammatory.

    I’m Scotch-Irish and Native American (Apache). What can I say.

    We all have our bad days. : )

    Pax Christi!

  226. To Andrew #210, Thank you very much for the link. I had checked out amazon and found the book there but appreciate the pdf link.

    Jeff

  227. Bob, you indicate that the Catholic’s understanding of the Church’s teaching authority (i.e., the Magisterium) renders dialogue an exercise in futility. How would you respond if an agnostic or liberal claimed that your understanding of the authority of Sacred Scripture rendered dialogue an exercise in futility?

    I would agree. The main difference is that I don’t hold my interpretation of scripture as the absolute Truth – being that I recognize my own sinful nature. I can do my best, and I’m content with being wrong.

    All authorities are made up of sinful people. In most cases, these authorities don’t like to admit they are wrong (which happens all the time). However, there is only 1 earthly authority that claims to be incapable of being wrong. When I dialogue with my fellow agnostic human, there is an implied understanding that we are both human and both make mistakes in our understanding. When there is dialogue with the RCC, it is entirely one sided. I ‘am’ wrong – for the simple reason that I question. It doesn’t even matter if you turn out to be right (again, see Galaleo) – the authority has ruled otherwise.

    I paint with a broad brush, and I see the comeback already… we’re only divinely protected on issues of faith, not science or anything else – and certainly not on the behavior of our popes. The authority gets a free pass, and gets to retain its authority regardless of any behavior, any miss-ruling, any scandal… it has authority over people’s souls! Every discussion is therefore entirely one sided, and ultimately futile.

  228. @Bob #225

    Following your reasoning, the fact that the Apostles were also sinful men in positions of authority makes any dialogue between any two people, Catholic or otherwise, about Christianity ultimately futile. You can’t even trust your starting point, Sacred Scripture.

  229. Bob,

    You wrote (emphasis added):

    The main difference is that I don’t hold my interpretation of scripture as the absolute Truth – being that I recognize my own sinful nature. I can do my best, and I’m content with being wrong.

    In fact, my analogy depends upon whether or not you hold Sacred Scripture itself to be the absolute Truth. If you do, then this is where lies the difference between you and the agnostic or liberal, even before you get to interpretations. (Also, I am a little confused by the claim the you are “content to be wrong.” Are you really thus content?)

    The human authorship of Sacred Scripture is made up of sinful people. This does not imply that Sacred Scripture is capable of being wrong. So to point out that the Church is comprised of sinful people does not, in itself, indicate that the Church is capable of being wrong, in the specified sense of infallibility maintained by Catholics.

    It does look like you are painting with a broad brush. Furthermore, it looks like you are painting a straw man with that brush. Further still, it looks as though you are aware of this! So, instead of swiping that brush at something that you know is not Catholicism, and then claiming that dialogue is futile, why not engage actual Catholic claims, point by point, and then see if that dialogue goes anywhere?

    One of our new contributors, Fred Noltie, has offered a concise argument for ecclesial infallibility in his introduction post, currently featured on our main page. Perhaps you could evaluate and discuss that argument, as a way of testing the waters.

  230. Hey Bob (#225),

    You said,

    When I dialogue with my fellow agnostic human, there is an implied understanding that we are both human and both make mistakes in our understanding.

    I probably said as much (probably a lot) when I was Protestant. A number of my friends certainly feel this way and say so using almost the same words.

    At some point it became clear to me that I could go one step further: …there is an implied understanding that we are both human and both make mistakes in our understanding and, in the final analysis, neither of us can really know whether one of us is right.

    I realized, in other words, that I couldn’t really pinpoint any principled difference between [agreeing with Agnostic that we both make mistakes] and [agreeing with Agnostic that we can't know whether one of us is right]. As far as I could tell, Agnostic and I were committed agnostics. He was secular; I was Christian. But we were both agnostic.

    Would you take it that far?

  231. @Bob B:

    Bob, you indicate that the Catholic’s understanding of the Church’s teaching authority (i.e., the Magisterium) renders dialogue an exercise in futility. How would you respond if an agnostic or liberal claimed that your understanding of the authority of Sacred Scripture rendered dialogue an exercise in futility?

    I would agree. The main difference is that I don’t hold my interpretation of scripture as the absolute Truth – being that I recognize my own sinful nature. I can do my best, and I’m content with being wrong.

    So, Bob, how would you go about trying to convince the agnostic that the Bible is the Word of God?

    jj

  232. John,
    How would you go about showing that the RCC cannot err in matters of faith and morals? What would it take to falsify this claim?
    If you can’t falsify it, then all you are doing is asserting it.

  233. @Henry:

    How would you go about showing that the RCC cannot err in matters of faith and morals? What would it take to falsify this claim?
    If you can’t falsify it, then all you are doing is asserting it.

    That was the point of the points from Ronald Knox that I put in #137 above in reply to Ed Dingness. You have to start somewhere. My argument is (very very briefly):

    1) God exists (inferred both from creation and from my own ability to know things and from conscience)

    2) Jesus is a unique messenger from God (from history – C. S. Lewis’s “Liar, Lunatic, Lord” argument)

    3) Jesus sent a body of men into the world with the characteristics that they should be united and with His authority that all men should obey them (from history again – from the New Testament, but viewed as history, as above)

    4) That body of men continue in history as the Church

    5) Since Jesus expects us to obey that body of men in spiritual things, they must necessarily be infallible.

    I still would like to know why you believe the NT to be God’s Word. I would say, personally, that you, like me, follow the above line of reasoning, but with the addition:

    6) This body of men produced the NT, which is necessarily infallible (same as the infallibility of the Church).

    7) They then ‘signed off’ – said, in effect, “there is your constitution; from now on it’s up to you.”

    Naturally I think agree with step 6), but not with step 7) – if, in fact, anything like step 7) is what you believe.

    jj

  234. @John

    The infallibility of Scripture is not the same as the infallibility of the church. It certainly isn’t the same as the infalliblity of the visible church.

    I had a major computer snafu that left me computerless since Sunday. I was on the verge of checking in to the internet forum addiction rehab facility (IFARF) when the computer therapist called me telling me my computer was fixed, but that my checking account might need some repair now.

  235. @Ed Dingess:

    The infallibility of Scripture is not the same as the infallibility of the church. It certainly isn’t the same as the infalliblity of the visible church.

    Absolutely agree. In fact, the better term to use about Scripture would, I think, be ‘inerrant.’ Scripture is inerrant; fallibility is a characteristic of someone who – at least under certain circumstances – won’t fail you. That is, of course, what we believe about the (visible) Catholic Church under pretty precise circumstances – as in when bishops in communion with the Pope teach something as to be help by all Christians with divine faith.

    I had a major computer snafu that left me computerless since Sunday. I was on the verge of checking in to the internet forum addiction rehab facility (IFARF) when the computer therapist called me telling me my computer was fixed, but that my checking account might need some repair now.

    You have my deepest sympathy! I work in the computer business and know just how fallible computers can be.

    And good luck with thatq addiction :-)

    jj

  236. In answer to many questions in no particular order. My church is in the Philadelphia, Pa. area. There are currently 49 Roman Catholic schools set to close http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=8493407. I recall reading an article where they closed a bunch a year or so ago as well, Somehow the round number of 100 stuck in my brain. The point being “a lot”. I use a lot of humor and illustration to communicate the gospel to people. Pardon my “loose style” as someone observed.

    Someone asked if that was a stick to beat Roman Catholics, and y’all must really be feeling like whipped puppies because in the same sentence I mentioned the closing of Protestant churches and the awful witness ALL of us are doing on both sides of this controversy. I was hoping to call us all to repentance before we ever get to communion.

    My thanks to Andrew for clarifying the mission statement of this group. Whew. Seems I am not so out of place as I thought. If you all are sincere in a call to communion then we have a limited number of roads we could imagine ourselves going down. One, we could simply declare that we are united by Christ, separate yet united in his love. Kind of like the Nicene thing where he is both one and three, but we declare it a mystery.

    I see from arguments here that Roman Catholics do not seem to like that, you call it the “invisible church”. I was hoping to make some suggestions to make it more visible and thereby a more acceptable option.

    The second option is when you have two opposing thesis, the only way to combine them would be a synthesis, which means we both cease to exist as we know it and imagine a unified church. That doesn’t seem to sit well with y’all either.

    The third option which RC people really seem to like is that everyone reinvestigation the Roman faith, falls in love with it, renounces their stream, and comes and joins the magesterium.

    That idea seemed a bit dumb to me to be honest, since it hasn’t seemed to work in 500 years, but I tried reading the articles you suggested. As you can see, it did not work for me. As a matter of fact it made me feel worse. I understand some cures work for some and not for others, and I do not mean to question those of you who tried this option, and I do not mean to imply you are dumb, or the option is dumb, but rather I do not really imagine it will work for large numbers as a final solution to the call to communion. So I do not know where that leaves us.

    Let me try another attempt of imagining the invisible church a bit more visibly. There is a museum by us called the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is a big old building with many wings of different types of art in each wing. What if we image this is Christ’s church. He is Lord of all, the King. In one wing is the Roman Catholic section with all kinds of beautiful things you guys love. Us protestants and other streams can also walk through this wing and fall in love with your works. Then there are wings for the other branches of Christendom. Each with its own works on display, each group appreciating the different styles and forms, yet loving the work because it is all of Christ.

    While no one would suggest putting a Protestant piece in the hall of RC, we would remain separated by our distinctive way we practice the faith. We would also want to all declare some things not worthy of the museum, like a velvet Elvis painting at a garage sale, or your child’s finger painting from fourth grade. We would need to define “art”, and then work off that new unified definition for the sake of visible tangible unity, yet still maintain our own distinct authority in diversity.

    The purpose being to show the world a visible unity, and how diverse nations, ethnicities, and monetary policies might coexist in peace and love.

    Or….an even simpler idea. The Pope, the magesterium, takes his keys given to him by Peter and unlocks the door keeping us separated, rather than simply walking through the hallway like the janitor jingling them just to show he has the power. He declares that all branches of Christendom which meet a few minimal requirements, (like the Nicene creed) shall henceforth be called children of the living God and welcome. For those who wish to be under the RC church, you are welcome. For those who wish to remain separate you are welcome. Now that there is some REAL magesterium. I could dig that.

    I urge you to use some creativity in your responses. If you really feel ideas will not work how about shaping them or proposing something else? I do not think sitting behind a batting cage slamming pitches out of the park is really a “call to communion” Brent’s comments abut the RC church not being “all mushy like the Episcopalians” ( which made me kinda wince since I don’t think Episcopalians are all that warm and mushy to be frank) seems to imply, “Rome love it or leave it”. Perhaps I took that comment wrongly.

    I ask again, is this really a call to communion.com. or a call to accept Rome or go to hell.com?

  237. Rev. Jones,

    I urge you to use some creativity in your responses.

    Thanks for your most recent comment. I appreciate that you have presented to us what appears to you a way out of the current dialog to a more open space of Christian unity. However, I wanted to give you two very quick reactions, and reactions that I would have had as a Protestant (being that I was a Protestant only a few years ago).

    1. I think your solution doesn’t solve the problem you are trying to solve. The problem you are trying to solve, as it appears to me, is the tension(s) in Christendom (e.g., competing theses). However, you proposed Nicene Christianity as a possible minimal requirement. In that way, you feel you have moved the bar sufficiently low enough to include the most possible Christians in what I’ll call your “house of unity”. However, as you know, there are many people who call themselves Christians who don’t confess the Nicene Creed–nor believe it implicitly. For example, a very large church about 20 minutes from me, when I lived in Texas, was run by a very prominent and popular tv preacher and pastor. They don’t believe in the Trinity. I bring this up because it would appear to them and many others who call upon the name of the Lord your solution is really “a call to accept your bar of orthodoxy or go-to-hell.com”. So, in this way, you haven’t solved the problem of exclusivity, leaving people out, etc., only now you hold the keys to eternal life (or so it would appear to the non-Nicene peeps).

    2. If Christianity is as you describe it, I would much rather be a non-believer. Why? Because Christianity appears, on this view, a mere appetite. Q: What is baptism? A: Who cares, as long as it floats your boat! Q: Do you need confession and in what mode? A: I don’t know, tell me what you think! Q: What is the nature of the Eucharist? A: If you believe in the Eucharist, good for you! We use dixie cups at our place!

    My point is that if Jesus is God, Truth Incarnate, on #2, Christianity looks like a silly religion. In your analogy of the museum and to my #1, I ask why not just add a room for everyone! Don’t Unitarians give us the best model for demonstrating how to “get along despite our diversity”? And if that is our main goal, to co-exist, why not go all the way? Let’s show the world how to get everyone together. Then, under that “house of unity”, I — as an unbeliever — could be included.

    I ask again, is this really a call to communion.com. or a call to accept Rome or go to hell.com?

    First, no one anywhere has said anyone is going to hell (Though, I imagine this is another case of hyperbole). Second, if the Catholic Church is the church Jesus personally founded then, yes, coming into communion with Her = reunion/unity. And, it will take more than just reading a few articles to examine the veracity of that claim. So, if you want to seriously examine it, I recommend you take the time to do so. If you are not interested at this time, that is also your prerogative and I wish you godspeed, all the best, and many blessings on you and your lovely family (I took the time to click through to your website and see the picture of your great looking crew. Lovely!)

    Peace in Christ,

    Brent

  238. Thanks for your response Brent. As you pointed out in number one I obviously haven’t thought through all the ramifications. In some cases where there is a big mountain of a problem I like to work at it stone by stone until the mountain is moved. In other cases you need a big idea to get things going. I am looking here that even if we Reformers and RC people worked out every jot and tittle of our differences, we would still end up with the Pope/Sola scriptura issue which seems a deal breaker.

    So I am not seeing much progress on working out differences one theology at a time, although it might help to put all we do agree on on the table and take a look at that. But your point is well taken, even if we hammered out our differences, there are those Christians who would just disagree. I am just trying to find a starting point and a direction.

    In point number two, I did not say your expression of Christianity would be as I described it, your branch or hall would be your expression of Christianity and you can feel/think all you want to that the other guys are missing out. I am not doing this to water us all down so we accept each other’s theology, I am finding some grounds where we can understand the love and mercy of our Lord who is willing to meet people where they are. You do recall the Pharisees making fun of Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. There is meat and milk in the Kingdom.

    How about harkening back to your old Pentecostal days for a moment and stating that “if you confess with your lips, and believe in your heart, you shall be saved”. Just being saved may not be a life long place to remain, but its a great place to begin. After years you may enjoy a more orthodox expression of faith, and others after years of orthodoxy may just now be enjoying a season of the Pentecost.

    The issue for people seems to be that if I really believe the way I do this is the best and the Lord’s desire for me, how can others do things differently? If I accept what they do, does that not water down my own expression? It is a legitimate fear.

    When I was called by the Lord to the ministry I had been in the working world for ten years. I actually had to go back and finish my undergraduate degree before seminary. I was told not to study other religions because it would weaken my faith, so I chose religious studies as my major. I figured I might as well get challenged at the start rather than later. That may seem like backwards reasoning, and I have no idea why the Lord called me, which I actually told him many times.

    Anyway, I had a Jewish Rabbi for my course in Judaism, and he told the story of studying Christianity in college under a black pastor. He went to the pastor after the first class and shared his fears of hearing about Christianity. The black pastor thought for a moment then asked him, “Are you afraid your anchor is too weak?”. The Rabbi said he literally ran out of the meeting because the Pastor had nailed the issue. He eventually did return and learned a lot. He and I had many wonderful conversations during my studies because he had a very sensitive understanding of Christianity, but still remains Jewish.

    If you look up “Christianity” on Wikipedia and other sites, we are all there. Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals. Isn’t it kind of odd that the world sees us as one religion, but we of the unity in Christ cannot. That’s just mind boggling.

    I do get the point that this communion may not possible and better minds than ours have thought about this for hundreds of years. Just here on a blog, with no limitations or no restrictions can we even begin to imagine what it might look like to be unique, yet loved, one , yet diverse. I personally know that it is possible with God, I have caught a few glimpses in some recent Pentecostal experiences which blew my mind, primarily because guys from Philly do NOT fall down. Someone said we are all one experience away from believing in the Pentecost.

    Here is one other thought. The Bible says we are all “heirs” of the kingdom. What if we just designated each other as heirs. You can believe that you are getting the full worth while others are missing out not being under the Vicar of Christ, and others can believe you are not getting the full worth as an heir because you do not espouse sola scriptura. And yet we both remain heirs. Does that work?

    Hey, if you throw enough spaghetti against the wall something is going to stick. I am trying here.

  239. Rev. Jones,
    If the claims made by the Catholic Church were true and if she is, in fact, the Church Christ founded, would you become Catholic?

  240. Brian,
    Have you studied church history?

  241. Rev. Jones,

    Without addressing all of the many great themes of your recent comments, just a few smallish questions and comments:

    1. On what basis do you accept the principle of sola scriptura? Or, to take things back a bit, why do you believe the collection of documents we call the Bible is, not only accurate and edifying, but divinely inspired and inerrant?

    2. You said:

    If you look up “Christianity” on Wikipedia and other sites, we are all there. Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals. Isn’t it kind of odd that the world sees us as one religion, but we of the unity in Christ cannot. That’s just mind boggling.

    Are you suggesting that Catholics deny that Protestants and (Trinitarian) Pentecostals are Christians? No one on this site has said that. The Church teaches the opposite.
    Catechism of the Catholic Church 818:

    All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.

    CCC 838:

    The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.

    3. Again, as I mentioned in a previous comment, your proposals in effect say: Catholics, you’re fine: as long as you don’t really believe what the Church teaches, feel free to play-act with all the papal pomp you want, just don’t go around thinking that it’s true. I know you’re trying to explore creative options for what you see as a grander perspective, but you need to recognize that it does not, indeed cannot, succeed in integrating the “smaller” perspectives while keeping them intact. It necessarily destroys them in order to unite them. Which means that acceptance of your proposal would involve a modification of “Catholicism” that would amount to its renunciation. Now, I don’t say this as a direct argument against your proposal. I just want you to come to grips with what you are in fact asking of Catholics, and indeed of other Christians who make mutually exclusive claims. In some ways, this could be seen as the flip side of the problem that Brent pointed out in point 1 of his #235 regarding the fate of non-Trinitarians who identify nonetheless as Christians (Oneness Pentecostals, Unitarians, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.). You noted that you haven’t thought through all the ramifications (#236), but this question of where you’ll draw the basic lines and why you’ll draw them where you do is not some secondary issue. It’s at the core of your proposal.

    best,
    John

  242. Rev. Jones, I hesitate to jump in here for much talk has been made of ‘piling on.’ However, I venture an observation that may be worth some reflection for us all.

    I think one of the reasons that it may seem that you and the RC contributors here appear to be talking past each other (and thus the semantics discussions above) is that it seems that the position you are taking is not the historic Protestant position. It seems to be much more of a post-modern/emergent position. Historic Protestant denominations have always justified their position, and hence entire existence, by stating that they, whether Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal etc…, objectively, have the correct interpretation of Scripture. And they have all their logical arguments, and their proof texts, and they start their seminaries and teach these same arguments. And every denomination does this, yours included. I think most of the RCs here are assuming that, especially as a Reformed person, you hold to the traditional Reformed approach to these matters (ie-there is a wrong way and a right way to interpret Scripture, as one of my PCA pastors once told me).

    However it seems to me that your aim in all this is to get the RCs here to admit that we should just all agree to disagree and to confess, with you, that at the end of the day, there actually is no objective interpretation that is possible to attain, and so it’s just the attempt that matters, so do whatever “floats your boat.” This mentality is certainly the spirit of our age. But it most certainly was not the spirit of Luther and Calvin’s age.

    So it seems very natural in our age to say things like

    The Bible says we are all “heirs” of the kingdom. What if we just designated each other as heirs. You can believe that you are getting the full worth while others are missing out not being under the Vicar of Christ, and others can believe you are not getting the full worth as an heir because you do not espouse sola scriptura. And yet we both remain heirs. Does that work?

    But all RCs here, as well as Luther and Calvin I would venture to guess, would resoundingly say no. And the reason is is that we have to have some non-arbitrary way of distinguishing between those who are heirs and those who aren’t so we can rightly refer to them as such. You seem to be ok calling RCs heirs, and that’s fine as far as it goes, and we would call some Protestants heirs as well. But what about Muslims? Would you call them heirs? New-Agers? Mormons? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why or why not? Because eventually the line with which you separate heirs from non-heirs has to be applied to you as well. How can you be sure you are not on the other side? That is the question my wife and I had to wrestle with and we discovered that outside of God creating one, visible Church, that could be located in history, there was no non-arbitrary way in which to answer it.

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  243. Rev. Jones,

    Reading your missives I was caught by something that appeared to be missing.

    When I left evangelicalism it was over truth. I was reading (and re-reading) what Jesus said, and finding that we evangelicals would discount it, evade it, avoid it, or deny what He said. Actually that also extended to Paul, and Paul in early Romans was the filter for everything from the gospels to the other apostolic letters; and even Paul found some of his writings subject to other of his writings.

    Jesus in John 6 is clear about eating His Body and drinking His Blood to have life. The description of how this happens is in the synoptics and 1st Corinthians but, like the people at the end of John 6, we walked away grumbling.

    John 20:23 describes the forgiveness and retention of sins and how it is gotten or not. We used a denial of Jesus’ statement to avoid the necessary conclusion that He had given this authority to the Church He created.

    Paul writes in Romans about salvation by faith and not by works, but he is writing to the Jews (the beginning of each of his letters to the churches is entirely to the Jews) about the works of the old covenant. Later in Romans he writes about working out our salvation in fear and trembling because it is God’s purpose to work and will in us. We tended to deny “working out one’s salvation” because it conflicted with faith alone, or running the race to the end, or hoping to be found worthy.

    The faith and not works position described in Romans is used to deny James who writes that faith without works is dead. It is also convenient for issues such not being required to feed the hungry, clothe the naked or visit the sick and those in prison, which is what Jesus specified.

    Yet it was faith alone was contrary to scripture. Since Jesus noted that His Father was still working, which was His emphasis for His own work, what about us who are called to imitate Him? It appears that we have something to do that He has directed us to accomplish through Him and with His grace. It also appeared that we were not required to have an epiphany to know what to do. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Visit the sick and the imprisoned. Nice clear objectives to be done in imitation of Him.

    The practical denial of Jesus’ own words was what drove me to find the place where those words were fulfilled. I did not find them fulfilled in the wing of a museum, I found them fulfilled in the historical Church He founded. The Church that I had found condemned and assumed to be hellish turned out to be heaven’s porch with a door into that place. God forgive me.

    I was not convinced by the totality of Catholic response to what the Church teaches, noting that Judas Iscariot was an apostle. I was not convinced by the beauty of the rite. I was convinced by the positions and their reasoning. Jesus said something and the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit as noted by our Lord, found itself required to look for and accept the right position (tenet, dogma) as it grew in understanding.

    People fail. The Church itself did not. The Church believed Jesus when He spoke and responded accordingly. That was what drove me out of Protestantism (and I looked long and hard) and into Catholicity. I have assumed it was a gift given when I was working out my salvation in fear and trembling because it is God’s will at work in me.

    I was outside the Church, now I am inside it. I was in charge. Now I am a reasoning son of the Church subject to the proper authorities. I gained an immense understanding of the scripture, since it became sensible from Genesis to the Apocalypse. I was no longer forced to test Jesus’ words, rather they now test me.

    May the Way, the Truth and the Life aid you in your journey.

    Cordially,

    dt

  244. Forgive me ahead of time if this is a bit of a ramble. 2 of my children had a rough night, and I’m a bit low on sleep. I’ll try to get to other comments when I have a few minutes. This has been weighing on my mind since 2am.

    I’d like to try to form a coherent argument against the claims of papal infallibility, interpretive authority, and keys of the kingdom using Galileo as a case study.

    Galileo is an interesting one. He was an astronomer that postulated a heliocentric system (the sun at the center, not the earth). He was a Catholic, and the pope of his day determined that his theories went against the Bible, and forced him to recant his positions (which he did). He was also placed under house arrest for his views.

    For this argument, lets assume that the keys have been given to Peter, and then passed on to each successive pope. The keys are specifically to ‘bind and loose’. In this case study – it appears as though the pope of the day was using his keys on Galileo. He was also using his interpretive authority to back up his use of the keys.

    The interesting thing is that the pope was wrong – his interpretation was wrong, his use of the keys based on the interpretation was also wrong. I’m not suggesting that he simply made a mistake – he forced a recantation of the objective TRUTH and imposed a penalty, based on his authority granted to him as the Chair of Peter.

    This begs several questions.
    1. Did the pope overstep his bounds? (I would suggest no, since he has quite a lot of power given to him).
    2. Was the pope acting infallibly? (Apparently not).
    3. Since the keys and interpretive authority are more specifically spelled out in scripture, and infallibility is not – and since both the keys and interpretive authority are wrong in this case… and since the keys and interpretive authority are the basis for infallibility – by what measure can we know that papal infallibility rests on a correct interpretation and correct use of the keys?
    4. If the pope can force a recantation of the truth in the case of Galileo, how can we be sure the See of Peter hasn’t done so in other cases?

    I would suggest that the Protestant (and Orthodox) conclusion on these issues is the correct one – that claims of infallibility, claims of the keys, and claims of interpretive authority come out of a desire for power, not from something specifically given to the pope (or the Chair). This desire for power has other manifestations (the ability to depose kings for instance), but that desire and claims of authority run contrary to Biblical teaching.

  245. Donald,
    Did you read any history of the RCC before you converted?

  246. Hello Andrew (#206),

    I would agree with you that my terminology (“the traditions of men”) was too general. I think your terminology is more accurate, so I will adopt it: “the tradition, as concerning the Real Presence, of those men to whom has been given the authority to teach in the Catholic Church.”

    I would say that if a certain group of Christians (e.g., the Hussites that you referred to) believe something, it doesn’t necessarily follow that that group is wrong about that belief. The Hussites believed in the Holy Trinity. It would not follow that their belief was wrong. Otherwise, you would have “guilt by association.” The Catholic Church also believes in the Holy Trinity. I am therefore 100 percent with the Catholic Church in this belief.

    However, the sharing of the consecrated wine has always been a tradition of the Church. Catholic converts are usually quite effusive about their joy in discovering the ancient church in the ECFs. Yet, in the ECFs you find that the tradition is to give the Precious Blood to the people, not just to the priests. The Eastern Orthodox have never withheld the cup (although I think it’s strange that they submerge the bread in the wine instead of simply drinking from the cup–but that’s another topic!).

    By withholding the eucharistic cup, the Catholic Church is contributing to the disunity of the Church and is frustrating ecumenical efforts, the very efforts this site is endeavoring to promote. It’s a matter of charity and love. It is selfish of priests to drink from the chalice and then not offer the same to the other Christians gathered there. If St. Paul was so upset over how the poor were disregarded in the Corinthians’ observance of the Supper–and many Corinthians died as a result of their treatment of these poorer members, since they were dishonoring the Body and Blood of the Lord–what would he say about this disregard for the laity by not sharing the cup?

    Best regards,

    Daniel

  247. Dear Bob B (re #242):

    You wrote:

    Galileo is an interesting one. He was an astronomer that postulated a heliocentric system (the sun at the center, not the earth). He was a Catholic, and the pope of his day determined that his theories went against the Bible, and forced him to recant his positions (which he did). He was also placed under house arrest for his views.

    You must first get your facts straight. This is not, in fact, what happened with Galileo, this is the popular account of that incident that is used by people who wish to prove the Church is anti-science. The problem with Galileo was that he wanted to publish his hypotheses and present them as proven fact when, at the time, astronomical observation did not support this. On one particular point – that Galileo considered ocean tides proof of the earth’s rotation – he has been proven incorrect. Galileo was not the first to propose the heliocentric system. It was Copernicus, and he was not condemned because he maintained a proper scientific protocol, not declaring himself correct before the scientific proof was demonstrated. Copernicus’ work was dedicated to Pope Paul III and published by the church with its approval.

    The problem with Galileo was that he was rash and arrogant and went about vociferously claiming he was right, in direct disobedience to his friend and current Pope, Julius. Galileo asked for this fight,, both the Church. Since the matter had direct bearing on the Genesis account of creation, the Church was absolutely right in insisting on ironclad proof for such a challenging claim.

    So the whole basis of your #242 is false. I encourage you to learn what actually happened and not drink the Enlightenment Kool-Aid version of this.

    Since your premise is invalid, so is everything that follows.

    HOWEVER, even if this popular account of Galileo were correct, your point would still be invalid, because any judgment on Galileo was not subject to the definition of Papal infallibility, that is: an ex Cathedra pronouncement, explicitly promulgated on a matter of faith and morals. No one claims the Pope is infallible when offering opinions on matter of general interest.

    Frank

  248. @Henry #238

    Have you studied church history?

    Yes, Henry, I have studied church history. But, what does my knowledge of history have to do with the hypothetical question that I asked?

  249. Hi Brent,

    You said:

    “You are requiring the Catholic Church to submit to your literalist, fundamentalist interpretation of one particular passage in scripture. You throw away that church for what appears to be an appetite…”

    I don’t see how my interpretation is “literalist” or “fundamentalist.” It’s the interpretation of the Church from the very beginning. And I’m not throwing away the Church. The Church is larger than the Roman communion. Or do you think that the Orthodox, Anglicans, etc. don’t have the Holy Spirit? I would say, also, that I’m not engaging in “private interpretation” here either. The Anglican Church, the Lutheran Church, the Orthodox Church–in fact, Christendom as a whole, except for the Catholic Church–affirm the laity’s need/right to share in the cup. The Catholic Church is the one that’s being a little stubborn here :-) and unwilling to submit to the wisdom of its other brothers and sisters in the faith.

    As for my “appetite” for the Precious Blood…do you think that this appetite is unhealthy? Would that all Christians earnestly desire His Blood! And didn’t St. Ignatius have the same “appetite”: “I desire his Blood, which is love incorruptible”?

    I’m in agreement with Cindy (#173), where she says, “I cannot begin to fathom how someone who has tasted the goodness of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist could ever leave it.” I know she means this in the sense that the Eucharist can only be found in submission to Pope Benedict (which I don’t agree with), but I otherwise agree with her sentiment in this way: Having tasted the goodness of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist (by sharing in both the bread and the wine), how could I ever leave it?

    Regards,

    Daniel

  250. I realized, in other words, that I couldn’t really pinpoint any principled difference between [agreeing with Agnostic that we both make mistakes] and [agreeing with Agnostic that we can't know whether one of us is right]. As far as I could tell, Agnostic and I were committed agnostics. He was secular; I was Christian. But we were both agnostic.

    Would you take it that far?

    Yes I would take it that far – but isn’t that the purpose of faith?

    So, Bob, how would you go about trying to convince the agnostic that the Bible is the Word of God?

    jj

    I’m not sure I would try. My responsibility is to live a Godly life. Hopefully seeing Christ reflected in my life will draw others to him, but weather or not that happens, it isn’t my responsibility. That job belongs to God.

    If an agnostic was interested, it wouldn’t necessarily lead down the path of ‘Christ set up the church who identified the cannon’.

    (Also, I am a little confused by the claim the you are “content to be wrong.” Are you really thus content?)

    I am content. I attempt to maintain internal consistency (try to be right), which at the moment doesn’t include Roman Catholic doctrine. Weather or not my internal consistency is the 100% truth is a mystery that I won’t know until I depart from this mortal coil (I’m betting it isn’t). I am content with that. I would like to see others come to a similar level of consistency – come to similar conclusions, but weather or not they do is not my problem. Thus, I know that I am wrong, and I am OK with that. If I get even 50% of absolute truth right, I’ll consider it a life well spent.

  251. @Bob B, (Re 209 and 225):

    Thanks for taking the step of going from “lurker” to “commentator”. As much as I’ll argue that your perceptions are incorrect, I do want to know that I genuinely appreciate your expressing them. The “view from outside” is always hard to get and, when offered, shouldn’t be scorned. I haven’t been a terribly frequent commentator myself, but it looks like my first comment is from just about two years ago. My…time goes fast.

    Anyways, here’s my perception of how dialogue at this site tends to work. It’s run by Catholics so Catholics put out the articles. Protestants show up and reply. Catholics reply back and, occasionally, a dogpile of responses happens. In fairness, the dogpiling tendency is something I’ve seen the admins conscientiously fight back against (and my perception is that it was a bigger problem two years ago than it is now.)

    The problems with most (not merely many) of the Protestants who show up and dialogue on this site are twofold. First, they know frightfully little about Catholicism. The causes of this effect are varied, of course, but the stunning ignorance of Protestants when it comes to Catholicism is truly shameful (particularly among the Calvinists who value correct doctrine and learning so highly – you’d think they could at least get some pretty basic points of Catholic doctrine right, but such a thing eludes them). So yeah, it’s not terribly uncommon to see a Protestant show up and spout off some nonsense like “Catholics think everyone outside of the Catholic church is going to hell”, or “Catholics worship Mary” or “Catholics worship bread”, etc. And the trouble is that the folks on this board are *smart* Catholics – the kind of Catholics that Protestants “fear” in the sense that they (Catholics) know their Bible and theology, *obviously* love God, and can make very good arguments in favor of Catholicism over and against Protestantism. So if some Protestant shows up and spouts off a random Bible verse to “disprove Catholicism”, the folks on this site will point out that this is his interpretation of that Bible verse and, however compelling that exegesis may be, this doesn’t entail that his (or any Protestant’s) interpretation of that verse is normative.

    Now, to be frank, dialogue with these fellows can be “hard”. But I don’t think that talking with them is hard because they’re unreasonable or irrational or even terribly difficult to understand. Rather, it’s hard to talk to them because they know exactly which Protestant presuppositions to question. This is, of course, because all (?) of the admins and many of the other Catholic commentators on this site were themselves Protestant converts to Catholicism (in many cases Protestant for most of their lives, some have received Reformed seminary degrees, this current article is about a Reformed minister who became Catholic, etc). In other words, they’ve gone through the intellectual struggles of conversion. They’ve found for themselves the epistemological, ethical, and metaphysical weaknesses of Protestantism. So when a Protestant wanders through and thinks he can show the wrongness of Catholicism by ripping a single quote out of Exsurge Domine or Unam Sanctum and that thus Catholicism is false, these folks will rightly point out that such claims entail that each individual judges the orthodoxy of the church – and that the opposite paradigm is far better supported in Scriptural and Patristic sources.

    And then comes the second problem, as you yourself noted: The Protestants who comment on this site generally get frustrated and take off. Sadly, the internet makes it terribly easy to join a conversation, throw out a sound bite or two, then take off with minimal social consequences. (Can you imagine someone showing up for a debate, throwing out two punchlines, then retreating off stage without thoughtfully responding to the other side? If you’re American and you’ve seen a Presidential “debate” then you can imagine such a thing, :-p but such conduct is still disgraceful because it avoids a true debate in favor of soundbites.) So all that’s left are the lurkers – and I’d venture to guess that many Protestant lurkers find it telling just how many Protestants show up, can’t really respond to Catholic criticisms, and take off. At least, I found such things, as they say, “Interesting…veerrry interesting”.

    I will offer and then comment on what appears to be an asymmetry, but I don’t think actually is. It may seem like the Catholics around here have a pretheoretical commitment to the thesis that “The Church cannot err”. So when commentators bring up instances where the church did err (seeing indulgences, etc), it seems like there’s no reasoning with those Catholics who are pre-theoretically committed to thinking that the Church can do no wrong – and hence never has done wrong. This is, of course, a faulty view – at best imprecise, at worst outright misleading. The Catholic claim (with which you, Bob, are no doubt familiar) is much more like “In matters of faith and morals the Church cannot err with speaking with its full teaching authority”. So we can discuss sinful Popes, Galileo, indulgences for the dead and clown masses all day long, but the truth of the matter is that such examples fall outside of the domain wherein Catholics claim the church cannot fall into error. Now you or other Protestants may want to make much hay out of such examples (another Protestant awhile back said something like “I prefer to look at the full picture!”), but the simple truth is that those examples just do not apply to what the Catholic church claims for herself. And, as I would think would be obvious, we don’t evaluate positions based on what their adherents deny but on what their adherents actually hold. And, of course, Catholics hold that the church cannot err in certain limited circumstances – so arguing that errors exist outside of those circumstances really fails to address the pertinent question.

    Now many Protestants around here seem to think (at least implicitly) that while Catholics have this quasi-arrogant view that their church cannot be wrong, Protestants are themselves the humble realistic ones who recognize the possibility of error in their own theological systems. This presumed superiority of the Protestant system is, I think, an unjustified presumption. I’ve been to Protestant churches throughout my whole life (including strong Reformed churches over the last few most recent years) and I have never heard a Protestant pastor be intellectually consistent in this regard. If one REALLY thinks that councils, denominations, and most especially one’s own interpretation of Scripture, then I would expect to hear sermons mention this fact. But I’ve never, not once, heard a pastor say that he was offering his own interpretation of scripture, that he might be wrong, and that in fact his interpretation is the minority view (since, if he is a Reformed pastor, his interpretation clearly is the minority view). So as much as Protestants tend to assume an air that “We’re fallible and we know it while Catholics are fallible but refuse to acknowledge it”, I’ve NEVER seen this borne out in practice.

    And it’s not just pastors that, according to Protestant epistemology, need to preach their own fallibility in their sermons. The same epistemology mandates that Protestant parents must consistently maintain their own fallibility while raising their children. (I say this as a father of an 18 month old son with a little girl due in just over a month). I just can’t imagine telling James (my son) someday “Yes, I think Trinitarianism is correct (as do a goodly number of Christian theological experts) but in fairness experts pretty regularly turn out to be wrong and ultimately there’s no way to know for sure.” Maybe (if you have children) that’s how you’ve raised them, but I’ve never actually seen a Protestant parent raise his kids that way – as well he shouldn’t! Part of what parents do is train their kids (as best as us sinners can!) up in righteousness. This means, among other things, that I have an obligation to learn the truth and teach it to my kids. At some point, of course, my kids will have the option of accepting or rejecting truth; we all do. But at least my job is to find truth and teach it to them as truth; that is, not merely “Here’s one of many acceptable views”, but rather “Here’s the right view and here are all the other, wrong, views”. And, of course, the Protestant paradigm doesn’t allow that; it instead entails that as I raise my kids I must make sure that they learn that, this side of heaven, theological truth just cannot be known with certainty (Churches can err, councils can err, experts can err, most especially your parents can err, etc. As such, not only are there no theological certainties, we’re not even certain that there are no theological certainties [because any source telling us that there are no theological certainties is, itself, fallible]).

    All of this is to exemplify my earlier claim: Whereas Protestants frequently say “We’re fallible and we know it while Catholics are fallible but deny it”, both sides act like they’re infallible. The only difference is that Catholics have an intellectual justification for having certainty in their theological beliefs while Protestants don’t. These are thoughts offered for your consideration – reply (or not) as seems best. I imagine you’re just as busy as I am. ;-) Have a great day, in any event, though!

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin =)

  252. @246
    I’ve read the RC version of the Galileo story, and the only thing I gathered from it is that Galileo should consider himself lucky he wasn’t tortured by the Church.
    http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-galileo-controversy

    Nicolini revealed the circumstances surrounding Galileo’s “imprisonment” when he reported to the Tuscan king: “The pope told me that he had shown Galileo a favor never accorded to another” (letter dated Feb. 13, 1633); ” . . . he has a servant and every convenience” (letter, April 16); and “[i]n regard to the person of Galileo, he ought to be imprisoned for some time because he disobeyed the orders of 1616, but the pope says that after the publication of the sentence he will consider with me as to what can be done to afflict him as little as possible” (letter, June 18).

    Had Galileo been tortured, Nicolini would have reported it to his king. While instruments of torture may have been present during Galileo’s recantation (this was the custom of the legal system in Europe at that time), they definitely were not used.

    So the church’s treatment of Galileo was justified because he didn’t follow scientific protocol? What about my premise is invalid? My premise is not that they used papal infallibility in their judgment, but that the keys of the kingdom and authority to interpret were both used incorrectly in this case, casting doubt on their ability to be used to justify papal infallibility.

  253. @Bob,

    Just saw your subsequent post re: Galileo. I once TAed (as a grad student) for a “History of Philosophy of Science” class at Colorado State University. We spent about 2 weeks talking about the Galileo case; it really is fascinating stuff and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the situation was a bit more complicated than the modern telling of the story. If I can squeeze out a few minutes later, I’d be happy to write about what my prof said (if you’d like). Sadly, my wife is sick today so I’m in charge of watching James…and that does cut into one’s ability to comment on internet forums a bit. :p But yeah, it’s a seriously interesting topic and something I have a bit of academic background in, so if you’d like to know more (and it won’t take us off topic, admins?) I’d be happy to write up a brief description of the salient points Dr. Kitchener covered in that class.

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin =)

  254. @248
    What good is infallibility if you ‘err’ all the time? The RCC gets so much wrong, from Galileo, to everything else you mentioned (and that just scratches the surface) – why should they be taken seriously on IC? Even your Orthodox counterparts disagree on that one!

    This is why the RCC is a slippery fish! Every single aspect of error gets written off as a non-assault on the doctrine of infallibility – due to a very narrowly yet ambiguous definition of that doctrine. As proof, the church leaders themselves cannot name with 100% certainty what the Popes through history have infallibly decreed! So I attempt to assault their interpretation of scripture, their use of the keys of the kingdom (in the form of discipline) – and on those too, the RCC is a slippery fish, writing off abuse after abuse as ‘individual’ human sin rather than abandon the authority they have taken for themselves.

    When you use the keys for petty things like Galileo (forcing a recantation, house arrest) – it calls into question the weightier things like Luther.

  255. John s

    I am getting an education here. This is some good stuff. I read your quotes from the catholic catechism and I am totally blown away, in a good way this time. I had a couple a few years back who were getting married and the bride was from the RC church and they asked if I would mind if her priest officiated alongside me. I said “yes” to doing their wedding, the priest said No. I had already done a wedding with a Rabbi and the bride was an ex Eagles cheerleader who had a doctorate in education and the wedding was on the wedding channel with her entire first grade class participating. So I was pretty much open to new experiences.

    She got back to me that the priest would not officiate with a Protestant minister, but he would with other religions like Judaism and Buddhism. She stated that he told her it was because Rome does not recognize Protestants as real Christians. Perhaps I should have checked further, but I thought it was your position. Are there varying degrees of acceptance of Protestants even though the Catechism seems way more positive than I would have imagined.

    I am a little confused about your second point though. I stated repeatedly that I would never ask another Christian to sacrifice their own beliefs or integrity. If you accept Papal authority, and I accept that function is now performed by the offices of the church in my denomination, why would we need to diminish our own beliefs to accept each others? You believe Christ’s authority rests in the Pope, and because you believe and have faith it is true for you. ahhhhh I think I am answering my own question here. You believe that if the Pope is the authority, then there can be no other, not only for you, but for me as well. I get it. hmmmmmmm Gotta think on that one.

    Thanks for your reply. I am actually optimistic for the first time.

  256. Daniel,

    To be fair to Cindy, no Catholic thinks “that the Eucharist can only be found in submission to Pope Benedict.” The Eucharist can be found among all those who preserve apostolic succession, including Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East, etc. I’m not trying to start an argument about whether or not Anglicans have preserved it. I just thought that particular comment sacrificed accuracy to rhetoric.

    best,
    John

  257. Benjamin Keil

    Sorry for jumping in on your discussion with Bob B., just a point of clarification. John Calvin thought the RC church was the “whore of Babylon”, which might explain Reformed lack of Catholic understanding and education. Come to think of it, in my entire seminary training I cannot recall a single class on Catholicism. I took an elective on the saints, and ended up writing my thesis on St. Nicholas, the real one. But that was the extent of my Catholic education except through friends, news accounts, and now here.

    I think your point of Protestant ignorance is well founded. We did however learn church history, and we do see the church fathers also as our fathers, and we do recognize we come from the RC church and she was a big part of history. Aside from that tip of the hat, I at least, am just a beginner.

  258. Bob,

    I would suggest that the Protestant (and Orthodox) conclusion on these issues is the correct one – that claims of infallibility, claims of the keys, and claims of interpretive authority come out of a desire for power, not from something specifically given to the pope (or the Chair).

    Whatever the Orthodox’ views on the See of Peter (which shouldn’t be over-simplified), to my knowledge they would, though the terminology may be different, accept the infallibility of the bishops speaking in general councils. As I mentioned in an earlier post, even when the pre-1054 schisms between the Catholics and the Nestorians and later the Monophysites took place, the protests against the councils were not that councils did not have binding authority as such, but that the third and fourth councils were not legitimate councils.

    Thus it is a uniquely Protestant thing to entirely deny the visible Church a dogmatically authoritative voice. Mr. Jones earlier made the argument that any attempt to claim infallibility/dogmatic authority by any ecclesiastical body was “imperialistic,” which sounds like your “desire for power” assertion. Would you say that the claim of all Christian bodies before the era of Protestantism that the Church can and does speak with conscience-binding authority in ecumenical councils and should be obeyed by all Christians was just a power play. If so, what confidence should we have that, for example, the Bible these Christians produced is reliable at all, much less inerrant/infallible? If not, how do you incorporate this notion into your own ecclesiology?

  259. Dear Bob B. (re#250, 252),

    Either you have never learned what infallibility is (and is not) or simply wish to rail against a straw man out of some animus against the RCC.

    I repeat: the Galileo incident had nothing to do with infallibility. Infallibility is a charism given to the successor of Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to protect the Deposit of Faith from erroneous interpretation or other corruption. Infallibility is not invoked in any way whatsoever in this incident, because Galileo was not promulgating false doctrines — just sloppy science. The Church had every right (and duty) to protect the faithful from this sloppy science since its implications were that the Bible was not inerrant, which, if true, could undermine the faith of those who only heard vague rumors and did not have the capacity to evaluate the scientific validity of Galileo’s claims.

    Please exercise some intellectual honesty and those things which you choose to criticize about the RCC will be taken more seriously. As it is, you undermine your credibility by attacking a straw man version of the RCC and its doctrines.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  260. Rev. Jones,

    Thanks for your response, and particularly for your anecdote. I am not an expert in canon law, and there may not be enough information here to go on. The relevant section of canon law may be found here. Suffice it to say that, if the priest’s words were not garbled in transmission, and he did in fact allege that Protestants are not “real Christians,” he did not accurately express the Church’s teaching.

    As for your last full paragraph, yes, I think you did answer your own question. And please take your time in thinking it out. I would only say one thing: to say that Catholics “believe Christ’s authority rests in the Pope,” while true in a sense, is a reductionism we would not accept.

    best,
    John

  261. donald todd

    Thank you for your writing. My background is Reformed, with a personal attraction to evangelical and Pentecostal strains. So my journey is a bit different from yours. In my background we have a closer view than the evangelicals to the sacraments. We believe that the body and blood are contained alongside the bread and grape juice which we use instead of wine. This is called Transubstantiation if I recall from seminary days so long ago. The Lutherans believe that the body and blood are with the bread and wine which is known as Consubstantiation. The RC church believes that the bread and wine become the body and blood. The evangelicals are what is known as Zwinglian which means the whole thing is just symbolic and there is no body and blood. So we do have actual body and blood in my tradition. We also have Elders, Deacons, and a church hierarchy, just no Pope, Bishops and cardinals. We also Baptize infants which is different than Evangelicals.

    For the persons discussing Protestant Pastors and the use of scripture, in my tradition we are not called to be “authoritative” in our presentation. We are called to exposit the text and try to get out what it actually says to the best of our ability. We might add a personal anecdote or a suggestion on how it might be applied, but the Word is supposed to speak for itself. I do agree that leaves a lot of room for interpretation and the point of sola scriptura not being so “sola” is noted.

  262. Dovetailing on David Pell’s comment, I think his point about the Bible is worth pondering. While Scripture enjoys a certain immunity because we all happen to accept its truth, it enjoys no such immunity in the wider world of readers who are regularly served up narratives like those of Elaine Pagels or Bart Ehrman, narratives which present the delimitation of the canon of scripture in precisely the terms of power grabbing and consolidation that are often alleged against councils and against the papacy.

    John

  263. I repeat: the Galileo incident had nothing to do with infallibility. Infallibility is a charism given to the successor of Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to protect the Deposit of Faith from erroneous interpretation or other corruption.

    Let me see if I can make this more clear. I agree with your first sentience. However, the Galileo incident does have to do with ‘erroneous interpretation’ being made by the Catholic Church. Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair under ‘biblical argument’ for a list of passages being interpreted incorrectly by the Catholic church and used against Galileo to place him under house arrest.

    Where does the doctrine of infallibility come from? Surely it is supported by scripture, and grounded in the keys of the kingdom and the authority to interpret? I have shown that the Pope cannot be trusted to interpret scripture correctly, and uses the keys inappropriately. Why should I believe infallibility?

    Would you say that the claim of all Christian bodies before the era of Protestantism that the Church can and does speak with conscience-binding authority in ecumenical councils and should be obeyed by all Christians was just a power play. If so, what confidence should we have that, for example, the Bible these Christians produced is reliable at all, much less inerrant/infallible? If not, how do you incorporate this notion into your own ecclesiology?

    No, I would not make the assertion of your 1st sentence. To do so would condemn both Coptic Christianity and the Orthodox, neither of which I am willing to do. The pattern of claiming more and more conscience-binding authority has accelerated post schism, and even more so post reformation. As an example, I think it would be reasonable for a subset of the early church fathers to reject papal infallibility. Do they cease to be orthodox due to that rejection? Are they in error, or is the dogma? We can look at the Orthodox church for a pretty good representation of what the early church fathers believed, and they all reject papal infallibility.

    The fact of the matter is that Papal infallibility wasn’t defined until the 1870′s – and presumably no-one before then was conscience bound to believe it, and yet could remain Catholic. The Orthodox have a polite word for this: innovation. If you take a quick look around at the issues the protestants have with the Catholic Church, 90% of them come from post-schism dogma, and they grow with every new innovation the RCC makes.

    If the Catholic church could retreat back to the position and authority it held in 1053 – which gave a lot of latitude in belief without being cumbersome – I’m sure you would get a lot of converts and a lot more unity. However, the RCC continues to persist and insist in the ‘power grab’. The upside is that they have been largely de-fanged so that disagreement doesn’t lead to imprisonment / torture / house arrest.

  264. Aaron Goodrich

    Thank you Aaron. Yes I would very much characterize my position es emergent. I am into thought and writing trying to understand and speak a word to Christians today, which is how I found this board.

    In answer to your question as to who I would designate as “heirs”, I at first suggested the Nicene Creed, but Brent pointed out that many Christians still do not adhere to it so that would be too limiting.

    I then suggested the simple confessing with your lips that Jesus is Lord and that you believe in your heart. This was the question that Peter answered correctly when Jesus asked Him, “Who do you say that I am”. Peter replied, the messiah. It was immediately following that Jesus made his declaration about Peter being the rock upon which he will build his church.

    So I would say that an heir is someone who believes Jesus is their messiah and Lord and is willing to confess it. It seems as was pointed out to me today that the RC church has already accepted Christian believers in their catechism and done so in a way much more open and affirming that I ever would have thought possible.

  265. Rev. Robert Jones writes: If you all are sincere in a call to communion then we have a limited number of roads we could imagine ourselves going down. One, we could simply declare that we are united by Christ, separate yet united in his love.

    There is a big problem with that “solution”. Jesus Christ is the truth. If we are not united in the truth, we are not united in Christ.

    Rev. Robert Jones writes: The second option is when you have two opposing thesis, the only way to combine them would be a synthesis, which means we both cease to exist as we know it and imagine a unified church.

    Hegel’s dialectical method works well in science, but that method breaks down in Christianity. Logic and reason is the starting point of the Christian faith, but the Christian faith is built upon what has been divinely revealed, and what has been divinely revealed is unchangable. Divine revelation cannot “evolve” and change into something else through a Hegelian triad of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Following that path will surely lead us to the land of Protestant Liberalism. Jason Stewart addresses why having sola scriptura as a starting point leads to Protestant Liberalism:

    As I began to dig down to the most foundational differences dividing Protestants and Catholic, the book The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism by Louis Bouyer was recommended to me. … What piqued my interest now was the peculiar thesis of this one book. Bouyer claimed that the Catholic Church is necessary for the full flowering of the principles of the Reformation. Put differently – Protestantism needs Catholicism in order to become all it aspires to be, which, of course, if true means the Protestant Reformation was completely unnecessary. Worse, it means that the Reformation was impossible from the outset because the reformers had unwittingly cut themselves off from the only source that could make their vision fruitful. …

    What I discovered in reading the work was that the author’s claim was well founded. He demonstrates this repeatedly chapter by chapter. He enthusiastically affirms the positive principles of the Reformation showing the reader that, understood properly, each principle has its natural home in the Catholic faith. He then proceeds to critique the more negative aspects of Reformation doctrine (e.g. sola scriptura) contending that these negatives in the course of time undermined Protestantism’s positive principles, eventually giving birth to the reality known as Protestant Liberalism. …

    Rev. Robert Jones writes: The third option which RC people really seem to like is that everyone reinvestigation the Roman faith, falls in love with it, renounces their stream, and comes and joins the magesterium.

    Personally, I would just rename you third option as the “scriptural option”. Jesus Christ founded his own church, and commanded that his disciples must to listen to his church or be excommunicated. The Catholic Church is claiming that she is the church that Jesus Christ personally founded.

    The real question here is something that you have not yet addressed. Is the Catholic Church really the church that Jesus personally founded? Rev. Jones, what is your answer to that question?

  266. Dear mateo:

    I liked your points up to the last one:

    Personally, I would just rename you third option as the “scriptural option”. Jesus Christ founded his own church, and commanded that his disciples must to listen to his church or be excommunicated. The Catholic Church is claiming that she is the church that Jesus Christ personally founded.

    Where exactly in scripture did Jesus “command that his disciples follow the church or be excommunicated” ???

    I think we all affirm the Matthew passage where he claims Peter is the rock upon which I will build my church. It seems somewhere in the definition of one of those terms we end up with a wide divergence. I am going to have to take a look at that.

    However, I do not see the “excommunicated” part, which may be one of the problems here.

  267. @Bob B:

    So, Bob, how would you go about trying to convince the agnostic that the Bible is the Word of God?

    jj

    I’m not sure I would try. My responsibility is to live a Godly life. Hopefully seeing Christ reflected in my life will draw others to him, but weather or not that happens, it isn’t my responsibility. That job belongs to God.

    If an agnostic was interested, it wouldn’t necessarily lead down the path of ‘Christ set up the church who identified the canon’.

    Practically speaking, I would do the same :-) I only try to explain something to those who seem to want to know.

    But, of course, what I was really asking you – for the sake of our discussion, I think it important to get down to basics – was why you believe the Bible to be the Word of God. I think this question tends to get overlooked in Protestant-Catholic discussions, because people say, “Well, we both believe the Bible to be the Word of God. We may differ on the books, but let’s take for granted the things we agree on.” The problem is that I think the reason why we believe something will tell us whether our agreement is only apparent.

    jj

  268. Rev. Jones,

    I’m very gratified that you were so favorably impressed by the Catechism passages I cited earlier. If you want a fuller picture of Catholic ecclesiology, though, I do think it’s important to attend to their context in the Catechism. For a start, see here. If you’re interested in pursuing a deeper study of Catholic teaching on the Church, you might look at Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis, Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio, Blessed John Paul II’s Ut Unum Sint, and the CDF documents Dominus Iesus (2000) and “Responses to Some Questions Concerning Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church” (2007). That’s a whole lot of reading, I know, and I obviously don’t expect you to read and digest it all at once. I just wanted to make sure you had some resources to fill out your understanding of the Catholic Church’s teaching. I appreciate your willingness to learn more.

    Regarding excommunication, I suspect Mateo is referring to texts such as Matt 18.17. It also seem clear that St Paul understood himself to have the authority to excommunicate (e.g., 1 Cor 5.3-5). Like St Paul, the Church understands excommunication to be a — severe, to be sure — restorative measure.

    best,
    John

  269. Henry,

    re your question in 243.

    I will take you back about 40 years and start by noting that I read my way into Catholicism, but was not limited to reading.

    For instance, a local Baptist congregation failed not because of dogma, but because the most powerful laity in that congregation did not like the pastor. A split occurred and the pastor and the losing faction went off and started a new Baptism congregation. (I liked that pastor even though I was not one of his flock.)

    I knew the evangelical Pentecostalism (not Reformed) in which I found myself and found it deficient in believing Jesus Whose words were often ignored in favor of other positions. We did not believe what He was saying, therefore…

    I read backwards, going through holiness, Methodism, Calvinism and Lutheranism by reading histories and biographies as well as theologies. I eventually found the early Church fathers. What a god send!

    I had also purchased The Catholic Catechism by Fr Hardin because I was finding Catholics blamed for everything, even when those things were mutually exclusive. I thought that if Catholics were going to be blamed for something, it should be something of which they were guilty. Lying about Catholics would not do because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and if I was one of His, I had to be about the truth as well. Lying about the innocent does not make them guilty and blaming people for something that they did not do wrong was evil. Satan is the accuser, Jesus is the Savior. I had to pick a side, so I did.

    I compared scripture with what I experienced or with what I was reading. I found Catholicism internally consistent and moving in a particular trajectory from the gospels and Acts on. I was already cognizant about human failing (I am an object example of that, and there are plenty of examples in the Old and New Testaments) so I did not pit the failures of Catholics against the Church itself.

    I had found CS Lewis and I found CS Lewis to be both clear of thought and – amazingly – just short of Catholicism. Lewis led me to GK Chesterton and his unique and wonderful way of looking at things.

    It was also the early part of the abortion controversy. My own denomination was unable to come up with a position, which seems fairly consistent with Protestantism in general at that time. (My impression of Protestantism in particular and in general was about pastors and church ruling bodies thinking, “If I say this, I’ll lose that group, and if I say that, I’ll lose that other group, so I won’t say anything.” The operative word became “but” as in “we are sorry to hear ab0ut it, but” when speaking about abortion. No real authority, no real position.)

    I remember reading a Christianity Today article which justified abortion by noting that the Catholic Church was against it. We could not have opposition to abortion because Catholicism is against it and if Catholicism was against it, it must be right to kill unborn children. It only took Protestantism five centuries to arrive at that conclusion.

    Not being Catholic at that time, I still saw life as a gift of God per Genesis. I even then recognized the preamble to the bill of rights which recognized life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as God-given American rights. I knew that there was neither liberty or happiness if one was denied life, and I could not figure out what the unborn child had done to merit the denial of his or her life.

    So scripture, history and considerations such as abortion were what brought me to Catholicism. I was looking for our Lord and He found me and permitted me the wonder of the confessional on a regular basis, as well as the only Food capable of getting one to heaven.

    Thanks be to God.

    Cordially,

    dt

  270. Donald,
    How did you come to grips with the inquisitions and various bad popes in your search? If the RCC is truly the church Jesus established how could these things happen if it is guided by the HS? As Jesus said -”you will know them by their fruits.”

    I would also like to know how you were able to harmonize purgatory with Scripture and the gospel.

  271. Dear Bob B: (re#261):

    You wrote:

    Let me see if I can make this more clear. I agree with your first sentience. However, the Galileo incident does have to do with ‘erroneous interpretation’ being made by the Catholic Church. Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair under ‘biblical argument’ for a list of passages being interpreted incorrectly by the Catholic church and used against Galileo to place him under house arrest.

    You moved the goalposts a little here, Bob. Before it was Papal error, now it’s Ecclesiastical error. Let me address Papal errors. A Pope can interpret verses of the Bible erroneously without invalidating the charism of infallibility IF said erroneous interpretation is not taught as a formal, binding truth required of all believers AND it is not a matter of faith and morals. The errors in the interpretations of the verses in the Wikipedia article are scientific errors, not moral errors or errors of doctrine. And, to be quite precise, the erroneous judgments were made by the theologians on the panel that questioned Galileo — not the Pope. Even your Wikipedia article says that the theologian’s opinion was not a binding one on the Church:

    “It was consequently termed heretical by the Qualifiers, since it contradicted the literal meaning of the Scriptures, though this position was not binding on the Church”

    You next ask:

    Where does the doctrine of infallibility come from? Surely it is supported by scripture, and grounded in the keys of the kingdom and the authority to interpret? I have shown that the Pope cannot be trusted to interpret scripture correctly, and uses the keys inappropriately. Why should I believe infallibility?

    The doctrine’s principal support in Scripture is Mt. 16:18-19. A more complete list is this, taken from the Wikipedia article:

    On the basis of Mark 3:16, 9:2, Luke 24:34 and 1 Corinthians 15:5, the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes Peter as holding first place among the apostles. It speaks of Peter as the rock on which, because of Peter’s faith, Christ said in Matthew 16:18 he would build his Church, which he declared would be victorious over the powers of death. In Luke 22:32, Jesus gave Peter the mission to keep his faith after every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sees the power of the keys that Jesus promised to Peter alone in Matthew 16:19 as signifying authority to govern the house of God, that is, the Church, an authority that Jesus after his resurrection confirmed for Peter by instructing him in John 21:15-17 to feed Christ’s sheep.

    You may find further evidence that from the earliest post-Apostolic times the Primacy of Peter was recognized among the Church Fathers in this Wikipedia article. Like the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the exact nature of the Divinity of Jesus (homoousios), the doctrine of Papal Infallibility underwent development as the Scripture and the living experience of the Church brought into sharper focus.

    If you reject the teaching of Scripture and Sacred Tradition on this, there is no reason for you to believe in Papal Infallibility.

    Pax Christi,
    Frank

  272. But, of course, what I was really asking you – for the sake of our discussion, I think it important to get down to basics – was why you believe the Bible to be the Word of God. I think this question tends to get overlooked in Protestant-Catholic discussions, because people say, “Well, we both believe the Bible to be the Word of God. We may differ on the books, but let’s take for granted the things we agree on.” The problem is that I think the reason why we believe something will tell us whether our agreement is only apparent.

    I believe the Bible is the word of God due to generations of consensus on the issue. Even if there was no Bible, I believe that nature screams the name of God – so that arriving at a point of ‘there is a God’ is completely natural – and under certain circumstances may be sufficient for salvation. Once you are at that point, the Bible is rather unique in the breadth of its prophecy, and the fulfillment of that prophecy in Jesus. Again, it seems self evident – though the support of councils doesn’t hurt. For large parts of the Bible, God said ‘write this stuff down’ – either to Moses, or Aaron, or to various prophets and kings.

    The entire OT is believed by the Jews simply because they are Jews, and those books were given to them by YHWH. Christians, as a continuation of the promises given to Abraham, should at a minimum believe those books – but of course the story continues and the prophecies are fulfilled. The NT is that story.

  273. @Bob B
    There are generations of consensus for the Qu’ran as well. Is your view simply a matter of personal preference or is it purely arbitrary?

    Under what circumstances is natural revelation sufficient for salvation, making the Christ event absolutely unnecessary?

    So, only large parts of the Bible are the Word of God? Based on what set of criteria?

    I really don’t know what to say to this post beyond the questions I have asked.

  274. Infallibility is a charism given to the successor of Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to protect the Deposit of Faith from erroneous interpretation or other corruption.

    A Pope can interpret verses of the Bible erroneously without invalidating the charism of infallibility IF said erroneous interpretation is not taught as a formal, binding truth required of all believers AND it is not a matter of faith and morals.

    Does anyone else see a disconnect here? This is almost as bad as US tax law loopholes! The popes erroneous interpretation sure bound Galileo! The church censored his work for a while – how much more binding do you need? Also, I’m not sure Galileo cared if it was the pope himself, or some theological tribunal representing the church that was forcing his recantation / imprisoning him in his home.

    The Church’s job is to interpret scripture. You claim it does so with a unique charism. You claim it has authority to bind and loose (in all its many forms). When it binds and looses, shouldn’t there be some expectation that the church is acting under the influence of its charism – and isn’t that indeed what the lay people believe? The fact that the church might not be acting under this charism – and in fact has bound and loosed erroneously based on erroneous interpretation – doesn’t that bother you? Doesn’t it bother you that binding and loosing appears to happen for political reasons more than for matters of ‘faith and morals’? Could it be that the binding and loosing is regularity done for political reasons instead of based on ‘faith and morals’, and the charism itself is a device to secure political power, more than to ensure the uncorruptability of the deposit of the faith?

  275. Rev. Jones,

    I can see that you have been doing your best to respond to the numerous commentors lobbing questions your way, but would you mind taking a stab at my questions at #215 and #222?

    -Burton

  276. @Bob B:

    I believe the Bible is the word of God due to generations of consensus on the issue. Even if there was no Bible, I believe that nature screams the name of God – so that arriving at a point of ‘there is a God’ is completely natural – and under certain circumstances may be sufficient for salvation. Once you are at that point, the Bible is rather unique in the breadth of its prophecy, and the fulfillment of that prophecy in Jesus. Again, it seems self evident – though the support of councils doesn’t hurt. For large parts of the Bible, God said ‘write this stuff down’ – either to Moses, or Aaron, or to various prophets and kings.

    The entire OT is believed by the Jews simply because they are Jews, and those books were given to them by YHWH. Christians, as a continuation of the promises given to Abraham, should at a minimum believe those books – but of course the story continues and the prophecies are fulfilled. The NT is that story.

    Excellent. I am almost with you here. What I believe is that, as you say, creation – and, I would add, my own conscience – “scream” the Name of God. And I also think that the various converging arguments you mention – fulfilment of prophecy, character of the Jesus presented in the Gospels, history of His followers – make it impossible for me not to believe He is God’s unique Messenger. To receive Him is to receive the Father.

    But I would slow down just a bit on the Bible bit itself. What I would say is that Jesus, Who wrote nothing, left us a Church – an ‘ecclesia’, a congregation – the Apostles and those who were in union with them. At first, of course, they had the Old Testament; they did not have the New. They preached the Gospel. They taught men and women. They told them that to obey God and to receive Jesus they must be obedient to the Church – the ‘pillar and foundation’ of truth.

    That same proto-Church produced writings. It is not clear to me that they intended to produce a manual of theology. An accidental (from the human point of view) collection of their writings – theirs and of those who were their close adherents – is called the New Testament.

    What I don’t see – and began to wonder about some 20 years before I thought of becoming a Catholic – was some sign of this proto-Church then finishing these writings off, and, in effect, resigning their right to be obeyed. I don’t see this in the New Testament, and nor do I see it in the behaviour of the early church. Indeed, I see early attempts to play the Scriptures off against the authority of the Church only in groups that Catholics as well as many modern Protestants call heretics – like the Arians, the Miaphysites, the Nestorians. All did, indeed, play the two off.

    It’s this gap between the authoritative proto-Church of the Apostles and first rulers – those whom the writer to the Hebrews tells us to obey as those who “have the rule over us” – and the Bible as a stand-alone, make-of-it-what-it-seems-to-me-to-say manual for Christianity.

    jj

  277. @Bob B:

    The Church’s job is to interpret scripture.

    Hmm… Not sure there isn’t a hidden assumption here: “All the Faith that the Lord Jesus left us is written down in Scripture in such a way that all is required is interpretation, the official interpreter being the Church.”

    That isn’t how I would put it. I would say that one of the Church’s ‘jobs’ – by no means the only one – is to teach men the Faith that Christ left. In order to teach, the Church, must, of course, have some way of knowing what that Faith comprises, and, if men are to be able to trust the Church, the Church must be trustworthy. This is what the gift of infallibility is about.

    It really isn’t as difficult as people seem to think. It is perfectly true that what is and what is not an infallible dogma can be, at least for a while, a matter of debate. The impossibility of ordaining women is pretty certain to be infallible. John-Paul said it was irreformable. Yet there are still some who want to believe it is not quite dogma.

    Time will tell – much, in a way, as your discussion of why you believe the Bible to be God’s Word. I don’t think anyone has thought that the statements against Galileo were somehow mean to be statements about what was contained in the Deposit of Faith, although some of his enemies may have wanted to believe it so for a while.

    jj

  278. Dear Bob (re#272) -

    You wrote:

    Does anyone else see a disconnect here? This is almost as bad as US tax law loopholes! The popes erroneous interpretation sure bound Galileo! The church censored his work for a while – how much more binding do you need? Also, I’m not sure Galileo cared if it was the pope himself, or some theological tribunal representing the church that was forcing his recantation / imprisoning him in his home.

    There is no “disconnect” here, because whatever was asserted by the Pope or the tribunal had to do with whether the Earth was the center of the universe and immovable. Neither of those things was ever declared as a belief necessary for salvation and binding on the consciences of Catholics. So (again) infallibility was not invoked.

    Does the fact that JP II apologized for this not impress you in the least? When the Church is wrong, she will confess her errors.

    Now Bob, if you come back with another straw-man version of infallibility, I simply will not respond. I do not think it is charitable of you nor intellectually honest to keep attacking this straw man.

    You wrote:

    The Church’s job is to interpret scripture. You claim it does so with a unique charism. You claim it has authority to bind and loose (in all its many forms). When it binds and looses, shouldn’t there be some expectation that the church is acting under the influence of its charism – and isn’t that indeed what the lay people believe? The fact that the church might not be acting under this charism – and in fact has bound and loosed erroneously based on erroneous interpretation – doesn’t that bother you? Doesn’t it bother you that binding and loosing appears to happen for political reasons more than for matters of ‘faith and morals’? Could it be that the binding and loosing is regularity done for political reasons instead of based on ‘faith and morals’, and the charism itself is a device to secure political power, more than to ensure the uncorruptability of the deposit of the faith?

    Since none of the issues in Galileo’s case involved matters of faith necessary to believe in order to be saved, nor matters of morals, the “binding and loosing” was invoked. Name a single instance of an actual infallible Church teaching that was promulgated for political reasons – not an example using your distorted version of infallibility, please, but an example using the definition the Catholic Church teaches.

    “Binding and loosing” is not carte blanche, and the Church has never taught that it was. Deal with the actual meanings of these ideas if you choose to object. As I said, I will no longer respond to your straw men.

    In the peace of Christ,
    Frank

  279. Dear Bob (re my response to #272):

    I wrote; “Since none of the issues in Galileo’s case involved matters of faith necessary to believe in order to be saved, nor matters of morals, the “binding and loosing” was invoked.”

    I meant to write: “Since none of the issues in Galileo’s case involved matters of faith necessary to believe in order to be saved, nor matters of morals, the “binding and loosing” was not invoked.”

    Frank

  280. Frank,
    Must a Catholic believe the Marian doctrines to be saved or are these matters of conscience?

  281. Just so I understand and am reading you correctly, the church confining someone to their home, and asking for a recantation (which they received) is not an example of ‘binding and loosing’?

    If that is the case, we are at an impasse.

  282. Dear Bob, re#279:

    No, Bob, it is not.

    If we are at an impasse, I’m sorry. But I must be candid and say it appears that this would be because you refuse to accept the Catholic Church’s right to define its own doctrines (in contrast to what you wish to define them as).

    In Christ,
    Frank

  283. Dear Henry, (re#278):

    Good to see you back here.

    I am afraid I may not understand your question. Are you asking if the Marian Doctrines are infallibly defined, in contrast to them being a matter of personal conviction (i.e., not binding on the believer)?

    And which one(s) of the doctrines are you asking this question about?

    Blessings
    Frank

  284. Hi Benjamin

    Re your # 251 about Galileo. You said you could write out a brief description of the Galileo affair. I am Catholic but I would really appreciate your brief description of that thorn in the side of the Church. There are so many stories about it in various books. Would be nice to know the real truth. Anyway I am always up to learning something new. I thank you kindly.

    Blessing NHU

  285. Hey Bob,

    back at 248 you asked, “isn’t that the purpose of faith?”

    Good question. I want to be clear that I’m not advocating (neither does the Church teach) a faith that knows all and with 100% certainty. The beginning of then-cardinal Ratzinger’s book Introduction to Christianity makes it perfectly clear that our Faith must of necessity entail doubt. So, while I wouldn’t necessarily phrase it as the purpose of faith, doubt is not to be denied, I agree.

    Of course at first I didn’t mind my agnosticism and felt no need to justify it, but eventually some fairly serious problems emerged. It’s reasonably clear from reading the New Testament, for example, that its authors and intended audiences were not agnostics. My approach to truth was unlike theirs; despite the fact that they didn’t claim to know everything with 100% certainty, they nevertheless did claim to know some things with certainty. Moreover, they were not content merely to believe such things privately, leaving it to the Holy Spirit to reveal such things to everyone else… eventually.

    It’s one thing to say (and as a Catholic I can certainly affirm this), I’m not certain about everything, don’t have it all figured out; it’s quite another to say, I’m uncertain because, in the final analysis, there’s no way to know which of us is right and which of us is wrong. The latter is intrinsic to Protestantism (though very good, very smart, and very sincere Protestants deny this and, often, for pretty good reason). In time I found myself wondering, If the Faith as it is revealed in the authors and reader-recipients of the New Testament was crucially, fundamentally not agnostic, why was I?

    Had I subbordinated the Faith to a philosophical approach, an ideology? If so, would such a faith be capable of giving me anything more than what is possible from within that ideology?

    I just say all that to complete the thought of my earlier question, more or less thinking out loud and not trying to argue. Anyway, thanks for your interaction. Per the guidelines, I’m praying for you and hope you’ll pray for me too.

  286. Rev. Robert Jones asks: Where exactly in scripture did Jesus “command that his disciples follow the church or be excommunicated” ???

    John S answers: Regarding excommunication, I suspect Mateo is referring to texts such as Matt 18.17. It also seem clear that St Paul understood himself to have the authority to excommunicate (e.g., 1 Cor 5.3-5). Like St Paul, the Church understands excommunication to be a — severe, to be sure — restorative measure.

    Thanks, John S., those verses are what I had in mind.

    Rev. Jones, let us take a look at Matt 18:15-19:

    “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.

    Excommunication (treating the obstinate dissenter that refuses to listen even to the church as one would treat a Gentile of tax collector) is the only church discipline that Jesus authorizes for those who refuse to listen to his church. The Jewish Law authorized the death penalty for various offenses, so Jesus is doing something very significant when he makes excommunication the most severe disciplinary penalty within his church.

    John S cites 1 Cor. Chapter 5 as an example of Paul implementing this teaching of Christ. I agree – in this citation of scriptures, I think it is clear that Paul is implementing the teaching of Jesus found in Matt 18:17. This particular case of excommunication is in regard to an unrepentant man living an immoral life as a member of Christian community in Corinth:

    It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans—a man living with his father’s wife …you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. … I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people, not at all referring to the immoral of this world or the greedy and robbers or idolaters; for you would then have to leave the world. But I now write to you not to associate with anyone named a brother, if he is immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a robber, not even to eat with such a person. For why should I be judging outsiders? Is it not your business to judge those within? God will judge those outside. “Purge the evil person from your midst.”

    Here Paul is commanding the church in Corinth to excommunicate a man for refusing to listen to the church regarding one of her moral doctrines. Excommunication is meant by Paul when he uses the words “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh”, and “ Purge the evil person from your midst.” In his letter to bishop Timothy, Paul mentions that he excommunicated Hymanaeus and Alexander for rejecting a doctrine of the faith concerning the church’s teaching about conscience:

    Some, by rejecting conscience, have made a shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
    1 Tim 1:19-20

    The Council of Jerusalem of Acts chapter 15 is also an example of the implementation of the teaching of Jesus found in Matt 18:15-19. This case involves not a doctrine of morals, but rather, a doctrine faith. In Antioch, some Christians from Judea that were unauthorized by the church to teach, came to the Christian community of Anitoch, and there, they began stirring up trouble with their false teaching. The Christians from Judea were claiming that salvation for the Gentile men depended upon Gentile men receiving circumcision. Paul and Barnabas confronted these Christians from Judea to no avail (“If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses”). To get a final resolution of this doctrinal dispute, the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem so that the “apostles and the presbyters” could rule on the matter.

    The Council in Jerusalem sets the pattern of Ecumenical Councils. A matter of dispute arises within the Christian community over a matter of a doctrine of faith, and that dispute is settled by those within Christ’s church who have the authority to rule on such matters – a ruling the binds the consciences of all members of Christ’s church.

    Rev. Jones, this is why I said your option three is what I would call the “scriptural option”. All disciples of Christ must listen to Christ’s church when she exercises her full teaching authority on a matter involving a doctrine of faith or a doctrine of morals. I believe that the Catholic Church is the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. Do you believe that?

  287. John (#254),

    Right you are. Thanks for the correction.

    In the case of the Anglicans, many “continuing Anglican churches” have made sure that their bishops and priests possess “valid” apostolic succession, to avoid any doubt. In that case, if I’m in an Anglican church with apostolic succession, what would be the advantage of joining up with the Catholic Church? I mean, in the Anglican church (and I’m not talking about the Episcopal Church USA now, mind you, which is heretical) you find what one sees in the early church fathers–bishops, priests, Eucharist in both kinds, plus a beautiful liturgy, respect for the church fathers, a tremendous hymnody, kneeling, reverence, etc. And you avoid what is peculiarly Catholic (i.e., what is not believed/practiced by other churches with apostolic succession) to boot: priestly celibacy, indulgences, purgatory, treasury of merits, lack of collegiality, annulments, papal infallibility, and so on. Why wouldn’t ex-Reformed Catholics choose to be Anglicans? Why must everyone become Catholic? Why can’t Catholics become Anglican?

    Regards,

    Daniel

  288. Nelson (and anyone else who is interested),

    You can read four sections of Fr. Copernicus’s The Commentariolustranslated into English here (where he describes a heliocentric universe 100 years before Galileo — without any reprisal). The entirety of it can be found here (in Latin).

    You can read Galileo’s “The Assayer” here. To get a good idea of ‘where’ Galileo was headed, and why the Church was cautious about his position(s) — particularly his attitude and the impact upon the faith of the people (especially right in the middle of the Reformation), I highly recommend Galileo’s “Dialog Concerning Two Chief World Systems” found here. This particular part of Catholic history was important for me to understand and reconcile before I came into the Church. Subsequently, I moved from Florida to Texas and studied it under the tutelage of Fr. James J. Lehrberger, O. Cist. at the University of Dallas (among other things I studied there).

    I found this article to be a fair narrative of the whole affair.

    I figured that there are always two sides to the same story. It would be affair to at least consider how each side of the story deals with all of the apparent evidence from history. Does one side not admit to or ignore certain facts? In light of that question, I found the anti-Catholic position wanting, because it seemed to not admit at all to some of the nuances of the story. The Church was on trial, and whether it be the Protestants or the atheists, both were ready to stick in the knife. Conversely, the Catholic position seemed to admit mistakes and account for the entirety of the event. Just a thought on this Friday morning…

    Pax Christi,

    Brent

  289. Sorry Burton, I was not trying to ignore your questions, I just do not have any answer to them yet. I have been fairly open that I am just trying to find a starting point. I am in no way up to thinking through ecclesiastical structures or even imagining them at this point as you asked in #215. Perhaps I should have stated that back to you.

    In answer to your question in # 222 about specific examples of Reform, once again I was not thinking of specific examples, I was merely trying to find an image to wrap my mind around the whole issue of Reform/Rome. The image of a flowing river from the throne of God, branching off in history into various tributaries, some lessor, some greater seemed to be working for me. It seemed to allow for the early church Fathers, becoming what we know today as Roman Catholicism, flowing off into the Egyptian Coptic church, the Eastern Orthodox, and then Protestantism, and then branching even further until it reaches the whole world. I kind of like the image. It allows for the sanctity of the RC church, while allowing for the other forms.

    Some here thought the image too relativistic, and that church authority was given by Christ for all time. So I was then questioning back as I was seeing some flow and reform in the RC movement and not all that static as was being argued. Perhaps this is all perspective, as I am still back at square one.

  290. Last note: Galileo was feted in Rome the first time he came (1611). So something changed, and it wasn’t his thoughts about heliocentrism…

  291. mateo asked the really tough question, “Is the Roman Catholic Church the one Jesus founded?”
    Dang, that just fried my whole system. I went back and looked at the Matthew passage where Jesus gives his instructions to Peter. Here is my exposition of that passage.

    1. Church: the word used is ecclesia, which means a body or gathering. Would Jesus have been picturing the RC church as we know today when he stated that? If Peter came walking into the room the next day wearing the Papal Tiara would Jesus have understood? (btw, not to be insulting about the Papal vestments, but it does look like an Imperial Storm Trooper from Star Wars…or how does the pointy white hat look to American Blacks from the south? Just saying maybe its time for a redesign every thousand years or so as it may not communicate what it once did of the regal magesterium)

    Jesus spent a great deal of time lambasting the organized religion of his day. Brood of vipers, doomed to ghehenna (burny hell) , sepulchers full of dead mens bones, were not kindly comments. I am not quite ready to imagine Jesus as the hippie dude in Godspell, but I am not sure he was instituting “church” as we have created it. Jesus also said, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there”. Since the first couple hundred years the movement was spread through house churches, small gatherings of people, which worked well for a persecuted movement. It is hard to read back into history what Jesus meant at the moment he spoke those words. To a Hebrew mind of that day, certainly the image of a small town synagogue, or a gathering on a hillside would have been common thoughts, but who is so say exactly what Jesus was proposing?

    2. Rock: As peter has just confessed Jesus as Messiah, I would see that Peter becomes foundational in establishing that teaching which he did. He also writes and teaches and leads the formation of the early church in its “foundation”. I would not deny in the least that Peter is the rock. The question arises does that mean Jesus created an office, which exists in perpetuity and is passed on? I do not see that in the passage, nor does it seem to be inferred. I am not denying that it exists elsewhere, but I do not see our Lord giving that much latitude in that moment. Perhaps it is inferred, but it seems more of an isogesis, reading into the word, than what it actually states (exegesis). As some of you have noticed there is a lot of isogesis in sola scritpura, and I concede that point. My point back is that there may have been some isogesis in the church Fathers giving a bit more power to themselves than was implied.

    3. Keys: I do not think these are symbols of ecclesiastical authority, nor do I think Jesus was talking about ecclesiastical authority as we discuss it today. I would have to answer, “No”, Jesus was not instituting the Roman Catholic Church at that moment. The word “keys” has a spiritual meaning.

    4. Binding and loosening as in heaven. The fact that heaven is mentioned seems to bear out that these were spiritual concepts to be managed in accordance with heaven. Jesus did go on to state later that not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of God, but only those who do the will of my father in heaven. I believe that Jesus is the only Lord and king of His church and we followers need to bow to Him, His will on earth as it is in heaven.

    However…..how do we work out that authority ecclesiastically, in different times, different seasons, different cultures, as we take the gospel into all the world? Is God pleased to use our feeble institutions and bodies to do His perfect will? Of course. The key being, His perfect will, not our authority. Absolute authority corrupts absolutely, and it seems that what is sorely lacking in Roman Catholicism is a prophetic voice which can speak God back into the authority. I can understand my Protestant friends not liking the prophetic voice because they want to stick to sola scriptura. But since the RC church allows for God to speak through history and tradition, they then limit that speaking to those who get to say what He is saying. That there is a dangerous place to be, especially when God is not saying what you are doing. What is the check and balance to that system in the RC church?

    The final point is I do not see a “Vicar” of Christ anywhere. I think that is taking the whole Peter/Rock thing way off track into some trajectory totally unrecognizable to the early church. I think it gives itself powers and privileges which actual become offensive to Christ, not pleasing.

  292. Rev. Jones,
    Thanks for being willing to be honest about what you think and being up for discussing it.

    RE#289,
    It seems that we are back to presuppositions again. Your post assumes that you have the authority to interpret those passages and act accordingly; the Catholic reads those passages in light of Tradition and the Magisterial pronouncements regarding them. And the reason we do this is because for 1500 years after Jesus made those statements there was a widely believed and consistent understanding of what they meant. That is, in fact, what we refer to as Sacred Tradition. Because we find it hard to believe that the Holy Spirit would have led the Church into such egregious error for so long. As a matter of fact, that is the role of the Magisterium: to sift out those threads of belief that run through the Church which are authentic clarifications from those which are not. One way they do this is to look at what has been believed by most of the Church for most of her history.

    RE#262
    I have to admit that I am surprised to learn that the doctrine of the Trinity is a negotiable for you. Just to tease out what this means, I assume then you consider Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses to be true Christians? Even more concerning, Muslims refer to Jesus as Messiah, so they must be Christians as well?

    Also, what about Peter who says in Acts 2:38 that we must “Repent and be baptized…?” Mustn’t we also be baptized and repent in order to be heirs, not just confess with our lips and believe in our heart as you say?

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  293. @Mateo #284:

    Excommunication (treating the obstinate dissenter that refuses to listen even to the church as one would treat a Gentile of tax collector) is the only church discipline that Jesus authorizes for those who refuse to listen to his church. The Jewish Law authorized the death penalty for various offenses, so Jesus is doing something very significant when he makes excommunication the most severe disciplinary penalty within his church.

    Tangentially here – but only slightly so, I think – note that the word ‘church’ – the kyriakee think – the “Lord’s thing” – is a later usage. The New Testament word is, of course, ekklesia – which is often translated etymologically as ‘called-out ones.’ That’s fine – but of far greater importance, I think, and to think far more Biblically, this is the standard Greek word that is used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew qahal – the ‘congregation.’

    My point here is that I think that to any Jew listening to Our Lord talking about ‘His ekklesia,’ no thought would ever have occurred to him of a purely notional concept. He would, it seems to me, have thought that Jesus was talking about an earthly nation, a Kingdom, in fact – a single visible entity. Something along these lines seems to me to underly the shock that various of His disciples seem to feel when He implies that it is something more Heavenly. Nonetheless, it seems to me worth considering that, although Our Lord’s Kingdom, the Church, is indeed Heavenly, it is in the world, thought not of it. That is what the Catholic sees, what the early Church acted like – and it seems that a strong case would have to be made against the real analogy here: of a visible Kingdom, whose King has gone away for a time leaving a Prime Minister in charge (the Pope), but to which the King will return – to judge both that Prime Minister and all His ministers.

    Ronald Knox (I have mentioned him before :-)) is very good here in his analyses of the parables of the Lord.

    jj

  294. Hi Brent

    Thank you for your reply to my request. It will give some reading for the day. Wasn’t sure where the best place to look it up was now I know.

    Blessings
    Nelson

  295. Dear Aaron Goodrich:

    I did not state that the doctrine of the trinity was negotiable for me personally. We were discussing what it might look like if we included the broadest possible definition to include as many Christians as possible in the wider church, and yet still retain some semblance of what it really means to be a Christian at its core. These were just musings.

    the Catholic reads those passages in light of Tradition and the Magisterial pronouncements regarding them. And the reason we do this is because for 1500 years after Jesus made those statements there was a widely believed and consistent understanding of what they meant.

    In my reading of the writings people here are suggesting I am starting to see a very strong Greco-Roman philosophical influence akin to 2-4th century thought. The Greeks and Romans developed empires that spanned the globe and were two of the most successful empires in history. Many of their influences and thought are still felt today in government, education, and religion.

    However, their empires collapsed and historians can see in their thinking the reasons. Hindsight is always 20/20. Some of these same philosophies are contained in the RC Church, and may actually predict the splits that have already occurred and may actually be a precursor to the tsunami of all time which may be lurking. The biggest problem with the Greco_Roman view is that it worked well up through expansionism until you reach a certain size. As you get bigger, the frontiers get harder to manage and actually become the source of your downfall.

    First, I think the ideal that the Holy Roman Empire ever sat luxuriously under the Pope enjoying love and communion with one another is a poetic and philosophical ideal which never really occurred in history. On the 4th of July in America people imagine the founding fathers marching down the street with fife and drum with all colonists shouting, “Give me freedom or give me death”. While this makes for great nostalgia, the truth was that over 50% of the colonists favored the King of England and were known as Torries. G. Washington was in Philly the day the revolution broke out in Boston, and the Continental Congress was trying to work out a negotiation with England, not revolt from it. History is a funny thing, it doesn’t always agree with our fantasies.

    G. Washington invaded Canada thinking they wanted to be liberated, and he was soundly defeated by the Canadians who actually wished NOT to be free. While ol George was sitting in Valley Forge freezing with his troops, Philadelphians were partying with the British in town. Pardon the America history lesson, but the point is the church has always been a hodge podge of theologies and cultures loosely tied together by a more philosophical ideal than reality. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    Second, the early church was a Hebrew movement and only later as the first century progressed was it becoming a place of non Hebrews, ie. gentile converts. There was much discussion on whether it should even be this way, whether they should be circumcised, and should they follow kosher diet. Peter was a Jew, not Italian, and the paintings of Christ in RC churches showing an Italian mother holding a cherubic little Italian baby, probably are equally nostalgic. He was probably closer to looking like a black child and Mary was probably 13-14 at the time.

    Third, as the emerging church moved into other cultures new problems emerged which are also written about in the new testament. In Revelations about 100AD the angel is speaking to the churches in Asia, plural, and each seems its own entity with its own leadership and its own frailties being addressed. I am not sure when Peter was arrested and taken to Rome, where he began teaching the Roman church, but at one point in scripture he is clearly hanging out in Jerusalem.

    So about the second century is when the church now being out there in the cultures of the world, and being influenced by the thought of the day, begins to emerge some of these views you all hold today. They certainly did not begin this way and ALWAYS exist from the bosom of Christ. Rome was the mortal enemy of Christians and Jews, and sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD fulfilling Jesus’ prophesy that not one stone would be left standing of the temple. It was at that point that both Jewish Christians and Jews went out into diaspora.

    Christians actually became the first street lamps in Rome, when Nero had them dipped in oil and staked to a cross and lit on fire to light the way to his orgies. One can clearly see in the writings of the church fathers that the Greco-Roman philosophies of the day were beginning to influence their thinking as they worked out these issues. Some things they got right, some things they got wrong. They were human. This divine origin of every single thing the church fathers did is another fantasy. Sorry

    If you still want to believe this fantasy which has zero credibility in history or fact, then I will not interfere. But the church has always been and always will be an emerging entity. By the way, if you guys like magesterium and orthodoxy you should investigate the Greek Orthodox church, you would really love that.

  296. John Thayer Jensen writes

    and it seems that a strong case would have to be made against the real analogy here: of a visible Kingdom, whose King has gone away for a time leaving a Prime Minister in charge (the Pope), but to which the King will return – to judge both that Prime Minister and all His ministers.

    You have it partially correct. Jesus did leave another “in charge”. He said I will send you another to be with you forever….the Holy Spirit, which is our guide and comforter. I have a King, His name is Jesus. Do you agree Jesus is King? I have an earthly leader, His name is the Holy Spirit, do you believe Jesus gave us the “power” through the Holy Spirit as he siad? I believe Peter was the founder of the church and that he taught exactly what I am saying. Do you believe what Peter taught?

    I believe that the first few centuries of Christians produced some great thinkers and some real stinkers as in any age of Christendom. I do not hold their practices to be any more binding than any other age of Christians. That is where you and I differ.

  297. Rev. Jones, RE#293
    Thanks for your response. With all due respect, just about your entire post set up and then batted down a straw man. No where did I try to make the arguments that:
    1) the Church has never tolerated or even encouraged other cultural expressions of Christianity, quite the opposite, in fact (which Protestants constantly criticize her for).
    2) that the paintings in Rome depict an historically accurate picture of Jesus’ ethnicity
    3) that the Church has never tolerated some level of diverse theologies on a smattering of issues (she has and still does).
    4) that every single thing the church fathers did is of divine origin
    5) that Rome was not at one time the seat from which Christian persecution flowed

    My only point was that those passages you quoted were interpreted by the worldwide Church (East and West, Catholic and Orthodox) for 1500 years in the same way. Make of that what you will.

    I agree that I never specifically spelled out how she interpreted them. The specific issue of the Papacy is not what I had in mind so let me clarify. What I meant was that the Church, without any widespread dissent that we know of, from the earliest writing of the Church fathers, believed the Church to be visible and ruled from the top down by Bishops who were appointed by other Bishops who ultimately were appointed by the Apostles and were vested with their same authority (Apostolic Succession). Nowhere do we see the modern practice of individual churches as some kind of democratic body, electing their own elders and shepherds over themselves. That is a “fantasy which has zero credibility in history or fact.”

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  298. @Reverend Robert #293:

    First, I think the ideal that the Holy Roman Empire ever sat luxuriously under the Pope enjoying love and communion with one another is a poetic and philosophical ideal which never really occurred in history.

    This divine origin of every single thing the church fathers did is another fantasy. Sorry

    If you still want to believe this fantasy which has zero credibility in history or fact, then I will not interfere. But the church has always been and always will be an emerging entity. By the way, if you guys like magesterium and orthodoxy you should investigate the Greek Orthodox church, you would really love that.

    I’m afraid the fantasy here is yours – at least if you imagine that any Catholic supposes the things you imagine here are the way things were. You may as well say that, because the people of Israel seem to have spent most of their existence rebelling against God and against their rulers, that the national of Israel was not of divine origin.

    Your imagination here has nothing whatever to do with whether God ordained a single visible Church with infallible teaching authority – nothing at all.

    Straw men will not help us here.

    jj

  299. @Reverend Robert #294:

    Do you agree Jesus is King? I have an earthly leader, His name is the Holy Spirit…

    You’d better believe I do! And I think you have nailed the issue right here. The Holy Spirit is not Himself earthly, not even in the world except insofar as He is in His believers.

    So either the Holy Spirit is in the Church as a visibly unified entity – in which case, whenever there are disputes amongst the members of that entity – and as you have been so helpful to point out, there are many and bitter ones – the Holy Spirit acts through some focus of unity so that the whole entity can know when He has acted through the Body – or else the Holy Spirit acts precisely and independently in each individual believer. If the latter is so, then if you are following the Holy Spirit, I cannot possibly be, since He is not a Spirit of confusion – and there is very fundamental disagreement between you and me – and, I may add, between you and not only the Catholics commenting here but, I would say, fundamental disagreement between you and those Protestants here who adhere to the dogmatic principle: some things are absolutely true and non-negotiable.

    The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He operates in the Body of Christ. The earthly leader we have cannot be the Holy Spirit tout court since He is not earthly. The earthly leader is either a God-appointed leader of the Body – or else He leads each of us separately and to be at odds with one another.

    jj

  300. @jj

    The story of Paul and Barnabas would seem to go against what you are saying. Yes, I admit, their dispute was not over theology (at first). It was over Mark. However, the Holy Spirit caused these 2 men to break fellowship – under adversarial terms – for the advancement of the kingdom of God. I contend that both Paul and Barnabas were following the prompting of the Spirit.

    Or is the Holy Spirits power limited to specifically ‘faith and morals’ as well?

  301. @Bob B #298:

    The story of Paul and Barnabas would seem to go against what you are saying. Yes, I admit, their dispute was not over theology (at first). It was over Mark. However, the Holy Spirit caused these 2 men to break fellowship – under adversarial terms – for the advancement of the kingdom of God. I contend that both Paul and Barnabas were following the prompting of the Spirit.

    Or is the Holy Spirits power limited to specifically ‘faith and morals’ as well?

    The Holy Spirit’s power is not limited, full stop! He ordains “whatsoever comes to pass, yet so as not to be the author of sin” (in the lovely words of the Westminster Confession of Faith).

    And He brings excellent good even out of men’s sins – presuming Paul or Barnabas or both sinned in this.

    The infallibility of the Church is not impeccability – and the guarantee of the Spirit’s guide through the teaching of the Church in such a way that men can have confidence they are obeying God is touching teaching regarding faith and morals. Note it is about the teaching Church. He does not guarantee that you or I will never fail in faith or morals – more’s the pity! But He does promise to turn all things to good for those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose.

    jj

  302. Rev. Robert Jones asks: I went back and looked at the Matthew passage where Jesus gives his instructions to Peter. Here is my exposition of that passage ….

    Rev. Jones, I appreciate the time you put in to give me your personal interpretation of Matthew 18: 15-19. I really do. There still is a problem. By giving me your personal interpretation of Matt 18:15-19, you have just raised again the question that I asked you in my post # 217 (which you have not yet answered).

    Let me repost my question to you:

    Do you believe that your personal interpretations of the scriptures have more authority than the interpretations of the scriptures officially promulgated by the church that Jesus Christ founded?

    I think that you can see why I ask that question. You and I both have different interpretations of Matt 18:15-19. I am not claiming that I can exercise the charism of infallibility when I personally interpret these verses. And, as far as I know, you are not claiming that you exercised the charism of infallibility when you gave me your personal interpretation of these scriptures (please correct me if I am wrong). We would be at an impasse, except for one thing. Christ has given us a way to settle our dispute – his teaching in Matthew 18:15-19!

    It is the church that Jesus Christ personally founded that has ultimate the authority to settle our dispute over a point of doctrine. Again, as far as I know, neither of us is claiming to be the church that Jesus Christ personally founded, the church that has the authority to excommunicate obstinate dissenters. As a person that actually believes that the Matthew 18:15-19 has God as its author, I want to know how the church that Christ personally founded interprets this verse. My personal opinion and your personal opinion is not the ultimate temporal authority for me. Nor should anyone who seeks to be a faithful disciple of Christ come to either of us and ask of us our personal opinions to find the definitive answer to what Matthew 18:15-19 really means.

    Rev. Robert Jones asks: … the point is the church has always been a hodge podge of theologies and cultures loosely tied together by a more philosophical ideal than reality …

    That is your opinion, but again, I have a different opinion. I believe that Jesus’ parable about the vine and the branches is a parable about his church. Jesus is the vine that gives divine life to all the branches (the members of his church). Christ’s church cannot be a “hodge podge of theologies”, since Christ is not a “hodge podge of theologies”. Of course you may disagree with my interpretation of John 15:1-8, and that only raises once again the question of primacy. Frank La Rocca in his post # 269 was the first person to directly raise the point about Petrine primacy, and Jason Stewart, in the main body of his article, has a whole section on The question of Church authority. Jason concludes that section with these words:

    As I studied this subject of Church authority, I began to see that the Catholic doctrine of Apostolic succession naturally connected to the biblical portrait of Church authority as it existed in the days of the Apostles. The Church wasn’t bereft of a living teaching authority when the Apostles died because these Apostles appointed qualified men to succeed them in the office of bishop, transmitting by succession a full share in the Apostolic authority so essential to the preservation and proclamation of the Apostolic deposit of faith. It became clear to me that the Bible and Church history confirm and corroborate this important teaching of the Catholic Church. Jesus gave us a Church with a book, not a book with a Church.

    The New Testament is the product of Christ’s church, and Christ’s church possess temporal primacy when interpreting her own scriptures. I think that is Jason’s point here.

    I first brought up the question of primacy in my post # 64, where I offered the comment, that it seems to me, that the Westminster Confession of Faith is teaching the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience.

    In my post # 72, , I made this comment about primacy:

    The controversy sparked by the Reformers is a controversy about the interpretation of scriptures. And this controversy is all about primacy. The Reformers claimed that the individual trumped the church. The Reformation is based on a doctrine taught implicitly by the Reformers, the doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience. The Catholic Church has never taught such a doctrine of primacy; she has always taught the doctrine of Petrine primacy.

    The question of primacy raises another question. Rev. Jones, where do the scriptures teach the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience?

    Rev. Robert Jones writes: In Revelations about 100AD the angel is speaking to the churches in Asia, plural, and each seems its own entity with its own leadership and its own frailties being addressed.

    I think that here, you are missing the forest for the trees. The author of Book of Revelations believes that he has authority to write to these seven churches and assess their spiritual condition. The fact that each individual church had a local leadership would only indicate that the local church leadership was subordinate to the authority of the author of the Book of Revelations. Otherwise, the local church leadership have just scoffed at the presumptuousness of the author of The Book of Revelations who mistakenly believed he had the authority to write such scathing letters.

    History is a funny thing, it doesn’t always agree with our fantasies.

    I agree! It seems to me that many Protestants have a fantasy that the seven churches in Asia Minor mentioned in the Book of Revelation were not local particular churches that were part of the church that Christ personally founded. The Protestant fantasy is that these seven churches were the equivalent of seven different Protestant denominations.

    Rev. Jones, let me ask you another question. Suppose a man living today wrote a letter to seven Protestant churches in the Midwest, say, New Life Lutheran Church in Norwalk, Iowa; Glen Avon Presbyterian Church in Duluth Minnesota; Calvary Chapel On the Horizon in Indianapolis, Indiana; St Simon the Fisherman Episcopal Church in Port Washington, Wisconsin; Cherry Hills Baptist Church in Springfield, Illinois; Rock of Faith Wesleyan Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan. Suppose that letter writer pointed out the defects in these seven Protestant “churches” and told them to shape up. Would any of these Protestant “churches” pay him any heed? I think it is obvious that the answer would be a resounding no. The Protestant leadership in these local churches would think the author of the letter was being presumptuous in the extreme to even think that he had the authority to write such a letter. And that is because the local leadership in Protestant churches do not see themselves as being under the authority of the church that Christ personally founded. Typically, Protestants assert that Christ’s church is an invisible church. Here is my real question. How can an invisible church excommunicate anyone for not listening to her?

  303. Dear Daniel (#285),

    In the case of the Anglicans, many “continuing Anglican churches” have made sure that their bishops and priests possess “valid” apostolic succession, to avoid any doubt.

    I know. I used to be a “continuing Anglican.” Like I said, I’m not an expert on the question of the validity or invalidity of Anglican orders, nor am I game for a protracted debate. I’m sure you’re aware of Apostolicae Curae. I’m also aware of alleged cases of “cross-pollination” (from Old Catholics, etc.) that make it possible that some Anglican ministers may have valid orders.

    In that case, if I’m in an Anglican church with apostolic succession, what would be the advantage of joining up with the Catholic Church?

    Well, if the Catholic Church is who she claims to be, you would have the advantage of, as Karl Rahner put it (to be clear, this is not a global endorsement of Rahner), “find[ing] Christ where he wants to be found, in his Church.” You would also be saving your soul from the consequences of disobedience to Christ.

    On the other hand, if the Catholic Church is wrong about herself, if “branch theory” or some other Protestant ecclesiology is true, it is rather hard to come up with any advantages to being Catholic over being Orthodox or Anglican or much of anything else. But that should be rather unsurprising. I’m not sure what it proves.

    I mean, in the Anglican church (and I’m not talking about the Episcopal Church USA now, mind you, which is heretical) you find what one sees in the early church fathers–bishops, priests, Eucharist in both kinds, plus a beautiful liturgy, respect for the church fathers, a tremendous hymnody, kneeling, reverence, etc.

    Believe me, I understand the aesthetic appeal: I’ve been there. If one were shopping for a church based on its externals in contemporary practice, Orthodoxy or Anglo-Catholicism would probably be the wise consumer’s choice.

    (By the way: on what grounds do you assert the heresy of the Episcopal Church? Who is the competent authority to make such a declaration?)

    And you avoid what is peculiarly Catholic (i.e., what is not believed/practiced by other churches with apostolic succession) to boot: priestly celibacy, indulgences, purgatory, treasury of merits, lack of collegiality, annulments, papal infallibility, and so on.

    This is rather a motley list—you have enumerated a combination of disciplines and dogmas, regarding each of which the relationship of the Church’s teaching to non-Catholic churches with apostolic succession differs and is often extremely complicated. So I’ll resist the temptation to comment on each individually, which would take a lot of time. If you want to talk about them one by one, that’s fine. But your point here seemed rather more rhetorical than anything else.

    Why wouldn’t ex-Reformed Catholics choose to be Anglicans?

    Because they do not believe the Anglican communion is the Church founded by Christ, but comes from a schism from communion with the successor of Blessed Peter resulting from the claim of a temporal monarch to supreme government of the Church in England.

    Why must everyone become Catholic?

    Because the Catholic Church is the Bride of Jesus Christ.

    Why can’t Catholics become Anglican?

    They certainly can, but “can” isn’t the issue, is it?

    best,
    John

  304. @Aaron #295

    Nowhere do we see the modern practice of individual churches as some kind of democratic body, electing their own elders and shepherds over themselves. That is a “fantasy which has zero credibility in history or fact.”

    Just real quick to clarify hear. There is plenty of historical evidence that in at least several cities at various time throughout the first 5 centuries, Bishops were ‘elected’ democratically or by ‘popular acclamation.’ However, we must be clear and the Fathers were clear that the authority of the Bishop derived from his ordination by the laying of hands from Brother Bishops and NOT by virtue of the election itself. Similarly even today, a newly appointed Bishop does not have authority until after his ordination to the Bishopric. Should he die before ordination he will never have been a Bishop.

  305. mateo writes

    The author of Book of Revelations believes that he has authority to write to these seven churches and assess their spiritual condition.

    The author of the book believes no such thing. It is John the beloved apostle of our Lord who was reclining on Jesus’ bosom at the last supper just before Peter denied him three times. He is writing down divine revelations and communications as they are given to him. Do you guys make your stuff up as you go along?

    A lot of you keep asking where do I get the authority to read scripture and let the word of God speak to me. I get that authority from Christ himself who gave it to everyone. Show me where the church Fathers teach that mankind shall not read scriptures and be able to undertsand them without the church telling them what to think.

    You guys keep saying the “church says this” and the church says that”, you should show the sources. Who gave YOU the authority to interpret what the church Fathers said, to me? I haven’t seen in one of the writings you guys asked me to read which says that the word of God is limited to church fathers.

    The original point was that YOU said that the concept of the church jumped right out of Jesus into Peter and has not changed one iota in 1500 years. I do not see the scriptures or the church fathers saying that. I see a developing concept even as Peter was developing ideas under the guidance of the Holy Spirit especially involving diet and the gentiles and his dream.

    The idea of infallibility was not decided until the 1800′s at the First Vatican council, so how in the wokld can you state that all this has been the same for 1500 years? Facts, scripture, the church fathers own writing, and logic and reason dictate that what you are saying is totally and completely false.

    Look, if you wish to believe that the church fathers over time developed the concepts of church authority under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I am 100% in agreement with you and I will die at your side fighting for that belief. If you want to tell me that the whole idea jumped out of Jesus full blown into Peter and y’all have just been passing it on from generation to generation, then I think you are wrong and the only way you could prove your point is to take away my ability to prove you wrong which you just tried to do by telling me I had no authority to read scripture and understand that it doesn’t say what you say it says. A three year old child can understand that it doesn’t say what you say it says. It doesn’t take any authority to understand that.

    I do not think YOU have the ability or the authority to tell me what the church or the church fathers meant when they said what they said. How’s that?

  306. John Thayer Jensen writes

    the Holy Spirit acts through some focus of unity so that the whole entity can know when He has acted through the Body – or else the Holy Spirit acts precisely and independently in each individual believer.

    You have created a choice between “less filling” and “tastes great”, referencing a popular beer commercial if you get the reference. The Holy Spirit acts through individuals and bodies. I fully agree that the Holy Spirit acting through SOME church Fathers helped set up authority and structure to deal with the visible church in that time.

    The Holy Spirit was also working in the Coptic Church and the Eastern Churches in a slightly different way and as they both emerged, they eventually formed three differing streams.

    RC people really seem to have this limited view that the Holy Spirit can only act through one guy, the Pope, and through one group of people the church Fathers. I understand the veneration of your own system of church hierarchy, but the insistence that it is the only one, when as a fellow RC pointed out yesterday, your own canon doesn’t say that, it says that Holy Spirit can be at work in Protestants.

    So y’all need to read your own stuff. You guys seem really confused by this. If the Holy Spirit form this sytem for your culture, and He forms a different system for my culture, then it can;t be God cause God can only do one thing at a time. That there is kind of a woosie view of sovereignty.

    My God created a universe in seven days, well six, and then he rested. I don’t think its too big a problem for him to tell the Pope something and then get a word over to my ruling body of my denomination, and then stop by Starbucks to help them develop a new latte, because that stuff is heavenly.

    Some of you guys sound like children, He’s my God, he’s not your God. My daddy is better than your daddy and your daddy knows nothing cause my daddy came from the church fathers, so there.

    It seems like you have a flat earth theory of the church. If you come to the end of the RC power and authority you fall off the edge. Protestants may be mere upstarts compared to you 1500 years, but we do have over 500 , and we didn’t blow ourselves to kingdom come yet. And while y’all point out our problems, we can also point out yours, and I think we can perhaps get over the art of pointing out each other’s problems as proof of something. k?

  307. With reference to the apostolic succession and the validity of Anglican orders, Anglicanorum Coetibus, from our current Holy Father, Benedict 16th, has drawn from Anglicanism in England and the US a migration towards the Roman Catholic Church. Such Clergy enter the RC and are considered for Ordination which can take place after a period of RC training. Under an Ordinary (Bishop) appointed and anointed by the RC many of the features identifiable with Anglicanism are then retained within the Personal Ordinariate under the Holy See. So it would appear that some of the most Catholic of Anglicans accept that this outreach from the Holy Father affords a path to cross the Tiber. Anglican who have previously converted to the RC can also be admitted to the ordinariate with the full blessing of the Church.

    I am greatly appreciating the quality of writing and understanding displayed by all here. I recommend that anyone wishing to understand the faith should read our Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    By the way Rev Jones you suggested that some here might regard you as peeing in our punch-bowl. I am sure that raised many smiles, but we are still drinking!

    In the love of God and neighbour.

  308. Thanks to Bill Kane for the kind welcome. I will try to put some better libation in the punch bowl.

    One more reply to mateo who writes

    That is your opinion, but again, I have a different opinion. I believe that Jesus’ parable about the vine and the branches is a parable about his church. Jesus is the vine that gives divine life to all the branches (the members of his church). Christ’s church cannot be a “hodge podge of theologies”, since Christ is not a “hodge podge of theologies”.

    Have you ever seen a vine and branches? You just totally made my point. A vine and branches looks like a hodge podge going hither and yon all over the place. Christ going through the stem makes it “ONE”. You just agreed with me and proved my point.

    btw…Can anyone here give me the RC canonical reference where it says that individuals may not read and understand the word of god. Cause I might be nailing that one to the door of my RC local church.

  309. Dear Rev. Jones (re:#303, 304)

    May I ask what your interest is in the continuing dialog? You appear to be quite frustrated and have now stooped to ad hominems and schoolyard invective.

    I am not personally interested any longer in engaging issues with you, because your response is always to some distorted straw man version of what was written. Example: (#303) “The original point was that YOU said that the concept of the church jumped right out of Jesus into Peter and has not changed one iota in 1500 years”. No one has claimed any such thing, and it is both uncharitable and intellectually dishonest of you to misrepresent what they write and then proceed to demolish the straw man you have created.

    Frank

  310. @Rev. Robert Jones, #306

    Clearly you’ve never worked in a Vineyard with grape vines cultivated for production. Excusable since you live in PA, although I believe there are still some wineries upstate NY…. Anyway, cultivated grape vines are not a mess and tangled and going all over the place. And clearly Jesus uses the grapevine to illustrate other issues about the Church and when he is talking about grape vines he isn’t talking about wild grape vines left unattended. Jesus is in the root and stem connecting it all, but the Holy Spirit is also pruning away the unproductive growth and burning it in the fires of damnation.

  311. @Reverend Robert #304:

    RC people really seem to have this limited view that the Holy Spirit can only act through one guy, the Pope, and through one group of people the church Fathers.

    Perhaps it only seems that way to you because you think the only way the Holy Spirit works is by giving infallible pronouncements?

    It does seem to me you have changed the goalposts here. I said:

    The Holy Spirit’s power is not limited, full stop! He ordains “whatsoever comes to pass, yet so as not to be the author of sin” (in the lovely words of the Westminster Confession of Faith).

    So that seems to me to say that I think the Holy Spirit acts everywhere, not just in the Pope. Indeed, the infallibility of the Church only rests in the Pope in those circumstances where there is some dispute within the Church. A good example is the existence of angels. There has never been any dispute about that amongst Catholics, so the Church has never had to speak. If there were some dispute – not a lot – individual bishops would speak, and, again, that would settle it. If there were more, various things might happen – a Commission, for instance, such as that which was requested by Pope Paul about artificial contraception. That Commission did not, in fact, think that artificial contraception was everywhere and under all circumstances wrong. It is, however, wrong, and that not as a matter of Scripture but of natural law. So Pope Paul issued Humanae Vitae. Even that is not regarded by some as irreformable. But it shows how the teaching office of the Church actually functions.

    And it does not in the slightest mean the Holy Spirit acts only through the Pope. Every baptised person – whether Catholic or not – is, at least at the time of baptism, personally indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Popes have nothing to do with it.

    jj

  312. Rev. Jones,

    I highly recommend Blessed Newman’s “The Development of Christian Doctrine” (link to free online version — though I like having a book in my hand and suggest you buy a copy so you can write in it) as a possible way of understanding how doctrine develops in the Church. Objecting that “such and such” is not identical to “such and such” is an argument for primitivism — not orthodoxy per se. Our Lord described the Kingdom like a seed planted and that grows up into a large tree that the birds find nest. If one looks at a little sapling of a tree and compares it to a 200 year old oak, one could easily say things very similar to: “Can you imagine St. Peter wearing the papal mitre?” Which is to say, that your contention presumes that the Kingdom is primitivistic. Which would mean we should throw out the New Testament canon and Nicene Christology. For example, St. Athanasius works within a very robust concept of development of doctrine in his articulation of both Christology and Mariology. You can also find two helpful articles about development on this website:

    The Commonitory of St. Vincent of Lérins
    The Doctrinal Seed of Scripture

    I also highly recommend Pelikan’s “The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600)” found here (he talks about St. Athanasius in this book).

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  313. Rev. Jones,

    Thanks for your reply. As one who tracks toward the poetic, I rather like your flowing river imagery. I think this somehow boils down to the relationship between love and truth. We are called to know and love and be known and loved by Jesus. It is tempting to stop there, and not worry so much about doctrine and dogma and denominations and creeds and confessions etc, because truth without love leads us to the place of the elder brother in the Prodigal Son parable – self-righteous and triumphalistic and devoid of grace.

    My problem as a Protestant is that I see a strong dose of the “all you need is to love Jesus” mentality in the spirit of the modern age. Truth in any absolute sense is scoffed at as antiquated. So if Jesus strongly ties love to obedience, and if the Holy Spirit tells us through Paul to worship in Spirit and in Truth, then I need to know how to obey and to worship in order to truly love. So how do I know what is true?

    My other difficulty with the stream analogy is that it seems as though someone still has to define which streams are legitimate expressions of the Faith and which are heretical. Couldn’t Mormons use the stream analogy to justify their place as a legitimate progression of the Faith? How about Christians in favor of actively gay lifestyles and gay marriage? Could they not be yet another tributary, loving Jesus in their own way?

    It seems that love and truth have to unite in some form of visible and recognizable rule of faith. This brings us back to what is, for me, the bedrock issue: can the Bible serve as that Rule for each individual Christian, or is some form of visible church authority necessary?

    -Burton

  314. Friends,

    The “stream” theory that has emerged on this thread is, as far as I can see, more or less equivalent to the famous Anglican “branch theory.” Accordingly, it seems relevant to draw attention to an older Called to Communion post: “Branches or Schisms?”.

  315. Rev. Robert Jones responds: A lot of you keep asking where do I get the authority to read scripture and let the word of God speak to me.

    Who, exactly, has asked you this question? You are certainly free to read scriptures and let God speak to you, and I, for one, affirm that this is something that you should do. But why would I think that your interpretations of scriptures carry any more authority than my interpretations of scriptures?

    If the Protestant doctrine of the primacy of the individual conscience is normative for faithful Christians, then surely you don’ think that I am going to submit to your personal interpretations of scriptures do you? How could you expect me to do that? If the primacy of the individual conscience is normative for the faithful disciples of Christ, then I must listen to my conscience above all else, and nothing that any man says to me has any greater authority than my own personal interpretation of scriptures. Which means that I don’t have to listen to anyone, not even the church that Christ personally founded.

    The only problem with that Lone Ranger Christian mentality is that there is nothing in the scriptures that affirms Lone Rangerism. Quite the contrary, the scriptures tell me that I am not the final interpretive authority of the scriptures. I must listen to the church that Jesus Christ personally founded or be excommunicated from his church.

    Rev. Robert Jones writes: The original point was that YOU said that the concept of the church jumped right out of Jesus into Peter and has not changed one iota in 1500 years.

    Where did I say that? The scriptures say that Christ personally founded his own church; the scriptures say that Christ has promised that the powers of death will never prevail against his church; and the scriptures say that Christ has commanded that all who would be faithful disciples must listen to his church. Hence my question to you, a question that you still have not answered:

    Do you believe that your personal interpretations of the scriptures have more authority than the interpretations of the scriptures officially promulgated by the church that Jesus Christ founded?

    >Rev. Robert Jones asks: Have you ever seen a vine and branches? You just totally made my point. A vine and branches looks like a hodge podge going hither and yon all over the place. Christ going through the stem makes it “ONE”. You just agreed with me and proved my point.

    I was just visiting Napa California, and I got a good look at a lot of vines growing in the vinter’s vineyards. Productive vines are not a wild “hodge podge”, because the vinedresser prunes the vines. Jesus said that his Father is the vinedresser. The branches that get lopped off by the vinedresser are gathered into the fire to be burned.

    I don’t think that I “proved” your point at all. My point is about the obstinate dissenters that separate themselves from the church that Jesus Christ personally established. These obstinate dissenters are branches separated from the vine, and they will be tossed into the fire with the rest of the branches pruned by the vinedresser.

    Of course, all we are doing here is trading personal interpretations of scriptures. You don’t accept my personal interptetation of scriptures, and I don’t accept your personal interpetation of scriptures. We would be at an impasse except for Matthew 18:17. The church that Jesus Christ personally founded has the ultimate authority in deciding our little dispute here, and I accept the authority of Christ’s church in matters concerning doctrine. So I will ask you again:

    Do you believe that your personal interpretations of the scriptures have more authority than the interpretations of the scriptures officially promulgated by the church that Jesus Christ founded?

  316. Frank LaRocca

    What I hear and summarize in a point made by someone else, whether I misinterpreted the point, or that person did not communicate it clearly, or my summation seems a tad too broad for your tastes, is what I heard and what I respond to. I happen to be a fairly intelligent human being, maybe not the brightest bulb in the pack, but the summations I make are from the material I have gleaned from responses.

    If you do not wish to have an honest dialogue that is fine with me. I did ask several times if this was the place for trying to address these issues and others seemed to imply that it was. Maybe you do not realize how what you are saying sounds to my ears. What you just said in your reply sounds to my ears like, “If I don’t state an argument in exactly the way you like, I can go to hell”. Maybe you did not intend to say that, but it came across that way. Maybe what seems familiar to you sounds to a Protestant very differently and maybe you should learn from the responses what they are hearing of others and not denigrate them if you sincerely desire “communion”.

    I cannot in the least see where any of my arguments could be construed as a “straw man” as you grossly accused and I resent the allegation which also implies dishonesty on my part, and ulterior motives, none of which you based on anything.

    I personally, along with many historians and Christians see the development of Christian life and thought to be an emerging process beginning with the apostles in scriptures and continuing through the church fathers, all the way up to the reformation and today.

    There have been many counter arguments here to the effect that Jesus gave Peter the authority and the church is today as Jesus gave to Peter. If you cannot find those arguments towards my point, then you have not been following the thread and perhaps you should not jump in and start throwing “straw man” allegations at me unfounded.

    I am probably one of the most liberal protestants you are going to encounter, and others here seem to have noticed that. If you are not able to dialogue with me, then you should call this site, Called to Communion with people who think like us. com. I have no need interfering with people who do not wish to hear my views.

    On the one hand a lot of what you guys say is 100% in alignment with my views, some are slightly divergent, some are wonderful, and some sound really bizarre to my ears. I am feeding back what I am hearing and how I am interpreting it as fairly as I know how. I really do not need to come to your little board here and set up straw men and knock them down. If I seem like that kind of guy to you, then you have not read a single one of my posts.

  317. to mateo

    Do you believe that your personal interpretations of the scriptures have more authority than the interpretations of the scriptures officially promulgated by the church that Jesus Christ founded?

    Your church or my church?

  318. Mateo,
    Where has the RCC interpreted the Scripture for you? The RCC has never infallibly interpreted the Scriptures. If they did, you and other Catholics could appeal to this infallible interpretation. You would not need to depend on your personal interpretations to convince Protestants.

  319. @Reverend Bob:

    I personally, along with many historians and Christians see the development of Christian life and thought to be an emerging process beginning with the apostles in scriptures and continuing through the church fathers, all the way up to the reformation and today.

    Of course it is an emerging process – anything historical is that. Like all historical processes, some are organic developments of the original ‘idea’ (his term), some are are corruptions, some are brand-new ideas with only a tangential connexion with the original. This was what Newman was seeking to understand in his wonderful “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine” – one of two books, the other being his “Apologia Pro Vita Sua”, that brought me to the Catholic Church.

    The question is whether the Catholic Church is the true organic ‘emergent’ development – like the oak from the acorn – or whether Reformed Christianity – or, indeed, something yet to be seen. You almost seem to think Christianity is not in process of emergence, but of convergence – as though there were no seed at the start, but a lot of different seeds that coalesce into a lovely wilderness garden or something.

    If so, I cannot say I am attracted.

    jj

  320. Dear Rev. Jones, (re:314)

    I apologize for speaking too strongly to make a point. I am only one voice and I have no official standing with this site. Please do not allow my testiness to reflect poorly on the many more patient contributors here. I take you at your word that you are reflecting back as best you can what you glean from the posts made here. I hope you will accept my apology.

    I have followed the dialogue very closely, reading every post – so I must have missed something. If it’s not too much to ask, could you direct me to the post that lead you to believe Catholics think the Church sprang into existence fully-formed (that is what I take you to mean when you say “the church is today as Jesus gave to Peter”).

    I honestly did not see anything that would lead to that conclusion.

    Peace to you,
    Frank

  321. @Henry #316:

    Where has the RCC interpreted the Scripture for you? The RCC has never infallibly interpreted the Scriptures. If they did, you and other Catholics could appeal to this infallible interpretation. You would not need to depend on your personal interpretations to convince Protestants.

    I’m not sure why you do this Henry. You know very well that the Church doesn’t have some sort of manual listening the inerrant meaning of each verse in the Bible – indeed, you know quite well that to speak of the meaning of a verse, when the Church espouses the spiritual as well as the literal interpretation of Scripture, is itself to erect a straw man. And, indeed, you know that it wouldn’t matter what a Catholic produced as the inerrant interpretation of some verse of Scripture, to the Protestant who doesn’t believe in the infallibility of the Church.

    Why do you do this? If you want to talk about Catholicism, fine, let’s talk about Catholicism. Talking about unreal imaginary churches just wastes time.

    jj

  322. @All Participants (or just to myself)

    Two of the great things about CtC is that for the most part there is a lot of effort to both understand and address what each person is saying and a great deal of thought that goes into responses. I appreciate that greatly. However, it does seem to me that on these conversion threads in particular the editors could consider making some standard remarks in the first few comments regarding the culture of this site, because so many new people do tend to join the conversation on these comment streams.

    I let it go at the time, but a I feel that I myself was misconstrued in this thread. It wasn’t particularly important to the flow of the discussion, but I will expose it here just for the purpose of showing one example of what I have found most unhelpful in this discussion. My Statement:

    My experience is that many Protestants have very little experience (for tragically valid reasons) with Catholics who know, love, and defend their faith and defend it well.

    Was reinterpreted as:

    I thank GNW_Paul in this thread who advised that most Protestants don’t really know much about Roman Catholicism may be correct.

    Which although a fairly reasonable inference from my actual statement was not at all what I had actually said and totally missed my point, which is that when they find themselves confronting actual knowledgable and articulate Catholics who are willing to take the time to dialogue extensively on matters of Faith, Protestants are likely to find that various unconscious habits, patterns and semi-hidden assumptions that they are very comfortable with are going to be challenged and in a certain sense they need to develop some new “sea legs.”

    Two things that I strongly believe would be extremely helpful would be the use of more clarifying questions, and taking much more time to respond. In virtually every case were statements were interpreted or extrapolated (and there were legion of them) from the orignal author’s actual words, there was no effort to actually ask “what did you mean by this” or restate “X implies Y – implies Z ” and ask if this was the intended meaning. The response rate is also a huge issue in my eyes. Over and over I see interlocutors here going back 3 years on many threads who seem to feel compelled to respond to every challenge and seem to believe it is a race to finish. This is just flat out advice for anyone Catholic or Protestant thinking of joining in the discussion: Slow down, the folks here are patient, we’ll keep this com-box going for 3 years if people are still discussing, and if the dialogue is productive we will be referring new people to the conversation. Unlike most of the internet there is no real reason on this site to hurry your response. The regular contributors here are incredible. They do post really solid, charitable (usually) and well written replies amazingly quickly, but one must recognize that a) many have advanced degrees in Philosophy and Theology and b) they’ve been having these same arguments for 10 years or more ongoing. Especially on these conversion threads, the issues and questions are usually ones that most regular contributors have addressed tens if not hundreds of times. [It's like playing the Ruis Lopez chess opening - every decent chess player has played the 5 most common variations 100 times or more each]. New people – again Catholic or Protestant – should feel very welcome to join in, but be easy on yourself. This isn’t tennis or air hockey where you must return serve instantly. Mull things over, and think them through. Everyone will still be here reading your response tomorrow or next week. It is a simple fact of life. Anyone new to these topics with solid Catholic writer’s contributing simply can not write 5 or 6 decent responses that actually address the real issues every day. These are deep and fundamental questions and if you haven’t been writing about and considering them extensively prior to joining in at CtC you really need to think your arguments through.

    One more area of observation. The Protestant world is big and wide and I don’t know more than 1% or so of it so my observations are not conclusive, but….. In my dealings with Protestants in person I find the same thing as I see here on CtC and that is that there seems to me to be a “Culture of debate” in Protestantism in general that relies very heavily on three techniques. 1) Speed – quick comebacks – if you pause or have to think you are either admitting you don’t know or that you don’t know scripture well enough. It seems almost like ping-pong 2) Litany of examples. Throwing out every objection or counterexample or instance of failure you can list quickly. I call this the “throwing handfulls of pasta at the wall” technique. I think this really rises out of the first technique – speed. Giving your opponent 5 or 6 possible stumpers to chew on might make a lucky score and will buy you time to think your next counterpoint through. and 3) Making an effort to quickly deflect every piece of junk thrown your way – again because you must respond quickly.

    All of these seem to be problems for the newcomers at CtC but the one that gets them in the post trouble seems to be 3). 1) and 2) stir things up and get the pile on going, but it is 3) that ends up getting people tied in knots.

    I could be wrong but that is my personal interpretation of the discussion of vines and branches in this thread. When we respond quickly with what seems like an easy deflection of some point, we can stumble into a clear case of really poor exegesis.

    I hope I’ve been reasonable charitable and I honest intend this as a constructive comment for all sides. Again, I really thing the main people at C2C should consider stating some guidelines for effective dialogue, point out the index, point out the posting guidelines which include comment formatting, blockquotes and the Comment SandBox. And really really encourage folks who are new to this type of forum with “Black Belt” Catholics ask clarifying questions, try not to spread yourself too thin with multiple topics simultaneously and take your time, because we’re in it for the long haul here.

    Thanks to all. Overall this has been a good dialogue so far. God Bless

    GNW_Paul

  323. Henry,

    Where has the RCC interpreted the Scripture for you? The RCC has never infallibly interpreted the Scriptures. If they did, you and other Catholics could appeal to this infallible interpretation. You would not need to depend on your personal interpretations to convince Protestants.

    Can you see how this comes across as extremely disingenuous? Your last three sentences tell me that you never intended to ask your first question. Nevertheless…

    The Magisterium interprets Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition every time she makes an authoritative ruling. You are right, though, that she rarely authoritatively interprets a passage of Scripture to say that it can mean this and no other (James 5:14 is an example). That is because the author of Sacred Scripture is God whose depth cannot be plumbed in a thousand generations! Nonetheless, the teaching office of the Church that Jesus founded (Magisterium), in her teaching, sets the boundary markers for the faithful — both lay and clergy — when we read Scripture. In turn, we are free to read the Scriptures just like you, but we are not free to adduce something from Scripture that contradicts the teachings of the Church and then claim that our private interpretation is more important or veracious than the mind of Christ expressed by His Church.

    The reason why we make various arguments and simply do not point to the Magisterial documents, arguments or Scriptural allusions is because you are not Catholic. If you were Catholic, the documents themselves *should* act authoritatively on your conscience. In your case and for others, they do not. So, the arguments we make (apologetics) are out of charity in an attempt to help you understand the Catholic faith — or explain why a certain Protestant position is not of necessity the position to hold. We are also attempting to show you how the Catholic faith is consonant with Sacred Scripture, and we are free to do so within the deposit of faith found in Sacred Scripture as long as we do not contravene the teachings of the Church. Again, we do this out of charity for you, our separated brother, because we want you to see the truth or at the least the plausibility of the Church’s teachings. That’s all.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  324. My thanks to John S for suggesting the article “Branches or Schisms”. John seems to be tuned in to what I am trying to think through and has twice now offered very helpful materials. I also appreciate all the rest of the suggestions as well.

    I agree with the person yesterday who said that the vine and branches seems more akin to Christ and his followers than to the church. I also agree with the author of the article that John suggested that the branch theory is not really workable. Something that the author did not mention is that a branch is a natural development of the same tree. A fig branch will produce figs, and the now separate parts of Christianity are not the same, so I agree this illustration is untenable.

    I was also not aware of all the breaks during the early centuries. Whew. There were many more than I thought or learned about in basic history. I wonder where they all are today? Is there some book which explores this aspect of history that anyone can recommend?

    I still think the river analogy does work. The break that occurs when a river overflows her bounds is very violent and schism like. The new tributary is indeed separate from the original river. The new stream can indeed be quite wild and divergent and retain very little of the characteristics of the original with the exception of the water flowing through her, ie. Christ/Holy Spirit.

    It seems the RC church actually likes to work on her boundaries making them crisp and clear through developing dogma and doctrine to deal with authority etc. The Protestant Church seems to flow wild and crazy at times, sometimes settling down in one branch or stream to form more orthodox boundaries. Some of you were born and nurtured in those streams, but when looking upriver a bit discovered your own wild roots and decided to go upriver even further and found Rome, which you liked.

    Some of you look downriver and ask where does this wildness end? Do we become so relativistic that we end up with gay churches one person asked yesterday. This very issue is currently ripping apart the fabric of Protestantism. While we have tried to remain open and loving and merciful to gay people, much like many of you do with Protestants, some of us cannot go that far to allow the ordination of gay ministers.

    I was at a conference a few years ago in which there was a gay Episcopalian ordained minister. Sometimes at conferences we break up into small groups for discussion. All week long this gay minister ended up in my groups which were decided by lot. I discovered a man who loved Christ, ministered to people around him, and seemed filled with the Holy Spirit. It messed with my firm boundary of no gays in the ministry. I honestly am confused right now, although my personal boundaries do not wish to get this relativistic.

    So in answer to those of you in the RC church that these branches can get wild and crazy and at times even lose the essence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, this is 100% true. My thanks to John S for also pointing out that the CCC #818 does recognize “those who have been justified by faith in Baptism” to be called Christian even though they are currently separate. That is your doctrine.

    I am not sure the prodigal son analogy works as someone mentioned. Once again it seems much to personal to apply to whole movements of church history. I am Baptized, I do partake of the body and blood of our Lord, I do love and serve him as my King, I am filled with the Holy Spirit (except when I leak), I do believe He is the author of history. I believe that those of you in the RC church do not differ from me in these major foundational tenets of our faith, only in their application. However, that seems to be a major issue for me which keeps my stream flowing wild and free.

  325. Rev. Jones,

    Some of you look downriver and ask where does this wildness end?

    This is why I started a search looking for something more than a wild river. The catalyst of this journey was the birth of my first child. It is one thing to go about in my own religious naivety, quite another to hand this off to my children. I wanted them to be on a firm foundation, not sifting sand (which is what I would call the wild river). So, for almost 2 years we wandered through various churches. I was even attracted to the emergent church at one time (we went to one for about 3 months).

    Anyways, the point of the personal biography is that for many young people, the wild river analogy makes us want to give up on Christianity. A cursory reading of just the gospels can lead you to the straightforward conclusion that Jesus taught with authority, called people to repentance and preached that the way to heaven is narrow. A mushy, gushy gospel — on many in my generation’s view — looks like no gospel at all. Moreover, if I were to put my children on a raft on the wild river of the mushy, gushy gospel, where would it lead them? Would they end up in hell because I was unwilling to confront the sin of theological chaos and relativism? Would they end up atheists because Christianity seems like a religion for the tea club? Is Christianity (and church affiliation) just a club like the Rotary — join whichever version you like, believe what you like, as long as *you say* you have sentiments for Jesus. Forget love (which implies obeying Christ), the new Christianity seems to be about sentiment and sappiness.

    Thus, I wish to share with you (and all here) the recent letter by his Holiness Pope Benedict the XVI, to all Christians this Lent. You can find it here. In the letter he addresses our responsibility to one another. In particular, he says:

    “Being concerned for each other” also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten: fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters, but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us: “Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it. Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright, he will gain yet more” (Prov 9:8ff). Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction – elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included “admonishing sinners” among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness. Christian admonishment, for its part, is never motivated by a spirit of accusation or recrimination. It is always moved by love and mercy, and springs from genuine concern for the good of the other. As the Apostle Paul says: “If one of you is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should set that person right in a spirit of gentleness; and watch yourselves that you are not put to the test in the same way” (Gal 6:1). In a world pervaded by individualism, it is essential to rediscover the importance of fraternal correction, so that together we may journey towards holiness. Scripture tells us that even “the upright falls seven times” (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us.

    Your separated brother in Christ in love,

    Brent

  326. Dear Rev. Jones,

    If the water of your ecclesial river is, in fact, the Holy Spirit (cf. Rev 22.1-2), then it is a water that will — without fail — impel us to that unity for which Christ prayed, that unity of believers that derives from and therefore images the unity of the Blessed Trinity. Many are sorely tempted at precisely this point to interpret this kind of Trinitarian unity as somehow rendering visible, institutional unity obsolete or irrelevant. But the reverse is the case: corporeality, society, institution — these are proper to our bodily mode of being in the world, and in the Incarnation, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity has definitively, completely, and permanently assumed our humanity into the divine life. There is no prescinding from visible unity without recourse to gnosticism. This, in part, is why the Church teaches:

    This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd [John 21.17], and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority [cf. Matt 28.18-19], which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth” [1 Tim 3.15]. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.

    (Lumen Gentium 8)

    best,
    John

  327. My conscience or yours?

    The vicious ciricle here is interesting. So I cannot trust my conscience to make decisions regarding theological matters. I must trust the “church.” The Church does not have a conscience. The Church is a body, made up of fallible, finite, sinful humans who are subject to error.

    You will say that this is not true. How do you know? You say because the Magisterium, the Church tells me so. You use the authority of men to establish the authority of men. You cannot step outside of their authority in order to establish why these men are the authority. You must accept whatever they say because of the who or what they are. You have no mechanism by which to recognize error. They can introduce whatever their minds may conjur up and you are at their mercy. Secondly, aren’t you appealing to your own conscience to tell the protestant that he cannot appeal to his conscience. After all, it is in your conscience that you have the conviction that the church is the only interpretive authority for all things theological, is it not? AND, in addition to this, are you not also interpreting the interpretation of the church yourself, within your own conscience?

    The protestant says with Luther, my conscience is held captive by the word of God. The RCC says, my conscience is help captive by a man. You will say the church. The church is nothing more than a collection or group of persons.

    Verbal communication requires interpretation no less than written communication. Decrees require interpretation by the individual no less that written Scripture. How is it that the individual can interpret the priest/magisterium/pope but they are forbidden to interpret the Scripture. Interpretation is unavoidable in all communication.

  328. Dear Brent

    Thank you again for sharing. The personal journey does help me to understand your positions better. I think perhaps when RC people point out the lack of knowledge Protestants have for Catholic doctrine I agree. I also think the reverse is true, and that even Protestants don’t understand all their own streams.
    I come from a Protestant background that does have doctrines, catechisms, authority, etc. We are not all running around like the wild west shooting off scriptures into the air sola scriptura style. In order for a church wide policy or doctrine to change, a local congregation has to get it approved by a local group of churches known as a Classis, which is made up of Elders and Pastors. The Elders have to pass qualifications, and the Pastors need to be seminary trained and approved. I actually have to be licensed to preach the gospel. The local churches need to present the change to the regional body known as the Synod, once again made up of Elders and Pastors. This body forms what Catholics would call the Bishop function. This body would then meed to approve it on to the General Assembly, also made up of Elders and Pastors. This is akin to the function of Cardinals. If the General Assembly approves it, it is then sent back through to all the agencies it just can up through for ratification. This would be equivalent to the Papal function. The entire body needs to approve.

    I am not permitted to interpret scripture outside the approved doctrines of my denomination.I hope that answers mateo’s question btw. The foundational doctrines for us are Nicaea, the Westminster catechism, and the Canons of the Synod of Dort. We also use the Heidelberg Catechism. Our youth are trained and catechized in these doctrines. I would say that the major protestant denominations have structures similar to these, the Methodists even have Bishops.

    When you get into the Evangelical and Pentecostal branches which began around the 19th century and into the 20th, you have much more independent movements which not only distrust Rome, but also distrust the Protestant seminaries of the day. It is my theory that this divergence happened along the lines of the newly emerging Industrial Revolution vs. the old pastoral rural style of America that had been prevalent up until that period of history. The Civil War was over, but a much wider split began to happen.

    The main line Protestants took a decidedly anti position against the emerging Pentecostals and Evangelicals. It is noted that many in the AOG are now investigating more organized forms of structure and the Evangelicals are also investigating liturgy and liturgical styles. Some of us in the main line churches are now having Pentecostal and Evangelical type experiences. This is my field of interest. It seems a bunch went over to the RC which is what led me here.

    I am sincere in my investigations, although fearful, distrustful, prejudiced, and at times frustrated as Frank pointed out yesterday. I am trying to be as honest as I know how. I appreciate your reciprocating.

  329. Thanks again John s for your comments in #323, The Holy Spirit would be driving us to unity.

    Unity is not really the problem, we could have that tomorrow if we all really wanted. You guys could tone down the Papal authority and we could tone down sola scriptura, and we could probably work out the rest.

    Probably not going to happen.

    Why?

    And how does each side justify it in light of the peace of the Holy Spirit?

    Fascinating!

  330. @Nelson (#282),

    The article that Brent linked to is good – pretty accurately fair. There are a few points that the article doesn’t bring out as forcefully as I’d like, but as far as summaries go it is a strong one. As I mentioned before I TAed for Dr. Kitchener one year when he taught a class which was (I vaguely recall) titled “History of Philosophy of Science” or somesuch. We spent about two weeks working through materials related to Galileo and it was, on the whole, a fascinating class. Dr. Kitchener had gone to seminary but, at least at the time I worked with him, was an atheist. Nevertheless he was also inclined to think that, on the whole, the Church’s argument was stronger than Galileo’s position. In what follows I’ll offer some aspects of the story that are frequently overlooked but are nonetheless rather important. And, obviously, anybody who says nonsense like “The church was all wrong and Galileo was entirely right” (or, of course, the converse) are fools – history is always a bit more complicated than that.

    As Brent’s linked summary mentions, it’s essential to recall that geocentrism (the belief that the Earth was at the center of the universe) was not only the majority opinion, but it had been the majority opinion for, essentially, all of recorded history. (At the time Aristotle and other Greek scientists were regarded as the originators of the theory of geocentrism [so geocentrism had been dominant for about 1800 years!] but now there is some evidence indicating that Ancient Egyptian cultures also accepted geocentrism – which would make it even longer). So the heliocentric view that Galileo was advocating wasn’t merely a minority view, it was a viewpoint that had been considered and rejected by every major scientist for the last 1800+ years.

    The second important thing to realize is the human dimension of what was going on, namely that Galileo was kind of a jerk. As an example, there are more than a few stories along the lines of the following: Galileo’s cosmology entailed that the moon wasn’t a perfect sphere and the reigning Aristotelian theory entailed that it was a perfect sphere. Galileo built himself a handheld telescope and would regularly show up at elite parties, force his telescope into the hands of some flustered nobleman, and say “Can’t you just see that the moon has craters?!” Galileo, unsurprisingly, made relatively few friends by showing up uninvited to parties, interrupting everybody’s dinner, and insisting that noblemen (who knew nothing about astronomy) admit in front of their friends that, in essence, Aristotelianism was wrong and Galileo was right. Not a good way to win friends and influence people…(Although, in fairness, there is very strong evidence that he genuinely loved his daughters and treated them with the greatest kindness…but an abundance of social skills he did not have).

    The narrative of what happened is fairly well understood (Wikipedia and Brent’s link has the general story down pat). Starting in the late 1500s/early 1600s, there were some stellar phenomena that couldn’t be easily accounted for in Aristotle’s cosmology. Honestly, though, the problems weren’t that big (The “big deal” was started by the fact that Venus’ orbit had a wobble , according to Aristotlian cosmology, shouldn’t exist). There were a few other cracks in the geocentric model, but most scholars believe that there were plausible answers to be found to still maintain heliocentrism (Tycho Brahe came up with a model where, for example, Earth is that the center of the universe, the Sun orbits around it, and Venus orbits around the sun – such a system could account for the “wobble” pretty well). There were many scholars who thought that geocentrism was supported by Scripture, but of course that had never been defined as a dogmatic belief.

    To oversimply, Galileo comes along and asserts that the whole of Aristotelian cosmology ought to be thrown out and St. Robert Bellarmine challenged him to come up with some testable way to verify that the Earth orbits the sun (rather than the other way around). Galileo developed his theory of tides (represented later in the Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, but problems quickly started popping up.) For example, his theory entailed that there should only be one high tide per day and it was quickly pointed out that Venice (where Galileo was working at at the time) had two. Galileo thought there were some local variations causing two high tides (about which he turned out to be right), but still it looked very bad – like Galileo had just proposed a theory with an OBVIOUSLY false implication; and of course Galileo the whole time is maintaining the superiority of his system over and against a theory which had stood for the last 1800 years. He lost a lot of supporters over the tidal debacle.

    At this point in the narrative I’ll skip ahead to the following point. Galileo had made a nontrivial number of enemies (both scientific and on account of his aforementioned utter lack of social skills), and St. Bellarmine gets called upon to adjudicate between Galileo and his detractors. Bellarmine, to oversimplify, holds that it is allowable to hold to heliocentrism as a theory but that it shouldn’t be discussed as the actual truth – and this was because there wasn’t adequate scientific evidence to support heliocentrism (To the best of my knowledge, most historians [Catholic or not] agree with Bellarmine’s assessment: The scientific evidence Galileo had, at the time, really wasn’t strong enough to justify heliocentrism and the problems with geocentrism really weren’t terribly severe.

    For one reason or another (historians disagree about why), Galileo gets called before the Inquisition in 1616. Fantastical stories aside, there is absolutely no evidence that the Inquisition was filled with Galileo’s enemies or that they were waiting (with baited breath) to burn him – BURN THE HERETIC! Instead they hold meetings (as bureaucrats are wont to do) and eventually conclude that Galileo’s scientific theory was philosophically unjustifiable and theologically heretical. Philosophically unjustifiable because it contradicted Aristotle (who was regarded as The Philosopher – the wisest of the pagan philosophers and most certainly wiser than this annoying upstart who thinks he’s smarter than 1800 years worth of scientists). Theologically, of course, references were made to various Bible verses (and, c’mon, a perfectly reasonable exegesis of Psalm 96:10 based on the best available scientific evidence in the 1600s is that it supports geocentrism). Anyways, Galileo is basically told that he can’t teach geocentrism any more as the truth (although he can still teach it as a theory), and Galileo agrees to do so.

    The old Pope dies, a new Pope comes in, and Galileo meets with this new Pope (Urban the 8th) a few times to discuss scienc-ey things (if you’ve ever met scientists, they love to sit around and talk shop with anybody who’ll listen to bounce ideas around). Then, sadly, Galileo either gets really dense, rebellious, or stupid. He decides to write a dialogue (the aforementioned Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems) where the “smart” character will advocate for geocentrism. Simplicio (“The Simpleton”) advocates for heliocentrism – and Simplicio (as a character) is kind of a bumbling fool. For whatever reason (historians, again, disagree) Simplicio advocates basically the same scientific system that Urban the 8th had already gone on record as supporting. In so doing, he not only manages to insult the Pope but also really look like he’s advocating for geocentrism (which he’d already agreed not to do). And when pressed on this, Galileo essentially responds “Hey, it’s a dialogue – I’m still just presenting heliocentrism as a theory because I don’t actually say that I think it’s true!” To which most historians respond “Yeah, but when you have the smart guy in the dialogue advocating for the view you just so happen to hold and the simpleton advocating for the view that just so happens to be held by the Pope, it at least looks like you’re calling the Pope an idiot and breaking your promise to boot.”.

    So (almost done!) Galileo gets hauled before the Inquisition again and they decide that he is “vehemently suspect[ed] of heresy”. They don’t actually say that he’s a heretic, which is important, and they stick him under house arrest for the rest of his life. He can’t publish any more books in Catholic countries, so he basically runs experiments, receives guests, and writes (one book and LOTS of letters) for the rest of his life. All in all, it could have ended MUCH worse.

    So that’s the narrative. Was Galileo completely blameless? Nah, he knew (or should have known) that publishing a dialogue with the Simpleton speaking the Pope’s views was…unwise. Was the church completely blameless? Nah, once the Pope got insulted then it definitely became less of a scientific dispute and more of a “We need to teach him some kind of lesson” thing. But leaving the personal aspects aside, most historians believe that rejecting geocentrism was correct given the scientific data available at the time. And, as such, that there would be lots of theologians who interpreted the Bible in a manner congruent with the 1800+ year scientifically-supported position is unsurprising. This was perhaps overlong, but I hope it was interesting nonetheless.

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin

  331. GNW_Paul writes:

    Which although a fairly reasonable inference from my actual statement was not at all what I had actually said and totally missed my point, which is that when they find themselves confronting actual knowledgable and articulate Catholics who are willing to take the time to dialogue extensively on matters of Faith, Protestants are likely to find that various unconscious habits, patterns and semi-hidden assumptions that they are very comfortable with are going to be challenged and in a certain sense they need to develop some new “sea legs.”

    Because one does not respond to every single jot and tittle in a post does not mean one “missed” it. And I think RC people need to learn to handle these protestant issues if you are inviting people to spew their goo. I have observed three level of Protestant interaction which may be helpful to point out to those of you who deal with us on a regular basis here.

    Level 1. The protestant comes across this board, reads a few articles and then forms an opinion. Taking his/her newly formed opinion he puts a fuse in it, lights the fuse and chucks it into the open forum, supposing that his/her little firecracker may blow the whole issue wide open. You guys seem to be handling that very well and respond kindly and educationally for the most part, and the Protestant either leaves because they did not get the bang they supposed or they proceed to Level 2.

    Level 2. The Protestant actually starts a dialogue about the issue/s. There is a lot of back and forth, heated at times, educational at times. And sometimes that is the end of it. If not the Protestant moves on to level 3.

    Level 3. This is where the real issues of prejudice, fear, bigotry, misunderstanding and the general discomfort with the unknown start to emerge, as you pointed out. This is occurring on both sides of the issue, however, Protestant and and RC. People start spewing their feelings. Some here try to bounce it back to level 2 and make it more rational by discussing some sub point or theory, but once you hit this level there is no going back. This is why I asked you guys repeatedly are you sure you want to go here? These are the REAL issues keeping us apart.

    Not only did I NOT miss your point Paul, but I actually wrote to the founders of the board here asking if I may publish an article where I would like to share my prejudice and fear as I am discovering it. So your point was noted and processed even though I did not respond immediately.

  332. Alicia,

    This conversation has rambled on well past your comment #212, and it looks as though your questions were never answered. I am sorry about that, because they are good questions. I’ll repost them here, for convenience, in case someone wants to attempt a response. I don’t have any ready answers myself, but will look into these matters when I am able, and will let you know if I come up with anything at all relevant.

    Here are the questions:

    1.Why wasn’t the selling of indulgences be stopped by the existing Pope Leo X?

    2.During the time of Wycliffe, had the CC long been “secularized”? What did this mean, and why did Wycliff feel it a bad thing?

    3. Did the CC have a long standing law to the treatment of heritics before Hus? In other words, was this a “birthing doctrine”, and the reason that Calvin borrowed it?

    Regarding the third question, I am aware of some material that might be helpful. Several years ago, Michael Liccione posted a series on the subject of torturing heretics: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

    Some of Mike’s arguments, and the arguments of those to whom he is responding, are a bit technical, but this should at least give you some idea of what was (c. 4th–18th century) the Church’s long-standing attitude towards the treatment of heretics. But the main point of these posts is to argue that the Church’s previous disposition did not constitute a definitive moral or doctrinal teaching that has subsequently been changed, even though the Church’s evaluation of the practice of torturing and putting to death heretics has changed.

    Like I said, I will try to look into each of your questions, but it might be a while before I can respond. Others are free to jump in.

    Andrew

  333. Alicia (and anyone else interested),

    Generally, I recommend Régine Pernoud’s very readable little book “Those Terrible Middle Ages“. It doesn’t answer the specifics, but then half the time the problem is the paradigmatic difference between a medieval worldview and our own — more so even than the facts of history. This little book helped me tremendously in my undergraduate. I read it as a part of a Church History II class (Medieval Church history). As a part of the class, I got to perform a song I wrote inspired by Julian of Norwich ‘s Revelations of Divine Love!

    I was fortunate that at my protestant seminary, Church history was broken up into three classes (early, medieval, reformation-present)! I know many for whom church history was two lectures on St. Augustine and then a giant intellectual trampoline bounce to the 15th or 16th century. Sorry if this was too far off topic, but maybe the recommendations help. Pernoud’s bibliography is worth the price of the book.

    Peace to all!

  334. Dear Rev. Jones,

    You said:

    [W]e could have that [unity] tomorrow if we all really wanted. You guys could tone down the Papal authority and we could tone down sola scriptura, and we could probably work out the rest.

    To be honest, I highly doubt that. If that were true, then the groups who already agree on sola scriptura and desire unity should already have “worked out the rest.”

    Probably not going to happen. Why?

    Well, I think partially because, to the credit of both Protestants and Catholics, we know that a unity gained at the expense of truth would be a false unity, forged by human contrivance (however well-intentioned) and not by the grace of the Spirit of Truth. We would be trying to heal the wound of God’s people lightly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace (Jer 6.14; 8.11).

    Fascinating!

    Fascinating, yes—and tragic. I appreciate your continued dialogue and interest in learning more about the Catholic Church and the complexity of the issues that both unite and divide those who name the Name. In the meantime, let us at least be united in prayer for authentic unity. Psalm 133 is one of my favorites for this purpose.

    best,
    John

  335. Dear Rev. Jones,

    Thank you for being honest and transparent. Just some background on me so you don’t feel like you are talking to a gravatar. I was raised Assemblies of God, spent my formative years in the Southern Baptist Church, was a licensed preacher (revivalist) in the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, but went to larg(er) non-denominational churches throughout most of college and afterwards. I spent my entire undergrad studying church history — which was my major. For better or worse, it was not a traditional “undergraduate experience” — so imagine a hermit in a library. I emphasized pre-Nicene and late Protestant (19th century – present), and graduated in 3 years (I was on a full academic scholarship). I subsequently taught Bible as well as history for 3-1/2 years in various Protestant high schools. You said:

    …I am not permitted to interpret scripture outside the approved doctrines of my denomination…

    I get that, and I certainly understand the difference between the Presbyter philosophy of church government and the democratic, board-run version in, for example, the Southern Baptist denomination. Many pentecostal denominations are quite structured as well (AOG for example) as I’m sure you know. Either way, it would illustrate the entire point of me saying:

    Is Christianity (and church affiliation) just a club like the Rotary — join whichever version you like, believe what you like, as long as *you say* you have sentiments for Jesus.

    I have written about this at my blog in a post called “When Church Shopping Makes Sense” and in another called “Is Protestantism a Theory?“.

    What we are saying — of which many of us came to realize when we were Protestants — is that Jesus did not found a schizophrenic Church. And he did found a Church (“I will build…”) As you’ve evidenced, within each Christian community there is a type of orthodoxy that is upheld. Hence, within your version of Christianity, you will not admit theological schizophrenia. However, if theological schizophrenia were acceptable for the whole (“the church”), you should accept it for the part (your church). But no particular church does. For example, you admitted that you can teach “x”. Let’s say in my denomination I cannot teach “x”. In fact, I’m told to teach “not x”.

    That’s a problem. That is not a work of the Holy Spirit. He is not the author of confusion. Therefore, one of us has to be right while the other has to be wrong (or we both could be wrong). Which leads to my next thought…

    What if Luther got it right on point A, Wesley on point B, St. Thomas on C and so forth? Also, assuming that by admitting Wesley got it right on point B that Luther got it wrong on precisely the point in question for which Wesley got it right. Such would lead me to the conclusion that none of us have a principled method for determining orthodox theology. We are just doing the best we can do. Some say, “no big deal we are human.” All right, I’ll grant that, but then we are led to another problem…

    Who is making the judgement that Luther got A right, Wesley got B right and so on? Wouldn’t that person be acting as the real arbiter of orthodoxy? Light bulb. Ahh…so that is how it works! We are all our own mini-Magisteriums, brewing and getting drunk on our own papal brew.

    So, unity isn’t as easy as each of us giving a little in our theology: just give me a little less sola and the Pope business please. Why? Because such a decision would be quite a papal one to begin with! I find no reason for a Protestant to give up a little sola anything if sola is true. As G.K. Chesterton put it:

    “Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf is better than a whole loaf.”

    And among modern theologians, I’m afraid, half a dogma has now replaced the whole truth. But, unity and truth are compatible. That is why we dialog. We believe that we can overcome fear, distrust, and frustration through charitable dialog which requires us to “reason together”. It is why we push back when “straw men” are put forward. The same reason we try to engage actual Protestant positions — because we want the Catholic ones engaged as well. This truly makes our Lord pleased.

    So let us consider together what you distrust or fear about the Catholic Church. I hope that when we challenge you about things you believe you don’t take it as a personal affront, but a fraternally motivated challenge to spur you on to truth. Since the Truth is also Love, we have hope that the real unity of all those who call upon His name can be obtained.

    In Christ through Mary,

    Brent

  336. Henry asks and answers his own question: Where has the RCC interpreted the Scripture for you? The RCC has never infallibly interpreted the Scriptures.

    Henry, I have answered this question before for you. One more time. If you want to know where the Catholic Church has infallibly interpreted scriptures, then pick up a copy of:

    Enchiridion Symbolorum Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum. 33rd edition.
    Heinrich Joseph Denzinger & A. Schönmetzer.
    B. Herder Book Co., St. Louis, Missouri, 1965.

    If you want an English translation of “Denzinger”, pick up a copy of:

    The Sources of Catholic Dogma, 30th edition,
    Heinrich Joseph Denzinger
    B. Herder Book Co., St. Louis, Missouri, 1957

    Another book that answers your question is:

    Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
    Dr. Ludwig Ott
    TAN Books and Publishers; 4th edition (January 1, 2009)

    Look up the dogmas in Dr. Ott’s book that carry the degree of theological certainty of de fide. These are all infallibly defined dogmas of the Catholic faith. Among these de fide dogmas you will find many that are the Catholic Church’s official interpretation of the scriptures. For example:

    “In God there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Each of the Three Persons possesses the one (numerical) Divine Essence. (De fide)”

  337. mateo asks Rev. Jones: Do you believe that your personal interpretations of the scriptures have more authority than the interpretations of the scriptures officially promulgated by the church that Jesus Christ founded?

    Rev. Robert Jones responds: Your church or my church?

    Your church is one of the Presbyterian sects, is that not correct? I am not asking whether or not your private interpretations of scriptures carry more authority than what is taught in your Presbyterian sect.

    What church I belong to isn’t relevant to my question. What I want to know is if you believe that your personal interpretations of the scriptures have more authority than the interpretations of the scriptures officially promulgated by the church that Jesus Christ personally founded.

    Rev. Rober Jones writes: I am not permitted to interpret scripture outside the approved doctrines of my denomination.I hope that answers mateo’s question btw.

    Unless you are claiming that your Presbyterian sect was personally founded by Jesus Christ, then no, that does not answer my question.

  338. Dear Rev. Jones (re#314)

    Please see my message to you in #318. 318 was overlooked by the moderator and had just now been posted.

    Blessings,
    Frank

  339. Dear Frank,

    If you look at the post by mateo right above the last one you made to me, #335, at the very last line he infers that my church was not founded by Jesus, and that the RC Church was.

    btw, I do accept your apology and thank you for it. It is easy to get tense when discussing things that matter this much to people. I too apologize as you were correct I was getting tense with mateo yesterday.

    I am not grasping this concept. At first I hear it that Jesus gave the RC church to Peter and it has always been the same. You tell me this is incorrect hearing. Then I think that Jesus gave something to Peter, and it grew/evolved/ eventually became the RC church, and others tell me that is not correct either. So I am not grasping how the RC sees this.

    I explained how I see it so that hopefully someone could see where my head was at and interpret the RC position in a way that makes sense to me.

    Peter was a Hebrew, who founded the church in Jerusalem and spent a lot of time hanging out there and traveling around that region. He even wrestles with should they allow gentiles into this church and if so should they convert and be circumcised and keep kosher. In a dream, he is led by the Holy Spirit to allow people to eat what they want. I daresay a very relativistic position for that time.

    I had mistakenly thought that the very idea of the papa of Rome being in charge was a third or fourth century addition, but someone here showed me a writing where the idea was actually much earlier. So this has shifted my views some.

    Anyway, Peter ends up in Rome under arrest and dies there. There are whole bunches of other gentile churches started by the apostles and their followers. I honestly do not see all of them recognizing Petrine authority from Rome. What I am seeing is this ideal is emerging and then slowly being put into practice.

    I see it at first being a kind of honorary thing, and then later more and more power is ascribed to this seat of Peter. My personal and prayerful sense is that at some point it went past the will of God and created a worldly power base not fully espoused by God, yet still used by Him. I know this view offends you and other RC people, and to be honest I am not fully sure if my view comes from prejudice and fear, or from God. I am just trying to be honest.

    I think RC people also need to look in the mirror as well and if you truly desire communion, then you guys are some of the reason we do not have it. It takes two to block communion. As a matter of fact, if any of you came in my church tomorrow, and professed Jesus, you could take communion with us. You do not have to give up being RC, you do not have to jump through any hoops, just believe. So in that case there is zero blockage on my part to communion.

    You guys have all these Petrine rules and regulations and I would have to go through all kinds of hoops before I could have communion in your church. So who is throwing up the roadblocks here to communion? Y’all come back with, “But our way is the truth”. That don’t leave a lot of room for communion dude. I am not creating a straw dog, I am just rambling here.

  340. Dear Brent,

    Thanks for sharing your blog. Now I can come bug you over there too ;-)
    I am tired tonight so I look forward to reading your post and your blog more in detail tomorrow. I am however curious about your Pentecostal experiences. Have you ever been in a glory cloud? Have you ever seen the face of Jesus? Have you been to the throne room? These are all biblical experiences which Pentecostals have espoused and written about for over a century now.

    I ask because I have had a few of these in the last couple years which messed with my head a whole lot more than any theology did. Having the fire of Christ burn though you was something I thought was quite metaphorical. That stuff changes your theology in about 15 minutes. I saw a Methodist minister get up off the floor saying, “I used to be a Methodist”.

    Anyway, suffice it to say that I am pretty sure they are not checking wristbands at the gates of heaven to see whether you were RC or Baptist.

  341. Dear Rev. Jones, (re #337):
    You wrote:

    If you look at the post by mateo right above the last one you made to me, #335, at the very last line he infers that my church was not founded by Jesus, and that the RC Church was.

    I’m not sure, but I think some of the misunderstanding can be traced to the different ways you and we Catholics understand “Church.” I agree with Mateo’s inference, because Jesus only founded one Church and he did that before his death, and your Reformed Church was founded (in some sense) by John Calvin about 1,500 years later.

    If I understand you (and the Protestant position generally), “church” is that body of the elect who have true faith Christ but do not form a visible body as such. Catholics take their notion of “Church” from the four marks in the Apostles Creed – one, holy, catholic and apostolic, from Matthew 16, and from the Sermon on the Mount (“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”) – this is not an exhaustive list, but these are certainly core principles. Catholicism believes in the literal sense of the visibility of the Church, that it is the sort of thing men can actually see – so it has a visible hierarchy and visible head – Peter and his successors. It is, in that sense, strongly Incarnational in its view of “church”, where the Protestant position seems more gnostic (it requires some kind of special knowledge to know who is in or out of the church).

    Protestant “churches” are referred to as “ecclesial communities” in Catholic circles, to distinguish them from what we understand as the one Church. And this one church can be traced back historically, to Peter. Perhaps instead of projecting forward from Peter, working backwards through time to Peter would help you see what we claim. We can trace back the Catholic view of the Eucharist, for example, to the Apostles immediate successors.
    St. Ignatius, one of the earliest Church Fathers (died circa 110 A.D.), in his letter to the Smyrnaeans in 110 A.D., writes,

    • “the Eucharist is the Flesh of the Savior Jesus Christ,”

    and St. Justin the Martyr (A.D. 100-165) writes in his First Apology,

    • “We call this food Eucharist; and no one is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true.” and

    • “the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.”

    These beliefs (among others) have been carried forward in only one Church – the one personally founded by Jesus Christ with visible historical continuity to the present day.

    Before you could take communion in the RCC, you would have be IN communion with her – this is what St. Justin Martyr is talking about. Otherwise, we believe, the guilt of “profaning the body” (I Cor 11) would apply because your act of communion with the Church would not be genuine.

    It would be whole lot nicer, easier, friendlier if we could just declare ourselves to be “in communion”, but it’s not our call. We are men (and women) under authority, and do not have the power to declare such things that are contrary to Sacred Tradition, to that which the Church has held since the earliest post-Apostolic days.

    It may interest you to know that all my best friends are Presbyterians. A group of we five men have met every Saturday morning for over 10 years now for fellowship, mutual support in our life struggles, and sharing our faith journeys. It pains me terribly that I cannot share this “Source and Summit” of the Catholic faith with them and part of the reason I come here to C2C is to learn how to witness to them in ways that might help them see how their love of Jesus Christ can only be completely fulfilled in His Church.

    Have you seen the references to the book “Spirit and Forms of Protestantism” by Jason? I would strongly recommend this book if you have not read it. It was written by a Lutheran convert, Louis Bouyer, and is the most irenic treatment of Protestantism you’ll find in any book whose purpose is to demonstrate that the Catholic Church is the one true Church.

    Here’s a review of the book that might whet your interest: Bouyer

    Blessings to you on your journey,
    Frank

  342. Rev. Robert Jones writes: If you look at the post by mateo right above the last one you made to me, #335, at the very last line he infers that my church was not founded by Jesus, and that the RC Church was.

    Rev. Jones, this is getting exasperating! I have been quoting the scriptures where Jesus commands his disciples to listen to his church (Matthew 18:17). I don’t have to “infer” that Jesus Christ personally founded a church, nor do I have to “infer” that Jesus commands his disciples to listen to his church. Both of these things are explicitly taught in the scriptures found in your Protestant bible!

    Rev. Robert Jones writes: Peter was a Hebrew, who founded the church in Jerusalem …

    That is something that no practicing Catholic believes, and there is nothing that I can see in the scriptures that gives me the idea that I should “infer” that Peter founded his own personal church in Jerusalem. You are the first Protestant that I have ever heard that makes such a claim about Peter. Is this something that your Presbyterian sect teaches too?

    The scriptures explicitly teach that Jesus Christ founded his own church, and that Jesus gave Peter special authority within his church:

    Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
    Matthew 16:14-17

    These verses from Matthew’s Gospel show that Jesus personally founded his own church – “my church”. How much more explicit can the scriptures possibly be?

    The next time Jesus speaks about his church is found two chapters later in Matthew’s Gospel:

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

    From the scriptures quoted above we see that Jesus Christ personally founded his own church, and then Jesus commanded that his disciples must listen to his church. I want to know if you believe your personal interpretations of the scriptures have more authority than the interpretations of the scriptures officially promulgated by the church that Jesus Christ founded. Do you believe that? A simple yes or no would be sufficient!

  343. Dear Rev. Jones,

    When I was Pentecostal I may have used similar language to describe certain experiences we had. You can actually watch my conversion story here where I discuss how experiential Christianity contributed to my conversion to Catholicism — for its better and worse.

    Now as a Catholic, at every Holy Mass, I am invited to “come boldly to the throne of grace” to enter the “throne room” where the choir of angels cry, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus”. It is there that I partake of the sacrifice of the risen Christ, beckoned by the Lover of my soul to “eat of His flesh and drink of His blood”. “From glory to glory”, as St. John of Chrysostom says, I am transformed by the Eucharistic feast. Even more, this amazing, mystifying, and ecstatic experience is offered to all! It is not just for the illuminati, the spiritual juggernaut, or the theologian. Nay! The lowly, unspiritual, grand-mother who barely makes it to Mass receives God “under her roof” — just as the mystic. We truly have a Lover that shows no favorites!

    I truly believe that every authentic experience outside of the Holy Mass is to quicken us to become aware of its gracious telos. Properly ordered, ALL experiences of God — in this life — can only be satiated in the Eucharist. It is why I truly believe that the charismatic/pentecostal experiences has the potential of leading Protestants back home to Catholicism: (1) because it opens them up to an epistemology that accepts a dynamic work of the Holy Spirit (why not the Magisterium?), (2) gives them a longing to “be with Christ” — not just applaud for perfect theology — that can only be satiated in the Holy Eucharist, and (3) is an experience that has only been universally affirmed by one Church throughout all of Christian history: The Catholic Church. I talk more about that in my conversion story found here.

    The Eucharist is what our Lord gave us, and is truly the especial way He is with us until the end of the age. Following Christ meant joining his Church. As Frank has recommended, that discovery only comes through tracing back your own particular ecclesial lineage until you can find Christ. Therefore, on that journey, you will encounter the crises of justifying the Reformation and would have to consider the claims of the Orthodox Church.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  344. In Response to Mateo:

    17 ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν, εἰπὲ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ· ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας παρακούσῃ, ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης.

    Jesus here does not command His disciples to listen to the Church. In fact, I know of no NT Scripture that commands to disciples/apostles to listen to the Church. This text is being lifted out of context. It falls precisely in the middle of Jesus’ teachings on church discipline. The Church is brought in at the end of the process as a means to corporately urge the unrepentance person to listen to the admonition of their brothers and sisters and to repent of their on-going rebellion.

    Secondly, are you not engaging in the forbidden practice of interpreting Scripture in this process? Shouldn’t you rather be quoting the church’s interpretation of this text rather than seemingly handling it your own self? To interpret Scripture yourself in order to show that only the Church can interpret Scripture rightly is a violent contradiction, is it not?

    There is equally no evidence to suggest that Peter actually founded the church in Rome either, but RCC are quick to hold to a very dogmatic view on that front. Moreover, the church at Jerusalem was the first church and if Peter was the head of the church as RC asserts, how could he NOT be its founder and bishop? But he was not. The evidence suggests that James was the bishop in the Jerusalem church.

    Finally, Matt. 16:18 tells us that church will be built upon the rock of Christ, not Peter. The RCC likes to say that the church is built upon the identity of Peter but this is poor exegesis. The point of the pericope is the identity, not of Peter, but of Christ. “This rock” is ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ not Πέτρος. This rock is femine while Peter’s name is masculine. The demonstrantive pronoun makes this clear.

    You are right that Jesus Christ has established His church. You are wrong when you say his disciples were commanded to listen to the church. The text used for this claim is poorly interpreted. The power of binding and losing does not reside in the church alone. The Greek text reads “whatever you bind on earth shall have already been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have already been bound in heaven. These are perfect passive participles. The perfect participle denotes antecedent time in reference to the main verb. The idea that heaven will automatically lend Peter, Paul, or anyone in the Church such power by virtue of their role is exegetically unsupported in Scripture. The power of binding and losing visibly is there, but always tempered with the inherent authority of heaven through the divine revelation of Scripture. In other words, err and there is no power to bind and loose in that situation. Galatians 3:11 and proof that Peter was more than capable of serious error.

    Acts 20:30 is equally proof that there is no guarantee against error within the bishopric. The historic evidence does not support an perfect unbroken line of succession from Peter through the early fathers to present day.

    John Calvin is not the founder of the reformed churches. The reformed churches are simply a return to biblical Christianity as revealed and clearly taught in Scripture.

  345. A parting thought:

    Since we Reformers and you of the RC church agree on so much of what is foundational to Christianity, including the foundational aspect of Peter, and whereas this agreement has led to the Holy See proclaiming that we Christians are to be recognized as such by all Roman Catholics in your CCC, then there appears to be only one element separating our communion. That element is the understanding of ecclesiology.

    The ecclesiology under Petrine authority declares that Protestant ecclesial structure is heretical and thereby worthy of excommunication. Our ecclesial structure proclaims The RC structure as in serious error, but does NOT preclude communion and you are welcome at our table. Therefore it seems that your ecclesial structure is the one blocking communion, while you wish to issue a “call to communion”.

    Until such time that Rome rescinds the excommunication, and declares that all Christians are welcome at your table, and are not merely second class citizens, then the great divide as issued by your Holy See continues. I pray for a hastening of that day when the bells shall ring in St. Peters square removing said excommunication.

    I personally can view both ecclesial structures as having error. I see no such acceptance on the part of a single RC person here. You merely seem to keep affirming the wonder, beauty and truth of your own system while denouncing mine. I do not wish to sit here and denounce your system, nor to propose ad hominum arguments that we are right because you have faults. I do not think this benefits the faith of Christ.

    While you keep proclaiming the faith in Christ’s church, you keep pointing to yourself as being the shining example of it while excommunicating us. Something is messed up in that. While you keep solid rules excommunicating us, you issue a call to communion. Something is messed up in that. I tried to sort it out in my mind, but I am wasting time especially if no real communion is possible until Papal action is taken.

    I have tired to admit the weakness of sola scriptura and the relativity of personal interpretation. However, when I point back to the same issues in your own RC faith when it comes to the Holy Fathers and the interpretation of Petrine authority you seem shocked, dismayed, disheartened, and disgusted that I would dare to do that. The imbalance of responsible introspection by your side is visible.

    I do not believe that ecclesial structure should be an excommunicable offense. I believe this is where the RC church went into serious error.I believe that if the Holy See were to remove the excommunications issued merely over ecclesial differences it would expand his authority as Christ defines it, not narrow it.

    According to your own Petrine authority, no communion is possible until the Holy See removes the excommunication. Therefore we can talk here until we are blue in the face and there will be no communion. If said excommunication were removed, then our discussions on ways we can share communion and be a visible entity to the world while remaining separate, yet unified in Christ, I would be happy to participate.

    Thanks to all who talked with me nicely and I think my time here was educational on a variety of things. God be with you.

  346. Ed Dingess,

    You were responding to Mateo, so I won’t address the bulk of your points. I just want to make it clear to you once and for all that Catholics do not think interpreting Scripture is a “forbidden practice” or that “only the Church can interpret Scripture rightly.” We do believe that one may not interpret Scripture in a way that contradicts the Church’s rule of faith, and we do believe that only the Church can interpret Scripture authoritatively, in a manner that binds the conscience of the faithful.

    In point of fact, for what it’s worth, my own experience as a convert to Catholicism is that my personal practices of reading, studying, and praying the Holy Scriptures have — far from being constricted or dulled — been phenomenally deepened and enriched by the parameters provided by Sacred Tradition and the guidance of the Magisterium.

    best,
    John

  347. The history of your own church testifies against the seemless authority of succession you assert. The fathers contradicted one another and erred in many ways. Even Bellarmine confessed that the most learned fathers seriously erred in many things, contradict one another, and were sometimes blind.

    The question of the integrity of the writings of the fathers raises cause for serious concern. It is a matter of historical fact that edits were made for various reasons, many of which were ethically suspect.

    The subjective nature of your argument coupled with a vicious ciricle of appeal to the Church to hold the Church accountable places your view in a non-falsifiable position. I cannot pursuade you because your authority comes from the very source I call into question, which I am not permitted to do. In other words, my argument is dismissed before the conversation starts.

  348. Rev. Jones,

    you seem shocked, dismayed, disheartened, and disgusted that I would dare to do that

    You must be taking “making arguments against” as “shock and dismay”. However, “making arguments against” is not “shock and dismay”. “Shock and dismay” would be something like, “how dare you, Rev. Jones, make such an argument. You cannot do that!” But, no one here has said that.

    Dear Ed,

    In other words, my argument is dismissed before the conversation starts.

    If we have, could you point to one argument that you’ve made that we’ve dismissed before the conversation started?

  349. @Reverdn Robert #343:

    there appears to be only one element separating our communion. That element is the understanding of ecclesiology.

    At least that is the most fundamental issue. This comment of yours illustrates a fundamental aspect of the problem:

    Our ecclesial structure proclaims The RC structure as in serious error, but does NOT preclude communion and you are welcome at our table.

    I hate to tell you this, but not only would a Catholic not be welcome at any of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, neither would a Baptist, probably not a Lutheran – and if they knew of your theology of welcoming people to Communion, neither would you be welcome.

    There are not two ecclesiologies here. There are thousands. The distinctive thing about the Catholic is that it thinks the Church is the Body of Christ – and that ‘Body’ there, though spiritual, is not at all metaphorical – and because spiritual and not metaphorical, is physical – and therefore must be physically one in some sense.

    jj

  350. John Thayer Jensen writes

    The distinctive thing about the Catholic is that it thinks the Church is the Body of Christ – and that ‘Body’ there, though spiritual, is not at all metaphorical – and because spiritual and not metaphorical, is physical – and therefore must be physically one in some sense.

    If the church “thinks” this, then she should be a little more careful with that excommunication gun. Maybe she should be more like Barney Fife and just keep one bullet in her pocket in case of severe heresy.

  351. @Reverend Robert #348:

    …the church … should be a little more careful with that excommunication gun.

    Hmm… Not sure why. By ‘excommunication’ I presume you mean ‘not accepting Protestants at Communion.’ But, surely, the point is that a body is not just a club. There is a full life of the body. Your own body, when certain of its cells begin to rebel, does what it can to ‘excommunicate’ them. Diseased cells are destroyed by your leukocytes. They damage the body. If the Church were just a big feeding trough, then I suppose all those who wanted to swill could dig in. It is not. It is a body. It has the Life of Christ flowing through it. The Church does what it must to protect the Body – and does what it can to try to heal those troubled cells that might harm not only the Body but themselves by trying to muck in. Some of that process is precisely the hand of love that those of us on CtC hold out to non-Catholics.

    If this sounds like “assimilated you will be,” it nevertheless does not at all mean “futile resistance is.” And, really, being a full functioning member of the Body is not assimilation. You would be astonished to find how much more identity you have as a Catholic. Perhaps it is only as a Catholic that all that God wants you to be can find its fulfilment. I was far more under pressure to conform in the two Protestant communions I was in before (first Baptist and then Reformed). That white stone of identity is your ticket to you.

    jj

  352. John Thayer Jensen writes:

    Protestants are like diseased muck which through the love of the wonderful perfect Petrine authoritative body can be “assimilated” in like in the Borg.

    Wow. Sounds peachy keen. Where do I sign up?

  353. Dear Rev. Jones,

    Certainly you won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t think your paraphrase of John Thayer Jensen was accurate. I’ll leave it to him to respond more directly. In the meantime, I wonder if we could clear out some of the underbrush by being clearer about the meaning of the term “excommunicate,” which is being tossed about a bit. Perhaps someone with more canonical acumen than I could clarify the matter with more precision, but I feel confident in saying that it is not the case that all Protestants are excommunicated. To be excommunicated, one must have been a Catholic to begin with. John’s comment applies to those who have actually been excommunicated, particularly for engendering and promoting heresy: Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches, and, yes, Luther. But certainly not Protestants in general.

    best,
    John

  354. @Reverend Robert #350:

    Protestants are like diseased muck which through the love of the wonderful perfect Petrine authoritative body can be “assimilated” in like in the Borg.

    I’m very sorry you take it like that, Reverend. But do you not think that the analogy between rebels in, say, a State, and diseased cells in a body, is a possible one. I am trying to make sense of what seems to me a reasonable position: Catholics are those who have believed that God has given the Catholic Church a position to which all men ought to submit. It would be dishonest to say anything else. I apologise if you found the analogy offensive – but given what Catholics believe about the Church, I invite you to offer another. The point is that Communion is too intimate to be offered to those who think you are wrong on your very identity.

    I had thought of objecting to the word ‘excommunication.’ You know quite well that you have not been excommunicated in the literal sense. I took you to be using the term – possibly with some slight intention to provoke, as I think you did by paraphrasing my analogy – to describe the fact that non-Catholics – not only Protestants; Orthodox under most circumstances, as well – are not to commune in a Catholic Church. Neither are persons who have gone through a form of marriage (and still living in it) whilst the first spouse is still alive. They are not ‘diseased muck;’ neither are they fully healthy cells within the body. This is objectively true, not a matter of Catholic teaching but of the reality of what marriage really is, and no amount of pleasant euphemisms can change it. These persons have not been excommunicated – but they are not allowed to receive Communion.

    And I specifically distanced Catholic Communion – I mean, being in full Communion with the Body – from Borgish assimilation. I intended it to be a little light humour.

    Neither are you. Neither was I during my year of preparation to be received into the Church. It would be good not so easily to react emotionally; rather, to deal with the substance of the explanation and defence of the practice. Perhaps you can offer a different analogy.

    jj

  355. To John S and John Thayer:

    As I stated previously, I call em like I hear em. Calling my writing a “characterization”, implies that I am playing and manipulating your words. I have assured you I do not communicate that way. My point is…I don’t think you hear how bad you guys sound. You REALLY need to stop and listen.

    btw…I am quite sure I was using the term “excommunication” correctly. It is the edict that is blocking our communion. Without its removal, as I stated, we can talk until we are blue in the face.

  356. Dear Brent

    Thanks again for your writing. I have found it helpful. I do not mean to question your conversion, nor to insult it, but if you are comparing the Eucharist to the presence of the glory of God in a room and telling me the Eucharist is better, well it did answer my question anyway. Thank you.

    Once again, I do not mean to be unkind, but comparing the presence of Christ in the little wafer, and the presence of the glory of living God, is like comparing sex to peanut brittle. If you say peanut brittle is better, either you are doing sex wrong, or you have not had any in quite awhile.

    I actually have had Roman Catholic communion because I know a few priests who are ecumenical. It was equivalent to our own. My impression of this board, and once again not to question your conversion, is that y’all are a bunch of recently converted people who really are hepped up on the IDEAL of RC. Even RC people do not seem as idealistic as you guys. You may not be the best ones to discuss ecumenism with.

    In order to discuss ecumenism one needs three things:

    1. A realistic view of the frailties of their own system and therefore understand the frailties of another

    2. The ability to concede points where accurate without constantly and defensively re arguing why you have that point.

    3. A really good sense of humor.

  357. Dear Rev. Jones (#353),

    First, I must confess to being somewhat at a loss as to how to communicate with you. I don’t understand why you get to “call ’em like you hear ’em”—which in effect seems to mean you expect to be able to make uninformed generalizations and offensive remarks (I will provide examples of both from this thread if you wish) with impunity, imploring Catholics to have a sense of humor; but then you express disgust at “how bad you guys sound.” Oh well. I do try, prayerfully, to put myself in the place of my interlocutors and “hear” my words through their ears. I will continue to strive to do all things in charity.

    Second, I feel compelled to admit that you are right regarding the range of meaning of excommunication, at least in older usage, though one rarely if ever hears the word applied this broadly today. From the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia:

    the Church excommunicates not only those who abandon the true faith to embrace schism or heresy, but likewise the members of heretical and schismatic communities who have been born therein. As to the latter, however, it is not question of personal excommunication; the censure overtakes them in their corporate capacity, as members of a community in revolt against the true Church of Jesus Christ.

    best,
    John

  358. Rev. Jones,

    A brief addendum to my last comment:

    I take it that the reason the range of usage of the term “excommunication” has been restricted is precisely to avoid worries like your own, lest it obscure the nuance of the Church’s teaching regarding non-Catholic Christians. For example:

    However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers.

    Unitatis Redintegratio 3, §1

    One who has committed “the sin of separation” might be personally excommunicated. But because, understandably, most people are unlikely to notice or comprehend the distinction between personal excommunication and the kind referred to in the Catholic Encyclopedia article I cited above, the Church has, to my knowledge, all but dropped the latter usage.

    John

  359. @ Rev. Jones,

    Everything changes if Catholicism is true. Many of the thoughts you have expressed here only make sense if what the Catholic Church teaches is false.

    I also get the impression that you are of the opinion that we don’t really believe what the Church teaches, just the idea of it. Am I off the mark here?

  360. Brian O.

    Obviously Protestants think that what the Roman Catholic church teaches is false, otherwise we would be RC.

    In order for two positions/groups to communicate and work on ecumenical realtions, they need to first understand that they are coming from very different definitions of “truth”.

    I am under the impression of having lived with and related to RC people for over half a century, that it is my limited observation the majority of RC people I know have a much more relativistic understanding of the RC church than you newly converted former Protestants.

  361. John S.

    I hardly think my questionable humorous and sometimes off color remarks are akin to likening someone to a bacterium, as was done in an analogy of Protestants.

    You need to understand that we Protestants were often killed and finally expelled for what we believe are the tenets of our faith as we understand them. So using the analogy of bacterium, is not only insensitive, but gloriously offensive.

    I have not come here trying to promulgate my particular beliefs, nor do I think that appropriate in an ecumenical dialogue. So I begin with a more sensitive position than I have encountered here. I have also tried to respect your views, while accepting correction on mine, which I have observed precious little of here on the RC part.

    It is my observation that this forum is very good at supporting those who have recently converted from Protestantism to RC, and also very good at encouraging and pointing out reasons for other Protestants to do the same. I encourage you in those pursuits and think this has a wonderful place in Christendom.

    When it comes to ecumenical dialogue I think y’all suck at it. Truthfully, do not even attempt it. You have not even found a framework for it in three years let alone getting up to step one. You seem defensive about your new found faith and shocked and hurt that others do not share your enthusiasm. Truthfully it breaks my heart as you appear to be kids with a new toy at Christmas and hurt when your brothers and sisters do not share your love of it.

    I am shocked that former Protestants seem to have such a shallow of view of Protestantism. I do believe that we have the truth of the Gospel as given by Jesus Christ. I do believe that founding your belies on man rather than the Word of Gos is serious error whether those men are the church Fathers or the church mothers, or the church cousins, or their friends and family. I do believe Christ communicates directly to people and calls them apart from Peter, as evidence at Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.

    I am not placing these views here for you to argue with. I am just stating I will lay down my life for them and take them as seriously as a heart attack. I do understand you feel the same about your views, but somehow think my bacterial impressions of Christianity are somehow second class.

    Seeing someone as being less than you, or their faith as being less than yours is not a place to begin ecumenical dialogue. I have tried to communicate that I see your faith as being no less compelling as mine. I have seen zero reciprocation on that view here, leading to my assessment of your extremely poor ecumenical skills. Please do not interpret that as a judgment on your faith, life, character, or new found church. I am sure there are many things you could be spending your time doing better.

  362. Rev. Jones,

    What you are forgetting is that people lived with God Incarnate and thought him a nice teacher, carpenter or prophet. St. John said, though, that when we beheld Christ we beheld “the glory of the only begotten of the Father”. Heck, at the Cross the soldiers were casting lots while the salvation of the world was happening above their heads. So, your lack of perceiving the glory of God in the Eucharist is, of course, not the fault of the Eucharist; in the same way that it was not Christ’s fault that one woman touched his garment and was healed while the crowds thronged around him unfazed. Thus, with St. Gemma I say:

    “Do grant, oh my God, that when my lips approach Yours to kiss You, I may taste the gall that was given to You; when my shoulders lean against Yours, make me feel Your scourging; when my flesh is united with Yours, in the Holy Eucharist, make me feel Your passion; when my head comes near Yours, make me feel Your thorns; when my heart is close to Yours, make me feel Your spear.”

    and with St. Justin Martyr:

    “This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”

    and with St. Francis of Assisi:

    “And just as He appeared before the holy Apostles in true flesh, so now He has us see Him in the Sacred Bread. Looking at Him with the eyes of their flesh, they saw only His Flesh, but regarding Him with the eyes of the spirit, they believed that He was God. In like manner, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, let us see and believe firmly that it is His Most Holy Body and Blood, True and Living.
    For in this way our Lord is ever present among those who believe in him, according to what He said: “Behold, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.” (Mt. 28, 20)”

    You said:

    1. A realistic view of the frailties of their own system and therefore understand the frailties of another

    2. The ability to concede points where accurate without constantly and defensively re arguing why you have that point.

    3. A really good sense of humor.

    1. We admit our faults, but “the system” is not a “system” that is the mere contrivance of men. We do not receive it from man but from God. You want Catholics to act like Protestants, but we are not. We do not dream up what kind of church we want and then apologize for the parts that don’t work out so well.

    2. You should concede a point when it is proven. If we don’t think it is proven, we will give you a reason. It is then incumbent upon your to show that our reason is false. If you don’t want to do that, then you want to be the pope. You want to have the final word. That is fine. (you can laugh right now, because you could take that last bit as a kind of joke)

    3. I laugh all the time — and make people laugh (see #2). Though, some things are serious and worth acting serious about. Moreover, I recommend in ecumenical dialog a respect for the things that are holy to the other Christian.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  363. Rev. Jones,

    I agree with John (355) re: “uninformed generalizations and offensive remarks,” and I’d like to remind you, per the Posting Guidelines, that Called to Communion is not a forum for free-association commenting. You are posting comments beneath a specific article on a Web site “wherein unity is pursued in the context of humility, charity, respect and prayer” (see ‘Posting Guidelines’ under the ‘About’ tab).

    But in 354 you’ve painfully oversimplified our “conversions” in order to diminish and dismiss us. You continue to mock Holy Communion without bothering to inform yourself what the Church teaches about it (the Catechism of the Catholic Church is available online, and you really should take the time to read it). You dismiss our ‘ecumenism’ because it fails to align with your own definition of that term. I’d grant that you’re entitled to your opinion, sure, but your comments lack humility and charity; they also exemplify disrespect and, as far as I can tell, have nothing to do with the article beneath which you’re commenting.

    I’m sorry if this sounds harsh—I don’t mean it to. If we were sitting together in a pub or living room you’d see from my expression that I’m not trying to be ugly. The com box beneath an article should be used to discuss specific issues in that article, and discussion should conform to the Posting Guidelines. That’s really not too much to ask.

    Christus victor!

  364. wilkens

    I have addressed my responses to the particular person who issued them most recently to me. I do understand how blogs work, and I did ask if this was a blog to discuss ecumenism, because if it wasn’t I was prepared to graciously excuse myself.

    Once again in your reply to me you point out ALL my supposed faults without responding to a single point I made.

    I rest my case.

  365. Brent writes:

    We admit our faults, but “the system” is not a “system” that is the mere contrivance of men. We do not receive it from man but from God.

    And Protestants believe exactly the same thing. I am truly shocked you do not understand this.
    We are not bacterium sitting here awaiting Papal cleansing to become real Christians, and then if not to be flushed or killed.

    My only point right now is that in order for there to be ecumenical dialogue, which this board states it is trying to accomplish. you cannot continue to sit here saying my way is the only right way. That is the exact opposite of ecumenical dialogue. You can state that your way is the only right way, and that you are nice and open to helping other people see the right way, ie. your way. I do admit you do a fine and caring job of doing that.

    You cannot however call it ecumenism. Trying to get another person to see and accept YOUR viewpoint is not by definition ecumenism. Does anyone here get that?

  366. Rev. Jones,

    When it comes to ecumenical dialogue I think y’all suck at it.

    I’m over here scratching my head, thinking to myself that THERE IS NO PLACE in ecumenical dialog for the word “suck”. Just saying bro. Cool? At this point you got me thinking that real ecumenical dialog is when everyone sits around a camp fire, legs crossed, doing yoga together. If we just stopped talking about our differences, we could really get something done. Lowest common denominator Christianity here we come!

    On the one hand, that is right. There is an ecumenism that can result in the betterment of the common good by setting aside our differences. We can set aside our differences to feed and cloth the poor and fight against injustices like slavery and abortion. Wait a minute…you do agree that abortion is always an injustice, right? Nevertheless, what we aim for at CTC is not that type of ecumenism — although we promote it. Instead, we hope for real, bona-fide Christian unity, a unity that is not just skin deep but that is a unity of the faith (what we believe).

    Pretend I’m a new convert? What church would you recommend me to join? Why? Is your recommendation more than mere personal preference? And what I mean, of course, is not merely that you prefer it — which of course we prefer the Catholic Church — but that the only reason you recommend one church over another is your preference. That your preference is the raison d’etre of your recommendation. Does that bother you? It did me, when I thought that way. You want to know another thing that bothers me? The phone book bothers me — under the heading “churches”.

    In order for two positions/groups to communicate and work on ecumenical realtions, they need to first understand that they are coming from very different definitions of “truth”.

    Until the two groups could agree to what it means for something to be true, they could never communicate. So, would you please define for us — so as to move forward ecumenical dialog which is your stated goal — your definition of truth? We might then challenge that notion because it is different from ours. That would not be because we are big meanies, but because we want to try to come to a consensus on what it means for something to be “true”. To “know” and “understand” the other it to love the other. Anything less is sentiment. We have more than sentiment for you. Therefore, we desire to share in common, to commune, on the concept of truth. Because, if we cannot agree on what it means for something to be “true”, we can never agree on any conclusions. Not to mention, that Christ is the Truth.

    You are right, we may have rushed things here. We needed to articulate our premises out of love for each other. So, Rev. Jones, what is your definition of truth?

  367. Rev. Jones,

    Obviously Protestants think that what the Roman Catholic church teaches is false, otherwise we would be RC.

    I realized this. I was pointing out that your approach presupposes that Catholicism is false. We obviously disagree and do not accept your starting point for dialogue.

  368. Robert,

    Thanks for hanging in there with a bevy of Catholic interlocutors. I just want to ask one question, and point out an outstanding irony in your last comment.

    My question is, and forgive me for not being up to speed on this conversation, where were Protestants referred to as “bacterium sitting here awaiting Papal cleansing to become real Christians, and then if not to be flushed or killed”?

    The irony lies in the following statement:

    Trying to get another person to see and accept YOUR viewpoint is not by definition ecumenism. Does anyone here get that?

    In your own comments, you are obviously trying to get us to see and accept your viewpoint on a variety of subjects, including the nature of genuine ecumenical dialogue.

    Our approach, following the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, is that genuine ecumenism cannot dispense with the goal of arriving at unity in faith, sacraments, and government, that is, genuine ecclesial unity in the one Church that Christ established. If you have a different understanding of ecumenical dialogue, and it seems that you do, then we can discuss that, but it will be of no use pretending that either one of us is not trying to get the other to see and accept his own position.

    Furthermore, our (CTC’s) approach to dialogue has been to carefully make arguments in support of the positions that we are promoting in this forum, and to just as carefully evaluate and respond to questions and reasoned counter-arguments. Of course we have done this imperfectly. But such is our goal. If you share this goal, i.e, coming to agreement in truth through careful and reasonable dialogue, then please continue to comment. If you do not share this goal, then it might be time for you to move on.

    I hope that you do want to arrive at unity in truth through reasoning together, and that you will engage our presentation and defense of the truth claims of the Catholic Church in a respectful and reasonable manner. It is our express intention to do the same as regards your own truth claims, even and especially where we disagree.

    Andrew

  369. Dear Andrew:

    Ah, a light bulb slowly dawns. Ecumenism means something totally different for you than for me. OK. I can buy that. However, your own Ecumenical statements during Vatican 2, and the statement by your own CCC stating we are all Christians, seem to imply that your official doctrine of ecumenism is more akin to what I have been spouting, than what is happening here on this board. My own lifetime of dealing with RC people seems to me to imply that my definition of ecumenism and the official RC version of ecumenism are not that far apart.

    My point being, without seeming too harsh or judgmental, that you newly converted RC people do not get to hold up the badge of Peter after every statement you make like you used to do with sola scriptura. (That right there is a good point…and I have not had a single “good point” from the lot of you since I arrived) There is a wonderful article here which may help you new converts, as well as some of you long time RC people to identify your OWN position on ecumenism http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=635.

    However, I do stand corrected by my brother Andrew as I was rather heatedly pushing MY definition of ecumenism and I apologize.

    However part 2: I have not heard a single apology for the bacterium reference, while I understand it was an analogy, it would be analogous to my discussing race relations with a black person and then stating, “Well you n—- ought to be grateful you have freedom and if you don’t like it we can find a rope for y’all”. I think you can begin to see how offensive that might be to any discussion on race relations, but you still do not see how offensive the bacterium reference is. It sounds like Mein Kampff, which at one time was the official policy of the RC towards Protestants. So y’all have some serious work to do even within your own understanding of ecumenism.

    But thanks for clarifying, and I do appreciate the aspects of this board which are loving, peaceful, educational, and Christlike. I do not wish my few pointers in some areas to be taken as a total judgementalness or a negative view in total.

  370. Dear Rev. Jones (#359),

    You said:

    I hardly think my questionable humorous and sometimes off color remarks are akin to likening someone to a bacterium, as was done in an analogy of Protestants.

    I’ve re-read John Thayer Jensen’s comments a few times, and—for a start—he never calls Protestants “bacteria.” Nor diseased muck. He did liken departures from Catholic faith to a disease in a body. This seems strikingly similar to language used in the New Testament. Perhaps the analogy was too graphic, I don’t know. But the point was merely that, if it is the case that Protestantism in fact represents a declension from (though surely not a total loss of) the Catholic faith, this is not something the Church can blithely ignore. I understand that you don’t believe that it is the case, but neither do I think you should be so dismayed that it is our position.

    Either way, in return you have mocked the Catholic view of the Most Holy Eucharist and patronizingly demeaned converts to Catholicism as silly little children playing with new toys.

    You went on:

    You need to understand that we Protestants were often killed and finally expelled for what we believe are the tenets of our faith as we understand them.

    Yes, sadly, there is plenty of blame for the schisms of the 16th century to go around.

    So using the analogy of bacterium, is not only insensitive, but gloriously offensive.

    If there is a pathogen in John Thayer Jensen’s analogy, it is false doctrine (the disease), not the person holding it (the diseased cell). Let’s be clear about that.

    When it comes to ecumenical dialogue I think y’all suck at it. Truthfully, do not even attempt it. You have not even found a framework for it in three years let alone getting up to step one.

    Yikes. Well, I’m sorry to hear such a scathing evaluation. I’m glad to say that there are Protestant interlocutors out there—some of whom disagree with us far more strongly than you—who would not agree with you on this point. So that’s encouraging.

    You seem defensive about your new found faith and shocked and hurt that others do not share your enthusiasm.

    While I strongly disagree with this observation, I appreciate you sharing it. I have not found it to be the case in most of my own observations of others on this site, but I try to be sensitive to the possibility of defensiveness in myself. I’m doing my best to guard against it in myself.

    Thanks for the summary of some of your views. We do not believe that we have founded our beliefs on human beings instead of the Word of God, but rather that the Word of God has been mediated to us through human beings—above all, the very Word of God made flesh, the man Christ Jesus.

    Seeing someone as being less than you, or their faith as being less than yours is not a place to begin ecumenical dialogue.

    This is where we get into very dangerous verbal ambiguities: words like “less” in this context tend to be very emotionally charged and produce strong visceral reactions. I understand your point, but while mutual respect and love is, I agree, a precondition for authentic ecumenical dialogue, I do not agree that ecumenism demands an up-front recantation of the exclusive truth-claims of your own faith. When I dialogue with non-Catholic Christians and with non-Christians, I take it for granted that they believe their views are true and certain of mine are false, and that they know I feel the same. Perhaps paradoxically, this frees up space for genuine, open dialogue, locating common ground, exploring its implications, diagnosing disagreement, engaging in thoughtful, reasoned debate about those areas of disagreement, discerning which disagreements are symptomatic and which are fundamental. There’s a lot to be done there, none of which requires either of us to pretend that all confessions of faith are equal.

    I have tried to communicate that I see your faith as being no less compelling as mine.

    Of course that isn’t true. Otherwise you wouldn’t have made the sex and peanut brittle analogy. In any case, the question that matters isn’t whether it’s compelling; the question that matters is whether it’s true.

    I am sure there are many things you could be spending your time doing better.

    Does this not strike you as an eminently condescending thing to say? It does me.

    Also: what Andrew said.

    best,
    John

  371. Rev. Jones,

    Here too: what Andrew said.

    Christus victor!

  372. Brent writes:

    Until the two groups could agree to what it means for something to be true, they could never communicate. So, would you please define for us — so as to move forward ecumenical dialog which is your stated goal — your definition of truth

    I realize I cannot do that without offending or challenging your faith as you currently understand it. I realize that even the word “ecumenism” is so totally defined differently as to render real communication near impossible without one of us trying to convert the other.

    I do know one day we shall be together before the throne of Christ, when there are no longer any labels of Protestant or Catholic placed upon our heads. I do know we will joyously be bowing down before Him so in love with Him. I do know we will be standing with the angels and that guy with the eyes all over his body as in Revelations. I know we will be singing Holy Holy Holy. I know there will be no separation between us. I know the look in the eyes of God will reveal to us every thought and division within us which every separated us and we will weep.

    How we get that “here on earth as it is in heaven” I have even less understanding and direction than I did yesterday. I am sure we could invite each other to accept our versions to achieve that oneness. Somehow that gesture seems more a part of our problem than the cure.

    Be well my friend.

  373. Just a minor point – not to pick nits, but, though my analogy between the Body of Christ and its members may have been imprudent, I do wish, Reverend Jones, that you would at least do it the honour of reacting to the analogy and not change it into something foreign to itself. The analogy compared persons who, in one way or another, will not or cannot accept what the Church teaches, to cells in the Body – actual members of it, therefore – which are themselves in one way or another infected with a foreign substance – a bacterium, for example. Cells – even infected cells – are not by any stretch of language ‘muck,’ and nor are the cells themselves identical with the bacteria which, notionally, infect them. The answer to the cells’ problems is, if possible, to rid them of the bacteria – the false doctrines. I do not think you are treating me fairly by saying that I compared Protestants to bacteria – or to muck.

    I had thought of trying to explain the Catholic view on who should Commune from another angle. That practice is, of course, also one of charity. For the priest who gives you Communion, that priest is thereby encouraged to imagine that the Church’s teachings are not true. If they are – and you have not attacked their truth, only their palatability and wisdom in practice – then that priest has to some extent damaged his soul. And you, the recipient, knowing what the Church teaches, whether or not the priest himself has ‘relativistic’ views, are damaging your own soul, by participating in what you know the Church thinks you should not. You have committed, intentionally or not, sacrilege.

    The question is, after all, one of what is true – not, that is, of whether each of us believes that what we think is true is actually true, but of what the actual case of the matter is. You said (#354):

    actually have had Roman Catholic communion because I know a few priests who are ecumenical. It was equivalent to our own.

    How can you possibly know that? Because It tasted the same? Because you didn’t feel any different? No physical test can tell you whether the Eucharist is or is not the Body and Blood of Christ. All Its physical properties are the same. No internal reaction of yours can tell you what It is. You cannot know by your experience whether It is the Body and Blood of Christ. You can only know that by faith. If you don’t believe that It is the Body and Blood of Christ, that doesn’t change what, in fact, It is. Jesus says, “This is My Body; this is My Blood.” You can only know that the Eucharist is that if you believe Him.

    jj

  374. @Reverend Robert #367:

    I have not heard a single apology for the bacterium reference…

    I expressed regret that you took it the way you did. I did not apologise for the analogy itself, as I think it apt – though I did say that it may have been imprudent to make the analogy given the way this thread has gone on other matters.

    I also expressed a request that you not mis-represent the reference. You have translated the analogy between cells infected with bacteria and persons infected with false doctrine so that you changed ‘cells’ into ‘muck’ – and later dropped the cells themselves and simply said that I called Protestants bacteria. This is neither true to what I said nor helpful to any discussions in this thread.

    jj

  375. John S writes

    I’ve re-read John Thayer Jensen’s comments a few times, and—for a start—he never calls Protestants “bacteria.” Nor diseased muck. He did liken departures from Catholic faith to a disease in a body. This seems strikingly similar to language used in the New Testament. Perhaps the analogy was too graphic, I don’t know. But the point was merely that, if it is the case that Protestantism in fact represents a declension from (though surely not a total loss of) the Catholic faith, this is not something the Church can blithely ignore. I understand that you don’t believe that it is the case, but neither do I think you should be so dismayed that it is our position.

    John, you should in this short a period of time know me, and know that my mind sums things up and remembers them they way my mind does it. Your nit picking that a “disease in a body” may not specifically be “bacterium” is hardly comforting. You remind me of that guy on the Big Bang who has no understanding of social functions even though he is a genius. My point being that a disease in a body is either killed or flushed out, which was the implication, and an extremely poor one.

    As for my being dismayed at your position, usually in ecumenical relations, whatever their nature, taking our most severe impressions of the other and blasting away at them, is probably not going to win friends and influence people. My perspective according to Calvin teaches that the RC church is the “whore of Babylon”. My telling you that I do not consider you a cheap whore, but one of those high priced ones who looks real pretty, and that I actually once went out with a whore like you and banged her a few times, but later decided to marry a chaste woman, is probably not going to strengthen our relationships I would guess.

    Nor is it a good place to begin relationships. It is also probably not a good place to begin relationships be demanding other people’s credentials as was done to me, or attacking my basis of faith, sola scriptura, as was done, or stating that my entire position is relativistic, while basing your own solely on a relativistic interpretation by a group of people called the “church fathers” of which you pick and choose which ones YOU wish to designate so, another relativistic position. You denigrate my church fathers, Luther and Calvin, who ironically trace their lineage through Peter back to Christ as do your church fathers. But luckily for you the statute of limitations on church fathership ran out a century earlier, even though a few centuries later you declare the Pope infallible, and you want me to, no make that demand me to accept this as non relativistic because you said so that the church fathers said this, and when I go and look, they do not seem to be saying this.

    When I point this out of course I am accosted that I do not accept the truth of Christ, which ironically only comes from your interpretation of the church fathers, and some of you even had to correct others here who were NOT saying the official church position.

    I am coining a new phrase which I see a lot here, “sola Petrinas”, defined as anything you think instantly becomes truth because you hold up the little badge of Peter they gave you when you joined the RC church and yell, “church fathers”.

    I will ask again. Does anyone here have the common decency to admit that the illustration of Protestants being a “disease in a body” which by implication should be killed or flushed out, is a very poor one for ecumenical relations?

  376. Brent:

    I went to your blog today and saw your family, which is very beautiful. For some reason I feel very sad I am not sure why. It feels like I just arrived at the Pentecostal party and you, a young family have left. I am having some kind of reaction to Protestants leaving their faith, their truth, which many were martyred for and did not consider relativistic or merely personal. I guess I feel as a bit of an older man that somehow we let you and your generation down. I dunno. Just feelings.

  377. Rev. Jones,

    I joined the largest charismatic church in the entire world (Catholic Church). So, I didn’t lose anything, but gained everything. In fact, Catholicism completes my Pentecostalism.

    It’s ironic that you mention this, because my priest this morning talked about miracles, signs and wonders in the Catholic Church. How we do not deny the miraculous and that he sees the miraculous happen every week in the Confessional and at the hospital (Anointing of the sick). He was a cradle Catholic who left the Church, become a Pentecostal revivalist for 11 years, and then came back to the Church while in Russia serving as a Pentecostal missionary.

    Peace to you and yours.

  378. @Reverend Robert #373:

    I will ask again. Does anyone here have the common decency to admit that the illustration of Protestants being a “disease in a body” which by implication should be killed or flushed out, is a very poor one for ecumenical relations?

    Actually John S misquoted me, Reverend, and you have ascribed his misquote to me. I didn’t say that non-Catholics are like a disease in the Body. I likened heresy to a disease in an individual cell. And at times the individual cells can be healed of that disease – the invader driven out. The invader is not the individual cell, but the virus of heresy that has infected that cell.

    To spell it out in greater detail: the individual cells I meant to represent individual Christians – baptised persons – all of whom are parts of the Body of Christ, even when heretical. The cells themselves are not like a disease; they may be carriers.

    Oecumenism ought to mean bringing all the cells into a healthy state into the Body. It cannot mean breaking the Body down into individual cells, each acting on its own. For a Catholic, oecumenism can only mean bringing all Christians into the One Body – which is the Catholic Church.

    Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for the reunification of all Christ’s faithful!

    jj

  379. John Thayer Jensen

    Bishop Neuman actually lies in state here in Philly. My friend’s flower shop is right across the street. I will say hi to him for you next time I am down there.

    Trust me, find another analogy. This is like telling your wife she looks plump. You just don’t do it.
    Do you think I am lying when I tell you this is very offensive?

    People telling me what I said is offensive does not make this less offensive.
    People trying to explain this does not make it less offensive.
    People trying to define the terms of the offensiveness in a less offensive way does not make it less offensive.

    I have explained the offensiveness of the analogy in three different ways so that even a small child with a third grade education could understand the offensiveness of the analogy yet still you persist.

    What part of “offensive” is confusing?

  380. Dear Rev. Jones,

    I don’t have time for a full response right now, but I want to clarify something on which I’ve apparently not been sufficiently clear.

    Here’s what I said in #368:

    He [JTJ] did liken departures from Catholic faith to a disease in a body.

    And then:

    If there is a pathogen in John Thayer Jensen’s analogy, it is false doctrine (the disease), not the person holding it (the diseased cell).

    By “departures” I intended doctrinal departures, i.e., false doctrines, NOT the persons who adhered to those doctrines. This precisely does not mean that Protestants are the disease. That’s exactly the misinterpretation I was trying to clear up. Obviously, I failed, and I’m very sorry for further muddying the water.

    best,
    John

  381. John Thayer Jensen writes: The analogy compared persons who, in one way or another, will not or cannot accept what the Church teaches, to cells in the Body – actual members of it, therefore – which are themselves in one way or another infected with a foreign substance – a bacterium, for example.

    … I likened heresy to a disease in an individual cell. And at times the individual cells can be healed of that disease – the invader driven out. The invader is not the individual cell, but the virus of heresy that has infected that cell.

    Hmm… the bacteria is the false teaching, and we should be wary of persons “infected” with false doctrine, because false doctrine can spread and infect the whole body. Somehow, that analogy sounds strangely familiar…

    When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:5-12

    —————————–

    It is generally assumed that the earliest forms of leavening were likely very similar to modern sourdough …

    Sourdough is a dough containing a Lactobacillus culture, usually in symbiotic combination with yeasts. It is one of two principal means of biological leavening in bread baking, along with the use of cultivated forms of yeast (Saccharomyces) …

    Lactobacillus, also called Döderlein’s bacillus, is a genus of Gram-positive facultative anaerobic or microaerophilic rod-shaped bacteria.

    Ref: Wikipedia articles Baker’s yeast, Sourdough, and Lactobacillus

    Rev. Robert Jones asks: Does anyone here have the common decency to admit that the illustration of Protestants being a “disease in a body” which by implication should be killed or flushed out, is a very poor one for ecumenical relations?

    Rev. Jones, Jesus used the same analogy as JTJ. What should upset you is the reality of thousands upon thousands of Protestant sects that teach contradictory doctrine. That reality can only mean one thing: that most Protestant sects teach at least some heresy. That does not mean that everything that a particular Protestant sect teaches is wrong, nor that even most of what a Protestant sect teaches is wrong. It may be true that only a little of what a Protestant sect teaches is heresy. But should even a little bit of heresy be tolerated so that we can hold hands and sing Kumbayah together?

    I one heard an analogy about the danger of even a little heresy. Rat poison is 98% healthy food, and only 2% poison. It is not the 98% healthy food that kills; it is the poisonous 2% that does the killing.

  382. Dear Rev. Jones,

    Just a few comments.

    You objected to sola scriptura, your “basis of faith,” being attacked.

    If by “basis of faith” you mean that it’s something you have stipulated axiomatically as a principle that isn’t based on any prior reasoning, then I guess we’re at an impasse. If that’s not the case—in other words, if you do have arguments for sola scriptura, you’re invited on this thread or another relevant one to bring them up and discuss them. If you do, expect some debate—not every challenge should be thought of as an “attack.” In the original article above, Jason Stewart lays out a thumbnail version of his case against sola scriptura. Maybe responding to his arguments there would be a good start.

    You also expressed frustration at the claim

    that my entire position is relativistic, while basing your own solely on a relativistic interpretation by a group of people called the ‘church fathers’ of which you pick and choose which ones YOU wish to designate so, another relativistic position.

    I think there are two distinct meanings of “relativistic” operative here, one meaning “denying the existence of absolute truth,” the other meaning “subjective and arbitrary.” It is true that it’s been noted in various comments above that certain of your statements seem at the very least to smack of relativism in the first sense, as when, for example, you seemed to suggest that the papacy is fine and even “true” for us, while it is not true for others. This certainly makes it seem like belief somehow creates truth, rather than belief seeking and assenting to a truth that exists independently of any particular person’s assent to it. That’s why, even if you think that the authority we recognize in the Fathers is arbitrary, it wouldn’t be relativistic, at least not without changing the definition of relativism.

    Also, no one on this website has “designated” his or her own Church Fathers. We receive the Fathers recognized by the Church—the Fathers, in fact, recognized in chorus not only by Catholics but also by the Orthodox, Anglicans, and many other Protestants.

    I don’t really know why you’re upset that Luther and Calvin are not considered “Fathers.” For a start, the Catholic Church does not believe their teaching was orthodox. But even Lutherans and Calvinists don’t use that term for them. Catholics do not call St Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) a Father either.

    For the rest, there’s a tangle of complaints about the papacy, about Catholics pounding the table in the name of the papacy and the Fathers. For the papacy itself, that issue can of course be discussed—i.e., how do we get from St Peter the Fisherman to Vatican I. I take it that’s what you’re asking? For the table-pounding, your characterization was so off the mark that I’m not really sure how to respond to it. If you think it was fair and accurate, could you point me to any specific examples in the thread?

    best,
    John

  383. My suggestions for the suggestion box here at Called to Communion (for what they are worth)

    1. Define ecumenism in your “about” section as you understand it, and make sure it is highlighted.
    Your definition of ecumenism is “trying to get Protestants to see the error of their ways and come back to the one true church”. In no religion on this planet is that considered a definition of ecumenism, so it is not one would arrive at naturally.

    2.Have a FAQ identifying some of the basic issues Protestants bring up, and then refer them to the FAQ rather than arguing the same points over and over. I see you do some of that now pointing to various articles, but you could be a bit clearer.

  384. John S writes:

    I think there are two distinct meanings of “relativistic” operative here, one meaning “denying the existence of absolute truth,” the other meaning “subjective and arbitrary.” It is true that it’s been noted in various comments above that certain of your statements seem at the very least to smack of relativism in the first sense, as when, for example, you seemed to suggest that the papacy is fine and even “true” for us, while it is not true for others. This certainly makes it seem like belief somehow creates truth, rather than belief seeking and assenting to a truth that exists independently of any particular person’s assent to it. That’s why, even if you think that the authority we recognize in the Fathers is arbitrary, it wouldn’t be relativistic, at least not without changing the definition of relativism.

    Saying there are two definitions of relativism as you just did sounds very relativistic ;-) If there is an elephant in the room, which there happens to be here, and we are a group of blindfolded people, as scripture defines us “seeing through a glass darkly” at truth, then if I am feeling my way around I might define the elephant as feeling like a snake. You might define the elephant as feeling like a tree trunk. Someone else might define the elephant as feeling like a mountain. How can all be true?

    I think you see the point. I am feeling the elephant’s trunk, you his legs, and the other person his side. They are all true. Truth happens to be much larger than what you , or I, or the church fathers experienced and wrote about.

    Also, no one on this website has “designated” his or her own Church Fathers. We receive the Fathers recognized by the Church—the Fathers, in fact, recognized in chorus not only by Catholics but also by the Orthodox, Anglicans, and many other Protestants.

    I did not mean the “you” to be the personal “you” but the collective “you” as in RC church. So the RC church picks and chooses from among the early writers of Christianity who will be “church fathers” and then quotes that which it picks as authoritative, and then later claims what it picked it did so because they were instructed by these same self chosen authorities to do so. My reading of the writings of the church fathers suggested here, show a humble group of saints who did not view themselves as being authoritative for all times and all seasons as the RC church now promulgates.

    I also think Peter and our Lord would be sad and perhaps angry at what you have done with their deposit entrusted to you.

  385. mateo writes:

    Hmm… the bacteria is the false teaching, and we should be wary of persons “infected” with false doctrine, because false doctrine can spread and infect the whole body. Somehow, that analogy sounds strangely familiar…

    It sounds like Mein Kamph and the death camps of WW2, it also sounds a lot like the RC church during the Inquisition, it also sounds like the Taliban and their suicide bombers cleansing society. Yeah, it sounds very familiar, and the fact that you are NOT horrified by such a hateful position, and actually embrace it, speaks volumes about the so called “truth” of the RC church and how its adherents practice it

  386. I do know one day we shall be together before the throne of Christ, when there are no longer any labels of Protestant or Catholic placed upon our heads. I do know we will joyously be bowing down before Him so in love with Him. I do know we will be standing with the angels and that guy with the eyes all over his body as in Revelations. I know we will be singing Holy Holy Holy. I know there will be no separation between us. I know the look in the eyes of God will reveal to us every thought and division within us which every separated us and we will weep.

    Rev. Jones, you and I may believe this (as Protestants), but I would be surprised if many here did. In their eschatology, the Church in Heaven in the same as the Church on Earth = RCC (or Orthodox if your Orthodox). In fact, this is enshrined in the Nicean creed – the understanding of the ‘communion with the saints’. In fact, they might even take it a step farther with our ultimate goal being ‘theosis’. In their minds, we might both get to theosis, but we’ll have some purging to do in… purgatory. Conveniently, we’ll come to a correct understanding and submission to the Petrine office in heaven. I’m not exactly sure if heaven has popes (under their understanding). In either case, they believe we all become Catholic (or Orthodox – since they believe the same thing about themselves) after death.

    It’s weird, but their (the Catholic and Orthodox) view of heaven strikes me as very “New Age”. I’m not saying this to indicate something negative, but the similarities between participation in Gia, and participation in the Trinity are quite notable. Also notable is that Adam’s temptation was to ‘be like God’, and theosis is that temptation made reality.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divinization_%28Christian%29

    My personal believe (there, bolded it for you) is that we are created to live in bodies – as separate entities from God. We may spend plenty of time in heaven (or the ‘new earth’) praising God, but we will continue to be separate – just as Adam / Eve pre-fall were separate from God.

  387. @Reverend Robert #377:

    Bishop Neuman actually lies in state here in Philly. My friend’s flower shop is right across the street. I will say hi to him for you next time I am down there.

    Wrong Newman. St John Neumann does, indeed, lie in Philadelphia. John Henry Newman‘s remains – which more or less have dissolved into the earth – are in Birmingham (the first one, not the one in Alabama). Newman’s writings made me a Catholic. You might ask them both to pray for you :-)

    Trust me, find another analogy. This is like telling your wife she looks plump. You just don’t do it.
    Do you think I am lying when I tell you this is very offensive?

    People telling me what I said is offensive does not make this less offensive.
    People trying to explain this does not make it less offensive.
    People trying to define the terms of the offensiveness in a less offensive way does not make it less offensive.

    I have explained the offensiveness of the analogy in three different ways so that even a small child with a third grade education could understand the offensiveness of the analogy yet still you persist.

    What part of “offensive” is confusing?

    No part of it. That you are offended is abundantly clear. Since this post was meant to be a discussion about the reception of an OPC pastor into the Catholic Church, and about matters arising, it is probably time to go on to the substance rather than the hurt feelings. The substantial reasons why the Catholic Church doesn’t cry “y’all come” to Communion are, however offensively, indicated by the analogy. The Church is the Body of Christ. The Body is in the business both of protecting itself, and of trying to heal troubled members. I hoped the analogy might help to make a bit of sense of that. If it doesn’t, drop it.

    But the substantial issue is whether heretical views – views which the Catholic Church finds heretical, that is, whether you agree they are so or not – whether heretical views ought to affect your right to receive Communion. The Church thinks they should, regardless of some priests who disagree with the Church.

    jj

  388. John Thayer Jensen writes

    But the substantial issue is whether heretical views – views which the Catholic Church finds heretical, that is, whether you agree they are so or not – whether heretical views ought to affect your right to receive Communion. The Church thinks they should, regardless of some priests who disagree with the Church.

    Enjoying my faschnauts here on Fat Tuesday, and grateful for some RC traditions passed down.

    As I stated before , you got to be careful with that heresy gun. If you start pulling it out all the time to defend and define yourself, you have probably lost “authority”.

    Someone here suggested my reading of the Donatist controversy which I did. I was surprised to find that the Papa of Rome was implored earlier in history than I supposed, and I conceded that argument. However, I was shocked that the RC was now beginning to use their new found power to defend their own ecclesiastic positions, something Paul warned us against doing in scripture. Defending your own self appointed ecclesiastic position, then defining it as “church authority”, and then declaring all those who do not agree with you as heretical, is pretty far afield of Christ’s church.

    So I think it time for the RC to head for the showers and a good anti bacterial spray to use your own analogy. Your view is starting to smell a little ripe.

  389. But the substantial issue is whether heretical views – views which the Catholic Church finds heretical, that is, whether you agree they are so or not – whether heretical views ought to affect your right to receive Communion. The Church thinks they should, regardless of some priests who disagree with the Church.

    Ahh – the fencing of the table. With the catholic church, that is quite the moving target. I’ve said it before in this thread, that more barriers have been set up post schism than existed before then. For example, a pre-schism Catholic would not have had to believe in Immaculate Conception, or Papal Infallibility. Mary as the Mediatrix of all Graces could become a formal definition – in which case that is one more fence post.

    The 1st century church for sure did not have to believe in any of the things I just mentioned – yet they are all ‘orthodox’. Today’s catholic church would deny the table to the early church!

    This is why I said (back in the early 200 comments) that talks with the RCC are futile. Perhaps fencing the table with ‘baptized trinitarian, believing in Christ’ is too loose a fence. However, IC, PI, RCC only is probably too great a fence. The futility comes in that the RCC is unwilling (and unable??) to change its fence in any direction other than narrower. Every time it changes, there are more people excluded. Even the liturgy of the mass itself has become a tool to excommunicate people!

    I put forward the idea that if there is to be true communion, the RCC must return its power to pre-schism levels (hopefully resolving the schism in the process).

  390. Bob B,

    Your are skirting the fundamental question as it pertains to the grounds for unity; namely, the fact or lack of such a thing as binding dogmatic authority. Your insistence that dogmas such as Papal Infallibility or the Immaculate Conception ought not be included within the scope of Christian orthodoxy for purposes of unity in faith, is every bit as dogmatic as the Catholic position that these dogmas fall within the orbit of Christian “orthodoxy”. Yours is a promulgation in the negative, but a sort of promulgation nonetheless. The real question is simply this: who (if anyone) has the authority to define the scope of Christian orthodoxy (unless of course, you hold that unity ought to be grounded in something other than dogmatic truth)? The fact that the IC or PI were defined later in history than, say, the divinity of Christ or the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead, in no way shows that the IC and PI were any less part of the original apostolic deposit of faith than were the divinity of Christ or Trinitarianism. The issue is not the timing of dogmatic definitions, but dogmatic authority – or lack of it. Consider the following recast of your own words:

    “For example, a pre-Nicene Catholic would not have had to believe in the consubstantiality of the Son, or the dual nature of Christ, or that Christ had two wills . . .The 1st century church for sure did not have to believe in any of the things I just mentioned – yet they are all ‘orthodox’. Today’s post-Nicene catholic church would deny the table to the early church!”

    or worse still

    “For example, a pre-Jerusalem Council Catholic would not have had to believe that circumcision was unnecessary for salvation (i.e. a Jewish Christian convert was free to believe that Christ had not rescinded the requirement of circumcision) . . .The post-ascension church for sure did not have to believe any such thing – yet they were all ‘orthodox’. Today’s post Jerusalem Council catholic church would deny the table to the VERY early church!”

    I hope you see why this line of argument does little to advance the fundamental discussion. The first and fundamental issue is not ultimately what dogmas the Catholic Church definitively promulgates (or what dogmas any Protestant community or person promulgates); but rather, does the Catholic Church (or some other person or persons) have authority from Christ to promulgate any binding dogma in the first place? There is no point complaining about this or that dogmatic roadblock to reunion until the question of dogmatic authority (or lack thereof) is, itself, addressed.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  391. Rev. Jones – I think we need to take a breather for a while, and maybe step back and reflect on this conversation. In a nutshell – it’s not going anywhere and it’s not helping anyone. It has also drifted far off topic so as to be almost entirely unrelated to the post and it’s beginning to turn into a mud slinging contest.

    We want you to comment here and be involved in the discussion, but I am making a personal request that you reflect and pray for a few days before commenting again. It looks like you have the last word anyway – I’m hoping your interlocutors will leave it that way.

    (When I say a ‘personal request’ – I’m one of the moderators just so you know.. It’s a little more official than I’m making it sound for the sake of politeness…)

  392. Bob,

    There is a measure of truth in what you say. But this is a mistake:

    The 1st century church for sure did not have to believe in any of the things I just mentioned – yet they are all ‘orthodox’. Today’s catholic church would deny the table to the early church!

    It is true that there was no dogmatic definition of the IC for example, but from that it does not follow that the early Church would be denied communion. Some saints, notably St. Thomas, have even denied the IC. But it makes no sense to say that the Church would deny him Communion were he alive today. St. Thomas submits to the Church and had the Church declared IC as a dogma in his time, he would have ceded his judgment to the magisterium. Everyone has to do that in order to become Catholic, which is really the objection most of us have or have had at one time. To borrow from Chesterton, when someone says, “I don’t believe in the IC” what they often mean is “I want to use condoms.” ( I hope you’re familiar with the reference, or otherwise, it might not be easy to figure out what I’m saying.)

    Like you, I hope that we can end the great schism, and ecumenical dialogue is a two way street – but the Catholic Church cannot, in the process of such dialogue, deny who she is.

  393. @Reverend Robert #386:

    As I stated before , you got to be careful with that heresy gun. If you start pulling it out all the time to defend and define yourself, you have probably lost “authority”.

    Take your point – if I just cry ‘heresy’ every time someone disagrees with me, then I am saying nothing deeper than “I disagree.”

    But you don’t think – do you?? – that the Catholic Church itself doesn’t consider Protestantism as heretical. And that is all I was saying.

    jj

  394. Like you, I hope that we can end the great schism, and ecumenical dialogue is a two way street – but the Catholic Church cannot, in the process of such dialogue, deny who she is.

    Again, back to the futility argument. The Orthodox believe pretty much the same thing about ‘herself’ – the one true church, keeper of the 7 councils, apostolic succession, a deposit of faith. It is like the old ‘immovable object, irresistible force’ conundrum.

    I also don’t buy the king of the 7 hills (I mean, sitter on the Chair of St. Peter) argument – which is what all these questions about authority boil down to. The orthodox don’t buy it – and they are much more in-tune with the early church than I’ll ever be.

    So either all this authority is rightly given to the pope, or it isn’t. I view it as a power grab – and I’ve proposed a solution which has been rejected. For all this talk about being a two way street, it seems pretty heavy handed in one direction.

    I think some of this comes down to repentance. The catholics want the protestants to repent and come back. The orthodox want the catholics to repent and come back (and drop the filoque while your at it). However, the catholics, as king of the hill, don’t think they ever need to repent (at least on doctrine) – and doctrinally they are ‘unable’ to repent.

    As far as Chesterton goes, I have no idea what your reference is. Never read him – not about to.

  395. A quote from an earlier submission:

    Someone here suggested my reading of the Donatist controversy which I did. I was surprised to find that the Papa of Rome was implored earlier in history than I supposed, and I conceded that argument. However, I was shocked that the RC was now beginning to use their new found power to defend their own ecclesiastic positions, something Paul warned us against doing in scripture. Defending your own self appointed ecclesiastic position, then defining it as “church authority”, and then declaring all those who do not agree with you as heretical, is pretty far afield of Christ’s church.

    The “Papa of Rome”? To be sure, the term “Father” is involved. It goes back to Isaiah 22:21 where the new chamberlain (keeper of the keys) is referred to as “a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the house of Judah.” The following statement references the key held by this individual. When Simon is renamed Peter, and given the keys, it reads a lot like the description given in Isaiah, but with a much wider purview, that being the whole world as consistent with Jesus’ command to go forth to the whole world.

    Given my move from evangelical Pentecostalism, I discovered that it was me who was “pretty far afield from Christ’s church.” It was my positions, and most of the positions displayed openly in the Yellow Pages under Church, which were not only open to discussion but, given the competing and antithetical nature of those positions, needed to be examined to see which were pretty far afield of Christ’s church.

    Noting that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would lead the Church to all truth, I saw that as an indication that truth would unfold. I wasn’t told how or under what conditions, but then I am under the impression that I am to obey rather than dictate, to act in good faith out of trust. If things that were inherently true in the beginning of the Church are unfolding publicly at different times under various conditions, I assume that Jesus’ specificity about the Holy Spirit at work is exactly that. Due to that, I am not separate from those early converts in Jerusalem, or late in Greece and Rome, or St Patrick in Ireland, or Methodius in the Slavic countries, et al.

    When St Paul’s own ecclesiastical authority was challenged, he moved the venue to Jerusalem where he was vindicated by the Church. St Paul was challenging the right of the Hebrews to require the works of the Mosaic law be required of non-Jews. The Church noted that one does not need to go through Moses to get to Jesus. No circumcision. No dietary laws. No special garments or tassels.

    Being a bible Christian before becoming a Catholic, I was already in tune with the scriptures, starting with Genesis and going through the Apocalypse. However it was as a Catholic that I began to understand a lot of scripture which was whizzing by me in reading, but for which I had no context.

    That lack of context was a problem for me. It is a context I no longer lack.

    dt

  396. Bob, you might be surprised about Chesterton. Most Reformed guys I know like him. (Not sure if you’re Reformed or what..) Chesterton’s remark was more about Christianity in general if I remember correctly.

    So you disagree with the papacy. Got it. You mentioned that before I think. You also think that unless the Catholic Church changes her position to yours, unity is not possible. I gathered that the first time around.

    Anyway, glad to have you here with us at CTC. I hope we can keep up the dialogue. We’re not your enemies. Over time, you might even find that (though perhaps dead wrong in our beliefs) we have the appearance of reasonable fellows..

    Here’s some interesting reading for you on the topic of a possible Catholic-Orthodox reunion: STATEMENT OF JOINT CATHOLIC-ORTHODOX COMMISSION.

    There remain large obstacles to such unity, and with men this is impossible. But with God…

  397. Re: the comments of Brian Lee.

    I just read this tonight so forgive my late arrival since Rev. Lee’s comments and responses seemed to have ended awhile ago. I must say that aside from his line of reasoning, I found his first comments styled in a sort of coercive and manipulative manner in trying to force Jason into a corner. I am sorry, but my experience in fundamentalism has alerted me to ministers who are controlling and dictatorial under the guise of religion. I also suspect that Rev. Lee has no real interests in the truth but only in controlling the discussion.

    Truly sorry I couldn’t pepper my comments with tons of scripture. I am tired tonight, but notwithstanding, found his manner of commenting to be smug and arrogant.

    Pro Rege,
    Ethir

  398. I’m “changing” my name to a good, solid Norwegian form so as not to get confused with the other Eric again.

    This is basically addressed to the original article. So, I guess, this is to you, Jason:

    This would probably happen to Catholics reading the testimonies of ex-Catholics just as much. It’s probably just the human reaction of anyone committed to a cause. But it is still how I feel: I find your stated rationales for leaving decidedly thin. And I mean no real disrespect by that–at all, at all–I just find myself in a state of total confusion. There must be something you’re not sharing. There must be more “there” there.

    Louis Bouyer’s book takes away with one hand everything it gives with the other. In that way, it is similar to Benedict XVI’s recent remarks on Luther (to the effect that justification by faith alone is correct, as long as that faith is not divorced from love). Luther would never in a million years disavow Galatians 5:6 (“faith working through love”), so the Holy Father can only mean one thing: he wants to hold onto the modern Catholic notion that works of love can be credited toward salvation.

    I believe that both you and Bouyer accurately surmise that the Protestants and the early church held firmly to an absolutely gratuitous grace. And in a purely notional sense, so did the Tridentine church. But by rejecting the firm divide between justification and sanctification–which admittedly is a totally artificial separation, not a biblical one–Trent turned its back on any real safeguard for the Augustinian “Doctrines of Grace.” In so doing it [de facto] rejected Bouyer’s first positive principal of the Reformation. In so doing it also assured that in terms of soteriological substance, the Nicene church would more closely resemble magisterial Protestantism. The Reformers’ real breakthrough was that the church couldn’t actually keep an absolutely gratuitous grace without invoking the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ.

    (A good number of Luther’s followers down to the present have misunderstood the place of works in sanctification and have become way too antinomian. But I don’t believe Bouyer can actually indict Luther himself on that charge…or at least not as strongly as he does.)

    Similarly, unless you reform what the church means by “tradition” (which is what the Reformers sought to do, some more successfully than others), you will continue to gain accretion after accretion to the faith once delivered. They in no sense got rid of tradition as an authority; they simply sought an apparatus to keep it in line with the written revelation. They ferociously sought a church council but were ferociously refused. They did not leave the church willingly. They were spewed out. They went with what they could: well crafted catechisms and confessions. Yet again, because of its reticence to follow a supposedly “negative” principal of the Reformation, Trent gave up on the pre-eminent authority of Scripture when rightly interpreted.

    Go back again to the ECF’s and search in vain for anything concerning the “sacred heart” of Mary or Christ. Try to find “Divine Mercy” Sunday. Find a report on an apparition of Mary. Find the Eucharist given in one kind. Find Mary as a mediatrix. Find papal infallibility.

    In the very early post-apostolic church, you will find no purgatory, no veneration of Mary, and an almost exclusively adult baptism…and by immersion (verified by early church architecture). Baptism was most often held off till at least marriage…so that the days of adolescent oat-sowing would be behind you…or even until one’s death bed. Penance was in an entirely different form: always public, only for grievous [mortal] sin, and only once in a lifetime. Orthodox christology and trinitarianism were not locked up all nice and neat, as you well know. In truth, you had a FAR different church from any modern one.

    You also claim to derive the concept of apostolic authority from the authority granted to the twelve, and yet exhibit no allegiance to the Ethiopic church, claiming apostolic succession from Philip or to the Coptic church, claiming apostolic succession from Mark. Or several of the orthodox churches, claiming succession from Andrew. Or the Mar Toma church in India…from Thomas. Are you quite sure that their historic claims are less documented than Rome’s for Peter?

    Now, perhaps you didcontemplate all these things (and so much more) before jumping ship. But I don’t see any sweat. I haven’t seen any real sweat in any Catholic convert’s testimony. That’s not how deeply held perspectives are changed in my experience. My impression of each convert’s story I have read is of someone who saw what he wanted to see…for whatever reason.

    Briefly, as regards your analysis of Sola Scriptura:

    1. Was your judgment that the Bible doesn’t teach Sola Scriptura a private interpretation? (You were not a Catholic yet, were you?)
    2. Protestants sincerely believe that the ECF’s did indeed teach Sola Scriptura. (The far cleaner body of tradition held by the church at that time would have been much less of an impediment, so I’m not sure it’s even possible to delineate between whether they held to Sola Scriptura or a Scripture/Tradition position. They might well be one and the same.) At any rate, I take it we have more private interpretation on your part here. I thought you thought private interpretation was always a bad thing. Which is it?
    3. Is Protestant fragmentation a result of the Bible-based magisterial Reformation or the spirit-based Radical Reformation? Were both of these splits from the Byzantine church or from the Roman church? Rome, right? So might not the fragmentation actually be a direct consequence of something in the Roman church (like papal pre-eminence rather than conciliarism)? What caused the East-West schism? Where did Novatianism, Donatism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Arianism, Marcionism, Pelagianism, and Albigensianism come from? Is it at all possible that fragmentation comes about when somebody will actually stand for the truth? Might not Satan attack most where the church is purest? As for liberalism: Schleiermacher was from a spirit-based Pietistic background, was he not? How schisms and heresies are fomented is an incredibly complicated business. Is the present Catholic church really to blame for the sede vacantists? Be more careful who you blame for what.
    4. The Protestant Reformers took pains to negate private interpretation as far as possible. Sola Scriptura does not allow for it except within the same kinds of perameters that the Catholic church does. Are you a Thomist or a Molinist? How have you determined that? Did you check with Rome in any way? No, you used your own private judgment, as is allowed. Protestant denominations are “names” for different segments of the one true church. So yes, Protestants can choose and re-choose denominations just like you can choose and re-choose Catholic orders to affiliate with. If, however, these self-proclaimed Protestants eschew any of the solas, any aspect of the ecumenical creeds, or any of the christological definitions of the first four ecumenical councils…and they are no longer Protestant. (And very few modern “Protestants” technically are such.)
    5. The canon was decided on by the Nicene church NOT the Tridentine church (though Trent did codify the Deutero-canonicals). Protestants fully subscribe to most tenets of the early church, including the canon.

    To conclude, perhaps you or someone else can give a good answer to the whole “private interpretation” shenanigans. In the final analysis, what else do we have other than private judgment? We all line up behind a particular creed or confession or church based on private judgment. Then that particular statement of faith circumscribes our beliefs: we cannot go outside its bounds without moving into some other denomination or sect. If I subscribe to the WCF, in what way am I freer to exercise my “private interpretation” than the typical Roman Catholic? My guess is that the RC would be less constrained than I would, not more. Yes, I am free to relinquish my convictions and join another denomination. But so is the Roman Catholic. We’re not in the Middle Ages here. There is no Spanish Inquisition operating any more, folks! You’re free…FREE!! (You might say that the WCF is private judgment, but it was certainly much more like a church council. And Protestants could make an excellent case that the Magisterium involves itself in private judgment. It’s all in how you want to see things.) At any rate, I do not see the RC system as in any way superior in terms of reigning in the invalid exercise of private judgment. I’d gladly compare/contrast a catechised Presbyterian with a catechised Catholic any day of the week. (Though neither church does nearly as well as it should.)

    I think you picked the wrong side, but still my prayer for you remains…

    All the blessings of Christ,

    –Eirik

  399. Eirik,

    You said “Go back again to the ECF’s and search in vain for anything . . . Find a report on an apparition of Mary. Find the Eucharist given in one kind. Find Mary as a mediatrix. Find papal infallibility.”

    What years count as ECF’s?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  400. K. Doran–

    Patristics tends to end with Gregory the Great, so circa 600 CE…though sometimes it is extended a bit further. My intention was not to participate in a back and forth “gotcha” session. I’m sure I was rash in some of my choices: a lot of early apparitions tend to be legendary in nature, but Gregory of Nyssa actually recorded Gregory the Wonder-Worker’s vision of 231 CE. So, I shouldn’t have included apparitions, I guess. (Although we could, of course, fight about what counts as an “apparition” as opposed to a vision.)

    The Eucharist was probably given in one kind when taken to the sick. There is no recorded prayer to Mary until 250 CE. No developed veneration until after the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE. It is impossible to rule out an abstract “role” as mediatrix to one who gave birth to the Savior…that alone would be enough for many Catholics. There is evidence of papal authority but not of its universality or infallibility. Believers don’t know what happens after death. There are prayers for the dead and vague notions of a purgatory (though some would give it a rather Protestant spin–an immediate purgatorial bath of fire upon being raised incorruptible). My intention was not to be intricately accurate. That would take us a few years to nail down. Things were chaotic in the early years. Far more than Protestant or Catholic, they were ancient in appearance and character, enmeshed with neo-Platonic thought and expression. (Plus, a lot of evidence of “modernesque” Catholic practices come from quarters the RC is no longer in communion with or from those who would be judged heretical by current standards.)

    Priestly celibacy was certainly not a given. A definable concept of the Real Prescence was a long way off. And before the Ecumenical Councils, the doctrine of the Trinity was amorphous and vague, at best.

    If you want to see the nascent Roman church in all that, you’re welcome to do so. But Protestants will have no trouble seeing a nascent Protestant church. The Orthodox, in a similar way, see nascent Orthodoxy. You see what you want to see. Jason saw what he wanted to see.

    Several Protestant denominations have liturgy and vestments, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, veneration of the saints to some degree, even of Mary. The accoutrements of worship are not what define Roman Catholicism. Neither does apostolic succession. Roman Catholicism is defined by its needless rejections of sola fide and sola scriptura…positions that were held by more than a few in the early church…and never anathematized till Trent.

    My point is simply this: the early church’s probable appearance more closely resembled those today which are still fairly ancient in their liturgies and cultures…the Copts, the Armenians, the Syriac Orthodox, etc.

    Little from those early days looks very much like Romanism or Protestantism. Both traditions believe in the development of doctrine. Whose is the more valid succession? Jason’s observation seems too superficial to be persuasive to anyone but one who dearly wants to believe…to me at least.

    As we await the rising of our Lord,

    –Eirik

  401. Eirik,

    Little from those early days looks very much like Romanism or Protestantism. Both traditions believe in the development of doctrine. Whose is the more valid succession?

    Do you believe either of them has a pedigree deriving from the post-apostolic Church? Based on what you’ve already written, my impression is that you’d deny a substantive link between post-apostolic Christianity and modern forms of the Christian religion.

    Blessings,
    Jason

  402. Jason–

    It depends on what you mean by a substantive link. There’s nothing close to a one-to-one correspondence for any of them. High-church Protestants and Roman Catholics will at least superficially resemble the early church in terms of worship patterns. But in terms of the spirit of the primitive church, I do believe modern evangelicals are closer than the other branches. I believe Christ preserves his church, but it has little to do with sustaining rituals. Rather, we must sustain the essence of the gospel.

    On that criterion, some non-liturgical mega-churches, meeting in renovated shopping malls, blasting the walls down with hard rockin’ worship and hip preaching, are much closer than EO, RC, or liturgical Mainline Protestant groups. Now, I prefer continuity…I love traditional, liturgical worship…but it’s not the number one priority. The gospel is.

    I believe in a sort of spiritual (rather than physical) apostolic succession. There are faithful believers in every generation that are known by their works: their love for the brethren, their passion for the redemption of the world, their faithfulness to Scripture and sound teaching, their commitment to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and their absolute Christ centeredness.

    The visible church has been knocked around a time or two–it has seen highs and lows–but it always comes through. I see it a lot in the Nicene church. I see it in the Waldensians and Huguenots and Puritans. I see it far less in the modern Roman church.

    In other words, if by substantive link you mean a Spiritual pedigree, then I would posit one.

    I hope you had a blessed Easter!

    –Eric

  403. Eirik,

    Thanks, Eric. I did have a blessed Easter. I hope you did too.

    ….Christ preserves his church, but it has little to do with sustaining rituals…we must sustain the essence of the gospel…in terms of the spirit of the primitive church, I do believe modern evangelicals are closer than the other branches…I believe in a sort of spiritual (rather than physical) apostolic succession…if by substantive link you mean a Spiritual pedigree, then I would posit one.

    Did the ECFs teach apostolic succession?

    Blessings,
    Jason

  404. in terms of the spirit of the primitive church, I do believe modern evangelicals are closer than the other branches

    Why do you believe this? Why can’t anyone make this claim? Why should I not believe that you just chose whatever modern spirituality that was superficially appealing and convinced yourself it was ancient?

    You talk about physical and spiritual apostolic succession as if they are opposites. Isn’t it a bit like telling your wife you only committed physical adultery and not spiritual adultery? I mean what we do physically matters. When Israel moved from temple worship to worship at golden calves at Bethel and Dan that mattered (1 Kings 12).

  405. Eirik (re:#102),

    I hope that you had a blessed Easter, brother. You claim that the early Church resembled a contemporary, rockin’ “megachurch,” not in outer form, certainly, but in terms of the substance of what was preached there– namely, your understanding of the Gospel (rather than the Gospel which is taught by the Catholic Church). In that light, I ask you to consider, reading very carefully, these passages from an early Church Father, St. Irenaeus, in 189 A.D:

    “It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

    “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (ibid., 3:3:2).

    (Source: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/the-church-and-the-papacy/apostolic-succession/)

    How does St. Irenaeus state that the apostolic tradition and faith are to be recognized in the above passages? Is it not through the succession of bishops from the first apostles?

    How and/or where is this ancient understanding, from 189 A.D., taught by *any* contemporary Protestant body today– other than, perhaps, by the Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Church, who do not even consider themselves to be Protestants ?

  406. Jason–

    Does any church still have physical apostolic succession? The Catholics say the Anglicans do not. The Anglicans say the Catholics do not. Only legend sustains its veracity.

    Randy–

    Anyone can make any claim they wish. It’s a free country. You make the outlandish personal claim that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. I beg to differ and feel the evidence is on my side. Make your case and quit hiding behind the inane assertion that an individual’s acceptance of Catholic authority is not just as much a personal judgment as any other. Be gone, before someone drops a house on you! (just kidding…lighten up…I don’t know how to insert a smiley face)

    Christopher–

    Pretty much all of the high-church broadstream Anglicans accept apostolic succession, as do the Swedish Lutherans and a number of other Protestant groups. And Anglo-Catholics are true Via Media folks. They’ve got the full-on smells and bells, but may not fully accept transubstantiation or Marian devotion, and–more importantly–don’t tend to deviate from sola fide and don’t accept papal authority, making them basically Protestant in my book.

    –Eirik

  407. Randy,

    When Jeroboam sinned by putting up idols in Bethel and in Dan, he moved the Kingdom of Israel physically from the appointed way. (If you insist on the total physical continuity of the covenant, by the way, I invite you to visit the Wailing Wall and there present your true worship.)

    But Judah also sinned and lost the approval of God…without ever moving an inch physically:

    Isaiah 1
    “The multitude of your sacrifices—
    what are they to me?” says the LORD.
    “I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
    of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
    I have no pleasure
    in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
    12 When you come to appear before me,
    who has asked this of you,
    this trampling of my courts?
    13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
    Your incense is detestable to me.
    New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
    I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
    14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
    I hate with all my being.
    They have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
    15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I hide my eyes from you;
    even when you offer many prayers,
    I am not listening.
    Your hands are full of blood!”

    It is also clear that in the legitimate line of the priesthood it is the spiritual Levi and not the physical Levi that most matters:

    Malachi 2
    1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.
    3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendents; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
    7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

    The spiritual Israel is the true Israel. Why do you believe that God the Father would act in a completely different manner when it comes to protecting the spiritual integrity of the church of his beloved Son?

    Sure the physical does matter. I believe in a visible church. But it must always be paired with the spiritual. When that ceases to be the case, the physical counts for nothing. No, I am not a Donatist. The visible church can never be expected to be totally pure. But proper discipline is a mark of the true church. Even Augustine would have insisted on that. You do not have anything approaching proper discipline in the current version of the Roman church. You haven’t had it for a long, long time.

    All the best,

    –Eirik

  408. Eirik (re#406):

    Only legend sustains its veracity

    A belief held for 2,000 years by a Church body deserves a bit more careful consideration before being dismissed as “legend.” Please provide some evidence for your assertion that Apostolic Succession is “legend” and not sustained, historical, documented doctrine.

    – Frank

  409. Eierik (re:#106),

    Thank you for the reply, brother. I am wondering, though, why you did not address the fairly explicit words in the passage from St. Irenaeus, from 189 A.D., about us knowing the apostolic faith and tradition from:

    the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (Against Heresies, 3:3:2).

    Which Church, today, still teaches what St. Irenaeus was teaching here in 189 A.D.– that all churches, everywhere, must submit to the church at *Rome*?

  410. P.S., Eirik, for more on the apostolic teaching authority of the Catholic Church, see here, as a start:

    http://www.churchfathers.org/category/the-church-and-the-papacy/apostolic-succession/

    For the Papacy, see here, as a start:

    http://www.churchfathers.org/category/the-church-and-the-papacy/authority-of-the-pope/

  411. Eirik,

    I am trying to get beyond outlandish personal claims. If we want to embrace the Christian faith that Jesus taught to the apostles then we need to know what that is. Was it somehow protected by God? Was it lost and retrieved? Many have claimed to have retrieved the long-lost true gospel of Christ.

    I am not sure where I made this “inane assertion” you are referring to. We do make personal judgements about who’s version of the true gospel is more likely. I see really 3 kinds.

    1. Claims made based on history. Don’t accept the inerrancy of scripture. Look at various historical sources and try and reconstruct Jesus as best you can.

    2. Claims based on scripture. Start with the typical protestant 66 book cannon. Accept that as inerrant for some reason or other. Sort through all the opinions on what the bible really says and try and arrive at some certainty.

    3. Claims based on scripture and sacred tradition. Accept apostolic succession and therefore councils, etc.

    If you analyze it this way you can see that choosing option 1 or 2 will leave you with many different opinions to choose from. Option 3 reduces the choice to Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and very few others, maybe Lefebvrists. Often all but one can be eliminated quite quickly.

    It boils down to what you expect the answer to look like. Is it going to be limited to some broad principles that still leaves many very different answers as legitimate possibilities or is it going to be one faith? John 16:13 says “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” That sounds to me like He is going to give us one answer that we can unite around.

  412. Eirik, (398)

    You said,

    To conclude, perhaps you or someone else can give a good answer to the whole “private interpretation” shenanigans.

    I’d recommend Mathison’s Reply to Cross and Judisch, by Michael Liccione, or The Tu Quoque, by Bryan Cross.

    Peace,
    wilkins

  413. Everyone,

    I apologize for getting the numbering of more than a few comments wrong, in my replies, in this thread, and in others which also have gone up into the hundreds! Sigh… I truly do need a new pair of glasses (literal ones)!

  414. Wilkins–

    Well, I read them. Liccione admits that in terms of objectively determining the identity of the one, true, divinely authoritative church–the Catholic case is merely “reasonable.” Cross simply asserts that the perspicuity of history points indubitably to Rome as the church founded by Christ. Well, that’s his opinion. He must show not only the unmistakable authenticity of the Roman line of apostolic succession–something he can never hope to do–but the internal coherence and consistency of the whole body of infallible pronouncements of the Roman church in every era. As far as I know, there’s not even a definitive list of de fide tenets of RC faith and practice for the present, let alone in every era of the church. Again, it is an impossible task he has set for himself…and a thoroughly subjective one. Both of them prove too much. If the Protestant “sola scriptura” reduces to solo scriptura, then so does the RC triumvirate of Sacred Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, and Sacred Magisterium. Unfortunately for them, the “tu quoque” applies…in spades.

    So maybe somebody here could go on to the true task at hand. Through reasonable arguments (and the dreaded personal judgments), which “church” traces a more consistent development from the biblical revelation–which we both acknowledge as authoritative–until the present day. Is it the Roman Catholic Church or the magisterial Protestants who have been in schism from the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church from the Reformation onward? (Or have we both been? Or neither one?)

    To be brutally honest, I don’t believe questioning the philosophical underpinnings of either group accomplishes a thing. Sure, there is a time and a place for any legitimate inquiry. But in this forum, it strikes me as borderline irritating, and definitely disrespectful.

    When I submit to anything (whether or not I may agree with it), it is I who submit, and in that sense I submit to myself. All that we have stopping us from the total subjectivity of post-modernism is the consensus of reasonable minds. Come, let us reason together.

    –Eirik

  415. Hey ‘Eirik’,

    Liccione admits that in terms of objectively determining the identity of the one, true, divinely authoritative church–the Catholic case is merely “reasonable.”

    In what sense is Liccione’s piece an “admission”? Do you suppose he’d agree with your characterization?

    Cross simply asserts that the perspicuity of history points indubitably to Rome as the church founded by Christ. Well, that’s his opinion.

    You’re saying the Tu Quoque piece “simply asserts that the perspicuity of history points indubitably to Rome”? Really? Oh. Well, if that were really all it says, then I suppose you’d be right to dismiss it.

    He [Cross] must show not only… [X] but … [Y]. Again, it is an impossible task he has set for himself.

    The “impossible task” you mention is one you’ve put in Cross’ way, but you haven’t demonstrated why the task is necessary. Do you think, based on your reading of Cross’ piece, that he’d agree that this “impossible task,” as you’ve defined it, truly is what he has set for himself? If not, why?

    Ave Maria
    wilkins

  416. Christopher (#409)

    If there were still a valid church in Rome, I might consider submitting to it!

    (Irenaeus is irrelevent to discerning that.)

    Cheers….

    –Eric

  417. Randy (#411)

    How about claims based on Scripture, tradition, consensus, councils, history, reason and experience, all with the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

    Why are you so blame sure the truth Christ wants us to unite around…is YOUR truth? Seems a bit presumptious to me.

    Blessings,

    –Eirik

    (forgot to spell my name wrong on the previous post)

  418. Wilkins (#415)

    Well, I can’t see why he wouldn’t agree since it’s what he clearly wrote!

    He claims no certainty for his argument:

    “Nobody disputes that “arguments” of whatever kind in theology can only be made fallibly, even when they are made by councils or popes.”

    His main claim is that the Catholic model is the more reasonable of the two:

    “…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.”

    Which he repeats in the comments section:

    “Of course, that reply of mine calls for making an argument that the Catholic IP itself is the more reasonable. That’s what I did in the last section of my post.”

    My own opinion is that any hope to pin divine authority on the Catholic model of interpretation can only be done on faith. Nothing wrong in that. But it leaves the whole thing hanging on a subjective hook.

    As for Cross “asserting nothing more than the perspicuity of history,” what would you call what he did? He asserts that the history of apostolic succession displays the church’s divine origin and authority. I’m glad for him for believing that, but again, he does so on faith. Of course, he needs to show more than that. He needs to show that it kept this supposed divine authorization. I’d like to know how he proposes to do that. It does appear to be an impossible task to me. He and Michael have no problem seeing the Protestant burden of proof as an impossible task. Probably so. I just happen to think Catholics are in the same boat.

    Here’s Cross (notice he doesn’t attempt to show how “divine authorization” is ascertained):

    “The prospective Catholic finds in his study of history and tradition and Scripture something that does not have a merely human source, either from himself or from other mere humans not having divine authorization. He finds in the first, second and third (etc.) centuries something with a divine origin and with divine authority. He finds the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and its magisterial authority in succession from the Apostles and from Christ. ”

    Evidently, it’s clear to the one who wishes to see, in the sweep of history and tradition. The rest of us are just a bit dense. I don’t see anything like what he describes.

    Both guys are brilliant, but in the end, unable to see we are all in the same predicament.

    I’m sure they’ve made more full -bodied defenses of apostolic succession elsewhere. I’ll take a gander when I have time.

    Great talking with you,

    –Eirik

  419. Hi Eirik, I too was looking for clear pointers to the CC.

    Four things contributed to my believing that it is what it claims to be:
    1. Doctrinal differences among the Protestant and Reformed. These invisible communities have not been able to endure the swirl of conflicting views and come out, cohesively, what it was since its beginning (though I think it must have always had these tensions). How many Anabaptist splits are there and how many Reformed denominations, how many sects and cults? How are all these divisions an “invisible” body, when they disagree with one another enough that they can’t be visibly united because they are so invisibly not united? Where is the visible church then, truly, or is there one any longer, and if there is, by what authority does it make this claim given that each of the dissenting denominations or sects claim that they understand “what” the church is supposed believe? Everyone says they are absolutely certain that they are right.
    For example, the debate over the New Perspective on Paul falls within the “doctrinal difference” category. The theologians that believe that the Reformed are mistaken to align themselves with Luther were able to bring credible evidence based on, at least, their perspicuous reading of scripture. They are apparently good theologians, so good in fact, that they are scholarly on other topics, such as the resurrection, just not on their reading of St. Paul. Theologian authors, such as NT Wright and Krister Stendahl have created an assumed norm and, correctly enough, adherents follow based on said interpretation. Further, nothing and no one can reel these followers back as long as they continue in their dissenting view of what scripture “clearly” teaches. This means that they have “no authority” in which to submit to, except the Holy Spirit that is in agreement with a particular interpretation, that makes sense to them, and they see no urgency to submit to a long standing Protestant Confederation no matter how much this newer-ecclesia wishes they would. They disavow not because they don’t consider that “just maybe” they are following a mistaken view, but that they have no other way to discern whether or not their view is mistaken since they are counting on their own ability to read correctly with the Holy Spirit’s help and that they also find confirmation in others who agree with them. This has led me to see that the Reformed and Protestant are always defending their view based on the clear meaning of scripture, but I still can’t figure out who adjudicates. I think they just separate into their respective camps, pointing fingers.
    Next there is the case that Alister McGrath (another stellar mind). He believes that there was no such thing as “forensic justification” early on in the church, but that this came to be understood by development much in the same way that the CC claims its own doctrines have come to be. This finding( maybe untrue, who knows) upset me very much. I thought that the Reformers were returning the church to its early heritage and that justification by faith “alone” was understood in the patristic period. Why doesn’t McGrath believe that this poses a problem for the church? How about the negative aspects that are newly introduced by Piper? He is fooling around with the Apostles Creed. On what basis does one defend or condemn this? It is not Holy Scripture, but it is not less than, true Christian belief, summed up. What if it held the same warning as the Athanasian Creed ? :
    “Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.”

    “Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally”

    2. From above; The impossible way of arriving at “authorized” dogma without a Magisterium.

    3. The “Catholicity” of the Catholic Church is another. I was given a writing, that I can’t at present find, by John Henry Newman that says something about how the Hebrews of old were, as Nomads, wandering from place to place and were able to accept certain aspects that they found and formally use them, without succumbing to paganism. I didn’t understand how entrenched Christianity is with Judaism, or how much philosophy is integrated into theology. I can’t say I like St. Thomas’ working in Aristotle, but I would have to ask why it is that natural law should not be incorporated when it helps explain the nature of things. I admit that the precision is exhausting and disheartening for one who just wants primitive simplicity in things relating to God. I don’t like the complex questions about predestination and free will, or the problem of evil either, but since I take into consideration findings in science to see how they accord with the bible, I am obligated to take philosophy’s findings too.

    4. Historicity is another big one. I wrote on another thread that when reading books by Joseph Ratzinger I am surprised about how much more he has uncovered in the scriptures from what I’ve read of any other theologian. I am so surprised that my belief finds it hard to buy it. His understanding is so nuanced that I have doubted the historicity of the events of Jesus’ life recorded in the NT. I don’t understand myself. I believe in the resurrection but I scoff at smaller things? CS Lewis calls this swallowing a camel while swatting at gnats. But history is usually facts, and although I understood that the bible was narrative, I was comfortable with direct meaning. Hidden meaning was taking things too far, but who am I to say what treasure might be there for the man who digs? I am getting ahead of myself here though because I wanted to point you to something that might bring perspective to the idea of apostolic authority and the Roman See.

    Richard Neuhaus said that while he was in Rome as a Protestant he considered if the splendor of Michelangelo’s Basilica of St. Peter worthy the sale of indulgences and the resulting schism. He said that he remembered that Paul and Peter, two prominent apostles, were both martyred in that city. He then anticipates the reader’s “so-what” attitude,